Orange You Glad?

IMG_4917Hello!

With the change of seasons in the southern hemisphere, we are transitioning from Winter into Spring.  Some sparse green grass blades are pushing up through the soil, leaves are budding on trees, and color is seeping slowly back into a rather brown and beige-hued world we’ve known during the dry season. The temperatures are warming, and the ritual commences of taking coffee and binoculars outside in the early morning to watch the returning birds.

In Mbabane, August also brings gorgeous plump and heavy oranges in droves. One of my favorite colors, and fruits, is orange. This time of year, oranges are piled high in the backs of trucks and fill market stalls. I’ve been scooping up loads of them to bring home for eating and squeezing into juice. Our little boy knows how to peel them, and he likes taking a deep breath of the fragrant orange peel and says, “nice!”

I love the scent of oranges, too.

And today, I ate a tea cake made with real orange juice that was delicious, and the creativity in the cooking was my muse to start a new art project.

Do you have a creative muse or a morning ritual?

Wishing you days full of color and light.

Cheers,

Tracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Africa Burning and Nature Treasure Hunts

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Mbabane Mountain Fires at Night

The arrival of winter in Swaziland has brought dry, strong winds, brown mountainsides, and the beginning of “burning,” a winter tradition of setting fire to the fields, leaves, and brush to promote regrowth, get rid of trash, and decrease crime. (It gets dark early this season, and people walking get mugged (or worse) from criminals hiding in tall grasses, so I’m told). They even burn right along side the highway, flames licking the sides of the road,  billowing smoke thick like fog.

It’s an eerie, but beautiful sight to see hills glowing orange at night, red-orange sparks flying up into the sky.  But the smoke…. oh, the smoke. It fills our house, our nose, burns our throat and eyes. If someone will teach me a real rain dance, I will happily partake. Dust and soot is on everything, and ashes blow in clumps up to doors and window screens.

Fires get out of control quickly with the whipping breeze. Amazingly, the fire trucks have no water, but rather, firefighters use what look like rubber rakes to stomp out the flames. It’s actually quite effective, but some houses in town have been burned to the ground, an understood risk this time of year.

It has become a hobby for our toddler to look for fires and point them out, and he likes to say, “look! fire! ‘moke!”  On the bright side, there is gorgeous sun that brings warm days. When the smoke subsides, we venture out to finger paint or treasure hunt in nature for shapes, patterns, colors, bugs, baby tomatoes, and camouflaged animals. And to find our shadows and wave hello.

Here’s to finding inspiration where you can, and less fires for all of us,

Tracy

The (other) Mosquito Coast and Crocodile Bridge

Historically, people think of Nicaragua and Honduras as the mosquito coast, but Africa has its share of mosquitoes and malaria zones; Maputo and Komatipoort being two of those. Below are the initial impressions of these vastly different cities.

We crossed the border from quiet Swaziland into Mozambique, and the sidewalks were bustling with people and activity.  Wood-framed stalls were stacked side by side like a crooked house of cards.  Inside: mufflers, clothes, fruit, bags of cashew nuts (yum), tires, lumber, and bric-a-brac galore.

Trucks were filled with green bananas, and women balanced buckets of grapes on their head, scissors dangling on a string to cut off the plump clusters. Tractors wobbled slowly down the road, passed by fast-whizzing cars that do not stop at “robots” (stop lights) or stop signs. The polarity of rich and poor in the capital city of Maputo is glaring.  Beautiful, old-world hotels dot blocks of buildings that are dilapidated and beyond repair.

Maputo is a town heavily influenced by its Portuguese origins, but is a buzzing meld of cultures. Our summer visit there was a heady mix of sublime Caipirinhas (a drink of sugar cane, lime, and rum), hot sun, anti-malaria medicine, and delicious food. It also has its share of crime. We parked on the street to board a ferry to nearby Catembe Island, and gone only an hour, we returned to a stolen review mirror.

A few hours by car in a different direction, the terrain completely changes, along with the ambiance. In the peaceful, tiny town of Komatipoort, we spent the night on the other side of Crocodile River from Kruger National Park.  Rarely am I wide awake and giddy at 5:45am, but crossing Crocodile Bridge to begin a day of safari, I was overwhelmed with anticipation.

I had never seen an elephant in the wild until that day, and it really is something to behold. Elephants are not just intelligent, but expressive and emotional. They mourn and bury members of their beloved herd, and they celebrate the birth of a baby elephant with joy.

It was an amazing day of collecting bits of knowledge about animals and the bush, and witnessing nature at its finest. The light changed frequently and was beautiful to watch, moving from bright and sunny to foreboding clouds that cast long, dark shadows, then the golden light of late afternoon appeared, illuminating the trees and grasses. Favorite images:

Sometimes the best part is back at the lodge, at the end of a full day, listening to dinner conversation. And as a response to the question, “What’s all the fuss about? It’s an elephant,” I would quote something a great friend sent: “Don’t forget to stop and be grateful for the ordinary.”  I guess locals forget that seeing wildlife like this is not an ordinary experience for most. For some (like me), this is the stuff of Hemingway novels. I suppose for others, it’s just another crocodile story… ”

IMG_4411Enjoy the journey,

Starry