Friday, May 30, 2008

spider medicine

I kept dreaming about spiders.

And in one week I kept seeing them, in curiously intimate situations. Changing bed linen. A clutch of little eyes. Doing laundry - a big one, immobile on the jeans. And then getting into the car after a rare night with friends in Melville. As I turn the ignition, there it is on the inside of my windscreen. If it was Disney I would swear the thing winked at me. And not scurrying, mind you. Just fixed, sitting there. Take note.

So I google spider medicine, thinking well its all about networks and I should be accessing my networks. I found this, by Ted Andrews. I love this.

"Spider reminds us that the world is woven around us. We are the keepers and the writers of our own destiny, weaving it like a web by our thoughts, feelings and actions. The spider, because of its characteristics, has come to be associated by mystics and in mythology in three predominant expressions of magic. The first is magic and energy of creation. It is a symbol of creative power, reflected in its ability to spin a silken web. It is also associated with assertiveness of that creative force, of keeping the feminine energies of creation alive and strong."

The second aspect relates to the shape of the web.
"Are you moving toward a central goal or are you scattered and going in multiple directions? Is everything staying focused? Are you becoming too involved and/or self-absorbed? Are you focusing on others' accomplishments and not on your own?"

And then this: spiders are the keepers of the alphabet..."considered the teacher of language and the magic of writing. Those who weave magic with the written word probably have a spider totem. If spider has come into your life, ask yourself some important questions. Are you not weaving your dreams and imaginings into reality? Are you not using your creative opportunities? Are you feeling closed in or stuck as if in a web? Do you need to pay attention to your balance and where you are walking in life? Are others out of balance around you? Do you need to write? Are you inspired to write or draw and not following through? Remember that spider is the keeper of knowledge of the primordial alphabet. Spider can teach how to use the written language with power and creativity so that your words weave a web around those who would read them."


and the other part I love is that the thin line that the spider casts out, treads, threads and treads again is the frail path that connects the unseen world of dreams and the unconsious with the waking world.

I love this. This was about a month ago. Thanks, for the spiders. I'm listening.

Being a fighter, being a writer are not one and the same.
As I sit here. I hear the traffic. I hear the soft noises of Sanna next door.
I hear the steady churn of my head. Ambition. Ego censorship. Unsaid words to a friend, burning in my chest. Release it, says self mind. But there’s a weary wheel of what I suppose we call the grain. The ingrained noises of historical self. Don’t go against the grain. Instead I sit here, heavy with the longing for sea sand and wavesound.
Rain for three days becomes part of the air’s makeup.
I write until I can find the voice that is a just, quiet and observant voice.
Leave behind the propagandist the advertiser the polemicist. Leave it behind as you leave a knot of clothing on the floor when you enter the pure space of loving skin on heartbeat.
Return to the heart. Listen with writers ears. Every day a stretch, a strum. To get the ear in, slowly. Then wait as stories grow and seed. til rhythms creep back in. These are the lines that lead me back to me.

I may have been a bit glib in yesterday's post. My head crowding with the recent events in the country. Trying to piece and match words and images, trying to excuse, condemn, rescue. understand. I don't mean to paint pre-colonial Africa as one big harmonious family. It surely wasn't. Hospitality codes are specific to exclusive groups, like clans. And they're necessary because groups compete for land, resources, power. Not everyone was your friend. When "made in Berlin" nation states fenced such opposing groups into redtape borders, the recipe for disaster was already brewing.

The geyser of hatred we've seen is a symptom of so many colliding realities. But isn't it also an opportunity, as all conflict is? We have to grow new ways of dealing with how we relate and migrate. We have to reinvent. I feel that we will be forced to be radical about boundaries, national and personal. After the fires and the flames and the camps and the talks and the fights and the long journeys, what?

How will we relate to our neighbours, ourselves, our leaders?

Will we thread new webs? Will we string small kindnesses together to create connections between us? Will we tell each other silver stories and nod our heads, suddenly understanding?

