Monthly Archives: December 2013

For 2014: Let us be Fenesteria

668Sometimes – rarely – in the hours between darkness and light, a bank of mist forms to roll across the desert, and to hide the sad ravages of the drought. The drought is always there; the mist, rarely. It’s the way of the Kalahari. It’s the way of life over here. But the mist helps when it’s there – it hides the pain.

***

As the clock works its way – laboriously, slowly, like time does – towards the new year, Boggel tries to keep the spirits up in Boggel’s Place by pouring doubles. Triples. Sometimes more. For there is a sadness about the passing of a year. And an uncertainty about the arrival of a new phase – even if it has a higher number. Bigger numbers do not necessarily imply improvement. The longer ladder falls over with greater ease, after all.

“I’m not quite sure what to expect of the new year.” Servaas echoes the sentiment in the bar. “Maybe our president will have to go. Petrol prices are rising. The Rand is slipping. We have problems in the world out there: Syria, Congo, Zimbabwe.  Oscar Pistorius and a host of politicians will appear in court. Life as we know it, my friends, is changing…for the worse.”

“Ja,” Boggel agrees, “and good old-time values are disappearing fast. What, I ask you, has happened to Love? Or compassion. Or kindness? Now it’s a free-for-all, with everybody chasing egos that should never be as big as they are, anyway.”

“Come on, you guys. It’s a new year. New Hope. A new beginning. Surely we should celebrate that?”

“Yes, Vetfaan, we could do that. Or we can stop telling ourselves how good life is. We could – if we tried – acknowledge the fact that we’re not living the dream we dreamt of.” Servaas stares morosely at his empty glass. “…It isn’t even half empty…”

“I don’t agree, Servaas.” Vetfaan swirls down the last of his beer. “Life is what you make of it. If you face the realities, dreams become possibilities.”

Even Gertruida is amazed.

***

That’s why the early morning mist is so important – especially on the 1st of January, like today. It covers the hurt of the past. It obscures the withered dreams of a year that might be best forgotten. And it feeds the few succulents that survive on the moisture in the air.

The vensterplantjie (window plant) (Fenestraria species) that allows sunlight in through its little window, and conserves its water jealously with a little wax layer, is an excellent example. And it sucks in the miniscule amounts of water the mist brings. That’s why it can grow where nothing else survives.

Gertruida compares the little plant with the human endeavour to seek love and acceptance. And we do that all the time, don’t we? We need so little, yet seek so much more. That’s why we all crave a bit of early-morning Kalahari mist.

Just to hide the incredible likeness of being.

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Rolbos: 2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 70,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Boggel’s Choice

Credit: kindredhq.com

Credit: kindredhq.com

“Life,” Gertruida says because she knows everything, “is a choice. Nothing more, nothing less.” She sits back with a superior smile, having imparted one of her great truths.

Of course, a statement like this can lead to a protracted discussion on whether everything that happens are due to individual decisions – or it may be the final say in the matter. On this new years eve, her statement is met with a stony silence.

Vetfaan isn’t in the mood for philosophy. He wants to see out the old year with a bang. Literally.

“Ja, Gertruida. Okay. So you’re clever. But let’s talk about how we’re going to announce the new year. We can’t just sit here and drink. And…we still have that stick of dynamite.”

Everybody knows about the dynamite Kleinpiet used to blast holes for the toilets on his farm. That was a long time ago, but Vetfaan probably saved a lot of lives when he insisted that the remaining stick of dynamite be handed to him for safekeeping. Kleinpiet had, after all, proven beyond doubt that he was not the world’s most experienced explosive expert.

“You. Are. Out. Of. Your. Mind.” Gertruida cannot believe what she’s just heard. “Old dynamite leaks nitroglycerine, and that is so unstable, it may explode at any time. No, Vetfaan, you should tell Sersant Dreyer to arrange for some experts to dispose of it.”

“It won’t explode without a detonator, Gertruida. I was thinking of just attaching a fuse…”

“Stop it! Don’t even talk about it any more. I won’t be part of such madness!”

