I sound so damn silly 🙂 But I managed to not swear once!!!
I am sitting here with a heap of emotions that I cannot quite get to grips with.
I feel angry.
I am embarrassed.
I feel guilty.
I am excited.
I feel apprehensive.
There is deep disappointment.
My heart hurts.
After 4 years of living like a nomad, then like a financially strapped student, my worldly possessions might finally find me again and the whole process of organizing this from a different continent, different time-zone, caused a bubbling cauldron of different moods.
I’m questioning the lump in my throat.
Moving across the world was never something that I wanted to do. I was not like so many of my fellow South Africans that willingly said goodbye, packed my bags and went off to find greener pastures. I love my birth country and even after being in the states long enough to get a driver’s licence, I still think that Cape Town is the best place on the planet to live.
When I packed up my worldly belongings in October 2017, I shipped the absolute bare minimum. For the estimated 2-3 years that we would live here, I was going to get by with only the necessities. In fact, we were planning on renting everything or do without. That quickly changed when we realized our master plan of only living in ‘Murica for a short time, was completely unrealistic.
Although we started buying a few things, we kept the spending to a minimum cause we have all the stuff in storage already and again, bluffed ourselves that we will return to Cape Town sooner rather than later.
After spending a full 12 months stuck at home, (thank you Rona) we finally decided to ship most of the things in storage to the place we currently call home. Cause this hanging out in the Northern Hemisphere might just be a smidge longer than anticipated.
On a sunny Wednesday, an angel called Zoë, drove all the way from her fairy-tale castle on a country-hill to un-glam-gangsta-paradise to help with sorting of what needs to stay in storage and what would be loaded on a ship. A mammoth task indeed to sort through all our worldly belongings. And apparently, we have a LOT. She did a stellar task and managed to identify all the items on my to-stay list – basically all the electronic things that would be completely useless here due to the whole 220 vs 110 voltage thing.
It took the company that we asked to ship the stuff almost a week to the minute to come back with a quote….and I was flabbergasted with both the amount of goods we wanted here as well as the mullah we would have to fork over to make that a reality.
To add to all the conflicting emotions that I had to put somewhere, now I have a bottomless pit of disappointment that threatens to overshadow all the other messy feelings.
I’m not giving up though and am in the process of renting a rowboat for the next time I am in Cape Town and dammit, row the friggen possessions over myself. Might take me a few trips but imagine the size of my biceps and the spectacular suntan I’ll end up with.
I suspect my initial anger was aimed at the situation that I find myself in and the fact that I never anticipated to even consider bringing my favourite art, reading chair and mixing bowl over to America. That by now, we would be making plans for our return to Cape Town and possibly start drawing up plans for the dream house in Prince Albert.
I feel embarrassment coupled with a healthy dose of guilt that the thought of having my belongings around me filled me with so much happiness, while the rest of the world is facing actual issues. How delightfully shallow I am imagining sitting on my couch looking at my Hopper prints.
The apprehensiveness goes hand in hand with the anger – I have no idea what the future holds and even though I can plan my little heart out, my mantra remains true: It is what it is and what will be will be.
The best I can do is stay irritatingly positive and try my best to make my dreams come true. Not ask how or when but just build my sandcastles in the sky with intent.
Some days are just harder than others to remain in a positive state of being. But that’s also okay – I’ll revel in my sadness and wallow in my disappointment for a while before I yank on those big girl panties…again. I suspect the elastic is worn out and I might have to replace them sometime soon.
I wrote a post last October that was featured on Dear Susan, about my visit to Antelope Canyon in June 2019. Today, that visit feels like it happened 5 lifetimes ago. But I just submitted a few of the images to an art call, so now seems like a good time to share that experience on my own site. Anyway, call me lazy. Call me uninspiring. Call me whatever. I’m copying and pasting my little heart out and dishing up that exact same post to you today. Let the plurality commence!
Colour beguiles you and can be a sly mistress that easily conceals or misleads. In the words of famed street photographer Daidō Moriyama, I find colour obscene. It carries such strong emotions and in most cases, does all the work for you.
A black and white image, has to stand on its own merits and it takes all the principles and elements of design to make a shot work. You are not relying on colour to do the work for you and therefore, there is, strangely enough, more passion for me in a black and white photograph than in a colour saturated one.
