• There Are No Caged Birds Here, Maya

    Some of the greatest things I’ve learnt in life have come from books. Probably more than some, and probably more than I know.

    Often these lessons sort of seep into us, into our very beings, holding onto our hearts until we need them. In the way that words that we’ve never used before come to us while we’re driving along a country road, called into the moment from a memory in waiting. Morals or messages we receive from books aren’t always the right ones for us. They aren’t always right. That, our clever little subconscious minds have to figure out for themselves, using learnt and natural values as their compass. But the right ones do find us and when you catch one playing out in your life, spontaneously, unintentionally, the memory, the words, the feelings, they flood back, like everyday magic. Everything seems to fit into each other, like a reverse game of Jenga.

    For me, one of those lines comes from writer, Maya Angelou, one that returned to consciousness recently, after our great cross-country house-swap. It goes…

    If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

    I have heard other renditions of this basic sentiment but Maya’s remains my favourite. Simply because she, as a human, a woman, is a favourite, a model of true strength of both mind and heart. Much like her books. The words did as words do and popped into my head while I finished the unpacking, throwing away the boxes and giving all our things a new home. The cherished belongings that we have accrued over time and given greater meaning to with each use – nightgowns, artworks, board games, blankets, the stuff of a home. The words appeared because, unknowingly, this is exactly what we did.

    We weren’t wholly content living in Zambia. With all its wild allure and great mystery that makes for a childhood, a life, of infinite excitement and novelty, we needed our family. We needed a school. We needed a change. But it is not only because we were in the fortunate position to make said change that we did it. It also takes courage, risk and a don’t-look-now, just-jump attitude.

    The latter is a quality that comes quite naturally to me, and definitely to my two boys, but also one I don’t doubt was fostered and fanned by Maya Angelou’s words of strength over the years, novel after novel.

    I know that several more lessons remain within me, within all three of us in this little clan, working their magic silently until the time is right to show themselves. To put words to the little leaps we take in the dark without knowing. Without knowing their significance. And once we know, there’s no going back. When you have the words, they move from quiet prayer to motto. Your motto. Your message. Your every move.

    And our latest move, to Cape Town, is everything we wanted and needed, and more. Each beach day, each sunrise and set over Table Mountain, each long table dinner with friends and that family we so missed. Well, all I can say is… there are no caged birds here, Maya.

    My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

  • It is Time For Change, it is Time to Move House

    There is a painting waiting for me in Cape Town. And there is a home waiting for us to move into. Because the shrews are in need of taming and mama is in need of society. For now. The Zambezi river bank will always be home to us. But it is time for change. It is time to move house.

    The painting came to me at just the right time. It was painted by my dearest friend, Natalie Munro. The two of us have been friends since we were four years old. The artwork itself – a lighthouse standing in crashing waves with birds still managing to fly around it – perfectly sums up the past few years. We’ve held strong through the storm and are, in spite of it all, still able to flap our wings and fly above.

    In Cape Town, the painting will hang on the wall of our new home and remind us of our strength. As individuals. And as a family.

    The home we need to say our goodbyes to now has seen it all. The storms and crashing waves and yet, through it all, but mostly, after it all, the birds fly still. Because that is what a home is… the harbour in the storms, the safe haven, the respite from the madding crowd. A place as much as a feeling – a place where you are simply loved for being, not for doing; a place to rest and recharge; and a feeling of total acceptance, of being enveloped in warmth, care, kindness and love, love, love – whomever you find that with.

    “Home” means different things to different people. But perhaps at the heart of it there is only one thing. Love.

    Ed Sheeran’s lyrics – because I always turn to songs and books for inspiration, for comfort, for answers – grab at my heart and hold it in a tight little fist… “I can’t wait to go home; I’m on my way; driving at ninety down those country lanes; singing to Tiny Dancer; and I miss the way you make me feel; and, it’s real.” I crave that too when I am away from home, or when my sense of home is rattled. I crave that place as much as that feeling.

    To Maya Angelou, “the ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Alexander and the Magnetic Zeros sing that…

    Home is wherever I’m with you.

    To the great Oriah Mountain Dreamer, “Home was in the taste of being with myself, walking next to what was familiar, toward what was cherished… When we learn to live with both the desire for separation and the longing for union, we find that they are simply two ways of knowing the same ache: we all just want to go home.”

    It is this that I look forward to in our new chapter. Our new home, starting over together, as a family, in a place with no memories, a blank journal in which to write the rest of our story. A place to let our love, unconditionally and unashamedly, grow. Unafraid.

    There will be other obstacles. But love will shine through it all. Because we will be home. Because we will be together.

    As we uproot and move base camp to try and tame our feral spirits that have perhaps been on the move for long enough, away from the other things that make a home a home – grandma and granddad, cousins and aunts and uncles… As we reign in the wild and free-range lives that we have been enjoying, fully and wholly living, and leave our beloved river that will no longer be our permanent home but our holiday home, this little poem by Abraham Lincoln, has made a home in me…

    As we leave some grand waterfall
    We, lingering, list its roar
    So memory will hallow all
    We’ve known, but know no more.