Posted on January 10, 2016
Posted on December 31, 2015
It’s the last day of the year and New Year’s Eve, for me, will be spent in this lovely lounge at Heathrow and then in a not too tiny metal tube in the sky, traveling from quite far north to the Southern hemisphere again. Back to South Africa, this time for much longer. I’ll arrive at just after midnight, East Coast time, and somehow starting the new year there seems very fitting.
I’ve been listening to conversation here in the airport about New Year resolutions – it seems to me that one either loves the concept or loathes it and these ladies are on opposite ends of the spectrum! Still, it got me thinking – I don’t make the stereotypical sort of resolution any more, haven’t for years – and yet, I have been resolving lately to make one big change in my life.
It finally dawned on me that I’ve been living my life in order not to die. Safety was not a feeling I experienced as a child, and I have sought it out, unknowingly, it seems, for decades now. And I’ve been safe – very much so, for a long time now. I guess there’s really nothing wrong with that, except that I didn’t have a clue I was doing it.
And except this – I’d like to live in order to live, rather than have all the focus on the not dying. I’ve been thisclose to death enough times, have been diagnosed with dread diseases and walked around with my neck broken – and more, and here I am. So maybe it’s time to put all the emphasis on living now, eh?
All of which should make for interesting posts along the way, wifi connection permitting. I hope you’ll join me.
For now, a very Happy New Year to you and yours, wherever you are, and whatever you are resolving. Or not.
Posted on December 29, 2015
If I flinched at every grief, I
would be an intelligent idiot. If
I were not the sun, I’d ebb and
flow like sadness. If you were not
my guide, I’d wander lost in Sanai.
If there were no light, I’d keep
opening and closing the door. If
there were no rose garden, where
would the morning breezes go? If
love did not want music and laughter,
and poetry, what would I say? If
you were not medicine, I would look
sick and skinny. If there were no
leafy limbs in the air, there would
be no wet roots. If no gifts were
given, I’d grow arrogant and cruel.
If there were no way into God, I
would not have lain in the grave of
this body so long. If there were no
way from left to right, I could not
be swaying with the grasses. If
there were no grace and no kindness,
conversation would be useless, and
nothing we do would matter. Listen
to the new stories that begin every
day. If light were not beginning
again in the east, I would not now
wake and walk out inside this dawn.
from The Soul of Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks
Dawn at Tswalu, in the Kalahari Desert. These words were written, it seems, for this moment. Or perhaps the moment recalled the words. In any case, I’m grateful for both.
Posted on December 27, 2015
The end of the year. The full moon. The dark beginning to turn to the light.
A time, on all these fronts and more, to release.
Release what binds us, what no longer serves us, what holds us back.
It’s really easy – and highly encouraged, it seems, in these waning days – to put all the focus on the exciting new year, on all that’s to come, to just move forward. And there’s time for that, yes, of course. Before we do all the planning and welcoming of the new, however, I wonder if we can make time to unpack this year, so to speak.
How is that done? As a fan of ceremony and ritual and of fire in general, I’m all for burning it up – words written on paper, pinecones with what’s ready to leave whispered into it, branches carved with symbols representing all that we’d like to release. If that’s not an option, there’s always the writing it out and tearing it up into tiny pieces – breaking the ties that bind, in effect. Or even taking a long shower or bath, with the intention that all that no longer serves you goes right down the drain. It can be that simple. All it takes is the intention.
For me, the new year will look very different from any of the others I’ve lived, something that brings a swirling range of emotions on a minute to minute basis. The best I can do, perhaps any of us can do, is to give 2016 a brand new canvas on which to paint itself, so I’ll be taking the time to do just that – clear the decks, sweep the cobwebs, let it all go. The good, the difficult and everything in between. With gratitude, respect, love – for every bit of it.
And then the welcoming begins. Because the only way to fully embrace all that’s to come is to give it space to bloom, to grow. To become all that’s possible and more.
I wish that for each of you, beyond your wildest dreams. For this year, for always.
A favorite view in the bush of Phinda Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, with the Lebombo mountains in the distance.
Posted on December 18, 2015
Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
~ Henry David Thoreau
I have spent so much of my life trying to find myself – and I’ve been in good company on that front. There’s an entire industry built on just that, isn’t there? And yet, maybe, what I need – what we all need – is to allow ourselves to be lost.
And to stay lost, for as long as it takes, to begin to understand.
Perhaps the living is in the being lost.
