Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Travelling light on the road south east

I took these photos an hour or so earlier,  when I stopped in Harrismith in the Free State.
I'm taking the N3 south eastwards to Pietermaritzburg,  then Durban and the North Coast on Friday.
I'm rather pleasantly amazed at the winter scenery, so stark in contrast to the greeness that smoothed my journey northwards to Joburg almost six weeks ago. And what a six weeks it has been!
Just like on that trip I had no idea what lay ahead of me, which was slightly unnerving and uncomfortable at the time; this time I'm already six weeks into living hand-to-mouth (in the best possible sense of the phrase), waiting like a wide-eyed with excitement child about what each day will unfold for me; all the while expecting the best.
It's taken a long time for me to begin living like this.
I'm travelling light, I'm free, I'm excited, and every one of my needs are met on a daily basis - how blessed am I!
I am also adamant to return to the Drakensburg; for too long now it has beckoned me to explore its extensive range, which reached even as far north east so as to include Waterval Boven (where I spent a good six years) in it's mighty clasp.
Coming down the escaprment past Harrismith and then along the Van Reenens pass, my breath was again scraped and ripped from my throat as I gasped at the 'Berg's beauty!
(Crap Steers coffee in a paper cup down what's left of my gullet - it's all of this dramatic rasping and gasping - and back on to the road.)
My mind wanders over to Yeats' wild swans at Coole: The tree's are in their autumn beauty... that's what I hear when I see the golden yellow trees that are soon to be bare. Like me.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

I just know

Peering upside down through skew mauve-rimmed spectacles into my notepad, she said my handwriting looked like bent wire coat hangers.
'Like coat hangers sculpted into script,' she said, emphasising her observation.
Then an awkward, shy but shrill gighle; she was laughing at herself.
Because her breath smelt like cigarettes, I used a split second of a second to glance into her obviously moist mouth; it glistened, quite alarmingly, like the soft underbelly of a bull frog.
My eyeballs flicked, quickly, past the lipstick gate and to where her bottom teeth were stuck into her gums like a row of awkard flagpoles.
I could see the gaps between them, also the nicotine steins on her yellowed ivory.
Her eyes smiled-twinkled at me through the scratched amd fingerprinted lenses: I'm a good person with integrity they told me.
I love coffee shop adventures.
We're going to be friends for life. I just know.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013


Sitting on the only, and wonderfully shiny-battered leather couch at my local Seattle coffee shop, I look-up-and-see the orange swoosh above the Nike store across the passage.
I'm going to just do it. I'm going to put my first blog-words down in four weeks.

I've been in Johannesburg for a month already; not once have I overcome myself to type a single word. Except for the usual notes along the way in my black and compact Moleskine.

I left Salt Rock four Mondays ago; a cool and foggy early morning; the raw-delicious tang of salt in my goodbye nostrils. 
Peak hour traffic to Durban, luckily with the flow; then a slow meander up and through the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, including coffee, breakfast and a good catch-up with Josh in Hilton. That was followed by a quick stop at Howick's famous waterfall, then a much longer and more enthralling visit to the Mandela capture site (it happened in August 1962) and new sculpture and museum only 6 km away.

Then, slipping ever and ever further away from the subtropical coastline that had been my home for seven months, it was up and over the Drakensburg's Van Reenen's, a favourite section of a journey, before levelling out on to the pan-flat Free State plain.

I always enjoy the long but fast drive into Gauteng province along the spear-straight N3. Then, abruptly, like an exclamation mark, the city of gold, Joburg! 

Most noticeable for me are the phallic Brixton and Hillbrow towers that dominated much of my early life in the city; also Braamfontein, the Carlton Centre and the Joburg CBD: Like glinting pins stuck into the gold-rich pin cushion of the famous Witwatersrand. It boggles my mind that nearly half of all the world's mined gold has come out of the the extensive Witwatersrand Basinor white water ridge in Afrikaans, that was found near Johannesburg in 1886.

That evening, like countless others over as many years, I was welcomed home by a mind shatteringly golden sunset smashed against looming God-huge white cumulus monsters. This is big sky country.  Through the traffic I'd happily forgotten about, and by the time I'd reached my destination, cobalt blue - made much more intense by the autumn - had quickly morphed-into-ink then faded-to-black.

Never mind relevance, never mind quality nor quantity, the drought is broken - well, for today at least: I have written. And that's what writing is, writes Sarah Moore Fitzgerald: "It's trying - in both senses of the word. 
Trying to find meaning, trying to capture a moment, trying to find the best way to say something, trying to connect, to tell a story. It is very hard work. It is difficult to begin, and it's easy to give up."
In the humblest sense I am here, on this planet, right now, to write. For me. That is my purpose. Yet it is what I shrink from every single day - the Resistance that Steven Pressfield dedicates an entire book to: The War of Art. Today I overcame Resistance. Tomorrow is of course another day.

Ironically, and by sheer coincidence, it was only in retrospect that I realised the title of Sarah Moore Fitzgerald's post on (the  fabulous national Irish writing resources website) was very swoosh: Just Do It. I so loved her paragraph (below) that I chose to type it up as opposed to copying and pasting it, so as to savour it all over again. Because it speaks directly to me, not to mention the Gustav Flaubert quote!

"And besides, much as I have often felt compelled to write, and much as it contains secret pleasures that are difficult to explain, that’s not to say that I always like doing it.  In my experience, it is often a deeply frustrating activity. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake off my regular dismay at the inadequacy of language and my equally inadequate ability to manipulate it. I hear other writers express similar feelings – that even their best writing will never be anything more than the most deficient traces of the things that sing inside their souls.  Gustav Flaubert says ‘language is like a cracked kettle on which writers beat out tunes for bears to dance to while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.’ It is a source of fretfulness to me that I hear the echoes of Flaubert’s kettle in the clicking of my own keyboard. But with all its frustrations and imperfections, it’s also a source of delight and inspiration to me that writers continue to write, or at least to try."