Category Archives: Extraordinary Voices

Extraordinary Voices: Shan Living Life

My recent posts speak a lot to adventure, dreams come true and living my dream life. During the pandemic I wrote quite a bit about grief, loss, resilience and hope. Life’s ebbs and flows for the able, healthy, incredibly blessed human that is me.

But what if you get dealt the kind of blow that turns your world upside down and inside out? The kind of tragic situation that is completely out of your control. That makes no sense. The kind of blow that breaks your body and has the potential to break your mind and spirit too. How do you come back from that kind of tragedy? What’s more, how do you come back from that kind of tragedy with graceful strength, determined courage and peace of spirit?

I have had the incredible privilege of meeting someone who can answer these questions. This is Shan 💜

Instagram @shan.livinglife

Facebook @shanlivingherlife

I first heard Shan’s story from her brother.

Graham came into my life unexpectedly, shortly after I arrived back in South Africa adventure-bound. He and I are a couple of old souls now getting a chance to spend some of this life together. We share a similar connection to Nature and the same passion for wildlife conservation here in magical Mzansi. We also share the same love of adventure and have already had opportunity to travel together. A road trip with a kindred spirit can be the perfect way to genuinely connect and share story openly.

To take in Shan’s story shared through her loving brother’s voice was deeply moving. To then hear Shan’s story via her online presence was extraordinary. Shan and Gray have both graciously allowed me to share this story here.

My life’s journey has become entangled with the journeys of these two beautiful humans with extraordinary voices. One of these extraordinary voices speaks the same soul language as mine. The other extraordinary voice floors and inspires me with her beauty, grace and courage.

So, there are the big picture, philosophical aspects of Shan’s story. The aspects that speak to the tenacity of the human spirit in the face of such challenge. It’s these aspects that make up the focus of that famous quote from Viktor Frankl:

At the start of this post I pondered how do you come back from a circumstance like this? How do you survive becoming a quadruple amputee after sepsis sets in from a mongoose bite? I wonder if the answer is that you don’t. You don’t come back. I think Shan will tell you she didn’t come back. In her suffering and pain she was burned, purified, honed into a different version of herself. There is another great quote from Viktor Frankl that comes to mind here:

Shan does give light. In the short time I have known her, she has illuminated my life. I have been offered a different perspective on life from Shan’s light. I can also see the light she gives into her brother’s life. I see it in his eyes and hear it in the tone of his voice when he talks about her. And I am sure the inspiring content she posts online gives light to many.

But philosophical thinking aside, the day to day challenges of life need to be faced. There are the realities of living as a quad amputee and enduring the ongoing symptoms of post sepsis syndrome. Medical costs continue. Family and household costs continue.

As I write, Shan is undergoing yet another procedure. The next part of the lengthy process that will ultimately allow her to walk again. This procedure is happening across the country from where she lives. Her support system, in the form of her husband Ant, goes with her. There is time away from work necessary. There is time needed for recovery.

Put yourself in this position for a moment. How would you deal? Yet with all Shan faces over the next couple of weeks, she returns my messages with requests for detail to pen this story with dignity, kindness and grace.

For those of you reading who do not live in South Africa, I need to try and convey that there is very limited government support in a situation like this. Social services are pretty much non-existent here. Shan’s wellbeing and quality of life is largely determined by financial support she can gain through the generosity of others.

How to help? Honestly, the most practical support we can offer is monetary. So this is my request for donations. Please help ease the financial burden if you can. Every little bit counts and your support is very much appreciated.

Another way to help is to pass this story forward. Let’s continue to share this awesome story of Shan Living Life. This story of one incredibly determined woman who still has a lot of light to give in her beautiful and courageous way. I am honoured to share her story with you….

Details of how to donate…..

https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/support-for-shan-living-life

The Shaninlea Visser Special Disability Trust 💜
FNB Broadacres
Acc Type : Trust
Acc: 62712541863
Branch : 250655
Swift Code; FIRNZAJJ
Please note this Trust is audited annually. If you require a donation certificate, one can be arranged.

Support Shan so she can keep Living Life and Giving Light 💜

A Future For Us All

Take 15 minutes of your life to watch the video – A Future For Us All. Then reflect on how you can add to this all-important conversation in your sphere of influence.

Sir Ken Robinson’s work continues to shape and inspire my teaching practice as well as my personal journey to Finding My Element.

For a bit more about this giant whose shoulders we stand on, you can read my blog post from a couple of years ago at the sad time of his passing.

It is so great to see Sir Ken’s daughter, Kate, taking care of his legacy and continuing this great work.

I hope you find as much encouragement as I do from hearing Sir Ken articulate his inspired thinking around personal growth as well as his call for humanity to Unite and make the world a better place.

Continue to rest in peace, Sir Ken…. thank you for giving those left behind direction in this journey towards a future for All 🖤

Heritage

I have been reflecting on Heritage a lot this month. Heritage can be defined as something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor, something possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth or simply, tradition.

As yet another Covid-19 lockdown forces me and mine into this weird isolation and I think about how to fill my time, I have baked and cooked and begun traditional prep of Christmas a lot earlier than I normally would. This is me falling back on family heritage, tapping into inherited ritual and tradition to help me feel anchored at this time of ongoing uncertainty.

Granny Sybil’s famous Christmas Mince.

I have been teaching online for the past 6 weeks or so. When I think about the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic and its affect on this generation I worry about what they’ve inherited. Is it okay to spend this much time “online” to learn, to work, to socialise? While I can see how under these current circumstances it is better to have the technology than not, I do wonder what the long term outcomes of this will be on the emotional wellbeing of this generation.

