Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy Endings!

Photographer Dina Goldstein gives a more contemporary slant to the surface experience of the average Disney princess! In her worldview reality intrudes on the world of these idealised women. Women, that Goldstein observes, create unrealistic expectations of the little girls who grow up reading about them. And so in Goldstein's script, a princess may find that life demands courage and resiliance even from the beautiful.

These poor girls discover, that sometimes the prince turns into a frog.

That life can be cruel, and requires much endurance.

And that the world can distract you from your true work and lead you astray.

I hope your story is unfolding with more promise!
Found on Love isnt enough - raising a family in a colour struck-world

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the thorn in the jew hurts

I was doing some research on fairy tales today. Looking for the deeper mythology that lies at the root of these seemingly childish tales. Bruno Bettleheim and Jung are just two of the great thinkers who unearthed their universal truths.

I was looking up Rumplestiltskin, hoping to unravel the 'straw into gold' in the tale, and the first site I opened spoke of the 'jew in the thorn' and the way in which the repulsive 'hobgoblin' Rumplestiltskin, was a representation of just such an evil jewish force in the world. The author, a german, went on to explain how the text acts as a warning to german youth, not to be fooled by the jew and his moneyed ways. Like Rumple, the jew will ask a blood libel of you... your first born child in exchange for his perculiar talents in the world.

I would have read on. There were pages and pages of hatred, but I resisted the contamination. The vile is somehow fascinating. It can lure you in, and I imagine that for many, such pages offer a refuge from their own anger and despair. It helps to hate someone, other then yourself. A person who is so cut off from what Jung called the personal unconscious, can only feel a sense of suffering and alienation which needs an outlet. Why not me?

I felt the deepest sadness. An old one. My genetic predisposition. It still hurts that someone you have never met, holds such a deep atavistic hatred towards you. Part of the journey of the experience of Jewishness, is to lose the sense of victimhood so central to its collective unconscious.

And it is so ironic, that there you are, just living your life, with Judaism as an edifying adjunct to your humanity, and yet there are those for whom nothing but, defines you. The judgement is collective. Every jew speaks, acts, lives on my behalf. And I carry them. For they will be found wanting through anything less than, I do.

These are just a few little pictures of us ugly hobgoblins who want to rule the world!!!!

all the things she loves...

My daughter, Tiffany Raine turned 23 on Saturday.

In heaven.

I have not seen her, for almost twelve years.

Twelve years since she left us, suddenly one morning under a January holiday sky.

I think of her everyday, and especially on her birthday I wonder about the woman she might have become.
Here are some of the things I think would have been a part of her magical, happy life...

This is her porch, where she would have fed you delicious treats. Tiffany loved eating and preparing food. She was mostly plump, and we fought about too much eating a lot!She loved to lay a beautiful, abundant table and watch people feast. She would bring you a pot of tea in bed and take treats to anyone feeling ill.

Tiffy would have been all dolled up to meet you. She loved dressing up, and spent hours in front of the mirror, smoking an incense stick, enjoying her magnificence! She would have greeted you in her finest, and loved all things theatrical and luxurious. Her red hair was the perfect foil for bright colour.She wore green shades with an orange shirt, and we tried not to say anything!

This of course, is one of her shoes! Tiffy loved dressing up in mine, and dreamt of the day when she would have her own collection of glorious footwear. As high as possible!

This is her dressing room, because Tiffy would have needed lots of room to keep all the feminine accoutrement so necessary to a modern girls survival!She loved going to the old age home where her ancient great-nana lived, and buying fabulous old costume jewellery, for a few rand at the monthly fund raisers. The grannies adored her.

Tiffany rode around our neighbourhood on her trusty bicycle, and she would fetch me onions from the veg shop down the road, which were suddenly desperately needed for a recipe. After she died, all the shopkeepers, from the florist to the toyshop, the bistro to the bra shop came to tell me how they loved her...The nannies and chars, who would sit on the grass verges and chat in the afternoons, all wept at her passing.

This is Tiffany's dog. She would have had a menagerie, for she loved animals of all kinds and was always finding wounded birds, and small creatures to nurse. She had a white rat called Rascal, and once she travelled on a plane alone with him, and made a huge fuss when he was refused entry on board. In the end, she and Rascal sat in the front with the pilots, to make sure he did not escape and chew any wires! Tiff was delighted and loved being a 'celebrity', if only for a day!

