Forging a New Path

As with any great life transition, there are too many words, thoughts, and emotions to capture. There is a lot of anticipation…and a little apprehension, too.

As we leave our home in Swaziland,

We are also going home.

Celebrating our experiences, our friends, our family.

Taking flight, soaring over lands and oceans.

We embrace a new nest

with gratitude as we forge a new path ahead.

Namaste,

Tracy

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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

 

Bones, Branches, and a Lemur

Winter in the southern hemisphere gets down to the brass tacks of nature. The cold in Swaziland isn’t too harsh, but dry fields burn bright orange as wild fires blaze, scorching the earth to regenerate the soil.  Leaves are brittle and dry. Roads are dusty. Winds howl through the naked trees.

The heater in our old Landy works pretty well. It was not love at first sight, driving this old beast, but she has become a symbol of road trips and African adventure for our family. We recently journeyed to Ndlovu camp in Hlane Royal National Park. It has no electricity in its thatched huts called rondavels.  When you check in to get your key (that has no door number, just the name “Big Hut,” ) you see bones and skulls displayed of hippos, crocodiles, deer, and lions.

As we settled in, the late afternoon sun waIMG_0682s setting behind brambles, the light resembling stained glass. Encroaching darkness cast elephant-sized shadows all around, diminishing the details of our ambient room. A woman came by to light our kerosene lamps.Nightjars called, and a bright white crescent appeared with a billion sparkling stars. A bare tree, starkly silhouetted against the moon-lit  sky, had branches dotted with so many stars that they looked like snow flakes.

IMG_0759In the absence of electricity was a gorgeous quiet; no usual house hums of fridge or gadgets. It was so silent, in fact, that I heard a faint ringing in my ears.

I piled on the blankets and read a book by flashlight.

Close to midnight, there was rustling in the living room. I walked toward the noise with a lamp and saw a wild cat staring at me with big ears, a long, ringed tail, and spots. This was no kitty cat. I sort of scream-whispered, “Brad, wake up! There is a wild cat in here with spots!”…(One of those sentences in life you think you’ll never say) . “What IS IT?” Will it bite the baby?!“ is all I could squeak out.

After some harried discussion, we decided there was a lemur in our rondavel. (Techinically, this animal is called a genet, as we later learned). As my husband says, he “thought when we closed the door to our hut, we were keeping the wildlife out.”

In the end, our furry visitor was harmless and crept his way back out into the night through a hole in our thatched roof.  And the rondavel was peaceful once again.

Be Illumined this month, and may nothing dim your light,

Tracy

 

A Swaziland Season: Things to Remember

IMG_9167Our family has six months left here in Mbabane. There are so many things I want to remember. “There is such vibrancy of life here,” my husband says. I nod my head.

IMG_5972Swaziland can be so beautiful that it makes you stand still in awe. I never tire of taking in the sight of lush green mountains and big, beautiful flowering trees that surround us, or watching the way light filters through wide banana leaves.

Life here is slower, and teaches us to be more patient. I am grateful for the stillness of early morning, when I can see both the moon and the sun, and dew glistens on the flowers.

IMG_7093Sometimes, rain falls so hard it sounds like drums on the ground, blurring the lines of the mountains and landscape. It washes out roads. Fog envelops our house, its milky swirls obscuring the windows.  Then, skies clear to reveal a gorgeous rainbow, followed by bright, burning sun.

IMG_7865In Malkerns, I overheard these directions: ” Just go down Rainbow Road until you pass all of the chickens where the pineapples are.” I don’t know where that leads, but the description made me want to go there, too.

I’ve discovered how colorful (and funny-looking) birds, lizards, butterflies and grasshoppers can be, right here in our yard (and sometimes in the house). And how animals are cheeky, like the time a monkey took our toast.

And how a stick is not just a branch, but can be used to stir a pitcher of juice, to start a fire, build a home or a market stall.  A stick can become a child’s toy, assistance for walking up hills, or provide protection from wild dogs.IMG_7388I want to hold the images in my mind of:  The emanating smiles and joy of people here, who have so. very. little. Women in dresses working in the fields, babies blanketed to their backs. Hope House_MacdonaldBarefoot cyclists,truck beds crowded with workers braving the elements, children herding cows, wheelbarrows so full of logs, children and heavy loads, one wonders how it doesn’t topple over. Men wearing ski hats in very hot weather. Earth and stone houses with corrugated tin roofs. Tall, spindly Century Trees, and flat, spreading umbrella Acacias. Bone dry river beds, til the rains come.  Men sitting in the dirt by the road, wearing animal fur headbands and loin cloths.  Grilling corn and meat on the roadside- the fire even burns in the rain- not sure how they do it. Burning orange sunsets. And the popping colors of markets.

IMG_4898Hearing the clicking sounds interspersed in lilting siSwati language. Listening to our son speak Zulu. Roosters, peacocks, songbirds, crickets, people singing in the distance, horns and happy cheers at football (soccer) games.  The silence.

