It was never really Fair We never really had A Choice United, divided All movement made For real I stood on the backs Of seven Four faceless women Island sojourners Whose eggs, passed down into me Whispered truth Sitting still, … Continue reading
I watched my father growing a garden made out of cactus and succulents in the backyard of our house. The sky was always very big and very blue when he worked on his creation. He carved it out of the brick steps that led up to the pool. Plain and predictable white suburban stairs, the ordinary life of the racial elite in 1980’s South Africa, glistening with water and the smell of braaivleis. My father was those things, and also nut brown in his cut-off denim shorts, inserting objects and magic into the garden he grew over those stairs under the sun. He made one for each of his three daughters. Was mine on the end or in the middle? I don’t remember that detail, just that in the end all three gardens merged into one. I watched the tossing of the soil, the setting of the rocks and stones, shards of statues, icons, glass pieces and the spikes of cacti gathered on walks in the veld and koppies that still surrounded Alberton back then. Those walks where me and my sister would trot behind him, learning how to use our feet like noses to sniff out potential traps and trips on the ground. My father would stop and pull up plants, take cuttings. Sometimes producing a frying pan and a fire to make bacon and eggs. I can’t say that we were part of it so much as spectators, watching. I did learn some things. How to pull a piece of a cactus plant off and stick it into a new pot where it would magically keep growing, without roots. You don’t need roots to grow. What a lesson I think now, looking back. The garden became ever more outlandish and charged with sorcery and indifference. I loved to watch it. At night I would explore its perimeters, finding glow worms clinging to aloes. I have stopped collecting cacti now. I last had them ten years ago, a small collection on the windowsill in my house in Brixton. After that, they fell away. Like my memories of my father’s garden, the one he made for us as an expression of his Self. My fingers are humming with the energy of it. Our relationship has been so problematic for so long that the garden was forgotten. And it was something that I can say with certainty was an aspect of him that I can love and grow from. For a very long time I have not mourned the loss of that home. I know that this is in part because of the problematic politics that surrounded its situation within a place marked by white priviledge. Better to let it die unmourned or acknowledged. It leaves me with a question: can beauty ever come out of evil? Can the essence of a pure and real love grow out of a place that could not continue to exist? I find the answer in the cactus. You don’t need roots to grow. And with patience, a flower as beautiful as the dawn will blossom. I think of the comments written by white South Africans on Facebook, barbed and mean spirited, that cling with misunderstanding to that statue of Rhodes, as if roots of any kind are better than none. I am the cactus that flowered. If only they knew how easy it can be to let go.
Hungry ghosts are all around.
in the hunger for perfection,
a greedy one,
makes me go back and
the one that stops the flow and thinks thinks thinks till my ears explode.
this one wants the right spelling and gramar
it won’t permit key stroke errors.
that hungry ghost eats me everyday.
It wants to eat my whole entire life,
seasoned with inanity and the details, purposeless without the sweetly flawed flow of a genuine canvas to express its artful corrections on.
Yes, hungry ghosts are everywhere.
they are pushing delicately thoughts of past times over and over into now
remembering when she did this? And i did that?
enveloped in those soft grey places, quicksand pulling us life-less through years and years and years
My grandfather was swallowed by the hungry mud in Lancashire, early last century
pulled out by a passing man and his walking stick.
there would be no I to ponder being alive
in this body; this time
Pulled out, he was given the chance to live.
So too I, and We
sinking, connected, calling out
For the stick that saves us is
Credit limit increased
Africa shines inside a twelve week module
Shards of remembering made-up
Snatches of conversation
The songs we feel
Inside our cars
Ancestral cults and curls
Yearning for belonging
A bigger picture
A cultural context
You know when
It feels right
And the music fills up every broken part
I offer my children apologies
For the mess we are
Though, shoulders shrugging
A point of stillness
In the midst of the Chaos of Us
It’s the realness I get stuck on
That makes sorry unnecessary
After all this
We can only be
Riding the dual carriage way from the Celtic Fringe
London bound till Johannesburg
Making shapes on the beach Beside a wild ocean Deep currents thundering Fingers tracing a pattern Where my ancestors dug up Human skulls In the dunes Fifty years ago Here the wind blew Between he and me, breathless Singing This … Continue reading
This is the story of how the poem ‘Night Foxes’ got written. It’s all about how creative acts can bubble to the surface.
