Sunday Morning Mindfulness

Quietly and sleepily sipping my first cup of Earl Grey tea early this morning, I slowly and absorbingly read the pages of a beautiful hardback book given to me by my mother and stepfather a few years ago.  I think it was a Christmas present – there will be a note inside to tell me, as I usually note these things nowadays – and I remember being instantly delighted by the sight and feel of the book, when I received it.

The cover of the book is white, with fine black writing and an elegant picture of a blue flower on the front, details on the back of those writers whose work has been included and form the body of the book, and the inside cover is a lovely blue. Published by the Royal Horticultural Society, it is a collection of prose and poetry with lovely pictures, artist sketches, of the flowers and plants that have been written about.  A coffee table book in a sense, or one to simply pick up and feed your senses with … which is why I picked it up this morning.

I read the other day, in a most unlikely place, that Table Mountain in Cape Town has 1,500 species of plants – whereas the entire United Kingdom has no more than that, indeed less than.  The fact astonished me, as Table Mountain forms only one very small part of the vast and beautiful country of South Africa, a place rich and awash with abundant flora and fauna; a place I miss to my very soul, because of this.  It was, believe it or not, this morning that the realisation dawned on me: “I miss the flora and fauna of South Africa”. More than anything, I miss the sights and the sounds of the natural world … and that is saying a lot, as there is much else in that gorgeous rainbow nation which I miss very much as well.

The little book that I was dipping into this morning, is about plants that grow in Britain, many of which I have come to know since my return here from Australia in 2006, and mostly since purchasing our current property in 2009.  I have learnt a lot about the British climate and natural environment while living in Berwickshire, experiencing life ‘out in the sticks’ much of the time, observing what is going on in our own tiny patch and what is going on all around us.  The monocultures that are witnessed everywhere in the United Kingdom, concentrated in the areas of countryside, are a depressing sight to someone who knows and longs for the biodiversity of a beautiful, natural world.  Instead of focusing only on those sorry and disastrous states, however, I take my focus back to the beauty of individual plants and absorb the wonder of life wherever I see and feel it, plants being only one way (and a potent one at that) of feeling the connection, a tangible connectedness, with the source of all life.

This is another thing I have realised only within the last few days … I ‘drink’ from the beauty of plants and feel drawn into closely observing the presence of bees and other wild creatures resting on or feeding from plants, because I feel a sense of connection to them, a connection to something deeper than myself, something and someone who is my very source.  I am easily uplifted by the sight or smell of a flower, a plant that is in excellent and robust health, a bumblebee or butterfly supping from pollen laden faces or drinking nectar from the trumpets of exquisitely designed little or large flowers. These things really draw me in, momentarily, for seconds at a time even, but powerfully and satisfyingly.  No matter if they quickly pass, the next moment soon comes.

All of these things of nature, strange as it may sound, feed my soul … and yet, so does the sight of a beautiful painting in a gallery, the feel of a special book, the experience of seeing a magnificently designed building or a chic, sophisticatedly detailed car (I have been known to stop and stare, mid conversation, when a Ferrari or Lambourghini has been sighted), a fabulously crafted pen, a stunning dress or creations of our recent past, like blue and white crockery and Bentwood chairs, a cared for old Morris Minor, a mirror or bowl of beautifully crafted glass.  Anything that is beautifully styled for elegance, efficiency, for peace or for speed,  will always draw me in, like a honey bee to nectar or even a monkey to a scene of curiosity, I suppose! I am simply fascinated by beauty, simplicity, form, ergonomic and eloquent design.  I see all of this in nature, and in miniature form it is always communicated to me through a beautiful plant, tree or flower – or even in sand or soil, in sticks of all sorts, in pebbles, rocks and gemstones!

Thus, as I turned the pages of the book my mother had given me, reading with pleasure about primroses, plumbago, giant white lilies, meconopsis (delicate blue poppies), blue iris, hyacinth, and even dandelion, I appreciated every word as one who closely knows the subject that she is reading about.  I feel the essence of a flower so easily … try it, next time you have the chance to inhale the fragrance of frangipani (in other climes), or jasmine, or the deliciously lemony tang of citrus blossom … you’ll connect with the source of all life that way too, I’m sure.

