A New Years trigger

I had promised not to write any 2017 homilies this year given 2016’s recalcitrant machinations to last year’s goodwill messages.Sitting in my garden now however, surrounded by the aftermath of last nights New Years celebration- the abandoned empty cartridges the only reminder of the glorious though ephemeral display of an elaborately sequined sky last night coupled with the blanketed silence of snoozing revelers, – I had cause to reflect on a recent incident which I thought fitting to share on this day – one that’s often bitter sweet for me and most – pregnant with hope and cautious optimism yet wizened by weary and wary disenchantment .
Last week at the local gym, a space never failing to disappoint in the realm of psychosocial learning (the desirable weight loss yearning for moi though being the exception – hey, narcissism is fed through those air vents I swear:) with its revolving door of varied personalities as the fitness frenzy gives succor to a range of needs – from the loss of a loved one to the promise of more fulfilled life – I had chance to observe in my direct line of vision, , whilst soldiering on the treadmill, a very senior , short, wiry soul engaged in the most elegant of yoga poses. I marveled at his finesse and how he sedulously segued from one position to another.
And then he rolled over onto his tummy and lay prostrate . Just lay there…no heaving – nothing – oblivious to the beeping lights signaling circuit changes – a non stirring body amidst all round frenetic movement.
I was torn between minding my own business and intervening to check whether he was alive but thankfully after what seemed like forever, he raised his head and must have caught the look of relief that registered on my face as he then flashed a warm smile in kindred acknowledgement.
Shortly thereafter while clanging away at those unyielding machines :), I was tentatively interrupted by a friendly greeting by our playing possum yogi. He commended me on my stride on the treadmill ( I laughed inwardly because I’m quite the vagabond on the treadmill – firstly my treadmill jaunt is punctured by fumbling for the right Audio book to listen to, then the constant adjustments to the speed -treadmills do seem to get ahead of themselves don’t they?- but wasn’t going to dismiss the compliment especially when all you’ve ever heard about your gait is that you walk like a Fordsburg Kleva – the latter ‘ bounce and stoop’ due to years of being weighed down by ones towering height over your peers . )
Anyway I reciprocated the kind gesture by lauding his yoga postures and enquired after who had taught him. What follows is a beautiful message that has comforted me to no end these last two days….
It appears that his wife was a yoga instructor in her heyday who had taught him this discipline to which he ascribed his youthful 80 year old body and spirit! . He then mentioned that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago . I could only surmise ,based on my experience of watching a movie called ‘Away from her’ (2006) and also knowing a once vibrant, articulate, multi-linguist family friend who had only recently succumbed to this condition, how devastating this illness could also be on loved ones….
Yet he displayed no sense of despair – in fact his eyes lit up when speaking about her, commenting on her striking beauty even at this age, and their joyful times spent together – theirs a marriage of 60 years! He was merely reciprocating her generosity of spirit she had shared with him all these years…and shouldered no burden .
‘Contented dementia’ was the term he used to describe her stage of Alzheimer’s and informed me about this alternative approach used to interact with patients of this disorder….You use triggers relating to past experiences of joyful memories …always using statements , never questions so as to avoid aggravating the person – so you basically use the past to make sense of the present.
He was fortunate to have a groundswell of triggers….
I drank up his words, inspired by the connection that some souls are blessed with and thankful that I had had the opportunity to be quenched by his share…
And whilst not all of us may be in the position to build memories with a particular being or a beloved , as Erich Fromm says :

“Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an ordination of character which determines the relatedness of the person to the whole world as a whole, not toward one object of love”
― Erich Fromm

Here’s wishing you all lots of triggers for that period of senectitude (this weeks word of the day…meaning the last stage in old age) . I just received mine!

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Lagniappes from the ocean…on becoming driftglass

Scattered souls on the sea shore

Once tabularasa – shiny, intact

Filled with promise and hope before..

Then deceived, broken and shipwrecked

by hasty choices and failed rapport.

Abandoned as shards of disappointment and loss

Jagged with shoves of unbridled dross

Tallying life’s unjust and random score.

No narcissitic, self absorbed tattoos of pain

Or wallowing in exhibitionist rants of unrelenting disdain.

Just surrendering quietly to the heave and  tumble

Of  vicissitudes that ebb, roar and rumble

Smoothing eventually the brittle edges of glass

To render frosted gems, all along life’s pass.

 The maiden “Aunt” matrimonial schtick

I hate public speaking.

Ever since high school when our formidable English teacher mocked my nervous rocking posture after a speech I had  delivered , I vowed never to speak on a public platform again. I was mortified to say the least given especially that my secret heart-throb was part of the senior group that Ms Cruella chose to castigate me in front of,  ridiculing me with her mimic of my delivery in an exaggerated fashion of swaying her hips in the most absurd manner…How I wished the earth could’ve swallowed me up that day !

