Winter doesn’t want to go just yet, and so our walk today in Newlands forest was cancelled due to overnight showers lingering a little too long for comfort. If it’s going to rain anywhere in Cape Town, it will be Newlands (hence the forest), yet only a few kilometres away on the same mountainside the sun was shining in Kirstenbosch. The route home passed these magnificent botanical gardens, and with raindrops still clinging to petals and no cars in the carpark, it was an easy decision to turn in for a solo stroll.
My first stop was the suspended planter in the courtyard where the owlets peer wide-eyed from their nest. Of course, they weren’t there. Yesterday they were moved to another part of the gardens away from the danger of drowning in the moat below, and were settled in with parents busy meeting their growing demands for food. The bright glare of sunshine on dissipating clouds made it difficult to look into the deep shade of the trees and I soon gave up and contented myself with a wander to the upper reaches of the gardens. Far in the distance, a tour guide was leading an elderly couple past flowerbeds newly rejuvenated and bright with spring colours. Green lawns stretched before me, blissfully empty of signs of life apart from the flattened scars of mole heaps. With only a gentle breeze wafting by, it was possible to take photos of raindrops on lilies, aristeas, daisies and strelitzias. Being there with no particular purpose allowed me to enjoy the peaceful surroundings without duress, and there is no doubt that cool, damp weather is infinitely preferable to sweltering in summer heat surrounded by other visitors who might not share one’s propensity for silent contemplation.
It is an open secret that I don’t enjoy the company of small children as much as their parents do, and my heart sank as I heard the joyful chattering of children approaching the bench where I was enjoying my coffee. Twenty or so 5-year olds came into view, accompanied by three carers, and I can truly say that it was a joyful experience to see their shining faces as they ran around the lawn in innocent play, not a shriek or a scream, no crying. They exuded pure happiness and responded immediately to the calls of the three women, who could only be commended for taking on the task of giving these young children a morning in paradise. It gave me hope in times when we are surrounded by so much selfishness and aggression, and I sent a quiet wish that they should grow up experiencing more good than bad. Judging by their behaviour, the parenting is perfect.
After that, the gardens filled with people as the last wisps of cloud evaporated and it promised to be a lovely morning. A sign to leave them to it.