A Quality Guy: A tribute to Boodiness

It has been a bleak month. Financially, utterly stressful, emotionally navigating extremely stormy seas. There were warnings in the stars and the planets, a solar eclipse, hurricanes in Housten and another blowing away islands in the Pacific -a mudslide in the Congo and here in Cape Town even though it’s meant to be the rainy season the drought got worse and the politics more depressing. We won’t even talk about the nuclear testing antics going on in North Korea and Trump’s reactions…Everywhere fear on the rise. So it is a very important time to be focused on love and light and the important things that make life worth living. A very important time to be appreciating one’s community of friends and family, because when the going gets tough, communities must come together.

In my world somewhere on the Southern most peninsula of Africa as these gloomy universal forces swirl, I have been facing middle age, which seems to be setting in with my 47th birthday. I forced myself to celebrate (despite how gloomy I was feeling) by inviting a few friends round to a “bring and share” mad-hatters tea party. It was a huge challenge to myself to be social under the circumstances. A decision to keep in touch instead of isolating myself further, which is my tendency.

The first to arrive at my party was Bood, who I feel very intuitively close to, yet although I have known him for 28 years, have always been a bit in awe and slightly intimidated by because his personal standards are so high. So it was particularly awkward for me to face him in my gloomy and unseemly state.  He caught me by surprise offering a gift of homegrown lemons and limes – cheerily suggesting I freeze them and make Mojitos. “I can’t afford rum for Mojito’s,” I admitted, from my groaning place of lack and fear, (although I was very grateful for the lemons.) “Nor can I.” He said matter- of –factly. “Really?” I was surprised.

I realized that I wasn’t alone in this. It was a national crisis- a recession. Worst hit are the artists and musicians and freelancers, the ones outside the system. Thankfully artists and musicians are most used to surviving under tough conditions so they may be best equipped to survive them, If I were the president, I would re-direct funds destined for the military and silly nuclear energy plants and all those unnecessary extra pay packages that get given out for all the wrong reasons to corrupt officials.   The money would go to supporting creatives and encourage healthy communities. I would put money on Quality creative projects that include growing fresh vegetables and fruit for communities in urban areas.  Projects that make the environment more beautiful, and the quality of life better for everyone, through music laughter, theatre and quality sculptures and artworks. I would put money on things that add value – like creative education for children to help them to grow up and think for themselves and be strong independent leaders who have no need to show off their power, nor to cling to it.  People like Bood.

Un-phased by the lack of rum for Mojito’s, Bood went on to juggle the lemons and limes with his old friend E. This entertained both the tea drinking adults and the children at my party. The party and mood improved with tea, cake, champagne, and conversation. I did not get to speak much more to Boody that day in all the fuss and chatter over guests who didn’t know each other – the oldest friends were (regrettably) left to look after themselves. Bood kept busy having fun with E- his soul buddy since kindergarten days (now married to my sister and living 8 hours drive away on the family Karoo farm.) So it was a great chance for them to catch up. (Yet in hindsight, there are so many things I could have asked Bood. so many things I could have told him.  IMG_7689

Exactly ten days after my birthday, Bood- whose real name is Julian, had an accident at work. In a moment in time -which I saw in my mind’s eye the next morning as from his perspective – a vision in pencil- with crisscrossing lines.  He fell from scaffolding. When he landed he peacefully knew it was over.  That was the feeling I had in the vision.  He was at peace and knew it was over. He was 46 and survived by his beautiful violin playing wife Camilla and two beloved daughters Maru and Ivy as well as his parents, sister, and brother Steve Carver. Julian Bood Carver had lived his life to the full despite great health difficulties, which he kept to himself. (He had suffered from type 2- diabetes since early childhood, and despite the risks involved, he certainly never let it hold him back.)

It was a great shock and a wake-up call to a whole community of artists in Cape Town. Bood was a light and an inspiration. The world feels darker without him. His passing is the closing of a very happy book. It has been a time of bewilderment, of looking around and wondering what the point of anything is. Yet there is this grinding survival thing that keeps us on the ground while our friends fly up to heaven one by one. Death is always so close, it is just a thin veil away, yet we do not look at it. We expect to live. We expect our friends to live and our family to live. We expect them to be there the next day and we do not think that if we don’t concentrate on their amazing existence and luminousness in the present moment, it may be gone the next time we look. But in Boods case it was. He was totally present and now he is physically absent. His sudden departure was such a shock that it left a large cave-like a hole in the ether, so large and gaping that it echoed like a mirror of his presence. His spiritual presence felt extremely strong in every moment of the following week to so many of his friends and family and still remains part of my consciousness.  (Perhaps he is moving through the veils.) At his wake -the massive gathering held for him a week later, old friends with tear-stained jagged eyes clung to each other. No words were the right words to say.

He left his mark in so many ways, but for many people –  most memorable was the role he had played as a driving force- kick ass rhythmic bass player, cocky lyricist, and powerful stage presence behind a surprising number of very successful alternative independent bands over the years.

Honeymoonsuites Early days

From the top: Douglas Armstrong, Julia Raynam, Eddie Boyd, Eastern North, Bood Carver, Kevin Parissien, Jamie Jupiter

Glamrock 90’s sensation “The Honeymoon Suites,” were a never to be forgotten legendary phenomenon with Bood playing bass and guitar and guitar (in alternation with my husband Jamie on various songs. They had this special trick they did on stage, smoothly swopping guitars mid-show without anyone noticing.)

Other musical projects in later years with Jamie included “Folk Me” (which was just about to be revived-an idea discussed at my birthday party) and award-winning cowboy-cabaret show “Angels on Horseback.

Folk Me

Folk Me

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Angels on Horseback

Bood also toured internationally in the 90’s with hip –hop drum and bass funk band –Moodphase5. In recent years “The Suitcase Hearts” was a ripping success with a large Cape Town fan base. (Click the links to watch the music videos.)

Bood was a talented writer and musician, composer, performance artist, set-builder, sculpter, and gardener, beneath his quiet humbleness. In recent the past years, he sculpted and tilled the earth with a co-op called Co-Creators,  as an urban farmer. His farm which was a project run by the lay beneath a highway in Woodstock- a miracle of abundance and hope. It is called the Peace Garden. (The setting for the Suitcase hearts music video.) An amazing urban agriculture project in the middle of the city where an abundance of vegetables, fruit, and even  Tilapia fish farm flows and grows abundantly, filtering the water and creating fertilizer.  The project is a legacy of real hope for what should and should be happening in more unused urban spaces. Bood spent some years before that working with the permaculture non profit orgnaization–SEED, teaching children in poverty-stricken urban areas of the Cape Flats how to grow food in any conditions. They created vegetable gardens at the schools and in tough Cape flats neighborhoods to improve nutrition and availability of fresh vegetables in places where it is most needed. (Urban deserts where people live on mostly on cheap carbohydrates – a cause of diabetes.)

Before he married and had his beautiful children- (who of course are his greatest achievement and his pride and joy), he spent time making outlandish sculptures and performance art with his childhood friend John J –founder of B.D.I (Back Door Initiative) and gut-wrenchingly hilarious comedy skits, a series called “Nuclear Family” with his oldest buddy E. There were many B.D.I installations at festivals over the years, but the one I remember best was the 10- foot- tin- can- man at Rustlers Valley, painstakingly created out of all the beer and cooldrink cans drunken at the festival. Tin can man stood for years at the entrance of Rustlers Valley welcoming the guests.

The tin can man

The sculpture was made out of tons of beer and cool drink tins, each of which had to be cut and woven together.

If you don’t respect yourself, how can you dig someone else? Feeling weak and insecure? No-ones gonna love you any more than they do.” Go the lyrics of one Honeymoon Suites song. “Insignificance.” (Dictionary definition: the quality of being too small or unimportant to be worth consideration.) Bood did not have that problem socially. He was a giant.

Most honorable Bood had complete integrity. He took no interest in gossip and had no interest in social media. He preferred to remain present, feet on the ground, planting seeds and focusing properly on his children. He was the strong silent type, a leader.

