Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Prinsloo Sisters from South Africa ...

I have always loved the ocean. Years ago I watched 'The Big Blue' and imagined myself diving. That dream hasn't happened for me (yet) but a few days ago I came across this incredible series about women. It's called 'I am Woman - Leap of Faith' and was made for South African television last year. The episodes are all online and I am slowly making my way through them. They are beautifully made and for me it's as much about the beauty and strength of these stories and the women who have lived them, as it is about re-learning some of the story of my own country, after having lived away for so many years that there is so much I no longer know. 

The one I wanted to tell you about today is the story of Hanli Prinsloo. Some of you may know her but if you don't, take a little peak into her underwater world. Not only is she a champion South African freediver but she teaches and speaks and has carved out an incredible life for herself. Here is a TED talk she gave at the end of last year. About remembering water. It's lovely.

Watch the 'I am Woman' episode online. Look at her underwater, alongside a whale, a shark. How beautiful she is. Listen to her speak and tell me something inside doesn't shift in you and start dreaming.

                      Image taken from Pinterest, via Hanli's website

And then there is her sister, Marieke Prinsloo-Rowe, who sculpts. One of her pieces is shown in the documentary and she talks about Hanli ... but then i discovered her website and she created a series of sculptures which were displayed in Cape Town as part of her MA. They tell a beautiful story ... you can find them here.

                   Image taken from Pinterest, via Marieke's website

These two women are more than inspiring me today and once again I am so grateful for the online world that allowed me to discover them for myself.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

To the lady from Bergen County ...

Here's to the funky leggings-boots-and-sweater lady with the long brown ponytail and an ochre yellow scarf flung over her arm. The one who's son abandoned his sister the minute Lexi dashed past and said I am following that girl. It must have been the headband she was wearing today, the one with the huge red flower. Or maybe the wild abandon with which she threw herself into the climbing frame and made her way up without looking back. 

The lady i finally got to talking to too late in our day, when it was almost time to go home ... lunch eaten and children worn out. That i had to drag myself away from because once we started we couldn't stop, but there were tired children and a yellow bus coming towards our home in the near future - a bus we were almost late for.

The one who looked a little different, standing across the room when we arrived ... something about her sense of style, the way she smiled. I liked her right from the start. And then she told me about living in Manhattan and the grandparents who owned a bakery downtown when she was small. About moving back to the city after college and then to Glasgow with a new baby. Two years there then back here again, more time in the City, this time with another addition to the family. And then to London for another two year project, and some time in Washington somewhere in between and another baby joined in. No nannies or babysitters for her, altho many eyebrows were raised in surprise (she said) ... three children under the age of 5 and she had the best time in London during those two years. Loved the city. We shared stories and memories and impressions and did you ever go here ... did you see ... did you try .... did you love this too. 

I told her about homesickness and wanting to put down roots and she told me about some nice areas to live in here, and then she said : good for you, what a nice idea that is, the roots. but i myself, i can't deal with that - i want to keep renting and moving, don't make me live for 30 years in one house. No thank  you. Her expression as she said this was priceless, nose scrunched up in distaste. if we got the chance to leave again, i wouldn't hesitate, even for a minute. And i thought to myself that i used to say exactly the same thing. I remember thinking that too, wondering when the next adventure would begin, which town i was moving to next. As we stand on the brink of buying a home and trying to settle down, with me all over the place sometimes in panic at moving to a new town and the unfamiliarity of it all (what, me? who is this person?) , she was a breath of fresh air for me today, badly needed. 

Reminding me that we really don't all have to follow the rules - not all the time anyway. That things can be different. That we can create the lived we want, if we just try hard enough (and accept that there will be sacrifices). Reminding me about that sense of adventure I used to feel so much more of the time. About new beginnings and the wonder of living fully, letting doors open and not being afraid to step through. It's all about our choices and as long as we have some, i think we're pretty well off after all.

