PANORAMA: Johann’s Poem


“Answer this as you walk: what within me has been tamed and what is wild?”

This day I’ve written about this day before (Explorer Moment of the Week), but Rim of Africa Trail Leader Johann Lanz did a great job of capturing this day. When I took the panorama displayed at the bottom of this post, he was penning the last lines of his poem. The rest of this post is taken from Johann’s fantastic blog, Walking in Balance.

Day 15: Panorama to Ceres Dam, Agter Witzenberg

In the soft green oasis of Panorama, the line of mountains across the rising sun is inverted perfectly in the still waters of the dam. Jess starts today’s silent walk by asking us to contemplate the route we will take through this valley, sandwiched between mountain ranges. “Be aware of the tamed land through which you walk, bordered on each side by the wild mountains”, she says. The apple trees trained on wires into neat rows versus the untidy, jagged tumble of fynbos diversity. “And answer this as you walk: what within me has been tamed and what is wild?”

We have always walked this morning’s route along the valley floor. We have contemplated a different route across the mountain ridge to the west, and this year I had planned to walk it. But after a long previous day and a long day ahead of us, I had decided it would be safer to stick to the route that I knew. And so we left Panorama in silence, fully intending to do that.

I ended the morning’s silence with these words: “We find ourselves, unexpectedly this morning, instead of down in the valley, on top of a mountain. And so I owe you an explanation, which I will give you by way of a poem.”

Where we stood, the ridge line ran due south. To the east the warm morning sun filled the valley. To the west was nothing but whiteness – a rising, swirling cloud bank stretching to the edge of the world. In this magnificent spot, I read my poem:

I walk a valley passage,
comfortable enough,
but both the east and west of me are wild.
I am close enough to it that the klipspringers light dance steps
pierce the bulldozer’s heavy spoor.
Close enough that its sharp pungence pierces the west side of my soul.
My heart strains at the leash.


There is a call that is not the call of the wild.
Its single tone monotonous,
held for too long.
At last it lowers, and trails off,
defeated by silence.


And then there is the briefest, narrow gap.
My heart strains forward, full alert.
The moment is not so much decision as instinct.
My heart makes a dash to the west,
into the gap
and the leash is broken.


When the siren sounds again,
signalling the call back to labour,
the end of breakfast in the valley below,
my heart is already far beyond and above that call,
with no master now,
but the wild.

— Johann Lenz, Johann Lenz, Walking in Balance

View the panorama as a photograph.