A friend said to me recently, “It feels like there is nothing to look forward to”. He was referring to Lockdown and the limitations that it imposes upon his normal life, the constraints on his ability to move around freely, where his options are being sorely compromised by the realities of dealing with this pandemic. No longer can he just go online, cherry pick from a wide selection of wonderful and exciting destinations, and then make his travel plans accordingly. My frequent-flying and adventure seeking friend is in the same boat as the rest of us: his plans are on hold while bigger things are busy running their course. “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” I don’t know how he is doing right now, I have no idea how he has adapted to the situation that most of us find ourselves in- dealing with the shock of enforced change, rebuilding aspects of our lives where necessary, and just generally trying to rise to the challenges of navigating this strange and scary new space. Maybe he is waiting for things to ‘go back to normal’, where he can book his flight online and then hop on a plane to fly off somewhere different for a while. For now he will have to continue to wait. We ALL have to wait. But waiting can be painful, and frustrating, and even spirit- crushing. Waiting for change, for that desired outcome or result, is difficult. It can lead us to feel powerless and helpless and anxious. Thank goodness there is a choice. It’s called “Wanting what you already have.” Ok, so it doesn’t replace the satisfaction, the sense of achievement and the thrill of getting that thing that you’ve been coveting and working towards for so long, but never underestimate the power of the little things. The things that are already part of your life, the things that you may forget to notice, are sometimes easily overlooked and taken for granted because the big stuff, the stuff of dreams, just seems so much more exciting.
My Jasper turned nineteen earlier this month. For today I have moved my laptop upstairs to the dining room, where I can sit down to write, and now and then look over to where he is asleep in his basket. How do I write an elegy for a cat who has been a part of my life since he was a kitten just a few weeks old, found at the harbour of the Cape Town Foreshore, a kink already formed in his tail from some injury that had befallen him in those early weeks? I remember his first ever visit to my local vet shortly after I bought him home. She offered to straighten the tail, having assured me that it was not impacting on his health or mobility in any way, and it would be mainly for aesthetic reasons. I kept the kink; he had no doubt been through enough trauma to last him a while; and he still has it to this day. He was my companion in the small cottage where we lived in Bergvliet for a year, just the two of us, before piling onto a plane to Johannesburg along with all of my belongings to continue our lives there. (He went by plane to be exact: myself and my belongings took the scenic route by train from Cape Town to Joburg.) He continued to thrive and strive towards living all his nine lives as fully as possible, through a number of changes of address here in Joburg and including three ‘sisters’: a second cat and a little dog, both of whom he outlived, and then a hen who arrived unexpectedly to take up home in our garden before we found a more suitable home for her, and surviving a number of self-imposed adventures and minor accidents involving periods of absence- sometimes for several days and nights on the trot. Being a parent to cats, especially very adventurous and spirited ones as he was in his youth, has its challenges. His final home, where he has been for the past few years, has been with me and my husband and our beautiful garden that has offered him (and us) plenty of room to move and play and explore, and learn about creatures not commonly found in ‘normal’ gardens, such as scorpions, black widow spiders, small snakes, bats, garden birds flying into our house on occasion, an owl that flies in to visit from time to time, and a buzzard that we sometimes see circling the area before it comes in to settle in one of our trees for hours at a time. Even as recently as March 2020, just as we were settling down to heavy Lockdown restrictions, we underestimated the prowess of the then eighteen year old Jasper. At that stage he was already weakened by more than a touch of Dementia, losing his bearings very easily and becoming disorientated even within his familiar space. Unexpectedly, he wandered out of the property at around 6 o’clock one morning, and despite all our efforts throughout the rest of the day, was nowhere to be found. So when we went off to bed that night, still Jasper-less, it was with very heavy hearts. But he made it safely back! Despite the limitations of his old age, he was able to get back on to the property somewhere around midnight that same day, and I was awakened by the sound of him calling outside the bedroom window, asking to be let in. I suspect he was as happy and relieved as we were at his successful return. But today is different. Over the past two or