Category Archives: Musings from Mocambique

Thoughts and lessons learnt from the relative solitude of a piece of paradise on the Mocambique coast

Of Living waters and rocks

I am back at Praia do Chizavane in Mozambique after a three year absence. This was my home, my place of refuge for a number of years, and I cannot understand how I have allowed so many months to go by without being here.

I am sitting on the verandah of the restaurant at Nascer do Sol Lodge, watching lazy whales sidle by.

I am always inspired here. I love walking on the beach in the early mornings, and find ideas and words flow like nowhere else. I see the Master’s hand so clearly here, in the dramatic sunrises, the slow signing off of the sunsets, in the waves, the rocks, the trees, the birds everywhere.

Yesterday the tide was low enough for me to walk to part of the reef. It is mid-winter and while the days would be considered hot in the northern hemisphere, here we are conscious of the chill in the wind, and water temperature that might be normal elsewhere is definitely cold here. So swimming out to the reef at seven in the morning isn’t an option.

As I looked for familiar gems in the rock pools, I noticed a miniature Victoria Falls look alike, water pouring over oyster encrusted rocks. A small wave broke over the far edge, a white edging of foam creeping towards the ledge nearest me. Small as the residue of wave was, it created a fall that tinkled and refreshed the pool, an overflow that tinkled on, and on.

I thought of Jesus, how He invited us to drink of the Living Waters He would provide, and wondered at how far a tiny dose of His grace goes. One small drop of the Saviour’s blood is enough to cleanse each and every sin! Here, a tiny wave produced many litres of water, refreshing and filling the pool in the beach.

I always have to photograph these moments, so out came my cell.

I find it challenging taking pictures in the open air, the light drains all definition from the screen. So I aim in the general direction of what I hope to capture and shoot away.

As I took aim, a large wave flung itself over the reef, causing a cascade of foaming waters to wash over the rocks, my Victoria Falls in full fall! Living waters! Washing and caressing the solidity of the reef, the rocks immutable as protector of the beach, of the treasures contained therein, ensuring my safety.

It was only when I got indoors that I saw that I had one of those once in ‘a blue moon flukes’ – a picture that not only had the wave breaking, but its clear reflection in the rock pool. The composition would have been better if I had been half a step further back, and got the reflection of the rocks in the foreground more fully (it would also have applied the rule of thirds better) but it is a beauts pic nonetheless.

Christ again. This time in power. The waters seen by Ezekiel flowing out from the Temple, first ankle deep, then chest deep and then overflowing all. And through it all, the rocks unmoving. My Saviour, my firm foundation allowing me and all His children the delights of His kingdom, not least the washing and empowering of His Living Water!

What a moment! What a dramatic revelation of His word displayed in His creation! What joy!

Peace filled my soul as I continued walking.

God is in His Heaven, and right now, all is well with my world.

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The Death of a Woman

In a world of constant killing, the report that an Afghan woman has been beaten to death by a mob causes only a momentary flicker of interest for most people, inured to the dismal lot of women in lands where men presume to dictate their values to the rest of the world.

A CNN report states that 16 police officers, among others, have been arrested, and the crime is being investigated. My immediate reaction is to rejoice: at last! A government has stood against a crime committed against a woman. But then a little voice nags in my ear: what of the man who caused all of this? Why is there no mention of his arrest? The man lied. Quite simply lied, and this is acknowledged by the officials in charge of the case. Lied to protect himself. And knowing his followers as he did, he used their fervour to do the deed for him. In my view, he is at least as guilty, as those whose fists flailed at her unprotected body, and those who stood dispassionately aside. Or were they fearful of the man’s power?

I caught the end of one report coming out of Afghanistan that, whilst decrying the crime, an official hastily added that the woman had also been wrong. So two wrongs make a right, do they? Is that the reasoning of Boko Haran as they kidnap another 400 women and children in northern Nigeria in retaliation for the stand that is being taken against them by countries who still have integrity.

But I don’t want to begin a tirade against men, be they of the cloth or otherwise. I have no argument against the male of the species in general, only that minority whose insecurity manifests in violence.