How fragile they will seem, those thin sticky lines, with morning dewbeads shivering on them.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Xenophobia is what Verwoed wanted!

I said I wouldn't. But I will. Talk about these issues some more.

A facebook friend posted this link -
So its official. South Africans really do hate foreigners. Why is this a problem and why should it bother you if you are a South African?
Well, first there's the obvious one of "During the struggle the neighbouring countries welcomed refugees and exiles and gave them shelter. The 'beloved country' wouldn't be what it is if it wasn't for them." I'm going to discount that as irrelevant (even tho it obviously is relevant) only because, as I mentioned before, there is an ongoing tendency, from the government, to be talking about the past, the "lest we forget" mantra. Lets assume we have forgotten. Lets assume that we won't need their reciprocity if anything ever goes drastically wrong here again and ordinary folk are forced to go and seek refuge abroad. Lets assume that it doesn't matter. We are an island, we want to stay that way. "This is our country. Keep out".

Lets talk about ubuntu, that other much bandied word. Ubuntu. To be human. Humanity, compassion. What the Buddhists would call karuna, maybe. We need compassion. I'd go so far as to say its a biological imperative. Studies show that acts of kindness, giving, etc actually show up as having positive effects in the brain, with release of good chemicals or whatever. But the other thing about being human is that we are subject to stress, and prolonged stress of the kind that the majority of the so-called poorest of the poor are subject to makes people behave badly. We may not like to see people burning to death by neighbour-inflicted flames - but my sense is "never say never". Until you (oh UN official, oh WTO policy maker) have really felt the absolute stress of not knowing what to feed your child, how to feed your child, when you will ever be able to feed your child, whether you will be able to feed your child AT ALL today) you simply are not able to judge. The same goes for you, oh wealthy goldgrubbing South African. Its not a moral issue - its just simple - if you have not felt this, you don't have it in your experience, you can't condemn. However chilling it may look to you.

Lets remember our history. Our real, far back history, the origins stories that are as old as the rolling hills of Qunu. I'm talking the old stories, before Nongqawuse and her visions. Before the slaughter of the cattle, before the coming of the white man and his white flapping sails. Before David Dullard wrote his silly Sunday column that implied Africans love a good bloodfest. Where are those stories? Sometimes I think that South Africa's colonisers did a really good job of rubbing these out.

When I was travelling around Zambia collecting histories for the Ceremony! book (more on this later) there were several fascinating things I observed.
Fascinating thing number 1: Origins stories are political. Its amazing, the "we were here first" stories and how they vary from region to region, chief to chief. Aside from a massive DNA lineage project there is probably no way of ever getting the true version - and who cares? Its the stories that are interesting. Its the way there are similarities in language and ritual and oral histories wherever you go on the subcontinent. The way the links crop up, merge and drift away again. The root words, trade words. You say manzi, I say maji. You say njovu I say ndlovu. An ndebele-speaking visitor to Jeppe street might not know the elbow word, but dig deep enough and there are going to be ancestral commonalities, of that you can be sure. SO: the colonial project of erasing histories was an effective one, but it wasn't only the white colonisers who did this. A strong chief moving into a new area and defeating the people who live there, or intermarrying, etc, will eventually retell the histories of "the people of this land" to support his/her version.
Which brings us to fascinating thing number 2: origins stories are economic - ie they are about land claims. We were here first. Of course the apartheid regime were masters of this, which is why pupils in white south african schools were quite literally taught that their forefathers had arrived in an empty country and the bantu people arrived at more or less the same time and didn't have any original prior claim to the beloved country.
Fascinating thing number 3 is that somehow the biological imperative of genetics comes into these stories so strongly. One genetic line pushes its story as a dominant narrative, while another family tries to assert its own story as the truth. So many oral histories are about disputed heritage rights. The chief who was overthrown and his nephew took the throne. The need to defend your own line.
So we got politics, access to resources, and genetics.
The three oft cited claims of the xenophobic are:
"they are here to steal our wives" - they are from 'elsewhere' and are "impure". [genetics]
"they take our food/jobs/houses" - [economics]
"they do crime / corrupt our culture / we don't understand them /they must go back to where they come from." [to my mind this last is about power, and politics]

