Love. Of course. The only place I choose, is to be in love.

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.” — Morrie Schwartz

I need to say this.  Love still lives here.  She has been a little abused, some self-inflicted, but gone, never.  And it is a lesson I forgot to talk about – that despite the bumps and anguish, I never want to be anything, but in love.

Love is the best thing that can ever happen to you.  The constant in the pathway of life.  And we need to talk about it.  You see, I had quite forgotten the subject – call it survival instinct, only today I met a wonderful young woman who, knowing my story, and hearing so many others, was quite dismayed at the high grey divorce rate, so many people she knew were ending decades of life together, it seemed a given, was this what was waiting, does love dissipate with time and age, the concern etched on her beautiful face, and I just thought Whoa!  This has to stop. We have to stop.  We are after all, the educators, the experienced, the guides into the future with our little footsteps deep in the grooves of those who came before us.  And what did we learn?

Blinded by our own experiences, we missed the very message we were sending to those still dreaming of forever.

An understandable, but somewhat sad state of affairs.  Which got me thinking. Yes, it has been painful, and let me just check if my heart is actually still there, but now, now that the time has passed and the smoothing of self is happening, I just had to tell her. Fabulous stuff.

I totally, wholeheartedly, unashamedly, am in love. In love with love.  Been hurt, questioned it all, and now, if the showers come down, I really don’t mind getting wet because I refuse to be any place, but in love.  It has just changed somewhat, taken on a different hue, altered the fixed lines and still, as it softens, it is still there.

As a child I loved without restriction. Love was safety and warmth in belonging.

As a young women, I believed love affairs would be straight out of Mills and Boon. Intoxicating, exhausting, passionate and profound.

As a mother, love became acute and almost paralysing, so intense the feeling for my children.

As life turned and hardened, grief, as they say, is just love with nowhere to go.  It is still love.

Like a tapestry, the threads of love is in the whole, they bring the self together and if at times we feel the prick of loss, the blood letting of broken dreams, it is still the making of us. It makes no difference how we love, the many phases of love we experience, but that we love. And now, perhaps now, for the first time, the real sensation of self love is taking hold, and it is good.

When others leave, through choice, or death or circumstance, we doubt love, we rage and fight the furies that allowed it so, but what remains, is that we loved.  And that makes us all worthy. So when I look back now, I still love them – they had to leave me, only I send them off with my heart, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to do so.

They are my chapters of love.  They are part of my book.  And now, when I think of them, it is, after all havoc has been poured over my soul, it is the love I remember. Took a very long time for get here, honestly, but no, lovely young lady, we do not all end up broken, but with learning.  Wisdom is seldom bought cheaply.

Be romantic.  Be never fearful that who and what you love, will not last.  It will, perhaps in another form, but it does. You can learn from us, take notes, be more attentive.

Never stop loving with the fierceness in your heart. Never hold back, never be concerned that it may almost kill you, for it also the one thing that makes you feel most alive.

Passion, intoxication, forever dreaming of it, still.

Oh, romantic? Guilty as charged M’lord.

 

 

Times you need to be alone, but trust me, you are never alone.

There is a difference between loneliness and solitude.  The latter smacks of zen like karma, that space of oneness with nature, the universe and all is as it should be. A feeling of peace.  Loneliness is the exact opposite – experiencing intense loneliness is the same as having a slow heart attack.  It should kill you, just it doesn’t.  The physical grief of feeling alone is a bloodless, harrowing experience, a numbness of self and despair. It is the worst.  Loneliness I believe, is the worst human condition there is.

This morning I was listening to a quip on the radio and it went something like this. How do you make your parents, grandparents, friends and children live longer?  You visit them. It is heartbreaking to find so many elderly abandoned and living in the real fear of being lonely.  It is not just the elderly, it is anyone who feels lost and vulnerable.  It is an insidious disease.

I speak from experience.  Until a while ago, I was never alone, literally and physically, always meeting, chatting, planning and engaged in the lives of others.  Things happened and in the turn of a season, I felt totally bereft, so acutely alone.  There were days I would walk through the city and wonder if, say I died, would anyone really care? What did my life matter after my divorce, the broken relationships, the letting go, of me. Call it depression or purposeless, it doesn’t matter, the feeling of being left behind with no clear agenda was all I knew. In that state, and if you are experiencing it now, you actually don’t want to reach out do you, you just wallow and wake in the early hours of the morning with feelings of panic, fear and worst of all, worthlessness. What have you lost, what have you achieved, what are you going to do next, what happened?  And you feel so terribly alone.  I have the badge, believe me, but I also managed to crawl out of the void and two things happened.

Only you can get up from the cold, lonely floor of despair.

No rush.  You need to go all the way, and I mean, all the way down to reach rock bottom and then like JK Rowling, start all over again.

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Not sure how to begin?  Herein is the first lesson.

You cannot stay there for the rest of your life.  No-one but you can stand up from the floor. It may feel like learning to walk again, but you will.  You need to get up. Being lonely sucks, I know, but it is up to you to say ‘ so what if I am alone, I will not be lonely, unless it is the way I want it to be.’  And then being alone becomes being alone on my terms.  And being on your own will slowly become the empowering medium for you to take time out, re-think, re-evaluate and like the Phoenix, rise again, only this time, on your own terms.  The being alone becomes the doing time, the dreaming time and you will come to value the time you, you unique, misunderstood, imperfect you, takes time out to undertake the most important mission of your life:

Take care of yourself.

And I let myself go. Like the wonderful Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) I did not resort to the trakkie pants and dirty hair, but I sort of stopped everything else. Eating well, exercising, going out, too much wine, indifference and self inflicted boredom. Being lonely had me being bored with things to do, and so, I did little.  The basic daily things, and then … mindless TV, not going out, not engaging with the world. Thinking no-one else would care, I didn’t. Not for myself anyway. I became trapped in the wallowing.  Take care of yourself, if you look great, you will feel great and great things will follow. Create a diary and be honest. Walk often. Make plans for trips, yup, solo trips are become the thing du jour.  Work, work hard, even if you have to take a new job or better still, create your own. Hello you entrepreneur!

Embrace your loneliness and transform it into a positive things – it is a wonderful transformation.  Soon being by yourself is rather creative and empowering.

The second thing that happened, is that I discovered I was not alone.

You are not alone.

