A week ago I sliced the fleshy tip of my right index finger on one of the plastic and foil blister packs encasing my meds.





Seven days’ later I’m refilling my week-long plastic pillbox.

That’s how I know that the first week of the lockdown has passed. It’s also why I’ve not gone mad: Without enough meds to last the lockdown I’d have been climbing the walls here.

I’m typing by the light of three candles.

It’s lush and green here. This summer has seen very good rains, this last week too; I know what the Karoo looks and feels like in a drought.

I’ve been here for exactly two weeks. Unplanned and in no way intended to preempt the shutting down of the country at midnight on 26 March.

By sheer and most fortunate serendipity I’ve been able to stay put in one of my ideal life geolocations, a place that inspires my heart to strum and sing.

When I arrived this time the poplars, which have always tugged powerfully at my heartstrings, were in their shimmering summer glory.

The last week has seen their gradual turning to autumn; I’m excitedly anticipating each of the tree's sharp, bright and passionate yellow transformation into trembling skyward flames.

These trees were the first image to be deeply burnt into my mind’s cornea when I first pilgrimed to here 22 years ago.

It was also autumn.

I was deeply in love, then. With two people simultaneously. And, somehow, in a relationship with both (it’s a long and painful story). And neither knew about the other. Well, for a while at least. I had no idea how to let either of them go. Because I was young, inexperienced and had not yet grown balls, nor integrity. Although now, and in hindsight, it’s obvious whom I should have held onto - with both hands and all of my heart. 

Oh, for the wisdom and understanding that comes with hindsight.

Often planted as windbreaks along farm boundaries poplars make good screens and provide protection. My heart could have used some at the time. They’re especially striking when planted in clumps, which creates an atmospheric woodland effect.

The next time I came here, not long after the dawn of the millennium, I was in another relationship: dangerously enthralled by a cruel flame; in a deeply co-dependent space, my heart was a bruised and battered one. I knew that I get out. But how? A week later, knowing for my sanity what I needed to do, I drove out of this fertile valley with a heavy, dreading heart. While it what obvious what needed doing I needed, however, the evidence to underscore my instincts and suspicions before I could do it.

In spring and summer, the oval to diamond-shaped leaves of the poplar are shiny healthy green, with a pale silvery underside. While the leaves drop in winter, they are most striking in the autumn. That’s when they transform into a brilliant yellow that demands attention.

While poplars have long been symbols of courage, victory, fertility, youthfulness, abundance, protection and endurance, I’ve chosen instead to illustrate this post with a pic I took of the dramatic peak that’s visible from most of this village, while it was still legal to move around. Its name also oozes symbolism:

The Compassberg - the highest peak in the Sneeuberg range and resembling a compass needle towering 2 502 metres high - is near the village of Nieu Bethesda, 55 km north of the town Graaff-Reinet in the (my favourite) Eastern Cape Province.

I'm home.