Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Beauty Abounds

I am conscious of stopping sometimes to take stock of my life.  Look around. Admire the scenery.  Stop to smell the roses (actually, I don't grow any, but I am growing jasmine!)  Get a little Zen.  That's when my camera comes in handy.  It seems that when I have a camera in hand, I look at things a little differently.  These upcoming images are the result from such a foray into my garden not too long ago.  Note the bright wintery sun lighting everything up with a stark clarity.  A trip like this always concludes with the fact that, yes, I am blessed, and live in truly beautiful surroundings.  There is beauty everywhere, if we stop long enough to look and find it.
Water-capturing vessel.
I love how every day, friends on the World Wide Web, post motivational sayings, which sometimes come at just the right time, a reminder or a provocation to do or be a little better than we are.  This quote is precious, by the Dalai Lama:  Man surprised me most about humanity.  Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.  Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then his is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
A Balinese guardian in the garden.

An angelic cherub to guide me along, each day.
I do not have a lot of things to remind me of my father.  That's the direct result of emigrating to a country thousands of miles away.  My sister sent me a package when he died, it contained his wooden folding ruler, and this plaque, below.  It apparently hung outside his one room cottage in Coffee Bay.  It now hangs on my small garden cottage to remind me of his spirit.   Thlala Gathle Mdesaleni.

African wall plaque.
I peered in the window of our garden cottage and this is the resulting image, the leaves reflected in the glass, with a glimpse of the artwork inside.  I love this little recycled cottage - everything used to build it was sourced at a demolition yard in Te Aroha (means The Love, in Maori).  From the cladding, to the roof iron and gib board to line it.  All pre-used.  Second hand.  A testament to the fact that objects bound for landfill, can be diverted to make something of use and infinite beauty.

Reflections of the Garden.

Looking inside, from outside.   

Looking out from inside.

A welcoming corner of the cottage - the world on a light-globe, giraffe family from Michael and Brittany, our American helpers, and artwork on wall, by Cam, aged 5yrs.

The one bedroom cottage where our Helpxchangers and guests stay.
Note the light prisms reflecting on the wall.

My husband often jokes that he thinks I might be a Buddhist.  No, I am not, but I do love Buddhist sayings, the truth resonates in me like a tinkling bell in a gentle breeze.  

"When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky” - Buddha

How often do you laugh at the sky??  It is a practice I can definitely start to include in my daily meanderings.  Ha ha ha......

An old upcycled sandpit toy box, rescued from kindergarten.  It contains summer-living outdoor cushions and soft furnishings.  The designs were painted by Julee, our German helper.

The cottage reflected in our solarium windows.
For about 7 years, I feverishly created an intensive edible landscape, only something which we could eat would be considered worthy of growing.  But I grew up.  And older.  And then I started to plant flowers.  Some could be eaten.  But most were just to feed not my body, but my soul.  And that sustenance is as vital as the food for the body.  I gather joy from looking out and seeing masses of colour which creates the insect highways and by-ways in our backyard.
Beautiful sun-shiney flowers in a pot by the door.

Emerging hibiscus,with snail-like tentacles

Beauty abounds.
My home space is my haven.  My sanctuary from the world.  From the busy-ness and business of the fast-paced life-as-we-know-it out there.  It was necessary that our home and garden reflect that feeling of sanctuary.  Of coming home to a sacred space.  Over the years, we have added a little touch here, or a touch there.  A momento from travel to a far distant tropical place. Or a gift from someone who has crossed our lives, for a short or long season of togetherness.  A token of friendship.  So our home and garden are a reflection of those experiences and people.
Come inside.  A knocker bought in a dusty, dark shop in Kottayam, Kerala, India.

Mosaic house number, from broken tiles used in our home-building project.

