Over the Moon (and a Give Away)

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Today, I did a full-on, two-minute Happy Dance in my driveway when my husband handed me the mail.  I have an article called Abundant Solitude and photos published in Issue 5 of Bella Grace Magazine, one of my favorite inspirational publications!

It is an amazing, validating, and surreal feeling to see my words and images published (for the first time ever) on the page. And to touch the paper (and it’s very nice, heavy-bond paper- I have a thing for nice paper).  They did such a beautiful job with the layout, and I am over the moon to be featured alongside women creatives whom I admire so much.

Thank you, Stampington and Company and #BellaGrace!  To celebrate, I am having a Give Away of one copy of Bella Grace, Issue 5.  At the end of September, I will select one recipient at random from the comments.

To leave a comment, please click on the bubble to the right of the title (at the top of this post), and you will see the “Reply” box appear at the bottom.  Tell me what YOU do to find solitude or feel centered when life rushes in and you are looking for some solace. Don’t forget to include your email with your input so that I can contact you if you win!

With enormous gratitude,

Tracy

{October note: Winner was Pat Newton of Columbus, Georgia, who received her copy of Bella Grace directly from the publisher.  Congratulations!}

Bella Grace is recognized as one of Library Journal’s Top Ten Magazines launched in 2014

 

Welcome, September.

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Welcome, September!

I always love this month. September signifies beginnings; new notebooks and pens, starting projects, a change of seasons and wardrobe. September brings Autumn to the northern hemisphere, and Spring to the southern hemisphere.

Some random fun facts about this month: Band-Aids were invented in the month of September. September 19th is “Talk Like A pirate Day.” Ahoy, matey!…the poem “Mary had a Little Lamb” was published September 1st, 1830 (we celebrate this fact with a toddler in the house), and the very first comic strip was printed in an American newspaper in September of 1875 (source: Dixie Allan).

And for star-gazers, photographers, and those seeking to connect with the cosmos, September 9th will be the last supermoon of 2014.

Whether you have Spring flowers or Autumn leaves, wishing you a wonderful new season.

Tracy

Orange You Glad?

IMG_4917Hello!

With the change of seasons in the southern hemisphere, we are transitioning from Winter into Spring.  Some sparse green grass blades are pushing up through the soil, leaves are budding on trees, and color is seeping slowly back into a rather brown and beige-hued world we’ve known during the dry season. The temperatures are warming, and the ritual commences of taking coffee and binoculars outside in the early morning to watch the returning birds.

In Mbabane, August also brings gorgeous plump and heavy oranges in droves. One of my favorite colors, and fruits, is orange. This time of year, oranges are piled high in the backs of trucks and fill market stalls. I’ve been scooping up loads of them to bring home for eating and squeezing into juice. Our little boy knows how to peel them, and he likes taking a deep breath of the fragrant orange peel and says, “nice!”

I love the scent of oranges, too.

And today, I ate a tea cake made with real orange juice that was delicious, and the creativity in the cooking was my muse to start a new art project.

Do you have a creative muse or a morning ritual?

Wishing you days full of color and light.

Cheers,

Tracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Things Writerly

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A thought-provoking question for you:  Where do you immediately go in a book store? Apparently, this can be insightful into your personality.  I tend to gravitate first toward the travel section, meander over to browse decor and design magazines, then check out the blank journals, and lastly, to the fiction novels and books by authors who write about women’s success, their life journeys, or personal connections (well, and spy novels-who can resist the intrigue)? What do you enjoy reading?

I could spend hours in bookstores. The atmosphere feels so civilized and calming; great for daydreaming, and sometimes there are inviting coffee shops nearby.  There aren’t any “real” bookstores in Swaziland, so when we venture to South Africa, it’s one of the first places we go.

Do you seek out books when you travel?  It’s one of my favorite parts of going to a new city, exploring its bookstores and cozy spaces. Shakespeare and Company in Paris feels like boarding an old pirate ship full of treasures waiting to be discovered. Book shops in London remind me of a Charles Dickens era with rows of gorgeous, dark mahogany shelves showcasing the classics and latest works, alongside beautiful, hand-stitched leather journals.

Drinking in cafes and all things writerly appeal to me. For more than a decade, I’ve used a little Mont Blanc “Mozart” fountain pen when journal-writing (and to write old-fashioned letters and postcards).  I have to admit, I’ve caught a lot of guff from colleagues in meetings about having to change the ink cartridge mid-sentence, or rub ink off of my hand…but I love the way the nib feels on paper, and the art of writing.

I also have a fervor for stationery stores. In addition to beautifully hand-made paper, some stationers in Italy, France, and Spain carry little vials of ink , sealed in wax, with glass pens. It feels very Shakespearean,or Hemingway-like, depending on the vibe.

Which are your favorite places to peruse passions and prose?

