Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tea for two

Out of the blue this morning, while writing my morning pages, a large, sturdy crow jumped up onto my table, walked about amongst my books, fearlessly 'talked' to me and then went walkabout through through every room of the house. I'm not sure if it knew how delighted I was.
Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, January 23, 2009

Morning has broken, like the first morning

Blyderiver Canyon (notes to self): Alone on the very edge of the canyon, at the highest lookout, to meet Him at my 'morning pages' and to begin, literally, my new day...

To my left a baboon barks on a cliff face basking in gold treacle morning light. Straight ahead massive-scale sunshine beams have transformed the Three Rondawels into a surrealistic set for a phenomenal piece of on-going theatre. Far below the Blyde River is His voice as it storms through the canyon and then, simultaneously, also His voice, is the serene, immensely deep and rippleless lake that tugs and draws on the dark, silent place of my soul that is eons old, universal.

My life, all life, is miraculous. I rip out my heart from my chest and offer it in both my uplifted hands - because never was it mine.

This time around my hands will be a faster reacting, more obedient extension of His.

From The Rock - that even this very minute is my foundation, perched anything but precariously over this canyon - I'm going to launch my flight.

Now to simplify further, to travel even lighter, to sleep in the forest with one ear alert.

As my two bare feet toast oh-so-nicely in the morning light.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sunset of the 22nd (1986 - 2009)

We're spending tonight on the very edge of the Blyderiver Canyon. I'm struggling to find words to describe the journey of the last few days, the long and seemingly endless journey of the last 22 years that - almost impossible to describe - culminates tonight, the night of the 22nd.

We watched in awe the reflection of the sun setting against the 'three rondawels'. Shortly before that I finished Theroux's 'Ghost Train to the Eastern Star'. Then we went for a celebratory dinner where we sat under the stars drinking champagne. Now to bath and then bed. As you can read, I'm out of words tonight....
Add to Technorati Favorites

Graskop blues

Harrie's oh-so-famous Pancakes: an extraordinary foam covered cappuccino; the old chap at the table to my left looks like Grahamstown-based poet Don Maclennan; the three Gauteng bikers to my right are eating salads and health stuff, they are talking about the fact that Amazon doesn't courier books here via the SA post office anymore because the merchandise gets stolen. Talking of honesty and realted stuff, I also notice that three of their bikes, just in front of the open window, has silver duck tape stuck over digits of their number plates, one's gone so far as to cover two digits of his plate with a suprisingly clean white sweat band. This must be to avoid being trapped when metal-grinding past the cops and their cameras (I wonder what the guys in the post office doing all the opening and stealing of parcels war?).
Don gets up and is a most unlikely Don - he's very short and squat; it can't be him. Damn, because there's some compliments I wanted to pay.

Add to Technorati Favorites

The Book Case in Sabie

It's humid and overcast in Sabie; today I can't smell wood chips and pine on the thick air and my clothes are trying to stick to my body. We're heading to Graskop for coffee, maybe pancakes, then to God's Window... if His curtians are open. At this point the mist is swirling and has been since yesterday afternoon; although none of the stunning mountain views are visible, it's a moody, delightfully melancholic world we're contentedly snailing through.One of my highlights in this town, other than the Fanie Botha hiking trail and the Woodsman Inn, is the Book Case for secondhand books, where I bought four ancient Gavin Maxwell books for R12 each, books I've been perving for just under a year.
Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Misty, misty mountain

Spontaneous combustion: Left home at short notice this afternoon, heading for the Long Tom pass between Lydenburg and Sabie, deciding to take a 'sho't right' into Misty Mountain Lodge. Green thai chicken curry, tandoori chicken skewers, champagne and ice cream and hot chocolate sauce on a deck looking into thick swirling mist. Hardly told army stories, a spirit of fire and youth, then to lounge on my bed not far from a crackling hearth while my stitches were removed. Then a deep bubble bath, the last pages of Paul Theroux's latest travel book and now bed.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A garden is a grand teacher

Work-in-progress/writing notes:

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all else it teaches entire trust. - Gertrude Jekyll

While in Jozi earlier this week I took out some time from the rat race I immediately found myself in and walked around Emmarentia Dam and the adjoining botanic gardens.

