First there was Cheryl Strayed’s essay (a reading for the Writing 201 class) and her rather harsh question: “Imagine if there were a boat upon which you could put only four people, and everyone else known and beloved to you would then cease to exist. Who would you put on that boat? ” (Cheryl Strayed – The Love of My Life)
This question resonated with me. It’s similar in essence to what Christine Arylo and Lissa Rankin have been saying about being mindful of those whom you love and whom you allow access to your inner circle – and why? Basically Christine and Lissa say that we should have an inner circle of those who truly love us, support us and produce positivity in our lives. The rest of your family, friends and acquaintances are outside the circle and have limited access to your life, energy and resources. In a way, I’ve been trying to do this for years, but still that inner circle was too big and drew too much negativity into my life…
Recently, I’ve been reducing my inner circle. The last two years have twice highlighted those who deserved? earned? the right and love to be in it. It’s a shockingly small number, but still too big a number for Cheryl Strayed’s little boat.
And my father’s not happy because I’m not talking to my sister.
But back to Noah’s Ark
The second thing which made me consider Noah’s Ark is the weather in Durban. The Christmas rains have arrived with their massive storms and torrential falls. There’s the humidity too. The floods aren’t far away… So Noah’s Ark.
It’s a story everyone knows, Christian or not. It may even be a true story (or most of it) because when you strip off the mythology, you have a giant flood, supported by other cultures, and the story of a man who may have been the biggest animal poacher ever. Whatever his initial intention or motivation was, we shall never really know, but Noah probably ensured a large amount of animal diversity. And who did he choose to save along with the animals? He, like me, chose more than four. He chose his family, but I can’t remember the reasons why. Did he choose them because he loved them or because he knew there would be a colossal amount of mucking out and disliked his family enough to saddle them with it? Again we shall never really know.
And so I came to imagining my ark. If we were to have the Great Flood again and I was the one with the ark, or an ark, who and what would I allow onto it? Who and what would I choose to carry along to help rebuild the world I would live in thereafter? What would I take? And why?
Who would be more important than the what. I would invite my parents on board, my aunt who is sometimes my little mother or eldest sister – Miran and her immediate family, my friend/cousin Brain and her man, another of my cousins Lor, and my dear friend IRW. They’d be the ones invited, and whether they choose to come on board or not would be totally up to them. Today, I don’t feel like inviting anyone else on board. Except…But I haven’t gotten to the why yet.
The Who and the Why
My parents would be invited for obvious reasons: I love them no matter how much I think they might have been more an obstacle to my dreams; and no matter how much my mum will say that it makes more sense to keep the monkeys with the apes, and isn’t it better now that the monkeys are with the apes, and it would be better to move the snakes to the crocodiles and doesn’t the ark feel more balanced now things are set just so and done just so. All this while my dad wanders about complaining incessantly about the weather, about the noise the animals make, about how the ark is not constructed properly, about the direction we’re sailing, about how stupid it is to sail on an ark and why didn’t I have the sense to stay on land like my sister and brother, and about whomever harvested the salad all wrong because they didn’t use the right scissors…
My aunt Miran and her family. They’re always there for me. There are times when we annoy and get really upset with each other. But ultimately, they are the ones I laugh with the most, cry with the most and eat too much food with. Even if we don’t talk for months at a time, we usually catch up pretty fast and make up just as fast if we fall out. Besides, both her daughters, my little sisters in essence, are real scientists – ones who prefer being out in the field and spending long hours in the lab while not complaining to anyone about how hard and dangerous science is. We’ll be needing them no matter what the future holds.
My friend/cousin Brain and her man. She’s always there too. I’m ashamed that I hadn’t realised this sooner. I was recently going through old printed photos from the last twenty years and she’s always there…at the airports to say goodbye (and once she got her car, to drop me off and fetch me), at the temple to sniffle along with me, at all the birthdays and parties – gradually, through the years, coming out of the kitchen and blossoming into the wonderfully kind-hearted and straight-forward person anyone would be blessed to know. She’s teaching me to cook and when she says in one of our periodic chats: “You know what? I really missed you!” I know she really really means it, or she wouldn’t have said it. Over the years she’s become more my sister than my blood sister. Her man’s just as kind and thoughtful as she. I hadn’t liked him at first, but over the years he’s grown on me. I guess he’s one of those people it takes a while to get to know. Or perhaps we’ve all matured and evolved at similar rates.
My younger cousin Lor is one of the bravest and strongest people I know. She suffered a tragic loss with grace and dignity, carries a range of burdens no-one should ask her to, and still finds time to crack a joke and smile at everyone. Just the person to go on a long journey with because she’s practical, spiritual and knows me better than she’ll like to admit, much like Brain.
My friend IRW is always great fun to talk to. He’s mum and dad’s age and was once a forest ranger so he’ll know exactly which birds to send out to scout for land and whether or not the branch brought back belongs to something which might be edible. IRW also goes through lives little topsy-turvies at the same time as I do, so we’re usually on the same wavelength.
Life on the ark is likely to be harmonious and efficient with us all on board. We’re a supportive bunch who know the meaning of team-work, so I don’t foresee many major problems from a personality/ego point of view. We are all hard-workers and visionaries in our own right with complementary skills and personalities. It’s probably why we choose to be in each others lives now.
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