#FridayBookShare: Love, Life and Elephants: An African Love Story By Daphne Sheldrick

I’ve previously mentioned that I am a member of two book clubs. The clubs meet two weeks apart from each other which, for me, spaces out the timing of the readings perfectly. In an earlier post, I used the link-up #FridayBookShare to comment on my previous novel read. I was happy with the easy review format, while still allowing me ample reflection on my core experiences with the story. So, here I am again with a quick review of my most recent book read, Love, Life and Elephants: An African Love Story by Daphne Sheldrick.

First line of the book:

To give you the best sense of this memoir, I took the middle paragraph from the opening prologue. Upon reading this, I was totally hooked and had great difficulty putting the book down after that.

“The elephant took a pace backwards, swung her giant head and, using her trunk to lift my body, threw me like a piece of weightless flotsam high through the air with such force that I smashed down onto a giant clump of boulders some twenty paces away. I knew at once that the impact had shattered my right leg, for I could hear and feel the bones crunch as I struggled to sit up. I could see too that I was already bleeding copiously from an open wound in my thigh. Astonishingly there was no pain — not yet anyway.”

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb:

Daphne Sheldrick (nee Jenkins) was born in Kenya, in 1934, to British parents. There began her deep affinity with the wildlife that surrounded her. From an early age, Daphne began to care for orphaned wild animals. This culminated, years later, in Sheldrick being the first to discover a successful milk-substitute for orphaned elephants.

Sheldrick has done a remarkable job bringing her characters (both humans and wild/domestic animals) to life. Her story documents joy and sorrow, wonder and tragedy, deep love and devastating heart-break. This memoir is simultaneously inspirational, beautiful and gut-wrenching.

Introduce the main character (3 key words):

Daphne Sheldrick is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished (against all odds) when extreme empathy, tenacity and passion combine. The results are truly inspirational.

In 2006, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Daphne Sheldrick “‘Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ for services to the conservation of wildlife, especially elephants, and to the local community in Kenya” (source). Although this title does not fit neatly into three words…wouldn’t you just love to be introduced in this way?


Delightful design (add the cover image of the book):



.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.


Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?):

Sheldrick’s story is well-suited to animal lovers, conservationists and those drawn to well-told non-fiction tilted towards igniting action. In fact, at several points I felt as I was having tea in Daphne’s living room, listening to her tales with awe, sincere admiration…and much discomfort.

Your favorite line/scene:

This book has much to say, with messages that refuse to be ignored. Although not my favorite paragraph in terms of delight, one section that continued to haunt me was:

“The death of this great elephant evoked in us a lament for all the wild creatures of Africa and the vanishing wilderness that had protected and sheltered them for so long. It was symbolic of the tenuous future all wildlife faced in a continent where poverty bred corruption and greedy people in faraway lands created the demand the fueled the killing. The bull’s very size and magnificence heightened the sense of tragedy, for there is nothing so profoundly dead as a five-ton elephant with the allotted lifespan of a human, who has died before his time simply to supply some unthinking Westerner with a trinket.”

As the Boston Globe so astutely warns, “(readers) may be tempted, after turning the last page, to sell all possessions and join the cause.” (Source) After finishing the book, I may not have been seduced to that extreme…but I did become insatiably restless about meaning and purpose.

One could easily argue the flaws in this book. Still, this heartfelt memoir, by a truly remarkable woman, earns five solid stars from me. Not only do I recommend it highly…I also recommend having tissues handy!

Home Exchange…From Fourteen Different Points of View

My husband and I are currently preparing for a home exchange to Cocoa Beach, Florida. Although this is our sixteenth exchange, it is the first one where we have used HomeExchange.com’s new ‘passport program’ (i.e. we will be staying in Cocoa Beach–but in return, our hosts will stay in someone else’s home at a location of their choice). I will detail this program further once our trip has been completed.

In the meantime, I am happy to repost a recent article from HomeExchange.com that highlights fourteen different bloggers who also travel using their service. If you follow my writing, you already know that I am a big fan of using home exchange for travel. (And if you missed my previous home exchange posts you can catch them here and here).

You don’t have to take just my word for it. Now, you can read a quick summary of thirteen additional points of view regarding home exchange, all in one convenient spot. Again, if you have any questions about how this swapping system works, I’d be happy to answer what I can. This is a non-sponsored post which gives me the freedom to respond to your questions openly and honestly.

Enjoy!