I first met him in Cape Town in 1989. We had both just finished school. He had grown up in Joburg city and I was fresh from my upbringing on a Karoo farm and a boarding school in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. He took me out on my first date. We drove in a yellow Beatle to a place called “The Joint” and played Backgammon.  I had never met anyone so kind and never had such fun in my life. It was utterly amazing for me to spend time with him and his friends, He gave me hope for humanity and the creative freedom and joy that was possible.Bood understood the importance of Play (as in having fun) as a magical element that was naturally part of his daily experience.   It was enlightening. I left Cape Town the next day with my heart full of new hope and the incredible lightness of being that came from knowing that I had such an amazing new friend.  I went traveling to Europe soon after. When I returned and started film school I coincidentally connected up with him again as part of a group of thespians directed by (the now internationally renowned Brett Bailey) and his partner Laura Twiggs, performing a musical show at Grahamstown Festival – Camelot Blues, it was called.   I went along as a props mistress. It was the beginning of a great adventure with some really amazing people who remained an important part of the fabric of my social thread-work and lead to a plethora of fabulous experiences over the years that followed.

Bood, Julia, Me and Jamie

Happy days: Bood, Julia, me and Jamie on the farm in the Karoo light.

What I realized at Boods wake, is that he was truly a kindred spirit.    One thing that struck a chord was in his brother Steve’s speech was an issue I had recently been grappling with. Although he had studied copywriting and got top marks, he was not able to sell his soul and creative spark to worship “the graven image” of materialism. Not to say that he was not prepared to work for a living, but only in ways that were in alignment with his soul. (His moral standards were too high to work in advertising, he had told his parents- as his brother Steve explained.)

Instead, Bood chose to use that creative energy to create Quality or add value to existence in whatever form he pleased and he did it with humor- like a laughing Budha. According to the book  “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” by Rober Pirsig,  Quality is God.

“Quality,” or “value,” as described by Pirsig, cannot be defined because it empirically precedes any intellectual construction of it, namely due to the fact that quality (as Pirsig explicitly defines it) exists always as a perceptualexperience before it is ever thought of descriptively or academically. Quality is the “knife-edge” of experience, found only in the present, known or at least potentially accessible to all of “us”. (Plato’s Phaedrus, 258d). Equating it with the Tao, Pirsig postulates that Quality is the fundamental force in the universe stimulating everything from atoms to animals to evolve and incorporate ever- greater levels of Quality. According to the MoQ, everything (including ideas, and matter) is a product and a resultt of Quality.”   

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen_and_the_Art_of_Motorcycle_Maintenance

Bood did not relate to the Christian view of God (as he perceived it)  However he believed in the essence of Quality. (I don’t know if he had read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, but it all makes sense now.) The Honeymoon suites had a sign- beautifully made- stuffed vinyl with buttons and knobs and shiny bits, which went with them everywhere and was used as a backdrop for their shows. “Quality,” it said. No further explanation necessary

Some time into the days of “Angels on Horseback” at the interval of a rather awkward performance (they were being hired for a rather pretentious party and the audience were not intelligent enough to understand the ironies and subtleties of the material) Bood had a realization. “I just want to be at home with my Baby.” He announced seriously. He was newly married and his wife was pregnant. He left the band soon after that. Bood was the most dedicated father ever. He was so proud of his beautiful girls and loved them to heaven.

They will be loved from heaven now. And he will be dearly missed. And those who are still on earth will have to carry on and remember to live life to the full and keep focusing on quality and true value and get our priorities right and keep our integrity.

We will have to keep reminding ourselves to keep the groove and never miss a beat.   Self -respect creates self-value. Value creates worth and worthiness. Valuing and obeying one’s inner creative spirit–leads to the empowered freedom to make quality choices, which with focus and effort lead to quality achievements and quality living. Bood intrinsically understood that. I think I understand it better now too.  Thank you, Bood for living your best life and helping others who knew you do the same.

So I am telling myself that there is no reason to fear “looming insignificance” as the shadows of middle age and global politics and climate change threaten. No fear at all. There is only love, courage and a good sense of humour, and taking care of family and community. Planting seeds, watching them grow. Harvesting and blessing the abundance that comes. That and the very significant capacity to find joy- the incredible lightness of being- feeling Boody, despite all ills.

Boods better living challenge 2

We also have to learn that each of us is only here now. We may not be here tomorrow. So be fully present with each other. Have real conversations, (no matter how distracted you are feeling by all the information and troubles.). Make the most of your time together. Don’t take anyone for granted. Treat each one honourably as you would like them to treat you. For tomorrow may not be another day.  (“Talk to me now, don’t talk to me later.” to quote the Honeymoon suites.)

If anyone reading this would like to help, please feel free to contribute to this crowd=funding campaign (link below) to help support Boods family.  Boods wife Camilla plays violin in the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra, but this is not enough to sustain the children’s education and other expenses.

https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/support-bood-carver-s-family

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Uranium Mining on the Plains of The Camdeboo

There is a new wave of colonialism taking place in Africa. The new colonialists wear corporate logo’s and care only about profit margins. This comes in conjunction with a very open policy in regards to gaining mineral rights. “Right now, a small “uranium rush” is on.” Writes Dr. Stefan Cramer, science advisor to SAFCEI,  “Every fly-by –night wants to get a slice of the cake, often under questionable circumstances… in these days of “mineral grabbing,” all you need is a letter head and good connections to lay your hands on the mineral wealth of this country.” He points out that many unknown companies with names like “ Wealhage House of Capital”- run by a 26-year-old entrepreneur from Limpopo, and “Blue Moon Mining” are applying for uranium rights, and “it doesn’t cost a dime to include uranium in an application. There are rumours that the Gupta’s- the Indian billionaires controlling the President have invested in farms in the area with the view to mining.

This comes at a time when landowning farmers in the Karoo are especially vulnerable. The economic climate and the impossible task of competing with large-scale industrialized agriculture in the market place. It also comes at a time of incredible ecological as the ravages of climate change batter an already fragile ecosystem. Applications for mining have been made in area’s from Beaufort West to Aberdeen, Jansenville to Wolwerfontein, Kliplaaat to Steytlerville. Area’s where topsoil has been so badly damaged by overgrazing, drought, dust storms and occasional flooding.

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Yet, if Uranium mining is allowed to take place there will be no reversing the consequences which will affect a much broader area than just the forlorn Karoo farms where they take place.

Think of the river carrying uranium tailings and its path to the sea. Think of the dust storms blowing across the Plains of the Cambdeboo. It is said that even one particle of uranium dust in the lung and you could cause lung cancer.

We are living in strangely intense times: times of extreme polarity of opinion and moral and ethical beliefs. We see merciless greed from corporate and political power seekers versus selfless heroic sacrifice from earth keepers trying to defend the last of what is left. There are sharp contrasts of attitude towards our environment and “resources” whether they be our common ground- a National park mountain or the ocean and beaches, or whether it is the private farm of a farmer who has no ownership of the minerals that lie beneath the surface of the precious topsoil where he is attempting to grow food for a living while contributing to feeding the population in the cities.

I am the daughter of a fourth generation Karoo farmer. My father Robert and grandfather Roland Kingwill taught me the importance of topsoil. I grew up with the extreme winds of the Karoo, which blow dust devils around in the drought, tore trees out by the roots.  As a child, I experienced extreme drought, where the sheep walked like skeletons into the dry dam and searching for water to drink and become trapped there by the thick drying out mud, where we found their poor drowned bodies. Life is tough and death is one of the seasons we face when we live close to the earth

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I have seen floods, the roar of rain, when the water runs quickly over bare earth and becomes a thundering river that carves deep gorges into the landscape, bends iron fence posts and washes away trees and cattle to the next farm and beyond. I understand the power of nature, and I have seen with my own eyes the way that landscapes are not stable. They constantly change even in the most ancient and supposedly “geologically stable” landscapes as the elements shift them. Nothing can be taken for granted. “Continents drift at the rate of the growth of our fingernails.” A well- known paleontologist once told me. So to me, it is really obvious that no pile of Uranium tailings or nuclear waste dug into the earth somewhere in the middle of nowhere is really safely hidden. Ever.

 

While doing research for my documentary “Buried in Earthskin”, I learned that Uranium is the most toxic substance we could possibly dig out of the earth. Taking it out is like opening Pandora’s box. It unleashes its’ evils into the world and that powerful wild energy can never be put safely can never be put back in. This is why I found it very ironic when the minister of Minerals and Energy told me in an interview with a sweet smile, that “Nuclear energy is clean energy.”

