“When the white eagle of the North is flying overhead The browns, reds and golds of autumn lie in the gutter, dead. Remember then, that summer birds with wings of fire flaying Came to witness spring’s new hope, born of leaves decaying. Just as new life will come from death, love will come at leisure. Love of love, love of life and giving without measure Gives in return a wonderous yearning of a promise almost seen. Live hand-in-hand and together we’ll stand on the threshold of a dream.”
Yes, the Moody Blues, taking me right back to my teenagehood. Thanks to Tim O’Hagan for the wondrous reminder…
“The White Eagle”, by Fred Hatman (Van Brakel’s Stoor, 2013)
When I was young, my father would often pack us all into the Ford Cortina (with round rear lights and tailfins) on a Sunday. And we would head for the ocean. Nobody had picked up on my astigmatism then and I would lie like a descaled and reddened crocodile in rock pools, with my begoggled eyes slightly submerged and, sight magnified by the refraction of sunlight on the water’s surface, watch the tiny fish flit about and the crabs beady-eye me from their shadowed nooks. Boy in a bubble. I wear glasses now. But no roadtrip in Lucille is complete without a snuffle around South Africa’s magnificent coastline. To submerge myself in the sights and sounds and sand and salt. And, while seagulls skirl overhead, to lie meditatively in rock pools. On my back. Like a seal. And drift off… and be washed away. And washed.
My “Out of The Hat” column, first published in Stanford River Talk, the quite extraordinary little local newspaper that serves (and I mean serves) my village – April, 2013.
I STEP out of the shower I share with large frogs, even bigger spiders, any size and number of exquisitely hand-painted moths and and am immediately enveloped by the heat once more.
Sipping the dark, bitter remnants of last night’s sweet, black tea, I feel the mountain-dew breeze diffusing through the fly-defying mesh of the screen door and on to my chest, prickling my still-damp skin with it’s early autumn cool-creep.
The vista from my front door is the same, as always. In that is is constantly changing. The aimlessly scudding clouds, the groping, gripping mist and the love of the light all conspire to create new mountain edges, resketching a familiar landscape in my mind. Doves clatter inconsiderately through the leaves into the tree, just outside my wonky gate, where they have chicks to feed.
The Girl had spent much of the day with friends at the tidal pool, dolphining in the cool waters, espying salmon-pink, grasping anemone and tiny silvery fish as they darted among the rocks.
When dusk closed in and it was time to return home, she walked along the promenade wall, her salty skin shivering slightly in the evening bite. She felt alive and on top of her world.
She was so happy that she felt she could fly.
But, although she had, just that afternoon, inhabited the water world of fish, she knew sadly that the vast air arena of the birds was beyond her reach…
But wait. Was it? As a loftily-kicked football fell back to earth, a dragonfly magically appeared before her and seemed to beckon her to reach higher… to fly.
But, as she dared to dream, the dragonfly wheeled and soared almost out of sight. Out of reach.
“Come down, Dragonfly,” called The Girl. “Come back. Please show me your way to be free!”
Lights flickered on along the promenade as the sun sank steeply below the horizon. She was out late and he mother would have begun to worry. And she was cold. But… what was this?
The Dragonfly had returned. Wings whispering on the evening breeze, he appeared to be encouraging her to follow him, to gather her belief and stretch her wings. And to fly.
So she did.
Pictures: Hatman Photography
The Girl flew. And, as her dragonfly friend dipped away across the waves, she soared. And soared.
She flew so high that it became possible in her mind to reach out and touch the Moon.
* This is my interpretation of an experience I had with part of a series of sculptures created by Marieke Prinsloo Rowe on the promenade at Sea Point, Cape Town. To enjoy the full story behind Marieke’s beautiful work, fly over to her Walking The Road website.
Thank you, Marieke. For inspiring children to dream.
It doesn’t say much for humankind when a stray dog is buried alive in the grounds of a school. And when this cruel act was carried out on the orders of the school’s principal, one wonders what message this sends to the children being educated under the supervision of that principal. Who then sacks the school cleaner who dared to alert an animal welfare organisation to the plight of the dog.
It does, however, say a lot of the compassion of Bukelwa Mbulawa, the humble cleaner and sole breadwinner of her family who is in sufficiently in contact with her conscience to blow the whistle on her heartless colleagues.
And it says a great deal about the good works of Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha that they are doing everything in their power to heal the crippled body and traumatised mind of Warrior. Hats off to Jane, Gemma, Daryl and all of the others at Mdzananda who perform miracles daily with limited equipment to save countless township dogs which don’t enjoy the comforts of your or my lucky Fido.
My friend Helen, who has volunteered to help Mdzananda, and I went out to Khayelitsha yesterday to give some assistance… and to check on the progress of Warrior, the brave dog which has thrown the spotlight on how animals are often treated in the hard environment of South Africa’s townships…
This is Warrior. She's now in very good hands... but she is in bad shape and has a long way to go. She barks in terror whenever a stranger approaches her cage...
Let's zoom in on the eye of a Warrior. I'm sure you will see the distrust, the pain, the fear of a dog which was buried alive. Simply because its presence annoyed a man in power, a man who is a role model for the children he is responsible for educating.
Warrior barked in terrible fear when I went close to her cage. Vet Gemma says she doesn’t trust males…
... but Helen, who has a beautiful way with dogs, had a chat and managed to calm her down.
Warrior is, of course, not alone. Countless dogs lose limbs after being knocked over by cars in the township. And this little guy is just one...
Geordie, a pointer-ridgeback cross, is another who was run over. He faces life on three legs but has a gentle temperament and loving nature.
Gemma tells me that is almost impossible to rehome dogs with just three legs. There is a stigma attached to owning dogs that don’t have the full complement of limbs.
Go on. Say it. "Aaaaah..." And, "ag shame!"
So, when Helen was done doing a full makeover of the clinic’s charity shop and I had held dogs firmly in place while Gemma treated their wounds, we went off to do a “mobile” at a squatter camp. There we helped with giving the community’s dogs their routine injections and rounding up those which are taken away in a cage-trailer for sterilisation…
Helen fell for this cutie-pup...
... while my job was to squirt two shots of deworming muti into the mouths of a legion of hounds.
All the while, we were watched intently by the children, happy that their pets were being kept healthy…
And I somehow knew that this little character would provide us with a comedy moment…
And he didn't disappoint!
This is how caring for the health of animals in townships looks…
And Helen and I can’t thank the team at Mdzananda enough for allowing us the opportunity to help in some small way… it was a humbling and rewarding experience.
They - and the animals they treat and save - need your support...
I don’t think I’ll introduce an “Amphibians” section to this blog but I can’t resist sharing this little charmer which popped up in my bedroom at Hatman Mansions yesterday… anybody have an idea what species he belongs to?
Sorry mate, I've got the pool covered.
Suzy the cat had her eye on him too Pics: Hatman Photography