In any event the fate of this mythical dalliance was sealed a few days later when , whilst  walking past said beau, I slipped right in front of him, landing on my derrière …and was met with a very unchivalrous response from him in the form of a  falsetto rendition of  Paul Simon’s “Slip Sliding Away” –  thus effectively relegating my infatuation for him to the annals of unrequited delusional fancies. I thankfully  never  gave him a second glance – truth be told  more out of embarrassment at  my compromised “elegant’ gait than chagrin at his lack of gallantry, unfortunately !

The course of romance for me henceforth was littered with the cadences of arses and theses, settling eventually to a culminating coda of a tumultuous marriage…an institution that still confounds me after almost 20 years of hard labour, mercifully interspersed with halcyon days which served to temper many a stormy night.  So I was understandably  taken aback when asked to deliver a speech at my nieces wedding …Me, the merry matrimonial manqué who loathed public speaking  …and now to proselytize on the virtues of marriage??? My apprehension was somewhat  abated by the fact that it was after all my  late brother, Allie’s daughter’s wedding , and so indeed an honour that I was asked to represent our family. More especially as I was my brother’s youngest sister, the deviant one at that too 🙂 , I thought best I rise to the occasion and face my demons. I guess it didn’t hurt too that I didn’t have to stand and  deliver the speech …thus minimising the  likelihood of  summonsing memories of that ill fated day in high school  of my  oratorial bop!

And of course when words are spoken from the heart , the anxiety fades to make way for genuine warm thoughts …

Here’s a transcript of the speech , that thankfully was well received (with the video recorded by my 8 year old grand niece.Note to self- best thing to have doting little people nearby – they instantaneously calm the harsh, critic inside 😉 )

“I was very touched that  Raeesah asked me to share a few words as a representative of her dads family as I know my brother would have been beaming today, so very proud , to see his little ‘princess’ complete half her faith  and take on this commitment to honour both herself and her spouse in nurturing love and mercy on what is probably the most tumultuous journey  they will take together . And if any of you really  knew Allie , fondly knowns as Butchie boy or Butch, you would know how he evolved; learning the art of love and mercy through the many  ups and downs of life – as he touched the lives of so many with his endearing ways  …and I’m sure he would have had so many gems of insight to offer  Raeesah tonight – so Im going to try to  evoke a little bit of his spirit  in the hope that wherever he is , he’s happily looking down and sending you both his blessings,  Raeesah and Shaheer

Allie,  as many of you will remember was a warm, charismatic,  good-looking guy with an infectious laugh and brilliant smile,  lekker stout but with a ‘heart of gold’  (as someone commented on a post about him on a Facebook awhile back ) Never one to hold grudges, he always sought to create harmony and good cheer …which I see reflected in Raeesah’s  affable disposition. It is precisely her warmth and charm and humility that makes her so special… and traits that I hope she’ll sustain in her space with her spouse and which she in turn, will be cherished and respected for.

And whilst Allie could dress to the nines – Shaheer and Raeesah , I’m sorry to say I reckon you guys,the couple on the cat-walk, would have had some tough competition  on Instagram if he’d been around, hey – Im not sure  if you remember Raeesah but your dad would shop you the most  beautiful frocks when you were little,  turning you into a virtual princess! Anyway whilst he liked the good things , he had the same keen sense of style to recognise true wealth of spirit in a man with a torn shirt and holes in his shoes.  Talking about shoes, my brother had this annoying habit of drying his just washed and scrubbed, very clean ,white  Jack Purcells in the warm drawer of the oven!!  I can still remember the shrieks of annoyance when we found the takkies warming in the oven drawer…and he would just stand there cackling, dismissing our complaints with the claim that the drawer wasn’t really used anyway.  So Shaheer you’ll cut Raeesah  some slack if you don’t find the Sunday roast in the oven  and instead find her All Stars there (unless you’re a real man and cooked it yourself of course!)  I’m not sure how far this genetic thing goes so I think you ‘d best do the roasting for now.

A jive bunny and crooner of note , Butch was largely  responsible for my romance with Blood , Sweat and Tears, the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Bad Co, Breakfast In America – all the pop  ballads he’d sing in the car when he dropped me off at  school.  I’m not sure about Raeesah’s musical ear but I  caught a glimpse of her mom and her  doing a little Bollywood jig at her Mehndhi night …she’s got the moves alright Shaheer, a little bit stiff so I’m hoping you can belt out some  good tunes there to really loosen her up!

