Monday, March 13, 2017

7

By last Saturday evening the bags under my eyes were almost as deep as these panda's. We had a house FULL to the brim with friends, flowing freely with G&T's and laughter and wet swimwear and sticky floors and toys everywhere and not a crumb left to eat or a clean fork or glass or mug in the place.
PANDAmonium!


Black & white food (kinda - chocolate brownies are dark enough right?) and ice cream cake and a black rice salad (which I'm still craving every day since) and more and more and more.


MASSES of people (our guest list seems to keep getting longer - a nice kind of problem to have), most of them of the just-above-the-waist-height variety, and lots of love and the sweetest, dearest birthday girl.


She was such a star, this baby girl of mine. In the days after the party I got many messages remarking on how polite she was, how engaged and thoughtful, how considerate.
These make a mama's heart sing.

But that heart does feel a little sore too. I know from her older sister that this year, 7 to 8, is really the last of the little girl years. A lot changes in the next 18 months and very soon I'll be in this space lamenting my lack of smalls, and celebrating my two very big girls. One more year with a soft-cheeked cuddler, who still (just) fits on my lap and requests a 'bednight' story and can't quite reach the bowls on the top shelf.
I plan to make the most of it.

Friday, March 10, 2017

suspended

I stood on the stoep and watched a butterfly. One of those big orange and white faux-monarch ones, I could see his/er feelers twitching.
And then, a starling. Picked it out the air.
So quick, the insect had no more knowledge of it's end approaching than a pea suddenly speared with a fork on a plate.
The bird whipped away, and empty blueness remained.

The dabchicks are back. This is a sure sign that autumn is coming. They are the smallest, and the loudest, birds on the lake. They are very shy.
A family of them float in the water just off the shore. I stand from the table where I have been sitting and with an almost imperceptible plop, in one movement, they are gone.
The tiniest ripple remains.

The water weed sits dense and murky along the edges of the lake. This is the late summer bloom, close to the surface, rich and mysterious.
A huge fish hangs suspended in a grey-green clearing. I sit very still on the bank and watch him, faintly his tail sways, I think I see an eyeball swivel.
I blink, and he is gone.
A massive creature, he manipulates water to envelope and hide him.
The faintest wisp of stirred up silt remains for a second and then drifts away to belie his ever being there.

This week was heavy, and awkward and slow. I have this stage, paused between jobs, when I get crabby and frustrated and bleak. I have work (yes, I am grateful) but no pressure and the lack thereof retards me so I drift pendulous and heavy through my days, wanting to be productive but spending more time suspended. Thoughtful. Slow. Prone to existential examination which is neither healthy nor particularly interesting. I bore myself.
But unlike the butterfly, I know the jolt will come. I know if I hang out here too long I'll be in trouble. Like the fish I know this oasis of calm is encircled by the dark woods of the unknown and I shan't have too long to spend here. Like the dabchick I know I will soon be swimming fast to get my head back above water, back into safer territory.

And when that happens this week of disquiet will fade and disperse into my life and just be that one moment, when I was suspended, before action and movement and change.

Monday, March 06, 2017

mind the gap


See the child, hanging out with her best friend in the shade on a hot afternoon. The shade from the acacia tree we planted just 3 years ago - when it just reached the top of the fence.
See the exposed concrete banks and the weed in the lake - the mouth is open and the water is low. See the reflection though, it is summer but it is still - a rare gift.

Now see in the top right corner, that green grassy gap between the houses opposite. This post is about that gap.
They're all over the place here, little green spaces which allow access to the water - so that this is not just the privilege of us lucky few who live beside it. People launch canoes from them, feed ducks and dip toes, lovers canoodle and dogs tear around, and when you live opposite one as we do, you get to spy on them all.

It's a funny little blank space, always smaller when we've walked over there than we've imagined. It's a little stage if you will, and all the world are players on it.

