I woke up to the news at 7.00 a.m. this past Friday here in Johannesburg, South Africa. It seems that many had heard the news in different parts of the world before we did. The announcement was officially made some hours after his death at 8.50 p.m on Thursday night.
Did it ‘help’ that we had been expecting his death for a long while now? No, not really. Death is always sudden and shocking – it’s so final -
Friday was wet and cool. I was in my car much of the time; hearing people call in to the radio station expressing their shock and sadness was a release valve for me. I was in tears most of the morning with ongoing pangs somewhere in the region of my heart. I got to the clinic for my afternoon shift just before 1.00 and saw a prominently placed large table inside the clinic with a large head and shoulder framed photograph of Mr. Mandela placed against the wall. There were zillions of small, already burnt candles on the table. Again, that pang – I looked for a lighter but there wasn’t one. The girls at the rooms said that earlier in the morning all the candles were lit and the entire staff of the clinic had gathered around the table singing and swaying. Pat and Lyn said they had never heard anything quite so beautiful or seen anything quite so moving. I can only imagine – plaintive, beautiful singing, chorus, dancing, ululating -
I remember that day on 27th April 1994 when we cast our vote, black and white, voting for a democratic South Africa for which we had fought so long and hard. O such a day of celebration! – those long, long queues from early morning to late at night, walking alongside fellow human beings to cast our votes, the majority of whom had been denied the vote since 1948. Also, such celebration when he was released from prison in February 1990. We came alight and alive. Such a sense of rightness and gladness, a sense of practical freedom at last in the air, each having a vote, breaking from the bonds of apartheid, and separateness. Voting for Mr. Mandela as president of our beloved country. ‘Never’, said he, ‘Never again. Never again will we have one party claiming superiority over another ..’ *
I saw former President Thabo Mbeki addressing people at Oxford Road Synagogue last evening wearing a yarmulke, on TV, emphasising the need to remember Mr. Mandela’s life and all that he stood for; and to remember the constitution as the struggle continues for inter alia economic freedom.
The spotlight on him during his lifetime will be on him again as people from all corners of the world come to pay tribute to him and to mourn his passing. 85 current heads of state as I write, 10 past heads of state, royalty, dignitaries, eminences, the famous, celebrities .. …
We celebrate his life at the same time. A beautiful paradox. Or, if not a paradox, most certainly a bringing together of those two seeming contradictions. We mourn the passing of Mr. Nelson Mandela, and celebrate his magnificent life, for which we are in eternal gratitude. As we mourn our loss, so are we celebrating his life. There is a reconciling of those two powerful emotions, coming together in a magical way, uniting our nation. Us, as South Africans. We, as people. It is a shared pain. And a shared remembrance of all that he stood for. Prepared to sacrifice his life no less. There is unity amongst us, of all shades and hues, of all ages, now, as a nation, as we mourn and celebrate.
The world is arriving on our doorstep here in South Africa. It’s already begun. We have MAJOR security issues to attend to. We must deal with all unprecedented, convoluted logistics in a practical way as we are about to experience a particularly large event in history.
Mr. Mandela will be laid to rest on Sunday, at his home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, the Wild Coast, the Transkei – on the other side of the Kei River. He was born into royalty of the Xhosa clan, of the abaThembu tribe in Mvezo; his father was deposed as chief magistrate when Mr. Mandela was 5 years old, and Qunu became their refuge and home. He had a happy childhood it seems and developed a deep love for the Transkei and its land, people and Nature. Qunu will be descended upon by thousands, including the villagers from that rural area and further afield. There is a memorial service tomorrow at the FNB stadium, more commonly known as Soccer Stadium, in which we hosted the 2010 Soccer World Cup. There will be thousands and thousands of common people, people like me, as well as heads of state and dignitaries and attendant security. I trust we will rise to this monumental practical task of ensuring security and smoothness for all.
Imagine, on the outer level, as an act of homage to our Madiba -
It is not the time for anxiety right now. We have a common purpose in celebrating and mourning and our attention needs to be there. It is a loss, to each of us in some real way, to our country as a collective, to the wider world …
I would imagine that from next week when all have left to return home, and when the dust begins to settle, we will, as South Africans, sigh a collective breath. But when we gather our breath again, will we continue to honour Madiba and all that he stood for?
We will have to take a deep collective breath of courage when the dust is at least partly settled. We have huge issues ahead. The freedom of the press is under dire threat. As I write, the owner of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings who recently bought Independent News and Media PIC (for a cost of $194 million) has fired the executive editor from The Cape times for reporting on alleged corruption within – just this past Friday. Our public protector Thuli Madonsela is under fire from parliament and the government for her exposure of corruption in the government. We have gantries for road users that have just come into effect about which we are protesting. We have an election looming next year. There is much else that is of great concern. Education is an ongoing worry and a disaster for the masses.
But, for the moment, it is not a time for anxiety about those matters. It will be though, and we will continue the struggle in Mr. Nelson Mandela’s name. It is necessary to make Mr Mandela’s name continue to be an inspiration to us – keep him alive as a symbol of reconciliation.
I hope that we as South Africans, will rise to this, once the dust drops. It won’t be easy. Hopefully, those who have visited from different parts of the globe will also let his name continue to inspire – we are grateful for your outpouring of shared grief and respect.
Hambe Gahle, Madiba. Go well, rest in peace. We will never forget you. We will honour your legacy. Thank you.
