Courage

That moment of truth. Your truth.
When you stop running. Because you have to.

Because your soul implores you.

That moment you discover, what you feared most
was, in fact, what you’ve been searching for all along.

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Images by Ionut Caras

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I have a request…

It’s regarding the subject I keep coming back to.

Magic.

Not the “make shit disappear” kind, the other kind. Although that kind is a bit more difficult to define.

Here is Merriam-Webster’s attempt:

“An extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source. Something that seems to cast a spell.”

I don’t think that does it justice, though…

I think it is impossible to define magic, just as it is to define love or evil or god. But this is what makes us human, I suppose. Our inherent need to define everything around us- to place all things firmly and tangibly into reality- I believe is one our greatest tragedies…magic’s nemesis.Most things clearly defined leave little room for the extraordinary.
– b. breazeale

For me, it’s a feeling or experience…or how an experience makes you feel. It’s electric, exhilarating- the sound of waves crashing against the shore. Or it’s soft, tranquil- a hummingbird in flight.

It disregards time, is indifferent to circumstance, and deems logic absurd. It’s elusive, fickle, fleeting- sometimes bold, sometimes mysterious- but always undeniable. It can be terrifying, detonating the safe place we created that lulled us into complacency.

But what is it, exactly?

My experience of it is the warm glow of a harvest moon, a flower drenched in sunlight, and a sky full of stars. It’s the call of a kookaburra, the wind dancing on the ocean, and the smell of morning in spring. It’s a rustle in the trees when there is no breeze or a whisper that brushes your cheek when there is no one to speak.

It’s love, feeling it, unabashedly, and seeing it reflected back in the eyes of the person you want to spend the rest of your days with.

None of these experiences are lost on me. I see magic all around me, constantly. Except for the last one. That one I can’t seem to find.

I’ve had glimpses of it. But it’s proven to be more of a disappearing act…not the kind of magic I had in mind. Now, I’m finding myself looking around for the little man behind the curtain. Except there are no ruby slippers or home to go back to.

Courage, though, that I have…and a brain. But a new heart, that one I’ll take. I think mine has permanently lost its shape- too many cracks, too many pieces left behind for those who didn’t know what they’d found.

Of all things intangible, magic might be the most elusive. It is a very real force that influences almost every moment of our childhood, allowing us to navigate our world curious, uninhibited, full of wonder, and open to every possibility. But this elusive force will inevitably succumb to its nemesis: reality. We all have to grow up, right? We all must face reality.
So, like most people, magic eluded me for decades, until reality had sucked all the life out of me, and I realized that the only one who could save me had gone missing.
– b. breazeale

Love and magic, the elusive duo I have risked so much for, lost so much for…and hope is quickly following suit.

But it does exist, right? I mean, you’ve heard about it, haven’t you? The sweet, elderly couple who still dance in the kitchen, the guy who flies across the globe to win her back, the seemingly impossible love that persevered against all odds…the chance meeting that turns into that epic love story.

I understand it’s rare. It means risk, vulnerability, potential rejection, and unbearable pain. It’s terrifying, really. We now know the stakes, and they are high. We have tasted heartbreak, and it is brutal.

But we can make a choice. To take the risk, to heal and grow, love better, feel more. Or, we can retreat, build up our walls and remain in the realm of comfortable, safe…ordinary.

I know you skeptics and non-believers out there are shaking your heads. This isn’t a fairytale. No one is going to climb up my balcony and whisk me off to happily-ever-after. This is reality.

I’ve heard you, I’ve actually dated you. You have adequately presented your case- a convincing one to be sure- and your actions have been deafening. Your work is done here. So as you were.

But for you believers, can you help a romantic out here? Because she is, in fact, starting to feel hopeless.

Show me it exists. Tell me your stories, or stories of someone you know, or ones you’ve heard- whether they be epic or seemingly small, day-to-day things you do to sustain it.

Please, for all of us who refuse to settle, help us believe…magic is real and love can be extraordinary.

Because honestly, why waste our time on anything less?

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Falling Up from Down Under & Steering Clear of Rabbits

“Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end? I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downwards! But I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is…Please, Ma’am, is this New Zealand? Or Australia?

– Alice in Wonderland

So I went under…because everything kind of blew up. What I mean is, I went Down Under, to Australia.

Why Australia? To visit a friend. Because he wasn’t just a friend. But now he is…or perhaps he will be someday.

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So things didn’t quite go the direction I’d hoped. But onward and upward, right? Although I’m not quite sure which way that is at this point.

It seems that I haven’t gotten the whole ‘things are looking up‘ thing down.

I’ve gotten close. Painfully close. My sister was optimistic, my friends let out a sigh of relief, cheering me on to what we thought was the other side. And we did get really close.

