Signs of Civilisation

Journeys back.

Slowly, hints of civilisation are emerging – a track, the wheel ruts feint and in places covered in a green sheen of hardy furrow weed. It will eventually lead to another track, more frequently used, perhaps with footpaths that show human signs branching off, and a twisted scrap of orange plastic blown against a shrub…

But it will be another day, perhaps two. Here the sky and the veld still tower over the senses and calm the mind to wonder. It is glorious solitude and endless open that makes one want to run, and run, and run into it, forever.

It makes me look for an overnight spot earlier than usual and wander from it in lingering afternoons and mornings and notice little things – scorpion tracks in the soft sand, the fist-sized shell of a giant African snail, the badger’s marks when it left its burrow under a big tree pushed over by an elephant, its roots frayed by the giant molars, the drag marks of a porcupine’s lose quill along it’s hand-like tracks; things sometimes understood, sometimes not, and  wondered at.

One is intensely aware, in the moment, fulfilled, yet vaguely disturbed by the limits of one’s knowledge – what is the story behind this mark in a bare patch, or that against a tree, or the origin of these white bands in the black rock; what had dug this little hollow, in search of what, why are these leaves to grotesquely deformed, why is so much gum leaking from this tree? And then there is the myriad of details that my clumsy eyes don’t even pick up.

Some of the answers are locked up in grey heads with many years of intimate experience of the veld. Some are on the pages of books that line the shelves of libraries; the work of many generations of scientists.  And slowly that which has not yet been reached fade away and disappears together with the grey heads, and all that we will have left will be our conceit and a meagre collection of books on shelves.

1 Comment

  1. Drag marks of a loose porcupine quill . . . Your detail allows us to be there also. Thank you.

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