Stings

I want to lay this one to rest so I re-visited it from 2014 and have made some changes. It will now have to stand on its own.

Have I ever told you that a thick electric cable was once used to teach me manners, to beat bad language out of me? Okay, I know that I did wrong but did he have to go that far? He had brought home the cable from the Rooivaal, the power station he was commissioning. Menacing, rubbery, full of wires. (He used to say he would beat us just in case we were naughty, although he never did.) Yes, okay, I admit it: we did lug the words from behind the screen of trees at our neighbour. Bryanston’s air was blue with fucks and shits. I am aghast to think that I knew those words … but apparently it is in the criminal juvenile record. We were in the bath and he barked at us to get out. It was awful. There we stood wet and naked, dripping on the vinyl floor. A phone call from the neighbour had spilled the beans and so out had come the thick black electric cable ready to apply to wet bottoms. We death marched in our dressing gowns over the neighbour’s fence for the Apology. I had always thought that that was the humiliation. Of course, I was wrong, the very worst had been that we were beaten buck naked. How it stings across the decades.

Bryanston, north of Joburg, circa 1964


© 2021 Copyright Rick Frame

The Persian rug seller

I wrote this piece in 2014 but have never felt entirely satisfied with it. I have made some changes and will now leave it be.

I met a Persian rug seller from Bulawayo on a recent trip to Joburg. We struck up a conversation (as one does). He seemed interesting but startled me, saying he was from Rhodesia. I was shocked, to say the least, by his use of the name that had so oppressed him. We talked of our shared love of the place. Our skins, of course, were a give-away of how different our experiences had been, and the thought had struck me how we, then, could have lived on different planets. Nothing was really shared – except the place. Over the sale of the Persian rug he gave me a snapshot of his life story. His sons are Old Miltonians – like my brother and me – but in a very different time. And then I was struck by something simply more profound: how un-bitter this man from Bulawayo was.

Joburg, April 2014


© 2021 Copyright Rick Frame

The said

I had a time when I really felt the pull of Africa and found it therapeutic to write about my origins. This meeting is entirely fictional but has strands of a visit to South Africa in April 2014.

The dream-candy sweetened the wakefulness as I blinked in the early light. Sun dripped honey on the windowsill in that time that tiptoes to morning. My memory returned to the conversation of the night before. I had met a backpacker from the old country: he reminded me of my roots as he praise-sang of the evenings dominated by the flame-red sun-sky. He talked too of the insects that came to life as the sun quietened for the night. I can still hear the insect chorus – a sound-track that is impossible to describe. It can be conjured up just at the thought. The unsaid had to be said of course – of the what-where’s and the realities of what lay beneath. We distilled this in a moment, casting it away for another time and place. Sun-dried thoughts grew husky in the twilight. My nose caught the touch of a lemon fragrance as we poured another to remember the passing of something that now simply existed as a memory, yet the flame-red sky still burned with an intensity that won’t quite go away.


© 2021 Copyright Rick Frame

The way we will be

I re-visited this piece from nearly seven years ago and have only made only minor changes. The ancestors are close at hand – always.

I seem to be stuck in a time of a memory that travels in from nowhere, without  warning. It paints moments that I had long forgotten. Some of the memories have names. Not all. The colours have the African countryside water-coloured after the rain. The way we have been is drawn on a huge canvas with shadows and light. We were fashioned a long time ago, conceived in the African summer and the wide-angled lens of hope. The way we will be is written on the sky and wind. It catches on the breath in the mist, and dusk comes quickly. The ancestors watch and listen. They know what we will become and stare past our faces into another future of a burned out sun. They turn away as if this will stop our fate.


© 2021 Copyright Rick Frame

Down town

We were down town after work hours. The city had emptied pretty quickly at the five o’clock rush hour. The place was like a ghost town. Everywhere the news was bad. The numbers of people killed growing daily. There were no-go areas and there were atrocities of the innocents. There were lies here that we only suspected later. We had decided to meet up for a bite to eat at the Wimpy in First Street. There was no one there except for a lone waiter who seemed relieved to have some customers. The television was on in the background and we ordered our meal and drinks. There was a hush everywhere like the whole world had been evacuated. Not that I knew it then, but this was not going to be the first time in my life that I would feel this way. We caught up but what we talked about I can only imagine as it was yonks ago in another time and space. Probably family stuff. Probably the war. Probably life admin and the plans for the varsity vacation. I had not seen my sister for six months so there was, no doubt, a lot to talk about. Then the news came on and the dreaded first announcement: Combined Operations regret to report the death in action … . Then the detail of the various incidents and the people who had been killed. This was the news feed from the regime so we only heard one point of view. I was not really thinking in those terms then and only remember just feeling numb and full of despair. Outside, the streets grew dim and the lights came on and a passer-by shivered in the wind.

