And then it was January. Or actually, February if you’re a (mild) hypochondriac and the imminent end of the first month of the year of PROMISE is slipping away into the ether. It’s been a potent start to my year, how has it been for you?

January is always full of wonder and also longing. The last day at the end of the month is the day my father died, and whether I know it or not, it’s creeping up on me like a cloud of smoke. Historically the mist has particularly choked, but right now, it’s enveloping me like my favourite incense (Nag Champa) from Stick, Stone & Bone on Christopher Street here in New York City. Less than a week away and I feel oddly ambivalent. Ambivalent towards my physicality, and more interested in the invisible threads percolating around me. You know, the ones running out into the world—into and from other humans—but mostly just zigzagging without even so much as a nod from me. Maybe this is what happens one decade on from losing the great love of your life, but I’m mighty interested in these new sensations. They feel affirmative. Different. Smiley. Like honey. Or treacle. Which is always rich and unctuous until you eat too much and feel sick. And it dribbles, which I love.

Talking about love, reclaiming the familiar while discovering new horizons of an intimate relationship is frankly wondrous; my dad lives on in my heart and mind. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of him in some context. Fucked up? Wish I could speak to dad. Done something brilliant? Need to tell dad! Met a man…DAD!!!!!! Need a bear hug and a looooooooooong walk? Where’s dad? Want to cook slow roasted lamb (his speciality)? Hurry dad, I’m hungry! Trying to be bold and jump into something new in my creative life? Well actually, he would just say jump. I ask for help now more than ever. Advice too. In fact, I want to know what people who I know intimately and don’t know from a bar of soap are thinking. Safe to assume they know something epic that I do not. How exciting is that? Dad, well he taught me THAT. My dad’s death has been the ultimate exposer. From facing my mortality to shattering the glass walls of control I thought I had carefully built, when everything crumbled around me with aplomb, it was a disaster. And then one day it wasn’t. And today it isn’t.

In becoming intimate with death and loved ones who have lost, I have seen unbelievable stances of beauty, of bravery, of devotion, of sparkling soul bursts, gosh so much that it makes me giddy thinking about it. Of course, I’ve seen self-destruction and bad behaviour (myself included), but I choose to remember not forget anymore and feel the light and the good. I’ll leave you and me with this passage of sheer candescence that touches me so very deeply:

“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography—to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.” – Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

image: yogibe.tumblr.com

source: Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

 


 

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C’mon, I know you have at least one person who makes you spark. I do.

You might as well ask nerds to try to explain the Force – it’s about as abstract and just as helpful. My friend Poppy calls it ‘a stepping away from the vehicle’ moment. Just for a moment Pop?

So what of those flickers, gleams, glints and sparkles? That delicious cacophony you have with someone. It’s rarely physical. Probably never will be. And that’s why it’s so goddamn palpable. I’ve got one word for you: rollercoasters. What makes them work isn’t the steep drops, the loops, corkscrews and hard banking turns. It’s the loooooong build-up before launching into the ride.

Amongst the hilarious words in Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine—a plotless, stream-of-consciousness examination that details the lunch-hour activities of a young office worker named Howie, whose meal (popcorn, hot dog, cookie and milk), and purchase of a new pair of shoelaces, are contrasted with his reading of a paperback edition of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations—there’s this gem:

‘Has anybody said publicly how nice it is to write on rubber with a ballpoint pen? The slow, fat, ink-rich line, rolled over a surface at once dense and yielding, makes for a multidimensional experience no single sheet of paper can offer.’

How do we understand tangible flying sparks, fireworks even? Why do they ignite so intensely with some? It doesn’t seem rational, even though science would have us believe that it’s all down to chemistry.

In Swiss zoologist Claus Wedekind’s famous lab experiment, participants were asked to wear a T-shirt for two days, sleeping and sweating in it. The shirts were then collected and placed in containers. Other participants of the opposite sex were asked to rank the shirts in order of which they thought smelled best. The data showed that people favored the shirts of the participants that had immune systems that were different from their own based on blood tests that had been taken prior to the experiment. Maybe we just don’t want a redundant mate for offspring, so, we can sense, in a way, their immunity?

