Not Writing at Dawn Bears a Late Harvest (aka Another Day. Another Cup of Tea.)

Since my resolution to try writing at the dawntime I haven’t written a word between 4.30am and 6am.  I got as far as turning the computer on at 5am on one day, but then the baby woke up again and all bets were off.  He’s been poorly too and the nights have been rough.  So I’m sitting with some questions.  Is this a failure? Is this a manifestation of resistance (the baby is sick…. I’m so tired…. so I can’t write).  Well.  Yes! All of the above.  But that’s not the end of the story.  Because I may not have written a word, but I have been ‘turning up’.  At dawn, I wake up, and even as I regret not writing, I have in the past week been present with my work at this time.  My thoughts have been fermenting ideas, though it’s been hard to see what the fruits of it would be when I couldn’t follow through with the dawn writing I wanted.  Instead, the fruits have appeared at other times of day, when the writing does happen.  Today, I gave a lecture titled ‘What makes us human?’  I was terrified by my lack of concrete preparation, it’s also been a very long time since I spoke publicly.  It rained and rained in the morning.  Getting us all out the house left me soaked to the skin… crouched under a broken umbrella.  But once I’d dropped my daughter at school and my son with a friend, the hour before the lecture was there.  Stretched open and ripe to pick.  Resistance wanted me to ‘wing it’ as I so often do, but instead I allowed the percolations of the dawn time to get their space.  The lecture that emerged was cool…. it had life and substance, imperfect yes, and also full of questions and the dynamic of the conversation that makes us think about being human in the first place.  I delivered it to all of four 17 year olds on a university taster day, and a couple of their teachers.  There were no great accolades or rewards here, just the satisfaction of a job done, and seeing the shift in their faces as some of those questions got through and resonated.

Afterwards,  I went to a greasy spoon cafe and got a full English and a cup of tea.  Soaking up the beans and fried tomatos with a buttered slice, washed down with the golden brew, I sat with the sense of satisfaction that comes when you’ve done the work.  It passes.  That’s cool.  I’ll fight the battle again.  And continue to turn up at dawn.  Whether I write or not, it’s the showing up that counts.


When Rooibos Was Ordinary

There are shivers.
So I write.
When Rooibos was ordinary,
We drank out of old china cups
Yellow flowers, gold edged
I, three years old, green headscarf
Rooibos, black, lemon slice, sugar
A teaspoon to blow and sip
Later, there on the shelves
Of the Hypermarket
(bring your car, you can park it)
Beneath the mine dump
(mysterious steps reached the stars, I swear it)
Between ricoffy and five roses
The souls of gold seekers wandered the aisles
Though we did not see them
When Rooibos was ordinary.



This poem was inspired by a beautiful piece I read on Stirring Conversations.  In it, Rooibos is the tea that is drunk during a conversation between the author and interviewee.   It is scented with lemongrass, and forms the backdrop to a moving and insightful conversation about the nature of friendship, regret, reflections on younger selves and the importance of being present, rather than thrusting forward to a point of resolution.  I thought about how the meaning of things changes.  How objects and products acquire layers of associations and resonance over life times that are contradictory and ambiguous, though they surround the same material reality.  Like Rooibos tea.  Growing up in South Africa, it was ubiquitous and so ordinary.  Unglamorous, yet comforting.  And also in the background as my life moved through various landscapes.   Now, living in what I suppose you would call the ‘West’ , Rooibos takes on other qualities… more elegant, refined, healthful and exotic.  As I read the interview on Stirring Conversations I shook my head because the way things transform is so compelling.  Reflected in the shifting meanings of objects, spaces, places, memories, people and the unfolding of conversations.