Birding: An Inspiration for Courtship

What do I know about birding? Very little, indeed! Still, since I have already entered the realm of birders in my last posting, I thought one additional flight wouldn’t possibly hurt.

However, to ensure that I don’t overstep on any boundaries, I will confine my flight to the courtship zone. This zone appeals to me for a number of reasons, but mostly because it gives me a rare insight into the minds of the men from my part of the world.

I come from a world where birding is an activity that is generally enjoyed by members of the opposite sex, especially those who have herded and cared for livestock as young boys. I suppose this can be explained by the fact that herding typically happens in the wild where mother nature happily provides her lessons while inspiring most of the entertainment for the lads. Naturally, I could be wrong to assume there is a connection between spending time in the wild and having an affinity for birding. But frankly, my experience as a “supposed bird” suggests otherwise.

During courtship, I have been enthralled by prose filled with awareness of nature (the environment including the birds) from those with herding experience. They have proven to have an ability to spin a mundane expression like “nonyana e ts’oaroa ka menoto”, which suggests that a bird is ‘captured’ by its legs, to flatter a star like Tina Turner and mortal like me.

Of course, given the magnificent legs of Tina (that apparently go on forever), the prose used would liken her to a mystical secretary bird — yet to be seen, even by twitchers of note. This mysticism, in my opinion, is possibly conveyed by a spirit of another bird that can satisfy a deep yearning for reciprocity. My guess would be a bird in the sparrow hawk family. Apparently if you ask really nicely, “seotsanyana, nkopele” 1 (sparrow hawk, flap your wings for me), it spreads its wings and hovers in the air as though to say: “happy to delight you”.

Unlike with Tina, for me attention would be on something else, perhaps the colour of my feathers (personality). The legs wouldn’t play much of a factor. The legs would be mere instruments for grabbing hold of me — or to be precise, my attention, so I don’t escape before considering the prospects of nestling the would-be beautiful babies that my suitor and I could have.

On this ‘nestling’ note, let me gracefully land and/or end my flight. I hope the view has been spectacular. And to a degree, I hope through my courtship experience(s) I have managed to provide a small insight into some aspects in my language and/or culture that I am yet to find the words to fully articulate ;-)!

  1. This comes from a traditional (folk) song, which was perhaps popularised by the late Sefatela at the turn of this century.

Tears of Gratitude for a Rare Bird

[I] say not in grief ‘he is no more’ but in thankfulness that he was.- Hebrew Proverb

For over a decade, on this day I have a private sobbing session. This morning was no different! I woke up and allowed myself to succumb to overwhelming feelings of fondness from simply remembering memories of a life that is no more.

I snorted and cried like an inconsolable child, especially when I realised my own selfishness/foolishness. Until today, it never quite dawned on me that my loss wasn’t just mine. There are loved ones out there, who might have understood all this time, that I have this sobbing session to simply acknowledge that indeed I have experienced love in my life time. A love from an imperfect but caring uncle, who was very protective of his family. A man who convinced me, among many other things, that it is not blasphemous to declare Bob Marley a saint (and in my opinion, “a true heritage icon for the world” )!

My all-rounded uncle, malome-rangoane Sammy, graces us no more with his wings in the air, but I am sure glad that I remember with great fondness his flight. To me, he remains a rare bird that I am thankful to have seen fly and grace the skies of my existence, even if only for a fleeting moment.

So, with unabashed gratitude, today (and in the future) I will allow myself to sob and/or weep for this rare bird, for its flight (including the gliding away flight) remains memorable to me. In part, because a certain realisation of its glorious purpose (at least to my life) deepened in death, much like a thorn bird reaches its potential in death. (Arguably, this may sound warped, but I do believe in the idea of death bringing out the most glorious sound from a thorn bird.) For this reason, I cannot curse death; I can but cleanse my soul with tears of gratitude and let the words “memento mori” propel me forward!

My Swan Experience

The annual Grahamstown National Arts Festival is over. I hope the event delivered on its promise and offered an “amazing” experience to all patrons of the arts. Personally, I remained amazed at all times. Mostly at the good quality and variety on offer; but on few occasions, by the ‘no value for money’ type of performances, which paled in comparison to what one would expect!

Now that the festival fun has ended, it is time to move on with life as we know it :-(. Before I proceed with mine, I would love to share with you my swan experience. I watched the Swan Lake for the first time ever and I thoroughly enjoyed it! A few days later, I watched Three is a Crowd, a contemporary dance performance with a piece on the swan. This piece, similar to the ballet performance, was beautiful and graceful.

However, despite this seemingly satisfying experience, I was left with this nagging question: what makes a swan a fascinating creature? Upon reflection, I realised that through my pursuit of (Western) cultural capital, I had somehow learnt to see (and perhaps define) a swan as a seriously wonderful and numinous creature. As a result, it was easy to be wowed by the performances without connecting emotionally to what was being expressed through dance. In fact, I think as soon as I saw the white tutus, my mind was in autopilot and this simply made my swan experience a mind over heart experience. In some ways I guess this was expected. I grew up not knowing anything about the swan; I grew up knowing a peacock as the only graceful and beautiful bird.

Growing up, I continuously heard “pikoko e khaba ka masiba”, an expression that alludes to the beauty and grace of the peacock as imbued by its feathers. For this reason, as a young girl all I ever wanted was to be decorated like a peacock so that I could walk with my head held high. Here I am talking about that gentle and confident walk better described in Sesotho as “ho tebuka o ba o khethela leoto sebaka”. Basically, in this walk, one appears as though they are gracefully contemplating placement of each foot before moving. It is like they are communicating a sense of worthiness that is symbolic of love in its purest forms. So you can’t but help to see beauty permeating from the walker just as you see beauty of the peacock.