Dog walkers appear stage left - and march across stopping, or not stopping, to pick up their dog's poo.
There are two cats who regularly frolic and hunt there. An enormous malevolent ginger (he hunts) and a slim Siamese who looks from here like she's wearing little white sneakers (she frolics).
We once watched a Jackal Buzzard alight there with its lunch, dismembering it elegantly until a postman on his bicycle disturbed it and it packed off elsewhere to finish the meal. We walked over later and found a neat pile of gizzards and some feathers.
Some naughty kids once appeared - throwing stones at the water birds and trying to scale a neighbouring wall - I yelled at them and their laughter carried across the water back at me.
We once saw a black fox. Or thought we did until binoculars revealed it was a well-known local dog, with a new and very distinctive haircut.
A few weeks back a pram was parked there, in the shade but seemingly alone. Unable to stifle their curiosity, Frieda and friends swam over to inspect. We watched them approach it with some caution, until they turned back to us and shrugged - it was empty. Later it was gone.
Sometimes at night a torch beam swings to and fro over there, shielding the carrier and revealing nothing but our deep-seated neurosis about mysteries in the night.
There are boys who play cricket. The thud of ball meets bat and accompanying cheers or groans float across to us.
There was an otter on a stormy winter afternoon. Right up out of the water, loping along the bank in the driving rain.
And on the weekend there was a puppy. And then another, and another, and another - a whole line of puppies, TEN puppies! Ten puppies gamboling and tumbling in the green gap across the lake.

Often times, most times, the gap is empty. Maybe a lone hadeda pecking at the ground. Maybe something unidentifiable which requires finding the binocs and confirming that it is, indeed, a felled branch or bit of litter. But mostly empty.
Until it isn't and some small tableau unfolds before us. It's always worth keeping an eye on that gap.


Monday, February 20, 2017

control

I crafted myself the perfect weekend, this weekend past.

Broken and exhausted after my big annual February conference and a busy week wrapping that up and catching life up and working hard to remain sitting up, I planned a whole weekend of ... nothing.

Nothing except life-restoring wine with girlfriends on Friday evening, and some somewhat drunken (me) half-light shenanigans with my eldest, re-positioning the new neighbour's garden art so that we don't have to look straight at ceramic vulva when parking our cars (we angled it so that they'd get that view when coming out of their front door instead).

Saturday morning I slept in, I went out on my SUP, made EPIC morning smoothies - weekend edition - and nurtured. Nurtured my home, my family, myself. I had a nap. We played UNO and read books and hung out and chatted. We cooked and cycled and watched Planet Earth 2.

It was the weekend I'd been planning for weeks, and it played out just the way I wanted it to. I felt in control.

I have 3 events in the pipeline over the next few months. I've made terms and planned the most efficient way to execute them. I've drafted my contracts to work within the parameters I need. I've quoted accordingly and made some plans on how to channel those funds into our ongoing home renovations.
I feel in control.

But this morning as I watched a red line snaking up my friends arm during her chemo treatment, as the 'Red Devil' was pumped into her system to kill the tumour she'd had no idea was there - she my friend who's always been most in control of her life, her environment, her plans - I reminded myself that there is no control really.

The best laid plans, the purest intentions, the most optimistic of mindsets - these are all nothing in the face of life and its mysterious paths.

There is no control. There is only the madness of wine and love and the delicious giddiness of giggling with friends - whether it be in Cancer Care or on a dark lawn in the wind with one's daughter.
There are only moments of peace, weekends of quiet, interspersed among the many moments of baffled busyness and daily chaos. There is only this moment, and then the next, and then the next.
Take them as they come.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

brain farts at breakfast

Thoughts while killing time in the breakfast hall of an inner city hotel, early for my meeting, midweek in the city ...

- live piano, while in theory a lovely thing, is not ideal in a busy dining room full of clanking dishes and excitable tourists
- the way some people dress ... yellow ill-fitting cocktail gown with visible g-string at breakfast? Did you accidentally find yourself spending the night here perchance?
- if ever you doubted that businessmen rule the world, a hotel breakfast bar will confirm this. Confident, relaxed, catered to, flattered and cajoled - in the busy inner city hotel, businessmen are kings.
- when early to a breakfast meeting how much breakfast is it acceptable to eat before your client arrives? So far I've stuck to liquids - juice, coffee - but now as the need to wee coincides perfectly with our planned meeting time, I'm wondering if a more solid pastry would've been a better call...
- the piano-man is on a break, what's the bet he starts again just as my client arrives?

Here he is!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

livelikeadam

I've written about Adam here before.

It sometimes puzzles me that he has stayed SO present in our consciousnesses. Not because he wasn't a singularly special guy - clearly he was - but he died so very long ago now, he featured in my life for such a relatively short time, it's been many years ...
And while I imagine it's because his death, and the circumstances around it, were so shocking that we've not ever forgotten it - and that we were friends at such a formative time of our lives - I also keep coming back to this: he was special. Like, really special.

So special that in December, 20 years after Adam left us, a group of 30-40 of his friends gathered again to remember him.





In their 40's now, a little rusty on their boards but more at liberty with their emotions, his brother and closest pals paddled out to hold a space for Adam one beautiful summers evening in a bay which knew him well.

