For the past two weeks I’ve been hosting friends from Canada and Germany in my little home, and contrary to my expectation for it to get heavy very quickly, it actually hasn’t. It’s been light and airy and generous. We have been doing everything together, cooking, cleaning, drinking, and they have been enjoying their time in the Cape.
This past Sunday I invited them to a hike up Silvermine, to Elephant’s Eye. We packed blankets and a bottle of chilled bubbly in the car, stopped by the shops to pick up picnic provisions, and off we went. In my mind we would hike for not more than an hour and a half, and then settle in a nice picnic spot on Silvermine to enjoy an extended picnic brunch.
My guests are fit hikers, and relish being in nature a lot. They’ve hiked many of the world’s famous and not so known trails, and are in fact here to do the Otter Trail. I, on the other hand, am the most unfit I’ve ever been in decades, have picked up a crazy amount of weight, and so, am heavy and slow.
So right at the start, I declared my unfit state to them, mostly apologising, certainly asking for a slower pace. But fit people can’t help but go fast. I felt bad for lagging behind, but knew that if I push at the start, it would turn bad very quickly for me. I surprised myself by not pushing beyond common sense, and was elated to have supportive hiking companions.
I do have to admit though that I was rather frustrated with my body and all the ailments it had endured, and how I continue to bear the impact of my surgeries from this past year. Being unfit is hard to bear, especially when it comes with extra weight.
But as I walked, I remembered the intention I had set for myself at the beginning of spring, a mere few days ago, to live with trust. Serendipitously, today’s reading from my little daily meditations book echoed my mantra found a few days ago, which you can read in a previous blog post: ‘ I Am your refuge…you are safe…’ I don’t know why such synchronicities still shock me.
I have since added to that intention the decision to be positive. In every situation, to turn to the positive, and to consciously put a smile on my face, even when I don’t want to. I’m going to live as if everything is in its right place, and fits exactly where it should be ( a few days later a big piece of work which I desperately needed was postponed, and instead of plunging me into depression, I gave thanks for the space in my diary, for whatever possibility is due to me).
As I followed my couple friends on the trail, I would stop for many breaths, in the process noticing the cemetery of burnt bushes on Silvermine, standing proud and intact in the hot sun- victims of the devastating fire.
This fire happened last year roughly at the start of my Pilgrimage Year, and it was savage. It was thorough as it razed everything in its path from Muizenberg to Hout Bay, leaving Silvermine glinting with silver ash, for months.
Right now the fully intact burnt bushes look stark but fiercely beautiful, courageous enough to withstand the necessary first step in the process of alchemy, and certainly, petrifaction.
I wonder about myself- do I have the courage to withstand being burnt, in service of my own renewal? Can I be bold enough to be fiercely beautiful? Hm.
As I huff up the Mine, I notice that the inevitability of life is also here, breath-taking in its green freshness. Mother Nature is always on time, and knows exactly what to do. She has in fact sprinkled a confetti of yellow daisies and other sweet smelling flowers everywhere. These create a stunning tableau as they hug the black burnt bushes. Life and death side by side, in black and yellow.
Perhaps I too can find life in this lead body?
Perhaps the surgeries and invasions on it were part of a cleansing, a calcination, ridding me of the obsolete?
Perhaps I need to declare my residual spiritual unfitness, my impatience, and anxiety about tomorrow?
And in fact, perhaps my own spring is also on its way, and will sprinkle magical miracles in and around me?
We did make it to Elephant’s Eye, and madness of all madnesses, all the way up to the very top on the Constatiaburg Trail. We kept climbing and climbing up, surprised by how far it was, especially since we hadn’t brought enough water, nor any food. But we made it, or I should say I made it. It was never in question that my friends would make it. And the views from up there were more than worth it.
I must remember this, that much as I loved the views, it was my walking it, my struggling through it, that got me to the top. It is the tenacity, and focus, still within me, that got me up there. I required some rest stops along the way, yes, and towards the end was convinced that I would ‘wait right here if we don’t get to the top in the next ten steps! I’m dead serious’.
Yes, life constantly requires my skillful responses to its unexpected challenges. It’s okay. I may be burnt black, and stark, but my beauty can still radiate through.
When we finally descended, an unexpected five hours later, we were so hungry and tired that we ate all our food in the car, in the parking lot, a mere hundred metres from the official picnic area!