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Ingrid Wolfaardt

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Homes are hearts.

You park above the bay, then walk down-down towards the beach, under trees that form, ribbed cupolas, as serene as sung prayers in a cathedral. It is here where I remeet Tony Watkins and his wife Helen, after 8 years, we are all older and this time around, I am more ready to receive, to learn, to listen, to be open. Their home is a whimsical, middle-earth creation, built by Tony himself, on the shores of Karaka Bay, Auckland, the site of past bloody battles. The house is a response to the cliff face, the vegetation, the sea and sand and Tony’s own mysticism. I find him to be a wise father, this custodian of New Zealand’s vernacular architecture, author of a thought provoking book, amongst others, called “Thinking it Through”. From him and in him, I see someone, who intimately understands and lives the connectedness and interdependence between Humanity and Nature, that we intuitively know, is good and right for both ourselves and the earth. It is from him that I get the confirmation of our responsibility to tread gently while busy with our daily work, the importance of a sympathetic response to building buildings, that will not dominate and master the environment in which it finds itself, but rather to have an evolving dialogue, in ways that are spontaneous, which cannot be predicted or foreseen. Where buildings becomes vehicles for relationship and memory building, more than monuments of mortar and stone, mausoleums, housing the death of family and friendship.

It is a message of kindness, not only to our own kind, but to the greater kind of which we are part.

I hope to believe that our home at Onrust is such a place, a non invasive place of meditation and human engagement.

It is made mostly of wood, nestling in a riverine forest of Milkwood trees that are home to creeping and crawling creatures, flying ones too. Trees that twist and turn their way through foundations and decks. A broken rock face is reconstituted into walls and walkways,trimmed by hand, by men, that love stone.
There are old barn doors with their original paint and a battered table,as old as our colonial history,around which we sit, eat, talk, argue and laugh, make food, rock the baby and where kisses from young to old, old to young, are given and reciprocated.
The house is modest. It overlooks the river and the sea and the mountains.
In summer it is a house where the shrill voices of many laughing children is heard, till late. Where young lovers use the forest beneath us too. Fires and fireworks on the beach is part of the night we sleep in and then suddenly, it is quiet, quite quiet, indeed silent.

The birds return as the people leave, the otters come out to play, the terrapins tread water and the lone-ranger dassie takes his post on the roof of the neighbouring house.

Such a time was this past week with a full moon on the river and just ourselves at an open window, watching the moonlight ride on the backs of birds and otters, busy with their night time business.The marvel and mystery of life playing itself out, not before us, no, such times the marvel is in us too, we are part of it, connected to the light, the water, the sounds and signs.

It is a moment, when there is no separation between self and space, time and place, where all things come together in a marvelous blending of what constitutes the essence of life and the fullness of it, to be in that moment as part of the song, the experience, the happening. And the house facilitates this, the house draws us out of ourselves and into the landscape.

This is the gift of this house.

Yet I confess, my fear is even I have lost it, as I clutch my phone in the hand, reach out for the electronic tablet.To collectively lose this sense of connectedness will be our collective death,(aah the fracking to be in the Karoo makes me weep) I realise and I confess that much in me has been disconnected, I need to regain it, claim it back, daily, my belonging, my strand in the multi-coloured cloth of All Life, animate and inanimate, in fact there is no such thing as dead. Even decay lives, even death is life.

I am it.


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