I am so incredibly lucky to be in beautiful New Zealand right now.
2020 has seen many disappointed hopes of travel and adventure. But what a privilege to wander in our own backyard. So much magic to discover.
We stopped at Hamilton Gardens on the way down. I highly recommend a meander around these gorgeous gardens.
This particular travels-with-mom adventure turned into a real retreat into the hills above Waitomo. We stayed at Rock Retreat cottage and besides a few walks into the forested hills and gullies, I switched off completely…. bliss…. I could sit and stare at that view forever.
There is such Middle Earth magic in this part of the country. The karst landscape and limestone dolines on the hilltops speak of standing stones. Celtic wisdom would know the veil is thin in these pure spaces and you cannot help but pause to soak in this communion with Nature.
The same rock in the forest is covered in moss and tiny ferns and speaks of Elven ruins from the First Age of Middle Earth when the world was young.
I will post photos knowing they are woefully inadequate in capturing this magic…. round each corner you gasp audibly at some new marvel of Mother Earth, close your eyes and breathe in the birdsong.
We did venture out one evening to try a touristy cave adventure that the region is known for. Footwhistle glowworm cave tour was an unexpected find. I enjoyed it despite myself but perhaps it was just the benefit of the kawakawa tea we enjoyed at the beginning of the tour?
Our last day we visited the stunning Marakopa Falls and had the place all to ourselves.
Much needed respite for the soul…
All too soon, our sojourn into the hills was done. But some consolation to be had in the excellent coffee stop on the way home…. Origin Coffee in Otorohanga is a must. It is at the railway station…. ☕️☕️☕️
Mid-October. I am a couple of weeks into my strange sabbatical. Lots of taking stock and reflection.
It seems someone decided it was wild-for-nature October too, which I appreciate. This was my #wildoctoberart contribution. The art prompt that inspired this sketch and colour was misunderstood 😀
So this wild heart has an #inktober story to share. The meaning behind the new ink on my arm and how Dragonfly Travelling come to be…
I was probably about 14 or 15 years old. It was one of our family wanderings around South Africa. This time into the Drakensberg Mountains and a place called Injisuthi.
There are no words that really capture the grandeur of this place. It is truly wild and the magic of Mama Africa sparkles across the fast flowing streams and flits through the dells and gullys, then soars up and over the grass covered hills, along the cliffs and into the caves. Here the evidence of early human wanderers lingers.
Dad and I intended to try a 4 to 5 hour hike up into the mountains. A couple of hours in we lost the trail completely. Even retracing our steps didn’t work and we were soon well and truly lost. As the afternoon drew in so did the black storm clouds. We could see the river in the valley below that we would have to get down to and cross to find the road that would take us back to camp. Contouring along the ridges trying to find a path down to the river proved challenging as most the dells were thick with thorny brambles. We pushed through and eventually came to a shallow enough spot to cross the river. As we were crossing the heavens opened and the storm broke over us, thunder and lightning lending even more drama to our predicament. I had removed my hiking boots to cross barefoot. Once across I sat on a large flat granite rock to put my boots back on. The boots were new and had given me blisters. I was so tired by this point and pretty wobbly from feeling the concern of being lost in the mountains. We had been away from camp 6 or 7 hours by now and I knew my Mom would be worrying. So I sat on the rock trying to put those boots back on my broken feet. The rain stopped in those few minutes and the sun shone through a small break in the cloud. It shone down on my rock and in that moment two crimson dragonflies alighted onto the rock beside me. They weren’t there more than a few seconds and they were gone, the sun disappeared and the rain came back. We hiked to the road as the storm continued and a passing vehicle offered us a ride back to camp. We accepted gratefully, returning 8 hours after our departure to the relief of everyone.
That moment on the rock with those two dragonflies has left an indelible imprint on my soul. It has taken me years to find ways to express and articulate its significance. The fact I was with my Dad. The fact it was a challenging situation. The fact that it was in those magical mountains of my homeland. The fact it was dragonflies. So much symbolism…. I am an Enneagram Type 4 and we love us some symbolism 😀
It might seem strange to say but the dragonfly moment has become the expression of my sense of place in this world – my deep connection with Nature, with my family, with my roots, with my purpose. It turns out there is an African proverb that expresses this idea too. Ubuntu – I am because we are. For me we includes all of Nature. This has been grounding, particularly in the past couple of years as I have moved towards living my purpose.
