silent force of nature

One morning, about seven months ago, I woke up with this feeling that someone had switched on the lights inside my body. I looked in the mirror and there I was, staring at myself with unusual big eyes. Some weeks later, a home test confirmed it. Pregnancy had entered me and Francois’ lives.

Since then, it is the first thing I think of when I wake up. Sometimes it feels for a split second as if that big belly is not there anymore. In an unconscious, sleepy gesture, I go with my hand to that area and yes. Of course. That little being is still living in that dark womb.

My twin sister was so very generous to buy some beautiful pregnancy clothes for me. Something one hardly finds here in South Africa. She also gave me all the clothes she has worn throughout her three pregnancies. The other day, I noticed that one of those blue dresses had a lot of fluffs on the belly area. Exactly that part of the dress that I caress so often, unconsciously even. Francois often jokes at me these days: “Trying to keep the baby inside?” Yes, how irrational that may be. The gesture feels like some sort of protection, a safety net one can say. But it is also just so nice to feel the growing roundness. Just laying my hand there. The idea that my twin sister, as seen in the signs on the dress, had also so often done exactly that, moved me. How becoming a mother is such an incredible age old, universal thing.

There is obviously more to life than being busy with this mysterious process. But since the day that light was switched on in me, things will never be the same anymore and at the same time, I am still that Joke with her particular passions, doubts, joys.

We’ve been living in the countryside since June, surrounded by a silence that is both inspiring and at times very challenging to me. I always assumed, just like my friends, that I was “a nature person”. I loved wooden furniture in my Antwerp flats, tried to eat healthy, recharged my batteries on short trips to big parks or to the South of France, hardly ever wear make-up, etc. The typical, and even rather cliché signs of “a nature person”. Yet, living out here in Stutterheim, with so many open days on my hands, made me realize it had always been a too easy position, to see myself that way, while living in such a vibrant, cosmopolitan, very urban town. No. This is the real thing. All these huge green trees, with their relentless rustling, just being there. They so often say in poems or quotes that nature brings wisdom, insights, peacefulness. True. But I had to experience first hand how nature is also hard in a certain way. What I mean with this is that she doesn’t offer you a golden plate with all the solutions you crave for neatly served. She is just there. Point. As firm as the huge trunks of old trees, deeply rooted in fertile soils. Surely, she doesn’t judge, like nothing or no one else can do. But I experienced her as someone or rather something that turns the white noise down, so that you can hear your inner turmoil as clear and loud as never before. Just that. Nothing more. No pampering, no spoiling. No words that silently whisper golden solutions for my inner quests into my ears. The only thing they seemed to say was something like: “Yes. Deal with it, Joke. Deal with the joys, the sorrows, the fears, the dreams and the passion. I won’t pamper nor distract you.”

I still love Antwerp and on some days, I can miss, like nothing else, the trams, the multicolored people, my friends, the shops, the many cozy pubs where we used to meet and work. But these green silent trees are becoming as much part of my and our life. If I think of raising our child amongst such natural abundance, I can only be grateful to offer our child the dark soils, the adventures, the secret corners of the property where we live on, to build camps, to get dirty in mud, or simply silently daydream while she will hear the very same rustling, not distracted or pampered by anything else.

Life is full of uncertain factors. These future images are obviously only daydreams of me (and Francois). But that light that was switched on in me … how can I say. It brings a focus as never before. Even if that
means having to sail through inner voices that runs wild.

Francois recently said the most beautiful thing, when I admitted, slightly shy, that I was so tired of hearing the things I wanted to run away from and urgently change. He said: “They now get all the time and space to run free, to run to the full. So, in this way they will get tired and die out more soon than when you can shadow them with all sorts of distractions.”

This thought stayed with me since then. I hope that in this fragile yet very strong world, with all its modern challenges, we can all keep on offering our thoughts, our children and ourselves exactly that: the space to run free, to run wild, to run to the full. To challenge ourselves, up to the point where a new phase can enter our lives.

This being said, on the artistic side, we are preparing hard for our next South African tour – the very last tour with just the two of us on the road. We recorded two new cd’s with poems of me and music of Francois – very nice things to do I must say! I just love our home studio. I am bit by bit sharing my novel with a handful of readers, digesting their responses and just started working on a series of short prose stories, based on things I hear on the road or read in the newspaper. I take the bottom-line of things that inspire me and fill the gaps with my imagination. I hope to have a collection of stories ready by the end of this year.

My you all have a blessed 2018, hopefully our paths cross again.


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