Naturally Tiff would have some cats. All eccentrics do. She would have had a few exotics, and humiliated them by dressing them up. This would have only made her laugh with fiendish delight!

Tiffany loved birds and birdsong. But she would always start to pale at the sight of her caged darlings, and let them out, to fly wildly around her bedroom and poo on everything! Inevitably they would escape, and she would call longingly for days on end, from her upstairs window to her long-lost feathered friends...

This is Tiffy's table with a view. She always had to make each moment a full one. She was not a girl to sit with her back to the room. She wanted to breathe in all of the beauty in life with a generous, glad heart.

This is Tiffy's bed. A place to dream. Tiffany was a dreamer of all things magical. Her imagination took her into other worlds of immeasurable loveliness. She had a head full of hopes and dreams just waiting to materialise. Tiff was ever positive, enthusiastic and inspired. She once declared that boredom was a treat, because it offered you the chance to dream up new things to do.

This is her garden. Tiffany loved nature. For a long time, even years after she died we would find little items left by her in the garden. It was a place of adventure and possibility. A place to watch things grow...

And this is Tiff on the red carpet, because that girl was always going to be a star.

We miss you Darling. Everyday.



Monday, October 19, 2009

I heart books...

My first, and clearest memory of the powerful presence of books in my life, was as a little girl in Mrs Norris's class. Mrs Norris was mean and nasty, and she and her husband Mr Norris, the principal made my life as miserable as possible. But boy, that woman knew how to read a good book!

It was 'The lion, the witch and the wardrobe', by C S Lewis, and since then there has never been a time in my life, when a book could not provide me with the comfort, wisdom or inspiration I needed.

I can stand in someone's home and scan their bookcase, and in an instant, know so much about who they are, and how they think and what they might mean in my life.

Every time I buy a new book, I imagine the months of planning, the years of experience that it took for the author to arrive at that point of realisation, and I am amazed that in just a few hours all of that can be mine..

Every home needs a place for books, and a quiet spot in which to read them. They will sing to your soul...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nienie on Ope's!

I knew it!

It was only a matter of time, before you all discovered this girl.

Nienie, was on Oprah this week.

And the world is about to be changed.

I am not making use of hyperbole here.

Nienie changes lives everyday.
I've thought so much about her over the last two years. First with delight at the joyful and deliberate way, in which she mothered her children, loved her husband Christian, and lived her creative life. Then later, after a plane crash had burnt more than 80 percent of her body, with anguish and concern for her recovery, and later still for the outcome of surviving such a battle, and then having to live in a once beautiful body, now painfully scarred.
After many months in an induced coma, and then in agonising rehabilitation, Nienie began to blog again.
Tentalively. Bravely. She began to show us bits of the new Nienie.
First her eyes.
And all the cliches endure here, for her eyes still emanate the beauty and radiance of her soul.
You could see the red, hurt skin that surrounded them, but her soulful stare was still Nienie.
Over time we beagan to see more of her.
The scars were everywhere. All over her young and strong body, which had once effortlessly practised yoga, and hiked the Y. The body that had easily carried four, beautiful young children. The body that had delighted, in so much shared passion with Mr Nielson. We knew that her hands had been burnt to the tendons. Would they ever be able to create the art that Nienie had once loved to make.
And what is it about Nienie that so captures our hearts?
I have thought often about this. Her innocence and purity. Her faith. Her joyfulness. The crystal clear clarity, with with she practises living. So much hope, and love and graciousness in one spirit, is a rare thing in a cynical and permissive age. She embodies a purity of intent that is deeply inspiring.
When my daughter Tiffany died in a car accident twelve years ago, I never imagined that my life could know beauty once more; that I could delight in the world and feel that all was right in it. Worse still, I resented the way in which others saw my suffering as a benchmark which made their own pain more bearable. When friends told me that they had got through something inspired by my endurance, I felt angry and unaccountably hurt, instead of encouraged.
Over time, I have come to see the perfect way in which we may serve one another. The interconnectedness of all life. The way in which our souls are bound together through love, and yes through, Ohr Ain Sof, the Divine Infinite Light of the Creation.

