Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 510 - What if...

I found myself going through my old pictures recently and somehow I kept going back to this one. This was taken in my final year at school and my friends convinced me to join the cheer leading team. Our big yearly sports day was held at the Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town - who would have guessed that years later soccer teams from all over the world would compete for the world cup on this very spot!

What really kept me going back to this picture though, I think, was not what the place where it was taken has become, but where I was in my own journey at this point. 

18 Years old. Starry eyed.

How I wish I knew that the Camino existed then. Who knows how much my backpack would have weighed had I taken to the road at this point... :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day 505 - A world of colour...

What a glorious time of the year it is in our part of the world. Gardens are coming alive and no matter where you look, it seems as if the world has been transformed. Dullness has disappeared and brown and beige has been replaced with every colour imaginable. I thought I'd share some of the beauty that I have experienced during the past couple of weeks with you.

'The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.' ~ Isiah 35:1

And now there's only six and a half months left before I start my Camino adventure in Spain. I had to smile when I found myself standing on this path in one of the most beautiful gardens in Elgin - a path literally covered with rose petals... I couldn't help but wonder, is this a glimpse of what lies ahead?

I choose to believe it is indeed!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 495 - Madame M.

Roses have always reminded me of old ladies. Classy, refined, elegant. Last week though, I suddenly realised that old ladies (...and remember, I'm going to be one in the not-too-distant future!), can also be feisty, bright coloured, cheeky little Poppies, just like the beautiful specimens below! Funny how these three are lined up in a row - indulge me if you wish, and I'll share a delightful encounter with you.

To put you in the picture - imagine that I am the Poppie on the left, the middle one is a shy young girl and the Poppie on the right is a petite, well groomed, confident little old lady dressed in pink.

So, now imagine that before this picture was taken, someone else stood in front of the young girl. We're waiting in line to go to the bathroom, along with a gazillion other women. We're all somewhere in romance land, as for the last hour we'd been listening to the dishy young Italian singer, Patrizio, serenading us at a live performance.

We're all minding our own business (...and all probably imagining Patrizio proposing to us somewhere under a rose covered veranda in Tuscany...), when two tiny little old ladies casually join the line. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, except, the normal order of things would have been to join from the back of the line, not discreetly sauntering in, claiming your stand almost in the front!

So, let's say Madame M barged into my life in the toilet queue.

I'm calling her Madame M because she really is quite a madame, her real name starts with the letter M and I also found her to be manipulative, mesmerising and quite a mystery, to be quite frank!

Back to the story then. Well, we just stood there for a while, looking at each other in disbelief. The cheek of these two was almost beyond comprehension! Then the murmurs started. Everyone had something to say, but no-one actually said it to them. So I cracked. This is more or less how my first interaction with Madame M went:

Me: 'Excuse me...the line starts over there, right at the back.'
Madame M: Ignores me totally.
Me: 'Hallo - you can't actually do this, we've all been standing here for a while.'
Madame M: Continues talking to her equally elegant looking little friend.
At this stage I'm getting hot under the collar. Madame M's friend gets stage fright and informs her that she's going to look for another bathroom. Madame M, who was the tiniest of the two, by the way, decides to hold her ground and remains in her spot.

You've got to love this!

She continues talking - to no one in particular and then turns to face me. The young girl in front of me tries to make herself invisible but I can see she's not missing this for the world!

Madame M: 'My dear, when you get to my age you'll realise that when you have to go, you have to go!'
Me: 'I can understand that, but then all you had to do was ask and we would have let you in with love.You can't just barge in without asking - it angers people, we've all been standing here for quite a while.'
Madame M: Gives me a look that could kill but remains quiet for a few seconds.

After contemplating the situation for a little while she turns back to me, looks me straight in the eye, holds her hand out to me in introduction as says: ' I'm M. Who are you?'

At this stage I'm warming to her as I just cannot believe what I'm busy experiencing. Note that she's still in her chosen spot in the line, which, by the way, is steadily moving forward. I think Churchill would have found her a very useful member of staff - she seemed to be a strategist of note!

Back to the conversation:
Me: 'I'm Emilene.' (In a proud, confident, don't-mess-with-me kinda way...)
Madame M: 'Do you know - I almost followed a career in ballet in Milan. Have you ever been there?'
Me: (Smiling) 'In fact, yes, I have been.'
Madame M seemed phased by that for a few seconds - maybe I didn't look like the travelling kind...or even worse, perhaps I didn't strike her as the educated type either.

So as you can imagine, it was pretty much full on war at this stage. (I know the women reading this will identify...)

At this point I decided to fight her on her own battleground, so I shifted to my best posh English accent. Well, I'm actually a very plain Afrikaans girl but I have an arsenal of accents and life experience that I can revert to if needed, and as she has such a lovely refined English accent, I thought it was time to put on the armour! (Perhaps I do have some stiff-upper-lip genes, we were a colony after all...)

So the battle continued:

Me: 'I'm sure you've charmed your way through life - you're very good at it.'
Madame M: Turns around to face me and says in her sternest voice - 'I fought my way through life...'