(Black backed jackal, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, 2015)
Posted on December 16, 2015
Help is strangely, something we want to do without, as if the very idea disturbs and blurs the boundaries of our indidviual endeavors, as if we cannot face how much we need in order to go on. We are born with an absolute necessity for help, grow well only with a continuous succession of extended hands, and as adults depend upon others for our further successes and possibilities in life even as competent individuals. Even the most solitary writer needs a reader, the most Machiavellian mobster a trusted lieutenant, the most independent candidate, a voter.
~ David Whyte
I’ve been reading “Consolations”, by David Whyte, for the past couple months with two lovely friends, posting images each week to go along with that particular chapter. A wonderful book, a really insightful practice, something I’ve enjoyed a lot. Each topic – forgiveness, giving, gratitude – has brought it’s own gifts along the way.
This week’s topic is help. And as someone who has always been fairly independent, perhaps stubbornly so, it’s been a doozy. Especially when Whyte says, “To ask for help and to ask for the right kind of help and to feel that it is no less than our due as a live human being; to feel, in effect, that we deserve it, may be the engine of transformation itself.”
For a long time, I associated needing help with being weak. It took being quite ill, or in recovery from surgery or an injury, really, in order for me to even think of asking for help, for a very long time. I was always, at least in my mind, the helper, NOT the helpee, thank you very much. Paradoxically, it was in that being the helper, in being a coach, that I realized that asking for help was not only a marker of strength, but perhaps a strong indicator of being human. Still, it never occurred to me until very, very recently that both asking for and receiving help is an excellent agent for change.
As I go through a period of incredible shifts on a personal level, and in my work as well, I’m aware that many of us are doing just this right now. The time, I’m told, is ripe for transformation, for change on every level. We, as a species, have an opportunity to ride some unseen planetary winds and to allow ourselves to let go of the need to know what will happen next, to trust that all is well, that what is waiting for us is beyond words wonderful and good.
And now I’m wondering if the very key to that allowing is to ask for help as we go, to accept that we are all fully human and that we came here with the need to help and to be helped. I wonder if the transformation is in the acknowledgment, the seeing that we are whole and deserving of help. I wonder if we hold the key to transformation for each other, and if now is the time for us all to allow ourselves to accept that help, fully and with grace.
I wonder if walking through this life in good company is really what it’s all about.
Posted on December 5, 2015
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread.
Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, when you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Feast on your life.
Love after love. Derek Walcott.
Posted on November 30, 2015
I’ve just returned from a trip – one I knew would be a big one. How big, however, I had no idea. In just under a month, South Africa won my heart – the land, the sky, the creatures and the people. All of it. I don’t think there is anyway I could have known that this wide open place, so full of light and shadow, would be what I’ve searched for my whole life. I had given up, long ago, on ever feeling truly at home anywhere. Given my beginnings, “home” was not a place of comfort or love or joy and I’ve always felt like an observer when people talk about how homesick they are, how going home fills them up. I never thought I’d experience that feeling.
And now? I get it. Full on heartachingly so. It seems crazy, I know, that a place I’d never been until last month can mean so much to me, in such a short time. It’s true though – and somehow the four year old me who sat in her closet and read myriad issues of National Geographic, visiting her tribal friends by flashlight for hours knew, back in 1965. All the years in between of reading about the bush and the tribes, of watching Out of Africa and Born Free and idolizing Jane Goodall – somehow I knew, deep down. It took me ages to answer the call, to understand that bringing myself to what I love so much would do more for others than any amount of coaching or teaching or creating would.
My work in the world, these days, boils down to helping people remember and reclaim who they truly are. It seems, though I thought I’d done all that, there was more to it for me. We learn what we need to teach and teach what we need to learn, don’t we? And there were so many teachers in that vast place – the trees, the oceans, the stone. The dancers, the music, the city streets. The animals and the ant lions (google that one) and the birds calling and soaring. The fire, the drought and the rain. Every bit of it reminded me that I was home, that I was welcome, that I was seen.
In Zulu, the word “sawubona” is the standard greeting. It means “I see you” and the response, beyond repeating it back, is “ngikhona”, which says “I am here”. The belief is that in seeing each other, we exist. Perhaps that explains how I feel, how things changed, more than anything. Where things go from here is not crystal clear, yet I will go back in a matter of weeks to spend more time discerning, to answer this incredible call. It all feels like a huge and wonderful gift, one that there is no possibility of denying. I am so grateful.
And I am here.