Hazel Patterson.” Living Water” Etching. 2001.
My etching is of old weathered cupped hands catching up fresh cascading water.
We don’t really appreciate the life giving value of pure fresh running water in a culture where we have a supply of clean drinking water at the twist of a tap.We can jump in the shower and at the flick of a switch have clean cascading hot water to wash away the sweat and aches of the days labor.The life giving blessing of a constant supply of clean water is taken very much for granted.We have to be really thirsty before we start to value how refreshing and life giving, water is.It is only the thirsty man who is satisfied by a long refreshing drink, and only the tired and dirty body that really appreciates the refreshment of bathing. ” Come everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…” (Isaiah 55 verse 1).
For those who thirst, get satisfied. The Psalmist describes God’ s home as a place where there is a constant supply of clean drinking water,a ” river of delights ” for He is the source, the very “Fountain of life.” He loves to supply His children abundantly.
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!The Children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They feast on the abundance of your House,and You give them drink from the river of your delights. For with You is the fountain of life, in Your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36 verse 7 to 9)
“All who are thirsty, come to the waters…”
Source: Somerset West
The red tiles are still warm in the evening sun as we open the wrought-iron gate and climb the stoop steps, entering through the porch door. We are met by charming and attentive waitresses, who seat us at a corner table near a window. I can see the garden from the window, or what remains of the garden. The menu is excellent – an opportunity to try unusual fish, calamari or cobbleyo cooked to perfection. The table cloths are crisp and white, the silver polished, iced water brought with warm crusty bread while we examine the menu. What a treat of a day! I keep wanting to come back to this beautiful land.
As I browse the menu I become distracted. I am in a family home. The memories come as snap shots. This room has been extended into the garden. 0n that solid wall there were once French doors that opened onto the veranda. I remember my little sister’s pram sitting there, covered in fine netting to keep away the flies. I once pushed the pram to rock the new baby as she stirred, and it tumbled down the stoop steps. Thankfully she was strapped in and the commotion I caused had no serious consequences. I remember the shame of that moment and the alarm it caused. I remember the tall date palms that once bordered the garden with their clusters of russet-coloured fruit, swaying and whispering in the breeze. They sheltered the garden from the hot sun, and the sunlight filtered through their branches, dappling the stoop with light and moving shadows. There was a fish pond. I could see it from the house through the lattice windows. Peeping through their diamonds I could see the golden carp splashing among the water lilies and sometimes catch a glimpse of a heron come to steal his lunch. I remember the red tiles of the stoop hot on my bare feet and then cool where the shadows fell. In the afternoon I played with my brother David, simple games of hide and seek. We built little dens where our teddies and dolls sat in a row, and ants gathered the remains of our picnic.
My parents kept a few hens, and sometimes we discovered a stray egg laid outside their enclosure. What excitement that gave us! I remember the purple bougainvillea that spilled over the white-washed garden walls. I loved the large hydrangea bushes which grew in the garden. When they were wet from a shower of rain the flowers had a faint perfume. I loved to press my face into their generous flowers, and eat the petals when I was very small. There must have been honeysuckle in the garden. I remember its sweet smell in the air. I remember the flaming red hot pokers and the spiky flowers of the protea, flowers indigenous to South Africa. This garden was a paradise to me as a little girl.
This was once my family home. The place of my birth. There was a vine trellis in front of the garage where my father parked the Studabaaker. In season the vine was heavy with black grapes. Cape grapes are the sweetest. I remember a large tortoise wandering about the garden. The tortoise was a family pet. He seemed almost to be the same size as myself. I don’t remember if we gave him a name, but the poor thing had had to submit to having a hole drilled in the back of his shell. Someone had attached a little cart to the shell with twine. He trundled about the garden pulling me or David in the cart. There was a mulberry tree in the garden. Hidden in its leaves we discovered silk moth cocoons. The golden threads of the cocoon, when flattened and teased out, made beautiful delicate book marks. We proudly presented these to our parents..
