El Niño and the Gecko

Yes, it has been quiet.But the gecko is still here and life trundling along.

We are hearing a lot about El Nino this year. And we are most certainly feeling its effects. The heat. Oppressive and relentless. In contradiction, a massive hailstorm further north with hailstones the size of golf balls. Tropical hailstones? The talk of the town, as you can imagine. Drought and drinking water shortages. Frequent power outages. When the power is on, it is weak and unstable as it struggles to deal with the needs of the city. The fridge stops working and the food grows a small garden overnight. The fan turns slowly, when it turns. And the internet? At home it just does not have the energy to maintain  a link to the masterweb in the cybersphere.

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So I have been quiet on here. But there are tales to tell, and updates to bring. I have recently returned from that wonderful place in the Laos hills, where I escaped from the Water Festivals and rested, swam, wrote, watched the butterflies and listened to the crickets and beetles singing and calling in the trees.

Today I have escaped to another favourite space, where there is internet which seems to be a little stronger than mine. A special place for more than that reason. When I called here the other day to meet my visiting friend, she was enormously excited to show me what was waiting on the tree for my arrival.

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One very lively and feisty blue gecko. A wonderful reminder and prompt to seek out moments to share those tales and updates.

Discovering the Wood Rose

How often my breath is taken away by the tiniest, sweetest discoveries. Not long ago, I was wandering along the lanes in Yangon, and I stopped to pause at one of those intriguing closed gates with overgrown grounds and greenery clinging around the railings. This is one of my favourite such gates, with its mysterious secret garden.

secret garden

Recently, though, the greenery was stripped back and slowly a few more shoots and flowers have started to peep through the railings. Exposed and alone, I spotted a flower I did not recognise at all. It was a climbing plant, entwined around the railings, but had a flower which when closed, was reminiscent of a lotus. I took some photographs and showed these to some colleagues. No one knew what this unusual plant was.Most noted its similarity to the lotus but this was not a flower anywhere near water, nor behaving like a lotus.

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imageAs the days, passed and on closer inspection, I saw the flowers open to reveal little pearl like casings inside with a dark seed visible through the transparent cover. More photos. I then posted my puzzle online to see if anyone could tell me what this strange little flower was.

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And the answer came.

It’s a Wood Rose. These unusual little flowers also grow in southern India, and when they open the petals dry into fragile little wood sharing petals. People love them because they do not die, they are like little eternal flowers.

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The gate has again been stripped of its greenery as the vegetation inside the secret garden is also cleared to reveal a mango tree and other hidden surprises. But gone are also the little Wood Roses. I have a couple of them at home, reminding me that they do exist even though their presence was so fleeting in the lane.

I love these discoveries. I could not have imagine that the Wood Rose existed. I love seeing new tropical blooms and the lush vegetation which grows so rapidly here and learning about them.

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But the little Wood Rose is an unusual and unexpected gift with which I have become acquainted after almost seven years in Yangon. And I have no idea how long it was, under my nose, waiting to be discovered.

 

The Simplicity of the Happy Place

I have recently been reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray Love fame). This was a clear example of my regular spontaneous purchasing tendency on Kindle. While I could never live without real books, I do love the fact that with a Kindle the whole world becomes a book shop. I take continuous delight in being able to buy books while lying in bed or even sitting stuck in traffic. And no one knows. A real guilty pleasure. Somehow, I found myself clicking “buy” yet again one evening, encouraged to explore the connection between creativity and fear, in some deep rooted way seeking to address anxiety which takes a greater place than it should in my emotional life.

I am still reading Big Magic, dipping in and out and finding that some of the ideas and stories in the book take me on a journey. I was particularly struck by the discussion about finding one’s perfect creative space, or as I interpreted it “the happy place” where you feel your shoulders relax, an gentle smile creep onto your lips and a feeling of genuine happiness.

The particular story which connected so strongly came in a section talking about “creative living” and Gilbert’s exploration of what that means. She emphasises that this does not mean an exclusive commitment to an art, especially professionally. If you do not “make it” as a full time, financially sustained painter, or poet, or actor then that does not mean you do not or can not live creatively. She describes creative living, as “living a life which is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear”. That took a moment to crystalize, but it drew me right in. Yes, I want to be driven by curiosity. I need to shaft away from fear and anxiety being the pull. I then went on to read the example she provided. I mostly paraphrase from the book now.  Gilbert talks about a friend who took up figure skating when she reached forty years old. In fact, she was not a complete beginner as she had competed in figure skating when she was much younger, and while she had always loved it, she was not quite in the “champion” league and winning trophies. So she stopped skating. What was the point? When she reached forty, she found herself feeling listless, restless, drab and heavy and started soul searching.