Like an idea, it is never an original one. Your situation is not unique to you. Its life, even though you got dished a few more negatives than those around you, you are still better off than many others. Crushed relationships happen to everyone, empty nest and distant children are part of life (this took me a little longer too accept), losing parents and those you depended on is hectic, but that should not lessen you; you were there for them and if they are no longer there for you, all the time, or part of the time, you are not alone in this.

During my divorce, I spent hours searching for blogs, information, advice or just about anything to make me feel less than a leper on an isolated island, and was amazed at the amount of women, and men, going through the same experience.  Living alone, being part of the grey divorce syndrome, having to find some validation for our lives.  Many of us in the Baby Boomer generation did not have careers and strong financial accounts; imagine ourselves single. Some were suddenly homeless, orphaned, caring for elderly parents.  Widowed too soon. I was not alone.

Thank God for my children who deserve medals for putting up with me whilst enduring their own grief in the separation of their parents. I was too indulged in my woes to really take it in.  Thank God for friends who were supportive, even though I did not think they really could understand.  And thank God for finding, as one does, so many others who are going through the same thing – strangers who connected in the ‘being alone’, became friends.

Turns out I was not alone.  Lonely perhaps, but never alone.  Now not lonely, but solo.

Now, many seasons later, I have become rather comfortable with being, not lonely, but alone. It has been the growth of me – and I had to go through the hell of it all to say this.  I have grown immensely as a person, for being on my own, and taking it all in in the silent hours, thinking it all through, I am more about becoming the best of me than relying on others, to validate who I am.

Take heart. When you think you are on the cold, lonely floor of life, you are not alone.  Never.

Here for you.

Hello to being solo, not lonely, and if you never thought you could do it, you can, and be the best you, walking out from the wings, onto centre stage.

Images: Ayden Rae Foundation, Weheartit

My fifth visit to Babylonstoren, and not my last.

 I am listening to the soundtrack of ‘Downton Abbey’,  luring my heart to rural England. I am watching Monty Don’s series on French Gardens, calling me also. Writing tonight about the magic of Babylonstoren, in the heart of the Cape Wine lands.

Best in a garden. Most spiritual in a garden.  The grander the better, no, that is not entirely true, I love the small cottage gardens just as much.  Babylonstoren is grand, in a style I see in Europe and of course, it was when reading Monty Don’s book: ‘The Road to Le Tholonet’ that it came together.  Monty talks of visiting Babylonstoren and that the garden was designed by well known French garden designer, Patrice Taravella.  Inspired by the Company Gardens in Cape Town and the early Dutch influence, Babylonstoren is a tribute to European garden design, lots of Delft influence and then, the lovely mixture of South African taste.

 

Perfect rows of lettuces and the heady surprise of hanging calabashes – watch out!

Driving into Babylonstoren is like driving into a beautiful painting.  The mountains rising in the distance, almost surrounding the farm, the golden Autumn hue, pink and mink wild grass by the roadside.  The vines are turning deep jewel colours, rich and crisp.

The buildings seem newly whitewashed, gently put on verdant, lush lawns.  A contrast to still signs of the crippling drought experience last year. Everything is fresh and growing.  As a wedding venue, you could not ask for a prettier background.  And the donkeys say ‘hello’ as you enter, the speckled chickens scratching at the base of the old, oak tree. Proud and haughty chickens.

The Kitchen Garden begins around the corner of the shop and I always leave the temptation of visiting the shop, till last.  And the rooms begin: long, rustic pathways of dirt or peach pips that cross-cross the garden.  Small squares and rectanglular blocks.  Ponds of shimmering water and a variety of fish, water-lilies, glossy and clean.  The ponds and water furrows, instant attractions for children, playing their own version of ‘pooh sticks’ with leaves and twigs, anything they can chase down in the game of winning.

This is a working garden, food supplied to the hotel, Babel and the Greenhouse, which is the reward at the far end of the garden.  The actual planting and schedules of it, as well as daily tours are all available on the Babylonstoren blog and I am no expert, but fancy the odd recognition of plant and design, much to the thrill of the brain so long last used when it comes to gardening.

Shades of Autumn and twisted vine, and the gorgeous delft mosaics.

For me, it is the ambling, the ‘flâneur’ and picking of path in an unhurried way.  From dappled light to cool repose beside the fountain, a minute here, careless adoration of it all.  Much like any successful garden, the garden at Babylonstoren works in any season.  Planting is done in such a way.  Structures take on a bolder presence when leaves are lost.  All fifteen clusters offer up a difference scene.

The Insect Hotel.  Something to think about for your own garden, no matter how small it may be. With all the fear of disappearing bees and pesticides, fostering sanctuary for wildlife should be a priority for any lover of this planet.  And I do so miss my garden, have spent many years living with a single crabtree, and then David Austen rose on my balcony, and now have a sliver of a patch around my house here in the Cape, but I think I shall find a little place for an Insect hotel – as long as they stay there and don’t come into my house!

As a wedding planner, Babylonstoren holds an added charm.  Their Wedding venue is the stuff of dreams.  A perfect backdrop, ideal accommodation, old Dutch style buildings, nature in a five star setting.  Love the whole idea of it.  Stay, even if it just for a night, partake of the cuisine and spa.  The new Scented building is pure indulgence: Karen Roos has thought of every detail and it will be difficult to tear yourself away.

And you can shop, take a token of this heavenly repose with you.  First a wine farm, their wines a gift to my palate, but there is so much more, eg, as the Dutch say … leuk. A deli too. In short, everything for the perfect day out and indulge, in sheer beauty.

I like to visit early in the morning, and late in the afternoon.  When the mountains are pink and envelope the farm in a calmness difficult to emulate elsewhere.

Please take note that there is an entrance fee of R10.00 on weekdays and R20.00 on the weekends, which is little for the glorious experience.  I did however, on my last visit, enquire about some sort of loyalty card, much like the National Trust, and was offered an annual, as many times as you like to come, card for R50.00.  Ask for it if you, like me, cannot stay away.

If you want to know more about Babylonstoren, are planning a trip to South Africa or getting married, kindly contact me at karen@londongreenafrica.com, or karen@mysilverstreet, or even at karen.devilliers1110@gmail.

Thank you so much for reading.

Honey, if you keep talking about how old you are, you are.

Let’s face it.  This writer has every reason, at times, to feel like Methuselah. I sort of deserve it. He lived to 969 and I sometimes feel I have done the same.  Packed a hundred lifetimes into one and yes, the body has been felt to be broken, the heart stopped a few times, but have I ever said: ‘ I feel old’ or ‘I am old’,  never escaped these lips. Because I do not.

