Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Last month's full moon I saw from the plane, as we took off from Cape Town in the middle of job 5/5.
After two full (so, so full) days in the city the whole circus was moving to Joburg for the last day of our programme.

A few hours earlier we'd raced across town from our last meeting, I'd escorted the VIP's through check-in and security checks (the group split in two so as not to risk losing them all in case of air disaster, the Princess boarded despite the ambiguous diplomatic wording on her passport, the diplomat successfully checked through with his travelling pharmacy), phoned ahead to make sure the reception committee was standing by, checked that everyone else was where they should be, dismissed drivers, signed payment orders, found a safe place to leave my car. 
Now I was on my own flight, and never more excited to turn my phone off for 2 hours and be completely uncontactable for the first time in months.

Midsummer, the sun had already set as we took off and the peninsula was virtually in darkness, but as we banked and turned south, the mountain line below us showed a fiery orangey-red outline, like one continuous volcano rim circling the city. With the lights still off for take-off the whole inside of the plane reflected orange, everyone in silhouette and gasping in wonder.
Then we turned inland, away from the last of the sun and flew, as if directly, into a giant, full, heavy golden moon.

It was the most beautiful take-off of my life, a balm to my tired and distracted soul, a perfect reminder of the beauty in the world after two days of heavy meetings discussing all that is wrong with it.
It was a welcome moment of peace and stillness.

This month the full moon greeted us in transit again. Barreling through the Karoo at dusk, listening to dodgy trance music and hoping to get to our destination before full dark, we spied a light on the horizon, casting a rosy glow through the dust.
We rushed to meet each other, and she rode besides us for the rest of the way.

We'd spent 4 days camping with friends and dogs and canoes and a ridiculous amount of good food.
4 days of lazing and reading, starting conversations and fires and happily wiling away an afternoon tending them.
Camp life is the best life.

So when it was time to leave, and our friend mentioned she was pushing on to her cabin further up country for a few nights, it took us all of 15 minutes to decide to join her.
Why go home to the laundry when we could stay on holiday for a few days longer?
Spontaneity is almost a bigger luxury than free time these days so hell yeah, let's turn left instead of right at the end of the dirt road, let's chase the moon further into the backwaters, let's unwind just a little bit more.

It took a full lunar month to recover from 5/5, it really did. But I'm here, new moon, new me.

Big meeting for the next one today, plans afoot and ideas flowing. Rested, ready, recovered and grateful.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


The child who for nearly 2 years insisted she was a boy, wore pink to her 6th birthday party.

The child who every year until now has managed some epic meltdown on the morning of her big day (the most memorable being the time she locked us all out in the garden minutes before everyone was due to arrive), spent weeks colouring and cutting folded paper tigers for all her friends, and then handed them out with pride at her party.

6 has brought peace. In fact it's been here for a while.

A peaceful, content, busy and active little person.
She's settled into 'big school' with seamless ease - making new friends and producing beautiful works of art. She's learnt to whistle, but not yet, alas, to tune. She knows herself, does Stella, she knows how to claim space when she needs it, to stop eating sweets when she's risking discomfort, to sleep when she's tired.
She knows herself, her limits and her preferences, very well. And I think that's a pretty good place to be when you're 6.

Happy birthday little tiger.

Friday, March 04, 2016

clearing the decks

Can you imagine, after months of absence from the daily dailies, what total chaos lurks in corners of my home?

On the surface, we managed to maintain a clean and tidy home, but on the surfaces - the corner cupboard, the hall table, the shelves at the top of the stairs -  chaos reigned blissfully uncontested and unchallenged.

The propensity of small children to leave swathes of STUFF in their wake will never cease to amaze me, and my real struggle with throwing things away (not just because I am by nature a hoarder, but also because I hate to waste, and because I respect the value of things to individuals - one mum's pile of shit is so often also one child's definition of treasure - and because I'm a victim of nostalgia) will never die.
My love of the organised will never reconcile with my secret delight in chaos (this is why my clients, who see me as methodical and organised and detailed to a tee, must never see my desk), and my love of organising will never make peace with my equally adored inclination to lie on the couch with a book ignoring the squalor around me.
As a friend (an ex-friend truth be told) once said to me, 'I admire your ability to just let it all go.'
I'm still not sure how to take that.
I think it's the Taurus/Gemini cusp thing I've got going on: chaos/order/chaos/order/chaos/order.

