Bones, Branches, and a Lemur

Winter in the southern hemisphere gets down to the brass tacks of nature. The cold in Swaziland isn’t too harsh, but dry fields burn bright orange as wild fires blaze, scorching the earth to regenerate the soil.  Leaves are brittle and dry. Roads are dusty. Winds howl through the naked trees.

The heater in our old Landy works pretty well. It was not love at first sight, driving this old beast, but she has become a symbol of road trips and African adventure for our family. We recently journeyed to Ndlovu camp in Hlane Royal National Park. It has no electricity in its thatched huts called rondavels.  When you check in to get your key (that has no door number, just the name “Big Hut,” ) you see bones and skulls displayed of hippos, crocodiles, deer, and lions.

As we settled in, the late afternoon sun waIMG_0682s setting behind brambles, the light resembling stained glass. Encroaching darkness cast elephant-sized shadows all around, diminishing the details of our ambient room. A woman came by to light our kerosene lamps.Nightjars called, and a bright white crescent appeared with a billion sparkling stars. A bare tree, starkly silhouetted against the moon-lit  sky, had branches dotted with so many stars that they looked like snow flakes.

IMG_0759In the absence of electricity was a gorgeous quiet; no usual house hums of fridge or gadgets. It was so silent, in fact, that I heard a faint ringing in my ears.

I piled on the blankets and read a book by flashlight.

Close to midnight, there was rustling in the living room. I walked toward the noise with a lamp and saw a wild cat staring at me with big ears, a long, ringed tail, and spots. This was no kitty cat. I sort of scream-whispered, “Brad, wake up! There is a wild cat in here with spots!”…(One of those sentences in life you think you’ll never say) . “What IS IT?” Will it bite the baby?!“ is all I could squeak out.

After some harried discussion, we decided there was a lemur in our rondavel. (Techinically, this animal is called a genet, as we later learned). As my husband says, he “thought when we closed the door to our hut, we were keeping the wildlife out.”

In the end, our furry visitor was harmless and crept his way back out into the night through a hole in our thatched roof.  And the rondavel was peaceful once again.

Be Illumined this month, and may nothing dim your light,

Tracy

 

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Welcome to Carpe Diem Creative

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Hello!  If you are new to this space, welcome, and thank you for stopping by my new virtual home, Carpe Diem Creative.  If you have followed me from my previous site, I am grateful you came along! I look forward to sharing thoughts, photos, art, travel experiences and life’s abundant beauty with you, and would love to hear your comments, stories, and experiences, too.

We are in Mauritius (locally called “Isle Maurice”) for vacation, soaking up the elements of air, water, earth, and fire in the form of sky, sea, sand, and tiki torches…with a backdrop of gorgeous scenery. In between swimming and building sand castles with our son, I am finding little windows of time to write in my journal, peruse art and decor magazines, look for shells, take beach walks, speak a bit of French, and replenish the well of creativity and inspiration. Balmy Indian Ocean breezes are getting rid of the mental winter cobwebs, and smiling comes easily.

Photos below:

  • Market vendors in Mauritius sell a rainbow of fruit salad-colored baskets, scarves, tunics, vegetables, loose tea, and spices of tamarind, cinnamon, saffron, vanilla, cardamom and ground coconut
  • At a beautiful Hindu temple, worshipers gave offerings to the gods
  • A home by the sea seems very loved with its unique heart-shaped shutters
  • We toured Chamarel’s colored earth; a beautiful pastel wave of  “7 Colored Sands,” produced naturally by a volcano
  • A vibrant (and fiesty-tempered) red bird that frequented our patio

Wherever you are today, embrace an island pace of life.

Carpe Diem,

Tracy

 

 

Glittering Sand and Reclaiming Wholeness

Do not give up your wilder spirit; the creative spirit thrives on freedom and daring. summarized from Marianne Williamson’s book, “ A Woman’s Worth.”

 

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I listen to our two-year old pretend to be on the phone. “Hello? Hello? I’m fine, okay, bye,” and he hangs up with gusto. I admit, I feel like I do this to my body and mind.
“ Hello? Body and Mind?  Are you there? Ok, bye,” without asking, “Are you okay? Do you need anything?”

I find a bruise on my leg from tripping on toys. “Sorry, body, it took a few days to notice…” Oh, and “Sorry, mind, I haven’t been listening to anything you’ve been saying lately about taking care of myself.” (As the cereal box goes into the fridge, and I reach into my purse to discover 2 Matchbox cars, a partially eaten cracker, and unidentifiable objects)…. now, what was I saying?

I ran away from home on Monday (with permission from my family). I was achy, whiny, and burnt out. My honey has a great sense of humor, and it’s always an internal barometer that something in me is frazzled when I’m not laughing and smiling so much because I am just. so darned tired and desperate for time to myself.  Granted, I have a very active toddler, but it wasn’t just that. I felt like a stale cracker with no pizzazz. And I like pizzazz. I want to feel lively, invigorated, creative, energetic, and have joie de vivre, don’t you?

