Island Blog 131 Gifts

 

nebula

 

Sometimes in my life surprising gifts are given.  I remember my paintings being ‘out there’ in some gallery miles away for flipping ages doing nothing, it seemed, and then, just when I needed a lift, encouragement, a gift, it came; always a surprise.  There I was, ferreting about for enough cash or whatever wherewithall I needed, thinking How Can I manage This, and with stealth and whilst I was looking the other way, in came the gift.  Somebody bought a painting!

Of course, there are those of us who just know their paintings will sell wherever and whenever they hang them in white-walled galleries anywhere in the country just because they have a following; because someone loves watercolour landscapes, or elephants or canoes with bears in or cows with attitude, but I never had that following because every painting was in a different mood, employing different hues, tones. shapes.  Hence The Gift.

It seems to me, now that I look back across the years, my eyes moving in fast-forward but backwards that there is a plan here.  Not mine, I hasten to say, because I am like a chicken most of the time, grubbing in the dirt for whatever I’m looking for, picking over the stones and bones of life to find some nugget that will make me rise up and shout ‘Aha! and find me later relating this moment as an epiphany, and one that has altered from that moment on, my whole direction in life.

When Spring comes every year bless her old heart, she sort of spits and spurts, gives a little and then withdraws for many see-saw weeks.  One minute, cardy off and all that white flesh revealed for a couple of afternoon hours, the next she churns up snowdrifts that stop us going through Glen Coe.  One minute we are bringing out our daisy-festooned frock, the next snarling our way back into that frightful blue jumper, covered in pulls and paint marks and fighting off chillblains beside the woodburner.  We go from hot stews to no thanks I’m not hungry and meanwhile the salad vegetables, hurriedly ordered by an over-keen grocer after two days of warmth, moulder into bronze on the shelf and end up smelling something rotten in the wheelie bin.  And when she comes, Spring, she causes me much unrest.  All the birds are building nests and not overthinking anything at all.  The sun shows up the domestic slut that I am, and the windows look out onto what looks like fog.  Any visit outdoors would sort that in a nanosecond.  At Tapselteerie the begrudging Spring Clean would have been well and truly done by now, but given choices, as I now have, there is no such thing.

And with this Spring, there came a gift, unexpected, unsought, random and wonderful. In the ordinariness of any life, there are stars.

There are always stars.

 

Island Blog 130 Wild Flower

 

 

 

2014-04-18 11.28.20I know I write often about relationships, but, let’s be honest here, they are fundamental to every step we humans make.  In order to move forward in any area of our lives, we need to form them and feed them and acknowledge, within them, the parts we don’t resonate with.  We must allow each other to be who we essentially are.

Unless I meet my doppelganger, (which could throw up no end of trouble if you think about it) I am always going to have to deal with the things in you that are not in me.

As are you.

I may be loud and laugh like a donkey.  I may have an irritating habit or six.  I may bring, and undoubtedly will, into this relationship, my baggage from my own past, my own hangups about being told what to do, for example, fixed, pigeon-holed.  Or, it may be you who has spent a lifetime wanting your voice to be heard and then listened to and who is fed up with pigeons, and their holes.

When we embark on a new relationship, there is a kind of euphoria at first, if, that is, we click in a way that appears bathed in a glorious and magical light.  Then, after a little time, this wonderful light begins to pale, it has to for the true person to show their face.  We might not like this bit.  Why is that?  Because now we see beyond the mask, and we all wear them.  There are ways we wish to be seen and ways we do not wish to be seen, but it is not possible to keep that mask on for long.  Human nature is too strong for us, we are at its mercy.

What we are all seeking, is to be accepted as we are.  There are probably thousands of books on this very subject.  It’s called Agape love, as distinct from the type of love known as Eros, which is the one that comes bathed in light.  It cannot last, Eros, although it’s dashed useful as a starting gun, unless it matures into Agape.  The Greeks had many words to describe love, as do other languages.  It’s only we English speakers who have the one word and it can fankle us up something rotten as we wander through our lives.  For example, over time, love can grow weary of loving.  This is something you might say to me.  Love flickers like a candle in the winds of time, and can sometimes snuff right out.  But not Agape love, I will reply, because this love doesnt seek domination nor control.  It doesn’t ever want to make another feel small or scared or unsafe.  This love protects and encourages, even if there is no obvious point upon which we both agree, especially then.

A mother’s love for a child can be this ‘warts and all’ type, although such total acceptance is often lacking between herself and the child’s father.  And yet, didn’t they set out together to make a shared lifetime?  Of course they did.  So what is missing?  If we can allow a child to grow into an unique being, how come we work so hard to de-unique a partner?  I’m not saying we all do this, but I have found a common thread or two in the relationships I have watched and studied.

I am wondering if the starting point is outside or inside us.  If it is outside, then it must follow that we are always at the mercy of the world and its complex entanglements, a world that expects us to do or be something and someone, in order to fit, to take our place in the pecking order.  If it is inside us, then why can’t we change things?  Perhaps it’s because we don’t really want to.  Maybe we feel we have done all we can and why should we be the one to change?  If you tell me I am too over-bearing or judgemental, too quick to put you down, and you only see, before you, a person in serious need of repair, then you are obviously not going to budge.  And if I rather like whatever it is about me you don’t like, or I don’t even recognise these, so called, faults in myself, then nor am I.

If I could go back again to the early days of my adult life, not that I would want to, for a minute, I might have wished for more training on relationships and less on geography and latin. Emerging as a student with qualifications might indeed lead me into a certain area of work, presuming I could find any that is, but it doesn’t help me one bit in the art of relationship building, nor its ongoing maintenace.  If I am one of those fortunate children who was loved with an Agape love, then I am even less well-equipped, in theory, for haven’t I been allowed to be myself in any and all situations?  How on earth I am going to be able to ‘fit in’ to the shape you want me to fit into?

