Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Catherine... Queen of the Desert.

I know a girl, who cannot
her bloodline.
It wears her like a crown
and even when you dip her into desert sand
she rises like a Queen to face the day.

You look out across
the cracked earth and watch the dust
hurl itself towards the waiting dusk
from her tent
her eyes behold only
the beauty formed in the dying light,
the play of fine particles
into line as if

And when the others call,
to leave
She sweeps the rough shale still
all the layers
Baring their truth
for her wide open heart
to share.

Not a trace.

Not even a trace
I said,
feeling my skin pull tight
the white
the bite
of teeth exposed

later in the mirror
I saw faint lines
of it still
around the eyes,
the skin
a faded path
to someone

it still in the bird
song sweet,
the wind slamming
my bedroom door
and even now in
early morning breathing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

There she blows...and yes, she burns.

Africa Burns.

Despite those wise misgivings on the part of Mr Nielson better known as Sid and I, we resolved to take our chances and head for Tankwa in the Klein Karoo, along with a thousand or so other creatives hellbent (and I use the term advisedly) on...

The truth is that I can't for the life of me, finish that sentence! I have sat for a good few moments fingers at the ready, waiting for the answer.
Alas. It refuses to come! In the way that these things often reveal themselves, by the end of this post I may have a better idea of why we were there.

So here goes...

We set out for Tankwa on a balmy Friday afternoon, our Chrysler Voyager laden with rented camping equipment, kelims, jembe drums and carved african stools on which to perch whilst drumming said jembes! In two giant cooler boxes, there was a variety of cuisine to tempt even the most reluctant eater. This is how Jews travel. It is as if they are forever poised to survive forty nights in the desert, and must bring their own manna!

After about 200km of good tarred road we turned on to the, unbeknownst to us, notorious dust road to Calvinia. The longest road in South Africa between two towns. Fifty kilometers later, we got our first puncture. Now Mr Nielson better known as Sid is nothing short of a camel man, and so in no time, he had us back on that darn road, blissfully unaware of what lay ahead.

Picture, if you will the scene. Some many months ago, an elderly lady did a very interesting sideways reverse manoeuvre, into my back sliding car door. This, whilst my car was stationary in a queue, waiting to fill up with petrol! Said door was duly fixed, but despite sending it back a second time, the small issue of sealing was not fully accomplished. I had become accustomed to the faint hiss coming from the back door, and it no longer bothered me enough to send the car back yet again.

So as we drove that hard, dusty endless road, we had to keep opening the windows to LET THE DUST OUT!!!! After twenty minutes we, and everything in the car were caked in a thick layer of unforgiving Karoo dust.

We seemed to have been driving for only a few minutes when we got our second puncture.

By now the sky was darkening, and the temperature was beginning to drop. Car, after car hurtled by, picking up speed as they went, terrified at the prospect of attending to the desperate wayfarers! Each car brought with it an avalanche of more dust.

I began to resign myself to a night in the car with Mr Nielson and our son, Steele. Not an unhappy prospect, since they are delightful company, and of course, we had enough food and water to last several days!
And then, like angels sent from above, a merry band of rescuers came to a halt, and committed themselves to getting us back on the road. They used aerosol sealants, spare trailer tyres and assorted highway trickery of every kind, in the hope of rendering us mobile. Then, as a last resort they flagged down a passing car, ( two gentleman weary from a long day at work, and yet so kind and obliging) and piled us, and all of our belongings, save for an African stool or two, into and onto the vehicles!

Later in the pitch dark, as we fumbled with the unfamiliar equipment, they sent their teenage daughters over to erect our tent! In no time, the tent was up, the gazebo resplendent with kelims, drums and chairs, and Sid and I went off to explore the terrain.

It looked better at night. More, as Alphapha is fond of saying, romantical.

There was a labyrinth with a magic inner message dream tree.

There was a giant sculptural dome of some sort, being burnt in the centre of a vast field surrounded by hundreds of tents, caravans and assorted variations of shelter.

There was a giant post box as large as a house.

An assortment of fantastical vehicles.

And all manner of wondrous creations that we found our way to, with the help of our trusty, little hand torch.

Later that night, as I lay shivering in my sleeping bag, I could think of nothing but what lay ahead for Sid, since he would be faced, come morning, with finding tyres for our abandoned Voyager.