But here we are. Except, that’s kind of the issue…

I can’t exactly say where I am? Teetering on the edge of oblivion sounds about right- still walking on the wrong side of the street, sleeping on yet another friend’s couch (who is literally why I’m at least still teetering), and my current physical address is a P.O. Box.

What I do know is my mind is reeling, my heart hurts, and my soul is most definitely bruised.

There is a place, like no place on earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger. Some say, to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter. Which, luckily, I am.” – Alice in Wonderland

But this is my Oprah moment, right? That moment when it all seems so bad that you just have to laugh at how ridiculous it is or you will go mad. To keep your wits about you, you imagine yourself recounting that moment when you hit rock bottom and the play-by-play of your subsequent ascent.

This is mine, right?

Except I already have a solid collection of ‘rock bottoms’. I’m all set for the whole “redemption- see the gift in it all- inspire millions with my strength and resilience” part.

But apparently, we’re not quite there yet.

Not to worry, I shall forge on…or up or whichever direction is required to resist gravity and steer clear of rabbits.

In the meantime, I get to be in a beautiful place with a dear friend, do my best to walk on the ‘right’ side of the street, and switch from enjoying spring Down Under to fall a bit further up.

And really, doesn’t fall-ing up sound better than falling down?

“You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants some magical solution to their problem and everyone refuses to believe in magic.” – Alice in Wonderland

Casualties of the Trade: Trying to keep our Chimps around.

An early release of my Sunday meanderings, mainly because tomorrow will be consumed with a long training run and a 12-hour packing frenzy. Yes, that’s correct, yet another move…I think this makes number 9 in two years.

I will refrain from complaining, though. I’m moving to a beautiful space in the perfect neighborhood, literally steps away from one of my favorite people on the planet.

However, some serious magic needs to happen in the next 72 hours for all of this to go down. But it will…it always does.

This is admittedly the not so fun part of my adventure…and also the whole reason I spent 6 months living in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I wrote it in 2013 so some of the statistics might be outdated. There have been improvements that should be celebrated, but these precious creatures are by no means out of danger…all the contrary.

You can donate directly to the sanctuary here to support all the work that goes into protecting Kongo and the rest of these amazing souls.

I suppose this is a good time to explain more about why I am here…the whole ‘saving the chimps’ part I’ve hardly addressed.

Kathe found in a village, 2009

Why DRC?

There have been volumes written on the conflict here- it’s origins and implications. To spare you the dissertation, here’s the conflict and its environmental impact in an extremely abbreviated nutshell:

In 1994, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled into DRC following the Rwandan civil war and genocide, settling in forest areas throughout the east including in KBNP. This destabilized the already fragile Zairian government, plunging the country into civil war and humanitarian crisis. Refugees, internally displaced people, and numerous armed groups placed enormous pressure on DRC’s forests through uncontrolled hunting, harvesting of wood for fuel, habitat conversion for farmland, timber extraction, and mining.
– Grauer’s Gorillas and Chimpanzees in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Although the country is now categorized as ‘post-conflict’, the crisis continues. You can imagine how this has endangered an already endangered primate population. Worse still, DRC is the only country in the world where Grauer’s Gorillas and Bonobos exist.

Although exact numbers can’t be confirmed due to the conflict, the Grauer Gorilla population has declined by an estimated 50-75% over the last decade. The remaining Bonobo population has had a similar fate. The Eastern Chimpanzee, though more numerous, is still in danger of extinction.

Why is this happening?

An undercover investigation has found that up to two gorillas are killed and sold as bushmeat each week in Kouilou, a region of the Republic of Congo.” 

The main threats to the primates here (and the majority of places wildlife exist) are poaching; massive forest degradation, logging and mining activities; and infectious diseases spread by the hundreds of thousands of displaced people and militia groups that have infiltrated the protected parks.

But the main culprit is the illegal bushmeat and pet trade. Tracked down by dogs, the adults of the group are killed for meat to be eaten or sold in markets. The infants are then sold as pets both locally and abroad…if they survive.

Many of the infant chimpanzees die before they arrive at their destination. The death rate for infant gorillas is even higher due to their decreased capacity to cope with stress and illness.

It is estimated for every one chimpanzee or bonobo that is captured, five to ten others are murdered in the process.

One sanctuary in Congo reported that 80% of rescued infants died in captivity.

IUCN documented that the Congolese authorities and its partners have confiscated 16 Grauer’s gorilla infants from military and civilian society since 2003. This number is extremely low, indicating that hundreds, possibly thousands of baby gorillas died in the process, or were successfully shipped out of the country.

All 55 chimpanzees at our sanctuary alone were rescued from the bushmeat and pet trade. And we are only one of three sanctuaries in the country. Do the math…

Why would someone eat a gorilla or chimp?

Because they are hungry.

The average household in DRC has anywhere from 5-8 children. Three in five of the 60 million plus people live on less than $1.25 (£0.80) per day.

