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Retreats and Reflections

Retreats & Reflections

It’s been a busy few weeks, with little time for reflection. Dr. Susan E. Schwartz, co-author of our book ‘Aging & Becoming ~ A Reflective Enquiry’ and her husband were here in South Africa for two weeks from the end of July. Susan presented a paper in Cape Town before flying up to Johannesburg which was our base for the next several days.

We took off for the Pilanesberg up in the northwest where we spent 3 nights and 4 days. Our accommodation was extremely comfortable, a mere few minutes away from the entrance to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Our drives were wonderful. There was game viewing a-plenty. I managed to video this rhino – 20 secs.

I love the reflection of the rhino in the crystal clear water –

We returned home on Friday afternoon and Susan & I gave a talk on our book the next afternoon at Bookdealers, a bookshop in Greenside, one of our suburbs. It was well attended & well received, many friends and others, books sold. Chris Reinders read an excerpt (the man in the hat), I’m next to him and Susan Schwartz next to me … my friend Linda took this photo and sent to me …

We left the next morning for Clarens, a lovely artsy town some few hundred kilometres away and close to the Golden Gate National Park. The view from the balcony where we were staying was magnificent overlooking the mountains – the first evening I photographed the full moon rising and later that night noticed a partial eclipse of it!

We spent precious time driving through the Golden Gate National Park – everything seemed golden – the light, the time, the mountains, animals at ease and ourselves at ease. Clarens is a very pretty town with all sorts of shops and cafe’s, lovely places for coffee and croissants – and shopping! Our two retreats into the wilderness were very valuable on many levels –

We were back home on Tuesday last week; my husband left early on Wednesday morning for several days to attend something that had long been in the works, returning only on Sunday evening. Susan, her husband & I – and another Susan, a dear friend – we were 3 Susan’s in my car – motored through to Pretoria on Wednesday for a lunch party held in honour of a visiting Swiss Analyst, an 85 year old man of such grace and wisdom, so present. It was such a special day, rich in conversations and people.

Thursday was busy, meeting with a few friends here and there who were keen to see Susan & Frederic. Thursday night dinner was with Vonn who first met them 18 years ago at the airport when we set off to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro …

Last Friday afternoon, Susan and I were interviewed off-air in the studios of Classic FM by the gracious Tamara LePine-Williams who hosts the morning radio show. She will let me know when it will be aired, and says that we will get a podcast of it. I’ll make a link to it, in a future blog post (if possible).

Susan gave a seminar to psychologists on ‘The Shadow’ on Saturday morning and they flew back to America on Saturday night –

In between all of this, there were lengthy phone calls and what’s app messages about my brother Christopher who lives in Natal and is in hospital following a partial shoulder replacement. The calls and what’s app messages were between my brother’s son who lives in Cape Town but who was with his father for several days, myself and my sister who is also in the Cape. He, and the situation he is in, is dire, beyond words … it is altogether troubling and anxious making for the 3 of us, the two sisters and his son. There is no-one else. And we all live elsewhere. He is currently in the ‘stepdown’ rehabilitation section of the hospital – his ongoing depression is much heightened –

And in among all this, the sun is shining, it is very cold, there is a slight wind. The weather turned overnight, from 24 degrees yesterday to 10 degrees today – we were warned. Parts of the country are blanketed in snow. The last few weeks have been sunny and warm, almost summer like after a spell of winter weather. Now, again, winter is here in full force or so it seems. -1 degrees tonight.

The photos below were taken today. In the first you can see a newly-popped poppy. I’ve been waiting for ages to see what was coming out of this planted tray – and will photograph them no doubt when the tray is is full bloom. On the orchid was a bee, always good to see –

The second is of pots on my patio – it’s a partly cloudy day and ideally I should have waited for full sunlight. There are many orchids still to bud – 

I sometimes feel suspended, between what and what I do not know. We’re all of us going through some sort of transition period, the events of the world are testament to that. Is the macrocosm a reflection of the microcosm I wonder. Each is a reality, and not independent of each other and each exerts its influence on the other …

More than ever, I feel the tension of those apparent opposites, within myself and without. More than ever, I feel the need to steer my ship in these rough seas, and hope to keep my balance as much as possible, to not retreat from anything, much as I would like to. I remind myself and remember the connection we have to each other and to our earth, and view that with as much loving kindness that I can.

I wish the same for you too …

Thank you for reading. May The Force be with you …

 

Remembering Mr. Nelson Mandela

This photograph always affects me in one way or the other. Today would have been his 99th birthday. This date is now known as Mandela International Day and we’re prompted to give up 67 mins of our time in doing something useful for the community as a way of remembering that he spent 67 years fighting for freedom and 27 of those years in gaol, on Robben Island, off Cape Town. The link below is an interesting read. Thousands will be walking in Cape Town in solidarity led by ‘elders’ including Graça Machel his widow as representatives of Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. The international dignitaries are note-worthy – the link will say –

Memories – they’re hard sometimes to recall – it seems so long ago that South Africa and its peoples were filled with hope. We knew that there was a long road ahead. The wounds of apartheid had to be addressed fore-mostly. Severe wounds, not just skin deep but wounds at the very core of the majority of South Africans.

