There is a magic, a poignancy, a sense of excitement about the bush that is not only gripping, it is addictive. Once bitten by the ‘bush bug’ a person is infected for life. Bush fever is a kind of madness that compels you to return and return – a longing which will seize you by the throat until, you would gladly sell soul for the sight of a dry thorn tree against an empty sky, a herd of wildebeest wheeling under their cloud of dust, or the deep rasping “augh!” of a lion prowling in the night. The veld has a scent all of its own too, a combination of dust and dung and sunshine, a heady fragrance that fills the lungs and intoxicates the blood like strong wine.
The sky had been a spacious gallery in which were displayed great, marble sculptures of cloud, titanic statuary of giant men or ships with billowing sails, massive bulls with stumpy legs and sweeping horns, or a rampant dragon whose terrible claws have raked the sky from east to west. They’d swell pompously in the midday heat, to sag and wilt as the night fell, while in their shadows the bushveld was dying of thirst.
None the less, in those days before the rains, the sky was filled with cloudscapes that would have put the Himalayas to shame, Why, Everest itself was a mere molehill in comparison with these soaring sierras that stretched from horizon to horizon, huge masses of cloud shouldering thirty five thousand feet up into the heavens, their summits crisp and white like Olympian cauliflowers, their lower flanks grape-blue and shadowed with mysterious kloofs and ravines.
At nights the huge clouds used to growl and mutter with thunder, illuminating portions of the sky with nervous lightening as if a distant war was being waged with heavy artillery. Then one evening the wind would carry with it the sweet scent of wet earth, and we would all stand outside sniffing it luxuriously.
Still the heavens withhold their favour, as if brooding on man’s transgressions. The with slow and majestic deliberation the clouds gather round us, closing off the rest of the world, shutting out the sun, drawing nearer, stooping lower in sinister conspiracy with the earth. A splitting crack of thunder silences the birds. The cats lay back their ears and stalk into the house. A sudden gust of wind lifts the branches of the trees, making them dance and gesticulate in excited anticipation. And then we hear it – a distant grumble like faraway surf, a million raindrops drumming on the land. Louder it grows and nearer, and then with a swishing stinging roar it is upon us! Mother stands laughing at the back door while we shriek and caper, opening our mouths to the rain’s clean sweetness, whooping up great lungfuls of that incomparably scented air. The tide of life has returned and all the bushveld rejoices with us.
Love this... what a great picture painter she is!