20 Mei 2018

Neil Gaiman

Science, as you know, my little one, is the study

of the nature and behaviour of the universe.

It’s based on observation, on experiment, and measurement,

and the formulation of laws to describe the facts revealed.

In the old times, they say, the men came already fitted with brains

designed to follow flesh-beasts at a run,

to hurdle blindly into the unknown,

and then to find their way back home when lost

with a slain antelope to carry between them.

Or, on bad hunting days, nothing.

The women, who did not need to run down prey,

had brains that spotted landmarks and made paths between them

left at the thorn bush and across the scree

and look down in the bole of the half-fallen tree,

because sometimes there are mushrooms.

Before the flint club, or flint butcher’s tools,

The first tool of all was a sling for the baby

to keep our hands free

and something to put the berries and the mushrooms in,

the roots and the good leaves, the seeds and the crawlers.

Then a flint pestle to smash, to crush, to grind or break.

And sometimes men chased the beasts

into the deep woods,

and never came back.

Some mushrooms will kill you,

while some will show you gods

and some will feed the hunger in our bellies. Identify.

Others will kill us if we eat them raw,

and kill us again if we cook them once,

but if we boil them up in spring water, and pour the water away,

and then boil them once more, and pour the water away,

only then can we eat them safely. Observe.

Observe childbirth, measure the swell of bellies and the shape of breasts,

and through experience discover how to bring babies safely into the world.

Observe everything.

And the mushroom hunters walk the ways they walk

and watch the world, and see what they observe.

And some of them would thrive and lick their lips,

While others clutched their stomachs and expired.

So laws are made and handed down on what is safe. Formulate.

The tools we make to build our lives:

our clothes, our food, our path home…

all these things we base on observation,

on experiment, on measurement, on truth.

And science, you remember, is the study

of the nature and behaviour of the universe,

based on observation, experiment, and measurement,

and the formulation of laws to describe these facts.

The race continues. An early scientist

drew beasts upon the walls of caves

to show her children, now all fat on mushrooms

and on berries, what would be safe to hunt.

The men go running on after beasts.

The scientists walk more slowly, over to the brow of the hill

and down to the water’s edge and past the place where the red clay runs.

They are carrying their babies in the slings they made,

freeing their hands to pick the mushrooms.

10 Junie 2017

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep
  by Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

I have always loved this poem.

The moment when, after kneeling and grieving and losing self in loss
there is a silence into which a bird sings
a flower grows
a beetle scuttles
a bird's wings flutter
and you look up from death and see life.

06 Junie 2017

The Kloof (I)

It started earlier this year when Gerhard and I went climbing at Hellfire. Making/drinking some coffee (it was only 6:00 in the morning and very cold) at the foot of the first climb, we looked over the valley and spotted this kloof next to Moolenaars Peak heading towards the Pinnacles.
Gerhard peering into the kloof (Photo: Gerhard)

I am sure many readers would have seen this kloof. It is the one leading from the river close to the trout farm and lodge in the Du Toits kloof pass, cutting through the enormous cliffs, beckoning one to explore, especially when their waterfalls gush down during the winter rains. We couldn't keep it out of our minds, and with a few discussions here and there an appropriate Saterday was found and we were comitted to go! 

The initial plan was simple. Get into the kloof and hike it out with the odd scramble, and while we are at it climb Witteberg and head home via Kromriver Dome and the hut. Easy?
Some planning
Studying all the dense contour lines and scanning the surrounding cliffs we quickly realised it was going to be an adventure. Two routes were considered as options for the Saterday recce. With some sage advise from Retief Jordaan, a few emails to Andrew Beetge, some arm-chair exploring on Google Earth, and some further satelite imagery we realized there was only one way to find out: Nike style, just do it! "Nooit geskiet is altyd mis" 

So Kari dropped us at the junction of the kloof and the Moolenaars river at about 6:00 am. We voetered amateurishly down a ravine with our headlamps into the Port Jacksons and bundu bashed our way out of it. Crossed the river. With our koplampies it was a bit tricky to navigate and we spent a lot of time bundu bashing our way through the various degrees of terain (and leftover from working for water) up to the kloof. Trying not to get wet in the river... (we'll cross that bridge a bit later with our discoveries...) The vegetation was harsh and we tried to stay on scree as much as possible.
Better view of the kloof (Photo: Riaan)

As we got higher up we moved a bit faster and we crossed the most amazing indigenous forest with Yellow woods standing all over the place. Breathtaking views looking back.
View from the office... I wish! (Foto: Gerhard)

We scrambled high and the ran into cliffs... Then scrambled down to the kloof and made a discovery: It was easier to boulder hop, especially since there was not a lot of water.
Boulder hopping: My favourite! (Gerhard)

We could now move very fast and rocketed up the kloof. Wow... we should have done it this way from the start. We boulder hopped most of the way up. Amazing! The Pinacles towaring in front of us in. Rock faces all over. 
With all these majestic cliffs we realized we had to get a vantage point to decide on how we were going to tackle it further. So we went up a ridge, reaching some scree and aimed for a nook (lets call it X) in the hope that we could get a good view behind and inside the kloof going up to the Moolenaars Needle.
Gerhard going up some scree (Riaan)

This spot also had to give a good view towards the "More Direct" Route in the kloof. From here we could also get some good footage and information for a next trip if we ran out of time.

