The sounds of The Penguin Café Orchestra filter through the air. I am wrapped in a fleece blanket and outside, all is cold and grey. Above the music, I hear the steady raindrops falling on tin roof and through the window, I see the Karkloof valley shrouded in mist, with only a hint of the ridge beyond visible. The rain has been relentless over the last week and all my once plump, Eastern Cape succulents have gone ominously purple and black, like a toe that has lost its blood supply.
I have been here a little over 6 weeks now and am comfortably settled into my new rented home, a two bedroom flat on the ground floor of what is known as The Barn; a stylish green, steel structure, surrounded by rock gardens, filled with an abundance of shrubs, aloes and birds, all lovingly cared for by my brother, who lives on the upper floor. The view from our perch up here on the hill, is breathtakingly beautiful. Its sweeping expanse across picture perfect farmland, edged by the moody blue Karkloof mountains, expands both mind and spirit.
It is the perfect place to sit and rest a weary body, for it takes one’s mind away from the heaviness of the world and opens up a sense of possibility for a future not yet seen. It stimulates the creative spirit, which in my case has lain fairly dormant for the past two years, as I have struggled valiantly to keep my head above water in the face of the pandemic and a world in total chaos. I, like many people whose businesses were impacted by the pandemic, have worked really hard during this period of recalibration and my mind and body are tired, made all the more so by my recent decision to relocate from the comfortable and familiar surrounds of Grahamstown/Makhanda to new pastures in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Although I have been toying with the idea of relocating for the past few years, my tentative efforts to make it happen in 2019 had all but fizzled out, when news of the pandemic loomed large on the horizon. In fact, when the total lockdown became a reality, I was extremely grateful to still be ensconced in the familiar comfort of my much loved home and not locked up, with my possessions in boxes, somewhere on the road between two worlds. It was a relief to have had the decision for my future taken from me, and it was clear that I needed to stay where I was, so I used the time to develop my class material and take my courses online. I was perfectly content, making the most of every day, in the sunny Eastern Cape. In fact, so content was I to remain in my nest, that all thoughts of moving had faded to the distant recesses of my mind. It was somewhat of a surprise, therefore, when, late last year, on a drizzly November afternoon, I received a call that was to be one of those defining moments of my life. An estate agent, asking if she could bring someone to view my house? I hadn’t seen this coming and despite all my previous, theoretical talk of wanting to make a move, I certainly hadn’t been prepared for it actually happening. I was in a bit of a daze, but in a space of 24 hours, not only had my home been viewed, I had signed and accepted an offer.
Fast forward three months and here I am, looking out into the mist and wondering how I got through it? Moving a home and art studio at my stage in life is a major undertaking; a little like uprooting a well-established oak tree. It’s not something to take lightly, it requires special assistance and the ground in the new location needs to have been well prepared. Looking back, I realise that I have been sub-consciously preparing for this move for quite some time, with numerous visits to the farm, this beautiful piece of paradise, imagining myself living here, talking about living here and wondering how I could make it happen. Incredulously, in a space of three months, not only have I been uprooted, I have been successfully transported and transplanted into the fertile Midlands soil, and this soft soaking rain of reflection is exactly what is needed to settle and get my bearings.
It’s a big step to have left the security of my previous life, but I am glad I have done it and am hopeful that the foundation I have laid over the past twenty years in Grahamstown will stand me in good stead going forward and that before too long, I will see the new shoots of creativity emerging. Like any good painting, the canvas has been prepared and is now ready for some action. The empty space that lies before me is daunting, but a few outlines have been roughly sketched and in my imagination, I can see the way that things could develop. This is not to say that the picture that emerges will work out the way I envisage it, for as any artist knows, paintings can take on a life of their own and it’s our job to listen and follow. The plan, therefore, is not to force anything to happen, but allow the story to unfold.
My side of the deal is to remain calm and steadfast, to listen for the inner promptings whilst being alert to potential opportunities. I know it will take courage to take new ideas forward, for not only am I in a completely new environment where very few people know me and I know just as few, I am up against the societal narrative that says I am of an age when I should be retiring. But, I also know that I am a free, creative spirit and can rewrite the script to become whatever I want it to be. From this perch on the hill, looking back, looking forward, I feel like my real work is only just beginning. Of course, I may be naive in this regard, but only time will tell.
There are definitely advantages to being young, particularly that one has energy and that one thinks life will go on forever, but the gift of age and maturity is that one has wisdom and experience on one’s side, aided by a deep and firm foundation from which to launch to the next level of the story. What this level should look like varies from person to person, but irrespective of how one chooses to live, this stage of life allows one to let go of all that is no longer relevant and work only with that which is essential. It is a time of distillation.
So, now I find myself in that liminal space where what was is gone and what is to come has not yet revealed itself. It is an exciting place to be, for in it, anything is possible.