I am one of the lucky ones. I really am. I’ve always kind of known it, but now I see it and smile. I’m not gifted but I was given the best gift of all at birth. When I look back at my childhood, it’s as clear as the nose on my face and the single fang tooth I have in my smile.
I was born in The Gambia, a beautifully simplistic childhood were everything just was. No TV to show me what others had. No radio to teach me ‘cool’. I had frogs. To this day, I love frogs. They were the cutest frogs I have still ever seen. Dark, tiny and I used to make mud houses for them at the base of trees whilst I waited for my next class at school. I would fashion little homes for them, leaving spaces for the (imaginary) doors and windows, and wonder how they ever got out without my supervision once I’d gone to back in to be a student. I’m not yet an architect.
In my back garden in The Gambia, and in the grassy area around the swimming pool in Bangladesh (where I next lived), there were gnomes. I never talked to them, only saw one once (?!), but I knew they were there in the holes in the lawn (yes, i know now there are serious flaws with that!). I knew they chatted with the bandicoots, monitor lizards, snakes and all the other cool creatures that didn’t speak English. I’m not yet a linguist.
By the time I got to England, I should’ve, by all rights, been bullied to an inch of my life. Ahhh, but I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut and, when no-one was looking, still find the cloud animals, marvel at the birds (if only because they ate the disgusting daddy-long-legs) and missed the fruit bats of an evening. I would read books that would inspire me to open an animal hospital or become the next David Attenborough. I was devastated when I realised that I wasn’t exceptional at Biology and therefore probably wasn’t going to grow into the world’s best zoo-ologist. (Oh if I could go back and coach the younger me!!!). I’m not yet a botanist/ ornithologist…
You have to love the serendipity of me ending up on an African expedition as a teacher: to be back out into the wild, back with the animals and trees that create those unique silhouettes. The first expedition took me back to my roots but so blissful was the second expedition. To this day, I remember writing my diary at the edge of the campsite, facing away from the troupe. I hear a crackle of undergrowth and meandering right past me goes an elephant. Pure Happiness.
Now, in the land Down Under, I still haven’t made it into the bush but I know, that at around 4pm every evening, the cockatoos will fly overhead to their evening roost. I do my photo blog to keep me tuned in and I write this one with the rustle of palms as my soundtrack. In the evenings, I look to the Bridge to see the bats circle and I say hello to each gecko and skink that crosses my path.
The gift I was given was the best in the world. To be able to take happiness from my environment, not people, is such a strength because nature is consistently mind-blowingly, powerfully and undeniably stunning. It is even more humbling to remember we are a part of it. If you haven’t felt it yet, stand at the water’s edge as a storm rolls in. Instead of panicking about getting back to the car, smile and feel the air change. I hope it works for you as it works for me.
To see the world in a grain of sand
and a heaven in a wild flower…