Weekly Photo Challenge: Blurred Memory

“…And that, son, is exactly what a desert elephant looked like. Close your eyes tightly, and imagine what a wonderful creature it used to be.”

begin 2004 080“Gee dad! Really? They used to live here?”

“Yep…right here, in the desert. It was a long time ago, when they were still protected.”b2

“Wow! I would have loved to see one.”

“They were quite magnificent. For a while it looked as if they might have been saved, But….”

b5“Aw no, dad! Don’t tell me…”

“I’m sorry, son, but they didn’t survive, I’m afraid.”

“And now, dad?”

b4“We can only imagine them.They once lived here…free and harmless. Only their memory lives on.”

“But I’ve never seen one, dad! I can’t remember something I’ve never seen!”

“That, my son, is true. Unfortunately the poachers didn’t care.”

When Pointing Religious Fingers becomes Dangerous

Credit: spiegel.de

Credit: spiegel.de

“Look at this,” Gertruida says as she points to her laptop screen. She’s just acquired a dongle – upsetting Servaas very much. However, once the term was explained to him, he did relax a bit. As an astute guardian of the town’s morals, he takes no chances. “They’re saying that Germanwings crash is Germany’s own 9/11.”

She reads the report stating that the copilot was a recent convert to Islam and that he deliberately ploughed into the mountain, killing all on board. “Apparently this man, Andreas Lubitz, locked the captain out of the cockpit and flew the plane to destruction on purpose. If the suggestion that there is a link between his religion and the crash is true, it is a sad day for people of all faiths. I mean, would God command such a thing? No matter what you believe Him to be, surely killing innocent people, including babies, should be regarded as a sin. All life, after all, is sacred.”

“Ja, you’ll get two responses from government agencies in the next few days.” Kleinpiet loves urban legends – he says living in South Africa provides fertile ground for far-fetched ideas to grow. Lately he’s said a lot about how the officials remain silent about the 4000 jobs they’re cutting at PetroSa, the state refinery. He says the most dangerous tactic of any government is to say nothing. “Either they’ll do it the old-fashioned way and blame it on human error. You know: the co-pilot had a blackout, fell asleep or was mentally unstable. There must be a thousand ways to blame the crash on something unforeseen happening to the poor man. And the public would have no choice but to accept the official findings, because who can prove anything else? The only people to know what really happened, were those on board.

“Or, they’ll remain tight-lipped, feeding the public only enough to confuse the situation. Can you imagine the backlash in Germany – and the world – if Islam gets blamed? No government would encourage such instability within its borders.”

Facebook-page-in-support-of-Andreas-Lubitz“That may be true, Kleinpiet. But it also says here that the Islamic State is lauding Lubitz as a hero. That is enough to incite hatred already. I certainly hope it’s not true.”

“Ja,” Oudoom sighs, “beheading people and kidnapping westerners aren’t clever ways to promote the values of faith. If that crash has religious undertones, it could spark a lot of negativism towards Muslims who are sincere in their faith. Religious intolerance is a horrible thing. It’s caused wars in the past.”

“True, Oudoom. Most wars seem to have a religious or ideological basis. The Arab Conquests (632-732), the Crusades (1097-1291), the  Reformation Wars of the 16th century, Hitler’s stance against Jews…the list goes on. But…” and here Gertruida pauses dramatically, “the cause of war isn’t religion. It’s people. Neither the Quran nor the Bible commands us to kill each other. We may differ in our views, but in both doctrines there are more than enough to promote tolerance.

“The problem arises when some individuals start interpreting certain passages in a way to promote their own goals. That’s where the danger lies. It’s a matter of opinion – skewed as it might be – as opposed to religion, which directs us to harmony, not destruction.”

Vetfaan stares dolefully at the counter. “I like our isolation, Gertruida. Ever since you brought that dongle into our lives, we’ve been fed on a diet of bad news and conflict. I don’t want to be reminded of religious fanatics, social unrest and rising petrol prices. I want to talk about the drought and sheep. So, please, would you mind terribly much to keep that laptop at home?”

