Saturday, May 15, 2010

Back to South Africa

...via this blog, anyway.

My posts about our trip are really lagging and it's curious. Last year I managed to blog the whole Namibia/Kgalagadi trip in one fell swoop, consecutively. But I think this trip was different because we were going back to where I was born.

I have a great visceral reluctance to sit down and edit the photos and write about our experience. On the one hand, recreating it is a challenge: How can I do justice to what we saw, felt, tasted and smelled?

And then: It is something of a physical wrench, as though this light, small, but loved room, with the terrace and its plants and the Brooklyn blue sky, is a kind of bubble. Which is threatened with collapse when I immerse myself in images of the land I miss. It's really very hard. Yet I want to tell the story which lives with us both as a singing memory. So I shall get to work today and tomorrow, and make some progress.

It begs the question, though: if we both long for the place, why are we here? Is the longing better than reality? Is the memory more tangible than the experience? Watering plants, feeding them, dead heading, planting, dividing and picking - these are all just ways of avoiding having to give these questions an answer.

Sometimes I think the answer is the terrace. It is an anchor and a reason. And if that is true, I must deal with it decisively. Commit it to memory, and get the hell of out Dodge.


  1. Avoiding your memories is not such a bad thing. Your brain and your heart will allow you to come back to those wonderful days and nights when you are ready to relive those hours without much longing and without pain. Don't feel you have to think about, write about, see again those precious things until you are ready.

    The rest of us can wait.

  2. Even though I really enjoy your traveling stories, and I looking forward to read the new ones, when you are ready, I think you hit the nail on the head: The terrace IS the answer, no matter how drawn you still are, to the land back home.
    Which ever way, you know the answer deep inside already...

  3. What was the reason for moving to New York in the first place? Have the reasons changed in the intervening time? Were you afraid for South Africa's future before, and are less afraid now?

  4. Thanks Mountain Thyme.

    Anyes - thank you, Anyes :-)

    Anonymoose -

    I moved to DC from SA to continue my voice studies with a private singing teacher. I meant to stay for 6 months. I'm still here. A life grew up around me.

    I was afraid for SA's future when we had a white government. I am afraid for SA's future now because of the legacy of apartheid.

    But to answer your question, perhaps I am less afraid of moving back now, than I was before. My fear was not political, it was personal, because my friends, my life, had developed here. I have managed to build up that side of my life there. And my husband loves the country - that's a big difference.

    Like I said, not a subject for a brief comment...

  5. Hello Marie, I am a fellow lurker who has been following and enjoying your absolutely gorgeous photos and great blog.
    Your post resonated with me today as I have noticed how easy it has been for me to be constantly living with a grass-is-always-greener complex. I am not saying that is your experience, but that is what it brought out for me. Loving where I am but then thinking of where I ultimately would love to be; and the dilemma of remembering why I left that place in the first place.
    Thanks for your honesty and I hope your terrace brings you moments of bliss of contentment.

  6. Eden. Where we wish we were when we're not.

    I grew up not far from here. I wanted to leave, explore new places. Those new places cast a magic over me in a way NYC never has. I still long to be elsewhere, although less than before.

    I think the excitement of new places lends to story telling. Old memories do to, but squeeze out here or there, without the same narrative vigor - maybe because those feelings are solely for you and hard to communicate that eerie combination of love, loss, belonging and self-expulsion.

    Now that my mother and sister are moving to Florida (yikes!) in a week I went out to visit, to plan the move. I drove through my home town recognizing only what used to be, not so much what has taken its place. We went to dinner and drove to the beach, the beach I had sat with countless times as soon as I could drive -me and girlfriends, me and friends, me on my own. My mother asked why I had painted that scene so often and all I could say is because I had been there so often, somehow participated in its presence.

    Now I'm telling my own stories.

  7. I am so glad my husband and I are not the only ones grappling with those exact questions... we left just as we were becoming adults, and as such, have very little of our present selves left there. But yes, the we miss the earth, the smells, the people, the sky... so much. But we are so happy here. Lots to think about and consider. Maybe I just need a house here and a house there? I wonder if I will win the lottery any time soon?!


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