No matter what they say, know this
Your heart is a firework wrapped in kindling
pleading for any infinitesimal spark
To see you light up forever
– D. Solway
No matter what they say, know this
Your heart is a firework wrapped in kindling
pleading for any infinitesimal spark
To see you light up forever
– D. Solway
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” – Lao Tzu
“Don’t be surprised at how quickly the universe will move with you once you have decided”. – Unknown.
the hurricane of uncertainty.
I’m not sure when it began but I’m going to say as of late: my mind, body and soul have been swept up in avalanches, hurricanes, and large powerful tidal waves of self-doubt and uncertainty.
I got asked the question the other night: – What is it that you love to do? What is it that you would do if money was no object?
The answer was simple. I love to travel. I love experiencing cultures and immersing myself in the unknown. And the only other thing I’ve been unquestionably, unequivocally talented at (if I do say so myself) is to write. But the more I thought about the answer the more distressed me as reality came through like a pummelling fist, smashing apart my dreams as it came bubbling to the surface – “how the hell can I make money from writing? Who reads anymore? DO people care about blogs anymore? Am I too late? I have bills to pay, I have a large travel debt to pay off, I can’t just “LEAVE” my current job in the hope that someone out there is going to pay me to write. And travel seems so maddeningly impossible at the moment…”. It all spewed forth from the dark recesses of my mind that I realised, then and there, had been collecting for quite some time. And post-outburst, it led me to realise this – that lately the more I come to know what I want, the more I’m unsure of how to get there, and then I question if it’s something I can achieve, which is the metaphorical butterfly flapping its wings within my mind that leads to the hurricane later on. Round and round the process goes, an endless nauseating cycle that always seems to bring me to the same place.
I know what I want and absolutely symmetrically, I don’t know what I want at all. At the same time. Both thoughts running in perfect parallel with me in the centre, unable how to connect the two without being caught in the crossfire.
I have so many ideas that none happen. I want something so badly, that when it can’t or won’t happen for me, I force-push it from my mind to protect myself from the hurt. I feel everything, every swell of emotion, every setback, every push forward, every change, spark, glimpse – so strongly its maddening. I realise I have one lifetime and I want to do everything. See everything. Feel everything and experience it all. I can feel that there is something big for me on the horizon, and yet the horizon has felt to be expanding in my opposite direction every time I try to get there.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time for change – for good. Beginning within. I wouldn’t call myself “religious” but I believe in the universe and energy and so I’ve been speaking to that energy, that entity, for a while now. Asking open questions. Talking to it. Putting my charged thoughts out there into the charged atmosphere to start a process. And the process starts within. Sometimes, the chains that prevent us from being free are more mental than physical. The only limitations we have in life are the ones we place on ourselves. And if you keep doing what you have always done, you will get what you have always got.
This morning I woke up extra early against my own inner-will (and she is strong). I went to the place that I know inspires me the most – the ocean. And again I spoke to “it”. Nature, the universe, energy, “god”. Myself. And as I spoke out of the corner of my eye I spotted a crystal clear lagoon to my right, not a ripple in sight across the lacquered glass of water, orange-red baked sand caught underneath and pure white and deepest green “ghost trees” edging its borders. And the more I walked closer the more enamoured I was. And in this moment a simple list came to me, almost cute and silly in its simplicity.
Pay off your debts
And in that moment all I could feel was contentment. All I could hear inside my usually busy mind was silence. I received the first piece of my multi-dimensional puzzle, clear as day, in list-form (of all things.)
The honest truth is that I have no idea what any part of the future looks like for me. However right now, that simple, small puzzle piece feels like weighty gold and I can’t help but smile as I realise that now I’ve let go, the answers are being presented to me one by one.
And so off to start the list, I go. No matter how long it takes me.
There is bliss in the unknown, in the eye of the storm.
– D. Solway
take me somewhere
Where the warm breeze swirls around my knotty hair,
Dried salt crystals lay gently on my skin,
And water clear as air laps gently at the shoreline of a grainy, shell strewn haven.
Take me somewhere
Where the air is almost too warm
Beads of moisture making paths across my skin
Feeling infinitely small amongst the dense green I traverse.
let’s make a home there, you and I
Our days filled with laughter and imagination
lost forever within our surroundings
and time no longer exists.