I have failed to communicate the sounds that emanated through the dark, Karoo night. Instead of the spiritually edifying, bliss of desert silence, there was throughout the night, the endless thump, thump of trance music coming from a communal tent close by! This 'music' remained the background soundtrack for the entire period of our visit.

In the morning, Craig and Nikki, our new best friends and rescuers, beckoned us to reveal ourselves to them, since our introductions had all taken place in the dark. I hastily checked my visage in a small cosmetic mirror, and was horrified at the aged crone that peered back at me!

I had aged twenty years overnight. Dust had settled in every wrinkle and pore, my hair was a bird's nest and my eyes were puffy and red! O the shame! Donning sunglasses and plastering on some sunblock, I emerged from my tent to the wrath of the desert heat and wind. Great billowing clouds of dust moved as if in slow motion, towards us across the desert plains.

The camp site revealed itself by daylight as a vast bed of hard shale. I did not see a living thing of any kind, not insect, bird or plant in it's relentless midsts! On the outskirts, save for the tenacious karoo shrubbery, endless parched earth circled by distant mountains.

There were no facilities for campers. Thoughtfully, a few long drops had been provided. These were placed some distance from the tents, makeshift cloth screening them from onlookers. As you approached them, you could make out the sight of men straining on the toilet 'seats'! I beat a hasty retreat and resolved to drink nothing until we left! My new motto. Hold it in! This as my rapidly ageing skin, steadily dehydrated.

I guess that beyond and above the beautiful creative energy invested by so many in their dwellings and installations, the most inspiring was the art of human kindness; The rescuers who prolonged their own journey to see to our well-being. Andy who gave up six hours of his time to drive Sid to Calvinia for new tyres. Craig and Nikki who welcomed us like long-lost friends. And all the other wondrous beings who offered us help, refreshments, philosophy and loveliness all through our stay.

And that, by the way, is why we were there...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Things to think

Think in ways you've never thought before
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger then anything you've ever heard,
Vaster then a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded or deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own, whom you've never seen.

When someone knocks on the door, think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you you're forgiven
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time, or that it's
Been decided that if you lie down, no one will die.

Robert Bly
Image by Mark Ryden

How much is too much?

Sometimes, I am overcome when lost in the blogdom, at the brave, honest cry of somebody's life. There on the shimmering screen are all their fears and dreams; the wet, rude torn wide open truth of who they are, for me to see.

I have friends who have not opened up to me in that way.

Close friends.

And so, I am moved at the searing beauty of these strangers: of their vulnerability. I am swept up by their stories and forced to reconcile them with my own truths, even as I sit there swallowing theirs.

Disclosure is a strange beast.

I have not yet tamed it, domesticated it. I am not even sure of inviting it in. But. I know it is out there, peering through the windows of my home. Looking to be heard.

Once I open my mouth, or press my pen against a blank page, or lean my head against the cold pane of the mind's window, then how will I know where to stop. And when?

And who should be privy to all that.

Are some of our words meant to stay hidden and wary, revealing themselves only to those we love or trust or understand? And maybe some of those words might even need burial, or they will stay fresh, unearthed and moist. Keeping us awake at night and bothering the children.

Maybe, this comes with getting. Older.

Maybe, something pulls us back from all those words. Eventually. Restoring our trust in stillness. In feeling contained, and permitted to move. Forward. Even in a group where others wish to unburden themselves, I will choose to listen. And be still.

Saving my breath. My words.

For a place in which they might find the right tilled soil, in which to grow.

Afrika burns...to go or not to go,,,


Mr Nielson better known as Sid, and I have been deliberating about paying a visit to Afrika burns.

In the old days, we would have known about the festival through our own channels of communication, now we hear about such matters via our children. This is a humbling phenomonon, that comes as our prodigy, go out into the world and become interesting people. More interesting, alarmingly so, even then us!

Mr Nielson does so like to hang out with young people, thus confirming the benefits of marrying young, and fathering children whilst still 'wet behind the ears'. I on the other hand, am quite happy to stay home and let the children run wild, while I read a good book.

Thank goodness for Mr Nielson.

Afrika burns is an off-shoot of The Burning Man festival, that started out in 1989 on a small beach in San fransisco and became an annual event taking place in the Black Rock Desert attended by tens of thousands. It is primarily an art event creating a blank canvas, on which a community of festival goers can share and express themselves. It is a non-vending event so you take all your provision with you, from food, shelter and water to toilet paper and refuse removal.

The site is so vast that it is advised you bring a bicycle to get around from one installation to another.

