Billion Year Old Carbon

Thankful that the bus strike is over.

Perplexed that I’ve lived with an earworm of epic proportions for the entire strike.

Don’t know what it means to have this constantly going through your head?

Welcome to my world.

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“..But There’s You and There’s Me”

I love riding the Gaubus to work and back. The off-peak uncrowded, air-conditioned splendour affords me the opportunity to relax and listen to my own music while commuting through Joburg’s northern suburbs. It’s the perfect start and end to every work day – in the morning, swooshing through dark streets and hushed suburbs and in the afternoon, huffing along through the after-school traffic while seated far above it all. All this and an audio backdrop of Bowie, Supertramp, Gaia Consort and Resident AntiHero.

However, yesterday’s reprise of Crime of the Century was – pretty rudely, I thought – interrupted by the acting out of some real-time cops and robbers a couple of meters from the golden flanks of the bus.

We were coming to a stop at the huge, complicated intersection of Main and William Nicol when the sharp reflection of flashing blue lights actually managed to catch my attention. By the roadside, mere feet away from the portside passengers on the bus, was slewed a really expensive-looking BMW – slewed right into the hard shoulder, that is, with a lighted SAPS vehicle right behind it. I’m assuming (and was told by another passenger, later) that there was an unmarked car cutting off the forward escape route, too.*

Even over my headphones – over Rick Davies declaring “Who are these men of lust, greed and glory? Rip off the mask and let’s see”  I could hear the police loudhailer telling the occupants of the BMW to get out of the car and put their hands up, or they would be shot. And I’m not kidding, for from out of the SAPS van stalked a lean and fit young policewoman with what I can only call (in true peasant style) a “semi-automatic” gun cradled professionally and pointed (only temporarily, one readily assumed) at the ground.

My very first thought after removing my earphones was that I should perhaps be looking for something to duck behind. Not out of any gripping fear – it just seemed the sort of thing I should be doing in this fresh mini-playlet.

My fellow passengers, however, had all rushed to the left side of the bus, many waving smartphones at the spectacle of 5 men – 4 small, frightened-looking yellow-complected men and one much bigger dark-skinned Black man – getting out of the luxury vehicle, quite slowly and raising all their hands in the air.

We started babbling at one another, and a Sir Juice 200ml bottle rolled and bounced down the gangway as one young woman apparently lost control of her hands. The man who had been dozing in the well below me awoke and looked confused.The lady sitting behind me noted that the driver of the BMW looked guilty. I asked for someone to get the footage up on Twitter. Supertramp continued opining on corporate greed from my now-dangling earphones. Men stood around, meters from the Gaubus, with their hands in the air. A policewoman brandished an assault rifle in everyone’s general direction….

And then the bus moved off, leaving a little tableau behind in the afternoon half-sun.

Image: Mises SA

 

*Addendum: I have since learned that the bus, after changing lanes to go around the SAPS van, then swung sharply inwards again, making an effective barrier to the supposed crooks. The bus is evidently in training as a superhero crime fighter.

Still Not Halloween

Well, no, and it’s still not Halloween in a few days.

It’s still Beltane, here in the Southern Hemisphere, but I’ve just about given up pointing that out to most people.

I’ve had to conclude that either South Africans of the middle-and-upward classes don’t know what season it is, or they’re unaware of the significance of the ages-old celebration of the start of Winter.

(Or they just don’t care and are just doing shit because the Americans do, and I must say I find this parenthetical reason the most compelling of the three).

So, OK, a quick run-down of what Samhain, also known as Halloween, has meant to humans for thousands of years:

It’s the start of the Winter season. The Celts only recognised 2 seasons, Summer and Winter. Summer started on the first week in May and we celebrate that as Beltane in the Northern Hemisphere. The start of Winter was the first week in November, midway between the Solstice and the Equinox.

It marks the beginning of the period of cold and dark, the time by which all harvests were to be safely gathered in and shelters made proof against the gathering loss of sunlight.

At this time, the ancestors and the little folk – those of other realms and dimensions – would take advantage of the liminality of the environment and draw nearer to humans. It thus became necessary for us to devise strategies to keep them from our doors, our stored crops and our livestock.

You can very easily see how the spooky motif and the tradition of Trick-Or-Treating became established out of these mass subconscious workings.

The problem comes when you try to apply these venerable rituals to the start of Summer. It won’t work, and you end up playing the absolute fool across all worlds, dimensions and realms.

Good luck with that, as ever, South Africa.

Pic: May Queen from the Beltane Fire Festival, 2012

A Component of God

On 8th November, 1959, just before dawn, I was born here:

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..well, not exactly there – that’s a golf course – but in the hospital in Durban, and I was the cause of the attending doctor missing his fishing trip. That  area is Mount Edgecombe in KwaZulu Natal. 

The area of sky representing Scorpio was rising in the East, with the Sun hot on its heels, and the Moon was waxing in Aquarius. That makes me a double (Sun and Ascendant) Scorpio, with an Aquarian Moon.

What else I was was not immediately apparent. Numerologically, I was born a seven, of one and two parents. My brother, born 18 months later, is a three, which is the correct sequence. I was the first born and the black sheep.

My brother was always much more a child of my parents than I; I even have an odd blood type, not carried by either my Mom or my Dad.

Born out of place and out of turn, perhaps – yet at the same time, born into precisely the correct spatio-temporal locus for the journey I undertook to complete this time around.