Many forget that Nuclear is powered by a very treacherous fossil fuel: uranium and the nuclear fuel chain results in radioactive waste, which is an international long= standing unsolved problem. No safe storage solution has been found. The by-products of this industry are used in weapons of mass destruction. Little is told of the radioactive weapons and discarded bomb shells which are left scattered all over places like Afghanistan and Syria and Iran where it is used as shells for weapons that roll into the houses of innocent children who pick them up and play with them, thinking they could be toys. The implications are so terrible that nobody is civilized society really wants to know about them, so they are buried under a carpet of unconsciousness along with rest of the nuclear waste problem. There is nothing clean about nuclear energy – it is a darker shade of dirty than coal.

Uranium is best left in the ground where it belongs: making its own powerful magic beneath the crust. It has its own purpose there. I believe our creator provided other means of creating energy like sun and wind. We are free to harness those if we so wish.

It is interesting that all over the world the people who have been the most common victims of Uranium mining are the tribal descendant’s earth’s first peoples. The most outspoken of these are the Navajo tribe in America. Ironically it is these people who live close to the earth and truly understand and revere their environment, who have been made most ill by it due to the fact that they were not informed of the toxic consequences of Uranium mining on their environment. Uranium mining has left the Navajo people and their environment very ill.

When Uranium mining began in the Navajo reservation. It was one of the poorest communities in America. They were probably promised jobs and other perks. This community is now even poorer because they have lost their health as well. The men were used as workers. They were not given adequate protection against the harmful yellow cake dust. The water sources and wells were contaminated with this dust and the wives and grandmothers drawing water from their traditional wells in their sacred land were not informed. When the mine closed, it was not properly sealed or cleaned up. The results have been legacies of terrible cancers and a degenerative disease called Navajo Neuropathy- which causes a wasting away of muscle. Children are born with severe deformities, which affect them and their families for the rest of their lives. These are massive life-changing environmental impacts. Stories have been told of families who discovered that their houses had been built with bricks made and cement, which contained radioactive tailings near mines. Chronic illness and cancer resulted, families left in ruin. As one Navajo woman profoundly states: “Money can buy you lots of things, but it can’t buy you a new pair of lungs. This is an echo of the famous letter written by Chief Seattle to the President: “When the last river is gone… then will you realize that you can’t eat money?”

Various forms of this story have played out over and over again in poor uninformed communities around Africa, such as Malawi and Namibia and if nothing is done to stop it, it will be happening in poor farming communities near Beaufort West and Aberdeen in the Great Karoo, as well as Namaqualand, South Africa. Again the people most affected will be the descendant’s of the earth’s first peoples, the Nama and the Khoi San.

Nieu Bethesda-boy on horse on footbridge

The way people get around – in Bethesda – horse back.

Despite the fact that the trillion rand nuclear deal between South Africa and Russia to build a fleet of nuclear reactors was ruled unconstitutional in the high court, companies are still pushing the uranium mining agenda and are breaking through. A company called Ferret Mining is has been granted the right to mining exploration near Beaufort West.

All I know is that there is very little resistance to this. A handful of Karoo farmers living in the area and a few members of the communities in surrounding towns are aware of the dangers and are doing their best to protect themselves, but they need every little help they can get.

This is the latest information received on the matter:

Please be advised that the application by Beaufort West Minerals (Pty) Ltd (BWM) for Environmental Authorisation (EA) of the Rietkuil Prospecting Right application (Reference WC30/5/1/1/2/10250PR) has been granted in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA, Act 107 of 1998) by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) in the Western Cape.

(2 August 2017)

Here are some links to video stories told by the Navajo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkFtCmG9pcQ Poison wind

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srVjPp1TwdA   The Yellow monster

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APwUDx3mZ70 Investigation into Navajo living conditions: America Now

 

Inclusive surfing – allowing those with different abilities to get stoked

” 20 years in the water between us, bra!” Laughs Megan, giving her brother a high five. Megan has been surfing with her brother since she was 8 years old.“ Ashtan smiles his winning smile. He had a stroke when he was in his mother’s womb and born with Cerebral Palsy. At age 15, he developed epilepsy. Last year he was selected to surf in the World Adaptive Surf Championships in La Jolla, San Diego California. Megan went with him as an assistant. Despite a very difficult competition against all odds, he placed 10th in the finals.

 

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Ashtan getting Stoked.

 

Ashtan’s mother Shireen and sister started “Inclusive Surfing SA in 2013. The aim of NPO is to allow those trapped by poverty and different abilities the opportunity to experience the freedom of riding the waves as a form of therapy. Surfing stimulates all the senses naturally, teaches balance, determination, strengthens muscle tone and sparks self-empowerment through achievement.

 

“We started off with Ashtan’s friends from school and their informal social club.” Says Shireen, “Now we gather special needs children from Ocean View, Lavender Hill, Vrygrond and beyond. (All very tough neighborhoods on the Cape flats, where gangsterism is rife.} This sometimes required up to three trips in Megan’s car (recently stolen) back and forth to Steenberg and Lavender Hill to transport the children to the beach. “ The club has grown to 87 members. (Including street kids.) They have arrangements with special needs schools who bring the children to Surfers Corner in Muizenberg, but the organization is still desperately in need of a vehicle to assist with transport.

 

Groote Schuur Hospitals Occupational therapy department advises them on adaptive surf boards. (Made up by local shaper Linden Green and assisted at times by Megan and Ashtan- who donate their elbow grease with some sanding here and there.)

Volunteers are recruited from African Soul Surfer, the local backpackers on the beach- after being briefed on a simple training program, developed by experts on how to assist persons with disabilities.

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Freedom and victory

“No matter what unique “differability”, they have, we adapt to their needs.” Says Megan.   “Creating access to the Stoke.” Is the slogan of Inclusive Surfing SA, which is self-funded by Shireen and Megan. “It’s worth it.” Says Shireen. “ The ocean wakes them up.”   She describes how the autistic children love the tactile experience of the sand slipping through their fingers. “We do not rush them into the water, we watch their reactions.”   One child, who had never spoken in his life, said his first word in the water. “Go!” he exclaimed to his coach as he anticipated riding the wave.

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Big Wave surfer Caz Collier assisting Ashton on a wave.

When they go home after their beach day, they are calm.” Shireen explains, they do their best to behave well at school, so that they can come back and do it again. They love it.” Doing this work is so rewarding. You will never see such pure innocent joy as these children express in the water.”

The healing power of the ocean to calm and soothe are not to be under estimated.  although the ocean is so close to where they live,  many of these children would not have access to it due to both their physical limitations and the fact that they live in extreme poverty and lack transport and resources.

Members of an old age home in Muizenberg were also included on Mandela day.  They were immensely grateful for the opportunity to get out and join in.

“Our goal is to reach as many individuals in South Africa who would like to the waves of our beautiful South African coasts and experience the stoke of surf therapy. Inclusive Surfing South Africa’s  initiative Smile and Wave creates access to surfing for all individuals regardless of their differability. Differabilty is a word that is used by ISSA and created by Co-Founder and Adaptive Surf Champion Ashtan Davids to describe ones unique Different Ability.”  Says Megan. She explains that Smile and wave Surf therapy plays an important role in the healing and rehabilitation process for all. It promotes  physical well-being, combats social discrimination and builds self-confidence and a sense of security.”

The organization welcomes any one who would like to contribute time as a volunteer helping on the beach or in the water, a vehicle for transporting the children, fruit, water, beach toys or a gazebo.

The next “Smile and Wave” event is tomorrow the 12th of August from 10am till 1pm.  Find them at the Shark Spotters building on Muizenberg beach.

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If you are able to contribute in any way to the regular “Smile and Wave” surf therapy experiences, please contact: Megan Cross : 073 859 3778 treasurer@believeinschatzi.org

Images by Justin Sholk http://justinsholk.com/

 

Lessons from Fire

The ancient originally Pagan, (but now Christianized) Festival of St. John is a winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere and is celebrated with a bonfire.   We recently attended the ceremony at our daughters Steiner school.  Beautiful flames connecting the dark earth with stars in the heavens.  Traditionally people celebrate the fires ability to purify.  The ceremonial bonfire is an opportunity to release anything heavy you have been carrying in your heart and become light again. Archangel Michaela is summoned with his sword to cut the chords and his shield to ward off the evil shadows. The purifying power of fire is praised in songs sung by little children with lanterns in the firelight. The oldest ones get to light the fire with special torches and there is an initiation challenge, to jump over the flames – a very daring thing to do. “No playing with fire”-we were always told.  “Respect this element,” we are told, its power can erase things -transforming solid matter smoke and ashes.