* My son met him some years ago at his home in Houghton when his school jazz band performed for him. He was fit and well and my son knows that he was hugely privileged to have Mr. Mandela shake his hand and beam on him. He made this song some years later in honour of Madiba’s birthday last year in July 2012.
The link below is ‘The Kifnness’ recording of ‘Never Again’. http://soundcloud.com/thekiffness/the-kiffness-never-again
Shandu and Dave at Beacon Isle. Photo: Oda Tungodden
I spent such a wonderful afternoon the other day with my two sons Mike and Dave on the beach here in Plettenberg Bay. Others with us were Shandu aka Black Norris, Dave’s partner in their band, The Kiffness. James, Mike’s good friend was with us, as was Oda, Mike’s young girlfriend, a Norwegian lass.
In fact there was no beach where we sat – the tide was extraordinarily high, waves crashing over the grass and boats being unmoored. This was on Sat 2nd November, the eve of the new moon.
Some brave souls were out surfing quite far back. Mike and Dave were thinking about it, but elected not to. They went swimming though. They know about rip tides and if one gets you completely unexpectedly, one has to relax and keep the shore in view and not frantically swim against the current – one of the times when it’s not advisable to swim against the tide!
James and I were talking while keeping a weather eye out for the bathers. We talked about that moment of panic when it seems as if your life is in danger, whether by a rip tide as I’ve described above, and/or whether another person poses a threat to you. No doubt there are other examples in other areas in our lives, as in eg illness; and, as James said, when the front tyre bursts on your motor bike and your instinct is to lean forward to try and control the bike in this dire circumstance, that the better thing to do is to lean back, actually quite far back
What happens in that split second when one’s life is suddenly threatened?
It’s an interesting thought to me; James and I discussed it at some length.
Does one remember what one knows in this moment of panic and use that knowledge to avert disaster? Does that knowledge kick in somehow at the very last moment? Does one call upon the angels or some Godly personage to save us? And what if one is not saved in spite of using all available means? Can one be saved in spite of unavailability of means? Can its very unavailability be the very thing that saves us, if we are indeed saved. And if so, what is that other worldly something that came into play at just that moment when it was needed? What forces were at work that averted a certain disaster? Going with the flow and trusting the process? Surrender to the moment?
We were sharing powerful stories and anecdotes when the guys called James and me to join them on the rocks a little way away to check the waves that were crashing on the boulders below the Beacon Island Hotel.
They came up to us and said we must come and check the awesome waves crashing on the rocks, a sight to see, come, come, now…
And a sight to see it was indeed! O those huge waves huger than usual, smashing their strength onto those enormous rocks, sending magnificent sprays skywards!
O what a happy hour or so it was on those rocks with my lads and their friends all of us in our element somehow. I felt happy in a way I haven’t for a long time, a different kind of happiness. One of joy being in the moment, approaching the rocks to watch the waves and jumping away from their explosive crashes in the nick of …
Seeing, witnessing and being a part all of us having such precious fun, and being there and laughing, and I being a bit scared some times that I would get knocked over, or someone else would – and seeing the poses that we all made and taking photographs as the waves hit the boulders and seeing them all throw their arms out wide embracing the magnificence of it all, are magical moments that will stay with me forever. The photograph above – one of many – was taken by Oda, I think on her phone. Hot chocolate afterwards on the lawns of Beacon Island watching the day turn to evening – a death to the day -
Seeing Shandu – aka Black Norris – and Dave perform the following evening on the beach on the night of Diwali and listening to Leela make a speech before they came on, in honour of Diwali and more besides … and seeing these two amazing performers in action on the stage giving it their all and more and everyone happy and bopping and dancing and moving their feet, from old to young was something for which I give profound thanks -
These days have given me an experience of living in the moment. Not planning anything, letting things happen in their own time and place. A sense of unfolding and being enfolded by the warmth of these lovely young adults, in Nature, being in the Now and enjoying life and all it has to offer.
Being with my lads over these few days has been so special. My sister has been holidaying in Wilderness for a few days an hour’s drive away, and she joined us on Sunday morning and spent the day with us and the night, so also saw Davey and Black Norris in action. My lads and sister are now all back in Cape Town …
So this is a dedication to my sons and their friends, my sister and my husband who have been touched by this special time. For me it felt as if fairy dust was in the air when we were all together. Oda and my sister gave me a foot massage on Sunday evening; I had the best sleep I’ve had in a long time, maybe ever. Though the dream I woke up with the next morning was a bit disturbing and puzzling. I am still trying to fathom it ..
No more to say for now, except to say I am sorry that my last blog was unable to take comments for a few days when it was first posted. But thank you so much to those of you who did post when it was ‘sorted’ by son Mike.
My last blog post was in August – that was on ‘Pain-Gain’. Unbeknownst to me was that, when I put it up, a film had just been released of ‘my’ title … I knew nothing of it!
I’ve been AWOL for a long time in terms of putting up a post. I enjoy blogging and reading others’ and commenting on them. I have a real connection with those bloggers even though I’ve never met them but they are friends in the true sense of the word because they share of themselves and their experiences, their thoughts, their observations.
What is especially gratifying to me is when you, many of you , make observations and comments on my own blog. I learn something of value from those comments; and it is so wonderful to me that my post has been appreciated and that many have ‘gained’ something psychological from them. So there is a 2 way gain! So, it pains me a tiny bit that I haven’t put up a blog for a long time. I have no excuses ….