“Keeping the laptop at home won’t change what’s happening in the world, Vetfaan.” Her tone is soft, almost apologetic. “Events in the Alps do have an influence on us, even if it is indirectly. We can’t play ostrich all our lives.”

Oudoom holds up a hand. “Let’s not argue about the necessity of news – or not. Let’s think about the families and friends of the passengers who boarded that flight. We can’t change the world and neither can our arguments in this bar solve the question of why the plane crashed. But we can sympathise with the people who are directly involved.

“Blaming religion won’t solve the problem. The question to ask ourselves is: why would a normal, rational man be led astray to such an extent that he starts killing others? Why did radicalism seem so preferable? And the answer is simple: because people stopped caring about each other. Personal gain and personal glory are the matches to light that fire. If, in your quest, you happen to step on others, then that’s just too bad.

“So, a finger points back at the rest of humanity, as well. What are we doing to reflect the virtues of a kind and loving religion? Or has the world become so egocentric, so uncaring, that religion is something we fall back to only when we need something? What, my friends, do we do to live our faith?”

They fall silent after that. Copilot Lubitz may have crashed the plane on purpose, but – they realise – he might be only a symptom. If that is true, the disease is far too frightening to contemplate.

Wire-trapping the Past

Credit: bergsiggamefarm.co.za

Credit: bergsiggamefarm.co.za

Whenever the talk in Boggel’s Place turns to sheep farming (which is rather often), somebody will inevitably say something about wild dogs – those painted animals with the vicious hunting instincts. That they are a threat and capable of wreaking havoc, is above questioning, yet it is Vetfaan who usually gets up quietly to go and smoke his pipe outside. He knows not all vermin need to be shot on sight. No matter what their usual habits are and how much damage they have done in the past, he’d never forget the incident on his farm…

It happened towards the end of the 70’s, when he was a young lad on his father’s farm, but he can still recall those eyes when he found a wild dog caught in a wire snare out in the veld. Snares – as illegal as they were (and still are) – were used by some workers to trap small antelopes and rabbits. Of course Vetfaan’s father took a dim view of such practices, but this didn’t stop the trapping.

One day, while patrolling the fence around the farm, Vetfaan heard shrill yapping, a piercing cacophony of sound, emanating from a koppie just north of the fence. This was noman’s land, an arid wasteland where even the sparse Kalahari bushes didn’t attempt to grow, so Vetfaan climbed through the fence to investigate.

The wild dog had his foot caught in a wire snare and the animal must have endured torture for a considerable period of time. The animal was gaunt and in obvious distress. The howls of pain decreased to a whimper and Vetfaan approached as the animal cowered down on the ground. As usual on these patrols, Vetfaan was armed with his .22 rifle – in case he came across a mamba or some other danger.

There was only one way to address the situation. A few yards away from the animal, Vetfaan stopped to load the rifle. Putting the wild dog out of its misery was not only the humane thing to do, it would also prevent further stock losses on their farm. Vetfaan knew this. The wild dog, it seemed, also understood the inevitability of its demise. It lowered the once-proud head onto it’s trapped foot and waited. The wailing ceased.

In that eerie silence, the sound of the bolt ramming the bullet into the breech seemed unnaturally loud. Still, the animal didn’t react, except to close his eyes. Vetfaan lifted the gun. Took aim. Took up the slack on the trigger.

And couldn’t fire.

It just seemed so wrong: the animal was helpless, rendered incapable of escaping by the trap set by some heartless hand. Vetfaan was suddenly struck by the two wrongs: the trap – and the vermin caught in it. The wild dog, after all, was not on his father’s ground and had most probably done what it had been designed to do: hunting for prey. On the other hand, the trap was highly illegal and a coward’s way of hunting. If he killed the beast….would that be right?