I've been coming to this garden for inspiration and solace since 1981, also to shed buckets of tears, to make my important decisions - about work, debt, money owed, relationships and those I've allowed to break my heart.

There I've walked many kilometres just out from under the shadow of the two phallic towers - Hillbrow and Brixton - that citydwellers hardly notice on the Johannesburg skyline, but I'm sure have played prominent roles, unconsciously or not, in many lives. At one time they used to inspire me, for all the wrong reasons; I used to wait anxiously for them to prick and puncture the skyline of the great city as I robotically travelled towards it from wherever I was: erotic semi-naked beach holidays on any of the coastlines, a pent up cricket ball of testosterone returning from weeks away in the army, back from university in Grahamstown.

At Emmarentia I've walked into reality the wispy, candyfloss fabric of my dreams - first those related to my life in a city I loved and that inspired me, then related to a life outside and away from the city, where I find myself now.

At Emmarentia I was never alone: here, along the many paths and parts of the massive garden (one for every mood, from sexual to holy) I developed my relationship with God. There I moved from a one-sided space of begging, cajoling, bargaining to an enlightened space of love on the top of the montain at the horizon's very edge, visible even from the gutters I constantly slid back into. Above all else it provided me with silence and solitude, the essential foundation of everything, and the invisible step ladder out of the gutter and away from the abyss.
Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Good night. I'm reading stunning Orhan Pamuk's 'Istanbul: Memories and the City' that Paul Theroux glowingly refers to in his 'Ghost Train to the Eastern Star'. I think you'll love it. It's raining softly. A train clangs into the shunting yards as I turn out the light and a mutt barks once on the other side of town.

(Pamuk, author of 'My Name is Red', was the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2006.)

Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, January 09, 2009

Die Groen Koei

Bethal: It's a beautiful summer's afternoon (a Friday to boot) that's still very much pervaded with a 'summer holidays' atmosphere. I'm on the way to Volksrust for the weekend and because I was pertly reminded that it's the journey that counts, not the destination (despite the cliche), I'm now enjoying lunch at The Green Cow, which is on a busy corner in this bustling town.
The bird's are chirping, the trucks are pumping out diesel fumes and the weekend's beckoning... I couldn't be happier.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A new voice in South Africa's highest court

Having read Edwin Cameron's 'Witness to Aids' (published in 2005) and then having met him, I have nothing but the utmost respect for this man, his humility, humour and his accomplishments:

On the 31st of December 2008 President Kgalema Motlanthe announced he had chosen Justice Edwin Cameron to take over the position left vacant by Constitutional Court Justice Tholakele Madala, who retired at the end of 2008.

Cameron, who has been serving as a Supreme Court of Appeal judge, commented that he was "humbled" by his appointment to South Africa's highest court.

"I'm overjoyed at the opportunity to serve in that court because the Constitution is the bedrock of our democracy and that court is the guardian of the Constitution, so it's a very humbling opportunity and a very exciting one," Cameron said.

An openly gay man living with HIV, Cameron was described by Nelson Mandela as a "hero" when he became the first prominent public official in the country to reveal his HIV positive status.

HIV activist Zackie Achmat told The Star newspaper that he had spoken to the judge after his appointment was announced on New Year's Eve. "I think this is one of the most important events in his life," he said. "The Constitutional Court needs judges who will continue its legacy of independence and rigour."

"I happen to be white, male, gay, living healthily with HIV (and 193cm tall, and bald). None of those incidental attributes defines me as a human being - but each helps me appreciate how precious our constitutional scheme is, because it grows our strength through affirming our diversities as South Africans," Cameron told the Weekend Argus.

In addition to Judge Cameron, the Judicial Service Commission recommended three other nominees to Motlanthe, who made the final decision after consulting Chief Justice Pius Langa and opposition party leaders.

There are eleven Constitutional Court justices who serve a non-renewable term of 12 years.

