Category Archives: Current Events

Wanderings Day 30

We have arrived at the last day of this challenge to self – wander travel memory lane all through April 2020. A way of travelling virtually while in my lockdown bubble. Dreams of travelling again when this too has passed. An exercise in gratitude for all I have been given in this life already.

Going to finish with Kruger memories part two.

No more stories…. Just some Johnny Clegg wisdom… from the Johnny Clegg & Savuka song Great Heart

There’s a highway of stars across the heavens
There’s a whispering song of the wind in the grass
There’s the rolling thunder across the savanna
A hope and dream at the edge of the sky
And your life is a story like the wind
Your life is a story like the wind
I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart
To hold and stand me by
I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart
Under African sky

Guka ‘mzimba (body grow old)

Sala ‘nhliziyo (but heart remain behind)

The Space Between

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor Frankl

COVID-19 lockdown day four here in Aotearoa/New Zealand.  Time at home to really consider the space between stimulus and response.

I wanted to share with you some of what I’ve been reading and watching. Trying to make sense of all of this – where is our opportunity to grow.

However, I should say first that not all of us are in a position to reflect on this current situation in the way that I am able to.  Self-care and self-compassion will look different for each of us at the moment.  Some of us out there will be dealing first hand with the tragedy that is this pandemic.

So, it is to those of us who are simply doing our bit by staying home, physical distancing and encouraging being together apart, that I address these reflections to.  And reflecting is important right now as Nature has given us this space between.

I really appreciate what Niki Harré says about reflecting in her book The Infinite Game: how to live well together.

“Reflecting is not a lazy way to avoid moving forward; it is a crucial part of untangling ourselves from the dominant cultural patterns that are so easy to replicate when we ‘just do it’. Reflecting takes skill”

Niki Harré

Let’s start with what seems to be the unravelling picture of the causes of the unprecedented time we now find ourselves in.

Bill Gates’ TED talk 2015 – this is a link to Bill Gates’ eerily accurate prediction about epidemics and what we would need to prepare.  His suggestions mostly focus on building capacity for epidemiologists, innovation, health ministry preparedness and government collaboration.  Much of this seems to have fallen on deaf ears and the work hasn’t been done.

Bill Gates’ TED Connects March 2020How we must respond to the coronavirus pandemic.  In this 50 minute conversation with Bill Gates a lot of ground is covered with regard to testing, therapeutics, vaccines and other logistics around managing the pandemic.

What I love is his pragmatic optimism, his belief in humanity and his unswerving belief in our creativity in terms of science and innovation.  But I do wonder, if we are not in that particular creative sphere, on that sort of scientific front line, where do our responsibilities lie?  As just average global citizens, what difference can we make, if any?

The next piece of the puzzle for me is why would a pandemic of this nature be an inevitability as Gates suggested in 2015?  Well, from my research it seems we have brought this on ourselves – the sheer numbers that make up the human population, the amount and the way we consume, the biodiversity loss and ecosystem service disruption we have caused, the accelerated climate change we have induced.

Here are some links worth reading/watching:

John Scanlon, African Parks Network has written an eloquent article on wildlife crime and the link between wet markets and disease spread.

A short video titled How wildlife trade is linked to coronavirusPlease note this is from early March so the statistics quoted are out of date.

This from the World Health Organisation.

And this from the Wildlife Conservation Society.  Now including a policy document.

If ever there was a time when Mother Nature herself was speaking up and giving credence to what scientists, researchers and conservationists have been saying for years, it is now.

But what can we do?  What hope is there?  Are there individual actions we can each take that will make a difference?

Yes, I believe so!  What follows are a few ideas that range from the deep and reflective to the more light-hearted, surviving lockdown ones.  All ways to consider the space between.

At times like these it is useful to pause and consider our values.  Values are our guiding forces.  They are quite individual to each of us, although will be influenced by our culture and upbringing.  My values are very much based on the environment and how I see my relationship with other living things and the planet in general.  Many people have values based on how they value their social relationships and still others may focus on themselves and their individual well-being.  Or a combination of these values.  None are right or wrong. But what I think is interesting is that no matter where your core values lie, we can no longer deny the need for change as the human species – behaviours and actions.  Setting a new norm that will impact on individual health and wellbeing, the good of humanity and future generations, as well as the planet we are so intimately connected to, is imperative.

If you want to read more about values and how values influence our decision-making, I highly recommend checking out the Barratt Academy for the Advancement of Human Values.  There is also a really useful values assessment tool on this website.

That was the deep stuff.  On to something more practical.  If we are mindful of how we are living on the planet and the impact we are having, we can take practical steps to mitigate and reduce negative impact.  For a super interesting read on a scale of solution focused ideas to address climate change, check out Drawdown.  I think there is something for everyone here, no matter your circumstance or where you find yourself in the world.  I found this information incredibly empowering!

