Thursday 8 July 2010

Stormy weather


“'Tis the set of the sail that decides the goal, and not the storm of life” Ella Wheeler Wilcox


I did not fully understand the dread term 'terminal illness' until I noticed how difficult all the things I had always taken for granted became gradually more and more Herculean to achieve. Like running and dancing and sailing and riding…the puff factor took over far earlier than it had done in the past. Painting, writing and even reading became less easy because the cocktail of highly toxic drugs I was being given turned my mind to mush on occasion. Listening to some - most - of my music made me cry and entertaining friends for supper or lunch became just wretchedly exhausting rather than the exhilarating, inspiring, memory-making fun it had always been.

I felt I needed order – in everything. My clothes; my lotions and potions; the way in which things were laid out in drawers, in cupboards, on shelves, in the FRIDGE for gods’ sake. Symmetry became vitally important – every picture had to be straight, each cushion had to be plumped and laid just so. Duvets and pillows had to be immaculate, not a wrinkle or a crinkle anywhere. Yeah, a kind of madness descended. However, it seems to me that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a facade of order - and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order. You decide to leave your wrecked body to medical science, you contact your solicitor, you write letters to your children to read when you’re gone. There is a list of last wishes to make, a Living Will to have witnessed. All which I have done in a curiously businesslike fashion. By the book, by the numbers, carefully, cut-and-dried, deliberately, efficiently, exactly.  All fixed, framed, in a groove.  No tears or gasps of self pity. Spooky stuff. Orderly and oh so disciplined. The antithesis of Tessa, frankly.

And yet I have this driving, almost manic urge to try different styles of painting. I want to weave cotton into dazzling pattern. I want to sculpt and throw pots and learn calligraphy. I want to write poetry, novels, memoirs. I want to cook and clean and create. I want to set up a Salon du Muse, but I don’t want to talk – I just want to listen…and learn.  I want to save the freakin' world, man.

It’s really difficult to describe my state of mind at the moment. The only analogy I can proffer is that my head feels full of roiling, boiling storm clouds. Like an African storm – all dark, furious, growling and growing. That deep drum roll of far off thunder which gathers momentum until the explosive blast of it makes you jump despite the fact you knew it was coming. An incandescent flash of lightening – which in itself brings a certain mental clarity. Then the clouds erupt and the explosive deluge strikes the ground like a million whetted spears. Blinding, soaking, streaking, sodden.

Then across the skies the clouds clear to make way for that magical light that is liquid sunshine. There, right then, is the moment when chaos subsides. When the soaked earth releases its redolent, pungent smell of life. Those are moments when I can paint again, and write and talk to my friends. When I can look reality straight in the eye – and deny it.

I would also like to say that I love you all, new friends and old.  You are the wings that lift my spirit and help me fly.  Oh yes you are.  In fact, you are that Salon du Muse I wanted - and it's not just a stuffy old room in Bloomsbury or an elegant boudoir in Paris, it is one that has a view of the world.  It has the words that dance between people. It's like walking into the light, remembering being alive together. Now what could possibly be better than that?



Irene said...

I'm sorry, Tessa. I had no idea.

Jinksy said...

And may that light shine for ever! Bless you, for such an inspiring post...

Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...

A sobering yet uplifting description of your experience of life right now, Tessa.

A 'salon du muse' mediated by you for artists of all types from all around the world sounds divine. That is exactly what I get when I come here. For me, it exists already. Reading your prose, joyfully absorbing your images and reading inspiring comments from across the globe. You don't have to dream ... you are doing it, and I thank you.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Life is so horribly short, for all of us really. I so appreciate the way you are gently holding our hands and letting us glimpse this difficult adventure you are traveling on. You are an amazing person and I'm honoured to be but a teeny tiny part of your grand Salon.

All my love and best wishes.
Edward's too, I'm sure.

Oh, and you are a dear about the fish lino!! Oh yes, I would love a red one!

Unknown said...