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Placing Ancestor offerings
In the Re-Cycle bin
For this energy to be transformed
So all our descendants
Might be released
To tread lightly
Leaving no trace
But the vibration, of our love
The other night I put an offering to my ancestors in the recycling bin. It was a carefully written letter, accompanied by beautiful pictures of homes, asking for money to do a ceremony to honour and brighten their spirits.
This is not the usual way of things. But this week, as I re-entered the South, I see that the usual way of doing things is not always right.
I’m not denying the importance of tradition, discipline and consistency in whatever rituals we anchor ourselves in. Just that sometimes a little reinvention that is responsive to circumstance is required. Which brings me back to the recycling bin.
It was full moon night, traditionally a time to let go of things, offer up your baggage to the waning cycle that is about to begin. The irony of the full moon is that at the very peak of its power, its full magnificence with all the pull and influence it exerts also contains the seeds of its cyclical demise. From this point of fullness, it must decrease.
So here I am on full moon night, on the dark streets, looking for a spot to burn this letter. I’ve learnt a way of engaging the full moon’s energy that involves writing a letter with your requests and intentions, then burning it. This is tricky when you live on the third floor of a block of flats with no balcony. But this full moon, I really needed to make a move to get this ancestor offering out there.
So, clutching my envelope, I figured I could get away for 10 minutes from family life to burn it in the park. I wish! The river will take longer than 10 minutes. The gates to the churchyard are locked, and there are people walking their dogs in the park. Besides, something doesn’t feel right. I’m all edgy, and there’s an uneasy feeling rising up. Asking for a lot of money to do a big old ceremony that lasts a month feels very, very heavy. I think of those fairy tales where bargains are made for money and influence that result in terrible tragedy and loss in order to get the goods. I address the moon directly, “I don’t want anyone to get hurt for this money or this ceremony….ok?! And quite honestly I don’t even know if I want to do this ceremony!” speaking these words out loud, I identify a powerful agreement that causes great suffering. The agreement that I must do everything alone. That I must carry impossible burdens, even if they are destroying me. I don’t want anyone to get hurt for this money or this ceremony. This I realise includes me too.
So what do you want?
I do want that soul home. I do want to brighten my spirit for the benefit of all – Ancestors, descendants, everyone. That’s what I want.
That’s when I see the recycling bin, all green and ordinary in the moonlight. And it’s obvious what I must do. I put the letter in it like it’s a post box. And say a prayer that this dark ancestor energy be transformed; changed into something else that frees us all – ancestors and descendants.
I worry that I may have committed a terrible insult, but I know more that this was the correct ritual for right now. Ritual is responsive, not dogmatic, it emerges out of a human need for integrating experience and fostering a sense of solidarity. This means that in its bones, ritual is an adaptable force. It must be. To brighten the ancestor’s spirits and mine, we have to operate from a point that is light, grounded and transformative. I can think of no better analogy than being recycled. I hope that the ancestors will understand.
That night I had this dream. Not lucid, but vivid and as real as daylight.
My daughter and her friends ask me about giving birth as I am about to. Will it hurt? The pain helps you to give birth! I tell them. I lead them in saying a special song to help the baby come. As we finish, blood starts to drip out. You song is strong! I say to them. I draw 10 wombs surrounded by a heart of light on the ground. I feel contractions gathering but it’s not time yet. A passing nun, elderly and kind and gently powerful, with the face a of a Lama, stops to smile and asks if I’m ready to give birth yet. I really like her. Not quite yet, I reply, smiling.
Waking up the following morning I felt like something had cleared away. My inbox contained an email with some good advice regarding a problem I was having with my initiation practice from my mentor. Acting on this advice, I formed a circle of support around me. I am not in this alone. Yes, ultimately the responsibility for my transformation lies with me. In that sense, we are all alone. But life exists to give love, holding us when we need to be cradled through our processes. Inter-dependency and support are neither clinging nor possessive. They are a surrender to the connectedness of all things. As I sit in my labour, gathering help around me, I am glad to belong to it all.