I remember my mother in a crisp white overall, bending to pick me up, to cuddle and kiss me. She smelt of ‘Harris Tweed’. Her long legs, when she bent to pick me up, looked elegant in a buttoned court shoe. She was beautiful to me. My Daddy would watch her from the surgery door, as he took a short break from examining teeth. His blue eyes were full of love and pride. He affectionately called me ‘Quikle Dukie’ or ‘Betty Blue’. David he called ‘Tordle Ordle’ and my mother was ‘Fro’. ‘Fro’ is the Afrikaans word for woman – she was his woman.
There were family adventures to Cape Point where our car was overrun by baboons, clambering on the car roof and swinging on the aerial. We were safe inside. Dad had an accident on the steep path up to the lighthouse, stumbling with David on his shoulders. David hit his head and my father grazed his knees. I remember my mother’s concern for them both, but they recovered.
We lived outdoors, bare-footed and sunburned. There were picnic trips to the beach, and wonderful sandcastles. Daddy would help us decorate them with shells and sea-weed. We loved to pop the bladders of the sea-weed. We explored rock pools and gathered mussels in our pails. My father later used the mussels as bait for fishing. My mother and he would cast lines out to sea from the beach. Family legend had it that Mummy once snagged a great fish, but did not have the strength to bring it to shore, and the line snapped. Next day on the beach we found the carcass of a whale!
Dad was also a fresh water fisherman. I remember the excursions to the Steembrass River, the car driving rhythmically over the ‘Clankety Clang’ bridge as we called it. I remember the excitement of catching minnows in our pails, in the shallow waters of the river. The pebbles on the river bed were rounded and smooth under our feet, and the sunlight sparkled on the shallow water. Dad would cast the rod back and forward patiently ’til suddenly he had a fish in play. Out would come the net to catch the slippery silver bodies of the rainbow trout. We were excited with him at the catch, my mother laughing her encouragement as she leaned over the bridge. Andrew, the garden boy, lit a fire and made a make-shift spit to cook the lunch we had caught. My parents employed a garden boy, a maid and a mother’s help. My mother was kind to her employees and they grew to love her. Andrew came to work for our household because he liked the look of the young madam. She had kindness in her laughing, hazel coloured eyes. My father named me Hazel because of my mother’s eyes.
As the evening came we would pack up the picnic, dust sand from our feet, take off our swimsuits and put clothes back on again. We would get into the car, which was stuffy from absorbing the heat of the day. The car windows were rolled down and the evening breeze blew in on our faces as we drove the windy road home through the mountain pass. David and I always liked to look out to see if we could spot ‘Granny Smith’. Granny Smith sat knitting by the gate of the orchards of that name on good summer evenings, and the apples are known all over the world for their delicious flavour. It was a good day if we saw Granny Smith. It never occurred to us that ‘Granny Smith was not a real granny but an electronic manikin. We expected her to be sitting in her place by the apple orchard gate, knitting from morning to night, presiding over her estate. When we had sighted Granny Smith we were content and ready for sleep, and we were usually fast asleep by the time we arrived home to Somerset West.
My parents were living their dreams. They didn’t question their good fortune in any way, nor the status quo that permitted them the privileges they enjoyed.
‘Excuse me, Madam, what would you like to drink? The Cape red is very good from Constantia vineyards’. I am back in the room in Henri’s restaurant. So many memories of childhood, some sweet, some sad. If these walls could speak!
“The psalmist describes the soul’s longing for fellowship with God, as an intense thirst for flowing water, like a deer who reaching the point of exhaustion, “pants for the water brooks” (Psalm 42 v 1)
This sensitive noble creature has the light footed grace to scale the mountain heights (Psalm 18 v 33) yet the deer comes to the point of fainting before it reaches renewal and drinks from refreshing streams. If it can find the river’s source it’s thirst will be quenched and it’s strength renewed.
In psalm 42 David says that his soul has come to the point of collapse yearning for the presence of God, yet he still has confidence that at the point where all human energy is exhausted God will meet with him and pour out His refreshing presence.
