acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Friday, October 29, 2010

First rain and an honest scrap award

Its raining - thunder rocks the house; rain pours in silver torrents off the tin roof. The ground is running with streams and rivulets filling the dry clay waterholes.  Trees rejoice - reaching up and shivering in the cool air, filling up the reserves that fuel the new green leaves.

It is dark indoors and grey sheets of rain cloud the distant view.  It started with a whiff of magical rain smell. A few scattered drops that hit the tin like stones.

"Shall we close the roof on the car?"
"No not yet - it might chase the rain away"  

superstition rules the moment

At this stage the car is more like an aquarium because the rain has thanked us and given generously of itself in return.

Lightening flashes bright and thunder cracks overhead - bringing dramatic crecendoes to the thrumming rain. Damp earth and ash smells waft through the wooden house that so recently was more like a sauna.

Earlier, the fledgling flycatcher who has been entertaining us with his awkward moves and sweet clumsy flights, flew into the house and landed on a beam. "Be Calm" we urged and left him to figure out his new surroundings - hopefully to find a way out again in his own time.  He fluttered to the floor - a dark corner which allowed me to approach and pick him up in my hand.  He was a ball of feathers around a strongly pulsing heart. He weighed less than a postage stamp (remember those?)  I took him to the door and set him on a post. After a couple of seconds he flew into the croton bush.

Perhaps after all he was planning to pass the storm in the shelter of the wooden house?

The multi talented and gorgeous Nicky from Absolute Vanilla blogspot has bestowed upon Monkeys on the Roof an illustrious prize - The Honest Scrap Award. Thank you dear Nicky!

but what is honest scrap i wondered? i start to picture a rag and bone man from days of yore trolling the streets crying 'any old iron?'  but then i read on.

The Honest Scrap Award is about bloggers who post from their heart, who oftentimes put their heart on display as they write from the depths of their soul.

The Rules of this Award are to pass it on to 7 bloggers you admire and follow and then to share 10 honest things about yourself.
The hardest part of these awards is choosing only 7 bloggers to pass it on to.  Nicky has already chosen several of the first that spring to mind, and some of you
I know do not like to receive blogs - even though this one could be made for you and you alone!  but anyhow, i shall persist, and here is my list..

Tanvir from Holy Vision who guides us through her world with strength and fabulous in-your-face humour.

Amanda from Travels with Persephone whose consummate short story skills, vision, sensitivity and warmth are entirely captivating;

Susan from The Mermaid Gallery who lives in a beautiful place, and shares her love of life through her vibrant artworks and anecdotes;

Reya - from The Golden Puppy who perpetually nourishes that questioning part of my brain with her wisdom, intuition and inter dimensional experiences;

The Times of Miranda - always a favourite!

Lori times Five - of course of course (if I can get to her before Geli does :)

Friko's musings - a blog full of life and humour as a German expat living in Wales

The Solitary Walker - whose words and poetry allow us to share the journeys 

The Alchemists pillow - who shares wonderful things i never knew about Spain

please follow the links on my sidebar - I am on borrowed internet time at the moment. Thanks!

and now for the even harder part - to find ten honest scraps about ME. Who wants to know this stuff? ten things that you dont already know....crikey...ok

1. i have been an aunty since i was 17 - its been the coolest thing to be

2. I am a believer by the Monkees was the first record i ever bought. I still love it though i dont own it any more.

3. I have some scars - most of them are due to my own clumsiness or acting the clown. When i am even older i will have fun remembering - if i can.

4. i love marmite

5. i can do the charleston a bit

6. happy movies make me cry

7. i get stuck on narrow bridges over great heights, or staircases that you can see through like inside the dome of St Pauls Cathedral in London.......shiver

8. i would love to see northern lights one day

9. i dont let go easily - friends be warned!

10. I used to think the Elgin Marbles were big round things.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

there be dragons

The day was extreme - the heat building for first rains, topped all records.  It pressed down like a heavy wool blanket - the old fashioned kind, before down duvets and thermal hiking gear.  The breeze skittered and died, shifting from east to west, as though unsure of its own footing.  

Sweat coasted down my brow in rivulets, finding the corners of my eyes, burning them awake. Had I sprung a thousand leaks, that the more water i drank, the more poured out of my very skin, soaking my clothes?  I sought the breeze but it wasn't always there.

I wanted to lie down and sleep, but everything i touched was too hot - the sofa, the bed, the floor, the chair - I didnt want to touch any of them as they compounded my own body temperature. This is not funny hey? My thermostat is sticking now. The wooden house smells like a nordic sauna. 

