Four years ago and many, many miles away, I wrote a blog post about missing the sky. Living in a crowded Korean city for a year, I missed the sky often and a lot. Missed open spaces. I talked, in that blogpost, about a quote from Dana Snyman’s book On the Back Roads,
“Maybe it’s because today most of us are confined to life in the cooped-up spaces of the cities. It’s great to know there’s open space out there where you can just drive, and drive, and drive. Open spaces allow you to dream dreams of freedom.”
Today feels very much like that missing-the-sky time. Before I went overseas, I lived in Johannesburg and Cape Town and the Eastern Cape and travelled to odd corners of South Africa, from Port Shepstone to Vredendal, East London to Tzaneen. Almost every place I went shared one taken-for-granted characteristic: wide open spaces with plenty of sky.
Then I came back to South Africa and instead of finding my way back to my beloved wide open spaces, I moved to a place almost as green and crowded and claustrophobic as Korea. Instead a place to dream dreams of freedom, I discovered a totally different face of South Africa. Every time I’ve tried to explain the difference, people seem confused. After all, it’s still South Africa. It’s part of the same country. Just because it’s green? Just because it gets plenty of rain? It should still feel like home. It doesn’t.
The clouds are lying low again today. Yesterday morning the mist was like soup, think and cold. The mist lifted later, turning the day into a hot, humid weight upon the air. I like hot. I love hot. Tropical rain forests in December. New Year’s humidity in Mozambique. Glorious, terrifying, summer storms in Windhoek. The way the air smells and tastes before a thunderstorm in Grahamstown or Joburg or Queestown. This isn’t like that. It’s warmth without sunshine. For two days now, the clouds have sat, low and brooding, while the humidity and the heat built up and built up and sat. The hot air is heavy with the almost overpowering scents of flowers. It’s spring. Everything is green. Everything is always green. Steep green hills and deep green valleys and grey, green rivers.
I never knew there was a place in South Africa with so much water and so little sky.