“What I saw was that the colour image had more information in it, simple as that! There was so much more to see and consider, whereas black and white reduced the world to shades of grey.” Joel Meyerowitz
Even though I was quite happy with how the initial images turned out in black and white, it was only once I started processing them in colour, that I was audibly blown away by what I captured during a frenetic rush through the canyons. Yes, I admit. Some of these made me whimper just a little bit.
And then I visited Antelope Canyon in Arizona. How quickly did I take a tumble off my monochromatic/black and white/desaturated high horse? The shapes and play of light on those rock formations absolutely begged me to slide that saturation slider all the way to the right.
I had to however (because I’m hard headed) go through the motions of first processing the first few images in black and white to answer my own questions: “Would it be a successful shot if there was no colour? Does it have the same emotional impact?”
It was then that I realized to my dismay that I have become a black and white photography snob. I had unconsciously believed for years, that there was only artistic merit to be found in black and white images.
If you’ve ever visited and were, like me, too cheap to fork over the gazillion dollah they asked for the photography tour, you’ll know that they herd the groups through at an alarming rate. There is no time to setup a shot or to linger and expect the light to change, or wait for fellow tourists to skedaddle out of your frame.
The unfavourable and unforeseen circumstance forced me to change my plan on what to shoot and how to capture the sensual beauty of those rocks and for that, I am pretty thankful. It would have been just another predictable set of slot canyon images as shot by countless other people, if I wasn’t forced out of my comfort zone.
Adverse conditions combined with me embracing colour, has hopefully changed these images from salient to poetic.
I definitely cannot complain of complacency or tedium currently.
So many firsts happening in my little world.
Last year this time I was basking in the balmy glow of a Cape Town summer, quaffing cold sauvignon blanc out of a glass with diamond-drop condensation, all the while with toes scrabbling into warm, sun-kissed sand. Surrounded by mountains, an ocean and the people that I love, the places that are familiar. Nothing new and something that I’ve been able to enjoy for most of my adult life. It would have been frowned on having a glass of wine at the age of nine….sigh.
Thanks to The Rona, I find myself stranded this year in the middle of a landlocked state, enduring grey days, anaesthetising cold and the wonder of snow.
I am relishing this white world every minute while the fluffy stuff is tumbling from above and am transfixed by the falling flakes. They really are all different shapes and the magic of this leaves me giddy with awe. A child-like-wonder-first that is high on my list of most enjoyable moments ever.
As much as it’s pretty, it tends to stick around when the temperature never reaches above 0º Celsius which proves challenging when you have to walk to the mailbox. Shovelling snow is a full body workout and makes up for all those inactive days hiding inside the house. And boy is it loud. I cringe every time that shovel scrapes the ground and disrupts the snow-hush.
Last year just before winter started, I invested in snow-chains for my shoes after I went slipping and sliding on the ice. This morning I had the opportunity to wear them for the first time. I made a promise this winter to feed everything that crosses the yard and that meant that every morning and afternoon I bundle up and venture outside to fill the feeders and make sure there are apples for the deer, seed for the birds and nuts for everything else. The timber deck outside was like an ice rink but with my snazzy crampons I was more sure footed than a mountain goat foraging.
The firsts keep on coming and I say yes to them all especially if the payoff is eye-candy that brings delight and keep the awe alive.
I am happy.
My heart sits in my chest like burning kindling today. The responsibility of my role in the natural world is almost smothering me and I can’t stop the peeper-leaking.
I had a beautiful Blue Jay dying in my hands yesterday after it broke its neck by flying full speed into one of our windows. There was nothing that I could do to save it and the responsibility of that is almost too great to bear.
Of course I’m accountable.
I’m a human living in a dwelling in their territory. They were here and flourishing long before I invaded this land. The repercussions of building a house with huge reflective surfaces is great for the selfish human inhabiting the dwelling but have dire consequences for our feathered friends. Not to mention the amount of land clearing that had to happen before you could cast the foundation.
So we start off by destroying their homes and their food source and then continue to obliterate these creatures by what we build.
How is that maintaining the integrity of the natural world?
How is that respecting the natural order of things?
We keep on taking more than what we are willing to give and for the most part, are blissfully ignorant of the results and ramifications of our self-serving actions.
People don’t like the amount of spiders on the OUTSIDE of their homes, because the webs are unattractive and spiders are scary.
Well, let spray some poison and voila, spiders no more. Never mind the fact that there are countless birds relying on spiders as a main food source and that the spiders keep other insects under control.
