Wild October

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”.

I encourage you to find your Nature moment 🖤

New Beginnings

Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.

John O’Donohue (exerpt from ANAM CARA)

Self-care September is nearly done. As I reflect back on these past weeks, I realise the Universe gave me a gift in this month’s focus on self-care. The Action for Happiness Self-care September calendar has been a wonderful companion this month.

This has been a whirlwind month or two dealing with the fall-out of the Covid-19 impact on my professional life. This rollercoaster of emotion has left me feeling quite depleted, hence the life-line of Self-care September. I have needed to tap into that trust of my soul that Irish poet, John O’Donohue, so wisely speaks of…. I even sent myself flowers 💛

I am over the worst of it …. Now the word that resonates is bittersweet.

Bitter – grieving the loss of not working, collaborating, learning and laughing with team of incredible individuals I consider my tribe.

Sweet – the anticipation, excitement and freedom that comes with being pushed to spread my wings.

Grounded in the understanding that I am only ready for this next adventure now because of what has come before, including the past four years teaching and learning along side this same incredible team – what a joy!

I feel a great sense of significance in the timing of this new beginning. That these last days as this chapter closed also held World Rhino Day and the Spring Equinox.

Rhinos are my spirit animal. They are a symbol of assurance, confidence and steadiness – all traits I have needed in this time of increasing uncertainty.

A change of season heralds new things and spring particularly is about growth, renewal, new beginnings.

I opened with words from John O’Donohue… I am going to conclude this post with more Celtic wisdom from this great soul… this time from To Bless the Space Between Us

For A New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety,

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear,

You can trust the promise of this opening,

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning,

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure,

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk,

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

John O’Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us

And so my next adventure begins… Pure Spaces Education…. coming soon!

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

August is for Elephants

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!