Welcome to Carolyn Cowan Online; Designer, photographer, teacher, mother, counsellor and bodypainter.
Archive for May, 2011
We are watching one of the mountains very closely, waiting for a skydiver to appear as a tiny blue dot against this beautiful background. The dot is meant to be my daughter who, in her role, is supposed to have jumped off the mountain wearing a parachute and then deftly caught a helicopter on her way down and so landed safely.
The joys of being 8 are unchallenged. I am the one who is challenged. I am seriously struggling with the Perfection of the Universe.I rail against this reality. I want to be elsewhere, doing other things than sitting in the background making sure she is safe and hydrated. I want to be in another reality, a different experience…. And it causes me to suffer hugely. I was with a friend who lives out here for the last few days and her mantra was endless: It is all perfect, the universe is perfect. It gets irritating to listen to and even more annoying to realise that my endless issue, the lack of trust that I have in this perfection, is so painful.
In retrospect everything is always fine and good, all turns out well. But sitting here surrounded by the most exquisite view on the planet, being paid to be here, all expenses covered, all creature comforts considered, I still range, roam mentally and itch to be elsewhere.
I guess it is the addict in me that will never sit still. Nothing is ever enough. I need to take care of this aspect of me every day, moment by moment. I am aware of this beast inside me. I know how to cage and tame it. I am just not good at it when the caging and taming are not enough. How to reign in the screaming wildness inside me that surfaces when things are not going my way?
My plans have been waylaid by circumstances beyond my control, I should no longer have been here; I ought to have been at home, quietly stroking and tending to my business, instead I am stretched beyond the gap I had allowed for this experience in my life and I loathe it.
I have stretched my body as far as I can with my yoga practice. (I cannot run here, apparently it is too dangerous for women to run alone…), I have meditated, here I write to offload my writhing, and I will breathe deeply all day and work with the Just for Today Card. An aspect of 12 Step Recovery that is life transforming, takes me out of my self-centeredness and puts me firmly on the side.
The first line says: Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for 12 hours that would appal me if I felt I had to keep it up for a lifetime.It goes on in this way, rather in the vein of Eckhart Tolle and other spiritual masters, to bring everything into the moment. The moment is perfect, I feel better. I can square my shoulders and turn to the next person with a calm smile.The universe is perfect…….. just for today.
The sun is shining, I am officially in Paradise. Not my version because my reality is that it is not place bound, but gratitude is important and the view spectacular. To confess to it being anything other than earthly perfection would be churlish.
But it is interesting to be conscious of clarity coming in; to see how my view of my vision adjusts as understanding lands. Small moments of awareness are gently folding themselves open and the vast expanses of beauty rests upon some very dead weight. I live in South London. I live in an area where I am frequently the only white person on the bus or in the shops or on the street. Many of my friends are mixed race, black, (what is the current PC description? I loose track).
Do I ever feel more than? No. Do I ever feel threatened? Never. I know I am the wrong generation to be threatened and I am extremely human, full of frailties and therefore no better than anyone.
But here. Gosh. As my eyes open and I see what goes on, how it is, the expectations, the voices, the glances. the comments, the realities…. Paradise is very flawed. Look at at the sea and it is lovely. Turn to look around at all that allows me be to be here looking at the sea and it is not lovely at all.
Sitting at breakfast in a 5 star hotel, only the guests and the manager are white. I asked the very tight lipped, suited manager about where I could run. She was surprised and took time to answer. I should never run alone was the final response and no, there was no one to run with me or with whom I could run. She confessed to being a runner herself, but ran far too far and too fast to run with me. I thought nothing of it until later, walking down the rocks to the beach, realising that I was in fact in serious danger. Not from the rocks or the elements but the fact that I am white, alone with a child, gold jewellery, handbag, female……. By the time I got it I was at sea level with a long walk back up through bushes, scrubland, hidden pathways, in front of me.
It is many years since I moved through my daily life watching my back. True, I worked in Africa a lot 20 years ago and now remember the sensations, the endless threat of rape, not trusting anyone. It is an unpleasant experience and it is very evident amongst the women here, the fear, but also the endless divisions as to what is done by black, what is owed, due and owned by white. 3 days in and I am no longer filled with delight and awe. I am horrified.
Corrective rape is the new black in Capetown and this week a famous black lesbian was gang raped and murdered in the city. My friend here is white and gay and I am interested to see what her take will be. She is rich, privileged, less than honest about the realities of life, lives with a woman. I want to see what it is like for her. Is she able to be open about her sexual choices? Does she have impunity? Is it perhaps even trendy to be white, gay, rich? I’ll bet all the tea in China it is fine.
The politics of female sexuality and it’s expression are not getting any easier. The UN may have decided to make rape in all it’s forms an illegal act of war but does anyone out there know? Or care? Or get caught?
“It is such a tricky subject, rape”. Another one of those Facebook sentences that never makes it to my “personal status”.It is never talked about, goes on all the time all over the world, one is labeled a feminist for having views, a victim for the experience. It is as complex an issue as masturbation to discuss, or miscarriage. Bring it up and a huge space looms which no one quite dares to fall into. The space is dark and frightening. Compassion looms within in a very broad, sweeping way for anyone but what to say to the individual who has experienced it? Now or years ago…… just a huge yawning gulf of unspoken, unsupported terror.
To walk in what one assumes is an area rendolent of luxury and all it’s thrall and in that moment realize that one actually has no rights, no impunity, no safety, no power at all is a very shocking realization. It quite takes one’s breath away. Yesterday, as it dawned upon me what I was doing, I stopped, understood and felt so utterly stupid, so devoid of all the protection that my closeted life in the wilds of South London gives me and took a deep breath. “Keep calm, smile, breathe and walk with determination back up the hill”, through the myriad of hidden recesses and unknown shadows and try to concentrate. Attempt to wrap my 51 year old reality and my 8 year old daughter in a completely different blanket, one that is untrusting, overly vigilant and aware all the time. How unparadise-like can I get? But keep smiling, keep being grateful, open and positive and enjoy the view, wait for the dolphins to leap past with all their promise of fairy dust and a better world, but watch my back all the way and do not for a moment suggest to my beautiful child that life is anything less than perfect.
Having said that, questions are bubbling up in her: Why are we only served by blacks? Why do blacks not have proper houses? Why do they walk and not drive? A small cavalcade of questions that when answered as honestly as I can answer them with my limited knowledge of life here, beg more and more quizzes. Are they rich? Why not? If they work so hard why do the whites have all the money?
Sat on the film set, right now, in one of the most comfortable chairs I have ever sat upon, fur rug at my feet, I watch all the layers moving in front of me. The film is financed by an Indian Billionaire. Louis Vuitton twinkles from all the Indian corners of the Directors troupe and the star’s girlfriend. Limited edition wallets and handbags in shiny patent leather lie sparkling on dark wooden tables, the rooms are splendid, the comfort beyond even the reach of Ralph Lauren and his fantasy furniture. Someone mentioned the location, a weekend house, is worth £50,000,000. How lovely. It is. Please don’t get me wrong. It is stunning, the view, the location, the décor, the peace and the stillness. Utter perfection. And the layers beneath, what maintains it, cleans it, feeds and serves us, the crew….. the layers are quite fascinating.
My mother does not venture out into the world much but she has been here and has written, begging me to keep the hotel swimming pool. I am starting to see why.