'being alive together'

Wonderful to be alive in exactly the same moment in time as you, blithe spirit.

Unknown said...

Your light, angel, will never go out and your salon, like you, will endure forever. Hold to that, because it's true.
I leave you with this, which I know to be true:

Of course you don't die.
Nobody dies.
Death doesn't exist.
You only reach a new level of vision,
a new realm of consciousness,
a new unknown world.

~ Henry Miller ~

Think of all the creating you do there. And don't forget to send me a postcard. xxx

Kathryn Evans said...

here's to skidding in side ways!

Lori ann said...

I wish I had the words that Nicky does Tessa.
I can only say this is f****ed up. And when life doesn't make sense to me I get comfort putting things in order too.
Wishing you peace and light and all the love in the world.
lori, zuri and diamond

Carol said...

I knew that you had health problems hon but had no idea that they were so serious. I can't tell you how sorry I am! Nicky is right though, your light will never ever go out!

Lots of love and hugs

C xxx

Sarah Lulu said...

Oh you light up my world like a sudden flash of sunlight before sunrise really opens up ...

love you love you and I am inspired.

thank you for being in my day today...and my life forever..


Rosaria Williams said...

Words fail me at this moment. I want to tell you how much you have influenced us all; how much you are loved and respected; how much you are in our thoughts. I worried that your silence meant life was heavier and demanding. I second all the sentiments already expressed, and still they don't say all the things that need to be said.

People like you are rare, Tessa, rare and precious. You have been a true diamond to treasure, with your actions and your generous heart.

Linda Sue said...

Man, am I lucky to be in the same time frame as you- to know you a bit in this lifetime- I am so enriched- Everyone is... having you in this now time... I so love you Ms. Tessa...take me with you when you depart- at least part of the way so that I will know where you are going and can catch up..trailblazer YOU! "Want not" someone said that sometime ago and "wanting" seems to be the most frustrating part of our existence on this level- Playing with clay or sculpting with mache seems do-able at this stage of the experience...if you would like to try needle felting I can make that happen just let me know. LOVE YOU! thanks for your generous spirit and all around loveliness.

Bee said...

I cannot conceive of a mind clearer than the one you possess.

Your pictures, and words, are so very beautiful. You describe energy that is failing, but you are still capable of such potent creations.

L'Adelaide said...

this is crushing to read, crushing to know, and you know what, beyond that breathless feeling i have just now, i also feel very blessed that i walk beside you for this time, this place, this momentary bliss to know a being such as easily to have missed out on that. why is that, we meet, we don't, why is that among the millions we have met in Spirit? I will always wonder...I always have...

it is but a moment, it's really an illusion anyway, that we go on forever in our lovely young bodies, we ignore the pain, the sags and bags, the age and illness that takes it's darling, are a treasure to remind us all so bravely of what it is to live, not die, with your fist around that bolt of lightening... may we all go on forever in that Salon somewhere in the infinite mind of everywhere at once..xoxox and that new header is gorgeous...

Yoli said...

I am reminded of Reene at this time and my head is still swimming with this news. If anyone is life, it is you, you have made such a difference in my life and I have never met you in person. I admire you deeply and I hope I am worthy of your Salon dear girl. Sending you my love across the miles.

"There is magic in long-distance friendships. They let you relate to other human beings in a way that goes beyond being physically together and is often more profound." ~Diana Cortes

Mim said...

Tessa - I also had no idea of what was really going on in your life. Your writing is magical, your description of control thru organization is amazing.

but I'm with Lori on cursing this situation.

Beth Kephart said...

Tessa, where are you in this world?

How can I hug you?

You are such a gift. Such a gift. Such a gift. You must live forever.

Vanessa Brantley Newton said...

Oh Tessa, You are on a journey! A divine journey indeed. I am so moved by this post. It's been a while, but you are always on my mind and in my thoughts. The images are so powerful and your feelings too. I wish I where near to give you hug. I will keep you in my very good thoughts and prayer dear Tessa! Take care

Merry ME said...

