Chop Wood, Carry Water

Eleven years ago, Antoinette Pienaar’s spine was completely hunched over. Her body was collapsing upon itself. After being diagnosed with spinal malaria, and as her internal organs shut down, Antoinette’s doctors sent her home to put her affairs in order so that she might die in peace.

Instead she accidentally drove to Oom Johannes, the Griqua herbalist, who at 94 years of age dwells in the backlands of the South Africa karoo. Oom Johannes saw that she could barely walk, and instead of telling her to rest, he had her trudge miles to collect her daily water from the spring, and walk back again.

Eleven years have passed since that time, and Antoinette shines as she speaks in her soft rolling voice. Her appreciation for Oom Johannes is heartwarming. She told us once, “It was too much one day thinking of Oom Johannes dying – I just cried and cried! I said to him, ‘O! What will I do when you die?’”

He looked at her perplexed, wondering what the fuss was about and said, “I’ll still be here.” There’s something magical about Oom Johannes and Antoinette: something so humble and simple, and somehow superhuman. What is that power?

The wisdom she shared with me has altered my life. She said that her healing journey consisted of many things, but Nature was primary. She carried on daily hard work with her body; chop wood, carry water as she called it.  At the end of the day her body was so tired that she fell quickly into a deep restorative sleep. How many people today struggle with not getting quality sleep?

She had to take her mind off her worries and problems. She had to get her awareness out of her head and into her body. Michael Brown, the author of The Presence Process (and a dear friend of Antoinette’s) says that our world has gone mental. We live way too much in our minds and in a world of ideas and projections. What’s real?

Do you ever feel dizzy from how fast the world seems to be turning? Do you want to slow down? Time seems to be slipping by quickly, and it is a concern for me too. The more I get things done, the more there is to do. It’s a never-ending cycle!

I’m working on slowing down, on becoming self-sustainable within our community, and chopping more wood and carrying more water. Each day now I work in the garden more and talk on the phone less. Shan and I have decided to shift our lives to working more outdoors, growing our own food, harvesting wild edibles and living simpler lives.

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