My mission is to address those women, downtrodden and forgotten, to reassure them of their value regardless of the society in which they live.

There is a story in the bible, found in Judges 13, that I found interesting, especially as it pertains to women. The words that caught my eye are found in verse two:

Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah, and his wife was barren and had no children.

We never do find out the name of Manoah’s wife, she is simply referred to as “the woman” throughout the story. But God knew who she was, and He heard the cry of her heart. She was visited by an angel and told that she would have a child, a special child. She told her husband – I can imagine her excitement. I can also sense the familiar despair as he was unable to believe her, and sought his own confirmation. Again, the Lord heard his request, and sent the Angel once more to confirm the woman’s words to her husband. In time the child was born to Manoah and his wife.

Manoah’s wife, she whose name we do not know, was the mother of Samson, that giant pain in the neck to the Philistines.

Take heart, lonely women, scared women, women who feel worthless, there is One who knows your name, who loves you, who cries with you, who longs to enfold you in His arms, and take all your pain away. One day, His peace will reign.

Peace is flowing like a river ...
Peace is flowing like a river …

Unbranded to Branded

I heard the ligwalagwala this morning. For those who are not Swazi, it is what I know as the Purple Crested Loerie, which is officially called the Purple Crested Turaco

In the past, hearing them call was comforting – I always took it as a sign that God was on His throne and all was well with the world, by which I mean my world. 2012 was a watershed year for me, the year I said “no more!”; the year I began to sell out all of my being, not just the bits I could do without, to the Man, Jesus; the year I did all I knew to not only save my marriage, but the soul of the one to whom I was married. Did I succeed? Only the afterlife will tell – God knows, and I am happy with that. I always seemed to hear the clucking call of the Loeries on the days when I was low, down so far the only option was up or out.

Today was different. The sound brought a sense of nostalgia, not a real hearkening to the past, but for how my life has changed, the journey that has brought me has taken me through dips, curves, vales of despair, mountaintops of unspeakable joy. Where am I today on this journey? In limbo, waiting, learning to settle in completely to the job at hand, having the confidence to fulfil the vision, that of writing.

I am a writer before I am an author. While some of what I write may form into a book, the rest will remain what it is: writing – beautiful words, crashing, tumbling, crashing, filled with enthusiasm and desperate to get onto the page. Words that don’t necessarily fit into the novel I am writing, or a poem yet to be scribed, but needing to get written nonetheless.

So I invite you, dear friends, to come along with me for the experiences, the round-mouthed “o’s” of revelations, tears aplenty, both sad and happy, a journey of discovery, of dreams, of complexity and simplicity.

A wonderful place for imagination to run riot!
A wonderful place for imagination to run riot!

Welcome to 2015

Another new year is upon us – 2015 marks the midway point of the second decade of this 22nd millennium! After an eighteen-month sabbatical of sorts, it is time to reconstitute my blog. To be honest, I am not au fait with the rules of blogging, if there is in fact such a thing, so hope you will simply come with me for the ride.
I was once described as having a “grasshopper” mind, jumping from one task to another, from one hobby to the next, and yes, even one job to another. I like challenges, and once I have mastered whatever it is I have set my mind to do, the zeal diminishes and I look for the next one. I have often though that was the reason journalism suited me so well: at the end of each day, or week, or month, you sweep your desk clear and go off in search of the next tale.
So, I am not promising a predictable format or content to my blogging. It will be more of a meander of thoughts and observations that tickle my grey matter, and I hope yours.