Digressing from my original subject of this piece, I realise, this issuing of invitation to others to feed on and drink from the well of life is a natural one to me too … I love to share what I have been blessed to know, to experience, to have for a season, to love, to learn from (good or bad), to achieve, to grow through, to expand within. There is so much joy in having others on the journey too and the invitation is usually a spontaneous one, invitation being something that has been a natural instinct of mine from a very early age.  In recent times, living in a place so remote and far from most of my friends and loved ones, I have extended the invitation through publishing (mainly online as yet) many writings of my own. Everything that I write and share with others, is an invitation for someone else to share in the experience of, a form of hospitality, a hand outstretched, an open door of sorts. If anything I write helps another, that is a bonus and hearing about it comes always as an unexpected gift.

And so, back to the book and the early morning cup of tea which helped to waken me for the new day …  I looked into the pictures opposite each page of poetry or prose, I read the lines, I felt the scenes, I appreciated the closeness of observation that had enabled the writers to share their presence as they wrote about the plants, and I felt loved. Nature does that … whether out in nature, or in word, or in image, nature nurtures somehow, I find.   There is nothing quite like experiencing the real thing, the sights and smells and feel of life inside elements of plants, flora, or the quirkiness of the fauna of a place, but to read about it is a close thing at least.

As I closed the book for the time being, having finished my cup of tea and feeling that a piece of writing needed to be birthed, I held it briefly in my arms and felt my mother’s love. Knowing that the book had been especially chosen for me, not least I am sure because of its colour scheme on the cover, the white enhanced with shades of blue, for content and for sight, becoming freshly aware of this was another nurturing of sorts.  My mother was born in this country, in Edinburgh, and these are the plants of her country of birth which I am tending and reading about these days.

Perhaps I shall soon find a way to travel easily between the other countries and continents that I love but, for now, I drink in the beauty of elements of the country where I am currently based, as I dream of and plan for what can be. Always, I am grateful for what is and has been, and always I drink in the awesomeness of now, all around me.

It is in the plants, the flora, of a country that we read deep into her soul.  It is in the plants that I find my connection to my source.  It is in the plants that we find our nourishments, our medicines, our fragrances, our hope, so much life, the essence of so much that is sustainable and needed for healthy longevity, our groundedness, our environmental stability, and the source of so much joy and of so much that is meaningful in real life.

Holly x

 

 

 

 

 


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Link to WordPress “The Daily Post”:
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/inhabit/

 

A Little Silver Trunk of Life

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From time to time, I receive messages from people around the world who have been helped, inspired, motivated or simply enabled to take another step through a challenging period in their lives, as they’ve heard bits of my story or read my words.  We are each doing our best on this planet, and we are each facing different things as we negotiate our way along our paths, but it is always encouraging to hear that one’s own journey has acted as an example to others of what is possible and to hear that hope has been restored in the life of another.  Here, I’m sharing another little piece of my jigsaw, as an open hand to any other who might need a little strength …

I have a little silver trunk, where the few remaining contents of my life before marriage are filed … in some ways the trunk is a little substitute for the roots of family home I don’t have.

Late last night I climbed up to the attic, negotiated papers and packages strewn across my studio space to reach it, prized open the wonky lid and extracted some of my old journals ~ teenage and early adult snippets of “life” … Can’t recall why I went up there in the first place, nor so resolutely climbed obstacles to reach my private little trunk, but the gems contained within the pages of the first tome I opened are emotionally immense ….

Clearly it was meant to be, but I’m not sure why.

Poetry reading, words of times past pouring out of my pores now, saturated and awash with memory … and gratitude … for a life well lived …

Potent moments recorded there.

I am grateful that these have survived so many moves. God is good. He has a plan. One day at a time …

Whoever you are, whatever you’re going through, just remember: it will make you and mould you and you’ll be so much richer as a result.

