Category Archives: Extraordinary Voices

Wanderings Day 28

Botswana Part 3.

Last virtual wander through the Okavango Delta and surrounds.

Today I am thinking of magical wildlife moments. I got to experience so many during my years there. I still have to pinch myself this time really happened.

There’s the time I had to sleep on the pool lounger as a family of hippo were grazing all round my little housie that night.

Or the 5am deep breath and tiptoe past three sleeping bull elephant (all round the house) to make sure I got to the main area of camp to get ready for guest arrival.

Then there’s a moment with a young she leopard making her way across our island in the Delta. It was twilight and there she was sat on the path ahead of me. Too close before I realised she was there. But she paused before moving off, just long enough for us to acknowledge each other.

Then there’s the time our resident bull elephant stuck his whole head through the office door to get at a couple of marula fruit that had found their way onto the floor inside. Yes, I was in this little camp office at the time.

A lone spotted hyena would make the rounds with me most evenings on lock up after guests had retired for the night…. trotting along after me along the boardwalks…. not too close…. after the first few times of feeling insecure, I actually found him quite companionable.

The Pel’s Fishing Owl family nesting in the tree above my house.

The big python who lived under my house. I never had a rodent problem.

And many more…. that’s breathtaking Botswana! Best place to experience real, wild Africa (just my opinion).

But this kind of magic has a life span. Too much of a good thing and all that… still, I am left with incredible memories and oodles of gratitude for this chapter in my story.

In the wise words of Prime Circle from their song Breathing

“Here’s to the good times
The bad times
The times that could have been
To the wrong times
The right times
I know we’ll breathe again…”

Wanderings Day 27

Botswana Part 2…

Another set of pics remembering my time in beautiful Botswana.

Today I am thinking about the Botswana rhythm. There is a wonderful rhythm to the seasons and natural cycles. The flooding then drying of the Okavango Delta. The migration of the zebra and the elephant.

A time for marula trees to bear fruit which brings the elephants.

September is amazing…. a deep breath before the rains arrive. Unexpected flowers bloom. Babies abound – impala, lechwe, zebra.

January is prickly hot. But some afternoons turn black on the horizon and then the lightening and thunder and rain arrive. The cuckoos and Woodland Kingfisher call continuously. A good time to venture into the reeds in a mokoro hoping for a glimpse of the elusive sitatunga. At Xigera Lagoon the African Skimmers are nesting.

The people of Botswana have a rhythm too. A time to plant. A time to harvest. A time to move the cattle. A time to gather from the wild.

There is a beautiful kinship that weaves the Ba-Tswana together as a people but also connects them to this land. It was so easy to fall into this rhythm and be mesmerised by its beat.

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…

Educate Yourself

Poster that used to hang in my classroom. Quote by Mother Jones. Illustration by the brilliantly talented zenpencils.com

Its been a few years now since I taught in a traditional classroom in a traditional school system. For awhile now I have turned my attention to the likes of Sir Ken Robinson. His book Creative Schools is a fascinating read and definitely, for me, the direction I think education should be moving.

Anyway, in this quiet start to my year it was time again to look through boxes of old teaching files and papers and decide what needs to go.

A special box put aside to place items that hold significance – valuable memories of that time in those classrooms and the young people who walked through my life then.

But other than that, stuff has to go. Another one of my all important rituals – taking stock, paring back and letting go.

Back to the poster. I had forgotten about this powerful message til I stumbled across it again in this tidy out. I used to look at this message on the wall everyday – strengthening and inspiring. Once again it resonates so deeply with me…. so I wanted to share it with you.

Sit down and read

Educate yourself

For the coming conflicts

Mother Jones

Dream then Do

A year ago I gifted myself Kristina Karlsson’s intriguing book – Your Dream Life Starts Here. I got the Dream Life Journal at the same time and got stuck into the business of dreaming.

I decided to take my time with this process unsure of where it would take me.

Chapter 2 is titled “Be inspired by the dreams of others”. At the end of this chapter is such an inspiring story, that of Dr Tererai Trent. Discovering her story sidetracked me from the Dream Life Journal for a number of months as I explored Dr Tererai’s magical idea of sacred dreams and tapping into your Great Hunger.