The thing is, I’m not thinking (or wanting to think) about any of this when I’m in the moment of a spark. And maybe I defy physics and my chemicals aren’t either. I’m too lost in eye contact or a slight feeling akin to: is there a tiger in the bushes? Well maybe not a tiger, but you know what I mean.

Sparks are potent wizards. Is the fact that we may never act on them a reason they’re so incendiary, or would the heat be generated just the same if we did? It’s a question I’ve been pondering. In the way of glows and beams. And all that is seen and unseen. That’s my (chemical) spark (again and again) right there.

Or, as Diane Ackerman noted in A Natural History of the Senses:

‘Our skin is a kind of space suit in which we maneuver through the atmosphere of harsh gases, cosmic rays, radiation from the sun, and obstacles of all sorts.’

And this:

‘since feeling is first

who pays any attention

to the syntax of things

will never wholly kiss you.’

ee cummings

 

 

source: savethedeco.com


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I once heard a medical examiner at a dinner party say: “If you really want to learn forensic pathology, do a rotation in New York City, all kinds of great ways to die there.” It stuck with me. And then I moved there.

Maybe it’s my South African heritage, but I’ve always been a little paranoid. It started when I was teeny tiny and I’d check under my bed (it had a huge gap) after I watched something scary, and most definitely if I was home alone. Then it manifested when we lived on Eaton Place, a street known for its (some might say) eerily quiet calm and dark back mews. And then, because I took forever to pass my driving test and was a bit rubbish on the tube (wink wink), the humble British taxi became my scare-mare. I started pulling out a small strand of hair every time I got in a cab, thinking that if for whatever reason I was squired away forever, a piece of me would be glaringly imprinted on the linoleum floor. My theory: everyone loves a mystery. Or, more specifically, everyone loves an ingeniously solved mystery. But how about just being clever and preempting the mystery entirely?

So by now, you’re thinking I’m slightly quirky – or is that too generous a word – but hey, it never hurts to be cautious. Hear me out though. Keratin, the main component of human scalp hair, contains all 21 amino acids, but the ratios depend on the body’s biochemistry and differ from person to person. Hydrolyzing the amino acids and measuring their quantities yields a profile that, when compared with a database, gives an indication of a person’s sex, age, body mass index, and region of origin. Boom.

Now, sophisticated analytical techniques are giving hair a new role in forensics. The goal is no longer matching a suspect to a crime scene but using hair to infer physical characteristics or even the travel history of an unknown criminal or victim. Boom, boom.

The ratios of isotopes—atoms of the same element that differ in the number of neutrons—in hair can also yield clues. The ratios of hydrogen and oxygen isotopes in drinking water vary from region to region and are also captured in hair. As a result, isotopic analysis of hair can provide clues about where a person has been in the previous months—or years, if the hair is long enough (mine most certainly is). In 2008, a Utah company called Isoforensics discovered that “Saltair Sally,” an unidentified woman found dead in Utah in 2000, had repeatedly moved between the Pacific Northwest and the Salt Lake City area before she died—a clue that helped identify her in 2012.

I really think there is something to be said for leaving a little lock strewn around on your travels, a stab at fate no less. Governing our minds certainly requires a sparkle of madness and my goodness, I got me some hair to play with.


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One of the things that gives me enormous pleasure is seeing the face of people as they discover a smell they weren’t expecting; the whole body is involved as olfactors stoop, bend and stretch. You can see the sense of possibility expand in their being. Both culture and expectation weigh heavy on a city’s smellscape, so it’s lucky I’m not attached to any particular one at the moment. But at this present time I live in New York, and I can smell spring. I was in Beacon – a small town that hugs the Hudson – on the weekend and I caught a tangible odor of promise (literal) and then lyrical – the smell of history embedded in the surrounding architecture. The air was sweet and billowy and it got me excited. Even with semi-forlorn trees and buds that hadn’t yet sprung, the sense of the earth getting ready to blossom again felt palpably wondrous. Growing up in a city as contained as London didn’t seem conducive to being able to appreciate a seasons’ overflowing, but my family brought South Africa with them – barbecues, crocuses, daffodils, passion fruit juice and soul food. They brought their strong accents and multiplicity of tongues, their histories from Eastern Europe mingled with generous dollops of fortuity. Maybe that’s why it’s my favorite time of the year wherever I may be walking.