Would our Madiba be proud of where South Africa is today? Not likely. None of us is proud. We make one step forward, and 3 back, slipping and sliding. Racism keeps on rearing its ugly head, fomented by the spreading of false news by Bell Pottinger, the PR firm in the UK, initiated, it is believed, by the family (resident here but come from elsewhere) who have S.A.’s president and his henchmen in their back pocket. It’s called the Gupta Capture – and our government is mired in the corruption of the capture.

This is not to say that all is gloom and doom. We are proud of innumerable constructive steps taken. On the upside, the Bell Pottinger debacle is being exposed for what it is and the Gupta family and the president will not be able to hide. Government ministers are calling for the president’s resignation as are people on the street. There is very much a determination amongst all our people to keep on walking this long road to freedom and to be free of the shackles, mostly political, that try to keep us back.

Here’s another capture –  of the good kind. It’s an iconic photograph of that day in 1995 when Francois Pienaar the captain of the Springboks, led our team to victory against the New Zealanders at the Ellis Park Stadium. South Africa was host to this worldwide event. Mr. Mandela’s visit to Ellis Park was a surprise, known only to few. The predominantly white crowd erupted as he walked onto the field wearing the Springbok cap and jersey to wish the team good luck and erupted even more when he presented the trophy to Pienaar … Nelson! Nelson! Nelson! they screamed and shouted – The gardeners in the complex where I live take great care in the maintenance of them. They were pruning the roses last week in preparation for winter which is already underway. Nelson, one of the gardeners, brought me these roses … so, to another Nelson … thank you.

Thank you for reading. Happy Mandela International Day! May he continue to inspire ..

http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/1000s-to-walk-in-cape-town-on-mandela-day-20170718

Sunrise Sunset

Sunrise

We returned home from being away in Plettenberg Bay this last Sunday. I took this photo on 12th June from the balcony of the bedroom in Plett. It was taken at 8.06 a.m. the morning of my birthday. We’d arrived the previous day. It was a lovely sight to begin the day in spite of the lingering haze from the smoke of the fires in Knysna, Plett and surrounding areas in the recent week.  

I wanted to put up a post on the Winter Solstice, acknowledging this particular time – for us in the southern hemisphere it means a time of going inward, germinating, lying low, the soil resting, cold, frost – for you in the northern hemisphere, a time of warmth and bursts of colour as Nature reveals herself in all her glory. 

But I didn’t put up a post. The 20th June was the anniversary of my severe car accident 4 years ago; yesterday was the anniversary of our moving into our townhouse 4 years ago, the day I was released from hospital. 

Two days ago on the 20th June I was in my car, very aware of the anniversary. A taxi nearly took me out at the traffic lights as I was about to make a right turn. It went through the red lights – a bright blue van. Later on, when I was returning home, there was a terrible car accident at a different set of traffic lights near where I live. Two vehicles were involved. One car was upturned. The officials were doing a good job of directing traffic.  Ambulances and a fire engine were on the scene. Later on that day, I was alerted to an earlier shooting of someone dead in a Bentley in the road much further down – also close to where I live. A ‘hit’ is currently assumed –

The name of the main road which is close to me is South Rd. A car accident at the top of South Rd, and a shooting at the bottom end of it. Top and bottom … it gave me cause for pause …

Not that this is the only matter that gives me cause for pause. I feel a pausing on many levels. I wonder if I’m a pessimist, or an optimist; or a mixture of the two. A pessimistic optimist – or an optimistic pessimist. Or just simply caught in the opposites. Never a comfortable place to be.

Maybe this is the time to pause – as I did today, going through my photographs of the week spent in Plett. Both sons were with us, our elder son Mike in his lovely new home, and younger son David with Jüte his wife visiting from Cape Town. Hence my decision in putting up the sunrise photo and writing a blog while feeling ‘happy’ looking at the pics remembering that special time.

I messaged both of them on Tuesday to thank them for their assistance 4 years ago when they were both in Johannesburg to help with the packing and the move and when I had the car accident.

David responded: “Was a very hectic day – still don’t like thinking about it. But it’s also good to be reminded of it & to ponder the fragility of life. That incident taught me to savour each moment I get to spend with family, and not to take you, dad, Mike or Jüte for granted”. Mike said much the same thing in response. I was also reminded of my dear friend Lyndy, now just 3 months gone, of saying so often to me as she lay dying, don’t postpone doing what you want to do, just do it …

The sunset photo is from a long while ago, in the bush. Though it makes me think of Lyndy and therefore feel sad, I see the beauty in it.

Sunrise-sunset, pessimistic-optimistic, energised-enervated, happy-sad, top-bottom, above-below, life-death, north-south, east-west, new moon-full moon and all the phases and pauses in between. May the new moon in the next night or so bring you renewal and joy.

Thank you for reading.