He sat down on the red Kalahari sand and looked at the animal more intently. It was, indeed, a young male. Although gaunt and obviously fatigued, there was no denying that he used to be a magnificent animal. A live, healthy, magnificent wild dog. The animal opened his eyes to look at Vetfaan. He saw the silent plea: get it over with, will you?

Vetfaan shouldered the gun, took careful aim, and pulled the trigger. Despite the small calibre of the rifle, the boom of the shot seemed to echo over the veld forever.

For a while they remained as they were: wild beast and human frozen as silent statues under the blazing sun of the Northern Cape.

Then the animal moved it’s foot. Vetfaan could then see that only one toe of the one front foot was caught in the snare. The animal gave Vetfaan a last look – a lingering stare – before limping off. The bullet had gone true: snapping off the restraining wire that had kept the animal captive for so long.

Of course Vetfaan never told his dad.

It must have been a year later that he once again patrolled that fence. Acting on instinct he climbed through the fence at that spot to revisit the place where he had freed the wild dog. The shot-off wire was still there, rusting away in the veld.

That night he slept at the half-way spot like he usually did. The perimeter of the large farm was so long that his father had built a small stone hut at the place, especially for the cold winter nights when sleeping outdoors would have been very foolish indeed. The hut had a bed, a fireplace and a few candles – it was a simple shelter to rest in before setting out on the next leg of the patrol. Vetfaan ate his meagre meal, sat next to the fire for a while and turned in to sleep.

That night he heard the soft padding of feet around the hut. He wasn’t particularly worries as the door was shut and the embers still glowed reassuringly in the small hearth. That is, until he hear the soft growl…

Kalahari lions are unpredictable animals. In the vast open spaces of the Kalahari desert, their pale-gold fur serves as excellent camouflage, but that is maybe the only positive factor in their fight for survival. Stalking is extremely difficult and prey is scarce. These cats have learned to survive by eating almost anything they come across: from defying the quills of a porcupine, feeding on decaying carcasses and catching birds – to cannibalism. If it has meat, the lion will eat it.

Even humans.

Vetfaan stoked up the fire, checked the door and wondered how many puny .22 bullets would be needed to stop a lion. It became a long night of listening to the growling outside and the thumping of his heart.

Some time before dawn, the sounds outside ceased. Was the lion standing still? Or did it lie down in front of the door, scenting the fear of the human inside? Would it wait there until Vetfaan was forced to leave? The silence stretched out in an unbearable nightmare of possibilities…

Then, suddenly, there were sounds of a…scuffle? Running feet and indistinguishable sounds. Growls, Heavy breathing and more grunts.

And then…complete silence.

Once the sun started rising in the east, Vetfaan slid the bolt back to ease the door open to a crack. Nothing. No lion.

spoorThe only evidence of the night’s activity was the myriad of lion tracks all around the hut. Imprinted in the sand there was no mistaking the large paw marks of an adult lion.That, and the strange tracks of a wild dog, with one foot missing a toe.

***

Vetfaan once said that people are too quick to judge, especially when they insist on analyzing the past. The activists  now baying for the removal of Cecil John Rhodes’ statue, his name from universities and even his remains from the Matopos, seem to think that they can rewrite the history of the continent. The current fashion is to blame people long dead for the hardships of today; while completely ignoring the fact that we are what we are because we refuse to face the simple fact that we have inherited the world the way it is. We can’t change history. But we can learn from it.

And, like that wild dog, it is sometimes excitingly worthwhile to remember that very few people were just good or just bad. The Rhodes Trust with the Rhodes scholarships have benefitted more than 7000 students from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica & Commonwealth Caribbean, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan and Southern Africa. Notable world figures gained from these scholarships, including heads of state like: Bob Hawke, Wasim Sajjad, Bill Clinton, Dom Mintoff, John Turner and Tony Abbott.

