A November storm had left the lawn grass spangled with a great field of rain drops which sparkled in the beam of torch light. It was so beautiful I stood mesmerised by the simplicity of this natural gift. Abundance and wealth expressed in millions of droplet diamonds which covered the night time lawn as surely as Midas would have, had he so desired to express his immense wealth. Given a few hours and the rising sun, I knew this moment of plenty would fade. The grass would just be green; the morning heat would chase the splendour to memory. So the nightly ritual of “piddling the dogs” was extended. Torchlight floated over the green blanket of priceless gems. Diamonds, Sapphire, Citrines, rubies, emeralds, all mine, always. Even the dogs enjoyed rolling and stretching in the delicious wet lawn and then shaking their coats free of an immense treasure before loping back inside and upstairs to bed
The river, oh the river! How that dark burbling stream worked its magic on our decision to buy this perfection.
It took a steep hike down a well cut track to reach the stretch of Buffels River that hosted the water pump. Down a winding path beneath the forest canopy. Stopping to marvel at new finds of fungi, miniature orchid, a squirming, multi- legged invertebrate that would be remembered and identified later, lichens, butterflies, baby trees. The ever present sighing forest, old and growing older, indifferent to our trespass. Everything still and seemingly asleep, till focus brought a watching bush buck into view. The forest protected us all, hid all, offered us all time to see and learn the things which were to mean the most in our lives.
The track opened onto a thickly ferned bank which sloped down to a fast flowing, tea coloured stream. The rock pools were filled with Red-finned Minnows. Fully grown, these tiny fish measure in at barely 10cm in length, so they are really small.The rock pools! Dark and inviting. Always busy, always overflowing one into the next. The river gushed on below the canopy and disappeared round the steep walls of quartzite and dripping ferns.
How many dogs over the years have withstood the temptation to bound into those pools and snap happily at the rushing water? Too many to recall. It surely was one of the most joyous places on earth. Also one of the most sustaining and honouring places if peace was sought or direction begged.
Tree fern stood sentinel amongst Cape Chestnut that stretched over the river from one bank to the other. Epiphytic ferns clung to the bark and tiny white orchid flowers hung in minute clusters from their mother plant growing high above the river.
Dappled light played with bold sunbeams and dragon and damsel flies wafted up stream. In the eddies shiny little River Boatmen swirled to and fro. Forest leaves floated by.
The river in any season has never been less than magical.
“I’ve found a place you need to look at.” Was what Mom greeted me with on my return home that fateful day.
She said it calmly, but one look at her tense bright eyes gave the game away. She was bursting with excitement. We had tea and she talked.
Mom was an inveterate explorer. Left on her own while I working, Mom explored the countryside. She was never happy in the boring house we had moved to after leaving The Reef. She’d fixed up the garden and planted trees and Proteas. Repainted and refurnished, and still it remained just a house. It was too close to the saw mill and the brick making kilns to ever be quiet or truly dark at night. Her soul rebelled. We both craved the peace and stillness offered only by being remote from other habitation. We wanted starlight and owl song. We wanted a home.
Ingrained in us as humans is the maxim: “Carry on Regardless”. We’ve muddled on though the odds are so stacked against us it seems unimaginable to continue; that which has to be done, gets done. There is no alternative. No possibility of deciding: “Bugger this; Way too difficult and I’ve had enough.”
Having had enough is not an option. There is only one direction to go and that has always been forwards. So onwards we stumble, regardless of the cost, regardless of consequence.
Sometimes it pays off. Being the last one to blink often helps in a situation where one is surrounded by those more fearful, more cautious. The ones who think they know the answers before the questions are asked.
I’m not sure how many times I’ve asked myself whether any of this dedication is worth the level of anguish and exhaustion I face every day. Whether all this indescribable beauty that is my daily pleasure would remain as fabulous and inspiring, if I just walked away from it. Deep down I know the answer could probably be “Yes”; And so I accept that it is my bloody ego that keeps me tied to this situation so aptly defined by Andre Reitz, our beloved vet, as one of “Genteel Poverty”.
Comforting though, is knowing I do not face this dilemma alone. Andre had so perfectly described the situation because I was not the only person he knew faced with similar circumstance. So many of my dearest friends also live as best they can, balancing on the edge. The walking away being impossible, due partly to ego, mostly to responsibility; one simply does not blink, if you do, you are done. Really though, there is an addiction to the beauty of this place which is The Crags. An addiction to the smell of early morning forest; to the suddenness of sunlight bouncing out from behind Mt Formosa; to the mournful song of the Fiery Necked Nightjar through summer evenings.