Months back, I much enjoyed the April A-Z challenge; it was very hard work coming up with a topic every day for each letter of the alphabet (though we got Sundays off) and writing a blog, every day, on each letter. I loved it; all my 26 posts were very psychological. Very, very hard work. Sometimes I was still at my computer at midnight and I’m a gal who likes to switch off the lights at 10.00 p.m. and turn in. But the work was so worth it – I loved writing them and receiving comments and reading some amazing posts (I learned a lot from them). I’ve excerpted, though not in full, a few abbreviated comments from a few of my own blog posts of that challenge – italics mine for emphasis.
‘A’ on Aging: Carol says: ‘… I dig deep in my psyche and my mind to root out the old stuff, old emotions, experiences, the habitual thinking thereof that blocks my progress towards enlightenment, as I also look ‘up’.
Carol continues later: ‘I look at my body and dislike that I see some new blotch or wrinkle or sign of aging that wasn’t there last week. Yet, I find that my heart and mind, my inner spirit are stronger and wiser’.
Gwynn: ‘…It is important for us all to be responsible for our health no matter what the age’.
Susan: ‘...’Aging is soul work, for sure and what a privilege if we get to do it‘.
‘B’ on Blame – that was a very tricky one to illustrate how ‘blame’ and ‘denial’ were the first human instincts of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the creation story/myth. And how this pattern seems to be deeply ingrained in our psyches.
Patricia said: ‘…Therefore to discover that you don’t have to blame anyone else, and that it is okay to accept responsibility for your decisions in life is setting yourself free. You have freedom because you know that you know who is responsible, yourself. ..’
Dino:‘…I like how you pick out that it’s their denial that really upsets God’.
Misha on ‘Change’: ”…changes are hard, but they can bring wonderful opportunities you’d have missed otherwise’.
Dan: ‘…fresh start… don’t look back…’.
Susan on Freedom: ‘Does freedom unbalance us so much as to cause the anxiety necessary for growth? We tend to do nothing when we are bathed in comfort. A reminder about why it is hard to be free but how easy it is to wish for it’.
Why? was great to write about. Also its opposite Why not?
Zorba: at the end of which I quoted Zorba: “Every man has his folly, but the greatest of all … is not to have one.” Many especially loved this post.
To me it seems on this Halloween eve, that something is in the air. Maybe it has to do with ‘spookiness’ in some way. Why not? Let a little ghost or fairy or daemon or demon in for a while? Let the unconscious be stirred and spooked so you can go down. Into the depths … and know yourself a little better.
My hand and fingers are a huge lot better. I am not able to make a fist at this stage but I have good function of my damaged hand. I can floss my teeth, I can use a knife and fork if a little clumsily at times. I am well. Life is busy and complicated but there is always time to breath deeply and do a yoga stretch and look at my pretty garden glowing and growing by the minute from all the summer rain storms we’re having. I am grateful for eyes to see and believe that gratitude and generosity to self and others is a corner stone of healthy living.
Very dear friends were here from the States from mid September to early October. Susan (same name) and I are collaborating on something – it is a bit of a secret at this stage, but I will keep you posted. Yes, ‘it’ is psychological. In a way I am putting this out there … a nudge – universe? are you listening?
There seems to be something lighter in the air in amongst all the darkness. We’re protesting about the poaching of rhinos, elephants; lions. We’re protesting about corruption in the government; we’re protesting about rape – as are men’s groups; we’re more concerned and active about our environment and our beloved planet and we don’t litter; we’re aware of potential dangers of GM foods and deforestation; we want a better world where we live in harmony and know that we pose no threat to another. We’re learning that we each have a voice and if we have something to say, we say it. We hope that we tread lightly upon the earth and the people we meet. We extend kindness and compassion when we can. We hope that however we express ourselves is of benefit to self, and maybe others.
We want to be more of who we truly are.
- PAIN – GAIN -
“Tell us of Pain.” And he said, “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses understanding. – Kahlil Gibran
No one enjoys the experience of pain. It can strike us in the heart, mind, soul and body. It tiring and draining on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. Not only our own pain, but when we witness others experiencing pain on any level.
Those of you who have read my last several blogs on my accident and injuries over 2 months ago and who know of the subsequent difficulties with my damaged hand and fingers, will also know that I wrote psychologically about it. Which is what I plan to do again in this blog post.
I am not going to write a treatise on pain but will simply share with you my own experience of physical pain and how I am now looking at it in a different light.
After the pins were removed under anesthetic just over 2 weeks ago, my hand and fingers were pretty numb for 24 hours and all was well – or so I thought. As soon as the overall numbness wore off, the pain was intense. Subsequent visits to the hand therapists were re-assuring in that this was to be expected; I was urged to continue to use my right hand as much as possible to get used to using this foreign appendage in spite of wearing a stretchy bandage (coban) on my individual fingers to keep the swelling down.
All seemed to proceed apace. And then several days later (last week) the numbness on the pads of my fingers started wearing off. The pads on my fingers had been numb for over 2 months. It was good to get feeling back into those pads. O good, I thought. I had been protecting those fingers as if my life depended on it, knowing that I had no feeling in those pads.
But then an extraordinary thing happened. Pain came in a different guise, in full force, to those pads. This was almost too much for me. I took a multi strength pain killer, which helped on the physical level.
How do I relate to this psychologically?
We know that there are times in our lives when we are numbed. A broken heart brings us to our knees in agony; death floors us; depression wipes us out, losing a job, losing a limb – the list is endless in the ways in which life throws its arrows. When we are numbed, we are ‘protected’ from feeling and we can unconsciously live in this cocoon of numbness for a long, long time. We may take pills, take to drink, mind altering drugs, to keep us shielded from our pain.
