When we first came to Canada it was a trial run over Christmas – not the time you would think is best to get an idea of the country. However, we were thinking of moving to Alberta, where the winter’s are harsh and temperatures drop to ridiculous lows -40 at times. Yes you read that right!
So why come in winter? Because we thought if we came in the most harrowing season and liked it then the rest of the year would be a breeze. Little did we know. The decision was made and we immigrated – there were many obstacles to overcome, too many to go through here that’s for sure – but we arrived in September 2007.
My first morning the sun was shining, the leaves were golden and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. If you have ever been to England we always have clouds. Then the next day it was the same, and the next. It was unusual to me but also pleasing. By the beginning of October we saw our first snow and it was a novelty. Big piles of snow (at that time) were rare in England so we took advantage of all the winter themed activities available. It was fun but as the years passed and the snow came early and stayed, the novelty soon wore off. Vacationing in a winter wonderland is very different to living in one – that was our lesson learned.
There are so few green trees during the greyness of winter and that is what I miss the most. The green lushness year round of England. Albertan seasons are not like ‘home’ – spring is almost an overnight experience – a faint green flush one morning and then the grey sticks of winter suddenly become vibrant emerald and lime green. Summer creeps in and heats up the land in some cases +40 (yes it is a land of extremes). Then fall (autumn to my English friends) comes turning gold and red but only staying for a brief while before the leaves drop.
The snow arrives normally before Halloween and leaves sometime in April or even May – it is a winter gripped land for a long time and we have to live with it. There are many devices that make the winter’s easier – winter tires (tyres), auto-start for the vehicles, so you can warm it up before getting in, in-door shopping malls, winter sports and events, fire pits and Jacuzzi’s.
It has been an adjustment for us all and over time we have found ways of coping but we all wish for one more day without snow! We know it is coming and cherish the time without.
Thank you Dear Mandy, for having me as a guest blogger, it’s always an honour!
I’d like to introduce you and your readers to my fourth novel, a very new release, titled The Witchdoctor’s Bones.
I generally like to set fiction in the current day but in the case of The Withdoctor’s Bones, I drew upon African folklore, myths, legends and superstitions. I also integrated historical facts, with research unearthing the link between the origins of Nazi evil and the plight of the Bushmen. Modern-day Africa cannot escape her ancient traditions, which were integrated into the book.
The Witchdoctor’s Bones was such a big book that we had to cut some copy, and I’d like to share one such passage, of which I was particularly fond – it deals with Swahili horoscopes and I hope you will enjoy!
“In Africa,” Jono explained, “many tribes developed a zodiac of their own, based on the classical Latin ones. In Swahili, for example, Aries is Hamali which means Ram, Taurus is Tauri, which means Bull, Gemini is Jauza, which means twins, Cancer is Saratini, which means Lobster or Crab, Leo is Asadi, which means Lion, Virgo is Sumbula, which means Ear of Corn, Libra is Mizani, which means Pair of Scales, Sagittarius is Kausi, which means Bow, Capricorn is Jadi, which means Buck, Aquarius is Dalu, which Pail and Pisces is Hutu, which means Fish.”
“You forgot Scorpio,” Helen said. She ran her strong, blunt fingers through her hair and put it back up in a ponytail.
“Oh, I apologise, Scorpio is Akarabu, meaning Scorpion.”
“They all sounds so melodic,” Sofie sighed. “I like being a Hutu.”
“Pisces is considered to be a very favourable and beneficent sign,” Jono said.
The group had moved into the shade of the tree. Gisela laid head on her bare arms on the cool rough concrete of the picnic table and enjoyed the unhurried breeze that swept across her shoulders and through her hair.
She closed her eyes and listened to the cries and calls of an unfamiliar land; bicycle bells, people chatting in African languages, animals, birds and clanging noises to which she could she could marry no source. She sat up and rubbed her eyes.
“I am an Ear of Corn,” she said to Jono, “is that a favourable sign too?”
Jono smiled at her. “If you are Swahili, then it is the best of all the signs, they say those born under it will be rich, having large and healthy families, and you will enjoy good health all of your life.”
“And Aquarius?” Eva and Enrique both spoke at the same time and Enrique blushed.
“Ah, Aquarius, I am sorry my friends but you are predestined for tears and sorrow. But I will tell you though, your fate is not quite as bad as Sagittarius which means you were born in a time of adversity. Children born under the sign of Sagittarius can cause disaster to their elders as well as to themselves. In fact, in the olden days, these children were executed in a custom called ritual infanticide. Later only the right ring finger was cut off and at least you were allowed to live.”