What does all this have to do with Verwoed?
When Maggie was here visiting from Zambia and witnessed first hand some of the disdain that her foreign accent earned her, she was mystified. Hospitable lass that she is - she works in a safari camp for goodness sake. She understands the imperatives of tourism - she couldn't understand this.
"Its ignorance," I said. People in this country really don't know much about what lies beyond our borders. The previous regime wanted it so.

For those of you who may not know much about BE (Bantu Education) I'm going to give you a little refresher.
Verwoed said: "to equip the Bantu to meet the demands which economic life will impose upon him... What is the point of teaching a Bantu child mathematics when it [sic] cannot use it in practice?... Education must train and teach people in accordance with their opportunities in life."
The system was expertly designed to make people just literate enough to become labourers but not enough to become critical thinkers. And of course volleys of indoctrination, rote method learning, etc. We shall not teach them about their African neighbours. We shall not teach them about their past. It wasn't about neglect, mind you. Yes, black schools were under-resourced, but there was detailed machination behind the madness.

Those white Seffricans who are tired of hearing that apartheid is responsible for the country's ills (yes you know who you are) I'm sorry to say it - our education system is still shocking. Well, there are two education systems in this country and the one for the majority [read poor] of people is still very much afflicted by Verwoed's cleverness. Teachers trained in that regime are still in our schools! Its sad to say, but Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi [my only real comparitive ref points] have much more effective literacy training at primary school level than SA schools, and on the whole have better capacity to produce critical thinkers. Those of us who have battled to make an impact in PDA (previously disadvantaged) schools will know that as fast as you train teachers they die or change careers. That you can put books in schools but if the teachers can hardly read (no I am not joking) then they will be ashamed to use those books in the classroom.

As the good poet said "If you know your history, then you will know where you are coming from..." the same goes for geography. and economics. and genetics. and logic.

So lets go back to those accusations:
The foreigners are stealing our wives / polluting our genepool? ... biologists know that a mixed gene pool is a healthy gene pool. And, sorry, but the last time I checked, women were allowed to choose who they might marry in this country.
The foreigners take our houses/jobs... Can we not flip this on its head - foreigners are bringing new skills and education into this country. Including an entrepreneurial spirit (god that's hard to spell) that should be contagious.... many of the outside folk have started their own businesses in the informal sector. Take note, take example...
The foreigners corrupt our culture? dear fellow South Africans, show me a pure culture and I will show you a dead culture!!! Trace your roots. Did you know that totems exist in Uganda that are identical to totems in Zambia? Meaning that people migrated back and forth for centuries, trading, marrying, settling, packing up again and leaving. Leaving calling cards of words, rituals, seeds and cultivating practices? This was a continent of traders and exchangers loooong before Mr van Riebeek and Mr Livingstone and their milky followers came here. That is eXACtly why the hospitality code was so important. You gotta give shelter to your mother's people. Next month it will be you.
You wanna break the chains of white man's domination? Welcome your brother and find out how their journey was. Who knows when you will need to travel that journey yourself. Share your knowledge, your stories, your histories, your origins. Verwoed's lies are exACTly about keeping you cut off and stranded from a continent of family, humanity, origins. Apartheid was defeated because ordinary South Africans refused to let their ubuntu be destroyed by evil.
And now?

Now its time for you to shut up, white girl.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Raised in Bars

I grew up in bars. I did, though. The favourite photograph of me as a three-year old is on Chibembe bar, wearing motorcycle goggles round my neck, red leather shoes, and clutching a red notebook.

For me there is nothing more comforting than the smooth solid wood of a bar counter. Sad isn't it? And I guess it may've caused a few problems in my life, but nothing I'm ashamed of. you're probably thinking that the quest for home and security shouldn't be sought in a drinking quarter. But firstly, it's not like that. And secondly, why the hell not?

