So starts one of my favourite poems about Autumn. This one being Autumn Day, from The Essential Rilke, elegantly translated by Kinnell and Liebman.
I woke to a grey sky filtering down soft light on everything. Perfect for wandering around the garden and for photography. Miles and I joined Mom in one of the garden rooms and got an update on the latest and greatest. There’s a yellow aloe in bloom and an orchid underneath a flowering bush has put out a flower stem.
The orchids are showing off a bit right now. A yellow cymbidium on the front stoep has put out 4 flower stems. One of them is flowering right now and the others will soon open up. Mom has forgotten the colors of the ones about to bloom so we wait to be surprised to see if it’s the white, maroon or cream flowers that will grace us with their beauty.
There’s been a lot of garden maintenance this week. I was merely an observer as Mom and her helper dug, tugged and moved things. I had the urge to do some home maintenance but that could just be because I was procrastinating with my writing projects.
It feels like nature wants me to pause a bit. There’s a kind of silence this morning that I appreciate. Traffic is less frantic. Only the birds seem to be at work. Flowering shrubs are bobbing their heads in the soft breeze and Miles is snoring after our garden walkabout.
This was going to be a very different blog but this morning, just after 7am, our Lulu-Belle passed away. It was her time. Her passing was peaceful and filled with grace. Her heart just gave out. This was the death I wished for her, not one of drawn out suffering and illness.
She came into the world as part of a litter delivered by her dam Mia-Moo in my bedroom on a late summer Saturday on 20 February 2010. Sired by the delightful Ziggy, his playful energy and our own sweet nature combined to make for a divine doggy personality. She’s been a blessing from her first to her last breath.
It is a privilege to be part of a pup’s life from conception to delivery to every puppy milestone to adulthood and eventually to the passing days. Lulu-Belle had her final walk with us yesterday. Us being Mom, Miles and I. If I didn’t stop her she would have chased after the security vehicle – which has been a favourite past-time. This running after things came from her non Great Dane lineage as Ziggy was mixed with a breed that loves to run and chase.
She got to run after some birds and geese for a bit. She was full of beans yesterday, enjoying every minute of the walk. She had her favourite foods yesterday – Woollies beef mince for breakfast on stale sourdough bread. Dinner was Farmer Angus’s beef mince on fresh sourdough. Of course, I couldn’t afford to feed her this everyday but ever since she turned 11, every day extra is a blessing so there’s been a lot of treating in this house.
Having accompanied other’s in her pack – brother Boetie-Boy, sister Lilly and mom Mia in their last days I knew that the passing days were upon us. When she turned up her nose at the chicken which is the regular meal fare (along with Farmer Angus’s pet mince when we could still get it) I would substitute for some of my beef or get the chicken livers which she never said no to. Just the smell of chicken livers frying would get her into the kitchen. Needless to say I would also have some of the chicken livers – it’s so good fried with herbs from the garden, a bit of olive oil and you get that sticky tacky residue in the pan that’s best with some sourdough bread and a runny egg.
Lulu-Belle’s last years were particularly good as her diet changed drastically from around the age of 4,5 as a result of Boetie’s cancer diagnosis. After all my research into osteosarcoma (the cancer Boetie and Lilly had) the pack was taken off commercially produced dog food and started eating a species appropriate diet. I believe that the change in diet is what allowed their dam Mia to live to almost 12 years. This is ancient for a Great Dane as their life expectancy is pegged between 8 and 10 years old.
We will miss our girl with the many names – Lulu-Belle, Bella Wella, Poppie-lop or just Poppie. We will look for her on our walks but she won’t be there. When we wake I will look for her at the foot of my bed where her mattress is but she won’t be there. I won’t see her at her favourite spots in the lounge or in the studio. Doggy spirits don’t linger. I learnt this with my other dogs. They are eager for the adventure beyond the rainbow bridge.
She will be in our hearts though. Our hearts are overflowing with grief and love for our divine Lulu-Belle.
This week collaboration came up repeatedly. I did a little talk at an inaugural network gathering which was focussed on collaboration. A few days later, Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak dropped the intro and first single of the Silk Sonic collaboration we knew nothing about. They kept it under wraps and surprised millions of fans this week.
