This is a hard photo challenge for me because I want to say how fleeting life is, which is so cliché. How desperately short life can be, which is also so cliché. I want to wallow in the grief of my daughter’s death. How I search for memories now that it has been 7 years since she was murdered. What I go through every single day, when I open my eyes in the morning. How angry I am that the man who killed my daughter walks free due to a corrupt judge. I want to share to others how hard it is to accept a death of a child that was so senseless it leaves me weak with sadness. All the years that have disappeared like they never existed. I want others who have never had extreme grief to understand. It is difficult to let it go. I try, but I always have it there in my heart. So I just write my feelings down and I take photos of the this absolutely beautiful country that I live in now. Colombia. We have a lot in common. Death, senseless death, which is not something people can just let go of. We survive. We continue. But we remember. These photos are for my daughter, who fades ever so slowly from my memory. I still walk and meditate for her in all the beautiful areas right outside my door. It helps but it doesn’t keep me from missing the woman she could have become.
Mother’s Day is coming this weekend. I have a hard time with this day. I spend the day reflecting on the past with my children. One who is deceased the other who doesn’t really have a lot of contact with me. It makes me think what could I have done differently? I was the Mom who was always involved with their activities. But then I took care of my own mother for years who had dementia. It took a great tole on me and my children. I now think should I have kept my mother in my home? Should I have divorced sooner than later? I don’t know. But I love my memories of happy times in their lives and all the happiness they grew up with. That just left when I decided to divorce and then my daughter was murdered.
I reflect on this photo, and realize Misha was a reflection of me, she looked like me and was very headstrong like me. I treasure this photo. I could beat myself up over and over again because I might have changed something in our lives and maybe she would still be here. But as I grow older and I meditate daily with Yoga, I realize we all have free will. We cannot change the path of our destiny, because we can’t control others, just ourselves. Most people do not want to change, and they will never do it. Me, well I wanted change after this horrible time in my life and I have become a different person. The problems in our lives are often brought on by thinking too much and worrying too much. Once we let go, we find a solution. Maybe not immediately, maybe not for a few years, but the solution is there. We just need to look for it and we need to accept that people come and go in our lives. Even our own children.
I have discovered while living in Colombia I do not live a life full of plans. Plans here are often disrupted with the littlest things. A battery has died in the car, and you need to wait for the local mechanic to come and give you a jump, the weather changes and that walk you planned on is now going to be later in the afternoon, the party you have at 3 in the afternoon with friends turns into an all night dance fest. Or it is a beautiful day and you take off in the truck to visit a place that is beautiful, remote and in the middle of the Rainforest.
Reflections in life are usually in the moment, not in memory. I have discovered this in my time as an expat in Colombia. I reflect often, but usually I reflect on how I can make my life better, to improve, not to waste time on mistakes or others who contributed to those mistakes. It is all about being the best person you can be. I reflect on that often. I know I am not there yet. But I will be before I die. At least I will die trying.
What are the dangerous things I encounter living in Colombia? What to do if a cow escapes the fence? Or a goat approaches me while I hike? What should I do when the water is so high in the rivers? Or the rain causes a mudslide? Maybe I should really be scared when the ground shakes at 5AM! That is the most danger I encounter in Colombia. I love my simple life. I love it so much I am willing to risk the only real danger I have ever experienced while living in Colombia, tremors from Earthquakes deep inside the Earth. To be honest, I don’t know an Earthquake has happened until it is over. I guess if it was really bad, I would be crushed because it takes me, this woman from Florida awhile to comprehend. By the time I do if it was bad, I would be dead. I would die happy in my paradise.
I am always hiking near my Villa . I can’t give an exact amount of days per week. It depends on my hair. Yes it does. I am after all still a woman who likes my hair and nails to be perfect, even if I live in the Rainforest. Yes, I am revealing something about myself. I usually walk on days I have to wash my hair. OH, so you think why do we need to know this? Because you do. I live in the forest. I am not always interacting with others. I like being alone. I like reading, I love writing and I love my space. I really love being alone. I worked for years as a flight attendant. I don’t care if I hear a bunch of people complaining ever again!
