Sunday, 8 January 2017
Well, here it is. 2017.
I always become pensive in the space between the end of a year and the beginning of a new one. I feel the build-up of days and years more acutely then. I suppose in a way it's a natural place for a pause, to take a moment to wonder: have I done enough? What have I made with this length of time called a year? What will I make of the next?
I look at my two girls and at the growing that has taken place, the many things learned and done. The kid: beautiful, wispy and suddenly so big, but still fragile, standing bravely at the precipice of formal schooling, the preschool chapter closed and left behind in the last year. My baby, with her halo of curls, bursting into toddlerhood with a fierce determination and yet still so soft and small when her outstretched arms reach for me.
I look at these two girls and think about that year that trails away behind me, how my path has determined theirs, what the marks and prints are that I've left behind on them. How I shape them.
And sometimes it overwhelms me because a childhood is a very precious thing to hold in your hand.
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
It's noticing the sweaty discomfort of Father Christmas in his woolly suit suffering through the humidity, the fake snow spray-painted on windows and the foreign irrelevance of sleighs and reindeer and holly, that makes me think just how Christmas in South Africa is a season of contradictions and incongruity. The holiday doesn't seem to fit right, like some hand-me-down item of clothing. The cracks show easily: in the heat that makes all the cosy Christmas cheer a bit unpleasant to carry out in real life, in the pictures of snowmen hastily coloured-in before children have another splash in the pool, in the wild greenness of a Durban summer paling the evergreen of the Christmas tree.
But I also kind of love that no one cares about the details, that the incongruity doesn't matter. I love the enthusiasm in a Hindu colleague's talk about how she is so excited to celebrate Christmas with her new little son. I love the chaos and colour and contradiction of hybrid-Christmas narratives springing up around me. The point being that it doesn't have to make sense.
While I did spend most of my formative years enjoying a cold Christmas, where the hot food and candles and Glühwein and Christmas decor made sense, I've come to love what a subtropical holiday season feels like too, but it's largely underrepresented in all things Christmas. So in the interests of celebrating the holiday season in a local way, here's my list of things I like about this time of year:
- heat-soaked, lazy days after a busy year of work
- the merciful whir of air-conditioners
- the chaotic green everywhere and the carpet of Frangiapani blossoms on the patio
- mangoes and paw-paws and litchis
- outside dinners when the day starts to cool down slightly
- the feel of cold water on hot skin
- being barefoot
- the clink of ice-cubes in white wine shared with friends
- having an excuse to bake something delicious despite the heat and having a cold shower afterwards
- (literally) cool desserts
- cutting off a bunch of bananas from my little cluster of banana trees in the garden
- the ingenuity of beaded wire Christmas decorations made by industrious street vendors
- finding local substitutes for ridiculously priced nuts and berries
- and like everywhere: time with my people ☺
Sunday, 4 December 2016
At least I've been doing a lot of reading, absorbing a whole range of words, enjoying the pleasure of them and appreciating the effects of unusual arrangements. I found this list of strange and beautiful words (some English, some borrowed) via Buzzfeed . These are some of my favourites!
Thursday, 3 November 2016
Well, after the last post, I did finally find something to read. And it still hasn't let me go. Perhaps it’s the reality of recent water restrictions, of taps running dry in the middle of the day in some places that I still feel faintly haunted by For the Mercy of Water by Karen Jayes.
Set in a believable drought-ridden future, water has been privatised and is controlled by “the company” and its violent militias. Society is polarised into cities that are serviced by the company and the parched rural areas that have been largely abandoned. This novel occupies a strange position between the real and the allegorical. Although the country (and most of the characters) remain unnamed, I recognised in the scarred landscape a shadow of the current South Africa. As a critic stated, "A society that has lived through the Marikana massacre and the slaughter of Anene Booysen should recognise something in both Jayes's projection of rural districts subordinated to corporate imperatives, and in the repeated depictions of gender violence and rape, never lurid but clear eyed, or be ashamed."
The bleak yet startling quality of the writing reminded me of Andre Brink. It's the kind of writing that can flip from words that are spiky and cruel to starkly beautiful in a sentence.The right to water, gender and sexual violence, are themes that play out on the body and the landscape described through Jayes's visceral prose. The language of the body and the landscape are devastatingly, beautifully intertwined. Another critic points out, "For the Mercy of Water draws on enmeshed metaphorical relationships between the categories of female, the body and nature on the one hand, and the categories of male, the mind and culture on the other. In this sense, the war waged over water (nature) is also a war waged over the female body."
Thursday, 6 October 2016
Between the haze of end of term madness, a second birthday party to plan, an old dog put to sleep forever, relentless rain and unexpected cold finally breaking the dry season and months of storing bathwater in buckets, student protests and futures hanging tenuous and hesitant. I feel adrift. Just randomly moving. No real sense of purpose. No roots to my days. Too fragmented to pick up anything and read it.
Rebecca Solnit on books (found via brainpickings):
"The object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside the head of the reader, where the symphony resounds, the seed germinates. A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another. The child I once was read constantly and hardly spoke, because she was ambivalent about the merits of communication, about the risks of being mocked or punished or exposed. The idea of being understood and encouraged, of recognizing herself in another, of affirmation, had hardly occurred to her and neither had the idea that she had something to give others. So she read, taking in words in huge quantities, a children’s and then an adult’s novel a day for many years, seven books a week or so, gorging on books, fasting on speech, carrying piles of books home from the library."
Saturday, 17 September 2016
The nightly bedtime story ritual at the moment goes something like this:
Me: "Okay, that's the end of the chapter. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what happens."
The kid: "Ohhhh, don't, don't, no, no!"
Me: "No really, it's the end. You agreed just one chapter, remember?"
The kid: "Noooo! PLEASE just one more story. PLEASE!" (Looks hurt, as if I'm an abusive parent.)
Me: "No, we agreed we would finish at the end of the chapter." (Feels like an abusive parent)
The kid (distraught, on the verge of tears): "PLEASE Mama, just one more WORD!"
Me: "A word is very short. It won't help."
The kid: "Please!"
Me: "Okay." (reads one more word)
The kid (wailing): "Noooo!"
Me: "That was one word."
The kid (looks greatly hurt and disappointed): "Fine! I just won't give you any more goodnight kisses then!"
Sunday, 21 August 2016
It's so scarce. It slips away too easily. Before I know it, it has disappeared. I feel drained of it when all the chores are done, the needs met. I watch the day's dust settle, wondering what impressions remain that I can hold on to. Wondering if the only measurement is in well-worn routines that dig their trenches into our days. What routes has time left on me?
I wonder where it goes. What's happened to it. How we got to now, from then. How the little one suddenly turned into a running-about toddler, how the kid slipped into this wispy, wise girl with laughs and such earnest eyes. How I became a mother to them. And always, always how it is that I deserve their laughter, their outstretched arms and squeezes, their love.
I know that years from now that taut rope of time will slacken again. I'll feel it ease up. I'll catch my breath. And I'll look back at this time of chaos, of exhaustion, of work, of never-ending demands and I'll smile because there, etched into me, will be the sounds of two giggling half-undressed girls running around the house avoiding bath-time, their joy and exuberance infectious despite my desperation to make bed-time happen. I'll still feel chubby little arms and legs wrapped tightly around me when there are tears and sobs or feel the kid's hand slipping quietly into mine as we go about errands. I'll see them when they're sleeping as I go and check on them before bed, all soft cheeks and gentle breath, their smallness and vulnerability so present in the glow of bedside lamps.