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THE EMERALD SANDS

Namibia after the Rains

 

“There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount, a perfect ratio of water to rock and water to sand, insuring that wide free open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities. There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.” –Edward Abbey

 

Millions upon millions of grass seeds lie buried in the burning sands. Year after year they patiently wait. The cycle of life is longer in the desert, so slow that is passes imperceptibly. That is until the skies grow dark with storm clouds and the smell of rain is in the air. It is then that the whole landscape seems to shiver in suspense.

 

When those first drops fall, life is so ravenous to experience itself that the sands erupt in a flush of green. The barren plains are transformed into prairies of shimmering grass. Stipagrostis it is called, and a more beautiful grass one could not imagine. Tall and slender, with flowing blonde tresses, they bend and sway like dancers in the wind, turning the usually ponderous landscape into an ocean of movement.

 

Sparrow-larks, Namaqua Doves and Lapwings explode out of the grasslands in bursts and flurries and play in the breeze just above the rippling surface, the normally solitary Oryx come together in huge herds on the emerald plains; revelling in this time of plenty,

the wizened Camel Thorns burst into leaf and pod and water

snakes through the torturous bends of the Kuiseb canyon.

 

All who know this place realize this is but a brief and ephemeral occasion, an enchantment that will soon vanish in a miasma of dust and mirage.