Judge Cameron will move into his chambers at the court on the 12th of January 2009.

Source (with thanks): South Africa: The Good News (

Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Long day

It's been a long day. But I was able to love and spend time with an old man whose spirit has not been broken by life, nor by the many people who have walked over him. A man without bitterness, still filled with forgiveness and in love with his God. I was able to love a young cat left alone, whose name I don't know, but was crying out for love and companionship. I knew that a friend of mine, who this last year has taken a few knocks, was able to walk filled with gratefulness and compassion to her 'new' job just before four o'clock, and living in a large, friendly house and strange town because of an almost stranger's grace and love.

As I said it's been a long day. I've driven to the petit satellite Seattle coffee shop about 17km from me for a cafè mocha and the front seat at the sunset. At my feet, just through the plate glass of the shop, a common sparrow, commonly known here as a mossie, is scrambling for crumbs.. its the most humble bird of them all. And my favourite.

I'm lingering here because, like the cat I suppose, it's good to be rubbing up against people. There's also something erotic about these anonymous stop over places on the edge of the highway, not unlike a border post.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Highlands Herald

This is Piet van Wyk, the founder and editor of the of the Waterval-Boven based Highlands Herald... watch this space! (This posting was to show to him the immediacy and ease with which it is possible to blog from a mobile device.)

Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, January 05, 2009

A glimpse of the future?

I've been in bed with the lights off for 40 minutes already. But I'm awake because is my head is busy like an anthill with today, also because the curtains are billowing on to my face with the thunderstorm raging outside, and the rain - from the rusted through holes in the gutters - loudly slapping the ground just outside my window. So I've decided to invite Paul Theroux to bed with me, keeping the light on of course.

This he writes in 'Ghost Train to the Eastern Star' as he leaves India;his words punch me in the gut because he writes so bloody well, because his words drag me screaming and squemish (I'll check spelling in the morning) along its "hideous and impassable roads", because they're frightening:

"One day I saw a round fruit by the side of the road. It was crawling with insects, alive with big ants, blackened by them. Was it a coconut or a durian? Whatever, it represented a little world of hunger obscured by its eaters.

... "What sent me away finally [from India] was something simpler, but larger and inescapable. It was the sheer mass of people, the horribly thronged cities, the colossal agglomeration of elbowing and contending Indians, the billion-plus, the sight of them, the sense of their desperation and hunger, having to compete with them for space on on sidewalks, on roads, everywhere - what I'd heard on the train from Amritsar: 'Too many. Too many.' All of them jostling for space, which made for much of life there a monotony of frotteurism, life in India being an unending experience of unconsensual rubbing.

"And not because it was India - Indians were good-humored and polite on the whole - but because it was the way of the world. The population of the United States had doubled in my lifetime, and the old simple world I had known as a boy was gone. India was a reminder to me of what was in store for us all, a glimpse of the future. Trillions of dollars were spent to keep people breathing, to cure disease, and to extend human life, but nothing was being done to relieve the planet of overpopulation, the contending millions, like those ants on the rotten fruit." (p. 236)

Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, January 02, 2009

Grouchy old Theroux

Paul Theroux's 'Ghost Train to the Eastern Star', which follows more or less the railway tracks of another of his great travel books, 'The Great Railway Bazaar' written 33 years ago, was my Christmas present to myself. Even though this is an older, more cynical and much grouchier Theroux, I'm devouring every sentence.

This is how he starts the book:

"You think of travelers as bold, but our guilty secret is that travel is one of the laziest ways on earth of passing the time. Travel is not merely the business of being bone-idle, but also an elaborate bumming evasion, allowing us to call attention to ourselves with our conspicuous absence while we intrude upon other people's privacy - being actively offensive as fugitive freeloaders. The traveler is the greediest kind of romantic voyeur, and in some well-hidden part of the traveller's personality is an unpickable knot of vanity, presumption, and mythomania bordering on the pathological. This is why a traveler's worst nightmare is not the secret police or the witch doctors or malaria, but rather the prospect of meeting another traveler." (p.1)

Add to Technorati Favorites