Of all the maxims that I relate to, one of the strongest is “Home is where the heart is”.
Yet… I spent a fitful weekend, with a lot of pacing – when my mind and heart are agitated, my body follows suit, and with restless feet and eyes, I moved within the (normally soothing) spaces of my own habitat, looking at all the little things I hold so dear, the threads that form the tapestry of my life’s journey, the books and photos, furniture (some belonged to my grandparents), momentos of every shape and texture and functionality and sentimentality – the fabric of “me”.
I tried to image myself stripped of all these things I hold dear, that represent memories and associations
Our capacity to resonate, not only with all inhabitants of our planet, but also with the condition and health of the great spinning orb that is our (long-suffering) home, is a profound aspect of our humanity.
I’m not a user of social media, but friends shared with me some of the harrowing pictures, once the smoke had cleared, of the recent destruction nearby.
Images now seared into my consciousness forever, of the husks of dwellings, the charred remains of habitats, the stunned expressions of those who had been denuded, by flames and smoke, of what they held dear – cherished memories, accumulated treasures of family life, home and hearth, snatched from them in minutes, engulfed by the fury that is uncontained fire.
Fire is our friend. It has capacitated humankind since we first walked the earth, and from it sprung our ability to evolve, to form communities, to warm and feed ourselves, to gather around and share experiences, observations, ideas, collaborations.
Holding torches of flame, our ancestors penetrated deep into mountainsides and the caverns of the earth, and left works of art that we still marvel over.
Fire is friend, and foe.
I worked on Monday morning; in the background, the voices from all over the globe – courtsey of our capacity to stream radio channels (thank you, technology!), I was listening with half an ear to National Public Radio (NPR), and talk of the scourge that is wildfire season, as manifested so poignantly in California in recent months.
In my old home state of Colorado, there have been fires that have also consumed entire mountain towns, leaving a wake of sooty destruction, in recent years.
I once came within a hair’s breadth of losing my own cabin there to a chimney fire, one unforgettable snowy night, and firefighters arrived just in time to save our home (while my little boy, dog and cat, and a tin box with passports and precious photos, waited out events in my car in sub-zero conditions).
There are natural sources, of course, like bolts of lightning, and then, much more common, the human factor.
The law of unintended consequence is one that looms large, and our sheer inability to learn, our stubborn recalcitrance and willful ignorance, comes at costs that are unimaginable, their magnitude, their implications…
We are told that a flare was the source of the fires that have gutted homes and lives, destroyed property and seared landscapes, over which we are trusted custodians.
Animals perished too, how do we possibly tally the cost, or of the damage to fynbos, our national treasure?
The Kogelberg Biosphere contains some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet, yet now much is a smouldering landscape rendered almost lunar in appearance, ghostly and denuded of vegetation over vast swathes.
In California, legal steps are under way against a gas company (to the tune of $30 billion), incriminated in the “Camp fire” that transformed Paradise to penury.
There are speculations about the contribution of uncapped fracking well-sites, which are numerous beyond belief, to these conflagrations (which reminds me of one of my favourite quotes, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”).
Is our evolutionary process not intrinsically linked to learning from others’ experience, and not always blundering into similar scenarios time after catastrophic time, in order to learn what is a good idea, versus a bad idea?
Does profit still form such a great and powerful part of decision-making, that we enter again and again into transactions that equate success for only a privileged few, so that people and planet fall by the wayside?
So, in somewhat of a bleak state of mind, while putting the final touches to Bolander on Monday, I headed out for a quick “pick-me-up” at my friend Lucia Theron, near Sir Lowry’s Pass Village.
Over a delicious fried egg and a cup of freshly-brewed coffee (I was ravenous upon arrival), we spoke about life, gardening, politics, children and all matters of the heart.
She told me she’d lost two chickens to a dog over the weekend (making me appreciate the egg on my toast even more), and I spent a few minutes giving Gina, her sociable potbellied pig, a tummy rub of note (she flopped onto her side with a grunt of pleasure, so I could have full access to her Botticelli contours).
Lucy also told me of a surprise visitor on her patio table recently (a neighbour’s goat, above), and I was enchanted when she shared the photo of it with me (and Bolander readers, by default).
She also said that this weekend she saw a most astonishing sight, a family of hoepoes, two parents and three juveniles, having a dust bath in her garden, before they head north.
“This many offspring means hot and dry weather ahead,” she told me, and I’m inclined to believe what this wonderful woman tells me. She is a seer, of sorts, and what she knows, she has learned through patient observation, of her gardens over time (here and in Portugal), and she has green fingers like few people I’ve ever had the joy of knowing (like my friend Anita Bunn, who has written gorgeous, quirky articles for Bolander over the years).
Feeling replenished, I
headed home, but first stopped in at the Station Bargain Warehouse fabric shop in Somerset West (we ran a lovely article on them, “The fabric of friendship”, on December 21, 2016), to get some green thread, to mend a lovely shirt I bought at the Helderberg Hospice shop last week.
I was greeted by the friendly and knowledgeable women there (including neighbour Annetjie Robertson, who is so dear to my heart for the incredible work she does for neighbourhood watch – she also told me of the outpouring of help towards the needs of those stricken by the current fires that was orchestrated by the watch groups, and in providing food for the firefighters).
With an assortment of colourful new thread, and some sewing needles in a little brown packet, I hotfooted it home to continue finishing Bolander before the print deadline, with a song restored to my heart, and a sense of belonging to the very essence of humanity… and a community I call home.
Carolyn Frost – Editor