You are an inspiration.

Caroline said...

Dear Tessa - those are beautiful words and photos. You are a shining light and I am so happy to have met you in blogland. I love your new header. Take care.x

kj said...

my darling tessa,

there. it is said.

do you mind if you organize and i defend?

you are so precious and special to me. you have been since the beginning. i hold in my mind meeting up with you in swaiziland, side by side, late nights with bright stars, sharing how we think it's come to be.

i don't know whether to say hold on or let go. i know it doesn't matter, because you are so full of life and love and that will never change. no matter where you are.

i wrote about you on my blog tonight. i used your header without permission. i couldn't help it.

i love you, tessa. come run and rest with your friends here.


xxx said...

Darling Tessa... what the fuck is going on?
i'm so sorry to read this beautiful writing... i had no idea that you were/are so unwell....

i'm sending big love to you and your family... you deserve all the joy and comfort of being much loved.

thank you for all that you share and i especially enjoy your creativity.

please keep in touch with us all when you can.

love to you xxx robyn

Tracy said...

'words that dance between people. It's like walking into the light, remembering being alive together.'

We've never met, I do not know you but your words have danced from you to me and have touched my heart and soul.

Trish Campbell said...

I do not know you and you do not know me and yet your words have touched me in a profound way. I believe that none of us die, or really fade away, but we all become part of the universe. I wish you peace and tranquillity.

Unknown said...

the photographs are absolutelty great, i love your way of writing too, a very interesting blog you have here and a very sobering and lively experience that you have mentioned

Jos said...

I am glad to have the chance to come back here Tessa even though it has been some while since my last visit. (thank you KJ for the reminder)

I so understand the need for order, the taking comtrol where you can. And the thundering inside too. Sometimes even our souls rage.

Such a deep well of strength you have been drawing from ... where does it come from?

It comes from eternity and beyond ... it comes from the beckoning of eternity I suppose you could say. It comes from within and without and you can entrust yourself over to it. When you are ready. Only when you are ready. But be sure in your heart that eternity awaits to enfold you.

You can trust in that.

I wish you so many blessings Tessa.

xx Jos

Val said...

Tessa - i love the Salon du muse - and you are the big bright shiny light of inspiration breaking through the clouds! you give so much just in who you are - never mind also in your generosity, heart, creativity and good soul food. I suppose we should all be living 'in the moment' and making it the best it can be? this beautiful piece of writing for instance; this elloquent window on a piece of your journey now shared; you are brave and strong indeed - holding you in my thoughts xxxV

yoborobo said...

Dear Tessa - how did I come to know your name? It was through Renee, and Maithri. It was through your art, which spoke to me in its own language, like all art does. It nestled into my heart, where it lives next to Renee. I have never met you, never spoken to you, but you have been a light on this road of mine. Thank you, Tessa. God bless you. xoxo Pam

angela recada said...

Dear, dear Tessa, I am so sorry to read of your struggles. I had no idea how serious your health issues were. You are, and will remain, in my daily thoughts and prayers.

You are truly a shining light on our troubled planet.

I want to thank you for your warm, enthusiastic friendship on facebook, the short time I was there several months ago. You are a special person, in so many way.

Cheryl Cato said...

My dear Tessa, I am at such a loss for words. You had written about illness & tests, but never did it enter my mind that you were so seriously ill. Through tears I tell you that I am so happy to know you through your blog, through your foundation, through your art, & through your love of humankind & life. Blessings to you & may you enjoy every second on this planet. Hugs, Cheryl

Ces Adorio said...

Oh my dearest beloved Tessa. I love you. That is all for now. I am so sorry I have to run. I have been running since last month. I don't know when I will stop but now and then when I see my acorns I think of you. I see an oak and I think of you and Bella and Renee and Deborah and Arija. My strong, beautiful, sturdy friends. You are my English oak. I love you.

