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.
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…
The cool water runs over my naked body as sweet as a kiss. The river chatters like an old friend. The morning light washes the air clean, leaving no trace of yesterday. I sink down and inhale the silty summery smell of the water. I have a few minutes alone. Two. Four. Maybe eight. I don’t know when I will be needed again, when my name will be called. But I take the time to move slow. To look at the bush stretching up the hillside above. I drink in the play of sunlight over the acacia trees, see how it seeps into the terra-cotta of protruding cliffs. I find a spot by the reeds, in a quiet eddy, with a rock that curves round my hips. I reach for the soap tucked among the plants, dip it into the flow, then bring it close to my face and breathe in its scent of ylang-ylang, cardamom, and cloves. I slip it down my neck, around my breasts, under and over my arms. Now its exotic perfume whispers off my own skin. I am of the river, of the land beneath its waters, of ancient stories and time eternal. I am here, now.
‘Mama!’ Four minutes.
I rinse off quickly and stand up to see my four-year-old daughter picking her way through the thorn trees.
‘Here I am!’ I call. I wave to her dad watching from the top of the path with our six-week-old baby in his arms. When Emma reaches me she stops, momentarily surprised by my nakedness knee-deep in the river.
‘Do you want to come in too?’
‘Yes please.’ She lifts her arms for me to pull off her shirt, then pushes down her shorts and panties. I help her in, and she leads the way across the rocks scattered in the river’s breadth. She is an explorer, an adventurer, and I try to keep up. I show her how to splash water on the burning stones; she shows me what it is to be fearless and in love with the world. I was blessed by my moment alone with the river, and I am blessed by my journey across it with her…
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.