Thursday, December 18, 2008

2008 escapes and emergenc(i)es

Well the thing about doing that last meme is that it puts the fear of Christmas in you, and sends you scurrying off to complete a to-do list that grows like invader pond weed as soon as you pay it any attention.
So. Most of the urgents completed - ie, cats and malaria tablets.
And, in a packing / tidying / admin scramble, I found the missing cable for my digital camera so all the blog catch ups become possible now too - ie all the pictures I wanted to show you earlier.

In the spirit of lists, then, I give you some 2008 highlights.


New Year in Bagamoyo - the place to lay down your heart. Writing a play about Livingstone and his crew, I became fascinated by tales of this spot, where slave caravans brought their shackled and malarial cargo, sometimes having walked from as far as Congo. I feel so, so lucky to have been there now and breathed its sultry air. My year started with a grand ambition: to arrange a sponsored walk, along that same old route, to raise money to combat human trafficking.

February to April were spent in a kind of a depressive blur. Writing my play, dreaming and scheming and being broke. And collapsing under the weight of all that could be, if only, if only.

May - A horrible month in South Africa, as xenophobic violence erupts across the country. These events sear right into me. I identify with every displaced person, every travelweary homelost person trying to scrape together money to send home. The lucky ones, who don't get killed by a mob, or burned alive.
One day in May my therapist gets that look in her eye and silently pulls a book from her shelf, hands me a copy of Inanna. Reading this ancient story - such a gorgeous translation, starts to break my state of emergency. I begin to emerge. I start to blog.

June - spent a week in wintry Cape Town designing a show for the Grahamstown Festival. Still in a depressive blur but putting one foot in front of the other. My cat has a dire emergency on our newly installed horrible Joburg spike fence.

July - August - In Malawi,
contracted to do a big writing job for the UN. Travel to places I haven't been since I was a teenager. Visit my old school and rescue my shadow selves.

September - October - weeks become months as I try to decipher what the UN really want me to write for them. The papers I read through, if placed end to end, would probably create a path, if not from Joburg to Bagamoyo, then at least to Mangochi. But its an elusive, Hansel and Gretel path with too many twists and u-turns. Unlike in the fairytale, where the lost siblings' trail is erased behind them, in this dream it is the path in front of me that keeps being blown away. The paper trail becomes a snowstorm of dancing pages, taunting me with glimpses of clarity, hurling acronyms and words ending with 'ation'.

I finally hand in a scrappy draft, and we escape to the Waterberg. Ah, the soul of the Waterberg. Deserves a post of its own. Where Eugene Marais wrote the Soul of the White Ant and the Soul of the Ape, (which was plagiarised by that bastard Maeterlink). Make acquaintance with some splendid trees.

November - my greatest achievement of the year. Convincing my house mates that I should paint our garden wall a splendid Mexican blue. The kind of blue that soaks up light and delivers it back when the sun has gone.

- Cape Town again, briefly - this time in the midst of a heat wave, to visit an old friend. The view from my cousin's house changes each time you look at it. The city bowl. That mountain, it lurks behind the house.

And one long gorgeous jewel of a walk.

And now, as my departure date draws near, I am distracted and full of shifting plans. Like when you go snorkeling in shallow water and see your shadow on the sand beneath you - now its close, now its far away, now its a flat watery shelf and now its tangled in a grove of seaweed. Much of what I planned to accomplish this year did not come to pass. But that's also coz I know I always plan too much, too huge.

2009 is looking manageable. Ironically, as so many people wrestle with shrinking budgets and joblessness I feel somehow more secure than I did at the start of this year. I have some work, at least for the scary months of Jan - April, always tough on the freelancer. I have some plans, much more concrete than last year's ones. Sometimes it really really pays off to have a fallow year and next year feels like its going to be a hottie. As in, the tarmac is hot you have no choice but to fly


And I have this:

I am very lucky.


Miranda said...

Fantabulous Tamara. I love the fallow year idea. I ready to fly with you. Can I? Can I?

Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...

Hmmm, a fallow year, I like it and I'm nicking it. I need a name for what has been.

That blue wall is awesome. Now all that fire needs is a some boerie and a beer! Ah, a summer braai would go down so well right now!

macjanet said...


Adrianne said...

I'm so happy for you that you made it through your depression. I spent most of the mid- to late-1990s in a depression that ranged from the mild blahs to complete suicidal despondency, so I could really relate to the descrption of your experience.

I also hope that your poor cat made a full recovery - that looked like a dire emergency, indeed!

Merry Christmas and Happy 2009, Tam. I'm so glad that this year I found your blog, and I look forward to reading more of it in the year to come. Having had a bit of a fallow year myself, at least professionally speaking, I hope to be flying right there with you! (: )

Lori ann said...

I love your last line Miranda. What a good thing to feel.
I really enjoyed the photos, Cape Town is gorgeous. But your poor little cat, she's ok now?
Your choice of the blue wall is perfect,the garden is an oasis...
and last, What a great idea you had, the walk to raise money for human rights, so important.I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy and fullfilling New Year!!

tam said...

Miranda, come, lezgo!
Rob, we'll put on a bit of boerie for you. You can send us some cool air in exchange!
Macjanet - this year will be good for you too, y'know.
Adrianne - thanks. Yes, she comes and goes, that queen of the underworld. I definitley inherited the depressive gene in my family, but I've learned lots of strategies to cope and prevent before the stranglehold comes. Vitamin B is very underrated in this regard!
Thanks for you kind wishes, and yours, Lori.
The cat is totally fine. We were lucky it didn't go into the muscle, just almost got skinned! He's a funny guy that kitty, and has had a complete personality change since the trauma.From aloof cat to very affectionate, needy cat.
The walk? I love the idea, but not sure how practical it is. One of those that needs far more planning than I have. Still, I will let it simmer a bit.
Happy holidays everyone!

Reya Mellicker said...

OMG your poor cat! Yikes!

Which translation of Inanna did your therapist give you? I'm very fond of the Diane Wolkstein/Samuel Noah Kramer version. It's so lyrical, like a chant. There's nothing like an encounter with Ereshkigal to kick my ass out of a depressive state!

This is a fabulous roundup. I've been thinking about doing something similar (being as I am on a wavelength with you). This is great inspiration.

Merry Christmas and Happiest 2009! Onwards and upwards!

Jeannie said...

OMG, I think that wall is completely amazing! That blue uplifts me just to look at it.

I'm battling with the suffocating cloak of blahness at the moment - your post was a lovely glimpse into an active, creative world. Except for the poor kitty, of course. It seems near death experience does that to cats; my little black tomcat had his throat pretty much ripped out (we think by a ferret or mongoose type creature, they've been spotted here) and nearly died. He practically climbs up us now, and insists on sleeping next to us in bed.

I hope 2009 is a good, depression free year for you, Tam. I really enjoy your blog.

Ernest de Cugnac said...

tam - poor kitty, but looked comfortable enough. Captivated by your post about the old school. Very evocative - I have similar feelings. Half like to think back, half dread the experience. Have a good 2009.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Hmm, a fallow year, doesn't sound like a bad idea at all - a good time to let ideas and thoughts compost, ready to grow into something wonderful. Hope you have a fabulous 2009.

tam said...

Reya, the cat is fine now. It was a very horrific night indeed. And yes, it was exactly the Wolkstein / Noah Kramer version. I love it, so musical.

Jeannie, thanks so much for your comment, yes, the blue is extraordinarily uplifting to look at, and I do count it as my finest achievement of the year!

Thanks Ernest! It was a strange day, with perfect synchronicity, and I still feel the sweaty palms when I recall it.

AV, yes, I do think its necessary to do that, even if you can only label it as such after the fact. Real grace and ease would be to plan for a fallow year and do it properly without beating yourself up for being unproductive!

2009 is going to ROCK!!!!

Bucktoothsville said...

you have an amazing view