Sweet fruit

Watermelons apparently originated in the deserts of North East Africa. As far back as 4000 years ago people used them for water and for food. Eating some for breakfast this morning I cannot help applauding the hearty fruit for its survival and spread all over the globe. Such a pure sweet exuberant burst of flavour.

Wolfgat

Die kloppende hart van Paternoster

Whether you go in the evening or during the day, Wolfgat offers authentic Strandveld hospitality.

Make sure that one person in your group is inquisitive about how the cuisine is put together, because the more you talk to owner Kobus van der Merwe, the more you realise the vastness of the knowledge he has accumulated over time. He will come to the table several times during the meal to discuss the exquisitely plated titbits that have been foraged from the environment or sorced locally. He is eager to explain the reasons behind how he has paired the food with each offered wine or beer; drinks that have been cultivated or brewed to encapsulate an earthy blend of the sea salted herbs of the West Coast. The added touch of the fine crystal of a Gabriel’s wine glass leaves only pure flavour on the tongue.

The food is prepared after careful “behind the scenes” research is done. As waitrons vie to bring all of your group’s plates to the table at once, Kobus van der Merwe will refer to a Louis Leipoldt recipe dating back to the 1930s or name a person in the kitchen who created the dish. Whether it is an oyster from Saldana or a limpet taken from the rocks on the beach, each bite rests for an explosive yet thought provoking moment in the mouth.

Most remarkably, each plated item is a work of art in it’s own right. If you love the West Coast (die Strandveld), this experience will linger with you. You will find yourself reminded of it when it is reflected in the veld and the sea around you. It becomes a reference point to say: “remember when we had those at Wolfgat!?”, and you will know the heart of the West Coast beats inside you too.

Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden

Dramatic cats

Sight lines

Intimacy

Torture

Release

Shortest day, longest sunset

Today, 21 June 2022, the mist flowed in gently before the approaching storm and the sun hid high in the sky behind a thin layer of dense cloud. This left the light lingering in the apparent dusk of sunset for at least four hours. The Snoek were running and the fishermen were having golden dreams of how life could be when there is plenty.

Golden dreams of successful days.
On the other horizon the blue light of afternoon still shone, showing only a thin strip of mist to account for the abnormally long sunset being produced across the bay.
Every minute brought different cloud formations.
Each incoming boat trailed its own flock of seabirds.
The sun dropped down into the sea
Finally, the rose of night completed the display.

Shape shifter

whether in a splash, a cloud or a flake of snow – water and exuberance create magic through flow

Sunsets are stories written in light

Gifted from the skies

Near or far

African Penguin they are.

African Black Oystercatcher

African Black Oystercatcher

People who keep bird lists are often called twitchers or they are teased for being obsessive. “What’s important to you, the list or the bird?” I have often been asked. “Neither,” I tell them in my cheeky photographer voice. “I love catching them and taking them home in ways you may never see!”

My rock!

My bird list says I first saw an Oystercatcher on the 1st of January 1994 off Cape Recife in Gqeberha. This might not mean much to anyone else, but to me, my list is a magical record keeper of days of adventure and holidays filled with explorations. My first sight of this dark black bird made me instantly fall in love with her character, attitude, and surprisingly colourful first impression. A flock of Oystercatchers can be a veritable assault on the senses with their bright eyes, striking beaks and the shrillness of their calls to each other from the intense ocean smelling kelp and mussel beds.

African Black Oystercatchers have bright red eyes surrounded by an orange wattle that make them appear huge.

Now I live in Yzerfontein, where I can walk to the beach in five minutes and where on many of the beaches I can be sure to see Oystercatchers on any day of the week. They still thrill me. Late at night I can be lying in bed and hear one calling as she flies past on a mission of her own. “Yes,” I say, “I can hear you. You are a beautiful being.”

Sunset over Yzerfontein coastline.

A late afternoon snack

Just add garlic.

The Wolf in the Garden

The bee wolf grabs the honey bee behind the neck and curls into her faster than the human eye can see.
As the honey bee drifts into unconsciousness, the bee wolf seemingly gives her a last kiss.
Gripped tightly to the wolf’s abdomen, the bee is flown off to a sandy nest where she will lie in paralysed state surrounded by other hapless prey waiting for the wolf’s eggs to hatch and finally complete the hunting cycle.

