I am on a rapid, 2-day, weekend visit to my 80-plus parents in Johannesburg. It is a pre-Christmas gifting. I increasingly wonder if I will see them again and again. Their aging brings much uncertainty.
As is my practice, whenever I visit Gauteng in December, I go for an early morning walk through northern suburbia. Here it is usually end-of-year quiet, peaceful and at rest. The mostly mature and manicured gardens lie still and lush under cloud cover that promises an afternoon thundershower - a promise unkept.
Yesterday morning I walked past two poodles that did not resolve their ambivalence around my status as friend or foe, no matter how persuasive my friendly overtures. By this morning, I sounded from the tone of their barking, that I was more friend, but only just so.
While still in animal communicator mode, my attention now turned to a young Hadeda that, I realised with bemused surprise, had been walking with me, just ahead of me, stopping when I stopped and looking around to ensure I was still firmly in tow.
In this space of speechless avian stealth, I barely heard the black and red Armed Response vehicle that slide up next to me, window wordlessly down.
"Are you ok?" asked the angular-faced citizen-soldier with genuine concern.
Startled into words I responded.
"yes, yes absolutely ok!"
"Howcome you ask?" I enquire with genuine curiosity.
"A woman in that house down the road phoned and said you were walking."
" oh! Yes, I am walking". I peck around for understanding.
"Perhaps she was concerned because I am barefoot?"
I lift my Highveld -soiled soles to open-window level and show him my shoeless feet. He is now equally startled.
The Hadeda waits patiently across the street, pecking it's long beak into morning-soft soil, waiting, it seems, for our tandem walk to resume.
"You are sure you are alright?"
Shiny-faced citizen soldier repeats the question, earnestly.
"Yes, yes, absolutely ok!" I repeat, at pains to sound convincing and believable.
"OK, that woman, she was worried.....". I see his mind pecking the same soft soil for understanding.
"Yes, I think perhaps she saw someone else in me. Thank you for coming to check on me."
I am acutely aware of my mind trying to make the switch from poodle-hadeda communication to Rapid Response security guard communication protocol. There is no worm in this soil!
He slowly drives off. I continue walking. The Hadeda looks around and continues leading the way, just ahead of me, egging me on, silently.
I wish I had asked the citizen soldier security guard, which house it was that had a woman call to signal her concern at my presence on the road.
I switch perceptual shoes once again. This time I observe myself through the imaginary eyes of the kitchen-window woman in an unnumbered house with two poodles. One black and one smaller and light grey.
I see a tall, braless, shoeless and care-less woman standing at the electric gate, talking silently to the poodles, whose bristling backs give way to wagging tails soon after recognising her.
How, I wonder to myself, did my carefree morning walk, talking to neighbourhood hounds, keeping pace with a waddling Hadeda, turn into a cause for Alarm and a call to Rapid Response shiny angular citizen soldier to come and check up on me?
When and how did a barefoot Sunday morning stroll through lush and leafy suburbia become an endangered activity by an equally Endangered species? How did the imaginary kitchen window woman come to view as distressing my morning freedom and wildness?
A rapid response eludes me. I ponder this slowly. And with increasing alarm. I feel a deep cause for concern.