Out here in the mountains, it is hot, windy, dusty and the local farmers are spraying vines and apple trees with pesticides, so that an acrid chemical trace catches in the back of my throat. Another luxury golf course may be constructed a short distance away, the fynbos destroyed, hectares of fertilized grass needing mowing and thousands of litres of wasted water going to an abomination designed to please tourists waving dollars and euros around. My neighbours and myself are trying to persuade an elderly man with rapidly advancing Alzheimers to hand over his revolvers. Up on the hillside in the informal settlement there is an outbreak of dysentery among young children and everyone is hoping that it isn’t cholera.
Despite this, the valleys are green and vivid with scarlet and magenta bougainvilleas. and wild white roses line the farm roads around Elgin. An enchanted countryside on the verge of summer.
We shouldn’t bother with celebrating an incongruously summery Samhain in the hot despoiled wastelands of Africa. But there will be dress-up parties with too much drinking and silly jokes about sexy witches. This morning I choked with laughter over my coffee reading this from my friend Aquila ka Hecate.
Echoes of Samhain are drifting my way from across the oceans. Even as I repot pelargoniums and go out into the garden with a watering can, the sun hot on the back of my neck, there is a sense of darkening, endings, descent. In night dreams and daydreams, I feel a sense of separation and liminality. Dreams stay with me like cobwebs tickling the face on waking in the morning, insubstantial but lingering, haunting. I feel cloaked, shrouded, stirred by the dead.
In part, this has to do with my old fears around the Christmas festering season. The chaos on our highways with drunken drivers and road rage. The xenophobic violence erupting in unstable and fragile communities. The gun-glorifying culture we have here. The rape culture. Closer to home, my own memories of family conflict, terror from seeing my mother battered on Christmas Eve. The excessive drinking. The greed and recklessness, the disappointment when the thoughtless gifts and flustered shopping and overeating couldn’t make up for the emptiness at the heart of that old Christmas myth. The overlooked and forgotten baby soiled and howling in a crib adorned with tinsel and ribbons.
But it has to do with another process, a dark night within, the liminal shifting across boundaries in search of — well, I don’t know. A kind of descent, a kind of stripping of self. I do often wonder about the transformation that began in Wales and was so brutally truncated. As if part of myself entered a hillside in the Black Mountains at twilight with mist falling and never emerged. That changeling within.
No doubt more will be revealed, as a wise friend of mine says.