Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas in Cape Town

It's another life. Another life down here, altogether. The space, the sky, the sunlight, the lush garden, the privilege, the ritualized lockdown of the house at night, the owls in the poplars in the dark, the constant awareness of the massive weight of poverty pushing at the fabric of things. 

We gathered on the patio for Christmas dinner, with popping crackers for my young niece. 

I plundered the hydrangeas, which are are almost as tall as I am - flowers larger than any of our heads. My mom credits their unprecedented growth and vivid colour with the very late rain the Cape experienced this year. The acidic soil theory [* see comments] has been blown out of the water, though, as the pinks and blues and lilacs grow right on top of one another in a fat hedge of flowers.

The day started with a swim in the pool, all alone in the garden in the sun. As I swam I realized how hard it will be to leave. I miss the Frenchman like the blazes. He is my most loved best friend and I am on half power without him. But I am loathe to leave the light, and this lovely place. My parents speak of how sad they will be when I leave. Time becomes a whole new animal.

I have almost forgotten that my leaving Harlem was close to flight. When I remember I am fearful of a return to the darkness that managed to get to me, there. Still, it is often that contrast - here to there -  that jolts me into new creative activity in New York's cold months.

Some things change, some stay the same.

We will always carry on?


  1. Mop heads, we call them here on the Cape (Cod). We arrived today to a light dusting of snow and bitter cold. Looking forward to rest, walks along the beach and building fires everyday.
    There is sadness in your writing today...I for one am looking forward to your return. Merry Christmas. Gabriela

  2. Oh, Marie. Your visits to South Africa make ME homesick. It's hard to come home to the East Coast of America in the Winter; I've felt similar tuggings when I've gone home to California in January. All that light even in the northern hemisphere. Yes, we'll always carry on, but we really can go home if we deeply desire it. Knowing that makes the winter darkness bearable.

  3. We will always carry on, because we have to. But to carry on with insights and self knowledge is very hopeful and brave. All will be well.

  4. Beautiful. And I could use some of that light here. But you should know that your recipe for buttermilk mashed potatoes will be prepared tonight to accompany our brisket dinner. Wishing you love, light, and health in the new year.

  5. Estorbo will be so happy to see you back

  6. It's idyllic, but for now it's not your idyll. But someday....?

    Yes there will be darkness and cold but we've passed the solstice and get a little more light each day.

    We'll have more when you return. we miss you when you're gone too. Merry Christmas Marie.

    xo J

  7. For 39 years I've lived here, from a bitterly cold and wet country I return to every year for a couple of weeks; the children I've raised are sun-loving, wide-skied South African children. Each year my return sparks an identity crisis that I can recognise in your writing. As the years progress the answer inside me gets louder and clearer, I belong in S.A., and the crisis I experience when I "go back" only lasts while I'm there. South Africa is the place I love, and the people are just like your fat hedge of hydrangeas all growing on top of each other - pinks, lilacs, blues.

  8. I have enjoyed all your recent posts from another place in time and can feel your sense of loss when you have to leave but doesn't the leaving make the return all the sweeter. Best wishes for 2014.

  9. I received a copy of your book for my birthday and it's every bit as wonderful as I expected. I love that you point out the beautiful things in the book and this blog. There's more than enough of everything else in our daily lives already. I trust that you'll find the beauty and warmth in your new place.

    As for acid soil and hydrangea color, I'm under the impression it's aluminum that makes them blue. In many (most?) places, there's enough aluminum in the soil already, but it's not available when the pH is too high. I know that some production nurseries add aluminum in the form of (I think) aluminum sulphate to ensure blue since blue sells better. pH still has to be controlled to be available to the plant though. Also, I think some macrophyllas are bred or selected for their natural tendency toward a color.

  10. Ah, Marie. I feel your longing. I say grab your two loved ones and run. You're not happy in Harlem though the appartment is beautiful. May you go wherever your heart leads you in 2014. Brother of Mine, go with my blessing, Harlem is not for you...

  11. I wish I had been there. I will tidy up Harlem for your return and it won't be so bad. And remember the Moonstruck quote. ;-)

  12. Hope you have returned home safely to Harlem to your Frenchman and cat but "sjoe" reading your heavy heart made me want to weep Marie buckets. Beste wense


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