Gilbert writes:

She asked herself when was the last time she’d felt truly light, joyous, and – yes- creative in her own skin. To her shock, she realized that it had been decades since she’d felt that way. In fact, the last time she’d experienced such feelings had been as a teenager, back when she was still figure skating. She was appalled to discover that she had denied herself this life-affirming pursuit for so long, and she was curious to see if she still loved it.

So she followed her curiosity, she bought a pair of skates, found a rink, hired a coach. She ignored the voice within her that told her she was being self-indulgent and preposterous to do this crazy thing. She tamped down her feelings of extreme self consciousness at being the only middle-aged woman on the ice, with all those tiny, feathery nine-year old girls.

She just did it.

And so this 40 year old woman changed her routine and her life, getting up three mornings a week before dawn and skating before she went to work. She found that she loved it just as much as she always had, but without the pressure of competition. “Skating made her feel alive and ageless”. Gilbert goes on to stress that her friend did not give up her job, there was no fairy tale story of becoming a star and winning medals. But this was revolutionary in her life. She still skates three times weekly because, as Gilbert puts it ”skating is still the best way for her to unfold a certain beauty and transcendence within her life that she cannot seem to access in any other manner”. And that is what she calls creative living.

Recently my daughter told me that her steam cleaner had broken. It seemed to me that she was disproportionately upset about this and while I did try to conceal my puzzlement at her distress, it still must have come across.

“It’s my happy place” she told me, just before Christmas.

With the steam cleaner she could lose herself in a world where she found that satisfaction and creativity. By methodically working away at stubborn stains, and restoring carpets, upholstery and possibly even the cats, to a pristine condition, she found herself in that zone of creativity and lightness.

And then I got it. Then I understood. This was her own, deeply satisfying space. The failure of the steam cleaner was far more than a mechanical breakdown. It closed the door on her access to peace, achievement and guaranteed happiness at a time when buying a replacement was just not an option. She was quite delighted when the New Year sales turned up a far superior model of steam cleaner. Some kind of Rolls-Royce-Jimmy-Choo-steam-cleaner-machine well beyond my comprehension, and at half the price of the original. Paradise truly re-found.

I am fortunate as I know that I have more than one happy place. Mornings are a happy place, if that makes sense. Despite the struggle in getting out of bed early in the morning, I know that as soon as step out into the lanes, that I am in an inspiring and happy space. I used to love cycling through the lanes, silently witnessing everyday rituals at the nat tree, stopping to pick up fallen frangipani blossom to take home, smiling at those two elderly gents out walking with their helper supporting them by the elbow, spotting the dogs stretching through their partner yoga routines as they lazily came to life on the dusty roadside. It is a consistently happy place, which only fades as the day becomes busier and cars and general busyness start to take over the tone of the day. When my back issues stopped me cycling through the lanes, I found the same lightness and sense of true emotional wellbeing early in the mornings, walking and wandering those same lanes at a different pace.

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I find a happy place when I am in nature, when listening to frogs and geckos chirruping and chuckling, or watching birds flitting around the branches. I can watch the light and shadow play games as the sun filters through leaves and turn each leaf a slightly different shade of green. I can listen without tiring or becoming bored, to the sound of the monsoon rains pound down, to thunder shaking the walls and the crack of lightening nearby. There are many happy places, most of them not complicated nor hidden. Waiting patiently for us to see them.

LP April 1It is no secret that my “go to” happy place is my swimming space. It is physically refreshing, but far more than just exercise. As soon as I get into the water and settle into a gentle rhythm, I feel that lightness and true happiness and am always glad that I have taken just that little extra effort to make time to swim.

Frangipani blossoms floating in the pool

When the pool I have been using for many years closed its doors last year, I knew it would be tough. I looked at many options and tried out a number of different places and types of swimming facility. None quite worked. Even the main outdoor pools only a couple of kilometres away and probably within a walkable distance had some disadvantages. Then just a few weeks ago,  a friend asked me if I had tried the little pool at a small guest house nearby. I had seen signs for the place, but never visited it, and it did not occur to me that it might have a swimming pool. So eventually, I called by and asked if their pool was open to non residents, and how much it would cost. Expecting confusion and no such system, I was delighted to be told that the guest house does indeed allow non residents to use it, and at a reasonable cost. The pool is small, but set in a beautiful tropical garden and immediately felt right. A few days later, I called back ready to try it out and as soon as I got into the water and pushed away from the side into my swimming rhythm, I knew that this was my happy place. This was the perfect swimming spot and finally I had found that lightness and release that the happy place brings.

home sweet home 3As we are surrounded by stresses of 21st century living and its high expectations and sophistication, it is so important to hold on to what really brings satisfaction and happiness. It is essential to recognise what that is for each one of us. What it is that brings our happiness, and intentionally seek it out.