Collaboration is based on the lived values of generosity, trust and respect. It’s not something you can pay lip-service too, nor something you can manufacture, it’s organic. Watch that lovely Apple TV YouTube episode featuring Paak and Mars where they talk about their collaboration. Both these artists have collaborated with others in the past but you can see and feel how deep, true and fun this collaboration was.
Unlocking Each Other’s Gifts
Collaboration puts the spotlight on the unique gifts each person brings to the party and it reveals the brilliance and heart of that particular gift. Like Mars says, it lifts everyone’s game. Gifts can shine by themselves but it is in collaboration where they are often raised to levels not seen before. I know this is true for me. I shine more brightly when others hold a space where I’m seen, respected, appreciated and where I can make a contribution that is uniquely mine to make.
The best collaborations are a natural flow which starts with meaningful connection and/or friendship. You need to spend time together, working, eating and playing. It – the collaboration – needs space to breath and develop.
Keeping it secret or not? I think some collaborations do better when it’s done away from the public gaze and consequent high expectations. The Paak-Mars Silk Sonic collaboration seems to have benefited from privacy. Others are fun to be a part of from the get-go. The recent Lee Minho x Lee Seunggi collaboration was one of those. The first episode just pulled you in and fans were happy with how it unfolded. I was one of those satisfied fans although I had a different expectation of what the outcome would be. It was good to see the process of the latter because of the bond between the two and the feeling of being included in something that’s unfolding.
It’s difficult to create magic by yourself and it is nigh impossible to accomplish great things alone. Collaboration is the key that unlocks the gate to the kingdom of magic. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the magic that is Silk Sonic.
There is a delightful poem by Barbara Schreiner, which I’m often reminded of when things in my home break down and fall apart. It is called “Old Madam Entropy”
Here are some of it’s delightful lines:
“One morning the tap decides
in a spluttering mood of peeve
Not to close anymore
Like ancient water torture
Onto the reverberating drum of the kitchen sink
You sit down, annoyed
And the chair rocks like a boat on the ocean waves
While you slept
She stole the glue from its joints
And now it holds up your aging joints
By willpower alone”
Restless Dreams and Broken Hearts, Barbara Schreiner, 2015
If you’ve ever bought your dream house, the fixer upper with two en-suite bathrooms and a family bathroom, I am sure that regret also entered your life. This regret comes from having no budget, or in my case, refusal to apply budget wisely to banish plumbing problems from your home. You think you got a bargain from the bargain plumber, which results in a bath that drains slowly and taps that are made of plastic instead of the sturdy stainless steel you think was part of the deal.
The insides of toilet cisterns decide to break and you, taking your sweet time to address the small problems end up with two bathrooms that are minimally functional.
I count my blessings, I have no structural problems or mold. I do have a roof to replace as Old Madam Entropy has done her work there too.
I’d rather buy the new sewing machine than to spend my money on the plumbing disasters in my home…. sigh. My priorities frustrate my mother, who is house proud. Her side of our home is not allowed to submit to entropy in any shape or form. She buzzes like a bee around a problem and it is fixed within a week, maybe two, if the problem needs many phone calls and quotes.
I’m grateful for lockdown because I can’t have people over except my family who know me and understand my issues with spending money on things that break. Lockdown will end though, at some point. I will want to have friends over and entertain again in the future. The clock is ticking – well it did tick until it stopped. Buying a new clock was on my shopping list this week. Instead I bought 3 new books and no clock. You see where this is going? I shall write no more.
I am late to the party I know. The Korean Wave finally hit my Netflix, YouTube and music playlists. Thank you to Ms Lulekwa for introducing me to this world. The storyteller in me is delighted. The artist-crafter in me is overjoyed and my socio-political consciousness is perkier than usual. Basically, the Korean Wave has hit all my hotspots.
A shout-out to all the translators in the world. Thank you for widening my world with your craft. Admittedly some of the translation is a bit odd but on the whole it’s good and has sparked in me a desire to learn Hangul. So far I’ve learnt the consonants, I’m on vowels now and I’ve joined a language app. The polyglots on YouTube offered some new insights on learning a new language and I’m going with a combination of acquiring language like a toddler and learning it because I am also a fan of manga. There aren’t many Korean manga that’s translated so my hope is that one day I will be able to read an entire manga in Hangul. Note to self, order the books now and start learning to read them.
