A week-long writing workshop squished into the everyday can cause havoc with life. It’s been worth it, though. An amazing journey along which I met beautiful, interesting, creative women, each with a story to tell. And they weave their stories so magically.
The hours between just before 8:30 am, when I set off on the forty-minute drive to Kalk Bay, and one o’clock transported me to a quiet, nurturing, creative space, where I time-warped to places I had thought I had long forgotten. By Wednesday, my head was buzzing when I left, and I, high-energy, I’ll-sleep-when-I’m-dead kind of person that I am, would be craving a nap.
No nap for the wicked! Some things cannot be left undone. Like fetching kids from school, for example, or mopping up a nine-year-old’s vomit at two in the morning.
And so it happened that I double booked. Every little chore needs to be diarised. If it’s not diarised, I’ll override it with work engagements. So, even though I know that there’s the swimming fetch-and-carry every Monday, if I open my diary and it’s not written in there, I’ll book a portrait.
I didn’t diarise the saxophone and drumming lessons for Tuesday and booked a portrait. I had to leave Kalk Bay and make it to a briefing forty-five minutes later. That gave me fifteen minutes to go home and fetch studio equipment, which I may or may not use for the portraits (preferring window light), before heading off to fetch kids. My cunning plan was to take them to the music lessons an hour early, leave them there while I do my shoot, and then pick them up just as they finish. This would get me all the places I need to be on time. All they would have to do is amuse themselves with a milkshake at a nearby restaurant for the hour before their classes started. Perfect.
But, as you know, when dealing with kids you cannot devise a plan dastardly enough to be foolproof. But, naively, I always try. Pick them up from their respective schools and explain the drill. ‘No!’ is the cry. ‘I must go home and change first! I can’t go to drumming like this!’ Okay, okay, I had forgotten that the seventeen-year-old’s drumming teacher is cute and, no, of course she can’t go to lessons in her school clothes. Good lord! How remiss of me! So I detour back home and wait while she changes. The clock, however, is less considerate and does not wait.
The day started out a bit chaotically. Living by the seat of my pants, as I do, making it up as I go along, means that I sometimes run on empty. This could be as simple as having forgotten one or most of the three-times-daily meals our greedy bodies demand, or it could be slightly more important, in that the car’s petrol tank is empty. As it happened on this morning. No problem, I’ll put in a hundred rand, I think, as I swerve into the nearest petrol station. Perfect plan. Except that the petrol fellow is still a bit sleepy and puts in R122,45. But I have only R100 in my wallet (well, there was a snack sale, and I didn’t make lunch for Thing 1, so she needed tuckshop money). I’ll be back later, I say, and screech out of the petrol station, leaving him looking very worried. Just one more thing to add to today’s list: swing by the petrol station later on and repay my R22,45 loan!
At the following day’s workshop we had to write down in phrases of no more than three words what we had done between leaving the workshop the previous day and going to bed. What I wrote in three-word (okay, I cheated a bit – there are some four-worders) phrases far better describes the day than any number of paragraphs could. Here’s what I wrote:
Going to make it!
Next on the schedule
No! First home
batteries, memory card
lights, cables, umbrellas
How to fit in?
Drop kids off
Crash on bed
UP. Move. Go.
Shopping for food.
Feed kids, self
Petrol guy grateful
Make assistant laugh
Keep sense of humour
The in-between bits, though, the writing and the photography, are pools of stillness. I hold a pen in my hand, I hold my camera, and it’s like meditating.
Today’s shoot was a portrait, which is always my favourite kind of shoot. I love the energy that’s created in the room during that time. I’ve usually not met my model beforehand, and chances are that we won’t see each other again after I’ve dropped the images off. Yet that time spent creating images is incredibly intimate and warm and always leaves me feeling pretty good about the day and about what I do for a living. I feel pretty lucky.