Back in my little heron house after another overseas trip, I am minded of the changing seasons. I can now see Scrabo Tower clearly as Ophelia dances across the fields tossing her hair, leaving trees reaching after her with their bare arms. The roads are awash with mud as tractors trudge their weary way home with the remains of the harvest. The mornings struggle to get out of bed and the sun seldom makes an appearance at all.
The weather was similar in Cape Town last week. There it is the end of winter and the wet is welcome in a time of severe drought. My grandson bathes in a few inches of water and it lies in the bath all the next day so that they can use it to flush the toilets. A long dry summer lies ahead for my daughter and her family, but it is impossible to feel sorry for them living in Cape Town, sitting as it does in spectacular scenery dominated by the beautiful Table Mountain. Their home is in Bellville and they overlook the Door de Kraal recreational dam which is teeming with life. Across the road is the Majik Forest where the pathway is bordered by young trees with magical names, planted by woodland lovers or in memoriam: milk wood, stink wood, ironwood, the sausage tree and my favourite, the boer-bean bastard saffron. There I encountered my heron, or one very similar, preening himself on the riverbank.
We walked round the dam most days and I was enchanted by the profusion of arum lilies growing wild, each one a milky white bowl upturned like a chalice.
Spectacular red-eyed Egyptian geese and their babies waddled in the shallows and fussing along under our feet were hundreds of guinea fowl, with their comical mottled square bodies and blue heads, as stupid as their farmyard cousins. Most wonderful of all, however, were the weavers, abundant in their fluorescent colours which flashed through the rushes. I was excited when one paused for a few seconds swaying on a reed nearby. It was a southern red bishop, brilliant in its orange and black feathers and busy, busy, busy.
A much larger bird is the hadeda ibis which foraged in groups in the grass. An ugly grey bird in the distance, his plumage has an iridescent sheen, almost like purple scales which reflect the light close up. The problem with this bird is its call, extremely loud and distinctive and much too like the cry of a baby. I know because I was lying awake listening and in the early morning it was impossible to distinguish which was which.
I was in Cape Town to mark the arrival of our seventh grandchild, a second son for Willem and Maria. Little Edward Richard was born six weeks ago and I flew out to meet him and reconnect with his big boetie, Sebastian. A new baby brings joy mixed with sleep deprivation so that the joy is temporarily diluted in exhaustion. Willem is also studying in the wee hours and in the evenings so the pressure is on. I was reminded while there of the gift that a new baby is. I knitted a sleeveless pullover for Teddy and left him a little card with God’s promise that he was knitted together in his mother’s womb. He is a gorgeous tiny boy, thriving on his mother’s milk and starting now to settle into something like a routine. It has been a rough few weeks for them, separated as they are from both families, but they are strong and the blessing of the God who made and gave them Teddy bear is on them. Sebastian’s favourite phrase is, ‘It’s so huge, Granny’ and it is: God’s love for them is so huge.
On my return journey, I was delayed in Cape Town airport for five hours. There was some consolation to be had from the array of blue and silver Christmas trees which lined the concourse. ‘Tis nearly the season, and we’ll be back!