Nienie no longer looks the way she once did. Her beautiful freckles are gone. Her body struggles with pain everyday. And yet miraculously, incredibly, she appears more glorious then ever. Her beauty transcends the physical. It comes from a place of purity, light and grace. She glows.
I hope that you will find her.
And let her inspire you. Nienie will help heal you and if you are willing, and open to her example.. ...She may well change your life....

xxx elle

Ek se vir jou!

It's a funny thing, but some of them are simply irresistable.

And some not.

Like Soli Philander. A nice enough chap, and clearly not unintelligent, but one too many guffaws and 'Ja, nee's" from him, and I have to turn off the radio.

It's strange, how after a certain age it seems impossible to lose an accent, no matter how unbecoming! All those old Jewish folk from Lithuania, with their thick Yiddish accents. 50 years they've been living here, and they are still not understandable! No wonder they tell you to immigrate, when your kids are younger then 12..

Although, come to think of it, my brother once went to Canada to visit cousins for three weeks, and came back with a Canadian accent! These things can be done with enough will.

I know another girl, who went to Israel for a year, and returned almost without an English vocabulary. She would um and ah with great effect, trying to remember a word in her mother tongue! I thought it was adorable, and very entertaining.

Some accents are rather sexy. There is something about French for instance, that makes even a few swear words strung together, seem appealing. To say nothing of an Italian accent, which can make grass grow in the dead of winter!I once heard a man speaking a sophisticated Portugese at the dinner table, and he might have ignited the flambe, if it hadn't already been flaming!

I don't know that I could live beside an accent. I have a friend, married to a very charming Greek gentleman. Another of those 'forty years later and still going strong' accents. And, he has a slight stutter. I think I might eventually say, 'O for goodness sake, speak normally already!'

My own accent leaves much to be desired. At drama school it was positively upmarket. Why, even as a young girl I had an uncle who used to say 'how now brown cow' everytime he saw me! It was meant to tease my pronunciated, actressy sensibility. Meant to. It didn't!

Today I have a nasal quality that terrifies me, when I hear myself recorded. This is why my voice message sounds like someone from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art! I am determined to overcome this ...

I shall have to visit London for three weeks, and using my brother's example, return with something delightful and Royal!
xxx elle

That darn dog!

I'm not saying this is my favourite chair.
I'm not even saying I like it.

It is covered with a very fancy fabric of Spanish origin, for which I paid heavily!
Can I help it if it turned out looking like something from Joshua Doore, 'your two year guarantee store'!

I have noticed Baxter my labrador has singled it out as a favourite.

He is not allowed on the furniture.
He has his own cushions and recliners for goodness sake!

I shoo him off when I catch him reclining on it.

Hear then, evidence that he finds it good enough to eat!

Did I mention that he ate last night's delicious leftover's when we turned our backs for a minute.
I don't even know how he got on the table!

xxx elle

Monday, October 12, 2009

Be Here Now...

My friend was feeling fine last week.

Some persistent back ache which he had seen the doctor about over the last few months, took him to a specialist.

They examined him and sent him for an MRI.

They looked deep into the very depths of his physical being and then the world changed.

Nothing was ok anymore.

Like Shrodingers cat, the box had been opened and everything had changed.

I visited this beautiful man as he lay in his hospital bed, awaiting a spinal fusion to strengthen a spine, now wittled away by militant cells. We visualized a golden light orbiting his body healing all the places under siege. And I thought of Susan Sontag's book, 'Illness as metaphor' and resolved to change the language for myself.

This is a man who lives with passion and delight. He is funny, warm-hearted, generous and kind. It was hard to see him lying there so vulnerable and shell-shocked by the speed of it all.

On the way home I thought of many things:

I am not unfamiliar with the fragility of this life. I am a mother who knows what it is to have four children one moment, and only three in the next. I have felt the full weight of a second and its irrevocable consequances.

Mr Nielson better known as Sid, is fond of telling me that you never get a day off. And you never get a day back.

I thought of what I might do if faced with such a challange.