I shall return.

Sue Krekorian said...

Thank you for touching my life and lighting up a corner all your own. I'm sorry for your suffering but delight in your greed for life. Hugs and love to you and yours xxx

Robin said...

Dear Tessa,
I am a first-time reader of your blog - although I have always loved your gorgeous header - which KJ keeps on her sidebar. And, it is through KJ that I have come to visit you.

I have had a close relationship with death and illness - having lost my Mum when I was quite young and my Dad eithteen years ago. I took care of him during his last years. I also (like so many) met Renee over the blogging hemisphere...and well, you know.
I have to express my sadness at your illness and diagnosis......yet I also must express my admiration of your talent, your courage - YOU. You represent what most of us are striving to be....brave, tender, fierce, kind, creative....and an artist of and in LIFE.

I see the comments here and I ask, may I be a part of your "Salon du Muse"? I can bring in a little San Francisco Fog, a lot of dreams and a big passion for the World and all the beautiful things in it.
I send you many hugs and matter what the diagnosis....keep fighting to live! Will is paramount....and I can see that you have an extraordinary one.

Hugs from a new friend from San Francisco,

♥ Robin ♥

studio lolo said...

Dear Tessa,

With your absence I prayed you were getting stronger. I'm devastated to read that isn't the case.

Like Renee, your light will always shine in the hearts of those who have been lucky enough to know you.

If anyone has taught us about miracles, it's you. So if you don't mind I'd like to apply for one right now, for you.

I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

love and blessings,


Marion said...


I don't know fact, this is the first time I've ever been on your blog. I'm sorry for that, but I'm here now from kj's blog and I will certainly be back. Bless you, my dear, for your amazing courage which flows outward to capture a part of my own soul. You're absolutely inspiring.

I agree with Nicky and Henry Miller; I think your light WILL endure forever.

soulbrush said...

what an absolute shock this is, i last visited here when you were moving from hampshire.i knew you weren't feeling well then. my heart is with you, my soul joins yours as we fly back to africa, and may you have some peace and quiet and order in your life very very soon. lotsa hugs.

Ces Adorio said...

Why did you say goodbye to me?

Ces Adorio said...

I will only be gone for a couple of months.

My heart feels heavy. Not even the Ces Oak you planted for me will lighten the load.

I love you.

I won't say goodbye.

Ces Adorio said...

I shall visit the Quercus robur you planted in my honor, someday. I just named one of my baby canyon oaks "Tessa".

Anonymous said...

Stunned. Speechless. Sterkte en liefde.

Annie Coe said...

Tessa, I came here via Kj's blog. You are an ispiration and I do believe that all that creative passion can keep you alive, yes it can. Your art and spirit are bright indeed. Love and hugs from a new fan.

Baino said...

Tessa, I'm over from kj's as I imagine many others are. I know of you from Nicki and Karen in fact may of your commenters are familiar friends but I don't know you, still this post is heartwrenching and honest and very sad. I don't know what to say other than you have friends and a support network beyond imagination here and as long as you post, they, we, I will be at your side.

ceecee said...

How beautifully you write, Tessa, and the two photos you chose for your post are such a perfect accompaniment for your words. You are an amazing, beautiful, kind, thoughtful, talented woman. We are all blessed for knowing you.

I loved the Chesterton quote. Thanks. I was wondering to myself, "Now, did she just know that off the top of her head, or did she have to peruse her library?" I think you knew it by heart.

Much love to you,
Catherine xo

Bimbimbie said...

Tessa I'm visiting via Kj's to say Hello ... I also know of you through Ces and her Secret Society of Oaks, a place where our branches meet.

Angela said...

Tessa dear, I still keep hoping we can meet in person! My beach and pavillon are waiting, and my strawberry cake.
Death is always near us, surrounding, embracing us, making our life precious, but when it approaches "in person", we shrink away. But to me, the ones I have loved, are never leaving me. I still talk to my grandma and my American Uncle John, and my mom, and I feel they are with me. Life will not be over, how can it? How can all this energy we have (and YOU have!!) be gone and vanish?