“Thanks for that,” Rydell stuttered. “But I don’t believe in that rubbish anyway.”
“What about Leo?” Richard asked, “but listen old chap, don’t tell me if it’s dodgy. I only want good news yeah?”
“Leo is favourable for making important decisions in life, and that is all I know,” Jono said.
Richard frowned. “Now I’m not sure I believe you. Are you leaving out bad things? I was only joking, I’d rather know the whole caboodle.”
Jono laughed. “No my friend, that is all I know.”
“And Yowza?” Marika asked. “I like being a Yowza.”
“That would be Jauza,” Jono corrected her pronunciation. “Yours is a good sign under which to take a journey or voyage, to start a business or residence.
“And Capricorn?” Jasmine enquired. She straddled the concrete bench, her pale green cat eyes unblinking and enormous.
“They are cautious, proud and satisfied with themselves and they may expect to attain power in society.”
Jasmine smiled. “Yes, I am satisfied with myself.” She adjusted her bandanna. “And I’m gonna rule the world.”
“You’ve left out Cancer, Libra and Scorpio,” Helen pointed out.
“Libra,” Jono said, “highlights meditation and circumspection. Cancer is auspicious for the performance of religious rituals. Scorpio is the season of abundance ensuring a fortune of good crops and if you are a woman, then you will have no problem falling pregnant.”
“Falling pregnant?” Sofie enquired. “What a funny way to put it. Like you fall down, and oops, you’re pregnant.”
“Uh, excuse me Jono, but you also forgot Aries.” Lena spoke up quietly.
“My apologies. Well my dear, you have the most auspicious of all the signs with the highest blessing.”
Lena smoothed her shorts, her expression happy.
“And Taurus?” asked Stepfan, “what about us little bulls?”
The small crowd laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Stepfan demanded.
“Nothing, nothing,” Jono said, thinking, as the others had, that the sign was a perfect match to the man.
“I am sorry my friend but your fortune is not as good as your wife’s. It is believed that persons born under this sign are proud and unsympathetic.”
“What rubbish.” Stepfan declared. “I am a very sympathetic person. I listen to people’s stupid problems all the time.”
“Ah yes, I can see you would be very kindly,” Sofie said and she and the others laughed.
“Harrison,” Charisse piped up in an to effort to turn the focus away from red-faced, blustery Stepfan, “why aren’t you taking notes? I would have thought you’d be writing this down.”
“Bah.” Harrison’s blue eyes were bright. “Stuff and nonsense I tell you. I am a man who makes my own fortune. I am in charge of my own destiny.”
“But what sign are you anyway?” Charisse asked.
“I am not going to say. I will not partake in these foolish flights of fancy.”
“Now where’s the fun in that?” Charisse said slowly and she smiled.
It may have been the way she uttered the word fun, but the men in the group leaned towards her, just a little.
“Time to get on the bus again.” Even Jono sounded slightly distracted. “We have taken more time than we should have but an interesting discussion yes?”
“Right you are there.” Richard made a dash for the bus.
“I am a Sumbula,” Sofie told Kate as they climbed up. “What are you?”
“I am a good-fortuned Hutu.” Kate replied. “Jono is good with his information.”
* books can be ordered (or pre-ordered) at Amazon.ca or from inanna.ca and can also be found in select bookstores. If you have any trouble ordering a book, please contact the author, Lisa de Nikolits, at email@example.com
Bibliography for The Witchdoctor’s Bones – the information contained in the above passge comes from one of these books but I can’t recall which one…
“Albino Blacks Sought by African Witchdoctors for Ritual Murder
‘Medicine.’” The New Observer 30 May 2013. Web.
Berglund, Axel-Ivar. Zulu Thought: Patterns and Symbolism. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1989.
Braid, Mary. “Africa: Witchcraft returns to haunt new South Africa.”
The Independent 21 January 1998. Web.
Chapman, Michael and Tony Voss. Accents: An Anthology of Poetry
from the English-speaking World. Cape Town: Paper Books, 1986.
Clark, Michael. The Saga of the Sani Pass and Mokhotlong. Himeville:
Corbin, George A. Native Arts of North America, Africa and the
South Pacific: An Introduction. Boulder, co: Westview Press, 1988.
de Waal, Mandy. “Witch-hunts: The darkness that won’t go away.”
Daily Maverick 30 May 2012. Web.
