Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Age of Peace : 2015 Blog for Peace


Today is the tenth year of Mimi Lennox's BlogBlast For Peace aka Blog4Peace. 

Around the world, we speak Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant us Peace).  


In celebration of this annual peace festival, here is a poem I wrote called "The Age of Peace" ©



"The Age of Peace" © by Judy Croome 

When future archaeologists
dig amongst the ruins
of our ordinary lives,
there’ll be no
hieroglyphics of heroic deeds
or painted icons of patron saints
found in 21st century debris.

The only saints and heroes
of our century
are the ordinary people,
you and me,
learning how to live together,
struggling across
the abyss of our differences,
to discover all we want
is to live in
 peace.

This poem is an extract from my latest poetry volume "a stranger in a strange land" - there are more peace poems throughout the book. 

You can read reviews from 
Vine Leaves Literary Journal (UK) here 



Sunday, 11 October 2015

Sunday Times Travel Weekly: Head among the Clouds in the Italian Alps

After our recent overseas trip, my travel article was published in the SUNDAY TIMES. Here is the article in the on-line Times

HEAD AMONG THE CLOUDS IN THE ITALIAN ALPS by Judy Croome

As due to copyright, I can't reproduce the article here (not even the original unedited article) here are some random photos from the holiday:

Val de Mello near Chiavenna Italy


View from the balcony of Casa dell Ava in Pianazzola, our home for a week

We climbed down more than 2 kms of these steps from Pianazzola to Chiavenna
(and, yes, they are as steep as they look!)
On the way to Chiavenna we overnighted at St Moritz and woke to the first snows of the season

I loved Pianazzola because it was full of cats!

Exploring Pianazzola

The view from Casa dell Ava's balcony in Pianazzola after a rain storm
After Pianazzola, it was off to Milan and Teatro de alla Scala


and the Castello Sforza in Milan

And even more cats at the Castello then we found in Pianazzola!

and amazing buskers in the Milan Duomo

We started in Basel Switzerland where Beric represented South Africa at the International Fiscal Association's 69th Annual Congress - here he is talking to the nearly 2000 delegates!

In Chiavenna in the ancient and beautiful Church of San Lorenzo a close up of the magnificent gold filigree on the Peace of Chiavenna, a 12th century gold & bejewelled Bible cover.

Frescos at Church of San Lorenzo in Chiavenna

Aqua Fraggia near Chiavenna

View of the Rhine from our hotel room in Basel where the conference was

Switzerland = chocolate shops!!!!

Day time cruise down the Rhine

Monday, 20 July 2015

a stranger in a strange land

NEWSFLASH!
‪#‎Newsflash‬ Aztar Press is proud to announce the release of
"a stranger in a strange land" Judy Croome's latest volume of poetry.
Currently available from on-line stores as print and eBook. 
Available in South Africa from Loot, TakeaLot or direct from Aztar Press

Read reviews from Vine Leaves Literary Journal (UK) and Readers' Favorites (USA)



Monday, 29 June 2015

Condemned to be Free

Freedom is a word everyone speaks about these days. 

But how realistic is the abstract concept "freedom"? 

A person has to eat; to eat one has to work to earn money to pay for the food. We need freedom to fulfil our personal needs. If we have to work for a living, is that freedom? How free can one really be if there are people we love in our lives? Surely love brings with it the responsibility to care for our loved ones? Can we ever be free of the past, whether the collective past or our family's past or our personal past? The past is part of us; it lies within us. Memories can only be denied or accepted, supressed or embraced - they're shadows that can't be exorcised from our hearts and souls.

Is freedom, then, a romantic myth?  What is this freedom that we all yearn for? When we're poor, we think freedom lies in being rich; when we're unemployed, we think freedom lies in having a job; when we're employed, we think freedom lies in not having to work. When we're married, we think freedom lies in being single; when we're single, we think freedom lies in leaving home for university. 

Do we even know what freedom means as a practical way of existing in this physical world of trials and tribulations?  Can one ever be truly free and unrestricted enough to have total personal freedom? Do we not remain slaves to our pasts? Every time we react from a place of inner hurt or wounded-ness, every time we judge someone based on our experiences and prejudices, are we not being slaves to our past rather then being free souls thinking and acting in the experience of the moment, rather than from the social and personal conditioning colouring our perception of the moment?

