Beside the dirt road that leads to the hamlet where I live, a pear tree stands alone at the edge of a field. Every year, it blooms at the beginning of August, a month before the arrival of the South African spring, delighting the passer-by modestly yet spectacularly. In August 2018, I wrote a few rough stanzas in response to that very tree under the working title “A Pear Tree”. Now, nearly two years later, I am ready to develop them into a finished poem.
Of course, the pear tree has inspired a poem. Another new draft—I shall never finish this project! Incidentally, the field where it grows was once an orchard, one of many. In days gone by, my village was known for its pear orchards, earning it the nickname "'Little Pears' Town". pic.twitter.com/YSDy67a7gu
A sight I have not observed before: a Malachite Sunbird male (left) and female (right) in the birdbath. Once before have I seen a male bathing in dewy foliage, assuming at the time that it did so for its long tail feathers—a birdbath being too shallow to accommodate them—but it seems to have been purely a matter of convenience.
Two years ago, I revisited the Babilonstoringberge1 valley, where I spent two idyllic years of my childhood with my family. During that visit2, the sight of the much-altered labourer’s cottage, in which we lived at the time, was too much to bear and I did not photograph it. Yesterday, I returned there again and did.
To my surprise, I discovered that the original structure was left mostly intact, its face concealed by an addition of equal size to the front. At both sides of the building, a seam where the two sections join is visible. Doubtlessly, the new section was added to the front for lack of space at the back where a ditch runs3.
This development was comforting: not all of the past was lost—unlike the two-classroom building where I was under my schoolteacher mother’s tuition for two standards, destroyed by a fire, years later. Indeed, from the field behind the cottage, the scene was almost unchanged. I was pleased I returned to the valley.
Pronounced [bubbylons-tweRings-beRguh] with the [o] in “or”, the first [e] that in “were”, [i] the “a” in “about”, the second [e] that in “wet”, trilled [R]s and the [g] in “go”). Afrikaans for “Babel’s-tower-mountains”.
Which I briefly describe in the “I visited the past” section of “This November”.
I have fond memories of that quiet little stream, recalling the dragonflies I used to watch there in the poem “Of a Summertime” (unpublished).
Yet again, autumn surprises with Nerine humilis. Blooming beside a remote dirt road in a sea of greyish green, little lashes of pink caught the eye, compelling one to stop and admire. The flowers remind me of Tritoniopsis lata, which I recently discovered, but they are not related.
Another sighting on Thursday was of three Grey Rhebok (Pelea capreolus). My mother spotted them first and pointed them out to me. A rare sight, they are always a joy to see—the most delightful of antelopes! I suspect it was a male (left) and female (right) with their calf (centre). Having had their fill of observing us, they darted across the hilltop, the white undersides of their tails on display.
On Thursday, I was struck by flashes of bright pink in a field thick with fynbos. Upon inspection, I discovered a flower I had not encountered before, Tritoniopsis lata. Some of the specimens were deep pink (visible in the out-of-focus background) whilst others, like this one, were considerably lighter. Tritoniopsis lata blooms from March to May (autumn in South Africa) and is related to Tritoniopsis triticea, which blooms from January to April (midsummer to mid-autumn in South Africa).
After a three-year absence, the Cape Batis (Batis capensis) returns to the garden! I saw two. This one is a female. I glimpsed the other, but I hope it is a male. How thrilled I would be were they to nest here in August!
Here, a copse of pine fumes with mist atop a ridge of the Little River Mountains whilst there, a final puff lingers upon a rugged peak. Below, the Little River itself is all but a mirror in the stillness. Modest are the joys of the Overberg in the arms of the South African autumn.
My first ever sighting of a Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius), yesterday. It stood in a field on the left side of the road, but upon seeing me, flew gracefully to a field on the right. There, it alighted, then slowly paced up the hillside. At 1.5 metres (approximately 40 inches) tall, it is an impressive creature both at rest and in flight!
Illustration: Sasol eBirds of Southern Africa Universal App., Copyright 1993, 1997, 2002, 2011: Variously Random House Struik (Pty) Ltd, Norman Arlott, F H Chamberlain Trading (Pty) Ltd