Adonis and young acolyte (from Michelle), flanking a South African beauty.
And of course, we couldn't be without a token of our roots, our African-ness. In honour of those roots, we planted plumbago, a reminder of our first home we bought in Table View, Cape Town, a strelitzia (bird of paradise) that is oh, so Africa, and last year we planted a protea (national flower of South Africa). It is one of those hideously beautiful botanic entities, like a orchid.  I find myself stroking it as I go past, and crooning to it;  "Hello, my little African Beauty".  Must be nostaligia.
Nature in her finest!
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”- Buddha 

Let's think ONE.  Think BEAUTIFUL.  Think LOVE.  And don't forget to laugh at the sky!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

TrashArt Ghandi-ji

Ghandi Trash-Art
Ya'll know I love up-cycling.  Recycling.  I also love creativity.  Combine the two and it's a double whammy love affair!  So when an old friend's sister, Genevieve, posted her son's very creative up-cycled artwork on my Facebook page, I was awe-struck and super-excited.  And of course, it features one of my all-time favourite human heroes - Mahatma Ghandi.

One of our planet's current problems is our consumer-driven society, which is hell-bent on buying packaged goods.  More and more of the stuff.  Must Have.  Retail Therapy.  (There's even a term for shopping to make you feel better??)  Next month's better model.  Updated versions, with bells and whistles we didn't even know we needed till we saw it advertised.  And everything comes in packaging.  Why, there's even packaging around our packaging.  Let's not for a moment, forget that most of our purchases are transported around the world in yet, yes, more travel-safe, padded packaging.  In bubble-wrap or polystyrene, in boxes, and often, shrink-wrapped in yet more plastic.  So we are creating a death-knell packaging tsunami that is killing our planet, the sea and all life it comes in contact with.  A South African safety website states that 100 children die each year from plastic suffocation, in the UK, 12 children die from this.  How many more across the world?

Today someone brought a nest into our kindergarten, that had fallen out of a tree in one of our recent ferocious storms.  A dinky, teensy miniature basket of incredible weaving workmanship - but laced into it was a bright coloured blue plastic thread!  It is hard indeed to find a bird's nest these days, not contaminated with plastic! We are choking in it!

Now when someone can take that pesky packaging and turn it into something useful or of beauty, then that is something to rejoice in!  Hallelujah!  Joshua Ahren Behrens is a young South African artist who has created such immense beauty out of something considered junk, waste, trash or rubbish in our throw-away society.  He creates incredible works of art from soft drink cans!  I was so impressed, I wanted to showcase this amazing art and so struck up an internet dialogue with Genevieve, asking if I could paste her son's art on my blog.

This is what she said: 
"Thank you so much. I am so deeply humbled and proud of Josh all at the same time. Maybe u can help us by putting it on your blog. Josh has been awarded a bursary to study animation at one of the best animation schools in the world .... The DAVE SCHOOL in Orlando at Universal Studios. (Based on his portfolio) the school has never awarded a bursary before in the 16 years it has been operating. We are beside ourselves with excitement. The bursary does not include accommodation or living expenses and with the rand / dollar exchange our target is South Africa R180 000. Josh is on a gap year this year and is spending it doing commissions and artwork to fund this. Gandhi is for sale for this purpose and will be auctioned at the end of July. The reserve price for it is R15 000. If Gandhi were seen by someone on your blog who wants to buy it that would help us a lot."

Image courtesy of  the www
"Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being."
I went to bed and I couldn't sleep.  How could I help a boy with such incredible talent?  So my normally number-dead brain set to work, running at a pace that had me getting up in the middle of the night and scribbling notes on my bedside notebook (there for these precise moments when the brain is running a thinking marathon) by the light of my trusty solar torch.  If Josh needs ZAR180 000 (NZ exchange rate =$20 000), it is a big ask for any family to come up with such a huge amount of money.  
So I thought, lets break this down into something achievable.  There is a saying, "It takes a village to raise a child".  Well, let us, the world wide web of family, help raise Josh. Let's get him to Orlando art school.  It's that inter-dependence that Ghandi spoke of.  

So he needs NZ$20 000.  If 10 people donated $2000, it would be possible, but that's still too high a cost for average people like me or you.  So, I tried to break it down further:  what if 100 people  each donated $200?  Mmn, still not quite there.  1000 people donating $20?  Achievable, yes, but not many would.  So then, how about 10 000 people donate just $2 each?  That is what would help Josh get to Orlando!  People power!  Helping a young man achieve his dream.

