A skein of ducks went vortex surfing above me

  • Sunday, March 04, 2018
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Quack! You're broken. You could even say quacked :-)

In Zulu culture there is a dance style called Isicathamiya which comes from the word “ukucothoma” meaning to walk on your tip toes.
Zulu mineworkers hold all night dance competitions known as Ingoma-busuku or Dance of the Night. This is light footed and near silent and accompanied by gentle harmonic singing so as not to disturb others.
This sings to my heart as a minimalist runner, not only does barefoot or minimalist running technique focus on landing on the balls of the feet but it also emphasises a light foot strike. Done well it is almost silent making me a isicathamiya runner.
Listen to Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
I’ve been listening to a lot of this music recently, I am endlessly homesick.
My school was closed this week. The so called Beast from the East came, a weather phenomenon caused by warm air rising above the North Pole and dragging freezing air from Siberia across the UK. We had enough snow to make our site unsafe for our vulnerable children and it was cold enough to have frozen the gates shut.
Before the weekend I intend to run, taking advantage of the rare conditions. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I do not enjoy the cold but I love a snow run and they come infrequently to my corner of the South East. The first day off school I took my kids sledding. It is a tradition locally when it snows enough to go to the golf course, parents stand on the brow of a long undulating downhill like sentries armed with mobile phones while their offspring hurl themselves recklessly down the slope in kamikaze fashion, screaming like brightly coloured banshees with arms and legs flailing. There is often a dog or two racing around in large circles, slobbering and barking madly. This is an upmarket area so I was mingled in with the ski set in their expensive winter gear. Nobody would wear anything as vulgar as a football hat so I politely left my Liverpool F.C. beanie at home but wore my scuffed army boots and coat with it’s Jeremy Corbyn badge. This is the one where he looks a little like Jesus and a little like Ché Guevara but mostly like himself. He is gazing at the horizon with hope and resolve. Dreaming.
I eventually hit the trail the next day, running up the fairways through some deepish drifts that made for heavy going - it was more gumboot dancing than isicathamiya! At the top I exited the golf course over the broken fence, crossed the slushy brown road and cut across the cricket ground. I ran past my frozen school gates and into the woods. One of the things I love about being in the middle of trees in the snow is the silence, apart from the acoustic crunch my feet make when it is fresh, the feeling of solitude and of being the first to pass that way cannot be surpassed, most of the paths I took were undisturbed, others had just a single line of Fox prints, spoor sign pointing the way home. As I lined up the photo below I happened to lift my eyes as a skein of ducks went vortex surfing above me, it was a moment of raw beauty that made me quite emotional. I'm not sure why these moments sometimes break us but there are times when we have to come apart to be made whole. Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is a song I have great love for, it's all about this restoration through brokenness, It's not a cry that you hear at night, It's not somebody who's seen the light, It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah go the lyrics. A cold and broken hallelujah and the light enters in through the cracks. Perhaps It was the suddenness, the beauty of flight or brevity of the moment but mostly it was the certainty that this was purely for my eyes that reminded me of the Damascus Road. I broke and I felt the light. For a moment I was powerless to move. Grime artist Stormzy talks about mad blessings, this was an example, the timing was perfect and the mad blessing totally unexpected, it was God’s promise etched in silent feathers against a sepia sky.
A skein of ducks...Baba wethu, 
Baba wethu singenile Endaweni eyingcwele 
Wena sewusimemile 
Woza phela usondele
Mawusize, inceku yakho 
Ekufundiseni kwayo
Mawehlise uMoya wakho phezu komphefumulo wayo 
(Ladysmith Black Mambazo)

 Fairways to heaven

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