When they cried freedom, when the sweet mingling of woodsmoke and jasmine with dust - grass, granite, antelope
Romantics like Rousseau talk nonsense when they insist that we are born free, though he's right about the chains. See, you didn't know which side of the fence you would end up attempting to climb. You had no say in your spawning, or the biology of your thing, or your complexion. Yet time and time again we are told of a free press, a free state, free will, freedom of speech, freedom to write what we like, to preach what we like, freedom to make a mess. "It's often safer to be in chains," says Franz Kafka, "than to be free." But safety is not the issue, see - it's the rains, the coming of the rains.
Your brother Khaki Weed has given you a bad name: Black Jack they call him; the hiker's curse; as ubiquitous as the devil, without his charm. Drives prospectors to blistered socklessness; invades, like pricking desire, knickers; clings to the ears of cocker spaniels; stains trouser bottoms; makes fingers stink; lodges in the corner's of cow's eyes; starts skin rashes which sometimes fester like lilies in old wreaths. You stink too, Marigold. You give off a pungent, khaki odour of crushed beetles, soil, old men, hat linings, ointment and dung. And yet I love your smell - your odour - better than a million Krugerrands carpeted around a city hall; better than your fancy Latin name Tagetes; better than your native Mexico in Aztec times; better than your cousin, that reliable annual the Calendula. Yes, better even than your glorious crinkly, flaky, golden head-pieces which adorned my mother's garden like moultings from the noonday summer sun. It's really your brother that I love. Your odour reminds me of Black Jack, and Black Jack, ou Khaki Bos, reminds me of Colleen Bawn where we flourished. I remember one school holiday when a bunch of us hiked to Jessie Hotel, drank a Coke at the petrol pump, and hiked back. Sixteen miles for what? A Coke and tackies full of black jacks. I remember going prospecting with my father, following his wide back through parched mopani veld, across vleis where lilies grew, down dry dongas looking for quartz reefs; occasionally stopping to drink from my father's World War Two bottle, and to pluck black jacks from our stockings. And I remember a girl with shiny brown hair - the things we did on the golf course by the glow of a genial moon. I believe the moon still visits there. But Puza the Simpson's old spaniel is dead now, and Fred is in Cape Town, and Gillie is married, and Taz was killed by 'terrs', and Bob's gone religious, and the old cow down at the dam is Fray Bentos, and I am overseas, looking out for marigolds to finger and sniff.