The Pessimist’s Pot of Gold



(Written last Spring, when the weather was less reliable!)


All week anticipating.

Anticipating being wet

And cold

Trapped in a tent.

My friend tells me there’s severe weather warnings.

Not really that excited

In fact positively unexcited (if that’s possible).

I’m normally ridiculously optimistic

But this time it’s waning.

The drive out of Cape Town

In the torrential rain

Doesn’t bode well.

Ok we’ll grin and bear it

It’s our friend’s birthday

So we can’t chicken out.

During the drive we get a call.

I haven’t heard my friend sound so ecstatic for ages

Maybe ever.

We have a cottage after all

Someone else must have chickened out.

So we arrive

Run in through the rain

And sleep

Grateful, so grateful

For beds and ceilings.

The morning brings a surprise

That none of us were prepared for.


Blue skies and sunshine.

I’m shocked and realise

My packing has reflected my pessimism.

No suncream

No swimming costume

And worst of all

No camera.

It upsets me so much

Being in a beautiful place

With nothing to capture it

So I have to resort

To my memory and words.

We head off to walk up the valley

Scrambling over

Potted and weathered boulders

Of orange streaked grey.

Pushing past stark scorched protea trees

And spiky plants

That are generous with their tiny spikes

on my trousers.

Every so often I pause

To glance back at the view

Getting more stunning with every step

Looking back past the rocky walls

Opening out to the beauty

of the green patchwork below.

Every time I take in the view

The distance between me

And my super-fit friends


Maybe I should mind

But I don’t.

We arrive at a stunning waterfall

Sparkling water

Coloured by the tannins of the soil

Cascades dramatically

Over the burnt coloured rocks.

A calm and inviting pool

Collects at the bottom.

The brave and the beautiful

(those whose optimism permitted them to pack costumes)

Tentatively enter the icy waters

Swam up to and even behind the waterfall.

Now I’m cursing

My pessimistic packing

It looks fun.

But I make myself feel better

By feeling how freezing the water is.

After the walk I sit on the stoep of the cottage

And breathe in

The incredible

And constantly present

Scent of the orange blossom

From the field

Of flowering orange trees

Just a stone’s throw away

In front of us.

The sweet, thick smell

Intensifying as sunset approaches.

Long deep breaths

Filling my lungs with beauty.

Wanting to hold onto it somehow

To contain it, to bottle it, to cherish it

And knowing it’s impossible

The realisation of every exhaled breathe.

Like sand through your hands

Grasping at it only makes it run faster.

Appreciate the moment

Without trying to archive it

Or save it for later.

The surrounding ridges are covered

With piles of precariously balanced boulders

Making intriguing chiselled sculptures

Standing out as silhouettes against the sky.

Weathered rocks

Formed into bunny rabbits

Gorillas, dragons, hippos.

Idle time whiled away

Identifying hidden creatures.

As the sun sinks behind us

The low ridge beyond the orange trees

Starts to glow

Like molten gold oozing over the slope.

Then the whole higher ridge

And its rock sculptures

Are flood-lit

With breathtaking pinky-orange warmth.

Then as if that wasn’t enough

A rainbow appears

But not any ordinary half-hearted rainbow

The brightest and sharpest rainbow I’ve ever seen

Not content with the usual range of colours

It bursts its banks

With additional and repeated colours

On either side.

The spot where it lands

On top of the lower ridge


As if winking at us

Telling us that this time

The pot of gold

Is no myth.

A reward for the optimist

Grace for the pessimist

Just like the beauty of this weekend.

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