The little wisps of wisdom count I suppose.  Experience done, but feel old, not a chance.  And it saddens me when I meet other exciting people in their Silver Street who sort of, capitulate and blame life on the fact that they are old.  I am old now, they say, I cannot do this, or this, and I am settling for … what I wonder? All the time, wonderful individuals who are interesting, experienced and just bloody beautiful going … oh, I am old now.  Seriously, may I say, you piss me off.

I am for the never settling.  Not going to ride a pony in the jamboree or begin a career as a dancer in the company, but neither am I going … ‘oh I have a bucket list and maybe when I am eighty going to don the purple wig and jump out of a plane’. Why do we do this to ourselves?  My legs may be showing signs of those little bits of crumpling, actually google why my stomach looks like a roof after a storm. The belly wobbles on its own, without any invitation and well, the boobs, the boobs are no longer pert and ready for attention, but still, I am not for the ‘oh, I am over the action station, sort of gone to seed, it’s the way it is and I am going to spend my life getting all agog about knitting a square or waiting for the children to visit’

Talking of the bucket list, I loathe the very idea. Buckets are for water for mopping floors, and the defeatist attitude of the ‘bucket list’ rather than the future itinerary of things to do is just, plain, stupid. You are greater than the bucket. Call it a wish list or a to do list, but a bucket, dear Lord save me from the bucket listers who think that time is running out and we are going to the Andes and being a mascot at the football game before it’s all over. And why do I rant so?

Because we are not old, we are present and alive.

Age is not about giving up, but about wanting different things.

And I choose the company of Karen, another Karen.  Whilst others are complaining of life and succumbing to age, Karen is writing a musical, creating a Persian garden in Spain, writing a novel and travelling the world.  Our regular meet ups in London are short of ‘wow’! A chartered psychologist, specialising in the future in business, I often just have to sit and listen and think, get off your sorry horse and go forth!  So I turn instead to people, women in particular who embrace life despite the years for they keep me moving forward.

My friend Sylvia, deep in her sixties is still working and productive, owning properties, wheeling and dealing on a daily basis and never falling short of ‘I am old and this is hard.’

I follow bloggers who do the same.  Find them, like ‘We are ageist‘ and ‘Parisbreakfasts‘ and ‘Chic at any age‘ and ‘That’s not my age‘ and so many more if you are looking for a different, more fulfilling life than going ‘I am old.’

There are so many prolific bloggers out there, full of life and taking on the challenge in our Silver Street and I learn from them. Every day.  They continue to inspire and challenge me to a different level. And on that note, I have been a waitress in a coffee shop for the last two years, doing tours of London, running a travel company and a Wedding and Events specialist and stopping, no way?

Why am I writing this tonight?

Today someone I love dearly kept talking about feeling old. Not being able to do what they used to. Feeling as if the children were taking over, as is good, but a little redundant. Just feeling, well, a little out of place in their lives.  As I listened to the conversation, the word, old, kept creeping into it. Wanted to shake them and go, No!, don’t do that, don’t succumb because others are telling you this.

Perhaps the fault lies with me.  Should I blame or laud my mother who would have not one grey hair showing, ever?  Or blame the gods perhaps because, really, I do not feel old. I feel heartbroken at times, redundant in the fast moving world, a little out of place with the new technology and trying hard to keep up. I do feel some things have passed me by and I struggle at times to keep up, but I do not feel old, I feel incredibly blessed.

I have survived.  And lived.  Born children, worked hard, had relationships, some good and some not so good and learnt from them.  Still love travelling, my workouts, a little botox and colouring my hair. Love being there for friends and family and making new plans, all the time.  Love good food, a full diary and sex. Love waking every morning with so much enthusiasm and ending the day with a glass of good wine, wonderful memories and sleeping, not to sleep but to energise myself for tomorrow.  Love thinking, I will do this and try that and maybe, if I wanted to go skydiving, it’s not for some bucket list rubbish but because I have not done it before.

Love this watercolour from Carol Gillot at Le Grand Colbert.  My 60th birthday perhaps?

Rant over.  We are amazing, at any age, even better at this age. Paid the dues and open to so many possibilities. My year is full of them. A business that allows for growth, a trip to Paris and Lake Como, a sixtieth birthday to plan, and London.

If you want to spend most of your day talking about getting old, feeling old, I will listen.  Only for as long as I am here, and then I am gone. The bikini awaits, the cocktails on ice, the maybe who knows … but say I am old, not for me.

You are never too old for anything.

You must never compromise.

You must be the best you are now.

Image: The daily mail.  The Independent.

 

 

Been a medieval lass of sorts, but Thank You God, for Broadband.

It’s a simple tale.  Were I living in the 1700’s, with no broadband, I would be dead. Death would have been boredom, or gin. Back then I reckon Gin would have been cheaper.  There was little time to be bored when hunger pains, labour and disease were taking up all of your time.  No, it would have been the gin.

When I give  tours in London and talk about ‘Mother’s ruin’ in particular, I often think, of course quietly to myself … well, what would you do living like that?  Take the gin and drink yourself to death, as living was just not an option at times.  But I digress.

The preface to the story. Past years and staying here a short while and letting most of the while, met my reluctance to pay for broadband in the house.  My visits would come down to three best friends:  my UK phone, my ancient 2008 Nokia SA pay as you go phone and a router with data to be bought, switched on and off and suffice for the time.

As she is here for longer.

Dutifully she decides to get broadband.  The powers that be must have been fighting in Winterfell, where its cold, everyone wants to kill you and no time to heed my call.  I buy data on the router, and more, and more and there is a thief afoot!  The data circles the drain and disappeared before I could say ‘Come back, little Sheba, come back!’ So I complain and buy some more, and more and whoosh … the thief I believe is watching Youtube.  Aside, the little Nokia has the battery life of a sigh and dies regularly so limiting to say the least but I resist here, I want my UK phone, cling to it. Need it.  Costly, but rebellious on that score.

Enough she cries as the Lords are still absent with my broadband – I will not pay another cent for data.  And so the Winterfell of moi begins.

Imagine if you will the scenario.  Daytime visits to connect with the world. I stalk cafés and lurk near the plug point.  I get fat for the shame of it.  Then comes the evening at home. Nothing.  Absolutely bloody nothing.  It’s ok I say, I can pretend I have gone camping and make the most of the hours till morning. Well, um well, it’s six o’ clock.  Okay, I say, it will be about thirty minutes to bath … and then. Seven o’clock. The phones and laptop are silent. Dark now.  Fiddle with thoughts.

