Allyson's project delighted us all ... and her mother

A personal transformation

I’m one of those people who finds marketing myself very difficult! I love ‘doing the work’ but publicising it is not easy. So, I thought I’d let one of the participants in the last ‘Transforming the Dementia Journey’ course tell…
Henry Spencer, author of 'Born of Desperation'

Born of desperation – a book by Henry Spencer

The term ‘desperation’ describes how many of us feel as we try to come to terms with Alzheimer’s disease. But the desperation Henry Spencer speaks about relates not to the disease itself, but rather to his frustration with many of…
Forests teach us gently to accept the cycle of life

Dementia and the mid-life breakthrough

Mid-life is a time when many of us have the opportunity to care for a person living with dementia. Whether that person is your parent, partner or friend, their diagnosis can be life-changing. The term ‘mid-life’ is often associated…
Participants in the STRiDE Theory of Change workshop - Johannesburg, 12-13 July 2018

STRiDE – towards a National Dementia Plan

Imagine South Africa developing a National Dementia Plan! This is a goal of the STRiDE project – ‘Strengthening responses to dementia in developing countries’ – coordinated by the London School of Economics and Political Science…
Nature palettes encourage us to observe nature closely

Nurtured by Nature – caring for those who care

Nature gave Mum and me countless ‘moments of joy on the Alzheimer’s journey’, as Jolene Brackey puts it in her wonderful book. Whether it was enjoying the physical benefits of walking along the river in the fresh air and sunshine,…

True friendship

I don’t enjoy boxing. I have never understood why anyone would pay money to watch a couple of people intentionally beat each other up. So, on a recent flight, I wouldn’t have chosen to watch Journeyman - a film about a boxer - had it…
Dementia can cause strong emotional reactions in the care partner

Transforming the Dementia Journey

“When we are unable to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor Frankl When people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, or any other form of dementia, they and their care partners embark on a long journey…
Share opportunities to care by drawing up a roster of visits from friends and family

Keeping connected as caregivers

This disease is isolating. Friends recede, family members back away.  – Support group member. I belong to a number of on-line dementia support groups. Recently I posted a comment about research that shows that connection to community…
Bill and Mum Skyping John in London

connection – the silver lining

When our mum got dementia, my sister Kathy lived in the same town in South Africa, I lived about 50 km away, and our brothers Bill and John lived in Nepal and the UK respectively. In our globalised world, far-flung families are commonplace. In…
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Food for thought … Making brain-healthy choices

If you want to get people disagreeing, start talking about diets! From vegan to paleo and beyond, we can justify a confusing diversity of eating plans. So, as I write this blog about brain-friendly nutrition, I know that it won’t please…
A daily dose of Nature does us good!

Healthy by nature

It is common knowledge that spending time outdoors is good for our physical and mental health, and yet many people with dementia live most of their lives indoors. Activities like walking, swimming and games develop physical fitness, stamina,…
Reading this book marked a turning point in my journey with Mum

Contented dementia – such a helpful book

During the early years of Mum’s dementia, I knew nothing about Alzheimer’s Disease. And, to be honest, I didn’t want to know. Denial is a common response to bad news. By the time I stumbled upon the book Contented Dementia in a local…
Mum recording1

Sharing our gifts

Music was Mum’s greatest gift. Author Malcolm Gladwell maintains that ten thousand hours of practice are necessary to achieve mastery in a field. As a student, concert pianist and music teacher Mum had rehearsed and performed for many more…
Erosion had revealed two heart-shaped quartz crystals that had been hidden in the rock

Dementia … a process of erosion

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, it’s natural to focus on the many aspects of their life and yours that are being lost. Indeed, the dementia journey can feel like a long process of erosion. In Alzheimer’s Disease, the part…
Mum's dear friends, June and Ray, visited her every week for tea

Don't try to go it alone ...

I subscribe to a few dementia support groups on Facebook. These are safe, moderated, on-line spaces where people caring for their loved ones with dementia can share their stories, seek advice, and experience the solidarity of others who deeply…
Natural light, good contrast and spaciousness in a well-designed dementia care home

design for dementia – part 1

When people have dementia, they can experience changes in the way they perceive and make sense of the world: Many older people experience deteriorating eyesight, making it harder to see in dull light. Peripheral vision may deteriorate,…
I needed surgery to repair my wrist after falling off a chair!