Her dad though also read the Quran beautifully- Ramadaan was special with his comforting recitals filling the evening hours , with his reading rendered even more melodic given his  understanding of the Arabic verses…..Balance was key to his amiable disposition – a vibrant zest for life harnessed with a strong sense of spirituality. Allie had pursued an Aalim course in India many moons ago. He put a lot by scholastic endeavours especially if it meant making a meaningful contribution to humanity’, as he once told me.

And so he would have been especially proud to know that just a few days ago he’s daughter had graduated with her pharmacy degree , with just few % short of a cum laude pass. Well done Raeesah!! May your mobile pharmacy on wheels now become a legit operation  …She’s  been our go-to-pharmacist, always ready on the fly with a suggestion for an ailment  . We wish you the best  in your post-grad studies and pray that you exploit that good head of yours in meaningful endeavours …like a miracle age defying cream or something J

Seriously you have  achieved so much, despite the significant losses in your life … and have blossomed from a cutie pie to a beautiful, smart , hard-working and most importantly humble yet strong and forthright young woman.

And thank you Shaheedah (and the Solomon family) …from all us …. Raeesah’s achievements; her  strength of character and generous spirit, are in large part, due to your efforts Shaheedah , your tireless dedication and sacrifices and your giving nature.  I’m so certain Allie would say, Shot Cooks! You’ve done well with my princess.

So Raeesah, your father and brother who left us too early , and then Papa – the Rahiman men that were all so proud of you, and that you brought so much  joy to, make way now for another significant figure who we hope will always have your back- like they would. And who you will bring joy to, too.

Shaheer , on behalf of the Rahiman’s  we welcome you to this family (you know what you’re getting into on both sides, so no excuses and no sympathies J!)

My wish for you both is that you be the joy and comfort to each others eyes….

That you both grow spiritually in this union, governed foremost by a love for the Almighty, from which all that is goodly and tranquil must then flow.

That you honour , love and respect each other and never give up  falling in love with each other – because without a doubt you will change-both of you – the trick is being tenacious in finding that spark and never closing that space to talk….and to really listen.

And remember that whilst you have each other as your best  friends, know that you always have the support of your family and friends. Don’t forget  us, hey!

Mabrook ! May the Almighty  bless your marriage with tons of happiness!  Here’s to  years of celebrations Insha-Allah!!” 

Subversive Delights

And so the chronicles of the prodigal baker continues (in reference to my last episode of the mass-éclair-bake-off, the “if- its-not-posted-it-didn’t-happen” kind …similar to the “if-you-didn’t-wear-your-Fitbit,-your- km’s- walked -ain’t-worth-the-sweat-you-poured “ type..you get? ) so you’ll forgive the tech-induced confessional share of my culinary gambits .. Still, the once rare, now slowly becoming somewhat more often/ regular, occurrence of my experimenting in the kitchen after lunch (instead of rushing off to the local bakery) is never without its requisite drama when it does happen…

Deep in my reverie of spooning dollops of coconut in the little flower pastry cups, I was disturbed by my SO with the scintillatingly, helpful question as to “what it was I was now concocting ?”.

“’Hertzoggies’, I replied…somewhat triumphant that our philomath/autodidact from Fordsburg wouldn’t have a clue as to what this was, and so awaited the expected absurdist retort which ‘SO’ of course didn’t disappoint , accusing me of assaulting the family’s palates with right wing HNP cuisine.. , To which I quipped, armed with the relevant credentials of being born in Fietas, formative years spent in Athlone, later Newclare and raised by my ‘Malay’ step mom etc. that it was a popular Malay biscuit that ‘everyone knew’ and trailed off that the name was probably passed down as a term of endearment accredited to the source i.e. an “Aunty Zoggie” or something…. And added with aplomb that there was no compulsion to indulge … knowing full well that the smell of hot sweet pastry, wafting through the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, an uncommon aroma in our surrounds with functional purchases the order of the day:/ , would melt even the most stoic Trotskyites palate.  And so the recipe was added to the #notquitetheanarchists cookbook after I wryly witnessed 4 tarts scoffed in a sec.

Until the gagging sound this afternoon when I settled down to finally read Gabeda Baderoon’s utterly engaging, accessible and well researched scholarly work “Regarding Muslims- from slavery to post apartheid“. How the cookie crumbled when I discovered in chapter 3 that the “Hertzoggies” was indeed named after General Hertzog in 1936, and that the pastry served to encode the ‘betrayals and ambiguities of history’. She writes about the cookies unsavoury past (a story which is not readily shared for obvious reason I guess, given its part-complicity in the apartheid projects aim to divide Black communities) – initially baked in honour of General Hertzog for his promise to give Malay slaves the vote and when he reneged on this, the cookie was then dubbed a ‘ twee gevreetjie” (hypocrite). So Baderoon describes the painful memory of slavery encoded in this humble tart/ cookie and provides a fascinating account of the dissident practices in the culinary history of Muslims in South Africa.