A few weeks ago a fire-storm tore through Knysna, Plettenberg and many places in between.   Although over 10 000 were evacuated, 638 homes burned down- including 400 informal structures, according to this report.   (Informal structures, I presume, means homes without foundations or formal permissions, made of iron sheeting and wood, and found fittings.-for those who don’t know.)

There were many unspoken invaluable losses, which could never be tallied in a news report.  Life times of art collections and antiques, photo albums, book manuscripts, great works in progress, possessions held dear for generations. Many antique family heirlooms were destroyed.  History was lost and made on the same day.  My 83 –year- old aunt lost her home in Brenton-Sea and was left with nothing but her dog and her car, which she could only drive down to the beach as there was no other escape.  (This was the second time she had been forced to flee from home, loosing everything.  The first was to escape the Russians during World War 2 in Germany)  This time, she refused to prepare or evacuate despite repeated warnings of the oncoming fire.  Her domestic servant (who had only just started working for her) insisted that they leave the house, or she would have remained.  Huge flames engulfed the whole neighbourhood.

knysna-fire Her daughter Kati who was working as a vet in Knysna had received a phone call from the emergency services saying that her mother refused to leave the house. She experienced extreme trauma trying to reach her mother she battled through a traffic jam. She tailgated emergency vehicles at the burning bridge and when she reached a wall of flames blocking the way home, had to turn back.  She returned to work at KAWS animal welfare, where people who had been evacuated were dropping off their animals as they fled. The animals had to be transported by truck out of the fire zone on mass.   She saved an ailing Daschond who was too fragile for this adventure from the truck.  That night she curled up with the sick dog on a friends spare mattress, not knowing what had become of her mother and their home. The next morning she drove out to find their home in ruins.  She spent a day searching for her mother and eventually after much detective work, found that she had been taken in by a family in Buffelsbaai.  (Residents of Brenton were transported along the beach in 4×4’s to Buffelsbaai by rescuers.)  Unfortunately she had slipped on the stairs that night and fallen, fracturing two vertebrae in her spine. (Luckily she is a very tough lady and just picked herself up, feeling sore.)  However the loss of a home can be like the loss of an old friend.  It takes time to recover.

 

There are many amazing stories of heroism during the fire. Like the one my cousin told me of a man who saved all the animals from a burning kindergarten where they kept poultry and other animals for the children. He gathered them all and herded them down to the river where he stood with them in the water until the fire had passed.

My best friend from school lost her family home of 4 generations, which was a national monument overlooking Knysna. It is hard to grasp the magnitude of these losses. Another old friend, who is a well known artist, Beezy Bailey, lost his holiday home in Plett  containing a lifetime of his best paintings.  He made a statement on Facebook, which went viral.  I believe it struck a chord because he was so mature and open to seeing the big picture even in the face of his own personal loss.

I believe that Armageddon is the end of the beginning and not the beginning of the end.” He said. “ I’m more interested in how beautiful this photo is of my Plet house on fire than sad.  But Bird house will be rebuilt even better than before. The birds will come back .But please your support sympathy and sorrow must be focused on the hundreds of poor people with no insurance, and no nothing,who have lost everything.Let us unite in times like these , something we South Africans are so good at , and pick our selfs up by our boot straps and re build broken  hearts homes and lives together.”  Said Beezy.

Bird House Burns

Beezy’s house burning by Jan Venter

Indeed many came together to help, and the community was brought together by the tragedy. The entire country sent donations of food, clothes, household items. Truckloads were distributed. So many volunteers came to help that they began turning them away. There was a huge outpouring of kindness to bring back hope to the devastated.  My cousin Kati and Aunt Gisella are recovering, having found a new home in a retirement complex. They have clothes to wear due to the kind donations of people from all over the country. Amazingly trauma counselling is being offered, which is hugely important as a first step to functional recovery.   On top of having to care for her mother and find a new home, Kati is nursing many animals with burn wounds from the fire. The natural habitat of many wild animals has been destroyed as well as their food. This has created a need for bush feeding of bushbuck and birds and other forest creatures. The after effects of the fire on the environment may take their toll on the water systems as there is nothing to hold the soil. Sediments will wash into the rivers. Landslides are a likely after= effect being anticipated by foresters.

The cause of the fires, were much debated.  A lot of fingers were pointed at arsonists, raising racist speculations and sparking another kind of fire of anger and hatred.  One friend on social media blamed the monoculture of Pine plantations in the area, which are a fire hazard under very dry conditions – there was a very bad drought. I think this is a valid argument. When those extreme hurricane force winds tore through, carrying burning debris ahead and fanning them- it lit a whole band of fires. 100 km winds carrying flaming debris created a firestorm of intense heat, causing spontaneous combustion and the fire jumped roads and even across the Knysna lagoon- according to The Sunday Times.  The drought ridden tinder dry vegetation fanned by gusts of winds blew up in seconds.  Catching people and animals unawares.  The effect was beyond devastating.  The fire burned for days.  It came in and out of Knysna town three times, burning down houses in different areas on each occasion.  “Just when one thought it was finally over and it was going to be a normal day, the whole thing started again.”  My friend Robyn told me.  She had just moved from a smallholding outside of Plett and was in the process of buying a home in Knysna.  The new home burned down and part of the school where she worked, but luckily she did not loose her possessions and the sale had not gone through.  So she considers herself one of the lucky ones.  ” The ones who didn’t loose their homes feel guilty for being so lucky compared to the ones who didn’t.” She says.  Robin had to evacuate three times during the fire storm.  Each time, she took less.  On the third run she had it worked out: laptop, photo’s, jacket and boots.

Strangely nobody publicly blamed “Climate Change” a few days after Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Treaty.   Strange because raging fires and droughts like this are obvious symptoms of Climate Change, but sometimes it’s not easy to see the big picture.

Now beyond the devastation, there is a flurry of activity as those who were insured begin to rebuild.  The insurance companies are insisting that the rebuild takes place along more environmentally friendly lines than before.  On social media, residents are talking about replanting indigenous plants, where there were aliens before.  Encouraging each other to building with cobstone, which is quicker and more fire-resistant and environmentally friendly.  There is even talk of using hemp fibre to rebuild low cost homes. Environmentalists on social media are suggesting that pine plantations be replaced with hemp plantations, which are quicker to cultivate and can be used for building materials.  Hemp puts nitrogen into the soil, which is necessary after the acidification of the soil caused by the pine plantations.

Some years ago, Biomimicry SA created a Permaculture design similar to The Eden Project. A vision of the town as an eco-village working according to self-sufficient permaculture and biomimicry principles.  If only this vision could be realized.

Visualise Knysna becomming the perfect example of an environmentally sound design for a community living in harmony with nature.   That would be the most positive outcome.  Perhaps this would be a good time to apply these principles in the rebuilding stage. Employment opportunities for locals would help uplift those who lost everything including their jobs, tools and businesses.  This may seem idealistic, but a spark of idealism in this time grows hope.

The purifying element of the fire may have been devastating for those who have lost everything, but the silver lining of the dark cloud of smoke, is that their change of circumstances may release them from things which may have been holding them back. Being open to adapting to change is the life principle, which is most conducive to survival.

Those who are prepared to move on and adapt this kind of philosophical attitude will suffer least from the disaster. It’s called resilience. For in it lies the opportunity to get closer to things of true value, beyond the material world. For example, my aunt who stubbornly held on to her home, which had become in her old age,way too big to manage on her own, is now in a safer and more supportive environment-a retirement home with carers.  My friend who lost her family home, is free to create something new which still honours her family but is adapted to her needs. The beautiful garden and the view are still there. Beezy is already dreaming of creative ways he will rebuild the house that burned down.  They were the lucky ones, the poorest of the poor are the real victims of climate change.

Armageddon is the beginning not the end of the world.  We can choose our responses to any situation.  We can live in denial and pretend that no fire is coming and that we are immortal and able to battle the power of nature with our bare hands.  Or we can be wise like the fittest life forms who have survived evolution thus far, and adapt to changes, bend with the wind and create conditions conducive to life. Hello world: Climate change is real. It’s time to act before home burns down.