Then, I really think we should be thinking about what we eat and how it is produced.  Regenerative agriculture makes the Drawdown list at number 11.  Here is a one farmer’s perspective – Angus McIntosh talks about the case for regenerative agriculture.  As I mentioned above, living mindfully is key and knowledge is power.  Food for thought 😉

I have another quote from Niki Harré’s Infinite Game that I think fits here:

But the idea kept popping into my head that life is based on radical cooperation. Cooperation fitted because the actions of each life form supported the growth of other forms; and it was radical because these actions were at the root of both individual survival and the functioning of the entire ecosystem.

Niki Harré

And what about surviving right now?

How about a coping calendar from Action for Happiness

Or travel virtually… my friend Carla from the Blue Sky Society Trust is currently taking us on an epic African Safari experience… get involved!

As for me…. Painting calms me down… here’s some new ones…

And that about wraps up a very long post.  I will be back in April hoping to post most days with photos and short stories from my travels over the years.  Join me for some virtual wanderings.

Take heart, dear ones.  All will be well.  Our collective courage, compassion and kindness in this space between will make it so.

Leaving you with a couple more quotes from the hugely inspiring Infinite Game which seem written for a time such as now….  Thank you, Niki Harré, for sharing your wisdom 💙

“This is what being an infinite player or a community that cares about our lives together means. Getting up each day, remembering what matters, and trying like hell to live that in the confusion of real life. It does not mean knowing what is right. Sometimes it might just mean rejecting that which is clearly wrong (as far as you can tell). And, I humbly suggest, this process may be aided by imagining life as an infinite game. Not because it is, exactly, but because imagining it so might help to focus us on what truly matters.”

“Love is at the heart of the infinite values. Radical cooperation is a way of translating this into the mind-set of an infinite player. It involves trying your best to let go of the belief, trained into us by our society’s emphasis on self-promotion and self-acquisition, that security lies in what you have cordoned off for you and your descendants. Insofar as security exists at all, it is better understood as lying in how well we cooperate with each other and the natural world in which we are embedded.”

Emotional Agility

It is the 15th of March.  One year ago today the Christchurch mosque attack happened.  One year ago Cyclone Idai devastated the coast of Mozambique.  I am sure many other tragic events eventuated that day.  However, I am pausing to reflect on the two events that impacted my world then.  But like I wrote in my blog post at that time, the impact on me was minimal and only caused some inconveniences to my plans.

In the year that has been, countless other traumas and tragedies have occurred across the world – personal ones, community ones and now global ones.  How do we cope with the sorts of emotions that surface at times like these – fear, anxiety, hopelessness, dread, anger, denial, grief, loss?  These feelings are uncomfortable to say the very least and it would be so much easier just not to feel them at all. Right?

But here’s the thing, life never promised us a positive-only ride.  If we tell ourselves that the difficult emotions that come with difficult circumstances are unfair, bad and to be suppressed or avoided at all costs, it really only makes things worse.

A year later and things are certainly not very rosy in the world at present.  What we are experiencing now requires all the tools we have as human beings to lean into the discomfort we are all facing. 

And so, I am reminded of what I have learned from two incredible women.

Brené Brown PhD in her book Rising Strong shares the wisdom her social science research has revealed about the benefits of showing up and leaning into discomfort.

“We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend…We can’t rise strong when we’re on the run.”

Brené Brown

Susan David PhD has been an absolute revelation to me.  I guess I relate to her because of the similar background and accent! 😊

Her TED talk is definitely worth a watch. 

“Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility”

Susan David

What a sentence!  Another quote that stands out for me is –

“Research now shows that the radical acceptance of all of our emotions — even the messy, difficult ones — is the cornerstone to resilience.”  

Susan David

“Emotional agility is the ability to be with your emotions with curiosity, compassion, and especially the courage to take values-connected steps.”

Susan David

So, at this time of great turmoil and uncertainty I am trying to practice emotional agility…. And find the space for hope and gratitude.

Today I am wishing humanity emotional agility…. Let’s be agile!

Finishing off this post with a favourite quote from Brené Brown, this time from Braving the Wilderness…

What Breaks My Heart

I have been pondering this question over the week.  It is the first task in my Awakened Woman journal.

What breaks my heart is humanity’s disconnect with Mother Nature.  It seems to me that we could solve so many of our social and environmental ills if we could find this connection again.

What breaks my heart is how we cannot seem to live in harmony with wildlife in wild places as we once did.  What happened to being open to learning from Mother Nature?  For She has much to share with us about how we tread in this life.

In June we had World Giraffe Day.  In August it was World Elephant and World Lion Day.  September is World Rhino Month. And so it goes, on and on, each new day dedicated to another species in peril. 

The CITES CoP18 meeting took place in Geneva recently. The results of this conference of the parties was mixed.  While we can take some hopeful moments away for some species after this year’s conference, there is definitely still too much of a focus on wildlife as a commodity for my liking.

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater” JRR Tolkien

The climate crisis continues.  The Amazon is burning.  In a world where we are bombarded with what seem utterly hopeless and insurmountable odds, I want to share some examples that I know of – examples of what is still fair and where there is still love. 

