It was the first Saturday of Spring, for those living on the south end of the Equator. There was a definite whiff of something in the air. Perhaps there was a change of frequency as the season changed from Winter to Spring, or perhaps it was a warming up of the weather, but something was stirring, a promise was coming !
The day was warm and welcoming, and there was a skip in my step as I set out to the doctor’s waiting room. I parked my car in the underground parking area and headed out to the Mall.
I had a lovely morning taking in the sights and sounds of the milling crowd, even did a little unplanned shopping, that always gives a lift to the mundane. Stopped by for a coffee, that goes so well with ‘retail therapy’ – and just soaked up the ordinariness of life.
It was when I went back down to the parking lot and paid at the underground parking station that I heard them. Two old minstrels strumming their guitar and banjo, and making the joy of music for those who would but listen.
I felt my heart stir, and went over to place an appreciation in their basket. They made such a lovely picture, that on the spur of the moment, I asked if I may take a photo of them. They kindly consented, as if it were the order of their day.
I lingered just a little longer to ask their names, and where they were from. Just a little light conversation to seal the moment. As I turned to walk away I heard myself say “You are such lovely people !” Just in time, I caught the smile in Conrad’s eye as he said “You are too miss” And right there was the gold, the exchange of community kindness. What a lovely brief moment in time ! I walked away on a little cloud that had been the promise of that Spring day.
Conrad and Raymond, the two minstrels that have been playing and entertaining the ‘car-parkers’ and shoppers at that Mall for many Saturdays – and over the Christmas season too. They are indeed a delightful feature an added bonus to the Mall, yet tucked away in the underground parking area.
Two old minstrels, with I am sure, stories to tell of their hard lives, and yet they are notably abandoned in the music they so diligently play for the passers-by.
Bring in the gold – threads of gold found in an ordinary day, in the lives of ordinary people. Bring in the gold I say !
It was last year that I wrote on Beautiful Bougainvillea, so at the risk of being repetitive I am posting these pictures of the beauty that surrounds me, to share it with you. The motivational gurus say if you want to be smart surround yourself with smart people. I reckon if you want to be beautiful surround yourself with beauty. And where can one find beauty at its best but in a garden.
I just could not helped being amazed at the lovely tangerine/pink Bougainvillea that I woke up to one morning, and met its beauty in a moment. I mean it had been there all along, growing quietly and unnoticed until one morning it just said ” hello there , it’s re-bloom time again!” And re-bloom it has, together with the other Bougainville’s in my garden.
It was John Keats who wrote in his poem Endymion ” a thing of beauty is a joy forever. Its beauty increases.” I don’t think that we can be in a garden and fully appreciate the loveliness of nature in all its forms. Amazingly God first created a garden and then man, to care and maintain it. What a setting He created for man, and for the story of man, to unfold itself from – a garden! Not the cosmos, not a distant star or a shallow pool of chemical soup – no, a garden !
One of the lessons I like to take from the garden is the grace of the re-bloom. Just when you think you have ‘arrived’ reached the top of the pile with nowhere else to go , or sunk so low that you cannot breathe with the waters of despair wallowing around you, or all is so futile and irrelevant – and begin to think what really matters in life?, or even when all seems done and dusted, there is then the time of the re-bloom. Re-bloom – it’s a thread woven into the life of the Garden. And into the garden of Life it is called the second chance, or the grace of God. It is a thing woven in and throughout the fabric of life – our lives and the principles in nature. I have been heard to whisper (even if only in my own mind) – it’s never over till it’s over.
And that is perhaps why I relate so strongly to the Bougainvillea, apart from its beauty and the sheer joy it gives in its abundant profusion of colourful little petals that have the capacity to mass itself in awesome displays, for those along the highway of life.
And if you pass by that way often, you will encounter their re-bloom, and then remember for yourself – the grace of God, the God of the second chance.
Exuberance is the only word that adequately expresses the goings-on in Russia this past month, with the nations competing against each other at the amazing 2018 World Cup Soccer event.
It will surely be remembered as the Soccer World Cup of last-minute-goals. This is what brought out the exuberance of the players, the fans, and the TV world watchers around the world, of which I was one ardent couch spectator.
What excitement and happiness and what disappointment and despair all wrapped up in this extreme emotion of exuberance – blatantly and un-ashamedly displayed for all to see. How nice to see man at his best – happy ! (and isn’t man at his happiest when he is chasing a ball !!) Nevertheless, it was as if a veil was momentarily lifted and license had been given to be who you are and who you shout the loudest for. All the trappings of pretence and reserve removed in a moment of patriotic loyalty; done without threat or fear, in the manner that the sport of Soccer provided for four weeks for the whole world to see.
