Setting Our Mountaintop Goals

I recently wrote this blog post on my beautifultapestryoflife site…and I thought I would republish it with added updates for my countdown for weight loss…127 days

The weight loss goal seems more elusive than even this way out photography (career/life) goal…I am having a momentary pity part..but a massive one…I did well for two weeks my lose of 3 pounds after coming back from vacay…

I thought I’d get smart and fine tune the program and cut-out all wheat and sugar…more keto than low carb…and my body just doesn’t appreciate the extra fat in my lifestyle…my Resting heart rate increased drastically over the last week…till it has gotten to what it was 3 years ago…even Mr. P mentioned that my body seems extra sensitive to what I eat…

Pity Party Over😉

Sometimes being stubborn can be useful if channeled in the right direction…there are so many reasons to accomplish the goal of losing the weight…one is that I will need the ability to be healthy and move effortlessly to accomplish being a master photographer…laying flat on the ground to take a photo and getting up gracefully is not an easy feat when you carry extra pounds beside the camera equipment…

There are some that might say…you’re getting older…just relax…I can’t, and I won’t…there’s still so much I want to see and do…life has only begun for me at retirement…every cell in my body yearns to be set free…

So now what???????? I can only reset and go back to doing what works and be patient…low carb, exercise, and counting calories…no shortcuts or listening to what Facebook…Instagram or any other social media outlet has to suggest…only my body can tell me what is right for me…and I need to listen…there are no shortcuts in life…I always get lost when I take a side road with a sign that reads “Shortcut –Weightloss and Sweatless Quickie“…no more detours…no more side roads…

You can beat the grind…life knows how much you invested, and it doesn’t give us the mountain tops without the sweat equity…whether mental and/or physical…

Master Photographer Blog continued…

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.”

—Andrew Carnegie

How do YOU define success…which achievements would make you sing with joy…it is as different for every person as there are stars in the sky…? what goals do you want to really go for with all your being …it may change with time and need to be changed…that’s where I am at… redefining and refining my vision of what “success” means to me during this new chapter of life…what audacious goal should I set my sights on…

THE WHAT: The primary kickstart for goals…what knockdown…knockout personal achievement would make you feel like you made it to the top…

This is mine
Ultimate Goal – Honours Laureate Gold

Currently after 1 year…I have accumulated 28 from entering the monthly …needing 40 club points to move to a three-star rating…

Goals map out where you want to land…but they can be ambiguous and you may never achieve your desired end result…Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re going to end up somewhere else…” I’ve been there before when I’ve set goals and then never achieved them…

  • What is your story, why do you do what you do? 
  • What keeps you awake at night? 
  • What inspired you to pursue your business?
  • What makes your heart race?
  • What was the moment that changed your life as you know it?
  • What’s been the biggest challenge for you on your photography journey?

What lights you up…Going “niche” makes you stand out…which reduces your competition… increases your visibility…stokes your creative fire…and hones your expertise…remember the old saying “jack of all trades and master of none”…

I’ve tried various niches…street, night, nature, portrait, wedding, black & white, boudoir, macro, candid, landscape, wildlife…some I lose all track of time…I find myself getting lost in creating the magic in nature and wildlife…adding artistic and creative techniques that help tell a story…yet still in the process of defining my own visual and artistic style…

Before & After – My “style” in progress

Always take time to play…“All work and no play doesn’t just make Jill and Jack dull, it kills the potential of discovery, mastery, and openness to change and flexibility and it hinders innovation and invention.” – Joline Godfrey

What are your fantastic magical goals…shoot for the moon🌙…my darlings…you have nothing to fear…at the very worst you’ll fall among the twinkling laughter of the stars…love, laughter and magic

135 Days…

Back home from a cold and rainy forest holiday in Hogsback (strange name with unknown origin)…supposedly the place that inspired JRR Tolkien… nestled in the Amatola Mountain range and housing the oldest forest in South Africa…

With no wi-fi or internet…you can lose yourself in the pure magic…the earthy smells and fragrances of the natural world triggering old memories, and creating new ones…the heavy, heady smell of damp forest…

It sits on your shoulder and seeps into your senses… excited to see the colors and smell of …I am missing the crisp air and the vibrate reds, and oranges so beautifully mixed with muted shades of yellow and brown…such a kaleidoscope of color…my heart sang…and I still reel with the beauty that is just too exquisite to be able to find the right words…

“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.” ~Unknown

An apt quote for the mission that I am on to let go of the unhealthy part of myself…physically and mentally…

A celebration before we left…for Mr. P’s birthday at a restaurant called Natti’s Thai Kitchen

Why can I never remember the effects of food and drink that are so detrimental to me…in the suspended moments of enjoyment with great friends and wonderful food…there was definitely too much alcohol imbibed by me…

