Denver and the Shark

Loyal friend, social development project manager, surf instructor, collector and curator of a beautiful bonsai forest, lover of nature and since young, a surfer – always a surfer; gentle and soft-spoken, strong of spirit, an unassuming strength in our community: This is the Denver that we know and love.

Last winter was a good season for surf, and on this particular day, one year back, the waves as we say – ‘were cooking!’. As it goes on days like these all the surfing folk who could had spent the morning in the sea making the most of its gift.

Thinking about heading in to join the others already chilling on the beach, including Denver’s new wife Kristy (also a surfer), Eric heard D yell and turned around expecting to see a good set coming through.

The dark form brushing against Denver was no wave-set or friendly dolphin and Eric watched in horror as it turned around, pulled D off his board while simultaneously  shredding through the leash. Eric started to paddle towards him, not sure what he would do when he got there, but rapidly repeating an anti-fear mantra in his head to keep him moving, – before he had the chance to face the reality of his question the shark had grabbed Denver again and disappeared back under. Both guys at this point  claim to have been thinking, ‘it’s over’. Denver also recalls wondering how long it was going to take…..

Miraculously though after a very long 15 – 20 seconds, he resurfaced. The shark having tossed him about a bit on the ocean-floor had lost interest. Perhaps D wasn’t the right seal flavour….or perhaps it had simply chosen that moment to send out a shark-size reminder that this was its turf too. With the additional help of Murray, another mate still in the water, Denver was placed back onto his board and assisted to shore where the guys began first- aid while waiting for the ambulance to arrive from town, some forty minutes away.

Shark attack victims often die from blood loss and shock. The shark hits an artery and you bleed out before reaching shore. Denver’s wounds were horrible but they were fortunately not fatal and after plenty of surgery and TLC from Kristy, he was back on the beach within a few months checking out the swell and grappling with his fears. Not much longer after that with wounds on the mend, he embraced his passion and the ocean once again, surfing out on a new board with lovely Kristy and his church pastor by his side. Funds had been raised to help with medical bills and D elected to use the surplus to start a fund to support similar incidents in the area. He also provided an emergency medical and rescue box on our beach.

It has been a year to the day since the attack and the guys are back in the water surfing whenever the weather and ocean feel benevolent, and we are so grateful to be celebrating a life living rather than a life lived.  But the question that continues to challenge me is this – how does one find the courage, after an incident like this, to face your fear and manage the recurring images that must rush through your head over and over? How do you get back in the water to continue to do what you love?

How do you do that?

Perhaps you chose to embrace the challenge partly because if you don’t it is almost as if the shark attack was infact fatal and you end up loosing a huge part of who and what  you are…. Denver is no fatality.

Without doubt it is a choice of huge magnitude requiring  reason to override fear and demanding enormous courage.

A courage that I find unfathomable  – but one that continues to inspire me daily.

Celebrating a Year of Great Courage – Chintsa East 22 July 2012

Lighting Up The Winter Blues

In the freezing cold of mid-winter in the village of Chintsa East along the African Shore, children gathered to celebrate.

The drizzle and low temperatures had not stopped them from stomping up the hill to the Country Club away from the shelter and protection of their humble homes, with paper lanterns clasped in their mittened hands.

Their beautiful teacher, Nokuphumla had lovingly helped craft 60 of these contraptions and after all the hard crafting the kiddy’s gulped down their mugs of warm, milky sweet tea as they anticipated nightfall.

On arrival of the darkness the grounds were lit up with lanterns and the bright eyes of their creators as they excitedly followed Tom the Clown onto the grounds to celebrate the longest night of the year with magic and song.

Celebrating the Longest Night of the Year – Chintsa East 21 June 2012

A Good Man

Shortly after our rather ‘out of the blue’ marriage, sixteen years back, I remember thinking to myself in a haze of disbelief, “how crazy is that, you got to marry Eric”.

While he is not the only man I have ever had strong feelings for, I don’t believe it would ever have been quite as good with another.

As high-school friends and then young adults living our lives in different parts of the world, he was the one I longed to ‘bump into’.  He was the one I asked after. The one I wanted to know more about – he was always the one.  If our paths hadn’t crossed again, I suspect I would still be wondering……..

And when we did meet up again years later he rocked my world and I knew without a doubt that I didn’t want to be anywhere else but where he was.

And when we had to separate for six months after our brief encounter, due to work commitments, his beautiful, consistent and loving, hand written letters continued to assure me of what I already knew.

I had always known him to be gentle, strong, brave and deeply intelligent……but I didn’t realise the extent to which he would be the incredible Dad and selfless partner that he is. I just didn’t think about it, but now I know.

Due to his work we don’t always get to be together on anniversary days, but we are fast mastering the art of ‘catch up celebration’ and have a deep understand of the term ‘grab the moment’ – not the most efficient way to stockpile financial security, but we do hold honorary degrees in our capacity to justify a fun time, if that counts for anything!

One thing I known though without doubt is that when I am with him, I am home, and there is no other place I would rather be – and in him I have found a good man.

13 July 2012 – Sixteen Years