***

Boggel doesn’t participate in the discussion. He’s on his cushion below the counter where Vrede snuggled up next to him. The two of them share a piece of biltong while the rest of Rolbos talk about decisions, explosions and other unimportant things.

It’s been a hard year for Boggel. The episode with Lucinda drained him; and the hope that he and Mary Mitchell would hook up once again evaporated into the thin air of reality. Oh, the townsfolk looked after him well and supported him through the troubled times, but on this, the last day of 2013, Boggel feels alone, isolated and even…abandoned. He simply cannot work up the enthusiasm to join the revelry in Boggel’s Place.

“You know, Vrede, Life may be about choices and Gertruida may be right – as usual. But what about the choices other people make? Lucinda chose Giovanni – and that left me stranded. It wasn’t my choice, was it?” Vrede watches as Boggel slices off another piece of biltong. “It’s like this bit of meat, Vrede. I can choose to give it to you, or not. You don’t get to make that decision, but my choice has a direct influence of your happiness.”

Vrede lets out a soft groan, wagging his tail slowly. His eyes are pleading. When Boggel feeds him the titbit, the tail picks up speed.

***

“You’re just like that piece of dynamite, Vetfaan.” Gertruida still can’t believe Vetfaan is so stupid. “The older you get, the more unstable you are. Anyway, have you discussed this with Fanny? What did she say?”

“No.” Vetfaan blushes slightly. “I know what she would have said…”

“Exactly! Now, as soon as she returns from the farm, the three of us will have a nice little talk about disposing that stick. You can’t have it stashed away on the farm. The twins will start walking all over the show one of these good days, and who knows what’ll happen if they find the dynamite? Come on, Vetfaan, don’t be so irresponsible!”

“Okay, the two of you!” Servaas is in a rare good mood and doesn’t want to listen to an argument all evening. “Call it quits. Vetfaan was joking…or at least I hope he was. And you’re right – as usual – Gertruida. End of discussion. Anyway, where’s Boggel? I need a refill.”

***

But Boggel isn’t serving anybody tonight. The talk about unstable dynamite made him think how dangerous some choices are – for the individual as well as for those around him – or her. It is true, he realises, that all choices have consequences. Some are predictable, some are not; but the very essence of a choice is that one has to prefer one option over other possibilities. Something seems more attractive than the rest, that’s why it gets preference.

That, he thinks, is where the danger of explosion lurks. How many choices does one make in a year’s time. Hundreds? Thousands? More…? And each one has a ripple effect on those around you. Then again: nobody can claim a 100% positive record when it comes to choices. No matter how hard you try or how good the intentions are – there will be bad decisions and the inevitable fall-out of remorse. The road to hell is paved with bad decisions taken in good faith…

***

“Hey, Boggel! Come on, man! We’re running dry up here!” Vetfaan thumps a fist on the counter. “I have to buy Gertruida a drink, otherwise she’ll never stop telling me how stupid I am.”

Boggel finally relents and serves another round.

“You’re worse than Servaas tonight, Boggel. What’s bugging you?”

“Choices, Vetfaan, choices. Look at you now: you chose to have an idea. Gertruida chose to  shoot it down. You chose to listen to her.” Boggel gets on his crate and leans his elbows on the counter. “It is an endless circle – one choice follows another in a never-ending chain of events. Every action, every thought, every word spoken or written down – they’re all choices. Some contain the danger of unstable dynamite without us even realising it. Some are of immense benefit to all. That’s what’s bugging me.”

“You’re right, Boggel. But reality is that we cannot escape the fact that we have to make choices. We cannot survive without them. In short: we live because we make choices. We choose who we love. We choose a way of life. We also choose to allow certain opinions to influence us – and then we choose how we react to that.”

Boggel is quiet for a long time, choosing to digest this before he speaks.

“Wouldn’t it be great,” he eventually says, “if people realised how important it is to choose with kindness? I mean – if everything we do and think and say is governed by the choice of kindness?”

