On Wide Open Spaces

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My soul feels a little bit squished at the moment. How can I explain it? Instead of a clean white piece of paper sitting peacefully on a desk, I feel like I’m squashed and crumpled up into a little ball, all my thoughts jumbled together in a messy wad of paper that someone’s about to chuck in the direction of the bin.  I’d prefer to be the smooth uncluttered piece, brimming with potential – but at the moment I’m just not.

There are lots of reasons but a wonderful friend pointed out one of them today – I need to get OUT. Not out to the shops, or out to Rachel’s school, or out to the office but OUTSIDE, where the trees sway and the birds sing and the sun shines. It’s harder in Joburg, there’s no mountain or beach or promenade but there are beautiful spaces to spend time in, you just have to know where to find them.

I guess I need to take into account where I’m from and where I grew up, because that is always our point of reference – the monitor from which our happiness sways. A fellow Eastern Cape farmer’s son made me laugh once when he described how his Parisian cousins referred to him and his siblings: “They think we’re feral Belinda, a little wild and untamed”. And you know what? His cousins were right – and I need to always remember that part of myself.

There are some pictures of me growing up. My feet are dusty, I’m not wearing shoes, my knees are scabbed and my nose is peeling. My hair is cut short like a boy’s and the tough little expression on my face always makes me laugh. I used to spend days outside: climbing hills, swimming in the river, scaling fences, collecting stones and plants, counting sheep with my Dad and playing make believe with my sister. I grew used to the vastness of a sky, and to land that was uncluttered, land that stretched as far as the eye could see, land that I had all to myself.  And I’ve come to understand that THAT is what I need more of in my life right now.

I’m not talking about giving it all up to become a game ranger, I’m talking about making small changes to my life. My constant obsession with “being connected”, whether it’s Twitter or email, also needs to change.  I need to put my phone away after a certain time of day and REALLY relax, whether it’s cooking dinner with my family or having a bath. I need to spend time surrounded by beauty, and this can be as simple as sipping my morning tea on my verandah and watching the birds build a nest, instead of in front of the TV, in front of the constant bad news.

I can see why people run or cycle, especially in groups – I need to find a form of exercise like this where I can feel the wind on my face and feel a little more connected with this earth. At the moment I do Pilates (but it’s in a studio) and then I just run on a treadmill, like a mouse, in a cage.

I also crave silence, it’s what I need. And although this is hard in a house with two small children, it’s not impossible. I need to be stricter about this, whether it’s banning the TV for a few days a week or simply asking my husband to take over and going for a quick 20 minute walk around the neighbourhood, away from the raucousness that is the bed/bathtime/supper routine.

I may have the trappings of a modern life but I never want to forget where I’ve come from and I always want to have a little wildness in me, the wildness of that little girl, with her scabbed knees and dusty feet.

Photo of our farm by my sister-in-law Camilla Blomfield. You can find out more about her Kloof-based photography business here

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6 thoughts on “On Wide Open Spaces

  1. I completely relate. I’ve solved this problem with dogs. Dogs who need to be walked. Thankfully we live a block from the Emmarentia gardens, so we go on frequent walks there. It’s amazing what a walk – away from roads and buildings – can do for your mood, particularly when you’re watching hounds bounding about, launching themselves into smelly water, and sniffing ALL OF THE THINGS. You’re very welcome to join us if you like 🙂

    • Ha, Belinda! I only just read your earlier post about feeling pressured into getting dogs! Oops.

      (If it’s any consolation, I was very much a cat person, but Ryan is hyper allergic. I never really liked dogs much either, but was desperate for pets so I took my chances with two labs, and haven’t looked back. And I think dogs are a bit like children – you love them more when they’re your own.)

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