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My uncle – who has a lovely sense of irony about many things – asked me yesterday how a new project was going, to which I replied, “I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” Well I text it. And obviously those luminous words belong to Mr Hemingway and not Miss Jacobs.

The description of the intricacies of a moment in time are as ambiguous as the shades of a walnut don’t you think? Can you describe an unraveling to someone on the other side of the world? Can you measure the color of change? My German friend Nina’s favorite word is entfalten which translates as ‘to unfold, to open or spread out.’ I think that’s the essence of Hemingway’s directive and it’s never felt so poignant to me personally or professionally. Chaos theory teaches that seemingly insignificant initial circumstances can effect global, even universal events. As the theory has it: a butterfly flaps its wings in one country and helps to cause a tornado in another.

The same applies in our lives. On my travels, I’ve discovered emotions I recognised that I didn’t even know had names, such as Amae, which in Japan describes the feeling you get from surrendering to another in perfect safety; and others I didn’t even know existed, such as Acedia, a short-lived listless despair brought to the fourth-century desert monks by noonday demons. I offer this collection of emotions as a gesture against those arguments that try to reduce the beautiful complexity of our inner lives into just a handful of cardinal feelings. Because one thing I’ve learned is that we don’t need fewer words for our feelings. We need more.

Hemingway also said, “As a writer you should not judge. You should understand,” and just like the world around me, I want to  invest in wonder, weave rainbows and never eclipse slack-jawed splendor with anything other than utter marvel.

 

source: thetaoofdana.com


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“How old are the ends of my hair,” I asked Delisa – the wondrous woman who tames my jewfro – mid chop. “Four years,” she said without skipping a beat. My mind flash backed to 2011, a year punctuated by one life-affirming physical feat in Tanzania, a beauty start-up, and probably the first time that I succumbed to my father’s absence. And then it hit me. Today, even the oldest piece of hair on my head hasn’t been touched by the gentlest hands I knew; no longer carries within it that other lifetime of secrets and wisdom; hasn’t been pulled or played with by those past loves’ palms; nor been laughed into with a different kind of wild abandon or cried within the old belly of its fuzzy strands: the entire period pre-2011 was obliterated in one fell swoop. Or one baby cut. I definitely have hair dysmorphia.

Yogis believe hairs are our antennae into the world, acting as conduits to bring in greater quantities of subtle, cosmic energy – an analogy that burns a bright visual representation of intrigue for me, alluding to what might be revealed or undone. I distinctly remember two fashion shows from that period four years ago: a Jean-Paul Gaultier tribute to Amy Winehouse complete with acid-bright beehives and Chanel’s take on cockatoo-esque hair. Voluminous, sculpted, yet out-of-control hair that spun into cartoonish proportions spoke to me then as it does now. Maybe that’s why, when left to their own devices, my curls remain undefeated. They are like little receivers feeling out the world for me. In Yogi Bhajan’s words, “Your hair is not there by mistake. It has a definite purpose, which saints will discover and other men will laugh at.”

In an attempt to co-opt a bit of this frisson, I’m thinking of bows. My ribbon-tying skills have always been stellar, but when it comes to wearing said bow (slightly askew atop a messy ponytail) in said hair, it’s really just a visual metaphor, heightening the sense that my world can be interrupted at any moment. All I need now is my mom’s vintage Mugler leather jacket to toughen it up.

