Rivers Always Reach the Sea

Words & Photographs: Shirley Erasmus


There’s a crescent moon that hugs my feet. Darkness to my left and right and a sparkling sprawl ahead. I’m panting. I force myself up the steep hill every night with my heart rate monitor on, and consequently, my watch beeping furiously at me with each step I take. I wonder whether it’s encouraging me to go further or whether it’s telling me to stop before my heart escapes out of my chest and bounces up the stairs itself. To drown out the insistent sound of my heart rate monitor, I have earphones plugged securely into my ears, with music chosen specifically to my mood. Tonight I have Led Zeppelin and Ten Years Gone dripping from my ears into my pores as I make my way up to the 1820 Settlers Monument.

The monument sits squarely at the top of Grahamstown, it is both beautiful, proud and especially at night- lonely. My trek however is not to see the monument, and as I approach the top of the hill I turn my back to the magnificent and unnerving building and look to Grahamstown sparkling below at my feet. Both far away, and yet a mere few steps below; the city sparkles away night after night. It is now that I click the volume of Led Zeppelin down to just a subliminal hum, and listen to my watch beep less frantically now, in a soothing rhythm to my heartbeat, until it slows and finally goes silent- signalling my resting heart-rate has returned and then it is only the wind and the subsequent clanging of chains on the Monument that I hear. It is an eerie sound and I often wonder why I think so. I picture the shadows of various statues of labouring people and English Settlers, from whom my heritage is a direct relation; watching stone- silent at my back. What is it that is so sympathetic to the soul, to be above, removed and away, to look only at lights flickering and the stars blinking unknowingly at you?

I come here to meditate. Grahamstown. So rich in the face-to-face clarity of the disparity between have- and have- not. Yet it is here where I realise that my problems are actually so small, and not in the eyes of the local that sits in my path each day, humming an endless tune with pain in his eyes. Grahamstown. With the vast range of differences I see daily. People of all nationalities and with much wisdom to offer, yet it is here- staring at the artificial colours of light, sometimes twinkling, sometimes winking, sometimes fading, that I gather my wits.

As I make the trek back down the hill Led Zeppelin reminds me,

“Then as it was, then again it will be
An’ though the course may change sometimes
Rivers always reach the sea.”