Of Floods and Clay Trampolines
When I was about 8 or 9yrs old and living in Bot River, I had one of those experiences that one never forgets.
It was winter. It had been raining hard for days. The veld had turned into vlei in some areas. Little streams appeared and the river bed was full of flowing water.
I can still see where my brother and I were in the veld that that day. We had run down the slope that leads into the river bed, crossed the river, ran a little way up the path and then veered right.
This put us to the right but ahead of our home which was just above the slope which we ran down and perhaps 15 meters away from the river.
This was a subsidiary of the Bot River and we knew it well…we were not even afraid of it when it was in full rush…it was simply part of our vast playground… and we played in it ankle deep during some parts of the year and calf, or knee or thigh deep at others. Occasionally someone slipped and fell into the river and the most that we were concerned about was that our clothes should be dry before we got home.
It was safer than the snakes that we shared the bush with.
We were simply exploring the veld that day because after the rains things changed; new pools, new frogs, new plants…a new environment and we were keen to see how things changed.
A train was rumbling on the line on the mountain side, It was coming closer. It was a kind of funny time for a train…
… it was kind of a strange route the train was taking too. The rumbling was almost on top of us; to our right; in the river bed!
I remember that we looked at each other and then at the river bed, slightly ahead and to our right we looked, and then quickly at each other again as we stood rooted and watched.
The few trees and the shrubs that grew there were glistening, sparkling like jewels; as if they were covered with fine diamonds, dew drops in the early morning sun.
Ahead a bank of sparkling light was moving towards us as if gliding through the trees and shrubbery…like a train through a tunnel keeping to its tracks a mass of water made its way to us and we knew, we just knew that it would spill out of its containment and wash over us just as it got to where we were. It could not spill to the right because there the bank was high. All the way till there there was no high bank to hamper the flow of the water, only where we were. There was no escape and so we watched the end of the world approach us; a beautiful, shiny. glittery mass
…and just as it got to us it fell in upon itself as if a plug had opened at its center and instead of a wave of water cascading over us there was a gentle swirl at our feet which rose to our calves and dropped around our ankles…
I often wonder about the factors that saved us that day. Some water would have drained into a little dam higher up but the rolling water was already well past the dam when it collapsed upon itself.
Encountering the edge of the bank might have redirected some of the water and the force may have opened up a hole which sucked the water down into it.
I am partial to this theory because the next day part of a path just slightly further than where we were was like a trampoline…. the clay gave when I stepped on it and bounced when I gave a little jump and when I lay down and put my ear to the ground I could hear water flowing so I left, just a little afraid.
The next day I went back again but now the clay was hard and unyielding. The water had washed soil into the space and filled it up. No more clay trampoline; a good thing perhaps or I might well have buried myself alive in the depth of that underground cavern.
Why pictures of trees?
When I see the moonlight reflected on eucolyptus leaves or the sunlight glitter and shine through the trees a memory stirs. It does not always rise all the way but it it is always there and I wish that I could see again a mass of water thundering like sparkling lights…