By bell, books and candles

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa



On Sunday we were in Cape Town for a gathering of the Watkins clan on what would have been my mother’s one hundredth birthday. We left Porterville very early in the morning heading for the morning service at St George’s Cathedral. There is a sculpture of the African Madonna by Leon Underwood. Created in 1938. He was one of Henry Moore’s teachers. I lit four candles – for our parents, us 4 sisters, my 4 nieces, the 4 living generations – of which I am now the oldest.

The Cathedral is using George’s dragon as a symbol for their CHATT campaign against HIV/AIDS – a second reason for my candles to burn thru the morning service.

As we walked from the car, the bells began to ring. The bell tower is now a squat promise. The stone cathedral is unfinished; meanwhile they are involved in serious repairs to the roof.

Mother's books, some bought for her in London
Mother's books, some bought for her in London

Mother's books, some collected by her
Mother's books, some collected by her

My mother taught me to love reading. I knew we were losing her, when in the last weeks of her life, she looked blankly at a page of text – and found more interest in illustrated garden books. My last real conversation as I sat with her in frail care – she – I suppose we could settle down, and read? I gave her a little book about lavender, and she told me about the tussie mussie. Both of us remembering how visitors to her home always left with a garden posy in hand.

Her pencilled notes, with an owl from her collection
Her pencilled notes, with an owl from her collection

Now Minerva/Athena, her owl of wisdom, watches over me as I stand at my laptop. I’m reading her copy of Brideshead Revisited, with a film review tucked in, and pencilled notes for the quotes she wanted to find again.

Kaffe Fassett's Chinese Roses
Kaffe Fassett's Chinese Roses

When I was in LinkedIn I was prompted to add skills. Thirty?! I reached out beyond blogging and gardening, back to librarianship, and out to vegetarian cooking and knitting. My mother lived by ‘when I am an old woman I shall wear purple’. In 1990 I knitted Kaffe Fassett’s Chinese Roses for my mother – now I wear it, with her jewel-bright purple scarf. When I knit I lift the motif from KF but the shape of the garment is mine, with the striped ribbing, and the open lace work at the edge of the sleeve. Each cluster of roses sang its own tune to my mother - in mauve, lavender, violet, berry red and lilac.

Tecoma capensis Big Red
Tecoma capensis Big Red

Dozen for Diana 
 4 for False Bay 

For Wildflower Wednesday with Gail @ Clay and Limestone.

From central NY state Donna @ GardensEyeview is armed with spearmint.
(I'll add your links if you have an April plant for us).

Tecoma capensis at Ungardening Pond
Tecoma capensis at Ungardening Pond

Tecoma capensis
Tecoma capensis

Tecoma capensis detail of the peach and apricot flower
Tecoma capensis detail of the peach and apricot flower

Returning to my Dozen for Diana – the plants which grow in our Porterville garden, and will flourish in the future False Bay garden. Today the temperature is flirting with 30C and the Tecoma capensis bushes are a vibrating hum of bees, with sunbirds dipping in and out. The yellow, facing north, begins to fade. The peach and apricot burst into bloom just after I wrote my last post. Even temperamental Big Red has joined the party. I recognised a plant in the new garden, but don’t know which colour it will be.

Dozen for Diana, 4 for False Bay Tecoma capensis flowering shrub, Grewia occidentalis flowering tree Searsia crenata tree, Bulbine frutescens flowering succulent groundcover
Dozen for Diana, 4 for False Bay
Tecoma capensis flowering shrub, Grewia occidentalis flowering tree
Searsia crenata tree, Bulbine frutescens flowering succulent groundcover 

nor the moon by night
nor the moon by night

I have a steady trickle of readers looking for a ‘sad black background’. Why? This isn’t sad. It was evening and the Tecoma flowers morphed into goldfish!

Pictures and text by Diana Studer
(on Google Plus)
AKA Diana of Elephant's Eye (on False Bay)
- wildlife gardening in Porterville,
near Cape Town in South Africa

(If you mouse over teal blue text,
it turns seaweed red.Those are my links.)

Comments

  1. Thankyou. I enjoyed your intensely personal post which triggered memories of my own mother and the resonance of some of her possessions which I treasure.

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  2. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing a bit of your history. No doubt your mom thought of you when she wore the Chinese roses sweater, and now you remember her. The sweater is gorgeous! You are very talented! My grandmother tried to teach me how to knit, but it didn't stick.

    By the way, I love your Tecoma goldfish by moonlight!