By August I had 3 delicious dreams safely encased in my Dream Tin! I don’t have a suitable place to bury my dreams, like Dr Tererai did, so the tin travels with me wherever I go.

This part of the process was so uplifting and hope-inducing, particularly on the back of a previous few months of difficult times to push through.

But there’s dreaming and then there’s doing, right!

Back to the Dream Life Journal which I have now completed. Dr Tererai’s inspiration of the sacred and Kristina’s insights into the practicalities of dreaming have dove-tailed beautifully. Those 3 dreams buried in the Dream Tin now have very specific dates assigned and a master action list for each…. a couple of actions have even been ticked off already in the last couple of days!

I have always been a bit of dreamer… a day dreamer wandering wistfully through memories or drifting into future hopes.

As Master Yoda says of Luke ” Never his mind on where he was… what he was doing!”

This is dreaming of a different kind…. a dream life that is tangible and oh so possible… if I keep my end of the deal, stick to my action list and the Universe meets me half way… this time next year will look really different. Let’s see, shall we?

Extraordinary voices of ordinary women: Carla Geyser

Longing to experience the real, authentic Mama Africa in all her grit and glory? Love a good road trip? What about great banter around a campfire, sipping a gin and tonic, pausing every now and then to listen to the soundscape that only a night under the African sky can bring?  How about magical sunrises and sunsets? Or an impromptu coffee stop in the middle of somewhere intrepid?  Want your African experience to include some boots on the ground time for wildlife conservation and community empowerment?

That all important coffee break along the way…. Maputo Special Reserve, Mozambique

Then you need to meet my gorgeous friend, Carla Geyser.  Her Journeys with Purpose are all of the above and then some!

Carla with Izzy (another kindred spirit) on a boat… a day exploring the waters of Maputo Bay, Mozambique

I first came across Carla’s story in 2016 when she embarked on her epic Elephant Ignite Expedition – travelling 16 000km across 10 countries. Carla and her team visited 37 conservation organisations, engaging with communities along the way and distributing 20 000 educational booklets. The idea for this expedition was sparked by the plight of elephants across Africa – their plummeting numbers due to poaching and human wildlife conflict.

Then in 2018 I followed Carla’s next adventure, The Rise of the Matriarch, on social media.  This time an international all women crew set out with Carla for a 50 day, 11 000km journey through 4 countries.  This expedition raised global awareness for the plight of African wildlife, raising funds for conservation groups and empowering local youth, especially girls. 

I still have the diary from that time and scribbled in a margin is “Blue Sky Society Trust – next time”.

In May of this year I got to meet Carla in person.  She picked me to be part of her crew for a 2019 Journey with Purpose.  I have recorded this incredible adventure in previous posts:

Carla is a great expedition leader – the perfect blend of happy-go-lucky and down to earth pragmatism.  She knows Africa well and understands how to travel wisely.  Able to go with the flow while at the same time being uber prepared for every eventuality – a real skill in this environment!

Carla overseeing production of a delicious potjie… on top of the world in eSwatini

I love Carla’s attitude to life which is incorporated into the name of her not-for-profit – The Blue Sky Society.  Read here how the name came about.  She is a kindred spirit… we share a passion for Mama Africa, our birthplace.  Yet Carla’s personality is such that anyone from anywhere could not help but enjoy her company and be swept away in her enthusiasm for life and her work.

I consider it one of the greatest experiences of my life, that May Journey with Purpose.  I also consider it an honour and privilege to have shared the road with Carla Geyser and her fabulous landy, Dora.  And I cannot wait to go again and be a part of another Blue Sky Society Journey with Purpose!

Dora the Landy in Kruger National Park… this photo taken shortly after two spectacular leopard sightings

Carla is an ordinary woman just like me.  But her big dreams, her belief in the infinite possibilities of life and her “just do it” attitude make her voice extraordinary….

