I’ve spent the past two days feeling the biggest love. Now I’ll try to share it.
The love feeling is so large that I don’t know where to start to spread it. Like mulch. So, obviously, I will start at the end.
Me and Lucille (by now you know that she is my Grand Old Lady of The Road) crested the rise just near Grootbos, but even closer to midnight.
The half-moon that had blessed the blissed at Greenpop’s Reforest Fest at Platbos now hung over Walker Bay before me. The supreme blackness and my headlight beam of just seconds before was replaced by a shimmering silver path on the sea. It was a sight that simply served to send my spirits soaring even higher, if that were possible.
It was. I stopped Lucille. I looked. My heart sang. It sang of one of the most beautiful days of my life. I expelled a frighteningly discordant and quite primal whoop, not a thing of beauty at all but one that yelled of a man set free of the chains of ordinariness. I was alone. And it was mine. I was heading home to my bed.
I left my heart somewhere among the good and happy and carefree people who had planted three thousand trees on the edge of Africa’s southernmost indigenous forest. And my sole remained in the rich and reddy-brown earth which would help those trees grow. I have never had a problem distancing myself from a crowd. But I was already missing the three hundred-odd and somewhat odd people who had gathered for “Friends Fest”, truly a union of friends who had never really been strangers but were now forever unified in the spirit of nursing the planet. And their own souls. And those of each and all of us.
Lucille and I headed out of Stanford towards Montagu. I had heard that Montagu was “the best-preserved Victorian village in the Western Cape”, my home village of Stanford listed a mere third.
I had to see this for myself. Cue a “Hatman and Lucille Roadtrip”. But we never got there. Actually, we did. Eventually. For a whole, wholly unpleasant 90 minutes. I really tried. I tried to find accommodation. But there was something that just didn’t work for me. What really didn’t work was when I was subjected to a tannie (elderly Afrikaans woman) behind reception at one of the joints slagging off the “country house” next-door and saying it was awful and that I should book into her place.
No. This wouldn’t do. I had just spent two days in the zow-wow zen gardens of a tranquil retreat in McGregor and this vrou was dissing her neighbours and harshing my Temenos mellow. I gave Mrs Reception a smile radiating with the karma of forgiveness, with only one corner of my mouth slightly curled in utter contempt, and gunned old Lucille back to McGregor.
Out of The Hat column, Stanford River Talk, May 2013.
I can see it now.
Queen Victoria Street, Saturday morning… people milling about at the morning market, Brydon’s lemon tart in one hand, Elsa’s mozzarella in the other, and complaining in a genteel and socially decorous manner about what happened to Tracy’s trees and the fact that the Municipality sat fatly by and did diddly-very-squat about it.
Then a hush falls over the small gathering. A lemon tart makes a ka-plop as it falls, lemony side-down of course, on cold, hard concrete. A Yorkshire Terrier squeaks as the weight of a Stanford Info leaflet drifts gently past its ear.
Many faces all turn sharply in one direction and reflect absolute horror. Well, OK, not horror… more a face-mash of wonder and consternation, lightly garnished with escalating anxiety.
Stanford’s children, practically all of them and from every corner of the village, are coming down Queen Victoria Street. And not just strolling, as they usually do in that somewhat directionless we’re-not-quite-sure-where-we’re-going-but-we-are sure-we’re going-to-have-fun way that Stanford’s children appear to have perfected. No. Not at all. Not today.
I was brought my Overberg full-monty breakfast by a broad-smiling and disarmingly humble young trainee waiter at Evergrine’s Farm Stall in Stanford this morning. He is Zimbabwean, of course. I looked at his name tag. His name is Vision. How wonderful is that? I asked him if he would be prepared to swop names with me. When I revealed my name to him, he just smiled politely and started mopping a table that was already clean. Such a shame. I would really, really dig to be known as Vision Hatman.
I have just made a long-distance phone call to a person very dear to me, somebody who has known me as a child and adult. Somebody who is trying to pick herself up off the floor, after being flung there by life.
She tried to rise again on her own, without telling anyone of her distress or of her mess. Until she just had to reach out for love and support. Which duly came. In many forms and from many sources and with great abundance. She is not alone. And she is not alone in this. And she was not alone in getting it wrong. She is getting help. And she will be fine.
I never thought I would tell her this but, when we spoke this morning, I told her of the six weeks I spent in my London flat many years ago, six weeks spent almost entirely in bed. Unable to get up. Unable to rise again. Unable to ask for help. Until I did. I embraced change. And the learning. Learning to be kind to oneself. Learning to be one’s self.
Learning that our perception of the expectation of others is not our truth. Learning to be true to our self. To be ourselves. To be nobody else but ourself. To honour our own needs, our own wishes, our own dreams. Our own bodies. Our own minds. Our love for self. I am still learning this.
I read somewhere recently that “no matter what value we put on ourselves, there ain’t nobody else who is going to come along and raise that amount”… or words to that effect. We are all worth far more than the value we dare put on ourselves, our lives, our love.
When I was young, my father would often pack us all into the Ford Cortina (with round rear lights and tailfins) on a Sunday. And we would head for the ocean. Nobody had picked up on my astigmatism then and I would lie like a descaled and reddened crocodile in rock pools, with my begoggled eyes slightly submerged and, sight magnified by the refraction of sunlight on the water’s surface, watch the tiny fish flit about and the crabs beady-eye me from their shadowed nooks. Boy in a bubble. I wear glasses now. But no roadtrip in Lucille is complete without a snuffle around South Africa’s magnificent coastline. To submerge myself in the sights and sounds and sand and salt. And, while seagulls skirl overhead, to lie meditatively in rock pools. On my back. Like a seal. And drift off… and be washed away. And washed.
Children and I are on the same wavelength. I adore them. They tend to love my company. We play. The child is strong within me. None more so than an adorable pair who are the children of a friend.
These girls, my “Gargoyles”, and I went to Platbos Forest the other day so that I could take some photographs of them for a project I’m working on. I want to produce a set of three images for a conceptual artwork which might illustrate the spiritual path of children.
R & S have walked a very difficult path without their father. I imagine it has been both heartbreaking and strange. And the strangeness was there when we entered Platbos Forest for the photo-shoot.
Tomorrow I will steer Lucille off the farm and on to the R43 and head in the very general direction of Suurbrak and Grootvadersbosch, most probably with Neil Young’s “Psychedelic Pill” grunting and growling and grinding… and skipping across my eardrums, with trees and cows and clouds and vast spaces sliding by. As I was lying here, musing on this and listening to the morning birds, these words sang out to me…
““What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” ~ Jack Kerouac.