I read recently that silence is not the absence of sound… it’s the absence of noise.
My perambulation with Phoebe hound in my neighbourhood on Monday took place just after 5am, when the sky was only tinged with first light, and the chorus of birdsong filled the air; and soft, furtive movements among low bushes and higher tree branches indicated the presence of so much life.
In the distance, cloud cover on the mountains juxtaposed the grey canopy of the sky, a change after so much blue sky and strong winds.
Sleepy dogs stir, as they hear the soft crunch of my footsteps, and after a half-hearted bark or two, settle back to their morning musings.
A ginger cat with an impossibly long, skinny tail ambles over from the safety of home to greet me, and I end up passing a perfect few minutes exchanging tokens of affection with him, stroking him as he arches his back with pleasure, winding about my legs and standing up against me, and he follows me a little ways before skedaddling back to the security of familiar territory.
A few guineafowl scatter, and then regroup, twittering and chattering to their tiny offspring to remain close by, and a pied crow circles lazily overhead, glancing down at me and giving a gutteral greeting – perhaps he knows I collect his feathers, as I do those of the big owls in the green belt; they are works of art, holding the secret to flight.
Turtle doves pause courtship mid-cooing, to peer at me from the top of lamp-posts, and the first rays start illuminating the clouds, turning them blue-pink.
The scent of lavender and roses and fynbos and countless other olfactory plants reach my nostrils, and I inhale deeply, praying for stillness of mind, countermanding my tumbling thoughts and agitated heart.
The poet Rilke said: “Is not impermanence the very fragrance of our days?”
Yet so much of what lies heavy upon me is that which is being threatened, seems to be as the result of mankind’s sheer disregard and avarice, for the cause and effect that results in an earth that is scorched beyond belief, that species are facing extinction at unprecedented rates, that homes and habitats are being consumed in conflagrations that are mind-numblingly huge and destructive.
When I walked at beloved Radloff over the weekend, almost every conversation I had with passersby revolved around Australia, which now stands as the unenviable beacon of the massive implications of climate change.
I used to live at a very high altitude, in a ski town, for nine years, and in that time I witnessed the inexorable change of seasons, where the snow arrived later and later, and melted away earlier, and millions of acres of forested land succumbed to borer beetles, as the deep freeze of winter lost its intensity, thus liberating the pupae to grow unchecked, and decimate their hosts, turning trees into fuel for the fires that engulf Colorado (and other states, notably California) regularly.
Also, politicians and administrations play fast and loose with local and world affairs, thwarting efforts by many to work towards peace and healing on this planet, and the latest affront (the wisdom or stupidity of which will inevitably be revealed with time) is sending shockwaves globally; we hold our collective breaths.
Personal liberties, especially those of women, continue to be threatened, by those who would presume to hold fast to their ideologies and dogma, and divisiveness is fomented by those least likely to have their lives, livelihoods or wellbing affected.
Yet, yet… when I return home, whether from walking on the mountainside, or along the river, I feel restored and composed, better prepared to face the labours and challenges of the day, and more determined to use my life and my abilities to be a conduit of love and harmony.
I return to Rilke’s words: he reminds us to “be patient with all that is uncertain in your heart…”
I breathe, in and out, and feel my heart slow, my racing mind still, and my resolve strengthen. It may only last until tomorrow, requiring me to repeat the cycle which is just fine by me.
The whimsical little rock cairns, on the left, were left by someone, perhaps a child, at the river… land art that exists for but a moment in time, as we all do. Make it count.
Carolyn Frost – Editor