Salisbury, Rhodesia, July 1977 (Harare, Zimbabwe)


© 2021 Copyright Rick Frame

Waking up

I heard a great conversation between Jon Kabat-Zinn and Dan Harris and this is an extract of what was said. It was in response to the storming of the Capitol on the 6th January and was rich in ideas about who we are and how we live. These are Kabat-Zinn’s words (slightly adapted) and ideas but the emphases are my own.


Change happens when people are creative and get out of their own way, not being imprisoned by the routinised patterns of their own thought, emotional reactivity, including fear and saying things that I am not worthy, I’m not smart enough or I’m too old or I’m too young, I’m too out of it or what ever it is. No, you are already complete.

The only thing that will happen to you over time is that you will get older. However old you are this is the perfect moment to find out who you are in the deepest of ways and it is not the narratives in your head about who you are or who you are not.

That’s where awareness comes in. Your awareness can hold all that instantly. It’s not like you have to go to Meditation School for forty years. Instantly and in no time you can hold that and investigate yourself. Am I larger than my narratives and I don’t need to be stuck in those stories of how inadequate I am or how fearful I am.

You can trust in awareness, in heartfulness as much as mindfulness. Waking up is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity. It’s a radical act of sanity to stop and drop into the present moment and to not just believe your thoughts. Awareness is much more discerning than thinking. It is up to us. Liberation from suffering through action and stillness. They are not separate things.

Stillness is incredibly important to learn how to inhabit the domain of awareness, taking it out into the world. You put the oxygen mask on yourself first. From there, we can grow our way by listening deeply to our own hearts and to the suffering in ourselves, the suffering in each other. The beauty in ourselves and the beauty in each other.


No mud, no lotus

You put the oxygen mask on yourself first. Jon Kabat-Zinn

I remember the first time I dropped into my body. I have not bungee jumped so I can’t say it was like that. I need to find other words: it was like a revolution where everything, almost in an instant, got connected. All those decades when the head was separate from the rest. I am looking, from this distance, at a callow youth. I scowl. It was a shock to see it was me. It is far too late to wish that he had worked out more quickly that it was possible to see inside – a deep dive where there are no final frontiers. Where the heart and mind are one. Where it reminds you of courage and hope and that, on the breath, there is an integrity. It take us down a path where we stop seeing the total failure or where we have a picture that is too grand. There is a wildness inside that we encounter and, for the first time, our suffering becomes a teacher, revealing wisdom and compassion. Where we love the slap of the rain and do not try to change how we feel, but simply bring awareness to how we feel through the breath. Where we have a clear seeing that without the mud, there can be no lotus and we can see a mystery and ease up on our younger unseeing selves. And when we start, begin in the shallow end on a warm day*.

* Oren Jay Sofer

The title is inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh


© 2021 Copyright Rick Frame

Bearings

I emerged into the afternoon sky light, the palette colours of blue-white, framed against the dark. I wondered which route to take and momentarily thought about the road on the hill. Feeling my knee on my bone, I thought I would take a stroll rather. The idea of the puffing hill walk required a push start, and in low mood that today would be a non-starter. I set off, the rain held back, the place like a ghost town, abandoned in this time and space, taking a while to remember we find our bearings when we become lost.


© 2021 Copyright Rick Frame

Mornings

We walk down this path, we reach a point of something unsure. It does feel endless on this road to nowhere. Sometimes I feel like we ran ourselves off a cliff. The time is a free fall, nothing to hold us together and there is no splash. At least then there would be a resolution. The dark, with barely any light, shadowed trees shaping the morning sky, pull me together. The kettle boils. The cry in the air, a lone seagull, a white dot against the smudge and we are lost in our thoughts. The only hope seemingly is a memory of other light, another season, a chance fragment of what went before, a prophet’s words written in star dust waiting patiently for butterflies. A hot mug of tea on a foggy morning and we make ourselves out of the promise of becoming.


© 2021 Copyright Rick Frame

Pushing the hill

If I were a ship – I feel the size of one today – I would have been in dire need of a tug boat. I thought I had run out of steam so reaching the top was quite exquisite. Turning around, I could see Hastings against the deep blue sky ocean. I did not tarry as my sock had become scrunched and a bench nearby beckoned, a chance to straighten it out. Two lone rangers skulked by. I was able to think. The breathless pushing, the road steep. You have to admit: this is almost a narcotic. This competition, this pain. Hips, knees released, slightly oiled in my mind, ready to catch the wind.