Would I run off and finish the Honours degree that I never completed? Open a store selling lovely trinkets and make lots of money? Write that book I'm apparently destined to create; Seek a career and climb the corporate ladder. Travel to the ends of the earth in search of adventure?

I thought of all those things on the way home to Sid and our children, and I realised that I would not give a second to any of those concerns. Concerns that sometimes trouble me when I am not in the 'now', that sometimes make me feel 'less than'.

I realised that I was doing all the things I would want to do already.

Loving my husband and my children. Caring for the people around me. The ones I know and love, and even the ones I don't.
Striving to be kinder, better, wiser, everyday.
Seeing the small, shiny beauty of this wondrous life.
And being grateful.
Madly, sweetly, happily grateful as deeply as possible, whenever I can.

Beaded installation by Lizalou.

Friday, October 9, 2009


It's a first!

Thanks to my friend Bokkie I got my son's stationary list back to school, in time for next year.

My kids are always the one's who watch forlornly, as the rest of the class breeze in with their newly covered books.

I'm not good at that sort of thing.

In a wierd way I think it's empowered my children: They know how to make do, don't panic, keep your chin up, make a plan!

And that in the end, it all works out for the best.

When I do get it right they think I'm a genius and are absurdly grateful!

So next year Steele will be one of those breezing in with his books, although they might not be newly covered!

Honestly. I feel like Supermum....

Image by artist Mary Sibande

Thursday, October 8, 2009


'Papkuilsfontein?' everybody asks, ' Is that a real place or have you made it up?'

Oh yes its real, although I've half a mind to tell you that it isn't, and keep it to myself!

'Papkuils' are the bullrushes that grow on this beautiful farm. And the fountain (fontein) that was once the source of household water to the families that lived there, is still here, beside the swaying rushes. As are the ruins of the bywoners cottages, before their Afrikaans inhabitants were offered work in nearby towns, by the ruling National Party.

Politics in South Africa. Jobs for pals! Will it ever change?

All these things Oom Willem discusses with me, as we tour the land that has nurtured his family for six generations. He is the quintessential Afrikaans gentleman. Oom Willem tells me that his use of English is 'daring' and I am instantaneously smitten with his gracious, old fashioned charm. We walk the wild flowered veld, and he guides us up between the towering rocks to find the ancient drawings of San Shamen, who have marked the land with their spirits.

In the small, stone-walled cottage, parts of which are three hundred years old, Mr Nielson better known as Sid and I watch the fire burn hot in the iron grate, and hear the wind sigh through the wild grass that blankets the rough earth. We light the parraffin lamps, and bathe by candlelight. We walk at moonlight along the sandy paths, watching wild hares, weave through the bushes startled by our presence.

Our dear friends and travel companions, The Schneiders commune with all the children, and we join them for meals, hikes, card games, camp-fires,

and riversong.

It is a period of grace.
Hidden from the world. Relieved of cell-phones, computers and television.
We find the beauty of self, land and family in these quiet moments.

And now we are back.

Bringing with us the peace of country roads and the hope of another visit to Papkuilsfontein.

When we return, beautiful Alrie who was round with child will have given birth. There will be new life at the old homestead. Another generation of Van Wyk's to take care of and pride in this beautiful land.

My people do not kneel.

My people do not kneel.
Our prayer stands
On firm ground.
Even as we rock our dreams to G-d
and plead for His

Once a year.
They let us fall.
To our knees.
Feeling the firm ground beneath a
turned cheek.
My clenched fist
tap, tapping
at my sorry

I like it there.
On the pale blue carpet
of the House of
Want to sink deeper.
Needing to be
On the ground
in the dirt.
Stamped there.
By generations of my people's

Then I rise.
We rise.
And muffled prayers
now burst into the room.
Echoing out into the quiet
Catching the wild geese,
up high beneath a pale and tender sky.
Like me.
They are

I hear their call.
Even as the warm light
finds me through
the open window.
Feel the air move
and the rivers swell,
and the mountain face
its deep forest green.
Whilst I was down there.
And the world
was turning,

Thursday, October 1, 2009

On the road again...

The weekend opens up like a flower.
Mr Nielson better known as Sid and I are very, very happy to be heading for the open road with our children.
This time to Papkuilsfontein.
I kid you not.
I can't wait to tell you all about it.
xxx elle