14 Amazing Bloggers Who Travel With Home Exchange by HomeExchange.com

Yoga Nidra

If you’ve read my recent posts, you already know that I am a bit of a ‘Savasana disaster.’ I am totally aware that all true yogis (and yoginis) out there will cringe at such a phrase – but it’s true. When the rest of the class settles down so seamlessly into their final pose, lying on their backs in perfect stillness, I fidget. I discreetly try to put on my socks (can I help it if my feet get cold?). In the process, I accidentally knock over my water bottle. I think about reaching for my extra sweater, but I fear that will end in another disastrous consequence. I suddenly can’t remember where to position my hands. I then peek down and notice that my tank top has slipped significantly below my bra-line. My mind starts racing. How long has my top been like that…and who has seen what? And so it continues… until the teacher’s voice softly suggests that we begin to move our toes gently. At least I am on-track there–both sets of my toes, as well as my adjoining feet, have been wiggling non-stop for quite some time.

After this confession, I have no explanation why I recently signed up for a Yoga Nidra class. Yoga Nidra is a bit like an hour-long Savasana. (What was I thinking?!) It’s a relaxation technique where yoga students recline in complete stillness. They are then guided by their teacher’s voice to focus on their slow, relaxed breath, engage in guided visualization and completely let go.

The benefits of Yoga Nidra are said to:
• help consolidate our body’s energy and relax the nervous system
• calm the mind
• release tension
• promote deep rest and relaxation
• counteract stress
• help relieve depression and anxiety
• reduce insomnia
• increase awareness of the connection between body, mind, and spirit
(Source 1, Source 2, Source 3)

Everyone of all ages and ability levels can participate in Yoga Nidra. In order to enhance your practice, it is recommended to:
• wear loose, comfortable clothing
• use props (bolster under knees, neck pillow, eye mask, blanket) to increase comfort
• practice in a peaceful environment (calm, comfortable, clutter-free)
• allow a couple of hours between your last meal and your yoga class
• if there is no Yoga Nidra class offered in your area, you can practice at home with one of many free or purchased audio guides (example). Source 4

So with all of my ‘savasana-related baggage,’ as well as being a bit ambivalent about most things ‘meditation-related,’ I attended my first Yoga Nidra class last weekend.

What was my experience?

It was amazing. My body and mind relaxed instantly. Everything slowed down. For the first time that I can remember my mind quit preparing and rehearsing productivity lists. I experienced the immensely satisfying feeling of being in a deep sleep…while still awake. Instinctively, I turned my palms down and pressed into the floor to prevent the sensation of floating away (totally strange but true). I left feeling more refreshed, rejuvenated and relaxed than I have for quite some time.

After class, a fellow yogini invited me out for tea and pie. A Sunday afternoon simply doesn’t get any better than that!!

#FridayBookShare: Cutting for Stone

One of my favorite aspects of blogging is the connection and interaction with others. I love finding new blogs that share similar interests. I also love how one site often leads you to other great sites on related topics. Comment sections have provided me with engaging exchanges, provocative ideas, and new/renewed friendships.

Through the Australian blog, Deb’s World, I discovered British author/blogger, Shelley Wilson, and her #FridayBookShare. This link-up provides a simple format (spelling out FRIDAY) that allows bloggers to share what they are reading and offers readers a quick peek at a wide range of books.

I’ve just finished reading Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone and thought that I’d give Shelley’s format a try. Here goes!

First line of the book:

“After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother’s womb, my brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954.” Okay…so there are arguably better lines in this novel, but this one is effective at introducing us to the main character’s unique voice…and chatty style!

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb:

Being a ‘do-it-yourself’ kind of gal, I decided to write my own blurb instead of presenting the one from the book’s jacket (as I believe we were intended to do). If my words below don’t convince you, please check out the blurbs on Amazon or Goodreads. The reviews, although mixed, are predominantly glowing.

Set in India, Ethiopia and inner city New York, this moving tale of twin brothers vividly unfolds its landscapes, histories, and characters with unforgettable humanity and compassion. I became so absorbed in the story that I could taste the injera (spongy Ethiopian bread) and smell the incense that was lit each morning. There are many aphorisms woven throughout the layers of the novel, most notably “The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not.” I do recommend this book to others, but caution that it can be exhausting at times.


Introduce the main character using only three words:

Narrator, Conjoined, Betrayals

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book):



.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.


Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?):

Written in 2009 by an Ethiopian-born medical doctor, by 2012 this fictional novel had been on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years and had sold over one million copies. (Source) As this novel contains numerous stories within stories, including key themes of family, identity, betrayal, suffering, political unrest, medicine, compassion and forgiveness…this book would likely appeal to a wide range of readers. I believe that it is also an excellent choice for many book clubs. I read this novel with one of my book clubs (shout out to Seaside Sirens). Once again the reviews were mixed, but the discussion was very stimulating.

Your favorite line/scene:

Throughout the novel I found myself underlying small sections of text that spoke so meaningfully, and often uncannily, to our current times.