Seriously though, for a child of safari camps, there was nothing like that ritual of coming home to the polished winterthorn counter and recounting tales of game sitings and who got stuck in which riverbed and who spotted a bird so rare they must be lying, or worse, misidentifying. (shudder). The clink of the grown-ups mosis, the smell of mosquito coils underfoot. At Chibembe it was more of a daytime thing. The 11 am ritual of trying to convince Bonkar that we were allowed a fizzy drink. No! 'minerals' are for paying guests. We could have lime juice. Occasionally, lime and soda. Did you know that adding salt to a lime and soda makes a thirst quencher like you never tasted before? Try it.

Of course a safari camp bar is only as good as its tender. And there have been two bar tenders in my life who can really claim to have had some formative influence. Daniel, and Chitumbi.

Daniel, of Chibembe and later Moondogs fame. The photo of me and the notebook has Daniel in the background, benign and amused. That man was a rock. And a great listener, which is of course an essential quality for the bar tender. Generosity and restraint are words that come to mind. Of course there were many teachers who raised me in that camp, from waiters who taught me how to do fancy napkin folding, to wild boymen who played islands in the dust with us. But Daniel nurtured in me an early ambition to make the perfect gin and tonic and make it right.

When I was a teenager and in my early 20s there was Chitumbi. Chitumbi the long suffering, oh-no-here-they-go-again headshaking host of a bar that saw many quiet watering rights battles.
Please guys, don't hang around the bar when the clients get back from their drives. Says the boss. Who will later be spread out on the bar like a candle left in the sun too long.
We the local riffraffs who eat all the peanuts before you can say "so, did you see a leopard?"
We shuffle off to the fire while they have their dinner and recolonise when they go to bed. And then the elegant joustings to try and get the keys off unbudging Chitums. He of the ever-pert bow-tie. He who has slowly mellowed and laxed his stern looks over the years. Well, whats a man to do?
When all your bosses over years have submitted to the wobbly candle act and stumbled home without a torch, stopping for a piss by chalet 8. And you've witnessed the problem solving, backstabbing and petty gossip of whose sleeping with who and who didn't switch off their spotlight on the nightdrive and whos corrupt in Zawa and whos eaten the bloody peanuts. Chitums who cycles to work past elephants and staunchly holds on to the bar keys past midnight. Chitums who can always organise another bowl of peanuts if you ask right. And if, like me, you were schooled by the best, you might even know the secret of how to get hold of those keys after midnight.

The Language of Displacement

The Language of Displacement

They're not refugees, they're displaced people, apparently. They don't fit the international protocol – most people are here for economic reasons, which makes them economic refugees. The fact that they are now running for their lives and have nothing left to call their own doesn't factor into the definition, apparently.
I don't want to call them “foreigners”. They're not, they're neighbours.
What shall we call them then? Previously housed people? Temporarily unaccomodated people?
“Victims of Xenophobic attacks”. Urgh. That's so dehumanising. But come on, we have to have a label. We can't do without labels in this society.

Make no mistake, language is playing a huge role in this issue, as government spokespeople gingerly pick their way over the debris caused by displacement, violence and hate crimes.

“Our President Thabo Mbeki,” in his nation address kept referring to the “few South Africans” who caused this. But if you trawled the streets for a vox pops there would be more than a few supporters of the sentiment, if not the actual deed of throwing out these unwelcome guests. But according to the Prez, its just a few “criminal elements” that have destabilised our nation. Funny no-one wants to go back, though eh?

Why is it so personal, for me? Perhaps because I have been so unquestioningly and enthusiastically welcomed in all the homes and villages I have set foot in, in Malawi and other parts of sub-saharan Africa. I have always felt an enormous sense of pride and privilege to live in a place where people are so hospitable when they have so little. I'm not saying there isn't fierce competition for resources in squatter camps in this country. And its sad that it has to come to this for people to mobilise food and resources. Images of poverty become banal and numbing and people turn away. Until it quite literally ignites. Well, fire does speak loudly and eloquently.