Jean-Paul Sartre put it well: man, he said, is condemned to be free. He's right, of course, because freedom brings with it the weight of personal responsibility: freedom means having the power of self-determination; when we're free we're independent of fate or necessity and must then make our own choices and accept full responsibility for those choices.

Too often, in today's world, people want the freedom, but when they don't like the consequence of their free choice, they shift the blame onto politicians, parents or another person. We vote our politicians into power; our parents are ordinary people struggling with their own wounds and sorrows and the other people whom we blame for our mistakes and unhappiness are simple, ordinary folk doing the best they can in circumstances we may know nothing about.

Despite the restrictions the reality of our lives impose on us, we are free: we are free to choose how we act, we are free to choose how to react. Once we grasp the idea that freedom is not something granted to us by other people, by governments, employers or any other external authority, we are truly free. 

If we have minds open enough to move beyond all that is known to us then, lying beyond the chains of habit and comfort that keep us small and restricted, is a vast unknown universe called FREEDOM.  Even if our bodies are bound tight with the slavery of daily routine and ordinary lives, our souls can rise up to see the vision of a life unfettered from the chains of the past. We can begin to find new ways of thinking and acting that bring us an inner peace.

Go, fly now - find something in your life to look at in a new way, a way that frees you from the pain and suffering your heart has held onto for so long. If you can do that, my friend, you will know then what freedom is.




*************************************************************************************  
Osho Zen Tarot
Major Arcana No 4 “The Rebel”
Left: Osho Zen Tarot Major Arcana No 4 “The Rebel”

The powerful and authoritative figure in this card is clearly the master of his own destiny. On his shoulder is an emblem of the sun, and the torch he holds in his right hand symbolizes the light of his own hard-won truth. 
Whether he is wealthy or poor, the Rebel is really an emperor because he has broken the chains of society's repressive conditioning and opinions. He has formed himself by embracing all the colors of the rainbow, emerging from the dark and formless roots of his unconscious past and growing wings to fly into the sky. His very way of being is rebellious - not because he is fighting against anybody or anything, but because he has discovered his own true nature and is determined to live in accordance with it. The eagle is his spirit animal, a messenger between earth and sky. 

The Rebel challenges us to be courageous enough to take responsibility for who we are and to live our truth.        (Description from "Osho Zen Tarot: The Transcendental Game Of Zen Cards")

People are afraid, very much afraid of those who know themselves. They have a certain power, a certain aura and a certain magnetism, a charisma that can take out alive, young people from the traditional imprisonment.... 

The enlightened man cannot be enslaved - that is the difficulty - and he cannot be imprisoned.... Every genius who has known something of the inner is bound to be a little difficult to be absorbed; he is going to be an upsetting force. The masses don't want to be disturbed, even though they may be in misery; they are in misery, but they are accustomed to the misery. And anybody who is not miserable looks like a stranger.

The enlightened man is the greatest stranger in the world; he does not seem to belong to anybody. No organization confines him, no community, no society, no nation. (Osho The Zen Manifesto: Freedom from Oneself Chapter 9)

*************************************************************************************  
None of Us Are Free (if one of us is in chains) by Solomon Burke


*************************************************************************************  

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Silence is Golden

If you think I've been quiet on all my social media sites, you're correct! 

I'm currently juggling a lot of plates, including two very different writing projects.

Project One is non-fiction in colloboration with my husband - it's "translating" a tax law book from legalese into English. You're right! It's a challenge getting through it one page at a time! 

Project Two is a second volume of poetry, to be called "a Lamp at Midday: Volume 2". Very excited about this book, as I'm having a fabulous time writing and writing and writing poetry! Proves that my voluntary break from any kind of writing last year was the best thing I could have done. 

Publication date for both books will be towards the end of 2015. 

Exciting times again! 

Friday, 3 April 2015

Happiness is ...