 

Circle of Light

 We’re flying down this Sunday to Plettenberg Bay where we’ll be for a week. I’m having a few girlfriends this Saturday morning for breakfast. Although plans for the ‘menu’ are in place, I decided this morning to stew some fruit, something I’ve never done before. It tastes quite nice, both bitter and sweet. I thought I’d warm it slightly on Saturday when every one is here; they can add it to the full cream greek yoghurt I’ll put out. That will be the starter.

I peeled naartjies (clementines), removing as much of the pith that I could, cutting in half, ensuring no pips and adding to the hard pears that were already softening in the pot. I also added a little muscavado, a little balsamic, shake of cinnamon and ginger and some dried out prunes.

I thought how the times we are in, are times in which we are all metaphorically stewing.

There’ve been dreadful storms in Cape Town since Tuesday night, lives lost, a huge amount of damage, thousands displaced. Poor communities frightfully affected. The western Cape has been in severe drought for the last long while … water rationing is in full force. The storms and very high winds are expected to quieten down today. Cape Town has been battered and ravaged.

Then, as of yesterday, huge fires cut through Knysna. Knysna is 30 km away from Plettenberg Bay, approx 550 kms from Cape Town. Very high gale force winds caused immediate spreading to surrounding areas. Evacuations again of thousands were effected, brought to safe places like schools, yacht clubs and churches. Infernos cut their flaming swathes through the land. Elephants and horses needed to be evacuated. That fire raced to Plettenberg Bay’s surrounds where my son lives. It’s been a nightmare for all – many homes, farms, wild life and vegetation lost. Mike has been racing around just about all the time helping where he could. Arson in some cases is suspected. Earlier this morning he was washing his car because of all the dust, muck and grime and it started to rain – slightly –

Extreme and troubling times indeed. Labour vs Tory vote in the UK today. James Comey testifies before Congress in the US today. The political situation in South Africa is totally haywire and unbelievably corrupt. The DA (Democratic Alliance, main opposition party) Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, has been suspended as of yesterday for a tweet she made in March and hung out to dry after the knives have been plunged into her. 

So much else world wide – hence my circle of light photo. Fire storms, rain storms, political storms, snow and ice; internal and external conflicts everywhere. I was going to blog from Plettenberg Bay next week but today I feel a sense of urgency. The photo helps me stand still in the centre of the storm and I hope it helps in some way for you too ..

May we bathe in the healing energies of the full moon tomorrow night – even as we know that the full moon can result in extreme weather and affect us in other ways –

 http://www.grahameb.com/pinkola_estes.htm – this is a link to Clarissa Pinkola Estes – her words on “We were made for these times”. With thanks to Deborah Gregory.

Pesach and Easter

Pesach & Easter

a time for reflection – to deepen faith –

a time for redemption – to deepen faith –

a time for renewal – to deepen faith –

Pesach – Passover – commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt led by Moses out of 400 years of slavery into Israel, the land that God had promised on oath to Abraham. The Promised Land was finally reached, His promise fulfilled. 

A time to commemorate, in amongst many other issues, the freedom from bondage. I sent Susan Schwartz my friend and co-author in the US, Chag Sameach good wishes via email last night. She responded by saying inter alia this was a time to commemorate ‘freedom from bondage’. I’ve been thinking about that word ‘bondage’ – and all it can and does mean on both individual and collective levels. The meaning of the breaking of the matzoh bread – 

Easter – a remembrance of the carpenter from Nazareth and his wise teachings, told most times in parable form. A reflection on His resurrection 3 days after his burial. Did you know that when Christ was crucified there was then an earthquake? It’s a recorded fact. A remembrance of His love for the sinner who truly repents and the saint, reminding us that we too can put aside our hates and enmity even in these troubled times in which we live – and experience a renewal of our faith in love –

Faith – blessed are those of strong faith and those who feel their faith wavering. We here in South Africa have mostly totally lost faith in the president. We are going through a very difficult time and we forsee it for a long while yet. Last Friday, thousands upon thousands of us across the country took to the streets. Across races, religions, ages – peacefully, vibrantly, noisily, in unity. The one I attended was wonderful and it was so great to be part of this. There were no political affiliations represented – it was mostly a call for the president to resign and for our country to regain unity. I carried a home made banner (helped by my husband) showing the flag with ‘unity’ written across it and on the back I pasted red hearts. 

There is another major one tomorrow when people will march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, for the president to resign.

Many of us here in South Africa, if not the majority, are feeling the strain of our faith being tested. I have a real and painful awareness of what is happening in other parts of the world, and I despair – and Doubt, a strange bedfellow to Faith. Please G.d may it be strengthening –

I did not want to let Pesach and Easter go by without acknowledging it. All good wishes to you all. Thank you for reading.