“Ag, Boggel, wake up. We live in a small town where we are sensitive to the needs of others. You think that happens everywhere? It doesn’t. Look at politicians, governments, the media – where’s the kindness? Where’s the good news? Society has killed kindness in the choice to pursue money and power and scandal.”

“That may be true, Vetfaan. But I’ll tell you what I’m going to do in 2014. My choice is to stop taking all those negatives so seriously. In fact, I’ll stop taking myself so seriously. I’m choosing to close the door on those things that doesn’t contribute to my well-being. I choose to love those that accept me for what I am. And for the rest…I’ll be kind enough to cut them loose to find somebody else to influence.”

***

You might find the talk in Boggel’s Place somber for a day like this. In bigger places like Pofadder and Prieska you’ll find people doing silly things, drinking and telling bawdy jokes while the clock ticks its way to the new year. And maybe that is one way of looking back at 2013 and being thankful to have survived another year. Some people choose to say goodbye to the old year like that.

But in Rolbos, the talk in the bar is about 2014. No, they’re not making new resolutions everybody knows won’t happen – they’re talking about how to go about their choices in the new year.

Boggel’s choice focuses on Kindness.  He says that is the solution to everything: embrace those you love. Or you walk away from those who aren’t worth it in that fashion – you won’t feel alone, either.

Maybe that’s the only sensible choice we have…

How much pain has cracked your soul?
How much love would make you whole?’

Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy…the bigger picture.

The depict Joy, one must have an open mind. It can be so many things… j1                                Of course, it may be the happy faces of loved ones. j2                                                                   Or the happiness of giving a soft toy on Christmas eve. j3                                                           Or simply sharing the digital image on your camera with somebody who’s never had the privilege before. j4                                                                                                                               Or posing with a Masai warrior in the Serengeti. j4                                                                      Or watching San women dancing – being grateful for the little they have. j5                               But me? Give me solitude. Silence. A limp line in the water, waiting for the Big One. Time to think – and time to remember. That’s when I contemplate joy…and find beauty.                      j6Joy – I found – is in every dawn. Other people cannot discover it for you. You have to do it yourself.

Expect No Surprises in Retrospect

images (58)“2013 was a terrible year,” Servaas says as he sips his peach brandy. “We had the Valentine’s Day Murder, Nkandla, Madiba’s funeral…” Dressed in black, the old man’s expression says it all. “I don’t suppose there’ll be any good news in 2014 either.”

For once, Gertruida doesn’t scold him for being so negative. Instead, she smiles and rubs his bony shoulders.

“I know, Servaas. It was one bad headline followed by another. They had shootings in America, explosions in Kenya and now England is being flooded. It’s a world-wide thing.”

He seems slightly surprised at her support as he gives her a wintry smile.

“I think the end of the world is near. We’ve just about trashed the place, anyway.”

“The only end that’s near, is the last day of 2013.” Boggel serves another round. “Look, you guys, at the end of every given year, you can look back in despair. It’s natural. People die. Love fizzles out. Promises were broken. Life is, in those immortal words, the drink in your shot glass. You never quite know what to expect.” Smiling mischievously, he adds a dash of mampoer to each glass. “But then again, you can either go and have a sip of tap water…or accept and enjoy the mix you got served with.”

“A  goody-two-shoes optimist! I hereby declare my life complete.” Servaas rolls his eyes, snorting loudly.

“No, Boggel is right. Look at us: we’ve had such a lot of fun with our president this year. He’s given us much joy. Especially when his sign-language interpreter told the world: Watch my lips. I never, ever, used taxpayer’s money to build my swimming pool. He was much more convincing than Clinton, don’t you think?” Vetfaan reaches down to make sure his fly is closed properly.

“Ja, and he almost convinced me he had nothing to do with the Gupta debacle, either. He’s really good, that man. I’m sure he’ll be even better in the new year.” Holding out his glass for a refill, Kleinpiet burps softly. “I mean, what’s the use of having a president if you can’t believe him? So, with a little practice, I’m sure he’ll get to the point where we won’t question him any more.”