We jump in the car and drive onto the floodplain. The air is like a hairdryer, or oven door, blasting at us.  Nothing moves in the heat.  We head for the big sausage tree on the island near the waters edge. There is an elephant heading there too, but we get there first. it is nearest pool of shade and we are happy to share, but he carries on to the next island.   

Relief, here at least a breeze off the water catches our sweaty brows and steadily imperceptibly body temperatures start to fall to manageable levels.  A purple roller flies out over the water, swoops to drink and returns to a branch over our heads.  Red billed wood hoopoe's have a nest in a hole in the sausage tree.  The parents return to feed their fledgling young. A racket ensues as the youngster, already in adult plumage, emerges to be fed, The parents are working hard in the soupy air. The youngster retreats back into the nest to await the next treat. No flying lessons today then.

Slowly our shadow pool grows as the sun dips to the west.  Dragonflies fill the air around our heads.  Lacy winged bi-planes swarm around coming to rest on leaves and twigs.  I turn the camera onto them. Their black wings seen from above show gold and bronze, purple and royal blue - who would have known? We find another - rich royal red, with a ginger abdomen, and fine transparent wings; whoa there is another - much more camouflaged in black and yellow, barely discernible in the leaf litter. Then another in royal blue.  They hover and land, flying around our heads, nviting us to cross over into a fantasy world of dragonflies and nymphs that the ridiculously hot day has allowed us  to see at last.  Were they always there? 

Monday, October 25, 2010

fire and rain

the three sisters in evening dress

A grass fire came in from the west, devouring tinder dry yellow grasses. Giant orange flames raced across open plains and along dry riverbeds. They tiptoed through the open woodland where the elephants had trampled the grasses, then raced out into the sunlight again. The wind was their friend, urging them onwards. But the wind is capricious and finally it turned. The flames stumbled and stuttered trying to find a new way forward, but they were stumped and the fire died right there.It  has left  a desolate landscape where burnt leaves shiver and shift on the ground, crumbling to soot and rising in dusky columns to dance with the dust devils of their old friend the wind.

fire stick man

We drive along the sand track which in places marks the end of the fire.  Black as pitch the soot covers the charred view. Elephants have left big round impressions of footprints, where they have crossed out of the fire zone and into the bright blonde grasses again.  Here and there a fallen tree continues to burn. At night the coals still glow red but during the day they hide in snow white ash.  Trees that burnt where they fell, have left a ghostly impression in ash on the ground. We are driving past funeral pyres for trees - there is an armageddon feel as if we have stumbled onto the battlefield after a ghastly war.  The stump of an ancient leadwood tree shines dazzling white against the black. Cascading pure white ash it is a tower of smouldering coals around the baked ceramic core of the termitaria which once shared its niche.  Soon all trace of its existence will be blown away in the wind.

leadwood fire stump caldera of snow white ash

We are waiting for rain again. The October heat is reckless, relentless, and ever increasing - building for rain.  Yesterday was a full moon. It was a red moon as it rose through the smoke haze mimicking, for a while, the setting sun.  The full moon promises to bring a change in the weather.  Across the country people are watching the skies.  Bets are on for the first big rain.  Inland pans are drying up and the elephants, our most water dependent species, are forced to travel long distances through the dry interior to reach the lagoons and spillways of Selinda.

steenbok on fresh neon green grass shoots

Yet here and there already, neon green shoots of grass begin to appear. Tiny green shoots of leaves are poking out of dessicated branches - signalling that hope springs eternal. It has been more than a decade since the last grass fire came through here, and some think it was time.

This morning the horizon is dark grey in the north - whether from fire or rain we cannot yet tell.  There is a touch of moisture on the wind although I cannot smell that magical rain smell.  But then I am not an elephant. We pass one heading directly towards the dark sky, the rhythm of his steady pace belying his traveling speed.  A flock of open bill storks pass overhead in classic V formation heading the same way. Their wings flicker white against the dark clouds.

This heat has to break soon. We are on the cusp I feel certain. Any day now welcome rain must fall.

Friday, October 22, 2010

travelling light

Well here we are packed and ready to leave on our road trip. Now what have i forgotten......?

maybe i should buy some tomatoes

then look for a safari guide. I think i saw a sign...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bad boons?

