For the first time ever a month has passed without my posting anything. Is my blog dying? I fear it might be. As more and more my mind moves into the ‘life after Sequoia Gardens’ mode, the daily developments here seem less important, the big picture of the past 30 years, and the next 30, stand out clearer.
Nearly four years ago I moved out of The House that Jack Built. In the first month of my blog I wrote about it here and little over a year later I wrote about moving into the big house here. I now know that moving out of my cottage was the start of where I am now; had I not left that inner sanctuary, I don’t think I would have managed to be on the brink of departure today, actually longing to put this time of limbo behind me.
I searched Google images before choosing this picture. In the early days of teaching on the mountain I remember saying to a class: “When Mandela dies the world will weep together like it has never wept for one man.” And it did, but not quite as I had imagined. For too long all had known that death would be a blessed relief for him. The grief was tinged with relief, for this man deserved the right to die peacefully like few ever before him. In July my cousins gathered as usual on the farm on the Limpopo I have often written about, and where I took this photo.
City Press carried this headline this last week:
Africa mourns its towering baobab.
The eldest of the grandsons is the political editor of an important Johannesburg daily paper. The last thing he did from Polokwane before leaving ‘civilization’ in early July was to contact his team of people standing ready to cover Mandela’s death at the hospital in Pretoria where he lay critically ill, at his homes in Johannesburg and Qunu, at parliament and in various other places. Then he dropped down into the Limpopo valley where reception is at best erratic; twice a day he made a trip to higher ground to check on developments. Had Mandela died, he would have left within the hour. By the nature of things Mandela was central to our July discussions; it became clear to me that this young man was not just a great intellect and a people-person, but also a formidable manager. I mention this to illustrate the logistics underlying the death of a man of Mandela’s stature. But he didn’t die in July, and gradually the international press went home, and the time of waiting started.
There were other losses, and near losses, during this past month, less important perhaps, but more personal and thus more poignant. For some weeks I had had an ampoule of a calming fluid to give to my dear old dog, Taubie, when the time came to take her sore old body 35km down a twisting mountain pass to be put down. But I gave it instead to my youngest dog, Mateczka, my ridgeback, 4 years and 4 days old. She had developed over several weeks a progressive neurological degeneration which affected her movement and spacial perception and was constantly anxious, not understanding what on earth was happening to her. When she took a tumble whilst trying to squat, I knew that her life was no longer a joy to her. And so it happened that I came back up the mountain with a second ampoule, and took Taubie down 10 days later. Mateczka Mothertjie Muddypaws aged 3 months left, and Taubie in her prime seven years ago. And then there was Louis, who was it not for the miracle of modern sonar scans and medication would certainly have died during this past month.
I have been meaning for weeks to share my roses. Here is my favourite, The Hybrid Musk rose Penelope. And below is another favourite, known only as Aunty Corrie, from whom I got her. She blooms only once a year, but is magnificent. With a bit of luck I will have roses to pick next week – the first have bloomed after the destruction of October’s hail. And thus life continues. Even if I have yet to write a proper post on roses.