“Never, never give up.”   ~ Sir Winston Churchill

With love,

Holly x

The Gift Of A Mandela Book

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This morning, whilst drinking my early morning cup of tea, something prompted me to look across to the little bookshelf beside my bed.  As I glanced up to the top shelf, a book almost spoke to me to lift it down and open it … this book … “Mandela. My Prisoner, My Friend”.  I obeyed.  I held it, I stretched out my hands and looked at the cover, I drew it close to my chest and hugged it, as if to feel the warmth of southern hemisphere sunshine … and then I opened the covers and peeped inside.

I knew that I was taking a chance by opening the book, potentially exposing myself to pain, at seeing evidence of things about Nelson Mandela’s life which I know were brutal, creating uncomfortable feelings of despair and utter shame, coupled with longings for the country of my birth, and yet I knew that it really was time to face whatever the pages contained … but I was only going to peep.  A little.  It was not my intention to spend too much time on the book today, with a list as long as the proverbial piece of rope of things demanding my attention, but I felt that I was being guided to read some of it and to at least make myself acquainted with a little of what the text contains.  The book had been given to me some time ago, a surprise gift, and it was time I gave it my attention, bravely.

As so often happens, I feel intuitively that I should do things and, instead of questioning the prompts, I usually tiptoe or stumble forth in the direction where I am led. And so I prised open the unread book, and I recalled the immense sense of amazement that I had felt when it had first been given to me, as I read the handwritten inscription inside:

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“To Holly,
Nelson Mandela was / is such an inspiration for me, as are you!
Keep shining your light and doing what you do.
Kirsti   x  “

[gifted to me on 28 April 2016]

Once again, as when I had received the book, which had been a complete surprise, I felt a wave of humility mixed with pleasure, at being thought of so highly and in such a wonderful way.  I cannot imagine anyone on the planet not being touched to be associated with “Madiba” in any sense at all … what a tremendous honour that I should be so blessed to remind someone of him, so much so that they would give me this book with open handed love.  It’s no small thing to have received this, and I remember at the time I could not comprehend why, nor quite take it in.  I still cannot see how I bear any passing similarity to Nelson Mandela, but life has been incredibly challenging to me as well, starting with a turbulent and at times heart breaking childhood, and has taught me so much through those challenges.  I suppose this gives a tiny reason to feel that Mr Mandela and I might have, had we ever met, been kindred spirits.  Each of us, people acquainted with harsh reality and at times extremely unfair judgement, both very much in love with Nature, people and the African soil, giving some vague reason to believe that perhaps we might have had some things in common while he lived.  I would have loved to meet that real, power filled man – as many would have, I know.

And so, I turned another page, to see what I was being led to read.  The few pages that I opened spoke deeply to my consciousness and, whilst I could not face reading into the detail, what I read was enough for today, enough to make it worthwhile to have opened the book – almost a year since it had been given to me, in April 2016.

In the Prologue, these words by the author, Christo Brand, struck my soul:

“Nelson Mandela spent his boyhood in the green and golden hills of South Africa’s Eastern Cape.  There he ran wild with his friends in the village of Qunu.  He has told of the happiest years of his life – shooting birds out of the sky with a catapult, gathering fruit from the trees, catching fish with a bent hook and drinking warm milk straight from the cow.

Just like me, he sometimes looked after flocks of sheep and would go home to his family’s little house after playing till dusk, to eat supper and listen to his mother’s stories around the fireside.

As a young boy, he had no immediate knowledge of apartheid.  In his small, safe world there was no obvious menace.  His childhood was secure in the rural Xhosa community where he belonged.

I also knew nothing of the cruel racial boundaries in our country as I grew up.  My father was a farm foreman in a fertile part of the Western Cape.  All my young life I played with black and mixed-race children who lived on the farm with us in Stanford, many miles from the city.

Looking back, Mandela and I both enjoyed childhoods full of innocence and charm, although many years apart.  We were both brought up in the Christian tradition, our lives ruled by strict but loving parents who taught us right from wrong.  All that mattered was home and family, with rewards for good behaviour and punishment for bad.

He and I, in contrasting worlds, came to know in our different ways the full cruelty of the apartheid laws, and those worlds collided only many years later when we both found ourselves on Robben Island, the bleak maximum security prison where he was serving life and I was his warder.

