Monday, September 28, 2015

obligatory #supermoontotaleclipse post

I was old enough to understand the hoo-ha, the 'once every 76 YEARS', the importance of it all.

We took it seriously too. My parents loaded us up in a big old truck, with biscuits and juice, some family friends and 20 under-privileged children from the nearby 'coloured' 'location' - drove us far away from any distracting lights, high up a nearby mountain.
It was cold, and bumpy, the littlies all yawning, the bigger boys hanging off the back - whooping in excitement, out on a mountain top in the dark!

We piled out shivering and giggling, took a while to quieten down and listen, to follow my Dad's finger pointing up into the sky, to make out the tail and the distinctive smudge: Halley's Comet.

I was old enough to remember that forever.

Frieda's old enough to understand the hoo-ha now. She marked the auspicious day on our calendar weeks ago, and there's been lots of questions, You Tube clips and myth-busting 'round here.

I was tired last night, and loathe to set an alarm for 4am. So instead, I had a late cup of tea and didn't let the dogs out, relying on their bladders and mine to get a glimpse of the moon.
And yup, at 04:37 I woke to doggie claws clicking apologetically towards my room, and a blood-red, half-smudged moon peeping in the window.

I woke Frieda, she's old enough now to be compos mentis in the middle of the night, and she jumped straight out of bed to have a look. A brief look, a sleepy smile and mumbled thanks, I think she was asleep again before I'd left her room.
I, of course, took much longer. My girl will be just a bit older than I am now next time a 'Moon Super Eclipse' happens. What will her life be like, where will she be, who will she watch it with ... ?

This morning at 6 I got another glimpse, this time back to yellowy white, the eclipse waning fast as she dropped behind the mountain.
That would've been a great photo.
I'll store it away with the Comet, in that folder labelled 'Significant Things of an Ethereal Nature'.
I think Frieda's got that folder open now too.

Monday, September 14, 2015

winged things

I was just out on the lawn, minding my own business, when a shadow passed directly over me. 
A huge bird of prey (research suggests a Yellow-billed Kite - a large one) swooped over my head, across the channel in front of us and up into a palm tree opposite, immediately beset upon by seagulls and Egyptian Geese.
Two Pied crows joined the mob and they circled and screeched as the Kite bided his time in the tree - feasting on baby birds? hiding from the crowd?
After a bit he swooped off again - silent and proud with the hagglers nipping at his wing tips.

There's a Sparrow Hawk 'round here with a similar modus operandi. 
You can tell she's about when a still afternoon suddenly erupts in a cacophony of doves and sparrows, hurtling themselves up and away as the hawk swoops through.

When a Fish Eagle calls I can't not step outside to look for it (sometimes with dire results). 
Often just a speck circling up high, sometimes she's close enough to make out her creamy white head. Always she's tailed by a bunch of bad-ass sea gulls. God, it must be irritating.

The flamingos have been here for months, a much longer stay than any other time in our 3 years here. They all 'sleep' together on the lee of the opposite island, squabbling all night long - clucking and chortling like Monday morning assembly at an all girls school.
At sunrise and sunset they redistribute round the lake, great wheels of awkward pink arrows careening around.
On weekend days, when there's more traffic on the water, they regularly explode upwards, a fireworks show of pink legs and wings.

The Pied Kingfisher is a regular. SO loud for such a very little thing.
Last week, making the bed upstairs, I looked out the window at one almost directly opposite me, hovering in the air, wings a-blur, body completely still, the depth of concentration discernible in the rigid downward-facing bill.
Then plop, he dropped out of the sky and into the water, champagne-corking back up with a silvery flash in his beak.

Great flocks of black cormorants swoop down the channel.
80-strong, they ink by low and fast, their wing tips clapping hands with their shadows on the water in silent applause. They're Top Gun, stealth bombers, cooler than cool, completely without noise.

In stark contrast: ducks.
Clumsy, awkward, loud and ill-mannered - Spring is duck season. Horrific scenes unfold on the lawn: single females cornered up against the fence as mobs of males have their way with her. The girls find it fascinating, Husband and I are left feeling deeply disturbed and vaguely ill.
Ducks are incapable of flying without emitting a soft squeak-squeak-squeak. They often fly by in iconically recognisable threes, squeaking like plastic bath toys. Ducks are such a cliche.

Tiny bejeweled Sun Birds keep our palisade fencing clean of dead bugs and spiders.
Methodically they go from pole to pole, poking their curved beaks into each nook and cranny, twittering away to each other as they go. I've always thought of them as cheerful feathered folk until this female (not bejeweled, just drab and functional poor dear) decided recently that my parked car was Highly Offensive and did her best to intimidate me through the shatterproof, hijack-proof glass.

Recently, very early, very still, Stella and I stood at the water and watched Coots, White Egrets, African Spoonbills and Grebes having their breakfast in the shallows.

All of this (and much more) is happening, all the time, just outside.
Any time we want to pause our day and open our eyes to it, we can. Nature is awesome and we are still, 3 years on, eternally grateful to be living somewhere where we have so much access to it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

getting on

My Mum's gone to the UK, to the bedside of my (f)ailing Granny. Granny Jean will be 98 years old on Saturday and has finally succumbed to her age - only recently moving out of her own home and into an assisted living facility.
As so often happens, her mental and physical health has rapidly deteriorated since the move, she's ready.
A few years back my Mum came home from one of her annual trips to England and said Granny had noted how no one uses her first name anymore. Having outlived her husband and all her peers, she's either Mummy, Granny or Mrs S to most people in her life these days. I'd never even imagined that possibility before.

I recently went to the premiere of this fantastic documentary about a community of Afrikaans-speaking Argentinians living in Patagonia, longing for Africa - watch the trailer here

- and these old guys getting emotional about going 'home' before they died had me weeping during the screening.
(Admittedly I was terribly pre-menstrual that day but I still get prickly eyeballs thinking back on it.)

Then there's this article I read today - the last few lines particularly - and this Instagram account I spent some time on this morning, a quiet depiction of losing her parents to death and Alzheimer's, taking over their decrepit pets, putting their home to rights.

I've been having some very weepy moments about aging and dying of late.

Is this what 40 looks like?