Imagine what could happen


Image: Wilma den Hartigh



A powerful and thought-provoking poem by Chilean poet-diplomat and politician, Pablo Neruda. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature – 1971.

“You start dying slowly

if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
If you do not listen to the sounds of life,
If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly
When you kill your self-esteem;
When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly
If you become a slave of your habits,
Walking everyday on the same paths…
If you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colours
Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly
If you avoid to feel passion
And their turbulent emotions;
Those which make your eyes glisten
And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly
If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself,
At least once in your lifetime,
To run away from sensible advice.”


Flying ants and summer evenings



Karoo door, Hanover, Northern Cape - South Africa.  I too

Karoo door, Hanover, Northern Cape – South Africa.
I took this photo last year December on a road trip through the Karoo. I love doors. To me they symbolise closure, the possibility of new beginnings, expectation and safety. I think something I’m learning is to not be too hasty to close the door on grief. I have to properly grieve what I’ve lost in my life – the absence of a proper childhood, a mother and a father. I have to mourn what I never had. I’m not going to close the door on this too quickly – I have to grieve so I can find constructive ways to move forward and build a life filled with happy memories. 

One of the things I like to write about is memory. I have a handful of beautiful memories from my childhood that I hold on too so tightly – my childhood years were filled with so much trauma and fear and that’s why the good memories are so important to me. One of earliest good memories – I must have been about 6 or 7 years old – is of catching flying ants under a lamp pole in the street with my nanny, Rosina. Random I suppose, but it was such are carefree and happy moment.

It was a hot balmy evening and we walked down to the lamp pole at the corner of the street. Rosina held my hand and told me I mustn’t walk in the middle of the road. I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt and slops. She showed me how to catch the flying ants that were attracted to the light. I was jumping up towards them, grabbed them in my hand, and stuffed them in a plastic container.

We were out there for a long time. I was concentrating on my task but I was also listening to Rosina talking to her friends who were also catching ants. I didn’t understand what they were saying. They were speaking sotho.

I remember feeling free and child-like that evening. I was having fun.

Then we went back to the house, removed the wings and fried the ants in butter (I know, sounds quite hectic now that I think of it). In traditional African culture it is a common practice to fry flying ants in butter – it is very nutritious and tasty.

Decades later I don’t really know why this is such a prominent memory. I read something that said memories are the architecture of our identity – and I think there’s truth in that. Some days the bad memories still knock me down and this is why the good ones are so precious to me. I have beautiful memories of Rosina. She tried her best to shelter me from my parents when they were fighting – I remember she would always take me to her room and I would lie on her bed and watch TV. I would stay there for hours. She was a safe refuge.


There’s no App for this


I want to tell you a story about these trees. I’ve photographed them at different times of the year and different stages in my life over a couple of years. I actually feel like they’ve been on a journey with me.

I’ve celebrated amazing moments with them – we went for a walk at this park straight after I found out I was pregnant after trying for years. We introduced our son Matthew to this park when he was only a few weeks old (that photo is in the gallery) and now that he’s three he still enjoys running around the dam where these majestic giants live. I’ve contemplated my life here. I’ve cried. I’ve laughed. These trees have heard it all, really. They’ve touched my spirit.

When my mind is a mess this is where I go and sit for a while to figure things out. I’ve found that the answers I need usually come when I sit quietly with myself.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. – Hermann Hesse




Finding yourself in the things you love



I thought I would be brave and share a picture of a skirt I made recently. So here it is 🙂  I used a plain t-shirt, cut off the sleeves, sewed up the holes and there I had a skirt! I personalised it by sewing vintage-looking mandala patterns onto the skirt. I love wearing it with bright red or purple stockings – it looks amazing like that 🙂

Creativity is important to me. I live for it actually. I shelved my creativity for a long time – life got in the way, I had a baby and that consumed all my time. But neglecting that essential part of who I am was a big mistake. I once read something that says “we lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there too.” And that is so true for me. Getting creative again is making my soul happy. It gives me perspective and gives me the time I need to make sense of my world. I love losing myself in the process of creating something and it is just wonderful. It is a strange thing – when I’m making beautiful things I think that the world isn’t such a bad place. I feel excited and alive – and that’s what I lost. I forgot to nurture my soul.

Creativity has also been part of my healing process – it is a constructive method that helps me to slow down and calm my racing mind. The discipline of creating something is helping me toward wholeness.

I read this about creativity and I think it is beautiful: “to be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance it’s beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” I think this is just awesome. This is exactly what creativity is bringing to my life. I’ve missed that feeling and I want it to last.





First signs of spring


When I started my blog in June I also started a photo project. I decided to take a series of photos of the mulberry tree in our garden, for a year, to show how the tree changes every season. For the full story about my love affair with mulberry trees, take a look at the post called ‘Mulberry memories’ here. Mulberry trees occupy a significant part of my early childhood memories.

So here are the next three pictures. Our beautiful tree is sprouting news leaves!

There’s a certain kind beauty about the tree in winter with its bare branches, but Spring is most certainly my favourite time of the year.  All I have to do now is get through a windy and unpredictable August here in Joburg.

With mulberry trees the change is so noticeable and since we moved into our house four years ago I’ve gotten to know our tree’s personality very well. It is a very good indicator of the seasons changing. I guess the tree reminds me of my own transformation – it has been a journey of high and low moments, laughter and pain.  I find comfort in the seasons changing because I think I can also look forward to that in my life – I managed to get through the worst winter in my life. The trick is to believe that Spring will always come. There’s always hope.



This is what it means to be alive


what it means to be alive


I saw this today and I think it is so beautiful. I think life should be celebrated because each day is a gift and another chance to live a life where I am truly present and alive. Appreciating the small things in life helps me to see the big picture. I find that so comforting. No matter what happens today, how I felt or how I struggled, each day is an opportunity to try again. I think that’s a really cool life perk. 🙂

The sun always rises and it is always beautiful


“The most adventurous journey to embark on; is the journey to yourself, the most exciting thing to discover; is who you really are, the most treasured pieces that you can find; are all the pieces of you, the most special portrait you can recognize; is the portrait of your soul.”

I love this quote by author C. JoyBell C. I try to look for something to reflect on daily. There’s probably nothing more difficult than dealing with your own soul and I find that daily reflection helps me to stay grounded and clear away the noise of life. And it reminds just how amazing life is.