Words and Pictures by Ilze Joubert

All journeys have a departure point. Some remain in vivid memory and some fade over time. A few of them make impressions that are etched into your heart forever.

I was around five years old when my parents took me to the top of the Long Tom mountain pass in Mpumalanga to go and see snow for the first time. I could hardly contain my excitement as we headed up the mountain in my Dad’s old green Vauxhall.  I had no concept of snow. I knew that it was white and cold and had some resemblance to Christmas. I remember the first glimpse of the glistening white sheets that had settled on the rocks that were so familiar to me in their naked form. On that day everything looked different. It was a fairytale in which the world I knew had been magically transformed overnight. It was beautiful and the air was crisp, with soft candyfloss clouds blowing across the brightness in soft, feathery swirls, as if the earth was breathing through its cracks and crevices, occasionally revealing tiny patches of the endless blue sky above us. Scooping the sparkly, squishy, soft snow up into my tiny, glove-covered hands was a thrilling and wondrous moment. The icy lumps felt strange to the touch, yet in my excitement, I could not be bothered by the cold. We played there for a while, threw snowballs at each other, laughed and tumbled on the soft and shiny white fluff. I was amazed and fascinated and couldn’t stop talking about it riding home. Something new stirred inside me that day. I was in awe.

In the process of discovering the natural world, I became acutely aware of all living things for which I developed a deep love and reverence. I felt infinitely connected and even though I could not understand or put words to it, I could feel the peace and tranquillity that came over me whenever I communed with Nature. This led to a life of wonderment.

In the process of discovering the natural world, I became acutely aware of all living things for which I developed a deep love and reverence. I felt infinitely connected and even though I could not understand or put words to it, I could feel the peace and tranquillity that came over me whenever I communed with Nature. This led to a life of wonderment.

My Mom’s love for photography rubbed off on me and I started seeing compositions and beauty everywhere. Even though I didn’t have a camera of my own, I was forever taking photos in my mind and wanted to share with others what I saw. In my later adult years, I finally got myself a decent camera. Life took on a different meaning. Through the lens, I had much narrower interaction withNature and my wonderment and respect grew infinitely. The first time I peered through a macro lens, I realised how much we were missing! The little life that surrounds us is enough to blow one’s mind. The more you look, the more you see.  As an adult, I now see the world through different eyes and have a better understanding of things but I remain awestruck by the wonder of life and revere the soil I walk on.

Spending time outdoors taking photos has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on my life. It has taught me to be patient, to pay attention, to be mindful and has made me extremely grateful for this one, incredible life I have on Earth. Once you allow yourself to be absolutely still in the presence of Mother Nature and let your senses take over, the intricacy of life leaves you humbled. In that silence you will find the rhythm, the heartbeat, the essence within that resonates in harmony with everything. From the rugged mountain cliffs that cut into billowing white clouds,

to the tiniest butterfly that gently sips nectar from a flower, life is joy. We are so focused on worldly affairs that we lose touch with who we are and where we come from. Chasing after superficial things beyond our control, we hurry along and forget to pause. We forget to breathe. We become automatons. We disconnect from the Ultimate Source. Not only has our disconnection led to all sorts of ailments, disease, strife and misery, we are also busy destroying that which is most sacred, this life-giving planet we call home.

So many people rush to a therapist or doctor when they feel that something is amiss. I can’t recall a single prescription that read:  ”Spend time in Nature and all will be well.”  It’s too easy to just swallow another pill, believe another lie or take another placebo. Our children are deeply affected by such behaviour and way of thinking. An alarming amount of children are undergoing therapy, yet they are still bound to the very things that cause their depression. They are stuck to their phones, television, virtual games and many other forms of pseudo stimulation which cause even further alienation from themselves. Understandably we all use some of these tools but there seems to be a serious lack of balance. Parents sit their little ones down in front of a TV screen or shove a phone or tablet in their little hands to occupy them. Why don’t we make efforts to stimulate our kids with love and genuine interests anymore? Have we become so self-absorbed that they are not worthy of our time?

Have you gone down on your knees to show your child the minute flowers growing underfoot? Have you made them listen to the songs of birds in a forest and the wind in the trees? Have you allowed them to embrace the birth of a sunrise and become one with the earth? Have you taught them to hold a space in their hearts for the delicate, tiny lifeforms and the majesty of a thundering waterfall? Have they caught a glimpse of the iridescent rainbow colours in the wings of birds and insects or smelled the fragrance of orange blossom in Spring? Next time you look at a flower or an insect, look a little longer and a little closer. Take a moment to be still. Absorb the magnificent splendour of life.

If I could have one wish come true, it would be that we all re-connect with our unlimited Source of love and life, Mother Nature. She is the only one who doesn’t judge and in whose presence you can be yourself without masks, veils, or excuses.  She listens without prejudice and if your heart is open and your mind is quiet, she usually clarifies whatever murkiness may be clouding your soul. She is, and always will be, my best friend and Ultimate Healer.

I am filled with respect and gratitude. I humbly bow at Her feet.

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