Now one thing that did make a million mile trip around the world was the collection of DVD’s.  Remember those?  My fingers trail the movies on offer, all of which I have seen a billion times.  True, I have reconnected with Magnum PI. The entire series of Friends, Midsummer Murders and every other movie from two decades ago.  Find myself counting minutes to bed and for me, that is what I remember my mother doing, it does not suit me.  The world is moving outside these walls and I am pacing the floor, watching the candles burn, listening to the radio (which I thought I liked and now loathe for no Spotify).  Now nothing.  No dailies, no facebook, no Instagram, no connection, Oh My Lord this is excruciating!  Where is the embroidery?

I know my daughter is to New York, son to Wales, other daughter acquiring a new puppy and I cannot deal with not being able to message, laugh at photos or even emoji kiss them goodnight.  Emails are lost, dates for appointments vague, research well, research work, kaput. And the mornings, me up at five from going to sleep at nine, with a cup of tea and wishing the shops would open.  I pick up wi fi outside random shops, drink too much coffee all in the attempt to reconnect.

Note: let’s just add the empty post London diary and I am to drink for sure.  Try to pretend to live like those ages ago without Internet and you know what … can’t be bothered. Perhaps if I were putting babes to bed or talking to spouse about the war it would be different but now … can’t be bothered with the silence.

I think the crying helped.  Today the technicians (will not mention the length of time for the battle must have been lost at Winterfell and all returned to work) arrived.  They connected, me, not so much. More drama, some threats and more wailing but behold, I am back in the world of technology and darling, I do love you so. I am valid again, in touch again and all is well in the household of the mother with children on the other side of the world.

Of course Judith Dufour was hanged for killing her baby to sell the clothes for gin. With such a shite life, gin deadened the senses and murdered the mind long before she swung on the rope. Not condoning anything but after this spell, understanding a little more.  I would have been a hag of note back then, if I had been deprived of basic life, of love and broadband.

Suffice to say, living in this day and age, being so dependent on technology and communicating with life out there, not having it has been more than bottom of the pond scum awful.  And interesting.  Time, rather than the lack of it, became the too much of it.

In this new chapter, with all the doing and Ewings of the day, all I can say is I missed you all out there, it’s lonely without my daily Paris, London, everything fix.  Glad to be back.

And no, didn’t do the Gin. Did the wine as after all, I am in the wine lands which is so much more appropriate, don’t you think?

Now to the business of not going to bed at eight, staring at everything around me and getting back to business.  The business of life as we know it now, and it is good.

Image: TNT magazine.

The ‘Imposter Syndrome’. Banish it.

‘We can live in a world that we designed …

However big, however small, let me be part of it all.’

A million dreams. Pink.

‘This psychological phenomenon, known as Imposter syndrome, reflects a belief that you’re an inadequate and incompetent failure despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and quite successful.

In short, it’s a hot mess of harmfulness.’  The Muse.

Imagine if we all just trusted ourselves.  Believed that we were worth something, not just in glimmers of light or a break in the clouds, but that we were always worth it, and stopped self sabotaging – first do no harm of course, but more importantly, do no self harm.

The Imposter Syndrome is often associated with those who are already high achievers: the doers that have done and now doubt that they actually did achieve, but continually inflict doubt upon their abilities and in so doing, lessen their own self worth.  We think of the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ as one pertaining to specialists, business men and women, those who are of high standing and successful.

But we suffer from the Imposter Syndrome on every level. No matter who we are, we doubt, and it is that doubt that cripples us.  Others may never see it, we may not show it, but it exists in every one of one us – I am not capable, I am not enough, I am not worthy. Who will believe in me, can I really do this, am I up for it … how will I muster the courage to invest in myself and in so doing, make a difference in my life?

I have felt the fraud.  Life has made me doubt myself.  What do I really have to show for myself at this age, was what I did before amount to nothing if I don’t have the label, the status, the financial wealth and the social standing others have?  Do I count at all and more importantly, how do I go on from here – how to begin again, gain the confidence to break free from any ties that bind and make something of myself.  Good old doubt, good old disbelief that it is too late, has amounted to little to show for it, that my life has been, well average. I hear you. I hear me.

There are types of sufferers of The Imposter Syndrome.  The perfectionist who will not ask for help, believing that if they did not do everything themselves they would eventually be caught out as frauds, as imposters.  There are the Super people who continue to study, to gather certificates by the dozen in the belief that enough is never enough for fear of being, caught out.

The genius, always the overachiever, who fails to keep up with the expectations of others, or the expectations they perceived that are thrust upon them.

The expert, according to ‘The Muse‘ who is always lauded for being the go to person and cannot ever admit to not knowing, but fears being found out for not knowing everything.

Recognise yourself?  I am guilty and have been for a long time.  For a time it was simple, follow the rules and do the duty, but when faced with another life, a different situation, fear of being seen as less, not worthy and incapable of driving myself forward, I fell into the Imposter Syndrome.  Whatever I thought I could be, evolved into falling short of my belief that I was not capable.  On the outside I knew it all, had done the homework and could speak for hours on every subject, give advice, but actually put the dagger to the sticking point – well that was a whole different story.  Who would trust me if I did not trust myself?  Asking for help was a sign of failure, of weakness.  Yet I always spoke of it all, tried a little of it, and never quite took the leap into the unknown for fear of falling short.  I would then, I believe, be found out as the fraud, the talker rather than the doer and rather than face failure and possible mockery, did little. Best to hide behind the knowledge than fail in the trying.

Sadly, the Imposter Syndrome was of my own making. And there were always excuses.  I have them, and then I hear others at this stage of our lives, succumbing to the listless living of little gratitudes, of acceptance rather than trying, perhaps for the first time, to be the person they were meant to be.

Can’t do that.  In her acceptance speech at the Baftas, Phoebe Waller-Bridge thanked her mother, who said: ‘ Darling you can be whatever you want to be, as long as you’re outrageous.’

My mother said, find a good husband and live a simple life. Like I did.  Don’t stir the waters, so to speak. Bless her heart. Within that beautiful world of marriage and raising children, I did feed the burning curiosity of learning about absolutely everything, but not acting on it.

I didn’t believe I could. Never felt the imposter in pouring my life and knowledge into them.

