Thursday, February 19, 2009

Location, location, location

Geography has always been an issue in my life. Distance, between family and I, friends and I, loved ones and I. I love the landscapes that have created me, but for the most part they are far flung, and the spaces between them vast. Sites sewn together with with long knotted roads. From Chibembe to Mazabuka and back again twice a year, then Mfuwe to Blantyre and back again, with Monkey Bay detours. Grahamstown to Mfuwe. Cape Town and home again. Now Johannesburg. I love long car journeys, they lull me. Rough roads? Can't scare me.

My man is from Natal. Durbs. He's a Durbs boy. Like me he has ancestry in Germany, but unlike me, he wears this more confidently - mothertongue speaker, and lots of heritage coursing through the family customs. My father was a lone wanderer to these shores, whereas his parents came lock stock and Bible. His father was a Lutheran missionary.

To ask his family and our friends to trek all the way to Zambia would be - well, expensive. And it would be stressful, for the infrastructure that exists in my home village is... um... rustic. The thought exhausts me.

I've written about that crossroads moment we had, the two of us. When B fled to the Buddhist Retreat Centre in the singing hills of Ixopo. When he was there, he made a friend. When I met this friend later, we too became friends, realising we had all sorts of Zambian connections - a lovely small world story. Now this friend owns a farm near Dullstroom, in Mpumalanga, the land of the rising sun. The farm is called Tonglen. Its a very beautiful, magical, spirit-enhancing spot. And we have decided to get married there. More rolling hills, and craggy ravines, and a dharma centre built from the stone on the farm. So far so good. Spirit, beauty, and it means something to us both.

The place, however, is at the end of a very rough and rocky road. So, well, there are logistics. Guests must gather at a central point, we need to rally together all the 4x4 owners in the family and ferry people up the hill to the Event. The last stretch is about 20 minutes, and is nasty. Rocky and shale and really steep. Ok, so a bit of coordination needed. But still, in my minds eye, it's perfect, because once we are up there, we have the place entirely to ourselves, and its not a wedding venue 'sausage factory', if you know what I mean. Rather than pay ridiculous fees to some lurve farm, we can give something back to a place we care about, and contribute to the upkeep of Tonglen. That of course, and it's name - the beautiful practice of exchanging self for other. More on that another time.

But how did my guest list get so huge? My ideal number was 50. We sat down together and made a strict list. But people seemed to creep on, and it grew arms, legs, sidestreets... one person couldn't come so I invited another, and then the first person made a plan... and so it went.

When I tallied up all the rsvps and saw the final number, I think the whites of my eyes must've started to show. 70 people? Really? Ok, some of those are kids, but... really?

Then the late night qualms came. The kind where you visualise the caterers broken down at the bottom of the road and walking up the main courses in the sweltering sun. The kind where I have to bring in a porta-loo. Where the minister is stranded on another farm...Oh dear.

Think of the views, Tamara, think of the views...

Well, we are going to check it out this weekend, so pics will be forthcoming next week.

In the meantime, a wee something that I scribed when I was there some time back. I'm no poet (seriously), but it may give you a mood of the place.


Tonglen 2003

We’ve come to the palace of the kings.
The shy gatekeepers
let us in.

Laughter from the temple
shining hills
this gleaming floor.
The shades are playful
against the glass
and in the valley,
ducks chiming.

The page squeaks as it turns.
I didn’t bring a notebook this time.
I’m using his.

Those girls walking on the slopes
flowing in white
blessing the path with their treadsteps
and filling their breath with
the earths own blessing.

Bees vibrate the air.
a wind chime records a passing thought.

I’d write a love poem
on the flesh of this tree,
on its silver skin.

I’d record my heartsong
on this rock
soft with afternoon heat.

I’d weave these sounds –
the girls in the distance on their walk
the boys worshipping
with laughter. The steady bees.

I’d dance a thin tune
in the weaving air,
stamp my quiet feet on this
resting floor.

