Well here I am, adding a new post. Like a long fence across the landscape, eventually there’ll be a connection joining one post to another. For now, there is only a line of posts, and it’s covering … oh, perhaps a hill and a half in my imagination. It starts at the edge of the tar-road, in the Karoo, perhaps, or in the Midlands landscape where I grew up in Kwa-Zulu Natal. No – the Karoo it is.
The posts are not connected to each other yet, or at least not often. Sometimes three are grouped together, as with the burglary recently. But the rest of the posts are not yet linked very often. Eventually, when all the posts that will ever be, are in place, then perhaps the connecting wires will spontaneously be visible; suddenly they will gleam in the setting sun, a work complete.
Meanwhile, random birds will visit, sitting on this or that post for a few minutes, and some will leave a comment, perhaps a song or an ‘offering’ of a different kind. All are welcome to leave their opinion, however it’s shared.
I happen to love stopping in the silence of the Karoo or the Eastern Cape to get out of the car, walk around, listen, and feel the landscape, the breeze and the sun or whatever the weather is dishing out. In both landscapes there’s the huge space, the silence, the thrumming of life underneath it all, when one cares to listen. In the Karoo – the far-off clouds building up, making promises they can’t keep; windmills turning as if to make a polite effort, cars whooshing past, full of eyes. In the Eastern Cape, it’s very different. If it’s Summer, there are cicadas. Always there are far-off dogs barking, people’s voices, very distant, calling to each other, cattle lowing far away. Sometimes there’s a soccer game in progress, and the excited shouts faintly drift up the valley.
What I love especially about the Karoo is the emptiness, which emphasises the few signs of human habitation, like the fence posts marching off to the horizon. Their presence is somehow comforting – there were people here. Human skill measured and counted and lifted and placed, took lunch and tea breaks, and human weariness turned in under the stars to sleep. When I haven’t watched some awful (but brilliant) movie like ‘Taken’ recently, I love the human race.
It’s the same feeling I get when I move into a new home (especially a new home that is old) and find cup hooks and picture-holes, and the shininess of a step well used, or innumerable scratches and dents on a window sill that dates from 1836 as in the house I share now. There’s no difference between these clues and the outline of a hand spray-painted with ochre and a reed, thousands of years old, or the steps leading down to the kitchens at Hampton Court in Surrey, England – hollowed-out over the centuries.
At the end, what we leave behind are the cumulative results of our everyday little actions, mundane, human and timeless.