Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Being here


Friends took me on a quiet ten minute ramble on the hill behind their house, in Noordhoek. Winter rains had filled a seep area, ringed with restios, clicking with invisible frogs. To reach the sandy path we walked across a neighbour's garden and through a gate where a rusty lock swung, about which Rosie was unhappy. Locks, gates, accessways, and domestic vulnerabilities are a part of many days' conversation, here. A raptor glided above us on a thermal, impersonal, waiting for prey to show itself, and for its opportunity to strike.

Bulbine abyssinica

At the traffic lights people beg. Children hunt through trash cans. Under the arches of city highways the homeless sleep. In the brush the woodcutters make their camps. Behind the walls the well fed dine, and receive their crime watch newsletters, and count the burglaries for the last few weeks, or choose to read them no more. At home I prowl like a thief, checking the perimeters and the outer doors, their locks and their frames, trying to see familiar things with new eyes for weaknesses.

Manulea tomentosa

The perfect days pass and the rain returns, sweeping in on its winter wings. In the middle of the city the mountain rises, covered with fynbos, blooming now, with pin cushions and proteas, clean water dripping from the rocks and through the green moss.

8 comments:

  1. Very powerful writing. The juxtaposition especially striking. Thank you.

    Nancy Mc

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  2. Indeed, a place of great contradictions. Today I spotted a man on the centre island of the M3, I caught a brief glance of various plastic packets and a man hole. I think the homeless store their goods in there. What a world.

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    1. Just at the top of Wynberg Hill, before the pedestrian bridge? I think I have seen it. There is also a man who lives near there, who I see almost daily on my route in and out of Kirstenbosch, and always wonder what his story is. He has found a pipe that I presume runs down from the mountain (also in the center island) and fetches water and washes himself there. He looks young, fit and healthy.

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  3. I feel wealthy. And guilty....

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  4. So beautifully written, and as Nancy said, the juxtapositions are striking. Would love to hear your thoughts on how it compares to NYC.

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  5. Jen, in my opinion NYC and Cape Town stand at opposite ends of a scale. Nature and beauty are everywhere in Cape Town and so rare in NYC. Crime is everywhere in Cape Town, and contained and hidden in NYC. Extreme poverty is everywhere and overwhelming in Cape Town, and rather hushed and swept under the carpet in NYC. Both cities are like pyramids, poverty at the bottom and wealth at the top, but NYC's stands balanced on its tip. My two cents any way...

    And yes, beautifully written!

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    1. Thank you, Smoothman--that's really helpful.

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  6. Bothersome that crime, poverty, and weirdness is never far removed from your experience. It is a huge credit to you both that goodness, class, taste, art, and elegance continues to trump in your everyday lives.

    You both in fact typify the model of how humans should behave when confronted by the world's systemic unpleasantness--wherever it is found.

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