I have spent the last two nights sleeping in a pine forest in Grabow just over the Boland mountains from where we live. There is something very special about pine forests. Pines are not indigenous to Cape Town. However the Eastern Slopes of Table Mountain are apparently prime forestry area and there are large stands of pines in Newlands Forest, even though they are being replaced by indigenous forest as they are harvested.
Years ago, when I was studying at UCT, I lived in Fishhoek for a year, quite a distance from the campus. In that year I had a Friday morning hand-in for a computer course I was doing (in which I managed to learn nothing about computers or programming) and therefore worked in the computer center until it closed at midnight. It was quite a trek out to Fishhoek at that time so I took to parking a car in the residence parking lot and walking up, past the campus into Newlands Forest where I would sleep under the pines, looking out over the lights of Newlands and the Cape Flats. These were very special evenings. In the morning I would pack up and walk up the to river and make coffee, and on more organised days, pancakes, on my stove. Then I would wash up in the river and walk down through the forest to my lectures.
In those days there was still a zoo operating just off campus, Rhodes’ Zoo. And they had a lions enclosure. I remember waking in the forest one night to the sound of lions roaring. Even after I realised they were in the zoo it took some time for my heart to settle.
In that year I also started camping at the top of Table Mountain. I knew that if I left the geology lab at about three I could ascend Newlands Ravine, the knife edge and the Ledges route from where it was a 10 minute walk to the entrance to Carrel’s Ledge where I had a site to pitch a tent. Then I would sit drinking Milo, watching the traffic way down below and would crawl into my sleeping bag when all was dark. The next morning I would walk along Carrels Ledge, down Skeleton Gorge, back along the contour path to Campus.
These were some of the memories that came back as I lay listening to the wind in the pines – a lovely sound. And I painted the pines. This is looking down towards the dam, through the trees:
I painted this on the afternoon we arrived, having cycled from Sir Lowry’s pass to the site – which was really beautiful. This is 380x280mm and is painted on Arches 300gm Cold Pressed.
Here are some of the other paintings I created:
The dam level was really low after the long dry summer. Which made it fun for mud fights. And at one of the tributaries to the dam, the roots of the trees were exposed. The trees had been cut down when the dam was built and the stumps and roots created patterns like a memory of the glade lost to the dam. It was more heroic than sad I suppose.
Here is the first painting I did of the roots – trying to get done before the sun set:
And just before I left I did this painting of the the pine forest, from the lake shore:
And that was that. All of these were 280x380mm. the second roots painting was on Fabriano and both of the others were on Arches 300gm Cold Pressed.