Turn the Lights On

I can’t decide when is my favourite time of day, sunrise or sunset. When I am awed by the magnificence of a sunrise, I am certain that I love the awakening of each day most of all. Then I sit at the end of the day, watching the hues and colours of the setting sun, merging into evening, and think how amazing it is, and feel sure it really is the best part of the day!
This morning I walked along the beach at first light, saw the sun come up over the horizon. It was special watching aspects of the reef slowly become visible, and then defined in the early morning rays. A pied kingfisher was noisily searching for his breakfast. I was amazed that all the fish below him hadn’t taken to the shelter of the rocks with the racket he was making.
On the seaward side of the reef a far more silent tern was challenging the waves as he searched the rock pools for morsels. The little reef fish don’t come out early on winter mornings, preferring to lie in in the warmth of their rocky dormitories. Only the lizard-like mudslingers abound, moving in short, sharp flashes through the water, except when they think you may be a predator, then they move with alacrity and disappear. Even the crabs are tardy these cooler mornings, and the rocks are noticeably still without their clandestine scurryings among the crevices.
I saw the first whale of the season last week, so I am constantly searching for the rest of the contingent, impatient for their arrival, as are all of us who live here. This is the spawning ground of the Southern Right Whales, and from now until November they entertain us with their fabulous displays and breeches which displace enormous sprays of water, visible for miles.
Who can deny the existence of a creator God when faced each day with such overwhelming evidence of His grandeur. Seeing the order of things, which somehow in this remote spot seem magnified as we are so much closer to the natural scheme of things, it is hard to accept theories of big bangs and evolution. A cataclysmic explosion resulted in such carefully calculated interdependence and order? Not possible to my way of thinking.
Then there are the evenings. The part I love most is right as the sun goes down, the first star, Osiris appears in the west. It is shortly followed by the two pointers of the Southern Cross. As I watch, one by one the stars come on. Each circuit I make with my eyes finds another, and another, and another, all twinkling with merriment and delight. I fancy God Himself turning on these lights He created, but then I think “No, He’s probably delegated that chore to the angels, knowing how much fun they must have doing it.” Can you imagine it? Hundreds of angels being let loose in Heaven’s corridors, competing with each other to get their section lit, laughing and joking as they go, the stars joining in with singing and flickering, happy light.
If you should blink, or go off to do something at any part of this concert, you will come back to find a sight so awe inspiring that it stops you in mid-step. It is done, the sky is lit, the Milky Way dances across the sky from the cross to the plough. Scorpio starts the night upside down in the east, and rights himself when he reaches the west. The Southern Cross moves on its invisible axis, faithfully pointing out the South Pole, no matter where it is.
My heart fills with wonder, and I have no choice but to cry out: “My God, Thou truly are great!”

Out in the Open

Exposed and anxious, Henry moves swiftly across the dunes
Exposed and anxious, Henry moves swiftly across the dunes

It’s a windy day, bringing in squalls.  Yesterday was cold enough to require a jersey and socks for the feet – definitely a sign of winter in this tropical paradise.  The sea is turbulent, varying shades of grey as it reflects the mottled sky.  At daybreak a bright crescent moon was weaving through the scudding clouds.

I am in a twilight zone, restless yet at peace, anxious but calm, in some sort of indefinable holding pattern, hovering on the threshold of who knows what.  The uneasy answer I seek is an age-old cry from the heart of man, “What now?  When?  Where?  How?”  Three whiskies in a hotel, we used to say when training salespeople on strategy many eons ago.

I think the biggest fear we have, certainly I do, is that of exposure.  I have inherited a young tomcat named Henry, who is full of intrepid bounce and enthusiasm.  He likes to follow people, anyone, probably not a good idea, but as he always seems to find his way home I do not to worry too much.  On Saturday, however, I took off on my early morning walk and hadn’t gone more than about fifty paces when Henry flew past me at full gallop.  I really didn’t want him with me the whole way as I don’t think it’s a good idea to assist in broadening his territory, but have learnt that, unlike canines, cats do not comprehend “Go Home!”

I took the long route to the beach, which crosses a fair amount of exposed dune.  The cats are not really happy out in the open, we have Yellow-billed kites, pied crows and other predators of which they are very aware.  Undaunted, Henry tailed me until we got to the very edge of the shoreline, at which point his bounce diminished to a slow march.  I left him atop a small dune, from which vantage point he watched me go.  My last view of him was slinking off to find cover.

