Glittering Sand and Reclaiming Wholeness

Do not give up your wilder spirit; the creative spirit thrives on freedom and daring. summarized from Marianne Williamson’s book, “ A Woman’s Worth.”

 

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I listen to our two-year old pretend to be on the phone. “Hello? Hello? I’m fine, okay, bye,” and he hangs up with gusto. I admit, I feel like I do this to my body and mind.
“ Hello? Body and Mind?  Are you there? Ok, bye,” without asking, “Are you okay? Do you need anything?”

I find a bruise on my leg from tripping on toys. “Sorry, body, it took a few days to notice…” Oh, and “Sorry, mind, I haven’t been listening to anything you’ve been saying lately about taking care of myself.” (As the cereal box goes into the fridge, and I reach into my purse to discover 2 Matchbox cars, a partially eaten cracker, and unidentifiable objects)…. now, what was I saying?

I ran away from home on Monday (with permission from my family). I was achy, whiny, and burnt out. My honey has a great sense of humor, and it’s always an internal barometer that something in me is frazzled when I’m not laughing and smiling so much because I am just. so darned tired and desperate for time to myself.  Granted, I have a very active toddler, but it wasn’t just that. I felt like a stale cracker with no pizzazz. And I like pizzazz. I want to feel lively, invigorated, creative, energetic, and have joie de vivre, don’t you?

Being alone away from home is different than being alone in my living room, where I’m distracted by what needs cleaning, organizing, planning, picking up, putting away…  Getting outside of my day-to-day environment makes room for serendipity in a place where I can seek solitude, do some soul-searching, and cultivate a happier spirit.  When I feel whole, I’m definitely a better wife, Mama, friend, and person to be around.

Why don’t we take time for ourselves more often? Because it’s hard. Hard to plan, coordinate the meals, transport, childcare, job, projects, school preparation… and so difficult to step away without loads of guilt. However, as a wise friend shared, “if you go to bed at night frustrated that you didn’t have any time for yourself today, it could be because you didn’t factor yourself into the day’s equation. The laundry and dishes can wait. Your sanity cannot.”  It’s hard to hear, but it’s true. And easier said than done, but self-care comes from practice.

Author Joan Anderson says, “ A full life does require cultivation and most women’s lives require some fallow time to restore our spirit, body, and mind.” Amen, sister. And how. How else can we fix ourselves when we feel depleted of energy, worn down, and dulled to our own life by not taking time for ourselves and our passions? To experience all of those great “R” words: radiance, renew, reflect, restore, replenish, repair, reclaim, reignite, and to guide us out of stagnation?

Fortunately, my spouse is an amazing, supportive man who “gets” me. He knows that occasionally, I become like a racehorse who wants out of the gate; to be alone with my thoughts, and discover somewhere new to reinvigorate my creativity, rest, and just be. He’s not threatened by my need to leave for a few days. He knows I will come back a happier woman and Mama.  I smile when he says with warmth, “ Go explore and do your thing. I know you need a break.”  We talked it over at lunch, and I immediately booked a few nights at a lodge and left two days later. I knew if I didn’t just GO, I might not at all.

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So, off I went. Passport in hand, five hours down the road, traversing one border crossing, in search of quietude at the beach. How did it go?

Day One:
Relaxation did not come quickly or easily. It’s hard to suddenly be alone and still, after being on spin cycle. The first day of my time away, I was fidgety. I fiddled around my hotel room, nesting. Straightening lamps and magazines, then stopping myself, realizing I was not here to do any cleaning! I made tea and sat on the balcony for all of ten minutes, feeling anxious and unsettled. I felt a little lost, honestly, without the pitter- patter of tiny feet, clinking of toys, and bustling activity in the room.  I wondered how things were going at home. Would my son eat well? Be sung to, read to, and tucked in? (Yes, but not like Mama would do it. I have to let that go…he needs time with Dad, and to know things can be done differently).

And there was no wireless access, so no hiding behind the computer to distract me from this space that was way too quiet. Ugh. I felt frustrated that I  came here to get away from it all, and then couldn’t stand the silence. Feeling restless, I left my room.  I found a place to have a drink and watch the Tour de France in the company of strangers, realizing it would take longer to get into the slower-paced groove than I thought.

