It’s been a few years, but my memories of France are of the freshness, the natural bounty, the depth of colour.
I climbed Table Mountain on my last weekend in South Africa, this past April. Throughout my month-long vacation, the mountain seemed an ever-present force of nature, one of a number of items on my to-do list for that trip of a lifetime. Toward the end of the holiday, I started to despair that I would run out of time, that I wouldn’t get to see the promised views, that I would miss that momentous experience.
On the day we set out, it was rainy and foggy and I wasn’t feeling particularly energetic, but it was my last chance and I wasn’t about to pass it up. From Kirstenbosch Gardens, the towering rocks shaped like a Medieval castle seemed too far away, up too steep an incline. I could’t imagine myself actually being up there.
I didn’t think about that, though. Instead, I focused on the beauty around me and the fact that I was there, climbing Table Mountain; that I was touching that ancient landform. With every step, I thought about the history around me, the red earth underfoot, the sweet air, the view I hoped I would have when I reached the top.
Once I got going, I enjoyed the climb and it was over much faster than I had expected.
As I prepared to descend again, the mist burned off and the clouds lifted. The view – of the Flats spreading out to Muizenberg and False Bay, and of the distant mountains and Silvermine Nature Reserve – was truly impressive.
My greatest reward, however, was this one, perfect King Protea just beginning to bloom.
It was early Fall and there weren’t a lot of flowers, though the mountainside was green and the damp, cool air refreshing – but the rarity of flowers made this perfect blossom that much more special. And how fitting, as the King Protea is the quintessential flower of this beautiful corner of the world.
In a 100+ year old house, there are traces of past history and previous formulations at every turn. Behind stairs and basement shelves, the true colours–the deeper history–of this house’s walls are revealed.
While above ground, the brick meets modern times with the same mysterious flavour of irreverent imperfection.
Winter here can be deep, long and it can seem never-ending. In the depths of winter, there is only resilience or isolation. Survival–of the soul and of life–depends on endurance of the spirit.
I survive the way my Great Aunt taught me to: by going into it, embracing it as an event, finding joy in the moment, appreciating the beauty, taking in the deepening field of vision. The only way to enjoy it is to love it.
But you also need to be able to tell when it’s better to stay in, make some cocoa, and watch the colours shift and change from the warmth of your living room.