And so often it is right in front of us, if we only open our eyes and souls.

On the Road to Mandalay. And back.

Aaah, Mandalay.

The name of the city Mandalay, evokes a sense of mystery and romanticism. Visitors to Myanmar almost always feel pulled to Mandalay, in search of that mysticism. We imagine an ancient city, shrouded in mist and wrapped in lush vegetation as immortalised by Kipling.

Mandalay is often different to expectations. It is Myanmar’s second largest city bustling with motorbikes, cars and people as well as steeped in history. The Royal Palace and its moat a natural centre, overlooked by the temples on Mandalay Hill and with many teak monasteries, pagodas, and tea shops. It is too often treated as a travel hub, and base for the nearby famous sights of U Bein’s Bridge and the Awa ancient former capital with its palaces and temples, rather than taking the time to explore the city itself.

So I was not unhappy at all that I had to spend a week in Mandalay recently. It has been some time since I had visited the city properly, and with a holiday weekend at the end of my visit, the ideal opportunity to explore in my own time.

I flew into Mandalay late in the Sunday afternoon, as the sun was coming to a rest on the horizon, lighting up the temples in the distance. Perfectly evocative of the Mandalay in our minds.

imageThe road to Mandalay is much easier today than it was when I first visited over a decade ago. I travelled by overnight bus at that time, leaving Yangon in the late afternoon, driving on the rough highway through the night and following morning and arriving in Mandalay in the middle of the following day. This time my journey was much easier, in the form of an hour’s flight above the new highway, before landing at the International airport and joining the motorway into the city as the last of the evening light faded.

imageThe week was an inspiring one, though tiring and I was glad of the forthcoming weekend of rest and down time. I had my swimsuit, books, writing goodies and sensible shoes. I would walk up Mandalay Hill, explore the city streets, return to the Kuthodaw Pagoda which houses the world’s largest book, I would lounge by the pool and breathe in the atmosphere of Mandalay.

imageHowever, we should know that the best laid plans are too often sabotaged. In the early hours of my first morning, I was woken by the tell tale signs that all was not well in the gastric department. It soon became apparent that my planned early morning walk up Mandalay Hill was in jeopardy. It very soon became  clearer that even leaving the room was not a wise option.

So, my weekend in Mandalay, was very different to that planned. I was truly felled by one of the worst episodes of gastric turbulence that I have experienced in a very long time.

Although it was not fun being so unwell, the timing was actually good. I was not travelling on the days I was most ill and I did not miss the conference earlier in the week which had brought me to Mandalay. By Sunday afternoon, I had graduated from ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) to a teaspoon of scrambled egg and a morsel of dry toast. I was weak, tired and nauseous but at least I was upright. Which was just as well, because I had to catch my flight back to Yangon and meet the coming week.

I arrived early at the airport, as I always do but found that I was not permitted to pass through security. Nor was my flight listed among those on the electronic board. Unease and concern joined my nausea. My flight was at 4 pm and I was requested to return at 3.45 pm.

Finally, I was able to proceed to the check-in counter and I was advised that my flight would leave at 7 pm. When I noted that was three hours delay and not the two hours I had been informed, the check-in staff realised that I was on a different flight. That would leave at 6 pm. It was still not listed but at least there were plenty of passengers checking in for the various flights being operated by the same airline.

It was fortunate that two close friends were also at the airport, although travelling to a different destination. We wagered which of our planes would leave first, as mine was scheduled for an hour before theirs. To my relief, a large jet arrived, of the airline I was travelling with. And then another large plane, parked over on the tarmac. One of those would be mine for sure.

My friends’ plane also arrived, with a flurry of other various domestic flights. The flight to Yangon via the capital Nay Pyi Taw, was called and I stood up to board, even though the flight number did not tally. My friends’ flight was also called and off they went.