Interesting that this fire took place a week after Trump pulled out of the Climate Change Agreement of Paris at COP 21. An agreement solidified at Marekesh. Already China is leading the race to reducing emissions to zero by 2050. A better world is possible if all parties in the global village co-operate. A week after the Knysna inferno, there was a fire in a tall building in London.  The tower contained 600 homes.  80 people died.  In the garden route fire at the last count 850 homes burned and 9 people died (we have no count on how many animals.) In a dense city tower, the residents had much less chance of escape.  The same week in Portugal, a fire tore through a forest incinerating people in their cars as they attempted to escape.

The question arises as the escape margin narrows by the minute, whether or not we have any chance of leaving a planet that is conducive to life for future generations, or even whether we will survive the catastrophic symptoms of climate change that we may have to face on mass in every part of the world unless huge lifestyle and economic changes are made. This means a change of perception and the will to halt all extractive mining, the use of fossil fuels and to change the way the worlds economy functions, so that it creates conditions conducive to life by leaving zero waste. Something like the magnificently evolved eco-system in forests that have burned down.

Please help feed the animals who are now starving in the forests after the fire.  The humans had lots of help, but the animals have to fend for themselves in a desert of burned habitat. https://www.facebook.com/edenbeneedin/?fref=mentions.

 

The Water Carriers of Cape Town

There has been a drought in Cape Town.  We have had extreme water restrictions for 7 months.  This means no hosepipes allowed for watering the garden.  You may only use buckets and watering cans- preferably from your already used bath water, or washing up water.  Hopefully, you have used soaps that will not harm your plants.  We have figured out how to get the hosepipe through the bathroom window to suck the water out of the bath, which we- a family of four, have to share and then re-use it to wash the car. Buckets of left over bath water are also dragged to the toilet instead of flushing the chain. Most good people in Cape town shower standing in a bucket of water and then pour the water into the toilet to save on a flush.  These are all examples of ways one has to learn to be frugal with our precious resource.  The main dam, from which most of the drinking water comes is down to 11 percent according to a recent newspaper headline, which had a front page picture of a dry dam with a few streams running out of

The main dam, from which most of the drinking water comes is down to 11 percent according to a recent newspaper headline, which had a front page picture of a dry dam with a few streams running out of it.  It’s basically just a puddle. It’s the bottom of the barrel and a little strong. So the tap water has been causing children to have sore tummies.  Those of us who can afford to, and have the means, collect from the Newlands Spring, or the other sources of pure mountain water running out of the mountain.    During the course of this drought, this practice has become more and more mainstream.  The spring in Newlands used to be mainly visited by more extreme health conscious types, (like me) who would bring glass jars- not plastic- which has MPA’s.  But now there is a constant thronging cue of people from all walks of life.

The spring in St. James, used to be known only to few as a place to collect fresh water, now there is a cue round the clock.  There are big bottles of spring water lining the isles in the shops.  People, who previously may not have spent money on water are dragging big bottles of water home with them.  The people who do not have their own transport cannot afford to collect water from the Newlands Spring, so they have to buy it.  Companies are cashing in.  Plastic bottles are piling up. Unfortunately, it is not mandatory to recycle in Capet Town like it is in places like Paris, where it is part of the infrastructure.

According to the World Health Organization, one in every 10 people across the globe, lack access to safe drinking water. In many developing countries, the burden of providing water for households is placed on women and girls.  This often means walking a long way burdened with heavy loads.  According to their calculations, the average women or girl-child in this situation spends up to 6 hours a day just collecting water for drinking washing and cooking. It’s a full-time job.

So us Cape Townias, are just getting a tiny taste of it.  There may well be more to come.  We have to wake up and be prepared -no matter the size of our property or bank account,  Many of us who have tried to grow our own food by tending a vegetable patch in the back garden, are finding it hard to keep our greens alive in these conditions.  This year’s wine crops may taste a little sweeter from all the sun.  But I have to ask why vineyards take up most of the agricultural ground around this fertile region?  Another question is why so much water gets turned to wine around here.  Ideally, more of this land should be utilized for food if we were to be more logistical about the survival of the species.  (If I was the president I would make the vineyards dedicate a percentage of their lands to growing organic vegetables as a way to give back.   Boschendal– is doing it, they have one acre of organic vegetable garden which yields a ton of vegetables.  How much of our water is being used to grow wine?  It’s high time to ask these questions.  The most addictive substances on the planet, such as sugar, coffee, tobacco, and wine are crops that use the most water.  We have to take a hold on our addictions in a more conscious world.  But just when the going gets tough and depressing, that’s when we reach for our comforting cuppa coffee with 2 sugars and a smoke and later a glass of wine.  Let’s not think about it too much, shall we?

This drought is an opportunity to learn so much.  It is forcing us not to take basics for granted. (Or should be.) When you go to collect your water from the spring, it is treasured.  Not wasted.  It is precious, it nourishes.  The water from the mountain is rich in natural minerals, it has no added fluoride or other chemicals.  According to the principles of Biomimicry, the science of using life’s principles to adapt and design, we should be learning more efficient ways of using water from nature.  Hopefully, our city planners are on the case of redesigning the infrastructure to be more efficient, so that the brewery no longer gets all the best spring water.

20170127_113707

I have been collecting water for months from the Newlands Spring- which is kindly offered to the public by the SA Brewery factory, who has been hogging it since they colonized the place.  On each visit, I have been speaking to a few people in the cue and asking them why they come. Many said that the spring water tastes so much better.  One woman said that apart from the good water she loved the process of collecting it because it felt so Biblical.  Another explained that the spring water was so much more energized (as opposed to dead tap water- it had more life)  that it was worth the drive to collect it. (All the way from Seapoint.)  There were others collecting whole truckloads of water to fill their swimming pools (and still adding chemicals to it) and to water their plants so as to save on the water bill.  There was a woman with a truckload of containers collecting for a primary school.  There were policemen and mechanics and insurance men. In our demographic, more men than women. They rub shoulders in the cue and realize that they are all in this together.  It creates an unspoken sense of community.  This is life in the age of Climate Change.  When we collect our own water from the spring we are taking our survival seriously, independently of the system.  No matter who we are and what we believe taking water from the source of the earth and that is precious.  We are very grateful that we can. Even in the city.  No wonder she is called the Mother city.  We are very grateful for our mountain and her underground water. It is time to take a different approach to our resource management.

The Night God came to the door

(This post is a follow on from the previous one about Walter.)

The rattle of the gate disturbed our comfortable dinner with our BBC series set in England. The man at the gate mumbling his story through thick lips, body bent, four feathers in his ragged hair, was Walter. Blood splattered on his khaki trousers.

“it’s Walter! Let him in.” He stumbled in and collapsed on the coffee table near the door revealing the gash in his head. Blood streaming down his face and neck.- his face swollen almost beyond recognition.

“What happened?” I asked?

“Beaten up by a mob with picks and bricks? “ That’s all we could understand of his mumblings.

“I prayed all the way that Helena would help me.”  He had just walked to my house from “Overcome” – an informal settlement on the edge of a landfill about 5 kms away.  (According to statistics collected by researchers I know, it has one of the highest murder rates in the country.)

What to do ? Ice? Bandages? It all flashed through my head. We must take him straight to hospital. Quick.  (Leaving the children with instructions to put themselves to bed.)

Still we fussed as we were flustered.  Here -Rescue remedy – I held out a white pill -for the shock -and placed in it his sooty hand. The palms of his hands showed signs of a fall to the ground – pressed into the black dust while he was beaten. He painfully lifted his arm to take the pill to his mouth. I wondered if a shoulder was broken. He managed to get the pill into his bloody mouth. Soon after he stood up. His eye ticked and flickered. His whole face began twitching out of control. Brain haemorrhage. Oh no. Please don’t do that.

“I think you should sit down.” I said, “Or lie down.” He looked at the floor and decided rather to sit. “Lets just get him to hospital But first a cup of tea? “

“Four sugars” he ordered clearly. He drank it down quickly despite all the fussing a about putting it in a flask cup so he could take it in the car.

We got him in the car. A bucket just in case. Ice pack on head. Water, toilet paper. A Blanket around him- a red blanket -brighter than the colour of blood. I sat in the back seat to support him, while my husband drove. Felt the heat from his swollen shoulder- feeling helpless, wishing I could fix what was broken.

We had to drive slowly over the speed bumps. He flinched on each bump.

“Hang in there Walter”.

“I’m a tough guy.” He said.

