Another July 15

On a day like this, a seemingly ordinary day
20 years ago, the sun set in our world never to rise the same again. Part of the warm embrace it brought forever lost. Dawn of nothingness where sunrise should have been. An all-encompassing pain was all that was present on that day. Bits of it still lingers in the memory of you.

Everyone with the best of intentions offered empty words meant to comfort, “everything happens for a reason. ” Pray what is this reason? My whole being would demand? When every 8 pm we waited for you to come through the door with your usual “Guten Abend”, As if you had foresight this language would be a big part of our lives, your grandkids first language. 8 pm came and went, you didn’t show, your seat demanded to be filled, we wanted a “Guten Abend” with a hearty smile and your warmth. Your side of the bed demanded your presence, so mum could stop searching for you in the dead of the night and falling deeper into nothingness.

I know that everyone has to go back to the resting place. Some sooner than others, but that offers no comfort. Though time did set a new normal and we learn to sit with the discomfort of your absences, we can’t help missing you. Wondering how our lives would have turned out had you more time.

At times your face sadly falls from memory, remaining a blur, but your laughter lingers. I hear it in your grandkid. In her generosity and kindness, I see you. I talk to her about you, in hope that in your absence she will know bits about you. In moments of sadness and nothingness, I vividly feel your spirit comforting me. Offering me the assurance that though your body be dust your spirit and soul are always with us, it brings me peace.

Till we meet again Dad!

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Stripped bare

Because we human beings can be fickle and I don’t claim to be any different, my identity is wrapped around things and roles and though I journey within I still look without for meaning, for validation. All vanity but still needed, despite knowing better.

If I be not my deeds, not my achievements, nor the roles I play, then why do I need to be described as a wife, a mom, a graduate, a writer, a lawyer, a……….. why not just say, “Hi I’m the girl with a great need to learn things of the soul, things we keep hidden, the secret of every human beings essence, the shadow self, I’m forever on a quest.

Won’t that be weird, so I keep adding to the acceptable, commonplace descriptions. Yes, I’m a mom, no, not the stay at home kind, but the glorified busy one who hardly ever has time for the kid, or building a home.

Oh yes, I’m married, happily so, we just had our 10 anniversary, celebrated with a long intimate walk along the shores of blue-green water, with the sound of waves for music and the smell of the sea feeding our souls. We gazed at the stars, him pointing out the patterns and the names I can’t seem to ever remember, we whispered little nothings, held hands… Only none of this happened, our anniversary came and went unnoticed, obscured by resentment and recycled anger. But this is not the story we want, we want Stargazing and happy endings. So yes I’m a wife and not a good one while we are at it, another role to an identity that doesn’t begin to touch on the essence of who I am.

We have become reliant on society norms and the labels it befits us that we go through lifetimes without really finding the answer to who we are stripped of the roles n achievement titles. When the mask is off, and the mom is just a woman, the wife just her own person, the academia and carreerer are non-descriptive, what are we left with? Who then are we? When forced to look deeply within, what do we see? Are we scared to look, would we much rather hide behind our careers, our roles, external validation, escapism and other patterns?

When I come face to face with my shadow self she scares me. but meet her I must, accept and integrate her even more so! I seek her out for conversations, for clarity on the things I had to repress deep in my subconscious to be acceptable. One question remains constant, who was I before all the chiselling to fit societal rules? At times I feel a deep connection and acceptance to the woman, it is a powerful feeling when everything is coming from within. Others I seek external validation from without and hide behind my roles. Thin in spirit, giving up my power and this is a scary place to be. I have come to accept the ebb and flow of life and see it all as seasonal.

On learning resilience

My daughter is a process thinker, if something upsets or moves her spirit she needs time to work it out inside before she tells it to my husband or me. A month ago she had a situation in kindergarten that upset her. She took her time to sit with it and eventually told her dad. The dad called me and told me that a boy in kiga had told Shay that she could not play along, and he didn’t like her because her skin is dark. I was thrown back because

  1. I did not expect to have this conversation at the beginning of her 4th year, I thought we had at least 5 more years.
  2. I had seen Shay n said boy playing together so nicely.

