In the Line of Fire

We stopped over for two nights at the Mountain Zebra National Park in the Karoo to break our return home from our summer holiday in Plettenberg Bay. 

It’s a place of great green beauty, mountains and plains – breathtakingly peaceful.

One morning, after we’d been on a game drive, we set off to hike/walk on one of the shorter trails. I was in front of my husband who after 10 minutes or so, called me to say ‘look at this!’  I walked back and there as plain as day was a snake skin.

Interesting to say the least – I’d never seen one, though it gave me a bit of a start to realise there could be snakes about. As we continued walking, I was thinking about the shedding of skin and how this is necessary in our everyday lives to shed skins or old attitudes when they no longer fit.

Not more than 5 minutes on, I stopped short. The picture is not clear in among the shade but it is right in the centre. If I hadn’t been watching my path a little more closely, I may have stepped on it.

This was enough for me already – at my protestations when it moved ever so slightly, we agreed to turn back. We stopped in at the little shop and were asked if we knew there were lions about. No, we didn’t, but we learned that had we gone just a little further on, we would have come across and disturbed two lionesses with 3 cubs. Who would have been very anxious re their offspring – and may have – I don’t know what they may have done, but we were enormously relieved we didn’t face that possibility –  

We returned home Friday late afternoon just before a glorious thunderstorm. I called my good friend on Saturday morning. We’d been in constant contact while we were away because of her illness, and learned on the phone that she is in the line of fire. I saw her on Saturday afternoon but we could not talk as there were other people there. Her particular form of cancer is not curable, only maintainable, and she’s had all the treatments. It has returned in full force and her time is limited. This she heard only a few days ago – I saw her again this morning – we had time on our own and time to talk about death …

The below photo (I hope it isn’t upside down or sideways on smart phones or tablets) is of a mountain zebra, hiding among the pretty thornbush, which made me think of the thorns in our lives in amongst the beauty of it all – 

I thought of the marches across the US and worldwide on Saturday and the steadfastness of women protesting against what needs protesting, walking peacefully, in solidarity, in the line of fire.

My own line of fire was in Plettenberg Bay where, with the help of my son Mike, Susan Schwartz’s and my book went live on Createspace as a printed copy. I’m still in the line of fire as I want the book to be an ebook as well – but so far, there are errors such as incorrect paragraph spacing and the pages and glyphs not being as they should. It is such an attractive book and the ebook must be as the printed book is – so this is getting the attention it requires …

I hope this photo doesn’t appear upside down on this post, but the book is available as a paperback on e.g. amazon.com & amazon.uk. This is the first public ‘announcement’ I’m making about it. When I’ve sussed how to do links I’ll post them.

In the meantime, I’m trying to settle back home while feeling pretty unsettled about all manner of things. I’m noticing the slightly shorter days and the earlier casting of shadows – and wonder about this year 2017 and what is in store for us all –

Pema Chodron’s quote is apposite –

As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.

50 comments on “In the Line of Fire”

  1. Congratulations for your new book, Susan. Wishing you the very best for Aging and Becoming.
    Your visit to the national park was pretty eventful. I liked how you linked the dry snake skin to shedding of our old attitudes when they no longer fit. That’s so profound and thought-provoking.
    Sorry about your friend. Hope she has a peaceful and happy time.

    • Thanks so much for coming by Shilpa and your good wishes re the book and my friend. Much appreciated. I’m glad too that you commented about skin that does not fit and the shedding of old attitudes! That was a pretty stark reminder to me.

    • The world is in the line of fire Shirley – words that are comforting to me as I think about it are from Oscar Wilde ‘Where there is sorrow, there is Holy ground’.

      Thank you so much for ordering the book – and for providing the link – which I’ve copied and pasted and sent to myself and will use in due course. I really hope that you find something of value in it.

  2. As usual, a lovely, poignant post, Susan.

    Having lost a dear one to snakebite, that encounter would have made me very nervous.

    Cancer has haunted my family for a while now, so all the best to your friend. I try to remember that pain is inevitable, but suffering optional, but often, the two blur in my mind.

    Take care of you, and enjoy your travels.

    Off to check out your book! Massive congratulations– I wish it all kinds of success.

    • Thanks for coming by Damyanti – I appreciate this very much!

      Haunting – cancer does that doesn’t it? I’m sorry to hear that it’s been haunting your family. It’s hard to witness another in pain but we can and must.

      And thank you for your good wishes re the book! 🙂

  3. I especially love the first photo you showed of your holiday. I was just talking with my husband about aging! What synchronicity! I really loved what you had to say about resolution. Thanks!

  4. Susan, I am looking at this point much later than most. So much going on here, but I have just pulled an Angel Oracle Card that suggests everything is exactly as it needs to be, and that a win-win situation is brewing. Have faith and use positive affirmations and thoughts to reach resolution faster. I like that approach to all the aspects of your post: the warning snake, the changing world of your friends. We aren’t the wise ones who know what SHOULD be….