So things got a little bit steeper and we were back to a bit of bundu bashing once we passed the scree slope. We took some climbing gear along: rope, with a few nuts for protection. Just enough to ensure  a scramble that started out easy and turned out a bit wilder than anticipated could be done with confidence! This would also provide a few good test runs should things get trickier further along the way.
We did about four pitches and then scrambled up a steep grassy slope till we got to a spot for assessing our situation and have lunch. The mission started at 6:00 and we were going until 12:30. I was hungry!

Gerhard at the bottom of the tower (Riaan)

Our lunch spot was great. At the bottom of a tower with great views of the kloof and The Pinacles right in front of us across the little ravine. We could look into the "More Direct" Route, and realized that this was an extreme mission, which was probably more suitable for  abseiling... or some young Supertramp!
"More Direct" Route and main kloof (Riaan)
Due to time, age and maybe some sanity we decided to rather walk back roughly the same route and see if the kloof is more accessible from the river. So we belayed down, down the protea-bush-anchor-hop pretty much the same way we went up. One of the abseils down took a bit of shortcut bashing through some foliage and found only a meter of rope left at the bottom...Phew... Then aimed for the stream to boulder hop our way back. It is a lot easier in the river than on the banks and we definitely will approach and the explore the kloof further using the boulder hopping route. 

I am still licking wounds from the bundu bashing and the rock that nicked my shin, but looking forward to exploring it from Kromriver Dome next time to see if we can combine the experience into a single ascent and complete the project!

Thank you Lord for bringing us home safe!

29 Mei 2017

When the child was a child
It walked with its arms swinging,
wanted the brook to be a river,
the river to be a torrent,
and this puddle to be the sea.
When the child was a child,
it didn’t know that it was a child,
everything was soulful,
and all souls were one.
When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.
When the child was a child,
It was the time for these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end?
Is life under the sun not just a dream?
Is what I see and hear and smell
not just an illusion of a world before the world?
Given the facts of evil and people.
does evil really exist?
How can it be that I, who I am,
didn’t exist before I came to be,
and that, someday, I, who I am,
will no longer be who I am?
When the child was a child,
It choked on spinach, on peas, on rice pudding,
and on steamed cauliflower,
and eats all of those now, and not just because it has to.
When the child was a child,
it awoke once in a strange bed,
and now does so again and again.
Many people, then, seemed beautiful,
and now only a few do, by sheer luck.
It had visualised a clear image of Paradise,
and now can at most guess,
could not conceive of nothingness,
and shudders today at the thought.
When the child was a child,
It played with enthusiasm,
and, now, has just as much excitement as then,
but only when it concerns its work.
When the child was a child,
It was enough for it to eat an apple, … bread,
And so it is even now.
When the child was a child,
Berries filled its hand as only berries do,
and do even now,
Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw,
and do even now,
it had, on every mountaintop,
the longing for a higher mountain yet,
and in every city,
the longing for an even greater city,
and that is still so,
It reached for cherries in topmost branches of trees
with an elation it still has today,
has a shyness in front of strangers,
and has that even now.
It awaited the first snow,
And waits that way even now.
When the child was a child,
It threw a stick like a lance against a tree,
And it quivers there still today.
Peter Handke, a song written for Wim Wenders film Wings of desire.

28 Mei 2017

The Tree and the Pool
"I don't want my leaves to drop," said the tree
"I don't want to freeze, said the pool"
"I don't want to smile", said the sombre man, 
"Or ever to cry, said the Fool".
"I don't want to open,"said the bud
"I don't want to end," said the night
"I don't want to rise", said the neap-tide,
"Or ever to fall," said the kite
They wished and they murmured and whispered,
They said that to change was a crime
Then a voice from nowhere answered
"You must do what I say", said Time

- Brian Patten

It is a timeless moment, watching my son and his friends chuck the hockey ball through the leaves. Their voices stir a nameless longing - connecting a time when I was here with the wish that they would stay like this. Sweet, innocent, carefree. And as I think it, I know that it is an illusion. All the cares of the world are already in them. We see it if we take time to look. 
They have seen so little, yet they have seen much.
They carry us. They carry the world.

20 Mei 2017

Sticks and stones and Tepees

Hey, I found Tarzan! 


Sometimes a new space opens up before you. If you are bold, you run. You dive. You shout. You fill it.

If you are of a more gentle nature - some might call it timid or scared - you tiptoe in.
Slide around the sides and hug the walls.
Watch, listen, smell.
And let it fill you.