sky

Air, The Aether That Sustains Us

Lothar Böttcher
Late 2015

“Air”

It’s the stuff in your lungs right now. It’s the tempest sinking ships. It lifts the rainbow and the smell of freshly fried onion. It makes you dance…

Air is the substance in which we all find ourselves. We sustain our journey in life through air.

Mere ramblings of semi-poetic cliches will be uttered should I continue this path of describing our little, thin layer of life. My observations are from a small spot in this whole wide world. Actually it is called a plot, and it is in South Africa, and compared to many other places in the world, we have an abundance of space.

What lies between spaces? What lies between cities? Mountains? Rivers?

Yes, and Air.
During this week I have been following the COP21 climate meeting in Paris from very far sidelines. What I have seen so far though, is a mess. Political rhetoric, corporate vitriol and hot air utterances filled with empty promises. There is always another “goal” to score, way way down the line. Status quo with new words.

The media repots on the big wig leaders. The guys and girls who have to make it sound great. Their masters preparing speeches to recite.

Cynical… Yes! All this fucking talk up there is not enabling the changes needed down here. Window dressing and cashing in on their bonuses does not cut it!

Soon the troughs will be barren. There are dynamics at play we do not understand, never mind even try to control. The North is seeing an influx of, almost engineered precision, refugees. When was this ball kicked into play? Maybe twelve years ago?

“The haves have not accrued…”

Our power went out when the wind picked up. There are bugs crawling all over the light of the screen. It is wonderful. It is truly beautiful to see life and living happening regardless. Regardless of sentiment, religion, race or anything else but surviving. (btw: If I should fall ten times my length I’ll be shattered… these crawlers not.)

Could one call that a vulnerability? Probably gives us more incentive to push the limits. We have the ability to enhance our talents. Cars, bikes and rockets accelerate us to planets. Shoes protect my feet over stones. Songs tell stories. Theatre makes you cry.

Human kind is unique. Uniquely stupid and uniquely creative. Not even on this planet do we have anything remotely as great and brutal as us. Our species is universally unique. There will not be anything nearly as beautiful as us anywhere else!

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Tswaing crater just North of Pretoria is one of the greatest day hikes in my neck of the woods. Even the drive up to the old “Soutpan” takes you through unfamiliar terrain, instilling a sense of adventure. Taking the Soutpan road you pass through parts of Soshanguve, an ever growing settlement established by the previous regime. The name Soshanguve is an amalgamation of the various tribes names that were settled in the area back then. Sotho, Shangaan, Nguni and Venda.

I haven’t been up this way for some time and couldn’t miss the new shacks and houses that have emerged from the barren ground. This is the real South Africa. This is where most of the population lives, in townships, far away from the gated communities and golf estates.

The concrete fence of the Tswaing reserve is in tatters. Maybe the beams have been salvaged as construction material for the surrounding housing developments? (Incidentally, the friendly and helpful lady at reception mentioned that they struggle with poachers in the reserve.) Entering the gate you notice that part of the large Tswaing visitor’s center has been gutted by a fire. A skeletal ruin which will be echoed later on in the journey when one passes through the ruins of the old salination plants.

The Tswaing experience has never been cold and this hike was no exception. Although it is the middle of our Winter the mercury must have been in the mid twenties. Luckily I took a hat and lots of water.

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