Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The edge of love.

Open a pathway through the slow sad sail

Throw wide to the wind the gates of the wandering boat

For my voyage to begin to the end of my wound.

We heard the sea sound sing, we saw the salt sheet tell.

Lie still, sleep becalmed, hide the mouth in the throat,

Or we shall obey, and ride with you through the drowned,

Dylan Thomas.
Images from The edge of love,

Monday, December 28, 2009

The stuff of dreams.

Mr Nielson better known as Sid, and I were strolling along, taking in the excitement of the Christmas shoppers in our local mall. You could feel the last minute frenzy, that seems to panic everybody, as the 25th of December draws near.

'There is a lot of stuff in the world', Mr Nielson said sagely.

I nodded gently, in my all knowing way, allowing Mr Nielson better known as Sid, to continue.
Thus encouraged, he went on, warming to the subject, (as he is wont to do), and soon we were having a perfectly, lovely chat about the material world as we know it.
Mr Nielson recognises, that the more people become caught up in the desire for more and more things, (or stuff as Mr Nielson like to call it,) the emptier they feel.
Mr Nielson calls this 'stuffology'; a modern day ailment, with only the most meta-physical of cures.
Of course, Mr Nielson does not complain when said 'stuffologists', come into his store, looking to add a few pretty jewels to their collection!

In truth, I am not unfamiliar with the affliction.
Any girl worth her salt, knows how to collect a thing or two, for goodness sake! My own malady, finds its fullest expression in the stuff of art and books, one of the most chronic forms of the condition!

There is a lovely joy, in finding beauty in a collection of special things, that each add to the whole.
And there is something quite magical, in the way in which grouping things together, can create an order, and form that would otherwise be absent.
Even Mr Nielson knows, that sometimes more is MORE!

xxx elle

Love the difficult.

What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it.

In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us.

Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams: There against the depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are.

Rainer Maria Rilke ( Selected Letters)

Where the sock things are.

It's that time of year when Witeka, the char goes home for a month to visit her family in the Eastern Cape.

And thus, one early morning, but only when forced to... you venture into the bowels of the laundry room to unearth the year's secrets.

It takes a few days at the very least, to get the room looking like it did at the same time last year.

When I am at last spent, there are piles of freshly ironed laundry, a shining floor, machinery that gleams inside and out, and....

At least a basket full of single socks!

One of lifes unanswerable mysteries...remains unsolved.

xxx elle

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

All I'd want for Christmas...

If I celebrated Christmas...sigh,

I'd want a few of these around my Christmas stockings!

No wonder that Valentino has such a big yacht!

xxx elle

You can't keep a good girl down!

It didn't take long for Leslie Oschman of Anthropologie fame, to move on to interesting and new things in the world of creative possibility.

Not content with the extraordinary achievements, of the covetable lifestyle brand, she helped to establish, Leslie is now commissioning artwork, on the retro pieces of furniture she has sourced.

It's a reinvention of that Bloomsbury penchant, for adding a lick of paint to everything and the kitchen sink! Just the inspiration needed, to brush up on a bit of furniture of my own... And I'm liking that dog a lot too!

xxx elle

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Of wings and things.

Found on the beautiful novels and writings by Maggie May.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Some good things to know.

My friend Danielle found a yellowed old book on a dumpster on the streets of Manhatten. As a beautiful young songstress struggling to sing a siren's song in NYC, the words in that book were like a message sent especially to her, from some kindly angels above.

Wise enough to know when her muse was calling, Danielle held onto the little dishevelled book, and lent it out to others needing comfort and inspiration.

It found it's way to a shared friend in her hospital bed, who showed it to me.

I love its very 80's, pop psych sincerity.
Its kindness.
And best of all, its old fashioned sensible home truths.

Here are some for you:

* Everything you need to be happy is inside of you.

* The purpose of life is for you to grow into the best Human Being you can be.

* Change is inevitable, so stop resisting and surrender to life's flow.

* All obstacles are lessons in disguise - honour them and learn.

* Your mind creates your experience of reality, so make your mind your friend.

* Fear will steal your aliveness - make your courage bigger than your fear.

* All relationships are your mirrors and all people are your teachers.