But then, in time, feeling comes back – along with its partner, pain. This was my experience when the feeling in my finger pads returned; it was very painful. The nerves were re-generating. And if I extrapolate this to the wider world and not just my fingers, I see that this is true too. When we are no longer numb from pain, and give up the medications in whatever form (drugs, drink etc) we have been taking to keep the pain at bay and engage with feeling in life again after e.g. great sadness, painful feelings will have to faced. Numbness is no longer there to protect or shield us. Those feelings on many levels are a reminder that we are alive, that our ‘nerve’ is returning.
So, this is my offering for today. I am just back from the hand therapist. Last night the nail on my middle finger came off and I can see the new nail emerging. The forefinger looks gross with its black and yellow nail; this too will come off in time.
It is an ongoing process. I am pleased that my physical pain has value. The nerves are starting to work again. I am taking the bitter potion that is pain and seeing it as necessary in my healing.
Thank you all who’ve read and commented on previous posts or those who have written to me personally. As I’ve said before, I’ve learned much from your insightful comments, and for this I am very grateful. I am also enormously grateful for your empathy.
I am grateful to friends who have visited and phoned, checking up on me and willing to help. This has been a learning curve for me, knowing that people care. I have often felt that it is easier to give than it is to receive; I am learning that it is equally important to receive. People do like to help and I need to learn to accept their help and not be so ridiculously feeble about accepting their generous being.
We are still settling in, albeit rather slowly. The garden is looking especially pretty and I can’t wait for Spring which is just around the corner. Already buds are appearing although it seems too soon. We’ve barely experienced a ‘proper’ highveld winter where the temperatures drop below zero at night. The days continue to be warm, bright and sunny and our azure blue, cloudless skies are to be seen to be believed. But where are our winter frosts that, although damaging to plants, are so necessary to spurt new growth? Where is the ice on the ground in the morning? Where is the biting cold?
Well, we’ll see what happens. Maybe the winter is still to arrive with a vengeance.
I go in for surgery under anesthetic this coming Thursday morning for removal of pins from two fingers on my right hand. These were very badly damaged in the car accident. The hand therapy three times a week has been extremely valuable in that the dense scabbing has been delicately removed from the top of my hand as well as on all of my fingers especially on the top of them. The removal of thick scabs has allowed for the growth of new skin underneath. The scars on top are pretty knotted at this stage; they are massaged religiously by the therapists as well as by me during the day so that they do not become fixed and overly restrictive in the use of my hand. I am a long way off from making a fist. My fingers can now almost make a right angle to my palm.
For a long while now my right hand has been like a foreign part of me. A few days back, the therapists said I was to start using my right hand so as to become familiar with it. It was amazing to me how foreign it felt and how anxious I was about using it. Wash your hands normally I was told. Use the soap in your right hand. Use it in the bath. Just use it and become familiar with it. Try to use a knife and fork. Pick up a cup, move things around, use your right hand.
I am trying. Practice makes perfect. If I go out, I use the splints on my fingers and bandage my hand with a light cotton bandage as a protection usually keeping it close to me across my middle. Or, if not the splints, then a padded winter glove. I am wearing a glove as I write, occasionally using my well padded forefinger to type, giving my thumb and baby finger a break. I am not using my middle finger, the one that was almost chopped off.
I am using the same picture I have used before at the top of this post, with good reason. Perhaps when the winter has passed, and spring is in the air, and my hand is healed and functional, I will be able to bring both hands together so that the left may know the right and vice versa.
Well, the wounds to my hand are healing. It is less painful and a change of dressing and hand therapy 3 times a week is helping. My body is less sore. I can type with my left hand and the use of my now free right thumb makes it less difficult. The townhouse is still in a pretty shambolic state with boxes and paintings and stuff all over the place. How I would love to just sort it out once and for all!
The existential questions that have come up for me are not: ‘Why me dear Lord?’ Or, “What have I done to deserve this?”.
The questions that I am dealing with right now as I heal, concern ‘impermanence‘ and ‘developing patience’.
I know that one of the Buddhist tenets is the impermanence of lives and things. I am not even considering my own life (miraculously spared) for the purposes of this blog post; rather, I am facing the necessity of addressing ‘impermanence’.
I am faced with tossing things out – permanently. Much has already been given away – furniture, curtains, household goods, clothing, endless other things I was ruthless about in my desire to simplify before the final move to the townhouse.
But what to do with my late father’s school and university reports; writings of my late mother’s; my own; photographs; correspondence – consign them to non-existence? What does this mean if I do this? Have their records served their purpose and now I must let go my attachment to them? I know that I will not be invalidating my parents or myself if I destroy what was once theirs and mine … but still … photographs of grandparents? Records of my parents service in WW2? All that history, to be no more? Will I ever regret this action if I carry it out? Can I let go of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ as well as on behalf of my parents and ancestors? Can I be dispassionate about this?
And more to the point, is this how it will be when my children consign my ‘stuff’ and my husband’s stuff to the flames or the garbage bags when we die? Will our lives in material form before our deaths be extinct? What will they do with all the family photographs through the years lovingly kept and only occasionally looked at? How many collages can I have made? I do not want walls populated with collages; one or two, yes.
I will be pondering this in the days to come.