Earning your stripes

Leave your mother alone!
Come here! Let me wash your ears.
Little fluff.
Take your clicky thing elsewhere and let her sleep! She’s my baby!
Zebra crossing
Twins
See how the light changes us. It is a thing of beauty that we can stand out in the open veld or under the shade of a tree and the light still makes the best of us!

Burchell’s Zebra above wear their insignia differently from the Cape Mountain Zebra shown below.

The Cape Mountain Zebra wears his stripes differently, so whê.

Small Expiration

The spider met the honey bee. One of them had strings attached. End short story.

Mother and son

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Facing down the stormy sea

When bonds are permanent, changes are just time lapses.

Greetings in a Lavender Bush

playing peekaboo with the bees

cracking open the camouflage

whizzing with a hawkmoth

In my garden, the lavender bushes grant great big perpetual bunches of flowers breezed through with gentle soothing scent. They gather together many beings. These photographs were all taken this 2nd of April 2022 with a 100mm macro lens in a single lavender bush. The late afternoon sun provided the colours.

Substance of rock

Rock can bring out the gravitas in a scene. A beach without a trimming of rock is just not as pretty. The layering of rock tells stories going back millions of years. I can imagine rock as the place where the earth holds its breath. I love rock. Rock rocks.

Provisions

English is a language with an extensive vocabulary, and yet many words are used in different contexts to contain a range of meanings.

Provisions (noun): the act of supplying something for use. It could be a donation, or an agreement around services to be rendered.

Provisions (verb): to allocate beings with food, drink, or equipment, especially for a journey.

As cute as squirrels are, humans have not domesticated them as a species. Squirrels will happily share space with us in urban gardens, but with two hands to hold onto a store of nuts foraged from the environment, this Tree Squirrel still knows the freedom of gathering enough to provide a quick and immediate nibble as well as how to keep supplies in reserve for hungrier times.
Dogs, on the other hand, have left behind their wolf ancestry to feed off our human belief that we are the providers, the controllers of the food chain. They have trained us to scavenge on their behalf for the duration of their lives.
Give feral cats an option between snacking on snails and lizards in the bush, or consuming our processed dry chicken cubes and they soon become acclimated to our non-organic ways.
At the other end of the spectrum, many small beings have a much greater knowledge of which plants are providers than humans may ever know. Plant material goes in and out of this caterpillar in his determined drive towards transformation.
Caterpillars process all that plant material into provisions for Redbilled Hornbills and many other species and so do not always manage to reach the next phase of their development.
This Southern Fiscal Juvenile is learning about provisions. Within four months Juveniles are ready to leave their parents’ territory and fend for themselves from the earth’s bounty.
Those caterpillars that do survive become some of the most beautiful flying people. Here one such beauty is pictured with her proboscis deeply inserted into a lavender bush. Life continues after her period of cocooned transformation and nectar is provided to this Painted Lady.
The beings on land are not the only provisions. Fisherman go out to sea in fair hope of feeding their families.
Other beings, such as this cormorant, are also well equipped to make use of fish as a source of energy. We can learn from them how to take what is needed only.
The earth feeds all of us, but unfortunately there is not much of nutritional value left in the things humans leave lying around.
Even nature’s thorny food is far more digestible than the waste humans create.
Some lambs get born in the depth of cold winter rain storms and may be discarded by inexperienced mothers. The farmers try to save as many of these lambs as they can. On this particular farm our discarded single use plastic bottles are given a second chance at usefulness by becoming milk containers to fulfil a life saving role.

All around us every day we are faced with providers and provisions. Do we remember the chain of life that brings us to where we are? Are we happy in what we have? These are some of the questions that may help us to understand the need to be respectful when playing but a small part in millions of years of events.

Mirror, mirror on the wall – Who is the prettiest of them all?

Species differ, but life itself runs the same developmental progression of youthfulness through to ageing and death within all. Cuteness always favours the young and there seems to be inter-species awareness of this beauty. This provides part of the pulling power to elicit the care from elders that enables life to be resilient.

How freeing would it be for humans to honour, value and find gratitude in all of life’s intricate aspects, rather than to minimise our reverence to the human form?

Spirit of Adventure

Little people may be small and big mountains may be tall but, when the spirit of adventure grabs you, it’s definitely time to go.

You…….
…take me there!
And believe me clear, if you are slow, I’ll be on my way.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

A good place to take close up views of the fingers and toes, fists, feet, and even facial hair, of the plants surrounding us.

