Random reflections during a highveld winter

Sleeping rough

Driving my daughter to school the other morning I saw a person sleeping on the sidewalk under a bright red blanket. Couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman. The night had been bitterly cold, frost all around, and I had slept in a bed with a warm duvet and an extra blanket, but still was cold. I can't get my head around that.

On my way to church this morning passed a man who looked very old, but was perhaps not really so old, wearing a threadbare shirt and over it a jersey with holes all over. The jersey might have been brightly coloured before but was now a dull grey like the shirt and the trousers held up with a piece of string. In the car I was cold with three layers of relatively new clothing on. I struggled to get my head around that.

A brown headed kingfisher. Since I couldn't get a photo of my visitor I use this illustration from Kenneth Newman's "Birds of South Africa"
A brown headed kingfisher. Since I couldn't get a photo of my visitor I use this illustration from Kenneth Newman's "Birds of South Africa"

A special visitor

A few days ago a beautiful brown headed kingfisher came and sat on the wall outside our kitchen. A beautiful bird with bright blue edgings to its wings, a blue tail and a long, strong-looking beak. We are a long way from any large bodies of water. The bird and I looked at each other for some time. I wanted to go and fetch my camera to record this amazing event, but I knew that if I moved, my lovely visitor would fly away. After we had looked at each other for a few more minutes I thought to myself, what the hell, I'll go and fetch the camera. Of course, as soon as I moved, the lovely kingfisher flew off. I still can't get my head around that.

This afternoon I was with my daughter watching her ride her bike in the late afternoon sunshine up and down the roadway of the complex in which we live. At the very top of a tall leafless tree nearby I could see a bulbul, his feathers being ruffled by the wind up there, while he sang his flutelike song of four or five notes, over and over, such a lovely limpid sound. My daughter rode by with her long hair blowing out in the wind of her movement, looking like a veil of spun gold. And then she fell and hurt her ankle. How does one get one's head around that?

Esme Pollard holding Caitlin at the time of Caitlin's baptism in 2002
Esme Pollard holding Caitlin at the time of Caitlin's baptism in 2002

The lizard in the sun

The other afternoon in the pale winter sunshine a fat lizard was sunning itself on the brick wall of the carport. Beautiful he was, with a golden strip down either side of his fat tummy, his jet black eyes ever watchful, as he turned his head this way and that to keep alert to danger. I could see his dainty little feet clinging onto the face brick of the wall, and wondered how such tiny feet could hold him up there. It was a beautiful little scene of no great import. Then I moved and he disappeared so fast I could not even see where he went. I puzzled about that for a minute or two, then realised I would never get my head around this little mystery and so started the car and went on my way.

Yesterday we heard that my wife's mother, a lovely, vibrant, creative 70-plus lady, has some potentially cancerous growths in her face and neck. Esme Pollard is a loving, generous, artistic and expressive person with so much to give the world. It's very hard to get my head around that.

Update on Esme Pollard, 30 June 2010

Today we got the frightening news, the news that everyone fears - the growths in Esme's lung and lymph nodes are malignant. We are not yet sure of the extent and she will go for more tests to determine that tomorrow.

Chemo-therapy starts next week.

I'm struggling to get my head around this news.

Epilogue

Of course Esmé died. The chemo didn't work and only brought her what to my mind was needless suffering.

Esmé died on 14 December 2010, just days before we could get to Cape Town, and so we did not see her again.

After her death we had two celebrations of her life - one at church and one, less formal and perhaps more moving - at a stone cottage in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.

In the cottage we sat in a circle, we who had known Esmé, and spoke simply about what she had meant to each of us.

The flowers in a bottle and the candles which burnt while we spoke were eloquent testimony to Esmé's essential humility and simplicity.

More by this Author


Comments 54 comments

ralwus 6 years ago

I loved this Tony. Also I can't get my head around the fact that you have a daughter so young. Cancer is something that is hard to struggle with at any and all times. god bless her and how is the daughter now after hurting her ankle? I love Kingfishers. Funny that it showed up at your home like that. Peace and love my friend and stay warm. Charlie


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Charlie - thanks for the lovely comment, my friend. I sometimes can't get my head around having a daughter like Caitlin either. She is a delight! The kingfisher was just a gift - a beautiful, serendipitous visit!