In Vetfaan’s mind. shooting that helpless wild dog because of its perceived history would have been wrong. Sadly, he also reckons the activists  won’t stop. They’ve trapped Cecil John Rhodes in a wire trap. They’ve snared Jan van Riebeeck. Who’s next? Paul Kruger? Queen Victoria? Any historical figure with an European surname?

His message is simple: live and let live…but please get on with life…

Weekly Photo Challenge – the freshness of an African dawn.

There’s something about the freshness in an African dawn…

405The misty waterfall seems to hold its breath as the sun lurks just below the horizon.

IMG_2159Even the clinging bushel of reeds light up in anticipation.

mattanu 085aA lone giraffe welcomes the comforting rays of light, relieved at surviving another night.

100_1493aWhile a tired lion rests after a night of hunting.

Zambia ekspedisie 112aThis is the time for the intrepid traveller to saddle up: Africa awaits, fresh and eager,  to display her charms.

The Prince of Words

Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes

“So they found him at last,” Gertruida says with a satisfied smile. “He can now be buried properly, monument and all.”

“Who? The president?” Servaas looks up sharply – it sounds like good news.

“No, you dummy, Miguel Cervantes.”

“He the new president?”

Gertruida rolls her eyes. Such ignorance! “Cervantes, Servaas, was one of the greatest writers Spain ever produced. He was born a long time ago, in 1547, the same year Edward VI banned execution by boiling in England.”

“And they say we are backward?”

“The point is – if you’ll stop interrupting me – that Miguel Cervantes created Don Quixote, an erant knight with high ideals. Despite his blustering stupidity, he was an extremely wise man.”

“Now that, Gertruida, makes a whole heap of sense. Just like our parliament.”

“Well, I’ll have you know he could have written a speech for the country, seeing the vote of no confidence in the president was defeated by the ruling party’s inability to see the wood for the trees. Listen to what he wrote in 1605: Don Quixote was addressing his faithful squire, Sancho Panza at the time, after suffering severe setbacks.”

Bear in mind, Sancho, that one man is no more than the other, unless he does more than the other. All these tempests that fall upon us are signs that fair weather is coming shortly, and that things will go well with us; for it is impossible for good or evil to last forever. Hence it follows that the evil having lasted so long, the good must now be nigh at hand. So you must not distress thyself at the misfortunes which happen to me, since you had no share in them.

Servaas doesn’t know much about knights, old-time chivalry or squires, but he understands the bit that evil can’t possibly last forever. In his mind, parliament has degenerated into a circus: good enough for entertainment but not really huge in the problem-solving department.

“And, whats more, Servaas, he wrote something else that comes to  mind…”

I do not deny that what happened to us is a thing worth laughing at. But it is not worth telling, for not everyone is sufficiently intelligent to be able to see things from the right point of view.

“Wow! He should have been our president, Gertruida.”

“You wish. But still, even though he died a poor man, at least he’ll be honoured by a monument. People from all over the world will come to pay homage to his genius.”

Servaas thinks about this. Cervantes, dead but honoured for his honest wisdom. The president, alive, and scorned for his devious ways.

“We live in a crazy country, Gertruida.”

“Indeed, Sancho.”

“My name is Servaas.”

“Oh…but you sound like him.”

Places – Outside The World Outside

When the conversations in Boggel’s Place falls silent and the night pulls a blanket over the barren wastes outside, the patrons at the bar often reflect on The World Outside. Some memories are precious, others make them frown – still, The World Outside contains the places they’ve been to and the experiences they had. And that, after all, made them what they are: Outsiders of the World Outside.

windpomp

The World Outside starts at the last windpump you get just before Grootdrink. Beyond that, the reality of modern society is just too stark, too obvious, to ignore.

later randall 013The World Outside is  a crowded place, with people crammed into every nook and cranny. Even if the authorities tried to deny it by entertaining prisoners in jail, the cells are overcrowded.

IMG_4048Businesses have funny names and say nothing about who runs it. In Rolbos the owners are proud to display their names above the door. After all, Sammie’s Shop says it all, doesn’t it?