Let’s make a family there, you and I
And show them the real wonders of the world
Let them in on secrets that only a few know
Like how to speak to the animals and trees.
– D. SOLWAY
(photo credit: 1. Vagrants of the World Travel 2. artist unknown 3. artist unknown 4. loubis-and-champagne.tumblr.com 5. paradise-found-in-maui.com 6. desvre.tumblr.com 7. instagram – “songofstyle” 8. Free People Blog 9. poetrymoves.blogspot.com 10. artist unknown)
I love days that are forecast to rain, yet against all odds, the sun forces the clouds apart to illuminate the land in a soft glow in glimpses in between rebel clouds. This day was one of those days.
Blue lagoon is the quintessential tourist destination on big-island Efate, Vanuatu. A large, still, almost-neon blue lagoon (hence the namesake) sits amongst bordering trees and grasses within a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it entryway just off the main road. As somebody who is ever-wary of tourist traps (having been a victim of them many times in the past), the first thing that caught my attention was the meticulously constructed carpark and “reception area” smack bang at the paved entryway to the lagoon itself. Yes, in fact, you do have to pay to enter the lagoon area – and be aware that it is quite pricey for Vanuatu standards. We did, however have an advantage – being a group of 10 people with local Vanuatu as part of the group, we were able to bargain down the price per person to a cheaper “group” price.
I can’t deny it – the lagoon is beautiful. The water of the lagoon itself is clean and cool in temperature (something you really come to value in the tropics). The mouth of the lagoon is tucked away behind a bend where the waters of the lagoon snake to open into and meet the ocean. As is the rest of the island, millennia-old whitened coral and coral sand lines the bottom and sides of the lagoon, theoretically allowing for snorkelling within the lagoon itself (I didn’t try, but others that were with me did).
Being a weekday, it was a quieter day at the lagoon – however it was hard to miss upwards of 50 Australian tourists and their young families splashing and swimming in the water and lining up to swing from a large tree’s branches via rope swing, in 2 different spots on the lagoons edge. Nevertheless, our local friends found a sheltered rocky outcrop on the water’s edge for us to lay our sarongs, bags, snacks and an entire whole watermelon (as is the norm – who said you couldn’t have a whole watermelon as a snack on the go?).
Although quite obviously a touristic destination, some locals were also enjoying the cool waters on an opposing bank of the lagoon away from the tourist action; themselves having found a fallen tree to use as a springboard to launch into the water and lounging like sleeping cats on the lower branches.
Contentedly sitting on a shared sarong by the sparkling azure waters, I asked my Vanuatu friend Melodie if she had been many times before to this mini slice of visual paradise. A few times with friends, she responded matter-of-factly, before they built it up and started charging for entry. While this news momentarily struck me, a big grin spread across her face and she suddenly jumped up. “Come on, lets climb the tree and jump from it”. Without waiting for me she jumped into the water and started making her way across the lagoon to the tree on the opposing side.
As much as I really, really want to write here that I followed her, climbed to the topmost branches of the tree and fearlessly jumped with her, I didn’t. Instead I climbed half the tree, decided I was too scared to climb the thinning branch she was on, jumped off the “kid’s platform”, and instead floated in the water watching everybody else have a go at the tree.
Let me divert you to an off-track side note for a second: The natural, unforced patience and kindness of the Vanuatu is something to be admired. There’s a reason why they are consistently voted #1 happiest people in the world. Melodie would stand there and wait in the tree for her “turn” to jump from her place in the tree for up to 10 minutes at a time, always waving through the tourists that were lining up for the smaller platform. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I heard her (even from 100m away where I was swimming) call down to them, “no, no, love, it’s okay, you go, I can wait”. She never lost her patience, never rolled her eyes, never sighed at the scared & hesitating children that were causing her to stand on a precarious branch on top of a tree in the sun waiting, waiting, waiting to jump into the water. In a nutshell this is the Vanuatu mentality – selflessness, and universal love for all. Try not to fall in love with that, I dare you. (Back to the main piece).