I’m beginning to wonder what other subversive delights I may be harbouring unbeknownst…Tamalaykee anyone?

 

 

Falling upwards

About three weeks ago I had a chance encounter with a ( I’m searching for the PC term for this…) ah…a ‘human access tunnel’you know, those all commonly occurring cavities in the pavements and roads , rendered so by a covert scrap metal industry and a slack municipal service.

Yes, I fell into an uncovered manhole, on a particularly dark evening abandoned by both celestial and said municipalities electricity services, whilst leaving the home of my ailing step mom who I’d come to visit.

It wasn’t nice.

Stolen_Manhole

I’ll spare you the gory details – save to say that I lay on the pavement, writhing in the most excruciating pain whilst strangulating the expletives that were marshaled on my lips – ready to rip but cautioned by a quick glance at my step mom who, herself in pain, was trying valiantly but unsuccessfully to beckon the neighbors to assist.

The sense of isolation and momentary forsakenness served to fuel a gut wrenching primal scream, which I surrendered to, uninhibited , in full glory.

And then from the darkness, as if summonsed by the wail, three figures approached in succession.

One, a shady looking character , who cast a furtive glance in my direction and scanned the belongings that lay scattered all around me…but strode on hurriedly, almost as if frightened by the spectacle. The next , a couple who appeared to be in an intense, animated conversation, their voices dampened by the darkness that shrouded their mutual focus, passed by too, seemingly oblivious to my fall from grace:)

What was striking was that both parties appeared to be unruffled by a figure lying on the pavement and another knocking furiously on the pavement doors.

It was eerily numinous, this whole scene – redolent of archetypes signaling a vision or omen of some sort …portentous and potent enough for me to gather my wits – despite the searing pain – beckon my mom to go inside and shut the door whilst I attempted to stand (and thus confirm no broken bones) and to drive home…alone.

Needless to say, the next few days were marked by a painful hobble.

Whilst the bruising has somewhat abated, the incident continues to plague me as the night seemed to herald a sort of seismic shift in the way I’ve since started examining my life. Indeed, the hematoma that marks its descent down my leg, highlighting new areas of bruising each day, in its quest to finally dissolve and thus demonstrate the body’s remarkable process of healing, has illuminated remarkable insights about the souls journey in reacting to life’s wounds.

True, I had commenced this journey before the fateful event but that fall signaled a firm commitment now, to a path that I may have previously been dithering about.

It was thus with a sense of serendipitous delight that I stumbled upon this poem in a book that has kept me enraptured for the past few weeks i.e. The Middle Passage – from Misery to Meaning in Midlife by James Hollis and which no doubt has afforded me with the appropriate lens to view the recent occurrences in my life…and to walk freely.

So I’m sharing this in the hope that it may resonate with another soul hoping to embark on a similar journey…without necessarily falling into a hole:-)

An Autiobiography in five short chapters by Portia Nelson

I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in.

I am lost… I am hopeless. It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there. I still fall in…it’s a habit

My eyes are open; I know where I am; It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

 

 

Balmy musical nights

written 10/08/2015

It all started on a 12 string G11 flourish which moi identified immediately as the opening chord of a “Hard Days Night”…the ear ain’t so bad after all I reckon;-) . Got no work done tonight/this morning despite my best intentions, now that the laptop morphed into a karaoke monitor and beckoned me to lampoon Peter Framptons signature helium wail on “Show me the way…”kwa ,kwa, kwa, kwa…I’m impressed at my rendition despite my exposed mondegreens courtesy of the online lyrics 😉. The maestro then suggests “Don’t play that song for me” by Ben E King (ok… I can take a hint) but the signature base sequence reminds me of “Stand by Me”… and I can’t help but think of the Kaapse Klopse doing a parody of this many moons ago in a previous life …or was it the Bosmont Trio…to which the erstwhile hippy-turned-suburban-lounge artist protests, that this was performed by the Becker street Kulture Desk. Ha! Anyway the fingers then hearken to Third World’s “Now that we found love what are we gonna do” followed by Marleys, “Natural Mystic” leading onto the Burning Spears “Ghost of Marcus Garvey” , accompanied of course by the requisite commentary on the life of the former Jamaican revolutionary ( by maestro /polymath never missing a beat to spread his wealth of facts and trivia;-) . Love these #JukeBoxGuitar sessions and can’t wait for balmy nights to croon the dust away. Fitting then to conclude with Earth, Wind and Fires ”September.” #Melodical Journals

