When you venture off South Africa’s main highways, you find the real soul of the country. The side roads of the Karoo and Kalahari, in particular, seem to offer an openness, a freshness and simplicity in encounters with nature and people. They lift your spirits or tug at your heart.
Antony Osler – who wrote the sleeper hit Stoep Zen in 2008 – has written a new book about travelling these back roads.
Zen Dust, also published by Jacana, takes you from Kimberley to Koffiefontein, Fauresmith, past Luckhoff and Jagersfontein, to Philippolis, Colesberg and beyond.
Like his first book, this one is filled with compassionate wisdom, insight, humour, quirky poetry, poignant encounters and piercingly tender observation.
The grace has changed the place as clearly as the sun shining through the window.
Here’s an example: 'There is a small farm stall near the road that serves English-style breakfast all day – dark stewed tea, eggs with greasy chips, baked beans. By now it is early afternoon. A huge white man and a small black man walk in with red overalls and tattooed arms. "Cyril’s Cylinders" it reads on their backs. When the waitress comes out with a tray of hot food she stops dead. In front of her the two men are holding hands, their eyes tight shut as they pray. They finish and look up to her. She puts the tray on their table. The grace has changed the place as clearly as the sun shining through the window.'
Antony says he wrote the book after he and his wife, Margie, came back from a month-long meditation retreat with Zen Master Dae Gak of Furnace Mountain in Kentucky, United States. You can almost sense how the quietness and focus of retreat have distilled what he has seen along the road.
Zen Dust: A journey home through the back roads of South Africa is beautifully written, a book that should be slowly savoured like a good road trip.
Anyway, as the Buddhist text says: 'The Great Way is vast – what’s the rush?'
- Margie and Antony have a small Karoo farm near Colesberg, on the Oorlogspoort road. You can stay in their gorgeous self-catering cottage or one of their hermitages, and should you feel inclined, you can meditate in a Zendo that was once a shearing shed. See www.stoepzen.co.za for more information.
Category: Routes & Trails