Tuesday, December 31, 2013

To the Edge of both the End and of the Beginning

The sun is shining today; it's the first full day of sun, not the thickly moistured low slung grey cloud of the past seven days, since I arrived in Johannesburg last Monday. Not that I'm complaining.

It's the last afternoon 2013.

I'm thankfully all alone at my dad's home; I've had an extremely intense year without much alone time (probably the least in the last eight years) so I'm very grateful to be ending and starting these two years alone, and with a clear head.

If 2012 was the year that I "underwent that inner reconstruction that most of us have to do at least once in a life" (Doris Lessing( - it was also the year that I believe was my life's halfway mark - then 2013 was the year of putting down the foundations for the second half.

I am content and at peace and my current world is one that, despite my excellent imagination, I could not have even remotely seen into life last year this time: How blessed am I!

I read this amazing piece in the first volume of Lessing's autobiography Under My Skin in the bath yesterday; it refers to her mother:

"Now I understand why she went to bed. In that year she underwent that inner reconstruction that most of us have to do at least once in a life. You relinquish what you believed you must have to live at all. Her bed was put into the front room, because of the windows and the view to the hills, under the stern gaze of her father, John William, and his cold dutiful wife.

"All around her were the signs and symbols of the respectable life she had believed was her right, her future, silver tea trays, English watercolours, Persian rugs, the classics in their red leather editions, the Liberty curtains. But she was living in what amounted to a mud hut, and all she could see from her high bed was the African bush, the farm 'compound' on its subsidiary hill."

That was me, at the end of my first life half, in Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga, in 2012.

The photos I took in Hogsback on 18 December after spending some crucial time recuperating from the car accident.

If I could choose, I would have preferred to end 2013 walking the 1,4 km long Labyrinth at The Edge (second photo) in Hogsback at sunset. I would have then started the new year by enjoying the sunrise of 1st January literally at The Edge (the first photo) while praying for the following:

1. Wisdom and understanding,
2. Peace, and for
3. Enough.

This coming year, 2014, I seek to:

1. Embrace simplicity,
2. Eat well, and
3. Travel far.

Happy New Year to all of you. And thank you.

Monday, December 30, 2013

City of gold

Joburg sunset: An unusually quiet and peaceful city emptied of the summer holidays folk who've headed to the two oceans; it's my favourite time to be here, when my Cape Town is packed to capacity beneath a relentless summer sun.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Filters, but not smoke and mirrors

Introspection and self-editing (I was curious what I'd look like when older) at my most favourite (yes I do mean Most Favourite) coffee shop in Johannesburg.

Like me it's gone through a renovation, and a revamping; it's raining outside and has been the entire day, from before I woke up.

Reading Doris Lessing's Under My Skin.

Dear Doris

How better to celebrate a great writer's life than to read her autobiography - over coffee and chocolate cake in my favourite coffee shop - on a rainy Sunday, afternoon.

Doris Lessing died on 17 November this year. In celebration of her life I took the first book of her autobiography, Under My Skin, out from Cape Town Library earlier in December; it has accompanied me - in and out of beds and foam baths - on my, so far, 2500 km journey.

Respect. And awe.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Soft-boiled road trip eggs

Hogsback: Sherry and soft-boiled road trip eggs at the end of a long day's travel.

This is where, right here at this table, I could sit down and write what I am on this good earth to write; unhindered and in silence, but for the midsummer birdsong outside, rain dripping-dropping from the eves and trees, also the crackling and pungent hearth behind me.

In the early 90s as a long-haired journalism student at Rhodes University I travelled here often - on my off-road Yamaha XT-250, with just a two man tent and sleeping bag strapped to the rusted carrier, a backpack on my back - seeking peace and solace from the bustling and intense Grahamstown.

I've passed through Hogsback, which is well off the beaten track, often since then, always promising to return when I have more time on my hands. That time never comes in life, unless you're determined to carve it out of your heavily scheduled existence.

Perhaps it was my head-on collision on the N2 just outside of Plettenburg on Saturday evening - with what looks like to have been an alleged drunken driver crossing into my lane - that has again reinforced my determination to live fully, passionately in the moment.

Hence us resting up in this peaceful, secretive mountain village in the forest on the Amatola mountains in my favourite of South African provinces: the Eastern Cape.

Road trip: Hamba kahle Tata Madiba

This is the magnificent view, at dusk, from Dolphin's Point over the seaside town of Wilderness in the Western Cape province this past Saturday.

We left Cape Town at 13h00 and had been travelling leisurely along the southern edge of the country.

The road trip for me will, eventually, reach it's halfway mark in Johannesburg this weekend, where I will be seeing my darling mother for the first time in two years. She lives in London.

This is also a view (which none of my amateur photograohic skills could ever do justice to, much to my dismay!) of my favourite ocean: the warm and passionately tempestuous Indian ocean.

I stood there guzzling in both the ozone-laden ocean air and the view to what felt to be the very edge of our universe. And all of this beneath a waxing-beautiful moon (it's full tonight).

God is so in every single detail.

Oh my beautiful country on the southern tip of Africa, with its blood and hatred-soaked history, you are entwined with me and I am of you.

Thanks for everything Tata (father) Madiba - who was put to rest the next day - thanks for everything; your long walk (for our freedom) is done. God bless you, God bless Africa.

Hamba kahle (go well) Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela; thank you.

Little did we know what lay before us on our journey, that very night...

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Perched in my Observatory

A full and deep night of delicious sleep was followed by the most intensely gorgeous Saturday summer morning.

It's summer holiday time in the southern hemisphere; our world grinds closer to a sun-soaked and complete halt with every passing day.

Now, hours later, it's high noon in Long Street: I'm at a bustling, crockery clunking Yours Truly coffee shop savouring a tinny rendition of Rodriguez's Sugar Man: wifi, Rayban aviators, robust ficus in a humongous charcoal-painted pot, beautifully hanging youth, all the languages of Babel (and more).

Also a beautiful ginger - wearing jeans, a faded black tshirt and an exuberant moustache, beard and pony tail: thick.and healthy hair that I want to reach out and touch - orders an americano.

I'm getting ahead of myself though: Breakfast and coffee in Observatory was my first stop,; eggs, bacon, toast and photos.

It turns me on that by merely looking up I can see some, only some (considering that the Khoi San people were here, first, for centuries and obviously never left more than paintings, footprints, relics), of the history of a street and suburb...especially when it can look so horrifyingly 'modern' at street level.

A skater in short shorts and a navy blue vest zooms by in no less than a flash.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Raw-red morning

Sunday morning stillness, except for someone in the kitchen, the breeze in the trees, as I write my heart out in the pages.
Coffee aroma.
Cat on the window sill.
Devil's Peak stark against the summer-cobalt sky.
Faded pink hibiscus flowers, with raw-red stamens dusted in luminous yellow, in full bloom on the street below.
Blood droplet Christ-thorn too.
And quiet.
Morning has broken.
God in the detail.