• When the Fat Lady Has Sung 

    I am really NOT good at goodbyes.

    “The splendid thing
    about falling apart
    silently…
    is that
    you can start over
    as many times
    as you like.”
    – Sanober Khan: A Thousand Flamingos

    I am well-versed at starting over though. Repeatedly. A well-practiced art of rebuilding the broken, putting the pieces back together over and over again. The starting over has been my distraction from all the goodbyes. Starting over I can do because we’ve got to “keep on, keepin’ on”: the mouths must be fed; the smile must be drawn on permanently; the song must be sung; the morning coffee delivered on time; the sun must rise and set; no balls can be dropped; and the show MUST go on, without fail.

                “Travel, trouble, music, art, a kiss, a frock, a rhyme.
    I never said they feed my heart,
    But still they pass the time.”
    – Dorothy Parker

    But the goodbyes I am still not prepared for or used to. They are akin to a well-delivered punch to the stomach. Each and every time.  Anais Nin claims that, “love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals.” I think the goodbyes are betrayals, of a kind, too. The ending of all relationships is a severing of shared confidences; the guillotine on collective memories; the end of the intimacy of just knowing; and the giggles gone, to be had no more… whether it is the ending of a marriage, a friendship or any relationship. Goodbyes are repetitive, little heartbreaks. Goodbyes happen, over and over again, sometimes while you are still in the relationship: dropped teacups that are glued back together over time and then they can be glued no more.

    And, it’s not the “things” that are the reality. The person, the marriage, the friendship, the relationship is the “thing”. It is the relationship BETWEEN the things: the context, rather than the “things” themselves. It’s the space in between everything that is real. That’s where the love resides. That’s where the love takes up space, filling up the gaps and potholes to capacity. So when the goodbye happens, it’s not the “thing” that is or will be missed, it’s the between bit. The sucker-punch is the black hole left in its stead. The gaping space of emptiness. The nothingness. No more turning to the person next to you to have a laugh about what’s in front of you; no more picking up the phone to share a thought that you know would make them laugh; no more looks of knowing without uttering a word; no more shared physical space; no more “I’ve got you, Babe”; no more. And what do you do with all the love you still have to give? There’s just empty space in between it all. Gaping, wide, open space. A big, burnt field.

    “In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” – Yoda

    Is that when we grow? When the field is burnt to the quick? When the only choice is to start sprouting, reaching up and letting the sunlight lead the way? Here’s hoping!

    “A bridge of silver wings stretches from the dead ashes of an unforgiving nightmare to the jeweled vision of a life started anew.” – Aberjahni

  • There Are No Caged Birds Here, Maya

    Some of the greatest things I’ve learnt in life have come from books. Probably more than some, and probably more than I know.

    Often these lessons sort of seep into us, into our very beings, holding onto our hearts until we need them. In the way that words that we’ve never used before come to us while we’re driving along a country road, called into the moment from a memory in waiting. Morals or messages we receive from books aren’t always the right ones for us. They aren’t always right. That, our clever little subconscious minds have to figure out for themselves, using learnt and natural values as their compass. But the right ones do find us and when you catch one playing out in your life, spontaneously, unintentionally, the memory, the words, the feelings, they flood back, like everyday magic. Everything seems to fit into each other, like a reverse game of Jenga.

    For me, one of those lines comes from writer, Maya Angelou, one that returned to consciousness recently, after our great cross-country house-swap. It goes…

    If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

    I have heard other renditions of this basic sentiment but Maya’s remains my favourite. Simply because she, as a human, a woman, is a favourite, a model of true strength of both mind and heart. Much like her books. The words did as words do and popped into my head while I finished the unpacking, throwing away the boxes and giving all our things a new home. The cherished belongings that we have accrued over time and given greater meaning to with each use – nightgowns, artworks, board games, blankets, the stuff of a home. The words appeared because, unknowingly, this is exactly what we did.

    We weren’t wholly content living in Zambia. With all its wild allure and great mystery that makes for a childhood, a life, of infinite excitement and novelty, we needed our family. We needed a school. We needed a change. But it is not only because we were in the fortunate position to make said change that we did it. It also takes courage, risk and a don’t-look-now, just-jump attitude.

    The latter is a quality that comes quite naturally to me, and definitely to my two boys, but also one I don’t doubt was fostered and fanned by Maya Angelou’s words of strength over the years, novel after novel.

    I know that several more lessons remain within me, within all three of us in this little clan, working their magic silently until the time is right to show themselves. To put words to the little leaps we take in the dark without knowing. Without knowing their significance. And once we know, there’s no going back. When you have the words, they move from quiet prayer to motto. Your motto. Your message. Your every move.

    And our latest move, to Cape Town, is everything we wanted and needed, and more. Each beach day, each sunrise and set over Table Mountain, each long table dinner with friends and that family we so missed. Well, all I can say is… there are no caged birds here, Maya.