Departures, Death, Birthdays and Anniversaries …

Departures, Death, Birthdays & Anniversaries

I took my husband, elder son Mike and his girlfriend Amanda to the airport this morning. My husband is off to Plettenberg Bay on his own, my son & girlfriend Amanda are off to Japan and The Philippines. My younger son Dave is also away, in Vietnam, with his lovely wife, Jüte. It’s their wedding anniversary today … one year since they were married on 19th March. And it’s Jüte’s birthday too. Dave tells of how he said to her that he would marry her only when she turned 25 – and that was the actual day they got married… today she’s 26 …

I got home from the airport, buying the Sunday Times en route, planning to do some things after I had chilled at home for a bit. I wanted to check on Harry our cat, who is an old chap already but he is I think, due to exit this world. He’s not eating, drinking a little water every now and then. I dreamed of him some nights ago, clambering up to a great height, then falling. I was in the bath, open to the elements and watched him falling. He landed on the side of the bath, his paws got a bit wet and then he slunk away. I was watching him in the garden this afternoon, sitting still, shifting position to face another way, then again and then again – I thought of the Buddha facing east, west, north and south as he bore witness to the earth and as he received enlightenment. I hope that Harry delays dying until my husband is back. He seems at peace. Right now, he’s sitting in my study on the mat with the glass door open.

I planned also this morning to phone my ill friend’s son Richard and ask if I could come round and sit with her for a bit. My cell phone beeped as I got out the car on my return home – it was a message from a mutual friend to say that Lyndy died peacefully this morning. Richard was at her side …

I messaged that person back immediately to ask if I could come round – come, he messaged back. There are other people here …

I left home soon after to go to Lynda’s home. I spoke to Richard who said that he was with her when she died, which was around 9.00 this morning. She was at peace he said – she died peacefully – I asked if I could go to her room and say goodbye – but no, he said.

There were many people. I had a few meaningful interchanges with family. Her elderly uncle, so dear – a cousin who I saw fairly often when I visited; another cousin who flew in last evening from abroad and saw her last evening.

So, the cycles of life, all in one day, the 19th of March – a prime number. Life, death, so closely intertwined. Life to be celebrated, anniversaries and birthdays too – and a death to be mourned – a departure –

And while I stick to my own advice of always keeping death alive on one’s left shoulder, my experience of her death leaves a hole in my heart ..

Rest in Peace dear Lyndy –  my friend from schooldays – sadly, fondly, lovingly remembered – 

Conversations 2 on Aging & Becoming

Conversations 2 on Aging & Becoming

This is a follow on from Susan Schwartz and my responses on redd.it/5u8b13 on ‘ask me anything’ on 22nd Feb. The questions and our responses are again abbreviated. Last week’s post says a bit about our book “Aging & Becoming ~ A Reflective Enquiry”. In that post I put up a selection of come of the questions. What follows are some further questions and responses –

Q: ... the evolution of mind now appears no longer as a process of the adaptation of species to their environment but as the adaptation of minds to increasingly complex forms that exist in the cosmic potentiality. The cosmic connection means that the human mind is a mystical mind?

A: Jung addressed the mystical traditions in its many forms throughout history. We could say that this resides in the collective conscious and unconscious. The connections remain between mind, body and spirit. It is different eras and people that put different spins on them. This is like contemplating aging – it will look differently depending on where you stand personally and culturally. We address expansion out of narrow ideas into broader perspectives on the aging process. Perhaps this is also a way of addressing the evolutionary process. Jung addressed this with the process of individuation or becoming all we are meant to be. That is surely a lifelong task.

Q: How do I stop myself from feeling the existential angst of being 29? Do I feel anxious because of a primal desire to have children or am I scared that my 20’s have been squandered? Or both?

A: I think it may be both. What you feel is also part of being an aware person who values the inner world and is not taking life lightly. The primal desires also relate to one’s own creative self and how that will be manifest. It comes not only through children but through the effort into discovering through life what it is to be you and what you have to offer to the world.

Q: Hello Susan & Susan, this may seem like a strange question, but what do you do with the fear that time and energy will run out before you complete the inner work you want to do? … I’ve been on a helluva inner journey and I’d emerge from the cocoon as a new person, but everything inside me just collapsed. Something in me has been broken ever since. … I don’t know how I can ever have the time and create the space for the delicate inner work I feel like I need to do …. Let’s face it, that inner work is sometimes brutally challenging …

A: The thing inside that collapsed is calling. It wants you to look inward deeply and find the broken, and put the pieces together. You may think about analysis as a way inward with the serious depth and dedication that your message implies that you have. Aging & Becoming is about that, but the personal work is at hand for you – a blessing and a burden both …

Q: Susan, what if I know little (nothing) about Jung? Will I still understand this book?

A: ...Our book is about life – and death – and everything in between – all that is applicable to us, now and then and in the future –

A: The book is about knowing oneself and reflecting on life … easy to understand concepts .. we are speaking about openings to oneself.

Q: My question is on the cultural side … are your results global? Did you consider the cultural differences between ethnic groups? For example, Japanese do not have problems with aging .. a healthy respect and honor  (is) awarded to them because of their age. … also in African-American in the Deep South. They see aging as an honor and they grow old gracefully. So was your sample mixed? Or did you limit it to a certain group of people?

