Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday bloody Sunday

It's Sunday and I don't want to be working, but while my procrastination is the reason that I am, I continue to procrastinate, on and off.
I've loosely segmented my time into 90 minute blocks; in that time I'm incorporating everything I need to do, including chores: to break the monotony I'm blogging, tweeting, doing a wash, watering the garden with two sprinklers, writing up my university notes, preparing for the laying out of the August newspaper tomorrow.
And taking out the time to enjoy one of my lemon trees, which is having a bumper citrus season.
The citrus yellows and oranges are so wonderfully and starkly in contrast to the bleak overall lion tan colour that pervades our winter landscape; this is a winter rainfall region so everything is tinderbox dry and frosted out, completely bleached of colour.
Despite tasks and the mundaneness of the day-to-day, I strive to remember that today is an integral part of the life adventure. In every moment I seek the passion, romance and adventure that is life lived fully, and in the moment.
Or else I'm as good as dead.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This too shall pass

From the minute I woke this morning I put my phone off. My thesis has to be in by the end of the month, no later. I’m running very behind, also with what I need to deliver for the August edition of the paper. So I stayed in bed with my laptop, the cat, and the heater on, until I couldn’t bear it any longer.
Then I showered and drove to Nelspruit, 93km away, where not only is the climate considerably warmer and different, but where the chances are good that I will be able to recover from my bout of cabin fever.
I’ll carry on working on the thesis now, then I’ll go to gym. Then I’ll drive back home, go to bed, and the whole sorry saga will start over, again.
What’s providing me with ample hope though is the fact that every day, as we move closer to spring (which effectively arrives in August in South Africa), there is more light, and where there is light there is hope.
This too shall pass. And in the meantime I will do whatever I can to romanticise my life, so as to remind myself that even during the doldrums (at the ass end of winter), life is in fact an exciting adventure to be experienced to the full.
I choose to live fully, deeply, intensely... I WILL suck the marrow from the bone of life. I WILL.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Loiter on the fringes? No!

How can people who are conditioned to a life of distraction and indulgence be moved to live at their best, to be artists of the everyday, to plunge into life and not loiter on the fringes?  – Run with the horses, Eugene H. Peterson

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New every morning

I'm reading 'Run with the horses' by Eugene Peterson, which is not something I thought I would've enjoyed reading. But I'm intrigued.
I've done much examining of my past recently by looking, often painfully, in the mirror.
"...look at the wild ass in heat out in the wilderness, sniffing the wind for the scent of a mate - no matter who - unrestrained and purposeless except for one thing, the satisfaction of desire.
"That is what you look like...dominated by appetite and impulse, your lives are empty of commitment, purpose, continuity. You are frantic and busy, rushing here and there, wherever there is the slightest suggestion that you might satisfy something or another.
"We don't daily find a time apart from the crowd, a time of silence and solitude, for preparing for the day's journey. 'A very original man,' says Gary Wills, 'must shape his life, make a schedule that allows him to reflect, and study, and create.'"
Two worlds constantly, horrifically collide. By choice I'm in the world but not of it. Sometimes, when my back is to the window - my window onto the street, the world - and as I stare in silence and with aloneness into the fire, I know that to walk the straight and narrow path is (never past tense) a difficult decision that requires an hourly recommitment. Even so I don't always pull it off.
But only so many times can I ask myself after hitting my own head with a hammer, why does it hurt.
I consciously choose life and aliveness over numbness, even if my nerve ends are bloodied and mangled: I acknowledge and examine my pain, knowing that it's the price of being wonderfully, gloriously alive.

Dutch cheese

It has been an unnervingly beautiful today; only now has a cold breeze picked up. And a large Dutch cheese of a moon is already visible on the eastern horizon...