IMG_4169And the people erect the most amazing signs everywhere, with words and pictures for those who cannot read. In Rolbos it isn’t necessary. Vrede never ventures far from the cushion under the counter.

IMG_2506Worst of all, whenever you find a nice pub, you can’t smoke there!

IMG_2689Anyway, the hotels are far too fancy…and expensive!

IMG_2597No, the true Rolbosser will always find the way home, to The World Inside, where solitude and isolation ensures peace of mind. Forget the retreats and the spas and the costly weekends-away-from-it-all…in the Kalahari you don’t need such escapes to be yourself.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Walls of Grief and longing

Walls know stuff. They’ve seen the arguments, the passion and the joy of living. And, long after the people have left, they tell the story.

IMG_3247A lover knocked, the door opened, arms reached out for comfort.

IMG_3246Put your hat on the shelf over there, she said, smiling coyly.

IMG_3248Dancing to the kitchen, she asked if he’d like some coffee.

IMG_3315I even stoked the geyser, should you want to freshen up, she said.

IMG_3094I have no time, he answered heavily. The war….

IMG_3339And he left her standing in the doorway, waiting.

IMG_3267She’s still there. She, the walls…and the sand…

Boggel’s Competition

b2Boggel’s Place has been the only option for many years. It’s the place to be. This is where you sit down with a cold beer to talk about the drought and the president’s wives – important enough to note, but way beyond anybody to influence. When the storm clouds gather on the horizon, these things will develop as they must – and watching them with a beer in hand is so much more sensible than wasting a lot of adrenalin in getting excited about it.

Then the rumour started. Ronnie – that famous, intrepid entrepreneur was considering opening a branch in Rolbos. Why? Because, like the restaurant and pub he established in the middle of nowhere, Rolbos also had nothing going for it. Snatching success from the jaws of failure has been Ronnie’s secret, and Rolbos provides the perfect backdrop for a venture that is sure to flounder.

Gertruida had to explain who and what Ronnie represents:

Of course, this news leads to a lively debate, increasing Boggel’s turnover with a considerable margin. Ronnie is, after all, a national figure of great importance. Although his bar was never designed or planned as a house of ill repute, the very name of the place ruffled many a conservative feather. Amongst the narrow-minded puritans, the place conjured up visions of carnal adventures and represented the gateway to the dark and tormented underworld made famous in a thousand sermons every Sunday. Of course, these intellectual giants have never (and would never, either)  even think of visiting the bar to enjoy one of Ronnie’s famous rose-water milkshakes. When such a person has no option than to take the R62 route, the children in the vehicle are told to inspect the carpet of the footwell until they are safely past the object of so much scorn.

Gertruida tells them about Ronnie, his long silver-grey ponytail and his establishment set in the dusty veld of the Klein Karoo.

“Originally he had a farm stall there, selling fresh produce and a few cooldrinks. Business was slow. And then one day, his friends added the dreaded ‘S’ word next to his name, and everybody stopped for a drink. It became a lovely, humorous joke –  a tongue-in-the-cheek place to stop for something cool in the heat of the Karoo. Ronnie has never looked back.”

“But then Boggel will have no chance. If Ronnie opens the Kalahari Sex Shop, even Oudoom will have to visit there to be one with his flock. You know how he feels about these things. He says it’s of little value to preach in the church  – everybody who goes there, tithes already. He maintains that the way the expand his congregation (the electrical wiring has to be fixed, after all) is to spread his message to the ‘other’ folk – you know, people who don’t attend church. And if Oudoom goes there, we’d have no choice but to follow suit. Talk about a bull in a china shop…”

“Ja, he’ll drink the place dry to show he’s one of the boys.” Kleinpiet eyes Servaas, who’s showing signs of severe agitation. “Even Servaas will be obliged to go.”