I was 19 years old when I came face to face with Nelson Mandela.  He was 60.  Until that day I had never heard of him, or his African National Congress, or the deeply held reasons that meant that he and his comrades were prepared to die for their cause.

I found a man who was courteous and humble, yet at the same time the powerful leader of many of the political prisoners serving time on Robben Island.”

and

“He wrote of his ‘long walk to freedom’, and I walked some of that road with him, an incredible journey that defines my life today, as well as his.

In truth, my life began so much later than his.  A white Afrikaans boy born into the very culture that created Mandela the revolutionary, I’d had no idea it was going to lead me to him.”

~ * ~

Unlike Christo Brand, whose childhood and life story are also described in the book, I did not grow up in a Christian household, and my home and background influence were very definitely liberal British / generally English ones, but I too experienced the times of friendship with ‘forbidden’ others, and the wildness of living free during part of my childhood in the African countryside.  In this way, I suppose one could imagine that each of these aspects makes us plaited and pure South Africans of the apartheid era, kindred spirits in all sorts of ways.  There are aspects of imprisonment which Mandela experienced, that I could identify as similar in various parallels with my own life on other continents where, despite appearance to the contrary, I have also experienced the sheer despair and discomfort of being contained, misjudged, overlooked, misunderstood.  It is in the nature of some of us to express ourselves openly and to put our gifts to use with excellence and generosity; when we are constrained, those energies can be directed inwards and threaten to overwhelm us … Nelson Mandela showed that they and the opposition he faced would grow him, instead, and indeed they did.

As I turned to a few more pages, before getting up and on with the day, I came across a page that struck me as special to share, and so I took a quick photograph (a bit blurry, given the time of day!) ..

On one page, two human beings whom I have a huge amount of respect for, both having been at the receiving end of unimaginable condescension and criticism, both heroes of their day, despite (and perhaps because of) it all, both educated, civilised, philosophical giants, with warm hearts and the grace of forgiveness in the fibre of their make-up: Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.  Each man a legend, in his own right.  Each man someone I look up to as an example of a fine human being.  Each man with roots in Africa. Each a leader, against all the odds.  Each man a lion-hearted soul.

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At the front of the book, US President Barack Obama’s message in the visitors’ book on Robben Island, dated 30 June 2013, is quoted and reads:

“On behalf of our family, we’re deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield.  The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit.”

These words deserve a moment …

I am one of those people who will often read the final pages of a book, and then go back and absorb the detail, quickly, or pausing to comb through the fine print, savouring each page like a morsel of delicacy.  Thus, confining this one quick comb through my precious gift of “Mandela.  My Prisoner, My Friend” to another ten minutes or so of perusing the content for now, I turned to the last couple of pages, where I read the words of co-author to this story, Barbara Jones:

“It was soon after dawn on Sunday, 15 December 2013 when Christo Brand walked through the ancient fields of Qunu village and past the river where Mandela played as a child, on his way to a sad but fitting ceremony, the last goodbye to the great Nelson Mandela.  Security guards noted his damp and muddy shoes and insisted on brushing them clean for him.  He continued alone right up to the burial place and looked into Mandela’s empty grave.

‘I thought to myself how he would now be able to look over the whole of that green valley he loved so much.  Madiba had come home, just as he always longed to,’ he said.

Christo was greeted warmly by a group of military generals, every one of them an ex-prisoner from Robben Island.  Film producer Anant Singh, whose “Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom”, had recently received huge critical acclaim, persuaded Christo to sit nearby, along with actor Idris Elba, who took the lead part.

Mourners started up their beloved freedom songs dedicated to Mandela, and Christo felt proud.  Close to tears, he listened to Mandela’s grandson Ndaba giving his moving speech.  ‘I closed my eyes and I could hear the man himself, and see him in his youth’, he said.  Granddaughter Nandi was also impressive and talked of Mandela’s warmth towards his family.

Daughter Zindzi saw Christo, gave him a special smile, and thanked him for being there.  The singing stopped and everyone stood.  It was the moment for Mandela’s coffin to be carried solemnly past the mourners.

