Sunday, January 4, 2009

big wheel

"Big wheel keeps on turnin
On a simple line
Day by day"
- Massive Attack

Happy two thousand and nine everybody. Two thousand and fine. Two thousand and shine. Anything except two thousand and whine. Okay? No more a that.

As I sat in the Lusaka International Airport departure lounge, waiting for a delayed flight to Joburg and listening to Al Jazeera report on Gaza, and slowly bringing my consciousness back to this world, a world that seems to turn on different wheels than that valley world where I spent an all too brief ten days, I fantasized about the stories I would write here.

I felt fattened up on stories. Burping with details of Christmas silly games and creepy crawlies under the mozzie net. I wanted to tell you -

how strange it feels to come back to a place that is so familiar that you hear the sound of your own breath sighing, from 20 years ago. Still wisping down that footpath, still bored and disaffected.

how we saw wild dogs, pert eared under bushes.

how the river was up, and my uncle took me and the cousins on the boat, to our grandfather's memorial stone, and we planted trichelia seeds there.

how i didn't sit at a computer screen, (though blogs bloomed in my head) and how good that is for one.

how the elephants were all around, and the whole valley is steamy and green and writhing with life, life! crawling, biting, hatching, breathing, killing, sleeping, munching, breeding...

about how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same.

I wanted to. And I will.

When we got off the plane, though, I slid the SA simcard back into the phone, and turned it on. We were on the bus, that liminal space between landing and passport control. The voicemail was from a friend of a friend. I had to listen to the voicemail several times. Horror sinking into my belly. The kind of news that cannot, should not be true. But is.

My partner B has a dear friend, who used to be married to a favourite cousin of his. Six years ago that cousin was killed, while collecting pottery in northern Natal. I only met him once, (marveling at how perfectly like mine his bookshelf was - archeology, anthropology, museums, culture). In the grieving period after his death, we became close to his dear, beautiful poetess widow. B helped her through that time. And then in October we went to her wedding. She has found a huge-hearted, grounded man to be her new partner, to be a father to her gorgeous teenage children. It was such a moving ceremony - simple, small. The way they included the kids into the ceremony, vowing to make it work as a family. It made me cry, I loved it.
And on the day after Christmas, her 16 year old son died in a random accident. A jet ski. A wave. Doing ordinary things on an ordinary beach with the family. It doesn't bear thinking about. Her grief. The utter randomness of it. The fact that this beautiful shy child doesn't have life anymore. And his mother must face this second immense loss.

When I went to Durban for their wedding, I wanted to blog about that sweet marriage ceremony, describe in detail how it moved me. Somehow, I didnt. I wrote about my mother-in-law's ducks instead. Time moved, swept me along with other issues, other posts found their way here instead. Its not right that I should be writing this, now. But it also doesn't feel right to blog about Christmas merriment, when there is this immoveable fact just sitting here, making everything else so relative.

Make this year count, people. Its such a precious fact that we are here at all.

"Hymn of the Big Wheel"

[Horace Andy]

The big wheel keeps on turning
On a simple line day by day
The earth spins on its axis
One man struggle while another relaxes

There's a hole in my soul like a cavity
Seems like the world is out to gather just by gravity
The wheel keeps turning the sky's rearranging
Look my son the weather is changing

I'd like to feel that you could be free
Look up at the blue skies beneath a new tree
Sometime again
You'll turn green and the sea turns red
My son I said the power of axis over my head
The big wheel keeps on turning
On a simple line day by day
The earth spins on its axis
One man struggle while another relaxes

We sang about the sun and danced among the trees
And we listened to the whisper of the city on the breeze
Will you cry in the most in a lead-free zone
Down within the shadows where the factories drone
On the surface of the wheel they build another town
And so the green come tumbling down
Yes close your eyes and hold me tight
And i'll show you sunset sometime again

The big wheel keeps on turning
On a simple line day by day
The earth spins on its axis
One man struggle while another relaxes
As a child's silent prayer my hope hides in disguise
While satellites and cameras watch from the skies
An acid drop of rain recycled from the sea
It washed away my shadow burnt a hole in me
And all the king's men cannot put it back again
But the ghetto sun will nurture life
And mend my soul sometime again

The big wheel keeps on turning
On a simple line day by day
The earth spins on its axis
One man struggle while another relaxes


Reya Mellicker said...

