I’ve been clearing out boxes of my mementoes, in lieu of our upcoming move. I’m not a hoarder generally, but the one thing I hold on to is paper: letters, postcards, photos (when we used to print them out!), ticket stubs, event programmes. I’ve got shoeboxes labelled per year, and each one is brimming over with words. We’ve moved so many times in the past decade and I’ve dragged these ten or so boxes around the country with me each time, so today I decided that enough is enough.
Let me tell you a little story.
When I was six I was sent from our farm to boarding school in Grahamstown. There weren’t a lot of girls in my Sub A class, so most of my friends were boys. Every break time we tore around that massive playground playing catches and even though I was pretty fast, I wasn’t a match for some of those boys. But I kept trying. And I have such a specific memory of running through this patch of trees chasing after my friend Grant and feeling this huge well of frustration because I couldn’t catch him – he was too damn fast.
Sorry (not sorry)…had to use that title – ’twas inevitable. So, we’re moving to The Netherlands soon. With the debacle that is COVID, our exact timing is difficult to lock down at this point, but we’re planning for late December, so the kids can start school in January. They will be going to an international school that is partly subsidised by the Dutch government, so they’ll be taught in English. These types of schools were established in order to encourage expats like ourselves to settle in The Netherlands for a bit, build businesses and contribute to the economy and society generally.
I’ve lived in Cape Town for five years now but I only started trail running about a month ago. What was I thinking?! In fact, it’s taken a worldwide pandemic to get me out of my head and into the forests and mountains on my doorstep, which is probably one of the few blessings I’ll take from 2020. It’s not like we’re not an outdoorsy family, it’s just that because I’m married to a water man, we spend a significant time on the beach, leaving little spare time for much else.
The thing about creativity is that it doesn’t wait until it’s convenient. As a writer, I’ve always had visions of taking myself off to a villa in Tuscany (surrounded by lavender fields), where I’d live in solitude for a few months and complete my bestselling novel. There’d be peace and time to write, and no distractions.
But that’s not how it works.
It’s not like I haven’t been writing, because I have. Just not here.
Little poems have come to me in fragments, repeating sentences in my brain like a bird knocking on the inside of my head, desperate to be let out. They aren’t necessarily good poems but the good thing about my current stage of life is that I’ve started to care a bit less. I still seek affirmation, but that is now infused with a healthy dose of not trying to please absolutely everybody, all of the time. This feels intensely liberating.