Moreover, this journey has its own unstoppable momentum. Days flow into nights and nights flow into days.
There are no ‘sleep stopovers’, no hotel rooms. no packing and unpacking bags, no break in the inevitable flow of the steady heartbeat of this mighty continent, transmitted through these shining, silver rails.
When night falls, living space is transformed into sleeping space: bunks let down that rock the traveler into slumber almost before his head hits the pillows. And the journey goes on.
Up ahead, the loco still puffs its way through the darkness, slowly gaining altitude as it heads towards the central plateau lying beyond the Highveld. Final destination altitude is over 4500′ (1500m) above sea level: a long, slow climb of over 1100 miles (1800 km) from Cape Town, and that’s as the crow flies.
The route passes through the South African diamond town of Kimberley – viewed only as a skyline during a short station stop – and then heads more directly north. After Kimberley, no major towns are in evidence as the loco strikes out across the eastern plains of Botswana, with the Kalahari Desert lying further over to the west.
All around the train the open canopy of trees – mopani, msasa, acacias – drift past the traveler like ghostly sentinels under the moon, illuminated by the glow from the carriage windows. Wildlife goes about its night business, probably with barely a glance at the familiar string of passing lights and muffled sound, soon to vanish again intp the vast spaces of the dark.
Digital – vector art. For more details, click on images.
This is the story of a bird drama I had a few years back.
I had made a ‘Cat Garden’ at the end of the house, using 6′ netting and long 4″x4″ posts concreted into the ground. It was quite an effort to construct.
The main aim was to contain cats – chiefly my ex-stray Fluffy, who used to wander off over the road until he got hit by a car and lost a back leg (a cool $500 worth of operation I might add). Given his wandering nature, and my worries about the safety of my 2 Birmans also, I decided to make this garden. It’s about 45′ long by 35′ deep on a steep grassy, ferny bank. Basically, it worked well and though my 2 silver tabbies soon demonstrated their contempt by getting out of it, they didn’t do so very often.
My large workshop has windows looking out onto this garden at ground level – the house is dug into the bank at the back and side – and the cats used to get into the garden off the top of a big bench I have standing in the workshop under the windows. They were able to step straight off the windowsill onto the ground.
I say “used to” because as the result of a tragedy involving my young Black Lab and a couple of my ducks, I moved the remaining 3 female ducks into the Cat Garden instead. In a sense it was an inspired move, because they did an excellent job of clearing out the weeds and wandering jew (Tradescantia fluminensis), which had grown rampant in there.
So the ducks were a blessing to the Cat Garden. How come I never got the cats to do a lick of work around that garden? Didn’t I build it for them? Ungrateful, lazy felines!
One day about lunchtime I heard the ducks making an infernal racket – it wasn’t their normal “where’s the grub?” chant. So I went into the workshop to look and got a huge shock. Standing on a stone in the garden about 4′ away from the window was an Australasian Harrier Hawk (Circus approximans) – now called the Swamp Harrier. He was standing side-on to me at eye level and though we see them flying round here on a daily basis, I had never been as close to one as this.
He was bigger than I thought. It was one of those unforgettable moments when I could have wished my eyes were a camera. The size and presence of him was something else. He looked calmly across at me for a moment or two, then spread his great wings and took off. The vision has stayed with me ever since.
Harrier Hawk / Swamp Harrier – Vector.
Obviously this called for action. I was surprised he had come down into the small garden, because it’s overhung on one side by the lower branches of a Norfolk Island Pine, has the wall of our 2 story house on another side, ti-tree scrub on the two other sides, and a couple of tree ferns growing in it, so it doesn’t offer a smooth flight path. But raptors are the masters of the air waves. And since I didn’t have any doubts about why he was there, I went out with a roll of electric fence tape and laced it back and forth across the airspace.
I hoped it would serve its purpose of protecting my ducks because – funny, comical characters that they were, I loved them, and I didn’t want any more disasters to happen in my duck world.
So this artwork is an attempt to reconstruct what I saw and felt in that magical moment before he departed.
Note: The Swamp Harrier is recorded as being 50-60cm long. Males weigh 650gm and females 850gm. This makes them larger than Rooks at 45cm and Magpies at 41 cm long.
For more details, click on the images.
The Polynesian adventurers who discovered and colonised New Zealand about the end of the first century AD were extremely conversant with the planets and their passages.
It was this knowledge, plus an observation of the flight paths of migratory birds, that enabled them to undertake huge voyages across the Pacific Ocean – initially from west to east, and later back in a southwesterly direction to find the islands that they were to name ‘Aotearoa’ or ‘Land of The Long White Cloud”.
The rising of the Pleiades (late May early June in Aotearoa New Zealand) is regarded as the Maori New Year, and it is a time for celebrating a new start.
Traditionally, it was a time for remembering the dead, and celebrating new life.
To this symbol, I added the Koru or unfurling fern frond, a favorite subject for me – also a very strong symbol for birth and new beginnings.
And of course, Matariki is a great time for the burgeoning of artistic endeavor, too.
This post is a follow-up to a reference made in “The Journey“.