I have a place tucked far away from the madding crowd. I'm returning to there for two weeks over Easter. My last, brief, visit was, just, over two years ago. I've had neither the inclination nor the money to return. Until now.
I had lived there for just short of seven years. Before sinking beneath the weight of a major breakdown. After which, and only when I could, 'suddenly' moving to KwaZulu-Natal. Where I searched for (different) work and for a (different life). It mainly entailed following love. And, crucially, beginning the struggle to absolve myself of (all) debt.
Since leaving there, I've had a love-hate relationship with it. Despite that I'd happily spent some of the most interesting years of my life there (a David in the cave experience), in the end I'd hated it, felt trapped there.
That's why I've had it up for sale since mid-2012. Recession and all It hasn't sold and up until now has felt like a telephone pole draped over my shoulders (I've, literally, experienced that, a story for another time). While there at the end of March and into early April, I'm going there to make a decision as to whether to take it off the market and to to begin to use it again. As an escape. From the (recently) extraordinarily hot summer months that I, unlike many others, put down to. climate change. My fantasy is use it as a place to recharge and to get my writing (in the humblest sense) done away from the distractions of work (even though it is work) and life. In. The. City.
The old house is in a rundown but beautiful village on the very edge of the Mpumalanga escarpment. It hovers in the slim pizza slice of Middleveld that's thrust gracefully between the Highveld (Johannesburg is only three hours or 239 km away) and the Lowveld. Mbombela (previously Nelspruit) is 98 km or an hour away. Kruger National Park is close, as is Mozambique's Maputo relatively nearby: I've already left early on a Sunday morning for Maputo, had fleshy Mozambiquan- prawns-and-beer on the very edge of the Indian Ocean, thereafter bought fresh fish in the market before making it back home the same day.
There's not a pretentious bone to the house and the village; it's not a town.
Most of all, I miss the 3am train through the shunting yards; that's when I groggily wake, grin, then pull the thin duvet closer to my naked body. I gulp in deep the pure mountain air, the awesome (I'm not worthy) view of the Milky Way, the deep silence, summer electric storms that catapault terrifying blasts of thunder to ricochet off Imemeza. Imemeza is the the mountain behind my house. Imemeza means, quite perfectly, 'place of shouting'; how apt.
Here is where I am closest to my God; nothing comes between us here: with my ears I'm able to truly hear, with my eyes I'm able to truly see. We're in a constant and beautiful conversation that picks up from my last pee in the early hours of the morning, tapers off to an unconscious level when I close my eyes.
When I bought the home (another awesome and long story) it had been standing empty for two years. The garden was devastated, most of the original was gone. My hands in the soil, dirt under my rough nails as I got it going from scratch again, was part of my healing process as I recuperated from a few heavy-going years in Johannesburg's cutthroat media industry. I'd thrown up all of that, and it's trappings, to move to a village without even a single set of traffic lights.
I lived an isolated and quite life there, travelled extensively through Mpumalanga and SA, even finished a masters degree from there. But in the end collapsed. When I resisted my new chapter.