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Writers’ groups weekly update: a tribute

This week I’d like to pay tribute to Nicky Handfield, a brave, positive woman who was already very ill with cancer when she came to do a creative writing course in 2018.

‘I’m not a writer in any way,’ she said, ‘but I want to do this for my self development.’

As it turned out, she was a writer. She found unexpected joy and release in writing and asked if she could join a monthly group.

‘I don’t know how I found you, or even why,’ she told me after a few months. ‘I’ve never fancied myself as a writer. It’s very strange. But coming here feels like coming home.’

Then she moved far from town and had to leave the group. Just recently, I learned of her death. I revisited her work, which included this appreciation of her garden sanctuary. It was an observation exercise but to me it reads like a prayer. She included pictures with the text, and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me sharing one.

RIP, Nicky. You were an inspiration, seeking to engage and grow, right to the end. I’m so glad that you found the voice to write what needed to be written.

‘Just by stepping into it, I feel at peace; I can breathe again. I sense its humbling intelligence. Each flower head knows how to turn its face towards the sun, each leaf knows how to hold a life-sustaining drop of water. Making my way along the paving stones, I notice a malachite sunbird hanging onto a candelabra of aloe flowers, sipping on nectar. A shrew bolts past with a grain of maize stolen from the bird feeder. The hadidas stand arrogantly on the rooftop, screeching at anyone who will listen.

Every time I walk through my colourful garden, I fall in love all over again. The fields of cosmos sway in the fresh morning breeze. The pin cushion proteas hold an uncountable number of buds, waiting for the right time to open and show off their beauty.

At the end of the pathway I reach my favourite spot: a large blue gum trunk surrounded by blue felicias, deep orange gazanias, white arum lilies and beetroot-coloured spinach. In the distance I see Table Mountain, 450 million years old. Contemplating that number puts today’s worries into perspective, reminding me of the relativity of life and time.’


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