When my inner world is torrid with fear and doubt, regret and loneliness,  I find a semblance of order by searching through the chaos and consciously writing a list of everything, no matter how small or fleeting, that has recently made me happy:

A Quiet Day of Solitude, when beyond the windows of our house, the busy world roars and rushes by. As hard as it is not to feel guilty about my choice, I down tools, refuse to do housework, admin, writing or any other kind of work and then spend an hour, a morning, a day in meditation. An extra bonus is when these quiet days coincide with a rainy day that shrouds the house in a misty, muffled silence.
When Shadow the Cat rolls over in her basket and exposes her bare, fluffy (and, I hate to say it, LARGE) tummy, in utter trust that she's safe. Watching her sleep and loudly snore brings a sense of accomplishment that's difficult to describe: when Shadow adopted us she was an abandoned cat. She'd been abused, too, with chemical burns all over her tummy. As I tickle that scarred tummy (to a few drowsy growls of annoyance!) I realise that, for her to sleep in such a vulnerable position after being so cruelly hurt by humans, is a lesson for all of us who keep our defensive shields firmly in place simply because we can't get over our past emotional wounds or are too scared of being hurt again to trust so totally and with such deep abandon.
The thrill of a wild visitor in the garden: a solitary kiewietjie landing with a shrill cry and strolling around the garden for hours until sunset, pecking and pulling her lunch out of the lawn, all the while disdainfully ignoring Shadow and keeping a watchful eye on me. 
That moment after load-shedding starts and the power goes off ... followed five minutes later by the hummm of our generator!  On so many levels this still moves me deeply: the relief that we have power and our productive life can continue without interruption. The gratitude that, while we'll never be more than comfortably middle class, we at least have the financial security to afford a generator (unlike many other hard-working people who unfortunately have to rely on Eskom to generate their power needs). And the bliss of a hot cup of tea on a cold autumn evening when the dark silence is broken only by the soft music of our supersilent generator.
I've barely got started on my "happiness list" and already I'm feeling cheerful again!  That reminds me, as it always does that, like most things in life, happiness doesn't just happen. It's a choice we make: to let life grind us down daily, or to choose to find as many happy moments as we can in the ordinary tapestry that is our life. 

What are your happy moments today?

Sunday, 22 March 2015

So, you want a revolution?

Postscript: Last night - 2 days after I wrote this essay - we attended a UCT function for donor alumini in which the charismaticVice-Chancellor Dr Max Price spoke at length about the Rhodes issue.  There was only one poo throwing student (not hordes as the media reports implied) and he's a fourth year political science student, who has been severly warned that his actions are disreputable. You can read what Russell Ally, executive director of UCT's Department of Alumni and Development has to say about the matter here .  More than ever, after attending this function, I still think #RhodesMustFall.

*****

A man I greatly admire, Prof Jonathan Jansen has a different view: read his reasons why #RhodesMustStay here

*****

Another important and interesting view, from veteran political journalist Max du Preez, can be found here in his article. Rhodes and the Rage of the Black Middle Class

*****


My husband Beric, a UCT alumni,
standing at the Rhodes Memorial near UCT
The poo-throwing students of the University of Cape Town are making headlines, trying to force the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes that has dominated the skyline for decades.

I find myself in agreement with those calling for the statue’s removal.

 Perhaps it’s my 50% Afrikaans blood, but Rhodes is, after all, a potent symbol of British Imperialism. The same imperialism that decimated millions of Afrikaaners in the concentration camps of the Boer War and the same imperialism that ravished its colonies from America to Africa to Asia, and thought we should be honoured at the privilege.


Yes, it is time to do away with the Rhodes statue and move it to some dusty museum as a part of our history, much as Stalin is part of Russia’s history and Hitler is part of Germany’s history.

But, really! Is throwing poo and using destruction to achieve the removal of a controversial symbol the product of a democratic republic? Is it the action of decent, intelligent human beings?

Of course not. These cowardly tactics are no less an oppressive tyranny than all that has gone before. The English imperialists had good manners; the Afrikaans nationalists had discipline and courage. The late great Nelson Mandela might have considered throwing a bomb or two, but at least he did it with intelligent forethought and a careful weighing up of the long term costs. Ultimately, he eschewed destructive violence for constructive dialogue and, together with FW de Klerk, created the potential for something greater than what existed before.
Rhodes statue on UCT Campus -photo via   .Vice Chancellor Dr Max Price personally wants the Rhodes statue moved.














