Monday, 14 January 2019

Your Depression ... footsteps of a grounded butterfly

I often hear in my mind Mandela's words I once saw quoted - "It's not what you are given, but what you make out of what you have, that is the difference between people."

My darling Norman suffered from clinical Depression. You could say that's what he HAD. And what he made out of it were the poems he promised to write from the moment he'd made that pact with himself in 1979 faithfully to record the moments as he experienced them.

When we met, I'd experienced what I suppose might have been diagnosed as Depression periodically in my life; Norman persuaded me to go onto anti-depressants during one particularly hellish year we had together. (It was hellish for reasons external to ourselves.) But overall it was a condition I've never had the humbleness of spirit to pay attention to either in myself or others.

It's as if, during this second year of grief, I'm being ferried through a deeper understanding of my late husband and his heartaches. That's how I see it, anyhow.

I don't know where it's leading. There's a weird, blind trust. I've not lost my footing ... the fact that I can put together an image such as the one below I'd like to believe is proof that, step by step, I am still going ... somewhere ... not forgetting that, unlike reserved and private and strong Norman, I am, I guess, willing to be 'weak', that is to say, receptive to the most unbelievably sound support among my friends and community ...

So please see this post not as a desperate cry for help on my part, but as just a cry, a cry that, by crying itself, IS its own help ... that is to say, an expressive demonstration of what you CAN DO even if you are totally DOWN ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 


Wednesday, 9 January 2019

A confession - from depression to gratitude again

To my discredit I did not survive my stay in Somerset West intact. I returned home to Hogsback to suffer an immediate nervous breakdown so acute that I had to pull out of the Summer Songs & Poems gig this past Sunday. Every other minute a traumatic thought or memory would surface, reducing me to sobs. I did not recognise either my art or my books as mine. Weak and incapacitated by a dark film between myself and my surrounds, I was too hollow to pray and too numb to count blessings. My desperate mouthings of  'God be with me' were mechanical and seemed useless.

My son was still with me. Thirsty and hungry, I finally summoned the courage to whatsapp him in his room.
'Please would you make me a cup of tea?'
He knocked and opened my door and informed me that he had not dared disturb me earlier, since "When an adult's door is closed, you don't disturb. I mean, you're my mom, so you knock and can come in, but it doesn't work the other way round."
That made for a new and interesting bit of information.
He made me tea and toast and, with a touching degree of youthful awkwardness (he will be 21 soon), observed that he did not understand what was happening, but -
"Just let it out. I mean, physically you're ok, aren't you?"
"Yes ... I think the Disprin is helping that ominous pain at the back of my head."
"You were so happy to be back."
"I was."
"So what happened?"
"I think being back means I'm allowed to just do nothing."
"Well I do nothing all the time. It's the best."
"So just let it out."
"I am."

He told me that he felt that he was incapable of breaking down. It is true that he is profoundly blessed with psychic health. While concerned for me, he was utterly unfazed by my floods of tears, which I could no longer hide. He spoke with such casual humour that he made me start to laugh, and I grew aware of how deeply grateful I am for his existence.

I began to hear the young Chorister Robin - a character like no other, this season, for his hilarious, exuberant liltings - and the other birds again.

The next day I could already visit my neighbours again with thanks for checking up on the house during my absence; and thank my fellow performers for picking up the tab for me - adding songs at the last minute to fill out the programme, so that most of the audience had not even noticed my absence!

Only yesterday evening did I finally take myself to Norman's Memorial spot and saw that the gardeners had, during my absence, weeded it beautifully, leaving only the flowering weeds to decorate it exactly as Norman and I would have wished. The love they'd put in to welcoming me back radiated out of the cleared circle. The two little Yellowwoods on the circumference had produced further sprouts.

And then, this morning, I finally put pen to paper again to produce a poem I knew was waiting for me to write it, in gratitude to one of the members of the St Patrick's Chapel congregation in Hogsback.

Here it is.

Dedicated to my anonymous donor

By deeds we are
that which we are -

words, too, when finely wrought,
can act - do good or harm
in human hearts -
can provide balm,
boost courage,

a beam
of purest light

- such as this humble poem
seeks to do -
to stream thanks
and honour
to a donor of mine
for her kindness.

- Silke Heiss, 9th January 2019 

Tuesday, 8 January 2019


The Karoo's drier
than I remember this season -

more Pale Chanting Goshawks
and Yellowbilled Kites
on the telephone poles -

their increase somehow a sign
of their hope
for roadkill.

- Silke Heiss, 8th January 2019

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Self - A poem for my mother

It's my last day in Somerset West with my parents. I suddenly remembered that I'd been meaning to take my mother in her wheelchair to her mirror, to see whether the stroke-paralysed left side, and her hemianopia, may not benefit from the objective self-recognition, which a mirror asks for.

It was an uplifting moment, which brought not only gladness in us, and relief, for both my father and the carer, from the duty of combing my mother's hair, but, too, this little poem -

for my mother

For the first time
in twenty-one months
she's wheeled before a mirror -

'Looks familiar,' she quips,
touches her lame, left shoulder and knee,
crosses the left-right hemispheres - no problem -

combs her long, white hair,
is glad it doesn't pull
as much as when my dad or the carer do it -

and the very strands spontaneously make a delicate wave
above her brow, as newfound dignity
takes her forward

to the image now
of her lovely old

- Silke Heiss, 3rd January 2019

Wishes for 2019