Beyond brain fog, depression … and dementia?

Having experienced my mum’s dementia journey, I’m encouraged by new evidence that it may be possible to avoid some types of dementia. The Bredesen Protocol – ‘a comprehensive personalized programme designed to improve cognition and…
Spending time in the garden with a loved one brought mum joy

Nature as care partner

Just for a moment, can you put yourself into the shoes of a person living with dementia in a care home? Who are all these people in the sitting room? Why are you here anyway? Someone has left the TV on (loud) even though you can’t follow…
Our loved ones with dementia can teach us to slow down and be present

Slow down, be present

Trying to communicate with a loved one with dementia can be hugely frustrating … until we learn to slow down and be present with them. This didn’t come easily for me! I was in full-on ‘busy adult mode’ when Mum started slipping…
Mum's last Christmas

Dementia is a disease of the brain, not of the soul

Today’s Dementia Connections blog focuses on the topic: Soul, spirit and sense of self. This is one of the most poignant articles I have read about dementia. It encourages us, as family members and friends of someone living with dementia,…
There are many ways for a person with dementia to stay connected

Welcome to Dementia Connections

Dementia can be a lonely, confusing and emotional journey for all affected – both the person living with dementia and the loved one wondering how best to support them. Having walked this road with my mum for fifteen years, I am passionate…
Dancing with mum

Of loss & love - reflecting on dementia

Has your life been affected by dementia? Are you in the early stages of the condition, or are you the care-partner of a loved one with dementia? An attitude of acceptance and a practice of mindfulness helped me to transform the experience of…
Dementia allowed Mum to receive

a care-giving journey – part 3

This is the final of three extracts from an interview by Tom and Karen Brenner, which was published in two parts on Bob de Marco’s Alzheimer’s Reading Room blog:   What are some of the…
Mum was a powerful magnet who drew us together as a family

a care-giving journey - part 2

Here is the second of three extracts from an interview by Tom and Karen Brenner, which was published in two parts on Bob de Marco’s Alzheimer’s Reading Room blog:     How did your…

a care-giving journey - part 1

Tom and Karen Brenner, authors of You say goodbye and we say hello: the Montessori method for positive dementia care, interviewed me recently about the experience of my mother’s dementia journey. Their questions enabled me to reflect on our…

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 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…

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.   Come to your senses: Feel…
mum in shawl

Dementia blessings - My wise woman

Today is the first anniversary of Mum's birth since she passed away in January. Happy Birthday, Mum - this one's for you! Mum was always my 'wise woman' - the one who listened deeply and responded with compassion and non-judgment. So when…
mum at piano

Dementia blessings - Embodied Memory

Witnessing the progress of Mum's dementia made me reflect on how the notion of 'mind' has become reduced to 'brain' in our society. Even though she eventually lost the ability to remember our names and craft sentences, Mum continued to improvise…
Mum as a baby

Dementia blessings - Welcome the child

Spending time with my mother as she neared the end of her life, it felt like someone had set up a mirror at the point at which the spirit enters and leaves the physical realm. Her declining mental faculties and increasing dependence were a mirror-image…

Dementia blessings - Communion

One of the gifts of spending time with a parent with dementia is that eventually you give up trying to have a conversation about the mundane doings of everyday, and sink into a slower, quieter, more heart-centered engagement. When I started…
mum clapping

Dementia blessings - Breaking through

Dementia is on the rise globally, with the number of cases expected to double every twenty years. It can be terrifying to discover that your parent or grandparent is losing their memory. It brings up a host of fears about the future - both theirs…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
charles eisenstein

a world without us?

