O the small wind is frigid and spare
and bright in the dim light and bare
as wide as God's merciful boon
the veldt lies in starlight and gloom
and on the high lands
spread through burnt bands
the grass-seed, astir, is like beckoning hands.
O East-wind gives mournful measure to song
Like the lilt of a lovelorn lass who's been wronged
In every grass fold
bright dewdrop takes hold
and promptly pales to frost in the cold!
Tomorrow, the first of June, it will officially be winter in South Africa. This means different things to different parts of our country.
To the Western and Eastern Cape this means cold, grey, rainy days. Shoes will tend to become mouldy and the washing will never quite dry on the line. Rich red wine will be enjoyed in front of roaring fires in the fireplace and evenings will be spent indoors in warm camaraderie with friends.
To Kwa-Zulu Natal it means holidaymakers enjoying mild, sunny days on the beaches of the East Coast and swimming, surfing and boating in and on the warm waters of the Mozambique-Agulhas current in the Indian Ocean. Only about 200 kilometres inland it means freezing conditions in the Drakensberg. Snow on the mountains and skiing for those who can afford visiting the ski lodges.
To the Karoo, Free State and Namaqualand it means frozen water pipes and frost crunching under your shoes every morning. It will warm up during the day, but before it gets warm enough to be called mild, it will start cooling down again to the icy cold that will come with the sunset. It will also mean the promise of the wonderful colour carpet that will spread over the veldt even before spring arrives.
To the Highveldt, that is Gauteng and the North West, it will bring iced up car windows in the mornings, sniping cold breezes off the Drakensberg and prayers for spring to come. It will also bring the beauty of the vivid reds and oranges of aloes against a backdrop of pale gold winter grass.
To Mphumalanga and Limpopo, it means many visitors to the game rich lodges and conservatories in the area; the best known one being the Paul Kruger Game Reserve. Mornings will be clear and crisp and need a warm jacket but daytime will only require a light cardigan. Evenings will cool off quickly and nights will be cold. The veldt will be dry and veldt fires will have to be fought before winter is over, which will be soon.
South Africa is truly blessed with warm sunny weather even in winter and I think many South Africans see winter just as a nuisance to be endured for a couple of weeks before the glory and beauty of spring breaks free.