    My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

  • Carpe Diem in the Okavango Delta

    spontaneous / spɒnˈteɪnɪəs – adjective:

    performed or occurring as a result of a sudden impulse or inclination and without premeditation or external stimulus.
    synonyms: unplanned, unrehearsed, impulsive, spur-of-the-moment

    having an open, natural, and uninhibited manner.
    synonyms: relaxed, unselfconscious, free and easy

    Many things seem to come more easily to our little ones. As much as we try to teach them lesson after lesson, from the classroom to their own room at home, from drawing within the lines to sleeping in their own bed, they teach us. Daily. And not in an insignificant way. I see this constantly with my two bush boys. Now beach boys, being Cape Town rooted. I see their courage in a moment when I might be fearful. I see their “jump first, think later” spirit, their “play like no one’s watching” attitude and I wonder if it’s something we need to work harder at as adults.

    “Why not seize the pleasure at once? — How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!” – Jane Austen, Emma

    On our recent safari in Botswana, the ultimate lesson came from not only my two boys, but one large helicopter levitating before me. A friend surprised us with a chopper ride during our time in the Okavango Delta. We’d have been happy with a mug, Starla. Clean socks. My Little Pony. But a heli ride over one of the grandest waterways in all the world… While I got my mind around the selfless kindness of said friend and this exciting change of plans, Carlos and Renzi were already belting up and getting ready to fly.

    It is a branch in the tree of bravery to be able to leap at new experiences without thought, and it is perhaps one that children climb a little more eagerly than we, the parents.

    It’s a skill life calls for constantly. In the words of Carroll Bryant, “No matter how many plans you make or how much in control you are, life is always winging it.” In the traveller’s life, it is especially essential – the ability to risk security, to throw caution to the wind, to choose curiosity over fear. It is what opens up the world for us, like a fine pewter letter opener, slicing the sealed envelope open to reveal something life-changing inside. Something a lot like this… with all the squeals and smiles of joy that accompanied it.

    Thank you, dear boys, for continuing to teach Mama a few tricks of your own. And thank you, dear friends, for paving the way for those lessons. And smiles. (Boys and their helicopters…)

    Read more about our Botswana safari in our blogs:

    OF ALL THE THINGS I LOVED ABOUT BOTSWANA, TIME WITH YOU WAS MY FAVOURITE

    HOW TO BRING UP BRAVE HEARTS

  • How To Bring Up Brave Hearts

    I forget where I heard it, or when, but the words have never left me. Fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. As a mum, it’s easy to give in to it, to the false evidence, to project our minds into moments that may or may not happen, moments in the future that appear not only real but large and haunting like an evil shadow puppet in a dimly-lit room.

    It’s easy to give in to paranoia, because suddenly we have more than our own lives to protect. We have these precious little beings in our hands and unlike the antelope and elephants of our Animal Kingdom, we need to stay by our offspring’s side long after they learn to walk – an act that itself takes us humans much longer to master. We suddenly have not only our own hearts to protect, but also those parts of our hearts that now pulsate outside of our bodies.

    I have always refused to let fear rule our tribe. At least I have tried my very best. I have tried hard not to let the shadow puppets loom over us. Not only for my sake, for my own peace of mind, but for that of my boys. Living in the wild as we have for many years, and travelling frequently into wild spaces, now that we’re city folk, the possibility of danger has never been far from us. They have often shown themselves, those shadows… in the shapes of crocodiles and hippos lunging at our boat, scorpions beneath the pillow, black mambas chasing our safari vehicle, wild elephants flapping their ears. And then there are the sneakier, less easily detectable threats… like malaria.

    I have never denied that these threats exist. Our tribe is well aware of them. But, from experience, we know better how to predict an animal’s movements. We know which channels in a river to avoid, when it comes to the Zambezi. Mosquito spray accompanies us everywhere. We don’t walk alone at night – although if I keep up my treadmill training I might just be able to out-run our Zambezi hippos one day (a girl can dream). We don’t deny it all, but we don’t let that which has yet to happen, that which is unlikely to happen, take over our imaginations.

    To spend our entire lives in fear of that one accident would be a dishonour to this great blessing of a life on Earth.

    The same way stress is caused by being here, but wanting to be there, fear removes us from the present, from the moment where life resides. It is natural for us mothers to try to predict the future. Constantly. I’m not really sure we can escape that entirely. But the last thing we want to do is pass that stress on to our sons and daughters. Watching them in a playground, running wild and free, is all the lesson we need in being present and seeing the real not the false.

    For my sons, the wilderness has been as much of their playground while growing up as the jungle gyms of the suburbs. And because of experience, because of the freedom I (try) give them to play and explore, they treat both the same. Both Renzi and Carlos are as at home with a wildebeest or elephant herd or a soldier holding an AK47 (oh, the joys of African border crossings), as a flock of penguins on the beach at Boulders or an ice-skating rink in a mall.

    They’re still young. There are more choppy waters to cross… like asking a girl out or speaking in front of a crowd for the first time, because it isn’t only the wild animals of our adventuring lives that they’re going to face. There are those matters of the heart. But I believe that it’s all the same, ultimately. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt,  “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eventually… nothing will.

    And is that not the best we can do as Mums? Prepare our little ones for the world while letting them enjoy it, wholeheartedly, at the same time? Without holding back. Without fear.

    Below is a glimpse into the wild things of our recent safari at Wilderness Safari’s Seba Camp in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, with images taken by our friend at Lubella Photography. Follow us on Instagram for more pics.