“Hold up your head. Breathe in life”, I told him as he slumped lower and lower in his seat.

“You are saving my life” he told me as we rounded the bend into Fishoek.

Walking into the hospital I steadied him with my arm around his shoulder.

“You are walking with Mandela.” He said.  I understood what he meant, although I realized that many would think it was delusional. We were part of a performance on the world stage. He was being metaphorical, and it made sense, he being a black man who had suffered for a cause greater than himself.

“Who is this?” The man at the reception window asked horrified by the figure of Walter, the feathers in his dreadlocked hair, the red blanket like a cloak over his shoulders and the blood pouring down his brow like Jesus Christ after the crucifixion.

“This is my friend.” I said.

In the emergency room the nurses had him summed up with one look. They judged him. “Who is this and what happened?” They were all black nurses. (So it was not racism.)

“He was attacked by a mob in his community.”

“Why? ” They hesitated in treating him, presuming that the community had attacked him because I guess they presumed him to be a rapist or a murderer. It is common for communities in the townships of Cape Town take the law into their own hands as there are too many murderers and rapists that get away with terrorizing their communities. They believe the police are ineffective, and often they are.  The courts fail them by giving them bail too easily.  There are also uninformed communities who create fear and hysteria who mob people who are seen as “witches”  or strangers’ -people from other countries who they believe are taking away their jobs, women, income, etc.  Then there is the fear of lack, which drives more poverty and the jealousy factor, which causes many crimes and a low level of education generally.  But none of this can condone ganging up on ones neighbour and attacking him for no good reason.

“He is a good person.” I defended him. It’s a mystery why he was attacked, but he had told me in the past that he had been threatened by people in his neighborhood. There was evil and jealousy he had said,. perhaps they picked on him because they were superstitious. It was a witch hunt. There is so much superstition in this part of town that even the local franchise pharmacy “Clicks” sells “magical” salts to protect one from the Tokoloshe. (A mythical evil creature- similar to the Irish Leprechaun but more menacing.)

20170301_165644 (2)

“What did they use?”

“Picks and Bricks.” (We spoke for him in his company as if he couldn’t speak for himself.)

“Everything hard and sharp.” Corrected Walter clearly.

“What is this?” Asked the nurse – pointing at the feathers in his hair, as if the feathers were the most important issue to be addressed.

“They are nothing, just a decoration,” I growled.   (Actually Walter believed the feathers were his antenna to God, but she would not have understood that- nor did the murderous mob.)

I  believe his feathers were a sign to the mob, (just as they were a symbolic tool for Walter to access his intuitive connection with his father-or God.)  I guess the feathers gave him an appearance which the people in his community perceived as evidence that he was an outsider – something “other”, which they believed to be dangerous, so they took their frustrations out on him.

He became the perfect scapegoat for their aching pain bodies.

Sitting on the chair in the hospital, Walter looked like a picture of a crucified Christ with his crown of feathers and the way the blood was running down his brow and the red cloak like blanket.

“The problem” I said annoyed with the nurse for being so judgemental and not looking beyond the aesthetic – “is this.” pointing to the gash in his skull. I gently unthreaded the feathers , which were plaited into his hair. The nurse shaved his hair around the wound. Then suddenly stepped back dramatically and gasped. “There’s another one. “ She said.  I went to see what she was pointing at. A second even bigger gash in his skull further back explained all the blood on the back of his neck.

Soon they had him in the operating room where they were about to cut his shirt off to see what had happened to his shoulder blade because it was too painful to lie down on the bed flat. It was broken. Walter was not happy to loose his shirt. We left him on the operating table. He was still clear enough to ask for our number. I told him that the people in the hospital would have it written down on his file as the nurses chased us out. Later that night he was transferred to another bigger hospital by ambulance where they had better means to deal with his injuries.

I visited him there in the Trauma ward a few days later. I found him bright and breezy out on the balcony smoking with his blind inmate. He had his arm in a sling as he led his companion back to his bed and settled him.

“What happened to him? “   I asked, noticing the deep circular hole in his temple of the man with the closed swollen eyes and a sweet face. “He was shot in the head.” Walter said. “He lost his sight.” Such is life in the Trauma ward at Groote Schuur. “We look after each other.”

Walter has such gratitude about his situation. He was not at all worried about his future, or what might have happened to his home or possessions. He was at peace with the world and his circumstances. He rememberd everything that happened and was chirpy as ever. Still speaking about the same thing; the same strange and unworldly stories. He still believes he is God. “My blood is the covenant he says.   I am working hard to fight the evil.”   I listen carefully. Try to read between the lines.

I realize that what he is saying could be construed as the ramblings of a madman, but I understand that what he is going through is some kind of crucifixion. He has been the one to bare the brunt of the pain bodies of the unconscious people who mobbed him. He has taken the pain for their pain and now he is transforming it. His survival is a kind of resurrection.

I have brought him some clothes. He is very pleased. He shows me that he has already washed and folded the trousers he was wearing when we took him to hospital. He has the red blanket I gave him and his shoes in his locker. For now, these are his only worldly possessions. Although he believes his house is safe and all his gardening equipment. “No evil will get into my house.” He is confident about this.

I realize he will probably be a puzzle to the hospital staff. I ask at the desk about what will become of him. They say that he is being examined by a psychiatrist and may stay a bit longer.

The night of the traumatic event was the 21st of February. He is still in hospital. It is April. At the last visit he was even more cheerful and putting on weight. He has been diagnosed with TB and a mental health issue, which has still not been clearly named to me. They are waiting for a bed to become available at the local sanatorium. “So that he can come to terms with his illnesses” the intern explained on the phone.

When we saw him he had tied a single red thread from the blanket around his head, wrists and ankles. “My father told him to do it.” He tells me explaining that it represents the blood he spilled in his capacity as the sacrificial lamb and the spiritual work he is doing to help save the world. Wearing the threads- he looks like one who is training to be a Sangoma.  One who has been officially chosen by the ancestors.  Initiates usually wear a thread of white beeds in the same way.

In tribal lore one who has intuitive gifts has a place in society and is not locked up in a home for the mentally ill and tranquilised. Great value and honour is given to one who is able to interpret the spirit world. Their dreams and voices are taken seriously, as messages from the spirits of the ancestors.

Despite the tranquilizers, Walter is still working hard to transform the evils of the world. “You are carrying a lot on your shoulders”. We tell him after he explains all this spiritual work he is doing for the country and the world.  He keeps in touch with the latest news even in hospital.  It is very interesting to hear him describe it. There may well be hidden truths among the things he is telling us. There may be deep dark secrets he knows about through his experience as a security guard at the police museum that we don’t know about and that he has to speak about only in riddles. So we listen deeply to try to unravel the clues.

The doctor tells us not to entertain his psychosis. So far we are the only people who have visited him in hospital. Walter told me that I am his only family. When I initially told him that I had announced on Facebook what had happened to him and that people seemed shocked and wanted to help him, he was deeply moved.   He hid the tears that came into his eyes.

At the last visit we spoke about his plants.  The ones that heal and the ones who have not survived the recent drought.  He was very impressed with the wormwood plant I had given him.  He said it had helped cure a stomach ailment.  He was keen to get back to the garden.

walter in host

If anyone would like to donate to the Walter Fund to help support him when he gets out of hospital one can depossit to The Walter Fund -Helena Kingwill Cloete –  Capitec.  Branch code: 470010  Account number:  1411570098

Or if you are abroad I have a Paypal account:  Say it is for the Walter Fund: owlsightshine@gmail.com

Love will Make His Garden Grow

The Muizenberg Police Museum on the Main Rd next to the glamorous Casa Labia, is easy to miss. It wears tired beige and is currently closed to the public due to pending renovations. But if, on a whim you so happened to wonder in, you would find yourself surrounded by healthy spinach plants, carrots, turnips, cabbages, potatoes, even mielies. (Corn) Every inch of space has been utilized to grow food.

One day in May 2011, after working as a Security Guard at the museum for two months, Walter Mokoatle (41), decided that he had had enough of standing around. He got permission to take out the ornamental flowers, which had been there 10 years, and set to work growing food in their place. He filled the beds with compost, which had naturally formed from falling leaves under the old trees on the edge of the property. Then he sowed the seeds he had bought with his own savings. He constantly replenishes the compost with lawn clippings along with what he constantly clears from the garden. “Of every crop you plant, 10 percent does not make it, and that percentage goes back to make more compost, it’s a cycle.” Explains Walter.