In my etching, the figure is naked and still. There is no hiding place from it’s Creator. The hand of God is stretched out to give streams of refreshing, waterfalls of grace, and the shy deer watches on. The heart shape in the deer reflects the human heart ‘s longing. The psalmist encourages us not to loose heart.
” Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise Him,
my Saviour and my God” ( Psalm 42 v 11)
As a small child I can remember how beautiful the natural world seemed to me.I remember the tall date palms that bordered the garden of the house where I was born. I remember their frond like leaves whispering and swaying in the breeze, heavy with clusters of russet coloured fruit. They brought shelter from the intense heat of the mid day sun.
In the garden of our house at Somerset West I first experienced a sense of wonder.I remember the purple bouganvilia that spilled extravagantly over the whitewashed garden walls.I remember the hydrangea bushes with their large clusters of pale pink and blue flowers. I loved to press my face into their extravagant blossoms, and taste the petals. They had a delicate fragrance especially after a shower of rain. There must have been honey suckle in the garden. I remember its sweet smell in the air. I remember the flaming red hot pokers and the spikey flowers of the Protea, flowers indigenous to South Africa. This garden was a paradice to me as a little girl.
My brother David and I played outdoors, bare footed and sun burned. There were picnics to the beach and fishing trips with our parents to the Steam Brass river. In summer time the fields by the river side were white with Aram lilies. We gathered the lilies to bring home with us to our mother. They graced our sitting room with the simplicity of their elegant beauty. I think Aram lilies are some of my favourite flowers. They remind me, in their careless splendour that God breathes His life and glory into His creation. Why should we worry or fret?
Why be ” worried about our clothing, see how the lilies of the field grow.They do not toil or spin, yet not even Solomon in all His glory clothed himself like one of these… if God so clothes the lilies of the field, here today and gone tomorrow, will he not much more clothe you?” Matthew 6 v 28 and 29. So don’t be anxious, think about the lilies.
There was a tree house in an old willow tree in our garden. It grew just outside my kitchen window, so I had a good view of the children playing, and I could keep a watchful eye on them, as I worked at the kitchen sink, doing laundry or washing dishes. Happy memories of my children at play in the tree house, have inspired a number of pen and ink sketches and a screen print. The screen print was made using cabbage leaves for texture and lolly pop sticks for the slats of the tree house. I incorporated an old photograph of Michael and Joy, when they were small, and a sketch of Michael, as a teenager. The red tea pot is a photograph of an enamel tea pot that still sits on my window sill. Michael almost appears to be popping out of the tea pot. The branches are actual willow tree branches. The bird feeder was printed from the thumb mark of my rubber gloves, that I used when washing the dishes. So this is a very nostalgic piece of art work.
Scrapper Board of Tree House
Our children spent many happy hours in the branches of this willow. It was actually two willow trees, standing tall together, and a little rickety house built with imagination and discarded bits of wood. Their Daddy helped to secure the construction to the tree. There was a swing which hung from one of the sturdy lower branches, and a bird feeder. Lots of little birds visited the trees, wrens and blue tits, robins and sparrows, and sometimes a pair of ring necked doves. There was a variety of little boys and girls who also visited the branches, having tea parties, or playing at pirates The children were mostly safe, and I kept a careful eye on them all as I worked at the kitchen sink, but we did have some minor injuries and once a broken arm, when one of my boys had a birthday party, and there were one too many children in the tree. The broken arm belonged to one of the visiting children!
These were happy days of their childhood, and happy days for me also. The tree house grew old and fell apart. The children grew up and flew the nest . One of the trees uprooted itself, a number of years ago, so there is only one willow left in our back garden. Our boys Stephen and Michael built a new tree house, out of salvaged wood, and our children still come back to the garden, with their children. I look forward to summer time when I hear again the laughter of children in the garden . I watch them as I work at the kitchen sink. When they visit Nana and Grandpa’s house , it is not long before they climb the willow tree to explore the tree house.