For the refugees, militia groups and rural communities living in and around the forests,  meat is meat, whether it be an antelope, monkey, or chimpanzee. For the majority of the population, the concept of ‘extinction’ is as foreign as a 401k. They are in survival mode and need food for their families. The reality is, it’s common knowledge how much money an infant chimp or gorilla would bring in…

Who exactly is buying these animals?

As asinine as this is, it’s primarily the ex-pats working in these countries who are the main culprits- the UN operation in DRC, MONUSCO, being one of the main perpetrators- military, wealthy officials or mineral tycoons and larger scale traffickers.

The illegal wildlife trade is no different than the drug trade, and they often go hand in hand. There are various tiers, players and profit margins involved that range from local hunters to large-scale international cartels. The poacher or middleman usually earns substantially less than the criminal at the top, who can earn up to $40,000 for each gorilla.

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Kongo when he was rescued

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Kongo now

“Nearly 3,000 chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans are illegally killed or stolen from the wild each year”

When you stop and think about how often you have seen a chimp out of its natural environment- in a movie or tv show, at a circus, as a photo opp on the beach, at a zoo or safari park…Michael Jackson’s little friend- all of these animals were hunted, captured, smuggled or traded and shipped off, except for those that were ‘bred in captivity’, of course (I’m sure you know where I stand on that issue).

These people have absolutely no excuse. For them, it’s not a question of survival. The decision to capture or purchase an animal from the wild is a calculated, self-serving decision that will ultimately result in these animals being abused, trapped in a cage or chained to a tree.

The realities of the trade (cited in IUCN source listed above):

In 2006, a drug dealer was arrested in Cameroon with 50 kilo of marijuana, cocaine and a baby chimpanzee wedged between two sacks in the boot of his car. He confessed to regularly trading primates and employing at least five poachers to hunt them.

Since 2007, pending requests from zoos and private owners in Asia instigated the export of over 130 chimpanzees and 10 gorillas from Guinea. This transaction, using false permits, could have only been pulled off by an established, well-coordinated network across Central and West Africa.

In 2010, 69 chimpanzees were exported with valid CITES permits (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), declaring the animals captive-bred…all shipped off to Chinese zoos or safari parks.

There is no captive-breeding facility in Guinea. but interestingly enough, there are several export routes built by Chinese ‘development’ companies. It’s estimated as many as 138 chimpanzees and 10 gorillas have been shipped to China using these routes. Be clear, these are only the ones that were reported…which I assure you is only a fraction.

Between 2005 and 2011, only 27 arrests related to the great ape trade were made in Africa and Asia combined. One-fourth of these arrests were never prosecuted.

 

Quote Challenge, day 3 of 3: Feeling… to the point that defies logic.

I’m admittedly sad this is my last day to share the words I love most. I want to thank my dear virtual friend, brandewijnwords again for the inspiration he always finds a way to elicit.

I’m of course breaking the rules, again. I couldn’t decide on one..so I picked five. There are just too many. (more of my favorites, visit @summoningmagic)

My response got a bit intense, but I guess I’m a little intense, so…

“There are no half measures in love, only all or nothing. And if it doesn’t make you tremble and go mad at the very thought of its absence, you should move on.”
~ Beau Taplin//Move on

“I understand now that I’m not a mess but a deeply feeling person in a messy world. I explain that now, when someone asks me why I cry so often, “For the same reason I laugh so often- because I’m paying attention.”     ~ Glennon Doyle 

“She loves deep and fast. With all of herself, or not one bit. She’ll give people all of her light, in turn struggle to understand when they don’t pay that back. She wants you to think she can’t be hurt, but truth is, she gets hurt easier than most. She is fierceness and tenderness, within the same breath. This is her beauty. In her total lack of in betweens.”
~ Carson Patrick Bowie

“I have this terrible urge to be reckless…and I am dreadfully frightened of becoming old and having no memories at all. And I know climbing forbidden fences is wrong, so I’ll stick to falling in love with the wrong people and falling off metaphorical trees. I am just dying to do something worth remembering. I suppose there is no logic, not really…only that if I bleed now, I’ll have a lifetime left to heal.”    ~ Sue Zhao

“It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply.”
David Jones


I’m not sure where to go with these, other than to address the underlying theme- feeling…to a point that defies logic. It is, in fact, a blessing and a curse.

The blessing-when I feel love or joy or see something beautiful, it fills me up completely, every part of me. You can see it my eyes and hear it in my voice. I’ve been told it’s infectious, affecting, even altering the mood of those around me.

And this is exactly why it’s also a curse. When I’m hurt or sad or angry, I wear it like a cloak. It penetrates every part of me…as it does those around me.

It doesn’t last long. I can usually find ways to avoid getting caught in it…most of the time.