However, I was told this was not my flight and I should sit down and wait. I asked about my flight but no information was available. I waited. I eyed the other plane over on the tarmac. That must be mine. Then the flight to Kyeng Taung in Eastern Shan was called and another large group of passengers gathered. To my disappointment they were taken over to the other plane on the tarmac. I learned that another couple who were also waiting to fly to Yangon, would be on that plane when it returned from Shan state. By my reckoning that would take at least two hours. By now, the departure lounge was almost empty and plane after plane took off into the sunset. Literally.

imageThere was clearly not a lot to be done other than wait patiently. Eventually, I saw one of the ground crew approach the gate, and I asked her about my plane. Very soon, she told me. My reassurance was tempered with concern because the tarmac was completely empty, not a plane in sight. However, after a few more minutes she announced my flight. With my flight number, which had suddenly come to life. I stood up to line up at the gate. And that was the first time in my life I have been in a queue of one to board a flight. It is rather alarming! As I walked down the stairs to the empty bus I spotted, around the side of the terminal building, a very small plane, reminiscent of the tiny planes used in Nepal.Eventually, I was joined by another two passengers, and the couple who were meant to be on the flight returning from Shan and we were taken to our plane.

imageI am a nervous flyer, and it was a good thing that I was so exhausted from my recent illness that I did not have the energy to do too much worrying. We joined the crew and the other passenger who had come from the flight’s origin in Chin State, picked a seat and the door was closed.

imageIn no time, the propellers were whirring and off we set, as the ground crew waved and saluted our departure.

imageA brocade curtain divided the flight deck from the main cabin for the flight and the cabin stewardess served us a snack with tea and coffee which was very welcome.

imageOur flight in a little plane took longer, although I was not absolutely clear whether “after one hour, 54” referred to the flight time or arrival time. All was smooth, and soon we descended into Yangon. Grandmother’s suitcase had pride of place in the bus back to the terminal, along with passengers and the only other piece of check in baggage.

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imageWe had all returned safely. And with another tale to tell.

The Road to Mandalay, and return, had truly lived up to its reputation of adventure and experience.

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Dragon Days, Dragon Years

Chinese New Year is approaching. We will move from the Year of the Goat to the Year of the Monkey on February 8.  Neither of these is the Year of the Dragon, to state the obvious. However, the dragon has had special meaning for me these past two years.

In 2014, a major life goal of mine was realised. This was to see my writing in a book with real pages, and became a reality with the publication of How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit. This is an anthology of writing in which I was a contributing writer. For me, 2014 felt to be my year of the Dragonfruit.

Dragonfruit cover and photo of Philippa Ramsden, courtesy Shannon Young. Purple dragonfruit by Mike Behnken (CC BY 2.0).

Then, it so turned out that 2015 became my Year of the Snapdragon……

However, before I tell the story of the Snapdragon, I have to tell you about “Shut up and Write!”

I have mentioned Yangon Writing Group before. We are a small group of people with writing dreams and aspirations. Some of whom have a serious writing CV and publications to their name. Some like me whose dreams are significantly grander then the reality. It is a group where we push our creative boundaries, experiment, critique each others work and provide encouragement and motivation. It is a nurturing space and one where I for one, have learned and grown a great deal.

As the years have passed, our Writing Group has morphed to suit the needs of its members in a constantly moving community. But generally, we meet, we write, we critique each others work all in a very informal setting. Recently, we have refined our process somewhat, taking advantage of new voices and ideas.  We now have a more set structure on a monthly basis, rather than meeting to meeting. On a Saturday morning we will meet, alternating venues between downtown and middle-ish town to accommodate increasing traffic. Most weeks we will “Shut up and Write” and once a month we have a Feedback Session, where we share pieces (in advance) which we would like to have critiqued. This is turning out to be a good balance, where we can write in the company of others and where we can hear feedback on our writing.

So, three Saturday mornings out of four, we gather in a nice creative spot, chat for 10 minutes or so, catching up with news and ideas and then a timer is set for 45 minutes and we literally shut up and write. We have a breather after the 45 minutes order more coffee or stretch our legs, and then quieten down for another intense write. This can be repeated as often as we want, and generally most folk are there for two bursts of writing, and some stay on a good chunk of the day, filling up on coffee and snacks and taking advantage of a physical and temporal writing space.

While 45 minutes does not sound long, it can be quite incredible how much can be produced or achieved in such a short time. There is also no directive about what we focus on in that time. We have, between us, refined previous work, worked on brand new ideas, continued existing, longer writing projects and blogged. We have also used that time on occasions to put together submissions of our work for publication.

I have found that dedicated time has become important. When you make a concerted effort, even if it is only to head to a coffee shop, then you do ensure that you use that time productively.