A:we write about how the elderly are often marginalised in western societies and the sadness of that compared to the attitude of reverence towards the aged of other communities and societies…. We write mostly from our own perspective and experience of aging.

A: Each culture learns from the other. We had to limit ourselves to what we knew and felt. It is an Enquiry providing thoughts, feelings but not all the answers by any means…

Q: I am shocked by what I have allowed to occur in my life. Always positive, illnesses, a couple serious, have taken me from feeling young to resigning to old age. I know it’s my mindset and I simply want my active life back. At 75, I’m giving into old age  and my health has been keeping me in this dismal thought pattern. … Even my spiritual attitudes have failed me. I’m not that old yet! Do you have any suggestions?

A: I see many people for inner work who are 75 and older. The witnessing with another, the life review and the reclaiming of energy and spirit happens in this interior focus. Age makes one able for it. Movement in whatever form physically, good self care and care of the self are also important. Mind, body & soul all go together in figuring it out

A: … Life is pretty harrowing much of the time and even harder when there are health issues. Life is a mixture of depth and darkness, height and light – and it is always a learning curve.

To end, a quote by Marie Curie:

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this must be attained.

Thank you for reading!

Conversations

Conversations 

Mary Oliver: Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.

Dr. Susan Schwartz (in Paradise Valley, Az.) and I (in Johannesburg, South Africa) went live last week on Wednesday 22nd Feb on reddit. It was a week long AMA – ask me anything – and then on Wednesday we responded to the questions as they came up. I’m going to put up a few questions and our responses to them for your interest. 

The excerpt below in blue was an introduction to our book “Aging & Becoming ~A Reflective Enquiry” – and it’s a little abbreviated as are the questions and answers, from necessity.

This is not a ‘how to’ book. Nor is a book about what, why, when and where. We’ve used personal stories and shared a few friends’ views. We’ve brought in myths and tales from the distant past. They live on as good myths do, speaking to our contemporary lives by illustrating the timeless trials and tribulations resonant to every generation. 

We’ve brought light and dark, pain and pleasure, heights and depths, shadows and the ever present paradoxes into this book. We’ve given aging honor and respect. It is our politic. We covered a wide array of topics; life, death and all else in between.

From A – Z we reflect on aging – and becoming. This is what we do every day of our lives – age and become. The writing has brought into sharper focus and our reflections have afforded a deeper way of looking at this crucial stage. Aging underscores the inevitability of death and the realization that the limit of time narrows.

Aging is part of living and the more conscious we are of it, the more we can actualize our potential.

A few of the questions and responses: –

Q: Have you paid much thought about archetypal rites of passage, and how the individual may encounter these, and how archetypal studies can influence the maturation process by virtue of being aware of the process with a deeper understanding?

A: Yes, we speak about rites of passage as in gaining awareness of oneself along the way. We give suggestions. Becoming oneself is maturity and as Jung says, it takes a lifetime. So, keep on being aware of self and others on your own particular journey.

Q: How does aging cause us to re-align our switch to authenticity? Does reflection on aging ground our perception of aging? 

A: Authenticity does not come with age. It comes from internal and external awareness and consciousness. It comes from working with dreams, relationships, developing one’s passions and becoming a conscientious person. It comes with daily attention and care to one’s soul and others.

Q: Jung said that we spend the first half of our lives expanding & establishing ourselves in the world and the 2nd half contracting to focus on what’s most important. What happens if that pattern is interrupted … considerations and circumstances i.e. … aspects of mental illness or trauma … breakdowns, blocks/complexes?

A: There is no real order but all are part of the whole. … The challenge is to stay awake and value where one is in life. Jung valued the stages … all the way through. Self-knowledge is gained in many ways-dreams, synchronicity, relations, inner and outer feelings. These show us how we are living and are manifestations of the archetype.

Q: What has in your eyes been the best part of growing older?

A: … a little more comfortable in my skin … time is limited in that there is no longer a forever as in the fairy tales – and more of a realisation of the importance of giving expression to my inner self.

A: Growing older happens daily. It is not in a moment but through a life time. Valuing of even the small things gives meaning to the more awesomeness of our individual lives. It is also honoring the range of feelings in being.

Q: …. How do you keep the spirit alive?

A: …. sometimes my spirits are very low – and many are those who are not so well disposed as those of whom you wrote – from them we learn too. Our spirit may be very disheartened at times or many times, and it feels as if there is no spirit or soul at all – even this place is a place of broadening our spirit…

A: I think the spirit comes through being creative, having joy in self, finding the surprise in each day. It comes from being inwardly aware and accessing oneself in many compassionate and depthful ways.

Q: I’m drawn to the question of grief since I write about this topic and work in bereavement. Grief has been a huge teacher to me. ….  Your line “Grief tends to press on the soul” drew me. Grieving for others took me on an initiatory journey that opened heart and soul and led me to a new life. …. How do you suggest dealing with grieving for our own vital selves?

A: Not easy to grieve at all and for oneself is part of life, I would think. The decline may also open the inner world as the outer communication is changing. No doubt there are some tangible things but there are also your dreams, anything creative that helps expression and being with those who care and know how to express love in the many ways love shows up.The issue is love of self as well.

