Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Lost, or: The chrysocolla and the butcherbird. A blogpost in two chapters.

I've lost.
Lost you: my thinking, feeling reader.
Lost me: your writer, um, your thinker-feeler.
Now what?

Chapter 1

Got in touch with my late husband, desperately. He 'told' me to buy a fancy bottle of wine. A minute or two later, still standing in the supermarket aisle among the wines (before the latest lockdown), a dear, late friend of mine 'told' me to buy another, fairly fancy bottle of wine.

I meekly obeyed both of them. Opened the red on Christmas day and toasted my late husband vocally in the presence of my parents. Has ever a wine had a more soothing, centring, balancing effect on me? Never.

The next day, Family day, I opened the white and toasted my late friend in everyone's presence and, again, the afternoon turned golden.

My obedience to my heart and her loves is simply the right thing.
Need to put that in bold.
My obedience to my heart and her loves is simply the right thing.

But still, I was lost: in the tyranny of daughtering. When my father came into the kitchen the next day, where I was, as usual, cooking, and said, "You are SO kind!" I replied morosely, "Yes. It's awful."
He said he would help if he could, and so he polished the blackened silver cake forks, while my poor, paralysed mother audibly lamented her helplessness.

Unkindly, on the phone to my Beloved later, I ranted beyond reasonable about the curse of being kind. I guess I was balancing (cancelling?) my kind deeds with highly ungracious words revealing pretty septic resentment.

But then.

I confronted the disturbance in my heart, the ungraciousness.

Chapter 2

I'd made my parents a calendar for Christmas, as usual, and for the month of May, which is my birthday month, I used a photo of myself, looking at a bird. Underneath the picture I'd pasted the words: 

 Listen to the song in your heart, whether the sun shines or it snows.

The bird is a butcherbird and although the photo (taken by my Beloved) is stunning, and the quote does speak how I have by and large lived my life, the vicious reputation of the bird bothered me.

However, Google (butcherbird) told me, with exquisite immediacy:

The fearless butcherbird reminds us to protect our territory. If it has shown up, you may be at risk of being undermined or of losing a thing of value.
That same day, my mother, ill-advisedly or wisely (which is it?) tippling once again from early on in the afternoon to assuage "the bitter taste in my mouth," said, 
"I keep trying to think of the name of a stone, but can't get away from croissant."
"Chrysoprase!" I said.
Her eyes widened. "Chrysocolla," she retorted. "How did you ... ?"
"It's obvious," I retorted in turn.

The daughter is not that for nothing.

She sent me to fetch her big box of various pieces, designed and cut and polished and smithied by her, and gave me a necklace with a Chrysocolla pendant. The cabochon and every link is fashioned by her. In better times, of course. (was fashioned = simple past: upon a time)
I danced! How it suits everything I am and wear! (am, wear = simple present: true forever)
"I have never seen it," I said.
"I never wore it," she replied, "I made it thinking of you. I wanted to give it to you."

Google (chrysocolla healing and chrysocolla sound) supplied more than enough for me to begin to be able to dissolve the septic resentment and ungraciousness that had been holding my soul hostage.

By means of words.
To myself.
To you.

Truth is not straightforward.

Chapter 3

Please forgive the photo of the pendant, the evening was getting on.

Appendix Note

You can still see the pendant and necklace enough to get a sufficient sense of things.

Butcherbird and me (passing though Hermanus). Photo: my Beloved.

Chrysocolla pendant with handmade silver necklace, by Sigi Heiss. Bad photo: Silke Heiss



Wednesday, 16 December 2020

The leopard is a person

We took ourselves to the Cederberg for the first time as parents ... it must have been 2003 ... our son was 5 years old at the time. The camps were in transition, the old Parks Board was giving way to the new SAN Parks, and it was possible, in that administrative gap, to snatch incredible opportunities of empty, unattended campsites, costing next to nothing to stay in.

There was one other occupied camping spot, besides ours, and the people there said they'd seen leopard tracks and scat, and that if we left early, for our hike planned the next morning, we might be so lucky as to spot a royal mother and her young one.  