Right now my fingers are so cold I can hardly type - and then I think of those who slept outside last night and I want to cry, really!

Thanks again for stopping by and the wonderful comment.

Love and peace

Tony


ralwus 6 years ago

Yes, I recall last winter here I could not keep my feet and hands warm enough. I don't know how the homeless survive in winter or summer.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Indeed - they must suffer greatly. My fingers are starting to thaw now! And its past 11 a.m. here!


Russ Baleson profile image

Russ Baleson 6 years ago from Sandhurst, United Kingdom

Hello my friend. I don't think we'll ever get our heads around the humbling force of nature, creation, life, people, etc. What I like about you is that you notice and think about these things. If more people were aware and cared as much, then maybe everyone would at least have clothes to keep them warm. Russ


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Russ - you are such a good and dear friend! Your comment has warmed me even on this cold and rather dreary day, with a chilly wind blowing and low grey clouds keeping out the warming sun. Even the washing on the line looks dejected!

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. As always, I really appreciate it.

Love and peace

Tony


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

Yes, Tony - each cameo of living, large or small, seems so beyond our heads.

But it's in the fine-tuned noticing of their details, down to the dainty feet of a small creature who is surely attempting to get his head around you to ascertain how much danger you pose that your humanity is engaged. And it ripples all the way up through each event you experienced and shared with us, to the people you treasure so and hold most dear to your heart.

If there is anything more fully and beautifully human than the ability to consider all these precious things and appreciate them, even though not fully having all the answers to the questions they raise, I don't know what it would be. Then there is this ability to describe them in words that speak to our hearts and minds, too!

How inspiring it is to know that others feel these kinds of miracles too.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Nellieanna - your words are so precious to me. Thank you. Each little cameo was a miracle of awkening to me. And I am grateful beyond words for the opportunities they provided, and continue to provide, for opening my mind.

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with me. I really appreciate that incredibly much.

Love and peace

Tony


maven101 profile image

maven101 6 years ago from Northern Arizona

Morning Tony...We could use some of that cold here in Arizona ( 10am and already 90plus degrees...)

Your daughter is lovely...must take after your wife :>...But I would bet she has your over-large heart...I enjoyed your sensitive musings, reconfirming my respect for your generous and caring appreciation of life and its struggles...you are truly an advocate of Dunne's " every man's death diminishes me " ...Go well my friend...Larry


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

A caring and mediative Hub...


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Larry - you are kind, good sir! Thank you.

Mentalist acer - thanks for the kind comment also.

Thanks good friends for visiting and commenting.

Love and peace

Tony


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Tony, you write so well...I really enjoyed this and the truths and ironies it revealed.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Alek - thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate that you visited and commented.

Love and peace

Tony


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

tony, this is an awesome, beautiful hub. Like you, I often wonder about all the suffering in the world and wonder why. I have my own theory about it, however!


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Great heart Tony! Great thoughts! Peace Brother!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Holle - it is a mystery of life and we have to live with it.

Micky - thank you!

Thanks to both of you for dropping by and commenting.

Love and peace

Tony


always exploring profile image

always exploring 6 years ago from Southern Illinois

Hi Tony,

A great hub that i could get my head around, i, like you see all the injustice in the world,I see too much wealth for some and not enough for many, iv,e mentioned this to some and they say that the people who sleep in the cold prefer that, somehow i don,t believe that, that,s why it,s so important to give to the salvation army or any organization that helps the poor.

God,s blessings


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Ruby - thanks for the insightful and supportive comment. Much appreciated.

Love and peace

Tony


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

Tony thank you for opening up your heart and showing the warmth within, by reflection in thoughts about other living creatures and their obstacles they face daily. The homeless plight continues through out sad and dying planet. I see it every day in my city no matter what season we are in, how they can sleep in the freezing weather is beyond me, but many survive, others unfortunately do not. I am truly thankful I have a warm bed to sleep in at night by the grace of God. Thank you for this wonderful reflection and caring hub. Peace


equealla profile image

equealla 6 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

Hi Tony, small little miracles, those sudden moments when we get captivated by something so awesome as you describe here, aren't they?

