Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Five yellow flowers floating on a pond

A veil of sadness has trawled behind me this entire day. Just enough of it to steal my joy. Unexplainable. Now, I'm home, hollow, and the promised rain has arrived: there's been a 100% chance of rain promised since 2pm. Juicy wetness and puffs of pigeon-grey fog finger my window-on-the-world as I try to work; the lamp on my desk on is a warm and welcoming glow. From six stories up I can clearly hear the splatter of overly ripe fig raindrops on the inky tarmac below.

I walked a long but favourite route to my bus after my last lecture. Via the Company Gardens at Cape Town's heart. Where I go to saturate my soul. It's a few extra but welcome kilometres of solitary wandering in a busy world.  I wonder where the many homeless folks that were sleeping on the well-clipped lawns are resting, waiting now as a soaking wet and cold winter's night's being served up.

Egyptian geese - which I grew up surrounded by in the far north of the country, which I too got to know via my solitary wandersings - confidently strutted about while protectively showing off the feathered clumps of newly-born chicks. Tiny. The old garden was vibrant with their unique calls.

I've spent much time in many gardens in this country, this one is the first, the oldest, the most filled with lingering ghosts. The first ground here was was readied for sowing seed on 29 April 1652. It's 364 years old. The oldest cultivated tree, a Pyrus communis (Saffraan pear) planted around this time still exists, protected and supported like a very old woman who's not all there, in the garden.

Someone had thrown five yellow hibiscus flowers on to the surface of the large pond.

Walking slowly, peacefully to console me of the unexplainable, I soaked up both the greyness and the homelessness around me. Only the pigeons bathing, showering in my favourite fountain seemed unperturbed as I picked myself through the garden and it's less travelled paths and walkways.

This was so starkly different to my last visit just short of a week ago. Then the city was bathed in bright winter sunshine beneath a champagne sky. Those days I adore: it's when the very oxygen molecules seem to individually vibrate and shine with exuberant life. It lends days like that an awesomeness, a surrealness that leads you to believe you're living in a miracle.

It's 17h29 as I type these words and dusk is upon me as I cocoon myself in this post, and in my mind, and in my apartment. Although I've a night of work ahead me, I'm grateful to be both home and for this home. Even so, I can't but help thinking about what life would be like tonight on the cold, wet streets as another Antarctic cold front ghosts, not unlike the reaper, across this province and deep into the interior.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The girl on the train

Saturday, I took a train to Kalkbay. It's a favourite place of mine. There the wind, reeking of Ocean and Ozone, blows through my mind. It untangles my convoluted thoughts. These are the long, thick, voluptuous seaweed trunks that crisscross my tempestuous winter brain. These are the trees that obscure my vision and reduce my perspective, preventing me from seeing the wood.

The journey is a pleasurably slow one, just short of an hour long. Time to think, read. To finely observe people, mountains, the ocean.

I met a young woman on the train... We started talking. Spontaneous combustion. My life is richer for having met Selina.

She aspires to be an oceanographer, is already a teacher. She adores God. Has never had a boyfriend.

Her eyes, two shiny black velvet berries. They glistened with tenderness and love.

My heart is wide open to Life. So is Selina's.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Rain 2

A swarm of seagulls rip and shred the barren air above a corner of an empty lot in a street below. Crumbs.

It's a day bright with magnificence; it’s a pure light that confidently thrusts itself into your eyes. Not unlike that bunch of rowdy, happy people arriving late at a club from another party, high on the previous party, drunk on that party, fumbling with payment, also in-house humour, as they thrust themselves past the doorman. Adamantly.

The Mountain, solid in in its graniteness today, every crack and crevice starkly etched, looks sternly on, always mute, but present, alert.

Today, from the bird's’ eye, Woodstock appears shanty-town like; mismatched tin roofs, most of them deeply basted in rust, provide a flashback to this country’s early gold and diamond mining towns that became cities during distinct pieces of the last two centuries. The early Kimberley, Johannesburg, Pretoria. South African versions of the Wild West. And an integral part of the SA psyche - the wild, anarchic vein that unlike the Australians has not been expunged. I delight in our unexpunged anarchy, ‘cos it’s thick in my DNA and blood.

My chair creaks as I lean back to break my hunch over the notebook I'm writing in, and to eye my steaming porcelain-white bowl of green tea. The sooner I can finish it the sooner I can click the kettle on and get to my already primed coffee plunger: dark, strong, sweet, I like to be kicked in my gut.