Perhaps its also because I've always only been half a South African, and half a Zambian, and feelings of belonging are precious when they arise, often just spontaneously and because of the warmth and feeling of a few friends. Travelling in Zambia over the 16 months it took to document traditional ceremonies in rural parts of the country, I was awed by how seriously the code of hospitality is upheld. Who could forget being welcomed in Mwinilunga by the minstrel Lunda chief who gave us pineapples, baskets, feasted us and shared stories of his people's heritage? Or the hundred of people who took time to feed us and talk to us, making sure we had all the facts we needed to write about their ceremonies. And no, I'm not comparing rural Zambia to Alex or Reiger park. Obviously its easier to be welcoming when you have a bit of land and can grow your own food.

What I'm talking about is something else, its an arrogance born of ignorance that so called foreigners find actually confusing. Its another sad legacy from the PR (previous regime) and the BES (Bantu Education System). Along with lack of self love, I guess. When two Zambian friends of mine recently paid a visit to Joburg (it was the first time for one of them) they were bewildered by the hostility of ordinary strangers who heard their foreign accents and treated them with disdain.
“No one speak English here!” said M, describing how hard it was to get help when she was lost.
But they do! They were probably pretending.

And that article that described how foreigners are stopped and asked the Zulu word for elbow or various other body parts, and if you don't know an archaic term no longer in usage then you prove your foreignness. As B, in his inimitable quippish way said, “You better know your Zulu arse from your Zulu elbow”.

Yesterday I foolishly thought I might be able to cheer someone up at the refugee squat by feebly speaking a few Chewa truisms. But people aren't really chatty when they've lost everything and are wondering how the hell to get through this night with those rainclouds coming.

Oh dear. More on this later, I'm going to move to other topics for a while. Thanks for bearing with me. You've been so kind to read the opinionated ramblings of a white child “born in south africa raised in zambia schooled in malawi living in south africa part german part irish part british whose mother was born in malawi and grandfather born in chinde mocambique who might have some jewish blood in back there somewhere.” which is how I try to defend my own heritage when people ask me “where are you actually from, actually, originally?”

Monday, May 26, 2008

are you a sheep or a cloud?

So I went to the Cleveland police station, where about 1000 refugees are camped. My little battered Honda Ballade snaking its way around the streets trying to find the place. Stopped to ask a petrol attendant who eyed my carload of oranges and sullenly pointed the way. I had stopped off at the Fruit & Veg city to get some produce on my way to the dentist this morning. The parking attendent had the look. Like he's not going to tell you where he's from. the non-south african look. Like, the kind of person who probably gets stopped in the street and asked to say "Coke" (northerners pronounce it "Coki") He had the really really fucken scared look is what he had. I spoke to him but he didn't utter a word. Is this my paranoia now, or normal South African edginess. Everyone is checking everyone skeef.
He helped me pile my little car full - potatoes onions tomatoes pumpkins butternuts and 6 pockets of oranges for garnish. Jerseys and coats in the boot. After I unloaded them at the Cleveland station campsite I felt like I had thrown a chicken wing to a pride of starving lions, but hey. Pangono pangono. My work trip to the mines has been cancelled so I will have a bit more time on my hands this week to get stuck in a bit.

It feels better to be getting lost in Cleveland and delivering vegetables than swamping through facebook group outrage. It feels better to be asked by a Zimbabwean called Norman in cope-mode, "I hope you are praying for us...", than sifting through the newspapers for some sense. I can't remember who made the comment now, but it jumped out at me from one article when they were first discussing the possibility of "third-force" instigation. Someone said, with authority, "this is not just innocent violence." in other words its organised, but doesn't that just say it all? I guess he means that the "innocent" violence is the everyday stuff - you know, the stuff handed out to women who wear too short skirts at taxi ranks. This is something else. This is not innocent. This violence has lost its virginity.