I am your age, and I don`t know how long my life will last. But like you, I have loved every minute, and I have learned a lot. Thank you for being my friend, Tessa. I love you deeply!

Eleonora Baldwin said...

My darling darling Tessa,
I remember the elegant description of your illnes, posted here a while ago. Then the terrible account of your last struggle in Africa... It was all scary and mysterious, but for some reason (self-censoring?) I never understood it to be terminal.

I may not be able to say it well, because I am shaking right now.
I want you to fully understand in what monumental proportion you have influenced us all and how much love and admiration we all feel for you.

In Italy there is a saying (maybe there's an English equivalent, I don't know), but to express how much a person is unique, we say "the mold's been broken," intending that a duplicate will never exists again.

Friends like you are a rare and precious treasure. You have taught all of us in your wide embrace of a Salon the true meaning of generosity, commitment and selfless Love.

Now, there MUST be a way to channell that beautiful artistic drive, wild expression and thirst for experiment of yours right now into a way to heal you. There must, damn it.

I can't say all that I want to say, words are not enough. I will not show my confusion noe fear for your future; I will smile instead, grab your hand and run with you to save the world.

I love you, Tessa.

Grace Albaugh said...

Dear sweet Tessa. You introduced yourself to me by sending me an award on my journal blog. A place where I just wanted to remind myself to remember the details of what I was reading.

I have since celebrated in the posts you have so lovingly shared with all of us. It is such a sweet experience.

I send my love and will pray for you daily.


Bella Sinclair said...

Oh, Tessa. Ces alerted me to a star that is fading. I want to pound my fist upon someone's chest and make it stop, make the star burn brighter for just a bit longer.

And then I read your words and feel your enormous grace, and I am bowed again by your beauty and dignity.

I consider it such a privilege to know you. Do you know, every time I see a zebra or an armadillo, I think of you.

I wish you so many more moments of serenity and clarity, peaceful times when you can read and paint and, yes, even dance. You inspire me, not only as an artist, but as a human to live in order to help others and fulfill dreams and wishes. Thank you.


Maithri said...

Dearest Tessa,

Today we stood atop a mountain look out in Makhewu, a group of young swazi singers and myself... and we sang...

I told them to look out beyond the emerald hills which surrounded us on every side and those who love Africa... who love the world... not in a vague, limp way...but in broad rubato strokes of passionate love,

I hope you hear their song,

My song to you my friend...

You make the world a better place, your life, your every breath is a work of art.

I love you, I miss you,

Inkosi Busise,

U-Sala Kahle,


secret agent woman said...

Here via KJ. A very touching post and all my very best to you. I don't know you well (yet) but am holding you in my heart.

Ces Adorio said...

My dearest Tessa - what a glorious day it was today to wake up with you on the other end. Shame on me, you end up cheering me. Aha! I've spent the last 9 hours and 45 minutes capturing grace, and all I have to show for it is your serene face with an African head wrap. Yes, you are all worth it. The painting is 30 inches x 40 inches. I think I shall take a break and eat a bowl of peach ice cream.

Anonymous said...
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Bjornik said...

Dear Tessa, I'm really sorry to know what you're going through right now. I thought I'm the only one going through a rough time but it's nothing compared to yours.

I feel sad that I found comfort in your words, you who are undergoing through a lot of pain maybe. And I feel sad that I wasn't able to keep up with you and this blog. A person who I look up to as a very generous soul and this blog that, to say the least, is my favorite. I thought you're gonna be there always.

I do wish that you take your medication and I pray that you feel better and get well soon. I've never expressed this before but I would like to thank you for sharing your life, travels and endeavors with us, for always reminding me to count my blessings and share what I have with others. Thanks you Tessa.


Madame DeFarge said...

