‘Tis the season for reflection…

The year is quickly winding down to an end, with people here mostly shutting down, or like me shut down for a week already.  This time of the year everyone is rushing off to exotic destinations for what is the South African summer holidays.  Filling up social media with images of beautiful places and mouth watering food, living their best life…tempting even the most steadfast among us to give in to the wanderlust.  It’s easy to get so busy in the coming weeks that it all passes in a blur and suddenly you are back to the grind writing 2016 and having to correct it to 2017 without actually feeling like you took any time off at all.  But in all the hustle and bustle let’s not forget to find a few quiet moments to take time to reflect on 2016 and all that has been achieved in the year.

I was wondering, as I am often prone to do (I’m not called Curious George for nothing), why anyone would put New Years Day in the middle of what is the northern hemisphere’s winter.  If anything, the logical date for the beginning of the year would be the first day of spring or the 21 March in the northern hemisphere.  Some quick research (google of course) led to the explanation as follows:  January 1 was the feast of the Roman God Janus, the God the month is named after.  Janus was the God of doorways and new beginnings and the feast therefore symbolised new beginnings and the move back into the longer days after the winter solstice on the 20 December. I believe the Hindu equivalent would be Lord Ganesh, please correct me if I am wrong, and the similarity in the name may just be coincidence but I digress.  Modern New Year’s celebrations may therefore have some connection to ancient Janus.

Why is that at all relevant you may ask?  Well, Janus is usually depicted with two faces, sometimes one older and one younger, one looking forward to the future and the other looking back on the past.  Approaching the new year, the tendency is to start looking forward to all that it brings, making resolutions on what we will do and all that hope to achieve.  However I feel an important step before we do that is to look back on the year gone by and measure progress.  Often though, we tend to measure progress by counting the big stuff; getting married, new arrivals to the family, graduating or promotions at work.  Oftentimes we forget to take account of all the small victories along the way, the small steps forward we take on an almost daily basis that gets us to the next day and the one after that.  2016 for me was a year filled with both big stuff and little victories and it is those little victories that I would like to reflect on in the rest of the post.

There’s a saying that goes you will gain no glory unless you dare to begin.  In 2016 I dared to begin 3 little things that have changed me profoundly.   The first, of course, was this blog, my Passion Fruit.  After years and years about speaking about starting and dabbling now and again in writing I finally sat down late last December and registered on WordPress.  Then in January I wrote my first post, a quick why and description.  I have written 22 posts this year and each one has taught me something new about myself in the process. Some of the posts were planned for a while and others were just thoughts that popped into my head and developed as I wrote them. And because I write about things that I am passionate about the effort has not even felt like work but rather was fun all the way! My favourite was probably Avert your eyes Marguerite! which I wrote after finishing the FNB Joburg City Run, my favourite race of the year (maybe joint favourite with the Soweto Marathon). I have a small readership, of which dear reader you are hopefully one, and hopefully this will grow going forward.  I guess the follow up to the quote above is that once you begin, you have to keep going, which I intend to do with gusto!


My WordPress stats for the year so far

The second small thing I began this year has snowballed into one of the bigger things in my life without me even knowing it.  In January I began my own version of a Big Year in birding.  I am currently at about 200 species for the year, and plan to do a final tally next week to close out the year. Just this morning, I added a new species to the list on my visit to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, a Cape Batis.  Most of my friends cannot understand the fascination with locating and identifying new species of birds.  To be honest, on most days I myself cannot explain it.  I started the big year on a whim, and then fell into it as one tends to do with things you are passionate about.  I have gotten to the point of switching from looking for birds to listening and identifying a few species just by their calls.  And the good part is that I have found and listed most of the easier species that can be found in Southern Africa, so the interesting part now becomes tracking down the other 600 odd more difficult species on the life list.  I saw a post of a lady who had passed 600 individual species on her life list and one day the aim is to catch her, and maybe pass her!

My third small victory is still incomplete, but has been started and is now well on the way.  My Sanparks challenge to visit all 21 Sanparks administered parks in South Africa in the 3 years from 2016 to 2018 is on target – 8 parks down for the first year.  The next two years will be packed with trips to get the next 13 complete.  The challenge has pushed me well out of my comfort zone. I camped for the first time earlier this year, I stayed in camps with only communal ablution facilities and I have made a few new friends along the way.  Mostly I have driven  many long kilometers by myself and the challenge has given me chance to take stock of where I am and where I am aiming to go.  Stay tuned for more adventures!

So now my mind is slowly shifting to what 2017 may hold for me.  Continuing with the positive starts I made earlier in the year I decided to register on Shutterstock (Pranesh Luckan Shutterstock) In the first month or so that I have been on and that it has taken to build up my portfolio I have earned just under $8.  Not quite enough to quit the day job.  Yet.  It is admittedly some hard work cataloging and uploading all the photos I have to now, but again, because photography is something that I passionate about, more than any of my other passions in fact, it did not feel at all hard.  And now that it has been set up, even if I earn just $8 a month going forward, it is money for very little additional effort.  Hopefully however it also grows in 2017.

Seeing some of the work on Shutterstock I have come to realise what the next small things I would like to pursue in the new year – Videography and learning how to make vectors (graphic design).  With a little determination and some Youtube tutorials I’m sure  I’ll make progress once I start.  The important thing is to start though…like I say, watch this space!  But in the mean time, in the down time from now till the end of the year I hope you take some time to reflect as well.  Write down 3 of your small victories, share them with me in the comments below if you like.  My hope for you is that you also find the courage to start something new that you can look back on fondly next year this time.  Thank you for sticking with me through my initial baby steps, seasons greetings to you and yours!

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