Sunday night was one of those nights. You wake up in the early hours to make a quick trip down the hall and then that’s it. Sleep is well and truly interrupted. The rhythm is gone, never to be seen again– for tonight, anyway. After twenty minutes or so, despite tissue salts (#6 Kali Phos may help), conscious slow breathing and counting backwards from 100, I’m still there, firmly in the grip of something that is bigger than my toolkit and all my best intentions. Sometimes I even forget about the toolkit—I forget to check on myself and what is happening with my thoughts, and how these may be affecting my breath and heart rate. A sudden recollection of a disagreement at work or at home may lead to an unexpected welling up of outrage, resentment, or whatever, and before you know it you are confronting that person in your head, you are feeling the steaminess of anger and righteous indignation, your heart rate goes up as your blood starts to boil, and in no time you are wide awake, living those unpleasant memories, and any hope of sleep has left the building!
With lockdown regulations having been relaxed a bit here recently, I was this past weekend harshly reminded of one of my Big Dislikes (pet hates) as I peeled off onto the highway in my car. I hadn’t had to look at one of those gargantuan, freestanding advertising billboards for some time, and I was not pleased as I spotted one in the distance, realizing then that within a few kilometers my senses were about to be assaulted in full colour. I could see the thing in the distance, preparing to stare me down as I got closer and closer. There are other things about city living that bother me almost as much, but these Leviathans hold a special (dark) place in my heart. And in these troubled Covid times, they somehow seem even more awkward, ugly and intrusive — out of place and out of step with the times.
I went through my own blogsite on Saturday– spent some time there, sprucing things up a bit. I changed the appearance– the colour scheme, the font and a few other features. I thought about changing the theme, but I wasn’t feeling quite THAT adventurous, (although according to WP it is quite easy), so I decided to stay with what I know and just tweak and freshen things up a bit. There’s nothing like a bit of a trim and a pop of new colour to help you step up a gear. Oh, and I added a new page, dedicated to my writing dabbles, which I shall add to over time, till it’s bursting at the seams. At the moment there is just one piece of short fiction in there. Baby steps.
I am accustomed to working from home. What I’m not accustomed to is having someone at home with me, sitting at his desk just on the other side of the pillar while I sit at mine. It’s not really a big deal- while he’s busy on one of his conference calls, or speaking to a colleague on the phone, in go my earplugs and I continue as normal. So on a practical level things have not changed much- I still do pretty much the same stuff as I did before lockdown: cook food, clean house, garden garden, feed cat. And write.
Here at the Southernmost tip of Africa, we have just passed our twentieth day in Lockdown. There is that distinct and awkward feeling of trying to carry on as normal, as if nothing unusual is happening. And interestingly, whether unusual or not, we get on with life anyway, don’t we? And many of the challenges are the same as they ever were: the frustration of a laptop which suddenly plays up, or knowing that you need to make that difficult call, or deciding what to make for dinner. But we are fortunate if those are the extent of our concerns. There are people I know who are wondering when, and even if, they are going to be able to get back to earning an income, and others, far worse, who may not even know where there next meal comes from and are dependent at this time on the goodwill of others. On the positive side, there has been a groundswell of individuals and organisations who have reached out and stepped in to help, to try and offer something to people in our midst who are living with very little means of support.
It’s been a long while since my last blog entry. One whole year and three days has passed by since I last put pen to paper here! This was not unforeseen: I realised early last year that I was being drawn onto a new and different path, as a fledgling writer of fiction that is. I have surprised myself by managing to churn out over twenty short stories since March 2019, many of which are still works in progress as I slowly find my feet in what feels like a whole new world. Last year I read Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury,and things kind of unfolded from there. This is a new experience which blogging has no doubt helped steer me into and helped prepare me for. In many ways, after all, writing is writing- a thing that requires us to put ourselves out there, on days both good and bad. It can be lonely and frustrating, but we press on because it’s worth it! When I look back at some of my blog entries now I feel proud at what I managed to do- all my hard work, and the joy and satisfaction that I felt at a piece well done. And as for the people who I follow and who have followed me, whose writing I have so enjoyed, admired, been deeply touched by, even at times amazed by- a whole gamut of responses and emotions have come up for me just in being part of this community of writers. And whether I blog here once a week or once a year, there is no doubt that this community has been a joy, an education, and a source of inspiration to me, and I will always be grateful for that. Thank you ♥
The packaging is often the first thing you notice when you spot something new on the shelves, and a product’s packaging tells you a lot about the company that it’s connected to. For instance: are they using a lot of single use plastic, is the packaging unnecessarily bulky in relation to its contents, does the writing on the packaging contain helpful information about the company and its products, and what does the written information say about the ingredients used, especially in edible products? But there is a lot of other stuff to consider if you really want to understand if the company is running their business ethically, for instance how they source their raw materials, how their business impacts the natural environment, and how they treat their workers. If you visit the wonderful The Green Stars Project site, you will see that consumers (you and me) are encouraged to submit reviews using an amended version of the gold star rating system found on many retailer’s and review sites, by including a green star rating system based on social and environmental impact.
