Saturday, May 21, 2005

Retreat in Ixopo

The heat rises from the clay road, baked solid by the midday sun. Unseen creatures scuttle, slither or fly away in sudden freight through the long grass on either side. Two calico covered women, bending low over a stretch of grass, turn out to be mother goats with their frisky kids nestling around their hooves. The goats and I negotiate negotiating the path; the kids stutter nervously in front of me, stiff legs jerking them forward. The mother concedes, and leads her kids up a side path. Four sets of eyes watch me, yellow and sideways, as I edge past. Great blossom bosomed trees give suck to ecstatic bees. The trees hum as the road shimmers ahead.

I turn into a scraggly grove of wattle trees to escape the heat. Dead leaves scrunch noisily under my shoes, making sharp cracks to break into the insistent hum. I walk higher into the cool. The grove sorts itself out into more uniform rows.

Descending once more, a dam appears, contemplating the trees’ overhanging in green silence. I rest on a bench meant for watchers too shy to swim. On my back I look up into the height of the pine above me. Sparse leaves and angled branches – an Ikebana airscape just for me.

Loud grunts and leafy rustles startle trees nearby. I become aware of being watched. Two monkeys sway above, eyes drilling into mine. I ignore them and rest, trying not to look at their furry bottoms suspended above me. They know – and I know - I am in their territory.

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