Leigh has been my bestie since we were four years old and, although we have lived with an ocean between us for longer than we haven’t, our bond is still as strong. A number of years ago, Leigh became a Buddhist and over the years I have heard her talk with great love about her temple. This trip we were able to visit the temple and witness Leigh teach a children’s meditation class. It was truly a heartwarming experience to watch my friend in action in this space where she has found so much peace. She taught us about giving and we made quack quacks where each tab told us something kind we could do for someone else.
After the temple, we went to the Delta Cafe for lunch with Mandy – another one of my legendary friends whom I have known since pre-school. This cafe is next to a nursery and small winery and also borders a park where people can ride horses (the menu has some funny blurbs about putting up with dogs, kids and the odd whiff of horse poop). Altogether a cool spot with great food and lots of kids.
Mandy took us for a walk in The Wilds after lunch. Lucky for us, Mandy was privy to some inside information on how the public park went from being an absolute no-go in the 80’s and 90’s to a popular park right near one of Joburg’s fanciest suburbs, Houghton. The story goes that a few years ago an artist named James Delaney got a dog called Pablo. James and Pablo lived close to one of the back gates of The Wilds, but as the park had a bad reputation and was considered unsafe, they had to make do with a small patch of grass a few blocks away. As Pablo grew, James realized he needed a place for Pablo to run and one day decided to venture into The Wilds to see what all the fuss was about. What they found was an overgrown park filled with indigenous plants, dried up waterways and waterfalls, and barely maintained walkways. This inspired James to make some queries about the park and what could be done to improve its condition. What follows is a beautiful story of how the community of Johannesburg worked together with the small group of gardeners already assigned to the park to make it safe and restore some of its original beauty. James and his gang of volunteers began by clearing areas on the weekend – now Facebook posts asking for volunteers to work in the park will draw a steady stream of volunteer gardeners. James has also worked on getting donations to help beautify the park – one donation enabled him to paint all the park benches in bright colors. Another collaborative effort resulted in the placement of a variety of brightly colored aluminum animal figures in the park. This started when James designed 67 owls to be set up in the Yellowwood Forest in the park. Each owl is different and adds so much to the magical experience of The Wilds.