“I’ve got some bad news for you, Kleinpiet. They’re going to replace the poor man – and then we’ll have to endure the promises of a better future all over again. It’ll take months – maybe years – for the new president to become such a smooth hand with words. Political gymnastics isn’t an art you get born with, remember? It takes time…

“At least we’ve got an election coming up in 2014. Auntie Zille and Missus Ramphele are going to ruffle a few feathers, if you asked me. It’ll be an interesting year.”

“Forget it, Vetfaan. Maybe as much as 50% of our adult population rely on social grants. In 1998, only 2,5 million citizens received such grants. In 2012 the official figure grew to 16 million. I can imagine the figure is even higher now. And remember: we only have 13 million individual taxpayers. Now, no matter how unhappy the productive part of our population is, they can never hope to outvote the ANC. The math is simple: we won’t see much of a change in 2014.”

“You’re right, Gertruida.” Servaas finishes his drink. “Add to that the increasing tendency to strike for unrealistic wages, the inability to spend government’s budgets wisely and the rampant corruption, and you end up with a state in a downhill tumble.”

“I’m just popping out to get my black suit,” Vetfaan says.”If you can’t fight them, join them…:

“I’ve only got a little black number,” Precilla blushes as she sits down. “And Kleinpiet says I can only wear in in the house…with high heels, of course.”

“Yep. It’s the black number that’ll do it, every time. It’s very powerful.”

Gertruida will tell you – because she knows everything – that 2014 will see many changes in many aspects of many lives;but at the end of it, we’ll look back in the same despair. Some people will die. Some loves will fizzle out. Even more promises will be broken. And, true to the deceiving nature of human beings, we’ll then try to convince ourselves that 2015 will be better.

Just like this year.

Yeah, right.

It’s so good – The song all politicians sing before an election…

C’est si bon
Lovers say that in France
When they thrill to romance
It means that it’s so good
C’est si bon
So I say to you
Like the French people do
Because it’s oh so good
Every word, every sigh, every kiss, dear,
Leads to only one thought
And the thought is this, dear!
C’est si bon
Nothing else can replace
Just your slyest embrace
And if you only would be my own for the rest my days
I will whisper this phrase
My darling, my darling…
C’est si bon!

The Rolbos Christmas Wishes.

Kalahari Christmas Tree

Kalahari Christmas Tree

Oudoom: My wish is that everyone of you – every one – will go up to a complete stranger and wish him or her a merry Christmas. Preferably with a hug.

Gertruida: I hope you all will take a moment to reflect on all the good things that happened to you this year. Forget the politics – that’s not important. Remember a shared smile? A quiet moment? Well, those are priceless. Enjoy.

Servaas: I hate to admit it, but Life isn’t so bad. Look at the sunset tonight, or sit under the stars for a while. Count your blessings.

Kleinpiet: Ag, man, I’m not one for speeches, you know that. Just go out there, put a nice steak on some coals and open a beer. Oh, and don’t forget to clean the chimney before you go to bed tonight.

Precilla: All of us have a bit of baggage we drag along. Put it down for today – even if it’s just for one day – and feel how much lighter you feel. Come on…try it!

Vetfaan: I agree with Kleinpiet. And…if any of you has a spare carburettor for a ’76 Massey Ferguson, please tell me?

Fanny: A simple wish for all parents: tell your children how much you love them.

Boggel: May kindness be the one thing about you that people talk about after you’re gone. In the meantime, if you have to gossip, do it under the shower – alone.

Mister Stevens: Well, Sirs and Madams, I’m a bit old fashioned, as you might have noticed. I wish you a Christmas like the best one you’ve ever had – wherever and however that might have been. I wish you mistletoe and shared laughter, the comfort of knowing you are loved, and the peace of Christ. As for myself, I think I’ll ask Miss Kenton over for a nightcap. You never know…

Mevrou: I’d like us to remember all those incidental people we meet every day. The attendant at the petrol pump. The cashier in the shop. The teller in the bank. You know: those men and women you hardly notice because your life is such a bustle. Next time you see them, smile, look them in the eye and tell them you appreciate them. Then write me a letter and tell me what their reactions were. That’s my wish. Really.

