At any rate, she has posted two blogs about her experiences growing up as a missionary child in southern Africa. As I indicated, she is a childhood friend, so we share some common memories. Reading her posts got me to thinking--it's been a long time since I posted anything about childhood. As any long time reader of this blog knows, I have explored that topic. All you need to do is conduct a search on my blog using CHILDHOOD and you will get quite a few entries.
But one topic I have not explored: climbing rocks. Now almost every child has had the opportunity to climb. It is one of the true joys of childhood. It can also be one of the precipitants of a serious childhood injury due to falls. Most of us climb trees. Some of us with access to farms climb in haylofts. But, I would venture that not that many of us have climbed rocks.
I most certainly did. The mission station where my parents were when I was last living in southern Africa was situated among the Matopo Hills (the current spelling is now MatoBo, and you can Google it to learn a bit more about this fascinating geologic place).
The Matopo Hills featured large boulders that rose like hills. These are not small rocks--these are truly magnificent and somewhat mysterious looking rocks. Many of them have caves, and in these caves where early humans lived they painted. The uniqueness of the paintings and their importance in the development of art earned them a designation as a World Heritage site.
Painting of some Matopo Rocks by South African artist Olive Hind
Now, I didn't go climbing into caves. What I did was climb the rocks around the mission station. The Matopo Mission was situated among some of these rocks--it made for a fascinating playground.
One time, I was playing tag with a missionary friend, a boy named Eugene. He was a bit older than me, and far more daring. As we chased over these rocks, with him in the lead, we came to a place where one rock was over-hanging another. Eugene jumped, landing safely below. I came up to the precipice and looked over. A moment of terror seized me, but--ever competitive and spurred on by "anything he can do, I can do better" I jumped. Miracle of miracles, I too landed safely below.
Hiking out away from the mission station a bit, Eugene and I found places where the rocks had been cleft by eons of rain water, wearing away and finally splitting a rock. If you stood at the bottom, you could look up and see that the cleft went all the way to the top of the rock. So, how to get up there? Well, you chimney-stacked. And Eugene taught me to chimney stack.
Since I have returned to the United States, I have not seen the Matopo Hills again. But, years ago, when I first visited the Gettysburg Battlefield with my husband, I was thrilled to see Devil's Den there. This place also had large rocks--a very small outcropping compared to the Matopo Hills, but nevertheless rocks worthy of climbing.
I do think my climbing days are long over--there's my age, there's my bad knee, and there's my slowly developing fear of heights. Now, when I am some place aloft (such as a Ferris wheel), my toes curl under and my feet sweat!
Whatever happened to that daring girl who jumped off one rock onto another, or chimney stacked? Ah, well, no matter. I will let others be "on the rocks"--I will keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.