Sunday, October 30, 2011

HOWLING at the moon

Some straightforward messages were driven home to me. This as I sat on the edge of my seat through the screening of Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein's 'Howl' last night in Hyde Park.
Authentic, is what I've realized I'm not; I still edit and stylize my public media persona, and even more condemning, do the same to my stream-of-consciousness-into-stream-of-words.
In the mewing of Ginsberg, "I don't want my daddy to read my words".
Allen Ginsberg has got balls. In fact, he must have the biggest balls I've ever come across.
It takes balls to be true to yourself, to be true to your words, to be true to your writer's voice.
'The Write Practice' blogger, Joe Bunting, asked Ted Dekker how long it takes for a writer to find their voice.
'"It takes four to five novels," he said. So if the average novel is about 80 000 words, then you have to write 320 000 to 400 000 words before you find your voice.
That's about 1000 blog posts.
Or 400 newspaper columns.
Or 80 short stories.'
I arrived at Hotel Lamunu in Johannesburg's Braamfontein yesterday afternoon. I'll be staying here until Thursday. Jozi's 'inner city' has been dramatically reenergized, resuscitated over the last decade and more. It's not the apartheid-artificial city I innocently got acquainted with in the eighties. This is a beyond incredible city that many miss out on because of outdated and repeatedly trundled out bad publicity.
Thanks for triggering me Allen, even 60 years after howling the world out of its McCarthyistic horror, suburban smugness and complacency.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sinking in

Just got home from Kaapsehoop; suddenly so glad to be here, I was going to drive the few hours to Johannesburg, but suddenly drained and too tired.
What a few days! We've been on deadline, not that we're off it.
An unusual month this has been. I wonder if extraordinary would be a better word?
I've made a big mug of sweet, strong tea and I'm sitting outside in the dark listening to frogs and crickets and watching a sickle moon set on the western horizon.
I'm not going to do a thing tonight, but early to bed, very early up, and then through to Jozi for about a week with a power reporting investigative journalism conference I'm attending.
I'm looking very forward to my accommodation in Braamfontein of all places. And after all of these years that have passed...

Thursday, October 27, 2011


It's 5h30 am and I'm sitting by my favourite window drinking tea.
I have spent hours here; it's the one beneath which I lay (because there was no furniture) on my back - in a daze of nervous recovery during the very first week that I had moved here from the corporate world almost 5 years ago; just watching the winter clouds in a cobalt sky make superstitious shapes that didn't predict my future.
I'm just back from walking through the garden, like every morning, breathing in deep, nay gulping in deep the rich mountain air.
Today it's laden, saturated with the energy, power and life of last night's first big (hail) storm.
And then my heart's delight, the yellow arum lilies (Zantedeschia pentlandi) that pop up, like daffodils in a
European spring, from the lawn, grasslands, woodlands in the region.
And the fat black cat on my lap.
I'm drawing strength and centeredness in silence and solitude, while knowing I'm never alone: 'Be still and know that I am God.'

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I’m undeniably a morning person.
Even so, I love it at night, when my fingers swan – in perfect peace - across the keyboard.
This plays out in a pool of warm light directly under my yarmulke-like coal black lampshade that’s not far from, nor many centimetres above my skull.
Although I’m in the light, but against the dark, cool background of the house and garden (energy saving), I’m neither trapped nor held prisoner here.
I love that I’m alone, but beneath a mountain.
I love that I’m at peace, but with gut-stirring coffee.
I love that I can clearly hear the crickets and frogs (and the cats having sex – they’re certainly not making love), but that it’s extremely unlikely the phone will ring, or ping.
‘You are loved (Don’t give up)’ is  my message for today, especially after yesterday. It came in a serendipitous message on a postcard from God.
Have you ever received one of those?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pushing snowballs up the mountain against the heat of summer

I’m double bent against the awful wind. And against the day. And against the work I need to do. As well as against my thesis. It feels as though there is no progress whatsoever, that the colour is bleached from today, and from my life. And that I’m living on the awful outskirts of my Apple’s imaginary Instragram lens.
That is twilight zone.
But we are human beings and from life experience we know that this, too, shall pass. That tomorrow will be a better day.

“[...] the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!' What did they call such young people in Goethe's Germany?”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road   


I want to reach out across the Internet to you, because I don’t know any other way.
I want to take your hand in mind, and for things to be different.
I saw the pain in your eyes, and I know you see the pain in mine.
My heart, and its intentions are pure.
How do I reach, out, across your abyss?
I’m so busy retching into mine.