* You must love yourself before you can truly give or receive love from anyone else.

* True freedom comes from how you respond to life and not from what life does to you.

* Whatever the question, LOVE is the answer.

The day after reading this list in that little old book with my friend, I found myself unexpectedly standing in front of the 2009 edition in a bookstore!

You can buy one too. Not a literary experience by any means, but a little wisdom goes a long way in a busy world...
Secrets about life every woman should know by Barbara De Angelis

The joyful leap.

Every child knows how to express real joy. Unbridled. It will make a child laugh with; shout with; jump with joy.... And the body knows how to store that joy, sending it into every cell and every atom like a little missive looking for an envelope.

Open it up wherever you can, seeking joy in small things. And when you find it, let your body remember. An undiluted child's joy.

Find joy with and in one another.

Share. Witness. Jump.

Your soul will be grateful.

Images from Fine Little Love

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dinner is served, Madam.

'I like to have my morning newspaper ironed before I read it. I like to have my shoes boned before they are polished. I like to sit in the back of the car, and be driven. I like beds to be made, dishes to be washed, grass to be cut, drinks to be served, telephones to be answered and common tasks to be dealt with invisibly and efficiently so that I can devote my time to major decisions like the choice of wines at dinner...'

Of course, Peter Mayle was speaking tongue in cheek, when he enumerated the many delightful ways in which the toil of others, can make our own lives immeasurably more comfortable. At least I hope so, since I haven't actually read the whole text ( Acquired Tastes) and am indebted to A Super Dilettante for quoting it! And whilst I may involuntarily sigh at the doubtless pleasures of such a daydream, the wiser voice in me is alerted to a fall from grace.

Being perpetually served is I think somehow, bad for the soul.

I live in a post colonial, after-apartheid corner of the earth, in which such fantasies are entirely possible. For the price of a pair of good leather boots a person could, if they were so inclined, procure for themselves on a monthly basis, a manservant to attend to all manner of bothersome duty. Born into such circumstances, a young child could be forgiven for taking on the mantel of archetypal prince or princess, from a very early age. And that is quite an expectation to live up to.

In fact, even the most humble households, can find a humbler soul to do their bidding.

It's the nature of the beast. There are so many, so desperate to find the salvation of employment, that no amount of legislation will protect them from exploitation, and some homes number more servants then family members!

Something tells me that it is better to serve, then to be served. Although I also suspect that when done properly, there is a sacred space for the act to be reciprocal.

So. I'll cook for my own family, do my own shopping, fetch my own children and make my own bed!

I draw the line at washing and ironing!

There are some things a girl should be allowed to pay for! And every now and then a good wallow in a plush hotel room, will be worth a scuff to the soul!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Kindness blooms
even in the soil of happiness
it will take root and spread itself
measure for measure towards the rising light.

You don't have to watch the grass fade,
bleached by loss and pale from pain,
to feel it sit beside you on the journey home.
Don't have to take a wrong turn
and find yourself lost,
before you see it coming
wedged between the parcels on the train.
You must not wait for it to find you in the dark
clickety clack of the track
but seek it out now,
making place for it like an old friend
even as you feel your breath warm the glass pane,
looking out through clear glass
alive and glad already
for the kindness by your side.

Don't wait...you don't need to!
xxx elle


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future disolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
Between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
that passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out of the window forever.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters
and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the ground of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A good grief.

As I sat at the hospital bed of my friend this morning, feeling grateful relief, that a cluster of 'irregular' cells, had been swiftly evicted from her breast like an unwelcome guest, I thought of many things.

My beautiful friend lay chatting to me, her green eyes bright with the hope of things to come, and I could not help thinking of those other women, in other hospital beds whose lives had been altered that morning. Lives that were now in the hands of doctors and operating theatres, destiny and prayer.

I wanted to go to these women, moving from room to room, offering them my love and my unshakable sense, that everything will be ok...in the end.

It's a funny thing that. The need to share pain with others. Where I can, I avoid it. Choosing instead, to elude the seduction of shared wounds. When my daughter, Tiffany died, the walking wounded all found their way to my door. They came alone, or in groups, looking to swell their ranks! And even now, almost twelve years later, they will seek you out at a dinner party, and lay their wounds out for you, like a deck of cards waiting to be played.

