Bright hot Monday morning, agapanthus and bronze fennel gone to seed and splitting pods all over the place, more autumn bounty. I collect the dried fennel seeds in small brown paper bags, which I put down somewhere dry and safe, and then forget about. Sigh. Major highways closed because of civil unrest and rioting, burning blockades , protest marches, the stoning of cars.
To resist the easy fall into fear and hatred, to search for ways forward that are not kneejerk reactions.
Putting out black clothes for a funeral, the prospect of a hot stuffy church filled with weeping family and friends. The smell of flowers in the church like a creeping sadness, acorns hitting the tinny roof of the old church, once Lutheran or Presbyterian, then Congregational, now United or Pentecostal. The minister as I recall is relentlessly optimistic and fond of overhead slides, bouncy choruses. But not a progressive church, the black and Cape coloured servants and labourers will sit together at the back, their presence a tolerated exception. The long black hearse out front, the oak trees turning brown against the blue skies, dead leaves thickening in gutters and ditches
Two hundred years ago, the town would have had the same wide streets shaded with European oaks, fields planted up with vines, the same low homesteads under thatch, the same whitewashed churches. A God-fearing industrious emigrant community enjoying the prosperity built on slavery. Not much has changed.
Transformation hurts, change hurts. We give up safety to snatch at freedom like a stinging nettle.
An illuminating poem from Laura Kasischke:
This is the glimpse of the god you were never supposed to get.
Like the fox slipping into the thicket.
Like the thief in the night outside the window. The cool
gray dorsal fin in the distance. Invisible
mountain briefly visible through the mist
formed of love and guilt.
And the stranger’s face hidden in the family picture. The one
imagining her freedom, like
the butterfly blown against the fence
in her best yellow dress
by the softest breeze of summer:
To have loved
and to have suffered. To have waited
for nothing, and for nothing to have come.
And the water like sleek black fur combed back that afternoon:
The young lovers rowed a boat. The boy
reeled in a fish. The husband
While the children grew anxious
for dinner. While something
struggled under the water
bound by ropes.
And the warm milk dribbled down the sick man’s chin.
And the wife, the mother, the daughter, the hostess, and those
few people on earth she would ever
wish were dead
would be the ones she loved the most.