Category Archives: memorial

Gertruida’s Fish-in-a-Bottle Analogy

images (2).jpg“You see, in the beginning everything is small  – but that tends to change as time goes on.” Gertruida smiles at her little audience in Boggel’s Place. After their protest march on Friday, they have decided not to talk about politicians for a while – but now it’s Monday and it’s time to take stock of recent events.

“Are you talking about babies, relationships or lies, Gertruida?” Servaas brushes his bushy brows flat with a drop of beer. “Nothing new there, I’m afraid.”

“Actually – yes and no. What I’m really referring to, is the fish-in-a-bottle analogy.” Her smile widens as she enjoys the blanks stares she gets. “It’s simple, really.”

***

One day, a man noted a number of small fish in the pond near his house. They were exceptionally beautiful and exhibited all the colours of the rainbow.

“I want those fish,” he said and strolled off to find a net somewhere.

“Haven’t seen a net for ages,” his friend said when asked. “It’s not something we do. Anyway, some of those fishes are quite poisonous, I’m told. Best to leave them alone.”

But the man was determined and made up his own net with bits of string. Then he thought about a container to keep the little fishes in and once again his friend advised against it.

“If you keep fish in a container, they will need to be fed. And you’ll have to clean the thing every now and then – fish swim around in their own poo, you know?”

images (3).jpgStill, the man ignored the advice. The only container he found, was an old wine bottle – the type with little handles at the neck. It was also a very precious bottle, something that had been in the family for some time. This, the man thought, would be a great container for the fish.They’d have plenty of room to swim around in and the clear glass would display their colours beautifully to anybody who cared to look. And who cared if the fish were poisonous – they’d be safe behind the glass. Anyway, they were to be looked at, not handled or eaten.

The man started catching the fish with his net. It was slow going at first, but he soon got the hang of it and he quickly filled up the bottle with a small school of lively fish bodied. Their colours were even more remarkable inside the glass container, causing the man to puff out his chest in pride.

“Nobody in the whole, wide world has fish as beautiful as mine,” he boasted. He’d spend countless hours admiring his fish, feeding them and watching them grow.

And grow…

And grow.

In time, the fish became so big that he wanted to put them into a larger container, but there was a problem. By then the fish had grown so big that he couldn’t get then out of the bottle any longer. The neck of the bottle had been large enough when the fish were small, but now – having been fed well and grown to a considerable size – the fish could no longer negotiate their way out of the bottle.

“My fish have grown too much!” The man wailed. “They are now trapped inside my bottle. Even if I wanted to, I can no longer set them free or return them to the pond.”

And still the fish grew and grew and eventually became so big that they no longer could swim in the bottle. They just hung there, suspended in water, eating all day while their scales slowly lost their lustre.

“Oh, how ugly and fat have my beauties become! I used to be so proud of them, but now they’ve become bloated and fat and lazy – and I cannot get rid of them.” The man wept as he tried to imagine what the fish looked like before.

“You have to break the bottle,” the man’s friend suggested.”Set them free in the pond and get rid of them.”

“But my bottle! It’s such a precious bottle! I belonged to my father, and his father before him. If I break the bottle, I’b be betraying their trust and disrespect their memory.”

“And if you don’t, the fish will die in that bottle and you’ll have to wait for everything to rot away before you’ll be able to get them out – piece by piece. Either way, the bottle is doomed. Either way, the fish get out. Your choice.”

The man didn’t know what to do. In the end the fish died, they rotted away and the bottle stank to high heaven for many years afterwards.

And the man had no choice. He discarded the bottle – which nobody wanted any more – and regretted the day he first thought of catching the beautiful little fish in the pond near his house.

***

“Oh, I get it.” Vetfaan’s face lights up with excitement. “You’re talking about the cows coming home. The chickens return to the roost. And being hoist by your own petard?”

“Exactly. The ANC tried to restrict the havoc Zuma caused by closing ranks and proclaiming their unyielding support for the president. Well, a while ago this might have worked and they could have gotten away with it. But now the elephant in the room has grown too big to ignore. The fish is now too big for the bottle. The only way ahead is now to break the bottle and set Zuma free to face the music, or to remain steadfast in their support and die with him inside the bottle. Either way, the ANC is causing terrible damage to the party’s image. The darling of world politics have become the skunk.”

“You mean a junk-skunk?” Vetfaan manages a lopsided grin.

“Just so, Vetfaan, just so.” Gertruida doesn’t return the smile.

Advertisements

And Now The Crickets Hesitate

1411561144285.cached.jpg

“No drinks today, guys. Today we’ll spend quietly, remembering a great man and one of the world’s foremost poets. We’ll listen to music and wonder about his words. And then we’ll go home, thinking we might – just might – be a little wiser.” Boggel speaks slowly while he rubs the glass rings from the counter. The news of Cohen’s death shocked him: he has always admired the words and music of the remarkable musician, writer and poet.