Confident that he would find his way home, I was concerned when the day ended and there was no sign of Henry.  Muttering to myself that I was not going all the way back to the beach I set off to where I could see where I had last seen him.  I began to call, not really confident that he would hear me against the evening wind, in all directions.  No response.  As I decided to give up and turned for home, I thought I saw a ginger smudge in the gloom at my erstwhile neighbour’s house.  Closer inspection revealed nothing but shadows.  I gave another couple of bellows, and turned for home again when I was stopped in my tracks by a loud yeowl, and there was Henry belting across the dune!

Is this a lesson, I wonder?  When we are out in the open and exposed, do we hole up somewhere until support arrives?  Or do we brave the exposure and trust that we will find our way home to peace and sanctuary?

I was led to read Psalm 68 today.  There I found these words:

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,

Is God in His holy habitation.

God sets the solitary in families;

He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;

But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.

My prayer is that I am not one of the rebellious!

From Darkness to Light

Getting its head above water - "The Old Master"
Getting its head above water – “The Old Master”

I almost missed him. The waters were swirling around the rocky reef, the tidal pool deep and murky, its surface restless. I was looking for the kingfishers, who were not there. As I turned for home a gap opened in the waters of the pool, and there he was, the rock I dubbed “The Old Master”, at last! Not fully emerged, to be sure, but enough of him for me to recognise the rock that reminds me of an ancient abstract canvas.
I immediately wanted to touch it, to make sure it wasn’t an illusion. There was a channel of water, about a foot wide, similar depth. As I stepped forward and bent down, as if in angry defence of this rock, an aggressive surge of water rushed towards me. I wear *takkies to walk because my feet and ankles need support. Inside those takkies are rather expensive orthotics, so I am wary of getting them wet. Reluctantly I stepped back to avoid the wash.
I did the next best thing, and that was to take a couple of photographs. When I set out on that early morning walk, I had no intention of going up the beach. I was going to follow a road through the woods, down to the beach near where my house used to be, have a swim and home to finish The Book. As I crossed the dune, something drew me to the beach. Once there I realised the tide was on its way out, so there was firm sand to walk on.
The area where The Old Master lives is strewn with rocks of all shapes, sizes, colours. It is as though the reef couldn’t contain itself and spilled out over the beach, making rock pools and secret places for the crabs and coral fish. Each day it is a little different. Every high tide changes the landscape, closing some pools, opening others. This morning the sand around the rocks was smooth, reminding me of icing on a cake. It was a gentle hand that had moved the sand that early morning tide.
The boisterous eddying of water around The Old Master, some fifty metres away, was a jarring contrast. The anomaly intrigued me, and I sat on the sand, watching the antics of the waves, notebook and pencil at the ready. This is what I saw:
The Lord had led me to this sport this morning, so I could understand a profound truth. My journey these past months has been tough. I have a couple of dear friends who are battling in that dark place of the soul that none of us want to go to. I think this lesson is for all of us.
Even as we break free of the cords that bind us, the tides of opposition will swirl around and over us, trying to keep us trapped in isolated solitude. Another errant wave washed over The Old Master, hiding him from view, trying to cover him again with those sands of despair. The power of the Creator prevailed. The picturesque rock continued its ascent into visibility above the waters and the sodden sand, refusing to budge. The waters swirled impotently, their attempts pathetic, weakening, until at last they gave in to the draw of the moon, and subsided.
So too, I am like a rock, I too am Peter, founded on the bedrock of my Saviour’s love. As such I will prevail, I will see the light, and I will shine for all to see, reflecting my Master’s glory. That is our journey. The battle will go on until our time this side of eternity is over. The battle is simply the route to victory, to overcoming whatever impediments we might face that threaten to take us down.
Yesterday I finished writing my first novel. It was a strangely emotional time, and I found myself crying like a baby, sad, happy, relieved who knows why.
As I wrote last week, I sense an ending, and as with all endings there must be a new beginning. It has been a season, a wintry season of discovery and renewal. Through the sadness of irredeemable loss, has a come a quiet joy, a peace, a sense of purpose that beckons me onward.
The lesson of “The Old Master” is never give up. Remain rooted and grounded on your Bedrock, the waters of adversity will recede, grudgingly, and the sun will shine on you again.

