A Trip to Cheetah Country

Laura_and_cheetah_bw_cA few weeks ago I had the special pleasure of visiting The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre north of Johannesburg.  ‘The Centre is known for its breeding success of rare and endangered species. A tour affords the opportunity of viewing cheetah, African wild dog and various other species at close range.’* This quote from their brochure accurately sums up my experience on the day. I have never really been a crusader for animals generally; the well being of humans being more my arena of sympathy, but something changed for me when I witnessed the business at hand at De Wildt that day. Don’t get me wrong – I have never condoned the abuse of animals or humans in any form, but I have never been in an environment where I have been driven to fight the fight for animals. However during my visit I found a new found awareness and respect for the plight of these particular animals.

As I went into the cheetah enclosure, I gingerly wondered just how dangerous this placid animal could be and then realized very quickly what an honour it was to be in such close proximity to this skinny legged creature. Encouraged by Gail, my sister, I knelt down to stroke the head of Byron, one of the ambassador cheetahs of the centre. A special moment indeed…. others would give their eye teeth for just one such encounter! During a short information presentation the world of De Wildt’s inhabitants unfolded to reveal a whole new area for me and the dedication of man towards these fellow creatures became hugely apparent. Each staff member has favourites and the care and well being of every animal is paramount. In large enclosures that only fence them in for their own protection, life is as good as being in the wild.

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American Dancing Feet

Stars of American Ballet ImageI was recently privileged to attend an awe inspiring performance of ‘Stars of American Ballet’ at the Teatro Theatre at Montecasino in Johannesburg. As a passionate ballet fan, I was eagerly drawn into the strains of violins backed by a full orchestra, as beautifully structured dancers exhibited well trained bodies and exquisitely performed their steps. Stage images in vibrant colours showed off the artistic talents of well known South African artist, Ernst de Jong and added to the uniqueness of this production.

A quick glance through the programme produced evidence of a bevy of international dancers who all form the cast of ‘Stars of American Ballet’, under the artistic direction of Joaquin De Luz. As I experienced the grandejetés and precise pirouettes, I realized once again just how happy dance makes me. These theatrical treasures float me away into a place of joy and peace as I experience creativity and talent at its best. I always find myself admiring authors, songwriters, composers, scriptwriters, artists and choreographers for their ability to operate in such a fine place of creation. It truly is such anhonour to be blessed with the talent to bring new things into being, to the continued joy of others.

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My Room with One Hundred Hearts

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Over the past month and a few weeks I have had the privilege to nestle and heal in a peaceful and comforting haven. Lovingly prepared by members of my family with beautiful images of Paris and the Eiffel Tower (my ultimate dream destination); plumped up cushions emblazoned with French words and artistic designs; motivational quotes and words; a well stocked little fridge; beautifully decorated tins with delightful eats in their bellies; pastel coloured coffee mugs adorned with birds on a curved branches; numerous fragrant candles; a pure white clad bed and all this surrounded by one hundred hearts in a myriad of designs and sizes…… How can I possibly not heal in this ideal environment?

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Looking Good to Feel Better

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About ten days ago I visited my assigned clinic at the hospital for my regular weekly visit to a doctor and was pleasantly surprised to be invited to a makeup class. Cancer patients undergoing treatment at various hospitals throughout South Africa are treated to makeup and skincare classes by many volunteers from an organization called ‘look good feel better’.* I had visited the Internet one evening in search of various support groups for cancer sufferers and came across this very group. Imagine my joy when I was included in one of these wonderful pampering sessions.

What caught me totally by surprise was my emotional response to this huge gift. I am still baffled by the tears that prickled at the back of my eyes on the day and the flow of tears every time I share this story with anyone…. Was it because I was presented with something so normal out of my daily routine of radiation machines and unpleasant side effects from various other treatments? Or was it perhaps just because this was always my role over the years, to pamper others and now it was simply my turn to be blessed? This walk of mine has certainly made a mixed salad of my emotions and daily norms….

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Seasonal Changes

tree_landscape_bw_cI love seasonal changes. Amazingly every aspect of nature adheres to the rules of the season and sheds leaves or produces new buds timeously. Even as a child I enjoyed trudging through piles of crunchy brown and yellow leaves when autumn came knocking on the door. During September, my birth month, the appearance of the first blossoms always signals the arrival of new growth, new green shoots and the promise of fresh new beginnings. Last week as I made my way to work in the early morning I couldn’t help noticing a huge pile of curled dry leaves that had floated on to the pavement right on cue with the crisp temperatures that denoted an imminent new season. The bright rays of sunshine that filtered through the almost naked trees added certain warmth to the cooler start to the day.

In March last year I was privileged to accompany a group of seniors to the Magoebaskloof area and to pay a visit to the ‘Lightning Tree’ at Kings Walden Gardens. This majestic tree towers confidently over the whole Limpopo valley and the impressive Drakensburg Mountains and is a stark reminder to visitors that once again, nature is a force to be reckoned with.