On developing patience: this is something that fate has decreed upon me it seems to me. I no longer dart here and there, doing everything quickly and efficiently and, as I have come to realise, having a false sense of pride in my ability to do this. I have to go slowly, dress slowly, I eat sitting down. I walk to the offices of the hand therapists and take that time to observe my new surroundings, or contemplate a dream, or just think about nothing.
I know I said earlier that I would just love to get the townhouse sorted once and for all, but I know that this will take time. I quite like going slow and not being in a rush. There is something of value in this, for me. I have changed my study a few times. I am not rushing it. I still need to unpack boxes and be ruthless in sorting and tidying it. It is winter here in South Africa and though it has been a long time coming, it is now here. Up here on the highveld (2000 m above sea level), it gets bone-chillingly cold although the sun may shine brightly. It is an inward time as Nature rests. I feel in tune with Mother Nature. I think I am developing patience with regard to myself, to me, me-time. I think patience is saying; be kind to yourself, be compassionate, don’t rush… all will be well. I want patience and I to be friends. I want her to show me the way.
Thank you all who have been on this journey with me and your comments and more recently your concerns. It brings a swelling of blood corpuscles somewhere about the heart.
Well, we spent our first night as planned in our townhouse last Friday night, 21st June, the winter solstice.
What was not planned was a bad car accident the day before, Thursday 20th June. I’d just had my oil and water checked, the tyres filled with nitrogen, and was on my way home to check on the family and their packing. I did not see it coming; I was driving along the road I live in. It was about 11 a.m. A truck did not stop at the stop street and smacked into me flipping my car over the centre of the road into an oncoming motor cyclist who connected with my overturned car.
I vaguely remember crawling out of it and seeing my mangled and bloodied right hand out of the corner of my eye. I gave someone my husband’s cell number and he and son Davey were there within moments. My hand was operated on for 2 hours that afternoon at my husband’s clinic and I spent the night in hospital. The movers came at 1.30 on Friday as planned and things were moved to the townhouse. Jane my housekeeper made up our beds, take out food was our supper that night. We all slept well, the quiet and silence of where we are is healing. Sunday night was the super moon.
Davey posted on FB about this event which I am sharing with you below. Also, the other evening when we were sitting around the dining room table eating proper food, he said that we have all become closer as a result of this. I expressed surprise because we are a close family anyway. He said; ‘pain sews the seeds of joy’. My good friend Monika said that maybe this crash was an outer manifestation of unacknowledged inner turmoil about the move. I went to see the orthopaedic doc this past week and stopped in at my husband’s rooms en route. Pat, one of his secretaries said; ‘I see you’ve had your wings clipped’. Susan my friend in Phoenix Az said about these times of major transitions being times when the demons have a field day.
Apart from bruises and aches all over, including my face and my hand now thoroughly stitched, pinned, plastered and bandaged, I feel alright. I haven’t had time to digest this all in the manner required but I give thanks daily, hourly, that it wasn’t worse. When strangers see my enormous bandaged hand and facial bruises and enquire and I tell, they are so sympathetic and say ‘God is great’, ‘by the grace of God’ and I feel the corpuscles around my heart area swelling a little. My WASP friends seldom mention this although they are, of course, sympathetic.
My right hand is out of action for at least 6 weeks; no driving – at this stage I have no car anyway as it is a write-off; I type with my left hand and do much else with my left hand. Who knew the left (sinister) hand could prove so beneficial. Getting dressed or undressed, bathing, brushing my teeth is difficult but not impossible. Flossing is impossible. Daily tasks are difficult. Sorting out the new townhouse is difficult.
I give thanks to G.d that it wasn’t worse. My family has been hugely supportive and helpful.
Davey’s face book message:
Never wait for tragedy to strike before you tell someone that you love them. I could’ve easily have lost my mom in a car accident yesterday, but she survived. While she was lying on the ground next to her car which was flipped, bloodied and bruised, I told her that I love her and I prayed for her. Seems crazy that something like that had to happen for me to tell my mom how much I love her. New perspective on life!
If you enjoyed this post please consider commenting (I always respond) and sharing. Thank you.
Someone said to me recently that moving home is one of the most difficult transitions/experiences to undergo and that it ranks alongside the death of a loved one, divorce, losing a job and so on.
I wonder sometimes if I am in denial about our imminent move. Pretending to myself that it will go smoothly. And wondering if I am in denial, whether this is a form of resistance in me, in one of its more insidious forms.
There is something meaningful about my visits to the townhouse when I cart stuff from home that fits into the spacious boot of my small car when the back seats are down. I like entering the townhouse and unlocking other doors and especially going into my study to unpack books and placing them consciously and strategically in the newly installed, very large, brand new bookcase in my study to-be. The days are so bright and sunny and warm right now in spite of it being winter so the driving backwards and forwards is a pleasure. The freeze is yet to come.
I also keep on wondering how to position my study desk and drawers from home, so that all is comfortable and cosy, inspiring and conducive to creativity for me.
It’s been rather wonderful to discover some old books like those slim ones by R.D. Laing. I remember his ‘Knots’ from when I was a young adult and how it made an impression on me; I will definitely re-read it soon and no doubt get tied up again in knots. There’s something rather special about untying knots and seeing whatever it is for what it is. I brought back home a few days ago his ‘Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise’ which I am currently re-reading in the bath at night. Deeply disturbing and psychologically penetrating and so apt for today’s world despite being published in the 1960′s.
I can’t say I feel stressed about the move because I don’t, not right now. I certainly feel more tired than usual and I put this down in part to the changing seasons here in South Africa, from autumn to winter. My skin is a bit grim and my erratic and appalling eating habits leave much to be desired. So maybe this is an expression of inner processes going on.
