Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Yes, they can be pretty

3-tatiana visa photo - 28-12-2009_3430 copy

The timing is perfect for this photo. It’s a time when we, as a family, have been having a great number of passport-type photos taken for various bureaucratic processes.

In December 2009, my little bird was planning to fly the nest. It was a very exciting and very scary time for us all. She wasn’t just leaving home, but going to the opposite end of the earth (or so it felt… just across the Atlantic really). There were forms to be filled in, visas to deal with, belongings to sort through and the whole letting go process. I was the official passport photo photographer of the family. I’d just finished doing Tat’s visa photo and was sitting gazing at that lovely face. I don’t usually apply special effects to photos, but that day, I was clicking away at the photo and seeing what effects it produced.

Ah, my little girl… so beautiful, even in the dreaded passport/visa photos. See? Passport photos can be pretty! I do, however, hope that this latest run of officialdom is the last we’ll do for a little while. What say you?

Monday, 16 December 2013

Of strength and courage

It takes strength to stand strong in the face of your challenges, however big or small they are. Today, the 16th of December, is an auspicious day for me and my family. In South Africa, it's known as the Day of Reconciliation - more on that later - but we know it as the Day of the Vow.

lagerPhoto by Peter Thomas

My old friend Peter sums up the happenings of the original Day of the Vow or Day of the Covenant on his site. There are many more sites that give the history of that day from various perspectives. This blog is not intended to recount history or morals or right vs. wrong in any way. It’s a remembrance of my ancestors, what they went through and what we’ve been through and the lessons we can carry from that.

On that day, so long ago, a group of a few hundred Voortrekkers (pioneers) came face to face with over 10 000 Zulu warriors. The Voortrekkers made a laager from their ox wagons and defeated the Zulus, killing more than 3000 men, while, of the Voortrekkers, only 3 were lightly injured. As I said before, I’m not going into the rights and wrongs of the battle. The lesson to be learned here, for me, is one of unity and strength and courage. It took great courage and strength to pack their worldly goods into a wagon and trek across country, over mountains, rivers and lands where they would most certainly be attacked. Alone, we need strength and courage to face our challenges, but banding together… as families, as friends, as communities, we can do great things!

Much, much later, South Africa renamed this day to Day of Reconciliation. It’s a day that was created on the foundation of the Day of the Vow to reconcile the people of South Africa and to create a day of unity and healing. The men who came together to create this new day displayed courage and strength. It takes continued courage and strength for the people of South Africa to build on that dream of reconciliation.

When we think of courage and strength, it’s often in times of great strife and ‘war’ with our challenges. Certainly, those are times we need to call on what courage we have and to be strong. Sometimes, just standing up and doing what we believe to be right takes even more courage and strength. Sometimes, the daily grind of living takes even more.

Way back, my ancestors, at one point, were kicked off their farm, which was burnt to the ground by the British. The men were political prisoners and the women and children were put into concentration camps. When they came out, they lived for a time under an oak tree, baking their daily bread in an earth-oven. Yes, they had strength and they had courage. I like to believe that we’ve inherited that strength.

Over the rooftops


The ripple earthy-red of clay-tiled rooftops is a visual that will always take me back to Sao Paulo. Yes, it’s found in other cities, towns and villages of Brazil and in many other countries, but Sao Paulo was such a huge part of my personal journey, that my thoughts go there.

What you’re looking at here are two houses. The tall house on the one side and it’s neighbour, glued to its side. It’s typical of housing layouts in much of Brazil. There is no space between the houses, which are long and narrow, often a series of rooms stacked one behind the other with connecting doors. It’s rare to find a passage.

I love skies and clouds and cloudy skies. I have far too many photos scattered through my albums of clouds, but what I’ve noticed is that many of them are where I’m in a confined area gazing out. It’s a pattern that’s repeated itself over and over from childhood. I was the child who had “… would do far better if she didn’t spend her days gazing out the window” or “…daydreams too much” in almost every school report, particularly the early years. I think much of that dreamer still exists. There’s many a time I find myself gazing at the horizon, thankfully, usually not from a confined space.

Saturday, 07 December 2013

A spirit of change

As I’m facing some big changes of my own now, today seems a day to reflect on changes I see around me. Last night, the news broke that Nelson Mandela has died. It didn’t take me long to get slightly irritated, as I’ve never been one for putting any one man on a pedestal and, the way many were speaking, you’d swear he was a god. Yes, that was my first reaction and it wasn’t pretty.

mandela birds by Dov Fedler
Dov Fedler pays tribute to Nelson Mandela with this image of freedom, set about Robben Island

My feelings came from a mixed bag of history, events and beliefs. Yes, we were personally affected, like the rest of my countrymen in South Africa, when FW de Klerk handed the country over to Nelson Mandela. For a long time, I saw Nelson Mandela as a man who wasn’t imprisoned unfairly - he’d committed crimes that were, by any standards, punishable. The ‘freedom’ he brought to my homeland was equally debatable, as far as I was concerned. It’s not that I was against it. I was one of those who’d argue for it, but I saw my country spiralling into a cycle of hate and crime. It still has huge issues to work through. Nelson Mandela tried. He started a process. That is not the point of this blog though. If you're interested in that side of things, there's an article in the Telegraph that beats the subject to death, but you'll get where I'm coming from.