I'm glad we have some purpose and some use, even if we feel useless in the face of your illness.

kj said...

pink dogwood said...

I was away for a while - didn't realize you were this sick.

Sending you lots of love and hugs.

Deborah said...

Sending you all my love on the wings of a desert sparrow. I have a few of your prints here in my home. Such an incredible mark you have left upon my heart. **blows kisses** Deb

adrienne trafford said...

i am beyond words and beside myself. i love you dearly

rossichka said...

Dear Tessa, I read this post just now... But it's not late to tell you how much I like your blog and i.e. - you. As you maybe remember I've been following it since about a month. It's full of so much energy, beauty and light that I'm smiling and feeling better every time when reading it. But this time I'm confused and my heart aches although I don't know you in the way I know my close friends. But... time is a relative term, isn't it... Sometimes several sincere words, a glance, some minutes together, a good attitide let people feel as if they've known for a long, long time. Oh, ...I just want to say that I DO BELIEVE there's a way, a possibility, even a miracle to feel better, to overcome the illness! I hope you'll have the chance to do the things you've always wanted to! You are a warm, open-hearted, loving person, giving joy and beauty to the others. Thank you for that!
And now... something for fun.:-) Do you know the Finnish writer Tove Jansson? I adore her books for children! She has a funny and at the same time a wise tale "Cedric" (in the book "Tales from Moominvalley"). About the things that we dream and want to do during all our lives and always postpone them for the "more suitable moment". I hope you'll laugh a little if you have the chance to read it! Most friendly:Rossichkaxx

JuneMoonToon said...

Tessa, I have no words except I love you, your heart, personality, words, creativity, the way you inspire all of us. I believe in miracles. And am looking for one.

Teri and her Stylish Adventure Cats said...

I came to your blog via kj, just had to add one more flower to your garden of love. So many love my therapist told me when I lost my husband and was surrounded by friends...if each one of them thinks about you even just once a are always on someone's mind. That is uplifting, isn't it.

ArtSparker said...

I'm grieved to hear that this is happening, glad that you are comforted by the many friends you've made here, you certainly "let your little light shine".

JArt Studio-Gallery said...

although I only recently started reading your blog, I was quickly captured by your art, writings and personality which tryly shines like a candle through the beautiful words and images of your blog. I am very touched, moved and saddened by this post. I wish you and your family well and will be thinking of you.

PoozyBear said...

Dear dear Tessa, distant "cousin" who shares with me ties to the beautiful land of South Africa. You will forever be in my thoughts, when I drink my tea and listen to Johnny Clegg.

"Hold me close Africa
Fill my soul Africa"

I send you love and peace and African Dreams.

Silke Powers said...

Dearest Tessa, how did I miss this post?! You know, you are always on my mind - because you inspire me to be more and to savor life to it's fullest! I read your comments and quotes on FB and they make me smile.
And now I read this hear and I am filled equally with love for you, sadness for your pain, I feel your urgency and am in awe at how you are approaching this chapter in your life. You are such an inspiration to me, you have no idea!! Sending you all my love! Silke

soulbrush said...

whenever i feel really blue, i come over and read this again and again, then i slap myself in the face and carry on.

Hana Njau-Okolo said...

Tessa, the power of your love and courage fills me with such gratitude to have met you.

Woman in a Window said...

Tessa, it has been too long since I have been and so I came, was shocked, scrolled back, and learned. And now I know even more that it has been too long since I have been. Too long.

I send you all the love and light anyone can send this from this far.


Kathleen said...

Such astonishing prose, Tessa. Thank you for the insight. I understand things far better through metaphor. And you have given that gift to me. Somehow, you have entered my heart. And that's a good thing.

Cherie said...

You are sooo beautiful, even moreso a beautiful angel now...I will always remember you!

You have touched my heart. I just wish I would have TOLD you these things!!!

I have admired you from afar for so long! I will hope to see you again, so I can hold your face and tell you, I love you!