Ash Wednesday

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I had been inside all day, absorbed in work, when a message from my former roommate lures me outside. "I know you're busy, don't want to disturb, but I'm outside waiting for M to get back and just wanted to say hi."

After having worked through lunch, I thought it was as good a time (and an excuse) as any to take a quick break.

I opened my door only to be greeted by an almost otherworldly, eerie sight: twirling ash flakes and thin layers of fog-like smoke as far as I could see.

I ran through the courtyard towards the gate that leads out to the street, where my friend was waiting in her car. "What on earth is going on?" I asked her.

She pointed up the street. Above the tree line, the mountain had disappeared behind a billowing cloud. Turns out the mountain closest to our neighbourhood, in a stunning nature reserve called Jonkershoek, caught fire. To make matters worse, the infamous Southeaster wind has been sweeping across the area for the past few days, adding fuel to the fire and making it extremely difficult for firefighters to contain it.

As far as we know, no neighbourhoods are in danger. Many people were out and about, to, like us, gawk at the strange sight. Many seemed to be going about their business as usual. The ash floated down and, like snow flakes, settled in our hair and covered our clothes. The smoke soon ignited our throats and stung our eyes. We covered our noses and mouths with our hands and walked around the corner.

"This is what it must feel like to live near an active volcano!" I sputtered. 

It's so weird, because I've been glancing out my North-facing window all day, seeing the cloudless, clear blue sky and watching the Southeaster's forceful dance with the Oak trees, entirely oblivious to what is going on the other side of the house.

Earlier today, I even saw a headline online about wildfires here in the Western Cape, but typically, I thought it was further away.

Despite the discomfort and possible danger, it does make for a spectacular sight. Right now, the setting sun remains defiantly visible through the smoke, looking like a luminous, orange ball, seemingly suspended in mid-air. It has tinted the smoke shades of pink and purple.

It is almost as if the day is dying in a glorious blaze of its own.

Let's just hope the fires die down soon too. (Although I doubt it, because the wind has gotten a second breath and is blowing with renewed vigour.)

P.S. Great minds think alike! (Yeah, yeah... or fools never differ then...) Apparently a blazing mountain in one's hometown is a hot topic. My sister has blogged about it too. She's even added pics from their vantage point against the hill on the other side of town. Only thing is, according to her, the neighbourhood closest to the mountain (not mine) IS in danger.

Updated: Uh-oh, apparently the fancy Lanzerac Hotel just a few blocks over from us have been evacuated! It's past midnight now, the wind is still raging, and the fire is still lighting up the smoke-choked night sky.  

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Po said:

Wow, do you have pictures?

The last time I saw a Cape fire it was in the night and it looked like TM had Christmas lights on it. Strangely beautiful.

The poor plants and dassies though! I know some of the fynbos needs the fire but not all of it!

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is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
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