Sometimes – rarely – in the hours between darkness and light, a bank of mist forms to roll across the desert, and to hide the sad ravages of the drought. The drought is always there; the mist, rarely. It’s the way of the Kalahari. It’s the way of life over here. But the mist helps when it’s there – it hides the pain.
As the clock works its way – laboriously, slowly, like time does – towards the new year, Boggel tries to keep the spirits up in Boggel’s Place by pouring doubles. Triples. Sometimes more. For there is a sadness about the passing of a year. And an uncertainty about the arrival of a new phase – even if it has a higher number. Bigger numbers do not necessarily imply improvement. The longer ladder falls over with greater ease, after all.
“I’m not quite sure what to expect of the new year.” Servaas echoes the sentiment in the bar. “Maybe our president will have to go. Petrol prices are rising. The Rand is slipping. We have problems in the world out there: Syria, Congo, Zimbabwe. Oscar Pistorius and a host of politicians will appear in court. Life as we know it, my friends, is changing…for the worse.”
“Ja,” Boggel agrees, “and good old-time values are disappearing fast. What, I ask you, has happened to Love? Or compassion. Or kindness? Now it’s a free-for-all, with everybody chasing egos that should never be as big as they are, anyway.”
“Come on, you guys. It’s a new year. New Hope. A new beginning. Surely we should celebrate that?”
“Yes, Vetfaan, we could do that. Or we can stop telling ourselves how good life is. We could – if we tried – acknowledge the fact that we’re not living the dream we dreamt of.” Servaas stares morosely at his empty glass. “…It isn’t even half empty…”
“I don’t agree, Servaas.” Vetfaan swirls down the last of his beer. “Life is what you make of it. If you face the realities, dreams become possibilities.”
Even Gertruida is amazed.
That’s why the early morning mist is so important – especially on the 1st of January, like today. It covers the hurt of the past. It obscures the withered dreams of a year that might be best forgotten. And it feeds the few succulents that survive on the moisture in the air.
The vensterplantjie (window plant) (Fenestraria species) that allows sunlight in through its little window, and conserves its water jealously with a little wax layer, is an excellent example. And it sucks in the miniscule amounts of water the mist brings. That’s why it can grow where nothing else survives.
Gertruida compares the little plant with the human endeavour to seek love and acceptance. And we do that all the time, don’t we? We need so little, yet seek so much more. That’s why we all crave a bit of early-morning Kalahari mist.
Just to hide the incredible likeness of being.