I don’t normally drink alcohol…but it difficult for me in a social situation to abstain totally…normally one glass is sufficient…but that night everyone brought alcohol…gin and several bottles of wine…after one…it was too easy to allow my glass to keep being filled…

A fact of life…our bodies weaken with age…and I am working harder at trying to find a happy and healthy balance…drinking more than an occasional glass of wine is not on the list any more…but I get caught up in the frivolity and joy…I wasn’t prepared for the situation…

With being highly sensitive…the next day I reaped the effects…hormonal imbalance…depression is the worst…teary eyed…extra sensitive to every word that was spoken to me…morose and definitely not motivated to do anything…

At least I realized what was happening…and there is not much that I can do, except wait it out…but it always feels like a wasted day…miserable…you would think it would be a huge red flag…memory is so not reliable sometimes…

Difficult to eat correctly and track…motivate myself to exercise…all the routines that provide optimum living for me…Didn’t really have time to dwell on it much…getting ready to leave for Hogsback…such a needed break…

I ground in Nature…it is the most healing place that I can be…and the forest is probably the number 1 place that I love to just get lost in…wrapped in the soothing arms of Mother Earth…Stepping into a forest is like walking through a gate…I can release all the fuss and stress behind…to be greeted with peace and fragrant nature.

I didn’t track and was worried that I would gain weight…but the 80/20 rule applied…stress is outlawed during breaks from “real” life…we walked… hiked…over 10,000 steps per day…up and down…carrying photographic equipment…

Didn’t learn my lesson…Gin Tasting for me…

Don’t you just love the hat🤣

Was it worth it…I came back with a 2 lb. loss…so in that respect…it did not hurt my progress…but I don’t enjoy the punishment that ensues… my feelings of peace and happiness…

I made a choice…I don’t think I’ll be a teetotaler… but limiting myself to ONE drink is doable…there were other choices that hung on the coattails of that one…choosing to give up processed wheat and sugar…for a couple of weeks to confirm if my sensitivities are affected… there are a few studies that show that refined sugar and wheat have a drug-effect on the brain…

It worked when I lost the initial fifty pounds…but I didn’t eat fruit…because even natural sugars can sometimes cause my insulin to go wonky and I get hungry and hangry…and there goes the program…

Just one day at a time…for me it is difficult right now…carbs are my absolute fav…and I really resist the thought that it is imperative for me to be healthy…”If you resist giving up certain foods it is likely you’re addicted or intolerant to them”…and I cringe…clench my jaws…become very irritated at the thought…hmmm

I’m on my third day…just taking one day at a time…I’ll let you know how it goes…

Finally…three years later…wild baboons running wild in town
Rain Soaked…

Have a Magical Day warmed with Love❣

The Filters We Use…

I am now on my second week of the program…it is a day-to-day process…no miracle 10-pound loss…no great influx of dizzying energy…it has just been a slow and steady…consistent documenting everything I eat so that I can make sure I stay within the allotted calorie amount…and I am hungry most days…

The first week was a 4-pound loss…mostly water…I am sure…it will be interesting to go to my appointment next Monday and see what the real numbers are…the actual fat loss versus muscle loss versus water loss…

I was learning new photoshop skills for my photography competitions…and an interesting thought popped up…how what filters we use to view the circumstances in our lives…can change our world immensely…

These two photographs are really nothing special and even dispiriting…old relics of a time long past…left to rust in the sweltering aloneness…a blank screen with broken panels and years of grime as it’s only covering…the old car rusted with the rust of neglect…and empty headlights like the blank empty stare of nothingness…forgotten in the background of swirl of life going on in the distance…

I don’t know about you…but I have felt like that at times…more often than I would like to remember…forgotten, neglected and useless as everyone around me twirls and swirls in their busy lives…

My options…sit morosely in the dark corner of life and have a pitiful party…I’ve even had a couple of times like that now as I watch people around me eating all the sweet and crunchy flavors that I enjoy…I’ve made banana coffee cake…bought lemon cheesecake for a tea…none which I partook of…and I am proud of that…but I didn’t partake because it is such a slippery slope for me… a shot of insulin in my system with the rush of sugar or refined carbohydrates will cause an avalanche that would set be back further than the bottom of the mountain…

Today has been difficult…had a training session at the gym…then had to walk in the heat to the store…frustrating trying to figure out an electronical remote trigger and speedlight😣 with only a very small breakfast…and it affected my mood…but it is part of the journey…and it’s only a short space of time…this too will pass…and I haven’t lost footing…maybe my mind, but that’s pretty much par for the course…

So how do I view days like this…trying to filter with gratitude…it is a pretty rosy filter that helps to reframe the moment…not the filter of past dark negative emotions…and no matter what the current angst…it can immediately be changed…by reframing and filtering it through the good that we do have and experience…

Steve Maraboli - Steve Maraboli added a new photo.

