acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas in the sun

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!


Diane said...

I wish I was with you! Here it is snow, snow and more snow, I hate it. Love the photo of the chameleon, just one of the many things that I miss:( Diane

Angela said...

What beautiful and still homesick- for-your-childhood-Christmases words! Lovely, Val, your magic writing always leaves me breathless. I always love your photos, but they also show me how DIFFERENT your world is from ours.
Today, i did not see a chamaeleon (never did) but a red squirrel, sitting in the snow on his scratched-open nut hiding store-place, munching his nut, oblivious of me watching. The birds, the swan and ducks and crows, they all find it hard to survive now. It is cold down to -10° C, everything covered in snow. I take long beautiful walks in my high boots and mittens, but am happy to return to a warm house. Yes, I truly think that Christmas time with candles and hot tea and biscuits is the real thing - but at ANY other time of year I`d prefer sunshine and chamaeleons!!

Val said...

Diane - i remember the magic of snow - it appeals to my inner child! The chameleons are walking at the moment - albeit slowly. Found another one today. I think that means more rain cming?

Geli - yes magical white christmas dreams; having said that I will hope to enjoy a sunny one here too. The differences are fascinating!! xx

Thanks for visiting so quickly - I will be thinking of you in the snow this holidays; hope you keep warm and well and enjoy it all xxV

Fire Byrd said...

It does seem very strange the idea of Christmas in the middle of summer and the long holidays.
Here it is as you wanted in your childhood, snow and more snow. Every hill is covered in children and adults toboganing. Christmas lights glisten out on the snow from warm cosy windows.
And the ice is just lethal, but the dog still needs walking and I hate it. i'd like to be a dormouse and wake up next spring.

e said...

I spent all childhood christmas seasons near the equator with 85-90percent humidity, and during the long holiday, we would sometimes visit the beach...Funny the things we miss when we're grown...

Wishing you the best of the season and a great new year!

Rosaria Williams said...

It must be an adjustment, every year, for your body and soul to re-create old memories of winter dark days and promised lights.

We stop and celebrate at this time for many reasons; to recollect the bright and shiny promises of light at the end of the day, to reconnect to family and loved ones, to reflect upon our blessings and our place in the universe.

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

I have only ever experienced African summer Xmases. Perhaps one day I'll make a plan to experience a "white Christmas" and finally get to see snow. . . .

I LOVE the ficus baubles and I'm pretty sure the green pigeons (african elves maybe??) were hard at work in there too.

Wishing you both a fabulous festive season and a funfilled 2011


The Solitary Walker said...

Lovely piece of writing, Val. Frostiest and snowiest December here in the UK since the days of woolly mammoths. Have a great Christmas!

Val said...

fire byrd - make sure you wear some non slip boots!
they say you should be careful what you wish for. our childhood wishes were many and strong - they just took a while....

e - oh yes - either way. its the magic of childhood we miss perhaps? happy christmas wishes to you too x

Rosaria - it is always a sad/happy time i think; so many memories resurface; but also a wonderful time to celebrate friends, families, reconnect with people and express our appreciation. Happy times to you and yours x

Janet - you have never seen snow? wow. you must. but an African christmas has a different magic. That fig tree was awesome. it was literally raining ripe figs around me as i took the photos. xx

Solitary Walker -great stuff - enjoy and watch out for the mammoths!

happy christmas everyone - enjoy the magic

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Maybe it's just the magic of childhood we miss ?
But , having spent one Christmas camping by an Australian beach and eating bananas , I'm glad to be in the north and to see the Christmas lights gleaming in the mid-afternoon darkness .

Friko said...

Nothing will ever come close to childhood Christmas and I hate being grown-up at this time of year and knowing how very tinselly it all was.

This year we have the 'White Christmas' of the song and the valley is truly magical. Still, nostalgia for times past is particularly deep at this time and I am allowing myself to have a little wallow.

Enjoy your turkey although I can't imagine that blistering heat and turkey go together.

karen said...

Lovely chameleon! I can so very much relate to your experiences of the 'silly season' in this part of the world. Things are slowly driving me nuts as we get closer to the start of the holiday season!! Can't wait to escape a little, soon :)

Lori ann said...

ah val, perhaps you can watch a snowy movie?
this time of year does bring up so many feelings, happy sad...
maybe one year you and k can fly off to the northern hemisphere for your own white christmas...

a part of me wants to keep the christmas of my children's youth(which was probably a recreation of my own). but they have grown and times have changed. i've never had a white christmas and i want one!

but here's to new memories and times shared with the ones we love these days.


Cheryl Cato said...

The photos of the fig tree and the chameleon are perfect. It would seem so odd to me to pass through Oct, Nov, Dec, Jan, & Feb on the opposite end of the world. I am so fixated with them being autumn & winter months that I would have difficulty making the transition.
As for the G-man & myself, we are heading to the high desert plains of Texas for a few days. It will be cold but I think there will be lots of sun.
PS~I loved your news of the kinder graduation in Mozambique.

Val said...

Smitonius and Sonata -i wonder where in the northern world you are? well enjoy it all and i hope you dont have to do much travelling?yes i think you are right, its the magic of childhood that is missing :) thanks for stopping by!

Friko - it is always a happy/sad time of year; and i know some people really struggle so it doesnt seem to matter how cynical or jaded one becomes, it still has meaning and impact. This fascinates me.
Let out that inner child Friko and enjoy the tinsel and snow hehe. Turkey will be nice - we love it and its only available now which is wierd. We may eat it cold with salads though.

Karen - when are you off - i hope soon. you really deserve this break. what a year! hope you have fun on the way xxx

Lori - its mostly in my head - that deep nostalgia part; now we are looking forward to being at home and enjoying the summer jungles. looks like just us this time, so will be quiet and calm i expect. Yes - here's to new memories and Christmas now xx

Lizzy F - the contrasts are amazing. I am receiving pics of snow from friends and family in the northern hemisphere and it couldnt be more different to the scenes i am looking at here - but equally beautiful. What a planet.

Have a wonderful Christmas dear friends, and travel safe xxV

mermaid gallery said...

I have always wanted to escape Christmas and celebrate it with warm sunshine instead of cold and snow. It is all the consumerism that I would escape not the warmth of family and friends. It is the one time of year when family gets together and that makes it awesome. Enjoy, and celebrate! hugs, Susan

Amanda Summer said...

thanks, dear val, for sharing what christmas in africa is like. a long way from those of your childhood, for sure, but deeply beautiful and evocative in their own way.

sending you blessings this holiday season, and may your glass be filled and raised often.


Kate said...

A little bit of love was left for you...

Charl said...

Thanks for sharing the Christmas memories and reminding me of Christmas spent in the dry Pafuri heat for so many years. This Christmas we'll be in the snow of the Sierra Nevada mountains, but I'll trade it for a hot African one any day. Thanks for the nice giraffe painting with your Christmas wishes. Looking forward to seeing some more of Keith's new work. Have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year.