The poo-throwing students of UCT have given no thought to the repercussions of their crude and petty violence. Their actions have certainly brought the issue to the forefront of our attention. It’s also conveniently detracted the media’s attention from the enormous corruption and mismanagement of our current ANC-led national government; the only province still functional at a state level is the home of the University of the Cape Town: the opposition-led Western Cape. (Despite the validity of the issue, one has to ask if this fuss over the Rhodes statue is a tactic of the ruling ANC who have failed to gain control of the Western Cape by democratic means. Are they now stooping to bullying, distracting tactics to achieve that end by destructive rather than constructive means?)

What has this fuss really achieved for the good of the country? There is no enlightenment or true liberation in calling scatological scatterings an expression of change and rebellion against "black shame."  The only shame here is the acceptance of this wanton destruction as a valid act of freedom.

Freedom fighting is not about seeking a quick fix of superficial issues such as whether the statue of Rhodes should be removed and the names of streets, airports and cities changed. All those cosmetic changes should come at the end of the battle, when the brave new world we all voted for in 1994 is running to the highest level of its great potential.

If the future “leaders” of our country resort to poo-throwing and acts of unruly destruction to get their own way as quickly as they possibly can, what kind of country will we leave for our children, and our children’s children?

Certainly not a country that provides a better life for all her citizens. Real change, change that is lasting and replaces the worst of the old with the best of the new does not happen overnight.

While the actions of these students may not reflect the atrocities of Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa or the American genocide of the Native American Tribes (take a moment to remember American Indian Leonard Peltier, still a political prisoner after 40 years!), the sheer tyranny of this toddler mentality acting as if might is all right (the black student protestors), and white is all wrong ("the symbols of white supremacy"), is more dangerous.

The baying for the removal of the Rhodes statue should serve as a warning of what might happen in the future, if the worst manifestations of this modern day revolution are allowed to take root.

There are times when a revolution must be as fierce and as ruthless as the raging fires that so recently destroyed thousands of hectares of Western Cape fynbos. Then, much needed change can sweep through a land and offer rebirth and a glorious opportunity for growth and expansion.

But, for South Africa, that time is past.  We need to rise above our sense of victimhood — of race, of gender, of sexuality — and realise that, if  we as a country are to survive and start living up to our great potential, we’ll have to make some grown up choices on how we bring about change.

Here are some suggestions on how to make thoughtful choices for change that is for the greater good of all:

Question our motives: WHY? Why am I doing this? Why do I want to destroy this structure? Why am I obsessed with doing this? What are the real reasons I’m angry? And am I angry at the right issue? Am I challenging the right power structure? Or am I being swept away by an invisible undercurrent that could indiscriminately destroy all in its path.

Is this real progress or is this simply destruction? If we rush headlong into changing things without proper thought before action, we risk destroying something that can help us build a stronger foundation that will sustain growth over generations. We may feel the short term satisfaction that releasing our anger into violent action gives us, but what if we destroy something valuable and useful in the red rage of our need for instant change and instant gratification?

Have faith and develop patience!  There are Divine forces at work that the modern world often chooses to ignore. Whatever your religion or faith of choice,  time is the greatest test of how our faith in God’s plan for our human lives and our tiny planet plays out. When things are moving too slowly for us; when the promised land seems ever further away, it’s then we have to hold onto our belief in the unseen and the unknown and trust that, if we hold steady to all that is good and right, moral and just, compassionate and kind, in the end, we will have contributed to a better world, if not for ourselves then for the generations that will follow.

Think for yourself!  Never follow the herd. Think of the consequences of any action you take. And be prepared to move out of your comfort zone of your beliefs.


I’m a white African. I was born in Rhodesia, named after Cecil John Rhodes, in a small village nearby where he’s buried. 

But I say the Rhodes statue represents the past. Remove it and replace it with a statue of a Southern Right Whale, that ancient species, so mythical and majestic, and so important to the eco-tourism (and economy) of the Western Cape.  

Then let’s get back to the really important work of making South Africa into the world-class country she has the potential to become.
                                                                                                  "So, you want a revolution?" by Judy Croome
A whale seen off the Cape Coast.
Photo from www.southafrica.net


Sunday, 1 February 2015

A Golden Sorrow by Judy Croome

Life is confusing.

