Thursday, April 04, 2013

On The Rocks

I am inspired--or at the very least nudged--by the resolve of a childhood friend of mine who has vowed to resuscitate her blog by writing a blog a day for a month.  Now, it must be noted that she posted this intent on April 1--but I do think she is serious.  You can read her entries here.

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.


Peruby said...

I was absolutely floored when I rode the huge ferris wheel at Niagara Falls to discover I had developed a fear of heights. WTH? When did THAT happen? Like you, it must have come with age.

I am going to look up the images of the rocks you speak of because now that I have the story, I need the images in my head.

Thanks for sharing!

Harriet said...

Donna, thanks for shout-out for my blog! I took remember the joy of climbing the rocks in the Matopo Hills--one of my favorite things to do as a child. We only lived at Matopo when I was first born, but every other time we visited, I loved climbing the rocks, often with other MKs like yourself. In fact, I was at Matopo on holiday from Coghlan when I had my rheumatic fever relapse; my memory has us on an outing to that huge outcropping off the road toward Bulawayo.

When Dale and I were vacationing in Zion National Park last September, one of the reasons the east side of the park was so fascinating to me was being able to get out of the car and climb (all right, it was really walking, not climbing!) around on some of the rock formations there. It almost felt like I was back at Matopo!

Beverly said...

Thanks for writing about your days as a missionary child. I'll look forward to reading them!

Ella had a hospital stay in March, followed by iv's. It wasn't a major bump, but enough to warrant more intense treatment.

NCmountainwoman said...

It's always a good idea to have a friend who challenges you, in childhood and as an adult. I remember a photograph of little barefoot you sitting on a big rock.

KGMom said...

Peruby--hope you enjoy the images out there--there are quite a few.
Harriet--I am sure there are other places in the world with similar rocks--I have not been to Zion Nat. Park (yet).
Beverly--sorry to hear about Ella; hope she bounced back quickly.
NcMtnWn--oh, yes--good memory. It's of me and my dad on top of Table Mountain in S. Africa, also a very rocky site.

Ruth said...

I like your stories. I have always been fearful of heights and wouldn't have jumped rocks as a youngster. Glad you didn't try to jump the rocks recently. We tend to break rather than bounce as we get older.

Jayne said...

Like Ruth, there was nothing adventurous in my body when I was a child. Always cautious. The most daring we got was climbing a mimosa tree in the backyard to sit in it's branches and carve things into the trunk. It was maybe 12 feet off the ground. This I know about me... I don't have a competitive bone or risk taking bone in my body!

Anvilcloud said...

I understand. I have never been a fan of heights, but it is worse now. I once went up the CN Tower, but I don't think I would today.

Ginnie said...

Wow...rock climbing can be a very risky business ... especially when wet. I nearly killed myself once in a small stream with big rocks. I wasn't even climbing them but I slipped and got caught between them and panicked.
I'll opt to stay on dry land and leave the climbing to others!

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

My childhood challenge was shinnying up trees whose large banches were thirty or forty feet above the ground. Alas, I am earthbound now.