‘She Walks the Wide Earth’ is the title of a locally published novella, but it could also describe the author’s approach to hiking where and whenever possible.
“Hundreds of years ago a woman lived in Elephant’s Eye Cave on Constantiaberg. She bathed in Princess Vlei and her endless tears that flowed down the mountain formed Little Princess Vlei.” That was the story that local author, Mea Lashbrooke, grew up with. Recently Mea has written her own version of this legend, a novella called ‘She Walks the Wide Earth.’
“Living in Tokai for much of my life, beneath the Elephant’s Eye Cave, and either hiking or riding horses along almost every path on the slopes of that mountain, I have always known something about the legend of the Princess in the cave and after whom the vleis below were named. In fact, Constantiaberg used to be called Prinseskasteel and the two main rivers that flow down the mountain are Prinskasteelrivier and Prinseskasteelrivier.”
At about the time Mea completed her novella – a love story in which healing arises from within the dynamic of connection with the natural world – she joined the ‘Save Princess Vlei Campaign’ directed at stopping the development of a shopping mall on the shores of the vlei. Working with the local community that was rehabilitating indigenous flora at the vlei, holding protests and gathering petitions that led (in March this year) to the City Council terminating any possibility of a mall, Mea learnt more about the legend.
“The reason that the woman who lived in the cave wept was because of abuse at the hands of men. Local lore has it that each year a man or a boy is ‘taken’ as revenge by the Princess, and drowns in the Vlei. I have met several people who can vouch for this,” says Mea.
The abuse that is related varies from abduction, rape or murder by Portuguese sailors. The story, passed down by slaves and sailors, has its origin in the 1510 arrival at Table Bay of Portuguese Viceroy of India, Francisco d’Almeida. Having bartered with the local Khoi on arrival, the following day a number of sailors ventured back to the village and that is the moment the abuse allegedly occurred.
As Mea’s novella had not yet gone to the printers, it could be tweeked to include a sixteenth century ‘encounter’ with a Portuguese sailor.
“Legend is important” says Mea. “It can carry individual and collective stories for a community. The community around the Vlei, which in part today acknowledges with pride a link with the First People of South Africa, has not always had their stories safeguarded in the orthodox chronicles of history.”
The events of Mea’s love story take us from the Kalahari to the Cape Peninsula. Through journeying, dreams, time spent in the company of animals, exploration of the natural environment and recollecting the wisdom of her forefathers – the Bushman People – the protagonist grows in understanding and acceptance of her personal story.
Mea also walks great distances, and as she wrote story she could feel the character’s experiences. An earlier publication of Mea’s (‘Divining Moments’) relates her own experience of walking in the Himalayas, where she taught English to Buddhist monks. “Having walked in other countries I am happy to enjoy our mountains for the rest of my life. Not much beats the beauty here.”
Locally, Mea’s books are available at www.loot.co.za; Fintales, Kommetjie; Sophea Gallery, Simonstown; The Booke Shoppe, Tokai; Listers Tea Room, Tokai Arboretum. Further info 074 101 1927 or email@example.com