And when they grew and left, I felt inadequate to try anything new, something I thought I could do, but held back for fear of being the fraud. Confidence lacking syndrome. Imposter Syndrome; Hold so many degrees, certificates, diplomas and nurtured the mind but launch myself into a business, open a shop, put myself out there, at my age … was too big a task, even for myself. And I have procrastinated, lingered, loitered in the green room. What if my family saw me as a fraud, not the example to follow, if others rejected my ideas, if no-one wanted me? The doubt was my own invention and in that the Imposter Syndrome, at this age, became the milestone around my own neck.

it doesn’t matter what it’s called today, Imposter Syndrome or the lack of confidence, it is what it is. A lack of belief in that I matter, that I can do what I want to, to fulfil my life in the coming years.  It is a question, when it comes down to it, of whether I am going to settle for a gratitude journal or walk tall into the unknown, trying and failing and trying again until I can actually say:

‘However big, however small, let me be part of it all.’

Not a spectator to my own life.  Not a feeble excuse not to try. Not the gatherer of knowledge and ideas and the instrument of my own doubt.

Ageism is a thing of the past. We form one of the largest communities of doers, changers and those with an income for change. Paid our dues, worked hard, contributed in our own way, but if we begin to fear lessoned, reduced in anyway, it is our own imagination. Time for a re-brand.

Whatever your situation now, it is never acceptable to resign to life. Life is only what you, now in your situation, will make of it. Re-brand with the confidence that you can choose a different path, fall hard for it will make you feel more alive, change if you have to and in the end, realise that you can overcome the ‘Syndrome’ of resignation and defeat and find another beacon to reach.

Rebrand yourself.  Gather the knowledge of life and use it for good.  For your good, for your sanity and satisfaction and banish that Imposter Syndrome to the the wings while you take centre stage of your own production.

I am scared about doing it. I doubt still. I have no choice though, for I cannot submit to idea of just being content.  I need to be fierce still, to be worthy of my life and in the end, to be just in that I gave myself the opportunities to not be a fraud, but a legend in my own eyes.

And if I can reach. fall and reach again, so can you.

Image: The format.

 

A drive to the Cotswolds and two favourite gardens.

It is a generally accepted, as I wish it to be, that driving into the countryside, spilling from village to village, in England,  is about nostalgia. Life still lived the way it used be, many moons ago.  It’s  the  stuff of Jane Austen’s Longbourne, and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford. Stately manors and quaint hamlets seemingly fixed in time. And for me, it always begins with the church.

Two days in the Cotswolds.  Not too far from London and an effortless drive, my first port of call is Burford. For most, Burford’s main attraction is the high street – rather like a high way from hill to bridge, to which most tourists keep.  You sweep down, stop a little, have some tea, browse some more and leave over the bridge and up toward the next village.  There are many to visit in this part of the Cotswolds, all with antique names like Bourton-on-the-water and Stow-on-the-Wold.  Run off the tongue they do, pretty images they make.

But for me, it is always to the churches.  Such as the one in Burford.  The Church is the lesson of the place.  Those who lie in the grass beside the doors.  The locals lads and lasses who went to war and never returned, their ghostly absences fixed on stone beneath the stained glass windows.  There are stories of hardship and loss, woven into the tapestry that are these little towns and most likely found in the church.

Burford is one of the larger towns in the Cotswolds.  Many, like me, fancy themselves an ochre coloured cottage within her boundaries, or down a country lane.  The prices here are high – quaintness costs.  Bus loads of tourists are tolerated, catered for, and valued for their contribution to the village GDP, but few will ever settle here.  Times I think, of course I could: would work in the Tea Room (have experience), do the Nativity play at Christmas and write poems beside the brook. The simple life for me … until I wonder how this soul will survive the quiet and isolating winters?

Eager to continue to the gardens, I crossed the bridge and swept left toward Stow-on-the-wold.

The view back over Burford.  Sweeping fields of Rape Seed beneath a broody sky.

Spring in England could present you with a confetti of seasons in one day.  The Barbour close at hand, the stripping and cloaking of it, a regular past time.  I don’t mind driving when it’s not too hot, besides, it’s lanes are the prettier for it.  As I have been to these other villages en route to Hidcote many times, I skirt them, swinging in, imagining I shall find the perfect house for the price and sadly, sweep out and onto the road again.  The fact finding is not restricted to the main towns, but stopping by hamlets dotted between.  If I did move here however, the mainline to London would dictate, I say to myself in my pretend looking to re-locate.

Another decision on this little road trip, was to leave the GPS at home.  The beauty of the journey is in fact to meander, drive with a semi idea of destination, tempted easily to lesser roads where more discovery is made.  Coming to a cross roads, shall I go left or right and if so, soon they all join up again, which most do.  Going is circles is possible, only they are such pretty circles to go around in.

I know the Cotswolds well.  I always need to return to Hidcote Manor Gardens.

Many years ago, I think it was 1987 or thereabouts, we first visited Hidcote.  Till then I had only been to the gardens of London, mostly parks, and tried to emulate the ‘English’ gardens I had seen in magazines, into my own patch in South Africa. Yup, always the rebel, none of the gorgeous, indigenous stuff for me, like my mother who wanted only European influence in her home – I wanted to pick the lavender, smell the rose and fall into daffodils.  I had an idea of garden design but it was not until I visited Hidcote, did the idea of ‘rooms’, distinctive colour planting and hedging really mean anything.  There are others, like Sissinghurst, that still have me under their spell, and gardens with less restrictive boundaries, but it was Hidcote where the romance began.

Now part of the National Trust (yay that I am a volunteer), Hidcote Manor garden was bought in 1907 by Lawrence Johnson and his mother, Mrs. Winthrop.  The garden development history is fascinating and today much as he initially intended it.  There are rooms throughout the design, so as to maintain a sense of mystery for the visitor.  Not all is revealed at once.  Rooms are colour co-ordinated, such as at Sissinghurst, or built around a particular theme, such as the Bathing pool.  Hedging plays a large role throughout, to create walls of green and lead the visitor from one reveal to the other.  I love the way we are continually surprised by another scene, as if a play with characters in statuary or water feature.  There is an open air theatre present.  Even when visiting for the umpteenth time, Hidcote is still a as curious as she was on my first visit.

The impressive Cool colours and the historical Cedar of Lebanon – older than the garden.

The view from the top of the Serpentine Hedge.  This walk opens up to the countryside, and on the left, the Wilderness.  Daffodils over but the lilacs in full play.

Pleached Hornbeam and the Hot garden, complete with red tulips.  The beds reveal hot reds, yellows, oranges and purples throughout the year.

