to rest gently on the waters of the mysterious universe
– E Lesser –
It’s winter here and last week I started swimming. Oh, I love swimming but have never done so in the winter. It’s been on my mind, walking on the beach I watched two ladies walk into the water and I thought if they can do it so can I. Life certainly supported my intention because my daughter arrived on a visit and invited me to our favourite swimming beach! It was thrilling! Felt so good to push past the apprehension, to feel the cold become first acceptable and then turn to pleasure. And then there it was, the happiness of the ocean! Light rippling on the water, swells rising and falling and on that particular day skein after skein of cormorants skimming the water.
As I stood in the ocean next to my daughter on that first winter swimming day, she started reminiscing about long ago family holidays in Namibia. We would go to a tiny town called Lüderitzbucht clinging to the rocks between the Namib desert and the Atlantic Ocean. It was a strange place to choose for a holiday. The wind blew almost incessantly. The beaches are deserted and bare, jackals roam among the rocks looking for food. It seemed to be the very edge of the world.
We had come across it almost by accident when our children were no more than four and six years old. But it became a home from home. We stayed in a basic cottage on the rocks. Christmas meant finding a dry branch to decorate. There were long walks and scrambling over rocks. Going to Agate beach to look for agates in the dunes and to Grosse Bucht to swim. Sardines and provitas to snack on.
Why did we all love it so much? I think that for me being there simplified everything. All the complications of life fell away. There were no distractions of shopping or going places or making choices. The barren landscape was so overwhelming you could lose yourself in it. It was always always an adventure and in all of us it woke an enduring love of wilderness.
As she spoke I was seeing it again; my son just as skinny and lanky as my grandson is now! My two children playing in the cold water until their lips turned blue , then out to put on beanies and jackets and have hot tea out of the flask. I have been searching out these photos and all the time remembering.
These last six or so weeks have been filled with meetings and partings, with talk and reconnecting, with remembering and looking back. The trip to the Karoo national park with our son bringing echoes of those other journeys. Talking to my daughter and remembering taking care of my grandson when he was just a toddler. All with that odd awareness of the fluidity of life and time. That one minute you are there and then you are here.
Or I pass through it
When I look back
It seems to be still behind me
I can see myself in it
Caught in amber light
– D. McDougall –