Alcoholism the killer. When I opened my email inbox there was a gentle email from a mutual friend telling me you were dead. That you had drunk insanely for a month and finally had fallen into convulsions and died. Horrible and merciless death, typical of alcoholism.
You wrote at the beginning of your spring that everyone should go fishing. I went out into my back garden at about that time and saw a blue heron standing there, the prince of fishers, delicate and steely, like a blue and shadow-filled vision feathering its wings in the sunlight, and I thought of you.
In the one photograph I have of you, you are sitting in the lee of the boat and holding up a speckled trout with a gleaming white belly, wet and shining, beautiful in death. You look proud and vulnerable and enigmatic, your eyes hidden behind dark glasses, your blonde hair piled on your head, a white windcheater ruffled by the strong wind. A fine gold chain high on your neck. Large man-sized watch on your right wrist. You were a romantic woman, ironic, feminist, a sceptic, a fighter and an iconoclast to the last, but you were in love. The water behind you is rippled but calm.
We exchanged quotations from our favourite writers and made risque jokes online. We confided a little in emails and planned to meet. I wanted you to experience the wide spaces of the Kalahari, you wanted me to come over and walk dogs with you on your beaches. You were growing Mexican hydrangeas on your patio, rich and velvety colours. You adored spicy foods and sent me a recipe collection, laughing about your own lack of interest in cooking. I teased you about your fitness regime and passion for the misogynist Nietszche. You asked all about my wild African garden, avocados and tomatillos and the birds, and my sightings of sacred eland alongside the roads of the Overberg. We laughed across cyber space together and I thought of taking you up into the mountains with me to look at Khoi rock art and images of the sacred eland in brown and cream and berry-blue lines etched out thousands of years ago.
The eland, that great stately buck, was a guide and shamanic spirit for the Khoi who would come to them in trances and ensure the passage from life through the darker places into the other world, into the sunlight of the spirit.
May the sacred eland guide you on your journey, my beloved friend. Hamba kahle Miss Sallie.