Six weeks ago Andre died. He fought so hard against the cancer which raged within him- it was a soul-destroying journey to have to walk with him. Everything he did from the moment he was diagnosed was to ensure that I was taken care of and I am humbled to know that I was loved by him. We were fortunate enough to have had the time to say all that needed to be said, many are not so lucky. Although he was desperately ill and there was sadness and pain, yet our home was filled with love and peace and even laughter at times, especially when the children were here – dying is a strange and intense journey.
I am trying to come to terms with my ‘new’ life. Andre and I worked hard on the Pinkhaus to make it what we wanted and there is still a lot to be done. It seems I’ll just have to do things a little slower without him to help me. In a way having my animals to care for has helped ease the transition – I can’t just walk away from them, they need to be fed and cared for every day and the routine gives me something to get up for in the morning. The three girl goats, Lolly, Paprika and Choi are pregnant so I need to start preparing their sheds for the new arrivals. Six of my chickens were killed one night by either a badger or an otter so their enclosure needs to be properly secured.
For now I will stay here and continue to run the Pinkhaus as Andre and I did. My environment, the freedom to be who I want to be here, neighbours and friends have all contributed towards helping me make my decision. The area around the house is beautiful- every day I gaze upon the Outeniquas and the valley and wooded ravine on the property. The veld changes constantly as the seasons slide by – at present the hillside along the ravine has a band of wild gladioli and pink heather whilst the hillside outside my bedroom window is a riot of greens interspersed with yellow bitou, pink and orange ericas and proteas galore. Every now and then a rhebok or grysbok drifts cautiously through the bush, blending with the rocks around them, the vervets chatter and bark on the boundary fence, drongos, finches, sunbirds and countless other birds sing throughout the day and the naguil and owls serenade the night. Almost every day I see one or other of the mongooses – either walking jauntily along the driveway or else sneaking surreptitiously across the fields on the way to stealing my eggs. Last night one was on the balcony outside my bedroom and caused a huge ruckus. Sputnik started howling like a cat possessed, I opened the doors and the dogs tumbled out into the dark baying like wolves; when I shone my torch onto the deck two little green eyes shone back before diving off into the bush. At night the darkness engulfs me, I love it – like being wrapped in black velvet, and the stars are like great jewels scattered across the heavens.
My neighbours and friends in the village and surrounding farms have been so supportive throughout Andre’s illness and after his death. People helped me with heavy work which I couldn’t manage, fed my animals when I was sitting at the hospital with Andre, brought meals and love and prayer and chocolate éclairs, brought wood for my fire and bags of horse manure for my garden. When the electricity was out I could take Andre and his oxygen machine to a friend’s cottage and put him to bed there, when I had to sell his bike his biking buddies helped me move and load it. One dear lady even did my ironing for me one day – gold medal for her! I feel very much a part of this caring community and would hate to leave. On Wednesday, Women’s Day, I was invited to the Congregational Church in Green Haven to join in the celebrations there. What a lovely morning we had, there were speakers and entertainment with much of the earthy humour and quick wit which is so typical of Coloured people. The best part for me though was singing N’kosi Sikelele with two or three hundred ladies – very stirring!
There have been a number of visitors over the last few months so I’ve had the pleasure of showing them around. For a few days we had giraffe at the top of the hill early in the morning so we would ‘game watch’ in our pajamas from the top of the drive. Today there is a magnificent waterbuck with his harem of does grazing along the game park fence. Two weeks ago I was driving along the Kleinvlei road when I saw a small elephant close to the fence. I stopped and whilst my friend took photos I walked over to the fence. Imagine my delight when the elephant walked over to inspect me. He had a ‘keeper’ with him- a sad reflection on how poaching has impacted our wildlife- who was very concerned for the safety of his ward but I assured him that I wouldn’t hurt the elephant and just wanted to watch it. The elephant reached it’s trunk along the fence to smell me and gently snuffled my hand looking for food – what a wonderful experience!
My chickens have gotten a little out of hand over the last few months. The older hens always kept to the enclosed areas – they had six fields and all the veld to scratch in, hardly deprived. A while back one of my neighbours gave me four of her hens and I’m afraid these free spirits led the original bunch astray. They thought that my vegetable garden looked inviting so flew over the fence to help themselves and scratched my plants to hell and gone. I clipped all their wings with the neighbours help but they still flew over the fence. Clipped them again, this time with my son-in-law on Father’s Day (that’s one he’s not going to forget – staggered out of the chicken shed covered in feathers and chicken poo) and they decided to CLIMB over the fence. So – I’m afraid I’ve given up on them. I was contemplating slaughtering the lot and starting again but they have started laying eggs prolifically, thus ensuring that they’ll be around for a little while longer.
Early in May the pharmacist from Great Brak phoned to ask if I wanted a baby goat who’d been rejected by his mum. I’ve always been a sucker for animals and although I was caring for Andre at the time I said yes. A few hours later the dirty little bundle was delivered to my door and it was love at first sight. Somehow, caring for this healthy, living being helped to counteract the pain of watching Andre deteriorate. The goat was named Cooper after Alice because he has black lips and eyeliner although his coat is white.(My vet reckons he sounds like Alice). Thank heavens he took well to a bottle and despite a few minor hiccups with a sore leg he has grown into a handsome ram with black horns and gorgeous eyelashes. Initially he stayed in the house because it was so cold. Ben and Dingo reared him and as a result he still thinks he’s a ridgeback- it is so sweet to see him when he runs into the dogs in the veld , there are kisses and wagging tails all round, including Cooper.
So – life goes on. Abundantly, all around me. I think I will just have to continue sharing it with other people and it will help to ease my loss.
Till next time.