Probably the biggest regret I have is that I am part of a generation who has left future generations a weary and depleted planet. Not completely broken, I hope, but thinking about heritage in this way keeps me highly motivated to make a change for sustainability in whatever ways I can.

24 September is an annual celebration of South African heritage. As a South African I have been profoundly influenced by my country’s natural and cultural heritage, for good and growth.

In a hopeful step, short term and long term, I have begun preparations to return to South Africa in 2022. I am thrilled to be joining the Rise of the Matriarch Expedition – an all-female adventure across South Africa to raise awareness and funds for the plight of Mama Africa’s wildlife. The ROTM crew will engage with local communities especially children on the human-wildlife issue and distribute Wonderful Wildlife Booklets (that I developed content for). We will connect with anti-poaching groups, visit conservation groups and schools, and meet with incredible women who are doing remarkable things at a grassroots level to assist in conservation efforts.

Ecowarrior and founder of the Blue Sky Society Trust, Carla Geyser, is the expedition leader of the 2022 Rise of the Matriarch Expedition .

In 2016, she led South Africa’s first all-female conservation expedition from Southern Africa to Kenya. They drove 15 787km over 100 days through 10 countries to help stem the tide of poaching. The crew of 13 “she-roes” raised nearly R300 000 for various conservation projects, drew widespread continental attention to elephant poaching crisis, distributed 20 000 conservation educational booklets to children and provided support to 37 wildlife organisations along the way.

In September 2018 she headed out again and lead another all-female crew. This time  across South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to raise awareness about the contentious human-wildlife conflict. Another very successful Rise of the Matriarch expedition.

I joined Carla on a Journey with Purpose expedition in 2019 for a boots-on-the-ground experience with Elephants Alive. I can’t wait to get back on the road with Carla in her Landy, Dora, next year. #LadyinaLandy

And so, I introduce Pelo Tales. – my Heart Art fundraiser for this expedition.

“Pelo” is heart in Setswana.

My art is an expression of the deeply creative connection I have to pure spaces, to beauty and most especially to Nature. Each painting represents a Heart Moment and so a little Pelo Tale to accompany it.

This is a series of canvases I painted during Covid-19 related lockdowns in 2020. Having to make do with what I had to hand and in the spirit of sustainability, each canvas has been recycled. Perfect in their imperfections and certainly one of a kind.

All the proceeds from the sale of my Heart Art goes towards the Rise of the Matriarch expeditions 2022. More details on the fundraising side of things coming soon.

In the meantime, I will be sharing some Pelo Tales here over the coming weeks in anticipation of wonderful adventures to come and in the spirit of sharing the heritage I am so inexpressibly grateful for 🖤

Sir Ken

A small tribute to a great man whose heroic voice has had a profound impact on me personally and professionally.

I was first introduced to Sir Ken Robinson by chance quite a few years ago now. Stumbling across his book Out of Our Minds: the power of being creative. The concepts he introduced me to in this book were game changing.

Then there was the TED talk Do Schools Kill Creativity? Nothing more to say here.  If you have not watched it yet, do.

I had the privilege of hearing him present as the keynote speaker at the Future Schools conference a few years ago. I have such a lasting impression of him not just presenting us with what was wrong in education but emphasising what we could all be doing to make it better. He was profoundly sincere in his advocacy for change at the same time as being incredibly witty – a killer combination!

His book Creative Schools completely transformed my teaching practice. The principles he lays out in this particular book continue to inform the dream projects I am working on in conservation and environmental education.  Most particularly where he says that “education is deeply personal”.

And from a personal perspective, his books with Lou Arnica, The Element: how finding your passion changes everything and Finding Your Element: how to discover your talents and passions and transform your life, have, as it says in the title, been life-changing… helping me tap into my creativity, passion and purpose.

His passing is a huge loss to the world. I am deeply grateful to have heard his message. My hope is that I can carry this message for bringing creativity forward and advocating for education reform with me on my journey. If others who were impacted as profoundly by his voice as I was do the same, what a legacy he leaves!

While it seems too soon to lose such a wonderful human being, I am glad he passed peacefully and surrounded by family. I hope they find peace in their grief.

Thank you, Sir Ken. Rest in Peace 🖤

Breathing

Back to level three lockdown here in Auckland as we grapple with our first outbreak of Covid-19 since flattening the curve.

Another chance to pause and reflect. Another reminder that nothing will be as it was before….

What do you do when you can’t go anywhere or plan your usual travel adventures?….. Relive my weekend just gone… much time on the couch attending a virtual elephant radio collaring project in South Africa followed by a virtual concert also live from South Africa – my favourite band, Prime Circle.

I re-watched the concert today…. So good as always! Prime Circle rocks!

They played one of my most favourite songs – Breathing. Then I remembered lockdown a few months ago…. Listening to that song while painting. The ellie painting in the pic above came out of that session and so I added some of the lyrics to a digital version of the artwork… this version on my visionboard.

So, it turns out a few months ago I was putting creative energy into a moment that would make complete sense in my August is for Elephants 2020.

And now I am reminded that in amongst all this chaos and uncertainty, strangely there is pattern, there is connection… even if it is just to remember to breathe, to let go and be on the journey, guided in the flow.

The universe is unfolding exactly as it should…. Trying to find stillness to tune into the intuitions and nudges of this unfolding and not get in my own way.

“I know we’ll breathe again.”

Prime Circle