Tags Posts tagged with "inspiration"

inspiration

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Brazilian Problemsolving anda hero

 

Everyone of us could be a hero. Each person has a unique gene pool with their own strengths and weaknesses. With this idea set in mind, I went off to lead a summercamp. A summercamp where I hoped to be a fun leader that would be respected and loved.

 

As I set off with my delegation across the Atlantic Ocean to São Paulo, I thought about the children of all kinds of different races that I would meet. The different cultures from all these countries that I would try to understand. Together with all the other the children and the leaders and staff, we would make this place our home for a couple of weeks. I found this quite soothing. My ‘own’ kids weren’t anxious either, for they were excited to meet everyone and make friends. Well, there was no problem with there at all. Within a day, friends were made and laughter from all around the world came together. As if they knew one another all along. The kids got to know eachother through singing, games, discussion, theater and mutual hobbies.

 

When times were good, the kids only required assistance, but as life was not always sunshines and rainbows, the inevitable clouds sometimes appeared. So on these somewhat rare unasked for occasions I was needed and pulled up my sleeves and showed my capabilities.

 

Problemsolving. Sometimes, it’s easy and sometimes it’s difficult. But as every grown up relates to this word to a certain extend, how come we can never know enough about this topic? It got me thinking about when someone solves a problem. Does this make this person a hero? Or do you need to pull off something historically influential like Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King or Isaac Newton to be called a hero?

 

Back in the camp I was confronted with several problems, that needed to be dealt with. One more important or visible than the other. Everyone seemed delighted when supper was ready to be set onto the table, because it had direct impact. A few people were happy when a disagreement was cleared up, that was about to get out of hand. Luckily most of my time in the camp, I did see sunshines and rainbows and invested this precious time to push my limits to encourage kids to speak up their mind and not to worry for they’ll be loved unconditionally. Display that democracy goes hand in hand with chores, laughter and singing. I let the kids think about the world, because prejudice is not yet in their dictionary, and listen to them eagerly. Listen to the dreams, the asperations to what they have in mind for the future, for they have an unlimited imagination. The part where I tried let everyones voice be heard was considerably challenging. But my aspiration was that not only to hear the social, opinionated children, but also to let the the shy or bullied young ones be able to speak up.

 

Think about the story of the fisherman; It’s okay to give the famished fisherman fish, but wouldn’t it be much better to teach him how to fish? Giving children an opportunity to raise their own voice and let them be their own hero, is what benefits their growth.

 

And as my summercamp came to an end, my dream of making a difference came true. The girl, who was most shy and passive, and instead of being interactive, she was always following the herd, started to behave differently. Out of nowhere she was coordinating her group to perform a play. She came up with ideas, spoke her mind and argued to defend her opinion. The world gained a new voice.

This turning point brings my story to an end. My view of what heroism might be, has been changed. Because, yes, it’s advisable to listen to the teacher, because often he is right. Yes, it’s good to read about people who made a difference in the world to gain knowledge. But as the world shifts quickly, we need people to think for themselves and be brave to speak their mind. Let children prosper in to the resemblance of their hero to become a their own hero.

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The earth is hot beneath my feet as I find my footing within the sloppy path of rocks the color of mud earth, stratified as though stairs had been carved within. This rocky path to Umude Creek is flanked by thick bushes on both sides with huge vegetation and tall palm trees arranged in rows straight and erect like a line of soldiers on a regiment field. There is a dryness in the soft breeze that whoosh through the thickets and bushes letting of an eerie sound that leave me shivering under the bright orange haze of the afternoon sun.

This is a journey best made in solitude alone with nature and away from the hassle and bustle of my small eastern village in Imo state Nigeria. The time is right too for at this hour the sun which has settled low in the sky like a big floating orange balloon would discourage the village children from running naked and gleeful down the rocky path spinning their empty pails playfully. I do not have the courage to visit when they are making their daily rounds of fetching stream water and swimming like little nymphs. They would snicker at my feeble movements in water.

