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This Quiet Sunday

This misty morning is filled with bird songs that oats through a veil of soft, damp mist that hangs in the crowns of the pine trees. A soft breeze moves the Tibetan bells to tinkle their faint notes. It is Sunday, a day that always holds a special charm. Sometimes a special nostalgic sadness of childhood memories…

Going back to the school hostel after a weekend at home filled me with terror and longing and immense sadness to be away from my home. Memories of church services that felt like they will never end, Sunday school that went by in a blur of disbelief. Family meals with tables moaning, brimming with a leg of lamb and roast potatoes and soetpatats and green beans with more potato and onions, cauliflower with cheese sauce and white rice with gravy. And pudding with custard. Quiet Sunday afternoons with the piercing sound of sonbesies and pigeons calling “mamma kyk vir Pietie”.

Our worlds were small towns small. A circle of family and friends were always visiting. Some Sundays with friends were spent with braais that carried on till early evening, lazy days lying on the lawn listening to stories that we as children were not supposed to hear.

I was always aware of a sense of wonderment – as a child I had no idea what it was or where it came from. Now as I grow older, I am so grateful that somehow in my plattelandse upbringing, this sense of wonderment and enchantment was instilled in my Being-in-the-world. When I left South Africa to go to Europe a dear friend said that I must make sure that I lie flat on the ground with my camera to take pictures of the magic that lives and grows close to the ground.

The first time I saw a Fritillary growing in a field I was overcome by this sense of wonderment, this perfect gift just waiting for me to discover it. The first time I saw the Matterhorn, the house where Mozart was born, heard the cry of a Fish Eagle and saw a newborn baby. The firsts of our lives build this library of moments that form our memories and our stories, that one day we will be able to draw from, or not when we are sitting alone, waiting for this life to run its course.

But what if we lose our memories? Bollin talks about “the enduring mystery of human consciousness”. I often wonder if all those moments of enchantment and wonderment are lost in the hazy fog of dementia. Our memories of our wedding and the birth of our child, the smell of fried onions and the sound of the church bell on Sunday morning, the feelings if excitement from a kiss, the warmth of a hug. When we can no longer articulate or narrate our memories, are they gone? Is there an empty vacuous space behind the sad expression? I think not.

That, to me, is part of the enduring mystery of human consciousness, which is never affected by dementia. But how will we know this and learn more about this if we do not take the time to spend time with old people who are living with memory loss, it we hide them away and just pay our dues with short visits bringing biscuits and owers? I think for many people it is just too frightening to contemplate that “there, but for the grace of God, go you and I”. Or more to the point, “we are all on our way there…”

We reason and rationalize, we say things like “Oh she does not really know who we are” or “She had no idea that we visited” or even worse “She is no longer our Mom”. We protect ourselves from facing our Selves, from truly and deeply contemplating our own journey that might lead us there. To the room with a bed and chair. And our memories.

Michael Pollan starts his “How to change your Mind” with an Emily Dickinson quote: “The soul always stand ajar…(, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience)” The soul should always stand ajar. Think about that. How often in life do we close our Souls, and our eyes and ears, to the enchantment and the wonderment of this thing called Life. How often are we too busy to stop and listen, turning our gaze away from that which we dare not see or engage with because we cannot bear the feelings that might come with seeing.

To connect is to open the Soul to that Divine knowing. To leave the Soul ajar is to allow Life to beam its light into the dusty corners, to show us where the magic might happen as a cobweb shimmer in its mysterious appearance. To be in harmony with all of the wonderment of the Universe and truly be alive, right here, right now.

The Dalai Lama holds that “the idea that the brain creates Consciousness is a metaphysical assumption, not a scientific fact”. The brain does not create

Consciousness. We are the creation of Consciousness. Leave your Soul ajar. Fill your day with wonderment and enchantment, for one day soon you might wander through the passages of your Mind to find that the shelves are sadly empty. Build conscious moments and memories, because “consciousness is never affected”. It will be your companion forever.

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