Tag Archives: smile

Autumn Blanket

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Today I am in utterly in love with autumn. Despite the fact I live in the southern hemisphere and it is notably warmer than an autumn in the UK, I can still feel the change that moving through autumn and into winter brings within me. The shortening days undoubtedly send me into a slower pace of life and I find myself longing to hibernate under a thick blanket with a bottle of red wine and a pile of nostalgic films. The golden crushed leaves on the sidewalks have been swirling up around dogs and walkers alike and the south easterly wind sends my long hair flying free. As the wind whips past I am craving deep rich hot chocolate of an evening and thick oat-filled syrupy biscuits. I long to see root vegetables on my plate in all the colours of autumn from the blackest purple beetroots to the vibrant yellow of squashes and roasted sweet potatoes. As winter sets in I wish to have my dear friends over for poker nights and share my love of food, books and writing with those I know that care for such things. In all I am craving warmth, comfort and companionship.

 

In a nod towards those desires I have taken to making my own granola and I have packed the freezer with the resulting little niblets of heaven. My granola has so far consisted of a happy mix of oats, pumpkin seeds, chopped figs, cranberries, pecan nuts and almonds. All mixed up with a generous dollop of raw cacao paste and virgin coconut oil, many dollops of raw honey, a dash of olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and a generous sneeze of cinnamon. I baked the mix in the oven for 20 minutes on a low heat and I can honestly say it makes a perfect snack to go with a cup of tea. My next plan is to find a way of making it without baking so I don’t lose the goodness of the raw honey. Raw honey is number one on my list of must eat foods these days for health and wellbeing.

 

Autumn here is also a time of new beginnings for me. As the heat of the summer is becoming a distant memory I am able to run through my local wetland without falling into a heap of sweat and dizziness. I still turn heart attack red but at least I don’t actually feel like I may have a heart attack during the cooler autumn days. I am stretching my limbs to the bright blue sky in an attempt to regain my fitness one step at a time. I will become a better runner and I am also going to start practising yoga, which is something I have always wished to do but have so far avoided. It is time to get stretching my body and also my mind – which will be achieved with the inspiring world of TED Talks. I recommend to everyone that they watch at least one TED talk a week to experience their vibrancy and inspiration. The talks cover every topic one could wish for and really are an incredible motivator. First up on my list are these little gems and I can’t wait to watch them:

Success, failure and the drive to keep creating – Elizabeth Gilbert

Why giving away our wealth has been the most satisfying thing we have done – Bill & Melinda Gates

Why I must come out – Geena Rocero

My daughter, Malala – Ziauddin Yousafzai

The sunrises at this time of year are spectacular here and I am incredibly lucky to be able to witness many of them from the boat at work each day. Check out this little number courtesy of Mother Nature. A perfect work of art.

 

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As if that were not enough happiness I have also had the pleasure of my Dad visiting us for the past ten days and it has been blissful. My Dad and I have always shared an especially close bond, like many fathers and daughters, and our latest adventure has been perfect. I had the delight of showing off my gorgeous partner in crime to my Dad and vice versa and I have watched them form their own friendship and bond over long walks in the hills, evening fires and bottles of wine from Stellenbosch. Look at those happy faces!

 

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They say it all to me about the importance of family and friendship. I have also finally been able to share my beloved sharks with Dad and it was such a privilege to share his first cage diving experience with great white sharks. My Dad is an adventurous soul and inspires me to be positive and full of life in the years to come. I will always remember him lying horizontally in the cage, feet up on the edge, the sunshine beating down on him, without a care in the world and surrounded by magnificent sharks. What an awesome example of being free. I really couldn’t ask for more. Have a wonderful Monday and may you all be free and happy this week whatever the season and weather.

 

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Sand In My Smile

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The sand felt heavy under my toes this morning, as I took my morning walk along the beach. Heavy, cool and damp from the rains overnight. The beach is my haven and I find it fascinating for the daily routines of people and nature that can be observed if one looks closely.

There are the elderly ladies that take their early morning swim at the southern end of the beach. I watch as they gingerly dip their wrinkled toes in the water and wade out beyond the small waves, their hair as white as clouds and fragile arms held out for balance. There was an elderly couple today and I could see how the years had moulded them into one. The gentleman didn’t so much as let go of his lady once whilst they stumbled through the larger waves. Such is a love that lasts a lifetime. I admired their courage (these waters are cold), their love and sense of togetherness.