We have an indigenous herb in South Africa called impepho (do google it – it is a Zulu African Sacred plant and I am sorry I cannot yet figure out how to do a link but it is particularly interesting), which I used once before many years ago when tenants from hell in the townhouse finally moved out. It was an unbelievably stressful time over a year or two ‘dealing’ with those crooks. When finally, finally, they were out and locks were changed and all their stuff left behind was gotten rid of and the townhouse cleaned from top to bottom, side to side and inside out, I sourced impepho from an African market downtown and burnt it and let the smoke waft in and through and out. I could feel the horrible destructive negative energies leaving.
I won’t go the impepho route this time because there is no need. Our last corporate tenants loved the townhouse and its own well-tended garden and surrounding gardens in the complex and they left behind good vibrations.
I am hoping that our sons can fly up to Johannesburg and come and help with the final move on June 21st, (if that is when it is). In my fantasy I see the four of us having dinner at our new home on the longest night of the year, of bread and wine, blessing our new home and my husband’s father whose home it was until he died in it about 10 or 11 years ago. I will smudge the home with sage and ask the ancestors for safe passage for all.
All of that is looking forward in a positive way and saying hello to the new; but how will it actually be, I wonder, when I have to say goodbye to our old home. My sister is flying up from Cape Town next week and will hopefully keep me focused on the straight and narrow. I may well have a birthday lunch in the middle of next week as part of the ritual of goodbye and drinks later in the evening for those who can’t make lunch or tea or whatever I decide to do. Somehow it’s important that I do this.
That’s next week … and then the week after is the final push and pull.
photo of oak tree
This is a photo I took yesterday of the oak tree outside my front door.
I don’t know when the final moving date from our old home to our new one will be. I have in mind that it would mean something if we spent our first night in the townhouse on June 21, the shortest day, longest night of the year in the southern hemisphere. To sleep in the townhouse in our bed from our old home on June 21.
A way of bringing in a ritual – moving into our new home on the longest night of the year.
Already we are heading into June – sundown comes far sooner and sunrise much later. Our elder son Mike was here recently for 4 nights and days and helped enormously with lifting, carrying, manouevering, directing, guiding, suggesting placements of furniture with a fresh imaginative eye. Those few days have seen us using some real muscle power in carting things from our home to the townhouse. Nothing is final in terms of final placements of anything. We will not have enough cupboard space for linen, towels, blankets etc. My study is about a quarter of the size of the one I have here at home and I can’t figure out quite where to place my desk. My chaise longue will have to go into the bedroom. Much has already gone by way of auctioneers, still much to be sold privately, much to be donated.
A few friends have said to me that this is such a big thing we are doing, moving from our much loved home of 26 years to a much smaller place. They have said about loss, emotional upheaval. Because I value their concern, I wonder about this as regards my own feelings. I seem to not have any emotional upset about this imminent move, at least not now. Yes, it is true that I have little time for myself, my writing, or walking around my familiar block enjoying these beautiful autumn days.
But as my good friend Lynda said the other day, you never know until the actual event happens. As a medical doctor who has witnessed cancer in others, she never imagined it would happen to her yet would wonder sometimes how she would respond should it happen to her. It did happen to her – awfully so – and as we discussed recently, one has no idea until it actually happens to you personally. So, while there is no comparison about illness and moving, this is my sentiment about moving from the old to the new … I will wait and see, to feel how I experience this.
My gardener, Lowan, dug up some clivias and azaleas from my home and we transplanted them into the townhouse garden, while removing some plants from it and bringing them bagged, back home for any friends who may want them. There are about 60 pot plants whose fate is yet to be decided. There is something in me that wants to have something of my old garden in the new. I will have to say farewell to my secret garden at the bottom end of our garden, visible to no-one. I won’t have that at the townhouse.
Treasured books and note books, dream journals, files forever. As someone said this morning, you never clear out until you have to. I am not a hoarder yet I cannot imagine getting rid of the afore-mentioned.
Friends will be coming by in the next days to take from the garden here at home what they want. This makes me feel a bit lighter about it all, knowing that the plants will live on. I will make my own blessing on them as they leave my house hoping that they fare well in new homes.
The cats, Harry and Angie – already we think that they sense something.
Change is in the air …
Talmud: An unexamined dream is like an unopened letter.
I returned from Cape Town this last Monday evening after attending the Franschoek Literary Festival for 3 nights and days. Franschoek is one of the most beautiful places on earth nestled as it is amongst imposing mountain ranges. It is about an hour drive from the Cape Town city centre. It is part of the garden route of the Cape and is famous for its wine-lands inter alia.
Before setting off for Franschoek on Thursday midday, I spent Wednesday night at my sister’s home in a suburb of Cape Town. I had taken down a pile of letters from our parents to me from a long time ago that I came across in tidying things up in preparation for our imminent move from our home to a new one here in Johannesburg. Included in this pile were a few letters from my sister to me. We each read them as if anew – they were from about 30 years ago. It was an extraordinary ‘something’ re-reading this old correspondence, hearing our long dead parents’ voices.
I spent Sunday night at her home before leaving Cape Town this last Monday to return to Johannesburg. On Monday morning, my sister told me of a dream that she had had the night before or in the early hours of the present day. It was the first dream that she recalled in a long, long time.