The garden is so abundant that Walter is able to give to the needy and cook healthy meals for his work mates. “Turnips and spinach are good for the elderly.” Says Walter, who supplies vegetables to impoverished elderly members of his community in “Overcome”- a crime ravished informal settlement on the dunes near Capricorn Park.

According to Walter, the secret of his gardening success is the magic ingredient: Love. “When you plant a seed, those plants become your children.   I feel them calling me and I know they need attention.” He grew up in the Maluti Mountains on the border of Lesotho, where he worked with his Grandmother every weekend tilling the soil and tending to the plants they subsisted on. “We lived from our garden, the only thing we needed to buy for cooking, was oil,” he remembers.

Walter’s decision to begin a garden came out of a need to heal his heart and it has had significant therapeutic value in his life.   He had been unhappy in his marriage and was “tired of life without love,” so he had made a personal decision to “make nice” and to create beauty in his life. He began working on a garden around his shack, and then took it a step further into his work. The garden at the SAP Museum, became a means of therapy/rehabilitation for prisoners doing community service. Each prisoner was delegated a section of the garden to work on. One prisoner even returned after being released to see how his plants were doing.

“The thing you do for love is the one that will take you far, not the one you do for need.” Says Walter philosophically. Walter is not alone in realizing that a few plants around one’s home and at work can make a big difference to one’s nutritional intake as food prices rise steadily. Many survivors of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe relied on their own home-grown food to get through the food shortages in recent years. Utilizing urban spaces to grow food locally is a simple solution to a global problem, which anyone can participate in.

Careful use of water when growing vegetables is essential. Installing a grey water system to recycle used household water onto ones garden is sustainable and cost-effective. (This can be done by simply siphoning ones bath water onto the garden with a hose pipe.) Walter is particularly proud of the fact that he managed to grow a banana tree next to his shack and is watching the leaves unfold, one by one. “If you learn to garden and grow your own food, you will never be hungry.” Walter points out. Time to get out and start sowing some seeds.

Walter carrots portrait

The above post is an article I wrote 7 years ago for The False Bay Echo.

Walter Echo story published

News update:  Walter made efforts during renovations to the Police Museum to keep his plants alive, (visiting them with a watering can on his bicycle daily)  “My plants are like my children.” He told me.  He harvested green vegetables and took them back to the squatter camp where he lives in the suburb of “Overcome” on toughest part of the Cape Flats.  It is almost on the landfill and has the highest murder rate in the country.   He lost his job at the Police Museum once the renovation was complete.  Apparantly he was accused of selling the vegetables. . The story he told me is shrouded in mystery and intrigue and requires further investigation.  He said that he uncovered the skelotons of two bodies.  In his dreams the spirits of the people who were murdered came to him and told them that they were apartheid victims.  He reported finding the bones to the police. However this finding and his insite about who they were is what he believes caused him to loose his job. He also believes that  it may have led to the incident that occurred a few weeks ago from which he was lucky to escape.

More about this life shattering event in the next post.

Anyone who would like to make a contribution to help Walter recover can donate to the following account with the reference: Walter recovery fund:  I will keep it in a savings for him.

Helena Kingwill Cloete –  Capitec.  Branch code: 470010  Account number:  1411570098

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uranium Mining on the Plains of The Camdeboo

 

We are living in strangely intense times: times of extreme polarity of opinion and moral and ethical beliefs. We see merciless greed from corporate and political power seekers versus selfless heroic sacrifice from earth keepers trying to defend the last of what is left. There are sharp contrasts of attitude towards our environment and “ natural resources” whether they be our common ground- a National park mountain or the ocean and beaches,  a river or lake, or a farm in the desert where the mineral rights  which lie beneath grazing sheep are still waiting to be had.

There is a new wave of colonialism taking place in Africa and it is taking many forms. “Right now, a small “uranium rush” is on.” Writes Dr. Stefan Cramer, science advisor to SAFCEI,   “Every fly-by –night wants to get a slice of the cake, often under questionable circumstances… in these days of “mineral grabbing” all you need is a letter head and good connections to lay your hands on the mineral wealth of this country.” He points out that many unknown companies with names like “ Wealhage House of Capital”- run by a 26 year old entrepreneur from Limpopo, and “Blue Moon Mining” are applying for uranium rights, and “it doesn’t cost a dime to include uranium in an application.

This comes at a time when small-scale family farms in the Karoo are especially vulnerable. The economic climate and the impossible task of competing with large-scale industrialized agriculture in the market place. It also comes at a time of incredible ecological challenge as the ravages of climate change batter an already fragile ecosystem.  Yet somebody has opened the fences and let the scavengers in to dig up what is left of a very special ecosystem in a place where life has thrived and adapted to all kinds of challenges for millions of years.

Applications for Uranium mining have been made in area’s from Beaufort West to Aberdeen, Jansenville to Wolwerfontein, Kliplaaat to Steytlerville. Area’s where topsoil has been so badly damaged by overgrazing, drought, dust storms and occasional flooding, thus making farmers more vulnerable to selling and giving up.

Yet, if Uranium mining is allowed to take place  on a far away farm in a place many consider to be the middle of nowhere, there will be no reversing the consequences.  As we know, everything is connected. Think of the river carrying uranium tailings and it’s path to the sea. Think of the dust storms blowing across the Plains of the Cambdeboo. It is said that even one particle of uranium dust in the lung and you could cause lung cancer.

I am the daughter of a fourth generation Karoo farmer. My father Robert and grandfather Roland Kingwill taught me the importance of topsoil. I grew up with the extreme winds of the Karoo, which blow dust devils around in the drought, tore trees out by the roots, the wind even tore off the roof of our varanda once. As a child I went with my father and watched him worry about the sheep who walked like skeletons.  I was with him one day when we found the mud caked body of one who had not made it out of the sticky last puddle of water in the middle of the dried out dam. Life is tough and death is one of the seasons we face when we live close to the earth

I have also seen floods, the roar of rain, when the water runs quickly over bare earth and becomes a thundering river that carves deep gorges into the landscape, bends iron fence posts and washes away trees and cattle to the next farm and beyond. These experiences have made me understand the power of nature, and I have seen with my own eyes the way that landscapes are not stable. They constantly change even in the most ancient and supposedly “geologically stable” landscapes as the elements shift them. Nothing can be taken for granted. “Continents drift at the rate of the growth of our fingernails,” a well- known palaeontologist once told me. So it seems logical that no pile of Uranium tailings or nuclear waste dug into the earth  of  is really safely hidden and contained. Ever.

IMG_4577

While doing research for my documentary “Buried in Earthskin”, I learned that Uranium is the most toxic substance we could possibly dig out of the earth. Taking it out is like opening Pandora’s box. It unleashes its’ evils into the world and that powerful wild energy can never be put safely can never be put back in. This is why I found it very ironic and worrying when the minister of Minerals and Energy told me in an interview with a sweet smile, that “Nuclear energy is clean energy.”

Many forget that Nuclear is powered by a very treacherous fossil fuel: uranium and the nuclear fuel chain results in radioactive waste, which is an international long-standing unsolved problem. No safe storage solution has been found. The by-products of this industry are used in weapons of mass destruction. Some countries secretely disguise  nuclear waste as artillery  in the secret madness of warfare and propell it to other countries. Little is told of the radioactive weapons and discarded bomb shells which are left scattered all over war-torn lands where it is used for weapons that roll into the houses of innocent children who pick them up and play with them, thinking they could be toys. The implications are so terrible that nobody in civilized society really wants to know about them, so they are buried under a carpet of unconsciousness along with rest of the nuclear waste problem. There is nothing clean about nuclear energy – it is a darker shade of dirty than coal.

Uranium is best left in the ground where it belongs: making it’s own powerful magic beneath the crust. It has its own purpose there. I believe our creator provided other means of creating energy like sun and wind. We are free to harness those if we so wish.

Nieu Bethesda-boy on horse on footbridge

A Karoo boy on his horse crossing a footbridge in Nieu Bethesda- Karoo.

It is interesting that all over the world the people who have been the most common victims of Uranium mining are the tribal descendents earth’s First Peoples. Ironically it is these people who live close to the earth and truly understand and revere their environment who have been made most ill by it due to the fact that they were not informed of the toxic consequences of Uranium mining on their environment.The most outspoken of these are the Navajo tribe in America.