I'm alive. And a loner. My phone’s been off since I got back from a waste of a time of a night-out, as I so well knew it would be. Some of my behavior's addictive; I’ve been known to hit myself on the head with a hammer and to, still, ask why it hurts.

It was yesterday that I calmly wrote those words in my morning pages.

Tonight I edit them at Cafe Ganesh, on dry red wine. With crayfish samosas partly camouflaged by Irish-green coriander. Steaming baked pita anxiously waiting to be broken, like the body of Christ, then dunked into an inconsequential glass petri dish over-filled with hummus; the equivalent of entering Jerusalem on a donkey.

Chicken satay on a square plate. Chips.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Rain 1

The winter Rain has (hopefully) arrived. It slashed my bedroom window on Wednesday night and obliterated the harbour and distant Robben island from my sight.

My sigh was one of deep relief.

The weather in Cape Town has been horribly upside down because of the El Nino effect AND climate change. Record temperatures. Records are being broken in the worst possible sense:

March temperature smashes 100-year global record

Great Barrier Reef: 93% of reefs hit by coral bleaching

Florida wakes up to climate change

Greenland sees record-smashing early ice sheet melt

2015 smashes record for hottest year, final figures confirm

SA is under the tyranny of its worst drought in a century and 2015 was the driest year ever. I tentatively hope we're at the tail end of it, well of this session of it.

It leaves me horribly unsettled about now, and the immediate future. The long-term one is a foregone fuck up; I believe that it's just too damn late.

Perhaps, selfishly, I'm grateful I don't and won't have children... I could not 'gift' them this.

It's Earth Day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Home is a mental, not metal construct

I get up to pour another glass of wine from the box in the fridge; it's the almost-last until payday on Monday. Because of my trip 'home' last month. (Yes, I wrote box.)

My mind is on 'home', where I spent two weeks, one on either end of  the Easter weekend. Not unlike a solid, heavy set of bookends.

Sometimes over the last three years, I've wondered if I'd maybe sold myself out. To the incoming text 'ping' my phone makes when my salary is paid into my account like clockwork every 25th of the month.

I did not even once have that monthly certainty in the almost seven years I lived permanently there; not that I expected it either. As a freelancer etc. financial security was never ever expected, nor on my agenda.

How do I know that I've not sold my soul for my current job and it's monthly text ping of reassurance? I know it because I love with endless passion what I do (and the people I work with), even though years later I earn less than I ever did then. I really don't care. Money does not drive me.

See that pic above? I took it as I got 'home'. It was after I got into the house with some fumbling at the new lock on the old and battered backdoor security gate, then turned the lights and geyser on, before skipping outside like Bambi to take a photo of the house beneath the glittering new moon. Excitement.

Years had passed.

Next morning I cut off the three fucked and faded 'for sale' signs on the fence and emailed the agents: no more. 'Home' had been on the market since mid-2012, when my world collapsed.

Home is a mental construct.

Many years ago, in December 1989 to be exact, I'd sat shivering to near death on a merciless wooden bench in Stockholm Train Station. It was the wee hours of the morning (my grandmother was from Edinburgh). I was clutching my overly big backpack watching two drunks loudly clouting each other and roaring Nordic obscenities. (I don't ever want to fuck with a Viking.) I was there because travelling in Scandinavia was extremely expensive for someone just out of 'national service' in the apartheid state's army. All I could afford was a Eurail pass and did my best to take trains to anywhere at night so that I could sleep sitting up. But warm. Because accommodation, even in youth hostels, was out of the question.

I was waiting for a train that was going to take me northwards. Far northwards. Across the frozen tundra, over the Arctic circle, into Finland.

I was thinking about home. I didn't have one.

I was fantasising about a place that I could call home, a place that would house my books on a rickety wooden bookshelf. A place that I could travel from, for even long periods at a time (who knew about the prison of debt at 21?), but that I could always return to. To the place where my books were. My plants too. The place where I could sink my hands into the loamy soil. Where I could light a fire outside the back door and cook my meat. And eat it straight off the grill. Also to light a fire in the hearth that's a pyjama-covered arm away from my bed on the nights when the escarpment edge temperatures plummeted low enough to freeze the water in my Free State sandstone birdbath. When the black frost, not unlike the Reaper, would obliterate my garden.

I had to come 'home', now, to realise that I was home, that I had one.

Okay, my last wine of this month is finished so my day might as well be over too. Cheers to me and my birthday, yesterday. Time lag; I've been under the weather. Terribly so.


Writing is therapeutic.