I love that our gardener eschewed a mole in our garden by smashing fresh ginger and garlic into a paste on a rock, mixed the paste with water, and poured it into all of the holes. ( It worked!  Who needs pesticide and chemicals)?

I also love that we can pick bananas, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, and avocados right outside. And how delicious the mangoes are here. The salty taste of biltong and the rich, melting flavor of braised oxtail.

We don’t take it for granted that we drive 15 minutes from home and see Zebras. And check the hot springs for crocs before going for a swim.IMG_9146IMG_3985

 

 

 

 

There are so many bits of magic that I hope we can remember to hold in our hearts.

“Let yourself be living poetry.”  -Rumi

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ngiyabonga,

Tracy

Soul Smiles for 2015

Jan Newsletter

Welcome, 2015!  I always love the start of the new year (well, and my birthday is this month, and I’m all for celebrating). Best wishes, fellow Aquarians out there!

Normalcy is resuming after the holidays, with a slower pace. We enjoyed Christmas, with frequent, small gatherings of friends to share in the holiday spirit and ward off a bit of homesickness. It was special, too, to watch Ramsay grasp a better understanding of Christmas this year, and delight in the decorations, parties, and presents.

Are you someone who makes a gentle step or a bold leap into the New Year?  Is there something in particular you want to accomplish or shape you in 2015?  I didn’t make resolutions this year, however, I enjoy writing in my slightly clunky and well-worn paper Filofax calendar…documenting birthdays, writing to do lists, and planning vacations, art projects, and castles in the sky.

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I did choose a word I’d like to focus on for 2015: Authentic.  Being real and authentic in words and actions, letting go of pretense and things that don’t fit my lifestyle; a commitment to say more of what I think and like to do instead of putting the shoulds first, often not leaving time for the fun.  Nourishing all of the facets of my soul as much as possible, and emotionally investing in things and people that I love, worrying less about the rest.

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I read some great nuggets of wisdom over the holidays that I highlighted in my journal:

  • happiness stems from learning how to cheer yourself up and stand your ground
  • lay down the guilt and do things that make your SOUL SMILE
  • making life changes are scary, but regret is worse
  • focus on the FUN, not the fear
  • continue to look at the world around you with new and unique ways, for there is magic in the everyday if you open your eyes

 And I saw this inspirational little sticker on a wall:

IMG_7503Wishing you a year that unlocks your potential, makes your soul smile, one that is full of joie de vivre, passion for living, and a year of finding muses to tap into amazing joy.

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Happy New Year and Carpe Diem,

Tracy

 

 

 

Days of Delineation

img_0406.jpgThere are those unexpected days in life when something momentous happens: you wake up and go about your day, then suddenly life hands you a gift that alters your journey.  This gift might come quietly, or it might enter like a dramatic storm of lightning, thunder, and hail.  As Paul Coelho says in his book, Brida, “sometimes …blessings arrive by shattering all the windows.”  Perhaps someone introduces you to a book, film, or music that makes a great impact, or you meet an amazing new friend, get that job offer, or find out you won the prize. Or, in our case, you find out you are moving to a new country.

A year from today we will be leaving Swaziland to live in Cairo, Egypt. I’ve never been there, but I envision camels, pyramids, souks, sailing on the Nile, and diving in the Red Sea. Exploring amazing history and visiting museums and ancient cities. Learning some Arabic, meeting new friends, and tasting exotic new foods. It’s exciting and daunting. We’ll be moving from a small town on the African continent to one inhabited by almost 20 million people! The possibilities of adventures and experiences are endless.

Wishing for you something unexpected in 2015 that brightens your journey.

Carpe Diem,

Tracy

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Welcome to Carpe Diem Creative

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Hello!  If you are new to this space, welcome, and thank you for stopping by my new virtual home, Carpe Diem Creative.  If you have followed me from my previous site, I am grateful you came along! I look forward to sharing thoughts, photos, art, travel experiences and life’s abundant beauty with you, and would love to hear your comments, stories, and experiences, too.

We are in Mauritius (locally called “Isle Maurice”) for vacation, soaking up the elements of air, water, earth, and fire in the form of sky, sea, sand, and tiki torches…with a backdrop of gorgeous scenery. In between swimming and building sand castles with our son, I am finding little windows of time to write in my journal, peruse art and decor magazines, look for shells, take beach walks, speak a bit of French, and replenish the well of creativity and inspiration. Balmy Indian Ocean breezes are getting rid of the mental winter cobwebs, and smiling comes easily.

Photos below:

  • Market vendors in Mauritius sell a rainbow of fruit salad-colored baskets, scarves, tunics, vegetables, loose tea, and spices of tamarind, cinnamon, saffron, vanilla, cardamom and ground coconut
  • At a beautiful Hindu temple, worshipers gave offerings to the gods
  • A home by the sea seems very loved with its unique heart-shaped shutters
  • We toured Chamarel’s colored earth; a beautiful pastel wave of  “7 Colored Sands,” produced naturally by a volcano
  • A vibrant (and fiesty-tempered) red bird that frequented our patio

Wherever you are today, embrace an island pace of life.

Carpe Diem,

Tracy

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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