Footnotes from 2010

Dear friends

It’s been more than a week since I abandoned the comforting chaos of the city for these vast planes of stillness. If I left without letting you know I was going to be away, do not be aggrieved. The unprecedented chaos that preceded my going away also resulted in me leaving my phone charger, hairbrush and moleskine at home. And while my little sister took pity on me, sharing her hairbrush, my friends shared their charger and the absence of my little black book has me writing to other people instead of myself.

It’s been hot with no respite from rain for the duration of my trip so far. One does not visit these parts in Summer and expect not to be accosted by blinding heat. In between 30 seconds tournaments, tuition in classical Greek music, swimming, game spotting in the twilight, scorpion killing and befriending Romanians  there has been ample opportunity for introspection. I’ve been reminded this week of Nietzsch who wrote, ‘How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think. Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.’

So with time to think, I  stood on a deck in the middle of the river just now and looked out to the snaking body of water around me. The river coursing beneath me, wavelets struggling to form and then dying in the heavy wind, I looked out to it and I felt like I too was moving. I savoured this sense of movement while my feet remained rooted to the wooden deck. Shaded from the sun by a thatched roof, I stepped back, dizzy from this overwhelming sense of motion and moved, of my own voliton,  to the opposite end of the deck. I looked out to the river again. And again I felt as though I too was in motion. As though the thatched deck built like a pier into the river, was a boat moving as urgently as the water beneath it. And I’ve no doubt physics has an explanation for this sense of motion on a stationary deck. I once asked my physics teacher what  the significance of what he was teaching me was.  Of Newton’s laws, I believed myself to be untouched. Significance, I’ve found though, transcends the shackles of my own ignorance.

Perhaps it’s psychology that has a reasonable explanation for my ‘motion sickness’ but in that too I’m only a casual observer.

But I stood there on the deck, still yet sensing motion, still while all about me a great tide of motion,  swept forth and I saw myself in this year more clearly. In that river, undeniable in its speed and direction,  I found myself looking out toward  my great foe, time.

The other night after a sunset game ride, we turned off the lights of the open top Land Cruiser and looked up to the twinkling sky. What I saw took my breath way. Stars, like the Swarwoski crystals that we’ve come to paste so liberally atop our clothes and shoes, filled the sky. But this was not a sham. These were not the sparse sprinklings of city night skies, this was a sky spread open to reveal real worlds of possibility. And while my companions oohed and aahed in rapious delight I sat quietly looking up. Inside me something moved.  I felt stirred. Not like the physical movement of the river but a movement deeper within, I felt in those moments,  free.

That night I touched my head to my prayer mat with an eagerness I haven’t felt in years. I will admit that it is rather parochial to be experiencing epiphanies at the conclusion of a Gregorian  year. I  must accept that we are sometimes that which we revile most. But in our banalities, tiresome though they may be, lie our own truths.

I confronted loss this year, certainly not willfully. Those who know me well know better to envisage me seeking out confrontation. But somehow through the losses, and little triumphs, which I must admit there were,  I have emerged accepting that time must move and I am placed within it, free.

I pray the new year sees  all your endeavours  paired with success.

With love from the Limpopo


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