One day at a time…and if needed…sometimes it’s only a moment…

Make something new out of all the old pieces…it’s really kind of fun✨

Laughter and Love❣…remember you’re not alone…we’re all in this together…just “walking each other home”…

A Place that Time Forgot

In the heart of the sizzling arid Karoo lies a small quaint village…Nieu-Bethesda…A little artist town with dusty untarred roads…approximately 50K (31 miles) from the town of Graaff-Reinet…

Karoo…not a Kangaroos in sight…maybe a herd of  Springbok or the ever present dorper sheep with their distinctive black heads…a mountain tortoise crossing the road…now and then…clean shaped hills or koppies capped with the hard jagged rock formations formed over millions of years..

The original inhabitants were the Bushman or San people…who named the area the “Karoo”…a Bushman word meaning “dry space”…

I had never traveled into this semi-desert region since I arrived in South Africa… on the central plateau of the western half of South Africa… place of relentless sunshine… a vast, open, arid region dominated by low-shrub vegetation and abundance of rock cropping’s…

Halfway to Camdeboo National Park in the Karoo

Doesn’t look like a desert…looks can be deceiving though…in stopping to take this photograph…the surrounding area told a vastly different story…the photos below were all taken at the same location…recent rain in the area had brightened up the brown to a more vibrant green…

Mr. P and I had taken a couple of days to breathe the desert air to check out a birding route that was located in a national state Park named Camdeboo…a park that literally surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet… over 240 bird species and the famous breathtaking Valley of Desolation…towering dolerite columns rising to heights of up to 120 meters…formed by volcanic and erosive forces over a period of 200 million years…Wow!!!

It was over 100F that day…hot and windless…sweating (or glistening as the ladies are more prone to do) as I climbed over stones and up a narrow dirt path to the top…the view was breathtaking…towers of Sheer cliffs and precariously balanced columns of Dolerite rise 120 metres from the valley floor … worth the trip to see what millions of years have created…makes me wonder what the next 120 million years will create on this magic blue marble in the sky…

We still had some time in the day and following the suggestion of our hostess at the B&B…we took a short drive to visit the renown “Owl House” in Neiu Bethesada…off we went to check out this quirky little town…

Almost missing the turnoff…just a small country road…surrounded by fence…scrub land…with interest in what we might find…we traveled on…

The narrow road started slowly spiraling downward…descending we were on the outside edge of the road…I held my breath, closed my eyes, and wondered if we should go back when I saw a car coming towards us…just nowhere to turn around… and …after all…just another adventure

Breathing again at the bottom of the hill…we continued forward…around a sharp bend in the road…almost running into a white farmhouse smack dab in the middle…delineating where the road changed from blacktop to a dirt and gravel lane…how could we be on the right road to the famous “Owl House”…where thousands of visitors stop in to see this treasure of either weird or wonderful (depending on your preferences) art is located…onward, Mr. P…

Dusty, dirty road that seemingly led nowhere…passing abandoned buildings…now only inhabited by Mother Nature and her children…

Like a valley of desolation…everything in ruins

We continued…the road would eventually end up somewhere…we hoped…

Tree lined dirt roads…a dusty padstal…which is an Afrikaans word that many locals use, and roughly translated means “shop next to the road”… so, there was life somewhere…at least at one time in this remote part of the world…finally the town came into sight…

Quiet street scene in Nieu Bethesda
It was not what I had envisioned…but there was an other worldly charm about it…https://www.karoo-southafrica.com/

Our first stop was not the “Owl House”…but the Kitching Fossil Exploration Center…Mr. P’s ongoing fascination with dinosaurs, our history, and how the earth began…

A small museum that shows fossils of life 50 million years before the dinosaurs…what life was like in Nieu-Bethesda 255 million years ago…James William Kitching (6 February 1922 – 24 December 2003) was a South African vertebrate paleontologist who was born in Nieu Bethesada…at six years old he scoured the countryside to find specimens for a paleontologist named Robert Broom…his becoming one of the world’s greatest fossil finders had begun…I had never been aware of the life in the Permian Period, “populated by mammal-like reptiles called therapsids”…learned something new

https://www.sa-venues.com

Down the street to the where Helen Elizabeth Martins who was a shy, retiring recluse… rarely seen outside on the streets of Nieu Bethesda… where she create a magical inner kingdom that she breathed into life…

Miss Helen’s imagination transformed humble materials such as cement, glass, mirrors and wire into a secret, magical world that she shared with few, drawing upon Bible stories, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the Orient, and everyday objects – all of which blended to create a personal cosmology.

https://theowlhouse.co.za

Her life had been tragic and unhappy…after the death of her mother and abusive father…she began to use her inner creativity and imagination to transform her home into a wonderland of color, light, and texture … an escape from the dullness and despair of her previous life…

