A holiday break for tea

I’m sitting here by our Christmas tree, with a fire log burning in the fireplace and a lap blanket keeping my legs warm. There’s a holiday mug with gentle Keemun tea beside me to sip on, and some shortbread cookies to go with the tea.

I love these quiet times — they’re my antidote to all the holiday craziness going on outside our little subdivision. We’re having friends over for dinner this weekend, so I braved the already growing hordes at the grocery store for cooking supplies this afternoon. This evening I made the lentil and herb soup to put in the fridge, and the spice cake that will be the base for a fig and persimmon trifle for dessert, then put my feet up to watch a retrospective of vintage holiday shows on PBS.

The holidays can be challenging, pressure-filled and emotional. Here’s some hard-earned wisdom I can offer:

  • be gentle with yourself and everyone around you
  • don’t try to make everything perfect — that’s usually when things go wrong
  • keep your sense of humour when things do go wrong — believe me, everyone around you has been in the same boat at some point in their lives
  • being a great host means making your guests feel truly welcome in your home, and making sure that you’ve taken into account any food issues so that everyone has something they can eat
  • step away from the craziness periodically and enjoy some quiet time — it will replenish your flagging energy and holiday spirit, much better than running yourself into the ground

As you may have noticed, I’m switching my posts to a biweekly schedule, i.e. every other week, but I will do a special holiday post next week. Take care of yourself in the meantime and have a nice cup of tea from time to time 🙂

Cee’s Which Way Challenge – Africa in the news again

Road in Samburu - photo by E Jurus
Road in Samburu – photo by E Jurus

How can you beat a drive through a landscape like this? This is a typical road in the Samburu Reserve in Kenya, one of the most unspoiled places in Africa.

Africa is in the news a lot lately. Unfortunately we usually only hear the bad news, and as a consequence travellers will once again be fearful of landing anywhere on its shores.

We tend to view Africa as a volatile place, but we tend to forget that Africa is a vast continent composed of many countries and many influences. In North America we have a short timeline and history, but countries in Africa have to contend with centuries of culture clashes, both internal and from external sources.

However, quite a few countries remain fairly stable, and we can continue to hope that the organizations working so hard for stability in other countries are able to create the change necessary to achieve it.

Having visited Africa four times and having enjoyed its beauty and warmth firsthand in many different countries, I believe all efforts to effect change are well worth the effort, no matter how many setbacks.

One planet-wide organization that is surely on the right path is the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. You can read their recent blog called The Parliament and URI Call for Peace and Prayers in Africa.

Don’t be afraid to visit Africa! You’ll come back a different person. Travelzoo has just posted a great trip to South Africa with an add-on to Victoria Falls, truly one of the wonders of the world and one of my favourite places in Africa. See our article on what safaris are like and how to prepare for one.

Victoria Falls Bridge straddles the Zambezi between Zambia & Zimbabwe - photo by E Jurus
Victoria Falls Bridge straddles the Zambezi between Zambia & Zimbabwe – photo by E Jurus

This trip includes airfare from Toronto, which a significant cost, so it’s a very good deal, and although the itinerary only includes 3 game drives, it’s a nice overall mix. As you have a couple of free afternoons in Vic Falls, you may want to consider some of the many adventure activities in the area – see a great selection at Safari Par Excellence, in particular the Lion Encounter, where you can actually do a bush walk with young lions as part of a conservation program. It’s like nothing else you’ll ever experience!

Yours truly with a young lion on the Lion Encounter, Masuwe Reserve, Zimbabwe
Yours truly with a young lion on the Lion Encounter, Masuwe Reserve, Zimbabwe

Lessons in a sunset

Savute sunset, Botswana 2007 - photo by E. Jurus
Savute sunset, Botswana 2007 – photo by E. Jurus

I was driving home this evening from a funeral home; a friend’s mother, who’d been ill for quite some time, passed away unexpectedly from a sudden heart attack. As I crested our local skyway, in the distance a beautiful sunset lit up the sky in a rare burst of glory. It seemed a metaphor for life — moments of grief counterbalanced by moments of beauty. We all know the impermanence of life, but it’s hard to accept when we lose someone close to us. If I’ve learned anything from all the friends, family and pets we’ve lost over the years, it’s that time doesn’t really heal wounds, it just makes them bearable so that you can do what you have to do to survive, which is to move on. After I lost my beloved dog Ramses 8 years ago, it ripped my heart out; it took me months before I could even say the words “he’s dead”. Gradually I was able to go a day or two without crying, then maybe a week, then longer and longer, but even as I write this I feel the pain of his loss and miss him enormously. I wouldn’t change having had him in my life — his love and courage taught me a lot. And so life goes on, and after our adorable second dog Isis passed away the following year, also from old age and sickness, my husband and I went on a trip to Africa that we’d been putting off for a while, and we discovered magic and some healing in the beauty of nature.

This evening I couldn’t stop anywhere to take a photo of our local sunset, so instead I offer you one of the magnificent sunsets we enjoyed on that first safari. As I drove down the far side of the skyway, watching Nature’s artwork in the sky and musing on the meaning of life, I watched an idiot driver cross two lanes of traffic to take the exit ramp, just barely missing the concrete abutment. Sigh. The lesson of the sunset was clearly lost on whoever the driver was, as was the concept of driving safely. Here are two thoughts to take home with you:

1. We only get to watch so many sunsets in our life — don’t squander them!

2. Nature is the mother of all that’s great on our planet — we can only use the tools she gives us to make beauty, or ugliness. Which would you like your legacy to be?