Monday, August 25, 2008

Of Shakespeare, birds and melting icebergs

Beautiful Mind column for Highlands News:

Leonie Joubert, in her Scorched, a book about SA's changing climate, writes that another world exists somewhere beyond the global politicking of super-powers and petrostates.


"This is the place where a solitary bee continues to pollinate the pale, demure flower of an orchid near Darling, or where the limey coral skeleton hosts its colourful algae on a Sodwana reef."


These plants and animals – many of them unique to the region – continue to do what their ancestors have done for millions of years, she writes. Yet the world is shifting its shape around them....


My desk is at a window. Nothing much distracts me while I'm at it. That's why I choose to live here. It's also why I long for home when away, especially in the city.


My 'distractions', at most, count among the following: the cobalt blue of the sky in winter, pregnant elephant-gray storm clouds in summer and every month a surreal big-fat-Dutch-cheese of a full moon that gasps my breath away. 


There's also the wind in the trees; are they bare or not, perhaps in bud or in fact are the leaves falling?


It's also mostly silent.


This very second - exactly in front of me, two metres away at most - a single sunset-orange Barberton daisy has me transfixed.


There's also two medium-sized crows crying, circling the air. I don't know crows from here, were there any last year?  


I'm reading Peter Ackroyd's Shakespeare: The Biography and savouring every sentence.


Ackroyd, also born to write, maintains that no poet besides Chaucer has celebrated with such sweetness the enchantment of birds, whether it be the lark ascending or the little grebe diving, the plucky wren or the serene swan.


"He mentions some sixty species in total. He knows, for example, that the martlet builds its nest on exposed walls. Of the singing birds he notices the thrush and the ousel or blackbird. More ominous are the owl and raven, the crow and the maggot-pie."


Ackroyd writes that ol' Will "knows them all, and has observed their course across the sky. The spectacle of birds in flight entrances him".


He also writes that Shakespeare cannot bear the thought of their being trapped, or caught, or snared. He loves free energy and movement, as if they were in some instinctive sympathy with his own nature.


To lift my eyes, then my head, from the laptop screen is to notice far above in the troposphere clouds that warn of a cold front coming. It's probably of the last batch because Spring is here.


The abnormally mild winter is worrisome, also that the August winds have not yet come. Like many others, these days my thoughts automatically veer to climate change.


I know it's far away, and try as I might to stop my ears, even as I sit here I can hear the slow drop-by-slow-drop of a melting iceberg in Antarctica. It really is one mere slow drop at a time....


Irrelevant ol' Shakespeare? Hell no! 

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