Tuesday, November 30, 2021

in the African night

On Sunday evening I did a most beautiful thing with a dearest friend. 

Another outdoor movie. This time on a picnic blanket in the magnificent Kirstenbosch Gardens, still one of my favourite places in the world. 

This time Out of Africa, possibly one of my most watched films of all time. But not for years.

Out of Africa is so precious that I'd trust few people to watch it with me. I will not tolerate any eye-rolling, sighing at its length or critical analysis of its historical facts. You must be invested, all in, to share this cinematic experience with me and as the opening credits rolled and we both snuggled down on our blanket with instantly dewy eyes, there was no other place in the world I would rather have been.

The dreaded South Easter wind had been howling in Cape Town for 10 solid days. The end of year pressure of school and work and Xmas madness mounting. The 4th wave, Omicron, travel bans looming. Friends in distress and friends in despair. Loss and betrayal. It had been a really tough week.

But the wind dropped that evening. The velvety-darkness fell as that haunting opening music rolled across the lawn towards us. 
And as I watched, past versions of myself crept out from between the scenes bringing with them memories - of outfits I constructed in my childhood bedroom to dress like Karen Blixen (the white cotton blouse, buttoned at the neck and pinned with a brooch, the striped African print scarf tied over one shoulder, the khaki skirt I rolled at the waist to get just the right length on my shin), of standing on the dewy lawn in Swaziland in 1994 looking out at the mist lying in the valleys and channeling Meryl Streep, of years and years and years of yelling 'Hello the house!' when arriving at my bestie's (she who lay next to me watching this now). The way that music had always made me feel, the yearning for adventure and the happiness of thinking that even if I wasn't living her life, I lived in Africa already and that was a good start. 

As the film rolled on the sky got darker and more dramatic, and I found myself gazing away from the screen to take in the enormity and beauty of it, and have one of those lucid moments of perfect clarity one occasionally has, where you can stop within an experience, to realise that this is one of the best things you'll do in your life.

Time slowed and exhaled, we wept and laughed. On screen the sound of crickets chirping filled the African night, as around us in the gardens the sounds of crickets chirping, filled the African night.