Montevue Farm (and a short detour into my heart)

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Edited to say: Before I could come to my senses, I decided to use this to participate in this week's Weekly Anamnesis (the brain-child of THIS beloved brainiac). The theme for this week is "waiting." So what are YOU waiting for? Play along, why don't you?

The paved, narrow farm road leads up a subtle slope between tidy rows of grape vines. These rows of vines sit at an angle with the road. This, I’ve since learned, is to help guard against erosion.

At the end of the road, a stern-looking gate and matching electric fence stand on permanent, protective guard along the perimeter of the yard, compelling would-be visitors to linger at the intercom first.

Once permission to enter is granted, the remote controlled electric gate slowly rolls aside in a sweeping welcome gesture. Two grinning dogs, a sweet yellow Labrador Retriever and a spunky Jack Russell terrier, make up an enthusiastic, entire-hind-bodies-wagging, welcome committee.

At the edge of the paved driveway and parking area sits the sprawling sand-coloured ranch house. Flanked by two double-garages on either side, it forms a perfect U-shape.

The inside of the house is even larger than the outside makes it seem, because that’s when one realises that the bottom of the “U” is merely the width of the house and adjacent apartment – almost as if the length of the house had to remain a modestly guarded secret.

Despite the ample width of the house, large windows and sliding glass doors provide plenty of natural light indoors.

Because the house is located on the side of a hill (but very close to the top of it), those large windows and doors frame the most spectacular, picturesque views. I shall try my best to describe it, but even at my best, I’m sure I’ll still do an inadequate job. My limited vocabulary could never do it justice.

The view is a daily gift, because it changes frequently, sometimes hourly. Its fixed features include a lush garden with a sparkling swimming pool immediately in front of the house; the vineyards surrounding the house; the university town of Stellenbosch spread out in the valley below, nestled in and surrounded by the colourful, quilted patchwork of other vineyards sprawled out over more hills, giving it the appearance of a slightly unmade, but wholly comfortable, bed.

Behind the town and those vineyards, more valleys and hills gently slope and roll out to the reason for the name of the farm: the high mountains looming beyond. On sunny days, the mountains and their jagged edges are clearly silhouetted against blue skies. On cloudy days – my favourites - such as today, the top half of the mountains are veiled by the low, drifting grey clouds, giving them a ghostly, mysterious appearance.

In the evenings, there is a temporary hush. It’s as if the entire world quiets down, collectively holding its breath for the most stunning scene of all: the daily grand finale, when the sunset faithfully reflects on the mountains, causing them to light up and glow in varying hues from rosy, pastel pink deepening into fiery reds.

When darkness finally descends, the town lights below flicker on, looking like a string of pearls resting in a shimmering heap on a black velvet cushion.

This is the heart of the South African wine country. Area tables heave and groan under the weight of the bounty, and visitors are treated to bottles of world-class reds and whites and sparkling wines, with bunches of the plumpest, sweetest red and white grapes added to the cheese platters as edible garnish.

For the past few weeks, ever since my return from the States, I have been in the privileged position of being one of those visitors benefiting from this warm hospitality.

The farm and house I’ve mentioned belong to my brother-in-law, my sister and my nephew. Upon my recent return from abroad, they have generously taken me under their roof and into this sanctuary of a home they’ve created.

I have not written too much about it yet, but my homecoming back to South Africa, after my uninterrupted, nearly decade-long reversed exile in the States, has not exactly been what one would call triumphant; and this transition period of repatriating and readjusting has been difficult, to say the least.

But had it not been for this familial kindness, this entire process would have been that much harder.

Every day I get to marvel at this view and derive inspiration from it.

I get to pet the two dogs and feel their velvety soft ears under my fingers. That in itself should be prescribed medication! (“Stroke one dog and I assure you that you won’t call me in the morning!”)

I get to play with my nephew and make faces at him. I wasn’t here for his birth. In fact, I only met him for the first time on the day of my homecoming a few weeks ago on Christmas Day, and he is going to be three years old in July.

Before I came home, I was very scared that my nephews wouldn’t like me; that they would never recognise me as family. (My other sister has a two-year old and a one-month old.)

But much to my joy and relief, I found out - as soon as they threw their plump little arms around my neck, thus initiating me into ‘auntydom’ - that blood is thicker than all the waters of the ocean that has separated me from them until now.

Despite all of this, there are moments when my mind still ventures to the gloomier side. At times I miss the States and my life there (which, trust me, wasn’t much of a life at all) and the people I knew there with such forceful violence that I could weep from it. During those times, I tend to agree with Tom Wolfe who wrote that one can never go home again. Or with John Steinbeck, who wrote in “Travels with Charley” (a magnificent little travelogue about travelling across the United States with his dog Charley): “The place of my origin had changed, and having gone away I had not changed with it. In my memory it stood as it once did and its outward appearance confused and angered me.”

It’s true. Despite my having been stuck in limbo half a world away, time did not stand still in this place that I had left behind. Everyone grew older (including me, of course, even though my life in almost all other aspects remained on the same plateau for a long time). Some of the people I had left behind even died while I was away.