Us land-lubbers stayed on the rocks, not even pretending that our watering eyes were the fault of the setting sun.

Many of us had not seen each other since back then, some have had misunderstandings and falling outs over the years, but we reunited with a frankness and gentleness that was pure Adam and the time we shared in the golden light as the day ended was in a bubble of his energy.

This is his legacy.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

2017 is going to be YUGE

2017 is going to be hard. Challenging and scary and exhausting.
2017 will require us all to 'nut-up' (my very most worst and best expression of late).
We know this.

But there are things so much bigger than all that.


There are big skies and adventures.



Big open beaches and friendships big enough to hold all our collective memories.


Big moments of peace and remembrance, big emotions and spaces to hold them.


Big acts of nature to remind us of a power greater than ours, to give us bigger perspectives on all we hold dear.


And big love. Always big love.

2017 will have all of these - and they will make easier to bear, no matter what comes our way. Let's keep our eyes on the big picture, it's a lovely one.

Monday, December 26, 2016

christmas happened

It did! And looking back through the hasty snaps taken here and there I realise there were moments of real peace and calm, and beauty, despite the days feeling very full and rushed - the irony of these longest days of the year flying by so fast.


Stella has been taking holiday art classes with her Waldorfy pre-school teacher from 2014 and it's wonderful to have lovely Xmas crafts in the house again. The reindeer above is one of my favourite things ever.


I've never had a nativity scene up for Christmas before, and wouldn't have were it not for this remarkable fold-out cardboard one I picked up secondhand for R20. It's from the 1950's with intricate fold-outs for the kings and the shepherds, hosts of angels overhead.
But it was the family scene which really sold me. Set up on the bureau in the dining room it is just at eye-level for a little girl we have, currently deeply enamored with her family, with concepts of nurturing and loyalty and love. I knew she would love it.
I'm not a believer, and the Christmas story doesn't have the significance for me that it must do for practising Christians. But it represents two things which I do hold dear: the power of stories to teach us lessons and give us a sense of belonging through magic and mythology, and the strength of the family bond. These are the things I celebrate at Christmas, and this little scene captures both of those for me.


We did our annual Christmas book advent too. Each year I think the girls may have outgrown it, but each year they start anticipating them in November and I find myself trawling the secondhand book stores for a few new titles to throw in the mix, and looking for bulk deals on wrapping paper. They love them and the reappearance of our family favourites - Father Christmas and The Jolly Christmas Postman, plus other vintage and more modern titles - gets us all in the Christmas spirit.

There was some Christmas baking too ...


... in this case the freshly spray-painted fuel tank from Husband's project bike, curing quietly in the oven one warm night.

But there was some of the more traditional kind too - annual Christmas cupcakes for the security guards who work our neighbourhood.


We visited FC, and handmade a few gifts (much anticipated little boy cousin due in March!), I watched - and cried through - Love Actually, Husband and the girls attended the traditional Christmas Carols on the water one evening, while I stayed at home with a tummy bug, but I managed recover in time to outdo myself with a Christmas pinata!




It was a good Christmas.

But it was a hard year, and 2016 still had a couple of gut punches it was saving until the very end. Fucking hell.
I'm always partly sad and partly relieved to see the back of Christmas. It was lovely but it was busy and now that it's done, now we can relax for a couple of weeks before bracing ourselves for the next year.

We're clearing the debris today, and packing for the beach. Tomorrow we leave on holiday, and that's a different kind of magic - one which we are all very much looking forward to.

Bye bye x

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

thursday everyday

The eve of November seems a good time to say it sucks.

In November sometimes ...


November is like ...


In November it's easier to speak in meme's.

Because frankly we're too tired to string sentences. We're too busy to be coherent. We're running too low to be original.

It's been a long year. I hate Thursdays.

BUT. Tomorrow it is December.

And just today I tasted it in the air. Holidays.
Christmas and family time and lazing.
Swimming and small domestic jobs and food and lightness.
Beaches and friends and beer and seafood.

It's coming. But it's not here yet.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

won't ever happen

We found a video clip on an old phone of Frieda, soft-faced and blonde curls, age 6, her voice so different, thicker - pre-tonsillectomy -  'I pinkie swear I'll never twerk.'

Stella, regularly, 'I'll never leave home, I'll live with you until I die Mummy. Or until you die, whichever happens first.' Her eyes become solemn.
She thinks a lot about death this one.

Overheard today: 'I will never, ever drink coffee.'

We've thought for months: 'Trump will never become president.'