“Me? Never! A head elder in a place like that? I’ll be the laughing stock of Upington, man! Won’t ever be able to show my face in public again.”

“It’s just a name, Servaas! Nothing much ever happens there  – at least nothing more than in Boggel’s Place. And Ronnie also provides meals – which is more than we can say about Boggel’s. The name of his cafe is a bit misleading, but his hamburgers are delicious.”

b1

“So we’ll just allow Boggel’s Place to become a deserted ruin?” The very thought causes a shudder down Vetfaan’s spine.

“No. If Ronnie wants to expand his business, we’ll have to convince him that he can make more money elsewhere. I’ll simply write him a letter.” Gertruida frowns while concentrating hard. “Yes, that’s it! China! Millions of people, lots of thirsty throats and an expanding economy. He can even introduce them to Boeremusiek.”

***

And so it came to pass that Boggel still has the monopoly in Rolbos. Ronnie’s  性别 Shop could be the biggest cultural revolution to hit China since Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The peculiar penchant of the Chinese for Boeremusiek could be the start of a massive Chinese exodus out of Africa, back to where they belong.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Orange

Nowhere on earth (okay, it is a biased opinion!) does orange colour the sky as beautifully as in Africa, especially early in the morning.

sunrise

In the east, the endless Indian Ocean becomes a pewter-grey as the day is born. The clouds, however, celebrate the dawn.

earlyAn early bird flies inland to announce the new day. Its cry will wake those who slumber for the last few minutes of the night.

daybreakThis is a magical time on the continent. Light comes slowly at first, then it casts a joyous spell on all who celebrate the departure of darkness.

orangeThe waters of the great Makgadikgadi pans turn bronze in the heat of the sun’s harsh fury as it burns down on arid Botswana.

begin 2004 115aWhen at last the sun has spent its force, it is time to find a safe spot to spend the night.

fire

While Man, eternally fearful of the dark, feeds the fire, hoping the glow will keep danger away.

MAAN 004 mod 4Until…at last…the moon arrives to bathe Africa in an orange so unique, so special, that one wishes that dawn will postpone its arrival for just once…

elBut it refuses, and the animals gather once more, as they must, to greet the sun with joy.

The Bird that would be King

Albatross_Atl_YN_1_clive_harris_01_november“Fire,” Gertruida said, “is a natural phenomenon. Ever since the first thunderclouds gathered in the sky or the first volcano erupted, flames have been at work on dry grass and old wood. Fire isn’t there just to make light and cook food – nature needs fires to clear land, to help seeds germinate and then allow new growth to take over.”

“That may be true, but the fire in Cape Town destroyed much more than a few old trees. Houses, resorts, forests and the mountainside  will need a lot of time and money to recover. People have been left without homes. Animals were burnt to death. I can’t see the bright side this time, Gertruida, I just can’t.” True to her nature, Precilla dabs a tear.

“Nature – like Life – works in endless circles, Precilla. The forest of today is so often the burnt landscape of tomorrow. Beauty yields to age just like summer must bow to winter. Once we understand that, we know that the devastation we now see, will return to be the fairest Cape of all in the near future.”

“Does it always work that way? Even with people?’

Gertruida sighed. This question, she knows, leads to the one exception of the rule. “Not always. You see, Nature will recover from fires and floods and droughts – simply because Nature accepts the cycles of fortune it is subject to. In contrast, we are prone to overstate our importance, which may very well lead to permanent damage. Let me tell you an old African myth, Precilla. . Maybe it’ll help you understand…”

***

Once upon a time – long, long ago – the earth belonged to the birds. Not only were they the only ones who knew the secret of navigation and seasons, they also could fly high to look for fountains and rivers, forests to live in and safe places to nest. Over the years they became more and more numerous as they occupied the most fertile pieces of the land.

One bird, in particular, outstripped the others in wisdom. It was a  huge animal with beautiful plumage – the envy of all the other flying species.