  5. Hey Susan, love the adventures you are taking, the pictures are awesome. I am frightened of snakes and I even try to avoid looking at their pictures and even watching them on television disturbs me:) but I liked the way you have related to shedding of the skin…. adapting the right attitudes in life makes a lot of sense to me.. and very sad to hear about your friend suffering from cancer, its very painful to hear… last whole week I was trying to be part of a helping process of one of our colleagues (where I previously worked) suffering from lung cancer, with two sons and having a bad time because of property issues in the family, it was very painful to hear that he is in the last stage, together with other staff members we are planning for a visit soon… its a sad thing when there is unfinished task here to leave the earth. His wife needs a place to move on and his sons need to also settle down. Nice to know that you are with her at this moment in life. I like the cover page and the title of your book too… hopefully would like to read this year as i wanted to read so much last year but did not succeed. This book is on my list for reading. Thanks for your inspiring post dear. Love and hugs to you, and all the very best for the book…

    • Hi Genevive, thank you for coming by. I am sorry to hear of your colleague at this stage of his dying with so much unfinished and unresolved – I so hope that you all will bring some peace to his troubled heart and mind when you visit. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying has quite a bit to say about this process … give him all the love that you can.

      I always have to remind myself about the necessity of shedding skin that does not fit and as a symbol of transformation! Of course there can also be the snake in the grass in real life who does not wish us well ..

      Thank you for liking the cover page and for your good thoughts about the book.

      Love to you Genevive …xx

  6. Hi Susan – I had to find out what was on the ground … so copied and then zoomed the pic out … I nearly ran a rock python over in Hluhluwe park in the late 80s … and have seen snakes, then we had snake skins at home… can’t say I was enamoured!

    But to shed our lingering doubts and bad ideas would be helpful … to get a grip and start with an unblemished slate would be helpful. My friend’s tumour has returned and a mutual friend at present in CT is also not well … and others – just not an easy time … and we seem to have made life difficult for ourselves … Zuma, Brexit and Trump …

    an irreverent video attached … Dutch-style … it’ll make you laugh – something has to …
    https://youtu.be/ELD2AwFN9Nc

    Good luck with the book and getting it out as an ebook … cheers Hilary

    • Hi Hilary, oooosh (or as we say here in SA ‘eish’ in SA) re the rock python. I would never kill a snake knowingly – I’ve heard that if one does, its mate will come back for revenge 🙂 That’s enough for me to keep well away!

      I’m sorry to hear about your 2 friends … especially the one who’s tumour has returned. It’s hard to witness loved ones in distress.

      I saw the video earlier – it really is funny! Wonder if the Donald has seen it? – maybe Theresa May will show it to him when she visits the US.

      Thank you for your good wishes Hilary and for coming by.

  7. Amazing how God/Spirit works in our lives. The snake has been a positive omen for you. A savior perhaps. A character in your prose. Suddenly snakes are not so frightening.

    I’m so sorry for your friend and her illness. It appears that she has a positive attitude and a resolve we would all hope for in our finality. She is fortunate to have you and you her.

    Looking forward to your book. Going to Amazon, this very minute. Pleased to be able to buy a real, handheld, paper book. Love the feel of turning those pages.

    Love you!!

    • Thanks Marsha for coming by – it’s true, that which can kill can also cure – a strange paradox but that is the beauty of paradoxes.

      Thank you for ordering the book! This means much to me. The print copy is really attractive, the contents yours to see – of course I hope it will be of value to you and to anyone who reads it – I think it grapples with the unsaid…

  8. Nature is not so scary here, but also not so wildly spectacular. There are coyotes in my forest and an occasional bear, but they’re not interested in visiting with me. I’ve only seen coyotes near the house once–and I was thrilled because they thinned the rabbit population. The snakes aren’t poisonous here, so I’m happy to see them, especially in the spring when they bask in the sun.

    A zebra! What a thrill. And I’m glad you didn’t disturb the lioness. (Sekmet is a fierce goddess). Biggest thrill in the blog is that your book is available. I just ordered a copy. (I caarry big boxes of books out to the library book sale, but can’t stop ordering new ones. I wouldn’t miss yours for anything.)

    • I forgot to say how sorry I am about your friend. I know she needs you. It’s so important to be able to talk without hearing “everything will be fine.” It’s important to explore mortality.

      • Thanks Elaine, there’s so much goodwill towards her which I know helps on a fundamental level. She knows that she can talk with me without putting on a brave face –

    • Thanks so much for coming by Elaine. I remember when I was a teenager and jumping on rocks at the sea and a snake appeared out of the blue – it gave me such a fright I ran all the way home barefoot … somehow that memory is embedded in me and makes me wary. Even though I love the symbolism of the snake/serpent! Maybe one day I’ll be able to look upon a basking snake without trepidation –

      And thank you for ordering the book! For me this is thrilling to hear! I’m about to take books to our local library for their sale tomorrow –

  9. Oh Sis, I’m so sad to hear about your dear friend……..always I was hopeful she would get through this ……… going through, passing through……… I’m pleased you are able to be with her.
    Your adventures in the Zebra National Park – which were remarkable to say the least – makes me think of how close to passing through we always are. And how close we can be to closing that particular door and not passing through..

