After a fourteen hour flight Vince and I and an Airbus A340-600-full of people landed at O.R. Tambo in Johannesburg. Phew.
Two-hourly walks to the back of the plane, with calisthenics and stretches that cracked up one flight attendant every time he saw me, kept my neck and back in better shape than usual. I caught up on a year of movie-watching. I cried during Searching for Sugarman. My neighbour, a young man who'd left Kenya for Colorado when he was six and who was going home for the first time, became concerned. He was a perfect in-flight neighbour. Hardly got up, quiet, and thin. We flew on SAA, and it was lovely to have a first taste of vacation as soon as we took off: Appletizer, a fizzy apple soft drink that takes you home in one sip.
After clearing customs, we had a short wait on the tarmac in Johannesburg, waiting for a blanket of mist over the runway in Cape Town to clear.
And then we were home.
Cape dwarf chameleon
The air is different. You could tell even from the air, as the pilot swung the huge machine wide over False Bay to land into the wind, gentle from the Northwest. In summer it howls from the Southeast. It is not a profound change, yet - I was expecting bare trees, but so far only the poplars and plane trees have shed. The transparent, softer light and the new clouds over the mountain, the green grass and the montbretias (crocosmia) in bloom in the greenbelt, the early evening (sunset is before 5pm), and the chill that settles with the darkness have stirred the memories of this season, so that the sight of yellow oxalis flowers and tiny white daisies in the grass bend my heart sideways.
We have had a small lunch under the tree, already - my mother, father, Vince and me, and supper at the kitchen table. I made a fire in the study last night, to satisfy nostalgia, and we have already eaten and drunk more than is good for us. The serious hiking had better begin, to compensate.
Under the pine trees on this afternoon's walk with the corgis I found pine rings (Lactarius spp). Too old to be good, now, but a promising sign. I hope we have some rain, and soon...
Fallen poplar leaves, chameleons in the greenbelt, a roast leg of lamb for supper, pink bubbly, ripe tree tomatoes. A profound, 12-hour unconsciousness in a deeply silent night was not interrupted by the invisible click frogs, clicking in the reeds and wetland beyond the house, nor by the occasional clattering territorial shout of African shell ducks.
I woke just once in the night, when Vince came into the room, and I thought I was in Brooklyn.
But I am home.