I woke early to the sound of cooing pigeons this morning. And for just a moment, I was not wrapped in a big duvet, with the open window letting in the cold, Nordic air... I was lying toward the open window of my grandmother’s spare-room in Port Alfred, South Africa.
The doves were conversing around the broken rim of a concrete birdbath that collected all the residue from the 'lucky bean' tree
I could smell the sweet air, hot already, and taste the salt from the ocean just over the hill. The small clock ticked relentlessly between a silver-mounted pen-hoser and ink bar.
I pulled the duvet high over my head, immersing myself in this memory of heat and sweet air as if I could recreate it under this hotbed cover.
Back to Africa. I hear the African Grey parrot calling for his breakfast in the living room. I can hear his claws on the cage, digging out the passion fruit. The dogs out back, pleading for their bowls. I can’t wait to see them.
We will walk the dunes today. We will pretend that we are in the Sahara and scale impossible sand giants, cracking the sun-baked layers of grains under our feet like glass.
The ocean will greet us with its enormous awe, its towering waves filling me with the irony of terror and belonging. We will instead walk over to the shallow rock-pools where pumpkin shells hide and salty water kisses our tanned ankles.
For a moment I’m completely lost in a word created from a simple pigeon’s coo,
But I know that this place no longer exists, my grandmother’s house no longer stands, nor does she, her old neighbourhood a perpetual crime scene, an unfortunate existence for those who were left behind. All that's left there now are the dunes to where my childhood disappeared unknowingly into a fragile time-glass.
I realize I long for a place that no longer exists. How strange your heart can hold on to something so illogical.
I must face what is here, what is not yet lost - but I'm heavier in the limbs for the memory.