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.