On exiting the stage in red shoes.

Today, I experienced one of those surreal moments where time seems to stand still for just a little while, and everything inside you pays attention.

I saw a grizzled, old man.

Spine curved with age, he shuffled, unhurried, enjoying the early evening sun on his face.

As my gaze started to drift away, I noticed his shoes — they were red. The brightest red that I had ever seen. A celebration unto themselves.

They made my heart jump with joy. The sheer audacity of disregard for age, or convention, or what might be seemly enough for a man who has seen more than a few seasons.

As our eyes met — and it was just the briefest connection in time — I smiled at him. A gift, in exchange for this unexpected, wild delight of a man in the final act of his life, owning the sidewalk in his red shoes.

Oh, the beauty of this defiant act of joy.

— On exiting the stage in red shoes.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

It seems a good day to repost this story. Here’s to living our lives owning the sidewalk in defiant red-shoed joy,

liezel

Anna, means grace. (It’s time to say goodbye).

I lit a candle for you, today.

Only one. If you live right, one light is enough.

Every time the tiny flame sputtered and died, I lit another. It still burns, even now, as I write with the sun almost at your door, and the moon, at mine.

The candle’s light kept me company as I peeled carrots for lunch—I know you’d appreciate that—the spirit keeping vigil whilst the hands are busy with the ordinary task of preparing food for a child. You were always so good at that. Filling tummies and hearts.

Remember how you showed me how to peel a potato so that the peel was almost as thin as tissue paper? Your face a study of quiet pride as your knotted fingers struggled not to yield to arthritis. I remember.

And how you used to walk with me to the other side of town, whenever I came to visit in the school holidays, just so that I could see the museum for the hundredth time. If you only knew the joy that gave me. The escape from the agony that was school. Of not fitting in no matter how hard I tried. Although, I think you do. You, were always my safe place. I remember.

And how you used to lift me out of that ancient cast-iron bath? The water never stayed warm in it. The blazing heat from the gas-heater warmed that small bathroom and small children too, on those icy nights.

Now, the flesh has faded from your bones and you are the one needing strong arms to hold you up and Winter has come, once again.

And I am not sure my heart can ever be warmed up again.

The years have been kind to you. But, time? Time, has been cruel. It has taken so many people that you have loved. And how you loved! I hope that they are all there, waiting for you when you walk through that door.

I hope.

Do you remember how I loved to play in the shade of the old Cape Rough-skin Lemon tree outside your kitchen door? How I loved that tree. And those lemons. And nobody could make lemon curd like you could. If I close my eyes, just like this, I can taste the sweet tartness on my tongue.

And when you were the first to look cancer in the eye and I gave you a card that said ‘Don’t give up’. As if you would.

And then, when it was my turn to face a doctor’s words, you gave it back to me. ‘Don’t give up’, you said.

As if I would. With your stubborn Irish genes in my DNA.

And now, here I am. On the other side of the world. I picked up my roots like a skirt and stepped gingerly onto another continent. Home, but not quite. I wonder if the women in my bones remember that their blood was once a part of this land. Do they remember me?

I am home, but not quite. Just like you.

And as I give my son his lunch, I teach him about nouns and how they name things, like ‘Ouma’.

We haven’t talked about adjectives yet, but I have so many that walk hand-in-hand with you, my Ouma.

Strong. Brave. Gracious. Wise. Loving. Loyal. Courageous. Faithful. Funny. Beautiful. Kind. Hopeful.

Soon, you will leave this place. It’s ok. I know that you’re tired. It’s been a long, hard season for you, and they are waiting.

They’re all there waiting for you. And I hope that there is a lemon tree. And new, strong bones and blue eyes, bright with new life.

And I shall be ok. It will hurt like hell. I cannot lie. It will be a searing pain that will leave a mark, but I shall be ok.

You know that.

I lit a candle for you, today.

It still burns as I wait.

The moon is here with me and so is the light.

…and I shall wait.

It’s ok, now. You can take off this life. It’s a bit frayed around the edges. You’ve worn it well.

But it’s time to go home, soon.

It’s ok.

I’ll see you on the other side.

— Anna, means grace. (It’s time to say goodbye).

© Liezel Graham 2019.

a new year’s song.

the year is dying in my hands

and

. i am filling my apron

with a feather

. for hope,

and

tiny bits of tumbled sea glass

. for courage.

.

.

when the waters rise,

. they will not wash over me.

.

.

a pinch of faith,

. you only need a little,

and

a quilt of mercy

to warm my heart

.

that

at

times

has

loved

so coldly.

.

. i will guard the spring.

.

guard it fiercely,

so that only

love

will

flow,

. but i know

that i am cut from rough cloth

and

grace

is the bread that keeps me alive,

.

and you.

.

so

i will give

. and give

. and give,

until

we cannot see

who we once were,

. for all the love.

.

that,

is how they will recognise us.

.

.

the broken ones.

.

not the knowledge.

not the perfection.

not the raised eyebrow,

.

but

the

love.