Saturday, July 09, 2011

My heart has asked it of me

This week I also finished reading Paulo Coehlo’s The Pilgrimage, which is his novel about walking the Camino de Santiago. Here’s an excerpt:
‘The Road you are travelling is the Road of power... the journey, which prior to this was torture because all you anted to do is get there, is now beginning to become a pleasure. It is the pleasure of an adventure. You are nourishing something that’s very important – your dreams.
‘We must never stop dreaming. Dreams provide nourishment for the soul, just as a meal does for the body. Many times in our life we see our dreams shattered and our desires frustrated, but we have to continue dreaming. If we don’t our soul dies, and agape cannot reach it. A lot of blood has been shed in those fields out there; some of the cruellest battles of Spain’s war to expel the Moors were fought on them. Who was in the right or who knew the truth does not matter; what’s important is knowing that both sides were fighting the good fight.
‘The good fight is the one we fight because our heart asks it of us. In the heroic ages – at the time of the knights in armour – this was easy. There were lands to conquer and much to do. Today, though, the world has changed a lot, and the good fight has shifted from the battlefields to the fields within ourselves.’
The reason I have decided to walk the Road is because my heart has asked it of me.

Step 1 - Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Last year I set my mind on walking the Camino De Santiago; step one in the approximately 4 week journey of about 780km has been taken: On Wednesday I bought a guidebook: Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino De Santiago

"The Camino de Santiago de Compostela, also known in English as The Way of St James, is a collection of old pilgrimage routes which cover all Europe. They all have Santiago de Compostela in north west Spain as their final destination. For more than 1000 years pilgrims have been walking along the Camino de Santiago.
The main Camino route is the Camino Frances. This part of the Camino de Santiago traditionally starts in St Jean Pied de Port and finishes in Santiago de Compostela about 780km later, after travelling the breadth of Northern Spain, (In Santiago you can collect your Compostela).  However you can start anywhere and even continue past Santiago to the sea at Finisterre. Finisterre was thought to be the end of the world in medieval times."

Be on guard

Well over four years ago I escaped my hell life in the city; in my former life I had I traded my health and energy for the fleeting rewards of a life that my career had brought me. In doing so I had traded my soul for a fat bank account and the trappings that had come with it. I'm again at a place of discontent, but I've recognized it. I'm searching for the next step in my expectant hope of finding inner harmony and lasting peace.

Pic: I took this photo last Sunday of a mural that for me symbolizes hope; it - the mural that is - can be found at 12 Decades Johannesburg Art Hotel on the east side of the city and part of the Maboneng Precinct.


My prayer today, and every day, is for wisdom and understanding.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Carrot cake

It's cold; although normally quickly over the second 'half' of winter is harsher than the first.
But on a happy note, the jasmine bush in the far western corner of the garden always flowers early in August; it's pungent scent has been my first sign of spring since a child.
I'm still In bed having my quiet time; I'm about to write my morning pages (as inspired by Julia Cameron in The Artists Way about a decade ago), and trying to sip on a bowl of steaming mint and green tea.
My old, faded-pink single electric blanket is on 2, while the sun is in my face and backlighting Mika.
This morning the sun appeared over the trees at the far edge of the park across from my home at exactly 7h12; yip the nights are getting shorter.
Frost, like icing on a carrot cake, is lying thick and white on the yellow, dead lawn.
As I stare at this scene while scratching my stubble, contentment seeps through my being...and it's Friday.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Spitting in the wind

Recently, and for the first time in my life, my notion of 'without end' ceased. Up until then I had a sense of my life being endless, that all my dreams still had time to be realised. 
Now I'm aware of the race's cut off time. I'm also aware that I don't want to be in a race, that I'm seeking harmony, simplicity, inner peace, happiness, joy and contentment. 
I've realised that I was born on autopilot into striving...and from day one I've been striving for all the wrong things. 
Now I want to begin living. Rather late than never. But the transition, mentally, is not an easy one to take. Nor is it a transition encouraged and rewarded by 'our' world. 
Life is as fleeting and surreal as a dandelion flower.
In Ecclesiastes (1:11) wise King Solomon wrote that "nobody remembers what happened yesterday. And the things that will happen tomorrow? Nobody'll remember them either. Don't count on being remembered."
He also wrote that he had seen it ALL:
"Call me 'the Quester.' I've been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I looked most carefully into everything, searched out all that is done on this earth. And let me tell you, there's not much to write home about. God hasn't made it easy for us. I've seen it all and it's nothing but smoke—smoke, and spitting into the wind."
So what exactly have I been striving for, and why, I wonder.
What I do know is that it has been empty, stressful and has kept me from living in the moment. It has always been about tomorrow, not right now. What I can surely tell you from my limited personal experience is that tomorrow never ever comes.