It’s not an uncommon speculation these days: wouldn’t the world be much better off if human beings just disappeared one day in a puff of smoke? Seemingly intractable conflicts, impoverished communities, runaway viruses, marine dead zones,…
coral tree 5


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.
two oak trees

these 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…

being erica

being erica you live frugally wiry and determined through summer drought In dirt-poor sand being erica you grow quietly; inconspicuously catching sunlight, waiting for spring being erica you give lavishly of nectar and beauty; from…

Self-care for Earth carers

The path of caring To be human is to belong, and care is both the expression and the gift of our connectedness. Heart-felt care motivates us to make our best contributions in life. And expressing care not only feels good but is actually good…
sunshine conebushes

soul expression

This Saturday was another delicious day at Silvermine. The slopes shone with sunshine cone-bushes, but it was a tiny yellow bulbine that held my attention. Growing amongst sandstone shards on top of a rock, this fragile little plant was defying…

song is a salve

Rasping, gurgling, twittering, piping, the mountain birds declare themselves. Shouting from cliff to distant slope like dwellers in the Valley of a Thousand Hills.  Their songs delight. I do not judge the cadence or the melody, touched…
nature rainbow

know sorrow, find joy

You who love this miraculous Earth, will you allow yourself to grieve? It’s a Friday morning and I’m at another workshop, hungry for insights and skills that I can integrate into my life-coaching practice. I tell myself that I’m only…
four elements

stream dance

˜The winter rains have arrived in Cape Town. In between the cold fronts, I spent time contemplating a boisterous mountain stream. It reminded me of a joyous party, with each of the elements in turn inviting water to dance. Each element engaged…
Angeles tree

For Angeles – honouring a fallen elder

On 24 April 2014, Dr Angeles Arrien passed away. Angeles was a cultural anthropologist, whose research into the symbols, myths and practices of indigenous people drew attention to the high degree of commonality between the values and beliefs…
shed skin


Wandering in the Tokai Arboretum this week, I came upon a grove of eucalyptus trees with their trunks smooth and shining. The last strips of the previous year's bark were being sloughed off like the spent skin of a snake, revealing the purity…

between the winds

Today has the texture of silk sheets and cashmere after seasons of sackcloth scratching the skin.  I’ve lived like the wind. May this still day remind me, soft as feathers on water, to breathe gently in.
kirstenbosch afternoon

blatt ... oh dear!

I have a deep, irrational fear of cockroaches. They belong the Order of Insects called ‘Blattodea’ – a name that proved prophetic for one particular cockroach that I encountered this week on my nature solo. His apparent determination to…
forest reflections med

another gift from mother earth

Poised between Earth Day and Mothers Day, my heart is full of gratitude to the Earth, the ultimate Mother. There is no end to the blessings we receive from our precious blue-green home. Perfectly positioned in Space, our Goldilocks planet…

sand stories

The poem from my nature solo this week is dedicated to the memory of John Winter, past Curator of Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town. John passed away on 8 April at the age of 77. I worked at Kirstenbosch towards the end of John's long career…
autumn fog

seasons turning

Autumn fog bleaches the day. Insipid views turn my focus towards the earth. Sandy mound – no grandeur here, save sinking sun illuminating the ordinary. Droughted shrubs tired of summer, grass responding, invited by the early…
Haemanthus sm

celebrating equinox

One of the benefits of spending solo time in Nature each week is that I feel increasingly tuned in to natural processes and cycles. Quality of light, shortening of day, direction of wind, emergence of Haemanthus – these and many other signs…

autumn paradox

It is the time of the autumn equinox in the southern hemisphere. Observing nature this week, I realised how my concept of autumn has been shaped more by cultural images than by the reality of my surroundings. So often we trust our assumptions…
dad sailor suit

a child until seven

This week, I again visited the Silvermine Dam for my nature solo. The intersecting circles of ripples in the dark water of the dam fascinated me. As I settled down to write, I realised that it was 14 March, my father's birthday. Our relationship…
boat bow

at the end of my tether

At the end of my tether I go rowing - in the middle of the lake lifting my oars to drift amongst morning wave-glints that slap against the bow like a heart murmur.  At the end of my tether I find you, weary moon, setting behind Muizenberg hiding…

elemental embrace ™

˜  Warmed by the fire of sun Refreshed by water’s ripple Supported by firmness of rock Touched by the wind’s caress … From your embrace springs life The lovechild of the elements Irrepressibly emergent Co-creating our blue-green…
stream heart

murmurs of love

A murmuration of starlings Picture from   Murmurs of love In celebration of Valentine’s Day, my husband and I went to the Labia Theatre in Cape Town to watch Occupy Love, a documentary…
cork oak canopy

cork oak

This week my nature solo led me to a circle of cork oak trees in the Tokai Arboretum. The tremendously thick, rugged bark of these trees protects them from forest fires in their native Mediterranean habitats. As the tree grows in girth, the…
vlei spider

in praise of grandparents

Twice this week, I've experienced the joy of watching grandparents playing with young children in nature - sharing with them an experience of fun, freedom and fascination. In contrast, less than a week ago the country's attention was drawn,…
hollowed hull