Early Man: Time Life Books. New York: Time-Life Books Inc., 1979.
Finck, Henry T. Primitive Love and Love Stories. New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1899.
Gordon, Robert J. and Stuart Sholto Douglas. The Bushman Myth:
The Making of a Namibian Underclass. Boulder, co: Westview
Heale, Jay and Dianne Stewart, eds. African Myths and Legends.
Capetown, sa: Struik Publishers, 1995.
Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa: Second Edition. Cape Town: The
Reader’s Digest Association of South Africa (Pty.) Limited, 1980.
Knappert, Jan. An Encyclopedia of Myth and Legend: African Mythology.
London: Diamond Books Inc., 1990.
“My Lioness.” South African Love Poems. Web.
Off The Beaten Track. Cape Town: AA The Motorist Publications
(Pty) Ltd., 1987.
Olivier, Willie and Sandra Olivier. Namibia: Travel Guide. Chatswood,
Australia: New Holland Publishers, 2006.
Pelton, Robert Young. The World’s Most Dangerous Places. New
York: Harper Collins, 2003.
Phythian, B. A., ed. Considering Poetry. London, uk: Hodder &
Poland, Marguerite, ed. The Mantis and the Moon: Stories for the
Children of Africa. Johannesburg: Ravan Press (Pty.) Ltd., 1979.
Roberts, Jani Farrell. “Modern Witches: Saudia Arabia and Africa.”
Excerpt. Seven Days: Tales of Magic, Sex and Gender. 2000. Web.
Salopek, Paul. “Children in Angola tortured as witches.” The Chicago
Tribune 28 March 2004. Web.
Shaw, Serena. Pucketty Farm. Durban: Author, 1999.
Thepa, Madala. “The devil in our midst.” Sunday World 25 March
Thank you Lisa for sharing your new novel with us today. It is always a pleasure to help a fellow author, especially when they are such a dleight as you!
My recent escape from the Albertan cold to the heat of Palm Springs was a real delight in many ways. Of course the first pleasure was to experience summer warmth again, after weeks of freezing temperatures and snow fall. It amazed me how quickly a person can become accustomed to a black and white world. The brilliance of lush greenery was a real shock to my senses, making me consider how little time had really past since I had enjoyed summer and its abundance. Is the cycle of seasons so ingrained our seasonal memory can be replaced so quickly?
In no time I was back to ‘summer’ mode, lying poolside, walking in T-shirt & shorts and drinking cooling drinks. Hiking along the canyon listening to the burbling water, I wanted to splash through it to ease my over heated skin, far removed from the news from home of heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures.
The most jarring spectacle was seeing Christmas decorations emblazoned on palm trees and their shimmering light bouncing off lawns glistening with water. Homes were festooned with white and coloured lights, Christmas trees stood in living room windows but their reflections came from swimming pools and green lawns. It just didn’t ‘feel’ like Christmas, somehow it wasn’t right.
I soon became accustomed to the sound of automated irrigation sprays the means by which, this oasis of green maintains its lushness, albeit ‘fake’. It is only a short drive before the arid and seemingly barren landscape is found surrounding the city. However, if you walk slowly and quietly you will find treasurers, such as tiny lizards, multi-coloured butterflies and iridescent humming-birds populating the sharp twisted bushes and cacti. There is beauty in any landscape you just have to look.
On my return to Alberta I experienced +20 degrees on take-off and -20 degrees on arrival after a short three hour flight – now that’s an unwelcome shock to the system! Obviously at that moment I longed for the heat but for a proper Christmas, home does have the snowy wonderland look as well as some awesome winter visitors.
Do you prefer the winter wonderland or the tropical escape for your festival?
I’ve an even shorter time to finish my NaNoWriMo this year as I am flying off to Palm Springs to visit a good friend and fellow author, Suzanne Burkett, on Wednesday 28th November. So I need to have my word count over the 50,000 before then. It is a race as always but just a smidge more stressful with two days less but I am determined to succeed.
An oasis in many ways.
My visit was booked way back in June so its been a long time coming. It will be a time for exploring, connecting and sharing and I’m sure inspiration will follow. Maybe a novel idea will spring up – LOL I know bad joke. Palm Springs has a very creative and artistic culture that I am excited to see for myself. Getting away from the Albertan cold will be a nice bonus too. Of course I have organised meals for the family in my absence and hopefully they will survive.
Do you ‘abandon’ your family for vacations or retreats ? What is or was your favorite one?