Don’t like dandelions growing on our perfect lawns? What the hell. Treat the grass with some concoction and dandelions be gone! Screw you Mr Bumblebee.
Scared of wasps because they can sting you multiple times? Just dab some or other fatal potion on their nest and watch those suckers drop. I’m sure there are loads of other pollinators that will take up the slack.
We are so focused on our convenience and comfort and desires that we are unable to realize the consequences of our actions.
When did we stop being responsible for the natural world?
When did we become passive participants in this environment?
I don’t want to change or influence the land where I live in any negative way but at the moment, me just breathing the same air as the birds, furry critters, insects and other wild life, is detrimental to the whole circle of life.
My heart is just very sad today about that perfect bird that did not have to die.
I find it quite interesting, sometimes amusing and often times frustrating when confronted with people’s dislikes in certain foods.
As somebody who will try literally anything at least once before pulling up my nose at it, this is difficult to wrap my tongue around but, for the sake of humankind and my own sanity, I thought it might be helpful to explore some people’s aversion to certain foods and hopefully the little wander down the food aisle will give me a better understanding, more tolerance and more compassion when a guest at my table, politely gags when I put a plate of food in front of them.
And I’m not talking about sucking on an eyeball or relishing a piece of rotten smelling fruit here. Nothing that exotic. I’m also not referring to ethical food choices. That’s a completely different coloured animal all together.
Let’s start with the inane little green pea. To my palate it is sweet when it’s fresh and I’ll pop one after the other in my mouth like peanuts. There are very few things I like more than these blanched jewels mixed with mint and glistening with a glug of olive oil. Imagine my surprise when I found out some people find these tiny green pearls highly offensive! Apparently it’s a texture-thing. The skin that pops when you bite into it followed by the mushy interior have sent a few individuals running for the bathroom.
Staying with green stuff, next on the list is coriander, also known as dhania or cilantro. I can eat this basically on everything that might land near my gob, regardless whether it ‘goes’ with it or not. I feel immediately super healthy and my taste buds do a two-step of happiness.
If you detest this leafy herb, you are actually in very good company: Julia Child absolutely hated the taste of it and we can all agree that this lady had a very sophisticated palette.
It turns out that the aversion to the taste of coriander has actual scientific backing to it! There is an olfactory-receptor gene that increases your sensitivity to the smell of aldehyde chemicals, which coriander contains. You can lay the blame squarely at your parents feet for this, among all the other things that they managed to screw up and turned you into the picky eater that you are at 57 years old.
Shit…did I just say that out loud?
Still staying on the fresh produce side of the aisle, next up is the dreaded Brussel sprout. For many of us, this fart-smelling-mini-cabbage is the stuff nightmares are made of…until you step away from the boiled to death way of cooking and roast them in the oven with bacon and finish them off with a drizzle of honey. Yummy.
If you don’t immediately start salivating at that, then science yet again, is coming to the rescue. According to the clever people, we are born to reject bitter foods because for every one plant in nature which is bitter and good for us, there’s probably 50 which are bitter and poisonous. Free pass right there.
Another love it or hate it vegetable is the eggplant aka aubergine aka brinjal. Once you remove the bitter skin, this nightshade veggie is a creamy and buttery delight. It’s a texture thing again, right? Too squishy for some, not to mention the fact that if you are battling with inflammatory bowel disease, eating this might contribute to your discomfort. If that is the case, you do have a valid excuse to push it to the side of your plate. That, and the tomatoes fresh from Farmer Joe’s field. Although, personally, I will also not kill the bull for a tomato but for me it’s more about the acidity and not the texture. And did you know a tomato is actually a fruit and not a vegetable? Like avocado? Fancy a fruit salad with avo and tomatoes?
Moving onto fruit, let’s look at that spiny sweet thing called a pineapple. Oh the dreaded Hawaiian pizza! If you believe people who love pineapple on pizza should go straight to hell, then you might suffer from one of these two aversions: one is again that dreaded texture thing; the second, there is absolutely no good reason to cook fruit.
I’m on the fence with this one because I don’t think it’s the adding of pineapple that is the problem-child here but rather the execution of it. If you slice the fresh pineapple thin (definitely not the syrupy sickly sweet canned variety) and combine that with equally restrained pieces of ham, then there is no reason not to partake in this sweet-savoury delight.