Over time a person can become the wound, that was meant to set them free.

Sometimes, if you lucky, you find a good place to share the pain. And the many ways to heal it.

Like 'A good grief", the beautiful and inspiring community of sharing created by Molly in memory of her daughter Lucy, to help anyone dealing with loss of any kind. The human spirit is a wondrous thing...

Beauty is as beauty does.

"For attractive lips,
Speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes,
Seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure,
Share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair,
Let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise,
Walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

People, even more then things,
Have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed.
And redeemed.

Never throw out anyone.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand.
You will find one at the end of each of your arms.

As you get older you will discover that you have two hands;
One for helping yourself, and the other for helping others."

Audrey Hepburn

Monday, November 23, 2009

When time is phoenix winged...

I opened a book this evening and a card fell out.

It was from my daughter Skye, written at the time of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) several years ago.

It was a beautiful message to rediscover so unexpectedly, from our first born on a warm summer's eve.

This is what it says:

My Darling Mum and Dad,

When time is Phoenix winged
and tiny markers
like plumes,
lay down creases about your eyes
to feather your memory...

When the years pool
like spring water
and show you
your children's faces
gathered again at your
blue striped kitchen table,
songs of apple and of honey...

You should know that angels
sit amongst them,
and goodness folds itself into
the pleats of your New Year's

And when that skirt is ruffled,
by the shiny coat of your labrador
brushing past you,
or by the wind in the old oaks at Talana,
or by the swish of your former self
urging you forward;

You should know too,
that you leave a wake of goodness,
a shimmery, shell paved shoreline
in all the places that you have
placed your feet.

xxxx Skye
(I think the patients feel better just by seeing this young doctor walk into the ward!)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

from jenny this morning.

Today like every other day
We wake up empty and scared
Don't open the door of your study
And begin reading
Take down your musical instrument

Let the beauty we love be what we do
There are hundreds of ways to kneel
And kiss the earth


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

peas and carrots.

Every now and then, I check in on Saint Verde , blog of Neville Trickett lifestyle forecaster extraordinaire and maverick aesthete.

Neville, whose short-lived tribute to retail heaven, (Saint Verde) offered an eccentricly cerebral worldview, takes a rare moment off from a very busy life, to offer occasional inspiration online. Neville's mind works with synchronicity, making ever changing connections between disparate elements. Nothing exists in isolation, and he will find astounding relevence that seems to effortlessly twin itself beyond time, place and culture.

In this earlier post, he aligns the work of photographer Wingate Paine ( 1915-1987) whose pioneering photographs recorded the emergence of an awakening sexual revolution, with the sensual, fluid watercolours of renoir.

Neville disappointed his readers with the news that he was making a dodo of his popular blog. Happily he is still, even if only rarely rearing his clever head. Go share in the wonder at saintverde.blogspot.com...

Friday, November 13, 2009

End Conscription Campaign 25 years on...

Mr Nielson better known as Sid, and I spent the weekend in Stellenbosch, attending the End Conscription Campaign 25 year Anniversary Concert at Spier.

Bright Blue were reunited for the first time in decades, and we were keen to see our friend Robyn Levitan, lead singer, song writer, architect, entrepeneur and man about town, perform after all these years!

In the fabulous Spier amphitheatre, we looked around at the aged audience, and thought 'OMG when did we get so old!' Where did those lithe creatures, that cavorted on Wits University campus go?! Wasn't it just yesterday, that we were handing out ECC leaflets, and giving flowers to troops called in to control anti-apartheid protests. Who were all these aged hippies, and wasn't that grey-haired sycophant dancing in front of the band, Suzy from Pysch 101, who always took her top off at The Free People's Concert?

Mr Nielson and I stayed in one of the many adorable B & B's in the heart of Stellenbosch, a university town of immense charm and beauty. At its heart, the beautiful churches and Victorian architecture, that have been so carefully preserved. A culturally rich site for Afrikaaner traditions, it will have to fight to preserve this heritage. Already a dual mediumship university, the once wholly Afrikaans bastion of Higher learning must in the old Apartheid lingo, adapt or die.

