On Sunday, my dear friend Shlomit was present in my thoughts as I watched the beautiful bluebird kite she gifted to us before we left Canada soar high in the perfect azure sky. The gentle breeze was just as perfect, allowing the brilliant blue kite to hover peacefully in the sunshine among so many others! Standing on the grassy field in the park of Tauranga’s Matua neighbourhood, we had joined many other families who had come to take part in Matariki Kite Day, a festival that celebrates the Maori new year.
We stood transfixed, gazing attentively at the bird with what I acknowledged to be a sense of tranquility as it dawned on me that I had never flown a kite as a child. As I listed to the rolling laughter of the Wanderlust Juniors, I wondered at how I grew up without having ever stepped onto a grassy field or the sandy beach to experience the sheer pleasure of holding in my hand the reins of something so pretty that transforms the darkest of moods, that plants a rainbow in our hearts.
I have been pondering the symbolism of kites in literature, thinking of The Kite Runner, where the image of a kite resurrects memories of carefree childhood and innocence. Ziggy Marley, in Love is my Religion, sings, “I don’t want to fight; hey, let’s go fly a kite.” In Maori cultures, the kites of Matariki symbolise a connection between the heavens and earth. While peacefully gazing up at the kaleidoscopic textiles dancing in the gentle breeze, we forget about the ‘to do’ list of the day. Kite meditation — what a brilliant concept! We forget, for a while, about our agenda for the evening as we stand still, smiling in the magic of the moment, surrounded by so many others in our community who have united with one simple desire, to marvel at the peaceful beauty of something so simple and at once so powerful.
Last week, we were feeling miserable, resting in bed with a cold that knocked us off our feet. This week, we are starting to slowly, gently reawaken to greet the sunshine and restore our energy reserves. A morning walk in the sunshine up Mount Maunganui was just what the doctor ordered.
We had a busy first month in NZ and now that we are away from our families, couple time is not easy to carve out. Mr. Wanderlust wasn’t due to start work until lunchtime, and after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, we decided to make our way toward Mount Maunganui. We had walked up the mount once before with the boys, and although the trek was challenging, it did not feel overly difficult. This time, our experience was not the same as before.
Not even 15 minutes into our hike up the mount, we felt short of breath.
“I can’t believe the terrible shape I’m in,” I complained while blowing my nose and tugging at my clogged left ear.
“You are recovering from a bad cold,” Mr. Wanderlust gently reminded me. “You can’t expect to be as strong as you normally are.”
A few days ago, we were feeling too weak to walk around the block, let alone walk up a mountain. Our next thought, as we stopped to catch our breath, was that if we’re feeling weak, at the very least we were in this together. We had to crack a few jokes along the lines of, “If I ever make it up the mount…”
We made a few more stops on the incline, each time taking the opportunity to snap a few photos of the spectacular vistas in-between coughing and clearing our noses — okay, it was me blowing my nose while Mr. Wanderlust ensured that I did not have bits of facial tissue left on my face. What started out as a frustrating and humbling trek left me with a reminder to start slowly and be kind to myself, to be patient as I continue to regain my strength. This was our opportunity to go gently, without feeling the need to rush toward a destination. We reminded ourselves that while we were working to catch our breath, we had the perfect excuse to stop to enjoy the sights on the way up.
Putting one foot before the other, we made it to the summit sooner than we had expected. Our walk was silent, in the comfortable manner of long-time lovers who have lately had too much on their minds and hearts. Sitting down to recharge before coming down from the mount, I rested my head on my husband’s shoulder and, closing my eyes for a few moments, leaned into the comfort of home.
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This week’s blog post arrives one day early. The reason for that is simple. It is Mother’s Day in NZ, Australia, Canada, the U.S., and numerous other countries in the world (yes, I looked it up).
In preparation for this week’s blog post, I brainstormed a few ideas. I could tell you about how my children, Mr. Wanderlust, and I have been adapting to our new environment, what with the Wanderlust Juniors starting school in a new place. I could also tell you about recent mistakes I have made as a mother. I could follow those mistakes with stories of celebratory moments after which I wanted to give myself the proverbial pat on the back. In truth, this has never been a parenting blog because I do not have an interest in writing detailed stories about my family. The information I share via this blog and social media is carefully edited.
I will confidently say, however, that as with various big moves and transformations, there are inevitable challenges, disappointments, and triumphs, and in most cases we hope that the magical moments will by far outnumber the ones we often wish we could sweep clean from our memories. I can also confess that although I am continuing to work to remain a mindful, present mama, some days and scenarios create hurdles in this practice. As my children continue to grow with each new experience, so do I. My role as a mother is forever changing and evolving, and it keeps me curious. The great days remind me to acknowledge and praise the work I do; the not-so-good days inform my future steps. And so the ebb and flow continues, keeping me humble yet empowered, tentative yet self-assured. I’d bet many of the parents reading this will relate; we walk this road together.
