18 June 2014

Things of value

I am doing exactly what one is supposed to do in one's mid-40s: have a midlife crisis. So far, it's going very well.

Despite the relative freedom of being permitted to work from home most days, I found the constraints of a full time job awful, and the irritations and stupidity of a large organisation's bureaucracy increasingly unbearable. I am more and more aware of just how fleeting life is. And how hostile a normal modern professional life is to movement, health, and the time and calm for reflection and appreciation for beauty.

So I recently left my relatively well paid provincial government job for the scary world of freelancing, and uncertain, patchy income. Financially scary especially because I want to work on some more creative projects, and play in the garden and garage more.

In this time of navel-gazing I have never lost sight that I have so much to be thankful for. One of the most important is Rosie who makes every day happier. How many men are so lucky that they can devote their midlife turmoil entirely to pursuing vintage motorcycles and gardening, without any desire to wander? The last few months have been challenging for both of us, and not just because of me. But in that time Rosie has always been a refuge and support. She's also very easy on the eye, and far more career driven than I am. I'd be crazy not to try and keep her near for ever, and miraculously, she feels the same way.

This is an engagement ring. Appropriately, it is worth very little money, but it is from my mother's mother. The green stone is a simple synthetic spinel, with facet edges worn soft by the passage of many years. I photographed it on a hand-embroidered handkerchief made by a great aunt I never knew, in the late afternoon light streaming into our home.

22 April 2014

Orangutan, Gunung Leuser

An old photo for Earth Day: female orangutan with a rather ineffective makeshift umbrella, Gunung Leuser National Park, northern Sumatra.

Sumatran orangutan WWF info page LINK.

27 March 2014


Small motorcycle progress added to the Guzzi post (LINK), sorry for those who come here for flowers but this is just as pretty.

18 March 2014

Hoekwil forest

On a back road between George and Wilderness, just past a small settlement of low-cost government houses, there is a dirt road marked "Big Tree". It doesn't look very promising, but only a few hundred metres down the road, the dairy pastures and dusty stands of weeds give way to a cool green cathedral of Afrotemperate forest. On this late Sunday afternoon leaves were glowing stained glass, the streams murmured quiet prayers of thanks for last week's rain and the forest provided a silent sermon on the nature of time.

12 March 2014

It's March again.

On the sandy floodplain south of De Hoop vlei, this Haemanthus flower is pushing up. Only later the two broad, dark green leaves will appear, flat on the ground.

It's interesting that Amaryllidaceae have recalcitrant seeds. This sounds like it means they are stubbornly resistant to growing at all. Botanically, it actually refers to seeds that are not able to dry and will germinate immediately when ripe. This explains why Amaryllids all over the world flower just before the rainy season of their native habitat. Unlike most plants, the ripe seed could not survive even a single dry season.  Here in the winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape, that usually means the many and varied Amaryllidaceae appear in early March, often pushing up out of hard, dry ground.

I'm not sure why this species is named H. sanguineus, but I'd like to think that it was presumed sanguine to be waking right at the end of summer, confident that the winter rains will be along shortly. A good word that, sanguine. One doesn't see it nearly often enough any more.

10 March 2014

lost and found

A few days ago I saw a lone ginger kitten emerge briefly from the dusty grass next to a dirt road many kilometres from the nearest farmstead. I'm not sure what made me stop a hundred metres down the road and turn around to investigate. The last stray kitten I tried to rescue as a child was a terrified, un-tameable wild animal, spraying faeces everywhere whenever disturbed. Not an experience I'd care to repeat, especially inside my car with cloth upholstered seats, and sleeping bag and pillow on the back seat.

This little bedraggled mite had definitely been living rough for a while. Emaciated, filthy, patchy fur, tattered whiskers, scarred ears, and hosting more giant fleas than I've ever seen. But as I approached slowly, something unexpected happened. The purring started, and he came running over, rubbing up against my ankles. So into the car he went, and I set off with great trepidation. Apart from shedding flea eggs like sand, he only looked around with great curiosity at this novel experience, before settling down on the passenger seat.

The next day he joined our meeting, ate raw sausage and lapped milk like he'd never seen food before. He survived threats of drowning and shooting from two stern conservation men who rightly disapprove of all cats, and especially voracious, future bird and reptile murdering strays, but clearly didn't have the heart to do him in. However, we cannot keep a cat, I am mildly allergic, the cockatiel is very allergic, and the dog would consider him a snack. I stopped in Bredasdorp, the nearest small town on the way home, to drop him at the animal shelter. After looking over the miserable cages, and knowing his likely fate there, I was slightly relieved that they were closed and there was no answer on the after hours mobile number. In Cape Town, Rosie had already established that all the nearby animal shelters were full. So for a few days he was banished to the garage, with brief excursions when the mewing was replaced by constant purring. That time was enough to establish that he was intelligent and civilised enough to figure out how to use a sand box after one day,  and exceedingly hungry all the time. After the fleas were dealt with and he accepted being bathed with minimal fuss, it became apparent that he really was thoroughly adorable, that the purring might never stop, and that laps were a lot more pleasant to be in than end of summer dry and dusty wheat fields.

The power of social media saved us from becoming cat people, and on Saturday the ginger kitten joined a loving family and was named Lenard. The pictures and video posted so far show a very small cat establishing that he is the boss of two large dogs, a besotted, gentle blonde toddler, and the adults in the house. He is now certain of the finest food money can buy, comfort and constant love. Sometimes a happy ending is that easy.