My heart broke for her. I have experienced my share of racism n microaggressions, but at this point in my life, I already have some things figured out.

  1. I have a strong sense of self, so what any random person says about me is irrelevant. It might sting but I will not give anyone the satisfaction of seeing me stung.
  2. I don’t care about peoples foolishness, I’m done educating anyone about race. Stay hateful, stay ignorant, I’m living my life, bye Karen.

Now, when this happened to her it hits quite different, I swear I felt her emotional pain so deeply I was in tears. This incident bothered her for almost a month. She looked to me for answers. I was not ready and I am not ready to tell her that she will meet people who might not like her just for being dark.

I’m not ready to open her eyes to the hate that’s directed towards black and minority people for nothing we have anything to do with. She is only 4 and so carefree. One day she believes she is Elsa and has super powers to freeze things, the next she is Moana n talking to the ocean, then she is a shark or a unicorn, at times a witch others a fairy. I am not ready to bust her childish bubble. I refuse to do it, I won’t do it.

If you know Shay, then you know she has a kind spirit, she is naturally a sweet kid. Very spirited as well. She loves confessing her love to the people she loves, n just being affectionate. She is one of the most sharing person I know, well I used to know one more person like that, my dad, but he is resting now. She loves her friends and loves being loved by them, so this rejection hit hard but it is character building.

Before my knowledge of this incident, she became obsessed with my skin colour and would give me ever so many compliments on how beautiful it is. I didn’t think much of it because she is forever giving compliments. Then when I found out what had happened I conclude it explained the sudden obsession with my skin colour.

We talked about it, about how she felt, we talked about how in life she will meet people who might not like her, the same way that she will meet people who she won’t like and that’s okay. We agreed that it was mean and hurtful what the boy said, if he was truly her friend he would not be mean to her. So people who say mean things to us are not our friends. We talked about her skin colour and agreed that it was as gorgeous as can be. We talked about my skin, daddy’s skin, the boy’s skin and agreed that while we all have different yet beautiful skin we cannot tell anything about who we are just by looking at it, so the boy was indeed being very foolish.

She said something insightful. That may be said boy was not being mean but having a hard time with his big feelings, so she was going to ask him on the next day if he meant it. As an adult my anger, pride and ego would not allow me to do that! I wanted to tell her that was a terrible idea but I held back. Isn’t it amazing how pure kids are, the innocence, the forgiving nature, it fascinates me. I didn’t want to kill this, so I did not talk her out of it, plus I tell her that at times when we have big feelings it is hard to be calm so we say mean things we don’t necessarily mean.

I talked to the childminder because as much as it is uncomfortable it had to be addressed. I believe emotional safety is just as important as physical safety so it was my duty to advocate for my lil girl. She talked to the boy and his family and hopefully, we shall not have to revisit this topic, at least not in kindergarten. Shay did follow through on her idea and came home happy last Monday, announcing that they were friends once again. I don’t know how to feel about that but I told her I was glad.

We are very intentional in raising a self-confident girl and nurturing her self worth. I need her to always know that how we feel about ourselves comes from within us not without. Nobody can tell her who she is, only she gets to define that. Kids are mirrors that reflect the views of their elders. I’m sure Shay will meet some kids that reflect the foolishness and stereotypical ideas of said elders. Unfortunately, I cannot shield her from this. So I have listed the things and ways that are in my control to help her young mind navigate the world outside of our little one.