As we drove home Lexi said softly from the back seat : Mommy, it's nice making new friends.
And altho the leggings-and-ponytail-lady lives in Bergen County and we probably won't ever bump into each other again, i had to smile and say:
Baby, you are so right. I was actually just thinking the same thing.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines Day ...

It is Valentine's Day today. One of my favorite days - not because of the secret cards or chocolates or roses or grand gestures or the pressure to prove anything about the nature of a relationship between two people ... but because it's a holiday about Love - and really, what else is more important. And with love, there comes the symbol it is associated with - the Heart

As anyone who knows me well knows, i've been collecting hearts for years. Not intentionally at first. I would see something I loved and there would be a heart, somehow. And slowly over time they started hanging on windows and sitting in bowls and greeting me in a painting on the wall. For me, I love everything about what they stand for ... not romance or sentimentality ... it's about the rawer things - the following your heart ... being brave enough to take a risk ... listening to the whispers. The pain of what the heart wants, and the beauty. And of course ... for love, but at it's deepest and truest level.

On a holiday like today the children take candy to school and hand out cards to everyone so that no one's feelings get hurt. There are pink balloons floating outside nail spas and we think of romantic dinners and bottles of wine. So many of us have grown up with the culture of American sit-coms and Romantic-comedies ... where the guy always gets the girl and love always conquers, no matter how great or complicated the obstacles. Where love is made to look easy and straight forward. The complicated part is in finding your soul mate - and everybody has one, we are told, - and then from there it's just in the details of agreeing on a wedding date and how many chairs will have guests in them. Buying a house. Having babies. And love will last and everything will end happily ever after.

But that's just scratching at the surface of Love. Something so complicated, so deep, so ravaging, so pure. It can be up and down and inside out and feeling at peace and feeling like running and quiet and calm and torrential in it's downpour. Sometimes love drags us and almost kills us. We fight and we search and we don't always see eye to eye. Sometimes love wraps it's arms around us and we are warm and held and content beyond words.

There is love in a marriage and love as a parent, there is love as a friend, as a sister or brother or child, for one's family. There is love for ourselves, for our dreams, for the deepest whispers of our hearts. There is love for a country, a culture, a people. For the places where parts of our hearts get left behind - fragments in time. We go back to find them but they have taken root and grown into something new or floated off on the currents and we cannot take them back. 

Recently i was reminded of a beautiful passage on Love written by Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet. These words have been with me a long long time.

... When love beckons you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as
the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify
you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses
your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake
them in their clinging to the earth.

.... But if in your fear you would seek only love's 
peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your 
nakedness and pass out of love's threshing floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall
laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but 
not all of your tears ...

I love this passage because of the analogy of the threshing floor. It's really like that sometimes. We get wounded and winded and exhausted and we wonder if it's really worth it. And then we fight on and we break through, if we're lucky, and then there is the other side of the chaos and we see the light again and the waters are calm. And we think to ourselves that this stretch of ocean is beautiful beyond belief and if we had turned our boat around at the last patch of choppy waters we never would have arrived here. To the deep blue and the sun glinting. At least that's how it is for me. In so many roles.

Today, along with the hearts and chocolates and red wine ... i am sending a little whisper on the wind for your true heart's desires to be met, and for the deepness of love to be with you today.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday photos and a few thoughts ...

Do you dream of escaping sometimes ? Not because you don't love the people you share your life with - full size or hip height - but just because things have been the same for a long time. Maybe a need to pull on a backpack and reduce your immediate possessions to what you can carry with you. A change of clothes, a book, a notebook, a camera, a map, a phone and a sleeping bag. Bliss. To head off into the unknown on a new adventure. On the plane no one knows where you are going or where you have been. A new horizon waiting.