My dentist is a chatty woman who is on the phone to half her neighbourhood while she waits for your mouth to go numb. She says that her son and his mates had borrowed her car and went to get Steers burgers. On the highway at dusk a man lurched in front of them on the road - his face was mangled and his white shirt was blood-soaked. They got the Fear. But he was most likely trying to get help, freshly beaten, running. They did the right thing, she says, not to stop.

In all the chewable debate about whys and wherefores, the most sensible comment to my mind so far was from Elinor Sisulu who said we really need to look at the issue of self love. That rings true for me. There's a stink in the air at the moment, whether its the coconut debate or the foreigner debate or the what happened to ubuntu debate. All this resentment, stewing on hatred that has been slowly distilled as its come down the generations. Fanon's children, grasping for sense, for truth, turning it all outward. We need to educate, yes. We need to police, yes. We needed Mbeki's solemn speech, despite the red velvet throne he was sitting on. (did anyone else find that really weird?) But I guess we need to learn to love ourselves better. Whitney was right after all.

So, on that note.
I had this dream. Is it interesting to read people's dreams? I have spectacular, techni-colour, cinematic dreams. Its a fantastic gift that I have always been blessed with. It's interesting to dream my dreams.
This from yesterday:
Flying Auditions
It seems there's a poetry festival, or a hip-hop event. Stacy is in the know, dressed in enviable gear and confident, script in hand. I want to try out too. When I get there its like Idols for a Harry Potter talent show. An interesting looking collection of people. I do this leap, like over a high jump pole (yes, I remember this feeling from high school - the absolute need to get over that pole undersliced by the absolute knowledge that I won't. Coz everyone's looking.) But wow - I can. My leap has turned into an ascent, a climb, like I can tread the upward slope of the air. They (the panel of judges) ask me to go down and pick up a stick from the ground. I do it with ease. I'm amazed at the control I have, swooping down like that and rising up again like I was a quidditch champion. But as quickly as I am amazed, I am also losing the ability. Self-consiousness knocks it out of me.

Now it's the Competition's turn. She looks like Shane from the L-word. She does a heartbreaking gothic rendition of the dying swan - her arms behind her in a black lace sling. So beautiful - not flying but dying.

I have to do it again but I can't. Damn. I want to do it as a sheep. That's what I want. A small clumsy sheep who can't do it. She just can't fly. I develop a whole sheep routine - its funny, and poignant. I think I'll get some laughs. But the judges are not convinced. Oh look, the panel includes Juanita. And she says, but hang on, we saw your control over the high jump earlier - don't pretend you can't do it, you can. So I say, I'm a sheep that wants to be a cloud. I'd love to leap and fly but I'm just not quite there yet. But maybe, just maybe, at some point, I will be able to soar...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Darkness my old friend

These are scary times. That picture of the burning man can never be taken away. Its out there now, on the internet, in the Akashic records, in the friday newspaper for any child to page through. Before the province that I live in erupted into a seething nest of hate crimes, I was doing quite well. Starting to do quite well, inspite of winter pending. This year the month of May has been good - if only because January to April was particularly gloomy.

In January I came back from a glorious Tanzanian holiday all fired up to change the world. My 2008 list of to-dos was heady and ambitious - plays to finish, cross continental marches to organise (more on that later). But I was coming back a to a country in confusion - who's really leading us - the fat faced guy with the (to my mind) sheepish grin who may have been acquitted of rape charges but still refers to a woman's vagina as her father's kraal. (more on that later); or the grizzled bearded denialist. Ok this is not going to be a political blog. I'll leave this line of thought. Point is, like the load shedding that plunged Joburg into benign confusion, I went into a deep darkness myself. Scheduled or not, the lights went out on my mood and I was seriously unplugged from energy source.

