and a few other pieces on my blog, you will understand how deeply the fire that ravaged our city at the beginning of March, affected me. It touched a deep place within me and I learned a lot through it. In my post above I mention someone whose actions during those flames truly touched me with hope. Her name is Ann and she is a music teacher who was evacuated from her home as the fire tumbled through her village. I heard about Ann through our local media channel but miraculously the Hand of God moved when at a remarkable turn, I met Ann. It was unplanned and unexpected but a beautiful gift - to meet this amazing woman. Ann is sharing her experience over here exclusively for us and I pray that her words will touch your heart and inspire you to know that it does not matter how tragic the situation appears to be or how desperate we may be clinging to life, there is always hope no matter what!
Picture of Ann on the day of evacuation, thanks to Shirene's Photography
My creative world is about igniting creative flames in others! ...mostly children yet adults too. I live simply, have had a love affair with pianos all my life, put on hold during the nine years we homesteaded and homeschooled in the Cederberg Wilderness.
At present, I teach Music Alive, using my two pianos and other instruments.
During that smoke-filled day, the 'Tiger Tiger burning bright' raked the Noordhoek Peak with sharp claws. It literally looked as if the mountain was bleeding. Internally, I was too..
I ran outside continuously to check the flames. Inside, student Kenai (10yrs) sat calmly playing. I asked him if he would like to climb on the roof to see the fire, he replied, no, I want to do music!
I could not hold back my tears, because firstly, he chose piano over the drama and secondly the flames were so ominously close that, I needed to cry at the reality of the impending loss that loomed so close to all of us.
My son Shahn came straight from work with his partner Nicole. Her father Simon arrived later on. We ate a pleasant supper as the 'Tiger' was almost asleep. They left at 11pm and all seemed quiet but Nicole was not so sure. ...
At midnight a Devil of a north wind slammed against the windows and doors and fed the Tiger until it rose to over 100 feet high. I called my son with a desperate plea to return from his home and help me with my things.
With chattering teeth and wobbly knees, I quickly made peace with the fact that I would be leaving all my possessions behind. Instead I chose my instruments and my passport. He arrived so quickly, with friends and family to help and soon we had loaded both pianos onto his bakkie. Amidst the nearby flames and confusion we determinedly made our way to the safety zone set up at Noordhoek Sportsfield.. ...as the pianos arrived and off-loaded into my care, a songbird flapped wildly in to my heart and out it flew, down my arms and into the black and white notes. Murmuring dark forms moved past seeking sustenance and shelter in the clubhouse.
The insatiable flames raged at a distance ...smoke filled the chilly north-blown night air.
Hopping in and out of the vehicles to check my beloveds, I tasted deep sorrow and immense love for humanity at its best.
As dawn broke an official voice gave out the latest damage report and safety advice.
My heart and mind sought solace and expression. My eyes gazed outwards upon a white ibis, gliding so calmly, so gracefully, through the rugby posts framed with smoke and fire....and my fingers reached for the piano keys to release everything inside of me that was happening outside. Simultaneously a hand pointed eastwards towards a glow as a ray of warmth shone straight into our hearts. The children would still have the pianos to play upon.
... A TV crew arrived, interviewed the 'lady who brought her pianos', a trauma counsellor offered assistance to any in need and people dispersed, anxious to get home.
Although fire is cleansing and is often a necessity, it is yet brutal and causes much pain. It is hard to integrate the beauty and feel the grief simultaneously. To be able to play and teach others this gift, is my creative joy.
Even after the music of rainfall during the night, the northerly breeze brings with it, the odour of that which is burnt. It's symbolic of how we live through a frightening event, we can try and put everything back in place as best we can yet, we are always revisited. Smell as we know, evokes clear memories of past moments and past events but in the midst of tragedies like fire, the chemicals omitted in to the air deaden our sense of smell..... It makes me question if our sense of personal direction is not also retarded in these moments.
The visual sense seems by far the strongest way to capture our attention no matter what state we find ourselves in. It seems to engage the cerebral brain and decision making. Smell activates the full experience, colour, place, time, ambience, it is so powerful and listening engages the feelings. Music touches the soul at a far deeper level.
I have observed how Music Alive creates mental engagement and encourages mental freedom simultaneously and, when fed by the heart, it brings composition alive in the moment!
So the pieces I played on Noordhoek Sportsfield on those black and white keys, were freestyle compositions that came from my heart in the moment, expressing the visual events of fire and the movement and the emotional response to it all. The Peacefulness of letting go, the Grace of moments of quiet, the waves of grief for terrified animals on the run, the Ray of sun bringing strength and hope as the new day emerged out of chaos and darkness and the knowing that life moves on, at its usual rapid pace regardless.
So in a healing capacity, playing the sounds released the emotions (that may or may not be trapped by shock) and writing the event and speaking about it have helped the mind to make sense of that event. The fires reminded me of that and it reminded me of what I do with the children that enter my home, they are handed a tool to help them to navigate more successfully through their lives!- Ann's Words
I love how Ann's words are some of the first to be shared on the Burnt Ground section of this blog. It is just meant to be! Thanks so much to Ann for sharing her words and her passion with us! This truly is a reclaimed Burnt Ground Story!