Winter School Run
Car keys jingle, dogs bark excitedly, scenting a car to serenade. It’s still dark outside but a rim of light over the eastern mountains promises dawn. Heavy school bag is slung into car, headlights switched on, reversing out into grey half light. The sky holds the only colour to be seen, the land undressed in dull shades waiting to be woken. Hares switchback from restio clumps startled by the headlights, cunningly escaping as we turn down towards the gate. No talking, it’s too early, son reads book by the light of his phone.
Bumping along the long dirt road, eyes are constantly drawn left to the horizon: purple line of mountains etched against a lightening sky, like an amateur watercolour painting, but one that could never be captured, the panorama too long, thin and never-ending to be pinned on paper.
Wisps of mist float suspended at head height as we reach the tar road, swallowing colour even more, till all is headlights and wipers, fan blowing air on the windscreen to disperse the blur of moisture that grabs at the car.
School children rub hands together at the side of the road keeping warm, clustered in huddles until the school bus comes. Early morning traffic isn’t heavy here: some unhurried holding back others rushing, whisking past in an impatient flurry.
Dropping son to catch his onward lift, the sky is brighter now, horses are breakfasting on straw and hay, sleep-silent children lugging too-heavy bags into the car, son still reading, leaning against garage wall.
I retrace my path, long straight road bordered by blue gums, watching the achingly slow transformation of dawn into sunrise, as a tinge of pink warms the blank sky. Then mist wraps grey fingers, shutting out the sky entirely, creating a silver grey world with the gum trees its furthest walls. Down into the dip the wall of fog thickens, a tunnel broken only by lights of cars driving just too fast for safety.
Then back up our dirt road where fog dwindles to a fairy mist, the outline of the hill behind us floating delicately above and a rosy gold sky hovering over all. Now a bright spot on the horizon shows where the sun has chosen to rise today and, turning onto our farm, the hill has already lost its silver hue, instead washed the pinkish green of an old colour photo in the family album, its colour skewed by age.
Then a blinding flash reflected in the house windows shows that the sun has at last crested the mountains, bringing colour to the world, banishing the grey mist and promising a day fine enough to dry a load of washing.
Kids will have arrived at school by now – will they see the sunrise or be already shut away in classrooms under yellow electric light?
A lyrical sunrise is an everyday happening in a South African winter, only remarkable to me because I don’t usually do the morning school run, so the wonder is still fresh. My sunrises are usually seen from our stoep, in between clearing breakfast and vacuuming, emails and a cup of tea. It’s nice to be out in the midst of one, noticing the progress one mile at a time without household chores cluttering the brain.