A downpour was welcome on the day.  This gave only the determined visitor like me an almost empty garden to enjoy.  Timing is crucial when visiting the famous English gardens, for they can be over run with tourists which makes for single file slowness and hundreds of Instagrammers – if you are like me, the sure fire way to grumpiness.  Love Instagram,  hate the lack of really seeing or enjoying a vision but only to say ‘I was there’.  I remember a single visit to Giverney being totally ruined by non-appreciating, loud and rude tourists who only wanted the evidence of the trip and paid little attention to design, or even the story of the place.  Know when to visit gardens in England and Europe. Anyway, I digress, the shower had a few of us huddle beneath a portico, still getting totally drenched but caring little – you would appreciate the joy of soft, post rain beauty in a garden.  Drops of rain, suspended on petals, on the new lime leaves unfurling, puddles in rock crevices, on ducks in the pond – a bonus, on this visit.

Close, but lesser known that the NT Hidcote Manor House, lies another favourite, Kiftsgate. Kiftsgate is a privately owned garden, a triumph and tribute to the dedication of three generations of strong and creative women.  Much of the gardening is traditional, but where this garden is unique is on the level and clever integration of contemporary garden design.

Driving up toward the house, one is oblivious to the precipice on the left, which drops sharply to a level, far below.  If you have vertigo, stay clear, although there is a pathway that curls and leads you down, knowing that you have to climb back up again, but the walk is worth it.  For me, the cliff is colourful and Spring bright with white, pale yellows and bluebell blue.  It is the pool below: half moon and lying within the crescent that echoes, that takes my breath away.  One wonders at the seemingly incomplete circle, it seems almost lunar, and yet intrigues.  We are used to symmetry in a traditional English garden design and though it seems, well, I am not sure really, it is beguiling.

Love this design.

The house is not open to the public, not when I was there, but the cafe did offer a welcome pot of tea, succumbing to the large slice of cake, and a paging through of their beautifully printed coffee book.  Before exploring the rest of the garden, I knew I also wanted to see the water feature by Simon Allison.  There are times when something just captures your imagination, holds your interest and this water feature had me spellbound, many years ago.  I tried to imitate this in my own home on my return. The movement of this feature raises it to a different love.

Most of the garden lies to the front of the house.  There is hedging and intricate ‘rooms’ also, but not on so much the grand scale as Hidcote.  This is still a family home, a intimate space and we are fortunate to be able to visit.

 

 

 

It was time to head to Chipping Campden where I was staying for the night.  The Cotswold House Hotel and Spa is a luxurious boutique hotel in the heart of the village. The garden here is in itself a treat to explore.  At this time of the year, did not partake of the Spa or pool but spend a happy hour with a glass of wine on the front porch before dinner.  Well, planned dinner and then my inclination turned to the very spoiling of a hot bath, robe and slippers and a feat of room service.  Ending the day with cheesy TV and a tray of eating in, it was apt. I was happy to just spend the quiet time.

Chipping Campden was a market town and all signs of this still prevail.  It is a town lived in with great pride by its inhabitants, and many a garden is a testament to this.  Topiaries, manicured beds, typical thatch cottages with wisteria and roses.  There are ruins, another great church and the quaintest of shops.  Walk the lanes and just beyond, the fields, complete with sheep and being the season, new-born lambs.

Driving back to London, with a quick turn in Broadway, I decided to stop at another NT property, Snowshill Manor and Garden. The orchards are breathtaking, but little else compared to the gardens I have visited the day before. It did not take long to discover before I took to the road again.

The Cotswolds House Hotel and Spa.

For those who love gardening, wanting to visit a few iconic examples and indulge in the quintessential English countryside, the Cotswolds will not disappoint. No wonder so many wish to live there.  It’s the chocolate box version of another time, natural beauty, as are many other parts of this glorious mud island.  Extend your visit to Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon and Blenheim Palace.  Woodstock to meet the ghost of Inspector Morse and follow all the stories close by. Many lovely spots to stay in, things to do and the stuff of stories.

I will return again, perhaps in the Autumn when the gardens don another cloak all together.

For more information, or to plan your own journey, please contact me on the email karen@mysilverstreet.com.

Image. Own and The Cotswolds House Hotel and Spa

Change again … but it is our Silver Street time after all. If I can, you can.

“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.”
Roy T. Bennett

If there was anyone adverse to change, I have become the champion of it. The master of moving on, of packing up and packing out … of saying goodbye and saying ‘Hello’ and in the muddle of it, when all have experienced change and the hardship of it, I have learnt, that for me, change has been the breaking of me, the making of me and I know, and I know, that change has now become addictive.

It has been a lesson.

Ten years ago, I was thrust, reluctantly into a new world.  It did not suit me.  After all I was fifty, I was settled, I was living the life I knew and the comfort of it was, comforting.  I hated the extreme  circumstances, cried and fell into a deep depression in a new country, in a small flat, having to do everything myself and live with the noise of human existence at every turn. Gone was the luxury of life, of place, of community.  I felt reduced and unfairly treated. I had to lose everything to realise how selfish I had been.

The last of the decade I received British citizenship, the ability to appreciate a gifted city, learnt to be humble and receive, from strangers, and make new friends.  Made a new life, working seven days a week and loving the empowerment. Learned how to change a car battery, sit in a bus on the worst of the rainy November days, be part of immigrant stories and lug the groceries from road to flat.  If this was as far from what I knew, it is true. The princess did not fall, she tumbled, ungraciously, into reality.  And it was bad. And it was good. And change, changed me.

The tide came again.  My flat was sold – I tried so hard to stay, and change was thrust upon me once again.  It was back to my homeland for a time, I have a little house here, and also back to the ghosts and lovely memories.  Reluctant but accepting, I have landed back in the middle of my past life.  In the leaving I realised that the horror of change and moving to England, was now the sadness of leaving her for a while.  Suddenly, as we all do, we want what we can no longer have.  All things taken for granted become golden moments, places take on more reverence, experiences manifold into exceptional tales you wish for again.  I cried at the walking on the South Bank, the signs of Spring after a long winter survived, the lamenting of winter and darkness, the silence of snow falling in the night. I cried at the thought of the gardens in the country, the sweet coffee and walking into a warm place.  Scarves, gloves and Covent Garden. History and a country that took me in, held me close when others left and leaving my children behind in a land that I encouraged them to love as I did … only I was the one leaving.