Ben Bitterbrak: Harrumph. Christmas? Is it Christmas again? Well, I think I wasted my year on grumbles and complaints. Nobody listens, anyway. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I don’t listen so well either. My wish? I’d like to hear more and complain less. And don’t you dare think that I’m getting soft. No sir! Not me.

Sersant Dreyer: Love. I wish you love.

Gertruida (has too have the last word with a quote from Roy Smith): “He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” 

The Last Message


And so, a few years after his murder, Eugene Terre’Blanche’s story is available again. The previous publisher is no more and it took considerable effort by Marinda Ehlers of e-Books for Africa to reassemble and format the text from scratch.

The book was originally published in 2010, and it is alarming to see how accurately Terre’Blanche predicted the political developments is South Africa. His message is still as appropriate as ever, however.

To radical right-wing thinkers: no, this is not an apology for racism, hate-speech or inappropriate political reform. Terre’Blanche’s last message to the Afrikaner (and for the rest of the country) is quite surprising, really.

Written in Afrikaans and in his words, I think he calls us all to reflect a while, to consider our history and to plan ahead with caution. South Africa is faced with many problems and we now need cool heads more than ever before. Maybe that’s why his last message may quite well be his most important plea, ever.

Available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HGSZ4QE

 

 

 

The Pick of Rolbos – 2013

32“What a journey this year has been!” Servaas sits down with a sigh. “Love, relationships, politics, murder – you name it and it’s happened. And people talked about it, too.”

“Ja,” Gertruida says because she knows everything, “and it was interesting to see Oscar Pistorius topped the list of the most-read topics. The tragedy of fame was, in the end, the winner. That discussion beat Obama’s speech on telling our president he’s no longer a favoured friend by more than 2000 reads.”

“Those were serious topics, that’s for sure. But I found it strange that The Fable of the Lion and the Porcupine was so popular. I mean, it’s only a fairytale, isn’t it?  But then the series of the psychological rape of Katie Malone also caught the fancy of many readers.” Oudoom sits back, happy that his Mandela sermon was so well received. “The other series also entertained a lot of people. The Bullet, The Wake, and Bianca’s story kept people coming back to read the rest.”

“Oh, yes! I remember Gertruida’s Journey, Operation Roar (PG 13), and Cathy’s Eyes, to name only a few. But I liked The Thing about Love the best, if I have to add my two cent’s worth.” Fanny, ever the romantic, hugs Vetfaan before continuing: ” You liked the story of the Midman, didn’t you, Fanie?”

He nods, smiling. “I did. But what about Boggel’s Moon, Mrs Basson’s Whisper, and Fanny’s Surprise?”

“The list goes on and on, guys. But…now there’s enough material for a book. I hear the Afrikaans version is due for publication in 2014. It’ll be interesting to see what people make of it.”

“Gertruida, isn’t there a Christmas story we can leave the readers with? Something nice?”

“Well, there’s the story of the Christmas Cow, isn’t there? I love that story”

***

And so we come to the end of another year. The little town of Rolbos will celebrate Christmas by remembering the blessings of the past and with the steadfast hope that 2014 will be even better. They’ll attend Oudoom’s Christmas service solemnly before retiring to Boggel’s Place to reflect, to chat, and to hatch some strange and silly plans for the new year.

As the scribe who pens down the antics of the townsfolk, I seldom address my readers directly – but this is an exception: May you and yours have a wonderful Christmas, wherever you are in the 140 countries that visited this blog during 2013. My hope (more than that: my prayer) is that your journey with Rolbos contributed to a few smiles. I’d like to believe that the spirit of Rolbos is alive and well, and that people from all over the globe will embrace the message of love, forgiveness and kindness.