A: … What we may have taken for granted … eg reasonable health, when it is taken away from us through no fault of our own, as in deafness, is a bitter pill.  … When it comes to our own selves, I guess this kind of grief takes on a different flavour, goes to another level – I’m reminded of a quote by George Eliot: She was no longer wrestling with grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.

Q: What can we do when we’re young, to grow old gracefully?

A: Grace is living with consciousness as much as possible each day. Mind, body and soul are involved and bring fullness to life. …

A: …..There’s always grace in the world if we see it, in our own actions, thoughts and expressions. … Moments of grace are always around if we are open to it and take it in. At any stage of our lives – the planting of seeds leads to future growth.

Well, I’m well over 1000 words already so I’ll end now. There’re so many more … maybe I’ll do another post soon with more of these interesting and depthful questions..

The reddit link if you want to check it out is https://redd.it/5u8b13. On reddit itself there are so many very interesting looking sites –

And, thanks to Ally Bean for suggesting last week that I make a post about questions …

This is a photo of yours truly taken this morning by a visiting guest Charles. I am holding a copy of the book which is not even mine. It’s on loan from a friend of mine who ordered it! I’m awaiting my very own one … (and no, I’m not mad about the photo of me, though the book is lovely!)

Thank you for reading. The seasons are changing, so is everything. Keep centred.

Conversations on Aging & Becoming

Conversations – Aging & Becoming

Firstly, I’m really sorry that I had to abandon my previous post “What is Your Soul Asking of You” – I took it down a few hours after it went up. It is still too private for me to give you an explanation. I wish I could, but I can’t. I’m really sorry if you hit a dead link.

Susan Schwartz and I are answering written questions on ‘Aging & Becoming’ via this link – https:redd.it/5u8b13. If you would like, during the course of today and this evening to pose a written question to this link, Susan & I will answer it. We go ‘live’ at 9.00 p.m. South Africa time, and 2 pm ET which means that we will answer written questions in a written form as and when and if they come up. But the link is open now if you would like to pose a question to us. We have a few hours yet in which to answer. I would so appreciate this. It is not a promotion of the book, merely to ask a question if you would like to.

I was scrolling though the photographs I have on my cell phone to find one I liked. This above one was of the sunrise in Plettenberg Bay in July last year.

A quote I came across today – very apt re the president we have here. As I write our Finance Minister is giving his annual Budget Speech in the Houses of Parliament. He’s steered our ship through very rocky waters in the past. I am hoping that he won’t be sidelined as the president is about to do a cabinet re-shuffle. He may be sidelined and we are concerned about the potential replacement …

“Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Thank you for reading.

Birthing and Black Swans

Birthing and Black Swans –

I had to leave art circle earlier than planned this last Saturday morning – I’d left my cell phone at home and was anxious about missing any call from my very ill friend. The very latest news of which is not good –

It was lovely to see the others – it’s a once a month meet, the last one of which in December I missed. Lovely to see works in progress, discuss, engage …

Anita du Toit recently spent some time in Namibia. She was sitting next to me. I spied her photos in an envelope on the table. Knowing that I had to leave sooner rather than later I asked her if I could see them privately.  Her photos were magical, of a magical land – trees, branches, barks, close ups of stones, insect trails – more –

Anita’s words (she emailed me the photo and brief):  ‘A close-up picture is of the bark of a lovely quiver tree just before sunset, when the light is at its most photogenic. Taken at the Quiver Tree Forest close to Keetmanshoop, Namibia’.

I said quietly to Anita (while we were also paying attention to the others) how very beautiful. I said it reminds me of a vagina. I had to leave soon after, so was not there when Anita was going to show her photos to the others …

Driving home, I was thinking about this photo and my response to it and thinking about the birthing pains of ‘Aging & Becoming ~ A Reflective Enquiry‘ by Susan Schwartz and myself. And my own thoughts about the very recent release of it – and so on –

And I wondered what is being birthed in the world and all its severe concomitant labour pains with real anxiety its constant companion –

On Sunday morning my husband & I went on a guided bird walk, meeting at the Country Club at 6.00 a.m. It was lovely to be in nature and walking, taking some photographs – 

Janet Leifeldt who was in our group sent me this photograph at my request that she took of the black swan with a telephoto lens. 

 I’ve occasionally come across the term ‘black swan‘, usually referring to economic markets. I was especially interested in this given what is happening everywhere. All appears to be going along at a favourable and predictable pace when all of a sudden an entirely unpredictable and improbable event occurs that upsets the apple cart – hugely – and has enormous effects in many ways, geopolitically particularly. I couldn’t help but reflect on seeing the black swan – and wondering if we, world wide, are undergoing a ‘black swan‘ moment/s- and whether it will or could lead to a birthing of something else entirely –

The black swan in my cell phone photo is barely discernible – it’s right in the middle. But apt enough; some things are almost impossible to see.