“Yes. He had a way of looking at life in a completely unique way – yet made it sound so…ordinary. As if we should all have seen it his way right from the start.” Gertruida sighs and then recites:

‘I met a girl and a poet.
One of them was dead
and one of them was alive.
The poet was from Peru
and the girl was a doctor.
She was taking antibiotics.
I will never forget her.’

“Welll…” Precilla hesitates, blushing at the thought. “I thought some of his poems were rather sexy. Even raunchy. I would have loved to have met him as a young man…”

‘There is no flesh so perfect
As on my lady’s bone,
And yet it seems so distant
When I am all alone:

As though she were a masterpiece
In some castled town,
That pilgrims come to visit
And priests to copy down.’

“Oh, that song ‘Suzanne’!” Vetfaan smiles sadly. “When I was much younger, it swept me along in his fantasy.”

‘And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.’

“I like his recent work more.” Boggel gets out the keys to lock up the doors. In the background, a CD emphasises his statement:

‘There’s a lover in the story
But the story’s still the same
There’s a lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame.’

The key turns; the ancient lock crunching closed over the accumulated dust. All that remains in Boggel’s Place today, is the echo of Cohen’s words:

‘Silence

and a deeper silence

when the crickets

hesitate’

A Rolbos Greeting for a very Special Lady. (And no, it isn’t a farewell…)

17ecb80

Reinet Nagtegaal

The problem was – quite obviously – that we had known it would happen. It had to. She had been ill for some time and all the signs were there. But still, it is the holiday season and Christmas is only a few days away. Some of the family hoped for just one more Christmas together, others were kind enough to wish that release would come soon.

The reason for these diverging wishes isn’t hard to determine: she was much loved, respected…even revered. During her lifetime she had achieved many goals, met thousands and thousands of people, loved her husband and cherished her children. And everybody – without exception – adored the way she drew them into her world. A fiercely independent thinker, she had been blessed with many gifts, amongst which her compassion and sense of humour stand out as beacons for her family and friends to follow in the years to come.

But there had been something else that made her unique: despite the serious nature of her professional career, she never lost the fun-loving imaginary world she had created for herself and those close to her. She crafted upside-down worlds for her children and made them marvel at the wonders of the universe – which she didn’t hesitate to populate with amazing characters.

Author, artist, academic, connoisseur of wine and expert on many other subjects, she loved being the perfect hostess – making each and every guest feel that she was there just for him or her.

And that is why her memorial service was maybe the most memorable of all the events she ever attended.

Attended?

After passing away quietly four days previously?

Of course! In her world everything was possible. Every problem had a solution and every obstacle had a way around. Wasn’t that what she always said? Her world – her universe – didn’t have to obey the laws we take for granted. She looked – no, she lived – beyond the known margins we accept as physical or mental horizons.

Photo: Carien Loubser

Photo: Carien Loubser

And that’s why I sat there, listening to her brother and children telling the stories of her special life, and realised I have to rethink the concept of death. You see…I felt her presence. Somehow, when the wind fluttered the yellow streamers attached to the branches of the trees forming a canopy over the gathered people, I saw her smile.

Yes, she said, champagne! Snacks! Music! Lively conversation! Laughter!

And so it was – just the way the perfect hostess would have done it. A sunny day, a beautiful garden, a delightful gathering of people – everybody swapping memories and stories. Oh, there were tears and the occasional wobbly smile, but everyone who attended felt that she was there, especially for each of them.

So, sadly, we can’t wish her to rest in peace. With that overused and hollow cliche, we greet the departed to go on with our lives. But not with her. She may be at peace, but she won’t rest. The way she became part of our lives, demands that her gifts of laughter, joy and beauty be nurtured in the lives of those she touched. She will be there in our future days, answering questions we have no answers for, She’ll encourage, soothe, be the beacon. And she’ll remind us not to take ourselves so seriously – this life is far too much fun to spoil it by worrying about trivial matters. Her knowing smile will be the rich reward when we discover she had been right all along: that our apparently insurmountable mountains are, in fact, only mere molehills.

That, after all, is what is meant when we say somebody enriched our lives. Such a person didn’t do what we’ve come to accept as the norm in society: to grab, to take, to see what to skim off the top  for ourselves. No, to enrich a life, you have to give selflessly. You have to take a humble step backward and empower somebody else to achieve the seemingly impossible. It is, in a nutshell, her enduring legacy.

mcgregor-header-newI left the memorial service in the picturesque town of McGregor – situated amongst the most beautiful mountains of southern Africa – with some sadness and much joy. Sadness, because there is so much I still wanted to talk to her about; but joy, knowing her voice hasn’t been silenced.

Lets listen to a wonderful bit of music she loved so much. During the service, Karen Zoid delivered an unforgettable rendition of the song. While listening to the words, one glimpses – once again – the magic of Reinet Crause-Nagtegaal; the woman who doesn’t have to be around to grace us with her presence.