And no, in Rolbos we don’t say Happy Holidays or something stupid like that. Here we still hug each other before standing back, looking each other in the eye, and – blinking away a honest tear – telling our loved ones: Merry Christmas! May we never forget what this day means and may you all appreciate – all over again – the most precious gift of all: Love.

On Days Like These (# 4)

Queen Victoria and John Brown. Artist: Sir Edwin Landseer.

Queen Victoria and John Brown. Artist: Sir Edwin Landseer.

Boggel takes his position behind the counter. Nobody says anything about his ruffled and red-eyed look. Instead, they’re talking about the drought and the way the dams are drying up. The only one who seems comfortable under these depressing circumstances, is Servaas. He always thrives on misery.

“It’s not going to be a happy Christmas this year,” Precilla whispers in Fanny’s ear. “Boggel just isn’t himself at all. Gertruida’s talk helped, but he needs lots of time to reflect, think and then plan ahead.”

Vetfaan can’t take the gloomy atmosphere any more.

“Gertruida! Last year you told us the story of Silent Night. Remember? About that priest in Austria. Or was it Australia? I remember you saying he was a bastard.”

“Not bastard like that, Vetfaan. But yes…there once was a lonely priest…”

She tells the story with flair, making them laugh and cry and get that Christmassy look we all get when we sing Auld lang Syne. .

“But that’s the story, you guys. It tells us how we must never lose hope, never think things we have done were useless. Sometimes it can take centuries for the reason why something happened, to become clear.”

“Much too philosophical for me.” Vetfaan leans back against the counter. “‘T’s the time to be jolly, but this feels more like a wake than a celebration. Maybe we should get that stripper from Pofadder to liven things up a little.” He ignores the disapproving stare from Oudoom and the stern finger Fanny shakes at him.

“If I may, sir?” Mister Stevens and Miss Kenton have been sitting quietly at the table next to the window. Butlers never join the revelry of their employers and always maintain a respectful distance. Now, however, he finds it necessary to contribute his opinion.

“Of course, Mister Stevens.” Gertruida has grown to respect the aloof man with his outlandish way of dressing. Imagine wearing a coat – and socks! – in the Kalahari! Only mad dogs and Englishmen…

“I’m reminded of our late queen, Victoria. She ruled for 63 years, remember? Passed away – may her soul rest in peace – in 1901. But 40 years before that, Prince Albert died. You see, Prince Albert was the love of her life – the man she adored. Oh, before Albert, there were many suitors who tried to win her heart, but once she fell for Albert, that was it. They were married when she was 21, had nine children and shared the many responsibilities resting on the shoulders of the Queen.

“But, at the age of only 42, Albert passed away. Died of some stomach ailment which was diagnosed as Typhoid at the time, but most probably it was some sort of cancer. And then, for the next four decades, Victoria wore black. Her love had turned to grief; and she never allowed herself to forget what Albert had meant to her. Black, you see, was her way of expressing her loyalty to the memories she treasured so much”

Mister Stevens falls silent, staring at his manicured hands.

“That’s extremely sad, Mister Stevens. Why did you mention this bit of history?” Fanny arches her eyebrows, not sure where the butler is leading them.

“Oh. Well, you see, Madam, I think Victoria was a good queen. She rule Britannia, was instrumental in abolishing slavery and expanded the Empire…”

“She was a very good queen,” Kleinpiet interjects, “when she lost the First Boer War.”

John_Brown_(_Queen_Victorias's_servant)Mister Stevens appears to be unruffled as he continues. “But you see, there is more to life than just doing your job and grieving about lost love.”

He pauses a moment, apparently weighing his words carefully.

“I often wonder about Victoria’s household. I seem to recall the name John Brown, her personal servant.

“Now, there was a butler! And he served his queen with all his heart. For 20 years after Albert’s death, he became a servant, a companion, a friend. When he died, Victoria likened the sadness of his passing with the emotion she felt with Albert’s loss. And, I’ll tell you, when Victoria was buried, it was his ring and a lock of his hair that were placed in her coffin.”

Servaas, who has always been a reluctant admirer of Victoria (such a strong woman, but the Second Boer War…) cannot believe his ears.