I have been using this time in a variety of ways. The few blog posts which have appeared, have formed mostly during “Shut up and Write” time. I have gently re-opened the memoir and taken some time to start moving forward on the long path ahead with that work. And I have also prepared a couple of small submissions.

And finally, that is where the Snapdragon connection comes in.

I discovered Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing late last year. A journal which combines creativity and healing clearly would resonate with me. This is very clear in the Journal’s description and vision:

snapdragon

Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing
We could not think of a better name for this journal other than Snapdragon! At its deepest level, the Snapdragon flower essence helps the soul to distinguish its use of creative forces — especially those which radiate from the lower energy centers, and those which are used for spoken word. The Snapdragon flower is often used as a remedy to help persons — particularly those who experience extreme tension in the jaw and mouth — to re-direct their powerful metabolic energy into its rightful channels. By harmonizing the relationship between these energy centers, the soul evolves in its use of creative power. And so, with Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, our desire is to provide a platform for your self-expression and soul’s healing!Our Mission: To engage and support persons in the process of self-discovery, expression, and healing through creative engagement with the arts.
Our Vision: Individuals and communities having a safe space and a platform to create a portrait of their experiences and hopes so that they may find the peace and healing balm authentic sharing provides that we might grow in our respect, appreciation and love of ourselves and one another.

It was approaching the end of October when submissions would close for the December edition, and I was compelled to rework and submit some of the pieces which had been part of my own creative process.

This has become a longer story than anticipated, so I shall skip a little and take you to a day in November, when I opened an email from Snapdragon. The email brought a broad smile to my face as I learned that one of my poems would be included in the December issue “The Art of Creating”.

This is an online Journal so I do not have a paper copy, and it is subscription based so I cannot share the Journal itself, but details of the subscriptions are here and (remember I am Scottish, so you can trust me on this😉 ) are very affordable.

Another year, another writing dragon. A very happy gecko! I am especially delighted that my name features among the artists contributing to the Journal. One quite delighted gecko indeed!

But here’s the funny thing. The last Year of the Dragon (in Chinese astrology) was in 2012, ending in February 2013. The next Year of the Dragon is way ahead, starting in 2024. However, in Myanmar, it is  the day of the week in which a person is born that is fundamental to an individual and their actions. I am Saturday born. Each day of the week is associated with a particular animal and ruling planet.

Saturday born people are ruled by Saturn. And privileged to be mythical dragons.

Smile out Loud Saturday #SOLSaturday

I firmly believe that we are surrounded by wonder. As well as grand sights, renown sites and natural marvels, we are also surrounded by tiny details which can be missed if we blink, or are looking the other way. Or are scrolling down our phones.

Recently, I posted a photo of a sight which make me smile out loud, while I was sitting in Yangon’s traffic.

As the early days of 2016 settle under our feet, I thought it would be a feisty feature to add to this space – a “smile out loud Saturday” moment where these kind of images can be shared. The intent of this is purely and simply to prompt a smile out loud.

Here is my first #SOLSaturday post.

Sitting in traffic (too many hours are spent in Yangon in this way, these days), I noticed that a man had set up a stall at the roadside, next to a construction site (another frequent Yangon sight). He was selling fish, neatly arranged in plastic bags on an impromptu table. Fish as in goldfish, not fish for eating which would be a far more common sight. Or at least more expected goods for sale.

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A sight which made me smile out loud. A gentle smile of appreciation and respect.

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sol 1

Sometime back, late in 2012, Marie of Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer threw down a challenge for us to celebrate the ordinary in our everyday surroundings. The challenge involved us posting a single photograph which captured wonder in the “ordinary” details all around us. Many bloggeristas around the globe were inspired and motivated by this, and we shared all manner of moments. More than the week of pictures though, was the constant reminder for us to really look at what was around us and be reminded of the extraordinary within the ordinary.

Hence, my motivation to share smiles. A smile costs nothing, and is easy to share. Smiles are infectious. Smiles are a balance to some of the tough stuff in the world around us.

This is an encouragement to me to keep my eyes and heart open and see what is around me. And to share the prompt to smile out loud.

Smile Out Loud Saturday!

Settling into 2016 with a three word mantra

I slept nearly 12 hours on Friday night. And for the first morning in over three weeks I knew where I was when I awoke. I both love and hate that feeling when you are traveling and on first awaking you have absolutely no idea where you are, what day it is and what that very important thing is that you have to do.