She transformed every space within her house…changed by finely ground glass of assorted colors using an old-fashioned coffee grinder…

The sadness of her life was palatable to me…the black ground glass in her father’s bricked up old room…called the Lion’s Den… the fact that she committed suicide when she found out that she was going blind due to the long-term exposure to the crushed glass she used…yet, she had been happy creating and envisioning new work daily with her helpers…and left behind the richness of an “outsider” artist …

“Over the years Miss Helen and her helpers added to the mostly quasi-religious tableaus. Mythical figures started to appear, half human, half creature. Today it is a forest of some 500 statues, intense, baffling and compelling. Miss Helen committed suicide in 1976 by swallowing caustic soda. She left behind a legacy of intrigue – her kingdom sparks the imagination like few other places in South Africa…”

https://www.sa-venues.com

At the Owl House…I focused on the beauty that spoke to me…the vibration of the earth…alive and creating poetry for those who listen with their heart and not just their eyes…for me it is always in the perspective…

I embrace the journey to Neiu Bethesada…not what I expected…”old places have soul” …a place of that will fill my own soul in the remembering… may your journey’s take you to all the magical places you never even began to think about…

Love, laughter and lots of magic for your life travels…

I have a Secret…

Life is too short to start your day with the broken pieces of yesterday.

Bumppy.com

We all feel broken…

Does our brokenness ever heal…as I travel on this journey of growing healthier physically…with the important supporting emotional and spiritual advancement…I am finding that we (I) can recover…it is a choice…not everyone chooses to heal…wounds do contain manipulative values…

I have chosen not to remain a victim of my past…patience not being a strong suite…the process can be very irritating…I think that I have done the work for a particular issue and then out of nowhere…it pops it’s head up…remember the carnival game whack-a-mole…it feels like that on most days lately…

Not an instantaneous process…conscientious, continuous, and painstaking work…since my magic wand does not work in this realm…I must choose daily to move forward…toward my dream of freedom from the past…away from all the memories that keep me tied to the past with fears that as a human traveling this big blue sphere…I am not enough…always trying to prove my worth to the world…

I know where it came from…one of my first memories…was my father telling me that he wished that I had been a boy...I was the first in our family of six…(in his later life, my father was deeply sorry and apologetic about his earlier treatment of the family) …yet the unconscious beliefs weave their steel-like tendrils around my thoughts and like a boa constrictor…tighten themselves until the painful emotions cause me to relent with depression, uncertainties, worries, doubts, fears, and ambiguities…

In this world of illusion, I can become lost and imprisoned, a slave…past traumas behave like magicians…weaving spells that I can get lost in… a dark dense fog that seems impenetrable…I get lost sometimes…

Just because I have the emotion/thought does not mean that I must buy into it…I don’t have to accept it as reality…thoughts are automatic…we can choose not to accept them as concrete “truth”…but as the wispy morning mist that the sun dissipates once it rises…

“The place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it.” – Cheryl Strayed

There are two actions…well maybe three…that I have found helpful for moving into the sunshine…1) being mindful…in the moment. 2) engaging in what is important to me. 3) affirmations (sounds dorky, right).

Meditating and being mindful has been a lifesaver…instead of reliving past mistakes and hurts or imagining all the ways that life can pull the rug out from under me again…both are out of my control…and I have lost so much precious time and beauty already…I will not lose more…

My passion for photography…my dream of being an artist…getting lost in learning, improving…the process and my projects…bring such happiness that everything else fades…what is your dream…your passion project that you can lose yourself in…

Knowing that I am lacking in self-love…my feelings of unworthiness…I have been studying on how to change that…affirmations may be a part of a solution…those emotions of feeling unlovable have dug deep trenches in my brain…choosing to fill those neural pathways with little love thoughts…layer upon layer until the water doesn’t flow easily in that direction anymore…

 Because the truth is, we are all broken in places

Unlike this elephant, whose tusks once broken…will stay broken…we can heal… “We do not heal the past by dwelling there; we heal the past by living fully in the present.” – Marianne Williamson

“The sun shall always rise upon a new day and there shall always be a rose garden within me. Yes, there is a part of me that is broken, but my broken soil gives way to my wild roses.” – C. JoyBell C.

The secret is…there is Hope…there is a future

We are all damaged. We have all been hurt. We have all had to learn painful lessons. We are all recovering from some mistake, loss, betrayal, abuse, injustice, or misfortune. All of life is a process of recovery that never ends. We each must find ways to accept and move through the pain and to pick ourselves back up. For each pang of grief, depression, doubt, or despair there is an inverse toward renewal coming to you in time. Each tragedy is an announcement that some goodwill indeed come in time. Be patient with yourself.” 