I have a good therapist. She's a Jungian, and wouldn't flinch if I spoke about messages from the pleiadians. (more on that later). One particularly morose morning she got a strange look on her face and pulled a book out of her shelf and said I should read the story of Inanna. And stop trying to be happy.

There are those who say you create your reality. I agree with them. The law of attraction. positive thoughts = positive reality. etc. "Combat negativity" they say. But there's also something about that bit that I'm not so sure about anymore. If there is darkness in me I want to see it. If there is pain in me I've got to look at it, be with it, stroke it a little. Some people call this wallowing. Or indulging. And I've spent more energy than Eskom's annual output trying to keep those demons pushed just on the other side of waking mind. You know the drill – red wine, (gin for some, whisky for others) keeping busy, etc. Trying not to wallow. Coz that leads to bellyaching. And we'll have no bellyaching here.

So Inanna. A four-thousand year old story from the Sumerians. That's Iraq, people. And you gotta know the muses decamped from there some 5 years ago already. Inanna – Queen of Heaven and Earth. Its a beautiful text, lovingly translated and pieced together from cuneiform tablets. We meet her as an adolescent. We see her receive the gifts of queenship -
...the noble sceptre
the holy measuring rod and line...
...the incantation priest
the libations priest...

...the perceptive ear
the power of attention
...the kindling of strife

and some other jolly useful things like
...the kissing of the phallus, the art of speeding, the holy tavern, the plundering of cities.

And then she is ready to marry. She sings:

"Make your milk sweet and thick, my bridegroom.
My shepherd I will drink your fresh milk.
Wild bull, Dumuzi, make your milk sweet and thick
I will drink your fresh milk."

After a brief spot of bliss, she decides to go down to the underworld. Inanna opened her ear to the underworld. She went down below. As she descends, she is stripped of every one of her queenly attributes. She must remove the crown, the lapis beads, the breastplate, the gold ring. You have to enter naked.

And she is told:
Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect.
They may not be questioned.

And she is turned into a corpse, hanging from a hook.

Luckily, before she embarked on her descent, Inanna instructed her consort to go and petition on her behalf should she not return. We all have a part of us that wants to heal. And it knows where to go. So the same father that invested her with the glories of her office now brokers a deal with the queen of the underworld so that Inanna may return. She has to sacrifice. Someone can go in her place – will it be her son? No, anyone but that. Her other son? No, anyone but that. Inanna returns to her palace and who should be revelling on the throne with no thought of her absence – the stud of a husband. Ha. You. You will go down in my place. He flees. Oh you betcha, he runs from the pursuing demons that will take him underground forever. They catch up him tho, of course they do. He is lucky, he has a sister who loves him ans she offers to do half the sentence for him. She will do six months underground, he will do the other half of the year. A neat arrangement. Sun and moon can never meet, winter and summer will be separated forever. But Inanna has ventured into the depths and returned, and so she is now queen of heaven and earth.

What's the point? Well, as my therapist so neatly put it, don't label your emotions as positive or negative. You have pain and suffering. You must be with it. Its there. Go into it. Be stripped of all your worldly selves. Descend. Tis the only way to resurrect.

There's a school of conflict resolution that I hope to be getting more involved in soon. It teaches that you cannot hope to resolve a particular conflict without going deeply into it and allowing it to be - to flourish, even. And perhaps these weeks of horror that have erupted now are, on a psychic level, the anguish that our rainbow nation never got to express. In the blush of post-94 Mandela harmony speak we papered over our cracks and sealed our apartheid demons into the underworld. Otherness, labelling. A base-chakra sense of insecurity and survival-threat.

SA's leaders are hoping that we can start a reintegration process for foreigners in the next few weeks. That we can hold workshops on tolerance and teach people how exiled South Africans were embraced by their neighbours during the struggle. But methinks South Africans are tired of hearing about how things were in the struggle. Its not over. New ones are blooming, old ones haven't been won. The apartheid style hostels are as festering as they ever were.