Images created with Canon 1D mark iii, L lens zoom 28-135 , and Kenko 36mm Extension tube. Late afternoon, minimal light, ISO 3200.

No ordinary dove

Doves and their etymological cousins, the pigeons, are well known across the majority of the earth’s landmass. People often see them, and seldom give them any thought. The geographical features of the Sahara Desert, Antarctica, and the high Arctic are too stark to allow for the survival of these birds, but elsewhere they are considered abundant.

Even when offered as an example of the potential for extinction, these birds are discussed casually. Let’s look at Passenger pigeons. They are arguably the best known example of Anthropogenic extinction… they were an abundant species. They were eradicated from the surface of the Earth by humans. Quickly. We teach that this tragedy happened because of us, we recognise it as our responsibility, even when using the distancing techniques of language we don’t get much further away than saying they died “due to human activities”.

Here are some examples of abundant doves and pigeons. Decide if they are ordinary, dismissible, easy to live without.

Cape Turtle Dove, Nossob, Kgalagadi
Mourning dove, Kruger NP
Red-eyed dove, JHB
A Laughing Dove flying over Marievale, Gauteng
Laughing Dove, Yzerfontein
An Emerald spotted wood-dove in the Kruger National Park
Common Bronze-winged Pigeon, Melbourne, Australia

Currently at least eleven species of doves and pigeons are endangered world wide. How many can we afford to lose before we know they are no ordinary birds?

This is no ordinary love
No ordinary Love
This is no ordinary love
No ordinary Love

Keep trying for you
Keep crying for you
Keep lying for you
Keep flying and I’m falling

And I’m falling

Song performed by Sade

Parading with the menu

Ground Hornbill

These starkly prehistoric birds love walking about in groups, showing off to one another what they have caught. Perhaps the girl with the prettiest eyelashes gets a share of the most delicate item on the menu?

A live gorge

From Cairns in Queensland, Australia one can ride the Skyrail Cable car right into the rainforest around Karunda. The highlight is Barron falls. A place where it becomes easy to believe that the rivers, forests and waterfalls of the earth have a conscious, breathing, living right to the self determined existence we usually reserve in our thinking for human beings.

Barron Gorge

Saronsberg Wine Cellar

A well loved vineyard, expansive architecture, a taste of wine, a range of art, and jovial company made the Saronsberg Wine Cellar an adventure to be celebrated.

Planted

If the grass itches, it’s not weed.

Joyful, decisive and full of hope

Highway to heaven

Flower season 2021

Dress to blend with the flowers. Leave only footprints behind.

COVID-19 Self portrait

A day in the sun…..

Sunset at Outeniqua moon

A recent long weekend at the Percheron Stud Farm Outeniqua Moon did wonders to lay to rest the tumultuous time of the Coronavirus. I feel for all who have been working ( or not working ) without as much as a chance to see such incredible beauty.

Shadowfax standing peacefully in his paddock. Currently the main stud stallion for Percheron in South Africa.
A dark Percheron from the USA, aptly named Goliath, is valued for his intense glimmering coat.
Delicate blossoms, a handful of sunbirds and the occasional Knysna Turaco round off a place that still believes in the healing spirit of nature.

Colour

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Vivid sun drenched colour soaks our days in joy

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daily chores

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Daily chores: Shower, stretch, and show off your finest feathers.

First Lilly of the season

Peace in the home

peace in the home

Taking the fire and the darkness and turning it into a beautiful possibility of rest.

life fire

life-fire

Kelp is constantly being washed onto our beaches from their sea beds during storms or strong tides. I love the way the decaying, sun burnt kelp seems to expel a last strong surge of life force, a kind of inner passionate fire.

Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike

Black-faced_Cuckoo-Shrike

After a month of traveling, I have come home with a store of photographs.  Finally the mad rush slows down into these quiet representations of what flashed by before.  Being in the moment is an art, but having it prolonged into a meditation is a luxury.  Staring at leisure endows artistic splendour to all who managed to flee.

Beauty combined

Yzer_moods

I am about to leave my most beautiful and glorious home to travel far and wide in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the United Arab Emirates. A little voice was whispering in my ear that I may no longer believe I live in the most beautiful place on earth when I return, but then I realised that we all have access to a world in which beauty is unbelievably generous when just added to what we look at, and that such looking does not need to be compared, competed over or judged . We can choose to love the accumulated effect of many places and live in one whole world. I can safely be excited about leaving, and open hearted about returning.

