Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Dad.

After my father died, I found a letter that was written by my mother to him back in 1975 My dad had gone on a training course and was away for about three months and my mother had written to him to give him an update on how things were at home.

In the letter, she told him how his two year old daughter (me), had been going up to the gate to look out onto the street to wait for him. Apparently, I did this every single day, and as I stood there, I would call out, "Daddy! Daddy!" and wait there for him to come. When I realised he was not coming home, I would stand at the gate and cry. My mother, in the letter, wrote how heart wrenching this act was and she hoped that I would eventually give up and stop looking for him.

I don't know if I gave up looking for him, though. The letter didn't indicate that I did, nor did I find other letters from that time. Rather, I gave up looking through the immense stack of letters exchanged between my parents over the periods of time when my dad was away. After reading two of them, I decided that perhaps it's best I not know anything about their exchanges.

Needless to say, my dad was my favourite parent. I still love him, even though it's been six years since he crossed over. And, like the two year old me, I still sometimes look for him.

Not long after his death, I sat in the lounge in his house and saw him, transparent and wearing his gardening clothes (blue checked shirt with blue shorts) walk from the kitchen, into the dining room, through the dining room table and then vanish.

In 2010, I saw him in a kind of half-dream, half-vision, in which he once again appeared in his gardening clothes (my father loved his garden and he loved gardening) to tell me, "You have work to do."

Even now, if I see an old man in blue shorts and sandals, I check to see if it's my dad. Even now, knowing well and truly that dad is never coming back to this particular life in the form I knew him.

And I miss him. Every day. I miss his advice. I miss his wisdom. I miss talking conspiracy theories and smoking with him while we sip coffee together.

I love you daddy.
September 2006 - four months before he died.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Unfettered Joy of Being Alive

I am so grateful that I am ME.

There were times in my life when I wasn't. I wanted to be anyone else but me, or, I wanted to rewind my life to the times when I thought the person I was at a specific time was better than the person I was in that particular moment.

Today, though, I am happy to be exactly who I am, where I am, in the skin that I am living in.

This revelation occurred a short time ago, however I only truly acknowledged it this morning. (OK, it realised this just over a week ago, but was unable to enjoy it because I experienced a health challenge that quickly pushed the joy aside and I allowed myself to feel sorry for myself).

I don't live a life without struggle. The Buddha tells us that life is suffering. How we navigate that suffering is what is important. Life is never a constant run of happiness or a constant run of great sorrow. It's usually a mix between the two. Sometimes sorrow, sometimes joy. They are two sides of the same coin.

The Buddha tells us:

"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."

This, I think, is what happens when we apply our Buddha Eye to how we view the world.

We all have a comment on the weather. It's either too hot or too cold. Or there's too much rain or none at all. Recently, the clouds gathered over Johannesburg and there was a lot of "Oh no, please don't let it rain. I hate the rain." The rain is necessary. It is neutral, but our feelings are not. Others were overjoyed that the rain was coming. Who was right? No one. The rain is the rain. It is what it is. We cannot change the fact that it rains, but we do have the power to change how we think about the rain.

This analogy can be applied to our lives and how we see ourselves. If we see ourselves through the eyes of Hell, our lives become Hellish. "We become what we think."

I put it down to returning to chanting more regularly.

Joy wasn't something that came easily for me. I was strongly suspicious of it, and if I am honest, then I have to admit that I still am, at times. My mother and grandmother always liked to say, "Happiness is always followed by tears. You laugh now, but later on you'll be crying." I believed them. When I found myself happy for no reason I used to panic, wondering what disaster would strike because I was happy. Somehow, my mother and grandmother's superstition made me think that if I were happy, I would be punished.

We become what we think.

So, of course, some drama or disaster immediately followed my joy. Of course it did. I believed it did. I became what I thought.

Today, though, I am living in this moment of complete unfettered joy of being alive. The joy that I am me and no one else. That I have this life, that I have this breath and that I have this moment on this planet, in this place with these people and circumstances. Even if some of those circumstances are not ideal. Even if there are health challenges and workloads and strained relationships and bills to pay, there is still joy.

I told a friend of mine once that "above the clouds, the sun still shines and above the clouds, we are all Buddhas."

Even when it rains, even when circumstances are less than ideal or even dire, we are all still Buddhas.