I have passed the rocks and turn into a narrower windy path that would lead me into the creek, my eyes feasting on the beauty of the forest with the keenness of an amateur tourist. There are several huge trees along this path their wide branches spread far to form a large canopy of green leaves. At a bend, I see a fat squirrel chewing a nut beneath a tall palm tree, its back hunched to form a furry brown ball. It scurries off at the sound of my approaching feet behind a small bush of glowing sun flowers. The entrance to the creek is lined up with bamboo palms and tall coconut trees with stooping stems. The resulting shade from the thick foliage of green vegetation around gives the area a picturesque effect. I moved closer to the water and peered in. The green moss underground gave the stream a greenish hue and I stood waiting for a sign that it was okay to try my resolve in conquering the gnawing phobia within me. I dipped my feet into the water watching the ripples appear then spread out in circular motions, disturbing a cluster of tiny fishes swimming close by. I am fascinated at the ease at which they move their slippery bodies swimming further and further away to the point where the current was high.

Inspired, I waddle into the water after the fishes and when my feet no longer feel the firm grip of sand beneath, I crash loudly, the water splashing into my eyes blinding me from hope into the darkness of my defeat. The sounds of my wild thrashing explodes in my head and mingles with the hoarse screaming of my mother as she writhes under the harsh grip of my father. My frantic thrashing finally brings me to the bank of the stream and I clamber out, melancholic and soaked to my bones. Exhausted, I lay underneath a coconut tree in my dripping clothes and close my eyes to the glare of the hot African sky.

My solitude is soon broken by the chatter of children and I see two small girls splashing in the stream. I feel envious of their confidence in the water then suddenly the smaller girl is being carried away by the tide. Her sister turns to me for the first time and screams.

“please save my sister.”

” I can’t swim.’ ‘ I scream back . ”perharps there is nothing I can do quiet well.”

“You can do anything if you choose the right reasons to act.” she replied.

There is a wisdom in her words that belies her age and suddenly I am seized with a compulsion to save the drowning child. I abandon my coconut shed and running briskly plunged into the deepest part of the runnning stream in search of the child and her sister who had dissappeared from sight. The plop sound of a dropping coconut nearby alarmed me and as my eyes flew open, I reliase that I had not moved from my coconut shed at all. My eyes fix on the spot where I had plunged in to save the girl and it dawns on me that I could conquer any fear if I found the right reasons. Inspired, I stood and walked into the calm stream. This time as I fell with a splash when my feet no longer touched sand, I didn’t thrash wildly like the darkness had closed in on me.

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Ever since I was younger, I would hear stories about the conflict in Mindanao, a far region from where I stay in the Philippines. The evening news would be filled with hijab wearing girls, gun slinging boys and prisoners of war. And I often ask myself the question when will it ever end… will it ever end?

Just recently, the whole of Philippines was taken by storm when news broke out of a recent encounter between conflicting parties which rendered 44 of police enforcement dead. As for the casualties from the other end, the numbers were not as definite. The place of attack is a residential area wherein civilians and militants alike are residing. It is hard pressed to think that no civilian casualty ensued. This is the situation in the warring region for the past how many years.

As much as the conflict has never been resolved, despite the threat that looms the region every single minute of the day, I, as someone who is not in the direct line of fire and nowhere near a possible grenade explosion, manage to let the knowledge of the armed conflict rest out of constant awareness. It just came into full focus because of the said recent encounter.

Children of the region are robbed of the childhood that many in the more peaceful parts of the country experience. Men and women alike live in fear of their whole lives being torn down to ground zero. Residents tread with the anxiety of who is who, with the worry that they who shake their hands can be the same ones who thump their backs for the final blow.

And yet… they live. They go through the motions of life with death and conflict as their backdrop. They rely on their own versions of faith to save them but not without the wits to save themselves. They manage. They manage to eat, study, teach, love and most importantly, inspire despite what their situation gives them.

I know that time will pass and soon enough, this awareness would again take to the corners of my mind but as of the moment, Mindanao inspires me to brave. Everyday I would consider myself lucky for living through so many moments. Sometimes, despite how self-centered it may seem, I would feel proud because I managed to get past menial and relatively larger challenges.  However, as I hear about stories of war, as I see soldiers return to home base just outside our house,  I feel for those who have to put on the mask of courage in the most turbulent of times and somehow, what they are going through is so much bigger than what I have gone through and I am urged to do better so eventually I can do something for them.

 When I was pondering on the question on what place inspires me to be brave, I immediately thought about Mindanao. In spite of a global experience that travelling and studying abroad left with me, in spite of the many people I met there that are all brave in their own ways, it is the collective struggle that the people in Mindanao that tells me that no matter what situation one is in, there is no reason to stop fighting for one’s life. I have traveled to places wearing the lens of a tourist, an athlete, a student but one thing has always been constant, whenever I travel places, I am a Filipino. It is only fitting that the place that inspires me to be brave is in my country.

