a voice can hurt or kill
a voice can love or heal
a voice can beg or scream
a voice can be one's dream
TO: Jo@iafrica.com, Lee@botsnet.bw
DATE: March 30, 2012
News flash! Jack is coming to visit me! Well, not exactly visit-visit, his company is sending him for an interview to their newly opened office in Toronto. We’ll see each other for the first time in 24 years! A rabble of butterflies is fluttering around a heavy brick in my tummy. I am SO nervous and excited at the same time! Is Jack going to look at me and think: you don’t look ANYthing like your Facebook pictures! You are OLD!?
I have wrinkles 'round my knees, I need pegs to secure my eyebrows away from my eyes so I can see, I have age spots on my hands and my body is covered in upside down freckles...please, guys, please - send me some advice or product names or Boererate, please Jo, please!
He is an awesome man! His ability to say something without saying it makes me smile. Yesterday he wrote: “Can you imagine the first time at the beginning of the world, the first man and the first woman? When there were no words by which to play with or possess each other, no music for serenades, no presents to court with, no fancy jobs or money to impress with, no clothing or jewellery to decorate with…just two bodies…and one ritual?”
Argh, enough about him! I have to get him off my mind. I know, I know!
I just finished reading the paper. Like my mom, I also read the Obituaries first. There is a special entry today, honoring the life of a woman who saved a tree. It reads:
“BURNELL, Joyce Olive, December 30, 1920 – March 12, 2011 With great sadness we commemorate the death of our dear mother in her 91st year. She is being remembered for her kindness, her sense of humour and her determination to act and speak up when she saw something she believed was wrong.”
Her actions as an ordinary citizen to protect something without a voice - to stand mother for Mother Nature - will live on for long. Despite being in her late 80s, she spearheaded a successful campaign to save a 250-year-old White Oak Tree. The old tree was going to be cut down in order to widen a road. She ran a fundraising campaign to offset the cost of building the road around the tree. Every time I drive by that tree, I point it out to the kids.
They always surprise me with their understanding. We went to see the Dr. Suess The Lorax 3D movie recently. Passing that tree on our way home, one of them said: “Mom, do you realize that Joyce Burnell was a Lorax?”
It is so true! The Dr. Suess story is about the the Lorax, a small orange creature, who appears from the stump of a truffula tree. He "speaks for the trees" and warns the Once-ler of the consequences of cutting down truffula trees. But the Once-ler ignores him, cuts down the trees to produce and sell Thneed until no tree is left, leaving the land bare and empty.The Lorax disappeared. The story ends with the Once-Ler giving the boy the last Truffula seed (what a beautiful way to wrap “hope” in a nutshell!). By planting this seed he will ensure the return of the trees.
OMG – look at this, I just received this e-mail from a friend. Is this picture not 100% applicable to what I just told you?! The Tree of Life!
I would love to know how synchronicity works - the inter-connectedness between experiences ‘cause here is yet another link to ‘those without a voice’. Right next to the Obituary column is an article about Marcia Brown, a woman in her 40’s who was taken from her First Nations (Aboriginal) parents and put in numerous foster homes in the so-called Sixties Scoop. It was common practice in the mid-sixties to ‘scoop’ children, almost all newly born, from their First Nations mothers. What a stain on Canadian history.
As we have discussed before - systems of racial discrimination enforced through legislation (under which apartheid is just one, not the only one) can be found in every country in this world. It is NOT unique to South Africa or its past.
In 1951 a child welfare act was introduced, stating that provincial authorities would be responsible for the welfare of First Nations children. Not only were children taken from their families, put in foster care with families from other races in order for them to attend religious residential schooling, but some were also sold (it is mentioned that some agencies got $4000 per child) into adoption – even to families outside of Canada. The last province to rule out that law did so in 1982 only.