After struggling to find my absolute favorite marked section, I decided to quit torturing myself and narrowed it down to three. Okay, okay…the final quote is really my favorite, but I thought that you would get a better sense of the wisdom of this book if I included additional excerpts.

Favorite Quote #3:
“The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

Favorite Quote #2: “My VIP patients often regret so many things on their deathbeds. They regret the bitterness they’ll leave in people’s hearts. They realize that no money, no church service, no eulogy, no funeral procession no matter how elaborate can remove the legacy of a mean spirit.”

Favorite Quote #1: “The uneventful day is a precious gift.” What a brilliant reframing of “ordinariness” and a great reminder that our days do not need to be “a nirvana of extraordinary adventure” to be a blessing.

As I finished copying down these quotes, I could hear the television in the other room blare out the non-stop ‘Reality-TV-Syndrome’ of our current times. That made these quotes even more meaningful to me…and made me grateful for this sleepy, snowy February afternoon.

If you’ve read Cutting for Stone, what were your thoughts? Let’s talk!

Why not join in the fun? Use the above format to share your favorite novel. Be sure to add #FridayBookShare. Always in search of a good book, I look forward to reading your review.

Dolce Far Niente

I have a dirty little yoga secret.

I don’t love savasana.

My mind and body refuse to stay quiet. Together they plan and scheme. They want to be doing something…anything but stillness.

And that leads me to this post that has refused to be shelved.

This past October, I had written the following entry. Then, as our days turned into sadness, this piece was put aside. But it refused to lie still. In November, I received a letter from my sister-in-law. In it, she included the following quote:

“If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.” Lin Yutang

This forgotten entry came to mind and tugged at me. But I had other things to get out.

Last night, in the quiet of early February, I watched an old movie on Netflix. The famous line, “dolce far niente,” again gave me a shove. Here is the post that would not remain silent–a confession of sorts:

There are many areas that are not my strength. Consciously ‘doing nothing’ tops this list. Throughout my work and school life, there were always so many things to get done. I hated the pressure of trying to complete things at the last minute. To counterbalance, I attempted to use my time wisely–perhaps a bit too wisely. I was always cramming in little tasks here and there so that I wouldn’t need to worry about them later. The problem was that a multitude of other tasks always snuck in to take their place. Always! A middle-school student, who frequented my office when I was a first-year principal, kindly tried to offer me some advice. “You should pay yourself first,”  he said. “You know, like have fun and take breaks before you do the other stuff. The work part will always be there — it doesn’t go away.” These were very wise words, especially coming from a thirteen-year-old. If only I would have/could have heeded them.

A blogger that I follow, previously posted that he has been focused on saving money his whole life. Although he is now retired, and financially solid, it is still very difficult for him to spend money. His saving patterns are ingrained. This is my exact same dilemma — but my ingrained patterns are with time.

On one of the final days of our October home-exchange, my husband suggested that we spend the afternoon sitting around the pool. All afternoon! I don’t swim (okay, I can swim, but I usually choose not to). And the hot tub was too cool for my tastes. I had just finished my book for book club and didn’t want to start another until I had allowed my mind to ruminate on that novel a bit more fully. What would I do during all of that time, especially when Richard was napping or swimming? More importantly, how would I prevent those many pesky tasks from calling my name? You know, like the vegetables in the fridge calling to be chopped for dinner. The laundry in the hamper begging to have their turn in the washing machine. The jumbled pile of receipts demanding to be sorted in preparation for going through customs in a few days. Even my yoga mat was imploring me to work on my downward-facing dog. (Not being into hot yoga, it was simply too warm to pull my mat outside and practice there.)

Richard, who is fabulous at enjoying the moment, modeled. He comfortably sat in the lounge chair, leaned back and enjoyed the rays. He took a dip in the pool then sipped the hard-lemonade smoothies (that I had snuck out and made). He relaxed and napped peacefully. I so admire that!! I tried to do the same. I really did! I squirmed. I wiggled and jiggled. I flipped through a magazine. I took a few sneak peaks at random messages on my phone. I did manage to do (almost) nothing for most of the afternoon. But when Richard left for a late afternoon walk, I madly scrambled and did all of the jobs listed above (okay, except for the downward-facing dog).  I was left with the knowledge that ‘relaxing idly’ is a skill that I simply do not possess…not even in retirement.

Dolce far niente….the sweetness of doing nothing.

If you have mastered the ability to kick back completely, what advice do you have for a wanna-be lounger like me? And if ‘chilling out’ isn’t your natural thing, what strategies have you discovered to overcome this? Please share!

Cover image created with: https://www.canva.com.