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Archive for October, 2014

Two days staring at the sea. Trying to read a book. Feet in the sand, wind in my hair.

With the morning come the dolphin pods, one, two, three. Arcing out of the water with their shiny grey fins.

As the sun makes it’s own arc from left to right of our ocean view, the water glitters in the bright sunshine, the wind bends the grass.

Today is filled with shell collecting, then painting on our wooden deck, then eating, then sandcastle building.

More staring at the sea. It’s addictive, it’s hypnotic. I see other humans doing it too.

With the evening come the pelicans, on their journey home from a busy day fishing. They pull back their wings and point their beaks at the ocean, a final plummet for a fishy snack.

The sky turns dusky blue, then orange, like it’s on fire, then pink and finally mauve.

Another day is done.

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Day of the deadToday I received an email through my work account, entitled “sad news”. That doesn’t happen very often, my heart started dropped as I scrolled the page. A colleague of mine, a wonderful, energetic, passionate young man with a fabulous zest for life and a young family, has died. No detail, of course, in the email, except that his family are asking for privacy as they mourn, and how we can send our condolences, and who we can contact if we need some support. It pushed the bottom out of my morning. The shock kicked in, the tears came, the head searching the heart for memories of our brief time together. I met him a couple times, those memories bright and full of joy in my mind. He was on the other side of the world living his very different life. He was a colleague, not really a friend, but in tragic times like this the wrapper of “colleague” falls quickly to the ground and I mourn him as a friend who I didn’t ever (or will ever) get a chance to really know.

Coincidentally today is also the day of my grandma’s funeral, back in the UK (I’m in the US on business at the moment). My grandma was an amazing wonder woman, living a full and fabulous life surrounded by family and joy, bringing all the fabulous things grandparents should into a grandchild’s life, right to the end, living to the ripe old age of 94 and exiting very peacefully just a couple weeks ago.

One of the inevitable things that comes with being longer on the planet is that death will start to dance around your feet more. People you hear of die, then people you know die, sometimes at a distance, but sometimes very close by. Over the last 4 years I’ve had a real education in death. From the extremely close and extremely tragic to the more distance and fleetingly sad, and pretty much everything in between. Death shakes you to the core, reminds you of your own short time on the planet, of the fragility of human life. It consumes you and plunges you underwater into a thick and intense place of emotions. But I also believe that it can teach us the greatest lessons about life, it’s cruelness, it’s beauty, it’s part of our condition, and the most important thing is to not fight it, but let it pull you down, be there, experience it, and when you are ready you will start the swim to the surface and take a deep breath of fresh air and it will taste different. Each death you encounter will change you, it should but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Celebrate the life that was there before, look for the lesson, if only that you are still on the planet, that you need to spend more time with the people you love, appreciate those in your world and take time to smell the roses.

Dia de los Muertos happens each year on 1st November, it feels to me like mine came a little early this year. A chance to celebrate those who have come and gone. I won’t forget those I’ve lost, whether close or far, but I also will celebrate the life that still continues. The world keeps spinning, it is a beautiful place.

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I woke up and it was still dark. Jet lag making me an early bird. Had an early breakfast of bacon, grits and fruit whilst the light came up. Then I took a walk around the French Quarter.

The heat was starting to build already, the air thick and humid, that humidity I love, a warm cloak, scented with flora but good old New Orleans, a few more steps and the acrid tinge of beer kicks in, passing a 24 hour bar, that zoo smell filling my nostrils.

I love New Orleans, I really do. For me it’s one of the most interesting cities I’ve been to. Shut your eyes and you feel like you are in South East Asia, the feeling of that heavy air on your skin, the intense sun baking your arms, the sounds of birds, the smells; sweet nature mixed with sour human. I know I’m on a swamp. It’s swampy. And I love that. But when you open your eyes your senses are assaulted. Neon, chinz, gothic railings, beaten wooden shutters, pastel houses, lush green creepers spilling over those balconies… half filled beer cups on street corners, left over from last nights’ frivolities (and EVERY night here has frivolities).

Each shop window (closed this early in the morning) is a window onto another world, colourful, sparkling curiosities peeking out from behind the glass. Galleries stacked with beautiful paintings sit alongside voodoo lounges, shimp dinners and ladies’ boutiques. It’s a smorgasboard.

So on my walk today I started taking photos with my phone. There were a lot of tourists (mostly American) taking photos with huge cameras and tripods and all sorts. But I suddenly realised I was too busy clicking… I wasn’t seeing, really enjoying the moment, so I put my phone in my back pocket and took time on my amble.

Then it popped into my head how wonderful it would be if my mum was with me now. She would love this place, this morning walk around this crazy magical town as it was just walking up. We’d amble together along the narrow streets, gazing at the beautiful old decaying buildings, each with their own story. Admiring the way the swamp still remains here, vivid green plants crawling up the walls, over the balconies, heavy dew in the air.

We’d look in those ornate windows with their eccentric displays, at multi-coloured jewels glinting in the morning sun, at the oddities in the voodoo shops, dolls and alligator claws and pots of potions. We’d hear the “clip clip clop” of an approaching horse, a man rides his horse and carriage by, he tips his hat, we’re transported back in time… I point at the gas lights, still burning on many of the corners.

We’d walk past the bright white cathedral by Jackson’s Square, blinded by the glare from the blazing sun that is already so hot. Looking down the line of fortune tellers, palm readers and tarot card mystiques lined up in front of the cathedral, we’d contemplate a reading… but instead we’d then decide to duck inside the cool Beginet Café to get our morning coffee and sugar dusted beignet instead and take a break from the kookiness of it all.

I really enjoy travelling solo, it allows spontaneity and it’s easy to be present when you are just with yourself and your thoughts. I do it more these days as work takes me to different places and I’m thankful for the opportunity. But I am starting to see more and more the joy of sharing places and experiences with those you love. One day mum, I would love to bring you to the French Quarter of New Orleans. If only for a morning walk and a beignet.

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I’m spending the night in Miami. It wasn’t planned and the last 2 hours of my 9 hour flight from London were spent in a mental grapple with my negativity. The plane was an hour late taking off, “you have to get through immigration, you have to collect your case and recheck it, you’ll never make it”. Despite forcing myself to imagine getting to the gate with seconds to spare, I didn’t. But then I patiently stood listening to the staff try and book me on a flight for tomorrow and another man on the same flight was dissolving in a puddle of rage and I let go. So what? No drama. That’s not going to help.
So I’m here, Miami. Sexy, shiny, steamy Miami. I like to imagine I checked into my airport hotel and had a quick shower. Slipped into a gold sequin dress and red heels, dusted some glitter over my eyes and hopped into a mini cab which whisked me off to South Beach. Here I would eat oysters and drink champagne, hang with hipsters and cool cats, be invited aboard a yacht for a private party, but I’d leave after another glass of champane because the conversation is too stifling. Instead I’d meet some different people, more down to earth, and we’d dance the night away on the beach, listening to cuban rhythms and drinking rum until the sun comes up…
Well, not quite. The reality is a salmon and cream cheese bagel with a vouher in the airport hotel. But so what? With only one night in Miami, a girl can dream…

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