“Worry less about what you want to be, and more about what you want to do.” – President Barack Obama in Chicago today. I love this quote because it describes me and my life to perfection. I want to be successful in my small business. But if I am not I can accept that. I want to be immersed in nature as an avid photographer. I love getting up early and going out on my own with one of my dogs to walk and photograph the beauty that surrounds me. Photography is part of me. I am part of the photos I take on my hikes. I see people and talk to them. There is no such thing as a Colombian who ignores someone they pass, whether in an office, or on the street. Even if they dislike you they acknowledge you. I find that a wonderful way to live. What is the use of hurting others? With that I share some photos of my life around and about as an avid photographer and the life I lead as an expat.
Awaking to the sound of birds, falling asleep to the sounds of frogs and crickets. The cool breeze that comes through my window while I write in my office. The sway of the leaves of the banana trees. The sun that is an orb of fire as it sets over the valley. The fog that comes up suddenly over the mountains. A high-pitched wail that I hear every evening around 6 pm coming from the mountains surrounding my Villa. Like clockwork I hear the shriek of some bird or animal calling the day to a close. Comfort like a warm blanket over me when I am snuggled in bed, secure in the knowledge a new day will come in the morning with new adventures to discover. Where I see horses grazing, livestock who are so friendly they follow me on my hikes. The sound of a rushing river, and a random butterfly who finds itself trapped in a window at my home. The little church I own here in my pueblo, having a mass where the dogs participate also. This is my life in Colombia. I am secure in the knowledge that I have found my paradise. As I hike and look up to the clouds the sun is shining on me with an embrace I can feel in my soul.
Living in the forest makes for wonderful photo opportunities. The jungle is real in Colombia. The forest is dense, the trees seem impenetrable, the cloud cover comes and goes as I hike. A close-knit Eco-system of beauty that has to be seen in person to take in the three-dimensional quality. A step inside a real life painting. That is how I live. I am constantly amazed by the views I see when taking my tourists and adventurers out on hikes. It is like a Disney movie in 3D. Here are a few photos I have captured while on my hikes around Villa Migelita . They will never capture the beauty you can see when visiting Colombia, but hopefully you will be able to see how dense the forest is, how the clouds descend upon the mountains, and how I embrace my minimalist life. Nothing can compare to what I feel when I wander the mountains near my home and Bed and Breakfast Villa Migelita. I sense freedom from the hectic lifestyle of the Western world, I feel empowered as a woman who moved to a new country and often want to shout to the sky,”Look at what I have done! Look at how I live! Just look at this substantial life I have made for myself!” This is a tiny semblance of how I am touched when I roam the mountains near my Villa. Remember this: I spent many years wasting money on things that are not important to a meaningful life. Now I spend my time instead of money on things that are important: my quality of life and my love of nature. I just want to live surrounded by the clouds, trees, birds, butterflies, and the calling of nature to my soul.
As we age we grow wiser. We become a certain age and (maybe) we think “I wish I could stay this age forever.” That is how I feel about my upcoming birthday. I want to stay 59 forever. Wisdom is my middle name. I am no longer the young, beautiful girl I was when I was hired by Delta at the age of 20 years old.. But; I am also not an old-looking person either. I have a bit of vanity left in this older body. I exercise and I take care of myself. I have always said to anyone who listens “I want to look the best I can be at whatever age I am.” I also want to be the BEST I CAN BE with humanity and what I pass on to my many social media pages. I want to share good things, but I also want to show the person I am inside, not just on the outside. We cannot change the aging process. We can try, and I certainly do! But we are going to be old sooner than we think.
All of my longtime friends will attest to my crazy disco self in the 80’s. I am sure they could tell so many stories of my life and the fun we had. Now (as an older person)I am not so much about fun, but about peace. I love peace and nature. I awake in the morning to hear the sounds of nature I brought to my life by my move to Colombia. I love the noise, the calls, and the happiness of my life. I don’t like the way I feel about my country the USA right now. It is not what I grew up to respect and want for my place of birth.
However, I can call all of you to visit Colombia and me and see what I have accomplished in my “older” age. I have shown many who doubted me what a woman can do with a mission in their head. I have often read that people who go through tragedy change. I can say without doubt this is true. I changed. I realized that the old cliche “life is short” is very true. I didn’t let myself wallow in that phrase. I proceeded to accomplish the best thing I could do in my limited existence. I have shown who I am and what I represent by moving and making a life that is true to my spirit. You can too.
I am writing a book. Please comment below if you like this title. I think I will stay 4ever59! I will keep writing and I will keep learning to be forever young. xo, Michele