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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Orange You Glad?

IMG_4917Hello!

With the change of seasons in the southern hemisphere, we are transitioning from Winter into Spring.  Some sparse green grass blades are pushing up through the soil, leaves are budding on trees, and color is seeping slowly back into a rather brown and beige-hued world we’ve known during the dry season. The temperatures are warming, and the ritual commences of taking coffee and binoculars outside in the early morning to watch the returning birds.

In Mbabane, August also brings gorgeous plump and heavy oranges in droves. One of my favorite colors, and fruits, is orange. This time of year, oranges are piled high in the backs of trucks and fill market stalls. I’ve been scooping up loads of them to bring home for eating and squeezing into juice. Our little boy knows how to peel them, and he likes taking a deep breath of the fragrant orange peel and says, “nice!”

I love the scent of oranges, too.

And today, I ate a tea cake made with real orange juice that was delicious, and the creativity in the cooking was my muse to start a new art project.

Do you have a creative muse or a morning ritual?

Wishing you days full of color and light.

Cheers,

Tracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Naikan and Being Thankful

Naikan means “inside looking.” Developed by a Buddhist, it is a Japanese meditative practice of self-reflection and cultivating gratitude.

As a “type-A,” active person, it’s sometimes (okay, often) a challenge for me to carve out time to be still and quiet, which is all the more reason this practice sounds really valuable!  My son is on break next week from preschool. For his sanity and mine, I am committed to taking at least a few minutes a day to do this.

It’s so important to stop and break out of the busyness. I don’t do this enough. Life can pass you right by, getting wrapped up in activities and not fully appreciating the abundance that surrounds us.

My Mama and Aunt came to Africa this month, and it was an amazing visit, filled with wonderful experiences. I’ve just taken time to write in my journal, and read back through (and more fully appreciate) these fantastic memories:

  • a coffee barista’s advice in Kruger Park: “The world is God’s home, so we must travel to visit the rooms of his house.”
  • observing the wonderment of these ladies as they discovered African crafts, food, hand-woven baskets, wildlife, and meals made with flaming fires…
  • their market finds: magnets of Swazi women, banana-leaf art, a beaded change-purse, earrings made from beans, a soapstone carving, silver jewelry woven with giraffe tail hair,  hearing the scratching sound of hands carving wooden giraffes
  • pale blue skies blanketing toasty brown land and golden fields
  • relaxing under the lodge’s thatched roof, the sounds of hippos roaring nearby
  • grilled “braii” meals outdoors and sundowner drinks by an old, enormous Banyan tree
  • eating breakfast on safari in the bush
  • standing by the Indian Ocean
  • celebrating Ramsay’s second birthday
  • native Swazi dance and music
  • early morning mist rising from Kruger Park’s Crocodile River, emanating like steam from a hot cup of tea
  • sitting next to my Mama on Safari, surrounded by graceful giraffes
  • a vibrant, magical rainbow that appeared and lingered in the wetlands, illuminating the water like a glowing oil painting
  • watching my son on my mother’s lap, eating popcorn together

Wishing for you today the ability to leave behind the bustle, find center, and reflect on who you are and what makes you grateful.

“If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire.”
-Saint Catherine of Sienna

With gratitude,

Tracy