As the winter sun stares down out of a cerulean blue dome that is our Highveld sky, the glare of the late afternoon sun off the street is blinding, while the dead leaves seem to chase each other down the street, engaging in a whirling, swirling dance, before resting briefly, changing partners and starting the dance afresh.
The trees bend and sway, bare fingers outstretched to the heavens, as if seeking the soothing rain that will not come; not from a heaven as cloudlessly perfect as this.
Ashes and embers float down out of this cloudless, crisply perfect sky, witness to a veld fire, which can be smelled and which is betrayed by the rising column of smoke being molested by the playful wind, the same wind harassing the dead leaves and bending the trees to its will.
Winter in Joburg.
To the unobservant, the Highveld is brown in the winter, and nothing could be further from the truth. Watching the wind blow across the long grass, setting up waves and exposing the colours; near-white stalks, topped by slightly lavender-coloured heads.
Bright splashes of green with magenta flowers along the ground; the hardy winter flowers and amongst all this is the green and yellow of the lichen on the rocks. Against a sky of startling blue.
In the early mornings, there is the added beauty of mist rising from the ground, like the fingers of long departed spirits, then settling down a few inches above the grass, lending an almost ethereal beauty to the scene.
But it takes observation.
There are, however, a large number of people who don’t see the beauty and that through no fault of their own. These are the people who suffer winter, rather than appreciate it. Their homes are made of plastic and cardboard held together by a few planks and nails or wire.
There are others who lack even that little luxury. They sleep on the streets and in doorways and, when it gets cold enough, often die. They have no appreciation for the beauty of the Highveld winter or, in fact, any winter.
We see them at the traffic lights and refuse to meet their eyes, or shrug and show we have no change. There is no real answer to the problem, but there is something we can do. Not give them money, even though that helps.
Find an organisation that has a feeding scheme and offer your services. Donate blankets to these organisations.
Offer your services in any way you can, and you’ll find that, on those winter mornings when the grass crunches underfoot, and you can go back inside for a cup of coffee, you will enjoy it, knowing that you’ve done what you can to help those who cannot help themselves.