Perhaps, on this lonely road
–going nowhere, to nowhere I’ve been–
the darkness will swallow me,
So where did that come from? Let me tell you of a surreal experience I had some weeks ago. I was on the highway between Dundalk and Newry. It’s a fairly busy stretch of road, snaking through the Cooley mountains. They’re not impressive mountains in the way the Alps are, not snow-capped. They’re not rocky-sided like the steep cliffs of Table Mountain in Cape town, not like the Drakensberg gracing the border between Natal and the Free State. No, these mountains are round-headed, like overgrown versions of the koppies in the highveld which gave me life and ignited poetry in my soul. These koppies are grass-covered, and bring a great quietness to the souls of those bred on the African soil.
In die Hoëveld, waar dit oop is en die hemel wyd daarbo,
Waar kuddes waaigras huppel oor die veld,
Waar ’n mens nog vry kan asemhaal en aan ’n God kan glo,
Staan my huisie, wat ek moes verlaat vir geld.
–In the Highveld, where it’s open and the heavens wide above,
Where herds of tall grass skip across the veld,
where you can still breathe freely and believe in God,
stands my cottage, which I left behind for gold.–
That would be courtesy Toon van den Heever, whom I’m sure most of you won’t know. In fact, I wager many Afrikaans people would wonder at the name, he’s one of the long-ago poets.
Anyway, back to the Cooley mountains. A part of this highway curves between these big brothers of the koppies that fold the highveld, giving texture to the surface of the soil. Either side of you they loom, black and silent giants in the darkness. Usually this part of the main artery between Dublin and Belfast is busy. This night I drove along, engine purring, and I could see no lights ahead of me. I checked the rear view mirror and could see nothing but night behind. I was utterly alone, encased in this metal box moving at sixty miles per hour in the stillness, sweet music in my ears. It was so surreal.
The moment stuck in my mind and surfaces again everytime I drive along there. Tonight I was depressed–not an uncommon occurence–and I remembered the moment of stepping out of time, alone eternally for no more than a heartbeat. And the words flowed into my brain, trying hard to capture the memory.
I thought then of those koppies graced, marred by blankets of silent electric lights, overrun by development that tortured their surfaces and left their eternal nature trapped below.
Perhaps I shouldn’t blog when I’ve capped a day of utter depression with two glasses of wine.