I’ve totally fallen for the full-hearted, satisfying storylines of all the K-drama I’ve watched to date. It’s captured my attention in ways that American dramas have not. Korean screenwriters seem to understand their audiences and what they want. My artistic sensibility totally embraces this type of storytelling.
Yes, I’ve heard the whole K-drama being formulaic but you know what? All stories are retelling of the same old themes. Why does it work so well? We are storytelling species and we love hearing the same old stories over and over. Tolkien, Austen and Pullman readers, can you really get enough of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Pride & Prejudice and His Dark Materials? No, you cannot. I certainly cannot. My dog chewed up a section of my Lord of the Rings book so my habit of re-reading the trilogy is somewhat on hold until I can get my hands on a new copy. I can’t with the digital reading except minimally. Give me a book in my hand.
I digress, sorry, back to K-drama.
Writers of K-drama seem to understand the balance between plot, tension, showing off their skills and audience satisfaction. They know their audience appreciates a good plot and a well resolved, satisfying ending. I feel like K-drama writers and directors love K-drama viewers. It’s like being in love with someone who loves you back. I love K-drama because K-drama loves me! Wow, it’s such a nice feeling. I’m never going back to western drama – okay got to go back for Star Trek Discovery because who doesn’t like Michael Burnham and the crew of USS Discovery – except occasionally. What I am saying is, I have entered a full-time committed relationship with K-Drama, but will occasionally flirt with goodlooking and thoughtful Western drama.
I believe K-drama suits my South African sensibilities because of the corruption, state capture shenanigans, patriarchy and prejudice that are part of the daily lives of that nation. I love how they are questioning and addressing issues and culture in the way they tell their stories. South Africans seem to think that we are special and that ‘other people’ are giving us the side-eye because of corruption and state-capture. My fellow citizens, please wake up, we are not alone and we are certainly not the center of attention for people worldwide. We have no Madiba now so people have moved on and we don’t need to feel shame about our country. Every nation in the world has issues, okay.
I got on my soap box for a bit, sorry. Saying Sorry (pronounced sorreee) is very South African by the way.
Let me wrap this up. If you are looking for a new world of entertainment, give K-drama a chance. Admittedly it is not for everyone. Some of my friends have said they can’t with the long lingering shots and the romance. K-drama has a tribe and you may be part of that tribe. I salute you K-drama tribe.
Soon swarms of swallows will fill up the evening skies on their way North. I look forward to this autumnal spectacle but glad to have a few more weeks of warmth, long days and walks where I don’t have to be bundled up. I started wearing long sleeves and this morning added a cap to my walking ensemble because of a blustery south easter.
Now that the beach ban has lifted I hope to make at least one pilgrimage to Simon’s Town or Kalk Bay beach. So much to enjoy in our beautiful Cape but so little time left to enjoy summer. I have that end of summer nostalgia going on. You know the feeling. Very different from what my northern friends are feeling right now. Winter’s ending is never nostalgic but hopeful. I love all the seasons for their different moods.
I miss the long days of summer when it’s gone but not the excessive heat or the raging southeaster. Mornings are productive and everything starts earlier. In the evening I can still squeeze an hour or two of crafting or sewing with the last of the daylight hours.
In other news: Julius and Jacob had tea this week. Maybe the bromance will blossom once again. Jacob still refuses to appear before the Zondo Commission and had harsh words for the ConCord. What does all this mean? I guess time will tell. A few more days of loadshedding reminded us all to stock up on candles or to charge our solar lamps. I am adding a manual coffee grinder to the list of essentials because there is nothing more irritating (in my life at least) when you can’t grind your beans for the ritual mug of morning coffee.
I can’t enjoy my morning coffee on the back stoep today because the wind is too chilly so I’m hanging out in the lounge with sleeping dogs.
Southerners, enjoy the last few weeks of summer. Northerners, enjoy the hopefulness of winter ending.
Friends, associates, fellow-travellers, relations, citizens. How is everyone doing today? In addition to the advice from authorities about ways to avoid infection and to deal with infections I am throwing in my 10 cents here.
Can we all take a deep breath?