Being alone away from home is different than being alone in my living room, where I’m distracted by what needs cleaning, organizing, planning, picking up, putting away…  Getting outside of my day-to-day environment makes room for serendipity in a place where I can seek solitude, do some soul-searching, and cultivate a happier spirit.  When I feel whole, I’m definitely a better wife, Mama, friend, and person to be around.

Why don’t we take time for ourselves more often? Because it’s hard. Hard to plan, coordinate the meals, transport, childcare, job, projects, school preparation… and so difficult to step away without loads of guilt. However, as a wise friend shared, “if you go to bed at night frustrated that you didn’t have any time for yourself today, it could be because you didn’t factor yourself into the day’s equation. The laundry and dishes can wait. Your sanity cannot.”  It’s hard to hear, but it’s true. And easier said than done, but self-care comes from practice.

Author Joan Anderson says, “ A full life does require cultivation and most women’s lives require some fallow time to restore our spirit, body, and mind.” Amen, sister. And how. How else can we fix ourselves when we feel depleted of energy, worn down, and dulled to our own life by not taking time for ourselves and our passions? To experience all of those great “R” words: radiance, renew, reflect, restore, replenish, repair, reclaim, reignite, and to guide us out of stagnation?

Fortunately, my spouse is an amazing, supportive man who “gets” me. He knows that occasionally, I become like a racehorse who wants out of the gate; to be alone with my thoughts, and discover somewhere new to reinvigorate my creativity, rest, and just be. He’s not threatened by my need to leave for a few days. He knows I will come back a happier woman and Mama.  I smile when he says with warmth, “ Go explore and do your thing. I know you need a break.”  We talked it over at lunch, and I immediately booked a few nights at a lodge and left two days later. I knew if I didn’t just GO, I might not at all.

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So, off I went. Passport in hand, five hours down the road, traversing one border crossing, in search of quietude at the beach. How did it go?

Day One:
Relaxation did not come quickly or easily. It’s hard to suddenly be alone and still, after being on spin cycle. The first day of my time away, I was fidgety. I fiddled around my hotel room, nesting. Straightening lamps and magazines, then stopping myself, realizing I was not here to do any cleaning! I made tea and sat on the balcony for all of ten minutes, feeling anxious and unsettled. I felt a little lost, honestly, without the pitter- patter of tiny feet, clinking of toys, and bustling activity in the room.  I wondered how things were going at home. Would my son eat well? Be sung to, read to, and tucked in? (Yes, but not like Mama would do it. I have to let that go…he needs time with Dad, and to know things can be done differently).

And there was no wireless access, so no hiding behind the computer to distract me from this space that was way too quiet. Ugh. I felt frustrated that I  came here to get away from it all, and then couldn’t stand the silence. Feeling restless, I left my room.  I found a place to have a drink and watch the Tour de France in the company of strangers, realizing it would take longer to get into the slower-paced groove than I thought.

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A twenty-minute stroll on a boardwalk close by helped. The trail was long and winding, with natural doorways formed by brambles.  As I walked through each threshold, I tried to think of something I wanted to leave behind: guilt for being here and stress, for starters. I sauntered along slowly and watched birds, deer, and squirrels, and enjoyed the way light filtered through the trees.

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The sun was setting, and I enjoyed the pink-tinged clouds forming over the estuary, the gentle sway of the reeds and grasses of the wetlands, and listened to the wind and creak of limbs (tree branches, not mine).  I found a pine cone that felt a bit like me, sort of prickly and cracked.

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Returned to my room and called home. Nothing was falling apart. So I soaked in the bath for a long time, lost in thought.  And then, I started, a little  bit, to unwind. I even started humming “my” music, instead of preschool songs.

Day 2:

I woke up early with thoughts spilling out of my head about things that needed to be done for the family and for the house, lists and more lists. I resolved that today I would not worry about everyone else, and try to live in the present.  A gratitude list always helps with this:  the fuzzy scarf I’m wearing, hot coffee, the soft morning light, my honey’s thoughtful note in my suitcase, the sound of our little fella saying cute things on the phone, hearing the sea in the distance.

It’s amazing what happens when you start to hear your own thoughts and get some rest. I realized after breakfast that the book I started a few days ago and brought with me isn’t very good at all. I was just reading it out of habit before bed. I left it at the front desk and took a new one from the freebie bookshelf in the lounge.

Adventure called. With a take-away sandwich from a tea shop, I headed to a nearby national park and drove slower than the speed limit to enjoy the flora, fauna, wide, blue sky, and wildlife. I found a shady spot under a tree to picnic and read on the beach with a majestic view. The tide rhythmically  ebbed and flowed.

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I wrote a couple of postcards. Took a shell-seeking walk. I picked up a section of dry bamboo and twirled it like a baton. I found a pebble, mentally put any stress and negative energy into it, and threw it ceremoniously into the sea. I sat, quietly, letting handfuls of glittering grains of sand sift through my fingers, and felt peace wash over me for the first time in a long while, connected to spirit and earth.

By the end of my sojourn, fueled by communing with nature and abundant solitude, I was ready to return home, more centered and mindful, more whole, feeling more human, and with a softer, lighter spirit.

Here’s to seeking enchantment, however and whenever you can, my friends, wherever you are.

Peace to you,
Tracy