Poignant, Peaceful Take on Nature

Article excerpt

Veld Sketchbook is a companionable collection, a gentle book, a title one wants on hand to dip into on somnolent afternoons during weekends in the country. It is also a charming piece of Africana and attractive compilation of wildlife portraits executed by a naturalist with a fine eye for detail.

Jeff Huntly wrote a weekly column for The Witness - a KwaZulu-Natal newspaper - for 23 years, finishing in 2006.

His essays range from poignant to peaceful, always captivating, sometimes colourful. As both artist and author he recorded observations of nature at work, in the city, in gardens, in game parks, forests and on mountain peaks.

His readers in Pietermaritzburg and beyond enjoyed his insights every Monday morning with their breakfast coffee.

As editor John Conyngham remarks in the foreword, Huntly is someone who reminds us of the wonders that can be revealed in life's smaller details, as in "...the flight of seeds or the sociability of fieldmice or the antics of a little bird".

The collection opens with a discussion of whether elephants should take tourists riding on their backs, whether training them to get down on their knees destroys the very thing that makes these jumbos the wild icons we admire.

We focus next on the moth with a face; the story of the oleander hawkmoth, which is almost invisible when it rests on the leaves of this shrub.

A fascinating story about the scarlet-chested sunbird nesting in a large community spiders' nest is illustrated by an acrylic painting of a rare phenomenon. …