I have been on a journey. Both physically and emotionally, and only Friday evening did I come to a halt. I realised that my journey has covered many miles. An astonishing 13,000 or more miles or over 20,000 kilometres by air and road, and including a wonderful 2,200 miles by train. There is another very long story in there, but that is not for now.

Although I returned to Myanmar earlier this week, I was travelling again within 48 hours of my arrival and was inordinately glad to return home and allow my mind and body to rest and recalibrate.

It is not coincidental that my three words for 2016 have not formed until the past few days. My being needs need to come to rest and be still for the words to settle. It is hard to reflect and explore the world of words when there is a great deal happening, people to spend time with and new experiences to embrace. So the words are late.

It turned out that 2015 was a complex and painful year. I leaned heavily on my words “Breathe, stargaze and realise” and brought in three more (to my surprise) to see me through the most difficult times – “Dignity, contemplation and beacon”. I cannot share any details of those times in the public domain, other people are affected and it is not appropriate or correct to speak out. The word “dignity” was critical in reminding me that the most appropriate action was to remain silent, and that has been unbelievably hard.

dignityAs usual, since adopting the practice of adopting the three word mantra in 2010, I started thinking of the approaching new year in the final weeks of 2015. My process is to reflect back on the previous year, look at my priorities and then look ahead at what I want to be the key focus of the coming year. The three words enable a balance across different areas of life, and usually pick up health, family, wellbeing, practical and professional direction areas and the creative side. A balanced mantra encourages a balanced approach in the year. I enjoy the process of crafting my mantra as satisfying as the final selection itself.

Finally, my words are in place – and the three word mantra for my 2016 are:

“Reorient, nurture and crystalize.”

Reorient

The first word came easily. The coming year has to focus on healing and finding my true north again. All that I had believed to be sure turned out to be fragile and turned to dust under my feet last year. The foundations crumbled under my feet and I found myself directionless. The greatest priority for the coming year is to “reorient” myself and move forward purposefully.

Reorient will be at the heart of much of next year. I need not only to re-think my future, but also to set steps in place to ensure that my physical and emotional compasses have been truly re-set.

Over the past months, I have feared that my inner compass had been smashed beyond repair. Gradually, though, I have come to realise that while the exterior casing had indeed been decimated, somehow deep inside the inner workings could be coaxed back into action. If the inner workings can be repaired and recalibrated minute part by minute part, the casing can surely be repaired. The key part of repairing my inner compass is to find my true north and ensure that my path ahead navigates in this direction and keeps me on the right path.

Change runs deep, and this inner reorientation accompanies physical transformation too. Already I have made changes in my living situation and been adjusting to new practical arrangements. I need to think very carefully about the longer term future. I have no idea where I will be this time next year, nor a clear sense of my direction. I need to place trust and energy into the process of reorientation.

Nurture

Alongside the need to reorient, is the importance of healing, replenishing and investing time and energy especially in my creative activities once more. Nurture is a word which suggests growth and nourishment through love and careful attention. My health is good right now, notwithstanding the weight of side and after effects, but I know that I need to pay attention to my wellbeing and focus on gaining strength. I especially need to devote time and energy to creativity and particularly writing. The blog has been very quiet, and my commitment and writing goals had to be put to the side while the bigger stuff was worked through. I want to get back on track, nurture my creativity and produce more writing. I still have the goal of completing the first draft of the memoir of my first year in Myanmar. I need to tend to these areas and see new life and regrowth appear.

secret garden

Crystalize

My third word was, as often happens, most elusive. I played with a number of words but none was “quite right”. I had a little imaginary pot with many words in it, such as “reach, deliver, embark, embrace, pause, revise, stretch” along with many others. I wanted to convey the idea of committing to the new path and orientation once I had clarity. And then, in Singapore airport of all places, my third word appeared. “Crystalize”. My perfect third word.

Crystalize has a number of meanings, including its scientific term which is the process of forming solid crystals from either a solution, melt or more rarely from a gas. It is also regularly used with the meaning of making something definite and clear. Crystalize is the right third word for many reasons. After reorientation and with nurturing it is important to achieve some stability and clarity. I do not yet know what that will look like but I do know that this will appear through this process of crystallization. From a situation of flux and change, stability will surely appear. Tiny crystals of hope, which will settle and grow into a formation and foundation for me to move forward.

Crystals are complex and beautiful. Crystals absorb and reflect light and colour. Crystals are one of nature’s brilliant treasures. Quite simply, crystals are exquisite. A future which forms through crystallization will surely be beautiful.

blue crystal

Now that my words are in place, I have a sense of both peace and purpose for the year ahead.