Double bent

In stark contrast to yesterday morning I began my day outside on the lawn. After harvesting a handful of fresh strawberries straight from the garden, I filled a plunger with the finest pungently arabican coffee, and got on with my morning pages and week 1 of The Artist's Way.
It was a magnificent dawn. But the day has got much hotter and very gusty, almost unbearably so, and again I've pulled down the blinds and shut the curtains to the unusual heat.
I'm bent double over my laptop and my research project on the bed.
My mind is bent double too, most unhappy with the acrobatics its being asked to perform. It's low I'm confidence today.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


So, today, I'm at that point Robin* wrote of.
I had another crazy early hours of Sunday morning a-cross-country-bolting homewards from the city.
Now, mid-afternoon and my sleep caught up, lying naked-for-the-unusual-heat pressing down on the house, I'm there.
There where he said.
All the blinds, and curtains, are shut against the heat, so as to cool the airflow through my home.
I'm alone. Completely. In my weekend craziness I've done everything I can to severe ties, many in fact. And good ones too, some of very best; and some of the worst. But severed they are, for better or for worse.
This is a good sign: Pressfield in The War of Art writes that Resistance is its most awfully powerful when the prize is the greatest, and attainable. I suppose it's the equivalent of the darkest hour being just before dawn.
Judging by the (unusual) wind howling from the west and over the edge of the escarpment, a storm must be coming.
"The only way to lift your life to the next to assume real leadership over your life."
"The moment you look in the mirror and say to yourself, from the deepest place within you, 'For my life to change, I must change' - that's the moment you'll grow up and walk through a doorway that will lead you to your best life."*
So I have picked up my tattered, battered The Artist's Way after exactly a decade, and commit myself again, from today, to it's process.
I also commit to no alcohol for the 12-week period. As much as I enjoy it, it takes me nowhere that's good. And beneath it's benign dictatorship I relinquish all responsibility, exactly as the structure of this sentence underscores.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow's* words scratch my ear drums and chalk squeakingly across the flip-chart of my mind:
"We fear our highest possibilities.... We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments, under the most perfect conditions, under times of great courage. We enjoy and even thrill in the possibilities we see in ourselves in such peak moments and yet we simultaneously shiver with weakness, awe, and fear before these very same possibilities."
Steffen, yesterday, with big green eyes liquidly welling over, had the courage - over carrot cake and a short-te-mocha at Seattle - to hold up the mirror.
I didn't like what I saw.
Thank you.
I pray for wisdom and understanding. Also for courage and inner strength.
And for much, much less, even none, pride and arrogance.
And for a simple, streamlined - but good - life.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Top man

The rain patters on my empty stomach searching for the 6; I allow the storm darkness of the late afternoon to gnaw and fritter away / like city rats at a once fresh and pre-packed steak thrown out of a restaurant's back door / at my peace and contentment.
It's unusually Sunday-black, not -blue.
Thunder gargles faintly in the distance, almost too soft for me to believe it's real. But that's Mozambique's direction, so I know it is. The ferocious storms come from East. So does my Jerusalem light.
I'm questioning my choices, of these last three weeks.
Storm. Now I'm in the eye, but for the real time one; I'm watching two years of relationship photos on my mind's eye screen.
Rain patters on the roof, that's seen countless ructions. And survived.
When some/thing/one was so good that newbies pale into insignificance, why does it end.
Above the local grill I hold you up against the light and see the holes, but the journey is compelled. (You don't know that, I do. I swallow hard; from this cup must I drink?)
Change the subject.
The overwhelming message for my writer this week has been to wake the f*ck up and smell the roses, it's time to be true to your voice; so says mr Bunting, the artist's way, dear Robin, and instinct's gut.
I suppose authenticity had been my theme these 3 weeks. The courage to be who I am, no matter how much it stinks.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The cat sat on the mat

bipolar ambition:
I'm struggling to complete the pages.
I root out even more pride and arrogance; forgive me please. I want NONE left.
Then suddenly I'm centered:
dappled morning sunshine
slow motion
across silent moss
on a rock
at the bottom of a garden.
that's as minute
and meaningful
as I wish
my life could
small b.

Secret garden

Dalecross. Morning pages at the bottom of the garden. Another garden. Another space of peace, restoration, bird song, and a cape robin's wings beating--in--slow--motion in the undergrowth.
It was a tough week.
4am Saturday morning was a turning point; I cannot befriend both Him and the world. I know where my peace, productivity and sanity lies.
I know that my choice was again the correct one; in the early hours of this morning I dreamt of the snake in my life, and how I killed it. With both hands.
It's a magnificent Sunday morning. Coffee anyone? (Just one condition. Get me at the bottom of my secret garden...)

