Monday, December 17, 2012

In Aunt Helen's House

In Aunt Helen’s house, time seemed to pause in its endless journey, as if lulled into forgetting its usual sense of urgency.
Pale afternoon sun would arc across warm, wood floors and come to rest in the folds of a cardigan draped loosely over a chair. Logs would crackle gently in the  fire, filling the air with a familiarity that declared this was home.
The first thing one noticed about Helen was that each and every day of life was an adventure, a cause to exclaim, “Well, isn’t life wonderful”.

 At ninety-seven, she still  lived alone, yet she never had to fear feeling lonely. Family and friends, (of the two-legged and four-legged kind) dropped by daily to soak up the atmosphere of contentment in a life well-lived that Helen and her surroundings exuded. There was always a bracing drink for the humans and cheese and biscuits for the many dogs embraced as loving friends now that her days of pet ownership were behind her.


 With time, she weakened and could no longer get around as well as before...but she still missed little and continued to greet each day with anticipation.

 From her wing chair by the fire, Helen would tilt eagerly toward visitors. “Now tell me what you did today, dear,” she’d encourage us, her interest genuine, her focus centered on the response.   

When questioned about her own day, she’d beam widely and talk about the history article she’s just read, or give us her take on the latest news story. 

Of course, conversations inevitably came back to the widespread family she adored. It was clear we were all of us cherished.

 Helen’s life is the standard by which I’ve begun to gauge my own journey. I may or may not manage to write the book I’ve talked about for years, or finish getting my Fine Arts degree. Other interests may prevail, obstacles will no doubt demand my time and attention. 

But if I live each day to its fullest, and find joy in every one of them, as she did, I will be content. 

To the best of my ability, I want to be present in each moment , and if I’m fortunate enough to share my days with the people and animals I love, then I too will be able to say, “Isn’t life wonderful!”

We lost our beloved matriarch this weekend, when her tired body gave up the fight and led her to Heaven,  but we will forever bask in the light of grace that blessed those of us fortunate enough to be taken into her boundless heart.

Now it is in our hearts that she will rest with us always.
We loved you immeasurably, Helen. We will always remember your kindness, your generosity of spirit and your capacity to wring the best out of each day even when it seemed impossible. 

We will do our best to embrace life with the same vigour you did, and when we meet again, it will be to sit once more by a crackling fire and exchange the stories of our lives...


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

U is for Ungulate

Because I was stumped on what to use for the letter 'U' today, I'm reprising information used in an earlier post about our amazing African trip...
Note: I will be away this week but will most certainly respond to comments when I return...thanks for stopping by!
Masai Giraffe

 Ungulate” refers to any animal with hooves. Ungulates are the grazers and browsers of the world, accounting for the majority of herbivores currently on earth.

Africa’s list of ungulates is longer than in any other continent and East Africa is particularly noted for its diversity and abundance of these mammals. 
 Common Zebra

Unfortunately, a fair number of these species are also threatened or endangered.

Grevy's Zebra with Antelope

 Wildebeest Herd

In areas where rainfall is scattered and seasonal,  animals must travel great distances to satisfy their nutritional needs....
 Young Zebra with Cape Buffalo

The end of the rainy season in May results in the annual Great Migration of wildebeest and other herbivores, as great herds of animals cross north from the parched Serengeti, across the Mara River and into the Masai Mara Reserve in search of food and water.  
 It is thought that one-and-a-half million wildebeest take part in this migration along with hundreds-of-thousands of zebra and gazelle.

Complementary grazers preferring different parts of the same grass, Plains zebra and wildebeest often travel together. 
 Zebras, with their superior vision and hearing, serve as an early warning system for the wildebeest…and given the choice, predators prefer wildebeest meat to zebra, so zebras  can find safety in their midst.

Ungulates have always been important to humans all over the world. We've hunted them...domesticated them to provide us with food, fibre, transportation and a variety of other things.

In many cases, we've also pushed them to the point of extinction. 
 Wildebeest frolicking...

This puts more at risk than the animals. Locals depend on the tourism that drives the economy in East Africa.

Studies reveal that 60% of the large mammals in protected areas- lions, cheetahs, leopards, zebras, rhinos, and wildebeest - have been lost in the last two to three decades alone.

 Quite simply,
there is no more time to lose is we are to preserve the magnificent and diverse population of the African savanna...
White Rhinoceros

Please stop by ABC Wednesday for more takes on the letter "U"...