Sunday, September 21, 2008

Somehow the plants know it is spring

About two weeks ago, the African scrub started to sprout green leaves, signaling the start of spring. I found this odd, as we still have yet to have any rain since autumn.

Such are the seasons here, the tail-end of winter is marked with high mischievous winds that pick up dust and make sure it permeates all clothing. The dust has an upside as well, it means you can see the winds and turn your back to them to avoid being sandblasted too much.

And now blossoms are appearing on the trees, different birds have arrived, baby animals are growing out of their cute phase and into adolescence, and the places where the veld had been burnt are turning green with new shoots of grass.

When I first saw fire in my host family's yard, I was (understandably) alarmed, but my host mother (who had set the fire) assured me that it was they always did and that it wouldn't spread beyond the yard. It didn't.

However, I have seen fires far in the veld, flickering in several spots. I doubted people could be at three places at once.

One fire of note I first saw when I was headed back from town with my host family. Town is about 80 km away from where we live. While still in town I noticed the sunset looked odd... there was a cloud which seemed to be lit from the bottom. As the sun set and we approached one of our neighboring villages, we saw that it was indeed a large grass fire. It was eerie to see the smoke rise, reddish on the bottom and then white on the top, til a point, and then get blown away. I watched for awhile, transfixed, but then focused my attention elsewhere.

I haven't heard anything more about the fire, so I assume it burnt itself out before reaching the village.

Other parts of the country have not been so lucky as fires fanned by the high winds have done some damage in Mpumalanga, KwaZuluNatal, and Eastern Cape.

But not here. For now, I'm enjoying the windy opening of spring, except when I need to turn my back to avoid the next batch of airborne sand.

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