Operation Oysterhood: New Year’s Eve – 1 January 2022

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

— @HaggardHawks

It felt necessary, but until I faced the Arch’s humble coffin, I did not know exactly why. We stood in the queue for a long time. Apparently, the Arch’s family arrived when I was about two hundred meters from the cathedral’s entrance and a private, short service was held for them, the bells ringing, the sun baking us in the early afternoon’s sun. Twenty minutes, they told us, but in the end, the cathedral was closed to the public for nearly an hour, and I almost gave up. I am glad I persevered though.

The loss – actual and potential; personal and global; private and professional – of the last two years has been staggering, relentless, at times nearly unbearable. And for most of the time, our rituals of mourning have been brutally disrupted.

To stand all alone, even if only for a few seconds, in front of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu’s coffin with my hand on my heart and whispers of gratitude passing my lips in the solemn cathedral was a necessary ritual of mourning. I went home with tears in my eyes, but my heart felt lighter. To be able to say goodbye in person, with hundreds of others, at a time when we have so often been left all alone in our grief, felt like a gift. Even in death, this good man’s generosity gave me comfort. It was one of the last gifts of a truly difficult year.

The other gifts were waiting two hundred kilometres away, in a place near the sea, where the late afternoon’s golden light and a bottle of golden bubbles and, most importantly, the golden hearts of my love and our dear friends welcomed me after a beautiful drive. Before going over to the cathedral, I stopped at the Book Lounge and got a gorgeous book for my love. On my way to our friends’ wine farm, I stopped at Liberty Books and wished Christy and Cleopatra a happy new year. In my family, we have all kind of new year’s eve superstitions. Visits to two of my favourite bookshops on the last day of the year felt like a good omen for the coming year. I also did all my washing – no leaving of dirty laundry for the new year!

Our new year’s feast was accompanied by the most divine wines and a sense of gentle relief. Last year has asked the impossible of our friends – they experienced loss beyond words – but they also lived through miracles. At the end of it all, we were still here, together, sharing good food and drink and friendship. So grateful for what could be celebrated.

We did not wait for midnight and went to bed just after dinner. I phoned my Mom and Krystian just before falling asleep and exchanged one greeting with an old friend. I slept soundly and woke up to the sight of a beloved man next to me and the sound of rain on the roof. Blessings. Outside, the grapes were looking healthier than ever before and the new, beautiful wine cellar stood waiting with its soft light for the first harvest. I read, we had coffee, snoozed some more, and eventually got up to welcome the new year with smiles, greetings and a royal breakfast.

I drove home with a lot of love in my heart. And here, my darling Salieri was waiting. It is her fifteenth birthday today and she has had a good day. She ate well and we cuddled a lot. That she can celebrate another birthday after everything she’d had to endure last year is the first gift of this year. What else will 2022 bring? Belinda Mountain tweeted about respair today: ‘fresh hope; a recovery from despair’.

I wish us all heath, kindness and respair in 2022!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please. Live.

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

— NICD

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