Things that are in my control

  • Intentionally putting her in an inclusive environment where is represented, I romanticize living in the countryside, having a slower-paced life, but that would mean a total lack of diversity so I put that dream to rest.
  • Leaving the communication doors open. Being open to her curiosity. once we met an older lady with dwarfism and Shay pointed out “mommy look a baby granny” loud enough for everyone to hear, I did not shush her but I did give the lady an apologetic look. I explained dwarfism to Shay and told her I was gonna let her know the correct terminology once i found out, but it was not baby granny.
  • celebrating and teaching our cultural strength, Her Kenyan and Russian background, the language advantages.
  • Teaching her that blackness is not monolithic, there is a vast array of cultural, history, ethnic backgrounds and experiences and she doesn’t have to fit any box that is not constructed by her.
  • Advocating for her even when it's uncomfortable.
  • Teaching her diversity, people come in all shapes n forms n colour, even if she is growing up in a widely white homogeneous city there is still a lot of diversity in the world at large.
  • Constantly educating myself about things that aren't necessarily in my preview and how to discuss and teach them respectfully. Like dwarfism for example.
  • Nurturing her compassionate and spirited little self, as we unfold layers of who she is with love and acceptance.

Ebb and Flow

Layers n layers of the human soul, Aren’t we all lifes biggest question?With no definitive answer

Creases, folds and crevice that hold our moments of intense joy as well as deep sorrow, not quite seen by the naked eye

Beauty and  terror coexisting, always shifting in and out of either

Always changing, not always for the better

One transition gives way to another As the cycles change we learn to ride with changing tides or drown

We are multi faced, carved out imperfectly to withstand all seasons

At times we get caught in tangles, and spiral all the way to rock bottom, if we can slow down a bit and catch our breath we can bear witness to our own metamorphosis.

Transcedent moments in my life

I am not a religious person despite the fact that I grew up in church, but I am deeply spiritual and believe in divine power. Transcendence though mainly associated with a deranged mind, I believe is a natural human experience.

My first experience with divine power still has me in awe. It happened at a very low point in my life 2 years ago. I was in the midst of coming apart, consumed by emotional pain and trying to keep it together. I put my daughter to bed, my husband must have been out. So I dicided that was the perfect time to sit with myself and give room to the pain. The bathroom always offers a great sanctuary to meet my self. I consciously laid a clean towel down and lowered myself onto it. It was time! I could let loose and ugly cry without scaring my child or having my husband think I was insane. I completely gave in to the pain, at some point I felt that if I did not regain control, my brain was gona explode. Writing has always been an efficient form of catharsis, so, through blurry eyes I let the words flow out of me. Below is an unedited excerpt of what I wrote.

“I need someone to help me, I don’t know who to call, my whole body shivers, I feel like i’m loosing touch with reality and a shell of myself is sitted on the bathroom floor being drenched in pain, I feel alone apart from the me who is watching me and holding me and rocking me back and forth chanting its gona be okay, breath, write, don’t go, it’s gona be OK, breath… stay… But it’s too overwhelming and my pain demands to be felt and I can’t stop crying, my whole body hurts, I cannot allow myself to go there, I will give no permission for my name to be spoken in past tence and my daughter grow up motherless. I’m strong, I’m my mother’s daughter, my ancestors Prophesy, I gotta be strong, I’m calling upon you my ancestors, I’m calling up on you dad, help me, I’m alone and drowning, I can’t see, my tears blur me, dad help me, wrap your spirit around me”

So what happened right after I wrote the above still seems surreal! Remember I was cold and shivering and hyperventilating from so much crying. In an instant, my heart beat slowed, the bathroom felt warm, a sence of calm washed over me, a feeling of every atom in my body being alive and connected with the universe was vivid. I felt no fear at all, I had always imagined that such an experience would scare me off my wits, could be they were not present. I felt comforted by a presence outside of me, intuitively I knew it my dad’s spirit. It was such a natural knowledge that I didn’t stop to question. My spirit felt so full and whole. I said, “dad is that you?” But no one spoke. Still I felt such gratitude for his presence. I left the bathroom transformed, with the affirmation that spiritual energy is real and contrary to my conditioning, transcendence is not a deranged state of mind! I had for the first time in my life experienced something bigger than myself and my believes.