three days he has weakened dramatically, and has stopped eating and taken barely any water. He walks slowly and with some difficulty over short distances in the house, mainly from his basket to some sunny spot on the porch, and to his water bowl, where he seems to have ‘forgotten’ how to drink and sometimes dips his paw in the water and then licks it. I am trying to help him by feeding him drops from a syringe which I dip into his bowl when I see him struggling. And I made The Big Call earlier today: I have phoned our vet and we have an appointment this afternoon to have him euthanised. There is just never the perfect time for these things, and yet a time has to be made, a decision has to be made. He has been a huge part of my life for nineteen years, and no other being (other than my parents and siblings while I was growing up) has been in my life for that long. This post is not meant to cover all the things I have learnt from him and describe just how precious he has been. Anybody who lives with a beloved pet knows already that we learn from them and that they are precious. This post is really just a short record of my life with him, and of his with me, and a way for me to thank him for bringing so much love and companionship to my life over all the years that we spent together. I love him and will miss him dearly, and I have no way of knowing how life is going to feel without him in my world. Thank you Jasper, for sharing this life with me. You are one of a kind ♥xxxx♥
Near where I live there is a retailer that I used to frequent, where the doors remain closed after months, with no sign of change. While the harsh Lockdown regulations of a few months back have been eased more recently, this particular outlet has stuck to online trading only, and it seems they may keep it that way. From what I see, they are doing well and flourishing in the wave of online shopping that appears to be a big part of the new normal. Buying online is not something that has interested me much in the past: now and then I would order a book or two from overseas, or a DVD (although these days we use Netflix at home rather than DVDs), or something nice from Faithful to Nature in Cape Town. I have always enjoyed purchasing from FTN from time to time, because they sell the kind of products that I like and believe in from an ethical standpoint, and I love the way that they consider the environment and other pertinent issues as part of the normal run of their business. At a time where I sometimes feel that trying to get things done in an efficient and ethical way is like pulling teeth or jumping through hoops, it is pleasure to find a local, home grown company that just gets it right in so many ways. Continue reading
Most of the bloggers that I follow are based in the global North where winter season is round about now making its entrance. Here in the South, we are welcoming in our summer with that distinct lift to the spirits that accompanies this time of year, where you can feel yourself stepping out of the cold and into the light. We too have had our Covid related challenges: South Africa at one point this year was carrying the third or fourth highest infection rate globally, but thankfully that has changed dramatically for the better (not to take anything for granted here). Right now there is plenty of fresh green growth abounding- we have had one or two of the afternoon thunderstorms that are so typical of the Johannesburg Highveld, with some light hailstones- so cooling to the earth as they soak the soil with their nourishing nitrates following a dry and dusty September. This week we find ourselves in the midst of a bit of a heat wave, and yesterday I was in the garden before 8am in bare feet and a sundress, and by mid afternoon the temperature peaked at around 33 degrees celsius on our south facing slope.
With lockdown regulations having been relaxed a bit here recently, I was this past weekend harshly reminded of one of my Big Dislikes (pet hates) as I peeled off onto the highway in my car. I hadn’t had to look at one of those gargantuan, freestanding advertising billboards for some time, and I was not pleased as I spotted one in the distance, realizing then that within a few kilometers my senses were about to be assaulted in full colour. I could see the thing in the distance, preparing to stare me down as I got closer and closer. There are other things about city living that bother me almost as much, but these Leviathans hold a special (dark) place in my heart. And in these troubled Covid times, they somehow seem even more awkward, ugly and intrusive — out of place and out of step with the times.
I am accustomed to working from home. What I’m not accustomed to is having someone at home with me, sitting at his desk just on the other side of the pillar while I sit at mine. It’s not really a big deal- while he’s busy on one of his conference calls, or speaking to a colleague on the phone, in go my earplugs and I continue as normal. So on a practical level things have not changed much- I still do pretty much the same stuff as I did before lockdown: cook food, clean house, garden garden, feed cat. And write.