The people in the streets, sleeping in the cold, also touches my heart. I feel so helpless, not having super-powers, to keep them all warm and cosy. Did you know the ocean in Cape Town was solidly frozen three weeks ago. Got photographs of it. Amazing for "sunny" South Africa. I think that was a first for our country.

I believe it is only the strongest of the strong that is able to carry the burden of cancer. Your mother in law must be an amazing woman. I usually listen very attentively to people with this awful disease. They have a silent message to teach us something. I pray for the family and for her to receive sufficient strength.


Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 6 years ago

As always a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing your random thoughts. I admire your empathy.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Ken - your insightful and supportive comment is really appreciated. Thanks.

I find the plight of the homeless so painful to see. And today is getting colder and colder and I can't help thinking of the homeless as I sit in this room and type. It hurts, really.

Love and peace

Tony


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

Tony, you reminded me of a scene I saw from a taxi in Moscow, on my way to the airport. An old woman was looking through garbage cans and my heart nearly broke, as I pictured her as a child, carefully dressed and looked after by her mother, care freely playing with her doll... the picture was just too painful ...


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Francis - I was not aware of the frozen sea in Cape Town. Would love to see the photos! Thanks for the prayers. Mother in law is indeed a wonderful person. We hope to go to Cape Town in December and that she will still be there then!

Tammy - thanks for your kind words. I appreciate them very much.

Dimitris - your imagination is evidence of a deep empathy and humanity. A heartbreaking picture indeed!

Thanks all for the wonderful comments, for visiting, and for your humanity. I appreciate all of it so deeply.

Love and peace

Tony


Shil1978 profile image

Shil1978 6 years ago

Tony, you remind me of myself. I too reflect about things much the same way you do. From those reflective moments on life, the only conclusion I've reached is that life is not fair or just. As they say, bad things happen to good people - the reason for that I have never known or will know I guess!!

The poverty around us is really depressing. There is so much wealth all around us, yet we have countless people who have virtually nothing but the pair of clothes they wear, which too (more often than not) are flimsy and woefully inadequate.

Tony, the problem I think for this poverty is our selfishness as a people. Perhaps, it has to do with our materialistic mindset. I've seen that native peoples have far more empathy and a sense of community than us city-dwelling, apparently civilized humans!!

Thank you so much for this wonderful, wonderful hub. One of the best hubs I've read in a long while for sure!!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Shill - your comment is very perceptive and I appreciate it very much. I think materialism has a lot to do with the poverty we see all around us, though I don't necessarily think it's the whole story. And you are right about empathy - it seems to come more naturally to people in rural situations, and that makes it even more important for us in urban environments to learn the skill.

Thanks so much again.

Love and peace

Tony


chasingcars 6 years ago

Here in the US, our conservatives would not pass a bill this week to keep the unemployed fed and housed again until they got the relief of jobs which they lost because of bad government. Not only did they deny renewal of unemployment insurance, they used every impossible and inhuman insult against these fellow Americans and human beings for being out of a job. As to the empathy thing, it is a disgusting idea to some. Thanks, Tony, for reminding us that this is not the world in which most of us live.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Cars - thanks so much for the visit and the comment. I think that empathy is the most important human quality there is. And politicians who deny the humanity of others just don't get any support from me!

Thanks again

Love and peace

Tony


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

It's an amazing thing to be a perceptive human being, as you obviously are, Tony. We must deal with horrors, sorrows as well as wonders that come our way. This is a beautifully poetic piece and I truly thank you.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Laurel - thank you for the very, very kind words. I am really grateful. Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago

Tony- This may well be the most beautiful piece of writing you've ever published here............ absolutely beautiful, and I'm glad you see the beauty that inspired it! K


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

Beautiful, I love this hub. It reflect your journey in life. Very inspiring and I learn much from you. Thanks for share with us. Have a good day!

prasetio


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Kaie, Prasetio - thanks so much for your kind and inspiring words. I really appreciate that you took the time and commented so supportively.