Bryant McGill

Color within the Darkness…Hope Arising

Lots of love, laughter and music (and magic)❣

Delightful Disappointment

“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment. ”

― Ansel Adams

Sometimes it is just best to enjoy the moments…when everything seems to be failing…falling apart and nothing seems to be cooperating with your agenda…find some pleasure in what is and let it wash away every drop of frustration…sometimes you may find what you were really needing in the space of time you are in…

Yesterday was like that…the photographic club takes a yearly outing for a Whale Dolphin and Penguin Island Cruise…last year had been my first and I had been new to the club and just relearning the new camera equipment and post processing applications after several decades of being out of the photography business…I felt exhilarated…everything was going to be perfect…well, I girl can hope and if I had come back with even one or two awesome photographs I would have been satisfied…I must not have gotten to 10,000 yet🤣…“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” ~Henri Cartier-Bresson

The weather had predicted rain…but the day was grey…but not raining…everything packed…lens, camera, extra batteries, snacks, water…and off Mr. P (with his binoculars) and I went…we met up with the other camera fanatics at the pier…there were more than the boat could take, and we split into two boats…

Off we went…the men in black leading the pack

The water was incredibly choppy…I had chosen a seat in front of the cabin…most had chosen to seat under the canopy…I wanted to photograph different viewpoints than the average…and then it started…

The front of the boat went up and then it went down, and the salt spray came up over the front of the boat and smacked me…from the top of my head to the seat of my pants…looking like a bedraggled puppy at that point…I wasn’t about to give up my prime spot for a little water…luckily I had used my coat to cover the camera…I would see something that I wanted to take a picture of and the boat went up and down again…as I tried to get my balance…I would slide the other way…back and forth…up and down as we headed for the island…giving up after the numerous time and with no respite in sight…I wrapped the camera up and enjoyed the sea air and roller coaster ride…it became rather exhilarating…not worrying about camera speed, aperture, ISO or composition…I breathed and smiled with the beauty of life…salt…sea…blue of sky and water…the most healing medicine for that frazzled feeling…

The sea was filled with diamonds…for the bride-to-be…the variegated colors of my entire world at that moment were too numerous to name…the white of foam and clouds…aqua…green to dark blue…shades of clearest turquoise reflected in the playful wild splashes of waves hitting the rock and bursting into joyful exuberance…I was beyond contented…

I did not come back with one photograph that I felt was great and none were exceptional…too much distance…too much movement…but sometimes we photographers just need to lay the camera down and breathe in the world and the creative energy that the entire world is filled with…

“Life keeps throwing me stones. And I keep finding the diamonds.” – Ana Claudia Antunes

More photographs of the trip at.. http://beautifultapestryoflife.com/2021/11/21/delightful-disappointment/

LIFE IS FULL OF MAGICAL DIAMOND MOMENTS….hope your life today is full of them

With Life, love, lots of laughter and magic💖…Renée

We Rise…by Lifting Others

The same blood runs through every vein on earth…and no matter what our skin color…beliefs…customs…when we are cut…we all bled the same…Red

Beauty can be found in everything, and I choose to see and remind myself and the world that there is love and hope despite the ugliness that is so prevalent throughout our world…and unfortunately through history…yet sometimes the abundant odiousness of misery rises and slaps me in the face…reminding me of my blessings and the suffering of most of the humanity on this blue orb of life…

I am abundantly and richly blessed…I am not affluent nor do I have a MAGIC money tree growing in the back yard to pull cash off at any whim…no hidden stash under the mattress…but I do have enough to eat…a warm bed and a home…and people who love and care for me…

Growing up I was the oldest of six in a small country town in the backwoods of Wisconsin…my father failed as a farmer and working at a sawmill was seasonal and not profitable enough to adequately feed his family…we did not live on the street and my mother worked miracles by feeding us cow tongue and dandelion greens😂…a chicken thigh or drumstick on a Sunday was a savored delicacy to eye, nose and belly…

Although it is not the abject poverty that I encounter daily here or that I encountered in Columbia…there is an incredible deep-felt sense of empathy for what poverty does to a human… my heart hurts with the knowledge that with the empty stomachs resides the persisting enveloping darkness of loneliness, despair, and hopelessness…

The poor are the unseen…unwanted, unloved, and uncared for…

“There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season and rotting around the feet; impulses smothered too long in the fetid air of underground caves. The soul lives in sickly air. People can be slave ships in shoes.”

