life

Life, Travel

Vale Gigi


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A few weeks after my beloved grandmother’s funeral, I found myself staying at a hut in Norway in the middle of the mild northern European summer of 2015. By mid-morning when the sun had gained some strength, most days I made my way out to the large veranda to sit amidst the birch trees and wild summer flowers. Quiet days followed, often alone in contemplation, overlooking the glassy waters of the Oslo Fjord.

For many years my grandmother Gigi’s life and mine had been closely intertwined, bound in a relationship born out of deep love and respect and an element of duty. Her final breathe came half way through her 102nd year as the cycle of her long life found its end. Immersed in the magical long days of the Scandinavian summer, I allowed myself time to reflect upon the tapestry of memories embedded in my heart of the fiercely intelligent, kind-hearted woman who had been an ever-present figure in my life since the day I was born.

Sometimes I curled up and dozed in the sun, my body unravelling from the state of vigilance that had built up over the years I cared for my grandmother whilst my two little boys were still very young. Sometimes I took long silent walks through the forest while bright sunlight filtered through the tall canopy of pine trees. I passed hundreds of wild blueberry and raspberry patches and ate delicious berries straight from the bush.

Even this simple act flooded me with memories and transported me back to a happy weekly childhood ritual. While my two younger siblings and I piled on to my grandparent’s bed to watch the Muppet Show, my grandmother would bring in a big bowl of fruit and sit peeling and cutting up different fruits for us. Often she patiently peeled grapes for her treasured grandchildren long past the age we were old enough to eat the skins.

There were many things I admired about my grandmother. She considered herself a fortunate soul, despite having seen and endured much sadness and tragedy throughout her lifetime. She was curious and thoughtful, warm and loving and made deep friendships wherever she went. She lived a love-filled life as a result of the care she had always bestowed upon her family and friends.

The natural mystic in me takes solace knowing she died on the same date in the Hebrew calendar, the 2nd of Tammuz, that her cherished husband, my wonderful Papa also passed away twenty-four years earlier.

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Cricket, Life, Travel

Submerged beneath the turquoise water. Barbados, West Indies.


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And so finally I returned. On a pilgrimage of sorts. To the small Caribbean island nation of Barbados. I wondered whether the sense of belonging that overwhelmed me sixteen years ago, the first time I visited, would again take hold. For years I had carried within my heart incredible memories of my first trip to Barbados, when I was twenty-six and alone in the world. Inexplicably back then it felt like I’d come home.

Midway through May, 2015, I found my way back. To the same little strip of beach on the south coast of the island, at a place called Worthing, in the parish of Christchurch. From my balcony I stood mesmerized by the sparkling Atlantic. Ever-changing shades of turquoise and blue like a colour swatch card made purely of water. Overtaken by a strong magnetic pull to be submerged beneath the warm tropical water; akin to the pull of an infant to the breast. An energy source crucial for survival.

If I listen closely to my heart’s desire, time and again it leads me to the water’s edge. In his landmark book, Blue Mind: the Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, the American marine biologist, Wallace J. Nichols, describes the human – water connection as, “A mildly meditative state characterised by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.”

There are many other things that bond me to Barbados. For a start we both share a deep love of cricket. And though the West Indies team is not the great cricketing force they once were, cricket is still a popular national pass-time. Historically cricket represents so more than just a sport. As the great Antiguan cricketer Sir Vivian Richards once told me, “…cricket is more like a religion than a sport.” When West Indies teams of the past were unbeatable, the spirits of the entire region lifted. (more…)

Life, Travel

Mexican Dreaming at the Casa Azul, Coyaocan, Mexico City.


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Inspired by a visit one morning to the Frida Kahlo Museum in the colossal metropolis of Mexico City.

Palpable magic permeates the air moment you enter La Casa Azul, the house built in 1904 by Frida Kahlo’s German born father, Karl Wilhelm Kahlo. Now home to El Museo Frida Kahlo, the museum is dedicated to the life and legacy of the legendary Mexican artist.

Painted a luminous shade of cobalt blue, the Casa Azul stands proudly on a corner block between Calle de Londres and Allende in the suburb of Coyoacan, Mexico City. Built to overlook an internal courtyard and garden, this is the house where Frida Kahlo lived much of her life. The immaculately preserved rooms feel like giant still life installations. The day I visited dappled sunlight bounced around inside and out adding to the magical feeling.

In the kitchen, dining room and large artist’s studio, Kahlo’s objects, furniture and personal items have been left untouched allowing an intimate glimpse into the private world of the remarkable much loved daughter of Mexico. Of the two bedrooms on display, one is upstairs directly off the large studio where she painted. Incredibly the other bedroom was the room used at different times by Leon Trotsky during his two year exile in Mexico, and later by the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, Frida’s tempestuous husband. Throughout the house countless original Frida Kahlo paintings, and a few by Diego Rivera hang on the walls.

As I wandered around Casa Azul taking in the decorative aesthetic symmetry of the rooms, from the lovely kitchen with its traditional yellow and blue tiled Mexican hearth, to the large fastidiously organised art studio where Kahlo’s 1940’s wheelchair rests in front of her easel, I wondered about the woman behind the carefully constructed image she presented to the world. (more…)

Travel

Butterflies of Mexico and the Day of the Dead


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“If we fly by your side, avoid chasing us away, we are fragile and you may harm us.”

“Si pasamos a un lado tuyo, evita espantarnos, somos fragiles y nos puedes lastimar.”

This beautiful sentence touched my heart while walking through the butterfly enclosure at Xcaret, an enormous ‘eco fun park’ on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, close to the famous beaches of Playa Del Carmen and Cancun.

Butterflies hold a special place in the hearts of the Mexican people. In one of the great migrations of the animal kingdom, at the end of October every year, up to a billion orange and black Monarch Butterflies undertake a four thousand kilometre journey from Eastern Canada to the forests of western central Mexico. They arrive at the Reserva de las Biosfera Mariposa Monarca, (the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve) to begin their five month winter hibernation in the tree tops, some thirty metres above the forest floor in the oak and evergreen trees.

Their arrival in late October coincides with Mexico’s most important national holiday, Dia de los Muertas; the Day of the Dead, on the 2nd of November. According to Mexican folklore, many people believe the butterflies are the souls of their departed relatives who return to be with their families around this special national holiday.

As the name suggests, Day of the Dead celebrations remember and honour the lives of the dead. Mexican families often spend the day picnicking in the cemetery by the gravesites of their loved ones. Sometimes their dead family members’ favourite foods are placed alongside the grave. In the city of Campeche, the government has even granted permission for some families to exhume the bones to allow them to be cleaned before being returned to their burial site.

I love the idea that the cycle of life and death plays an important role in the rich Mexican culture. If you think back to the beautiful butterflies, one of nature’s most evolved insects, their four-stage life cycle; from egg to larvae to cocoon and finally the metamorphosis into a butterfly is an incredible example of nature’s infinite intelligence. Both male and female butterflies die soon after mating, the female once she has laid her eggs, having done what she was placed on this earth to do.