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    Replies
    1. I remember my mother's friend Mary B, who taught me to knit cables, then intarsia (weaving in the 2 colours as in the roses) - and I was away, never looked back.

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  3. My sister was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and went to visit our mother and aunt with her daughter. She captured the 4 generations of women from 91 to 25. What lovely memories to keep.

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    1. 2 survivors of breast cancer in the picture our family posted on FB! From my oldest sister down to the littlest great-niece who needed to stand on a chair to get our heads on the same level.

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  4. Your mother had very good taste, by the look of the bookshelf pictures. I always look at people's bookshelves when I go into their houses - they tell you so much about people. As people use their Kindles more and more, I won't be able to do this so much! Serves me right for being nosey.

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    1. Someone walked into our last house, looked around in horror and asked 'Have you read ALL these books?!' Truthfully I cannot imagine living in a house with NO books, even if I learnt to Kindle.

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  5. This is a wonderful tribute to your mother. My mother's family has no cancer survivors and is painfully small. I have one picture of 4 generations of women in our family. My mom could crochet but if someone had given me long needles of any sort, I would have poked an eye out, probably my own. Your sweater is beautiful. :o)

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    Replies
    1. I have 2 guilty knitting projects - complete - except for sewing the bits together. Hate that! It has been many years.

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  6. Its amazing how one holds on to memories through things like those books and notes. Ps, I don't think that picture is sad either

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  7. More lovely memories. I don't know how I'll feel when I'm the oldest in our family - if ever I am. I miss my parents so much, even though they died a while ago, I think I would feel very alone. You, on the other hand, seem to be dealing with things very much better than I can - there's a sense of celebration in the way you write.

    Of your mother's books - I have Andrew Marr's in my 'to read' pile.

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    Replies
    1. Lucy - I was a laatlammetjie. My father turned 50 when I was 6 months old. My 4 nieces are closer to my age, than my 4 sisters are. I always felt as if there was a 'parent' generation missing in my life. It was a celebration to have the next 3 generations gathered. As my middle sister said - our mother loved a party!

      The Andrew Marr I bought for her last birthday, and she enjoyed it.

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  8. It seems your mother passed on a love of books and of gardens, what a collection she had with so many wonderful garden titles. I loved to hear that she had notes in her books too. I too was an unexpected late child, my father will be turning 93 this year to my 37. My nieces and nephews more like brothers and sisters. I found your comment about missing a 'parent generation' interesting, I've never thought of it that way but it makes sense to me.

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    Replies
    1. I see such a different relationship between my nieces and my sisters, to the one between my mother and I.

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  9. This was such a beautiful post written with tenderness about your family. Family is something that always remains with us. My mother is a gardener, and we could talk and talk about gardening for hours.

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  10. this post touched my heart, its so beautiful, the words brought me to tears and made me happy, what an amazingly beautiful tribute to your Mum, I enjoyed this so much,

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  11. I just realized I'm not on your followers list, oops! I fixed that!!!

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    Replies
    1. love to see the owl you painted greeting me here!

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  12. There is something about the sserenity inside a church that brings peace to the soul, and comfort at the loss of a loved one - no matter how long ago.

    One of my favourite places to just sit and be me :)

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    1. Tx for following! On a new blog I notice each new one.

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  13. Diana, such tender memories of your Mom....beautifully written, and expressed.

    Jen

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  14. It appears your mother did make it to 100, at least in the warmth and appreciation you feel towards her as you continue to interact with the things that were very much a part of her life. May she continue to live on.

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    Replies
    1. Almost, but she did delight in one hundred Christmases. The memory of her lives on.

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  15. I wouldn't have been looking for "sad, black background" but I might have been looking for "moon garden". I'm trying to find a really good photo of one.

    Your memories are keeping your mother alive.

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    Replies
    1. moon gate, but a moon garden would be hard to capture in a photo. You have to 'be there'.

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  16. Reading and gardening, and sharing both with you -- your mother knew what was truly important and rewarding in life. This is a beautiful post, Diana. I'm catching up on some blog visits this week. Life has been a bit crazy lately, but I'm making my way through the haze. I really enjoyed this post.

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  17. Diana, I too shared love of reading with my mother. When I was a child, she took me to the library and helped me choose books. I remember the point, when I was in college, that I began recommending books to her. Then, for many years, we shared books and reading recommendations. When she died, I went through her book shelves and took a selection to keep. They are special to me. -Jean

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