It’s the first Monday of a new Month of a new Year! 2022. I love the number TWO. It’s even, balanced, symmetrical and all of them here together add up to six and six is the number of people in family so that feels kinda good to me! Does it feel good to you? I truly hope so. At least a little better than the wholly unpredictable pandemic period of 2020 and 2021 which still hangs about the world.
To be truthful, I had the weirdest premonition on the eve of 2020. I really did. I was sitting alone at first light on a balcony overlooking a peaceful stretch of water that morning of 1 January, and yet my overriding sensation was one of overwhelm. Chaos, overconsumption, overpopulation, and too much plastic – not only in the ocean and on beaches but everywhere: in people’s perceptions, in their conversations. Just too much of everything. It was uncomfortable and scary. It felt foreboding. And then it happened: an invisible virus took hold, and we are now still masked and sanitized but the domino effect will surely still be felt for years to come.
But those two years have now passed and despite so much loss, sadness, change, increased poverty and a general awakening of new ways of being, my personal journey was satisfying in many ways. Despite some challenging and changing circumstances (always viewed as material for a new book- one never knows?!) 2020 and 2021 were kind to me: an extension of my circles of interest in the world of art and literature and law and the meeting of so many new and fascinating people in the process of publishing another book.
Through all of this, apart from my immediate close family of us six, the constant anchor in my life are my parents. Each dawn that I wake, I wonder how they’ll be today. Dad is stoic and philosophical about life in this his 90th year (come September 2022) but he is tired and frail and my body is ‘kaput’ as he says. Mum too has a series of things to contend with. Oh golly, this age thing is not for … (please don’t say cissies! It’s such a cliché!)
Of the many books I read over the last few months ( perhaps, ‘bought’ may be more truthful or at least ‘partly read’ because I have complete and utter FOMO about MOST things and no sooner than I start one book, I go straight to GBAS – Good Book Appreciation Society on FB – to see if there’s anything I need to read first and thus find myself reading 10 books at a time – shoo this was a long digression!), one I did start reading was Joan Didion’s A year of Magical Thinking. It’s not with me now because after I dipped into it and loved it, I wasn’t in the mood to read it since I didn’t feel the immediate need to prepare for grieving and left it at home for the holiday. But I’m kind of gearing up for this in a way- hence my purchase.
And then Joan Didion died.
We will never know when our moment of grief will begin.
But here’s one of my piles of books I brought while on a ‘home sabbatical’ for 3 months.
However, one of the books I managed to get and read to the end in a few short sittings (while on holiday with large family and two dogs and moving around a bit and sometimes in a boat) is a novel by Daisy Jones and Lucinda Hooley – entitled LOVE YOU MADLY.
And it was not only that I had once met Daisy and felt an utter flutter of kinship for whatever reason, but because I thought it would be a fun, easy, comfort kind of read. The cover alone is appealing.
So, before I get too dramatic about the end of life and how to cope (since I really have no idea though I have been googling /reading /distracted by SOOO many things since starting this blog earlier this morning- see the bullet list of some of the distractions/links you might find useful below), it’s probably best to get back to the book.
Books are so much about timing, I believe. But also, about experiences you’ve had yourself or thoughts you hold or perhaps as Alan Bennett put it so much more eloquently than I could (via a post by Susan Cain who is ALSO coming out with a new book soon – Bittersweet- How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole- can’t wait – see link below too)
‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you…’
Love you Madly is a novel about the two Ashford sisters – Marigold (Mare) and Amelia (Mielie) – set in the late 1990’s in Cape Town- and deals with the fates and fortunes of these two young women who are trying to find love (and themselves) having left the family home after the death of their father. These are the two main characters – who are lovely and a little flawed and sometimes so familiar – but there are a host of secondary characters who are equally endearing and maddening at times. Most of the events and thoughts and dialogue takes place through a sequence of letters as Mare moves to Johannesburg to start a new life and Mielie moves to London.
The story flows easily and moves fast and I turned the pages eagerly to find out if Edward would follow Mielie to London and Will would be brave enough to follow through on his true feelings for Mare.
There are several reasons I loved reading this. Perhaps the first is the relatable settings of Cape Town and Johannesburg (trolling late night spots in Rockey Street, Yeoville and the memories of city streets like Pritchard and Sauer Streets) and bits of London but I suspect, for me at least, it was also about the issues of love at that age. Oh, do I remember my early 20’s arriving in London and wondering if the man there was really meant for me or the one back in Johannesburg (turns out it was the one in Cape Town right under my nose all along!) And there was also an Australian (not a Damian but a Matt) and a suspicious silly ‘Kristal like’ girl.
But I suspect it was also my resonance with many of the beautiful expressions of thoughts (laundry, children, and the inevitable why? of life) and habit of ending off their letters with words of songs or book titles. I marked the pages to return to some of them.
‘Laundry, anywhere, always looks like hope to her somehow- it suggests continuity, stability, confidence in the fact that there’ll be another day.’
‘It struck me, while walking, that it’s so easy to forget what being a child feels like.’
The reference to songs and song titles and books like Lyndall Gordon’s Shared Lives, which Mare liked because “it’s South African and about ordinary women and their ordinary lives. Not men’s adventures On the Road or Into the Heart of Darkness.
And finally: “Meanwhile, there’s only circumstance: what happens when, where, and to whom. The why remains a mystery.
Love you madly was the joyful holiday read and the perfect way to end off 2021.
To end off my first 2022 blog properly though (it has taken me hours to do this damn blog and its already Tuesday now!) it feels important to find a WORD, or perhaps a THEME to guide my days. For me at least, it feels more meaningful that way.
While I struggled to list any substantial resolutions on Sat 1st Jan when I ought to have, I did happen upon one of the those silly select the first four words you see and those are your words for 2022 posts on FB and since four seems too many, I sought solace from Gretchen Ryan (she of the bestselling Happiness Project) who suggests one theme. (She also suggested 22 things for 2022 which proved tricky for me all in one go though I am now on number 15 – do you do this type of thing?)
So, the four I first saw were:
change, connection, lessons, and gratitude
and for no specific reason, I feel that GRATITUDE is one I really can grab onto and apply more than once a day. Well, that’s the plan at least!
(We chatted about New Year’s resolutions briefly last night and my husband’s cynical stance of ‘ag, resolutions are a complete waste of time and never last more than a day’ is resounding now but at least he never reads my blog!)
So, while you reflect on what you would like to change or connect with or whatever your resolutions were – or weren’t – here’s some useful links to the things I became distracted with while writing this.
With love ’til next time,
And my wish for 2022 is simply the BEST to all of you!
• The weekly Margilian newsletter which is one of THE most fantastic sources of literature on so many topics of art, literature and philosophy which reminded me to works of Hannah Arendt on Love and How to cope with the fundamental fear of loss
• And then also to the Martha Nussbaum
whose works were very much part of the Jurisprudence course in Ethics I assisted with marking papers for Wits Law School 2021 and who is prolific on all SORTS of matters and whose course I am (partly) considering doing online ( I find her inspirational!) and whose book Anger and Forgiveness is on one of my OTHER book piles (FOMO out of control now. You get the picture)
• The Book Lounge:
The best independent book shop in Cape Town who immediately replied to me when I asked if they could please order Upheavals of Thought (Nussbaum) IMMEDIATELY (patience now number 16 on list of things to do for 2022)
• Gretchen Rubin
• Susan Cain and her new book: Bittersweet