2) Intrepid


My little heart now had a very long name attached to it: Wolff Parkinson White supraventricular tachycardia. A burden and a blessing.


I was electric. My heart had an extra electrical connection.


I’ve come to learn that the heart is the body’s most powerful source of electromagnetic energy. Its electromagnetic field is 60 times greater in amplitude and 100 greater in strength than the brain’s. It can be measured up to three feet away from the body. And I had an extra electrical connection.


I required medication for the first two years of my life. My beautifully flawed heart needed a daily dose of pipette drops to keep it rhythmic and regular.


When I was two and a half (and my new baby brother was nine months) we moved from Durban to the heart of Zululand. Our house was on the edge of a little rural community when we arrived – and in the middle of a town when we left. The family home for a quarter of a century.


It stood on a corner, elevated plot – chosen for privacy, space and views – on ‘Intrepid’ avenue. I love the power of this name too. Living there, as a child, I was certainly bold and fearless. Youth and innocence flowed through me with unrestrained force.


There was a wonderful breakfast nook in the kitchen. It was made of dark panelled, mahogany wood. Two built-in, high-back bench seats with a table in between. I always sat on the bench that looked out onto the courtyard and garden, with the front door to my back.


Zululand was hot. That heavy, humid heat that made it hard to breathe and halted all energy. Summer felt eternal, with February’s dreaded days seemingly endless. But those kitchen benches were perfectly positioned. If you opened both the front and back door, the breeze would flow, cooling the little beads of sweat collecting on our bodies. Nature’s fan. The conundrum came if the wind was blowing the ‘wrong’ way; sending the sulphur smelling fumes from the neighbouring town’s factories rushing in. It reeked – revolting, rancid, rotten eggs permeated your whole body. If you thought you couldn’t breathe from the heat, this was another level of immersive and inescapable.


Scents aside, when I think of that kitchen nook the nostalgia is palpable. Oh the number of hours we spent there: breakfasts, after school snacks, homework, dinners, and just time – together, alone and with friends. It was the location for many milestone moments.


A long forgotten memory recently returned to me. I must have been about six or seven years old. I loved hanging off the back of my bench: upside down and briefly gaining a different perspective on the world. Suspended and searching, I remember asking the question: “What is life?”


A rush of energy flushed my body and I felt engulfed in light, floating up towards the stars: in that probing moment, I experienced something that totally enthralled and engulfed me. I was vibrating, I was energy. It was pure magic. More real and vivid than reality with no rhetoric to convey it. It was bigger than me, but it was also me – every cell of my body and being was resonating. It was the most alive I ever felt. Unsure how to delve deeper, I righted myself and looked at the world again through less-questioning eyes.


When I think about it now I can still recall that rush, the vast infinite, the surge of possibility and unbound peace. And on reflection, in those fleeting moments, I was beautifully aware of the great oneness and my connection to everything. I transcended the usual notions of time and space. It was nothingness yet everything.


Who was I asking? Who was answering? What was I hoping to find? Why did I forget that line of enquiry and those feelings for so long?


I was drawn to the magnetism of that moment. On occasion I would flip myself upside down and ask the same question; beseeching again. Wondering if I could evoke that feeling; if I would be transported up and away into the universe, the unknown yet all-knowing. I was. It was my vortex, my portal, my aleph.


It floors and flabbergasts that I asked such a profound question at such a young age. That we are born so connected and aware and as we ‘develop’ we slowly, unwittingly distance ourselves from all this. We reach a pivotal point – for me a mid life awakening of existential questions, triggered by turning 40 – and then spend the rest of our lives trying to remember what we already knew; what we were born with. But I guess that’s the human experience.


As time passed, my connection to the divine faded; conditioning set in; my ego took hold; and I forgot all about it. The sceptic might put it down to a head rush, but I didn’t need to be upside-down or overheated to experience it. And I was perfectly upright, 22 years old and living in London, when I experienced something very similar and the seeds of the great remembering were planted…