My second and more consistent transcending experience

This has happened during very intimate times with my husband. Not the wam bam thankyou ma’am quickies or sexual tension release. But when we truly and consciously take unhurried time to deeply connect with each other. After one of these moments, I had to write. I tend to have a deep urge to write after every significant or intense moment in my life. Below is what I wrote.

It feels spiritual
As if we have entered a new realm
All mind chatter dies and the senses awaken, an all-encompassing feeling takes over
It feels as if our bodies have known each other over lifetimes
As if they were created for each other
Energy flows from him back to me
As we lose our physical boundaries
We enter a state of heightened ecstasy
Pure bliss, where all senses connect to one.
Self forgotten, transformed into pure vivid energy.
The afterglow of it, a sweet repose, Spent so much so I can’t move a muscle.
Needing time to come back to self, when I’m finally back, It falls on me that I never truly feel so connected with the universe as I do in this moments.

It is again confirmed how very sacred sharing ones body with someone else is. How intimacy transcend just a physical connection. I have come to look at this moments as mystical consciousness, which only happen when I’m truly living in the moment, present with my mind, body and soul. It proves that the “self” cannot be limited, there is always more to learn, more than one’s beliefs and limitations, and it is indeed possible to merge with the divine.

This experience have left me with an insatiable need to explore deeper in things that are mostly regarded as deranged or unnatural and led me down a path of shadow work. I grew up with the believe that such experiences are simply crazy. Which made me hesitant to talk about this, I don’t like putting myself in the way of ridicule. but we all experience life in our own way, this is part of my story. A part that has helped free me off the fear of things beyong my comfort zone. Have you ever had a trenscending experience you are willing to share?

Dürnstein castle ruins

I love living in a land where there are castles, visiting ruins once inhabited by royalty and aristocrats, who thought themselves the epitome of civilization. Once guarded and majestic, now standing empty, cold and lonely. Even in it’s lonely ruins, it still holds power and an undeniable beauty, we wandered in great anticipation to stand in this place, behold it’s awe and be one with its history. Standing there was humbling and exciting. Knowing that on this very path treaded knights ready to lay down their lives for what is now ruins makes most things seem insignificant. Looking at the very same view that folks woke up to, gives me a sense of being connected to them.

I have a feeling there are many ancient secrets hidden in this old ruins. Leaning on one of the walls I could almost hear whispers, of an old lady retelling glorious days of her youth. A dainty princess she was, all prim and proper waiting to be wed off to a proper gentleman. Only she fell deeply in love with a country lad! Stealing away in the cover of the dark to meet him. Dancing under the moonlight, laughing at her own mischief as she frolics with her lover, Sleeping under the stars wrapped in each other. He offered to rescue her from her dull world. Well, she lives in a great castle and he, nobody knows where he lives, he claims earth is his home, the sky his blanket! He has been seen trotting upon his brown mare headed deep into the forest, looking like an adventure while leaving behind a trail of broken hearts. Princesses and their handmaids fall for his charm, damsels and housewives alike! Torn between family obligation and her true hearts desire, I can almost hear the old lady weep, as she tells on, on the only time she was ever truly alive. She loved and enjoyed the earthly comforts she was born into, but the sacrifice they demanded were her undoing.

These old trees here stood witness to it all. The rise, the fall and now to little insignificant us, with the same thoughts on being the epitome of human civilization. If only they could talk. May be they would remind us that, this are fleeting days. Many civilizations have come and gone. Some have left us enchanting castle ruins to peek into their history and imagine their secrets, what will we in return leave the others to come?

A little bit about the castle

The ruin of Dürnstein is located on the Wachau World Heritage Trail. It took us about an hour to get there from the village. The trail was easy enough, our 3 year old brought all the fun, pretending we were hiking through a water body and all our steps had to be meticulously calculated lest the water carried us away! we were rewarded with magnificent view all throughout the trail.