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Burnt Offerings

 

After Adelaide, South Australia, was hit by severe wildfires last month, it was with some reluctance that I visited one of the scenes of the fire.    

The new year catastrophe had cost South Australia dearly. The final tally was 27 houses destroyed, 125 outbuildings razed to the ground and over 130 reported injuries. Animals including koalas, kangaroos and family pets were killed or injured as they struggled to get clear of the flames. The monetary cost is expected to be around A$13 million. The saving grace of the event is that there were no human fatalities. But this does not take away the truth that many things were lost in the fire.  

In the township of Kersbrook, which was arguably the worst hit area, 12 houses were lost. I felt myself becoming dizzy when I saw the havoc that had been wreaked by the fire.  Tree skeletons were all that remained, despite the best efforts of the CFS (Country Fire Service), who worked tirelessly to stop the wildfires from spreading further as temperatures and winds soared, intensifying the disaster.

There were some 700 firefighters battling at the fireground to contain the inferno, which had spread out from Sampson Flat, and swept across over 12,500 hectares of the usually picturesque Adelaide Hills.

In the face of such indiscriminate devastation, there comes a point when there is nothing else you can do. Except be brave. 

I visited the fire-fields a week after the final blazes had been extinguished. Scorched trees waved branches stripped barren of leaves to cloudless, rainless skies. Black and grey were the primary colours of this desolate-looking landscape. Verdant such a short time ago, this place had been stripped of colour. And the blackness everywhere marked the scars.  

However, the lengthy and difficult clean-up process had started. Members of the community and outsider volunteers alike had cleared away the fallen trees and darkened matter that had swept across roads in a futile bid to get away from the inferno and the searing heat it brought with it.  

It was overwhelming to see such an altered place. The stark remains made me feel weak. It seemed hopeless to think that this place could ever look like it had before the fire. But then I peered at the charred remnants more closely. Inspecting the bare trees at close range, it was clear to see that something was happening.

Many of the branches showed red splotches of colour that, at first, looked like bloody wounds to the very wood. But these were not wounds. They were fiery red blossoms that had been woken by the fire. The life cycle of these trees had not been cut short. Resurrection was taking place.  This was a landscape in the process of change and it promised to be beautiful once again, despite – or perhaps because of – the fiery purge it had endured.

After just a short time since the disaster, there is already regrowth on many of the trees, shadows of their former selves in this thankfully temporary state. The burnt offerings are transforming into something strong and living, proving that in the face of ruin, life still finds a way.

 

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On Hold

            It’s nine thirty in the morning. Intrudingly bright sunrays are piercing their way through the curtains, almost peeling them back, forcing me to face the day. Waves crash on the hard-packed sand outside the house, which statuesquely stands alongside Pacific Coast Highway between Santa Monica and Malibu, in which I’m staying. Aside from letting Baxter, the dog I’m watching, out to do his business, I have no morning requirements. Baxter is a scruffy little terrier and he’s scratching his crate to get out and greet the day. His beard is untidy, but he neatly combs it on the carpet after I let him out.

After brewing coffee, I let Baxter out into the backyard and he starts panting in the blistering heat. He persists to sniff his way around the confines of the yard to find the perfect spot to do his business. I go to stand in the shaded part of the yard, courtesy of the bone-dry Santa Monica Mountains. I check to see if Baxter’s stool is normal because I found a condom in his ritual morning dump the other day. I don’t know where he ate it, but I’m glad nothing out of the ordinary is in his shit today. Baxter swiftly returns to my feet with his already shredded rope toy between his crooked teeth. His unkempt tail whips back and forth. There’s an eagerness in his onyx eyes, as if the subtlest thing inspires him to attack each waking moment with tenacity. I throw his toy a few times before he drops it and barks at the cawing seagulls gliding above the house. He’s brave and doesn’t know it. I used to feel like that. What happened to that fearlessness? I think it vanished after my aunt, Lyn, died several years ago. It feels like I’ve been on hold ever since, waiting to rediscover it.