There is research that shows a human brain or mind (which is what I prefer because it is all of you – not just your brain) is incapable of good thinking and good choices when it is under attack or under the wrong kind of stress. I forgot where that research is located in the www but trust me it’s there. If you want to run a test just ask someone to experiment with you – shout at them asking them to fix something or come up with something and see what happens – then reverse and let them do the same to you. How did that feel? I’m sure this has happened to you at work or someplace else and it was only afterwards you thought; “If only I would have said this or that at the time”. The reason why you couldn’t come up with the right retort, reply or come-back line is that your hormones – fight or flight – were in control and the prefrontal cortex was basically disabled. Forgive yourself for all the times you couldn’t come up with the right words. Also, to go off on a tangent, never argue with someone who has a damaged prefrontal cortex – it isn’t worth it.
Then do something different. Sit together, breathe together, take turns to ask each other the good questions. Listen deeply, don’t interrupt, listen generatively without thinking of what you want to say, pay attention. How does this make you feel? Good right? If you are a Thinking Environment practitioner, I know you are high-fiving me right now. Another tangent – don’t do this with people who have attention deficit and similar disorders or those who only like to hear their own voices and only interested in their own thinking – it isn’t worth it.
Checking the internet every hour – or the radio in my case – for Covid-19 updates may not be the best thing to do but it’s hard right – FOMO is a real thing. So, once you’ve done that, some more breathing and then go do something that will support your well-being.
Support your well-being
I can’t tell you what this would be for you. I can only share what works for me.
Hanging out with my dogs and my tribe
Watching my favourite you-tubers like Minnie Small, Haegreendal, Kelly Hogan – My zero carb life, The Daily Show, Evelyn from the Internets, Mimi-G, I Sew A Lot, Jimmy Kimmel, Katie Green, KenDBerry, Lasizwe Dambuza – I miss those Dirkie episodes, Northern Heart, NPR Music and a few more
Putting on some Stevie Wonder, Drake, Rihanna, Cardi B, Khalid, Bruno Mars, ColdPlay, Bee Gees, Ariana etc. and getting my groove on
Sewing -Machine or Hand Stitching – it’s a growing obsession which is becoming serious
Learning to code (front-end) – it’s a growing obsession which is becoming serious
Reading – I have a serious committed relationship with books
Documenting life – in a variety of ways – writing, doodling, photography etc
Netflix, Showmax etc. – when we are not loadshedding
Spending time outdoors – in my garden, someone else’s garden, local parks, national parks, getting some sunshine on a porch/stoep/balcony
Covid-19 is not our first crisis and will not be our last. It is not the apocalypse but I can’t be one hundred percent sure. The death rate is low compared to other illnesses. However, if it is the apocalypse, the end of times, our last days and months on earth I want you to remember what people did in their last minutes before those planes went down on 9/11. They called home, they reached out to loved ones, they hugged. I’m sure there was screaming and terror but Covid-19 will give us time to decide how to act when the end comes, if it comes.
So, do what my dog Miles does, live your best life now.
The universe I inhabit values community, learning, service and laughter.
Community? Well because we need each other. Some things, like changing the world into a just, happy and comfortable place cannot be done solo. Even the solo things like writing a song, painting a picture or writing a book eventually leads us to other people. People to listen to our song, see our picture, read our book. And we want to relate to these people not just as consumers but as a community of appreciation. We may want to engage them if we want to keep them as fans, friends or followers.
Learning? I live I learn, it is inevitable but conscious learning is a lot less painful than the learning by default. I am curious about how people learn life lessons, skills and attitudes. I am curious about myself. So much interests me there is not enough hours in the day to explore everything I am interested in. My library checkout usually looks like: one or two books on a topic I’m currently obsessing about, a craft, DIY or art book, personal growth or philosophy title, a novel or two or three. Not that reading is necessarily learning, it is part of acquiring information, exploring something, part of the learning journey. Then there’s the workshops – in person or online these days. Usually followed by some frantic doing, obstacles to overcome and sometimes success. Like the time I became a Thinking Environment Coach. But often also failure and a waning of interest or putting the interest on the back burner until such time that I acquire the necessary courage to operate the power tool I bought. Any of this familiar?
Service? Service is what makes us human. It shapes us, builds our communities and it can heal. We are all in service of something. The service which I’ve chosen is one that brings people together to share skills, information, gifts and passions. I am also in the service of joy and connection. I let these impulses move me.
Laughter? Because cultivating happiness is ultimately what I aim for. Laughter is free. Laughing at myself is liberating. Being silly together is marvelous. Go ahead and smile.