Happy daydreaming,

Tracy

Daily Naikan and Being Thankful

Naikan means “inside looking.” Developed by a Buddhist, it is a Japanese meditative practice of self-reflection and cultivating gratitude.

As a “type-A,” active person, it’s sometimes (okay, often) a challenge for me to carve out time to be still and quiet, which is all the more reason this practice sounds really valuable!  My son is on break next week from preschool. For his sanity and mine, I am committed to taking at least a few minutes a day to do this.

It’s so important to stop and break out of the busyness. I don’t do this enough. Life can pass you right by, getting wrapped up in activities and not fully appreciating the abundance that surrounds us.

My Mama and Aunt came to Africa this month, and it was an amazing visit, filled with wonderful experiences. I’ve just taken time to write in my journal, and read back through (and more fully appreciate) these fantastic memories:

  • a coffee barista’s advice in Kruger Park: “The world is God’s home, so we must travel to visit the rooms of his house.”
  • observing the wonderment of these ladies as they discovered African crafts, food, hand-woven baskets, wildlife, and meals made with flaming fires…
  • their market finds: magnets of Swazi women, banana-leaf art, a beaded change-purse, earrings made from beans, a soapstone carving, silver jewelry woven with giraffe tail hair,  hearing the scratching sound of hands carving wooden giraffes
  • pale blue skies blanketing toasty brown land and golden fields
  • relaxing under the lodge’s thatched roof, the sounds of hippos roaring nearby
  • grilled “braii” meals outdoors and sundowner drinks by an old, enormous Banyan tree
  • eating breakfast on safari in the bush
  • standing by the Indian Ocean
  • celebrating Ramsay’s second birthday
  • native Swazi dance and music
  • early morning mist rising from Kruger Park’s Crocodile River, emanating like steam from a hot cup of tea
  • sitting next to my Mama on Safari, surrounded by graceful giraffes
  • a vibrant, magical rainbow that appeared and lingered in the wetlands, illuminating the water like a glowing oil painting
  • watching my son on my mother’s lap, eating popcorn together

Wishing for you today the ability to leave behind the bustle, find center, and reflect on who you are and what makes you grateful.

“If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire.”
-Saint Catherine of Sienna

With gratitude,

Tracy

 

 

Africa Burning and Nature Treasure Hunts

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Mbabane Mountain Fires at Night

The arrival of winter in Swaziland has brought dry, strong winds, brown mountainsides, and the beginning of “burning,” a winter tradition of setting fire to the fields, leaves, and brush to promote regrowth, get rid of trash, and decrease crime. (It gets dark early this season, and people walking get mugged (or worse) from criminals hiding in tall grasses, so I’m told). They even burn right along side the highway, flames licking the sides of the road,  billowing smoke thick like fog.

It’s an eerie, but beautiful sight to see hills glowing orange at night, red-orange sparks flying up into the sky.  But the smoke…. oh, the smoke. It fills our house, our nose, burns our throat and eyes. If someone will teach me a real rain dance, I will happily partake. Dust and soot is on everything, and ashes blow in clumps up to doors and window screens.

Fires get out of control quickly with the whipping breeze. Amazingly, the fire trucks have no water, but rather, firefighters use what look like rubber rakes to stomp out the flames. It’s actually quite effective, but some houses in town have been burned to the ground, an understood risk this time of year.

It has become a hobby for our toddler to look for fires and point them out, and he likes to say, “look! fire! ‘moke!”  On the bright side, there is gorgeous sun that brings warm days. When the smoke subsides, we venture out to finger paint or treasure hunt in nature for shapes, patterns, colors, bugs, baby tomatoes, and camouflaged animals. And to find our shadows and wave hello.

Here’s to finding inspiration where you can, and less fires for all of us,

Tracy

The Nectar and Nuances

One of the best things about the African continent is the opportunity to drink in interesting details all around you, all of the time.  I’m not much of an insect person (mostly try to encourage them to stay outdoors), but pretty patterns on a moth’s wings caught my attention this week:IMG_4133other observations that held me captive:

A baby sleeping peacefully on top of tomatoes under a fruit stall umbrella

Mist that swiftly blankets the mountainside with a ghostly white veil

The distinct flavor of Southern African “red bush”  Rooibos tea

The expression “I am long in the tooth”  (relating to age and wisdom)

Afternoon soft, yellow light that falls below the cloud line, back-lighting the trees

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Local children staring right at me, not breaking eye contact, and without expression; just looking

And children at the library, touching my hair and saying “so soft, so soft”

On the side of the road in the pouring rain, vendors patiently waiting to sell mobile phone minutes under a thin, unhelpful yellow umbrella

(Also on the side of the road: livestock, men grilling corn, and children running with long sticks pressed inside of tires, racing and laughing as they rolled them down the road)

Iridescent purple hummingbirds drinking nectar from luminous and large, orange blossoms

And when I asked my husband one evening why he wasn’t reading the book he’d brought outdoors, he said, ” I feel like I’d be missing out, not staring at the horizon.”

