Fresh memories of France

It’s been a few years, but my memories of France are of the freshness, the natural bounty, the depth of colour.

Sunflower field, France, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Sunflower field, France, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Angers Market, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Angers Market, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Angers Market 2, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Angers Produce, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Fresh Salt, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Fresh Salt, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

King Protea: my reward for climbing Table Mountain

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.

Protea on Table Mountain, Copyright Silverleaf 2014

King Protea on Table Mountain, Copyright Silverleaf 2014

If these walls could speak

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.

Wall 3, Copyright Silverleaf, 2015

Wall Detail – Old Stair Line, Copyright Silverleaf, 2015

Wall 1, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Wall Detail, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

While above ground, the brick meets modern times with the same mysterious flavour of irreverent imperfection.

Library Wall, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Library Wall, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Trying to Capture the Scale

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Hout Bay, South Africa, Copyright Silverleaf 2014. Boats and houses only hint at the size.

How do you capture the size of something immeasurable?
How do you find the words to do its vastness justice?
How do you convey its scale?

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Two figures–tiny at a distance–walk along Dias Beach, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, Copyright Silverleaf 2014.

Cameras and words cannot transmit to others the magnitude of a mountain, the breadth of a strand, the power of the sea, or the absolute belonging you feel when you finally find yourself standing in the right place.
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Smitswinkel Bay, South Africa, Copyright Silverleaf 2014. Tiny, distant figures roam the beach below the houses.

All you can do is witness it, try to hold it in your head and heart, knowing that eventually you must leave. And only then, once you have gone, do photographs stand in for the experience. Only when you fill in their blanks with your memories can they begin to do the moment justice, to convey the true scale of the place, and the feelings you had while you were standing there.

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Table Mountain dwarfs the buildings of Cape Town, Copyright Silverleaf 2014

In the Depth of Winter

Ice on Pines, Copyright Silverleaf, 2015

Ice on Pines, Copyright Silverleaf, 2015

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.

Byways and Back Ways, Copyright Silverleaf, 2015

Tremblant’s Byways and Back Ways, Copyright Silverleaf, 2015

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.

Winter Rooves, Copyright Silverleaf, 2015

Winter Rooves, Copyright Silverleaf, 2015

Sun and Ice, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Sun and Ice, Copyright Silverleaf 2015