Friday, October 07, 2011

Give yourself up to the moment

I just found a new secondhand bookshop, a bit pricey but a good selection of, among others, South African fiction.
I'm at 44 Stanley street in Jozi; as the unseasonal, chilly weather finally starts to lift, people around me, at the courtyard cafes, appear to be wholeheartedly embracing both summer and weekend.
I've wolfed down a sandwich and a cappuccino while my iTunes does it's own iThing with the selection of iFriday pm tunes, all thus far appropriate.
Bare legs, bare arms, in the shade of a beautifully barked tree.
"give yourself up to the moment / the time is now / lets make this moment last" tunes iTunes in stereo (such an old fashioned word).
But in all innocence.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Short mocha, no cream

In the last few days I've been into places I last frequented a long time ago. I find myself surprised at how decayed they are, how out of date they seem.
I've also walked into perfumes trailing behind people; they are scents I last smelt many many years ago. I trip over them, headlong into the jumble of time- and place-memories interwoven in them. Seemingly arbitrary. It's a bit like taking an unexpected slide through a time warp, bang into the past. They also emphasize the passage of time.
I wonder at what point it is that I become the one that others measure the amount of decay by? Just curious.
Does one know that one has become the living dead?
Progress. What is that? Soul wisdom I believe.
Seattle Cresta, nostalgically having a mocha.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Boekehuis, Melville

I'm grabbing some time out in one of my favourite Jozi book shops. Walking around I pick up a copy of Spaces and Places Johannesburg (Gerald Garner) which I've coveted for a while now, but can't afford. In it he describes Boekehuis:
Situated next to the offices of Media 24, this bookshop has a wonderful collection of South African books and it regularly hots book launches and talks by authors. So famous is the Boekehuis that it was voted one of the 50 most unique bookshops in the world by the International Booksellers Federation. It occupies an old house with Oregon timber floors and pressed-steel ceilings and best if all, includes a coffee shop here you can browse through the books you intend to buy, or start reading the ones you have already bought!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Thoreau and the Art of Life

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) thought through our potential as human beings to live complete lives - lives that encompass joy, adventure, reflection, natural beauty, meaningful work, and relaxation. He thought and wrote about nature, about love and friendship, art and creativity, spirituality, aging and death, simplicity, wisdom. He tried to live his conclusions. He was deeply devoted to the craft of writing. From these roots emerged a powerful an contradictory body if work that continues to inspire and confuse us. [... from the inside cover of Roderick MacIver's book]

Artist's way

Ten years ago I began working through the intensely personal twelve week ‘course’ contained in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Earlier this year I picked up a mint copy of her follow-up to this course in discovering and recovering your creative self, The Vein of Gold. But I’ve not been able to get further than the introduction. I believe I need to go back to The Artist’s Way.
Today I have picked up my wonderfully tattered and scribbled all over edition, and am about to recommit to a new process of discovery. It’s time, I feel.
Julia: ‘I learned to turn my creativity over to the only god I could believe in, the god of creativity, the life force Dylan Thomas called “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.” I learned to get out of the way and let that creative force work through me. I learned to just show up at the page and write down what I heard.’
I have a decade’s worth of hardbound exercise books containing thousands of pages of my ‘morning pages’ lying around the house.

Tear stained windows

It's essentially the first rains of the summer; I missed the downpours, lightning and thunder in my Waterval Boven on Thursday and Friday, but last night while eating out in Melville all hell broke loose.
Nothing nicer, cosier while sharing a good meal, wine, and company.
On this marvelously slow-paced Sunday morning I'm lying in my pajamas on a long couch beneath tear stained windows. The rain is rattling against them, gusts of wind sometime drives the downpour harder against the glass, causing me to pull in closer towards myself.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

He's dead

Allen Ginsberg has just died, and his biography I've been reading intermittently for the last year, is dead too.
My eyes are glassed over with see-through mercury, and I don't know what next.
The last light through the me-and-a-bit high window into this unblinded first floor bathroom (the one with the large, beautifully faded Persian) is lifeless ad gray, against the lifeless now-olive green of the weeping willow. I'm not alone in my tears.
I will get out of the bath and mechanically dress, then walk to Melville to be anonymous amongst people I'll never know. That's where I wrote Two Pink Stripes maybe 5 years ago. In the street window of a restaurant and bar now closed. While drinking European draught and eating a meaty beef burger and fine, good fries. Often.
But I wish I was by the sea; I dedicate this photo (thanks Greg) that self-tweeted me, to Allen. He's dead, but we've just met.
Thank you.
And I choose a simpler, vastly more streamlined life. Without the s/trappings.
Living, but writing down the bones.