There was a boy.  I knew him well.  He was surrounded by space and nature.  There were no computers or internet then.  Not even television.  One made one’s own entertainment, one used one’s imagination and, if one allowed it, the atmosphere and the sights of the natural world seeped into ones soul.  They did with him.  The sun woke him at dawn, flooding his room with light.  He was always conscious of the huge distances surrounding his home, the distant deep blue see delineating the horizon to the East, the vast bowl of the blue sky, white, towering clouds slowly moving across it, creating an ever-changing pageant of shade and light over the world and of the changing weather patterns in the sky.  Across the valley  the steep hillside was covered in tall grasses which bent as the wind blew over it, waves of bending, shimmering  grass flowing with the gusts, catching the light and creating waves flowing up the slope, waves one behind the other.  “The song of the wind as it bends the tall grass,  shimmering in patterns of shadow and light”   At night he was awed by the splendour of the star studded sky and the clouds of fireflies magically lighting up the garden.   He watched.  He listened.  He absorbed it all into his soul, and he dreamed.  He wandered the surrounding bush and grasslands in bare feet, with his dog for company. Scaring himself when encountering deadly snakes.  He noticed the tiny antelopes which lived here, and he found and  played with huge stick insects and chameleons before releasing them back into the bush. He climbed trees and loved climbing out to the ends of branches when they were being swung wildly by gales.  He had a hidden gravelly hollow,  a secret place, where he would light a fire and boil a billy to make tea.

This world of his was extended when his mother took him fishing by the yacht basin of the Harbour, or The Bay, as it was known.  The timber of the pier was hot under his bare feet.  They would buy prawns for bait and they would fish.  He became immersed in the world around him.  The scene is still vivid.   There was the scent of the sea, and at low tide, the scent of the sandbanks, whilst the scent of prawns used as bait  was strong in the hot sun.  He became conscious of the lapping of the water and the slapping of yacht halliards against masts in the breeze.  Sea gulls called. Through the green water shafts of golden light penetrated, waving to the movement of the water,  and small fish darted.  Often in summer the Bay was mirror smooth, dreaming smooth. Huge, shimmering white galleons drifted slowly across the great arc of the sky, reflected perfectly in the blue water.  Time ceased and the peace was profound.   Huge ships came in from strange worlds far away, drifting slowly across the blue to their berths,  perfectly reflected in the waters, while sandbanks came and went with the tides.  Across the Bay, the Island, surrounded by mangroves, dreamed in the sun before the tide of industrialisation swept over this part of the fragile earth.

Sometimes, too, at the Beach, he would paddle at night, the softness of the warm night caressing him and hiding the waves except for the glimmering white of the foam.  He would gaze in wonder as the horizon silvered, followed by the huge, orange moon lifting majestically out of the sea, creating a shimmering golden pathway to his feet.  sugar-sweet leichies and sticky juice mingle with memories carefully stored.

As he grew older he explored the green, vine-clutching world of mist-forests in hidden, cliff-hung ravines or kloofs.

Later, a little older, he roamed the wild garden of wilderness that was Rhodesia, conscious of the spell of that vast and spacious land where the soul of Africa was so palpable.  An untrammelled land.  He wandered, gazed and dreamed.  Hills and mountains and valleys, vast light blue distance, wonderful granite kopjes, a cloud-filled sky of towering cumulous which moved so slowly across the landscape creating a mosaic of  ever-changing light and shade.  Despite the apparent cloud cover this was a land of strong light.  On those days of little breeze, yachts hung motionless on the bright, cloud-reflecting water.  And the sun set slowly as a great molten-red ball before the brief , flaring beauty of sunset colours and the swift fall of the tropical African night.

All this seeped into his soul.  Such things are precious.  They belong to our fragile earth.   If they disappear under the relentless tide of growth and development, we too will be gone.

As he grew up he learned the beauty and the truth of all this, to appreciate today how important it is to protect our fragile earth, the fragile biosphere which keeps us alive.  The earth is not a resource for our pleasure, but a world which keeps us alive.



4 thoughts on “IN THE BEGINNING

  1. Barry, this is fabulous. I fully echo your sentiments but could never express them so eloquently! Well done. May our exquisite, fragile Earth live forever.

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