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A twenty-minute stroll on a boardwalk close by helped. The trail was long and winding, with natural doorways formed by brambles.  As I walked through each threshold, I tried to think of something I wanted to leave behind: guilt for being here and stress, for starters. I sauntered along slowly and watched birds, deer, and squirrels, and enjoyed the way light filtered through the trees.

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The sun was setting, and I enjoyed the pink-tinged clouds forming over the estuary, the gentle sway of the reeds and grasses of the wetlands, and listened to the wind and creak of limbs (tree branches, not mine).  I found a pine cone that felt a bit like me, sort of prickly and cracked.

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Returned to my room and called home. Nothing was falling apart. So I soaked in the bath for a long time, lost in thought.  And then, I started, a little  bit, to unwind. I even started humming “my” music, instead of preschool songs.

Day 2:

I woke up early with thoughts spilling out of my head about things that needed to be done for the family and for the house, lists and more lists. I resolved that today I would not worry about everyone else, and try to live in the present.  A gratitude list always helps with this:  the fuzzy scarf I’m wearing, hot coffee, the soft morning light, my honey’s thoughtful note in my suitcase, the sound of our little fella saying cute things on the phone, hearing the sea in the distance.

It’s amazing what happens when you start to hear your own thoughts and get some rest. I realized after breakfast that the book I started a few days ago and brought with me isn’t very good at all. I was just reading it out of habit before bed. I left it at the front desk and took a new one from the freebie bookshelf in the lounge.

Adventure called. With a take-away sandwich from a tea shop, I headed to a nearby national park and drove slower than the speed limit to enjoy the flora, fauna, wide, blue sky, and wildlife. I found a shady spot under a tree to picnic and read on the beach with a majestic view. The tide rhythmically  ebbed and flowed.

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I wrote a couple of postcards. Took a shell-seeking walk. I picked up a section of dry bamboo and twirled it like a baton. I found a pebble, mentally put any stress and negative energy into it, and threw it ceremoniously into the sea. I sat, quietly, letting handfuls of glittering grains of sand sift through my fingers, and felt peace wash over me for the first time in a long while, connected to spirit and earth.

By the end of my sojourn, fueled by communing with nature and abundant solitude, I was ready to return home, more centered and mindful, more whole, feeling more human, and with a softer, lighter spirit.

Here’s to seeking enchantment, however and whenever you can, my friends, wherever you are.

Peace to you,
Tracy

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.

A Tale of Two Cities, a Toddler, Some Tea…

Hi! It’s good to get back to blogging after a little summer break!  So much to catch up on. Took baby Ramsay on a two-city tour of Tucson, Arizona and Columbus, Georgia to see family. It was so much fun to watch him with his grandparents, and so good to get hugs and feel taken care of.

Too many random thoughts for any cohesive writing lately, so here’s a summary of things I am grateful for lately through photos:

The ritual of making tea with loose tea leaves

How baking makes the house smell good. (And the deliciousness of devouring Madeleines).

Quiet time in the evenings to read, and to collage some “mail art” and create with molding paste, which is a fun, new medium I’m learning about.

Discovering what interests my son:  especially the color yellow, and shoes in general.

Surprises and beauty in nature, architecture, and daily life:

Hope your summer is going well, and there are many amazing moments in each day.

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Serendipity on a Winding Path

IMG_1375When I saw this mixed-media necklace at our local Art Fair in historic Occoquan recently, the word JOURNEY called to me.  We are all on a journey, a winding path of moments and days.

Lately, the days on my journey have felt longer, and a bit emptier.  My sweet honey got orders to work overseas until Mid-August. I miss him terribly, and so does our little fella, who teeters from room to room in our house, calling, “DaDa?” “DaDA!” and it’s heart wrenching not to be able to explain that Daddy is far away, but we’ll see him in a couple of months.

We made time for a date night before he left, and had dinner at Central in D.C.

IMG_1360   The Oysters Rockefeller were divine, and I loved the artistic display of herbs and spices on rock salt on the platter.  IMG_1351Thank you for paying attention to detail, chef Michel Richard!  It’s all in the details… I love details, especially artistic ones.