Marcia used such poetic prose to describe her life: “I was uprooted like a wild and unwanted weed in a garden of white carnations.” Another uprooted woman describes so painfully well how it has affected her life: “A disease of disconnection invaded my body, like a cancer it permeated my spirit and spread the anguish of neglect to open wounds of physical, emotional, and sexual abuses. Imagine being two years old and ripped from your grandmother's arms in her home, by agents of the government, Children's Aid authorities trespassing and stealing you under the guise of public and religious good.
Imagine the fear and trauma you would feel as you lie in the darkness of a strange room, under foster care, foreign voices and big dirty hands contaminate you – how wrong to take you like a right - in the dead dark hours of almost every night…”
Contemplating these disturbing thoughts make me realize: You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe what you are told and what you can see. You believe you are living. You believe you are living in a beautiful world. Then you grow up, move away or read something and you discover that you are not living, that the beauty is only where you look, that you hibernated from the truth.
The truth is hidden behind what you see and what you are told. The world sometimes feels so immense, I still try to find the truth about my past and sometimes feel like I see it everywhere, except in the corner where it left me…
PS. I think I am starting to find my inner voice. I started writing poetry again…
TO: An@yahoo.ca, Lee@botsnet.bw
DATE: March 30, 2012
SUBJECT: Re: Voice(s)
Aawh my dearest An
You sound like you are sitting in a dark empty movie theatre and all you are aware of is the smell of the old popcorn. To quote from my favourite soul food, the Dalai Lama said everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. He also said that the human soul cannot be permanently chained.
To get closure you will have to be in touch with all your feelings, acknowledge them, understand where they come from and then attribute meaning to them in order to accept and live with them in peace. Allow yourself to feel all of that, Grieta, do not avoid the emotions. I am glad to hear that you have started writing poetry again, that is how and where you should spend your tears, let it flow. Label your feelings that way and pack them away (and please share some of your thoughts wrapped in words with us, please!). Good luck, bokkie! Biiiiig hugs!
I love that picture of the Tree of Life grounded in the Universal Mother. Your inspirational story about an ordinary old woman who saved a tree and the sad atrocities involving the stolen /sold children in Canada reminds me of another very inspirational woman I think you should know about.
Her name is Dianne Lang, fondly known as Mama D. She is one of the most prolific and outspoken Human Rights Activists in South Africa. She has been the recipient of no less than 6 Humanitarian Awards.
Much like a box of Smarties, no - that is not the right phrase, she is more like a First Hand Kit we all need. She has a wide range of experience and skills. Not only does she hold a degree in psychology, but she is also a sangoma, an African shaman and an alternative healer in modalities like acupuncture and reiki. She also speaks three of the South African 11 official languages fluently.
Her journey to be a voice and mother to orphaned children started one night in the little town of Middelburg when three very ill young kids were left on her doorstep. The littlest dying of AIDS and two very young girls had been gang raped – all of them in dire need of food, shelter and care.
She ended up selling everything she had in the city and moved to the platteland to a town of 20 000 people where 50% of the residents are without jobs. There she takes care of all the children who have nothing and no one. (One child in her care was sold for R50 by the foster mother. Another was locked up in a closet most of the time so his mom could work as prostitute in the same room.)
About 6 years ago Dianne had to flee for her life. Encouraged by Amnesty International, she turned to England for exile. Watch this video to understand more about what she does, how government fails these children and to see this very picturesque part of South Africa in the middle of nowhere.
Also watch the inspirational story about forgiveness at the end of the documentary about Dianne. Your story about Marcia Brown reminds me of another remarkable South African woman who lives the power of forgiveness, Marcia Khoza. I will write you more about her later.
You should also read her book (one of 4 she had published so far - I’m sure you guys can download the e-book version) Saving Mandela’s Children. It is a true and harrowing account of events that transpired during two very traumatic years of her life fighting the disdainful and dubious conduct in a number of government departments.
O dear, it is lunch time here. When the dogs start scratching my legs like this, I know it’s time to take them for a walk and then feed them. Abella’s new speech therapist is busy with her, so I have to rush and be back in time before he leaves. I’ll continue writing now now.