So, landing with the proverbial crash two weeks ago was not that serious.  I was already numb from the leaving.  Change does that, when you know it is going to happen, you just go numb and walk to war, alternative pages, to a different situation.  I was up for it, for I was numb.

Two weeks into life in Cape Town. I say Cape Town but my home is a little further out, in the wine lands, the beautiful wine lands and I could not have asked for a more welcoming time.  The weather is sublime in late Autumn, yes, I am from winter to winter to winter this year. Returning to London in September, but for the time being … what is to happen?

I have to get a car and broadband.  Empty the boxes and in doing so, the ghosts swept up – confined for so long.  My grandmother’s treasures, my mother’s ‘guard these forever’, my children’s past and or course, the life with my darling ex, whose ghost is the most profound.  I had forgotten in boxing up our lives,  that so much of him was present still. I wonder if it matters to him?  Some will say ‘Burn!’, only this is the journey of my life and love still lives there, so out of the boxes he comes.  I thought in coming back for a while, it was the next project: to keep me busy. It took less than two weeks.  The house is set up, revealed, and for the first time in ten years, all our things are in one place.  Done and lovely.

The country has taken me by surprise. What I took for granted, or simply chose not to address now confronts me at every turn. Her natural beauty remains, as always.  Change here has happened and some good, some not so good.  The most amazing people, smiling and helpful but sorrowfully, separate still.

As an immigrant in England, I was part of a collective of tolerance and acceptance.

The haves are skyward to the have nots.  After the bump back, I was determined to do all myself, as I did in England.  Sipho needed work –  so many have no income, no access to benefits. Hungry and desperate.  Sipho and Dosha help me now, with ironing every second week and Dosha to help me create a garden – I thought, oh this is easy, striding out with fork and will of Anne Shirley. The soil turned out to be concrete and clay, and all efforts were painful.  Dosha is a Malawian, with a bicycle and little else, but a disposition of love and eagerness to work.  To provide for his family, as is Sipho, who has children she wants to educate.   I find myself now trying to be useful and harass with constant offers of tea.  I need to learn the thin layers of it all again and even as I write, I somehow feel unworthy of employing others to do what I could (not so sure about digging in a drought stricken strata of clay). Enjoy the company though,  someone else’s noise in my house.  After living in the flat, the house is a little too quiet.

My new little community. In the need to toss generations of holding on, am giving them as much as I can. I have little need for it anymore.  And then I learn.  The gratefulness of receiving hand outs is humbling, especially when you have a bicycle, or a taxi to try and get it home. Taking  a bag at a time. When I offered a lift both thanked and said no, we do not live in a place you can come to.

When the boxes arrived, the packers were surprised that I offered them coffee and cake.

People still talk of having servants.

The car guards greet me everyday with wishes of having a good day, even in the rain. We talk in French, as for many of these immigrants, this is their first language.

The security estate I live in protects me, but I have to accept everyone who comes here, with forms and identity checks. This sort of freaks me out.

Always offering to pack my own groceries at the till and talk like a silly woman whilst another does it for me.  Very consciously bringing my own bag – and I know that ‘Ham House’ Bayley and Sage’ and the National Trust carry bags are a snobbish touch: snobbish or feeling a little displaced right now?

I am listening to my mother’s radio for I have not connected to the local television, I cannot relate just yet.  There is lovely Afrikaans and African music.

Everything is different.  It may be my homeland but we need to get reacquainted..

And, in the end, at the moment, it feels like a lobotomy of sorts.  Life is slower, the pace of London missed and even though the house is sorted, the coming together of young me, married me, older me, and now Silver Street me, I have an acute case of FOMO. London does that to you, there is so much on offer, my work there fulfilling and now I am a lady of … what? Change all at the station.

No problem at all.  We all have these chapters and we must embrace them. I am here for a little bit and loving the slow pace, hating the slow pace and thinking – all the changes, the multitude of changes of which I was not really comfortable with, have become the very changes I have embraced and in that, become the person I am today. We do not always ask for it, we cannot always cope with it, wish it were different, still the same, but when we have these changes hit with the furies in a bad mood, we deal.  And we can deal, if we have lived this long we have had plenty of experience.

I am in another place, another change … and the experience is momentous.

Sixty this year. Nothing is as planned and nothing is more about losing, the past, the gathering of threads and embracing all that we have lived, loved and learnt, and saying … it over yet! Not by a long shot.  I am here and loving it, biding my time and then … this lady is not for settling anymore.  Have created the home, done the work and paid the dues.

London beckons. South Africa is the most amazing place to be … and where will she go next?

France seems tempting …

Closer to my children. Family.

Write your own story. And not do to be afraid of change. She could just be your best friend.

Where ever you are … make a difference, and call yourself … something and next …

 

 

 

 

If the past few chapters were written in blood, this one is going to be in Rôse.


My model crush of the moment. Anna Sainte Marie.

Those bloody forces of nature are perpetually on my case – and it is so very easy to feel depleted and it is so quick to spiral downwards in the firm belief that the death eaters continue to single you out.  Call me a semi-expert in the sphere, but daunted, dear lord, the office balcony is gone!

I mean …

I found myself on the other side of the world.

AND what do you say to yourself, as one does when you are verbally attempting to remedy  your current malaise?  You say to yourself. ‘What you need darling, is a brand new chapter. A chapter and a plan to Saint-Jean-cap-Ferrat.’

It’s ok that the fuckery may be ongoing, or that the postcode needs to change, these are but temporary setbacks.  Instead, muster the angst and secret potions and venture forth onto that blank page. Not as those written in blood of past,  as if in a cell with nothing but hay and a guillotine outside, but one tainted the colour and taste of Rôse, Provence mark of origin.

Write another chapter.

As one does.

And one does.

Sans angst, avec un petit portion of poison in the larder. (pardon the french)

When my first boyfriend (well technically I thought he was my boyfriend but he never got the memo) broke my heart, I truly believed that Gloria Gaynor had written and was singing ‘I will survive’, just for me.  Every drama in my life had me manic on the dance floor to the song … yeah, yeah, yeah, I will survive … and so on. She so gets me, I wailed.  Now the Wedding planner goes … yeah yeah, it’s on the playlist with Whitney Houston and everyone from the Dragon Queen to Aunty Daphne thinks it was written especially for her. You did too, didn’t you?

Anyway, I am on the other side of the world, for now, for maybe a little longer than an English winter, but no longer than the 100 year spell cast on the pretty princess.  I am here now, with an enormous bump and entitled to a zillion years of free counselling but I am to the blank page. It is no longer sad, a case of survival or ‘the wretch in the alley with the pox and soon to die’ sort of me, it is going to be amazing. A change of scenery, is always better perceived looking out than looking down at my sagging stomach.  So a blank page.