So, do you remember in my last post when I quoted a Shel Silverstein Poem about the girl who would not take out the trash (Cynthia Sylvia Stout)?  It was an odd coincidence that this poem (that I first read in the 70’s, and had not thought about for years), popped up on my radar at LUSH (homemade bath products) a few days later as the name of a Shampoo. Ha! IMG_1300 Don’t you love it when something random appears on your radar and then unexpectedly resurfaces again soon after? (Am I  the only person amused by this sort of thing)?  Serendipity? Chance? Fate? The law of attraction?

Are you familiar with Paulo Coelho’s book, The Alchemist?  It’s one of my favorites, and I am drawn to his idea that the universe teaches us (brings things to us) when we are ready.  I bought a small original watercolor in Rome in 1999, and when I asked the artist what inspired him, he told me about this book. When I returned to London the following week (where I was working at the time), I read The Alchemist cover to cover, and suddenly, it seemed everyone I met was talking about it. (It had been published almost a decade earlier, so it wasn’t new on the scene). Have you had something similar happen?

Wishing for you lots of serendipity in the coming days.

Cheers,

Starry

Blossoming Spring

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower... 
first line of a poem by British Poet, Dylan Thomas

April showers turned naked, leafless branches into gorgeous blossoms and  flowering, fluorescent green trees that show off their glory. Even on the grey days, green shoots push through the soil (and bravely force their way through concrete) to announce the end of winter.  Fat, heavy rain drops sit on petals and cobwebs, hydrating the earth. I am grateful for the abundance of beauty in nature.

This month of May, as petals open and the weather warms, may you shed any remnants of winter, feel lighter and brighter, and experience Spring with the wonderment of a child.

Our son, Ramsay, will become a one-year-old in a couple of weeks, and this is his first Spring. Taking walks with him brings me endless joy, as he observes and studies every detail of life around him. His reaction to a thistle reminds us to find fun in the little things. Enjoy this quick video:

Limin’ and Loosening

On Vacation!

On Vacation!

A few weeks ago, after several nights with racing, chattering dreams, like mice running around in the attic, I threw clothes in a suitcase and gave a very tearful goodbye to my honey and son. I left DC with shoulders hunched around my ears against the cold, and muscles tight and achy from stress and lack of sleep.

I flew to Miami to meet up with Emmie Chase, my best friend from childhood, to celebrate our 40th birthdays together for a week; a trip we planned many years ago. We were so happy to see each other, but were exhausted, too, and ambled around South Beach, ate dinner, and slowly began to acclimate to this idea of a vacation. We kept asking each other with tired smiles, “Is this really real? We’ll be on an island tomorrow?”

After a long, winding, and scenic ride with our proud, chatty taxi driver, we arrived at Cap Maison Hotel in St. Lucia, which was luscious and beautiful. It was just the vacation we needed, with lots of rest, fresh air, and laughter to loosen our minds and muscles. Locals taught us that hanging out and relaxing is referred to as “limin’,” which we did well.

Some favorite moments:
Connecting with nature and being outdoors (without a winter coat)!  A kaleidoscope of colors at sunset and sunrise; a buttery, beaming moon in the evenings; sparkling stars; tree frogs singing; hummingbirds with shimmery, emerald feathers; flamboyant tropical flowers; and lolling waves. And evening video chats to catch up with our husbands and kids, so we didn’t feel so far away from them.

Delicious fruit, baked breads, brightly colored salads, and fresh seafood. Sweeping views of mountains rising out of the sea, boat rides, produce and craft markets, exploring the botanical gardens, the Spa, naps, and dishing (not dishes)! Afternoon rains called “liquid sunshine,” and a local festival and art gallery visit.

What a fun and restorative journey! Where will we go in ten years to ring in the next decade?

Eros, Agape, Amour…

 

IMG_2538Hi! Happy Valentine’s Day! May today be filled with vibrant colors, flowers, and zest for life! I had fun creating bouquets of tulips that lovely friends gave me for my birthday:

Birthday Tulips

Birthday Tulips

And on the train this week, steamy windows made a great chalk board. Used the photo on a paper luggage tag collage.

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And for the love of flowers:

 

And, the cutest Valentine of all:

Our Tiny, Happy Valentine

Our Tiny, Happy Valentine

OXOX, Starry