Hi! It’s 3.15pm. Abella is sound asleep and I just had my Rooibos Tea, so now I can finish writing this e-mail in rest in peace, I mean in peace! It was so funny, our pet tortoise Skillie started chasing Abella’s therapist in the garden this morning! We’ve had Skillie now for 14 years and she is very protective of her garden space! Abella found it so funny, with her peculiar high pitch laugh, we were all in stitches laughing! It is so good to see her so happy.
But let me quickly finish telling you about Dianne.
Apart from standing up for these children who have no one looking out for them – not even the law – she has also recently decided to take up another cause.
She now gives voice to the plight of another human mostly forgotten and forsaken. Eugene de Kock - the only person in South Africa who was convicted for crimes against humanity executed during the Apartheid era.
Not ONE other person, not ONE past minister or past leader of this country serves a sentence with him. He is THE ONLY ONE who has been carrying that responsibility over the past 18 years in a high security prison.
Eugene is the only human being taking the punishment for the atrocious system and the horrible crimes that were committed under the banner of Apartheid. Crimes that he helped keep in place by carrying out the orders of others - his employers, his superiors: the government of South Africa.
I read this valid comment by Dr Piet Croucamp on the facebook group FREE EUGENE DE KOCK:
“My plea is: he is the only one doing time after 45 years of apartheid, he has done 18 years, he lost everything he had including his family, we should not judge in the same way the apartheid state did (we should be more human), he resent what he has done and is remorseful (unlike the old Nats he does not think apartheid was a policy mistake, he thinks it was a crime) he deserves our mercy for taking responsibility, for taking his punishment without denying what has happened, and because we are not animals; we must treat him as a human being. He served his time and paid for his crimes, if we want to keep him there it might well be because we have become as inhuman as we accuse him of being.”
Here is a link to her books:
But enough of all these inhumane and corrupt systems of government all over the world, let’s rather talk about love! Your first love Jack! News flash, you say?! I hope it is still only the news flashing when Jack arrives!;-)
I read up on Boererate for wrinkles and age spots in Danie Smuts’ book Boererate. That man is a real fundi when it comes to doing things the old way. He has THE solution for you, An my dear! I am NOT kidding you (although I guess you are going to think it sounds a bit doff…). I am quoting straight from the horse’s mouth: first you can mix equal parts of cow and pig manure. Wash your face well and then put the mixture on for 10 minutes. It warns that it might smell ‘strange’ (no kidding!). Can you believe women used to do that back in the olden days before creams and ointments and serums and stuff?! No wonder my grandmother looks the way she does on those old brown sepia tint photographs! Poor lady! Bless her soul!
Talking about finding your voice or giving voice to those who cannot speak - I have some very exciting news about our quest in helping Abella to find a way of communicating. With only 10% hearing in one ear and her mental and physical disabilities, she really only uses her eyes to focus on something she wants. The few sounds she makes, have not really helped us understand her and her needs better up until recently when we met Hennie Pienaar.
Hennie is a clinical psychotherapist specializing in Voice Movement Therapy. In Abella’s 10 years I have never heard of this kind of therapy. Hennie explained it like this: “the human voice conves both cognitive information and feeling. It can move us with words but also beyond words. A special needs kid like Abella might not use her voice to convey ideas, but she still communicates information with the tones and other qualities of her voice.”
He started spending time with her once a week and made use of breathing and massage techniques, dancing, mimicking (not only each other but also animals on pictures or animal toys) and playing on instruments (sometimes using any old object around for that purpose, like a bin or a plastic bottle).
I am speechless when I see how she responds to him. You can see how safe she feels and there is definite communication happening between the two of them. He is gradually succeeding, week by week, in bringing her voice into our world as we now better interpret and understand her voice and her needs.
It is a therapy that can benefit every person as we all can learn to understand how we and others communicate with our voices. Do yourselves a favour and read more here:
I have talked so much now, I think I just lost my own voice.
