The Comforts of Home

By on 24 January, 2012 in City Living, Fun, Kate and Stephen with 1 Comment

The candle and the lights of Cape Town

I am in Cape Town, South Africa on business. This particular trip is almost two weeks long, and I’m at the stage of the the trip where I am both acclimatized to my new surroundings (basic stuff, like how to dress for the weather, how to get a taxi, where to eat, whether to tip, how to haggle) and longing for home. Sure, there are brightly painted houses here, and miles (er, kilometers) of bougainvillea and shiny blue clematis, but still I find myself wanting my ancient oak trees and looking forward to our own spring blooms. My time here has been amazing – I visited Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. There, former inmates lead tours and sit to talk with groups of tourists about the crimes of apartheid in the hopes that their experience will educate others while inoculating the world against the pestilence of racist tyranny. I went to the top of Table Mountain and saw the Indian Ocean for the first time, thinking what it must have been like for Bartolomu Dias to round the Cape for the first time in human history. It’s been hot, but the rain today made a rainbow that threatened to engulf the city, and now a cool ocean breeze that seems to come straight across from Antarctica is making my hotel room pleasant enough for sleeping.

Still, I find myself thinking of home, and the roses I will plant for the year. I am hoping for heritage roses, without the smells bred out of them – a whole fleet to perfume the garden on hot nights. My whole hotel room smells like roses, thanks to something from home – a candle from Montgomery’s own Homestead Candle company. I brought it here over thousands of miles, carefully wrapped in clothing, to soothe evenings just like this – the smell of spring, a reminder of our winter holiday trip to the Farmer’s Market, an exceptionally fragrant piece of Montgomery that has burned faithfully every night for hours over the ten days I’ve been here so far, lulling me to sleep with the promise of my own bed and my own garden and the trip’s end.

I can’t say that people here seem to know where I’m from when I say I live in Alabama. They beam when I say I’m from the United States, and everyone seems to know that the American South is quite warm. “Very hot there,” they say with a smile, even though it’s summer here and close to 90 some days. Today I spoke with a teacher at a school who knew about Montgomery. At least, he knew about the Montgomery Bus Boycott. “This inspired us,” he said. He told me that the boycott inspired a similar action here in the township of Alexandria in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. His 13-year-old students knew who Rosa Parks was. They were delighted to learn of my adopted home town. Even though I’m not originally from Montgomery, and even though my own parents were very young when Rosa refused to change seats, I somehow still felt proud.

Now, sitting in my hotel room thousands of miles away and thinking of roses as my stalwart candle flickers in the breeze from the Cape, I feel somehow that I am part of something larger than myself. We who live in Montgomery are custodians of the past while we bear a special responsibility to the future. Every piece of art we make, every building we restore or re-invent, every candle we lovingly craft and send into the world to inspire sleep’s wandering imagination, every resistance or innovation can inspire a person or the whole world. In spring, there will be roses. For now, I can go to sleep with the future’s sweet smell lingering in my dreams.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a dog, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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  1. jsharp says:

    sometimes, i forget how beautifully you write. such elegant wordcraft. such gorgeous thinking.

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