I looked up ‘black swan’ to get more of an understanding of it. There are many links. Insufficient time to do a thorough search. *The importance of the metaphor lies in its analogy to the fragility of any system of thought. A set of conclusions is potentially undone once any of its fundamental postulates is disproved. In this case, the observation of a single black swan would be the undoing of the logic of any system of thought, as well as any reasoning that followed from that underlying logic. (italics mine)

*I excerpted this from Wikipedia. In this particular article mention is also made of the necessity of being robust enough to withstand the fall out.

I took this photo of the reflection of golden clouds on Sunday evening as the sun was setting. I thought of the necessity of honouring the dark, knowing that the dawn will arise, even though the dark is a-quiver with the unknown –

  •  Click HERE to see the book on Amazon. and to see the back cover which gives some more information.

    Thank you for reading. And thank you to Anita and Janet for the use of their photographs. 

    The lotus arises from the mud, it’s habitat until it begins to rise and bloom in all its beauty and grandeur. More than ever we need to be steadfast and firm in the winds that are blowing.

In the Line of Fire

In the Line of Fire

We stopped over for two nights at the Mountain Zebra National Park in the Karoo to break our return home from our summer holiday in Plettenberg Bay. 

It’s a place of great green beauty, mountains and plains – breathtakingly peaceful.

One morning, after we’d been on a game drive, we set off to hike/walk on one of the shorter trails. I was in front of my husband who after 10 minutes or so, called me to say ‘look at this!’  I walked back and there as plain as day was a snake skin.

Interesting to say the least – I’d never seen one, though it gave me a bit of a start to realise there could be snakes about. As we continued walking, I was thinking about the shedding of skin and how this is necessary in our everyday lives to shed skins or old attitudes when they no longer fit.

Not more than 5 minutes on, I stopped short. The picture is not clear in among the shade but it is right in the centre. If I hadn’t been watching my path a little more closely, I may have stepped on it.

This was enough for me already – at my protestations when it moved ever so slightly, we agreed to turn back. We stopped in at the little shop and were asked if we knew there were lions about. No, we didn’t, but we learned that had we gone just a little further on, we would have come across and disturbed two lionesses with 3 cubs. Who would have been very anxious re their offspring – and may have – I don’t know what they may have done, but we were enormously relieved we didn’t face that possibility –  

We returned home Friday late afternoon just before a glorious thunderstorm. I called my good friend on Saturday morning. We’d been in constant contact while we were away because of her illness, and learned on the phone that she is in the line of fire. I saw her on Saturday afternoon but we could not talk as there were other people there. Her particular form of cancer is not curable, only maintainable, and she’s had all the treatments. It has returned in full force and her time is limited. This she heard only a few days ago – I saw her again this morning – we had time on our own and time to talk about death …

The below photo (I hope it isn’t upside down or sideways on smart phones or tablets) is of a mountain zebra, hiding among the pretty thornbush, which made me think of the thorns in our lives in amongst the beauty of it all – 

I thought of the marches across the US and worldwide on Saturday and the steadfastness of women protesting against what needs protesting, walking peacefully, in solidarity, in the line of fire.

My own line of fire was in Plettenberg Bay where, with the help of my son Mike, Susan Schwartz’s and my book went live on Createspace as a printed copy. I’m still in the line of fire as I want the book to be an ebook as well – but so far, there are errors such as incorrect paragraph spacing and the pages and glyphs not being as they should. It is such an attractive book and the ebook must be as the printed book is – so this is getting the attention it requires …

I hope this photo doesn’t appear upside down on this post, but the book is available as a paperback on e.g. amazon.com & amazon.uk. This is the first public ‘announcement’ I’m making about it. When I’ve sussed how to do links I’ll post them.

In the meantime, I’m trying to settle back home while feeling pretty unsettled about all manner of things. I’m noticing the slightly shorter days and the earlier casting of shadows – and wonder about this year 2017 and what is in store for us all –

Pema Chodron’s quote is apposite –

As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.

Full Moon, Spring Tides

Full Moon, Spring Tides –

I haven’t put up a post for a long while now. I wondered a bit about this – part of me wanted to be more engaged but another part of me wondered if I had anything of any importance to say?

But, it is full moon today – last night it looked pretty full and magnificent. I saw it through the leaves of a tree at my son’s girlfriend’s home where we were for a delicious dinner. The skies were clouded over but the moon would peek through the clouds and branches every now and then. She was lovely –

This morning dawned with rain and coolth and it has been like this the whole day. There is something so soft and cooling about this kind of weather. It did preclude though, my husband and I swimming across the lagoon, onto the beach, and walking across and having a swim in the sea on Lookout Beach this morning.

I had my first swim yesterday – a bit unbelievable since we’ve been here in Plettenberg Bay since just before Christmas. It was wonderful being in the sea, diving into waves, getting knocked and bucketed  about and dumped, being aware of the strong current pulling in the opposite direction. It was not the place to float as I would have liked to have done, but this will still happen. I was with my husband and brother – for my brother, his first swim in the sea also.

We’ve had many walks here and there … the one day we braved the wind and walked on Keurbooms beach. My husband, brother and 2 sons ..