The South African festival takes place in the Karoo, a semi-arid, dry and flat terrain hostile even to sheep! Festival goers are encouraged to make themselves useful, by volunteering to assist those who are building huge art installation, and things to burn. Spectators are not welcome. You are instructed to create, particpate or gift in whatever way you can.

My friend Cathy, is planning to make a huge coloured sand mandala. Another plans to 'wipe people's fears away' by setting up blackboards on which they can write down their fears for her to wipe off! Mr Nielson better known as Sid, wants to take his drums with to create a drum circle for people to join.

On the other hand, this all looks like a lot of work. We will have to purchase some new camping equipment, so it will be expensive. There will be no toilets. No showers. No take-outs! And as for the bicycle, I blush to admit this, but I don't know how to ride one.

There may also be, some very drugged up people.

And naked ones.

As we like to say ( tongue in cheek) under such circumstances; 'It's not for jews!'

But then again... maybe it is....

I'll keep you posted!



Monday, September 7, 2009

Graffiti without the jailtime.

It's so interesting to observe how instinctive the human need is to leave our mark wherever we go.

Trees with lovers names carved into their stately trunks, subway walls daubed with anti social slogans and urban buildings amplified by street art. Evidence of our 'being here' is everywhere.
I have found boulders on the beach still scrawled with the names of errant bathers, and even the famed balcony from which Juliet once called to Romeo in Verona is now a scribbled mass of romantic yearnings.

These lovely notebooks from the. com are the perfect opportunity to express that urgent need without defacing a city near you!

Sunday, September 6, 2009


I am loving these perfumes found on CBIHATEPERFUMES:

This little alchemy smells of 'smoked indian ink, bergamot and the hint of shelves full of books.'

This one is described as 'smelling like the salty breath of the mediterranean, drfitwood, rocks covered with seaweed and the smell of old leather suitcases.'

If you had to conjour up your own signature scent what would yours contain? I know mine would include: the warmth of a babies' breath after feeding, potato plants caught on the breeze as you drive through the bush, a whiff of spilt petroleum, burnt toast and the smell of Newlands forest after early morning rain...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hear ye, hear ye!

So this is how it goes on a dark day. with the roof down for all to see, and the world a whirling dervish sulking at the moon. Small talk at the table. The slur of discontent. And a frown botoxed away, by vanity alone. Coveting. Feeling the small spite of denial. All these things baying for attention, burdening you down.

The Yetzer Rah, where once it called to Adam, in the guise of a serpent tempting him towards the tree of good and evil, now sits too easily within. Where once it was from outside of ourselves that confusion came, now in the admixture of right and wrong it resides as close as our skin.

Instead. It is that small voice of reason, our conscience that calls from the outside now, begging to be heard. The voice of the ego is so loud in us, it all but drowns out the sigh of the soul. Goodness and mercy.

I mean this much less dramatically.

It is the New Year.
Rosh Hashana. How lucky we are to be reminded, and to honour this revolution, not with a drunken countdown but with a careful, measured prayer...

West Wind by Mary Oliver

You are young. So you know everything. You leap into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me. Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without any doubt, I talk directly to your soul: Listen to me, lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and your heart, and heart's little intelligence, and listen to me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile away and still out of sight, the churn of the water as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the sharp rocks - when you hear that unmistakable pounding - when you feel the mist on your mouth and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls plunging and steaming - then row,
row for your life toward it.

By Mary Oliver

500 Pencils Project

25 coloured pencils!

Delivered to you every month, until you have the full collection of 500!

Imagine a month just for green.

Green tea with mint, a freshly mowed lawn, the tiny sprigs of new leaves after rain. Moss. The swimming pool, left unchecked for a day or two. Peas. Granny smith's in an emerald glass bowl and a string of jade on a khaki cloth. Cough syrup. The tennis court. Frogs in ponds. Broccoli. Kermit. And the sticky, deep green of the Newland's Forest.

Then there's blue...

via altruism in the morning

You gotta love her...

Don't you just love this woman?

Miyuki Hatoyama.

The wife of the premier in waiting to Japan, has traveled in a spaceship to beautiful, very green lands. She is fond of the actor, Tom Cruise who 'was Japanese in a previous life' and with whom she hopes to make a movie. Tom would, of course recognise her if they met.

Most importantly, she opens her mouth wide, spreads her arms high and looking up, 'eats the sun, yum, yum, yum.'

There is hope for the world after all!