Past an ambulance and two cop vans picking up the walking wounded from the previous night’s revelry.
Past the braai area next to the river – tents and gazebos packed together, sleepy brown bodies lying in the morning sun, smouldering fires sending lazy smoke into the sky and children running like packs of wild dogs, free from the restraints of adult supervision.
Down to the beach where, for a change, there are hundreds of children exulting in the sea and the sand. Last New Year’s Day I walked alone on this beach and wept for my loss and fear for my sanity. This year I’ve stepped onto a new beach.
Ben is delighted with the effervescence of children bubbling on the beach and so am I. They surge in waves across the sand as the sea rises up to meet them in an explosion of shrieks and laughter and water. Ben lumbers good naturedly through the crowds, tail wagging slow and wide, big grin on his gentle face. Although he’s a large dog most of the children realize he won’t hurt them so he manages to sneak in a few wet doggy kisses here and there – big tongue sliding across a laughing, sticky face. The children’s laughter and excitement and my dogs’ freedom lift my spirits. I walk for miles, decide to visit friends who are staying at a beach cottage further along the coast. They are the people who gave me Dingo – when we arrive, Dingo’s grandfather, Jock, a grand old dog who I used to walk in the Karoo veld with, stiff legs it out of the house to come and greet this motley crew who’ve arrived on his doorstep. Recognition seems to dawn on him as he sniffs Dingo and his demeanour changes. He lightens up, spring in his step – his grand daughter’s come to visit!
After an exchange of New Year’s greetings with my friends and water for the dogs and I it’s time to hit the beach again and head home before the heat of the day becomes too intense. The tide is receding and has exposed a huge secluded rock pool which I’ve never seen before. The turquoise calls me from among the rocks, fringed with fat, green seaweed, the lurid colours draw me in. I wade out onto a shallow, sandy ledge of rock, watch fish the size of my hands darting through the water, then dive into the blue. I can’t touch the bottom it’s so deep and for a while am suspended in liquid time and space – a crystal clear capsule of life, currents moving gently around me.
As I swim back to shore Ben is standing chest deep in the water waiting for me. Faithful friend.
Walking along I meet a stranger and we speak about life and death; war and its long term effects on people – combatants and non-combatants. She shares a quote by Kahlil Gibran which states, essentially, that when a person has suffered emotional pain it enables that person to experience a higher level of joy. I fully relate to what she is saying – why else do I feel such intense joy at just being able to experience this walk on the beach? I feel too that the shackles of inhibitions which are imposed on us by society have fallen from me since Andre died. Joy and happiness I grasp with both hands now, I won’t let them slip away, life is too short. If I feel like dancing for joy I do – anywhere.
Driving home - windows open, sand on my skin, my hair crystallized into salty dreads, Stevie Ray Vaughn howling out (On the)” Bridge to Better Days”. Yes, I am. Life is a drug like no other.
There’s a new moon tonight – an auspicious start to the New Year. Hope it’s a good one for us all.
Till next time
PS The gallery will be closing from 11 January for a few weeks.