where i am

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July 6, 2012 by petrujviljoen

Many monkeys around here. Daily. They can be pests. They get into the kitchen and steal one’s last bread (town is far) and cause general chaos. One has to keep the doors closed if one is in a different part of the house. I once looked at them through the binoculars, cavorting in the trees and shrubs across the little dirt road on this side of the gorge. Grooming themselves, each other … A baby monkey was looking up at its mother really adoringly, slowly lifting its paw and touched her face and reached up and kissed her. They’re so much like us it’s frightening or should I encouraging – uhm, or should we be more like them? Are we? And then they say animals are stupid. I know humans can be.


We have this tug and war with the avocados – a direct neighbour has a tree in their garden. They sometimes let the fruit fall which I then pick up. I often can’t reach the fruit high up in the tree. I put it on my kitchen window sill to get ripe, close the door and pull my face at them and shout neh-neh-ne at them. Until I forget to close the back door and they steal it right back. Opportunists, the lot of them. The fruit is often so high up in the tree that I can’t reach them myself, even with a long stick. And my tree climbing days are over. Or so I think. I eyed the tree the other day to see if I could still do it.


Some mornings, the resident klipspringer strolls around the place, in amongst the monkeys and baboons. The baboons are really very big. Charlie and I stay out of their way. They seem to want to stay out of ours as well. They’ve (luckily?) learnt to be afraid of humans, but I still wouldn’t want to have to play brave with an alpha male. When Charlie and I go for our walks I make sure or try to make sure that they are not around. They ususally turn in for the night between four and five in the afternoon.

Once, we were sitting on one of our favourite rocks looking at the river far down below in the gorge and misty mountains to the west.

A whole troop arrived (from apparently nowhere) on another set of rocks and were generally obnoxious and displayed their displeasure at our presence. I was able to grab Charlie before she ran off and we trooped the few meters home. They’re not particularly interested in her as food my clever zoologist cousin tells me. They’re not the most attractive of animals but there is a sense of royalty.

Last winter, painting in the front room because it has the best light, concentrating quite well and … this loud, deep, bark. I really jumped. The biggest baboon anybody has ever seen came strutting past up to the waterfall and strutted back, all along barking his authority and what is anybody going to do about it. Me, I was quiet and in awe. By the time I found my camera, he was gone. At first I thought he was a loner. Not so, the next day he brought his entire family to feed in the fruit trees in the gardens and got what the monkeys didn’t and humans couldn’t. And again was late with the camera. I was too scared to move in case they noticed. They’re very wary of people.

Charlie and I walked again as is our wont. We sat on a rock, a different one in a different place contemplating the mountains and the river. I’ve learnt to watch her closely. If her ears go up and she stares intently I take note. This time she also started running with her belly close to the ground. I followed her, really running, not having noticed yet what it was that had upset her. Round a bend and a clump of trees was a different troop of baboons. They made for the shrubs and edge of the gorge where humans can’t go. Once we passed them Charlie relaxed and layed down on a rock to preen herself, happy there was nothing between us and home. The alpha male was in a Very Bad mood. I saw him clumping a baby for no apparent reason. The poor thing really howled. They really can be like some people.


At times the Long Crested Eagle sits in a tree right in front of my house. True majesty.

And the Swifts, when they get ready for their migration, do flying exercises in the late afternoon. The compulsion of flying is so great that if one stands really still they could fly right over your shoulder. Really.


The waterfall is often a soft rush of conitnuous sound as the stream of its origin makes the plunge to the emerald pool 90m below. When I first arrived here it was downright cacophonous because of the heavy rains that fell during the summer. It can be roaring for hours and suddenly it gets really quiet, as if the sound got switched off. The wind must’ve turned. The awareness of the sudden silence is instant. Long after I got used to it – one night it made such a noise it woke me up. I actually got up to check if it was the geyser!

One never knows what the mountain will look like from morning to morning. One opens the curtains and the mountain isn’t there. Or only some of it is visible through the mist. Other mornings it is clear and right on your doorstep. (You can call me Mohammed if you like.) Or Petru of the Mountains. Stone to stone. Me very small stone.

One morning Charlie woke me up with this penetrating squeak she has. There’s No ignoring it. At 6am after a late night working (for once). I was furious with her and shouted and there was no going back to sleep after that. I opened the curtains and there it was.

This cloudy misty thing nature does with the mountain. Oh my. Up and out after coffee and finding the wellington’s, keeping one’s eye on the goings on of the weather and the mountain the whole time in case one misses something. A crisp smell in the air after the previous day’s blessed warmth. Up and out with camera in hand. At 6.45am. Got back highly energised and gratitude towards her at about 8.30am. Felt cleansed.

I can go for days without speaking to anyone and not miss it. It became so. When I first moved here I sorely missed people. In town, one could walk to the grocery store or library and have a word or two about this or that and have a vegetarian breakfast with a good cup of filter coffee at one’s favourite coffee shop where often a good conversation is also to be had.

It’s good solace. Then back out of town to here and nature speaks so coherently that one doesn’t realise one is part of the human tribe for stretches of time. Until one sees another human being and all the old role playing comes back.

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Artist Statement or rationale or why do I do what I do

petrujviljoen

petrujviljoen

I make art, I read a lot and I'm now trying to write as well. Otherwise I belong to a cat by the name of Charlie that drives me nuts sometimes and other times makes me melt with love for her.

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