B. Long Beach, Cape Town. 2014

Outside this window #42

Outside this window is a little tree who does not grow or die. In another life this stunted sycamore’s arms soar into the sky. He is anchored by thick gnarly trunk, fed by roots tunnelling beneath beautiful rich earth and is part of an untamed world mirroring the big changeable sky. In this life however my little friend clings to his tiny square of sand nudging the fat curbstone opposite our house. His spindly body leans to the right like Pisa; his topmost leaves know they will never clear the height of the houses his twiggy branches fail to reach. I see this hardy sycamore everytime I sit at the window seat. Sometimes he forms part of the backdrop while I gaze at nothing, puzzling over a plotting dead end or blinking at the world through eyes struggling to remain open as I sip my first coffee. Sometimes he is all I see; his unlikely cheerful presence on our road. Depending on my mood I resent or celebrate his determination to survive; encased in concrete, neglected and ignored, surrounded by doors slammed by people rushing, always rushing toward or away from work. Today I sit at the window and lunch with B. Leftover roast chicken resurrected as salad. I stare at my green friend opposite while B suggests street photography solutions. I half listen to him; at first I marvel at tiny sycamore leaves and his pathetic patch of sandy ground, and my mind dips into a ranting labyrinth. The line into the conversation I’m supposed to be having is tugged hard when I realise B is comparing street photography to hunting in Africa. His childhood learning how to track man and beast, living on a vast cattle farm with no electricity, with the only sugar he knew being fruit he gorged from trees created a man confident of his ability to survive. And the monkeys. My favourite hunting story. He tells it well. His love of language, of Africa, of telling stories brings warmth, mischief and an unhurried pace to his words. Today B sits before me and mimes holding the Canon. And I see it. Orientating himself in the light and the city traffic. Selecting his spot to wait. Tracking with the lens. Waiting for the subject to come into frame and then…. click. B and I are different creative creatures. My clumsiness is what it is. I know that place of focus he describes; where I slip between belonging and observing and….. gotcha. Outside this window our sycamore watches us and listens to conversations knowing no border or limit or end.