Turquoise waves roll on infinitely, white capped and brilliantly-hued and reaching out to where the horizon blurs, dark blue against light. I can hear them crash, a roiling white tumult of foam and white sand and crumbling shells. Listening to them as I sit on our balcony partway up the hill, the ocean seems close, closer than it is. The wind gusts, roaring through the fynbos and flowering trees, while dogs bark and baboons howl here and there, their sounds following each other across the village. The calls of children rise and fade, rise and fade; they are still celebrating their freedom on this their last day of holidays before the new school year begins. All these sounds layer themselves over the incessant and highpitched frogsong – one note sung in unison, unwavering.
The sun is hot and brings out the scent of the flowers and leaves, borne along on the cooling Atlantic wind. It is a familiar and sweet scent, like no other perfume in the world. The fynbos is unique, precious, rare – a combination of succulents and other low-lying scrub perfectly suited to the wind and the climate. Much of the growth on the hills burned in dramatic bush fires that swept up the peninsula two nights ago. As we made our way here from Canada, first from Ottawa, then in London, and finally at the Cape Town airport, I followed the progression of the fire through messages from friends and posts on Facebook. The pictures showed a swath of bright flame that came within meters of the houses at the outer edges of the village, throwing smoke and sparks up into the dark, moonless night.
A network of volunteers and professional fire fighters, combined with a fortunate change in the wind, managed to protect the village, but it took 24 hours of tireless firefighting. It’s part of life here, not entirely unusual, but of course as you defend everything against the power of fire, as you watch as your neighbours defend your home, this beautiful haven on the edge of the world, even the stoutest of heart feel fear, feel cowed by the awesomeness, the powerlessness of man.
Today, though much of the mountain has the burn marks to show for the night of devastation, everything feels normal, everything feels as it did when I left it, nearly two years ago. At that time, I was heartbroken to leave. I thought I might never come back and as the days wound down, I took hundreds of pictures of everything that I loved, each turn in the road, each road sign, the ocean in the ever-changing light.
Now, I can’t help but smile a ridiculous smile, delighted to be back here. And I am still taking pictures of everything, fully aware of just how quickly the time will fly. I don’t know whether to watch the ocean or let my eyes roam across the fynbos. I love the hills and the view of the village and the openness of looking out to sea. We’ve been to the local restaurant, visited with our friends, and clambered across ocean rock pools. Not fears of fire, nor even the wild, smelly baboons that break into houses to steal whatever food they can grab (we’ve already had one wander in with her tiny baby, and of course they stole my special gluten free granola) – nothing mars the perfection of this place.