Author of Gardens & I

Carolize Jansen

Moi, circa 1985, running around with the dogs.

I had the pleasure and privilege to grow up simultaneously with a garden : my parents and two older siblings moved to a smallholding outside Bronkhorstspruit at my birth and set out to turn wattle-infested veld into garden (just as Sima Eliovson had to - a very South African highveld thing).

It's widely said that the South African highveld has a marvellous climate (but I've come to hate the ungenerous winters and acutely yearn for the fragrant, moist winter of the Western Cape) and we spent summers and winters outside. Most of my earliest memories are connected with our garden: my sister and her friends hide a note of extreme mystery and significance under a shrub and for years I look for it there; I'm standing with my sister in her room, I can just see out of the window, and outside it is white with hard, slanting rain.

Thomas, one of the gardeners, is digging and I'm standing by him wearing a smocked yellow sun dress. I hold the skirt up to form a basket in which I collect all the earthworms he digs up.

One thing I don't remember, is picking up a rinkhals (a snake) playing dead, as is its wont - apparently I was 4 - and it coming to life at my side. My parents say that I had Wanderlust at the same age and would take to the road accompanied by the dogs.

The garden has always featured in my dreams. I used to dream - since it's so large and therefore not preposterous - that school had relocated to our garden. I still sometimes dream that wild animals, usually primates like baboons, live in our garden.

Recently I dreamt that I saw an aardwolf (literally ‘earth wolf’) in the garden, after reading that one was spotted at Ezemvelo Nature Reserve outside Bronkhorstspruit. In the winter of 2010 I saw one at the Johannesburg Zoo; I came around a corner in early morning and startled le pauvre in its cage. The bristly hair all along its spine stood upright, then we stood regarding each other for some minutes and I had to repress a human-canine impulse: it was sniffing at me through a chink and I wanted to give it my hand.

Klipklaasneus - read all about it: >>