I blink, I blink once more, and I realize it has been approximately 6 months since my last update. Today Brenda Fassie brought me to this place, her African rhythm blaring in my ears, filling my heart with the dusty memories of home. My sound system had not been working in my car for several weeks, I was driving in complete silence. I could only hear my breathing, at first it was a little disconcerting, until eventually I caught myself getting completely lost in my own thoughts, entirely alone on whatever journey I was on. And then, I had the car sound system repaired. I suddenly felt all exhilarated, excited, I had proven to myself I could exist in silence if I had to, but I was reminded just how much I love music, and how it fuels my fire, for anyone that knows me, I have always been an avid music lover and collector, the more I can be around music, the happier I am, so those weeks of driving in silence was particularly tough for me (but enlightening!).
And of course, some of the first tunes I lined up was Mafikizolo, some Johnny Clegg, followed by one of my all-time favorites, Miriam Makeba. Nothing like some Africa to get the day going.
Changing gears here, I just have to say it, it felt like an awfully long winter this time around, there, I came right out with it. The short days, long nights, snow, ice and frigid temperatures topped off with very grey skies was a tough one to endure the last 6 months. At one point I felt the despondency, I could feel the struggle to get up each day, missing the blue skies and sunshine of Africa on my skin. Being able to walk barefoot and feel the grass beneath my feet was a foreign memory. Then I discover there is a name for this, SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Especially for someone who has grown up in the southern hemisphere and relocated all the way north. Go figure. A diagnosis for too much winter, interesting.
And then my phone rang, I knew what was coming, my beloved gran had died. Here we were, an entire continent and hemisphere away, and we were not able to be with family to properly grieve and celebrate. What an incredible woman. She was there with us till the very last day when we left South Africa, she was front and center at the airport waving us along as we went through security. Admittedly, we had to remind her a few times as to where we were going, but she knew that we were well, going. I still cannot believe the world is without one amazing, loving, special Granny Pat Ferguson, I hope to visit home one day in the near future so that I may visit her special engraved bench in lovely Hermanus in the Western Cape, and spend time where her ashes were scattered. Hermanus, in South Africa, if you have not been, I urge you to go, especially in whale season, what a glorious experience, it is a special place for our family, if you listen carefully, you will hear the souls of many of our clan roaming those mountains, paths and waters.
I then threw myself into a 6-week CrossFit challenge, I had to do something. That was tough at times, as it was always dark when I trained, I cruised through snowstorms to get to class, but I proved to myself that I could do it. Despite the dark winter and the passing of my beloved gran, I had to keep moving. Sitting still was not an option.
Then my soul dog, Koda, got very ill. You probably thinking what a depressing piece to read, come on Brigette, lighten up. But this is life right, these things happen, and this is my story. It’s what we do with it afterwards that counts.
So back to Koda, I am going to dedicate a few paragraphs to him, in fact he deserves a whole novel, that boy pretty much saved me, from me. When he came into my life nearly 13 years ago, I was a lot younger, somewhat reckless at times, as one is I suppose as we grow up, and many a time, just his sheer presence and dependency, gave me the purpose to make the right choice, as opposed to the proverbial wrong one. I went through a particularly dark time after my mother was taken from us so tragically, and I spent years in and out of court to make sure that justice was served, as you can imagine this takes its toll on a person, and Koda was my saving grace. A large, English yellow lab, with big brown eyes that would scrutinize my soul. I named him Koda because when I brought him home for the first time, he looked like a baby bear, and Disney’s Brother Bear was all the craze at the time, the main character, named Koda.
I had to make a very difficult decision to make sure he did not suffer any longer, his time had come, I sat with him on the floor, as he looked straight into my soul one last time, as he always did, and took his last breath, then resting his head on my lap, never to be lifted again. That image will be burnt into my memory forever. He had been with me for so long, traveled with me all over the world (literally!) and honestly I secretly thought (or hoped) he would be with me for always, and then his age really started to catch up with him, I could see the deterioration, in my mind he was my precious little bear that would quietly disappear and I would either find him sleeping in my sock drawer, or happily destroying my lavender bushes (I didn’t really mind because he always smelt really great as a result). He and I spent countless hours at the beach swimming, snoozing, walking, chasing seagulls (him, not me!)
We drove miles and miles together, exploring new places, sleeping in different beds, and meeting countless new people. He always made an impact on anyone he met, many have followed our journey since we left South Africa, always wanting to know what Koda was doing. From his long flight being tracked by friends with flight trackers and shared over social, to the first time he (and I!) saw snow. A big highlight was when I took him on a road trip through Maine in September last year, I thought then already that he was fading, so I wanted to spoil him with one last adventure. The old man still managed to find lakes of water, and plop himself in and paddle in circles, quietly grunting as he did as he would tire very quickly. I would have to go in after him, frightened he might exhaust himself too much, I guess he knew his own limits, but I was the paranoid one that ran after him every moment, of every day.