Today, I celebrate my Mama, as well as my mother-in-law and my grandmother, the beautiful mother figures whom I am fortunate to have in my life. I bow to them in deep gratitude. I also celebrate myself, and express gratitude for all those triumphant and not-so-pretty moments on this incredible journey. May those experiences continue to remind me to stay present and be the best mum I can be, every day. This morning, I raise my mug of peppermint tea to all the other mothers who walk this brilliantly crooked path.
I am overwhelmed by the enormous support and encouragement I have received following the publication of the story of our big move to NZ. Thank you, dear readers!
Last week, we had the immense pleasure of visiting the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata. As a devoted fan of Tolkien, this excursion was at the top of my list, and I was not the only one who returned home elated that day. Read on…
Tranquility reigns in the Shire. A hushed spell blankets all visitors to the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata as they cross the green pastures on a bus that transports us to Middle Earth. To walk through the hobbit countryside is to slip, unnoticed, down a rabbit hole, only to find ourselves standing at the bottom of the hill, gazing past charming vegetable patches toward Bilbo — and later Frodo — Baggins’s house, the one with the emerald door left just ajar, a plump pumpkin near it, and a sign that almost shouts, “No admittance, except on party business.” The signs serves its purpose; the stairs leading up to the front entrance beckon forth and the open door lures me in to take a peek. Our tour guide assures us that there is nothing to see inside, but I refuse to believe him. In my mind’s eye, I’m already sprinting up the stairs, then gingerly pushing open the door to step into the warm wooden interior, calling out to Bilbo — or perhaps this is Frodo’s house at this point. Oh, wait a minute. I see, they have deserted their beloved abodes in favour of reluctant adventure.
The neighbourhood is sleepy this morning. Perhaps the neighbours conspired to take their elevenses at the Green Dragon pub by the water, the ideal spot to sip some ale or cider while keeping a close eye on the spectacular hillside village and their humble and dizzyingly charming abodes. Meanwhile, the golden butterflies and bubbly buzzing bees are in charge. They circle the sensible hobbit-sized clothes drying on the washing line outside the homes, taking care not to fly quite too close. A few daredevils among them wait for a swift gust of wind before dashing in-between the legs of a pair of trousers. Do you hear their zesty laughter as they buzz past, filled with cheeky enthusiasm for having escaped danger? Before long, they reluctantly return to work, seeking pretty puffs of pollen.
A monarch butterfly alights on a crimson daisy in Sam Gamgee’s tender garden, whereupon it eavesdropped on the conversations of the visitors with mobile phones and fancy cameras in hand.
‘”I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!”*’ quotes one man, and the others smile surreptitiously.
I follow the sign toward The Green Dragon, past the waterwheel and across the bridge, guided by the cheerful sounds of folk music and — why yes, I can almost hear them — the barely audible rhythmic stomping of hobbit feet upon wooden tables as they dance the jig. Walking into the cosy pub, I almost expect to be greeted solemnly by Gandalf, seated by the toasty fireplace, sipping Sackville Cider in-between drags from his pipe that send lazy swirls into the air. The fire is much too warm and I step out into the noonday sun to enjoy my own drink while swatting away thirsty, annoying wasps. They should take lessons from the chummy bees that somehow figured out the right idea of work-life balance, having learned from the locals who will soon go off to enjoy a bit of siesta, feeling fortified following their tea that turned into a lunch.
Following our tour guide back to the bus, feeling somewhat lightheaded, it occurs to me that perhaps I, too, require something more in my belly than a mug of beer. Yet, I do so wish that I could simply lie down in the grass, in the shade of the party tree, and continue to daydream of hobbits, dwarves, wizards, and elves until my eyelids should become heavy and the magic will continue to weave its tapestry. Wistfully, I walk away, making a silent promise to myself to continue to explore my fantasies, to re-read beloved books, and to make space for everyday magic in my life, even if the most exciting event of my day is hanging out the washing to the buzzing song of the bees in a nearby floriferous bush.
* Quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King.
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After 11 days of sunshine, today is our first rainy day in NZ. I see this as an invitation to slow down the pace following our week-long sightseeing adventures, to stay close to home and take care of a few mundane but nonetheless important housekeeping duties. After all, adventure must be balanced with everyday discipline.