Something about the way she said it just told me that that probably was the first piece of her life that she shared with me that was worth believing. Don't ask me why, I just felt it.

She also said to me, whilst looking right into my soul: 'God works in mysterious ways...'

By the time we reached the end of the line I had learnt that her son had died at age 42, a young man had asked her mother for her hand in marriage but she declined the offer and ended up marrying her husband, her marriage had lasted more than 50 years, her husband had passed away, she is a Roman Catholic, but doesn't go to church because of something that happened in her life and that she wishes she was a few years younger - Patrizio is such a delectable specimen.

Well. I couldn't possibly let this woman go! So after we had freshened up, our conversation continued.

Me: 'Well M. I think you are a fascinating person and you really have made a strong impression on me, granted in the strangest of settings. I would like to hear more about your life story, that is, if you'd care to share.'
Madame M: Looking me straight in the eye - 'I don't mind sharing.We can meet.'
I noticed that now that she had achieved her goal of getting to the front of the line she seemed more in touch with reality. I felt as if I had witnessed a performance worthy of an Oscar and couldn't help wondering how many other doors have opened for her in this way.

I have to give it to her. She's good. She got to the loo way ahead of everyone else - I just hope her little friend made it to her final destination in time. If I am to believe Madame M - when little old ladies have to go, they have to go!

Madame M and I exchanged numbers and agreed to meet for lunch one day. I am planning to follow up and actually I have been thinking about where I should take her.

After much deliberation I have decided that there is only one place in Cape Town that would be fitting for such a grande dame. I'll be taking her for tea in the garden of the other very English lady in our part of the world - The Mount Nelson. I can't think of a better setting for our little get-together.

I told you she was good!

(The photographs above were taken at the open gardens in Elgin, situated close to Cape Town - more on that in a future post...)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 488 - Hearts of stone...

For a while now I have been aware of heart shapes all around me. The very first person I ever met who had actually walked the Camino, told me that her path in Spain was covered with hearts, she even became know for this - the girl who who was surrounded by heart shapes wherever she went. (By clicking here you can read one of my older posts about this wonderful encounter.) I am, by the way, truly grateful that my sister introduced me to this dear friend of hers, her enthusiasm about her pilgrimage is what fuelled my passion for this adventure way back then.

Do we hone our senses, I wondered at times, because feathers and heart shapes, especially heart shaped stones have just appeared on my path on a daily basis. Or, are the lights simply switched on once you open your own heart to the Lord? These things are symbolic for me and act as reminders of where my focus in life should be. Were they always there and I just never noticed, or did I notice but as it had no specific meaning for me, I just always dismissed it?

One thing I do know for sure though, is that God speaks to me every day, every moment, of my life. I have learnt how to open my heart. I have learnt how to fill my heart until it's so full that I feel it spilling over in a smile on my face - as it is right now!

And you know what they say about smiling and laughing - not only does it uplift your mood, it also helps you to live longer! If you don't believe me - read what the experts say here. :)

Proverbs 15:13 says: " A joyful heart makes a face cheerful, but a sad heart produces a broken spirit."

In verse 15 it says: " All the days of the oppressed are miserable, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast."

I've made a conscious decision to base my life on the teachings of the Bible and as I continue on this path that I've embarked on, I discover that the answer to every single question that I have about life, is to be found in the pages of this God-given guidebook.

I've been told by numerous people to arm myself with John Brierley's guidebook when embarking on my pilgrimage to Santiago. From a practical point, I think I'll do myself a favour by doing that and I am so glad that so many people are so open and willing when it comes to sharing their Camino tips and experiences. The thing I'm even more grateful for, is that here and now, in my everyday life, I find myself surrounded by people who have recommended the Bible as the greatest, most precious guidebook I could invest in. Not only do they share their experiences, they offer guidance, advice and support. They explain the things I don't understand and patiently answer my one trillion questions.

As I've said umpteen times, my road to Santiago started months ago.

This new season of my life has equipped me beyond expectation. Starting this blog about my dream has brought people into my life who are going to be there for years to come and I am no longer amazed or astounded by the connections that are born out of these pages. I simply smile. Because I know who sent them.

There are many traditions on the Camino de Santiago. One tradition dictates that you take a stone from home and place it at the foot of the Cruz de Ferro, situated about 200km's before Santiago. As thousands of pilgrims have done this for many, many years, it seems as if there is a small mountain at the base of this cross by now. I've only ever seen pictures of it but I plan to take my little heart shaped stone - the smallest one on the picture above, along with me to Spain. It is going to find a home on that man made mountain and I will be placing it there in celebration of the fact that my heart truly belongs to the Lord!

Today I found this verse in Matthew (23:37):
 Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

I know I must have heard it or read it before in my life, but I feel as if I'm really hearing it now.

Sylvia Nilsen, probably one of the best informed people in South Africa regarding the Camino de Santiago, writes in a magazine article that I came across:
'The Lord is not found in a specific place - He lives in the heart of every believer, but doing a pilgrimage can connect you to God in a special way' 

I say again - I can't wait to get on that plane to Spain!