Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009


The Seventh Day.

For the longest time the concept of the Jewish day of rest made little sense to me. It seemed absurd to forgo those everyday actions that had through modern technology become effortless in the extreme.

Lights are switched on with the mere flick of a switch. The television requires only the pressing of a button. There are countless acts of daily life that seem naturally inclusive in a day of rest and yet they are forbidden.

In time I have come to appreciate the exquisite sensitivity that is at the heart of the Sabbath. Every Jewish Festival allows for a deep interaction with some aspect of our humanity. The Sabbath itself is regarded as a festival and its message is so profound that it requires a weekly practise.

The Sages say that the Sabbath, a realm in which none of the 39 acts of creativity used to build the tabernacle in the desert are allowed, is a small taste of " the world to come, Olam Habah " The Sabbath is a sacred space of being, not doing.

The weekdays are the world of action, the time for creativity and construction. Taking apart. Building up. This then, is the world of men; of life itself.

The urgency that one feels as the countdown to the Sabbath begins and the final preparations are carried out before they are no longer possible, should awaken in us the reality of our mortality. Just as we carefully prepare for the peace and harmony of this seventh day so too we should be constantly preparing for, if you like, the final Sabbath.

It is a weekly surrender to the Cycle of Life and Death as we say goodbye to one reality only to arrive at another. I am so grateful each week to have these rituals that gather my family and friends towards me as we celebrate the beauty of our human beingness.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's Time.

the woods are lovely, dark and deep...

Lately, I have noticed how much closer time is getting. When I was small, time was slow. The year crawled forward like a small child not yet ready to walk.

Moving from one grade up to the next seemed to take forever and adulthood was so far in the distance it seemed almost unreachable.

Not any more.

This year of 2009 is already a third of the way through and yet, it seems as if it has only just started. I have always sensed that this new relationship with time had to do somehow with getting older. That perhaps, one felt more urgently the pressing down of time with each passing year.

But I have asked around! Time is everywhere. It rests heavily, even on the young. Life is speeding up in a way that is startling and new. I can't help feeling that it is saying something important to us as it advances. It is as if with each passing day something significant is shrinking in the universe.

They say that time is mere illusion. Beyond our human smallness lies a realm unlimited by the clockface. Here then, now it is all the more necessary to meet Time halfway so that you find yourself at least almost there, before it is over.

A long time ago a wise teacher of mine once wrote on the blackboard, a quote by Marvel. 'And at my back I always hear, Time's winged chariot hurrying near'. She was concerned with the accent on winged which allowed for iambic pentameter, I was more taken with the image of Time as it swept up from behind.

With Time's breath almost touching my shoulder I am hard pressed not to begin something new each day...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New friends...


Aren't they just one of the loveliest parts of our human adventure. Whilst I am prone to hibernation and enjoy long afternoon naps untrammeled by visitors, I do love to be with my friends. A lot. Even when they are at their most miserable, it is better to have them around then not.

When I look at my friends, I am struck by how clever and beautiful they all are. This is good. I have also noticed that they are all very similar. I don't know how it happened, but this observation has irked me for some time!

The truth is I am looking for new friends to befriend my homogenous bouquet. I am looking for Asian, Black, Hispanic, Gay and Indian people. You are all welcome!

Even Palestinians!
Especially Palestinians . . .

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

the road more travelled

Despite my reluctance to take that first step I am a good traveller.

I will walk miles along dusty streets without complaining, talk to strangers and sleep in my clothes when necessary.

I am fond of signs.

Unwritten ones that lie waiting like clues in a child's treasure hunt.

Not so very long ago my very own 'mr nielson', better known as Sid and I went walkabout on country roads.

We came upon a beautiful farm where workers were packing grapes the size of apples into boxes awaiting export to faraway lands. Next to the bustling grape shed was a little piece of farmhouse Tuscany surrounded by box hedges and agapantha paths. South Africans are both fond of and good at creating pockets of Europe in their backyard.

The friendly farmer took us inside to meet his very charming wife.

We enquired about the surrounding towns as a suitable destination for our evening's rest.

'Go to Koringberg' the friendly farmer's wife suggested, 'I went there years ago and it is the most wonderful dorp.'

And so we set off but not before the friendly farmer's wife gave us basketfulls of apple sized grapes!

Sid said to me, 'elle, there is a message waiting for us in Koringberg.'

We drove along the golden wheatfield roads with flocks of birds rising up before us. The sky was a brilliant summer blue and when we saw a huge cross standing tall on high ground we exclaimed ' A sign!'

And then there was Koringberg, a small patch of tiny houses amidst the quilted fields.

We turned down its dusty 'main road' and noticed a large wrought iron sign on a garden wall, believe it read. 'A sign!' we exclaimed again.

We turned left and then left again and came to the end of a little cul de sac.

It took a moment for me to realise that we had stopped right next to a small white cottage that I had read about that very morning in a magazine called 'House and Leisure'.

A sign!

I prayed it never meant we had to move to Koringberg.

It seemed strange to discover it there so unexpectedly, like a magazine pull-out come to life and if truth be told, it looked much less covetable crouched on its humble plot in the middle of nowhere.

Perhaps that was the message.

Not everything is as it appears and beneath the gloss, the things that we covet or yearn for are mere illusion.

And so we went to Riebiek Kasteel instead, happily feasting on delicious grapes and of course, we had the most romantic time.

Because you take yourself wherever you go...

the cloud that distills a mirror....

To my greatest relief the beginnings that were to be my four children required only the most pleasurable effort on my part to create.


Each one made sure to arrive despite very little encouragement from their father and I. Babies were never on our minds at the time!

All the nicest things in life seem to happen unexpectedly.

A red plus sign, some early morning nausea, a nine month headache and there they were!

Three girls and a boy.

I soon learnt with each one of them that like Plath, I was no more their mother than the 'cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow effacement at the wind's hand'.


I have never been one for beginnings.

Even less so I imagine for endings.

Usually, I need some other outside catalyst to force me out of inertia and into doing.

In my head is a great untested universe of creative urgings. These soon pass. I have behind me a long sinewy trail of thoughts never said, poems never penned, degees never writ.There are roads still longing for my step and woods that may ever yearn for my company!

And I am good with that.

Somewhere along the way I never found a beginning gene. It went the way of blue eyes and strong fingernails and just never arrived. I suspect that it skipped a generation and some of my children got it instead.