Kids who weren’t even born when I left are now already in school. My sisters and friends were unmarried when I left; now they have husbands and wives and children. My parents have crossed over to a new demographic in which they are now officially classified as ‘senior citizens.’

I feel like someone who has been in a coma and who has now woken up to find that it’s a decade later. And I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to do with my regained consciousness.

I’m also still unsure as to why my life has detoured like this: Why did I have to return this way, tail-between-the-legs, sans the Green Card I had waited so many years to receive? Does my purpose and destiny really await me here, in sun-drenched South Africa?

I can only ask you to please bear with me as I fumble my way slowly forward, into this scary unknown, where an answer hopefully awaits to reveal itself to me.

11 Comments

deeleea said:

Girlfriend...

Start writing a book... this is awesome.

martha said:

I second that... I'm so glad to know you're staying somewhere so beautiful, and so safe. Keep on taking care of yourself with doggy and kiddie love... they heal almost all wounds.

Red Dahling,
I agree that you should write a book about your experiences. Though you refuse to believe it, you are a very talented writer. Your stories of living as an illegal alien in the U.S. are the stuff that movies are made of. We know that truth is stranger than fiction.
Your story needs to be heard. Maybe this is your purpose. I work in a book store; Do you know how many books we carry,that are truly crappy? You have as much,if not more talent than most of these people. So as big Mama would say,"Girl, stop whinning, go grab yourself a bottle of wine and start writing." Because you have a novel that needs to be written. Then you can come back to visit us in the States. You go girl.

kerri said:

A book tour would indeed seem a rather fun way to return to the U.S. of A.

And because I wanted to play, too, and because you said we should, I am waiting for: my degree to start paying me back in myriad job interviews which lead to offered positions with large starting salaries and riverside-view apartments. Thankfully I'm NOT waiting any longer for: my new site design, wee!

TimT said:

A book tour sounds like a fantastic idea, but the book part might be a lot of work. Why not just go on the tour and do the writing afterwards? I can just see the publicity now:

"PRESENTING: An evening with a famous soon-to-be author of a definitely WORLD-FAMOUS book!"

I can hardly wait for the Australian leg of the tour. I'll be first in line to get an autograph ...

TimT said:

... although I suppose it might be a bit difficult to sign a book that hasn't been written yet, but we'll find our way around that.

Dylan said:

I remember the day you won the win a blog contest. I can't believe this is where we've come to all this time later. The entry was beautiful, and I hope you find peace and home in South Africa again soon.

Red Dahling,
Everyone is in agreement, that you MUST write a book. Also you must dedicate it to us: your loyal readers . And go on a world wide book tour to "promote" this book. I'm already planning a party at the Mega-Bookstore & The Gin Mill. With all of the book signings, I'm sure we will get very thirsty.

kim said:

i know i'm late on this one, but awesome writing!
and i think nothing happens without a reason so the past [almost] decade in the USofA was part of your destiny and you'll certainy find out how and why it was good at some point. just like you will find out why you're back home now and what you're supposed to be doing there... it'll all be good and fall into place. just don't ever loose hope and the believe in it. sending smooches your way! :)

Claudia said:

I am in two minds here my thoughts confused!!!! I have in front of me "contact" with a friend -old and dear- and without realising quite NEAR. I have next to me a treasure I have kept through the years ..... Pictures and Poems fill the flip file ...... and maybe dreams ..... which I see come close to true.
Remember those dreams, remember studing for them, both you and me, life does play us all!!!! and we play life. I wish upon you the success you have been searching for.....and for me....the sight of you!

Claudia said:

I would want ................................................................ to be there with the launch of your first book and everyone after that............no no no, make that an I WILL BE THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Destination is a strange concept, we just have to figure out our destiny!!!!!!!

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about
is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)

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comments
  • Claudia : I would want ................................................................ to be there with the l... [go]
  • Claudia : I am in two minds here my thoughts confused!!!! I have in front of me "contact" with a friend -old a... [go]
  • kim : i know i'm late on this one, but awesome writing! and i think nothing happens without a reason so th... [go]
  • bookstorediva : Red Dahling, Everyone is in agreement, that you MUST write a book. Also you must dedicate it to us: ... [go]
  • Dylan : I remember the day you won the win a blog contest. I can't believe this is where we've come to all ... [go]
  • TimT : ... although I suppose it might be a bit difficult to sign a book that hasn't been written yet, but ... [go]
  • TimT : A book tour sounds like a fantastic idea, but the book part might be a lot of work. Why not just go ... [go]
  • kerri : A book tour would indeed seem a rather fun way to return to the U.S. of A. And because I wanted t... [go]
  • bookstorediva : Red Dahling, I agree that you should write a book about your experiences. Though you refuse to belie... [go]
  • martha : I second that... I'm so glad to know you're staying somewhere so beautiful, and so safe. Keep on tak... [go]
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