Amazing was the fitness and stamina of these players. Honed through months, and for some years, hard practise, discipline and dedication. To be coached, mentored and primed to this pinnacle event, held every four years. Soldiers of Soccer prepared for gigantic battles to be fought with everything that is in them. The last time I viewed such absolute verve and determination was with the movie Brave Heart, but that was just a movie – this is real-life passion, played out in Soccer. The passion that drove these young men was astounding to observe. Their never give up attitudes, their falling down, some spiralling extra spins for show and penalties, some vehemently arguing their way out of yellow cards, and in some cases unfair decisions – letting the moment of frenzy play out to their advantage. Soccer is seemingly not just a sport of great scintillating foot skills, but clever psychological manoeuvres as well. A combination of clever head and footwork ! But it is the combination of stamina and that vital ingredient passion that made me watch men at their best, doing what they do best.
Interestingly too, was the transition taking place. One generation of soccer players moving on to make room for a new generation of younger players. That was perhaps the reason for the unexpected wins of the less likely teams to go through to the quarter and semi finals. One could almost see a wave breaking, and new time players and teams emerging onto this world stage.
Loved “braziliant” Brazil, as my son named them, and their samba soccer. Such exciting soccer to watch. The English and Belgium teams, grounded and steadfast. The Colombians were a little too hot-headed and undisciplined. The sad, but perhaps timely exit of the “old establishment” soccer nations. And all the noisy grandstanding crowds ridiculous yet colourful in their apparel of capes and wigs and painted faces. A real carnival of the nations.
Happy times make happy memories, and this Russia has surely provided. What a memorable, and extremely well organised event, that show-cased their nation in the best way possible – capitalizing on making Russia a definite win, in spite of their courageous team, not quite making it to the grand finale.
At the end of it all, Soccer as a sport, scored the final winning goal, by bringing the nations together.
Its been exciting, exhilarating and exuberant to watch – momentary escapism at its best !
Now excuse me as I mount up my munchies bowl and puff up my cushion to take up the best seat, for the last week of this grand tournament of super soccer nations, my couch.
And may the best team win.
Draw close then back off, and see the whole picture.
I have been at it again. This drawing thing has drawn me in ! And I find myself so engaged that time flies and things get left undone.
An awful lot of concentration goes into preparing the matrix of a drawing.
Draw rub out, draw rub out and so on until some semblance of sense comes out of it all. Then comes the rub – chuckle, sorry, full of puns today !! – to create something presentable and colourful that gives me a sense of achievement, and something pleasant to look at and to glee over.
Not every drawing turns out that way. There are some that don’t get the desired effect, they stand out as ‘lessons-learnt’ in my art journal – with perhaps a quote to distract from the flop !
But one fruitful lesson learnt came from the Ostrich, a peculiar, but interesting bird. Seemingly easy to draw in its simplicity until you get to the mouth and the eyes. These are always a challenge for me.
I had deeply engaged with the Ostrich until in exhausted frustration I tossed him aside, to take a walk. As I passed him by, I threw him a sorry look. That is when he popped out at me ! I saw him from a distance, I saw him as a whole, I saw him as quite beautiful in his peculiarity, and I saw where I had to make adjustments to make him more presentable.
My Ostrich taught me a lesson in drawing – draw close, then back off and see the whole picture. And isn’t that too, the way we see some people. We look to intently at them and see their peculiarities, their faults, inefficiencies, even uglinesses, but when we back off – from our judgemental notions and ever-ready criticism – we may see them differently. Viewed from a distance, as a whole in a bigger setting, they become acceptable, and sometimes their silly faces can even make one smile surreptitiously !
My Ostrich is not a perfect image of the reference I used to draw him from. But then who of us are the perfect image of the original intention of our Creator ? We’re all less beautiful than we should be, a little distorted even dysfunctional and in no way perfect, but we are accepted and loved nevertheless in the Beloved.
My Ostrich, may not be a master-piece, more a piece of the master ! But to me he is just fine, not perfect but acceptable in his ugliness – and his silly face does makes me smile. But you be the judge.
My Ostrich and I have spent a lot of time together, rubbed off of each other you might say ! – but the important life-lesson, read more reminded me of the wise words found in Matthew 7:1
Now Influence is an interesting thing.
Perhaps we should ask the Scientists to explain it more readily for they would surely understand it better, even give an equation or formula to help us recognise its force ! But to a layman’s eye, we can only but muse and observe, and venture to write about its power.
Influence is invisible, but to the observers, its effect is at times a visible thing. Just think of the wind. You cannot see it, but you can see its effects on trees and clouds.