I look over my years — what has been, what is and what is yet to come — and, mostly, I’m content. Happy even, on those precious days when the gods are kind and all is well.

Other days, though, for no reason, I’m filled with a sadness at the incompleteness of my world. I grieve for the imperfections of both the worlds I live in: the inner world that contains the memory of my hopes and my losses, as well as the outer world of waking and working and washing the dishes.

What is it about life that the realities never quite live up to our hopes and dreams?

Somewhere between hopeful dreams and harsh reality lies a valley of feeling. Hidden in its green and lush beauty is a yearning for something I can’t explain; something I can only feel as a deep sadness for all that cannot and will not be in my short existence on this planet.

That sadness is born because, as human beings living in an earthly world, we feel but cannot know, that there is something else, some place better than where we find ourselves today.

We’re dipped in a 'golden sorrow', looking only at our unfulfilled and unattainable dreams, hopes and desires (1). We long for another time, another place, another dream fulfilled, whether a better future, a place called Heaven or a new car.

We seek our happiness in others, in the man-made things that fill the world around us. When we find it, too often it’s a fleeting moment fading as quickly as the red  rose our lover gives us on Valentine’s Day.  

Then we’re searching again, yearning once more for another shot of happiness, another job or car or adventure until,  no longer able to bear the inconsolable longing in our hearts for we know not what, we stop searching and try to ignore the secret, dull throb of our wounded souls.

Does this mean the only way to find happiness is to stop dreaming? To stop hoping for a better world, to stop longing for contentment in our lives and just accept that, in our time on earth as sentient beings, lasting happiness is but a dream that will forever remain unfulfilled?

That may be a sensible, realistic path to walk. We think if we see the world dressed only in all her evil, we’ll survive. We think if we stop  dreaming, we’ll stop hurting.

Yet to live an existence based only on survival deepens our wounds: like hurt animals, we lash out to create a safer world for ourselves and our loved ones.

How do we stop longing for that “something” lying just beyond our grasp, our vision? We’re surrounded by incessant demands (sometimes only from ourselves, our own ambitions!)  to be better, do better, have more, get more …! 

Too often, we feel empty and lost, despite all that we have already attained, all the other dreams that we’ve already fulfilled.  Too often, we live as victims or martyrs because our impossible dreams remain out of our reach and, in a desperate attempt to still the dull heartache we feel, we blame others for our sufferings, or try to save them from theirs.

As I’ve grown older,  I’ve come to realise that happiness can and does exist in this sometimes harsh and ugly world.

Sometimes it comes in a blaze of glory, a goal achieved, a family celebration or a dream fulfilled beyond our wildest imaginings.

Mostly though, it's when we seek joy within ourselves — in more simple dreams, in contentment with our less-than-perfect lives and souls — that our wounded hearts begin to heal.

Then, when we've learnt to find our happiness in small things, life is a lot less confusing. And our hearts, once more, are innocent.

***
Osho Zen Tarot – Major Arcana No 19 “Innocence”
The old man in this card radiates a childlike delight in the world. There is a sense of grace surrounding him, as if he is at home with himself and with what life has brought. He seems to be having a playful communication with the praying mantis on his finger, as if the two of them are the greatest friends. The pink flowers cascading around him represent a time of letting go, relaxation and sweetness. They are a response to his presence, a reflection of his own qualities.

The innocence that comes from a deep experience of life is childlike, but not childish. The innocence of children is beautiful, but ignorant. It will be replaced by mistrust and doubt as the child grows and learns that the world can be a dangerous and threatening place. But the innocence of a life lived fully has a quality of wisdom and acceptance of the ever-changing wonder of life.                   (Description from "Osho Zen Tarot: The Transcendental Game Of Zen Cards")

Zen says that if you drop knowledge--and within knowledge everything is included, your name, your identity, everything, because this has been given to you by others--if you drop all that has been given by others, you will have a totally different quality to your being--innocence. This will be a crucifixion of the persona, the personality, and there will be a resurrection of your innocence; you will become a child again, reborn.  (Osho “Dang Dang Doko Dang”, Chapter 7 )

***
 (1)William Shakespeare. “Henry VIII” (Act II, sciii, ll 19)

Tis better to be lowly born
And range with humble livers in content
Than to be perked up in a glistering grief
And wear a golden sorrow
                                                          ,
***

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Waves of Change

Do you get the feeling that life is changing too fast? That the hours and the days and the years just run away from you?  I do.

