Beauty in Simplicity

The movers arrived; a band of brothers in matching red T-shirts, rustling packing paper and ripping long strands of clear tape. A city of cardboard was erected in our home as we watched the color drain from our surroundings.

Art, carpets, toys, and belongings were dismantled and packed away, stripping the house down to brass tacks. Biscuit, our Golden Retriever, and I both vacillated between moments of zen and anxiety, unsure of where to go, feeling a bit homeless inside our own house.

To foster a sense of normalcy while changing houses, schools, friends, and countries,(especially for our nine-year-old son, Ramsay), we have made it a point to set aside certain ingredients and supplies to do fun things: make s’mores, bake cookies, make art with leftover food coloring, watch Christmas movies.

Once the moving truck was loaded (protected by guards to prevent theft), our life in boxes drove away and we took deep breaths and prepared to ride this wave of transition. We have chosen this life, embracing this lifestyle in the foreign service; supporting American ideals abroad, helping developing nations while enjoying their cultural wonders, experiential travel, and interesting places and people.

The moves and farewells, though, every few years, are the tough parts. Eight months from now, we’ll be excited to resettle into a new house and community in Libreville, Gabon, after living in temporary housing for several months, (yet to be assigned in Virginia), while attending the Foreign Service Institute for French.

I feel a twinge of envy when I see cozy homes preparing for Christmas with pretty decorations as our bare space has been pared-down, like leafless branches in Winter. But then I remember, in the trunk of our car, I’ve saved our beat-up old Charlie Brown Christmas tree to enjoy until we leave.

Loved for a decade, this little tree has survived three international moves. With its warped shape and glued parts, it looks worn down like the Velveteen Rabbit. I bring it inside and plug it in, smiling at the glow and instant warmth it gives to the room.

In a few days, we will lock the doors, donate whatever we can’t carry, and anticipate our next adventure. For now, left behind here in Honduras are just our suitcases, a few pieces of Embassy furniture, a handful of Legos, the books we are reading, and this brightly shining tree, its light reminding us there is beauty in simplicity.

Have you ever moved during the holidays?

However you celebrate this time of year in your part of the world, may it be full of joy and health.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and abundant blessings to you and yours.

Sending Holiday Magic and tail wags and a kiss from Biscuit,

Tracy

A soulful explorer living an inspired life

, , ,

Creativity & Culture- Off the Beaten Path

In a discussion with chef Luis Valesquez, a local Honduran friend, about the artisan crafts he displays in his Gastro Gallery, he mentioned a town an hour north of Tegucigalpa that had larger-than-life street art covering its walls. I was intrigued. How could this be? I’d been here three years and never heard of this nearby museum outdoors.

Research revealed that this inspirational project in the historical town of Catarranas, founded in 1667 by Spanish rulers, stemmed from artist Javier Espinal. In 2011, he proposed to transform the city’s walls with art. With government investment from the San Juan de Flores municipality, and In collaboration with artists from Honduras, Mexico, Columbia, and Argentina, more than fifty vibrant murals depicting themes of light, peace, and the roots of Honduras were created. (Artists’ signatures are painted on their talented works).

Wanderlust propelled me to take my son out of school and go exploring. I live with perpetual fernweh: a German word meaning “a longing for unseen places.” Like a racehorse stuck at the gate, every so often, I have the desire to break away from daily life and reconnect with something bigger. A friend who home-schools her son agreed, and off we went on our field trip.

We drove the tree-lined, winding RN-25 route north of Valle de Angeles until we entered the tropical cloud forest in the mountains. Thick mist blurred the the two-lane highway until twenty minutes beyond, when the sun returned, this hidden gem called Catarranas, meaning “singing frogs,” appeared.

Walking to the main square to get our bearings, we paused to admire a few sculptures near the pretty iglesia. We were awe-struck by the innovation before us as we ambled through cobblestone streets to find a stunning trompe l’oeil painting “spilling” down the stairs. Another artist used a home’s door as a book shelf, and a narrow alley was shaded by a canopy of crayon-colored umbrellas. This town was wonderfully alive with magical details, surrealism, and movement in those brush strokes.

On the way home, we made a brief detour where my friend had taken a pottery class in San Juancito, which for a tiny village, was teeming with history. It was the site of the original American Embassy in Honduras, housed the first electrical plant in all of Central America, and was one of the country’s first gold and silver mining towns.

Adjacent to an unassuming cafe was a factory, once a soda bottling plant, that now makes pottery, handmade paper, blown glass, and woven baskets.

At the end of the day, I was buzzing from the immersion of creativity and culture. Coupled with the freedom of walking outdoors, feeling safe with our cameras, and soaking up the friendly smiles of locals, it was one of my favorite days in Honduras.

Le Vaya Bien. Go Well.

Tracy

A Sacred Space

 

“There is an Indian proverb that says everyone is a house with four rooms:  physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.”― Rumer Godden 

At 7:45 am, the car in reverse, something catches my eye in the review mirror as the garage door opens. It’s a bird’s nest in mid-creation; thin twigs and strands of field grass have tumbled down. A brief sadness floats through me, wishing she had chosen a sturdier place for her home, her work now dismantled.   

The fallen nest is like living abroad with its moments of feeling unmoored. I relate to her temporal housing, like a sandcastle eroding with a vanishing wave, or a hermit crab shedding its shell. International moves and occasional cultural mishaps have taught me to create a safe refuge; not just a house, but a home. 

Post errands, I step with a mug of tea into the light-filled room that buoys my spirit. Through the open window, soft light spills onto the tiles and a gentle breeze rustles the palms. The curtains billow like sails, curling around the bookshelf holding crooked stacks of travel journals and stories of empowered women. 

Taking centering breaths, I sense the cosmic connection in this room; a haven for soul crafting and building castles in the sky. “A woman needs a room of her own,” Virginia Woolf said. This is where I begin my morning ritual of meditation and writing. I call it my sanctuary, a space to hear my thoughts and seek inspiration. 

Each time we change houses, I claim a space as mine, surrounding myself with favorite photos, art, and travel mementos that feel like me; a snapshot of the world from my perspective. 

Like the concept of “Wonder Rooms” (from the German word  Wunderkammern) in the Victorian Era, when cabinets of curiosities were popular, I display my most cherished objects: rosewood tea boxes with stationery collected from museums and hotels, the mint and gold silk carpet I hand-carried home years ago from Marrakesh, a special hand-painted porcelain globe.  I light a candle, which stands proudly in its decorative stand from Kusadasi, relishing memories of standing in the Blue Mosque and exploring markets across Europe. 

A nest made of Vetiver root from Swaziland holds shells and feathers, and an Italian glass dish cradles healing stones and talisman. A dented singing bowl rests alongside a bottle of ink from Paris. A lantern with stars and moons illumines the corner of the room.   

I roll out my yoga mat, spritzing a blend of essential oils into the air.  Sanity returns and I feel myself expand in this sacred space where I rekindle dreams and am restored.

“I have sometimes thought that a woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes in going in and out; the drawing-room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting-room, where the members of the family come and go… but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes.” – Edith Wharton from her story, “Fullness of Life:”

Do you have a sacred space or nook? 

What are the precious objects that make you feel grounded? 

Namaste, 

Tracy