In her dream was a huge black dog terrorising her now dead (about a year ago) small black poodle, Pepi. The big black dog repeatedly flung Pepi into the air who would circumscribe a circle in the air, then when it got to the ground, the big black dog would catch it by its scruff and swing fling it into the air again and again and again. The big black dog was extremely cruel to the small black dog.
That Monday morning we walked for about an hour at a small dam nearby, picking up trash as is our wont in service to Mother Earth. I asked my sister if she recalled that Churchill was affected by the ‘black dog’ of depression. She did. We wondered about the dogs and about Cerebrus who in Greek and Roman mythology guarded the gates of the underworld, Hades. Sis wondered if the dog was two headed – I had forgotten this. It is often depicted as 3 headed, each head seeing the past, present and future. Other sources say the 3 headed Cerebrus represents birth, youth and old age. We talked about dogs and their domestication.
She would wander off to a part of the park where we were walking picking up trash and I would wander in another direction. We commented when we came together again, on how it is that when we traversed the same ground we had been on, coming back, we saw more trash that we hadn’t seen before. I saw the metaphor in this and said that this is how it often is in our psyches; we think that we have sorted all the trash but to our amazement there was more that we hadn’t noted before that needed attention.
The circle circumscribed by the small dog was interesting. Pepi, much loved by my sister, went round and round in never-ending circles. Round and round in circles … on top and then flung down to the bottom, again and again … the big black dog exhibiting cruelty in extremis, and enjoying it.
We came to a piece of plastic sacking, part of it sticking out of the ground. Sis said she had tried earlier to remove it but it was immovable. I yanked hard and out it came showering us with dust. She said she had stood at a particular angle when she tried. I stood in front of it and yanked. I said how interesting that was, that it is like that sometimes in real life. Sometimes we have to try different angles to get at the wound, or dig deeper and try harder.
I have no intention of joining any dots to make an analysis of my sister’s dream in this post and I did not do so with her. I am fairly certain that the re-reading of our parents’ letters and her own to me pricked something in her. I urged her to write down the dream and continue to ponder on it as an archeologist might, digging ever deeper in her search for more clues. I did say to her that she might consider what qualities of these dogs in her dream that she herself owns. And to consider the circle. And dog on top and other on bottom. One big, one small, black …to see beyond and to try to relate to the image that was speaking to her ….etc etc. I have her permission to relate this dream.
It was an extraordinary journey for me … very time consuming but so worthwhile. I only wish that I could have read many more posts but it was impossible. Not only responding back to those who commented on mine, but responding to theirs and checking out and commenting on my neighbours who interestingly, did not do likewise save for a few.
I am not computer savvy by any stretch of the imagination and I am sure there were easier ways of doing things. I know that the blogger ID did not work, that many looked at my posts but when that blogger ID came up it said ‘no posts found’. I could not rectify this sad to say. So my apologies if anyone was irritated.
Also, I was awarded a few awards from different sources – I had no clue how to put them up on my A-Z blog, though obviously thanked those who so kindly gave them to me. Hopefully when there is more time I can put them up.
I am not even sure that I have added the correct link to this reflections post. Which reminds me of the mess up I made right at the beginning of the A-Z; some kind soul rectified this for me at the request of my son who lives far away. My sons put up the 2 musical links in 2 of my posts, from a distance.
It was so gratifying to be a part of this. I met so many wonderful people from all parts of the world, from my home here in Johannesburg, South Africa. I so enjoyed their posts and it was a thrill to see comments on mine. I am keen to get this off now before deadline and would like to mention them all by name, but am nervous of messing it up.
My sincere thanks to all of you at the A-Z for inspiring us. Thank you thank you thank you!
And to all of us who finished it, so well done!
Z: ZORBA THE GREEK
Who can forget the music from the film?
Who of us has actually read the book by Nikos Kazantakis, published in 1946?
Who can forget Anthony Quinn playing Zorba, those of us old enough to have seen it? Alan Bates played Basil, the young intellectual who Zorba helps in Basil’s business venture on Crete, a large island off Greece. Who can forget the lessons in the film, that of resilience of an indomitable spirit such as Zorba’s. No matter how many times life knocked him down - ‘the full catastrophe!’ – up he got.
Much of the focus in the novel is on the law and politics in which Kazantakis was deeply interested, himself a philosopher.
In premodern Greek society, women’s status was second class. Patriarchy ruled, iron fisted, and the fact that a widow refused to re-marry incensed the men who wanted her led to her murder, honour bound as they were by their own rules and regulations, to keep shame at bay. *‘Women without husbands were viewed as worthless and shameful by both men and women’.
Basil is a young, very detached intellectual who immerses himself in a Buddha type life style in service to his soul. Not so Zorba, who lives for life, who is involved in the ‘full catastrophe’ of life with all its pain and pleasure, love and food … ALL of life is to be experienced, first hand, all the good and bad bits. He is just himself.
So, these two opposite characters who meet and connect with each other.
The April A-Z blog challenge has also been like that, many of us connecting and learning from each other. It has been an exhilarating journey for me, coming across so many talented writers, who have made me smile, laugh out loud, reflect, and be in awe. I am indebted even for the many distractions which had me reading previous posts or following a link supplied. I am full of admiration for so many, from whom I have learned much. To those who have shared the meaning of words and how to use them to build up characters in writing, I am indebted. Animals stories …There are so many: Barbara, 2 Elizabeth’s, Patricia, Sherrey, Kern, Kristen, Ida, too many to mention … and Damyanti, popping in to give us encouragement to go the long haul.