After exploring the loveliness of this charming dorp, Mr Nielson better known as Sid and I, went off to Kamers vol geskenke. Wendy and Hilton Appelbaum make their wine estate, Morgenzon available annually to this fund raising pre-Christmas event. All gate proceeds go to a local cause, and in this way the farming community is being slowly uplifted.

This is their wine farm, and yes, that is their home at the top of the hill! Hilton has always looked at me askance, since I suggested that playing Baroque music to his grape-vines 24/7 smacked of slavery, and that even grapes need a day off! (Or a good night's sleep at the very least, not to mention those poor farm labourers!) Hilton, who has speakers strategically positioned throughout the vineyards, is convinced that the constant pleasure of baroque music, inspires his grapes to loftier heights! I am all for a little chat with ones plants, but these poor dears seem under musical siege.

The verdant estate is the perfect setting for the beautiful handmade gifts, plants, flowers, clothing and decor on sale, And the food, so close to Stellenbosch which is a very 'foodie' town, is always delicious. Sitting at the long tables, scenically placed under trees, all the while partaking of a country feast was sublime.

My friend Lesley ( blogger of 'my hearts content') creates a romantic range of charming jewellery, whimsical enough to win the heart of any vintage style lover. After five exciting days under a barrage of visitors and a sold out stand, Les and husband Tom were only too delighted to head home to cape town to recover!

And no doubt to make plans towards next years 'Kamers' which just keeps getting bigger and better.
See you there.
xxx elle

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The girl in the glass bottomed boat.

I've written a children's story.

It's one I hope, that parents will think about long after the children have heard it, and are safely tucked up in bed.

Now, I begin the process of illustration. piecing together all the characters, and the settings in which they find themselves. Using mixed media, pastels, acrylics and oils!

It's a beautiful journey that this glass bottomed boat-girl is taking me on.I've found a photo that looks just like her! She reminds me of Emily Strange and looks so formidable, that I can't wait to get to know her.

Her portrait has only begun....
Image: Vogue

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I've put a spell on you...

It's true.

I can't spell.

I've been known to ask my kids how to spell such simple words, that they look at me aghast, after all they all know how intelligent their mother is! Words like independence, or is that independance, I'm never sure. To be honest, both look a little odd to me!

I still don't know the difference between the 'g' and 'z' in Hebrew. They are a mirror image of one another, and I get confused and have to cross reference (another one!) words in context, for certain identification. It's appalling really, or is that apalling, especially when reading aloud at the Passover Seder!

Now, of course there is spellcheck (spell-check?), but I am usually in too much of a hurry to concern myself with that.

And don't get me started on apostrophe's!

So, next time you come across one of my spelling errors, please just indulge me, I'm convinced it's a sign of genius!
xxx elle

and blow your house down...

I lay in bed last night with the curtains open, and watched a wild night unleash itself, against my bedroom french doors. Trees flailed about helplessly in the wind, as if under siege, and cast frightened shadows against the wall.

The lights went out.

Save for the glow of lit candles nothing but a dark sky, and the faint hope of light in the distant houses across the drenched city streets.

Unseasonal. The rain has made itself felt these last many days, and is not yet spent. Earlier, Skye and I looked up at the mountain in the fading light of the afternoon, and tracked the rain as it moved horizontally along its path. With purpose. Not the lazy kindness of an early morning rain, but something stronger, as if intent.

I felt un-nerved by it. Somehow. Feeling my own puny presence, in the still of the room, as the storm bashed at the windows and rattled the doors. Felt keenly, how primal the threat of nature is to our existence, and how foolishly we disregard that truth.

In the morning, the torn limbs of broken boughs lie strewn on the asphalt. Birds call out to their fallen young in distress, and the trees sway with a loose surrender. And even now, as the lights switch back on, and the sun turns a pale cheek, I am left feeling that man needs to take better care. Needs to notice, that there is work to be done.

Monday, November 9, 2009

After the rain, the green.

A note.

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings.

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain,
from everything it's not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble on a stone,
end up drenched in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass,
to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;

and to keep on not knowing
something important.

Wislawa Szymborska

From Leading from within: Poetry that sustains the courage to lead.