~ Zora Neale Hurston

“The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

Carl Sagan

I could write a million words and that would not be sufficient to create a complete picture and even the photographs can only provide a glance…a snippet in time of the life of those that are less fortunate…we have issues of poverty in the United States…there are no simple solutions…but we are one and we can feed one…

Mr. P & I see the overwhelming need every day that we navigate the city…there are the car guards in every parking area (Car guarding is a distinctly South African informal sector employment activity. A car guard offers to guard vehicles in a public or private parking area for a donation. Car guarding enables an unemployed person to earn some income) …beggars…young and old…black and white…others at every stop light selling what they can beside the road… whether a bag of oranges, a homemade product whatever they can…knocking on your window to try and persuade you to trade a few rand for their merchandise…those who wave their paintbrushes for day labor…

A loaf of bread and a package of hot dogs is R40 (40 Rand = $2.60 Dollars) …I know that everyone has their hand out for your contribution…and so many have their own life needs…but I felt that I could ask if anyone wanted to give a small donation to help me to give to those that cross our paths…keeping nothing for myself…but to provide a meal or a coin donation for those who are in need…what do you think?

In the Darkness…we are the Light

Much love, magic for your day and laughter (even if on some days it’s through the lump in your throat and the tears in your eyes) …

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Amakhala…Nature in all it’s Glory

“The beauty of Africa is not man made, it is natures gift to humanity.”
― Paul Oxton

When life becomes hectic and emotional turmoil…the panic…agitation…and confusion surrounds the soul…John Burroughs said it best…”I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

Amakhala is such a peaceful balm…nature’s delightfully restful and calming potion

Situated only about an hour (84 km) from home…a luxurious Safari Lodge is hidden in a valley of native bush…Amakhala is home to 5 of the 9 plant biomes here… the most common biome is the Albany Thicket, which is made up of dense shrubs, herbaceous plants and succulent trees…

Mixtures of Rich and Subtle hues being brushed against the canvas of the evening sky

This is a “Certificate of Excellence” award winning four star safari lodge…beginning in 1999 as a joint conservation venture between 6 families that were direct descendants of families that settled in the area in the 19th century to farm sheep and cattle…little by little the land was rehabilitated and animals that had freely roamed the area were reintroduced

One of the unfortunate consequences of Pandemic has been the loss of bookings in the tourism industry…with an unbeatable package deal we were able to book a 2 night, 3 day Safari package…a new mind boggling event in my life living here in South Africa…

I felt like I had been dropped into a magical wonderland…better than any “rabbit hole” I had gone down before…the colors of this world…the natural smells of earth and nature…the exquisite culinary tastes…the feeling of peace and calmness that can only be found in the wild…

Greeted by the most warm and amicable staff…we were immediately made to feel right at home…Norman being the most surprisingly unexpected of our welcoming committee…

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals… In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

~Henry Beston

Norman is the wrinkly grumpy old man bachelor that freely roams the park…after luggage drop off and stretching legs…we had almost gotten to the parking area and out of the bush comes one of the largest elephant that I have encountered…and I have never seen Mr. P. reverse so quickly…Norman just slowly ambled down to us…taking his sweet time to come and investigate who the new interlopers were…

Like a crotchety old geezer…didn’t care that his lunch crumbs were still stuck on his truck…he continued to snack while he contemplated whether we should be allowed to stay…finally deciding that we were harmless…he slowly sauntered off in search of more twigs and leaves to fill the never ending elephant pit of a stomach…an elephant’s life…eat…sleep…and poop…eating about 16 hours out of the day…sleep 4 to 6 hours and producing lots and lots of manure…200 to 250 pounds per day… oh, and produce enough methane gas – LOTS AND LOTS OF GAS😂…Properly equipped, a car could travel 20 miles on the amount of methane produced by one elephant in a single day https://elephantconservation.org/elephants/just-for-kids

Quotes about Elephants (182 quotes)

I just adored the time worn gnarled and tuskless Norman…he made the entire stay specially entertaining and we missed him when he left to wander far from the camp…

A refreshing chilled glass of lemonade while checking in and then we were escorted down a path winding through native brush…escorted to our tranquil suite…tented and thatched…the perfect combination for me…I think it was what I’ve heard described as “Glamping”…the experience of the “Great Out Doors” with the essentials of mattress, indoor toilet and running water…this was the epitome of elegance and good taste…wrapped with the wonderous sight, smell and energy of nature in all of her abundant splendor…

After a deliciously scrumptious dinner…warmed by the fire and conversation with new friends….we were escorted back to our hideaway…with all the fresh air and excitement we fell into an exhausted sleep….dreaming of all the wonders that the next day might hold…

“A well spent day brings happy sleep.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Focus your intention on your dreams, you can wave magic when you set your heart and mind to it – Author: Miranda Kerr

Is Art A Spiritual Practice…

What do you get when you shake and stir the emotions of feeling selfish, silly and way too old…a painful anxiety of unmasking my soul to critics…fearful that if I expose that creative dream to the light…”poof” like dandelion fuzz it would disintegrate again…worrying that it is an egotistical pursuit…sprinkle that with the musing with that following my joy might divert me from my mission in this life…hmmm…crazy exhausted with the overwhelming smell of burning rubber in the background…(which comes from stepping on the brakes and gas at the same time)…

Every artist dips his brush in his soul and paints his own nature into pictures.  

