Last of the summer

The summer evenings are drawing noticeably shorter, the soft pink light of the setting sun gentle on the cliffs of Chapman’s Peak. From my deck I catch the glint of the last sunlight reflecting off the windows of the tea room on top of Table Mountain. This happens twice a year, signalling the passage of the sun along the horizon as if to bracket the summer months within that reflection. Soon the sunset will be between the milkwoods directly in the West, inexorably moving northwards until it reaches the dip between the trees where the moon casts its silvery sheen on the sea in midwinter.

The southeaster is still sending puffy clouds scudding up the valley, forming a cowl over the mountain peak above Noordhoek and dissolving into nothingness as it tumbles over the edge. Shades of pink and grey mottle the clouds, and a flock of sacred ibis wing their way low overhead as they return to their night roost. Tonight they fly close to the mountain, avoiding the buffeting wind, but when the breeze is gentle they fly directly over my deck and I can hear the swishing of their wings in otherwise silent flight.

The birds are settling into the trees as the sun disappears into the horizon, calling goodnight to fledglings and mates, sometimes sharing a branch in close companionship, hopefully out of reach of my marauding cat. A Cape Robin-chat met an untimely end in the early dawn this week, and a malachite sunbird has the dogs to thank for chasing Mango when it was clamped between her teeth. A lucky escape in the confusion. Not all cats are birders, but regrettably we always seem to have one in the clan. As a child I remember we had five cats from the same litter and one day my mother was informed that when Dad came home from work there were to be only two, such was the carnage among the avian population in our garden. And so it was. The dilemma of nature – predator and prey in a domestic situation. The prey is a gift to be left at the feet of the lady of the house.

The sky darkens from dusk to twilight, the blue-grey band of earth-shadow along the eastern horizon awaiting the rising of the moon. Night follows day and the Earth spins on.

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