Ten years ago, as newly-weds my husband and I moved into a little outbuilding on a strip of farmland in far-flung rural Kwazulu-Natal. Our new home was a little rectangle of bag-washed blocks and a tin roof. We had electricity but no kitchen, bathroom, or water. The farm manager and his wife and two kids lived nearby. Civilization, in the form of cellphone reception and shops, were an hour’s drive away. A river encircled us, and a mountain stood at our backs, so in summer’s flood, we were often corralled onto our bit of land for days at a time. We were blissfully happy. Through our little aluminum windows, we looked on a village of mud huts on the other side of the river, thorn trees scattered across the horizon. Framing this bucolic view were the boughs of a scraggly bark-bare orange tree, just outside our little home.
One by one, the children shuffled to the front of the line, side-stepping black jacks and wag-a-bitjies, for their turn beside the earth-brown hole. It was freshly dug, and freshly wet with river water, which caused its secrets to whisper up towards us. Each one in the group held a connection to the departed. His seven grandchildren (two babes in arms), his niece, his nephew, his five children, his brother, his daughter-in-law, his son-in-law, his brother, his sister-in-law, and his widow, all took turns to hold the dust that had become his body, and scatter it into the earth. A white stinkwood sapling was placed on top, and dirt filled in around. Only the river spoke as the soil rose up above the roots, and the few birds not made drowsy by the noontime sun. The trees of the bushveld made a dappled canopy above us all, throwing down sweet shadows tossed in with patches of light. The atmosphere was subdued but not heavy. The act was an untethering of a soul. It was a ritual made of memories but rooted in the present. Because traveling forward means leaving some things behind.
The candlelight flickers against the wall. The shadow-wings of the orchid dance like a moth in the halo of the flame. Steam rises from the bath and suspends in beads. I move my toes one by one against the enamel. My feet are pressed side by side beneath the taps. I marvel at their shape and dream lazily of all the places they have been. My eyes trace the muscles in my legs, the soft hills in my belly. The line of the scar above my pubic bone is still pink and raised. It glistens. The house is still, as is the night outside. The call of an owl carries across the veld. I had put my family to sleep, slowly and with care, and then crept downstairs to lay myself in this hot scented water beside a tiny lick of fire. I sink deeper, my knees part and my head tips back. My heart opens, and as I pour love on each arriving sense, I receive a little more…
Hello and welcome:) I am a South African mama who believes in unschooling, mindfulness. and living on purpose. I love traveling, reading, yoga, leading our family business, and eating delicious food in beautiful places. And tea. I love tea. Pour yourself a cup and settle in for a read.