Johnny Clegg's Stone

  • Friday, August 30, 2019
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And we are the scatterlings of Africa
On a journey to the stars
Far below, we leave forever
Dreams of what we were.

There is a heatwave in my garden. There is no breeze unless you count the great rising thermals of hot air snagging beneath the brim of my torn sombrero and pushing the butterflies upwards in erratic flight. High above a buzzard is circling, a lone sentinel maintaining an aerial reconnaissance of the far below while I sit surrounded by flowers of orange and yellow, bending beneath the weight of the bees, my bare feet pushed into the cool grass and a tall spinach smoothie frosting by my hand.
This is where I start and end my runs.
Most of the summer I’ve run with the words and the tune of John Denver singing sunshine on my shoulders repeating in my heart for the people I love and have loved, most of whom I’ve known and a few I’ve never met, people I take with me in spirit, my only companions in a summer of running solitude.

If I had a day that I could give you
 I’d give to you the day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I'd sing a song to make you feel this way,

A simple song by an simple man, appreciating the blessings of love and the profundity of a simple life.
Yesterday I ran with the ghost of Johnny Clegg, a complex man and iconoclast who gave us unique music and the humanity and courage to look for holes in the fences that divide people. In one hand he carried a Zulu fighting stick and I could hear him singing with the poetic cadence that only the truly passionate possess and that relegates the rest of us to positions of mere mortals and cultural serfdom,

O Siyeza, o siyeza , sizofika webaba noma
(we are coming, we are coming, we will arrive soon)
O siyeza, o siyeza, siyagudle lomhlaba
(we are coming, we are coming, we are moving across this earth)
Siyawela lapheshaya lulezontaba ezimnyama
(we are crossing over those dark mountains)
Lapha sobheka phansi konke ukhulupheka
(where we will lay down our troubles)

I was carrying a stone of blue and grey which I had inscribed with the lyrics of a song. I stopped at the river flowing clear and bright over the brown pebbles as the evening breeze riffled the surface into Venetian ripples of silver and black. Squatting in the stream I scooped up handfuls of cold pebbles into a small island and placed my stone there because rivers rise, flow and empty to be absorbed into the vastness at their journeys end. It was another fragment of my life gone like the sparks thrown skyward by a bonfire that burn momentarily bright, die and disappear forever, just the memory remains, vivid and bright and imbued with meaning that exceeds our understanding. I stood for a moment absorbed by the tranquility of the shadows flickering like ciphers across my face before scrambling up the bank to continue my run alone, the spaces around me empty of apparitions and the songs silent, all that remained were the other things that sustain and motivate my run, the sound of my feet on the earth, the rasp of the breath in my chest and running hard to keep the smile from sliding off the side of my face.
 Johnny Clegg, June 1953-July 2019
Lyrics from the song, The Crossing


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