Things we hold dear … at 80, at 3?am, at prayer

2011-12-31 00:00

WHILE I claim to be a hermit, among the things that inspire me deeply are my interactions with people, and this year I’ve had the chance to meet a rather interesting bunch.

Among the most interesting was my visit to Betty Kincaid-Smith and her two camping friends, Phyllis Nanni and Purdon Ellis, all in their 80s. Betty was like a ball of energy on Red Bull and she bounced around as the three of them spoke at length about their adventures (and misadventures) on their camping trips out in the wild, once a year for the last 10 years.

There’s a strange phobia that most of us have about ageing, coupled with the belief that with age comes the inability to do certain things, and these three proved that age is just another number. In fact, they were more alive and intrepid then most of my twenty-something friends. I remember thinking when I left that day that I hope I have friends like that when I’m older. Hopefully we would do less “out there” activities, like go-karting once a year or maybe a visit to a strawberry farm.

Another woman who greatly inspired me was Elle Durow, formerly Neville. She has an amazingly positive outlook on life and a deep fondness for all animals, be it a reptile or wild cat, and would wake up at 3 am in the heart of winter just to prepare food for the animals that surrounded her self-made little home in the middle of the lower Mpushini conservatory near Ashburton. The remarkable thing about Durow is that at the age of 70 she naturally transformed into a woman only to realise that she had been born a hermaphrodite. Her knowledge about the subject was astounding and she accepted her transformation, grabbed life with both hands and went forth glowing with inner strength and a deep love for all things.

I couldn’t help but wonder how my approach would be to news like that, especially after 70 years of living a certain way.

The year has also been one filled with exhilarating first-time experiences, such as camping at Splashy Fen, riding the Karkloof Canopy Tours ziplines, trying my wits at Airsoft and firing a gun. I’ve almost become addicted to shooting range, and after writing the story about firing a .22 Star pistol, I went back to try out a 9 mm pistol, a shotgun and a rifle.

It was also fascinating to attend a sangoma workshop held at the Dovehouse organic farm near Howick, as it made me realise how alike all religions and spiritual beliefs are. Many of the stories and beliefs told by Sarah Wager and Muvo Ngcobo reminded me of stories I had heard as a child about Hinduism and Hindu beliefs.

I had a similar experience while attending a service at St Mary’s Church in Blackridge, which recently celebrated its centenary. It felt like one of my temple experiences as a child.

It was remarkable to find how similar and interlinked all religions are. While I always knew that most religious principles are similar, I had never realised how close they were.

• tharuna.devchand@witness.co.za

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