I’ve had such a great time in PE. It’s kind of bittersweet because I helped my parents pack to relocate to Cape Town and now my roots feel exposed. But today, my last day here, I went down to the beach and some if the locals came by to tell me not to worry. Everything is gonna be alright. Click…
Does the media’s choice of narrative affect the way we view sharks?
There isn’t a day I paddle out into False Bay that I don’t think about sharks. I have seen the aerial photos. I have watched the National Geographic documentaries. I know the sharks are there. Great Whites. Bronze Whalers, Raggies. But mostly Great White sharks. On a clear day you can see Seal Island, their hunting ground, from Baden Powell…
Yesterday was a bitter sweet day.
Yesterday I took the stairs up to the attic of my mind. The sun filtered through the dormer windows, catching dust fairies and the indistinct shapes of the clutter I have piled in front of the spaces of my memories.
Yesterday I moved the clutter: the groceries, the school run, earning a living and the various hoops through which we jump as we try to add value to the world.
I shifted the clutter and in the dust I found the box I was looking for. A box I treasure.
I opened it, not aware of exactly what was in it, but sure it was filled with the warmth and companionship I imagined.
Yesterday, as I said goodbye to my oldest friend, I opened the box of memories of our friendship and they all floated out, like butterflies, some beautiful things I had forgotten, some things I remembered but had concealed with daily clutter, all things I will treasure.
She is off to start a new life in California. I’m a little bit cross. Not because I don’t want her to go, but because I want to go with her. I want to see her new horizons for myself, I want the new breezes to also touch my face, I want her new sunshine to warm me.
We have been friends since childhood. We were little girls swinging on tree ropes and having sleepovers, riding bikes and swimming in rock pools. We became teenagers, writing secret letters, eating chocolates at midnight, spending summer holidays together at Kromme River.
Some Decembers we thought the wind would never stop blowing and some years we thought our skin could not take another ray of sunshine.
We planned parties, we discussed boys, we dreamed up outfits.
Soon we were in our twenties, driving matching cars. (Coincidentally our Dads bought us yellow Citi golfs.) We worked in the volunteer ministry together, we shared a part time job.
And one day, out of a haze of Mr Wrongs, came two Mr Rights. We were bridesmaids for each other and then, geographically, we went our separate ways. Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town.
Most of our adult life has kept us in different cities. The clutter of our lives keeps us from writing and visiting and calling as much as our history might make you imagine that we would.
But when we see each other, nothing changes. When babies arrive, when family members are ill, when loved ones are lost, when holidays come, as watershed moments unfold, we are the same. We hear each other. We love each other. We talk to each other.
We can lie under a rug on a cold Joburg afternoon and watch Oprah. We can laugh together about drinking sour milk or cooking the price tag onto the butternut. And we can cry together at a graveside on a windswept hill.
And so my beautiful flower, my amazing friend, I guess I must let you go. Because geography has never defined our friendship, proximity has never been the glue.
I know that when I see you again, nothing will have changed. You will still be the same person you were when we were at seven or eight, the same you that you were at sixteen, the woman you were at twenty-two, and the beautiful person you are today.
The clutter may accumulate, but the box of butterflies will be secure, full of memories, ready to float up whenever I open the lid.
Travel safe, my friend, keep your eyes on that horizon. One day you will see me there again.
You might moan a bit when you live there. Tssk. You may have hankered to be elsewhere, in greener pastures or more fashionable fields. But it’s only when you are an uncomfortable travel distance away from Port Elizabeth that you realize you took a few things for granted and overlooked a couple of gems that were right under your nose. Here are seven things I’m now sadly…
Oyster catchers, fish eagles, gulls, flamingos.
These are some of the birds around the Kromme River, the estuary that empties into St Francis Bay. It is a small, but fiercely protected, piece of unspoiled ecology.
Early morning trail runs through the farmlands on the Paradise Beach side end as you come down over the dunes. You weave through grasses and succulents onto the beach. The cicadas are loud. The sun rises over the sea, scattering its sequins around pods of dolphins.
It is an estuary so clear, aquarium like, as you stand up paddle along it’s banks. The ripples formed by the current on the sand of the river floor are visible in the sunlight.
Home to Steenbras, Leervis, Spotted Grunter.
The river banks on the farm side are edged with stone, black mud and reeds. The reeds are alive with creatures, birds, and mud prawns.
From the cove at the mouth around to the St Francis side, and into the canals, the river banks are of golden sand, home to hermit crabs, pencil bait and blood worm. The tides wash over these banks, refreshing, warming, soothing. The ebb and flow is the rhythm of its life.
In late December another rhythm comes to town. It marches to the beat of New Year’s Eve. St Francis Bay becomes the magnet of revelers.
The village air is thick with muscle vests and testosterone. Salons are full. Midriffs are exposed. Beers, girls, money, tickets.
Midnight. Fireworks. But the party can’t drown out the sound of the surf.
New Years Day 2016 dawned sunny and clear in St Francis Bay.
We went stand up paddle boarding. The river sparkled. Or so we thought, until we paddled into the channel. Everywhere we turned were sad, spent balloons. Purple balloons, pink balloons, yellow, green, white, blue, orange,red. Like a plastic jet stream. Tangled in the reeds, washed up on the sandy shores, in the canals, taking rides on the tide out to sea.
We knelt on our paddle boards to fish them out. We gathered strays, we gathered clumps. Our children and our neighbours’s children scoured the sand at the cove, collecting hatfuls, bucketfuls, but we couldn’t get them all.
It was like striking blows into the wind.
For days, each time we paddled we found balloons. Families walked on the beach and found balloons.
One of the New Year’s Eve celebrations in the St Francis Canals is a water fight. There are boats and crafts and people on jetties. However, a weighty sector of the ammunition is water-filled balloons.
The Canals at St Francis are not the home of the disadvantaged. They are a place of privilege. A retreat of the wealthy, the fortunate, those who benefit from education and financial stability. Surely with such great privilege comes greater responsibility?
Surely some of that responsibility is to the environment? Is it acceptable to celebrate at the expense of the environment?
Have we, the privileged, become so sad that we will party at such great cost?
I’m not suggesting becoming the Grinch who Stole New Year, but rather reflection on the following facts:
- Balloons are bad for the environment. In any form. If you don’t believe me, believe Lewis Pugh. Read his opinion HERE
- Latex balloons are not biodegradable The Oak Leaf Story is a fallacy.
- This is the Ugly Truth about balloons. They harm wildlife and the environment.
- Find an alternative to balloons, for balloon releases as well as New Year’s water fights. Here are some Alternative Ideas
If we keep on welcoming a new year with unsustainable celebrations, it might be one less new year on the greater calendar.
Pop Goes the World.
eter Pan has it sorted. His flights with children are a roaring success. Second star to the right and straight on till morning. For the rest of us, however, those without Pixie Dust, the challenge is real.