Outside the window to my left there is a nest in our mulberry tree. Both parents are back and forth constantly, carrying wormy morsels for consumption by two tiny, hungry baby birds. I have been watching this beautiful process for about three weeks now, starting when I noticed the two adults putting the final touches to their compact little nest, right in front of the glass doors at one entrance to our house. If I wanted to I could clear the distance between the entrance and the tree in two or three strides, stand on the bench just beneath it, and reach up and touch the nest. At first I thought I was surely mistaken: why would they build so close by? Had they not noticed that there are people living here, using this very entrance several times a day? Not to mention our cat (okay, he’s elderly and has never climbed that tree, but he’s often in the area), and that all things considered they had best find another spot?
My garden has breathed a sigh of relief, following some impressive afternoon thunderstorms, so typical of Johannesburg at this time of the year. Many a seedling wilted and died last month, after weeks of unrelenting, frustratingly rain-less heat which rendered even the toughest of our garden plants (aloes and crassulas) gasping for relief. January 2019 has offered some rainy respite, bringing with it a sense of fresh renewal and the garden has responded accordingly. Not that we haven’t had some failures: seeds lovingly planted have mysteriously not produced (I have learnt to accept that this sometimes is just so), seedlings have shriveled and expired in the heat, and our lovely lettuce was set upon by some bug or worm with a very large appetite. In this case I have been determined not to use chemical insect repellents, and thankfully our preferred organic alternatives are slowly making an impact.
Please enjoy the pictures to follow. Each one snapped by me earlier today:
When I spied this poisonous Brown Button spider and her eggs clinging to the underside of a piece of garden furniture, I felt a strong pull of sympathy and fascination and less of the horror and alarm that some might expect. I even felt a bit guilty for not having noticed her when I initially pulled the chair away from it’s normal shady spot two days ago, and placed it on the lawn in the baking hot sun where it has been ever since. Waiting to be scrubbed clean along with some other pieces of garden equipment. (We will get round to that). I felt a distinct sense of kinship with this spider mother who was after all, just trying to give her kids a home and fighting chance in a harsh world, and here I come along and spoil the whole plan by exposing them, belly side up, to the blazing summer sun and the possibility of predators, such as certain birds.
I have come across venomous spiders before in Johannesburg gardens, and I knew by sight that this one was not severely venomous. It’s the Black Button (Widow) that you’ve really got to be careful of: typically a bite from one of those results in a hospital admission and having your vital signs measured for about 24 hours. A bite from the Brown Button is less severe and more localised, and symptoms in a healthy adult will normally clear up within a few days. Button Spiders will only attack if threatened; not exactly the vicious predators they are sometimes made out to be.
Well anyway, there we were: myself, the spider and her little brood of two, with me wondering what to do next. A nice photograph of the little family seemed appropriate, so I leaned in slowly with my phone and clicked. She immediately darted into her nest, which you can clearly see in the above pic: it’s the pocket shaped mass to the right of the photo, with her balancing at the mouth. Pleased with my nicely detailed close-up, and feeling somewhat bonded with this little trio, I felt inclined to offer them some shelter, so I lifted the chair (easy enough; its made of a light plastic) and moved the whole lot into a shady spot on the patio.
And that’s where we are now. But the harder part comes later, because clearly a decision will have to be made. We are encouraged to ‘get rid’ of poisonous creatures from our homes and gardens, and that can mean different things to different people. So when my husband gets home later from an undoubtedly long and hard day, we will still have a little date with Mother Nature to attend to.