This morning Taurus must have been rising (or Gemini had her nose in a book, ignoring the world) for the de-cluttering bug bit hard.

For hours I circled the house, small miscellaneous collections of oddities in my hands, slowly putting like with like, tit with tat, finding the right box/drawer/shelf, planning my routes according to the stuff in my hands. It became a meditation of sorts - a simple flow with clear goals and directions - a gentle and calming space.

Here is the tin for the wooden cakes, now where was that wooden cake I saw yesterday? This is LEGO, this is LEGO, this is LEGO, this is Playmobil, this is .... what the fuck is this? Oh, here is that screw which goes with that game, here is the piece of that puzzle, here is the magnet thingie which came off the other thingie - I wonder where the other thingie is? Here is Ken's scarf, here is a ballerina's shoe, here is the baby rhino which was cried for a couple of nights back. Here is the dog and the picnic basket from that set with the biker, oh here is the biker, now where is the bike? Here's a marble, here's another marble, here's another marble - oh, here is a 1 pound coin, that's no longer a toy!

After a while the task starts seeming insurmountable though, and the meditative trawling through piles of minutia starts grating.
A new approach: categories! Dress up props and soft toys ONLY, see past the rest and focus just on these.

A Cinderella shoe under the couch, a fake tattoo sleeve wadded up in a corner, a random clip-on earring, an ubiquitous toy leopard. Oh look! A wooden cake! Now where did I put that tin ....?

Camera in hand made my eyes see it differently, closing lids on plastic boxes of complete sets made it satisfying, discovering notes and drawings and tableau's by my sweet girls made it fun.
Having the time to nurture my home made it ever so sweet.

I could do with a few more mornings like that (as could our house!).

Thursday, March 03, 2016

somnambulist art therapy

I should be writing about 5/5. I need to write about 5/5 - to decompress and debrief and detach myself from it (I still wake after 5 hours, thinking my sleep allocation is up - although it's much easier to fall back asleep now than it was a few days ago. I still run lists in my head, I retain a persistent feeling that there's something I should be doing ...).

But instead I'll write about yesterday evening's ASTAR art workshop, and how it aided my decompression in a way I'd not realised I'd needed.

My friend Wendy qualified as an ASTAR facilitator last year, and I've been keen to join one of her workshops ever since. I signed up for this one as soon as 5/5 finished, champing to do something creative, something for me.

On the way there I thought back through Wendy's blog posts on her ASTAR process, and her recurring discovery that the 'message', the meaning of her exploratory pieces often only revealed itself after she'd completed her evening's work - and then how often it made uncanny sense in terms of things happening in her life, or thoughts. I was excited.

I was also tired.
I knew that ideally I shouldn't have planned an evening excursion so soon. I am acutely aware of not operating on full strength yet and am paranoid (possibly overly so) of the risk of repeating last year's burnout.

But I needn't have worried. It was so gentle, so quiet. The dappled studio light softly gave way to night as Wendy's calm voice guided us through a process, my fellow students worked determinedly on their own pieces, and the guy I shared a table with was just energetic enough (dropping pastels and jumping to his feet to deliver particularly broad strokes) to inspire me.
Fueled by creativity and normal tea, I had a wonderful time.

We covered a big blank page in words. Words which resonated, inspired, or had a particular relevance to us right now. We used crayons and inks, feathers and brushes, working the words over and over until our page was textured and wet.
We had tea and let it dry.
Then we stuck our pages up on a wall, stepped back, and looked for pictures.

Instantly I found faces. Faces and expressions, eyes and mouths - my whole page was full of them.

The next hour was spent detailing them, finding loops and circles from the mostly hidden words to turn into eyes and noses, mouths and brows.

Tired and depleted at the end of it all, we were given a blank page and asked to write down the thoughts we'd had while completing the work.
So many people the last few weeks - so many egos and personalities and needs and wants. So much at stake for so many and me in the middle managing them all, taking it all into account, balancing the wants and the needs with the cans and can'ts. Pushing myself to provide it all, standing fast on my boundaries of where I cannot. People's faces searching for me in the room to solve the problem or answer the query or provide the info. All the people, all the time, asking all the things - of me. 

It's not a thing of beauty, it won't adorn my walls. But it helped me process a major aspect of the last few months, more importantly it was fun, and most importantly, it was for me.