When life gets particularly kak and my head feels it has a committee of argumentative pessimists stuck in it, I need to switch off. Shut them all up before I explode. I need to distract myself to the point where my subconscious takes over. Untangles the threads. Makes it easier to understand, work through, deal with. I sleep. Or, if possible, loose myself in a ripper of a book. Or get out somewhere where the world is so big, all the stuff feels small and not so significant.
The weekend before last I slept. 5 hours on Friday afternoon. 11 hours on Friday night. 4 hours on Saturday afternoon. 9 hours on Saturday night. 2 hours on Sunday afternoon. And fuck all, unsurprisingly, on Sunday night. Typical. *eye roll*
Then, last Tuesday, I escaped to the mountain. Not really the cunningest plan with the various nefarious criminals lurking about on its slopes. But I don’t care. I needed to walk. Walk hard. Sweat. Listen to my iPod loud. Sing if need be.
The Yellowwood Trail was just what I needed. A straight up, straight down 45 minute work out (with some flat-ish, contoury bits in-between) that leaves little time for thinking other than how you’re going to get your lardy arse up the next 500 meters.
It was overcast. For some reason, overcast days make the indigenous forest greener. The first 15 minutes is straight up through this forest, a stepped pathway that rises through milkwoods and ficuses. The trees form a canopy so you’re enclosed in a green bower for most of the way. Thick, voluptuous trunks and limbs interrupt your periphery vision like sensual women posed (and poised) for eternity. The only sounds are leaves, birds and breath. Half way up I’m breathing heavily. At the first cross path and I greet the security guard waiting there.
He greets me back. We exchange small talk while I catch my breath. I simultaneously think how sad it is that we need guards on these beautiful paths and that his job must be pretty boring.
I carry on, breathing hard again. I turn off the iPod and I’m surprised that I can’t hear the waterfall. But then I remember that it’s the height of summer. That the cascade that greets me in June will be only a trickle now. And I think that it’s been too long since I was here last. And wonder at how, in our air-conditioned, coffined lives, we miss the subtleties of the seasons. The shifts from winter to spring to summer to autumn. And I vow to watch a little closer. See what is different from my last time here.
I reach the waterfall. Rocks that were covered with rushing, tadpole filled, tea coloured water the last time I was here, are bared, mossy and green in the dappled light. I hop across. Knowing that the next bit is straight down and my legs will begin to wobble.
Amazingly, this part of the trail is carpeted with crushed pink and white petals. I can’t see the blooms that released them, but the faintest scent remains. I can feel my spirit lifting. The iPod is back on and just as I leave the shelter of the forest and head onto the contour path, Nelly Furtado sings
You either got it
Or you don’t
You either stand or you fall
When your will is broken
When it slips from your hand
And I smile at synchronicity again. The mist covers the mountain, and like most days in Cape Town, the view changes with the vantage. If I look right I can see the jagged levels of the mountain, like some Scottish vista, covered in green and granite and cloud. To the left, the sweep of the Southern Suburbs, out to Muizenberg and the grey sea of False Bay. Ahead of me, the curve of the contour path, lined with Silver Trees and pink lilies.
The ferns, which 6 months ago were bursting with budding coiled fronds, have turned silver. They look like spray painted Christmas fare. They are beautiful because they aren’t. The road bends down again, this part over grown with reeds and grasses. And I spot the first, perfect pink cone of a brand new protea and I can’t help but grin, foolishly and with glee.
As I stare out across the sky and the arc of the bay and the wild loom of the mountain, I can feel myself lift above everything. Sweaty and scuffed and covered with leaf debris, I’m smiling like a loon and singing out loud to Cold Play. And it’s all ok again. I’m ok. And I’ll get through whatever it is I need to survive. I’m good.