‘Spring iz sprung, da grass iz riz,
I wonder where dem boidies iz?
Da little boids is on da wing.
Ain’t dat absoid?
Da little wings iz on da boid.’
The American poet, Ogden Nash, gets the blame for this wonderful poem about spring.
September 1st marked the beginning of spring. I sleep with my curtains open and wake each morning at 5.30. With a cup of coffee in my hand, my iPad on my lap, I watch the brilliant scene of the rising sun play out before me. It’s gentle rays almost tentatively seem to peer over the Outeniqua Mountains and then more boldly the rest of the sun follows. It embraces the world in it’s sublime pinks, purples, and oranges as the early morning casts away it’s mantle of the night. During winter, I have normally finished two cups of coffee before greeting the day. On the opening of spring, I finished one and smiled at daybreak.
Jasmine to me, is the scent of spring. The rich, heady perfume seems to fill my heart as I acknowledge that spring has finally arrived. Unfortunately I don’t have a jasmine bush in my small garden, but every time I enter or leave Mums’s house, I am assailed by the smell of spring. Her jasmine bush grows at the front door. I stand in my own garden and I look at the beautiful pink shoots of my rose. It has realised that winter is over and new little sprouts taste the air in anticipation of the life to come.
I can see very definite seasonal changes taking place in life. Everyone’s life has a spring, summer, autumn and winter before finally encountering death. Yet within life, there are different sorts of changes that can definitely be looked upon as seasonal.
After the deep, dark winter of my fall, spring began slowly as I began to beat and crack the ice that had formed around me. It had frozen in such a way that this was not ice that simply melted in the sun. It had dehumanised me and required a slow thaw by means of love and therapy. I took heart when I beat off it’s icy grip and was able to stand once more. Gradually I was able to shake free of the last icy tentacles as I learnt to walk, move my body and talk again. Spring had definitely taken hold as I slowly but surely moved towards summer.
Four years after my fall, Maralin Vanrenen directed me in my one woman show, My Plunge to Fame. I was performing as Gaynor telling the story of my life. I entered into this summer of my existence with awe and an unbelievable joy. In rehearsal, realising that I was no longer able to learn words, M threw away my script and said: “Now tell me about your life.”
How utterly terrifying! Having no script, each time I performed it was a different show, all contained within a set framework.
On opening night, I remember waiting in the wings for my signal from the stage manager to move on stage and praying: “Please Lord, give me the words tonight.”
Afterwards I stood taking my curtain call to a standing ovation. I revelled in the summer breeze of people standing, applauding my show for the next eight months.
All summers come to an end. I had forgotten this and the autumn hit me like a slap in the face. I was unprepared for the winter that followed.
After performing all over the country and twice in London, I returned to my flat in Durban. When you are alone, you look at yourself – critically. Suddenly, since my fall, I didn’t care how far I had progressed. I looked at myself in the mirror and how I hated the image that greeted me. All my deformities, everything that was wrong with me caused tears to seep from my eyes. I couldn’t hear people so conversation was difficult. I walked with a dreadful limp. I was so evidently spastic down my right hand side that I cringed inside. Where had all my dreams gone: I was going to be an admired actor with a husband and possibly two children. The actor had disappeared in Camelot that day. As for a husband? Who would ever marry me now? And children? I gave a mirthless laugh.
Slowly the winter ice began to stealthily freeze around my heart once more.
I planned it carefully.
I bought 2 bottles of red wine and a pile of sleeping tablets. I ran a lovely hot bath with a little jasmine essence poured in. Spring in a bath, I liked that. I planned to take my life by drinking the wine together with the sleeping tablets. I would fall asleep in the bath. What better way than going with expensive bottles of red wine in a beautifully scented spring bath? I climbed into the hot bath and poured myself some wine. This was the most expensive wine I had ever bought. I placed the sleeping tablets neatly along the edge of the bath.
‘Mums would approve of my neatness,’ I thought. And that finished me. I remembered everything that Dad and Mums had done for me since my fall. How they had stood by me, coaxing me back to living once more. And now, here was yours truly literally throwing it in their faces and saying: ‘I don’t care. Living is too difficult. I want out!’
It would destroy them. How could I do that? But what about me? Life was a bitter pill to swallow. Life or the blessing of no more struggles – oblivion! I sat in the bath, my mind in turmoil. It was then I realised I needed help. I needed hope back in my life once more.
Enter my clinical psychologist, Shirley Tollman.
The bliss of being able to talk about the dark things inside to someone who didn’t know me. She helped me understand myself and deal with my various problems.
Think of a beautiful tree in a storm. It is struck by lightning and different parts are burnt and singed. Indeed the whole tree is affected. But in spring new shoots begin to grow amongst this blackened mass. Only these grow in a totally different way making the tree look strange yet wonderfully weird.
This was me. Yes, I might look different with my spasticity, my squonk eye, my limp but in a rather wonderful way, I have grown new branches that I have discovered are invaluable to me. These are the branches of empathy, of knowing what a bad situation is like and being able to relate to people in ways that were unknown to me before my fall.
I had forgotten that after every winter there is a spring. Shirley helped me discover spring once more.
Throughout our lives there are many hard crushing winters, but there is always the spring that arrives. At this time of year, the days bristle with renewed signs of life everywhere. The spirit of starting anew takes hold. I laugh at myself! Today fresh with the fever of spring, I set off with my friends for a walk in the forest. My eyes were not on the beautiful scenery we were passing through but on the ground to see where to step. Every now and again, I would shout: “Please may we stop?”
Then I would gaze around me with awe at the soaring trees, the waterfall…and the beginning of spring.
Afterwards my friend said to me that it was the most difficult walk she had taken me on. I discovered that with my gorgeously helpful leg brace, on that beautiful spring morning, I had walked the furthest I had ever walked – nine kilometres!
I love spring!