Baxter has convinced me to shift myself into gear and apply for jobs to climb out of this self-dug rut. We go back inside, I feed him, cook some breakfast, and turn on my computer to scour the Internet for all the appealing jobs. I have tired of filling out draining job applications. I agree that those double negative questionnaires weed out the people who pay attention to the questions from the people who don’t, but I cannot say that I don’t disagree with most of the questions. While I call previous places I’ve applied and wait on hold, preparing to be boastful in order to dazzle managers, Baxter devours his bone, ripping it to shreds. Perhaps I could learn from Baxter in that he finds joy in the little things that I can’t seem find pleasure in. There’s a pristine beach outside the door and I’m wallowing in a valley of lost hope.

Baxter stands near the counter, on which his treats reside. He scratches the cabinet to get my attention. I get up to grab the treats, he wiggles with excitement, and, without my command, sits, lies down, rolls over, and stands in attempt to earn treats. I can’t leave him hanging because I know the feeling all too well. I toss him a treat and he eagerly awaits something more, just like me. The way Baxter acts reminds me of the vantage point I used to see the world from. It was like I was trekking a mountain range, conquering life as I progressed, but it I’ve lost momentum. With the right inspiration, however, I might find a trail marker to guide me into the next chapter, where I’ll ride the wave rather than watch it ripple into the distance.

 

Everybody needs a kick-start now and again and Baxter has managed to restart my engine. I grab his leash, clip it to his collar, and we walk out the door to head to the beach. The warm sand between my toes is comforting. Baxter stops every ten feet to dig a hole, determined to find that one grain of sand only he can see. We walk to where the cold, brackish water rushes up the beach and Baxter stops. He’s afraid for the first time, which is shocking to me because the ocean has always empowered me with a sense of bravado and has been a regenerative haven. I look down at Baxter, he’s shaking and there’s a fear in his eyes. I nod to acknowledge his fear and shift my gaze out at the expansive blue mass. Without looking down at Baxter, I walk into the water and Baxter willingly follows. The wet stand sticks to my feet as if to hold me back. Impossible. This is where I’m strongest.

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From the Cliff in Indonesia

Before I traveled to Bali, Indonesia, I thought I knew what paradise was, since I was born and raised on Oahu, Hawaii. The rich, exotic culture, which is steeped in vibrant Hindu traditions, the lush and mountainous landscape, and premier surf spots are only some of the aspects that entranced me. Given that Indonesia is a developing country, I was instructed to be on guard at every moment. Don’t drink the water, mind your passport and money, understand the danger, and don’t disrespect the religion were a few of the warnings. I never felt an ounce of worry while traveling around Bali.

After being in Bali for a few days, I hired a driver to take me to a legendary surf break, Balangan. The driver, Wayan there are five main names in Bali and Wayan is given to the first born, but sometimes people will have “street names” like Harry or Sally, drove me out of Kuta, a congested, touristy beach city reminiscent of Waikiki on Oahu, in a rickety Toyota van. It was evident that he didn’t properly know how to drive a manual transmission because the car jerked in third gear at a crawling five miles per hour. Eventually, we escaped the trafficked area and hit the open road.

He turned off the main road, which slithered up and inland of the cliffs, onto a dusty, pothole-ridden dirt road. The van rattled and I bounced around on the sticky leather seats because of the poor suspension. Then we burst through a cluster of trees and I could see the beach. As soon as the car came to a jittery halt, I leapt out to look at the breathtaking bay. From the cliff, I counted ten people out in the water. Mangy cows lounged next to towering palm tress in the grassy area above the beach. A wooden warung, a modest, family-owned restaurant that serves the bay’s visitors, squatted in the center of the beach. Waves smacked the cliff on the far side of the bay before peeling across the break. The wind was minimal and the waves looked like they were roughly eight feet. I couldn’t believe I was about to paddle out in this picturesque, vacant surf spot.

            I climbed down the stairs to the beach and quickly realized that the waves were much bigger than I originally thought. Sometimes the desire to taste the danger needs to be satisfied. I felt inspired to tackle this foreign break, but wondered if I was in over my head once I paddled out and reached the waves. Surfers dropped in and were continually engulfed by the jaws of the dangerously beautiful barrels. To ride in a tube of moving water and hear nothing but the sound of rushing water as it curl over your head and collides with the surface below, is one of the most amazing things a surfer can experience. I had to ride one of these daunting monsters. I came to Bali to surf.

            A fifteen-foot wall of water approached me. I faced towards the shore and dug my arms into the water to get on the wave. Water splashed in my face as I popped to my feet and charged the colossal drop. As I carved down the line, I saw the jagged, dry reef nearly fifty yards away. Out of fear, I decided to abort the wave by diving through the steep, thick wall of water—only I didn’t. The immense force of the wave caught and threw me over the falls.

