• Helen Hattingh

Here's to 2019!

Up Up and Away!

Every year we head off to Yzerfontein, a sleepy village on the west coast of South Africa to celebrate Christmas and the new year with extended family and friends, taking time out to live by the seaside. This year my tongue was nearly hanging on the floor, I needed the break so desperately. Once the freneticism of Christmas and all the wrapping, packing, cooking, decorating and present purchasing is done then a slow, tranquil rhythm settles in and we can start appreciating the beauty that is Yzerfontein.

It is a place of tranquility, peace and rest. There’s really nothing much to do in Yzerfontein except lie on the beach, go for long walks, read, sleep and chat. This suits me perfectly! The sound of the sea makes me sleep so well and the walks along the 14-mile beach are invigorating and restores harmony to my soul.

There is nothing nicer than having a morning coffee on the porch outside our bedroom, looking at the ocean, hearing the tremendous thuds of sounds that burst from the pounding waves and watching the sea for a sighting of a whale or the dance of dolphins in the waves.

Birds are aplenty, there are seals on the island garrulously arguing about their escapades. The pelicans sail past, looking like cargo planes with pink undertones, as they fly slowly and purposefully towards an unknown destination with unwavering confidence. The cormorants, haggle for airspace and churn up the water, as they hunt for fish. Oyster catchers sound almost desperate, for their calls have a panicky breathlessness as they scurry nervously, trying to prevent anyone from coming too near to their nests above the high-water mark. The wagtails say “good morning” whilst picking worms from the freshly cut grass and the sea gulls call to each other as they hurl mussels onto the rocks, in the hope that they crack open and expel their contents for their breakfast. There is a buzzard that hovers in the wind, staying perfectly still, but casting a shadow on the rocks below. He’s hoping for some breakfast too, but his work is cut out for him as his shadow dances on the rocks, waiting for a fish to appear and then diving down, like a mighty arrow, to retrieve his breakfast before the next wave shatters the shadow and hides the fish from his view. His timing is impeccable!

The constant movement lulls me into a space that I find serene, pure and quite personal. I could write million books when I am in this space. This year I needed this break so badly and embrace simply living. No deadlines; no commitments; no plans – just taking everything day by day. I could settle down and live. breathe, let go, learn to know myself some more. 2018 has been a very trying year and I am glad to see the end of it. Hailing in a new year always lets me feel like I have a clean slate and can re-ignite my enthusiasm and mark my progress in the grains of sand.

The days go by in a haze of braai smoke, gin and tonic, thundering waves and sea sand. Always sea sand. I love the family time with the kids out in the sea, old enough now, to body board together in the back line. A long swim from the tiny harbor to the beach is frighteningly refreshing and invigorating in water temperature close to 11 degrees. It’s wonderful to see them away from exam drudgery and school commitments. They ride their bikes, they play in the tidal pools and swim and surf. What better way to mark the end of the old and the beginning of the new?

I am privileged to take time to acknowledge the majestic ocean and its constant motion, reserve freshly baked ciabatta is from the local first- class bakery and trail through the local store offerings. It’s a simple life, but it’s an abundant life. I am grateful for the people who live there - my parents in law, who welcome us warmly on every occasion we visit. I’m grateful for the added company of extended family who visit with us. I love the long debates and the provoking humor. Some discussions are painful and sensitive, especially at this time of year I find. Some are just downright silly and fun. I’m grateful for the fact that there are people to share this time with. I’m grateful for the majestic beauty we see every time we open our eyes. I’m grateful for the song of the sea and the call of the wind.

I see myself as a bunch of loose ends in the contemplative luxury of the house by the sea. It looks like a maze, or a heap of unraveled wool. But by the time I leave, the loose ends have been gathered, harnessed and filed for safe keeping and future use or abandoned because they serve no purpose. My thought process slows down so that I can see the light and the end of the tunnel and unclutter my throbbing mind. My choice of books during this time are read until I fall asleep. These include: Ja No Man by Richard Poplak; Legacy by James Kerr and Switch on Your Brain by Dr Caroline Leaf. All of these are inspiring, thought provoking and unforgettable. Reading is one of my favorite pass times, something I never have enough time for.

A smile returns to my face. My shoulders and jaw unclench. I meditate. I am peaceful. I am happy.

I have a cache of resources to take on the new year. There is time for contemplation, time for planning and time for replacing rules and beliefs that no longer serve me. It’s a time to leave behind what I no longer need or want and time to map the path to reach my goals. Armed with time, space and an uncluttered brain, writing flows and action steps are ticked off and gleefully marked as done. I have a dream. I am heading towards it – daily, purposefully and with huge enthusiasm and sincerity.

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