The holiday makers have left, the town is a lot quieter.

My sister who is currently at their holiday home in the Wilderness, about 1 hr 15 mins away from Plettenberg Bay, told me the story of her rescuing a cormorant tangled in fishing line on the rocks just the other day. She and her friend took the injured bird to the vet some way away, and when they got home they were phoned that the disentanglement was complete and that the bird was ready for fetching to be released. Which my sister did and carrying the distressed bird in a cage, returned to the scene with her son in tow and her grandchild aged 4. It sounded an extraordinary story as she related it to me, steep rocks to clamber over, her son carrying the small child on his shoulders, both of them barefoot – and before this story gets too long, the below photo is of the bird returned to the sea. Well done Sis, a great achievement.

And then on their return to clamber up the rocks again young Matthew the 4 year old shouted, A fossil a fossil! Come quickly! Under the cave – this is her photo. Well, believe it or not, it is a log!

This is a photo of the green drink I make most mornings – apple, spinach and water is its base – I add whatever to it, fresh ginger, cucumber, mint, a desert spoon or so of already prepared crushed seeds, including sunflower, sesame, chia, coconut flakes and other … (made by me, stored in airtight container) ..

Back to full moon and spring tides … I doubt we’ll see it tonight, it’s too cloudy. The waves that I can see from my balcony don’t look overly large, in fact the lagoon and the sea looks positively calm. Maybe it’ll change tomorrow. On that note of change, may I wish you calm and peace as this year gets underway. 

The top photo is taken from the garden of Beacon Isle where we attended my younger son’s gig last Sunday evening. The promontory is the Robberg in the near distance –

Solstice and Christmas Greetings

 Solstice & Christmas Greetings

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Camus: In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer

Solstice (from the Latin, sol:sun; sistere:to stand still), a twice a year happening when the earth stands still for a nano-second and then begins its tilt in the opposite direction towards a new season. In the northern hemisphere where the night is the longest, there is a promise of warmth to come after the bitterness of cold. In the southern hemisphere and the longest day, we’re aware that the days will shorten and the nights will be imperceptibly longer.

The December solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. For the moment, there is balance, stillness, pause – and a holding of the opposites –

For many if not all of us, 2016 has been a particularly tumultuous year. Maybe we say this each year as it draws to a close and we look back to all that has happened not only within our own lives but at events around the world. I hardly need to mention them. Have we reached a tipping point? Are we tipping over?
May the December winter and summer solstice’s stillness be the precursor to the turning point for our world as we approach the new year. More than anything we need peace, compassion and goodwill on our planet. The deeply felt knots that keep us bound need untying.
We’re down in Plettenberg Bay for the festive season. Both our sons are here, Davey with Jüte his bride. My husband’s sister Jenny and her husband from San Francisco will be with us on Friday, en route from visiting friends in France. I’m preparing for this great celebration. I brought down from Johannesburg a poinsettia plant which was a gift. There’s something so Christmassy about them.
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 Lastly, our Christmas card greetings to you. My son crafted it some years ago and we just update the year. This time we’ve obviously included Jüte, our beautiful daughter-in-law, a blessing in our lives. It comes to you with love.
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Thank you all for your warmth and friendship. Long may it continue.

A Circle of Light

A Circle of Light

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I took this photo on Tuesday late at night after a rain storm. I felt the wet grass beneath my bare feet, looked up at the obscured moon and stars sometimes glimpsed among the densely clouded sky and was struck how the little solar lamp formed a lighted circle on the ground around the plants.

I thought about the week still ahead, closing down the rooms, seeing a few friends locally before the upcoming travel down to Plettenberg Bay where we will be a full house over the festive season.

I thought about the politics here in South Africa and abroad, the devastation in Aleppo, Mother Nature and the ongoing attempts of her destruction. The troubling person who is the US president-elect. And wondered about the psychic infection of warring and the inherent dangers of such an infection. 

I thank heaven for the outbreaks of light that appear here and there on our planet. The water protectors protesting the Dakota pipeline, steadfast in their bravery to protect life-giving water. Our opposition parties here in South Africa who at last seem to making our people aware of the devastation our current government has caused. Not only opposition parties, those within the government who are making a stand against our president and his cronies. All over the world, those who stand up for what is right. Steadfast –

To me it seems as if there is an upsurging of another kind of power, one that is life-affirming, curious, intriguing, loving. It appears in dreams, where women dream of other women who offer succour, listening, arms opening to embrace the other. Where women enfold and embrace all that is and have a knowing that even among all that is dark and disturbing, there is a way towards greater wholeness and harmony. 

Rumi comes to mind at times like this –

‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.

I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass

the world is too full to talk about’.

– and from the Book of Hours (Rilke)

“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.

I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.

I’ve been circling for thousands of years and I still don’t know:

am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song?”

May you always find a circle of light in the darkness – the menorah of the upcoming Hanukkah always glows brightly – as does the star in the East in Bethlehem –chanukkah2-1

and the moon – taken tonight –

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