            Darkness surrounded me, but I relaxed and let the ocean punish me. Though I wasn’t in the most ideal situation, there is something moving about being alone under a thundering wave, witnessing the sheer power of the ocean. I’ve often thought about dying out in the ocean and I would happily surrender my earthly ties to the ocean, but it wasn’t my time. I had to seize the moment to scramble back up through the washing machine of currents and breach the surface. I gasped and located my board, once I resurfaced. I walked my board to shore in the shallow water and jogged up the beach. Turning around to look at the bay that just punished me, I was proud that I had the bravado to challenge the bay. Even though it punished me, it was no less beautiful; I had more respect for it.

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My City’s Muse in Nigeria

Every year I go for an annual pilgrimage in this lovely town. Lazily calm and quietly peaceful. But every year I learn something new. I take something or maybe more than one thing along with me on my sojourn on this earth. Although I may say the events that unfold are always the ones I need however, it may just be that my soul only percieves and accepts that which it needs the most.

Just before you enter the town, you must face a heightened turbulence, like the storm that comes before the calm. It feels like everything is about to rip apart but then you hold it all together till you reach the end.
Then a profound calm pervades all and a smooth sailing heralds your entrance. With trees hovering above the road, a careful blend between bowing down to give a royal welcome and stretching out a helping hand to usher you in for an imperial tour.
As you emerge from the leafy tunnel and make way into the sunny burst, the cliché that at the end of the dark tunnel is a blinding light never seemed more apt. Maybe this light may not blind you but it will open your eyes to the beauties of the town. A beautiful town which will calm your working race into a walking pace
The black and bold women carrying bouncing fruits, bubbling children skipping luxuriously from one end of town to another. The men, well you wouldn’t see them yet except for the very few working around. They are too busy providing for their women or too lazy sleeping or drinkng away their daylight. But trust me at night you will see them all from one joint to another shouting and laughing or simply staring at the glories of God, moulded in the form of women; women who glitter the roads and spakle even in the darkest night. Women, these blessed breed one of who brought a glowing light into this town and after whom a major road was eponymously named. A woman whose skin colour cannot be depicted in the statue that stands like a colossus in a roundabout which was named after her. A woman who fought passionate battles in small villages, evil forests and in the minds of people with but the love in her heart and sincerity of her soul. Her war trophies were souls of children who found a home in this world and the lives of men and women extricated from the bonds on their hands and in their heads.
A woman who won the war for independence long before it was fought. She inspires me and she inspired so many. This woman is Mary Slessor. Till date she stands as a colossal inspiration to all who pass through the lovely town of Calabar. She reminds us that battles are not won on the battle field, they must first be fought and won in our minds. Chains are not broken by swords or saws, they are unchained by sincere thoughts and loving hearts and Mary Slessor broke the bonds in Calabar and indeed Nigeria with her heart of gold.
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Bravery on the Beach in Costa Rica

When I think about a place that really inspired me to be brave, the first place that pops into my mind is Playa Camaronal, in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The reason I chose this place is not because of the massive waves that challenge even the most advanced surfers, but rather because of the creatures that inhabit the beach. These creatures are baby sea turtles, and I was fortunate to have watched as they took their first steps in this world, each step fraught with danger as they struggled into the waves.

I traveled through Central America for 3 months with a group of students through a program called Carpe Diem Education. We traveled through Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras, all the while learning new lessons and meeting new people.

We drove down to Costa Rica from Nicaragua on a public bus, finally ending up in Guanacaste, at Playa Camaronal. The beach was quite large (3 kilometers total), and was held by a small river on the West side and a large cliff to the East. The waves were incredible for surfing, as many locals and foreigners drove out to the reserve to challenge the breakwater.

We met our director, Massimo, right when we stepped off the bus. He informed us that we would be working that first night with the tortugas (turtles).

Each night consisted of several groups combing the beach for signs of the turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs. In the event that we found a turtle digging a hole in which to lay its eggs, we would quietly go up to it, put gloves on, and pick up the eggs and put them in a bag to bury later.

We were fortunate to be able to release the tortuguitas (baby turtles) into the waves on the third day. There were roughly 70 baby turtles to release, and Massimo carefully emptied the turtles onto the beach, where they made their way into the waves. It took them several tries before they were caught by the waves and dragged into the ocean. What an amazing species!

