In the last traces of the Indian summer, before the suddenness of this winter’s arrival this morning, my father smses me to tell me that he’s seen the way the drongoes have been flying, and he says:

intengu iyabika ubusika kanye noheshe

the drongo warns of the winter, as does the hawk

{I see immediately the trees that cluster around the house on the land near Merrivale, the small patch of sky traversed by herons and cranes, the roses and trellises and intandelo that my mother arranges along the long verandah, the sleek black birds swooping across the fluent ripplings of the koi-pond, their glidings watched from a great height by the eye of a hawk about to swoop down héshe on an unsuspecting victim in the pastures}

We chat for a while.

In the ensuing conversation, I make an autocorrect error in isiZulu, and apologise for it.

He replies

nezinkwehlo ziphephuka ngomoya oweshisandlu

even the splutterings are blown about by the house-burner wind

{and I hear the cough-punctuated minimalism of a herdsman’s speech, on the russet sweet-grass near Bergville, standing with his back to the wind, trying to prepare things for the cold that inevitably followed, his few words rising and being carried into the journals and tape-recorders and mattering, if only for a second}

And then I smile, and ngiyakhumbula ikhaya. And ngiyalilangazela.