He stayed in a hotel for the first time with me, the Hilton in Portland, Maine to be exact, escaping the heat and lying in an air-conditioned room on the king size bed, he was in heaven. He rode on an elevator, also for the first time, enjoying new and surprising encounters with other people and their pets in this rising and falling metal box, what a laugh, and coming from South Africa, for the most part, dogs generally live in homes with big fenced in yards, touring cities and staying in hotels is just not something that happens there.
He gave me 7 more months of love and joy after that trip, for which I am eternally grateful. On his last day, I took him for his last (very slow) walk and then sat on the floor with him as we shared an entire packet of freshly fried bacon, he was in heaven. He had been on such a strict diet for so long, trying to keep his weight down to spare his hips and arthritis, that when I perched myself next to him on the floor, propped up against the couch with this joyous plate of juicy bacon, he instantly perked up so much, that I for a moment saw a glimpse of the mischievous golden pup, that used to seek out anything and everything to get himself into, from rolling in mud, to chasing cats and of course, swimming out to sea to chase those darn seagulls! Koda will forever live in my heart, I miss him still, so much, every single minute of every day. His ashes will travel with me, until the very end. Because after all, I believed we would be together, for forever and always.
So, I guess the last few months since my last update has been a little tougher than normal, but again, in between all of that, there have been some great highlights for us that we have managed to enjoy. For which I am eternally grateful. I realize that life will always throw its challenges at you, it’s inevitable, but its what you do with it that counts.
With that being said, we are enjoying great success in the building of my partner’s business. It was nerve wrecking at first having one of us go out on our own, while the other picks up the slack in a foreign country to add. But if we cannot make it here, then we cannot make it anywhere.
So, we put our heads down and just ran with it, from registering the business, marketing it, trying to figure out the tax and accounting piece, negotiating space and much more. It was slow in the beginning, so we decided to pack up and move to the town where the business operates from, because we knew if we became known around town, word of mouth would expedite the growth, I had a few sleepless nights for the first while after we moved away from family with a monthly rental we could manage, to suddenly having to pay a lot more from one salary while trying to invest in the business, it was a risk we knew we had to take, after all, we both moved to a new country with no jobs, how could we be too fearful to move 20 minutes up the road with one job (well that was my logic and I am sticking to it) and today we both breathe a sigh of relief as we start to see the benefits.
Business is coming in, and the referrals are starting to drive that. We are fast becoming local fixtures of our town, especially now that we are out and about much more with our dear Penelope, our nearly 7 year old pug, she was the runt that nobody wanted (except us), has a gammy leg that was fixed a few years ago by implanting a steel pin, and she generally makes people and dogs a little uneasy on their first encounter with her as they think she is growling at them, when in fact, that is just the sound of her breathing, I have to laugh at the thought, she is the most gentle, loving, friendly little thing. Don’t get me wrong, people and dogs become fast friends with her the moment they realize she is no threat at all, and with Koda having passed on, she is now the only fur child left, and has started going all over the show with us, making more friends of both the 2 and 4 legged nature than we can count. You cannot miss us when we are out, a chubby snorting pug with a bright pink “doggie day bag” seems to draw a lot of attention, which honestly, has helped us meet new people as well as drive the growth of the business.
All is good.
Another highlight for us was when we jetted off to Vegas in January 2019 so that I could enjoy turning 40 in style. Boy did we have a good time! What an experience. I still have to pinch myself to remind me that it really happened, that I managed to on the dawn of my 40th birthday climb into the front seat of a helicopter and fly over the Grand Canyon and watch the sun come up over the cliffs as “Fortunate Son” from Creedence Clearwater Revival played over our headsets, I was moved to tears, literally. I had tears rolling down my cheeks, from sheer gratitude. In that moment I reflected on the last 40 years in a super speed movie reel format in my mind, all the challenges and love and loss and death we had experienced, and all the perseverance and hard work that had brought me to this place, at this moment, to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience. I was moved to the core.
Looking ahead, we are both focusing now on trying to improve ourselves professionally, both learning, trying new things, completing courses, attempting new approaches, and at the same time, digging into both our past experiences in a more purposeful manner to see where we can truly add value to our current places of work, our professional lives and hopefully, this will ripple over even more to a personal level. As we have previously established, the two of us, and South Africans at the heart of it, are very hard workers, we take nothing for granted, we always aim to do better, do more, and at the same time, quietly impact those around us. We are not show ponies, we are backstage support at heart, always pushing others ahead of ourselves, for the greater good.
2019 had a difficult start, but we are taking it into our own, and going to push forward to make sure that 2019 is also one for the books!
As per our personal mantra, the fun is in the journey, the reward is in the accomplishment.
Watch this space.