When I am working with school children, little ones, I can see who is confident in a goodly home love, and who isn’t, by the way the child behaves, shares, steps back, or doesn’t.  I came from a large and competitive bundle of children, and I notice how we all want to be heard, our voices rising to cap the general white noise inside a crowded house, to lift above it.  When I leave that nest, I take that need with me.  At first, you might have found it rather cute, but over time, trust me, it could well become a pain in the aspidistra, and build on itself until it becomes a ‘bad’ point, something that needs fixing, although we may not ever agree on that one.

What I have learned for certain, over many long years of relationships, is that my strength is also my weakness, and my weakness is my strength.   My excessive behaviour, is just creative energy lacking in direction, like a weed, which you may want to pull up and cast away, but which, in truth is just a wild flower in the wrong place.

 

 

 

 

Island Blog 129 Out of Africa

African woman

 

 

In Africa I was more likely to find wildlife than wifi.   Of course, there were odd times, in a bar perhaps in town or in a friend’s spanking new office block, but mostly, the only form of contact with anyone at all, was with a handshake, a wide smile and an exchange of words, a state of being I rather like, even if I did, out of habit, reach for my phone if ever we stopped for coffee.

This new office block, with its wide light rooms and wrap around views across Capetown, is already a business hub.  Inventive and creative thinking, interior design and spatial understanding brings together anyone with a business to run and no desk to run it from.  Hot Desks are affordable and genius, because, not only do you get your own space, wifi connection, etc, but you also get to work in a bustling energetic atmosphere among other creators, all of whom are more than happy to network over coffee or a beer.

At every robot (traffic lights) there may be 3 lanes of vehicles.  I look across at those parked beside us in our little silver car (Maggie) and can hardly see the tops of the buckies (four-wheel drives) without craning. Inside these sit the well-upholstered Africaaners, their windows tight shut for the aircon to work.   On the other side, a people carrier taxi, all windows open, pumps out music, the black passengers grinning and bopping on their way to or from work.  The second we stop, the street sellers move in, weaving their way among the cars, holding their merchandise, such as beaded animals, children’s wooden puzzles, mobiles, jewelery, long-legged birds fashioned from plastic bags, woven sunhats and the Big Issue. The sellers are clean and proud, in the main, the turbanned women flashing sparkly smiles, the men making eye contact.  Not begging but business.  We don’t buy because we can find exactly what they are selling on the high street or at the market, even though they did assure us it was all their own work. It could also cause a cafuffle if the lights changed in the middle of negotiations, for there are always negotiations.  The asking price is set high, the rest is barter.

I found the beggars, when we did meet them in town, and you always meet them in town, most distressing to observe.  I always wanted to give something, but, had I done so, I would still be there in Market Square with not a penny left to my name.  Once you give to one, others move in, many of them children, and all of them thin as rakes.  Those who live in Capetown are not cold hearted, but they have grown a thicker skin.  They will consider employing anyone who turns up, who cleans up, who decides to move up in life, but they will not easily support those who choose doorways to sleep in and some lethal coctail as nourishment.

I thought much about that.  If someone has lost whatever they had, which may not have been much, it might not take long for that loss to turn into an acceptable way to live.  I imagine self-confidence and respect dissolve pretty quickquick when your only chance of food is by raiding bins on collection day.  I watched a man walk down the street doing just that and talking away to himself. He was oblivious to me, beyond stepping off the pavement to avoid a collision, and his eyes were bloodshot and empty.  I pulled my bag closer and felt vulnerable and overdressed and frightfully well spoken and, well, guilty.  We were heading out of town for a few nights on the coast, with food and wine and a rented beach hut to wrap around us and all he had to look forward to was another long street of wheelie bins and the possibility of Thai curry leftovers in polystyrene. And a doorway to sleep in.

Then (for life always sends a balance to help out) I met young black people with a zeal in their bellies. Not priveleged and living in one of the townships –  mile upon mile of tin roofs and dust floors, but still determined to find new quality for their lives, waiting at tables, working on the dustcart, cleaning, odd-jobbing, and so much more.  ‘If anyone wants it, the work is here’, I was told more than once.  This is a country where labour is abundant and cheap.  Wages are low, work is hard, but these people have a joy about them, a laughter that may well not come from a place of comfort.  It’s more an attitude than a result of how life treats them.  In other words, it comes first, that smile, that easy laugh.

We saw the maids arriving at the big smart Africaaner homes every morning around 7am.  Dressed in black with brilliant white aprons, they trudged up the hills from the noisy taxi that brought them out of the townships, talking and laughing together.  They always looked up for a greeting and always responded with friendship.  Their hours, from 7.30 to whenever they were done cleaning, looking after children and cooking, might earn them £8 at the far end of a day that expects a woman to do every domestic job required.  Then they walked back to the taxi rank, back to the townships to their own families to begin all over again, every single day.  When I talked with one maid, she told me she was happy to work.  Work, she said, is important.  No work, no importance. She look at me, astonished when I told her I had worked as a maid for a time.  Why?  she asked me.  ‘You don’t have maids in Scotland?’  As if cleaning was not for my shiny white hands. I fumbled about for an answer that didn’t sound like ‘well, I needed the money.’  She would have fainted clean away, had she known the wage I was paid for doing far less than is expected of her. And then she smiled the widest smile and then she laughed a laugh that made her bangles jingle and shook her head in amazement and amusement at the very thought of the ‘Ma’ cleaning a house, even her own.  Then she gathered up a huge pile of washing and left me wondering at my priveleged life and how often I forget to remember that it is just that.