The castle was built between 1140-1145 by the family Kuenring (Hadmar I) In 1645 it was demolished by a blast carried out by the Swedes under General Torstenson. The castle became famous through the legend of Richard the Lionheart. It has it that upon returning from the Crusades, the English King tore up the Austrian flag and refused to share his spoils of war with Leopold V. Consequently, Leopold V held the English King prisoner in the castle from 1192 – 1193. Legend has it that the King’s faithful minnesinger travelled from castle to castle until he found him in Dürnstein by singing a refrain, which the prisoner sang back. Richard the Lionheart was released after the payment of a ransom of 150,000 silver marks. You can find more info here.

Trying not to be drowned by her imaginary water!
These 2 are climbers at heart.
Building castles, with the perfect view of the Danube river, nature and the little dreamy Dürnstein village.

Worlds most beautiful library

Last weekend we headed out to the Austrian countryside for some well needed unwinding. My husband is a mountaineer, he believes that to truly unwind he must lose himself in the mountains. He says that somewhere between the climb and the summit is where he finds his calmest nature. I love the great outdoors as well and in addition I’m quite a bookworm. Imagine our (my) excitement discovering a place that offers both!

Our destination, Gesäuse National park is located in Steirmark about a 3hrs drive from Vienna. We stayed in a little cozy spot right in the park, surrounded by mountains and the blue-green waters of river Salza. With such friendly people, amazing food and a lot of cows! From there, within a 40 minutes drive lays Admonter Stiftsbibliothek  The world’s largest monastery library and in my opinion the most beautiful.

One can either take a guided tour for groups and individual visitors, or have an unguided tour. We choose the latter so we could keep our own pace. We had to observe the usual corona regulations for public places and due to said corona it was luckily not crowded. One positive thing that has happened thanks corona, is that now they offer virtual viewings online at anytime and from anywhwere!

This was truly something of a fairytale, The hall reminds me of beauty and the beast, I think I dreamt this moment!

Admont abbey was founded in 1074, and the library hall featured above was added in 1776. The abbey was largely destroyed by a fire in 1865. Fortunately the library was able to be rescued, and was restored over the course of fourteen years.

This Abbey is rich in culture, under the same roof you will also find a Natural history, Art history, and a Gothic museum, special exhibitions as well as a museum workshop! We unfortunatly only had time for the library and a short tour through the Natural museum.

 It is spectacular, on the inside as well as the outside. For more info follow the link on the first paragraph.

Thankyou for stopping by dear reader and if you dicide to take a virtual or in person tour, I wish you a lot of fun!

Our Steinwandklamm Adventure

My family and I are a pretty outdoorsy bunch. The kind that thinks any weather is great for an adventure. This one took us to Steinwandklamm, one of the most beautiful gorges located among the dreamy landscapes of Lower Austria, about an hour drive from Vienna.

Some facts

Starting point: Parking place at the Jausenstation Familie Reischer Steinwandgraben 22, Furth an der Triesting

Entrance fee: Adults EUR 5, children 6-14 years EUR 1.50

Kids: It is advisable to bypass the Rudolf-Decker-Steig with kids under 4 year. With kids approx. 5 – 6 years depending on their skills you can easily tackle the Rudolf-Decker-Steig. With the long ladders, an adult should climb directly under the child with the child tethered to himself/herself for additional security.

Best season: All year round. But the Steinwandklamm does not always have water, even when this happens, it is still an experience in itself, especially on hot summer days when the gorge offers much needed cooling. Along the way there are boards providing information about the flora and fauna of the gorge.

Walking time: approx. 2 hours, might vary with kids, appropriate hiking shoes make for a great experience.

Distance: 3 km (Routenprofil auf bergfex.at)

Altitude: 549 m above sea level

Difficulty level: easy or medium over the Rudolf-Decker-Steig. In damp conditions in the gorges, the footbridges can be very slippery so one has to be a bit careful and extremely so going up the ladders, especially the 10m one.

