Tuesday, December 24, 2030

Springbok - The City of Lights

I left Christo at a petrol station, suddenly realizing that I needed to move on, that I needed new experiences, now.  I walked into Springbok, a town I’d never been to but heard about many times. 
The place was quiet.  Wide streets.  So many lanes, houses, histories, bathed in orange desert light. I saw a monument to the Boers, a kopje dressed up in strings of white shining bulbs, fenced off and sacred to someone. I saw the high school, the rugby field, empty with its two sets of poles on either side, ready.  I kept walking.  By then my feet were sore, I hadn't walked this far in ages but it didn’t matter and I kept walking.
I passed a police station and saw signs saying detectives work here and I wondered about the particular face of crime here, the sights and sounds of this town’s violence.  I saw an empty Shoprite.  It’s massive sign was red in the night across an empty parking lot.  I was nearly overcome with the idea of daily life happening here in this town far away, of people living lives here like everywhere.

The night was warm and endless, it stretched up to the stars.  There was space to walk, and dream.  I saw a restaurant closing. I peered in through the window and saw the staff closing up, the woman and the man and the other man, two of them a couple and one out on his own, and then I saw a group of foreign students drunk stumbling out of a red car, a city of lights was Springbok. These were places I’d never seen, places I was passing by and now knew in some way, had touched in some way. I kept journeying, kept walking, now thinking of finding some clearing in the bush to sleep, for the first time tired and coming down from the high of being free.  The town unfolded and spread and passed by, rows of bright lights greeting me as the blocks and metres and miles fell away.  

Soon the town itself was past and I was travelling through the outskirts, a valley with homes stretching up onto its slopes, rolling out into the desert, this town clinging on. The bush out there was calling, safe, just as long as I could slip from the road unnoticed and find a spot hidden from the eyes of all men.  The moon was bright, filling this valley and this town with a silver, cascading light, invisible but for walls glowing, scattered glass sparkling and for the dark sweep of the road curving away.When the time was right I cut off it, walking hard in the bush until the road was gone then lighting my torch.  I was looking for a likely open patch of sand, a spot that was as flat as possible, as smooth and as hidden as possible.  I kept finding something, a clearing, an open stretch, a lake of sand between two bushes and a jutting rock which would serve well as a windbreak should it be needed in the still, warm night.  But each had something wrong with it, always the never-ending bush promised something better, the next one may just be better.  I marked the good ones in my mind, in case I’d come back, and kept going forward. My torch lit a skeleton in the ground, I marveled at it.  I felt the sand, smelt it and smelt the air.  I realized that the spot that was the right one had already been passed by and that I should go back.  I searched and re-searched the spots I’d gone over and couldn’t find the special ones, nothing was the same so eventually I stopped and settled and in that way found the spot that was surely mine, that would be mine forever, the place I'd sleep.
Next I did what I’ve learned to do when sleeping in the bush - I dug out a tiny little trench, only about two centimetres deep, in which I’d place my ass when the time came.  The reason for this is the hip bone and coccyx are sharp and the spines curve above the ass is deep.  Without the hole sleep is difficult, nearly impossible unless truly exhausted, with it the ground can become as sweet and welcoming as a Sealy Posturepedic
I spread my sleeping bag and put my backpack where usually a pillow would be, then stepped in and said goodnight to everything.  Inside my bag (well, half in and half out as the air was still hot) I listened to the night and looked out at the stars.  My heart swelled to the thought that I could be sleeping in the earth of my country and of the world in a state of freedom such as this, with no thing to be holding me and telling me what or anything. Suddenly, I slept.

I woke as quickly. The bright moon, nearly full, had shifted hand spans in the sky.  I slept and woke, slept and woke, turning and lying and sighing with pleasure at the hold of the ground, at the eye of the moon slowly wheeling.  Then I woke and it was quiet.  The crickets had gone.  It was dark.  The moon was down. The night was cool and the stars were ablaze.  There is nothing like it. In my half sleep it was clear that the planets and the earth and the creatures in it are connected, a huge and wonderful poetry none can fully grasp but all can feel pulsing in their guts, swimming with the textures of the moons craters, of the bush, the spiders web, overthrown with the soil and smell of the raw, orange earth, of lichen painted rock, of endless plains and deep water welling upward out onto sand.  I slept, and woke, and slept, ideas and visions running through me.


Feeling a bit cranky this morning.  Slept okay, possibly the best sleep on the ground I've ever had.  Was not bothered by any critters other than mosquitoes.  Now I'm bothered by flies.  So irritating in an otherwise perfect morning.  Put it away.  I've brewed myself some tea and I have an apple to start my day. I bought baked beans and two minute noodles before I left for a time like this, out in the bush with a little fire going, but don’t feel like using them.  I wasn't hungry last night with all the excitement and I’m not ready for it now.  I sit and reflect onto my notebook:

  • I plan to find a Spur in Upington and have a drifter breakfast there while charging my phone. 

  • What am I searching for, this morning, I ask myself.  What am I searching for on this trip?  What is this story to be?  What is the South African attitude, perhaps?  What can be said about the South African night? Is there anything I can say that would be new?   

  • The country is not the city, I think.  The country is safe, it’s predictable, it’s known.  The country is open and quiet.  There is time in the country to be natural.  In the city it’s different. In the city to be human in the way that the country reveals is possible is not possible.  It’s too noisy.  But life can still be enjoyed a lot.  Nothing talks back in the country.  The rocks and the earth don't talk back. Neither the crickets or the swallows.  Finches.  And other critters.

  • The key is the border, I realize. The key to this whole story is the border.  The border is the goal, everything is ordered around that.  I want to go to the border.  Therefore, the story as it stands is at a juncture.  Will I go up to the Upington Border post, where it is quiet, or must I, do I need to see the main, industrial lifeline post on the N7?  Do I want to be in the Kalahari, or see the biggest face of industry?  I have already walked out of town, I think the N7 border would mean walking back into town.  What does the story require?  What does God require of me?  I feel like I should see everything. This is where a map would really come in handy.  A map would change this story completely.  Right now I rely on strangers for direction. 

I meditate on it, reaching for the answer in the depths.  Last night Chris told me I must see the Augrabies Falls, an incredible view of rushing water across bone dry rock, which would logically mean taking the Upington border.  I decide to base my decision on trucks. I’ll stay on this road going to Upington past Augrabies because trucks are going up this road too, the border is in this direction too, and ultimately it’s the border that’s important, not which border.  I’m in search of the Border.  Border toe.

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