There is also, Influence of a different kind.
Outside one of our local suburban grocery stores they had put up a bright stand with a canopy, to sell pancakes and doughnuts. I love pancakes. On this particular autumn afternoon I decided to buy pancakes to take home to my family. I placed my order and sat down on a bench to wait. Along came a man and his daughter and bought doughnuts. “Mmmm,” he said, and I could almost hear his lips smacking as he took his second bite “they’re still warm”. Well, I am going to buy pancakes, not doughnuts ! As I went forward to collect my pancakes I heard myself say, “and I’ll take three doughnuts too”.
Such is the power of invisible Influence, seducing my taste buds
and will power.
Let me go more regional.
I have a friend who lives up-country in the heart of South Africa, where the winters get really cold, with frosty winds that cut across anything warm. She is a passionate woman and is always crocheting blankets for community projects.
This winter Ronelle and her sister Dalene have embarked on a campaign by making up community bags filled with necessities to distribute to those in service of others. They have influenced other knitting friends to help in their projects, and so their efforts have been able to extend and multiply.
The need is great. She tells me that two Bloemfontein State hospitals frequently request blankets for the premature babies that are born there. These young mommies, often unmarried women from the poor communities have nothing as they come in to deliver their babies. These crocheted blankets provide for the babies to be wrapped up in kindness, as they go out.
Then there is her outreach project to ten guys who go through garbage bins to collect anything recyclable, which they resell. All this to create a job for themselves, to alleviate their poverty, and sustain their lives with a miniscule income. They too receive a parcel of goodies from her project.
Furthermore, one of the Churches in Bloem have an outreach project to feed needy children with soup once a week. This projects needs faithful volunteers who gather, cut, slice dice and make up the soup. Ronelle has made up parcels for these eight ladies who are instrumental in feeding 1500 children every week !
Ronelle is a community observer and worker at heart. Not only does she influence and encourage others to participate in her community projects, she acknowledges those volunteers who serve others, observe those who alleviate their own poverty by standing up and doing something for themselves.
I would say that Ronelle is a strong Influence in her region.
You could say that the power of influence equals the power of one ! It takes just one person to make a difference in someone else’s world.
Chasing Influence wider, allow me to go global.
Mr Trump of the United States of America and Mr Kim Jong Un of North Korea have agreed, then disagreed, and maybe will agree again, that the summit planned to neutralise the use of the missile power-play of the North Koreans should go ahead and be resolved. What hangs in the balance is the possible aversion of a global nuclear war ! Mr Moon of China has been very influential in the persuasion of Mr Kim to not only negotiate with the Americans, but perhaps be a catalyst in freeing his very own people from the terror oppression of his former generation – for seemingly it was a reign of terror that put dread and fear in the hearts of the North Korean people, that have held them down like dead men standing !
Of course there are many working behind the scenes. A lot of influencing, a lot of negotiating for the benefit for all the countries concerned – but that is just politics, and politics is all about power and influence !
The outcome of these talks can be disastrous for a world tottering on the brink of self-destruction, but if positive influence and common sense, and good sound negotiation, can prevail the outcomes will be so much more meaningful to a world wanting to grow and to be free, in trade and harmony and peace.
But Influence is not only the prerogative of politicians and the rich, it goes way beyond our world. Look at a night sky full of sparkling stars. Gasp at the orbits of the planets ! See the influence of our moon on the ocean’s high and low tides. Remember Newton’s apple ? – and wonder at gravity. Gravity, now there is a powerful Influence of note, whose mystery still needs to be told. There is Influence everywhere !
But of all the areas of Influence, the pinnacle, to my mind, is personal Influence.
Take Jabez for instance. We do not know much about him. He may have been a warrior king or a farmer. We do not know. What we do know is that he was an honourable man, perhaps even a sensitive man, for he prayed the following prayer
…… Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.
He’s story is found in 1 Chronicles 4:10 in the Bible. To this very generation many, including me, often pray the Prayer of Jabez. How is that for Influence down the ages !
Having said all that, it must be noted that the power of Influence, although invisible is very important. For that reason I must, more often than not, ask myself – who is influencing me ? And even more astutely – who am I influencing ?
We are not merely an entity of being but a sphere of influence too, whether positive or negative, good or bad. And may we have the wisdom to know, and the courage to make, big or small, an influential difference in our world.
“I forgot to buy water to take for the long road.” “What long road?” my husband asked.
“I am going to meet with my friend who is holidaying at Ballito.” Just short of rolling his eyes he said with a sort of sniff “that’s not a long road, it’s a thirty minute drive !” Well, I hadn’t left the confines of the busy city for a while, so it seemed to me, that it was going to be a long road ahead.