.

it’s how i recognised you,

when

all

i had known was failure.

.

you loved me first,

and

never

stopped.

.

and i will not worry about

my hips

or

my wrinkles

or

my yesterdays

or

my tomorrows.

.

i am held.

.

and because i am the one,

.

that

one,

.

who deserves an entire parable.

. yes.

.

the one

who wanders

and

strays .

into thickets

. and

thorns,

where others see the danger,

i will remember that i was searched for

. over and over,

every time

and

i too will

. search

when others get lost.

.

i will not be the pointing finger,

but

the open hand that says,

. here i am.

.

let me be

a light in a glass jar,

. shining

in spite of it all.

.

.

—a new year’s song.

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

.

.

Photograph by Martí Pardo.

.

.

Friends,

.

.

I wish you a peaceful, spacious

new year.

.

.

Know that you are held

and that though they may rise,

the waters will not wash over you,

.

.

liezel

advice to the drowning.

on a cold, winter’s day,

a man

carrying a heavy load, lost his footing and

fell

into a deep, icy

river.

exhausted

from the

cold

and

the weight he had been

trying

to hold

he struggled to keep his

life

above

the

blackness

below.

on the banks of the river

there were,

fortunately

for him,

several others

willing

to help.

and a rope.

‘keep your head above the

dark and look towards the light’

and

‘i am praying for you. this battle is surely

spiritual

and you can,

indeed,

you

must

win this fight.

have you tried fasting?’

and

‘this despair is all in your mind,

just think positive.

do not give in to the

negative thoughts that are

swirling,

they are false

and you have the power to

overcome

this water’

and

‘i fell into a similar river once,

the water was warmer

and

not

quite

so

deep,

but i got out.

and

so can you.

if you try hard enough’

and

‘i shall throw you an apple and

some

organic carrots.

eat yourself

from out of

that

dark space’

and

‘what weakness is this?

i wish that i too had

the luxury

of

letting go of my

load.’

and

‘if you only knew how many

people all over this world

have prayed

for water

like that

which you are

so

fortunate

to be in.

so

just

swim.’

but

the man

was tired.

worn out.

ashamed.

defeated.

and

nobody

had thought

to throw

the rope,

and

so,

surrounded by

advice,

he drowned.

and all the helpers

walked away

muttering,

carrying their

thoughts

and

prayers

and

holiness

to

find

others

more worthy

to save.

— advice to the drowning.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

#WorldMentalHealthDay

nothing has changed.

i walked along the lapping edge of a loch, seeking

the mute swan

who speaks her

peace

without a sound, finding

solace beneath the

tender canopy

of ash and

sycamore, for the world

is bleeding from her bones and every woman

that I carry within my

dna is afraid, it has

always been this way

the feminal voices whisper.

nothing has changed.

nothing

has

changed, since we buried

our bruises under layers

of silent resignation, carrying

the world in our womb

and our word

still

not

enough.

so, i take them by the hand

lead them by waters that

are quiet

and still,

seeking

the peace

of the wild things, the robin

calling from the undergrowth

and the wary fallow deer

always watchful,

of man

in this sylvan glade, where

nothing has changed.

nothing

has

changed.

— nothing has changed.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

EDIT: I have stumbled upon a beautiful poem by Wendell Berry, called ‘The Peace of the Wild Things’.

And in honour of his exquisite words — you really should read it — I have changed the title of my poem to ‘Nothing has changed.’

Lessons on Joy.

My neighbour

has a three-legged,

chocolate brown

Border Collie.

Every afternoon

I stand

at my window

and watch

her exuberant,

lopsided

joy

as she discovers

the familiar route

of her daily walk,

once again.

If she could

talk

she would tell you of

a long line

of hard-working

ancestors

who helped bring

order

to the

chaos

that often accompanies

farming life.

Speed,

and

agility

are in her DNA,

but

not

in

her bones

and

she has every right

to

mourn

the limb

that

never was —

the

absent

appendage

to her

wholeness.

But

all

she

does

is

live.

Loud,

vigorous

and

ebullient,

with

open-mouthed

enthusiasm

at

the great fortune

of

yet another

day.

And

my heart

contracts

at this

choosing

to grab life

and shake

it

upside-down

until all the

good

has fallen

out

of

its

pockets,

in

spite

of

all

that was

lost.

— Lessons on joy.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

How to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

And,

perhaps

what You meant,

was that I need to

unlearn

this

frantic

becoming.

This search for

position

and place

and purpose,

and instead

learn

how to

just

be.

Like a small child,

delighting in

how red ladybugs

are.

And,

do you know that whales sing

songs to each other?

Especially when they’re

sad.

And,

why is Wales called

Wales,

it doesn’t look like a whale?

To know that

heaven

is right here

and tomorrow

doesn’t have to have

a name

yet,

because

today

is really

all that matters

and

in all of this,

You are

all

around

me,

and

I am loved.

— How to enter the Kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18 v 3.

© Liezel Graham 2018.