Last week I stood on the edge of the world.
The oceans mingled crashing against the cliffs — beyond this spire of land is only water, all the oceans together. The Cape of Good Hope. A point of crossing, the end of one journey, the beginning of another. A metaphor, perhaps, of the New South Africa.
I imagined Bartolomeu Diaz standing on the knife edge of the Cape Point (there is now a trail there in his name, imagine it was more challenging to get up there then!) with tears of joy and fear flung from his face by the roaring wind. Joy because they arrived here, faith reconfirmed, still able to sail on. Fear because beyond is unknown, there is no landmark but the sweeping curve of Africa fading into a horizon of water. Diaz stood there at point where one world ends and another begins — he navigated to the cape, and yet the infinite still stretched before them. Standing on the cape there is nothing but ocean — the mingling waters of east and west, and a churning line of surf where they first come together.
There is something mesmerizing about standing there, a stiff south-easter flinging salt spray hundreds of feet about the water. The wind blows and blows, the water is rough, incessantly moving, huge waves seem bent on breaking the tip of land off of the continent, and yet it is a peaceful place. Sun sparkles off the rocks, and birds circle in and out of the shadows.
I thought about my work, and turning points. About how like the ocean on one side, all that has gone before to bring me to this place. Generations of commitment to the future, to now, layers of history like the crashing waves bringing the past to the present. Then, on the other, a future that begins here and now, and ends someplace unguessable. At this moment we meet the waves of the past and send them on to the future, some carefully redirected, most unconsciously splashed on without recognition — there are too many to fathom.
And like the past, the future represents challenge and opportunity — there is so much work to be done, and an ocean so large will encompass nearly infinite joy and love (for nothing less can span such monumental distance).
It is strange to come around the world and find names like Drake and Diaz, the names of home in San Francisco, the names that mean opportunity along with oppression, that mean exploration along with the supreme arrogance to call it discovery. And in what way and I different in my own discoveries, in my own seeking to put my name on that flag?
In South Africa I also thought about Mandela’s inaugural address when he said that we do not fear our own weakness, but our greatness. During the week of training those words kept playing through my mind. I thought about what it would mean to accept my own greatness, and for this room full of people to do the same — to escape the patterns of fear, to be our best selves. I am confident that by the end of the week many of us were one step closer.
I look forward to going back to South Africa, I have a lot to learn there. I also look forward to returning to the Cape and committing once again to the good hope.
PS. For those of you who are wondering about family news…
Emma and Patty did not come to SA, and I missed Emma constantly. But they did come to join me in London, and we are here for a week, then training in Wales (we have never been, and when we looked at the map we felt like it must be the opening of a fantasy novel — I can not wait to learn how top pronounce the name of where we are going). Emma, now almost 6 months old, seems to like London, but it is pretty cold here!