You can tell when its baboons on the roof at first light - not
monkeys. Baboons are much heavier for a start and they have a sort of
three gaited lope. Whenever the baboons are here, I thank my lucky
stars that it is only rarely and our roof racers are usually only
lightfooted monkeys. I dont think our tin roof would stand up to a
full baboon onslaught.
We have started our winter feeding programme again. We have some
molasses out, and this weekend we put out a bag of antelope cubes.
These are like dog cubes, or pony nuts, but designed for wildlife ie
probably mostly consist of ground up mopane trees for which we pay a
small fortune. As luck would have it the baboons spotted the weekend
feast from the top of one of the koppies and came striding in. They
sit around the feed zone, and keep on piling pellets, one by one, into
their mouths. They never seem to swallow. With each handful, their
quick brown eyes dart around in all directions so its very hard for
anything to sneak up on them, even when they are preoccupied with
Baboons can see you through the window from far away - even when the
light is reflecting on the glass. Infact, i am pretty sure they can
feel when they are being looked at. You know that feeling that makes
you look around before you even realise why, and you find someone
staring full bore at your back, or immediately dropping their eyes
after a big staring session? Well there is supposed to be some energy
exchange taking place, that we can tune into, but mostly we are so
unaware that our bodies respond before we acknowledge the event.
Baboons are exceptionally good at this.
They can be sitting on their haunches, arms resting on knees, tummies
hanging round and low, gazing skyward or at the youngsters at play.
You start watching from the dark recesses of the kitchen and - whoa -
they spin around immediately. The mood changes and they start moving
away into the cover of the rocks and trees. Try this with a camera
and they are liable to take off at speed. Its very impressive, this
skill. No doubt it saves their bacon too where other farmers and camp
managers are liable to shoot at, or just shoot, baboons to keep them
away from the damage to property that they always do. Yesterday they
swung on one of the guest tents collapsing the center pole, and they
always swing on the rolled up canvas windows, breaking them, tearing
anything they can; they pulled the pool cushions around and left them
covered in baboon prints too - and they always leave a large ugly
calling card somewhere where you want to walk. So its not without
reason that people do not entirely welcome the baboons in to their
They will destroy your garden too.
However, living in a game area, it is better if your baboons are
calm. Other animals listen to their alarm calls and respond with
them. If the troop of baboons runs from you because they are afraid
they will get shot, then all the other animals run too. Panic is
catching! So if the baboons are relaxed at the waterhole, you are
more likely to see other more timid species coming to drink and
spending time there too.
Baboons are really fun to watch too. We can relate to them in so many
ways. Its a bit like people watching, but we are allowed to watch
baboons in this way. Just dont make eye contact - this is bad baboon
So we do like them, and its great to have them around. They make
wonderful silhouettes on the rocks at sunset, and their alarm calls
let us know when the lions or leopard are passing by. However, I am
still glad that they do not live on our roof.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

night lions

We went out looking for the lions yesterday.  Recently some zebra and wildebeest were caught in poachers snares in the reserve. It was a remote area and nobody found the carcasses - but the lions did.  No doubt they heard the distress cries. Lions and hyenas moved in to claim the kills. Some lions were caught in snares in the process.  Being caught in a snare is a slow and painful death.  The lion research group, tracked the lions to the scene of carnage. By then most of the animals caught in the snares - including some of the cubs that had visited our house - were dead. One lioness was still alive - she had caught the snare between her jaws and her face was severely wounded as a result.  She has been sent to a rehabilitation center where her physical wounds should heal in time. I am sorry if this is shocking, but this is how it is.

We heard that the lions had moved back into our part of the reserve.  There are now only six lions left in this pride - the big male and his two askaris (sons),  two females and one young daughter. Three of them are wearing collars which allows the research group to find them and keep track of their lives.  We also have a receiver, although ours is a little more antiquated.  In this area it can be very confusing as the signal can bounce off the granite koppies and lead you in totally the wrong direction.  We found the signal just around sunset. The whole pride were still together, so we drove on a small track around a group of koppies where we thought they were.  The pride in its former glory had once spent several weeks based in this koppie when the cubs were too small to travel far.

As darkness fell so softly, and swiftly, the dry yellow grasses and small bushes, all took their turns at becoming monochrome lions.  A movement here or there, a sound of twigs cracking, a swirl of yellow grass -  pulled our attention in every direction waiting for the gods of the night to enter the scene.  We followed tracks and strained our ears for sounds of their calling - but who would they call to now anyhow?

It grew dark. The pool of our headlights took over from the gathering dark.  We stopped to listen.  Suddenly, morphing out of the grass and trees came two lionesses, the soft sound of their large footpads hitting dust were all that told of their appearance.  They strode purposefully - no social graces this time. They looked rangy, feral. They walked straight to the back of our vehicle and in turn, had a look over the side before moving on and fading into the dark again. Were they ghosts? We wondered if they associated the vehicle with identical ones used in the capture and translocation of the snared pride members.