And here you thought I was a food-snob, didn’t you?
I’ve just realized that most of the food people find offensive are fresh vegetables and some fruits. I can count on my one hand the amount of times I’ve heard somebody said no thank you to a donut or koeksister and heaved at a bowl of ice cream.
So here is my theory:
Most food likes and dislikes happen during childhood and our choices are influenced by a combination of rewards, punishments and eating behaviours we observe in others. These food aversions are further validated by our senses when we perceive something that we might not like.
Culturally we are taught how food should look and taste and if we are served something that does not match our expectations, our first response is to reject it. Not to mention the impact media and advertising has on our choices. And as we get older, changing these food preferences becomes progressively more difficult.
If we don’t force ourselves every now and again out of our food-comfort-zones, our childhood palate will never evolve and grow and experience new challenges.
Did you see what I did there? I used this whole food thing as a metaphor for growth and tolerance.
I’m subtle like that.
“How we do food is how we do life. Every meal is a metaphor for how you show up in the world. Are you present? Are you complaining? Are you multitasking? Add love, celebration, time, communion, and gratitude to every meal and make every meal the best meal ever.”
- Marc David & Emily Rosen
In the last few week of self-isolation, I’ve started to think about what participation means for/to me. I’m on an average day, a confirmed and proud introvert and relish in the silence and isolation of my own world and have always jokingly said that if given half a chance, I’ll be a very content hermit.
And it’s a big but.
If I so should choose, I could always contact a friend or family member, climb out of my self-imposed isolation womb and meet up in person, exchange a hug and watch their faces while we are having a natter, show happiness, discontent, anger and pleasure. Soak up their vibes, give more energy if they need more, take whatever they are willing to part with, and fill that part of myself that is void from avoiding interaction. Cause, although I can benefit from that level of connection, I am depleted afterwards. The bane of an introverted empath.
I have always avoided crowds or any large gathering of people – my membrane is just too thin and I bathe in their emotion like a wrung out sea sponge craving moisture. The barrier that protects me from feeling whatever they are feeling is gone and whether it is extreme happiness or extreme sadness, baby, I take it all on. Worst thing you can ask me to do is go to a concert or go shopping on a Saturday morning at the end of the month. Just don’t. Please.
Where my participation have always been peppered with conditions, how short sighted does that way of life seem right about now? I miss touching people and hugging them and exchanging that non-verbal communication thing that I thrive on. When we talk to each other not using words or gestures but “talk” to one another on that other level, you know the one? Call it intuition. Call it higher self. Call it energetically. I don’t care. Call it whatever you want, I miss THAT.
Yes I can video call you. Yes I can message you. Yes I can phone you. Yes I can text my little heart out to you. But fuck it. Nothing comes to actually seeing you, touching you, smelling you (yeah…I do have a smidge of hyperosmia and some of my favourite people do smell delightful to me), looking at you and the way your eyes talk back to me. I miss my tribe dammit.
So where does that leave my current participation involvement? Facebook. Messenger. Instagram. Texting. Video calling. A tad impersonal, not so?
Participation is directly related to the society we are accustomed to and that society has changed in tremendous ways. Is this remote way of communication the new normal? Since Plato’s days, when the whole concept of participation has been part of philosophical discussions, to me, the whole idea is still quite obscure and an ideal level of engagement is an unknown, more now than ever before.
The principle remains the same though, whether we are meeting face to face or via Zoom. There is no ideal level it seems and what I always thought is the most effective form, has dramatically changed in the last few months.
My perception-musing has taken me down the garden path a bit but through this I have come to realize that participation is a dynamic process. It takes varying forms and the life cycle of whatever method of participation you choose, does evolve, and is centered on need.
As long as I’m present, I am participating.
“In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia.” – Milan Kundera
A few years ago I started a personal project called Alienation, where I wanted to explore how we distance ourselves from various matters. Our health, our work, other people, ourselves and nature.
Since then the project has evolved into a more personal journey, brought about by the upheaval of moving from one continent to another and trying to find my feet and my ‘murican tribe. The challenges are on a visceral level and is just a smidge more than what I anticipated.
I am compelled to go scratch in places that I didn’t even know I had and to confront latent feelings with a raw honesty that scares the bejeesus out of me. All the time, trying not to judge myself too harshly.