The turtle eggs faced many challenges when they were buried without our assistance. The local crabs would consume them as part of their diet, as did raccoons. Poachers were also quite common, as the eggs buried on the beach were often stolen in the middle of the night.

The reason I’m inspired by these animals to be brave is because of the odds that stand against them –  only 1 in 1000 baby sea turtles survive into adulthood. These turtles have inspired me to beat the odds as well. Of the nearly 500,000 high school baseball players in the United States, only 11.5% go on to play at the next level. As a Division III recruit, I have made it farther than 95% of high school baseball players. I am proud that my work ethic and commitment to improvement helped me get to where I am today.

When I was traveling in Central America, I saw exotic animals everywhere I went. One in particular stood out: the turtles of Playa Camaronal, Costa Rica. The turtles face many obstacles and threats, just as I overcame many obstacles to become a college baseball player. As I look back at my experiences in Central America, I’m thankful to have encountered the turtles, as they inspired me to overcome the odds and flourish, not only as a future college baseball player, but also as a person.

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I’ve watched the Mediterranean Sea lap onto the shore of a tiny Greek island while I swam in the surf at sunset.  And I’ve strolled along a quay on the south coast of England, gazing out across the Channel toward France.  But my favorite place to experience the coast is Atascadero Beach in Morro Bay, California.  It holds a simple magic, and I believe it can help me be brave.

Morro Bay is a mix of old-fashioned fishing village and trendy resort area, sprinkled with a pinch of funky beach town.  Today the harbor sparkles in the winter morning sunshine.  Two elderly women in silver and gold track suits, matching jewelry tinkling, walk along the wharf, paying no notice to the craggy fishermen struggling with the rigging on their boats below.

Atascadero Beach is similarly ignored.  Around the corner from the high school and down the street from a concrete plant, this beach appears to be nothing special.  I can’t even see the water, hidden by lumpy hills of sand, until I reach the path beyond the parking lot.  But then a glimpse of the waves teases me from between the dunes, and I know there is a bounty behind this unremarkable facade.

I’m here hoping to find the same kind of depth inside myself, the guts to transform a dream I have from longing to actual experience.  My feet sink in several inches as I trudge up the sandy hill.  Ice plant supporting a scattering of yellow and purple flowers lines the path, and it feels like the yellow brick road, leading to Oz.

At the top of the dunes, Morro Rock comes into full view, hardened lava rising over 500 feet on the south end of the beach.  The Rock is a dramatic local landmark and a holy place for the Chumash Indians.  It looks rough, with deep crevices and is greying on one end.  I can relate.

My thoughts are buried under the sound of the surf.  I feel the salt on my face and take a deep breath of sea-life freshness as I notice my hair slow dancing around my shoulders in the wind.  The ocean has created geometric patterns in the sand, making it look cozy like a textured blanket.  The sky looks like a blanket too, of white gauze worn through in the grey parts, and with bright streaks of blue like it was put in the wash with the wrong thing.

I watch a Long-billed Curlew hop around the water’s edge and then splay its grey-brown wings before plunging its beak deep into the sand.  A family of smaller birds rides the waves like a bunch of little surfers.  They are wiped out by a big swell, and then one by one they bob back up and float to the shore to ride again.

The waves are the essence of this place.  They collide together and then, folding in, relax.  They collide and relax, over and over.  They’re at least six feet tall now, and my eye follows them from their highest part, almost too white, to where they grey and then turn the color of an aquamarine jewel before blending with the muddy sand.  They never stop, never say “I’m not up to it today, I’m too tired, I’m going to sit this one out.”  They just roll with it, let gravity be their boss.  They work hard, but seem to enjoy it too, the way they bubble up, stretch, and hum.  And with the slight vibration coming up through my feet, I feel their music.

I realize strength and bravery aren’t always about the extraordinary.  They can be about coming back, continuing, like the waves.  Life rises and falls.  There is difficulty, but then there is relief.

This beach is known for sand dollars, and I spot one, perfect, with no holes.  I take it to keep as a symbol:  wholeness.  My hair and face are sticky from the salt, but my thoughts are clear now.  I say thank you to this blessed beach and its simple magic.  As I turn from the water and head back up the hill, the sand feels lighter than when I came.  I step with ease through the deep dunes.