There are the dog walkers with woofs of all shapes and sizes. I find myself veering towards them if I like the look of their dog – heaven only knows if they think I am stalking them or have some weird obsession and can’t walk in a straight line. I adore the companionship of dogs and was lucky enough to meet a sparky and proud Irish Terrier today. He was a corker; all wiry copper blonde hair, wet gum drop nose and ears pricked and ready for action. His name…Fluff. I bumped into the owner of this dog on my return home and he proudly presented me with his wife and the words “I’ve brought my other Irish Terrier along this time”. How we laughed, even his wife.

There is the man with the ball. The ruby red ball and the ever present smile on his face. I see him every day on his own with his cherished ball. He spends hours playing with this shiny bouncing ball; kicking it round, tossing it in the air and he always looks so content. I wonder what brought him to this? He even takes his ball for a swim and can often be seen swimming with the ball by his side. Evidently it is an excellent swimming companion and always handy for a float.

I have made it my mission to say good morning to everyone I pass on the beach and wish them well for the day. I know how much it brightens my day when people do this for me. It was met with a mixed response and today I counted at least 5 people that looked at me as if I were insane and promptly moved on without a word or hint of recognition. Thankfully Irish Terrier Man and his jovial nature more than made up for them. And these are just the people….

Two giant jellyfish had been washed up with the tide; plump as wood pigeons, glistening in the sun like amethyst jewels and nestled on the sand. One of them was being nibbled by snails with shells shaped like ice-cream cones and I watched other snails making their way slowly across the sand to join the feast. These snails were long-distance travellers indeed…I picked up all the snails I could find and put them on their jellyfish and watched them nibbling away contentedly. I wonder if they knew I had helped them.

I bumped into Prince again today, sitting in the sunshine making his bead animals. It makes me sad that he is instantly recognisable for the slippers on his feet and the tattered t-shirt he wears every day. We got to chatting on the bright red bench facing the ocean and he gave me a gift. He had made me a photograph holder from beads and wire, inscribed with my name and the shape of a shark. He told me how he was going to throw the beads and wire away last time we met, as he felt they were worthless, but after I had told him he couldn’t waste such beautiful beads he kept them and made this gift. His thought and kindness made my day and he won’t accept any payment or charity from me. We have agreed a commission for someone very dear to me but even then he haggled the price down. I listened as he talked of his dreams, how he isn’t sure what to do with his life and I just wished I could do more for him. We shared funny stories and jokes and laughed out loud at the stares of others passing by.

But I can’t help wondering, is my listening ear really enough? Is it enough to just smile, listen and offer words of encouragement to everyone in the hope that it will change their world just for a moment? I’d like to think it is and I leave you with this.

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Comfy Slipper

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My first few days of living in South Africa and I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. It has been a long, tough road to get to this point in my life and being here feels so right. I have finally found the lifestyle and work that lets me, quite simply, be ME. I have tried to fit in, tried to bend to others expectations in the past and I have never felt like I quite belong. Something was missing and I often felt restless and ill at ease with my life. Yet being here is like putting an old slipper on my foot; the perfect fit that meets all of my needs and brings me comfort and warmth. I didn’t know such a slipper existed, I only knew something wasn’t right. I assumed we all felt that way; it was normal and I should just get over it and forget my dreams.

The grass wouldn’t be greener anywhere else would it?

It is early days and I recognise there will be tough moments but they are worth it. I have this deep sense of knowing I am on the right path for me; where I would like my future to take me and who I wish to have by my side. It is already opening my eyes to a different way of living my life. I love my work – am I really being paid to do this?? I have less income than I have had in many years but so much happiness in my heart.

I met a man called Prince at the beachside yesterday, whilst I walked and pondered this newfound peace. He is from Zimbabwe and he makes wire and beads animals to sell on the high street here. He has very little income or possessions and the animals he makes are his livelihood. We sat and talked about life and happiness and how broken our world is due to the cruelty of those in charge and the importance placed on wealth. He can’t go back to Zimbabwe due to the troubles there and he misses his home. It makes Prince deeply sad that the people of Zimbabwe are intelligent, motivated people yet there is no opportunity for them to grow, to earn a living and find a safe place to be. He moves from place to place and all he asks is to be left alone; to have peace. He told me of the bad times he has experienced at the hands of other men yet he still smiled as we shared happy stories. He was content that, on the day we met, the sun was shining and the sea was his company whilst he worked.