Henry Ward Beecher

My lifelong personal mission statement has always been to be a conduit of God’s love to this world…and it feels less than noble to be so excited about sharing my photographs and words…receiving wonderful support from those who view my work…isn’t the spiritual life meant to be hard and painful…

Wrestling with the dilemma has been a hellacious struggle…the creative dream and growth in writing and photography fills my life with happiness and joy…so I prayed…begged for guidance…as always, when it’s time…the teacher will come…not in my desired timing…of course…but when I was ready…it did…

Two books…one that I held for a while…but never read…The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and a lesser known book called The Soul of Art by Alfred J. Garrotto…both very supportive of the idea that creativity and spirituality are intrinsically linked…

The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity…” The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron

Last week I entered 8 photos into the PSSA(the Photographic Society of South Africa)…it was my first time for National entries…and only the second time for entering my photographs…I was fortunate to be able to enter free of charge because I am a newbie here…a level 1…but then everyone has to start somewhere…these are the ones that I submitted..my first entries were given gold and even better a certificate of merit…so now the question definitely needed answering…

Each photograph was taken with love and appreciation…some with exquisite joy in the beauty…some with pain…to be reminded of the poverty of the world…physically, emotionally, and morally…

It is said that, before being born, each soul is kissed by God. Then it goes through life always, in some dark way, remembering that kiss. The soul measures every experience in relation to that original sweetness . . . . To be in touch with your heart is to be in touch with this primordial kiss, both its preciousness and its meaning.

The Restless Heart Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

“As an artist, we are channels of the divine, fingers pointing heaven-ward. We are not the source of our gifts. We are individual points of light among the billions of stars that Creator-Spirit has splashed across multiple universes.”

Artistic imagination fills that void, showering us and our planet with wonder and hope. Artists’ message to our audiences is, “There’s more” . . . more than what we see and feel, more than the sum of our daily anxieties and fears. The Soul of Art, By Alfred J. Garrotto

I have done nothing to deserve these gifts and I am not worthy…any talent that I may have is unearned and unmerited…truly a gift of grace…to an imperfect human from a perfect God…to honor the gifts that I have been given, I still must do my part to cultivate and use them to make the world better…to share with an open and joyful heart…not as an egotistical pursuit or for personal accolades…it can easy to do…

All of us in the arts need to hone our craft through dedicated study, rehearsal, repetition, practice—even when we don’t feel like doing it and especially when we think we’ve maxed out our potential. How can any of us know that we do not have one more, or multiple, works within us that may exceed anything we have yet produced?  Am I too old to keep going? Too sick? Or just too wearied by past failures?

https://www.scribd.com/read/336109402/The-Soul-of-Art#

Perfecting the crafts of writing and photography will be a delightful lifelong challenge…I must put in the work that the gift requires to be more effective in touching lives…not allowing self-doubt and the fear of failure and criticism to bury my gift that may be used to return beauty, joy or inspiration…to lift humanity from its daily muck and mire of routine…causing someone to stop and breathe…if only for a moment…

May my heart always be filled with compassion to share a journey of hope and vision in a world of hopelessness and seen in all it’s ugliness…may I be given the virtue of humility realizing where my gifts come from to make the world a better place to live, joyfully sharing my gift with an open heart…for I have done nothing to deserve any gift that I have been given

I am only the “pointer” to the one that is the originator and creator of gifts…I am only the steward…a guidepost…so to speak…along this journey of life to the compassionate presence of a loving God..

I am only a conduit of God’s peace and love…allowing God’s love to flow through me...my service to others is my artists’ purpose…may my gifts to the world be wings that lift those that experience my words or images to be lifted out of the routines of the day to day and remind them that there is more…to discover within themselves their magic…their passion and joy…their own art and what is best within themselves…

Artists channel Creator-Spirit’s beauty, compassion, and love. Our mission and call is to bring some-thing into being where before there was no-thing.  Our ultimate gift is that, like Creator-Spirit, we do not hoard our transcendent experience and its fruits. Art is our “voice.” We cannot, we must not, remain silent. If we engage in the arts merely for our own gratification, we risk forfeiting our claim to be artists. Recall that art, like love, requires that it be given away. ~Alfred J. Garrotto

Any talent that I have is God’s gift to me, and my gift to Him is what I do with it…

I am a humble artist molding my earthly clod, adding my labor to nature’s, simply assisting God. Not that my labor is needed, yet somehow I understand, my Maker has deemed it that I too should have unmolded clay in my hand.  

