Archive for September, 2017

Walks and Wings

September 16, 2017

I have found a new walk.

It takes me down into the dry. Dry country. Where the land is unyielding and the wind sings with Africa’s harshest notes; the grass is whip thin here and nicotine yellowed. The ground plovers scream like things possessed every time the dogs come within 100 meters of their pebble coloured eggs which they tuck into the earth so that only beady eyes will spy them. The birds wheel angrily overheard, they are good parents. Shrilly protecting their young. I have watched, in another dry place,  where the wait-a-bit-thorn was thick and grey, I have watched a mother plover chase a hippo from her nest, wings outstretched, neck thrust forward, beak open as she omitted an ear splitting warning. Brave little bird, I thought.

So where I walk, where the plovers fly low and screech, the dust beneath my feet is thick. Talc soft and inches deep so that with every footfall a cloud rises and my sneakers are shrouded in a fine coat. I will bang them hard on the kitchen step when I get home and the air will fill with powder.

puffprints

There is a snake trail across the road. A puff adder has crossed here. I can tell for the fatness of its tread. I consider it from a moment, take a picture, cast anxious glances around; I am fearful of snakes. I have trodden on too many in my time and always been lucky. I whistle the dogs worriedly. Ant always tells me the snakes will hear the dogs pounding the ground as they tear through the scrub and they’ll disappear deep and fast and my dogs will be safe.  But I don’t believe him; last week my cat, a rescue who stole my heart as he made himself at home, had a close encounter with a spitting cobra. For a day I poured milk into his eyes, fussed over him, coaxed him to eat. He is fine now. And as disdainful as ever in the way only cats can be.

The plovers arched over my head again tonight, six of them, safety in numbers, ‘ok, ok, I’m going’ I laughed at the sky and the cross little birds. The sky was huge, winter is gone. The sun left the stage reluctantly, pinking it with an encore.

And my mountains stood tall and proud and clear headed.

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Same Moon, Different Mountains …

September 7, 2017

My walks are as long but feel longer. When Hat was here we talked our walks away, conversation intermittently broken to roar at one of the dogs, tearing hurly-burly and out of control, yapping at guinea fowl who laughed at them from tree tops, barrelling out of long grass bedecked with burrs so that we laughed at them too. My walks are altogether quieter now, except when I roar and the guinea fowl cackle at the dogs.

 

Africa is spillingly generous where I live now, on this broad valley strung between two mountains. Kilimanjaro, bare shouldered, white-headed rises on my eastern horizon – sometimes it’s obliterated by cloud, sometimes erased by dust, sometimes rendered invisible by a heat haze but close of day when dust settles and clouds have melted away and the last of the sun’s heat has dissipated, I see it then: duckeggblue, profiled against a darkening sky. I turn then and head home, and west, where Mt Meru rises jagged, jutting peaks and wrapped in green. The sun sets beneath it, a Terry’s Chocolate Orange that pencils pylons sharp against an evening sky.

 

There are mountains where Hat is: she sends me a photograph of her view, the Andes a snowy backdrop to Santiago’s skylines. I look at the picture for a long time and imagine her new home. From East Africa to South America. Swahili to Spanish. But lots of avocados here too, Hat smiles. I cannot see her face when I speak to her on whatsapp – my connection is too slow for that. But I can hear her smile in her voice.

 

When she left, and I cried, alot, Ant drew me close and said, ‘she’ll love it’. I can hear that; she is having fun. It’s all you want isn’t it – for your kids? To be happy. If she is happy, being a little sad that she is not here to talk to, to walk with, is do-able. I think of her when I wake. She trails six hours behind me. Sometimes my phone pings with a message as I prepare my morning coffee so I scold, ‘OMG! Get to bed girl!’. But sometimes our hours coincide; she is home from work, I am readying myself for bed. There is time and space to catch up with delicious disregard to schedules.

 

I imagine then her sun setting over her snowy mountains. Mine is long gone. In my part of the world a huge high moon has risen, all cheesefatwhite and round, so full and bright then when I pad out in my pajamas to call the cat, I won’t need a torch.

 

If I think that she sees my sun, my moon, even if we cannot share mountains, she seems a little less far away.

 

I live vicariously here whilst she’s there.

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Staying

September 5, 2017

the giraffe

 

On the farm there were twelve giraffe. They stood bunched, a forest of long necks, a little nervous to find themselves exposed on a long bare windswept slope, devoid of trees but thick with dust.   My heart stills in my throat as we circle them so that I can catch them in my lens before they dance off the way giraffe do: low legged slow motion.

This is my new home. My newest home.

My tenth? 11th? in as many years. I don’t recall.  There have been alot of homes. For from each house I try to conjure as a home: I nail pictures to the wall so that the glass winks squiffly and gathers dust and gecko shit, I toss rugs down so that there is some semblance of familiar scent on new floors for the dogs who look around a little anxiously as if to stay, ‘we staying put for a bit this time?’.

Usually there is renovation to be done: to mould that house to home. I am not fussy. Nor house proud. Comfort is important, that’s all. (And water, power, a solid roof over my head – which isn’t always the case with the old wrecks I’m obliged to live in).  And familiarity. That’s as important to me as it is the dogs; even in the most impermanent of situations I place a clutch of well travelled photograph frames so that my children smile encouragingly up at me and a younger self admonishes me for frowning: there are no lines in the visage that glares back at me: that picture was taken in another life.

So our new home – the one I am trying to cast from a house which has not been properly occupied for forty years – more – is being knocked into shape, the resident chickens – nesting in ancient Armitage Shanks basins – have been evicted, the shenzi dogs with their worm blown bellies will have to go soon. The bats still determinedly come into roost and scatter new (naked as  yet) floors with droppings: when will you glass the windows I nag the fundi who looks nonplussed at my urgency.

 

Every few days I drive up the hill and monitor progress. Or not. And I stand beneath the tallest acacias I have ever seen and I look behind me to the cold shoulder of Kilimanjaro and before me to the long sweep of valley that saddles the plains between where I stand and where Mt Meru rises like an astonishing exclamation mark, piercing the blue.

And I hope that this home is a stayer.

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