    Congratulations to both you and Susan for your book – I’ll be one of those reading it.

    • Thank you dear sister Debora – I saw her this morning – her son Richard is coming home from the US by next weekend.

      I like your imagery of passing through or not, which makes me think of opening the door and going through …

      Thank you for your congratulations!

  10. Susan, this is an insightful post. You experienced an adventure that could have become life threatening, but you managed to escape in time. It is interesting trying to determine WHEN it is our time, as with your friend. I’m so sorry about her illness.

    As with life, your summer is starting to come to an end, moving toward fall, where our winter slowly is working toward spring. I can hardly wait.

    Congratulations on publishing your book. Is it available at Amazon now?

    • Thanks dear Gwynn – can we ever determine when it is our time? Life is sometimes too capricious it seems –

      Glad to hear that things are beginning to thaw.

      Yes, it is available as a paper back – not yet as an e-book. By the way, did the photo of the cover appear straight up on your computer?

      • Yes, the picture of your cover did come in straight. It looks great. I don’t have anything to read an ebook, so I’ll look for the REAL thing!! Then I can hold it close to my heart!

  11. Congratulations on your published book! I know you are making a great difference for your friend, and I pray that you will have a deep well of patience and love to share with her.

  12. Congrats on your book and condolences on your friend’s battle, extreme opposites if there ever were two. I adore the photo of the shy zebra. It reminds me of the old joke: What’s black & white and read all over? For this photo we could revise the joke to be: What’s black & white and red all over? Answer: a zebra hiding among thornbushes! [Feeling nutty today, please forgive my silliness.]

    • Thanks Ally Bean – how about the zebra and its black and white stripes for opposites? And the nuttiness is lovely …could have been a nun among the thorn bushes ..

  13. Wonderful post, Susan. I love the way the things you encountered on your hike became metaphors for things or situation in your life. Congratulations on your book! How exciting!
    The women’s marches were incredible, and I’m glad that the bad weather here now held off. (We’ve got gusting winds and rain.)

    I am sorry to hear that your friend is dying. In the play we saw yesterday, there was timeline in which the woman was dying, but it was one timeline. In the program notes, is this quotation from Einstein about a friend of his who had just died, “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
    I don’t know if it would help me or not, but perhaps it is comforting to think your friend will always be with you. Hugs!

    • Thanks so much Merril. For the congratulations on the book and especially also for the play’s program notes which quoted Einstein … most appropriate. I’ll tell her when I see her … I think she will find it of comfort. She herself is of scientific mind – a doctor.

      My friend will always be around – I have diaries from such a long time ago when we were school friends in which she is always there in my entries – I loaned them to her a couple of years ago.

  14. Your report reminds me of the very first time I saw a snakeskin – so delicate, transparent and beautiful – at one of the ponds I used for swimming during my childhood in Bavaria. I kept the skin like a treasure for a long time.
    So sorry for the anticipated loss of a dear friend of yours. I’ve recently experienced such loss, and am left with the memory of what we could exchange, which is precious.

    Pema Chodron’s quote … an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity … seems necessary for what lies ahead.

    • Thank you for coming by Ashen – part of me was tempted to pick up the snakeskin. How lovely that you have that memory!

      I’m sorry for your loss – the anticipation of my friend no longer being around is still too new for me. I cannot even begin to imagine. She said today that for a long time she has thought about death – since her younger days. It reminded me of the value of the thought of keeping death alive on one’s left shoulder –

  15. I count myself among those who love ending a situation with resolution. It’s difficult to continue without that closure.

    Love that zebra. I hope s/he stays safe.

  16. Dear Susan, Wow, what a rich journey you took that day, firstly encountering the shredded skin, then a shifting skin, hmm, possibly the former owner’s! Followed by more than a hint that the great mothers themselves were nearby, with their young. Yes, I would say you were positively en route to a line of fire, and yet naturally you stepped off the path, instinctively knowing that it was healthier to surrender to those great powers. So much to unpack here, time to stay close to your dreams I feel.

    I’m so sorry to hear that one of your close friends is dying. The time you spent with her this morning was precious. Beautiful, beyond words, even this poet knows there are those times when words fail us all so miserably. I wept with pride as I watched the news on Saturday, and felt so incredibly proud of everyone. Huge congrats on your book, love the title. This is a great post, and what an insightful quote by Pema! Blessings always, Deborah.

    • Thank you Deborah! Also that you confirmed the hint of the great mothers – that thought was playing around in my mind. Also, it did occur to me that the snake that moved could have been the one that shed its skin, though the skin was pretty dried out …

      Thank you too for your empathy re my friend – she actually is my oldest friend, the only one I have retained from school days, though about 10 days ago or so I met a friend from even earlier school days which was a treat.

      I too loved the Pema Chodron quote – blessings to you!

  17. So many thoughts, swirling around, Susan! So many stimuli and so many legitimate concerns. Through it all I pray that the year we have just begun will be surprisingly much better than we all fear. Thank you, and best of luck with your book!

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