Until this government really descends, really goes into the depth of where we are now, right now, and faces it, they can't hope to fix a thing. And they must go in naked. But not just them. We, the privileged have got to stop pushing away the images that slap us daily. We the fat cats have got to stare these demons in the face.

And you, dear gentle reader, please bear with me. Not all my posts will be gloom and doom. Nor will they all sound so preachy. Its just that there are 25 000 people who have lost their homes, belongings and safety in the last weeks. And its the second, maybe third time for them and there wasn't an earthquake here. And I know its my problem too.

We do need leadership. Inanna couldn't get out of there without the intervention of her wise elder.

These are dark times. But we gotta go there.

And now the sharks have been hammered by the Worratahs. Bugger. On a brighter note, my cherry tomatoes are still fruiting forth, spinach glowing, and the boys have fixed the water feature.

For a sensible read on the ongoing mayhem:

Thanks for your comments, they are truly appreciated. Plenty more to come on Inanna as the goddesses gather in worship. more on this later.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

First - dealing with some basic fears

4 am and I'm suddenly, inexplicably wide awake. Maybe its the moon, maybe its the troublesome tooth I've been shushing. This doesn't happen to me, I'm a deep and heavy sleeper. And there's a voice in my head, a bee in my bonnet (except I don't wear a bonnet, not when I sleep anyway). An insistent persistant ring "you gotta start a blog." oh shush now, let me sleep.

I've been suffering from verbal constipation for long time now. I'm a secretive lass. The leopard is my totem. The thought of one more tiny voice in the jostling mass of blogdom has kept me quiet. That and a crippling perfectionism. A 'where to start' feeling. As F says, there's one kind of writers block that comes from having too much to say. But I'm inspired by two brave friends of mine and their funny, loving, hurting, celebrating commentaries ( and No doubt my postings will be a lot more introspective, and if there's any poetry it'll be...No. I'll spare you that.

BUT the 4 am voice didn't go away and three cups of organic ground medium roast later HERE I AM> bloody hell.

So, what to expect from these pages if you're kind, curious or kindred enough to click on them?

The musings (maybe sometimes even amusings) of a playwright, environmentalist and reluctant consumer. a bush girl living in the city, a poet-heart trying to figure ways of milking the corporate cow, stubborn beast that she is.

Truth is, I'm not sure yet exactly what niche this little page will fill. But the fact that my morning meditations are out here in the void rather than in silent notebooks is a good start. Just publish, says Robert. Your readers will find you.

SO enough with the apologies.

The muses. There were 9 of them, right? They lived in the springs and wild places. Poets and warblers appealed to them when they were breaking new ground, veering off into uncharted literary waters. There are different myths about their lineage. Some place them as daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. Others say they come from way back, and are daughters of Uranus and Gaia.

Here they are:

Calliope(epic poetry)
Erato(love poetry)
Euterpe(lyric poetry)
Urania(astronomy and astrology)
Polyhymnia(song, rhetoric, and geometry)

Something about the way that voice went on at me this morning. Something about the crushing urge I've had these months, to speak up, write, talk, crusade, DO SOMETHING. About plastic bags floating down rivers, arsenic seeping into ground water, the big machine prospectors trawling the Zambezi for diamonds, the dying bees, oh, you know the list, all the things that make us so tired, so very very tired. And I haven't even started on the hurricanes, droughts, squatter poverty that erupts in xenophobic killing sprees... you get the picture and have plenty of your own.

No wonder the muses are fleeing. Run, ladies! Pick up your skirts and head for greener hills. No not that way that's a toxic swamp. No not that way, those springs have dried up!

Shit. Can we, ever so politely, ask them to stay? Can we create some watery crevices for them, some tinkling wells of lushness? Can we seduce them back? Maybe they really really need us.

So I'm going to use this space for that. For every tale of environmental horror, theres some antidote. A success story, a wow, look at what this person is doing, isn't that inspiring. Scraps of beauty, retrieved from out there, to put back in here. Or maybe, if the muses are placated - from in here, to put out there.