Four incredible Journeys with Purpose are planned for 2020 (click on the links to find out more):

Chasing Waterfalls

The Great Zambezi

Aqua Earth

Trekking Giants

Go!  Travel with Carla. Let Mama Africa embrace you.  Wander the road less travelled.  It will change your life.

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…

Dreaming

I am so excited to work through Dr Tererai Trent’s wonderful book, The Awakened Woman, a second time.

I first heard Dr Tererai speak on a podcast with Kikki K founder, Kristina Karlsson.  I loved listening to her delightful accent and the rhythm of her voice sent me right back to childhood and growing up in Southern Africa.  Listening to her read her story as an audiobook was a revelation.  Dr Tererai is a poet and wordsmith, the way she uses the English language is beautifully lyrical.

In The Awakened Women she shares her incredible story of dreams come true.  Using her experiences and insight to provide a guide for others which is so profound and yet so accessible.

So I now have the print version of the book along with the gorgeous journal that goes with it from Kikki K.  I have reread Chapter 1 and am now putting pen to paper in the matching chapter in the The Awakened Woman Journal… what dreams may come…

While I’m here I thought I would mention how very inspiring I found Kristina Karlsson’s book – Your Dream Life Starts Here

Ooh, also Melinda Gate’s book – The Moment of Lift – this is definitely worth a read!

Hey World!  How lucky are we to have these strong, empowered, beautiful women’s voices who grace us with their hard won wisdom!  They are so open and honest with their ordinary struggles, just like you and just like me.  They give me hope and I take comfort in that as I walk my own path.

Extraordinary Voices: The Platter Project

Today is Nelson Mandela’s birthday – 18 July.  I chose today to share the story of this incredible woman, Di Wilkinson, because she has chosen to commemorate his birthday in her own amazing way.

Image from The Platter Project Facebook page

I stumbled upon Di Wilkinson’s story on social media.

Hoedspruit, South Africa holds a special place in my heart.  I spent many happy school holidays in that area as a kid.  The Drakensberg Escarpment provides a dramatic backdrop to the mixed bushveld plains that stretch eastwards.  The scenic Blyde River winds its way through the area bringing the waters from the escarpment down to these lowlands.  Interesting rock formations abound.  This unique mix of habitats supports a wide variety of flora and fauna.  It is a place of orchards – citrus, mango and macadamia.  It is also a place of game reserves and over the years has become a hub for conservation research and wildlife rehabilitation.  There are a number of wildlife rehabilitation centres and orphanages in this area.  I follow one of them, the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, on social media.  And this brings me back to Di Wilkinson of The Platter Project.

She is a wonderfully talented artist who produces these beautiful drawings.  Most are inspired by the wildlife of Southern Africa but as I mentioned at the start, she is currently sharing a special print with a portrait of the great Madiba.

I absolutely love her depictions of these three gorgeous southern African bird species – the Lilac-breasted Roller, the Carmine Beeater and the Masked Weaver … these hang in my home and bring my joy.

She “sells” these beautiful pieces – started on platters and is now mostly A3 prints.  All the money you pay for her art goes to charity.  Specifically charities focused on wildlife conservation, like the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, and organ donation.  A strange combination of causes to support, perhaps, but there is more to her story.

In June 2013 Di was diagnosed with kidney disease.  Serious kidney disease requiring dialysis five hours a day, three days a week.  Miraculously, in May 2018 she found a compatible donor and underwent a life-saving kidney transplant.

To think of all she has gone through during this time but not she has not given up on life, on her family, on her creativity, on her passion, on community.  In fact to still have that generosity of spirit that shares her talent with the world and using it to support lives outside of her own…. Di is a truly an extraordinary woman!

And there will be more to her story too.  She will be a partner, a mother, a daughter, maybe a sister, a friend – all those things that make us who we are.  But I suspect if we asked her she would simply say she was an ordinary woman just trying her ordinary best in space she finds herself.

I find her creativity spectacular.  I find her resilience inspiring.  I find her care and generosity moving.  I find her “voice” extraordinary.

Be well, Di Wilkinson 💚

Check out her beautiful work on Facebook – The Platter Project or on Instagram @theplatterproject.