First positive thing to report.  I can see again.  Ten years of no lighting in the bathroom in London has given way to the naturally lit, much larger bathroom.  And it is good.  And it is not good.  The multitude of sins once cast in dim light is glaringly obvious. If called facing one’s fears is required, I am facing the fearful truth. Dear Homeslice, we cannot meet again.

The opening of this new chapter will be … the return to Avonlea.  Avonlea was the name of my childhood home (my mother living in the Free State, imagined herself on Prince Edward Island).  I grew up in a drier place of Avonlea but where I am now, my mother’s home is.  My children’s home is and in a sense, the curator of our family is back. If every trinket were gathered, they are here with me now, I am surrounded by three generations and wallowing in the joy and nostalgia and multitude of it all. You can imagine some of the forthcoming chapters – how to let go of Delft, for example, or how to finally break the bond of noodle Christmas decorations?

The chapter taking place involves a whole lot of firsts. First time in my life I have every had to buy a car for example.  Go figure, I am the most gullible woman alive when it comes to anything to do with cars and just wistfully plead for all to treat me as they would their own mothers and not add a whole new level of fuckery to my life. A little runaround; I am at that stage, but would rather a little run around here and enough money to run around Paris again.

Speaking of Paris, I have two loves in Paris.  The actual city and this gorgeous crush on Anna  Sainte Marie, icon model of the 50’s and 60’s.  The photo shoot she did in a bridal gown  with Karen Radkai for Vogue, before the Notre Dame, is my muse. Into Vintage in a big way, all part of the going back to go forward therapy.  Beautiful women such as Anna, Margeaux, Karen and Beverley graced the pages, ethereal and airbrushed with great mastery.  Am trying to, in my new chapter, remember what it was I loved about them, the pictures, the frosted, feint, silent mystery of who they were and what they represented. So loved them, the circa ancient pic featured is moi trying to be Margeaux as Babe whilst at high school. It was the confident stride.

So I am returning to the allure of vintage and when I was a girl, with a curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  You see, the blank page is now the carefully written one, no scrabbles of sos and dear me, but Dear Me.  And Dear you.

Perhaps if we acknowledge that all is not lost, that beauty exists, if life turns as if it always needed to, then we can love the Silver Street, no, adore Silver Street.  My Silver Street love started in an ancient city, it continues to an African beat and like Anna Sainte Marie, I am on the edge of the river Seine, sylphlike and avec immense attitude.

How do you picture the image on the first page of your new chapter?  And may I ask, pourquoi?

PS was looking for some smaltzy quote and quite frankly, those about beginning again are like a chocolate milkshake after a whiskey – icky central.  Just take it as it is, that new page, that new chapter, it’s got to be real.

Image Vogue

 

 

 

To Our Lady, Notre Dame. Paris.

 

“the essence of Paris is lost if seen through the double glazing of a hotel room or from the top of a tour bus. You must be on foot, with chilled hands thrust into your pockets, scarf wrapped round your throat, and thoughts of a hot café crème in your imagination. It made the difference between simply being present and being there.”
John Baxter,
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris

I have been in love with Paris, ever since she fell in love with me.

We love each other still. It is a passion ill described to aptly motivate the wordsmith to capture the heart of it all.  What was before a dream, visions and points of exquisite reference, become a sanctuary, a finding of self and many, many walks through her streets by day, by night, but always by way of the heart.

In the last decade in particular, I have to Paris more times than I can remember, but remember each visit as if it were the first, the only and the necessity of it.  And like my mother, Notre Dame was always there, a fixed mark, a point of direction, a comfort at first sighting.

When she burned last night, I felt my heart melting.

We were not exactly friends, the Lady and I.  The more I became accustomed to Paris, the more I felt at home, the less I wanted to intrude – for so many thousands did. The last time I entered, I left vexed, annoyed at the multitudes who paid not homage, but interest and photographed and instagrammed as they edged at a pace of a glacier, one tourist after the other, mystified at the enormity of her cavern, oblivious to the sense of her religiousness.  It was not the place for me to light candles for my family, or sit and be calm, and pray.  It was a spectacle and I found many other beautiful churches to be still in, in Paris.  Yet she was always there.

She is always there.  And the burning, the terror of losing hope and today, finding all is not lost, is the spirit reborn.  I think she sort of had enough of the circus, in a way.  Sort of looked around, touched the gargoyles and fundaments and said, I need cleansing of all this parading and useless reverence. I need to burn to be born again, to remind all that I am a holy place. I am the stuff of Victor Hugo, legends and fortitude.  That will not change, but may become a place of peace again.

So when I went to Paris, when I go to Paris, it is to walk by her side.  In Spring, to see the cherry trees, so often captured, and I thank Georgianna Lane and her book ‘Paris in Bloom’ that I love more when walking past the Notre Dame in Spring.  The pictures capture the essence of Notre Dame at her prettiest season. I walk past the side of the church, to where the children play, and onward to the Ile Saint-Louis, behind the Notre Dame, to my favourite restaurant to view her magnificence from what I believe, is her best view. Quiet view. Reverent view.  The view of a church still holy and the architecture of her 13th Century workmanship, best admired. And she is still there.  Like the spirit of my mother, like the spirit of Hemingway’s Paris, like the romance and loveliness of a city that looks to her for validation of beauty.

 

When Notre Dame caught flame last night, the world wept.  And for a moment, came together in that weeping. United in grief and disbelief.  History was falling into the flames, and losing history that speaks of all of life before, is so very sad.  We need the stories to help us understand, to give us a place in the universe, to allow us to take notes for ourselves and give a sense of purpose.  There are many instances when history is being wiped out, change comes too fast, but we can only learn to move forward when we look back, and in that falling spire, we lost the lives of those who built her. But we will find them again.

I love her most in the winter. When the skies are grey and austere but the season of reflection and comfort, with a scarf around my neck, walking the city and knowing she is there.  When Christmas lights come early in the darkness and the city moves around her.  I love her most then when she is pale and comforting.

And I pray for Our Lady.  For our Notre Dame.  To bring once more the magnificent of workmanship, or dedication to religion and the love of the world.  To be a beacon of light in the city of lights and light up for generations who need to see her, hear her stories and again, be the fixed point for those, like me, who find her, always in Paris.