Yup. I’m climbing that Mount Everest without oxygen. In fact, most days I feel that I forgot to put on the damn parka and that my Sherpa is lying drunk in his tent back at base camp.
Slowly but surely and with a healthy dose of courage, I’ve stopped teeter-tottering and found my footing. My designated social position started changing and I managed to jump the liminal stage and went straight to acceptance status. In Monopoly terms, I vroomed pass go and absolutely collected those friendship-dollars.
And then BAM! Hello Corona.
Whether you are tsk-tsk-ing at the extreme measures being taken across the world or whether you are laying in the fetal position reading the book Panic 101, we all have the same thing in common at the moment: Our lives are in a holding pattern.
I feel that my modest personal project is very apt at this stage and I do find comfort in that. Will it progress into something else yet again? Or is this a culmination of the two evolutions?
Where there was an almost unconscious acceptance in distancing ourselves from so many issues pre-virus, we are now forced to do so. I think it is a fantastic opportunity to (again…..) reassess the way I live my life and the impact I have on everything around me.
It will be tough going for a while, nonetheless, I am dusting off my big girl panties (even though they are fucking uncomfortable) and attempt to address everything that is off-kilter in my little world.
No, I didn’t try and make the virus thing about me at all. But it does give one pause for a bit of self-reflection, not so?
Stay safe and practice that social distance like a mofo.
I am not politically inclined at all and avoid CNN, BBC, newspapers, etc. at every turn. If it’s not on Facebook I know sweet-nothing that goes on in the world and we all know that if it is on social media it must be true….cough, cough.
The recent spate of gun violence in the states though and the ongoing day to day murder in South Africa has had me thinking. Here I am in the states, my nether regions hanging somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic cause my heart is here but my home is in South Africa, fighting the need to compare the two very different worlds. It is a pointless exercise for me and I can’t see a positive outcome of the analogy.
I just finished watching Years and Years and in the last episode, the grandmother says something that really hit home for me. I can’t remember the exact words but what I took away was that we are ALL responsible for what happens in the world. If we stand by and do nothing or say nothing, we are complicit to whatever the outcome is. One of the examples that she used was self-checkout counters. We no longer have to ‘deal’ with the human factor when paying for our groceries. We no longer have to make eye contact. We no longer have to show compassion for a person doing an unpretentious job. We no longer have to care. A simple thing these self-checkout counters, right? Mmmmm…or was it another little nudge down the slippery slope of disconnect?
The other thing that jumps to mind is Pitbull Terriers. A whole breed of dog has been vilified and are not welcome in most areas of the world. It was never the breed and has always been the people training them or hurting them that caused them to lash-out. Yet, I did absolutely nothing, except feeling sorry for these dogs, in the comfort of my own home. If the label of killer-dog was hung on say, Labradors, would more people start caring? It’s a question of “Oh well, it’s not my poodle that’s got the bad rap, so I’m not going to get involved.” What if, in 2 year’s time, that label gets slapped on Puffy-the-Poodle? Would we only care then? Would I only get up from my judgmental arse and actually do something to break the stigma?
I was in Washington DC this past weekend and visited the Holocaust Museum. I dripped and leaked with compassion and empathy while walking through the space and was nauseated by the cruelty these people had to suffer. It’s beyond my little brain to comprehend all that they had to face and endure. The slogan that I saw over and over again on the posters at the museum, said ‘Never Again’. And when I left, I though how ironic that slogan was. Because is something similar not happening right now? I know about the camps on the Mexican border but I’m sure it is happening all over the world in all countries where displaced people, immigrants, etc. are not wanted? Like I said, I avoid the news so am assuming here, but atrocities are not secular.
What my bottom line is after musing this over, is that there are no US and THEM. We have all played a part in fucked-up things happening. We are also all responsible for the good things that happen and even though it feels some days that they are few and far between, there is still good, happy and positive things that occur on a daily basis. If we can stop pointing fingers and stop blaming and start taking responsibility for our actions, our thoughts, our judgement and our attitude towards other people, maybe, just maybe the killing will stop. Call me naïve. Call me idealistic. I’ll gladly wear those labels if it will bring about progressive change.
Nothing what I’ve said is new or terribly enlightened. The penny just hit my head so hard that it left a bruise.
I’ll keep on pondering my role in all of this world’s mayhem and I’ll keep on taking pictures, sometimes thought provoking, occasionally pretty but always demonstrative.