After cracking open the watermelon for us all to snack on (flies & humans alike), we lazily spread out on the cool rocks, sat in trees & slid back beneath the refreshing surface of the water to escape the days humidity. Yes, even with the shouts, screams & movement of all the tourists around us; for the first time it didn’t bother me and I shut them all out – or, rather, shut us all in, in a sealed little bubble in our corner where no one else mattered.
Serenity was the universal theme for our time on idyllic Efate. Not only did the mere week we spent there feel like months; but the time away from technology and submerged entirely in both nature and in the moment, replenished our energy supplies as we surrendered to the slow-going lifestyle, no-worries mindset and incredibly family-oriented way of living. Indeed, every day morning to bed was spent in the family ‘group’ dynamic – group breakfast gathering & prep, boardroom-like life discussions sipping coffee & devouring sweet local fruit, venturing out for the day to explore, even group-appointed nap time, washing up and the like. I may have already mentioned this (but I’ll say it again anyway), but spending so much time together allowed us to connect on a deeper level with each other than we had done for the years we have all known each other. Conversations were had and stories were shared that strengthened our bonds & friendships in a way that wouldn’t have happened, had we not let go of our material selves & our possessions.
One afternoon whilst walking the dirt track leading from the beach home, we happened by a group of Vanuatu men sitting outside the local Nakamal, and amongst them, a slightly spaced out blonde Canadian man, smile plastered across his face, the effects of his hand-held cup of Kava clearly having had taken effect. His pale skin tone & strong accent were the only factor standing him out from the crowd as he dressed & acted as a local. Too intrigued to keep walking, we asked him how he had come to Vanuatu and what his story was. His answer, he had simply decided one day to retire, sell all his property & belongings in Canada and move his life to Vanuatu. De-cluttered and completely simplified, he now spent his days at a slower pace in the happiest country in the world. It was the best decision he had ever made, he said. Even completely high on Kava I believed him. I had only spent a week here and I found his life upheaval completely understandable, if not covetable.
Whilst I could go on for 10 more blog posts on my time in Vanuatu, I’ll leave you at the post on my front page – sitting on the return plane, pen in hand, completely inspired and ready for change.
Au Revoir Mama Vanuatu – thank you for your lessons, and until we meet again.
I hope you liked the first installment of my ‘benefits of rock bottom’ series. I actually want to address 2 things first & foremost –
I hope you enjoy, & I’d love to hear some feedback from you! Watch below NOW:
It’s never the right time to say goodbye.
Although this may evoke Chris Brown’s cheesy vocals ringing through your mind singing the above sentence, it is a sentence that has been playing through my head over and over again for the past 2 days.
Yesterday I had the absolutely horrible, horrific task of saying five words that I never in my most horrible nightmares could have conjured up saying about my little love. “Lets put him to sleep”. That single moment my world stopped, my mind blanketed in a thick fog. I knew it was coming but the words coming out were foreign to me, as if it wasn’t my voice saying them. I was checking the letterbox for mail at the time and all I could do was stumble back into the car and sit down, defeated, tears escaping my eyes and rolling in a consistent stream down my face with the vet doctor’s last words to me ringing in my ears for eternity, “I think we all knew this was coming.” I did but I didn’t. I couldn’t believe it. He was only 3 years old. It wasn’t his time. How could such a young, lively, cheeky, playful animal be so sick?
To you looking at these pictures, he’s just a cat. I cant expect you to understand, just as I wouldn’t be able to understand if this was your situation instead of mine. These few, 2D pictures don’t tell the stories that I have lived through with him and how he pulled me through my dark times and celebrated my happiest.
The day he came into our lives he was just an 8 week old, small, cheeky black kitten with a naughty rebellious streak that had been born on the streets and abandoned. His siblings had all been adopted out and it had just left him – reluctantly, I agreed to have him – we had just lost a cat and were now renting and didn’t have the room for him – yet I took him on anyway. The day I went to pick him up I drove 2 hours across the city in the pouring rain and fog with no GPS – I was driving blind, no idea how to get to the vet where I would pick him up, yet I eventually found my way there, paid the $50 I had agreed to, and was led to the small cage in the back where he was waiting for me. He was tiny with blue-green eyes and a big blue bow around his tiny little neck – like something from a Disney movie. I was hooked and in love immediately.
