Friday, 27 February 2009

LIT moments 2

I don't know what it is with me and buses... In 2007, I blogged about an 'LIT' moment that happened to me. An earlier one occurred in March 1990 - 19 years ago on a Greyhound to Cape Town. I used to keep a diary, which I have to this day and that's how I remember it so clearly. It was a five day Easter study break and my folks had surprised me with a ticket home from Hammanskraal (in the middle of nowhere) where I was studying at the time. After boarding the bus in Johannnesburg, I settled in an upstairs seat, sprawling across two as the one next to mine was empty. Just before we were about to depart, a girl - about my age, 19 at the time - squeezed past and took the seat next to me. She wore glasses and was, I remember thinking, really pretty. We got chatting - her name was Lizette. She was Afrikaans and travelling to visit her boyfriend, Anton, who was in the Airforce at the time and based in Cape Town. We chatted about life and all kinds of stuff for hours. She fell asleep, her head resting on a pillow on my shoulder, her breathing deep and steady. In the wee hours, in the darkness, as we passed through the Karoo, she stared vacantly out of the window. I had been dozing on and off. I looked at her reflection in the tinted glass: 'What are you thinking about?' She turned, and I will never forget the way her wide smile, absolutely lit up the whole of her flawless face. 'I think you know', she replied, shyly. 'I really love him'.
I remember being so grateful for the privilege of witnessing this simple moment of someone in love - uninhibited, wonderfully and recklessly joyfull! In the midst of the darkness of the desolate Karoo. Unexpected. A moment of grace.

Thursday, 26 February 2009


Earlier today, I attended the funeral of my wife's aunt, Dorothy, here in Welgemoed, near Cape Town. She was 70 and on Saturday morning lost her battle with cancer. The dominee who preached, related a poem that I need to look up but was similar in vein to that famous 'For whom the bell tolls': he spoke of how when a person dies a whole small world dies with them: the knowledge of the experience of their first crush, their first kiss, even their first fight. I was struck when it occurred to me how often I get impatient with elderly people as they seem to waffle on about past events, to which I cannot relate - often because I didn't know the other people in the story. And yet - it seems that this is precisely why they persist in repeatedly telling the story: looking for somebody to really hear that story with all that it contains -spoken, unspoken and all that cannot be put into words - a meeting of hearts so deeply that it almost becomes a shared memory. It isn't the whole story, I know, but surely human loneliness at one level is the absence of a memory held in common with at least one other human being?

Monday, 23 February 2009


Have you ever sometimes idly wondered about whether or not there is such a thing as objective beauty? Thoreaux reckoned that 'It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.' Maybe there is something in that, in the sense that the perceived beauty of a subject is dependant on the capacity of the 'observee' to appreciate the beauty of a piece of art, music, writing -even another person.
Perhaps it is easier with the arts as 'finished' products that we interact with and I would go with the 9th century philosopher, Abu Sulaiman al-Davani: Music and singing do not produce in the heart that which is not in it.”
People however are more complicated, I suppose. Perhaps with regards to inter-human perception of beauty, it is even more dependant on the observee than the subject: 'Love is not blind - it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.' (Rabbi Julius Gordon)
I'm not sure, now....

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Cape Town

I live in an apartment right on the beachfront in Cape Town and have an awesome view of the city at the foot of Table Mountain from across the bay. In the early morning and during the day when the city basks in sunshine, there is a vibrant rowdiness about it within the protective crescent of the mountain range. Table Mountain rests like a contented lioness lazily watching over her cub playing happily at the edge of the sea - quite safe from the rest of wild, mysterious Africa.
At night, the character changes and the city quietens, the black presence of the mountain in the winter months, when it is not floodlit, an ominous presence to any that would threaten her. The sparkling lights across the water like the REM of a city asleep, dreaming of the endless summer days to come.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

7 months

The number of months since Kirstin's death almost fade into meaninglessness - merely numerals recording how many sunsets and sunrises we have witnessed that she has not. They cannot convey those moments of the almost unbearable horror when the raw loss hits you afresh in an unguarded instant and threatens to overwhelm your sanity by the sheer finality of its presence. And then ... sitting at my desk tonight writing this, as if reminding me that nothing is ever really final in this world , by His grace I feel her presence. As sure as I feel the presence of my sleeping wife in the next room.
The most I ever did for you was to outlive you. But that is much. (Edna St. Vincent Millay)