‘The coffin was close enough for me to touch but I didn’t think that would be right,’ said Christo.  ‘And it was enough to know that our lives had touched for so many years.  I said a silent goodbye to the best, strongest and most honest human being I have ever known.’ “

I don’t think I have spoiled the story by sharing these last few lines in the book … most of the world was watching the procession of Nelson Mandela’s coffin on that day, we all know how the story ended … I, for one, was glued to my television screen, candles lit and with tears pouring down my cheeks.  Scotland, where I write this from, is a long, long way from home.

God bless you, Madiba.  You, Lion of Africa, gave eloquence and elevation and grace to the people and to the country I am now so proud to call my real home.

To the friend who gave me this book so unexpectedly, your generous gift has blessed me with a renewing, an additional and special link to a country I left thirty two years ago this December, two weeks after my twenty third birthday, a country that was in turmoil … leaving a country and a people whom I miss with heart and mind and soul.

Holly x

The book was published by John Blake Publishing Ltd, in 2014.
ISBN 978 1 78219 743 0

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Trepidatious Booksteps

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*****

When you have a huge story inside of you, waiting for its natural time to be carefully birthed, and then discover in a moment that part of your story has been written about and published by someone else …

I am feeling rather peculiar today, and am not at all sure how to process news of a just-released book.

Within me, known only to a very few, is a story that lasts over more than half a century and which few, if written down in full, would quite be able to believe. Perhaps that is one reason why it has not yet come fully into the light, but also I know that before it could be birthed, the story had to become one that was possible for me to fully face. I have stared a lot of frightening things fully in the face and have demonstrated extraordinary courage that not even I knew I had within me, over many, many years … but I have also been broken and have fallen down, unable to get myself back up again, and have had to start to find my way from scatch, time after time. I know what it means to completely snap, for the load to become too great to bear, and for endurance, adaptability, fluidity, fluency and strength to become instead utter exhaustion and sheer despair.

I believe that anything is possible, and I believe I have seen miracles take place, but I also know that there is such a word as “can’t” and that it is possible to push a human being too far. I have had the rug pulled out from underneath me from a very early age, and this pattern continued throughout my childhood, into adulthood, marriage … I know it full well. I know what it feels like to have one’s spirit completely broken by the mindless attitudes of others, and then to be expected to perform regardless. I came up with the phrase a while ago “You cannot break a person’s knees, and then expect them to dance!” Those words came from deep within, from a place inside me that knew the full truth of their meaning.

I have a story to tell. It is a big story. My story is too fantastical for words. I hesitate to share much of my story, for fear of hurting others in the revelation of the parts that they have played. There is another side too, and that is that the story hurts me. It hurts me when I remember certain parts of it, it makes my voice and body tremble when I speak of some of it, and the lion-hearted courage with which I do indeed speak out about certain things, comes from a place within me that is sometimes hanging on for dear life, clinging at many times to a “heavenly father”, God. I could not have walked this path had God not come into my life as a young child, nor survived it, to still be here today. The effort it has taken to keep upright has been immense, and I use no crutch. No drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes, no harmful addictions … all dealt with and despatched a long time ago. Instead, sheer and utter determination to live in the light, for the light, guided by the light, is what has brought me through some bizarre and outrageous circumstances, throughout much of my life.

I have learnt to laugh and joke about all sorts of things … do you know that many clowns cry behind the stage curtain? I have developed the strength to speak out plainly and clearly, simply and authentically, about what really matters – to my own eyes … and yet, I did not expect to feature in someone else’s story, on someone else’s difficult journey, in someone else’s newly published book. It has come as a shock, although not completely unexpected, as I have known for some time that the process was happening.

So, today, with all sorts of plans for this week that I can now see I shall not be adhering to, I am trying to process the little knowledge I have about this new book, before even considering ordering or reading a copy. My friend who wrote the book I refer to, was an adult when she met me during my early teens, and came into our lives at a key time for my immediate family in the 1970s. Yesterday I learnt that her book was being launched, had been published, is available to buy … and then received a private note to let me know that I am one of the (renamed) characters in it. The book is a memoir, one that needed to be voiced, and I am aware that it carries a lot of pain in its own story for the author who wrote it … but, I am not sure that I am ready to read what someone else has written about a painful and confusing time in my and my family’s life, a time that completely and utterly shook my world. As a result of massive tragedy and trauma, I was thrown into a challenging situation that no child should have to witness, nor ought to have to explain, nor be forced to have to rise above. As children, barely in our teens, we suffered enormous grief and loss (not for the first time, by any means), while all the reeling adults around us considered my brother and myself too young to be aware of what was going on.