*South African term for canvas exercise shoes

The End of a Rake

My latest place of abode
My latest place of abode

Henry is killing a green bean. The last time he killed something it was a mouse. He is throwing the bean up in the air much as he did to the moribund mouse. He is able to fling his conquests a good metre into the air, which I assume is how the body of the rodent landed in the loo, from where I caught Henry trying to retrieve it.
Henry, in case you don’t know, is the new feline addition to my household. He belonged to a young neighbour, who has decided to exchange beach life for city life, and didn’t think Henry would cope with the change. So, Snatch and I now are having to learn to deal with a highly energized young tom, full of testosterone and nonsense. He woke me up at some unearthly hour by collapsing the mosquito net over me. I decide to leave Henry to his chore of decimating the errant green bean in order to see what the world looks like today in the rays of the rising sun.
I have no sooner got the door open, when I hear a voice greeting me in cheerful Portuguese. It is the ever-faithful Jaime, raking what passes for a yard. I hear him approaching, and turn to see him with a huge grin on his face brandishing an orange-tined rake in one hand, and old faithful in the other.
Jaime loves to rake. Before that fateful night back in November when my life was irrevocably changed by the flames of fury that destroyed my home, we had a number of emotional discussions about this penchant of his. It seemed to me that Jaime would be mesmerized by the movement of the sand, and not notice how he was altering the landscape. Thus banks developed where no banks were needed, levels were altered in awkward spots, hard fought for grass would be pulled up, and so on. My one relief after the fire was that the rake would no longer be.
You can imagine, therefore, the look of disbelief on my face when Jaime returned one afternoon, from the ashes of what used to be, proudly hoisting above his head, The Rake! I have just moved for the sixth time since losing my nest, and Jaime has religiously raked every area of beach surrounding every house that I have had the privilege of staying in. Anyone looking for me, simply needs to look for a well raked spot, and you will know I am nearby. So serious is this malady that other guardas are following his example, and we that live here are terrified that we will be raked into oblivion.
None of the afore going withstanding, I felt a momentary pang of something, emotion is too strong a word, as I realised that The Rake is being put away, banished, never to be used again. It is a metal rake, but its labours have been such that its tines are worn and misshapen. It broke in the middle at some point in its life, and carries the evidence of its healing surgery from Jaime, who deftly put it back together again.
I am hoping this is the last move for a while and that the final laying down of The Rake marks the end of this chapter of my life. I am in better shape than The Rake, I’m pleased to say! Still, I hope that the next stage will leave the imprint of an older, wiser, person pruned by God’s hand, to bear the fruit He has planned for me.

The Sands of Time

Just as I think the beach and the dunes have no further lessons for me, I find there is infinitely more in this microcosm of existence in which I find myself.
There are many cowries that get washed up on this beach, all shapes sizes and colours. One day I found a perfectly formed cowrie, in miniature. It was about the size of my thumbnail. As I marvelled at the intricate attributes in something so small, I noticed that its colours were as yet unformed, neutral greys blending into cream. There were none of the speckled markings and colours that we associate with these shells.
If we look at other small creatures, we find similarities. Lion cubs have spots that they lose as they grow up. Young birds have soft feathers, which are exchanged for a harder more durable covering. We humans lose milk teeth in exchange for serviceable gnashers, our fontanel closes, our hair stiffens. There is a purpose for all these changes that occur during the progression of life. Each one is evolved to ensure the relevant toughness for survival.
As I continued musing over this minuscule cowrie shell, I wondered if there wasn’t more to development than simple survival of the species. Is there not a testing that happens at each stage, or phase, of growth that brings out character?
We had a week of howling gales that arrived in a crash of thunder and flash of lighting and five minutes of such intense wind I thought I would arrive in the Kruger Park unaided by any form of transport other than the wind. Walking the trail through the dune forest afterwards, I realised that the winds had performed a late summer pruning of sorts. Dead branches lay strewn all over the show, a few branches had been broken and it was quite a mess. A couple of trees had been upended too, all I am sure in order to provide firewood for the mussel gatherers! In the old scheme of things these would slowly deteriorate, providing food for myriads of tiny creatures along the way, and ultimately doing its part to restore nutrients to the soil.
Now, however, I see how the broken and in some cases, severely damaged trees are pushing out life. New growth abounds, not only on the trees, but also on the floor of the forest where for a short while more light was able to penetrate the canopy.
I read somewhere once about the beauty of wrinkles, because they described how a life had been lived. There are laughter lines that crinkle the eyes from the times of joy and happiness, the frown lines for the times when lessons needed to be learnt, each one telling a story of hope, of joy, of sorrow, of pain, creating a masterpiece of a life truly lived.
So I returned the young cowrie to the chaffing of the waves. I wonder if by some strange chance, I may find it again. If I do, will it be marked and worn, will it be more beautiful, or more noticeable, or will it gradually disintegrate, unable to stand against the force of the tides, the sand, and the rocks.