When Uranium mining began in the Navajo reservation. It was one of the poorest communities in America. They were probably promised jobs and other perks. This community is now even poorer because they have lost their health as well. The men were used as workers. They were not given adequate protection against the harmful yellow cake dust. The water sources and wells were contaminated with this dust and the wives and grandmothers drawing water from their traditional wells in their sacred land were not informed.   When the mine closed, it was not properly sealed or cleaned up. The results have been legacies of terrible cancers and a degenerative disease called Navajo Neuropathy- which causes a wasting away of muscle. Children are born with severe deformities, which affect them and their families for the rest of their lives. These are massive life-changing environmental impacts. (I wonder if they are considered in the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s) being conducted in the Karoo.) Stories have been told of families who discovered that their houses had been built with bricks made and cement, which contained radioactive tailings near mines. Chronic illness and cancer resulted, families left in ruin. As one Navajo woman profoundly states: “Money can buy you lots of things, but it can’t buy you a new pair of lungs. This is an echo of the famous letter written by Chief Seattle to the President more than 100 years ago: “When the last river is gone… then will you realize that you can’t eat money?”  His words hold more power today than ever as we see the how the myth of materialism creates the kind of madness that makes men destroy their only natural resources.  One day when it is too late, then will we realize that our natural resources are our only true wealth.

Tribal communities all over the world have learned this lesson over and over again through history as they bartered their natural resources: their fish, their, forrests, their elephants, their rhino’s their rivers, their lakes and their land for a few trinkets and promises of gold. The new colonialists are still making their tricky deals and the natives are still falling for the promises of an easier life with more money, more shiny stuff, the colonialists are of all races and the victims are too.

This story is being played out over and over again in poor uninformed communities around Africa as it has in the past it continues to repeat itself.  It is time to learn from our mistakes. If nothing is done to stop it, it will be happening in poor farming communities near Beaufort West and Aberdeen in the Great Karoo, as well as Namaqualand, South Africa. Again the people most affected will be the descendents earth’s First Peoples – the Nama and the Khoi San.

In this age of information overload and complacency, it is easy to remain passive and overwhelmed, but it is a fact that if good men do nothing-  evil is given permission to reign. We see blatant examples of this lesson over and over again.   It is time to stand up and act or it will be too late, and we will all be left with regrets because if any of this goes ahead, the world will look very different.

This notice has just arrived in my inbox for public comment:

PROPONENT: Tasman Lukisa JV Company (Pty) Ltd

PROJECT: Mining right for Uranium and Molybdenum

DISTRICT OF: Aberdeen

EC 30/5/1/2/2/10029 MR: Bokvlei 78 Ptn 1(RE), 2; De Pannen 79 Ptn 1, RE; Kareepoort 80 Ptn 1,2; Oorlogspoort 85 RE; Klein Tavel Kop 163 RE.

The draft Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Programme report (EIA/EMPr) will be available for comment from 10 March – 18 April 2017.

A public meeting regarding the above is scheduled for 23 March 2017 at 17h00 in the Library Hall, Andries Pretorius street, Aberdeen. Hard copies and soft copies on CD will also be made available in the Beaufort West Library, Agri-Central Karoo (BKB, Beaufort West), the Rustdene Community Hall office, the Youth Hub Office, Aberdeen & Rietbron Municipal Offices and the Rooidam Farm Stall.

PROPONENTS: Tasman Lukisa JV Company (Pty) Ltd & Tasman Pacific Minerals (Ltd)

PROJECTS: Mining right for Uranium and Molybdenum

DISTRICT OF: Beaufort West

WC30/5/1/2/2/10085MR: Haane Kuil   335 Ptn 1 (RE), 4, 7, RE; Nieuw Jaars Fontein 340 Ptn 1, Farm 394 Ptn RE, Eerste Water 349 Ptn 1 (RE), 3 (RE), 4; Ryst Kuil 351 Ptn 2, RE; Vlak Plaats 350 Ptn 1; Klip Stavels 361 Ptn 2; Kat Doorn Kuil 359 Ptn RE; Kant Kraal 360 Ptn RE; Klip Stavels 361 Ptn RE; Klipgat 362 Ptn RE.

WC30/5/1/2/2/10086MR: Oude Volks Kraal 164 Ptn RE, Quaggas Fontein 166 Ptn RE, Oude Volks Kraal 164 Ptn 3, Blaauw Bosch Kuil 165 Ptn RE.

The identified NEMA listed activities for the above applications have been amended and therefore Scoping Report addendums will be available for review from 10 March – 13 April 2017;The final submission dates for the EIA/EMPr’s for these applications has been extended to 31 July 2017.

Land owners, lawful occupants and interested and/or affected parties are given the opportunity to access the above mentioned documentation and to give comments as indicated above. Document copies available for review at: Project Dropbox:https://www.dropbox.com/sh/gkp2geha5vj89at/AAAUQQivzJ6BE4-X175D6MuUa?dl=0. Hard copies and soft copies on CD will also be made available in the Beaufort West Library, Agri-Central Karoo (BKB, Beaufort West), the Rustdene Community Hall office, the Kwa-Mandlenkosi Youth Hub office and Beaufort West Municipal offices.

Kind Regards

Erika van der Linde

Ferret Mining and Environmental Services Pty Ltd

P.O. Box 72313

Lynnwood Ridge

0040

 Office number (+27)12 753 1285Mobile number (+27)83 441 0239Fax number 086 716 5576

Ferret Mining and Environmental Services (Pty) Ltd.erika@ferretmining.co.za and/or tim@ferretmining.co.za Tel: 012 753 1285.

All I know is that there is very little resistance to this. A handful of Karoo farmers living in the area and a few members of the communities in surrounding towns are aware of the dangers and are doing their best to protect themselves, but they need every little help they can get. If as a reader, you are in a position to write to the mining company above or comment on the EIA. Please do. You will be helping a lot.

No matter what our attitude of land ownership is, one logical truth prevails:  we are more transient than the earth, and in our lifetimes we a mere custodians of the land and sea, these things are millions of years older than us. We hope they will continue to exist millions of years into the future.  Yet what may have taken millions of years to create can be destroyed in one generation of very bad management.  If we are here to witness it, future generations will always blame us for doing nothing and causing their pain.

Here are some links to video stories told by the Navajo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkFtCmG9pcQ Poison wind

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srVjPp1TwdA   The Yellow monster

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APwUDx3mZ70 Investigation into Navajo living conditions: America Now

Plea for Awakening-a call for change

Plea for Earth Awakening – By Helena Kingwill

Beneath the surface,

the earth stirs into a spiral.

The alchemy of the turning gyre

Swirls like potion in Lillith’s cauldron

Deep down in the belly of earth

– a wisdom

Like a warm presence

Awaits recognition.

Meanwhile, earth quakes, tsunami waves, wind storm rages

Dust to dust, earth to earth,

Natural cycle returning death to life.

Teaming with organisms.

My wish for the earth now,

Is that we could awaken before it’s too late.

Each of us has come from earthmotherbelly,

and to earth-body we will return,

In our individuality we remain in essence –

a microcosm of the whole.

When will we wake up from our self-importance

And realize the earth’s message?

Hear those earth-cells inside us,

Singing…crying, shaking each other

building to a critical point,

-a wave of realization

sweeping through us all-

even those at the helms of the power machines are affected.

There is something building, bigger than any of us, bigger than politics,

bigger than money.

A rainbow spiral beginning in the centre of the earth

rising up into all of humanity through a collective consciousness we all hold in our earth – cells.

Bringing us to all of our senses.

The realization of our response-abiltiy

The choice  whether to step into that power is either

The wake up call

or the fall of all.

 

***

Awakening begins with each individual:

Taking responsibility for our own domestic waste,

our shadows, our shit- it’s compost. Work it.

Sewing the seeds.  Harvesting the fruits.

More than enough to share.

We must unhook ourselves from the myth of materialism,

decide to take care of what we have, with gratitude.

Treat each other and-our earth-resources,  with respect.

Create consciousness in all we use.

Allow Flow, through generous exchange-not hoarding and holding.

Because there is more than enough for everyone’s need.

But not for everyone’s greed.

Respect

Reduce

Reuse

Recycle

Response- able

Adapt-able

Are we going to see, hear, touch feel, intuit a new way of being, or is it going to be

Our survival -versus the extinction of millions of species?

This is a call for change.