 

 


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One broken toe, two car accidents and three ligament tears after climbing Kilimanjaro; that’s Kayla-speak for sailing through her physical life relatively unscathed. Until one fine day in October – the kind of day where reds, yellows and oranges dye the landscape and you think you could spend the rest of your sunrises-to-sunsets leaf-peeping – when my knee went rogue. This frankly assertive behavior along my leg periphery felt as though someone had thrown a lightening bolt out of the sky and onto my limb (left in case you were wondering) and shocked me to a rigid submission. I waited a few minutes, tried to walk again, and another coursing spiral of electricity immobilized me with even greater force. The G-ds must be really angry, I thought. Ten days later I was having knee surgery and a mere few hours after that, I hobbled out of the hospital on crutches; ain’t modern medicine and spinal epidurals grand.

Now I’ve seen plenty of people on crutches, all over the world, and what they all seemed to have in common to me was an oddly surreal ease of movement. Doing things with perceived fluidity is rhythmic.  Recently I have realised that the only definition of things that make any sense to me is rhythm. It is only when you hear, or put, one thing after another, that it becomes an audible or visual sound, something dexterous that feels completely fluent. Me on crutches? Like the sound of 10 or 20 hoovers scratching the marble floors of a hotel lobby at 2am in Vegas. That was the immediate rhythm of my decline. My mother looked on in pity.

Days went by, and then it was nearly two weeks post-op and I was navigating the mean streets of New York, succumbed to my transient fate. And that’s when the most curious thing happened. People transformed from scurrying against me harshly on even the dreariest Manhattan blocks, to gentle, curious passerby’s, and very eager helpers. There was no shortage of wonderful human beings opening doors for me, stopping to ask if I was okay, offering up seats, escorting me down stairs and even arguing over who was going to open the door for me – thank you HSS rehab gentlemen.

I called a girlfriend and pondered this new change in attitude towards me. I called a boyfriend and pondered this new change in attitude towards me. Both big-city wanderers and kindred spirits, they said they thought all this attention was because I seemed vulnerable with my new appendages. Could it really be as simple as appearing as a damsel-in-distress version of my usual self? The classic fairy tale I know is dark, implacable in matters of life and death, and above all politically incorrect, and children (including my childhood self) love them anyway. A fairytale never existed for me in a fixed form; it’s something like a tune – here I go again – that can migrate from a symphony to a tin whistle. Even the language is fluid and shapeshifting: a rose is not a rose, an apple not an apple; a princess or a villain signify far more than what they seem. As do I.

There was something which I was starting to enjoy about being perceived so vulnerably – being six feet tall isn’t always conducive to feeling or appearing like I need to be rescued. I very much do sometimes. This modern fairy story also set me thinking how implausible are most of the myths we live by. Seeing past a tales’ flimsy charm is quite amusing when you’re all grown-up. Seeing people’s innate response to a woman’s vulnerability is frankly wonderful. Why? Because nothing gets my skin tingly and warm like being in the presence of those whom I don’t know simply sharing of themselves. And by share, I mean just be. I guess that’s what vulnerability represents to me and I think that’s why I got so much attention on my crutches: they were just a little window into everyone’s soul. We have been programmed for thousands of years to respond to the power of stories and the enchantment fully came alive these last few weeks. I guess if I really want to perpetuate the myth, I should go on a date with that basketball player who just asked me out.

 

 

source: marieclaire.co.za


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Detox like the Swedes who swear by algae baths to tone skin, relax muscles and stimulate circulation. The beauty of this mineral is that there’s no need to rinse it off, as the longer it’s in contact with skin, the longer it can work its magic. Algae’s innate ability to help repair cell damage and increase elasticity in the skin kick-started the trend for powerful micro extracts. Elethea is the first skincare brand to use microalgae from the Rift Valley in Kenya to create five products. Swedish brand Estelle & Thild has a Super Bioactive Magic Duo that combines microalgae with astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant in the war against ageing. Algenist’s Algae Brightening Mask uses patented alguronic acid, a substance that protects and regenerates microalgae cells for immediate anti-ageing effects. Sauna optional.

 

image: marinespecies.org