Joy-junkies and adventures of the soul

Hatchling Turtle HorizonBy Dianne Bayley
I know in my soul that written in the heart of every human being are the words, “Come Home”. How we choose to get to that Home will determine the extent of adventure we live.

While many think hatchling turtles head towards the ocean, their ancient programming – their instinct – actually tells them to head towards the brightest horizon. The moon shining on the ocean makes the sea their brightest point, the starting place from where they become what turtles are.

We’d do well to learn from these newborns . . . to choose the brightest horizon on our paths back Home. For some, physical adventure drenched in adrenalin is the brightest point. They throw themselves towards it, moth to flame, and strike a mix of fear and awe in onlookers – those of us programmed for different adventures.

Some pathways Home are highlighted; filmed and lauded, praised and applauded. Testing bodies against the height of mountains or the rolling ferocity of waves; pitting the human spirit against ice or snow or tumbling rocks. Then there’s the path that great movies will never be made of . . . the kind of adventure lived deep inside a willing, learning heart; where the risks are not of broken limbs, but shattered dreams and recovery and starting over, a hatchling seeking that brightest point again and again.

There is something spectacular about the path that leads you to many places, across continents and oceans, to meet one person who says or does one thing that will stay with you forever: The man in KwaZulu-Natal who points to the old red and white lighthouse and tells you the beam must flash to prevent migrating birds from becoming fixated on the light and smashing their bodies against the structure; reminding you that each of us has our lighthouse and must find what it is and alter our course . . .

The child in Paris who speaks no English but conveys her delight, in stick drawings, that you come from a different part of the world and are so old because she is just six and one day she will travel . . .

The Greek who believes she may have been Frida Khalo and introduces you to the Gotan Project and tries to teach you the tango in a small hotel in Napflio; tossing her long, dark hair back with laughter at your stilted moves and encouraging you to feel the music in your heart or you will never let the tango move you as it should . . .

The short Italian waiter who used to be a sailor and knows your country by its ports; who won’t seat you in his restaurant because he thinks you’re waiting for a husband and children and why, anyway, would anyone want to eat alone in a restaurant . . .

The beautiful Canadian who will freefall from airplanes but not into love because she’s the opposite of you and physical adventure is far less scary than allowing anyone to touch her heart . . .

The glorious woman in La Sainte-Chapelle wearing leather pants and loving her violin into praising Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D on a freezing, stained-glass night in December as you turn 50 and know that if you are allowed to have just one memory in your head as you leave this life for Home, you want it to sound like this . . .

The tiny man in Dublin, a Leprechaun perhaps, who tells you that his eighty years of life is due to the joys on an Irish whiskey on a daily basis, then looks at you with sparkling blue eyes and says, “May your walk of life in the New Year be your best walk yet” . . .

The friend travelling Asia whose heart broke for a small rat captured by a shopkeeper selling handbags when the little animal began to clean himself – probably in resignation of his fate – and so she bought him, along with her handbags, and set him free.

These are not the adventures of the adrenaline-seeker. They are the adventures of those on the long, long journey of overcoming the fear of loving and leaving and putting enough courage together to love again, even if leaving may be the result one more time. They are the adventures of the emotional-risk-taking joy-junkie; the one who knows that standing at Love Lock Bridge on the Seine and seeing how many people still believe that love is as important as being the first to traverse an uncharted desert or sail a storm-battered sea.

These adventures . . . they will not happen while you are seated in one safe place, riveted to your computer and your mortgage and your office and your dreams of retirement. They don’t happen when you place obstacles in the path between you and the brightest point on the horizon. They never occur while your heart is filled with the fear of breaking, and you choose the safety of the travel channel on TV over shaking the hand of a street person in California or listening to a taxi driver in Mexico tell you how he adores his wife and children.

They happen when you muster every bit of courage it takes to break through that shell and fix your eyes on the brightest point on the horizon . . . and then follow it, with all that you have and all that you are, to become all that you were meant to be . . . on your way Home.

My Mother’s Hands . . .

Mom and DonovanBy Dianne Bayley

It appears to be my earliest childhood memory. I don’t recall the bus ride to see Santa Claus at Stuttafords, or the doll I wanted from Lilliputs – those are little family legends that have only become real in my mind because they were spoken about so often through the years.

My first real memory – my very own memory – is of sitting on my bed and watching my Mother’s hands working a small white sock onto a chubby foot. The vision is so clear I can almost feel her touch and hear the voice that was talking me through her actions.

Her fingers were long and slender and tipped with the most beautiful nails; hard, well shaped nails, always perfectly red and perfectly polished. We discovered early, she and I, that running those nails across my back gently would calm me to the point of sleep. That never changed, and even as an adult I would visit her and say, “Tickle my back, Mom.” And I’d be transported back to when my Mother’s hands could soften the world.

They worked, those hands, from when she was 17; and I was always in awe of how quickly her fingers could rush across a typewriter – and later a keyboard – and never have to go back to correct anything. Just as she always managed to find the right words to comfort a crying child, the right letters flew from beneath those red nails and formed sentences that paid for school uniforms and places to live.

I loved it when she came to our school to collect us. She was a mother to be proud of, so beautiful and young. I’d reach up and take one of those hands, with the beautiful red nails, and hope everyone could tell that she was my Mom. She raised three of us who felt that way. When the youngest of us was called too soon, I witnessed my Mother’s hand touch the Holy Water on the shiny coffin and make the sign of the Cross for her boy. Her nails, perfectly painted, shook visibly as she bade her son farewell with the saddest touch a Mother would ever have to make . . .

Years later, a stroke took the use of her right hand for a while and – as if in defiance of the handicap – she often forgot it was there. She wrote me a letter later that year, using her left hand. I have yet to read a more beautiful note. If I was offered a signed letter from Nelson Mandela or even the Dead Sea Scrolls for the few short words my Mother’s left hand crafted on that card, I wouldn’t trade. It must have taken hours for her to write . . . that she was proud of me.

She never gave up, my Mom. She worked until that right hand was hers again and she could paint her nails once more. She was worn, but never beaten.

It has been some time since she left. I like to think that my brother was there, to take one of those beautiful hands in his own and lead her to a world without pain. In the joy of being together again, he probably didn’t notice that hand he held was blue, covered in bruises from too long a stay in a hospital bed and a heart that was forced to finally give up.

As I watched in such fear and sadness the life that had given me mine slip slowly from her, I looked at those hands. The many years of folding them in prayer for her own parents, her siblings, her children and others was etched on the outside of them now, in frail blue skin. I took her hand in mine, the softness of it so sweet against my palm, and tried to ignore the tubes and needles that defaced the beauty. I kissed her forehead and said goodbye, knowing that I couldn’t watch her leaving anymore. I held her hand one last time, then slowly walked away.

This morning, I watched my own hands tying my shoelace. Mine are not elegant, nor do I have the beautiful polished nails she had. I have few of the keyboard skills she had, and I will never change a child’s world by taking her hand in the schoolyard. But folded in my heart, in prayer and in praise, my Mother’s hands – always so quick to comfort and uplift – will live forever.

Freelance writers in the USA: Will work for coffee?

By Dianne Bayley

Every good freelance writer continues to look for writing opportunities on a variety of topics, from all around the globe. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been contacted (and commissioned) for work from companies in Switzerland, Australia, Ireland, the UK and, of course, my homeland, South Africa.

Each time I have delivered what was asked for and been paid promptly. Unless you count the UK connection, where the editor was dealing with a certain African country that shall remain nameless, but is notorious for getting work done and suddenly not having the money they said they had . . . Continue reading