It is my hope that putting this voice out into our world has value, not only for me, but for others, as well. I admit to sometimes entertaining dreams of it going viral, of infecting the world with my vision. But most of the time I am content to be motivated by Gandhi's assertion: whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rim of Africa: Day 8

Day 8 (20*): Elandskloof to Roelof's Dam, Kouebokkeveldberge

photo: Ann Reilly
* The day number is that particular day's walk as it fits into the 26 day journey of the Rim of Africa from Pakhuis to Montagu. I was not there for every stage of this journey this season. After completing stages 1 and 3, I started again at the beginning to lead a second group through the 12 days of stages 1 and 2. So the number in brackets is the number of my own day on the trail this season out of a total of 24 days, and several hundred kilometers through the most beautiful mountains on earth.

At the very beginning of stage Two of the Rim of Africa, as we transition into the Kouebokkeveld Mountains, on a farm called Tuinskloof, there is a tree that is magical. To experience its magic you must do this:
You must arrive around midday after walking out of the Cederberg from Zuurvlakte. You must push yourself through the tangle of tall bush that crowds the little stream in front of the tree, taking care not to step into the small, dark pools hidden there in the depths. You must lay down your pack in the tree's deep shade. You must settle yourself into its thick mat of discarded leaves, beneath its drooping boughs, and feel around there for branches that might poke through. Then you must lie on your back and stare straight upwards through layers of soft green, beyond which you know is the blue sky and the yellow sun. And you will not have long to wait.

photo: Ann Reilly
In all the times we have been there, the tree has never failed to work its magic, to sprinkle down drowsiness woven through attunement to cyclical threads of labour and rest. It is a Sabbath tree that we reach on the seventh day of our journey. And under it we always sleep, soundly and deeply for several hours, through the hottest part of the day.

photo: Ann Reilly

On the morning of the eight day we awake under trees as well. Slowly. Gentle old oaks, soft grass below them, the river running next to them over rounded rocks.

Trees are very much a part of this journey and so to start the silence on day 8, I read something that was inspired by trees:

If we are to straddle above and below,
within and without,
let us befriend trees.
For it is trees that reach both downwards,
and upwards,
that hold both the dark and dirty, beautiful complexity,
of what lies below us in the soil,
with their roots,
and the soft caresses of sunlight and wind,
that lie above us,
with their leaves.

photo: Geleo Saintz
We end the silence, over the old pass, each one of us individually, as we enter the water of the stunning pools there. In the noise of the running water, there is no chance to read the poem I have written while walking the pass, a poem inspired by those other, iconic and beautiful trees that we have now left behind us in the Cederberg. In the evening after dark, when we are seated, with no trees, slightly sheltered by a rocky ridge from the high, cool breeze, I read my poem:

Can I really claim the cedars as my kin?
See in their curved trunks, the familiar bridge of a nose,
the dappled skin of my father's thighs,
in their bark?
Is the way they hold themselves,
against the wind,
not a gesture that was my mother's?
The flicker of agitation in the thin leaves,
held by the wood's strong grain,
the same flicker that now inhabits my hands, too.

But do these entitle me to call them
brother tree and sister cedar?
To graft myself within the branches of their lineage?

I do not know if I can claim that my roots probe this rock
and thin soil as deeply as theirs.
But I do know the nourishment I draw there
and how the same place sustains us.
I do know that I share an aspiration
for my seeds, like theirs,
to germinate amongst such beauty.
I do know that I see in them something familial.

And I know that it is when I am amongst them,
that I feel most at home.

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