Here are a few of my favourite moments from the past week:
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. ~ Anonymous
Those of you who follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook likely already know that the Wanderlust Family has moved from Canada to New Zealand. Many of you have been waiting to hear the full story of our move, and although it is comprised of many chapters that I will most definitely write over the next few months, today, I share with you the prologue.
In late September 2013, Mr. Wanderlust and I were on a weekend getaway to Goderich and Stratford, Ontario. Earlier in the afternoon, we had enjoyed a peaceful walk on the grounds surrounding the charming, quaint country inn in which we were staying. Following dinner, as we relaxed in our room, we had decided to turn on the television. We never watch TV at home, so this action in itself was highly unusual for us. We had flipped a few channels and settled on HGTV and a fantasy show on which a couple from our neighbourhood in the Toronto area was offered, purely hypothetically, a chance to sell their home and, with the money from the house, purchase a home in one of three different appealing locations in the world. One of the locations was Hawke’s Bay, NZ and simply looking at the shots of the location on TV, we started falling in love. Mr. Wanderlust expressed that he has always dreamed of visiting NZ. Yet, reality check! The couple from Ontario wasn’t actually about to sell their home. If they were to move to a different country, more than just the cost of the home would have to be taken into consideration. What about the cost of living, job prospects, etc.? We dismissed the show due to its fantastical nature, but the universe works in wondrous ways, storing information on some faraway shelves in our subconscious minds.
Several months later, on a -30°C day in Toronto, Mr. Wanderlust and I, in typical Canadian fashion, were commiserating about the frigid winter temperature when I sighed, “You know, people complain about the weather and wonder about why they are living in such a cold place. Well, why don’t we do something about it?” When Mr. Wanderlust asked me where I would want to move, I blurted out, “New Zealand.” Then I laughed, brushed aside the crazy idea, and prepared lunch for the youngest Wanderlust Junior, then put him down for a nap. Several hours later, Mr. Wanderlust approached me with a tentative proposal to move to NZ. He had spent some time researching the major cities in the country, job prospects, housing prices, and the cost of living. After several months of serious contemplation, we decided to put the idea into action.
Ultimately, the temperate climate of the north island was just one small deciding factor for us. Both Mr. Wanderlust and I spent our childhood in three different countries, emigrating twice with our parents. These international moves gifted us a lifelong love of travel, and we travelled extensively together, whenever possible. Perhaps, for that reason, the idea of uprooting our family did not seem intimidating to us. We feel at home anywhere in the world.
Having thoroughly researched NZ, we were attracted to its diverse landscapes and the various opportunities for activities that we love most — camping, hiking, and paddleboarding — and for new ones that we are looking forward to experiencing in the near future. We wanted to move to a smaller city but one in which we would have access to everything that we need and where we would be able to enjoy a slower way of life. For that reason, we chose Tauranga, currently the fifth largest city in NZ. It’s a large enough city that feels like a small town. Frankly, I loved the idea of Wellington, which reminds me of San Francisco, one of my favourite cities. However, as a person of mostly Vata constitution, I do not like the idea of living in a windy location, and Wellington is known for precisely that kind of weather; Toronto was already too windy for me on most days. But there I go talking about the weather again. We wanted to be in a relatively quiet and family-friendly city in which we would have an opportunity to spend plenty of time outdoors. And so, we chose to follow our dream.
We made a timeline for our move and followed through. We knew we wanted to relocate in late 2016 or early 2017 and submitted our initial visa application. We went through the immigration process, arranged everything for our move, sold our house north-east of Toronto, sold many of our furniture pieces and housewares, shipped some 100 boxes of personal belongings and furniture, packed our suitcases with clothes and other essential items that we require for the first three months in NZ (until our shipment arrives), and were on our way.
We have been in Tauranga for a week now and are settling into our new temporary home, exploring our new town and its neighbourhoods, and getting used to a new way of life. I will continue to write about our adventures in NZ, new discoveries, and lessons.
I will publish a second post on a weekly basis, on Saturdays (in NZ) / Fridays (in North America and Europe), featuring a photo journal of weekly highlights, as well as notable links from around the web, related to mindfulness/awareness, literature, travel, and other subjects of interest. There is so much to discover, but I remind myself daily to slow down and savour each new incredible experience.
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I was invited by a friend to take part in a photo challenge on Facebook, the premise of which is to share one nature photograph per day, over a period of seven days. As a general rule, I ignore invitations to participate in challenges and play games on social media, mostly because it is one more task to add to my ‘to do’ list and requires that I visit my social media pages at least once per day to post an update. Yet, I chose to accept this invite. Today marks day 7 of the challenge, and although I will be glad to take a break from social media for the next few days, I gained a few interesting lessons from the experience:
1. Wanderlust reigns.
While searching the hard drive of my computer for nature photos to share, I noticed that my attention gravitated not toward recent photos of beautiful local hiking trails and beaches but older photos taken during my and Mr. Wanderlust’s travels in Germany, France, Austria, Arizona, and other spectacular destinations. I don’t need to analyze this pattern to understand that I long to travel again.
