Living The Wild Life – Learning from Photography Exhibition in Cape Town

“Let the beauty you love be what you do. There are thousands of ways we kneel and kiss the earth.” Rumi

Cape Town’s National Museum is hosting wildlife photography exhibition from around the world. The work was breathtaking – in subject, form, beauty. The photographers captured the poetry of nature. My immediate response was wordless worship and gratitude to my Creator.

And then I got technical…I’m quite the novice photographer, but I’m relishing the opportunity to learn. As I took in the exhibition I was struck by three characteristics of these world-class photographers.

  1. COMMITMENT – They had rose early or stayed up late, waiting hours, days, some weeks, for the image that would tell a moving story. To learn to be a visual storyteller—really, any form of storyteller—I must be willing to wait.
  2. COMPASSION – They seemed to see the beauty and struggle of their subjects in an unsentimental way. There was no sense of pity, rather a capacity to see the strength of the animals in the midst of daily fight to survive.
  3. CURIOSITY — They went to the extreme edges of habitation—crouched low and stood on tiptoes to see what others had missed.

I’m going to keep learning/playing/working at the craft of visual storytelling…and love what it teaches me about writing and life as I observe these extraordinary photographers.

Can’t resist the question: What new experience/hobby/pursuit is giving you fresh insight into something else you know and love?

See the exhibition yourself…You know you want to:  http://www.greenrenaissance.co.za/2011/12/07/current-exhibition-wildlife-photographer-of-the-year

Hiker: Made by Dad

Hiking in a wonderland. As a preteen I was the cliché of awkward adolescence personified: chunky and clumsy and had an overall combative relationship with my body. However, my awkwardness was only matched by my fear of missing out on an adventure.

So when my family decided to hike a Colorado peak I was all in!

Let me establish a little context for this expedition. My family wasn’t the most professional of hikers, meaning we launched off into a multi-mile hike at high noon with only Diet Coke cans and Wheat-thins. So after an hour or so my mother and brother rallied logic and turned back. But my dad saw a peak that must be conquered and I couldn’t bear to miss out on the experience…and even more on an adventure shared with my dad.

We hacked our way through overgrown bush, clung to jagged rocks as we traversed cliffs, and dodged wild animals to reach the top…or at least in my preteen sensibilities it seemed we had barely beat off death. But there I stood gazing at valleys and rivers thousands of feet below, right next to my dad. That day I became a hiker.

I loved the hardscrabble work of seeing beauty, and even more, I savored the bonding with my dad. And at the end of the expedition I was more tired than I ever had been—so fabulously tired.

My body hadn’t failed me. It got me to a feat and enabled me to be with my dad. That day I grew more comfortable in my preteen skin and have hiked ever since.

Hiking has become a passion, so I was thrilled that my first stop in South Africa was the Drakenberg mountain range for three days of trekking with friends.

As I shared my story of hiking with my dad, my friend Tracey recalled the glorious hikes with her father she had had on these very trails.

She too had become a hiker because of her dad. Her father passed away a few years ago, and she shared that some of her favorite memories were with him on the mountain range we were trekking.

As I write this I can’t help but think of another dear friend who also loves hiking. She too had done a considerable amount with her dad. He just passed away suddenly…I pray as she looks at the mountains she will remember her dad at the heights. He made her a hiker…just like my dad did for me.

New Year’s Eve…and other Confessions

IMG_5847Here’s a confession: I booked a ticket to South Africa, in part, to guarantee that I’d actually remember this New Year’s Eve. Cheeky, I know.

At times New Year’s Eve can feel like income taxes. It exacts a price on one’s efforts and state of being, making it a little less.

I guess I sense its anti-climatic power most when I’m feeling vulnerable with my story. Admittedly I’m not living the story I would have written for myself. Long ago, let’s say a decade, I envisioned myself married and a mother.

New Year’s Eve, if I let it, can fine me for living a different story.

But here’s another confession: I’m a sucker for marking moments, putting exclamation points after big days on the calendar. And as I look back on 2012 it was a year of Community and Adventure. A very good year.

While it’s not the story I would have written for myself, I’m learning to trust that God is writing an even better story…one’s that more epic, more generous.

And so I am all the more grateful to have marked the exit of 2012 and the entrance of 2013 surrounded by the beauty of Cape Town, listening to legendary jazz musician Hugh Masekela perform, and toasting with dear friends.

It felt like one spectacular exclamation point on the life I am living now.

Can’t resist the question: How is your life story different than you thought it would be? How do you celebrate the difference?

Peregrinatio, Me, and a Little Round Boat — En route to South Africa

IMG_5420One of my favorite gifts I got in last year was a word. My dear friend Roxanne Morgan endowed me with Peregrinatio. Maybe you’re quite familiar with this old Latin word, but I had never heard it before.

She had to say it more than once for me to get close to the proper pronunciation. But once she defined it for me, I knew Peregrinatio and I would be close through the ages.

It means “self-imposed exile for the love of God; holy wandering.”

Peregrinatio originates from these monks who would get into little round boats, boats you can’t steer. They’d hop in their boats and travel wherever the current took them. When they’d washed up on shore they’d simply go serve and receive hospitality. Then when the time seemed right they’d return to their round boats and join the current.

The image entices and challenges me at the moment. Recently “going with the flow” has felt like a luxury afforded to only those living on another planet.

In the past two weeks I moved out of the flat where I had been living for 10 years, finished up a major TV project on sex-trafficking, said goodbye to dear work friends, and set-off on a trip…one that was originally a two week holiday, but I’ve just extended it to two months now that my job ended.

During the past few weeks every waking hour has been scheduled, plotted, negotiated. In the final days before my trip my alarm clock screamed out at 4:15am for the to-do list to be tackled.

And yet there were so many surprises I couldn’t predict—beautiful and heartbreaking in a dance together.

Friends drenched me with generosity. I won a grand prize at a work raffle and…a dear friend’s father suddenly passed. Rarely can you schedule—control—joy and sorrow.

I may have been gripping a steering wheel, but nonetheless I was still in a round boat with strong currents.

Right now I have no job, no address, and no idea what is next.

But I know I’m in the round boat, ready to be tutored in showing up like the monks—to serve and receive hospitality. Peregrinatio…look out!

My dear friends sent me off with other words and images I hope to blog about as the current leads—Emmanuel, Peregrin falcon, and others!

Cheers to the journey!

Can’t resist the question: What word or image best describes how you’re living life or want to live life at the moment?

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