“What, old Vicky was served hand and foot and the rest of it, by a man of low standing?”

“We’ll never know, sir. There were rumours of a secret wedding… But, that isn’t the point here, is it?” He turns to the bar to address Boggel. “Mister Boggel, I’m reminded of this bit of history to confirm a single fact: it is okay to love. Love asks not who you are and what your standing is. Love marches in where logic hesitates to knock. Love exists only to contribute to one another, never to destroy.

“Queen Victoria was well aware of the gossip behind her back, but she had the last laugh. Let them talk, but I’ll be buried with mementos of the man who cared for me. Take that, you cynical hounds!.” Mister Stevens punches a fist in the air but immediately whips down his arm – as if embarrassed by his display of emotion. “So, Mister Boggel, love only hurts when it is not acknowledged, that’s all I’m saying.”

“So, how exactly does this help Boggel?” Vetfaan doesn’t understand.

“Mister Stevens just reminded us of one of the great secrets in life, Vetfaan. We grieve in loss. We rejoice in love. It’s up to each one of us to decide which is the more important.” Gertruida gets up and uses her lecture-tone again. “Queen Victoria wore black to indicate her loss, but she celebrated the loves of her life by holding on to the memories of love, And maybe that is what love should be: remembering the important stuff. We may hope for the future, but we don’t live there…but we can remember the past as part of every breath that we take today.”

Precilla nods as she hugs Kleinpiet. “So…even if you’ve loved and lost, it’s better than never having loved at all?”

“Exactly, Precilla. People tend to expect love to keep them happy in the future, but that is an anomaly. How can tomorrow’s unborn moments keep you happy today? But…if you look back and remember the joy, the beauty; then today becomes the mirror of who you’ve become. It’s simple, really: if love – in any form – contributed to your life, it is stupid to be sad about the passion you once felt. It’s there to admire and to cherish.”

Boggel serves another round, a slow smile hesitating on his lips.

“What was that about the stripper again?”

Vetfaan bursts out laughing.

“Boggel is back, you guys! Cheers!!”

***

lesleyBut it’s never as easy as that, is it? Mary Mitchell will be part of Boggel’s existence for the rest of his life. At times he’ll smile when he thinks back; at others, he’ll retire to his little room behind Boggel’s Place to reflect and feel lonely. That’s when he’ll curl up with Sandy to tell the little bear about the stern old woman: the untouchable, severe queen of a great empire; who insisted on being buried with the memories of such a special love.

And then, with a sad smile, he finds it comforting that he isn’t the only one who finds Love to be a thorny rose: beautiful to look at, painful to hold on to, fleeting in life, enduring in passion.

At least, he realises, the memory of love may very well be the most precious gift of all; a treasure of the heart and the mind, that doesn’t even die when the coffin containing the lock of hair is lowered into the grave.

And, because Boggel belongs to the select and exclusive group of people who understands this, Sandy will just have to do until he discovers somebody he can tell this to.

On Days Like These (# 3)

man-on-the-bench-at-sunset-4211Boggel is painfully aware of the faces behind the chintz curtain in the bar, staring at him while he sips his beer.He realises that they must have guessed what the letter said – maybe not exactly, but at least the gist of it – and now they’re unsure about how to approach him. Truth be told…he doesn’t quite know how to react himself.

There can be no doubt that Mary Mitchell had been the one. The love of his life. The friend, the mate, the confidante. the sounding board, the comforter. And yes, life took them in different directions; and sure, nothing ever works out the way men and women hope. It is true, he thinks, that the biggest cause of disappointment is found in the fact that we hope too much. We dream too big.

But somehow, that thought contains only the minutest amount of consolation. In fact, it brings no relief at all. Life, after all, is about hoping. Dreaming. Anticipating. Without some expectation of a better future, it may well be worthless to go on. Now, realising Mary will never be part of his future, he is suddenly aware of a tremendous feeling of loss.

Then again: does he not grant her happiness, freedom? Has it not always his quest to want to see the beauty inside her blossom? And does he not grant her joy…and hope?

