A new month, arriving without warning, brandishing the new sliver of moon like a bendy toothpick. Deadlines squat on my desk and mutter at me. I have household tasks, admin and bills to sort out, the garden is crestfallen, writing flows and stops. Editing grows onerous. And I have no time to write a brief blog, I think to myself and then click open the site.
Elections tomorrow, a public holiday, hoping there won’t be riots. Or cars stoned on the highway, or bombings or police violence. Or bad news from anywhere.
Spears of narcissi coming up at the side of the house, fiercely green. The water meter half-buried in dead leaves seems to have gone awry, numbers don’t compute. Rates and taxes follow me around like evil twins whining at how unaffordable my life has become right now. The morning’s coffee tastes like mud, all sediment and bitterness. I’m writing a poem about Walt Whitman channeling his mother, internalising the maternal. Bold strelitzia in a tall jug on the kitchen windowsill attract lines of ants seeking out nectar. The bold paddles of those leaves deserve a poem to themselves.
For an arid country, the valley and mountain slopes are surprisingly green from snow melt and rain. Green and unshadowed. Schoolchildren play cricket on the spongy water-logged playing fields. Moss grows on paves in the back garden. I plant out fat pink cloves of garlic showing curved green spikes.
My neighbour arrives to show me his latest finds from an antique shop on the Kalk Bay sea front. I’m thinking about a youngster blowing himself up in Anspach, the medieval town where the enigmatic Kaspar Hauser appeared as if from nowhere and was murdered. What do we make of the stranger in our midst? My neighbour dislikes dogs and won’t come inside but stands at the gate to uncover his new treasures. Silver-plated tea pot and tureen, patches where the copper or brass shows through. “Is that handle worn Bakelite?” I ask tactlessly and he glares at me. I have taken the sheen off his discoveries with my liking for accuracy. I admire the tea pot, but he is not convinced.
Tomorrow I shall write five business letters, edit a legal report, make a tagine of Moroccan lamb with preserved lemons and za’atar and cumin and rose water or other impossibly fragrant spices and preserved lemons I bottled last winter. And then I shall sit and tighten the focus of my elastic irreverent mind and write.
There is the housemate now, bringing in firewood, calling the dogs, scraping mud off her shows. I open an old chewed-up (puppy, sweet nameless puppy) paper of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard and read:
We don’t know what’s going on here . . . We don’t know. Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.