Operation Oysterhood: 31 December

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

My orchids. Rachel gave me hers, hoping I could save it. Karen and Gerhard brought one when André passed away. Tracey gave me another as a gift. I inherited one from Emma when she emigrated. The one that has refused to bloom all these years but is now finally about to flower came from Rahla. And the little one is from Gustav and Family. The orchids live in my bathroom and mystify me. I haven’t inherited my green-fingered Mom’s gift; growing things usually defies me. My garden is a wild jungle that thrives without my interference.

I water the orchids once a week in summer and once a fortnight in winter. Otherwise, I just let them be. And when they are ready to share it, I simply marvel at their outrageous beauty.

Like my orchids, I am extremely patient. Rahla’s is about to bloom for the first time in six years. I can’t wait to see what colour the flowers will be. Emma’s arrived without most of its roots. I put it in a new pot, supported by small poles, so that it could remain upright. In a few weeks’ time, I will remove the poles. New roots have grown nearly strong enough to be able to support the plant. I also wonder what colour its flowers will be – one day. The little one is growing a new leaf since its arrival. One tiny step at a time.

Luckily, by now, Rachel’s and Tracey’s flower regularly in all their glory.

The grief orchid always reminds me of the kindness that sustained me through the most devastating time of my life.

I grew up with the superstition that the last day of the year will prophesy the year ahead. I spent the last day of 2019 next to my love on a flight from Vienna to Cape Town, reading the latest novel by Sarah Lotz. We arrived home just before midnight, showered, opened a small bottle of Austrian bubbly to celebrate the new year and slept a deep, content sleep of satisfied travellers with stories to tell.

Whenever I fly, I cannot help myself, I still think of death. It is nearly six years now since André passed away next to me on a plane flying over Brazzaville. I have flashbacks to that flight whenever I board a plane. Fortunately, they are no longer followed by panic attacks or bouts of despair. Time and love can heal one.

Despite the pandemic and lockdown, my love and I travelled a lot this year, mostly in the Western Cape, but also to Botswana, making the most amazing memories and celebrating our fourth anniversary of being together during one of these trips. And we met at a time when I had no leaves, no roots and thought I would never be able to blossom again …

Reading and working with authors I love saved my sanity this year, giving me a purpose when everything else seemed nearly meaningless in the face of what we were facing.

I spent a lot of time thinking about death this year. But I am landing safely again at the end of this rough journey. I am still healthy. Thanks to the love and support of my family, my love and my friends, I have survived.

Another new year eve’s superstition I grew up with: never leave any dirty laundry for the new year.

Today was a day of being with loved ones, of care and gentleness. I walked with a friend who needed company. I tied up a few loose admin and work ends. My love and I walked together and had a braai for two and shared a little bit of delicious wine before it was time for him to head home because of the curfew. I raised a glass of bubbly on Skype with Mom and Krystian. I am now ready for bed.

My laundry basket is empty. My heart is full despite the sorrow it has endured …

Best books of 2020?

For me, the ones I have had the privilege of publishing: Karavan Press

New year’s resolutions:

1) Keep healthy.

2) Publish more beautiful Karavan Press books.

3) Finish my own next book.

Life is like taking care of orchids. You never know what the one who arrives on your doorstep will need. You will have to be patient and kind. Sometimes you will have to let them just be. They might have to grow new roots and leaves or rest for a long time until they are ready to open up to the world again. But when the time comes, they will reward you with their astounding beauty. It only takes water and time. And hope. And love. Those everyday miracles.

It also helps to wash one’s dirty laundry before embarking on a new beginning.

Healthy and happy 2021!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”


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