Monday, March 13, 2017

7

By last Saturday evening the bags under my eyes were almost as deep as these panda's. We had a house FULL to the brim with friends, flowing freely with G&T's and laughter and wet swimwear and sticky floors and toys everywhere and not a crumb left to eat or a clean fork or glass or mug in the place.
PANDAmonium!


Black & white food (kinda - chocolate brownies are dark enough right?) and ice cream cake and a black rice salad (which I'm still craving every day since) and more and more and more.


MASSES of people (our guest list seems to keep getting longer - a nice kind of problem to have), most of them of the just-above-the-waist-height variety, and lots of love and the sweetest, dearest birthday girl.


She was such a star, this baby girl of mine. In the days after the party I got many messages remarking on how polite she was, how engaged and thoughtful, how considerate.
These make a mama's heart sing.

But that heart does feel a little sore too. I know from her older sister that this year, 7 to 8, is really the last of the little girl years. A lot changes in the next 18 months and very soon I'll be in this space lamenting my lack of smalls, and celebrating my two very big girls. One more year with a soft-cheeked cuddler, who still (just) fits on my lap and requests a 'bednight' story and can't quite reach the bowls on the top shelf.
I plan to make the most of it.

Friday, March 10, 2017

suspended

I stood on the stoep and watched a butterfly. One of those big orange and white faux-monarch ones, I could see his/er feelers twitching.
And then, a starling. Picked it out the air.
So quick, the insect had no more knowledge of it's end approaching than a pea suddenly speared with a fork on a plate.
The bird whipped away, and empty blueness remained.

The dabchicks are back. This is a sure sign that autumn is coming. They are the smallest, and the loudest, birds on the lake. They are very shy.
A family of them float in the water just off the shore. I stand from the table where I have been sitting and with an almost imperceptible plop, in one movement, they are gone.
The tiniest ripple remains.

The water weed sits dense and murky along the edges of the lake. This is the late summer bloom, close to the surface, rich and mysterious.
A huge fish hangs suspended in a grey-green clearing. I sit very still on the bank and watch him, faintly his tail sways, I think I see an eyeball swivel.
I blink, and he is gone.
A massive creature, he manipulates water to envelope and hide him.
The faintest wisp of stirred up silt remains for a second and then drifts away to belie his ever being there.

This week was heavy, and awkward and slow. I have this stage, paused between jobs, when I get crabby and frustrated and bleak. I have work (yes, I am grateful) but no pressure and the lack thereof retards me so I drift pendulous and heavy through my days, wanting to be productive but spending more time suspended. Thoughtful. Slow. Prone to existential examination which is neither healthy nor particularly interesting. I bore myself.
But unlike the butterfly, I know the jolt will come. I know if I hang out here too long I'll be in trouble. Like the fish I know this oasis of calm is encircled by the dark woods of the unknown and I shan't have too long to spend here. Like the dabchick I know I will soon be swimming fast to get my head back above water, back into safer territory.

And when that happens this week of disquiet will fade and disperse into my life and just be that one moment, when I was suspended, before action and movement and change.

Monday, March 06, 2017

mind the gap


See the child, hanging out with her best friend in the shade on a hot afternoon. The shade from the acacia tree we planted just 3 years ago - when it just reached the top of the fence.
See the exposed concrete banks and the weed in the lake - the mouth is open and the water is low. See the reflection though, it is summer but it is still - a rare gift.

Now see in the top right corner, that green grassy gap between the houses opposite. This post is about that gap.
They're all over the place here, little green spaces which allow access to the water - so that this is not just the privilege of us lucky few who live beside it. People launch canoes from them, feed ducks and dip toes, lovers canoodle and dogs tear around, and when you live opposite one as we do, you get to spy on them all.

It's a funny little blank space, always smaller when we've walked over there than we've imagined. It's a little stage if you will, and all the world are players on it.

Dog walkers appear stage left - and march across stopping, or not stopping, to pick up their dog's poo.
There are two cats who regularly frolic and hunt there. An enormous malevolent ginger (he hunts) and a slim Siamese who looks from here like she's wearing little white sneakers (she frolics).
We once watched a Jackal Buzzard alight there with its lunch, dismembering it elegantly until a postman on his bicycle disturbed it and it packed off elsewhere to finish the meal. We walked over later and found a neat pile of gizzards and some feathers.
Some naughty kids once appeared - throwing stones at the water birds and trying to scale a neighbouring wall - I yelled at them and their laughter carried across the water back at me.
We once saw a black fox. Or thought we did until binoculars revealed it was a well-known local dog, with a new and very distinctive haircut.
A few weeks back a pram was parked there, in the shade but seemingly alone. Unable to stifle their curiosity, Frieda and friends swam over to inspect. We watched them approach it with some caution, until they turned back to us and shrugged - it was empty. Later it was gone.
Sometimes at night a torch beam swings to and fro over there, shielding the carrier and revealing nothing but our deep-seated neurosis about mysteries in the night.
There are boys who play cricket. The thud of ball meets bat and accompanying cheers or groans float across to us.
There was an otter on a stormy winter afternoon. Right up out of the water, loping along the bank in the driving rain.
And on the weekend there was a puppy. And then another, and another, and another - a whole line of puppies, TEN puppies! Ten puppies gamboling and tumbling in the green gap across the lake.

Often times, most times, the gap is empty. Maybe a lone hadeda pecking at the ground. Maybe something unidentifiable which requires finding the binocs and confirming that it is, indeed, a felled branch or bit of litter. But mostly empty.
Until it isn't and some small tableau unfolds before us. It's always worth keeping an eye on that gap.