I’d measure my heartbeat
and distil these growing thoughts
in a trickle of melody.

I would,

but I don’t want to hurt
the silence.


[and what am I going to do to that silence now?]


Angela said...

Sigh. Beautiful, Tam. Oh, I can picture it all, and hear the bees.
For all of us who cannot attend, make it a marvellous, dreamlike celebration - and we won`t envy those who can, because if we all came, (the 2500...)the bees would surely think the world had gone mad. And you`d surely run out of
4x4s! But it does sound like an excellent choice, and it will be spoken of in generations to come (especially in the bee community).

Carry on, let us know all your ponderings on this. Lovely!

Val said...

Tam - clearly you ARE a poet! that is beautiful writing.
The place sounds perfect for your wonderful day. I think all you need to worry about transport wise is getting close family, priest, caterers etc to the spot - warn the rest and let them organise themselves - draw maps, mark a trail etc or perhaps hire a 4x4 combi to run shuttles??
Also how about a white dress for the ceremony and a RED DRESS for the day after.....
enjoy it all and keep us posted :-)

Reya Mellicker said...

Yes, you must get married there, definitely! So it'll be a schlep. Maybe some of those invited will decide not to attend, and won't that be kind of a relief?

Just like the practice of Tonglen, your wedding there will bless the land. I am so happy and excited for you both, and for every one of the 70 people who will be jostled and bumped on their way to Tonglen.

The poem is beautiful. Wow.

Reya Mellicker said...

Val, you are so smart!

Jeannie said...

You'll be giving the silence a happy, lilting, laughter-filled holiday, and then leaving it rejuvenated and refreshed, and silent again!

Your poem makes it absolutely totally clear that you MUST get married there; forget all mundane considerations, they can all be fixed. When I walked into the little chapel at Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg, and looked through the glass wall at the back onto the Peak, I told my boyfriend that THIS was where I was getting married. I added that it would be nice if it was to him, but whether it was or not, this was the spot. Nine months later we got officially engaged, and we married there a year after that. Sometimes the place sets the ball in motion, or at least makes it seem an even more wonderful prospect than it did before! And flying 25 Brits (and two Aussies) in to Durban airport, then getting them all set up in hire cars and driving in convoy for three hours to the Berg, through a spectacular thunderstorm and cloudburst, should have given me grey hairs, but it Just Didn't, because I knew we and they were all meant to be there! It'll be the same with you and all your guests too :-)

Lori ann said...

Ah, to the silence you'll bring LOVE.

Beautiful beautiful poem, you should put it in a frame Tam.

wish i was a bee right now :)

love, lori

lakeviewer said...

Lord, your poem was splendid, a shiny example of love pouring out. I love the line."..but I don't want to hurt the silence." I'll be thinking about that for a while.

karen said...

wow, i've just caught up on all the latest posts - beautiful and romantic, Tonglen sounds perfect! :-)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful poem Tam and yes, Tonglen is surely the right place. Those that need to be there will be.

Shiny said...

Oh, it sounds SO lovely. I agree with the others. The silence will be broken, momentarily, and be filled with joy and love and laughter, and will then return. This can only be a good thing x

Anonymous said...


Miranda said...

oh my god. I. Am. So. Excited.

The venue is the most important thing. And you've got that right so....everything else will fall into place

Val said...

hey Tam - award for you over at mine x

Tessa said...

------->jet├ęs in and plonks self on floor.

Hmmm...beautiful, lyrical and dazzling imagery. Sounds like heaven to me.

The silence will not be hurt Tam, just enhanced with the sounds of love and laughter for a while... then it will surge softly back again and the memory will remain.

Miranda said...

oh and hey, look at that - you are a poet after all...

tam said...

Well, I'm bouyed up by all your comments and enthusiastic good wishes. Thank you. We had a great weekend, but the week tore by in a busy blurr. There is much to do.

you are all wonderful.