Monday, March 7, 2011

Sex and the City and the Forest

Oddest advice about sex I ever received? A friend's father to me, when I was heading out, aged sixteen: Don't f*ck up your life for something that looks like a dead pig's eye.

A dead pig's eye? Seriously?

But this isn't about that.

It's about not having to think about dead eyes or anything else repellent.

In the forest you can lose yourself inside your head. Hiking through a carpet of leaves, hearing nothing but the drone of crickets and the chirping of invisible birds, you can go places in your head you could never access while sitting in your room. The forest stamps your thought-passport with an open-ended visa to drift across space and time and refresh a mind cauterised by routine and familiarity

There are people there, usually, walking their dogs or going for a run. Sometimes you'll see a rider on a horse, stepping aside to let it pass, chestnut flanks shimmer in the sunlight which pokes through the canopy. They'll nod to you, or greet you in a way which reminds you of the way neighbours used to say hello- slightly formal but friendly. Mostly, you're alone.

Some of my favourite forests are the ones which skirt the mountain here in Cape Town. There are seams and pleats of rivers and waterfalls, sometimes slight brown trickles, sometimes gushes of nature which batter the ferns and mosses which have grown too bold on their banks during the cooler autumn months.

There are the pines: You squint up- they tilt into the whiteness of the sun, at angles which seem to defy gravity- and of course, the angles often do- the wind whisks them out of the soft sand and fells them more cleanly than the saws which are threatening to remove them from the slopes. The pines will be gone one day. But for now you can gather any cones not gnawed by the skittish squirrels, or sit on the fallen ones- perfect benches- when you need to catch your breath.

There are more open patches where wild flowers flirt with the big black bees and the drunken butterflies, and the fynbos has stretched phoenix feathers after the fire. The scents are subtle- not the obvious cloud of perfume you'd get in a garden, but an undertone of something rich and herbal, dense and living.

A rock is a sun-bed for a lizard, who seems to look away when you pass, but he's actually just angling his face to get a better view of you. He's like those old Mediterranean guys you see in in art movies- grizzled and contemplative, feeding off the sun and the heat.

You sit again in the shade of an oak tree- not planted, but rather the result of a randomly dropped acorn a century ago, and allow your mind to unthink. No more anxiety. A break from the loops of pressure, deadlines, commitments, failures. Instead, you look out over the other trees below, and the parts of the city you can see but not hear through the trees, and enjoy the solitude.

That's a whole lot better than thinking about a dead pig's eye, wouldn't you say?


  1. I can smell the pine needles!!

  2. you are such a natural story teller :)

  3. Story-teller is much better than liar :)


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