A couple of hours ago I was sitting on my deck, looking out at the Melville Koppies. It was a beautiful fall afternoon, and a public holiday to boot. I felt like going for a walk on the koppies and taking pictures.

Six months ago, I would have turned to Jon and said, “Let’s go for a walk on the koppies and take pictures.” And we would have gone right then, and it would have been lovely. But you see, this is one of the many reasons why it sucks when your boyfriend dies. Jon isn’t here anymore and I can’t just walk up onto the koppies alone. Much as I hate to admit it, walking alone on the koppies isn’t safe.

I’m sure I could have found someone else to take a walk with. I didn’t feel like it though.

Since I wasn’t going for a walk, I figured I should get some writing done. I’m trying to write a book about my crazy life. But working on the book is too hard. The things I need to write about make me really sad. So I discarded that idea too.

I felt a bit desperate. This line of thought is dangerous for me. If I start to feel sorry for myself and focus on all the reasons why life isn’t fair, I can quickly become immobilized.

Then my eyes fell on Spiral Aloe.

Spiral Aloe is a special plant. My friend Jeroen bought it in Lesotho a couple of years ago, when it was only three centimeters wide and had four leaves. Spiral aloes are quite rare and require special attention to grow in this climate.

Jeroen is from the Netherlands, and he moved back to Europe last October. He couldn’t take Spiral Aloe with him so he gave it to Jon and me, with strict instructions on how to care for it. We picked up Spiral Aloe the night before Jeroen left. Jon and Lucky planted it in our back garden two days later.

Spiral Aloe on the day it was planted at our house. Sorry, not the best photo.

The following week, all hell broke loose at the Lucky 5 Star. (The full story of what happened will have to wait for my book.) Spiral Aloe was quickly forgotten.

But Spiral Aloe kept growing. I realized recently that, unnoticed, over the course of this horrible summer, Spiral Aloe has become a glorious plant.

Spiral Aloe today.

I spent the afternoon photographing Spiral Aloe. As I examined it from all angles, watching the light shine through its thick leaves, I started to relate to the way Spiral Aloe grows. New leaves grow from the inside, constantly pushing at the outer leaves and forcing them to expand. Eventually the outer leaves shrivel and fall away, making room for the inner leaves. It looks like a painful process. But the result is really beautiful.

I’ve discovered lately that when I’m sad, angry, frustrated, or depressed (or all four), one of the best things I can do is grab my camera and look for something to photograph.

It won’t be easy, but Spiral Aloe and I will keep spiraling. Not spiraling out of control, hopefully. Just spiraling.

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