I know that the friend who has written this book needed to do so, and I am  proud of her for having achieved it. In her note, my friend told me that she holds me in “high regard” and yet, whilst grateful for this, I do not know how I will feel nor receive that head knowledge when I read the words that describe her experience of our shared story, at some later time.

Over the past few years, I have had a lot of reconnecting with people who have been out of my life, some for decades, due mainly to my various and huge life changes along the way. Every special reconnection (as most of them are) has brought with it big emotion, memories, renewal of some loyal bonds, and also a sadness that we were unable to maintain contact in the intervening years, which would have helped much along the way. At the same time, each reconnection has brought immense gratitude that we are now in touch, can easily find and communicate with one another again, and this has meant that pieces of my life’s broken jigsaw slowly, and sometimes speedily, gets put back into place. There is still a very long way to go, and a lot of healing to happen yet … and I am thoroughly exhausted by it all … but I know that the journey is far from over and I have to keep going on. Perhaps my friend’s book will act as validation, and maybe even a step towards revealing some of the most bizarre parts of what might one day come to light in my own story – who knows?

In the meantime, I sit here tinkling at my computer’s keys and wondering whether I ought to mention the name of the book … and wonder, too, today whether it is in fact time to fully reveal my own name, not leave it to the internet and chance discovery by online detection, to provide my full identity and authorship in several places.

Coming right into the present moment, I notice too that the sun has reappeared from behind the clouds, so I shall go out and sit with a lunch of salad, on a bench in my organic garden, and see what inspiration follows …

I have reached a stage where I honestly do not know how to proceed, nor how to think about anything any more. I am going to go quietly within and see what God shows me to do next.

With faith, hope, and no small amount of trepidation on a journey that, at times, feels as though it has only just begun.

Holly x

A remarkable man: Richard Demarco, CBE

On 22 March 2014 I wrote a short piece, in honour of a man I am proud to call a friend, which I ‘published’ onto the Facebook social media platform, in order that others might read it too. My short note was received with gratitude and favour by those who hold Richard in high esteem, as I do, and for that I was immensely grateful. These are the words and the image, which I had taken too, that was ‘published’ with them …


A remarkable man: Richard Demarco, CBE

I am writing this about and for Richard Demarco, to show him my appreciation and respect, a couple of days before a special event takes place for him, in a quiet way, in Edinburgh. I am incredibly proud to call myself a friend of Richard Demarco, a man who has had a profound effect on the lives of many and varied people in Britain, Europe, and around the world, through the world of Art, from his base in the ‘cultured’ city of Edinburgh.

On Monday 24 March 2014 Richard Demarco CBE will receive the highest award that his own city of birth has to offer. It has been a long time in coming, and I am one of the many who warmly applaud Professor Demarco in receiving this, the Edinburgh Award. He certainly has gone above and beyond boundaries or expectations and, unasked, has done more than most to foster links and goodwill between the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, using Art in all its forms as his medium and communication tool.

With family origins in Italy, and Scotland as his birth place, in his own right Richard Demarco is a most talented artist, his sketches and watercolours amongst some of the most beautiful, and informed, that I have ever seen, and for this alone he gets my recognition and respect. Richard Demarco is also one of the most passionate people I know, a true phenomenon, with the most incredible stamina and verve for life. Those who have been in his space have felt captivated by Richard and hearing him speak is an experience that few are left untouched by; he is, quite simply, a force to be reckoned with.

For many reasons, Richard Demarco’s own life deserves documenting, his own personality and grace applauded, and his own words heard – but always he thinks of others. Richard quickly sees where there is magic in people he meets, always seeks ways to put people and their given talents together, constantly looks for ways to better others’ lives. He has his own voice, undoubtedly clear and strategic, but he is always mindful of his fellow man… and, need I say, he is always mindful of his environment too. Richard is, without doubt, a thoughtful man, on every level.