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Through the eyes of the beholder

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During a very recent visit to my homeopath, I realised as he took a photo of each one of my eyes for an iridology diagnosis, just how magnificent they are. Our eyes are often referred to as the windows to our souls, but by the Creator’s miraculous hands, they are also the portals to our physical bodies. ‘According to iridologists, details in the iris reflect changes in the tissues of the corresponding body organs. One prominent practitioner, Bernard Jensen, described it thus: “Nerve fibers in the iris respond to changes in body tissues by manifesting a reflex physiology that corresponds to specific tissue changes and locations.”[7] This would mean that a bodily condition translates to a noticeable change in the appearance of the iris. For example, acute inflammatory, chronic inflammatory and catarrhal signs may indicate involvement, maintenance, or healing of corresponding distant tissues, respectively. Other features that iridologists look for are contraction rings and Klumpenzellen, which may indicate various other health conditions, as interpreted in context.’*

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Renaissance Man

Renaissance_man_bw_cBill Rago (DeVito) is a divorced advertising executive down on his luck. When he loses his job in Detroit, the unemployment agency finds him a temporary job: teaching a class at a nearby U.S. Army training base, Fort McClane.

Initially unenthusiastic, Rago finds that he has only six weeks to teach a group of “squeakers,” or low achievers, the basics of comprehension and use of English language. Most of the soldiers are only semi-literate and equally unenthusiastic.

Unable to connect with his pupils and desperate to spark their interest, Rago quotes from his favorite play, Hamlet by William Shakespeare. They are unfamiliar with it (or even the concept of a “play”) and a small initial spark of interest is generated. He casts each student as a character in a classroom reading, then takes everyone on a field trip to a live performance by professionals. He introduces them to Shakespeare’s Henry V as well.

Despite the disapproval of their hard-as-nails Drill Sergeant Cass ( Hines), and the loss of one of the trainees, who is revealed as a drug dealer hiding under an assumed identity, Rago sets an end-of-term examination. Even the friendly Capt. Murdoch in charge of the project doesn’t expect the soldiers to pass Rago’s class, adding that if they fail, they will be discharged from the Army.

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Tea Bags and Tea Cups

Stacked_Tea_cups_bw_cI came across a beautifully styled photograph in a promotional magazine recently, showing an attractively displayed stack of tea cups and this immediately got me thinking. Just how important are our daily doses of tea and other hot beverages in our hourly comfort zones? Often at work, when I find myself distracted or bored, I veer towards the kettle and prepare a cup of my latest tea passion. I love tea…. At the moment my absolute top choice is a range of Chai teas, heavily flavoured with cinnamon bark, cardamom seeds, ginger root, clove buds, black pepper seeds and this particular brand’s little extra ingredient ‘love’. This special word just seals the experience for me. The tea bags that I use even leave a lingering fragrance in the kitchen and these strains of flavor transport me back to days gone by…..

During my early childhood years, there were no tea bags yet and all tea leaves were brewed for hours on the stove in aluminum tea pots. No one was aware of the dangers of this metal at the time, but we could certainly taste it in our chewed plastic mugs as we obediently sat on the kitchen floor, drinking what Grandma had prepared for us. My stomach still turns today when I catch a whiff of the same red leafed tea that poisonously bubbled all day long in those days.  My association with this tea over the years in one of rehabilitation after sickness and that is just where it will remain.  Thank goodness for the massive variety of teas that I now have to choose from.  Over the years the adventures of tasting new flavoured teas has had its fair share of comical moments too. One time I brewed a cup of hibiscus tea and when I inadvertently added milk to the cup, I was shocked to find a curdled disgusting mixture swirling around before my eyes. I should have read the preparation instructions. Nevertheless, a hot cup of tea does wonders for my soul.

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Flowers in the Desert

Twenty or so years ago I wrote a book which was never published. I discovered a copy of my writings the other day while de-cluttering a cupboard. I was really surprised to see how similar my writing style was then as to how I pen ideas now. Here is an extract from ‘Flowers in the Desert’:

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“Imagine discovering an armful of flowers in as dry and barren a place as the desert? ‘A place that is referred to geographically as receiving less than 10 inches of precipitation in a given year. A place where there is not even enough moisture to bind the soil particles together and nurture any kind of plant life….. a place which is battered by the wind and tortured by the greatest extremes of hot and cold, extremes found nowhere else on the planet….. a place that is relentless and hostile and where only the hardiest of living things can survive…. a place where many different moods appear – peaceful, stormy, blistery hot and freezing cold!’* Read More

My Three Words

Three_words_bw_cAs an avid scrapbooker, I am constantly inspired by extremely clever motivational ideas with words and pictures. For the past two years I have wanted to join the ‘One Little Word’ journey presented by well-known American scrapbooker, Ali Edwards. AIi explains the following on her website: “A single word can be a powerful thing. It can be the ripple in the pond that changes everything. It can be sharp and biting or rich and soft and slow. From my own personal experience, it can be a catalyst for enriching your life. In 2006, I began a tradition of choosing one word for myself each January – a word that I can focus on, meditate on, and reflect upon as I go about my daily life. My words have included play, peace, vitality, nurture, story, light and up. These words have each become a part of my life in one way or another. They’ve been embedded into who I am, and into who I’m becoming. They’ve been what I’ve needed (and didn’t know I needed). They’ve helped me to breathe deeper, to see clearer and to grow.” *

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