Love and peace

Tony


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 6 years ago from Minnesota

Thank You for your inspiring hub. I can't wrap my head around so many things I see in the world. Somehow even when you write about sad things, you make your readers feel calm and safe. Love your stuff!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Minnetonka Twin - that is one of the nicest comments I have every received here! Thank you so much.

Love and peace

Tony


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

What a beautiful and profound Hub- you touch on so many universal quandaries in a wonderfully contemplative way. Thanks for creating this opportunity for us to stop and think!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Simone - thanks for stopping by and leaving such a lovely comment. I reaaly appreciate it.

I did welcome you in the Forums, but I welcome you again! Hope you have a lot of fun and growing here at HubPages!

Love and peace

Tony


epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

your reflections are not random - they are priceless and definitive!!!


Mystique1957 profile image

Mystique1957 6 years ago from Caracas-Venezuela

My geliefde broer Tony ... Wat 'n pragtige hub, wat' n wonderbaarlike manier wat jy het, sien blydskap in die eenvoudigste dinge. Daar is soveel wysheid in jou stories hier en soveel sensibiliteit ..

I know it is hard to see brightness when something dark covers your eyes. Remember, however;this is just a transition!Love will help you get through it, I am positive! Awesome hub rated up and beautiful!

Warmste drukkies en oneindige hemelse seëninge,

Al


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Epigramman - thank you so much! I appreciate your comment very much indeed.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Broer Al, jy is die beste! Dankie vir die mooi woorde en die goeie wense. Ek waardeer dit opreg!

Caitlin is also our main concern here - she loves her "Gan" so very much and this process is going to be very painful for her, I know. Sy is in elk geval 'n baeie sensitiewe kind. Sy gaan baeie sleg voel hieroor, ek weet dit.

As you say, love will get us all through this.

Thanks again for an uplifting comment which I deeply appreciate.

Love and peace

Tony


amillar profile image

amillar 6 years ago from Scotland, UK

Tony I find these moments more frequent and intense as the years progress. I'll give this one a beautiful.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Amillar - yes, they definitely seem to increase in frequency with age! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Love and peace

Tony


Wendy Krick profile image

Wendy Krick 6 years ago from Maryland

This is beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes. I will keep Esme in my thoughts and prayers. Thanks for sharing this with the world.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Wendy - thank you for the kind and supportive comment. I appreciate it very much.

Love and peace

Tony


HSchneider 6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Hi Tony, Beautiful yet troubling hub about the vagaries of life. There is so much beautiful that is followed by so tragic. Sorry about Esme. I hope all turns out better and it's been caught early and treated successfully. Hang in there and stay as strong and as upbeat as you always are.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Wow...fantastic Tony. In this world there ARE so many things it's hard to get one's head around.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

HS - thanks so much for your gerat comment. Sorry I've taken so long to respond. Been a little out of it lately but back now! Strong and upbeat again! Esme due to start chemo and radio therapy in the next day or two.

Jane - thanks for the visit and the comment. Life is full of mysteries - some fascinating, some scary, but all part of this wonderful world!

Love and peace

Tony


Tatjana-Mihaela profile image

Tatjana-Mihaela 6 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

So sorry to hear the news about your Mother-in-Law. I hope that Esme will recover easily and quickly.

Peace and love


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Tatjana - thank you so much. Esme actually started chemo this week. Justnhope it goes well. Thansk for the kind wishes.

Love and peace

Tony


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 6 years ago

hi tony,

I too find myself reflecting on life quite often. I spend a lot of time in the park near my job, and I think, how do the deer survive the brutal summer and raging winter? What natural enemies do they have, other than man? What sustains them in harsh weather?

I am sorry to hear about Esme. She and your family will be in my prayers. I know what it's like as both of my parents had cancer.

Thanks so much for sharing this.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Trish - thank you for visiting and commenting, and for being a good hearted person! Your prayers and good wishes are very much appreciated. I'm sure you can imagine we're all going through a bit of a time right now!

Love and peace

Tony


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 6 years ago

Yes Tony, I totally understand. It is not an easy journey. All one can do is pray for the best and just be there. It is gratifying to have friends and family to help you cope. As I look back, I can more fully appreciate all the support I received.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks again, Trish!

Love and peace

Tony

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working