Yesterday I headed out along the Kamberg road. Sunday past, this had been the scene of a wild and awful wind. One that lashed the dry veld angrily, kicking up dust and tossing branches. Inevitably, fire had been involved too. The farmers were now on guard. Houses, and even lives were lost down Kokstad way. Yesterday was calm. In fact it was calm all day, and with Sunday’s wind fresh in everyones memory, the farmers were out in force burning fire breaks.
Palls of smoke rose from a few spots up the valley. Something was burning up in the berg, South East of the Giant. There was a plume of thick white smoke on the slopes above the Crane foundation. I thought it might have got into the timber there, but luckily not. A black smoke rose from somewhere off on the Loteni road too.
In the morning the Giant seemed way off, bathed in a screen of white. By the afternoon that mountain was obscured in a haze which seem amplified by the late winter sun. That sunlight cut sideways across the landscape, through the dust and smoke, making the entire vista seem more vast and distant. Hills seemed miles away in the pale purple, and a yellowness on the veld close-by, made it all seem old. Like the page in some faded book, left open for far too long.
Our dry winters of dust and smoke make it hard to believe that there is any water out there at all.
When one considers how crisp and clear the outline of Giant’s Castle is after a rainstorm, it is difficult to believe that it can be obscured in haze , even from as close as the top of Vaalkop.
This is not city pollution. I suppose our farming activities increase the incidence of fire and our vehicles add to the dust in suspension in the air, but perhaps all this stuff we are breathing in is as natural as it gets. Perhaps I need to accept that ugly days are part of the deal. That berg winds, smoky days, severe heat waves, and all the other things that have a way of bringing on a bad mood, are just natural things, put there for us to endure, in order that we might appreciate the beautiful days.
Having travelled to Durban this morning, and witnessed that landscape, I very quickly appreciated the smoky Kamberg valley of yesterday. I realised that in fact I am a hillbilly, in as far as I am something the opposite of a city person. As I drove into Durban, I realised that I had been there far too long already.I managed to do what I needed to do without even switching off the engine, and I beetled back out of there as fast as I could. Tomorrow I will be up early. I will be out in the frost, kicking up ash in the burnt veld beside a Trout dam. Watching the sun rise through an orange lens of particulate matter.
The water will be ice cold and startlingly clean.
Maybe I will get a fish or two.
And maybe the dust isn’t so bad after all.
A cloudy winter dawn
The first light of day brings honking geese
Hinting at what lies beyond the drawn curtains,
and out across the drab patchwork landscape:
Low slung cloud, and dampened dust,
Odours of dead wet kikuyu grass,
and a wafting hint of silage, hanging in the still morning air.
And farmyard sounds that carry in the silence
Pervading morning memories of childhood on the farm.
Nostalgia nestled in the moment,
Like my sleepy being in this warm bed.