There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
~Nelson Mandela

People change. Nelson Mandela, I believe, changed. He changed from the radical who felt it right to use force to make a point to a man who preached and practiced peace, a man who found a deep wisdom in himself and stood up for what was right. He spoke of love, not hate. He spoke out against violence, war and hate. He spoke against domination by any one race or colour. He spoke of freedom. He spoke of being strong. He spoke of personal power.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
~Nelson Mandela

I still feel that too much fuss is being made over one man.... a very human man who made his fair share of rather dramatic mistakes and has a pretty chequered past. He's no more to be honoured than many who do great things, but aren't high profile, even those who make a huge difference in just one person because they smiled at them when that smile was badly needed.

I want to end this with the words of a friend. She put it so well at a point where I was screaming inside from seeing Mandela's face everywhere I turned. So the world may mourn the death of its hero (all heroes have their dark side, right?). I'll admire the man for the wisdom he found in himself and his public fight for equality for all colours and creeds.

Its so normal to mourn someone you love... whether you really know them or not... whether you see them or you don't... whether they are rich or poor... every minute people in the world are dying YES! so does that mean someone who has touched your life in some way... even a distant way as in books or television or making a change in your country shouldn't be honored and mourned over? the world needs to stop being picky... the conformists need to conform and the non conformists need to non conform and that's ok... but allow people to grieve in whatever way they want to! maybe you don't step out every morning to machine guns and bombs and maybe a family member is lying in hospital trying to stay alive and maybe you have no family at all... maybe you are an orphan in a valley somewhere wishing for Peace... maybe you don't even know when your next meal is coming... so instead of all the opinions and all the judgments on a man who clearly said IM NOT A SAINT... maybe you can take time to appreciate what you do have right now... and allow the present moment to be as it is... Mr Mandela you changed my life... because of you, I have very special friends and I don't want to kill them.... I love my family and friends.., I love my country and all the people in it... yes some people are really bad... and yes Government does not always get it right... but just for today can we show our humanity for people who are deeply sadden by our country's loss... he lives on within us all...

Nicole Hayward

mandela quote

Friday, 06 December 2013

#1 - The 3 of us

Most people who know us associate ‘the 3 of us’ with myself, Jurgis and Tatiana. This goes back a little further to the first ‘3 of us’.


I married young. Jurgis had just gotten a transfer from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, so we decided to cut our two year engagement back and get married right away. I look at this photo and I can feel that youth and all the uncertainty that came with it. In Cape Town, I struggled to find work. We had one car that Jurgis used for work, so I was stuck at home and intensely bored. “Have a baby,” he said. “It will keep you busy,” he said. Right. Oh the folly of youth! I don’t regret the baby for a moment, but we really could have waited a while.

Ceinwen was born on the 28th of December, 1987. I had just arrived home after my caesarean. It was a typical summer’s day in Cape Town with hot, bright sun. It was a proud day. We had our little girl and Jurgis had just bought our new car, a Toyota Avante Twincam - our idea of a Porche. I still remember its colour! Desert Rose. It’s funny the kind of thing one remembers. When I went into labour in the wee hours of the morning, Jurgis pushed the car, with me seated inside, down the driveway and to the corner before starting it, as he didn’t want the neighbours to know. We had one particularly nosy neighbour. It was this little photo shoot that brought her out. She couldn’t understand how I’d managed to have a baby without her knowing.

We’d barely gotten in with my tiny new-born bundle when Jurgis’ dad arrived. That’s his car in front. I was ecstatic! Not. He was absolutely the last person I wanted to see. The morning after I got out of hospital, Jurgis was outside mowing the lawn and his dad actually berated me for letting him do what he considered women’s work. Oh yes, we had an enviable relationship. If’ I’d just had some inkling that day of what the future held for all in the photo, I certainly would have treasured the moments all the more, even those moments with my father-in-law.

There’s an oft-repeated and very, for me, poignant lesson in this post to treasure every moment of every day. It comes at what is usually a very sad time of the year for me. Today, I will celebrate her life and I will celebrate the life of my other daughter and best friend, Tatiana. I will celebrate the time we’ve had and all the time we will have together.

Thursday, 05 December 2013

Photo-writing challenge

writerIndeed…  ‘Tis me

Ok, so I said I was lousy at getting things written. I know how to write, but tend to sit staring at the screen for several eternities and still coming up blank. It’s not as though I have nothing to say and my head is buzzing all day long with… well… stuff. Trouble is, most of that stuff is not what I can write about (protecting the innocent and the not-so-innocent).

I was looking at some photos tonight and hit on an idea that might just work. Now don’t go placing any bets. My track record here isn’t exactly stellar, but let’s see if I can make it work.

I have absolutely tons of albums on my hard drive and really need to sort through the photos. That will entail going through each album to weed out the crud and make sure there are no duplicates. I’ve decided to take ONE photo in each album and write about it. I may allow myself more photos per entry, but I’m going to try to use words instead of more images to illustrate an event, person, idea, and so on.

Can I make this work? Time will tell…

write bleed