That's how i've been feeling lately. I find myself dreaming of gypsies and caravans and i spend too much time on Pinterest looking at photos of beautiful places around the world. If I could, if money were no object and not the normal pull for family stability and security either ... i would want to take a year off and travel the world. Take Hayden out of school and go. Drive across the States, sail to the Caribbean. Maybe a cruise. As i can't sail and Clint gets seasick. Take a trip up the Amazon. Fly to Australia and up to Indonesia. I would like to see Bali and stay in a thatched straw hut at the end of a wooden walkway over turquoise water. Go to Zanzibar and shop in Morocco. See the Taj Mahal and visit women dying Saris the traditional way. Ride a bicycle in Holland and take a Gondola trip through Venice. Eat a LOT of pasta and see the Sistine Chapel. Eat more pasta and drink red wine. Rent a villa for a week and explore Tuscany. Go to Greece. Visit South Africa and drive to Namibia. And on to Labrador, where my great grandfather was born into a missionary family. And then back again. Not necessarily in that order. A few other stops along the way. Take a lot of photos and write and write. 

But alas it is not to be. At least not now. I keep dreaming. Of a trip like this and also of it's polar opposite, finding a home and putting down roots. Sometimes i would like that house to be right at the very Southern tip of Africa so that i could have dinner with my family and go the beach with my friends ... pop in for coffee when i feel like it, have my tribe around me. Sometimes I think it would not be so bad to stay where we are, only in our own place. I go back and forth like a see-saw. It makes me quite dizzy. Maybe that's the way it is - the pendulum always swings between two poles for me. It's a Piscean thing I have been told. 

Tonight in the car Hayden was talking about what he wants to be when he grows up. The Rock-Star dream has been replaced with wanting to be a Football player - for the Giants if he can ... and his back-up plan is to play for the Yankees, and then to be a teacher (love that). The boy who was so completely attached to England even though we left there when he was two, to the point that he used to cry that we had taken him from his homeland (yes, he really did) and who has a gigantic British flag on his bedroom wall .... this boy said tonight that he is growing up American and since he wants to be a Footballer he needs to stay here - at least if we leave, we need to be back in time for High School as that's going to be a really crucial time for his career. This is all him - none of it from us. We just listened. And then Lexi said that she's going to live in South Africa because she just is, she doesn't want to lose her memories of being there. She is 3. Seriously ?

We are the family who carry two British, one Irish, one American and two South African passports with us when we travel. And a handful of Greencards thrown in there too. We have three flags hanging in the house and a world map in our passage. I love travel and we've lived on three continents so we want the kids to grow up with a similar passion for the world but it's hard too ... the wanting to be rooted, the wanting to be free. The wanting to see more of the world and to head off on another adventure. (If only money grew on trees.) The wanting our children to feel that they belong, that they know where home is. I have three countries that feel like home and it really tears me apart sometimes.

I'm not sure where this is coming from .. i planned just to post my Sunday photos. And to explain that all the dreaming of travelling (and a little bit of running away) has been partly me not feeling very inspired of late. A little stuck. Still. OK - a lot stuck. Which i guess is all relevant. Somehow. And then it's easier to think about running away and where i would run to, than to deal with the every day routine which can sometimes be very monotonous. This is something i am working on.

And so i read a little online and i do a little browsing. I take photos as it was my last week of Intuitive Lens, and i look to others for inspiration. In a way, it's part of the process - sifting through to see what makes my heart leap. What I am envious of. What i long for. What i wish i had. Not to make me ungrateful for what is in my own life but to show me what i am really yearning for. It's been a long process and i think i have many steps to go, but things are starting to emerge out of the mist and i keep trying to be patient.

In the meantime, I was given the link to photographer Deb Schwedhelm's website this week. I think her work is amazing (the page takes a few seconds to load from the white background if you decide to check it out).

This song (and the video) really moved me ... it was included in the new EST magazine (I love free online reading).

So here's to dreaming of new things, of inspiration returning. And here are my Sunday photos, only six this week. I never used to share photos of Hayden or Lexi in this space, i felt comfortable writing about them but not uploading photos ... but in my aim to upload my Sunday photos from the week, Lexi is in most of them as she's my main subject. So bear with me for a while, I'll work on varying that a little. We have a new ballet dancer in the house and the light this week was beautiful.

Wishing you a lovely week and a little adventure in the midst of the day to day.