It was a sunny day and a pleasant ride, not long at all, and before I knew it I was at her gate. The joy of seeing a familiar friend is so delightful. We fell into chatty conversation that filled a four-hour visit.
We had crackers and cheese with our tea, as we did the catch-up on current events, the state of the country, the state of the Church, engaging on doctrine, remembering co-hearts from our former circles, sharing some family news, and shed a tear or two on little heartaches we had known. Tears in friendship are good. They make us real, and take the edge off being the super-women we sometimes need to be to those around us.
That is what a friendship can look like. It’s a safe space for sharing, a space that is conducive for necessary and honest conversations, that are undemanding, neutral and
comfortable. A lot of talking, but a lot of listening too.
But to get to a real friendship will require we take the long road.
Real friendships are not instant, they take time to form, time to be distant, time to be tested and moulded into whatever shape they will eventually become. Friendships can be fragile things, and can break at any time along the way. Real friendships need to be cherished and nurtured and watered to grow.
As woman we thrive on friendships. Probably because of the release of the feel good hormone called oxytocin in our system. Or, more than likely at the core we are talkers and need listeners. Or, perhaps we meet each other more easily at the emotional level. Women understand “heart-talk” – women understand women. Rare is the man who can say that he understands a woman. Probably it should be so, for each in his or her own role, compliment each other. Like a lock and a key – different, yet fulfil the purpose they are designed for – effective combination that unlocks potential.
And beautiful, beautiful is the soul-friendship of a husband and wife team.
There are many types of friendships. The “bromance”, is a compatibility of personality that can grow into lasting friendships. Men friendships have a real strength about them, it makes the world a better and safer place.
Of course it would also take time for these friendships to grow. Men are more cautious, because men understand men, and their protective and productive natures allow them to scan for the hidden agenda, the intruder, and for the thief. They are the providers and protectors of their domains their families and their homes. And will vehemently guard them, regardless of friendship.
Friendships are not just for woman and in essence are built up on good honest relationships.
Are good personal relationships the open secret of happiness ? That may well be true.
Friendships at best are reciprocal, a give-and-take. Often the highway of friendship will become a dead-end street when one just gives, and the other just takes. That is what you find out on the crowded highway called Life.
Friendships require mutual understanding, with mutual deposits and withdrawals into each others lives. Like a banking system, only with emotions, and feelings.
To build up a good balance – make big deposits often, keep the withdrawals small, with no obligations.
If we do this, not only will our relationships grow, but our finances too!
Good friendships are a gift, a rare find. It takes time to grow friendships, and that is why the road to real friendship is a long one, travelled lightly, with plenty of sunny spaces in between. And don’t forget to take a water bottle !
The friendship road is a road worth taking, a road to travel well, and along the way, with bumps and bends and all, will make of us better people. Let us celebrate our friendships.
Time, is a gift to us all. And how quickly it passes us by. This I realised as I observed a little old lady having her lunch in a popular restaurant, renowned for its hamburgers and good coffee. I had popped in after doing my shopping, and felt I needed a “spoil” after the Christmas rush, and to make the new year my own, with a little celebration of my favourite – banana milkshake !
This was quite uneventful, until I saw the little old lady, stricken with age, with a question mark for posture, stand up and begin to reach for her two wheel walker. This with the help of her, I ‘m assuming, granddaughter. The scene began to painstakingly unfold as she finally got in the position to begin her shuffle toward the door. She looked up, and began to move forward. Then to my amazement she stopped and with confidence, did a little bob-bob-sway-sway dance, with a sweet smile on her face, and a twinkle in her eye – all this as she caught and held my gaze. I was delighted, gave her a big smile, a wave, and a thumbs up sign. Not a word was spoken, not a word was needed as she expressed her mischief and her sense of humour.
She continued her epic shuffle to the door, but before she got there stopped and did the bob-bob-sway-sway dance again, but this time to the waitresses who were watching her go. They all waved and clapped their hands in response to her happy presence, and called out to her “goodbye Granny, come again” Her smiling granddaughter looked up, caught my eye, and we just beamed at each other. I thought to myself, I hope I can age as gracefully as this little old lady has shown me today, and that I can retain a sense of humour and playfulness into my ripe old age.
It was a moment in time, …. and it put a smile on my soul as I watched humanity play itself out before me. I got more than a banana milkshake for my new year’s celebration ! I got a lesson on life, and saw how the Aged and Elderly among us are special, and need to be seen and appreciated – and applauded !
So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.