The following are links to messages of hope that fill my inbox, make up the social media threads I follow and come from personal experience having met some of the individuals at the heart of these organisations and collectives.

Elephants Alive

Giraffe Conservation Foundation

Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

Greta Thunberg

Council of Contributors

Sumatran Ranger Project

Rhino Conservation Botswana

Peace Parks Foundation

Earth Awareness

Blue Sky Society Trust

Dr Trang Nguyen

Last Wild Places

And many more… so I need to amend the statement I started with… not all humanity has lost that vital connection we have with Mother Earth.  There are still many of us who will continue to use our voices for the voiceless.

And even more than the above examples we need to be encouraged that every single individual action we take counts… we can make a difference for good at an individual level.  It is about the second thought you spare in your daily journey through life, being mindful of how your tread, what and how much you consume, how you dispose of waste.

It’s about how we need to rethink education and empower the next generations to make better choices than we have.

And please understand even if you don’t care about animals and wild places, the changes all these people of are working for are in our own best interests too – the survival of humanity!

And so what breaks my heart is what we’ve lost but in the same breath what shores up my heart and gives me hope is the countless daily actions of compassionate individuals.  It is this conservation collective that will keep the worst case scenarios at bay. Or so I choose to believe…

Valuable

Duomo Firenze
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy, 2006

I have been privileged enough to stand inside and outside this particular cathedral twice in my life. It is a mind-fumblingly incredible experience – the grandeur, the history, the craftsmanship, the creativity of humankind. And this is just one example. I have had similar thrills in castles in Scotland, exploring the Roman Forum and Colosseum in Rome … and standing outside Notre Dame de Paris.

Over a billion dollars raised for the rebuild after the Notre Dame fire in just two days … I am floored. What does this say about how we place value as a collective? Is it because a rebuild like this is in our control? We can clearly see where the money will go, assured of the outcome?

Morning Light on the Savanna, 2010

My creativity is sparked by Nature. I want Nature, my muse, to stay around for many, many generations to come. Intrinsically valuable and infinitely inspiring just because it is.

I think my concern for the natural world is shared by many other humans including the likes of Sir David Attenborough, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dr Jane Goodall and the delightful Greta Thunberg. It seems even with this calibre of activist we cannot raise $1 billion in two days to put towards restoring Earth?

The world is on its head…. and I made apple pie

The last 10 days – what is happening?! As a lovely new friend said to me ” the world is on its head”…. I couldn’t agree more and I am not sure my heart can take much more. And I am not even directly affected by what’s been going on! Well, I suppose calling off the May adventure to radio collar elephants in Mozambique based on the catastrophic event that was Cyclone Idai would be a direct effect… more like an inconvenience compared to the level of trauma for those affected by the flooding. But I have been absolutely consumed by what this level of natural disaster has meant for the people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. The helplessness has set in…

(For those of you following my preparations for May’s Journey with Purpose, I will have more specific detail soon of whether we will postpone our journey till later in the year?)

While people were dying in southern Africa from the worst tropical cyclone on record, people were dying in mosques in Christchurch at the hands of a mad man… and I am sure that other people have died in other places around the world in the last 10 days…. I recently read murder statistics out of South Africa – about 65 people a day? I am not sure where I am going with this as it all seems so overwhelming and hopeless.

But maybe that is what I am trying say here…. there is hope. There is always hope even in the seemingly small actions of individuals…. a wise, old friend just posted something along those lines on Facebook. And I thinks its true…. don’t give in to the despair from the pain you see around you. Just love. Love is an action and we can show it in many, many seemingly insignificant ways. I think even sending love out into the universe will help. Perhaps if you can’t donate money to a relief effort or the stuff of every day means you aren’t able to physically make it a scheduled vigil just send out those loving vibes. Right?! I hope it is so.

One thing I have been hit round the heart with over the last week is the place of gratitude. While I am not able to be a direct help to those in desperate need… waiting in the tops of trees for days to be rescued…. I am able to be very mindful of all that I have been given. I am able to be thankful for waking up in a warm bed in a dry home. To shower with hot water, use a flush toilet in my bathroom before a healthy breakfast, a decent cup of coffee then into the car that takes me to a good job. This job makes me able to pay for the upkeep on the car and that decent cup of coffee. And so on and so on…. I have the luxury of time to read, write and plan my next travel adventure. Yes, some of this came from hard work but really mostly just grace from being born into the place, time and family I was. Maybe if I am grateful, so grateful and know in my heart that the privilege I experience is not my entitlement… maybe that can make a little difference in the world?

And so I made apple pie… to share with my incredible Mom and Dad… another privilege I have is a loving, close family. Dad prepped the apples and whipped the cream. Mom looked over my shoulder while I had a go at Granny Barbara’s pastry recipe (haven’t had enough practice with this one yet). I tried to be in each moment of this process so utterly thankful for each part of this particular Sunday morning in Auckland. Not to make light or gloss over what has happened in the last 10 days but choosing to appreciate each moment of my NOW.