Sala kahle (be well),

Starry

Marvelous Moments

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Reading through my journal, 2014 has already brought so many wonderful new experiences.  Our time living abroad feels like life is on fast-forward,  so we really try to be present and feel thankful for these kinds of moments:

  • sampling new  Swazi and South African dishes: impala, pap, warthog, and ox tail
  • the moving, resonant, and harmonic voices of just six people attending an evening church service; their sound burst through the silence with gorgeous, powerful, a cappella song that filled the room
  • A hippo and crocodile cruise in St. Lucia’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and sleeping under mosquito netting in a cabin that feels like you’re in the jungle
  • the concept of the lodge “honesty bar, ” where you drink what you like in an outside lounge area, write it down, and get charged when you check out
  • playing with our toddler in tidal pools formed by the  Indian Ocean, watching the joy of his daily discoveries, wonderment of life, and reminders to all of us to be child-like and PLAY
  • fragrant Victoria St. Market in Durban; a maze of beaded sandals, wooden carvings clothing, jewelry, painted ostrich eggs, and woven baskets
  • being treated like family at a coffee roaster in a litchi orchard in Salt Rock, South Africa, where they are “mad for a gorgeous cuppa”
  • the adrenaline rush and phenomenal views from a first micro flight over Ballito
  • Driving on highway R541 called “The Genesis Route,” tied to the origins of our planet and the idea that all humans share an African heritage. 3.5 billion-year-old rocks in Makhonjwa mountain range are amongst the most ancient in the world. (let that sink in for a second. Wow, right)?
  • Discovering Vetiver grass roots, which smell divine, and loving the beautiful nests into which the roots are woven
  • Visiting Jane Goodall’s Chimp Eden, a bit disappointed not to have time for a tour, but then heading back to the car and spotting a group of  giraffes (called a “tower,” which seems aptly named, as they do tower, and grandly so).  Just free roaming, wild and out in the open.  Stunning.

2014 Word: Safari

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Celestial Gift, New Year’s Day

Is it too late to say Happy New Year in February? The first part of the year has flown by. Our family closes 2013 in a new country, having celebrated our first Christmas with a few tears of homesickness, but mostly joy and gratitude for our new lifestyle, friends, and adventures.

It’s summer here in sub-saharan Africa, as polar storms cover the U.S. with heavy snowfall. My mind recognizes the heat, but my body wants to go into winter hibernation. I feel fortunate, however, to have hot sun after a long rainy season, where villagers rarely had dry clothing, and heavy rainfall washed away the leaves, stones, and dirt used to fill potholes the size of bathtubs.

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The rains brought gorgeous, dense and verdant foliage, and in our “surprise” garden, (not knowing what former tenants planted), new flora and fauna bloom and delight us. And, recently, a migration of hundreds of white butterflies fluttered through the tree canopies in our back yard, tumbling in erratic flight patterns like white rose petals falling from the sky. I see movement in the bushes, too, sometimes…is that scampering shadow a mongoose or a huge monitor lizard? Africa constantly feeds our imaginations and keeps us guessing.

Like New Year’s, my birthday is always a time to stop and reflect about the past year, and what’s to come. I received a philosophical birthday wish last week from Dalton, who fills our car at the Engen Petrol station. He jubilantly wished me many more years ahead, and told me to remember, ” Life First.  Problems Later!”  I couldn’t agree more, Dalton. Thanks!

In little nooks and crannies of time since New Year’s, I’ve made it a priority to start going through a slowly accumulated pile of excerpts highlighted in books, articles torn out of magazines, and lists of podcasts, website references, and blogs to peruse. A few messages keep recurring:

  • re-educate yourself to listen and trust the inner-truths
  • follow your intuition, and if it’s really your intuition talking, (your idea or activity) it will lead to a feeling of greater aliveness and power
  • choose how you want your day to unfold, and where you put your energy (not on negativity and all things soul-draining)

I’d love to get up every day and set positive intentions. I suppose it’s like exercise: you just have to get into the habit. Are there days where your head hits the pillow and you wonder where the day went, and how you never found time to X-Y-Z?

Several blogs I enjoy have mentioned choosing a “word for the year.”  What is the word I want to represent 2014? Several words and phrases resonate: authentic. centered. letting go. permission to create. But I think my word for the year will be Safari, as it has connotations of exploring, forging new paths, and discovery.  Which word, image, or quote would you choose for your year?

A quote that speaks to me:

What in your life is calling you?
When all the noise is silenced,
the meetings adjourned,
the lists laid aside,
and the wild iris blooms by itself
in the dark forest,
what still pulls on your soul?

In the silence between your heartbeats
hides a summons.
Do you hear it?
Name it, if you must,
or leave it forever nameless,
but why pretend it is not there?
Source: “The Box”, Terma Collective

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Wishing you an amazing soul safari in 2014.

Cheers,

Starry