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 It Not Only Takes Bravery but Determination in the UK

            I sit, exhausted, on the coarse burred covered heather oblivious to the prickles and thorns biting into my trembling tired legs. Elation overtakes my exhaustion, “I did it Les, I conquered it, I told you I would” I yell out in triumph to no-one in particular. My words carry across Bournemouth’s cliff top and waft in the cool wind. I look towards a sheltered thicket which Bournemouth’s West-Cliff is known for, and where my brother use to sit in his wheelchair and sighed. The town of Bournemouth with its jagged cliffs is part of England’s 95 miles of Jurassic Coast and runs along England’s south west coastline. It is the first natural World Heritage Site in England and is particularly beautiful. My brother and I had been lucky enough to spend our carefree childhood years living here in the county of Dorset in idyllic Southern England, playing amongst Bournemouth’s famous Chines. Our weekends were spent hunting for millions of years old fossils, clambering over oddly shaped rock formations, and pretending we were the long ago bootleggers who landed their illegal contraband on Dorset’s deserted beaches in the dark of night.

            My eyes drift down towards the beach and the 145 feet incline zig-zag path I had just run up. The Atlantic ocean which feeds the English Channel was causing Bournemouth’s sea to heave violently this morning, and the waves pummeled against the aging Victorian brick promenade. Quaint brightly painted little beach huts, over a hundred years old, stood poised and sturdy with their doors rattling against the wind. “I did it Les” I said this time mumbling to myself, tears suddenly welling up and rolling over my cheeks.  Only a few months earlier my brother had poked fun at my remorseful temperament during one of our conversations. “Go on, do it, be brave, look around at where we live Sylv, open your eyes to the beauty which surrounds us here. I challenge you to start to run again, run from Poole to Bournemouth and take in the allurement of Branksome, Alum, and Durley Chines. That’ll be about eight miles of hilly terrain. Conquer that dreaded zig-zag path from West Undercliff promenade to the top of the cliff, bet you can’t” he said.

              It was a challenge easier said than done for me to complete after my recent amputation. “Run again? I’m not sure really” I said. With a knowing look and brightness in his eyes he stares at me, “Yes, run again Sylv, focus on what’s around you, don’t think of the pain you feel, find your inspiration in what you see, remember and picture the D-Day boats departing from Poole and what the soldiers must have been thinking when leaving-many never to return. Follow the trail of the illegal smugglers through the heathlands, and run through Bournemouth’s famous Victorian Gardens, and Alum Chine’s Tropical Gardens. Gingerly run over David Rowell’s Suspension Bridge which Winston Churchill, as a teenager, fell from during1892. I say gingerly Sylv, as I know you are scared of heights even if it is only thirty feet in the air and sways in the wind. Wave hello to the ghost of Robert Louis Stevenson as you pass by his ‘Skerryvore’ home. Jog around Sandbanks peninsula realizing you are running over the fourth highest land value in the world, and smile at the crew operating the working 1923 vehicular chain ferry. You can do it!” he said with a mischievous look upon his face.

            So reader, I did! I did it today. I took on my brother’s challenge and ran those long hilly eight miles ignoring the intense pain that resonated throughout my maimed foot. You see, the town of Bournemouth in the county of Dorset in England inspired my brother, it inspired him to live, and it inspires me as well. My short eight mile run along the coast is only a small part of the 95 miles of a wondrous geological marvel. Picturesque fishing villages and numerous coves dot the coast line. The splendid natural limestone rock arch over 140 million years old and known as Durdle Door is worthy of a visit, as are the white sea stacks known as the ‘Old Harry Rocks.’ Let your imagination soar when you visit 11th century Corfe Castle that William the Conqueror built in the parish of Swanage. Travel through market towns built by the Romans, and be awed by Bournemouth’s 1000 feet historic pier. When the evening draws in head into town and visit the numerous restaurants, clubs, and vibrant and friendly nightlife. Soar 500 feet in the air on the ‘Bournemouth Air,’ a giant helium balloon and take in the breathtaking views.

            This morning I wanted my brother to be at the top of the cliff cheering me on, perhaps he is in spirit, I would like to think he is. His love of Bournemouth and his inspiration and bravery in his twenty-five year battle to defeat the consuming cancer which riddled his body made him my superhero. Living along Bournemouth’s coast together with my brother’s constant happiness, and positive attitude throughout his life against all odds has shaped me into a woman who is brave enough to conquer my own fears, and defeat any obstacles which hinder my accomplishments in life.  He was and will always be my superhero,  and today I am also my own superhero.

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