Pack checklist:https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/day-hiking-checklist.html

Website:http://www.steinwandklamm.at/

Our daughter is 3 years old and a very skilled climber so we opted for the Rudolf-Decker-Steig trail which took us through the most beautiful ravines complete with waterfalls. Wooden stairways which led us to some high and seemingly daunting ladders. Up, up we went into dark caves and out onto high rocky cliffs with the most extraordinary view, where we stopped to howl and take a few photos.

Türkenloch

This cave was named after a gruesome event from the time of the Turkish siege in 1683. Looking for protection from the Turks, the population of the surrounding towns hid in this small cave. However, the rising smoke of the cooking fire gave them away and they were found, kidnapped or killed by the Turks. Archaeological excavations in 1981 unearthed coins, pottery shards and bone which confirmed this historical lore.

Türkenloch

From here it was about an hours walk, through the idyllic woods (where we found the perfect bench to sit and take in the wild beauty as we breathed in that crisp, cold, refreshing air ) to the end of the trail.

As we came to the end, We were rewarded with an absolutely breathtaking meadow, complete with a sea of wildflowers in the most gorgeous colours. this offered the dreamiest picnic spot. If you are anything like my daughter and I, you will want to run, sing out loud, twirl, sprout wings, find some fairies and elves or just turn into one. That’s exactly what we did! No, we did not turn into fairies or elves, we run and twirled till we got too dizzy and just laid there watching the sky above us, It was blissful. I had pictured this moment quite a lot in my daydreams.

Our little one climbed, crawled and marched on without much fuss, as a matter of fact, she was filled with wonder. Letting out sequels of delight as only children can. Proclaiming it the most beautiful place! Every now and then she searched for the elusive salamander to no avail. To compensate this, there were a lot of bugs, bees and butterflies which gave her such a thrill. Having a magnifying glass at hand just heightened the experience. she was a happily satisfied little human, we all were.

For safety reasons the husband brought along some climbing gears, (little ones climbing harness, carabiners, rope, quickdraws) so he could tether her to himself as she went up the steep ladders. We packed a hearty picnic which was a big highlight. Binoculars, a touch ( the Türkenloch is pretty dark), and a magnifying glass which all add to our little explorers fun. Mimi the dolly came along too, she is a dearest companion and an explorer as well.

If you didn’t pack a picnic no worries, there is a restaurant,
Gasthaus-Jagasitz, which sits 706 m above sea level, with a great view of the schneeberg, usually closed on Thursdays and Fridays.

Steinwandklamm May 2020
Music: Follow the sun by Xavier Rudd

This was an awesome family adventure, not too challenging for the adults and enough of a challenge for the kid. I’m looking forward to visiting this wonderful place again.

PS: About 10 minutes drive from Steinwandklamm is another natural jewel https://www.myrafaelle.at/ Another perfect destination for hikers or families of all ages. With wonderful hiking trails, breathtaking water world and a great water playground for the kids. So if you are overachievers or feeling very adventurous you can easily combine both.

On a closer look

At times things do work out

Sometimes we do win

Sometimes we are right

Sometimes we achieve our goals in precisely the time frame we set out to

Sometimes our children behave just as expected, if not better

Sometimes we fall deeply in love with our spouses again

Sometimes we love ourselves completely

Sometimes we experience life in abundance

Sometimes everything is in equanimity, all aligned with who we are

Sometimes things do work out.

I tend to get caught in such a negative loop of overthinking my negative experiences. Often times I contemplate why we are here, what we are here for, why the pain hurts more than the joy fulfils?
Why when we are living on borrowed time, is it so hard to immerse our whole being into focusing on lifes abundance and gratitude?
Why do wounds and old scars occupy so much space, when there is so much good to celebrate? I’m finding it important to remind myself that sometimes, things go exactly as I intend them to.