A Summer Place

Didn’t really know my mom as she had passed on about a year after I was born….So my dad was somewhat startled, to say the least, when I exclaimed, many years later , upon hearing this piece , how I loved this song….’cos , as it turned out , was my moms favorite too! Beautiful piece to waltz along to…hence not surprisingly they were great (dashing )ballroom dancers too so I’m told…harmonizing together to persevere through some pretty tough times later …And thus so I wish for my daughter(s) and son that same ineffable elegance in ardour and timeless , sustaining amour…. ..#feelingNostalgic for simpler times. (16/12/2014)

Written a week before John Berger’s demise(22-12-2016)

I could never quite articulate the immense comfort I’d experience as a kid, from watching my father – a mechanic by trade (but more a visual artist at heart), fix things. His intent gaze, throbbing vein on his temple and spectacles perched purposefully on the crook of his nose – all summonsed to provide meticulous attention to detail as he sought to repair an appliance for our home or assemble a carburettor for a waiting family anxious to hit the road , filled me with an inexplicable sense of security. 

Later this feeling would extend towards my brother as I witnessed , with begrudging admiration, his mechanical exploits in assisting with similar needed tasks at home…

And then in more recent years, the feeling evolved into intense allure when observing a lover straining every sinew at a DIY task or a repair job (Not to diminish at all the potential titillation of high-brow conversation for me…🙂  It was more the selfless immersion in an act for… the collective good ??  An extreme extrapolation I’ll admit…But with hindsight I reflect now that I perceived this focus to be different (and hence significant) from say that of the focused attention applied when pursuing a higher art form like for e.g. playing an instrument or writing, of which the benefit may, by and large, be purely for an individualistic pursuit…

Here it was a response to a call to action for an altruistic purpose that I found to be so potently stirring…and captured so powerfully and eloquently in this passage from John Bergers book’ From A to X – A story in letters ‘… as the narrator Aida recounts a memory of her imprisoned lover. The juxtaposition of the impending military operation encroaching on them and her lovers mechanical prowess ( he is later imprisoned as an insurgent) is captured in such a searingly beautiful manner:


‘… In your left hand an electric screw driver, small as a wren with several beaks. Occasionally you tapped with it. I could see – for it was visible in your shoulders – that you were not only following wires, you were tracing the thinking process by which men had conceived and then constructed that machine.
In the main streets shots were being fired.
Let’s try this, you whispered. And I suddenly took in that with man-made machines there are circuits of ingenuity which can be shared between minds. Like poetry is shared. I saw this in the back of your hands.
No words have ever been reassuring to me as your hands were at that moment. We could hear their orders being shouted through a loud hailer in the main street. You looked up, directly at me, you nodded. And then winked with one of your sore eyes. ‘

Vygotsky’s voices

The Wits School of Education in conjunction with the Graduate Center recently hosted their Key Word/Key Thinkers programme focusing on the work of Lev Vygotsky. I was fortunate to attend these proceedings and record two of the speakers’ talks Viz. Jill Bradbury on Signs and Subjectivity and Rashad Bagus on Vygotsky on the Zone of Proximal Development using an Olympus Universal Recording device .This relatively unobtrusive device (which I suspect was a welcome relief to the lecturers as it captured their talk without hindering them in the least)provided extremely good sound quality. I recorded the talks , then converted it to MP# using Audacity and was able to easily upload on the KEWL system and embed into my blog as shown below.

Apart from being sufficiently  humbled by both Prof Ian Moll’s challenging presentation, which looked at Vygotsky’s work through a cultural historical theoretical lens paradigm, as well as  the complex discourse that emerged post the speakers presentations (prompting  me to use Google Scholar and immerse myself in the plethora of scholastic works on Vygotsky) ,  I was further encouraged to pursue my imminent research proposal through a Vygotskian lens focusing on the subject of Facebook as a cultural artefact which influences the formation of identity and so assists in learning,  This was inspired by  Dr.  Jill Bradbury’s presentation on Signs and Subjectivity in which she touched on concepts such as Audience and Relationality, the Temporal Self, Development of the Self through the Narrative etc.

Dr. Rashad Bagus talk on the Zone of Proximal Development included a discussion of the Russian words such as obuchenie and lichnost and the difficulty in translating these words rendering a misinterpretation of Vygotsky’s work  by many Western scholars.  Bagus’s concluding talk colluded with that of his colleagues’ earlier ones in sounding the death knell to my leisurely weekends as I realized the enormity and complexity of the task that lay ahead .

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