A Little Deeper?

No matter what time and tide through at them, the rocks are immutable
The Old Master lies hidden here under sand and water

 

It was a glorious morning with a contusion of clouds chasing each other along the horizon. The tide was actively going out, the stillness chimerical.
The rocks, unusually devoid of birds, were littered with the shells of eviscerated crabs, and I wondered at the moonlight feast that had taken place during the early hours of the morning. The sea has been unsettled since the floods nearly two months ago, swirling into the beach, changing the shape of things.
The rock I named “The Old Master” has been buried for months and I miss it. Each time I walk on the beach I go to see if by any chance it has been liberated from its sodden grave. I am fanciful that when it comes to light again, I will have moved to the next phase of my journey, possibly excoriated by the sand, but embellished by the experience. It remains steadfastly buried under a beach of sand, added to by a large pool that has developed over its dwelling place. I don’t want to dwell on any portent there.
Wandering back one day the glint of an awkward movement caught my eye. It was a school of small coral fish flopping, wriggling, what passes for jumping in little fish terms, over a rock to get to a deeper pool. It is interesting that for these little creatures, deeper water means safety. How unlike we humans, I thought. They struggle to get in to, we struggle to get out of deep waters. We tend to fight against the tide, they learn to survive within the vagaries of the currents that eddy around them.
A favourite passage of mine is found in Ezekiel 47:1-12. The prophet is shown a vision of water flowing from under the threshold of the temple. The depth of this water increases from ankle, to knee to waist and ultimately Ezekiel is unable to stand in what is now a river. He has to swim or sink. It is generally accepted that this is a picture of the river of life, the living waters that Jesus referred to when speaking to the woman at the well. If we allow ourselves to be immersed in this river we will discover abundant life in the form of sustenance giving trees, multitudes of fish, cleansing and healing.
Our natural inclination when our feet can no longer touch the bottom of a river, or the sea, or even a swimming pool, is to struggle. We vaguely realise that our contending is sapping our strength, but we are unable to relinquish feeble ownership of our mortal will to powers unseen. It is only when we cognitively decide to relax, allow the power of the water to uphold us, that we can see the wonder of the journey.
This week I have been reading of Gethsemane. Do you know that Gethsemane means Oil Press? How appropriate that in this place the weight of our sins was such upon our Saviour that blood was squeezed from Jesus’ body like sweat. I finally understand, I pray, that I am unable to carry the weight of my own sin. The best I can do is confess those sins I recognise, allow the forgiveness of my faithful Father to wash over me. Forgiveness only made possible only by that awful price of atonement wrestled for in an oil press of expiation that dark night in Jerusalem.
Lord, You were broken for me, so as I crouch, broken, at the foot of the cross, Your victory encompasses me. Because of Your love, we can say this passiontide that we are cleansed by Your blood, redeemed by Your death, restored by Your resurrection.
Halleluia!