I'm so sorry to hear this sad news and so glad you're home safe and sound. Life is precious, and alway always a paradox, never comprehensible, full of joy and sorrow.

No more whining, I promise. Life is good and I'm so grateful for my good fortunes, all of them.

Welcome home.

tam said...

Thank you Reya dear. We try, try so hard to spin meaning and make sense, and sometimes there is none to be made. There's only the is-ness of it all. My next post will recount some of the joys.
xxx thank you.

Lori ann said...

oh tam, the only thing you could do, you have. birth, death it pulls at our hearts like nothing else. sending all my prayers to this family having lost their precious child, i've been through much of this so its why i try to do what you say, love all the time, every minute, every day.
I'm so glad you had a wonderful time on your holiday and oh Tam congratulations Auntie!

xxx lori

Adrianne said...

Ah, Tam. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. Life is tenuous, always, but having such a reminder always comes as a shock, doesn't it? My thoughts are with you, and with all who are affected by this young man's death. Peaceful, healing energy heading your way.
xx Adrianne

Anonymous said...

Oh how awful for that poor woman. Life is not fair. Life can be so cruel. Life is certainly precious and this serves as a reminder for us to make each day count.

Val said...

tragic - so sorry for your friends loss... i hope she is bearing up ok. luckily she has good friends like you. good you went to the Valley and special time there xx

Jeannie said...

This story was in our papers, and it made my heart ache. I don't know the family but my heart goes out to them.

tam said...

Thanks all.
Yes Lori, birth and death, as you say, hence the title of the post. I am of course delighted about becoming an auntie and glad the word is out! (its been a hard secret to keep!).

Thanks for your kind wishes Adrianne. It's his mother I worry about so much at this time, it feels so much to bear. As Rob says, it does feel cruel, senseless. But there is nothing to do but face it.

Jeannie, I think it is one of those tragedies that touches people deeply, because it could happen to any one of us. So random. I hope all your wishes can somehow reach his mother. She is a tough soul, but so fragile too.
Thank you all, and forthcoming posts will be more cheering, i promise.

love, love

Miranda said...

Welcome home dearest bestest sister. We have missed you. Terrible tragedy. They do make us sit up straight don't they? I have no words for this but as Val says lucky she has good friends like you and B. xxxxx

karen said...

oh so sorry to hear that awful news..coming straight after your beautiful valley holiday. Just can't even begin to imagine how it must feel - a teenage boy just seems like such an invincible being. I've got tears in my eyes, just thinking about it, for your friend... whatever goes for prayers in my world, go out to her and you for being strong for her x

Angela said...

Dear Tammy, what came to my mind was how I felt when I was 16 and spending my wonderful year in the States. I had a driver`s permit and drove that Chevrolet of my uncle`s, along with the trailer it pulled, on the Highway Nr. 1 in California. The serpentines..., the steep abyss down to the coast,the beauty of the day, and I felt so happy doing this, seing and experiencing this. And I thought, what if I mis-steer and get killed this very moment? And I thought, I would not mind! I have already lived my life to the full, time is not important. I am happy this very moment, I hope nobody would be sad for me, because I would certainly not be.

Janelle said...

ah so so SO sad...pole sana....glad you had time in the old valley though..ah sigh sigh xxx j

Chimera said...

I too am so sorry. Fractures in the world all around at the moment. Keep yourself rested and safe me dear.
tanvi x

Tessa said...

Oh, Tam...I feel the tears rising for you, and especially for your friend and for the short life journey that sweet boy experienced. Go gently, Tam, you must be feeling so very sore. If love is a healing aid, take ours..okay?

tam said...

Thanks to all of your for your love and thoughts and wishes. Its hard because she doesn't live in the same city as us, and I sense that she wants to just go and look for him. B will go and spend some time with her soon. He has a real gift for holding the space for grief. No more on this, I'm out of words, but thank you.