My favourite aunt, whose spirit has since joined the great soup of consciousness from which all may draw inspiration at any hour of their choosing, returned with my uncle from a trip to London and Geneva. They stayed with us briefly in Johannesburg before journeying homeward North of the Limpopo River. My Mother in her wisdom had sacrificed so that we possessed a globe which sat in the lounge on a marble-topped table her father had made in his retirement. The World. It spun round so smoothly and had a clear plastic tape around the Equator marking the lines of longitude. Its surface was also in partial relief. I loved running my fingertips over the Himalayas. We had a domestic geography lesson in the days preceding the arrival of family.
I am not sure that allowed my aunt sufficient time to sit down before I asked what Geneva was like and whether she liked it. I do remember her response. She said that no matter where you go in the world, you still have to take yourself with you. Although the initial phrase of this blog would only form in my mind years later, it was clear to me at the time that my aunt did not fall into the category of fatuous adults. In effect, that comment set me on a trajectory which has involved more travel than any airline can promise. I am grateful for ears, that I might hear.
Thirty-five years later, I visited this same aunt and informed her that I was about to take my Self with me on a business trip to the Netherlands, a milestone for me in that it was my first trip out of Africa. Her smile at my comment is not easily forgotten either. In retrospect too, it set in motion the events which led to my living in Portugal not three years after that. Concurrently, the rest of my family contributed to the African Diaspora by moving to Australia. We span the globe now, our family.
Then, suddenly, there is movement again, as my younger sister, the art teacher, accompanies Brisbane school children on a trip to New York on an art and music tour. I say movement. Dimensions shift. A close friend she knew before the second wave of migration from Zimbabwe flies in from Vancouver with her eldest son and joins her for a day or two on the tour. World-famous galleries I have never been to. I feel the thrum of the “at last” feeling, yet am mostly mute. I receive information that the power of artists throughout the centuries causes my sister’s whole circulatory system to speed up. She is overawed by the sheer greatness and seeming impossibility of the reality of the moment. A series of overwhelming moments. These moments pulsate in the continuum against the hurly burly backdrop of the city throng and bright lights.
Thanks to technology, one of the photos I have seen of my one and only darling sister is not flattering. Yet is is remarkable. She is tired, I see. I also see in her a touch of my father that I do not remember noticing before. But more. I see traces of my mother, my grandmother, my nieces, a speck of myself even. And the Self that is my sister.
No matter where we go in the world, or when for that matter, we are indeed obliged to take our Selves with us.
Probably back after four months of intense work which took me places, some I which I had not visited before.
Q: So what is the title all about then?
A: The [translation of the] first few words of my French Honours thesis twenty-five years ago. Apparently, I thought I knew enough to write about it at the time. Yes, very amusing.
The word in bold appeared in the previous post.