I was concerned for the drive home as, being such a tiny kitten, I was alone and worried that the long car ride would stress him, and so he rode with me in the front of the car with a seatbelt around the carry cage that held him. Halfway through the drive home, I lifted up one corner of the towel as he hadn’t made any noise yet, and saw that he was curled up in a tight little ball, fast asleep, with only the positioning of the bow allowed me to see which end was which. A half-hour later he awoke and poked his little paw through the cage bars, claws out, wanting to play. So I played cat-and-mouse games with my finger through the cage bars for the rest of the ride home.
This is also how we spent our last car ride together, on the way to the vets yesterday. This being his fourth time to the vet in a week, he knew the drill and was trying to escape the cage as he thought it was just another routine check. So out came his little paw through the bars, looking for an out, and I held it for the last time in ironically exactly the same way that he came into my world. Paw to finger. This time I was stroking him imprinting the feel of his fur on my mind forever so I would never forget what it was like to touch it. Kissed his round nose and the spot behind his ear where he always smelled like fresh laundry, because that was his favourite place to sleep.
To me, he was not just a cat. He was as good as my child. He had an obsession with the outdoors and looked very at home in it; thus the nickname of ‘panther’ was born. On the few occasions we tried to coerce him inside or catch him due to it being past his bed-time (sundown), he would let you come within inches of touching him before running a few metres ahead. Everything was on his terms, he was rebellious, wild, untouchable; and that cemented our love for him even more. Moreover, he was a small cat, yet one that never stopped him from dreaming big. One afternoon I was ironing clothes in the dining room near the big bay window and I could hear a wild bush turkey running and squawking in discomfort every now and again. Finally I looked out the window & saw a small, black figure down in the long grass, relentlessly stalking the poor turkey (that was double his size) before running up behind it, biting it on the bum, and then starting the whole charade all over again.
My little boy knew when I was in a dark place. One day during a brief period in 2014 when Gab & I had broken up, I remember sitting on my balcony feeling brokenhearted and in despair. I was staring out to nothing, trying to make sense of my life’s state when I felt something soft brush up against me. It was my little cat, intertwining himself between my legs, something he had never done before as he wasn’t usually so affectionate. I like to think he sensed my pain because he sat with me for as long as I was there in that position, rolling around on my lap and sleeping with me there until I moved. He has been there through it all.
In the last few weeks I like to think he knew his time was coming to an end. He started sharing his sleeping arrangements with me, my mum and my brother; spending all his days curled up with us inside rather than exploring the outdoors like he usually would have done. He followed me everywhere like a shadow and scratched at my bedroom door if I dared to close it with him not in there with me. One day I picked him up and realized that I could feel his breastbone and hips way too sharply, and each nodule of his vertebrae. He was hungry and yet not, and started looking for grass to chew. Thinking it was a tummy bug or an infection I took him into the vet to sort it out. That was only a week ago today. Things can change so much within a week. On Monday, after a last-ditch ultrasound scan, I was called into the vet clinic after-hours to discuss the scan findings. There were 3 large dense masses in his liver, that the doctor put down to two things – a very, very unlikely occurrence of a series of abcesses, or – more likely – 3 large tumors. My heart knotted, as somewhere within me, I knew it was the latter. The only way to know for sure was to take him back the next morning for surgery to physically see what the growths were. The vet told me that if they were, infact tumors, that it would only be cruel to Leo to stitch him up and wake him up to take home, as he would only suffer greatly until he eventually died. He didn’t have a definitive answer for the reason for cancer in my gorgeous boy at only 3 years old, only that he was at risk due to his breed. It was a genetic lottery and he lost.
And so I took him home with heavy everything, so we could all say our goodbyes. In 24 hours we had all gone from the prospect of a tummy bug, to now saying goodbye forever. And so we just did. And it was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do, say goodbye forever to our young threenager who had the world at his feet to explore had he not lost the genetic lottery.
I feel like this is a release for me to write this. I don’t know how many of you are going to even care. But I felt the need to tell the world just how much he meant to me, and how much love I felt for an animal that I had once reluctantly rescued for a measley $50 and came barreling into my world, full force, paw outstretched with a big blue bow on his soft little neck.
Rest in peace baby, I know we’ll meet again. I love you so much. Goodbye.