out of my shell

Can’t Fix It?

If you can't fix it, make it a feature
Succulent Success

I have adopted an outlook that makes me feel a lot better about a lot of things.

If I can’t FIX it, I’ll make it a FEATURE.

Within reason, of course.

If the loo won’t flush, I’m going to fix it. If there’s an offensive smell hovering in the kitchen, I’m going to fix it.

There are things, and people, and circumstances, that cannot be fixed or transformed into something else, no matter how hard we wish, or beg, for it/them to do so. The sage Serenity Prayer is all we can say, over and over again: 

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference

In my country we are blessed with built-in braai areas (plural and pronounced ‘bry’ like ‘try’) heat and determination – we ignore blustery winds and wet wood and choking smoke. 

Our permanent, outdoor braai structures are for cooking meat, blackened veggies and charred cheese, onion and tomato toasties. It’s where you build your fire and often provides surface area for the grids, beer bottles, tongs, fire starters, chips (you’d say crisps, I think), dishes of raw meat tenderising in marinade and, in the old days, the fat sprayed portable radio for essential sports commentary (now a sleek, flat screen, wall mounted TV).

The little complex of six units where I live has unique challenges. It’s cute and pretty but there’s not much cash in the communal kitty. Scraping meager funds together to do basic maintenance has us fretting. Finding enough to do aesthetic, but not necessarily urgent jobs, is currently out of the question.

Naturally, my unit has a simple braai area. Mine is missing a couple of bricks and one portion looks like it was blasted away by a little bomb.

It’s wounded.

I’ve given up on the idea that I’ll make another braai (barbecue) on my bricks. I could do it, and have done so, many times. But…

I made an unpatriotic decision and dispensed with braais (plural, pronounced ‘brize’ like ‘prize’) altogether. I did not enjoy looking at the sorry structure when it wasn’t on fire and my stainless steel grids were stolen. I was in a huff for about half an hour before I had my FEATURE moment.

I am slowly transforming my braai area into a succulent micro-garden. It’s waterwise, hardy and unfazed by the scorching sun.

Where the bricks are missing and scarred I patiently packed in soil and an amazing growing medium a national grocery store gave me each time I paid for goods. Inside a promotional little garden kit was a thick ‘soil’ coin that swells and grows into a neat stack of wet pseudo-soil when you water it (I wonder if it’s made of coconut hair or similar? Perhaps you know?). Terribly exciting and wondrous.

I cut ‘slips’ from well established mothership plants and simply push them into the mix, much like a florist pushes stems into florist’s foam (Is that what the spongy stuff is called?)

My timing is unintentionally perfect. A little rain falls and those blessed succulents wriggle down and snuggle up to the broken bricks like girlfriends in the laps of returned soldiers.

You have no idea how happy that makes me.

I have a plan.

Cutting by cutting, pot by pot, I’m making a hot garden; scheming and dreaming of cushions on the tabletop surface (I sat there today and thought A-ha!…a reading and writing nook this is). I’m on the lookout for small cement sculptures (metal will be nicked) to nestle in the corners; stones and shells and skulls too (my eldest son will find me some of those, I know).

It takes time and that’s what makes it worthwhile, fulfilling. It’s a project.

I’m doing it. I’m doing it with what is available to me right here, right now – and at no cost. The sense of accomplishment, the delight, is derived from that. The thrill of creation is combining elements at hand to make something by my own hand.

Cheap and cheerful is as refreshing as iced water on a sweaty day when poverty and hardship are hard to swallow daily dishes in our world.

Humble beginnings have the best chance of happy endings when our love, vision and tender attentions are immune to the pressures of time.

Obstacles – limited funds, time or resources – become opportunities to practice creativity, ingenuity, recycling, imaginative problem solving, gratitude, patience and joy.

I’m just a beginner but hey! to begin is to win.

Last week I spent a few days in my hometown and visited the marvelous Soil for Life garden where I did a workshop many years ago. I’m a bit cross with myself for not taking a photograph of the motto painted on boards planted among all the veggies and flowers – it succinctly urges one to begin now, with what you’ve got. I tried to find it on their website…no luck. Tell me if you know.

I’ve applied this principle to my hair, smile and skin – aspects of myself I cursed and lamented as a teenager and young woman (too curly, too toothy and too pimply). Now they shine. Why?

I accepted what is and did the best I could with what I had. 

I’m sure if you think back you’ll remember doing precisely this, without conscious thought or fanfare…

What you couldn’t fix you turned into a feature. Am I right?

Thank you for popping in today. 

xxx TeaShell