Category Archives: Grace

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.

A Middle Earth Retreat

So I haven’t posted in a month.  It has been a difficult month filled with disappointed hopes, winter illness, a family health scare and a somewhat overwhelming feeling of disillusionment.

For me, I often have these feelings of overwhelm at this time of the year.  I am beginning to believe it is the universe’s way of telling me to slow down, pause and take stock – what is urgent and essential and what can simply wait a little while until it is addressed.  This is seasonal, cyclical…. And perhaps something I should be able to plan for by now…

It also seems to me at times like these that the only solution is to reconnect with nature.  Not something I can always act on easily with living in the city but this year the opportunity to retreat presented and I took it…

Disclaimer: I am about to reveal just how much of a Professor JRR Tolkien geek I am!

I retreated all the way to the end of the second age of Middle Earth…. It is truly wonderful how much of Middle Earth is easily accessed right here in beautiful Aotearoa/New Zealand.  In a little corner of Northland not far from Whangarei I found another little piece of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  To me it felt like the forests at the very end of the Second Age or the very beginning of the Third Age when the Dunedain first establish the Kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor and High Elves still linger in Greenwood the Great.  There is a peaceful watching of the Sacred Kingfisher and magic on every path up ahead and around every bend.  Magic also sparkles in the song of the waterfall and the trill of the Grey Warbler.

It was cold – the fog rolling in of an evening and a light frost in the morning. Just as it should be this time of year.  The perfect space to get back in the natural rhythm of things.  A better perspective on the first world problems that brought me to retreat in the first place.  A moment to refocus in gratitude at the grace afforded me and mine.

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.

The Extraordinary Voices of Ordinary Women

In 2007 I spent a year in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as a SANParks People and Conservation volunteer intern based at Twee Riveiren.

It’s difficult to put the isolation of this spectacular place in words but the experience of living in the Kalahari has been one of the most profound of my life.  My time in the Kalahari inspired the name of this blog – Pure Spaces.  Spaces/places have such significance for me.  The way they make me feel, the energy they give affects me emotionally and often spiritually. The space that is the Kalahari would definitely fall in the spiritual category.  And my name means “pure”.  So there you go…

What you quickly learn in a place like this is how important your small community is, you rely on each other for support, for companionship.  You have to get along because you don’t have a choice.  In my case the small community within the slightly bigger Park community were the residents of Blikkiesdorp (Tin Can Town).  Our lodgings being converted shipping containers.  Let’s pause for a moment to let that fact settle – a shipping container room in the Kalahari Desert!

So Blikkiesdorp, our little area of the staff accommodation of Twee Rivieren rest camp, was home to me, the intern, and two students studying Nature Conservation from Tshwane University.  Occasionally the field guides would visit for a braai.  But mostly it was just the three of us.  A resident cheetah researcher and his wife adopted me as did the border policeman and his wife which meant a welcome break from Blikkies for a yummy meal or even the luxury of watching a little television.

Don’t get me wrong though, I grew very fond of Blikkies as the year progressed and it brought out some very creative “decorating” in me.

Here is where I need to introduce Kerryn, one of those students I mentioned earlier.  A petite, feisty girl absolutely passionate about wildlife conservation.  Kerryn and I clicked almost immediately.  I say almost because she admits based on meeting my predecessor, she was determined NOT to like me.  But it seems our common love of the band Smashing Pumpkins broke the ice!  There is a good 10 year age gap between us, but I quickly began to admire her, particularly her determination to succeed in a (still to this day sadly) male dominated field of work.  I am thrilled to say that we remain very close friends today even with the many miles that separate us.

It started with Kerryn, this kernel of an idea.  By the time I had spent time getting to know Margie, the researcher’s wife, and Isabel, the policeman’s wife, as well women of the Khomani San community, I was overwhelmed by these extraordinary women I was meeting and the stories I was hearing.  None of them would describe themselves as extraordinary.  Most of their “voices” weren’t the voices of activists or feminists.  They were just ordinary women blooming where they were planted – creating, nurturing, learning, growing, caring, loving in that very unique way women do.

I have to share these “voices”, I thought.  Their stories deserve a place in the sun.  So here I am all these years later beginning this journey… I finally seem to have found my courage, to have found my voice.  This is the introduction to what I hope will be a series of posts over the coming months – the extraordinary voices of ordinary women.

A Time and Place

From left my sister with Uncle Les, Granny Sybil and me with Dad… somewhere in Natal, South Africa…

Today we lost my Uncle Leslie to cancer. Thankfully he passed peacefully in his sleep with his loving, steadfast wife by his side.

He’s my dad’s younger brother, only 62 when he passed.

Mom, Dad, my sister and I have had the rare opportunity to pause from life’s business and spend the day together. A few tears, a few laughs and lots of remembering. Remembering a time when we got to be together as extended family, living close by to each other and sharing the every day stuff. We all took that for granted. But how could we know that life’s journey would separate our family, putting oceans and thousands of miles between us.

This is not the first time we have had to grieve from afar. Feeling so helpless. Not able to be practical support and physical comfort for loved ones “on the ground” dealing with all the logistics that go with a fellow human passing on.

So today I am reminded again of just how blessed I am to have such an incredible family made up of strong, loyal, resilient and wonderfully loving individuals. Even though the miles have separated us for 20 years or so now, I have a wealth of rich, warm memories to draw on. Time spent in magical places with these humans I get to call family…. so utterly grateful.

Leslie was not a father and he was sometimes an awkward uncle – not sure what to make of his older brother’s crazy daughters! But he was always kind. I saw him as a good husband to his wife and a doting son to my grandmother. He had that Gill generosity, grit and determination – always willing to help, lending practical support in any way he could. A little rough around the edges maybe but pretty marshmallow on the inside.

Rest in peace, Uncle Les… you are missed.

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.