Dear Jon, I wanted to do something to recognize your birthday. You would have been 47 today. Two years ago, on the Sunday before your birthday, you took me to the top of Northcliff Ridge at sunset. We gazed down on a sea of blooming jacarandas and watched the sun drop behind the ridge in a red-orange blaze of glory. That was a really happy day for us. So, this past Sunday I decided I would go back to Northcliff Ridge. I planned to sit up there at sunset, take photos, and reflect. It seemed like a good way to remember you.
The winter’s first cold front took hold of Joburg this weekend. The sky is bright and clear and a constant, bone-chilling wind is blowing. The current temperature, at 11:39 a.m., is 7° C (45° F). The predicted low tonight is 0° C. During the months of June and July, Joburgers whine about the cold. We whine constantly and without shame. We sleep more because our beds are the only places we can achieve a modicum of warmth, huddled under duvets in flannel pajamas, sweaters, and two pairs of socks. We don’t go out after dark unless it is absolutely necessary. We wear gloves indoors. We shiver and curse. Even the Melville Cat has surrendered to the cold. He’s hardly left the couch all weekend, and hasn’t brought me a single dead rat. Probably because the rats are hibernating.
Johannesburg has a unique meteorological phenomenon. I don’t know if there is a technical name for it. Jon called it “After-the-Rain”. After-the-Rain happens the day after an overnight rain storm. The rains thunder through, clearing the dust and pollution from the atmosphere. The next day the sky is piercing, neon blue and full of cottony clouds. The clouds float across the sky in 3D and pile up along the horizon, layer over layer. Sometimes After-the-Rain only lasts for a couple of hours in the morning. Other times it holds on for an entire day. Today is one of those times.
A few months ago I wrote about the thrill of walking in Johannesburg at night. Yesterday I discovered that running in Joburg at night is even better. Especially when you’re running with 10,000 other people, dressed in florescent yellow. My friends and I, getting ready to Run Jozi. I wish I’d painted my face. (Photos courtesy of Martina.) Last night was the first-ever Nike Run-Free, Run Jozi race — a 10k run through downtown Joburg. I had never run a 10k race in my life, and had never had an interest in doing so. In fact, I had never run 10 kilometers in one go before. But when Martina told me there was going to be 10k race through the city centre, at night, costing only R70 ($9.30), and that participants get a free t-shirt, I signed up right away.
Last Friday I went to my first-ever drive-in movie, at the Velskoen Cinema in Randburg. I’m glad I went when I did — Velskoen is Jozi’s last remaining drive-in and it’s closing down in June. The land was sold to a property developer. Sniff. I won’t write a long post about the evening because my friend Martina in Jozi already did. (I play a starring role in her post.) But I do want to blog about a photo I took while there. Lighting strikes as cars pull into the drive-in. See the smaller bolt on the far left?
Last week I went to Swaziland for a freelance assignment. The assignment was with Samaritan’s Purse UK, a charitable organization that does disaster relief and community development projects around the world. I went to Swaziland to take photos and write stories about the work Samaritan’s Purse is doing in a remote mountain community called Kaphunga. This assignment meant a lot to me. I love taking pictures, I love telling stories about people doing inspiring work, and I love Swaziland. Basically this was my dream job. If I could do this kind of work every day of the year for the rest of my life, I would happily do it. I’m still emotionally exhausted after writing my last post so I’m going to keep this one short. I really just want to show you the pictures.
As long as I’ve lived here, the view from the deck at the Lucky 5 Star has been a wall of green. It was one of my favorite things about the house — the back yard felt like a private jungle, filled with unruly indigenous plants and flowering creepers (the creepers are pretty, but invasive). Yesterday, the creepers got the best of the yard’s largest indigenous plant — a twisty rock karee tree. Here’s a shot taken from the deck, exactly a year ago during a summer rain storm. You can see a limb of the rock karee tree shooting off to the left. The other limbs are obscured by creepers.
Today was my last day in D.C. Before leaving town I had hoped to visit (and blog about) the brand-new Martin Luther King Memorial. (We love our memorials in Washington.) But time and weather weren’t on my side. MLK will have to wait for my next trip home. Instead, I’ll leave you with some pictures of Filter, one of my favorite D.C. coffeehouses. Filter is hidden away on a residential street, just north of Dupont Circle at 20th and S. I’ve spent many happy mornings sipping coffee at Filter with my friend Bob, and that’s exactly what I was doing when I took these photos. A skilled barista brews me a single cup of Ethiopian Sidamo. Filter serves single-origin coffees from around the world, roasted locally in Annapolis, Maryland.
Yesterday was my grandmother’s memorial celebration, held on our family farm in Ellicott City, Maryland. It was also the day that Hurricane Irene hit America’s East Coast. (Ellicott City is a couple of hours from the coast so all we got were some downed trees and power outages. But still.) My grandmother’s name was Frances Wellford Mason, born Frances Colquhoun Wellford. Colqhuoun is pronounced “Cuh-HOON”, which is how she got the nickname Cooncie. All of her grandchildren called her that. Cooncie at age 24. She was stunning, right? (Photo: Wendell Powell)