I wish it was something I could manage better. But I’ve always been like this. I’ve always seemed to get hurt easier than most and take on the pain of those around me. But this never stopped me. I risked it every time. I’d feel a connection with someone and immediately love them with everything I had. And I got hurt over and over again.

I get hurt, over and over again.

Except now, it has intensified. I was too reckless. I got hurt to the point that something shattered. And it still feels like there’s a gaping wound in the depths of what is now my foundation. I can’t see it, but I feel it, always.

Now, every time I feel something, good or bad, it grazes that part of me that’s now exposed. It’s become sensitive to the touch, so much so, almost everything brings me to tears.

So it’s not just when something hurts, but also when I see or feel something beautiful…a feeling I never thought I would experience again. But when it’s something painful, it immediately takes me back to that place, that time, when something shattered, and I’m afraid it really will take a lifetime to heal.

But what’s the alternative? I play it safe, detach myself, avoid the risk of getting hurt, even if there’s the chance that it could be something beautiful, that it could be magic?

I can’t. I won’t. I’ll keep trying, risking the fall, feeling everything.

Even if it means getting hurt, over and over again.

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Quote Challenge, Day 2 of 3: Coming out of the shadows.

Here is my humble attempt at day two of a challenge offered up by one of my favorite blog gurus, brandewijnwords. The task at hand is to share my favorite quotes for three consecutive days.

This has proven to be more difficult than I anticipated. I have so many quotes swirling around my head right now. But this one is the first that came to mind, so I’m going with it. (You can visit @summoningmagic to see more of my favorites.)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…our playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you…and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
~ Marianne Williamson

This first time I read this, I realized I had done this my entire life: played small. There were several reasons why I chose to do this, the primary one being I desperately craved love and acceptance from those I loved…most who didn’t exactly know how to reciprocate. Regardless, it became very clear to me that being the center of attention was not unacceptable.

I never understood it, really. It was next to impossible for me to believe I had any redeeming qualities…precisely because those were not to be cultivated or celebrated. They were to be stifled.

So, for survival purposes, I stayed in the shadows. And it truly was to survive. For me, being rejected by the ones I love the most was and is my worst possible fate. Being the smartest or prettiest or anything that threatened anyone else was simply not an option.

So I played small.

This meant that I constantly attracted people who demanded the spotlight, and I gladly gave it to them.

I’m not sure when the shift happened, but I know this quote fueled it. I imagine being a trainer/coach also contributed. That was my first experience having someone look to me for guidance or want my permission to shine. It changed me. On a fundamental level, it changed me.

There is nothing more beautiful than to be a part of someone realizing their worth.

So I still gladly offer up the spotlight, but it’s no longer for acceptance. It’s for the joy of seeing someone shine from the inside out.

As for the ones who feel they need to steal the light from others, I think I understand it now. They are simply doing what they think will prevent their biggest fear- their worst possible fate- to be rejected by the ones they love the most.

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Quote challenge, Day 1 of 3: Worth the risk…every time.

I was chosen for this challenge by brandewijnwords FOREVER ago. I am honored that this talented, brilliant soul is interested in what words inspire me. Anyone who follows me on Instagram (@summoningmagic) knows how obsessed I am with quotes. All to say, here is my very belated response. I hope it fulfills my intention to inspire…or just make you feel.

I wrote these a couple of weeks ago, still grappling with the sting of what feels like a perpetual string of heartbreaks.

“There are two things that define us: the love we are willing to give and the risks we are willing to take.”   ~ Brooke Breazeale

“We are the sum total of those who have broken our heart and those who have made it feel whole.”        ~ Brooke Breazeale

I do feel like our greatest heartbreaks in life eventually change us, define us, for better or worse, depending on what we choose to do with the aftermath. It’s so easy to fall prey to bitterness or self-deprecation, letting them build an impenetrable fortress around our hearts until they callous.

I actually wish I could do this at times. I assure you, I’ve tried. I simply can’t. It’s a result of muscle memory, I suppose. When we experience it- the kind of love that makes us feel whole…the kind that changes us- it becomes impossible to settle for a life void of it. That’s been my experience, anyway.

So I take the risk, over and over, incapable of moderating what’s inside, begging to be released…refusing to succumb to the aftermath.

Okay, so the rules (which I’m not exactly following, as shocking as that is):

1. Thank the person that nominated you.- check

2. Write one quote each day for three consecutive days (3 quotes total)- will do my very best!

3. Explain why the quote is meaningful to you. – check

4. Nominate three bloggers each day to participate in the challenge- probably not

I will deviate a bit on #4…the unwavering ‘rule-breaker’ in me, I suppose.

  1. I shall pass this lil’ challenge along to our incurable dreamer (who very well might kill me for this). But swapping quotes is what we do, and she always finds the good ones. (okay, I usually have already found them, but we all will benefit from hearing her insight.) ;o)