It struck me that we come from such different backgrounds and experiences yet we are all the same. We have the same fears and wishes for one another, we all have a heart that can be hurt or healed and we can do something to make a positive change. As Prince finished his work and packed up to go, he gave me a beautiful bead rhinoceros. I tried to argue that he couldn’t give me his work for free but he refused. He has so little, yet in his words ‘the joy is in the creation, in seeing others smile’.

 

 

Always You

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It is Mum’s birthday today, something which won’t mean a lot to you but it means the world to my family and I. Our mum is the glue that draws us all together, especially at this time of year, as we remember her unique gifts, her tranquillity and love of life.

An old colleague of mine once told me that when you lose a parent you are changed forever and that, if you are not careful, you family fractures apart. He was right and I can’t deny that losing a parent is utterly heartbreaking. It is a path we must all walk and it is something we all dread, a painful scar that each of us has to carry on our hearts. A scar that can break open and leave you raw and bereft when you least expect it. It brings you to your knees. But what the expectation of such a loss and the grief fail to capture is that which lies beyond losing your loved one. That for every tear cried, for every moment where you fall to your knees knowing you won’t see your dear friend and confidante again in this life, there is a reason to keep on living. There is a strength that comes from walking through your grief with your friends and family by your side to dry your tears. There is a compassion towards others that grows within your heart from knowing how it feels to lose a part of you. There is an understanding of how short and precious life is. What I am trying to say is that there is always a reason to lift your face to the sunshine and be thankful that you have life. You have a chance to wake up tomorrow, to tell someone that you love them and become the very best of who you are. To live on, inspire and lift someone else that needs their tears wiping away. I have been reminded of that today by the love my family and friends have shared as we pulled together once more and celebrated Mum’s life.

In the time since we lost the light of our family, we all changed a lot. My beautiful sister and her family made their dreams of a country home and rural lifestyle come true through their hard work and determination. My wonderful big brother and his family had the courage to move overseas and start a new life on the other side of the world, the sun shining down on them. And my ever strong Dad is rebuilding his life as we speak and in so many ways that I can’t put it all down on paper. I am so proud of them all. And me, well I had a bit of a rocky time with losing my fiancé and career, letting go of my dogs. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I am building my future, following a lifelong dream of moving overseas to work with sharks.

My colleague was right in that losing a parent did fracture our family but not in a negative way. Instead of lying down and giving up on life we all stepped back, took time to grieve and then put our best feet forwards again to life. We pulled together, held one another up and despite the geographical distance remained very much a family. It isn’t easy and there are days when I crumple and miss the open arms that comforted me when life seemed hard. The wonderful, magical laugh of Mum’s that made me smile from ear to ear. She had a wicked sense of humour and a sparkle in her eyes that lit up our world.

But you know what? It has been worth getting up each day when the world seemed full of darkness, just so I could remember those moments. So I could grow a little more. It has been worth it for the opportunity to practice becoming a better person by trying to be more like Mum. She was a truly beautiful soul and, with that in mind, I will leave you with my favourite memory. To me this says it all about how each of us could be a little more thankful for what we have and see the beauty in the simple things that make our lives so precious.

I remember one New Year’s Eve before Mum was ill, when the family were all together to celebrate the start of the coming year. We had spent an evening eating good food, laughing and sharing stories, playing games. It was noisy, fun and colourful and then this one question left us all silent. The room went quiet as we pondered the most appropriate answer. What would we choose to be? We took it in turns to answer as we drank our wine and came up with choices such as ‘I’d come back as an eagle’ or ‘an oak so I could live a long time’. Basically each of us went for the grand, the long living, powerful choices. My Mum, she simply said she’d come back as a chaffinch. A regular garden chaffinch, because they were pretty and had a nice life living in her garden, eating bird food from the table and being in the sunshine.

May each of you take a moment today to appreciate the view from your bird table and smile.