Now in his 84th year, Richard Demarco has an archive that would take your breath away. The Demarco Foundation Archive contains immeasurably valuable historic records, incredible and inspiring artworks by others, many that will have to remain hidden, at least until a suitable place is found to safely house and make the entire collection available to the public, in perpetuity. Amongst the vast collection of international artworks, are records of deep and significant meaning, documented life witnessed and shared and expressed by others, which spans at least six decades, including information about and material from each and every Edinburgh Festival since its inception. Most profoundly, amongst the Demarco Archive are excruciatingly insightful, haunting and valuable records, giving glimpses into personal links with all sorts of artists and others in Europe and Britain during World War II. This part of the collection, alone, is worth national protection.

Many do not know this, but Richard Demarco has participated, in one significant way or another, in every single Edinburgh Festival, since it began in 1947. He remains committed to its original purpose, wishing to see it become once again the cultural and elegant festival which it used to be, where people’s spirits were lifted, lives enriched and elevated through Art in its many forms. Recently recognition for his positive role in humanity came from distant shores, when Richard Demarco was named European Citizen of the Year 2013. This is something that Edinburgh should be immensely proud of, and proves not only his commitment and loyalty to people everywhere, but his longevity of ambassadorial goodwill.

A passion that I share with Richard Demarco, besides a commitment to take care of our environment by planting trees (reference the oak trees planted by Joseph Beuys in Europe, as a symbolic gesture decades ago, with the expressed wish for this to continue, to protect the earth, the bees, and our lives), is to hear the voices and the hearts of children everywhere. Children, after all, will grow up to be the people who lead us, and it is for them that we ought to live well and decide our actions with wisdom now. Through Richard I learnt about “Room 13 International”, a movement that began in the West of Scotland about twenty years ago, which is now global, empowering the lives and minds of children around the world. I was especially touched to learn that “Room 13” exists in several areas of South Africa, the country where I was born and grew up, and that “Room 13” was one of the movements close to Nelson Mandela’s heart. He, too, cared deeply for children. Like Nelson Mandela, young people delight Richard Demarco; he never seems to tire of engaging them in elevating thought and suggesting opportunity. Like the artist Joseph Beuys, Richard believes that everyone is an artist – and that this is something to be nurtured young.

While he encourages Art, in its many and varied forms, most of all I get the impression that Richard Demarco responds to beauty, and to where he sees love present, wherever and however it is expressed – however deeply or otherwise – as long as it is truthfully expressed.

In some ways, Richard reminds me of Gandhi, who once said words to the effect that “it is expensive to be my friend …”, because Richard Demarco’s visions are enormous, his effect in the world he influences great, while his own means remain surprisingly humble. I love this man Demarco. I love that he is who he is and has done what he has done. He has annoyed some, he has delighted others. That matters little to me, because in him I see the truth lived out, and he is, like all of us, a mere mortal. I love Professor Richard Demarco’s passionate commitment to the human race and to elevating the minds of everyone he comes in contact with, whatever the means, regardless of age, background or creed. Richard Demarco is fearless in the pursuit of his passion: to stimulate consideration and thought, and to empower others. This I love and resonate with most of all.

As you prepare to receive your Edinburgh Award, so justly and rightly deserved, I want to say that I believe you are a shining star, Richard, and I am deeply humbled and grateful to know you as a friend, and a mentor in the journey of life. Bravo and congratulations on receiving The Edinburgh Award … not yet, perhaps, the greatest of your many ongoing achievements, but certainly a highly significant one, and the one that has been the most immediately deserved, yet has taken the longest to arrive.

Well done, our friend, well done.

Richard Demarco, CBE - in conversation via modern technology, with camera always at the ready - August 2013

Richard Demarco, CBE – in conversation via modern technology, with camera always at the ready – August 2013

 

 

FOR FURTHER INFO:

FB  https://www.facebook.com/richard.demarco.923/about
Bio  http://www.richarddemarco.org/documents/35.html
Digital Archive  http://www.demarco-archive.ac.uk/
Wikipedia  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Demarco

 

 

 

 

 

 

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