It has been so gratifying to receive comments on my own blog and I thank you all for taking the time to do so. I learned so much from those comments!
A few quotes from Zorba:
“I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.”
“God changes his appearance every second. Blessed is the man who can recognise him in all his disguises.”
“Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all … is not to have one.”
* Barbra Dillon, Managing Editor, Fanboy Comics, 28 March 2011.
There’s something so simple and yet so complex about yoga. I’m in awe of those who hold tree poses with apparent ease, perfectly aligned, with one foot resting against the other inner knee, knee turned outward, hands in the prayer position and then they raise arms high, bring them down again, and change legs.
The head stand: arms in triangle on the floor, forehead on ground, then in one fluid moment, legs up and body in one straight line, perfectly inverted.
My late mother was a yoga teacher. She took up yoga when diagnosed at around age 45 that she was likely to be wheelchair-bound because of a particular medical condition. Not acceptable to my mother. For many years she studied under the best teachers and then she began her own yoga teaching practice. So many years ago it was considered rather esoteric and odd. The results of her yoga teaching were remarkable; so much so that medical doctors began referring patients to her. I have several letters in a file I have on my mother from GP’s and specialists who referred their patients to her and reported back that ‘Mrs so and so seems much improved’. And dozens more from grateful pupils who found this time out in her studio to fill ‘..a much needed place in modern life’ (1969). Another: ‘…I couldn’t walk far…lack of breath…especially your breathing exercises…you said to me it was a challenge to overcome…I haven’t had a single asthmatic wheeze or tightening of breath…’. ‘I…my limbs feel as if they’re becoming firmer’.
She was a practitioner of Hatha Yoga. ‘Ha’ means Sun, ‘Tha’ means Moon I gather. Her yoga teaching involved holding the posture with breathing exercises. Do you know that most of us don’t breath correctly? When you breath IN, it is like filling a balloon with air so the tummy rises. When you let the ballon deflate, it is the same when you breath OUT; the tummy deflates.
She also taught pro bono at homes for the elderly. Many of these patients in their 80′s and 90′s were able to leave their wheelchairs and walk unaided; I have press releases that show them doing the shoulder stand! (Though head stands and shoulder stands were postures that my mother alllowed only after a few years of regular yoga). And dozens of testimonies from grateful patients who said goodbye to their e.g. asthma inhalers.
Letters from mothers who very successfully delivered their babies , one of whose doctors gave her ‘…101% for my performance and it was all due to you’.
The relaxation at the end of class would be my mother’s voice instructing her pupils to feel the breathing, from the tips of our toes to the crowns of our heads, stretch, stretch in between, sinking into our mats, further, deeper, letting go, relaxing, relaxing until we were almost comatose. This would be followed by a recording of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata Movement One – blissed in and out -
I am listening to it as I write. If I could embed it and share it I would, but neither of my sons is available right now to help me with this telephonically.
It’s never too late to take up yoga.
X : XENOPHOBIA
We know that xenophobia refers to fear of the other, fear of the foreigner. Here in South Africa where I live, xenophobic attacks occur. Sometimes small scale, sometimes large scale. Irrespective of race, colour or creed, we are shocked to see such violence perpetrated on other human beings, sharing the same living space.
What is it that is instrumental in our own people here in South Africa burning down the Somali’s shop and livelihood, the Zimbabwean doctor’s rooms.
I wondered about xenophobia, fear of the other, fear of the foreigner, the stranger amidst us. Such irrational and dehumanising acts of violence against those who have caused no harm and who provide a service to the community.
What is it that causes inter alia The Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia.
Could we be xenophobic toward ourselves using the above definition? Could we take this from the macro to the micro level? It’s a bit of a leap, but why not?
On the personal micro level, we too have that shadow lurking within who we do not want to acknowledge. That shadow that belongs to us and is as real as the shadow we see on the ground when the sun is shining. And even when it’s not. That repressed inner other to which we pay scant attention. Those parts of ourselves that we don’t want to own and that we project out onto the other. And if not actually onto the other, then in some form of self destruction towards our own selves as in e.g. eating disorders, drugs, alcoholism in our attempts to fill an empty space.
Could we bring our own mostly unconscious shadow – ‘the thing a person has no wish to be’ *- out in to the open, without doing harm to another? Can the shadow live side by side with our waking lives, in a peaceful way? Can what we perceive to be the demon within be our daemon if we befriend it and use it’s endless, renewal resource as we come to know ourselves better? Can the simple art of listening for the inner call, change our habituated pattern of perception? Can we break the pattern of fearing the stranger within?
As our perceptions change, so too does our reality. Gold can be extracted from the dark.
Can we play our small part in preventing xenophobia?
This is a quote by Albert Schweitzer, medical missionary who established a medical facility in a jungle village Lambarene, Gabon. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.
‘You know of the disease in Central Africa called sleeping sickness. There also exists a sleeping sickness of the soul. Its most dangerous aspect is that one is unaware of its coming. That is why you have to be careful. As soon as you notice the slightest sign of indifference, the moment you become aware of the loss of a certain seriousness, of longing, of enthusiasm and zest, take it as a warning. You should realise that your soul suffers if you live superficially’.
Today is “Freedom Day” here in South Africa, the day Mr. Nelson Mandela was elected in our first democratically held elections, in 1994.
Song below is The Kiffness ‘Never Again’ and uses voice samples of Mr. Mandela in this pumping vibrant piece of music, made by my son David Scott in honour of Mr. Mandela.
* C.G. Jung