 The big male followed on their trail making soft growling-purring noises. He too visited the back of our vehicle and then walked on.  Next the two young males and finally, the youngest remaining member of the pride - a female sub adult.  She alone stopped at the edge of the clearing and looked at us, stopped a while, and then walked on.

We turned to follow them and there in our lights was the young female, waiting for us - as the whole pride used to do.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

weather report and interview

Today we have had the whiff of rain. Not rain as such - but the whiff
of it. It was delicious and piqued the senses. Like walking past a
bakery and smelling fresh bread. We went to town to buy supplies.
There were giant bull giraffes next to the road feeding on the new,
very new, leaves and blossoms. They didnt mind as long as we slowed
down past them, then they could turn and look down their very regal
noses at us. Like the Emperor they are naked although they dont seem
to know.
The clouds hang low today like ancient dust bunnies - grey and fluffy
and full of portent but revealing nothing. The wind will probably
sweep them away tonight and leave us with a nice clean sky again.
Well thats the weather report for today. What I really came here to
say is that the lovely Bonnie from Original Art Studio has included me
in an illustrious line up for featured interviews on her blog. It
should be up sometime today. I had such fun pondering and answering
her insightful questions, and felt hugely honoured to be included, but
also somewhat unworthy. I mean, my claim to fame is having monkeys on
my roof. Not to mention in my head sometimes. Anyhow I am feeling a
bit bashful now but here is the link.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

saturday snippets

'it's a hot one – like seven inches from the midday sun' Santana

The words and tune are playing through my head today as the temperature pushes past 40C. Even the birds and monkeys are still, snoozing somewhere in the shady branches of a tree that still has leaves.

Talking of monkeys, they got into the kitchen again yesterday.  It was around midday and I was (ahem) reading a book, K was (ahem) watching the news.  They came in silently, in whisper mode. We didn't hear them, but when I walked into the kitchen it was clear that some monkey hands had found the rice, and the bag of onions left on the table cunningly concealed by a dishcloth.  Onions rolled around  aimlessly on the table and floor as if woken from a deep sleep too.

I think our monkeys have been in training, and have become an elite squad of special forces – the SAS of monkeys.  They case the joint from  all angles – through windows, and from rooftop vantage points.  They identify caches of food and plot routes in and out. Soft monkey feet move silently across the cement floor – using their long tails for balance they can leap onto a counter or table top, grab the targeted morsels, and move to the door again in one fluid motion.  Ninja monkeys. Thank heavens it is not the baboons.

The heat is bringing the frangipani trees into leaf, and some of the baby baobabs are showing tiny green dots at the end of their branches – like a slow motion conjurers trick. Warthogs are spending more time at the house, and last night a rhino walked by unseen, leaving large scalloped plates of footprints in the sand.  Have you heard about all the rhino poaching in southern Africa this year? It has been an onslaught – over two hundred rhinos killed for their horns this year alone.  In the past couple of weeks there have been some significant arrests of poachers. Although everyone is out on bail again pending court cases, at least there is some counter-action taking place at last.  Perhaps the rhinos have a chance to stay around a while longer.

The sky is dust haze white again, and the mountains have not been seen for days. The mopane trees that still have leaves have turned every shade of gold thru copper and bronze that glow richly in the late afternoon sun. It seems strange that we get our 'fall' colours just as we head into the extreme heat of summer.

The lovely Susan from   very kindly passed on this award to me recently. Thank you Susan! The Mermaid Gallery is a wonderful lively creative venue in beautiful British Columbia Canada. The name comes from that memorable Joni Mitchell classic song.  But let Susan tell you about it when you go to her blog. Go and  see what she has been up to with her inspirational artworks, and deliciously tempting etsy store.

  • To accept this award, you must post the award, thank me, (you're welcome)  and post the link back to this site.
  • Pay it back and pick a few blogs to receive the award and post links for their sites.
  • notify the winners that you have chosen them to receive the award....
There are so many fabulously inspiring and uplifting and downright fascinating blogs out there that i would like to throw this award out to all you guys. 

I would like to send it out to Mandi at Byrds Beautiful World where a group of photographers and lovers of landscapes each post different random photos from their worlds that celebrate the beauty they see around them. It really is a visual journey into the diverse and astounding nature of our beautiful planet. Do go and take a look.

And secondly to my friend Pam at Spiny Marshmallow , who is relatively new to blogworld but who comes armed with humour, creativity, original artworks, quirky photography and great insights in to her life in Zambia.

And also to Rob G of Rob G's World  who has recently made the move from Inukshuk Adventures blogspot to start a new blog to showcase his artistic talents.  If you didnt already know, do stop by and enjoy the creative process with Rob.

and to all of it ready?