And so I began to articulate the significance of this moment. It started with an email address, then a simple tattoo on my wrist. Now in the completed ink story on my wrist including all the colour possible with the African daisies! And this blog…. which still freaks me out every time I am compelled to post! Like I say in my little bio – an act of vulnerability for this wandering introvert. But as a lovely kindred spirit of mine says “growth through discomfort”.
Do you have a significant moment with Nature you can draw on? A moment that grounds you in who you are in the grand scheme of things and how you want to live on this Earth? What kind of legacy do you want to leave for your children and their children?
As the incomparable Sir David Attenborough says in his latest doco (a must watch!), we need “to move from being apart from nature to become a part of nature once again”.
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 love elephants. These majestic beings know things about living on this earth…. the kinds of things I believe we have lost touch with in our mostly urban pursuits.
I have had the absolute privilege of sharing space with elephants. A couple of whom I have got to know quite well, I flatter myself.
They are as unique in character as we are. They have their good days and their bad just like us…. and I truly believe they have a sense of humour.
The photos above show one such ellie. A charming character who would share our Okavango Delta island a months each year while the marula fruit were around to enjoy. One day a tree came down over our office/storeroom scattering marula fruit throughout the little enclosed courtyard. As afternoon descended he approached the office, low rumbling to let us know he was there. Leaving me no time to vacate the office, he squeezed through a small gap between the buildings making his way into the little courtyard. He proceeded to find every single marula he could on the roof, on the ground, carefully maneuvering around this small enclosed space. After a half hour or so of foraging he made ready to leave through the same gap he had came through. This took him past the open office door where I was sitting quite still, overwhelmed by the moment. I hadn’t noticed the marula that had rolled on to the floor inside the office just a few feet from where I was sitting. He paused his head filling the door space. He lifted his trunk and sniffed, then turning his head slightly he gave a long look. It took probably just a moment but to me it was a MOMENT. Then quite calmly he pushed his whole head through the doorway into the office, reached out his trunk and took the marula fruit near my feet. A sideways movement to get his head back out the door, he took the gap between the buildings and melted into the twilight.
He was surrounded by humans and human structures that entire time. He knew we meant him no harm. He just wanted those delicious marula fruit.
I will remember that incredible moment as long as I live. A treasured memory I hold close.
To me a world without elephants is unthinkable. Unfortunately, they face ongoing challenges sharing a world with humanity.
Luckily I am not the only one who loves elephants. In fact, there is an incredible conservation collective who have dedicated their lives to elephant conservation.
This weekend on Saturday 8 August a first in elephant conservation is taking place – a virtual elephant collaring! From the comfort of your couch you can get a front row seat to experience what happens when elephant are fitted with radio collars to track their movement and gather valuable data to help in their protection and conservation. So exciting! I have booked my ticket! Will you?
Find all the information you need here – Virtual Elephant Collaring – this will let you know who is behind this awe-inspiring project, why it is necessary and how you can be a part of this world first! Get involved!
I don’t think that Carla from the Blue Sky Society, the brains behind this initiative, or Dr Michelle from Elephants Alive planned it this way but World Elephant Day is 12 August! Or perhaps they did. What a fitting way to celebrate all things elephant this year!
18 July…. Mandela Day. I love this quote from the great Madiba. For me, “others” includes all the living beings we share the planet with.
I am in the process of changing some website stuff around. Part of the master action list for Dream 1 in my dream tin 😊
I had not intended posting until the changes had been finalised. But an event is imminent that I just have to share.
If it weren’t for Covid-19, I would right this moment be road tripping my way across Botswana and South Africa on my way to Banhine National Park in Mozambique. The purpose of this journey to take part in a vital “boots on the ground” conservation mission to radio collar elephant – a journey with purpose.
While it is sad not to be able to embark on this adventure, I am so excited that the conservation collective – Elephants Alive, Wildlife Vets, Blue Sky Society and Painted Dog TV – behind this elephant conservation project are going ahead. On 8th August we can join them virtually!
From the comfort of home we can get a rare insight into what this work is like – what a conservation education opportunity!
I realise money is tight in the present circumstances. But a ticket for this once in a lifetime experience is not too dear. And the proceeds will allow elephant conservation of this kind to continue.