Invent YOUR world

Invent your world. Surround yourself with people, colour, sounds, and work that nourish you. – SARK
And, on that note, Robin Sharma writes that there is no such thing as objective reality, or the ‘real world’. There are no absolutes.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Revival. Joburg.

There's a revival about Johannesburg, my city of birth, that's taking place in my head.
I moved away, but not completely, four years ago. The distance between us has meant I'm able to return with an appreciative heart.
It's an incredibly creative, passionately alive and uber-productive city.
In the last few days I've re-experienced Jeppestown, Kaserne and Braamfontein. I feel enormously at home here again... an at homeness thats accompanied with longing.
On Friday night I drove past the nursing home, known always to me as the Mary Mount, or the Kensington Clinic, where I was born.
There I came into the world on the rim of the city's most magnificent skyline, and remain unalterably influenced by the two phallic landmarks - Hillbrow and Brixton towers - synonymous with Joburg.


It's a wonderfully cold and bleak European morning in Africa; the sun is nowhere to be seen.
I'm sitting in the corner at Post in Juta street, Braamfontein listening to soothing classical music on my iPhone - anything to block out the uncharacteristic, deeply intruding heavy metal/rock belching from speakers I can't seem to find - while writing my morning pages.
I'm thankful for the sheer unusual beauty of today, for my music, for the peace and contentment of my soul...also for the hot air massaging my calves from the fan heater under my table.
I'm looking forward to travelling in home's direction....

Monday, July 04, 2011

Twentieth Century gangrene

Travel writer Paul Theroux in his introduction to Paul Bowles: Travels -
[Paul Bowles] was handsome and hard to impress, watchful, solitary, and knew his own mind, his mood of acceptance, even of fatalism, made him an ideal traveller. He was not much of a gastronome - as his fiction shows, the disgusting meal (fur in the rabbit stew) interested him much more than haute cuisine. He was passionate bout landscape and it's effects on the traveller, as "The Baptism
of Solitude" demonstrated, he was fascinated by the moods of the sky; and he was animated by the grotesque, wherever its misshapen form can be found.... Contemptuous of what passes for progress or technology, he speaks in one of these pieces about Columbo being afflicted with the "Twentieth Century's gangrene," by which he means modernity.
[Photo: Nelson Manda statue in Mandela Square, Sandton]

Bowled over

Ever since researching my trip in 2006 to Morocco I've wanted to get my hands on the writing and life of Paul Bowles. He lived in Tangier for most of his life, dying there in 1999, and writing up until his end.
Friday saw me buy his Travels: collected writings, 1950 - 1993 at Exclusive Books in Mandela Square, which I've dipped into through the weekend.
At dusk yesterday I cruised two bookshops in Melville looking for more of his work, but only coming up with a 1985 collection of his short stories, Midnight Mass.
Books, I believe, always arrive just when they should. Thank you.

Warm inside

Johannesburg: It's a cold and overcast winter's morning. I'm sitting at a gym while my car is being serviced; while listening to music on my iPhone I'm catching up on all those little things that fall into the cracks when life is hectic.
Life has been very hectic, ever since after Easter. A pattern of my life is receiving rest ahead of extreme and challenging periods, so I should've known this was coming. I really should have....
Right now what's coming is a strong, foam cappuccino.