Our son made sure we were up before dawn. He just about sprinted up, ahead of us on the extremely steep incline. Once on top, we lost the path. We traversed five mountains that day, ever on the lookout for a path we never found. Our son was finally asleep on his legs, walking with his eyes closed as I pushed him gently onward, and my poor then-husband sprained his ankle at the eleventh hour. Only with difficulty did we get back to the tent, and to the miracle of a woman with ice wraps, as it happened, unbelievably. She had been sent there to take the little money we owed.

This poem - written as an Italian sonnet - developed out of that day.

The leopard is a person

The leopard is a person who conceals
herself, but likes to loer to see where you
might keep yourself and what you do. She reveals
no pawprints, though occasionally a youngster's poo

provides a possible track for you to follow,
past rocks with eyes, in heat and fearful hollow:
where who knows what may lurk, and watch, and wait,
with centuries to spare, while you meet fate.

Sit down there, eat your lunch and breathe her home
of purple lava, rippled down in curves,
jump frog-sung ditches, turned to stone -
and feel the flitches of your human nerves.

The leopard is a person so alone.
Could be she is the one who made this poem.

- Silke Heiss, October 2006

loer = Afrikaans, integrated into South African English, meaning to spy on, to look secretively or furtively

According to Anne Keating, in Wild Voices Messages from the Soul of Africa, Leopard cautions you "to be alert to the signs and omens on your path [...] You feel the need to cut the extraneous out of your life and hone in on what is really important." 
There is further caution, which the energy of this shy, highly adaptive survivor of a creature brings:
"For you to win, no one must lose."
Leopard travels alone: 
"You will not compromise what you are learning merely to fit into the expectations of others." 

Photographs of the Cederberg, and of the Agama Atra, by Silke Heiss
Leopard photo by Uriel Soberanes

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Totally quiet crows

The crows

Four of them have been cawing
for days now. I don't know
why the word is 'cawing',
because they craah.

I've never heard a crow do anything other than craah -

on different pitches,
at different lengths
and alternating tempos;

but 'caw' is a human invention that can be dropped, when it comes to crows.

All that is neither here nor there, really. But
the pied crows and their craahs
have been dominating 
air space as well as
air waves.

I tell my mother on the phone
that they remind me of her
(she's forever complaining
about her croaky voice)

and she bursts out laughing
and says, "Please greet the crows
from me."

Well, they sit on the roof,
grooming themselves
- I notice they are very curious
about each other's underwings -
and they poop generously,
rudely onto the tiles
from their vantage
on the wifi dish.

It's two big, shaggy ones
and two sleek, younger-looking ones -

are they a family,
invading this suburb
of sunbirds, white-eyes, weavers, mousebirds,
hoopoes, robins, thrushes, bulbuls, gulls,
sacred ibis, hadidah, flycatchers, wagtails, 
nightjars, herons, plovers, doves,
gymnogene and guinea fowl?

Or are they rival pairs
- ragged oldies against a shiny new generation -
craahing, gliding, hopping, hooping,
hoping to talk things through?

One of them does
fly a close hoop over
the older-looking pair,
who turn their necks up with interest,
but do not jump.

Their expressive beaks
and measuring eyes,
their confident shoulders
and charming white bibs,
leave a person guessing.

Since I've beeen writing this,
they are totally

- Silke Heiss, 5th December 2020 

Crow is the totem animal of Sacred Law

"If you look deeply into Crow's eye, you will have found the gateway to the supernatural. Crow knows the unknowable mysteries of creation and is the keeper of all sacred law."

"The law which states that 'all things are born of women' is signified by Crow."

"Human law is not the same as Sacred Law. More so than any other medicine, Crow sees that the physical world and even the spiritual world, as humanity interprets them, are an illusion. There are billions of worlds. There is an infinitude of creatures. Great Spirit is within all."

- from 'Medicine Cards' by Jamie Sams and David Carson, New York: St Martin's Press, 1988, 1999.

Photo: Charles J Sharp