“Where are you from?”
I am greeted with this question often, especially after a yoga class, when folks have heard my voice move through its variety of lilts. My accent does indeed wavers in and out various ways of speaking English.
“Hmmm, how much do I say? What is the simple answer?” I ask myself.
Born in Holland, as part of the collective flood of babies arriving in the joy of war-end, I arrived on the day all the Dutch flags were waving from window sills on a lovely day in spring. Liberation Day in Holland, May 5th.
I am hugely welcomed by my parents, sister and two brothers. This gift of welcoming has carried me all my life, and for that I am so grateful.
Europe in the early fifties, however, was in an economic struggle and my father looked to further shores to build a stable life for his wife and four children.
We leave Rotterdam, the entire family of aunts, uncles and grandparents see us off. I am the smallest person in the photo.
We sail for Durban South Africa. Durban is on the east coast of South Africa, sub tropical, lush and very colonial. British history and culture mix with the heat and roots of Shaka Zulu. Queen Elizabeth’s activities were mainstay of the news during the fifties. South Africa did not have television till the seventies! My schooling was at the Catholic Convent at the top of the hill overlooking this coastal city.
While supposedly liberal in its policies, the convent,as well as every aspect of society, was enmeshed in the Apartheid policy. The Nationalist Government ruled with an iron fist. We had one Indian girl in our class, and we did visit the Indian schools for tennis matches. Otherwise it was all white-skins! I, like almost everyone in S Africa, became conditioned by the idea that people who are different in color, should live in different ways, and certainly in separate place. Although I participated in student marches and protests, it took leaving the country, to begin to see the apartheid culture and understand its cruelty. I knew there had to be more to life, and resolved to travel the world to discover that.
A major gift in my life at this time, was my first yoga class. My mum took me, at the age of 13 to the Our Lady of Assumption Church Hall for a yoga class. I totally loved it, felt so good, and resolved to learn more about yoga. My mum, on the other hand found it very irritating, and could not understand how anyone could lie dead still at the end! (Thanks again, mum, for another great introduction – yoga, the love of my life!)
In 1969 I sailed away from Durban, clutching my degree in education from the university at the top of the hill overlooking Durban, and having returned Peter’s engagement ring. I knew there was more to life than being a wife and an English teacher. My intention was to return to my roots.
In Holland I fell in love with my aunts and cousins, left behind all those years ago. I found a job in Amsterdam and entered the most important change of consciousness phase of my life. Not only did I love my Dutch roots, I also met up with the international jet-setting gypsies. Amsterdam was a hub for this group, who traveled to and from India, Australia, and United States. Here I met my first Americans, people who used words four-letter words openly, who were in resistance to the mainstream society, and who sought our peak spiritual experiences. I hungrily read Paul Brunton’s book Cosmic Consciousness, became a vegetarian, and belted out Israeli folk songs nightly Haifa cafe, in the heart of Amsterdam. It was cultural and intellectual and visceral soup of all that was new and electrifying!
I joined the jet-gypsies, and traveled all over Europe, spend months in Bali, years in Japan and Australia. Then, with flowers in my hair to San Franscisco. I was a bit late for sixties stuff, but the evolution of conscious continued on Haight-Ashbury, where I found a small store, where we lay on pillows and listened through head-phones to white sound! Oh, my mind is stilled!
“Cheese bread and Sausage!” Renaissance Fair, Agoura Hills, 1974, hawking food in my best English-wench accent:
I am seemingly tricked into going back to South Africa, after my international dilly-dallying.
“Do come home for our parent’s 40th wedding anniversary” writes my sister urgently on the blue aerogram letter.
“Home” is now a place inside me, but I am tempted and succumb. While it was wonderful to hug and reconnect, and celebrate the longevity of my parents’ marriage, I feel a stranger in a strange land. I feel trapped with the same old thinking, find myself in the staff room of a Johannesburg convent school, bristling with the thought forms flying around there. My past self meets the current self. It is a time of reckoning. It is my Saturn return, the life review that happens for us all between 20 and 30 years of age. The convent educated girl that grew up in conservative S Africa has to face the liberal counter-culture god-seeking hippy who just blew in for a party. It is said that your Saturn Return is a challenging time. Yikes! Saturn Keeper of Time and Records demands this life review. Now what will you do? The answers to that question will lay the framework for the next cycle of 29 years.
to be continued….. Act 2 Wife, Mother, and the rest.