“I shall rule over the land,” he said as he surveyed the vast continent, “for I am bigger and more beautiful than the rest of my family. And,” he added smugly, “I am so much cleverer than they.”

So this bird – his name I shall tell you in a moment – set about proclaiming his kingship. “I am of royal blood,” he cried, “and all the animals will pay homage to me. It is my right!”

While it was true that this bird could fly higher and remain in the air much longer than everybody else, the other birds accepted his claim and then addressed him as their king. For a while this brought great satisfaction to the self-proclaimed monarch and he bore himself in a manner befitting his new rank. He was gracious and kind and took a keen interest in all those under his proverbial wing.

Then, one day, the big king-bird soared high on the winds and looked down at the small animals grazing on the plains below.

“Is it right,” he mused, “that all the feathered animals proclaim me as their king, and yet those with hooves and paws ignore me? They are surely too small to oppose my rightful claim.”

So the big bird soared down to land next to a tortoise.”I am now your king. You shall respect me as such.”

And the tortoise, slow and small like he was, drew back into his shell to contemplate this.

Next, the bird approached a jackal, repeating his claim.

And the jackal, as clever as he was, slipped into a burrow under a rock to think about it.

Then the bird found a porcupine and informed him that he had to bow down before the new royalty.

And the porcupine rustled his quills and withdrew to analyze the situation.

Finally, the bird landed next to a lion. Before the bird could finish his proclamation, the lion smote it heavily with his huge paw, cursing the bird for being so forward.

“As the king of all the animals, I will not allow such foolish talk. You, who have inflated your importance to the point where you are deceiving not only others, but also yourself….you will henceforth not return to land. You will soar over the oceans, vainly searching for peace and rarely put your feet on solid ground again. Sailors will stare at you in fear, as you will be the symbol of misfortune and bad luck.  A king you shall never be, only a servant of the winds.”

The lion turned to go, but the badly injured bird pleaded for mercy.

“Please, Lion, do not leave me like this. I am but a poor bird and your curse will make me poorer still. Have you no mercy?’

And the lion turned to look at the bedraggled imposter and felt sorry for him. “I am, indeed, merciful. I shall grant you one wish.”

The bird didn’t hesitate.

“Give me something – anything – to help me?”

Lion thought about this and finally agreed. “I shall give you the sharpest eyes of all – so that you may gaze upon the land while you are flying over the oceans. You shall see the land and the rocks and the rivers. You shall observe the animals grazing and playing and hunting. But you, banished over the ocean, shall only see and only observe, for you have laid claim to what isn’t yours and tried to rule over what you have no right to. Your eyes, Bird, will be your punishment and your reward, which will be as one.”

And so the Albatross gathered his feathers and limped away. After he regained his strength, be flew to the ocean, where he resigned himself to his fate.

***

“That’s such a sad story, Gertruida. But…why tell it now?”

Gertruida smiled as she rolled her eyes.

“Don’t you see? It’s the story of South Africa. It is also the story of most countries. The rulers of today will one day – if they live long enough – wonder why they didn’t go about their tasks with more compassion and kindness. They’ll look back and see what they have lost.

“Sadly, it isn’t only the politicians and the rulers who suffer this lot. It happens to common people – like us – as well. And the source of this hardship, Precilla, is greed. It’s the ego. It’s the demand to be more important than we are.”

Precilla thought about it for a long time. Then: “The fire in the Cape has come. Now it is gone. And nature will recover?”

Gertruida nodded.

“But people who succumb to greed and ego will lose what they craved for? Rulers and subjects alike?”

“Yes, Precilla. The proud and unbowed necks of too many, will wear the albatross of their folly in the end. It’s in every newspaper, every day – radicals, extremists, fundamentalists – once you proclaim that you have not only all the answers, but the only one, the winds over the vast ocean awaits you.”

“The Cape is lucky, then. It’ll recover.”

“Yes, Precilla. That’s the message. Nature can complete it’s cycles. Humans don’t.”