Piet Hein

Dedicated to the love of my life Mr. P…who pushed me to fly and is the “wind beneath my wings” every day…and the support and encouragement of all my friends and family💓...I could not walk this path without them

Sent with prayers for Love, laughter and magic in your day

Rising from the Fire

Loneliness in a new country is almost a given…everyone experiences it…developing new friendships is a critical component to healthy and happy living in a new place… It has definitely been more than challenging in this smallish town where everyone knows everyone and the past presence of someone causes defenses and walls in people…but following a reigniting passion of mine…it was found… a small community of photographers here that both Mr. P (even though he is not a photographer) and we find warm, accepting and kind…

It still takes time and I have had to do my part by attending virtual meetings and outings…even when I felt like crawling back in my safe secluded shell…the art of photography is my passion…a way to savor life…a story that cannot be adequately be told in words… and now I have the chance to immerse my head, heart and eye in creating again…to blow on the minuscule embers of a past dream… I owned my own photography and art studio back in my 30’s…the dream had faded and hope dissolved when I had to sell all of my photography equipment…photography often does not provide a sustainable income for a single woman…moving onward…I finished my business degrees…and the rest is a history of working in Manufacturing…pretty far from my right-brained preference of creative pursuits…

Last month I entered photos in the club’s photo competition…after a great deal of persuasion from Mr. P…being the perfectionist that I am…I can always find flaws in the photographs that I take…but to my delightful surprise…I won two golds and a Certificate of Merit… for the Emerald Spotted Dove I took at Addo Elephant Park…

On the latest excursion with the club…we met at the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve…one of the oldest reserves here in South Africa…The area and river was named after Marthinus van Staden, one of the area’s pioneering farmers. He was also among the first to plot a rudimentary track through the valley…it is one of the best spots to see flowering proteas in season…the calm warm spring morning showcased the splendor of the Eastern Cap’s floral kingdom at its finest…

Enjoying the extraordinary diversity and splendor of the natural Fynbos, succulents and other indigenous flora was definitely the agenda of the day…even the bees were doing headstands in pleasure with the abundance of the sweetness of spring in all its glory…

There were many types of indigenous flora and fauna to indulge the eyes and nose with…but the proteas are the most numerous…proteas date back approximately 300 million years… considered to be among the oldest families of flowering plants on the planet…

Given their name in 1735 by Carl Linnaeus…Proteas are named after Proteus, son of Poseidon, who could change his shape at will…due to the fact that they have such a huge range of shapes and sizes…they are commonly called Sugarbushes, as a result of the amount of sweet nectar they produce…the reason for the excitement of all the bees

South Africa’s pride and joy…the King Protea became the national flower in 1976…The king protea is the largest species…1 of the 330 species here…btw Australia has the largest collection with over 850 different species… It has a large flower head with petals resembling a crown and can grow up to two meters (or up to 6 ft.) high. They can produce as many as 10 flower heads in a season.

The protea is an indigenous flower of South Africa…and was chosen to represent the beauty of the land and people, the aesthetic harmony of all its cultures, and the hope of South Africa flowering as a nation…also symbolizing the continuous change and gradual transformation of the variety of cultures among the people of South Africa…

A malachite sunbird finds a landing spot. Photo by Jay van Rensburg…
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We were amazed at the prolific amount of the exquisite floral beauty there was to photograph…in 2017 the flower reserve burned with a massive fire in the area…

No matter how hot the fire burns, a Protea always survives.

~Ab De Villiers

‘When we get a fire like this our instinctual reaction is to feel a lot of sadness for the loss of our flora and fauna. But this flora is adapted to burn, it needs to burn to live,’ ‘If fynbos doesn’t burn every 15 years or so we lose a lot of species, we lose a lot of diversity from the system and the system effectively starts to wind down and die. Fire is really important. It’s really a rebirth for the ecosystem.’

Dr. Adam West
Vibrant and unique…Proteas, which are a type of fynbos, are referred to as a pyrophylic or fire-loving vegetation, and in need to burn every few years to survive. Like the phoenix, they rise from the fire

Fire plays a role in germination and it also acts as a mineralizing agent. Some fynbos species will die when it burns and regenerate from seed stored in the canopy that is only released after a fire, while other species build up seed stores in the soil…Seed germination is stimulated directly through heat and indirectly through changed environmental conditions caused by a fire.

Dormant buds survive the wildfires that so often clear the dry Cape land, only to emerge once the fire has gone out. The plants are hardy and can withstand the toughest of weather conditions. One thing that ties all of the differently shaped and sized proteas together is their root system. The proteoid root system allows them to survive in soil that isn’t rich in nutrients…This thick underground stem contains many dormant buds…these will produce new growth after the fire…

May our roots be strong in faith and love so that if our world is burned to the ground, and we feel devoid of everything… we will survive and be reborn stronger and more beautiful…

Often from the ashes of who we were, we rise up and become who we were meant to be…our souls are indestructible and our ability to be reborn from the ashes in our lives will remain as long as our hearts beat…I am living proof💓…sent with love, blessings and magic for your life….

35+ Phoenix Quotes for Rebirth and Rising Up - Resilient