I took the spirit of the Frenchman with me for a walk to find the Constantia chameleons.
The spirit was strong because I discovered two new green dragons.
The bored corgis lolled at my feet.
Polite walkers wondered but did not ask what I was doing, staring at trees for long silent stretches.
The one above has lost the tip of its prehensile tail.
This tiny one below is always in the same spot. Once the eye is used to their patterns they become easier to notice, but it's remarkable how fast they are lost, once you look away again.
The beautiful clear days are almost over again, as another weekend of winter storms approaches.
My mission here is not altogether accomplished. There are obstructions and labyrinths and a dark tunnel or two to negotiate, spanning the impressive range of country, family and livelihood. Like the lesson of the chameleons, we must adapt, and dye. And focus hopefully until we identify that which we came to find.
Wild leeks, three-cornered leeks, white bluebelll (Allium triquetrum - Mediterranean origin): buds and flowers, tubers and leaves. These invasive onions are similar to garlic chives in taste, and quite mild after cooking. They will feature in a cauliflower, suuring and curry leaf soup, topped with some curry leaf, coriander and mustard seed oil, and the sauteed buds.
Thistles (Sonchus oleraceus): a well known garden invader whose tender leaves are very slightly bitter. They will cook under some slow-roast leg of lamb, which is our main course, spiced with cardamom, cumin, black pepper and cinnamon.
Suuring ("souring," in Afrikaans; Oxalis pes-caprae - indigenous to the Western Cape) - chopped and stuffed inside the leg of lamb
Chickweed (Stellaria media - European origin) - the tender tips and leaves will be tossed in a watercress and roast carrot salad.
Friends took me on a quiet ten minute ramble on the hill behind their house, in Noordhoek. Winter rains had filled a seep area, ringed with restios, clicking with invisible frogs. To reach the sandy path we walked across a neighbour's garden and through a gate where a rusty lock swung, about which Rosie was unhappy. Locks, gates, accessways, and domestic vulnerabilities are a part of many days' conversation, here. A raptor glided above us on a thermal, impersonal, waiting for prey to show itself, and for its opportunity to strike.
At the traffic lights people beg. Children hunt through trash cans. Under the arches of city highways the homeless sleep. In the brush the woodcutters make their camps. Behind the walls the well fed dine, and receive their crime watch newsletters, and count the burglaries for the last few weeks, or choose to read them no more. At home I prowl like a thief, checking the perimeters and the outer doors, their locks and their frames, trying to see familiar things with new eyes for weaknesses.
The perfect days pass and the rain returns, sweeping in on its winter wings. In the middle of the city the mountain rises, covered with fynbos, blooming now, with pin cushions and proteas, clean water dripping from the rocks and through the green moss.