Summer is sparkling green – a world of butterflies and birds bringing the landscape to life with their fluttery business. Grass grows before our eyes forming lush dark jungles that the guinea fowls can hide in. The trees are resplendent in their summer dresses, and creepers grown on creepers, that grow on creepers. Leaf shapes fill every niche in the hunt for chlorophyll. The day is shiny bright so you have to squint, and the suns embrace can squeeze you dry. It's not intentional just over zealous.
It is Christmas Day tomorrow. We have some fairy lights blinking on our candle tree – a metal sculpture of a baobab tree. There are some presents at the base wrapped in fabric and tinsel – recyclable. The idea pinched from Lori’s blog. Thanks Lori. Tomorrow we will be home alone – dinner a deux. I will roast a small turkey and we will have a jolly table in the cool of evening. It feels luxurious not to be racing in traffic to some coastal destination that will be crowded with people and motorized toys. But I will be thinking of absent friends and family – all far away. Some knee deep in snow.
Our Christmas shopping this week consisted of a drum of molasses for the elephants, and a new rain guage for the lions to play with next time they come through our garden. It has been a while since the elephants were in this part of the reserve, so we are really enjoying their return. They love molasses too, and if they catch a whiff of the molasses drum on the back of our vehicle, it gives rise to much trunk waving as their amazing olfactory equipment picks up the slightest hint of fragrance on the warm air.
Christmas promises so much gaiety, festiveness, joy and reunion – though for some it is a difficult time. Maybe too many memories resurface, or they are alone in a world of frantic connecting. We are social animals after all.
Once we adopted a suricat. It was someone else’s problem child. They had loved it as a needy young thing, but when it hit puberty and began to assert itself, the biting got out of control and he was dropped at our door. You see these enigmatic creatures on Nat Geo – they live in communities in the Kalahari and are entirely engaging. They are social animals too and we love to watch them integrate with each other. They are not meant to be alone. They get miserable and it stresses their hearts. But someone is breeding them and selling the babies as pets.
We called our guy Mafuta meaning Fat one. He settled in here, bonded with me which was lovely, didn’t bite K much, or Rayson. He had the entire garden to forage in and all the juicy crickets and scorpions he found there were his! So he began to grow in size, in the manner of many of our politicians.
Initially he slept in my bed. It was endearing the way he clung onto my ankle deep under the duvet and slept there. But as it became his territory, he began to urinate in the bed at night leaving a particularly strong musky smell. Finally we had to draw the line. Hugging during the day was fine, but at night he had to stay in the kitchen. It was a heartbreaker. He would come throughout the night and scratch at our door, then go back to sleep alone in the back of the fridge (there is a cosy space there).
I could talk about Mafuta all day – the fun stories and times we had with him. How much he taught us. But what I mean to say is that a suricat is not meant to live alone, they need community and contact. People are the same. So no matter how much you ‘bah humbug’ about the festive season it can heighten a sense of loneliness – which is part of the human condition.
One thing I love about this season, is hearing from friends and distant relations, that I would surely have lost contact with in the mists of time were it not for this annual
There is an energy about this solstice time, winter or summer, which cannot be ignored – it fascinates me in a way. With this condition in mind, you may as well focus on the inner child and allow the magic of giving and receiving, reconnecting with long lost friends, and strengthening those family ties, to distract you. So in other words – go tinsel crazy and have as much harmless fun as you can think of with your nearest and dearest. That way you will know what your New Year’s resolutions will be.
I was born in snow country, raised in the rain belt, and have spent my adult life in the drought prone regions of southern central Africa. My childhood Christmases were cold. We prayed and hoped and wished for snow, but mostly it eluded us. Instead we sometimes had frost, and crisp cold days where the mud in the tracks was frozen solid into ridges that could twist your ankle. Autumn’s leaves lay on the ground morphing into the mud. Everywhere we looked lines were etched with microscopic crystals of ice. Trees were black lace against a winter sky.
To avoid the depression at the onset of long winter months we had Christmas. As soon as the days grew shorter, bright festive lights and glitter appeared in every shop window; arcing across the streets, bouncing back from the puddles of rainwater in our paths.
There was magic in the air. We were promised joy, happiness, feasts, family unity, gifts
And a chance to sing our hearts out at carol concerts.
fig tree fruits version of christmas baubles?
Here, now, we have summer in all its glorious fruitful emerald green abundance. Christmas creeps up on me with only a polite occasional cough to announce its arrival. You would think I would be used to it by now, but I miss the magic like a miss my childhood seen through rose tinted sunglasses.
Christmas madness here starts with the roads. It is summer holidays for the schools and universities – the long long vacation. On 15th December the country shuts down for a month. Literally. OK retailers continue to stock their shelves to the tune of piped carols but the lights and tinsel are outshone by the sun. The roads are mayhem. Everyone needs to be somewhere else. There are road blocks and accident scenes, delays and breakdowns.
apparently not the place to do your christmas shopping
or any shopping
The weather alternates between cool cloudy rainy days, and blistering sunshine when the humidity levels soar. So we will stay home for once, and enjoy watching the jungle of leaves and creepers, trees and lush grasses which seems to grow before our eyes. The impala herd has doubled in size thanks to all the new fawns that skitter and dance around the periphery on that great adventure of discovery called life.
This morning we stopped for a chameleon crossing the track. You cannot be in a hurry if you wait for him to cross. His stop-start pace is the stuff of legends and lore. There are tortoises on the move too. We haven’t seen them all winter, but now must beware that we don’t drive over them. The air is an orchestra of bird song – at night the frogs bring in the base rhythms and trills; lions call a wave of sound traveling across the night; and elephants use the curtain of green to move their youngsters around the reserve to party at the waterholes.
So we will cook a turkey and some of the trimmings; raise our glasses to absent friends and family, read books at the pool, and generally take the day off. Time to think and appreciate. Rayson will go home to his family for two weeks so we will be home alone. Who knows I may even get some of those jobs done I have been procrastinating about all year.
Have fun everyone – and celebrate the season of joy as you mean to go on!
Spiders and snakes, tortoises, scorpions hunting under the lights, preying mantises
that defy the imagination, big fluttery moths, and small scratchy scurrying beetles. Al the small folks are out now released by the flush of first proper rains. Driving through the mopane forests we pass through zones of screaming cicadas. Golden brown impalas flit across the track followed closely by their newborn fawns – tiny scraps of life - and disappear just as quickly behind the curtain of dayglo green leaves. Summer is here in all her lush green glory.
We have been traveling, between Botswana and Mozambique, in the race to be everywhere at once before the big rains close down the more remote areas for the season. Our last trip was into the LimpopoTransfrontier Park in mozambique where the Shingwedzi River crosses in from Kruger Park, South Africa. It is wild wild country with horizons so wide you can see the curve of the earth for sure!
a fork in the road
summer heat hammers down on a quiet village
sleigh ride mozambique style
a river bed that waits for the rain
elephants look so tiny from up here
patterns on a fever tree
early travellers thought this was where malaria came from