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a daily blessing

The work of the late anthropologist Angeles Arrien helped me to see a deeper, more personal layer of significance in natural cycles. Most mornings, I love to greet the four directions – the rising sun in the east, the north where (in our hemisphere) the sun will be at its strongest, the place of the setting sun in the west, and the south, which is the place of shadow. It comforts me to be reminded each day of our inner qualities that are mirrored in this enduring cycle.

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A daily blessing

May the rising sun
renew your hope,
May the midday flame
rekindle your courage,
May the setting sun
confirm your heart’s wisdom,
And as you step
into the dark,
may you rest in love,
Knowing that you are one
with heaven, earth
And all our relations.

 

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the sweet spot

One of the great gifts of being alive is the experience of care. To care deeply about a person, a community, a creature, the Earth, or an issue in society is to glimpse the possibility of oneness. However, when care becomes attached to a particular outcome, we may find ourselves in the territory of ‘overcare’. And there be dragons! Investing too much significance in the outcome of the caring impulse makes us susceptible to disappointment. We may even experience disillusionment and burn-out, feeling that ‘all our efforts were in vain’. Fixing our gaze on a particular result can blind us to the unintended – and often magical – outcomes that did in fact unfold. Entrusting the outcome to grace beyond our control allows us to savour each opportunity to connect with care.

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The Sweet Spot

Between unconsciousness
and exhaustion
stretches a continuum of care
from don’t-care disregard
to can’t-care burnout.

Find the sweet spot
where care meets grace
and ego is disarmed.

Immersed in trust
significance softens
fixed ideas flex
love reaches out its arms
to life.

 

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come to your senses

This poem came to me during a solo hike this past weekend. A tiny orchid in the grass alongside the path attracted my attention, reminding me of the gifts that are waiting for us to open our senses to the world.

 

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Come to your senses:
Feel the breath breathing you,
Witness all that is.
Heed the call of your heart,
Savour your soul’s wisdom,
Sniff out good company,
And as you journey on
Inhabit every step.

I dedicate this poem to the amazing teenagers I’ve been privileged to work with in the Calming Exam Anxiety course. In her course evaluation, one client wrote: ‘You have opened my eyes to what my heart and soul are telling me, not just what my brain and others are telling me.’ I am humbled by the unexpected changes that follow a ‘return to heart’.

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illusion most real

It was a still autumn afternoon as I sat at the weir on Nursery Stream at Kirstenbosch. The reflections of the forest trees were so clear that I could hardly make out the rocky bottom of the shallow pond. Something as immaterial as a reflection in the pond’s surface had effectively obscured what was ‘really there’.

It was a timely reminder that emotions can distort our perception of situations, and that it takes effort and a change of perspective to see what’s really going on ‘beneath the surface’.

illusion 1illusion most real

Still afternoon pool
mirrors encircling trees.
Whirligig
betrays the surface.

What is real here?

Upside-down world floats,
obscures what lies beneath;
rock and stone
lie hidden in the
shallow crystal stream.

Seen and unseen touch
where air and water meet.
Emotion
drowns reality,
veiling your truth from me.

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bitter-sweet aloe

Aloes are amongst the best defended plants I know. Their thick spiny leaves and bitter sap safeguard their watery reserves through the long dry summers. These defences make aloes look like really tough characters. But the aloe plant I sat with the other day told me a different story. Like many of us, its prickly exterior protects an inner vulnerability.

I learnt from aloe about the importance of boundaries. By protecting its leaves, aloe is free to give generously of its nectar throughout the winter when there is a huge demand for this high-energy food. It’s the same with us – healthy boundaries protect us from feeling exploited and burning out, and enable us to share our special gifts more sustainably with others.

aloe 1bitter-sweet aloe

You look at me – assume I’m tough,
able to survive a drought.
Thick of skin and sharp of spine, but
you don’t know me from inside-out.

 Protected by my saw-like leaves
and bitter sap is a tender heart;
I fear unbridled neediness
will fast deplete what I can impart.

But look again – in my ample arms
I cradle buds like lime-green cones.
Seasons of flowers, dripping sweet,
this is the gift I can sustain.

aloe 2     aloe 3

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the unseen work

There are many stages along the stream of life – some boisterous and exciting, others still and reflective, and others where it feels like we’ve dried up completely. In the Dell at Kirstenbosch where I spent my nature solo recently, there’s a place where the stream disappears underground. Yet, despite its course being marked only by dry leaves, the water continues to do its work of refreshing the huge trees and delicate ferns that create this peaceful place. So too with us – even in those times when our contribution feels unseen and unacknowledged, it is still having an effect. Trust that.

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Fallen leaves and rotting figs –
a sweet-and-sour space;
stream drains to the underworld,
dry mulch fills your course.

Upstream the reflection pond
mirrors fern and face,
downstream you emerge again
to soothe us with your grace.

But here your presence quieted –
no foam or flash or flow;
you seep beneath the slippery stones
through the spongy world below.

Unseen, unheard, unrecognised –
you quench the roots and seeds
that grow to shade this leafy dell
that leaves my soul replete.

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a lesson in releasing

I love eucalyptus trees. Together they create a living cathedral, with marble-like bark, arching branches and the pervasive smell of incense, that leaves me feeling hushed and in awe. And they are such wise teachers. Whenever I spend time with them, I feel that I’ve learned something from their example …

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A lesson in releasing

Crude graffiti deeply etched
defaced your trunk these twelve months past
but in the way of eucalypts
the curse is shed with last year’s bark.

 No traces now of hurt remain
your slate is clean, it’s a fresh start.
The lesson’s clear: release regret
before it carves into your heart.

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tangle’s gift

It’s been a while since I posted … that’s seasons for you! Anyway, the holiday season has given me time to return to my nature solos.

One of my nature solos in December took me into a ‘scruffy’ wild area beyond the carefully tended lawns and beds of Kirstenbosch Gardens. Despite my initial misgivings, a gift awaited me. A tiny Cape Batis bird (one of my favourite local species) hopped onto the branch in front of me as I rested against the trunk of a small tree.

It made me wonder about the gifts we might find (in ourselves and one another) if we are willing to observe, without resistance or judgment, that which is messy and untended in ourselves.

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tangle’s gift

Drawn to this tangle of life and death
of fallen branches and finished ferns,
my tidy mind strives to resist
the call to rest beyond manicured lawns.

Random saplings and crackling leaves
untended and wild, frequented by few.
As senses awake, embracing what is,
a curious batis graces my view.

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backlit

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Matter, when
sufficiently insubstantial,
transmits
the light of life.

Petals, when
vulnerable and translucent,
smoulder
with rich warm glow.

Sunlight, when
I dare to face its radiance,
reveals
the soul of you.

coral tree

two oak trees

these two oak trees

two oak trees

Today two oak trees
Tell a story of change:
One cautious, starkly bold
Holds onto winter;
One precocious, softly crowned
Rushes into spring.
Each responds in its own time
To the call of lengthening days.

Now is the time.
Feel the urge to emerge
From a winter of waiting.
Out of dark, deep stillness
Sweetness is rising in the veins
Forcing tight buds to burst,
Tender and translucent,
Into conversation with the light.

winter oak

spring oak