It has been far from easy. And yet, it has also been tremendously fulfilling.

My father gifted me with a love of science and the unusual. Also with a bloodline which runs through the aristocracy of Scotland.

My mother’s gifts were a talent for mathematics and a seed of spirituality, handed down from her more mysterious family origins.

And all – yes every pain and despondency and joy and transcendence – all of this heritage has worked its alchemy as planned.

I have caused horrendous trouble both to myself and those close to me. But it has not been without its moments of deep grace. And those are what linger, suffusing me with a certainty that this life has never been off track. It all roils together in just that perfect, necessary way to transfigure the latent human into a true human.

And an earthly soul into a component of God.

Swallows and Allies

 

“We’re back! Did you miss us?” you can almost hear the Swallows shouting as they wheel overhead in Sandton, Johannesburg.

Do they know something about Europe this Autumn that we don’t? Because it’s fearfully early for them to have returned this year.

Yet last night I learnt something about a plant ally which is proving very helpful to me personally, whatever the future holds for the Northern Hemisphere. That something is the power of Artemisia within our dreaming consciousness.

Well, I say “our” when in fact I mean “my”, for I have no idea if this effect is human-universal. But research suggests it might be.

I gathered, last week, a couple of handsful of fresh Atremisia from the garden (I used Afra although I believe the effects were first noted in the Vulgaris branch of the family) , dried it out on the kitchen window for a few days, then popped the whole dried mass into a clean, sterilised glass bottle which had lately held cheese spread.

Before sleeping, I removed the top of the bottle and placed it, open, on my bedside table.

Within two nights I was seeing results. The inner-city nightmares I have been having for the last 15 years suddenly and radically altered in tone. Within these dark and guilt-ridden dreams I have been used to feeling helpless, without resources, abandoned and afraid. Now, within exactly the same setting, I was confident, resourceful, able to sustain myself and my young son without worry. A huge difference in the dream which meant I started awake without the usual shakings, tremblings, regret and fear.

I believe that this plant ally, in its Vulgaris form, has been used for millenia to ease the vibrational edges of bad dreams. Now I have proof – enough for me – that the Afra variety shares the same qualities.

And So Are You

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I have never been through an Imbolc quite like this one, before.

Oh, each Spring is different, has its own unique flavour – but this one has more a personality than a flavour.

I was standing in the doorway after Sunday lunch. The clouds, the paler tint of the sky: they spoke to me of Summer. The barest touch of moisture in the air, and the fact that the Cape Ash has no sooner lost its leaves than the buds are visible – all this gives a slightly onrushing feel to the start of the season.

From coming down with a ‘flu which created black shadows in the periphery of my vision to my home branch of Standard Bank literally disappearing overnight without a word, to the 5-year-old geyser element giving up the ghost, necessitating baths with water boiled upon the stove…my body feels exactly like it feels before I burst into long-pent-up floods of tears.

But there’s more than a Bustle in the Hedgerow in Joburg today.

There’s a wind-rushing, rain-sprinkling, hero-calling sense of Immanence to the city.

Will it be a Robin – the wild god of the woods – or an Arthur – the half-deified peoples’ sovereign who was, and is, and yet will come? We create gods as easily as we breathe. And that’s not necessarily a Bad Thing. On days like this I’m half convinced that we need them to Be as much as they need us. That this whole wild ride is the mingled breath of gods and humans, making and shaping and creating and destroying each other. Together. For ever.

But the Moon is full tonight in Aquarius/Leo,and I foresee myself out in the ritual area, craning up at it through the bare Ash and leaning Cycad, hoping to see that glimmer through the green fans and clouds and lunar light that says I’m Alright, and So Are You.

Image: by Neelaka

A Shared Earthquake

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Being glued to a computer screen with my mind pacing ahead of my fingers as I code various formations of data from a database is what I do most of the day. And I really, really love it. I get annoyed when inconsequential chatter, or worse, abysmally vapid popular music breaks into my consciousness at such times. But today at lunch time I was not annoyed. I was scared.

A 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit large parts of the country at that time, and I was on my feet almost immediately, turning to see the ceiling boards on the second floor shaking as if someone was trying to break through them while the office floor rolled under my boots.

The safety marshal yapped at me to evacuate the building and I didn’t argue – although most of my colleagues in the next department (accounting, interestingly enough) were all standing up in their cubicles, looking at each other with expressions of bovine uncertainty.

In the end, only a handful of us obeyed protocol and gathered outside in the parking lot. That I was one of them, despite my hostility towards authoritarianism, speaks volumes about my fear at the time.

Oh yes, I was terrified for a few moments – the animal, earth connected component of myself was pretty damned scared of disappearing into a pile of smoking rubble. The birds had all flown away, I remember thinking, and only when a bedraggled, somewhat stoned looking pigeon re-settled on the reception awning did I realise that it was probably safe to go back inside.

All over the country people spoke of their cats diving under beds. Dogs.. not so much. My two brave Pitbulls probably felt that whatever was happening, it was all under the humans’ control, and as Warren didn’t panic, neither did they.

And to think I’d started the day with one of those bell-clear thoughts which make so much damned sense at the time, transforming your vision into a panorama of joy, but fading to mundane significance a couple of hours later. It was not an original thought, I’m sure, but it held all the gold-limned glory of an absolute answer – or at least part of one.

The thought was this:

“What if this is, in fact, a shared dream? What if the moment of death is also the moment of awakening?”