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi
Joshua with 3 world leader's portraits created using soft drink bottles.

So what I am asking you, dear reader, can you donate just NZ $2 (ZAR20)?  And here's the rub, if you can't spare just $2 for a fantastic people-powered art mission, could you please just share this page with your friends? The exponential power of maths (and people) can help Josh achieve this art school dream and further his amazing talent (and just maybe, along the way, he'll also influence others to view trash as a prized art medium rather than a piece of junk to be discarded with little regard or thought.  Or maybe, you could also help by actually comissioning Josh to create another picture of an inspiring individual or someone you would like to hang on your wall?  Or maybe you would like to buy his Ghandi portrait?

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
Clearly, Ghandi himself, would have approved.  He believed in the power of the people.  And being the change you wish to see in the world.  If you can help, please email Genevieve, Josh's mum. 

"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history."

C'mon, people, let's create history together.  Let's help create an inspiring artist's future, together.  
Joshua Behrens with his Mandela portrait

Monday, 4 August 2014

Sun, Sea, Sand and Surf

Floral Coral
Travelling Sustainably.  Well, talk of carbon miles and green footprints, and none of us should travel!  So my beloved and I like to offset that by a few little sustainable travel tips.  We like to think we can contribute in the smallest way, to the place we have traveled to.  So our trip to Raro tonga saw us filling a 23kg suitcase with second hand educational games Mike had sourced from Opp Shops (second hand stuff - recycling at it's best!).  Our friend on Raro works with 3 special needs children; and resources in the school are far and few between.  She appreciated our contribution - saying that even the other children in the class benefit from the educational games.   That makes us happy. 
Being a tropical location, everything we needed was economically honed down to fit into a 7kg cabin backpack each.  Several repacking sessions were needed!  But apart from not having any warm clothes for the chilly night-time temperatures (we wouldn't have thought of that even if we had filled the suitcase with our gear, anyway), we had enough clothes and travel essentials for our week of tropical bliss.  That even included our Sunlight soap bar, stretchy home-crafted washing line with hooks, coffee, plunger, salt and powdered milk (no fresh milk available, only tetra-paks of longlife milk).  
Ephemeral art on the beach
I love the golden vanilla sands of Rarotonga - it feels like playing with instant pudding!  I borrowed the resort's rake for some beach play and created patterns on the sand, for fun! Such is the demented folly of a holiday maker with too much time on her hands!

Tropical Vanilla Sands

I loved that the beach in front of the bungalow was deserted.  The "swimming, snorkeling" beaches are cheek-to-jowl with holiday makers, but in our 8 days, we saw 3 beach-goers walk passed.  Yay, for Tropical Sands!

Sand Exfoliation for Feet
The deserted, private beach.
"Our" beach is littered with hundreds and hundreds of pieces of dead sea coral.  Not Dead Sea coral, but sea coral that is dead!  Like bleached bones and fossils, they lie discarded by the sea, some of it piled up in artistic human-designed coves and patterns.  The sizes and patterns of coral range from small and fine, to large and cone-shaped.  I loved to study each piece, marveling in the wonders of our planet!  I will never be one to don a mask and head off into the azure seas to check out the live under-seas world.  Am just not an adventurous water person.  So, I appreciate the beauty of the bleached, beached coral (even though it reminds me of the fragility of nature in the mercy of man's rape-and-pillage policy of living).  

Below, I've taken an exerpt from http://www.reefball.org/degrade.htm  to understand how this global disaster is taking place under the sea.

