Friday, May 23, 2008

Thanks for the memories, John Denver

I found the video below on YouTube this evening, and it's brought back a flood of memories.

I was born and raised in South Africa, and many of the experiences of my younger days are captured in John Denver's songs 'Rocky Mountain High' and 'Calypso'.

The mountains of South Africa are different to the USA's Rocky Mountains in many respects, but they offer the same majesty, the same closeness to nature in the raw. I've slept under the stars in the Cederberg (Cedar Mountains) and Drakensberg (Dragon Mountains); been snow-bound in a cave on Cedarhoutkop (Cedar Wood Kop, or Hill); drawn water from Crystal Pool, which is as clear as its name suggests; dived into streams of snowmelt (and come out looking like a shrunken popsicle!); spent many an evening around the campfire with my friends; walked through Vogelgesangvallei (Bird Song Valley), in its grey blasted granite devastation, and looked at the mountain leopards watching me from their rocky perches (and doubtless wondering whether I'd be good for lunch - fortunately none of them bothered to find out!); watched the clouds forming on the peaks above the trail, and sweep down to cover us in grey stillness . . . many, many memories.

The same goes for the sea. I spent a couple of years on the water. When you've been close to the sea, in a yacht or small patrol craft, you see it 'up close and personal' in a way that a larger ship simply can't convey. I've watched the Great White sharks hunting seals in False Bay; lain down right at the bow of a small craft and had dolphins leaping and curling around the bow-wave not three feet away from my face, and felt the wind and smelt the fishiness of their breath through their breathing holes; dived for kreef (lobster) on rocky reefs just offshore; enjoyed nights on the beach, with a fire to warm us, the waves crashing a few feet away, and the smell of the sea wafting over us; and been scared witless by some really nasty storms at sea, particularly off Cape Point, with the small ship tossing, rolling, pitching and jerking, so that one daren't move without clinging to lifelines, and it was truly a life-threatening activity to move on the upper deck. John Denver's tribute to Jacques Cousteau and his research ship, Calypso, a converted minesweeper, also brings back many memories.

I'm partially disabled now. Just walking around isn't all that easy sometimes, and I'll never again hike through the mountains. I may swim gently in the surf, but I'll never again clamber nimbly all over a sailing craft, or walk forward to the bow and lie down to be close to the dolphins. I hate that reality . . . but I still have my memories, and those two songs brought them flooding back tonight.

I hope you have such memories too. If so, here are the songs, to bring them back for you.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Damn it, Peter, now I have to go dig through my 8-tracks & find some John Denver!
Sorry to hear that memories are the only way you can go to those places again, but memories, properly made, can be powerful. I'll have to get out of this wheelchair in a couple of months before I'll know my full capabilities & limitations. I already know that a couple of things are out, but like you I have memories to savor.