Looking forward to hear more about the boabab tree prisons you mentioned in your last e-mail, Lee. Please include a picture if you can.
Blessings to both of you,
TO: Jo@ iafrica.com, An@yahoo.ca
DATE: March 30, 2012
SUBJECT: Re: Re: Voice(s)
Hey Jo, hey there An!
I first of all have to show you the tree growing here in our Game Park which is definitely a better example of The Tree of Life – or like you said, An, the Universal Mother:
The touching stories both of you shared about inspirational women caring for and comforting those around them makes me think of Sweet Lullaby by Deep Forest – to me that would be the universal lullaby.
The tree prisons I referred to are in the town of Kasane in the northeast corner of Botswana. Kasane lies on the confluence of two major rivers, the Chobe and the Zambezi. It is also at the meeting point of four countries – Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Today Kasane has a modern multi-story police station and prison. The architect took care to design it in such a way that the two ancient baobabs once used as prisons could be preserved. Both are hollowed out with once locking doors that allowed prisoners to be held within the tree itself - one tree for the men and one for the women. The trees are approximately 7 m high and hollow at the base. Criminals were kept there until they could be transported to a courthouse or a real prison in another town.
The San have a number of interesting legends about baobab trees. Being great storytellers, it is hardly surprising that the baobab would intrigue and entertain them. One story is that in the beginning the gods distributed the seeds of all the plants to the animals to cultivate. The hyena was the last to receive his seed and it was a baobab. He was so disgusted to be last that he planted it upside down.
Another legend has it that baobabs don't grow at all. They are dropped from heaven fully grown, and being top heavy they always land upside down with a loud thud, still sometimes heard today.
Reading about Eugene de Kock in your e-mail, Jo, I just joined the Free Eugene de Kock facebook group. I read Dr Piet Croucamp’s comments and also liked his comment: We can never justify the past, but we should never forget that he was and still is one of us.
I also watched the documentary about Dianne Lang and her orphans. I have to share two poems with you. They were written by a modern day San poet: one about street children and the other about a girl who was gang raped (this poem is written in Afrikaans). An, I am very happy to hear that you have also gone back to writing poetry. Please share some of your words with us.
SHADOWS OF SHAME
Is our mother’s milk then poisoned with sin
our father’s seed so putrid and foul
that we stay confined to the shadows of doubt
gripped in the icy clutches of fear?
We look with shame upon the fruit of our loins
wish they would disappear - shady skeletons
roam streets at night scorn their mother’s love
taint their father’s name in shame
With hollow eyes they search around
guiltily prey on owner’s ground
enslaved by addiction no conscience at all
craving’s affliction writes on the wall
Too late too late their souls sold away
to change becomes a bridge too far
brainless creatures controlled by the Devils own
in white powder and crystalic stone
Their lives are whispers in the wind
forgotten patterns in the desert sands
peacefulness no longer pillows our dreams
painful their agonizing screams
Their day is night and night is day
bodies so fragile bodies so fray
like rotten eggs in a broken basket
the end awaits - a shameful face
a lonely casket
~ Cisco Fortuin
‘n Tienjarige meisie se onskuld is geroof
in digte bosse haar kermkrete uitgedoof
In vergrype dierlike onmenslikheid
haar lendepyn gebottelde ondenkbaarheid
Suipel in die grond maagdebloed satansaad
demoonse grim na verwronge daad
‘n Jong wese verwoes verpletter vertrap
in spotterkring die daad ‘n siek bendegrap
Haar tengerige lyfie ruk slaan angssweet uit
as monstervingers in nagmerrie na haar gryp
~ Cisco Fortuin
On this sombre note…I have to get to the gym now, will see if you are on facebook later today.
PS. Here is some words you can chew on so long:
A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty...We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive. ~ Albert Einstein
Oh, and before I go: do you guys realize how sophisticated Theodor Seuss Geisel was in his choice of names and symbols in all his books? Thneed in the Lorax for instance can be rearranged to spell: The End…