                                  Causes of Coral Reef Degradation
From the International Coral Reef Initiative Report to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development

Man-made Stresses

Natural Stresses
-pressure from population increase (including migration and intensified uses)-Crown of Thorns (Starfish) predator outbreaks
-depletion of fish stocks-tropical storm damage
-destructive fishing methods, such as dynamite blasting and poisons (cyanide)-warmer ocean temperature fluctuations resulting in coral bleaching
-excessive non-point source pollution, e.g. from agricultural runoff and contamination of aquifers-earthquakes
-ship-based pollution; including oil, plastics and bilge water-wave action
-mangrove harvesting or displacement for aqua culture products-flooding
-increased sedimentation as a result of deforestation and poor land use-flooding and surface water run-off
-coral and coral sand mining-Natural Diseases
-unplanned tourism-including inadequate wasted water treatment, unregulated construction, collection of corals and ornamental reef species, spear fishing, etc.
Black-Band Disease
Black-Band Disease

-land based and urban construction activities including dredging, filling, and increased siltation

Below is my Dead Sea Coral Gallery

Volcanic Eruption (upside down coral dome)

The beach is littered with pieces of coral.
The other scary fact about coral on Rarotonga, is that several churches built by the early missionaries, are built out of huge blocks of hewn-off coral!  Not a very sustainable practice, given that it takes a long, long time for coral to be created!  It is thought that coral grows between 0.8 to 80mm per year, though no-one can be sure!!

Frangipani by the Sea.  Behind are these cone-shaped shells which can be found on
Tropical Sands beach, often borrowed by local industrious recyclers, the Hermit Crabs.

In support of coral reefs, let's ditch the chemical-rich sunscreens that are adding to the chemical burden the seas are coping with.  Make your own!  It's the Green thing to do! We took my home-crafted sunscreen and tested it in the tropical sun and it worked very well!  Try this chemical-free sunscreen recipe.  Saves you money, saves the environment and saves you from developing skin cancer from chemical overload!

The surf just out from the reef.

I tend to be this kind of surfer; a good book, some shade and a view to die for!!
Early morning sunshine, coffee on the deck.

Surfing is for the more adventurous souls.

This is more like my surfing spirit!  Embodied by this Island cat!

Waking occasionally to see if lunch is served.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie in Paradise.
A Rotweiler/Alsatian/Daschund cross, big-dog body, little-dog legs!
A crowded, cheek-to-jowl Raro beach at Fruits of Rarotonga!
The eis (garland of flowers) we were greeted with at the airport.
Heady floral delights of Rarotongan gardenia

In love with tropical flowers!
Another little island project we had, was taking the $100 our kindergarten had fund-raised from a hamper of Ceres product, to CICI (Cook Islands Conservation Initiative).  Mike and I contributed another $100 to the good cause - saving turtles!  Amazing what you can do, robbing your weekly groceries bill of $20 for 5 weeks prior to departure.  That would just have been top-of-the-shelf stuff anyhow; chips, chocolate, gourmet cheese etc.  Not healthy stuff, anyway.  Kinda like a 5 week lent.  Lent to the Turtles.  
Cone shells

Local gal in full traditional island performance gear.

I try not to be a snap-happy tourist who takes photos of locals without their consent or approval (though I do get sneaky behind-the-scenes shots).  I know I would hate people snapping my pic as I walk along my street or move around our village.  I would feel like I have been exploited or taken advantage of.  I am also careful of not taking pictures of children without consent of adult around.  For the same reason - thinking first of how one would feel if the shoe was on the other foot (or camera in the other hand)!  You can still get great travel pics this way, with a clear conscience!  When I have asked people in the past, if I could take their photo, I always show them the image (the magic of the digital age) and almost always have had them show an expression of delight!

Interesting island coins.  Currency is NZ dollars.

Island market fare.  Fruit, fruit and more fruit.

Even island birds like to venture onto the beach to munch on coconuts!!
When we travel, we also try to remember to take re-usable shopping bags, it was great to refuse the "bio-degradable" plastic bags (just because they take slightly less time to break down - the earth still has to digest it!!).  We also take a plastic "take-aways" container to use, so we can decline the polystyrene take-away receptacle they offer for the proverbial doggie bag, which we can use over and over again. 

I still think tourist destinations should charge tourists an environmental surcharge fee to deal with all the extra burden we make on infrastructure.  We support the local trade, but never give a thought to the environmental upkeep.  Hmmm, bet most people wouldn't like that!  But we pay an airport duty tax at the airport, for the upkeep of the airport!  Then why not an environment tax to the country of destination, for upkeep of what draws us there in the first place?  Makes you think huh?