My parents told me stories that still echo in my heart today. Like the one where Dad rowed right through a rainbow in a tiny boat, or when Mum dived to the bottom of the ocean without ever leaving her attic bedroom. By the age of eight, my best buddy had already won every ice skating accolade the world could offer and I’d danced the lead in Swan Lake with the Royal Ballet.
And then there are the stories you don’t even know you’ve written. A few months after my mother died, a doctor friend told me something Mum never got to know. During a consultation, a patient recognised the GP as the person who’d played the organ at my mother’s funeral service. “I hadn’t seen her since we were at school,” he said, “but when I read about her service in the newspaper, I had to go. She was a few years older than me and one day, some older boys were bullying me in the playground. She came and chased them off. I’ve never forgotten that.”
The stories of who we are, how we get to be the people we become, are as fantastical and ordinary and unbelievable and mundane as snow stopping play at a cricket match during a hot UK June (1975 if you want to check).
Whatever stories I pen, however many people read them, it’s the story I write with my life that’s most important. It’s full of flaws I can’t edit out, but love and grace and forgiveness mean that I get unlimited chances to make each page better.
Today, as I sit at my desk in my garden room to write my first blog post in many weeks, the fragrance of autumn is in the air even as the garden clings on to the last signs of summer and I am reminded how much I love these times of year when one season hands over to the next. I even love it when winter begins to breathe its frosty breath across the last of autumn’s leaves; I love the anticipation of cosy fires and evenings snuggled as a family and Christmas to come – winter’s bribes for all the harshness of the dark, cold months it will surely carry in its wake.
Feeding an elephant
This summer, I’ve lost count of the thousands of miles I have travelled; I’ve touched an elephant, seen the wonders of the Swartberg Mountains looking as though they’d been folded like soft sheets of golden pastry. I’ve seen Table Mountain disappear under a cloud as though it had never been there and tasted sunsets that stopped my breath. I’ve seen fish eagles soar and hippos sleep and humming birds sit still as they preened. I’ve seen the first shoots of answered prayers I’ve prayed for years and I have seen the hearts of people I love broken. I’ve seen poverty that is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, yet still I haven’t met the poorest the world tolerates. I’ve seen the evidence of wealth most only imagine and have struggled for breath in the humidity in which it thrives. And against such backdrops of wonder, I have been reminded of just exactly where my treasure lies. It’s in the love of the family and the friends and the God who scoop me up when I fall, who fight for me when I have no strength, who hold me when I cry and who rejoice with me when I’m overjoyed.
Table Mountain from Blouberg
And my writing? As the season is changing, so is the project I’m working on. Just as nothing we go through in life, the storms and the calms, are ever wasted, so it is with the years of planning and writing and losing my way and the struggling to discover just what has been missing from this project. As the fractured pieces begin to make sense, I’m excited to see what the coming autumn and winter will bring. And I’m also looking forward to reconnecting with the many amazing people I’ve met through my blog. I’ve missed you.