In the forest yesterday, I was touched by the apparent tenderness with which the decaying trunk of a fallen tree was nurturing a new generation of fresh young seedlings. Oh fallen one, Your hull hollowed By the adze of time, How softly…
eucalypt canopy

the fellowship of aliens

'Alienation and belonging' is one of those recurrent themes in my life. It's not just that I'm an immigrant - I'm also something of a maverick. So my primal need to belong lives uncomfortably alongside my need for freedom and authenticity. I…
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Each new breath …

Mum's abundant heart ...    Starting over January 2014 – a new year – a new beginning – an opportunity to start afresh, to set new intentions, to start living that better life. For years I’ve tended to wait for formal…
mountain shadows

the gift of attention

Gently Cloud shadows stroke the earth The solar spotlight pans Across slope and dell Highlighting individuals Celebrating communities Drawing attention to The taken-for-granted ones  Flowers too Emphasise otherwise overlooked Individuals In…

the sacred garden

The year 2013 is ending – the 100th anniversary year of Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town. Ever since my dad first brought the family here when we arrived in South Africa in 1970, I have loved this Garden. And this year, it has been the place…
new growth

a tribute of hope

Today Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was laid to rest in the rural village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape, where he spent much of his childhood. Since he passed away on 5 December, the world has been united in paying tribute to this great soul. His…
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beach pilgrimage

Sometimes solo time in nature means looking for a place where you can be physically on your own in a natural setting, without any other human beings present. That is a special experience. Sometimes solo time in nature means going quietly within…

Contentment and the end of Empire

Thanksgiving month mobile ... Yesterday I nearly overdosed on internet videos. It all started when I received an e-newsletter with a link to The End of Suburbia[1], a documentary on peak oil that I’d wanted to watch for some time. Falling…
Rooi els


Lying on a mattress of roots In the lap of a rooi-els tree Beneath a greenly translucent canopy I learn about … Surrender ™ New leaves intercept the sun They shade and starve The ageing boughs below. An old branch, overshadowed, Accepts…
sea gift

a gift of renewal

in her wisdom twice a day grandmother moon draws the edge of the ocean up the shore - felling our castles erasing our traces wiping clean the troubled sand beyond the tide-line this new beach beckons bare feet to create new impressions in…
forest view

forest connections

  In the forest, all have value - none is greater than the other. Soil praises the canopy for its gift of nourishing leaves; Germinating seeds give thanks to birds for transport to receptive soil; Saplings pay homage to a fallen…
delight of ferns

a delight of ferns

Towering above me the masters of the forest make a bold impression, while here below on the forest floor ferns delight me with their humility. They greet with grace the co-creators of their flourishing: sheltering canopy seeping dampness filtering…
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the still time

In a world that seems to value us more for 'what we do' than for 'who we are', it can be difficult to accept those times when our lives become less busy, and less defined by a particular role. The empty nest, retrenchment, retirement ... all…

A Thanksgiving month invitation

The tradition of Thanksgiving Every culture brings special gifts to the world. Strangely, it’s not always the most inspiring ideas that spread the furthest. So while North America’s fast food brands are consumed in most countries on earth,…
fish eagles

the same wind

Pat and I are privileged to live on a canal that leads into Zandvlei, an estuary in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. I was out paddling on Tuesday, and my relationship to the wind that day gave me some insights into how I choose to relate…


Lemniscate was created from leaves on the forest floor during a land art hike on the Garden Route of the southern Cape, South Africa in August 2013. This is one of my favourite symbols of life's ongoing, regenerative cycles of change.
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my very first post

I know that nature does my heart good, but despite this I often find that days go by without me making time to connect with nature. So this month I've made myself a promise ... to spend time in nature each week and to record my experiences in…
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