Well, I can confirm it really is true.
Johannesburg simply does have the most liveable climate on the planet. The veracity of this was confirmed by the astonishing beauty of a walk along the Braamfontein Spruit this morning.
Mere weeks ago spring on the Highveld was just a promise, heralded by hardy early blossom and buds on some of the exotic trees in our area. An early morning walk meant wrapping up well and a fast pace to reach the shelter of warmth and coffee before any new chilblains appeared.
Today was different. The dawn chorus started before 4 am to make sure we were awake in good time. Any lingering signs of slacking were dispelled by the insistent call to action from the family dog, which enjoys a morning walk as much as anyone. So, we were up and at it with the sun.
Shorts and a t-shirt were clothes enough. And what a glorious walk we had. Summer migrants are arriving daily from their winter vacation to the north and the first avian infants are appearing already – no TV in those nests. This flourish of fresh life made exciting work of the walk, necessitating frequent stops to try and dredge up out of a creaking memory the ID for a brief sighting or call.
Yet all this was not even the highlight. The first flush of spring has now spread to almost all the trees. Gorgeous in bright green, with pinks and reds thrown in to mislead now absent hungry browsers, they have also been washed clean of dust and other indelicacies by the first shower of the season. For we recently celebrated rain, and noticed the frogs along the spruit singing to warn us of this happy development well in advance of the weather app.
The flush has also spread to the winter weary grasses. Green is pushing through everywhere, along with scarce and hard to see spring flowers. It’s hardly Namaqualand but, hey, it’s ours. In a few weeks the heat of the southern summer will crush all this fragile beauty. We can only hope that generous thunderstorms will temper the thermometer’s relentless climb and water the plants before the killing heat wreaks its havoc.
I was put in mind of the famously beautiful, and just as brief, cherry blossoms in Japan. The Japanese are a spiritual people and far more connected to nature than might be assumed in such crowded and urbanised islands.
Traditionally, cherry blossom time is for admiring the stunning yet delicate beauty of the trees, each standing proudly in a carpet of fallen blossom. As one admires the spectacle the fragile little flowers continue to fall to the ground.
This is a time for reflection and contemplation of the beauty of nature. Unlike, say, a sculpture this beauty is ephemeral, and this is a defining element of its charm. The trees are nurtured and protected all year just for the sake of this brief outpouring. Thus, the wonder at the beauty is coupled with melancholy occasioned by the short life of the blossoms and the reminder of death which they carry. It leads to a fresh realisation of the brevity of one’s own season on earth, and perhaps of blossoms which fell unappreciated and unfruitful.
As Lead with Humanity we would look harder at Spring and think about all that makes this display possible. The deep root system and sturdy trunk, the pollinating bees and other creatures, the community of trees that ensure cross-pollination, the fungal network amongst them that forms a virtual neural pathway of communication between and amongst trees, the deep fertile soils, water, the absence of pollutants, and many more.
We might also ponder the incredible balance of nature, built over millennia and perfectly poised. As well as its brutal disturbance by humankind that has lost the art being part of nature and seeks instead to be her overlord.
We run the risk of paying the price of our folly. I hope every human has the chance to see, feel and consider the incredible beauty and fragility of our planet. It’s the only one we have and a glorious spring day is a special moment to enjoy.