Boggel rubs his eyes – hard, until little spots of light make him stop. A life without Mary in the background? Laughing, troubled, mischievous, uncertain Mary, the one he thought would one day be at his side? Even if they spent so little time together, the mere knowledge that he may hope to be with her one day had always been such a comfort…such a beautiful hope.

He opens his eyes to see Gertruida standing in front of him.

“Mind if I sit down?”

He nods.

The two of them watch the dove walking around in little circles, like and old man pondering the mysteries of the universe.

“He seems lost,” Gertruida says, not only referring to the dove, “doesn’t he?” She glances over at Boggel, who stares at the dove.

“Maybe we all are. Maybe there is a randomness about life we’ll never understand.” She sighs. The dove has stopped walking, and now watches them with its head turned to the side. “You know Boggel, I’m not sure what that letter says, but I think it’s good news.”

This time it’s Boggel’s turn to stare at Gertruida.

“Yes, seriously. You’ve been hanging on to a dream for years and years now, hoping that you and Mary will hook up somehow. And I watched you, Boggel. Saw the longing in your eyes. Heard the way you spoke about her.

Dreams are good friends when you’re lonely. Remember the song? Well, they are. And now, during the Christmas season, millions of lonely people dream about a happier new year. They hope. They pray. And many, many of them will approach Christmas 2014 with the same prayers, because the year didn’t deliver.

“But not you, Boggel Next year will be better for you.”

Boggel shakes his head. Better? Come on Gertruida…

“I’ll tell you why. As long as you cling to a dream – no matter how unlikely that hope might be – you remain prisoner to that dream. You arrange your life around that dream and in the end it closes more doors than it opens windows. But…if the dream is shattered, it sets you free to dream anew.”

The dove makes a few flapping motions with its wings, decides to hang around some more, and resumes its pacing.

“Oh, I know, Boggel! It’s so bloody painful. Dashed hope and broken dreams bleed a lot. They make one hell of a mess in our minds. I remember when Ferdinand disappeared…I was a zombie for months on end. But then…then I accepted. I cried a lot. Protested against the unfairness of it all. Even fought with God for a while. But in the end, I accepted.

“You see, Boggel, we tend to look at other people to make us happy. We say silly things like: that person completes me. Harrumph! As if God made incomplete people!

“No, it doesn’t work like that. We discover our completeness through trial, error, pain and hardship. We simply grow through disappointment and loss to the point where we are forced to look at ourselves in the mirror. And then, only then, we are forced to answer a very important question: am I here to be a sponge for other people’s caring, or was I put on earth to be a source of love for others?”

Boggel stares at his shoes, saying nothing. Everything Gertruida says is true, of course. But…being cared for and being loved…those things did fill a void, didn’t it? He just feels so…empty…

“We are the creators of our own needs, Boggel,” Gertruida says because she has an uncanny ability to read minds – or guess the thoughts swirling about in other people’s brains. “We tell ourselves we need this, want that. And it’s not wrong to do so either. But then we become dependent on those desires, building our lives around them.

“For some people it becomes a way of life, and some couples become happily interdependent. That’s not a bad thing, either. But we should never look at other people to be the source of our happiness. Happiness and joy starts here.” She taps her chest, causing the dove to fly a few yards off.

“So you’ll have a better year, next year, Boggel. You’ll sweep up the splinters of your dream, clean up your house. You’ll sit down to accept this dream is gone, and you’ll have to do a retake of your hopes and expectations. The pain will dull a little after a while. And, although you’ll still think of her, you’ll move on. Glance back if you like, but if you want to find a route to the future, you’ll have to look ahead more often than backwards..”

Boggel doesn’t say anything. He can’t. The lump in his throat is too big to allow words to sneak past.

“And you have us, Boggel. One should not work through a loss such as this without a bit of loving care from people around you. And we care. You know that.”

The dove stretches its wings, flaps once or twice, and then takes off effortlessly.

“Um,” Boggel says to say he understands.