The aging gaze

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There are no easy answers to the ravages of time, but eyes such as these demand an intimate reckoning. And therein lies the beauty of all abstracts: the infinite canvas of projection.

Painted Lady flutters far

 

 

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Thousands of Painted Lady butterflies are moving across our area during this season of heat after the rain. They sit still for a few seconds at a time only and I am grateful for the auto-focus on my camera being fast enough to capture them in such glorious detail. Their eyes show that they keep up a wary scrutiny of the photographer while the proboscis sinks into that inevitable next drop of nectar. The Afrikaans name Sondagsrokkie suggests that they have dressed up in their Sunday best: to be seen by others. A lovely tribute to these wafting bits of colour.

Exploratory walk

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The sisters are now four months old. When the door was finally left open they egged one another on to explore the garden.

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Jessica crept around obstacles

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carefully watched by the deeply concerned poodle.

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Grace found her feet on the pathways

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and knew how to run from the Mongoose.

Most importantly, the pathway to the inner sanctum of a safe home is clearly established. This is what will help to let them have further walks in the near future.

Stop

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Out walking by the Yzerfontein harbour this afternoon I came across this eroding sign washed in sunlight. Finding exactly the right frame certainly gave me a moment of stillness.

That’s how the light gets in

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“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in” – thank you Leonard Cohen for finding words to complete the untraceable connections. 

Low Light Garden Abstracts

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The very low light after sunset, with flowers brightly washed by the rain,  allowed me to move the camera beyond the confines of easily identifiable objects.  It created the shades and colours of these abstracts. I love how the strange hues of dusk highlight colour combinations not seen in daylight.

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The lesser photographed poodle

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As pets go, our standard poodle, Baillie, features in photographs far less often than the other beloveds. This is not because she lacks character, but because her particularly even coat and dark eyes make it very hard to take a photograph that enables one to make out head or tail of where she starts and ends in pictures, and I end up discarding the shots. Recently though I was listening to an Internet masterclass with Annie Liebowitch extolloing the virtues of flat light while taking portraits and decided to experiment yet again.  The result? The first set of amazing portraits that I have taken of this dog in thirteen years. Thank you Annie. We can now share the light and love in her eyes, the softness and intelligence, and even if she is ageing now her joy is ever present. I am so glad to have so much left to learn.

Every litter has a runt

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Every litter has the tiny one, and sometimes these are the ones who make up in character what they were not given in ability. Now nine weeks old Jessie is still not able to climb the stairs, but she is a loud and rambunctious presence in the house. In her world, things matter. She may not be the bravest or the biggest, but she sure is the strongest.

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All vets beware.  Do not be fooled by the petite beauty spot on Jessie’s nose.  Each foot has its own set of lethal weapons. 

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Being the dark sister comes naturally.

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Thou shalt submit.

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“So who is that gorgeous kitten in the window?”

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Jokes aside, Jessie is fully on her way to becoming a loving companion to all who live with her. She is a very fine young woman, and even has a tiny beauty spot on her toe to match the one on her nose.

Cohabitation

cohabitation

If flowers had feet they may choose their partners differently, but this little snail is riding high as the crowning glory in its sensual bed of silken softness.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

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Every time I look at my photographs from The Kgalagadi region I think of survival. The creatures who live there are rugged and adapted to hardship. Endurance is their art.

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Hartlaub’s Gull

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Maori proverb: “turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.”  This gull seems bent on catching every last ray of light it has on offer.

A day’s celebratory trip from Versfeld street to Versveld pass

My goshawk 

Juv_Pale_Chanting_GoshawkI started reading “H is for Hawk” today and it reminded me of the day this juvenile pale chanting Goshawk landed next to us in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It was close enough for the car to be reflected in its eye – and it shows up in the photograph I took. These days the photo hangs in the home of a friend in McGregor. I originally had it printed for an exhibition in Hilton. A well travelled Goshawk one may think, but it’s the engagement I remember. The knowledge that I too was causing curiosity in a mind as acutely aware as my own. Bird brain? I think not. Balance. Beauty. Benign. Blessed. I am the one left with the bounty of the encounter.  Be for birds.