2. I love cities with green spaces, and seek nature even in the busiest locales.
While on a weekend trip to NYC a year and half ago, I longed to stroll through Central Park after visiting the Museum of Natural History. In Prague, I loved hiking up Petrin Hill. In Paris, I enjoyed the Jardin du Luxembourg. When we travelled to Las Vegas seven years ago, we spent a day in the busy city, then woke up early the following morning for a two-day road trip to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Antelope Canyon. Last year, while visiting Florida, we interspersed visits to the Disney parks with day trips to the beach. That photo of the hummingbird above? Mr. Wanderlust snapped it on the street in San Francisco. It’s safe to say that although we love interesting urban locales, we always seek nature, whether it’s in a park, a forest, the desert, or the seaside. Even in the busiest city, the view of a breathtaking sunset behind the skyscrapers calms me, reminding me to breathe deeper and walk taller while firmly planting my feet on the paved sidewalk.
3. Stepping outside is the quickest, most effective way to recharge.
I enjoy a quiet morning walk on my way home after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school. Although the mornings are crisp and some days can feel cold, that is my opportunity to engage in a moving meditation, setting one foot in front of the other with awareness. I return home feeling recharged and ready to clean the kitchen after breakfast, then plan my work for the day ahead. There is no need to go far to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.
4. Social media sometimes has its merits.
I have become disenchanted with a lack of true connection on social media. It is easy to mechanically click ‘like’ on a photo or an update and I do not consider this to be a manner of engagement. Yet, some days, I am pleasantly surprised and delighted when someone takes a few seconds to type a comment, and this is something that I strive to practise, taking time to genuinely engage with others via the online world. This challenge has also served as a valuable opportunity for me to reevaluate the content I share on my social media pages. I am not one to post frequent photos of myself and selfies are not my cup of tea. In the future, I will dedicate my social media accounts to sharing more inspiring content related to beautiful natural landscapes and breathtaking city views, books and words in their many forms, art in its many expressions, and of course, yoga and meditation.
Do you enjoy sharing photos on social media of beautiful places in nature? Do you, perhaps, have an Instagram page dedicated to such art work? If so, I’m curious to take a peek. Please tell me about it in the comments below.
The Wanderlust Juniors and I spent the first week of the new year with my parents in cottage country, where we slept in, enjoyed plenty of time outdoors in the fresh winter air, taking walks and playing in fluffy snow — almost knee-deep for me, and even deeper for them. It’s truly a pleasure to grant ourselves a vacation from the everyday bustle, to start the year on a quiet note, with a retreat from the city, immersed in silence.
It would be dishonest of me to say that I do not care about weather changes. Although I do enjoy winter weather, the limited exposure to sunlight does affect me, as it does many others. Yet, staying indoors for an entire day when it’s cold outside also doesn’t help to elevate my mood. That is why I do my best, whenever possible, to bundle up, pull on my big faux-fur winter boots, and head outside for a walk or to play with Wanderlust Juniors. Even 15 minutes outdoors make a tremendous difference, reminding me that the world continually changes, that nothing is ever static, and that we must grant ourselves the opportunity to slow down, take a few deep breaths, and reconnect to the greater world. Perhaps, we just might find that the midwinter is not all that bleak.
After the outing, we go back inside for a large mug of steaming tea for me, and muffins for the boys. Here is my ‘go to’ muffin recipe:
1/3 cup vegetable oil, grape seed oil, or melted coconut oil
2/3 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
Preheat the oven to 400F and lightly grease or line a 12-cup muffin baking pan.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lavender. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, thoroughly mash the bananas, then add the egg and whisk lightly. Add the oil and milk and continue to whisk until the mixture is uniform.
Carefully pour the wet ingredients into a well in the centre of the bowl containing the dry ingredients. Gently fold in the blueberries, stirring carefully until the batter is just combined.
Using a tablespoon, pour the batter evenly into 12 muffin cups.
Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the muffin baking pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Notes: I sometimes substitute chocolate chips for the blueberries, if you wish. Lavender reminds me of summer in the midst of the cold months; however, if you do not enjoy lavender, you may omit it entirely. The Wanderlust Juniors also love these muffins as a school snack.
Please leave a comment below to share your tips for staying healthy and joyful throughout the winter months. Also, I would love to read about your favourite type of muffins. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!