Look at how fast the last year flew by! So much upheaval and sorrow in the world. So many goals I wanted to reach and, despite drowning in busy-ness from January to December, I’m no further forward. Am I chained to one spot in my life, a spot I can’t break free from?

Were the last twelve months wasted living in a world that offers nothing except the same old troubles?

As I’m distracted by the depressing details of daily living, wearied by the struggle to reach the goals so important to my happiness and, at times, lost in the incessant clamour of a too-noisy world, is living the life I want to lead only a fading dream?  

Already this new year’s plans and dreams and hopes are tarnished by anxiety and the stress of “what if.”

What if … our country goes up in flames, torn apart by old hatreds painted in new colours? What if … this year drifts by in a haze of coping with life’s daily demands?  What if … this year is used up on everything but turning my dreams into reality? What if … oh, bah! Enough of that doom and gloom!

Far beneath the surface of my conscious fears, there is a part of my heart secure in the knowledge that this last year, marked with mellow times and a lack of worldly achievement, has not been a waste.

Success doesn’t always lie in a goal one can measure by counting the trophies on the shelf, the money in the bank or the imperfect examples of our celebrity heroes and leaders.

Change doesn’t always happen amidst the tumultuous waves of a tsunami or the violent upheaval of a revolution.

Sometimes the most lasting change lies within the ebb of an ocean tide gently changing the shape of an underwater rock or the fleeting awareness that grace and compassion still exist, even if only reflected in our own actions and choices.

Sometimes that moment which critically changes our lives happens not outside in the world in which we live, but deep within our individual souls. 

As the waves of change pound us relentlessly in this coming year, our only danger lies in losing sight of that which has sustained humankind through millennia of strife and struggle: Hope.

Hope that, whatever happens this year — whatever unknowns fill up the blank pages of this waiting year — nothing we do, no matter how trivial or unexpected, will be wasted if we hold onto the faith that, deep beneath the waves, there is an intricate unfolding of a sacred plan. This Divine plan may be mysterious and unknowable to us, but Hope tells us that whatever changes occur in the outside world will, ultimately shift us, both as individuals and as a society, towards our true direction.

We need to stop fighting the powerful currents of life that so constantly pummel our societies, our families and our inner selves. There is space then for Hope to rebirth itself in our hearts and, although nothing much changes on the surface of our lives, we will change on the inside.  While life drives us crazy and pushes us into a darker place then we’ve ever been before, Hope will irrevocably change how we live in that bleak world.

For, resting quietly beneath all the uproar and pressure of the outside world we cannot escape, there is a place we can experience a peace which cannot be understood, but only felt. In the deepest centre of our heart lies our Garden of Eden, the place where God — however we perceive the Divine Being that guides our frail existence — brings us an abundance of blessings.

Do these Divine blessings mean this new year will be smooth sailing, and our ships will eventually dock at Port Paradise-on-Earth?

If anything, the seas of change will be rougher, perhaps even daunting, as the harsh realities of the world we live in will not go away. There will still be bad news blaring forth from every possible media source; there will still be constant demands on us. But we go to this garden within our hearts to create a new wave of change within us: we can choose to change how we act and react, how we love and how we live.

From this secret place within me, the same place that has filled me with new dreams and hopes, I hear a whisper that tells me this past year has been a highly successful year. For slowly, so slowly I didn’t even know it was happening, I’ve been consumed by a wave of change no less profound than the dramatic changes wrought by the non-stop action-filled years that preceded it.

When my mind tells me that I’ve lost control of my  life, the voice in the garden of my heart comforts me with the knowledge that I’ve surrendered to a Higher Power. When I think that I’m floating aimlessly, drifting far from the life’s course I set for myself, I hear in the music of the waves a melody called Hope, Faith and Love. A song that calms my fears and gives me strength to start again.

As we embark on the voyage that is this new year; as we face the waves of change that await, may the same melody of Hope set you on the true direction of your soul’s journey.