Friday, October 4, 2013


Lisa Jo Baker's Five Minute Friday has provided an interesting prompt for today: WRITE. And today, I am going to challenge my fellow writing friends to write about writing and leave me a comment so that I  can go take a quick look at your blog and leave you a comment. The rules are to write only for five minutes... which can be a challenge for those of us who have a lot to say about writing.

Edit: I put this in because the other bits sounded a bit pompous, so here's my thoughts on writing:

I've had quite a few writing students pass my way. No matter what their skill, or whether they were beginners or advanced, there was one thing that I told them all: If you want to improve your writing you need to write every day. Blog, journal, write letters - the format makes no difference. Write every day.

Reading a variety of books - both fiction and non-fiction - also helps.

Just starting out writers and writers who have written for years also benefit from going easy on themselves. Negative self-criticism (as well as from well meaning family and friends ) will only sound the death knell for any writer.

If you want to write, then begin to write. It's that simple. Write with love, abandon and joy. Write unedited. Write in crayon and paint. Write in the sand. But WRITE. Every day.


I was seven when I wrote my first short story. I don't remember details, but the plot revolved around a clever Arab boy who kept outsmarting the Sultan with the help of one of the guards, who was named "Hamburger". I am sure that my rudimentary attempts at story telling were not as exciting as that plot outline sounds. And I have invented more interesting names for characters, since.

I have been writing, you could say, for 33 years. I wanted to be a writer before I knew I could sing, before I knew what opera was. I wanted to be a writer before I discovered art and flying saucers and pizza.

As soon as I knew how, I began writing. Of course, there was no child prodigy in any of those works. I sent stories off to newspapers and was mentioned by name for having sent in "a very nice space story". (This mention prompted a paedophile to look up our phone number and attempt to harass me with bizarre phone calls. My mother, after I told her, got the phone tapped and working with the police, she pretended to be me until the fucker was caught. He got nine months. I wrote very little after that and I submitted nothing to anywhere until much later.)

The teen years were filled with angst ridden poetry about how depressed I was, and how unrequited my love.

It took some doing but I did a six month journalism course (after doing the stuff my mother wanted me to do: PR and beauty therapy.) My first job was with the publicity department for Pope John Paul's visit to South Africa and then I joined SA Gardening magazine.

I've been freelancing on and off since about 1998 and published on the web, in the States, the UK and South Africa for both fiction and non-fiction work.

I've written course work, workshops. feature articles, short articles, news articles, press releases, web copy, brochure copy, short stories, blogs... and I've edited and sub edited and proof read. I've taught journalism and creative writing both in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Currently I am writing a novel, but I am not  being that disciplined about it. That needs to change.

I also write a blog about writing, which I haven't updated in a while (mostly because it seems that no one actually reads it).

One day, I'll be paid nicely for writing. At least that's what all of us writers hope for. That and a big mug of coffee for the late night writing.

(I think that was more than  5 minutes.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Behind The Scenes - The Story Behind the Picture

Mel of Barefoot Mel does this thing every Tuesday. She posts a picture and tells the real story behind it. Why? Because as much as we like to believe everyone's lives is as perfect as they like to show on Facebook, that's not quite the truth. So, just this once, I actually have a photo to share and a story to tell.

You will see my beautiful blue eyed child Coco Piranha in the picture above. You'll also see her sitting alongside what looks like a bunch of builders' rubble. In fact, Coco loves sitting on top of the bricks and next to the bricks. It's where she hangs out sometimes.

What looks like builders' rubble is a grave, the final resting place of my friend Bodhisattva Kinkytail, who died last year from poisoning. (You can read that story here)

The day we buried him, the dogs (we only had 3 at the time) joined us. We showed them Bodhi's body. They whined a little and sniffed. They knew. They knew that this was once Bodhi, their friend, and their friend had crossed over.

I did a whole burial ceremony for him with incense and prayers and a call for his soul to be released to be reincarnated when the time was right. We laid his body, which we had wrapped in a towel, into the grave and I finished off with a few prayers.

Then I witnessed something extraordinary. Our dog, Bokkie, who absolutely adored Bodhi, began shovelling dirt over his body with her nose. She continued to do this until his body was covered. When the other two dogs came close, she growled at them. She only stood back from her task once it was done and not a single piece of the towel we wrapped him in poked out of the ground. Madelein and I, already distraught at Bodhi's death, couldn't stop crying as we watched Bodhi's best friend bury him that day.

Animals know.

Bodhisattva Kinkytail. More than a cat and a wise old soul. I miss him every day.