Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Monday, April 26, 2010

Friendships, Tulips, and Dreams

"Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country." -Anais Nin

It has almost been a year since my husband and I first visited Prague, to consider moving here with our family for a couple year expat assignment with his job. I remember those initial emotions, the excitement, the fear. What would such a giant leap bring?

We wondered how all of us would make friends. We all left friends and family and flowers (my gardens ... and hummingbirds ... and all the small things we build into our lives over time in one place).

Now, we have lived in Prague for nine months, and our lives are settled and have fallen into a rhythm. We are so grateful.

Amazingly, we have made great new friends. And family enjoys coming to visit. And several of our new friends have given us flowers--tulip bulbs from their native Holland (photographs taken here, in my Prague gardens).

Beauty and dreams and hope and the sweet things in life even come in a new country.

I'm taking notes so I can remember ...  When we toss our hopes and dreams up like a kite to Heaven, I need to remember that the fear isn't necessary-- God has much bigger plans in store than that of my small fears. Unless our dreams include a few miracles, they're just not big enough yet.
Starting the Conversation: What little fears hold you back from big dreams?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Croatia, Dubrovnik, and other Related Travels

"Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik and find it." -George Bernard Shaw


Last week, our family of five packed our suitcases, mounted our Chica (Garmin), and followed the Winding Road to spend a week in Croatia. As it turns out, our trip meant far more than a "beach vacation", and the places and things we saw will linger in our memories for many years to come. Croatia and its neighboring countries are quite unique.

Croatian Coast

Bordering the Adriatic Sea almost the whole length from Trieste, Italy, to the NorthWest coast of Greece, Croatia consists of a tireless strip of coastline. For much of the stretch, the Croatia-Bosnia border is only a few miles from the water, and at one section on the road South to Dubrovnik, the traveler by car must cross Bosnia for a dozen miles.


Our destination, the near-ancient and historic town of Dubrovnik, proved to be the jewel on the sea as Croatia says it is. If there were ever a "Pirates of the Caribbean" like the movies and Disney's setup, it is Dubrovnik. Consisting of multiple bastion-type forts and a continuous city wall stretching two kilometers, Dubrovnik has fought its battles for centuries, and won. The most recent battles fought there were in the Croatian War for Independence, 1991-1995, with lingering battles in Dubrovnik into 1996.

With such a recent devastating war, you can imagine the sites we saw--simple and humbling remnants from this nation who gave so much for freedom. Fresh cemeteries with uniform headstones seemingly stood in every village we passed. Buildings demolished into dormant ruins, mortar marks, bullet holes-- all serve to remind only years later of the war.

Reminder of Recent War, Croatia

As the Croatian people forge ahead, FREE, and they create the alluring accomodations and roads to host visitors from all over the world, we can cheer them on. We felt quickly at home--their smiles are gracious, their English impeccable, their hospitality warm. And their country is beautiful beyond mere words.

Endless green-blue Sea

Coastal Charm, Croatia

What leaves the indelible impression upon me is the need for government and people to find a harmonious path, and to give each other the grace we all need in return. For without a doubt, when too much is taken, the human spirit will rise up and embrace freedom.

Starting the Conversation: Croatia has countless islands capped by mountains jutting skyward from the sea--a radiant and unique coastline, dotted with mini-lighthouses and sailing yachts. What is your favorite coast along the sea--any sea?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

God Bless the Winding Road

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.” -Robert Frost

The winding road along the Croatian Coast, near Bosnia

One year ago, I would’ve never guessed I’d be where I am today.

This week, our family has been vacationing for our kids’ Spring Break from school at the shore. Not at the coast of Florida, or South Texas, or California, but in the extreme south of coastal Croatia.

As recent as a year ago, I could’ve never imagined I’d be standing in Croatia. My husband and I were hopeful at some point, on some year, he’d be offered a position with his company overseas, but we could not have imagined where that road we hoped for would take us. Only a few months later, we were selling our home and cars, packing up our family, and moving across the ocean to Prague.

It’s funny, as we dare to listen to our hopes and dreams, we naturally tense up from fear. None of us knows exactly what tomorrow will bring. Or the next moment. And it leaves us with the choice: to become paralyzed with fear, or to embrace the winding road and whatever it may bring.

Krka, Croatia

To open ourselves up to possibility is to open ourselves up to receive the blessings …

When we’re on the winding road pointing toward bigger dreams, we can’t see what lies around the next bend, past the next corner, beyond the coming hills and mountains and challenges and peaks. Daring to follow the challenging course, the one that stretches us and brings us closer to who we hope to become, can be scary. But if we can let go of the fear of the unknown and simply let ourselves trust, we can find the exhilaration and untapped joy beyond any we’ve ever imagined.

the extraordinary blues from our little gem along the Adriatic

Today, as the sun set over the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia, I saw a sunset like no other I’ve ever seen in my life. Lush mountains spilled down into the azure water of the Adriatic Sea. Three lighthouses perched among rocky islands began their blinking for the night. And the setting sun streamed tangerine light across a glittering bay. Unforgettable.

Tomorrow, we leave for home, Prague, our expat home away the USA. As we wind around the curving roads leading up and through the mountains of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Slovakia, and Czech, and again, we’ll embrace the possibility lying just beyond the bend … God bless the winding road.

Starting the Conversation: Where have your winding roads taking you? What amazing possibilities have opened up as a result from your choice-- being open and taking the winding road?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Claude Monet, the Water-Lilies, Paris and L'Orangerie

Our family traveled from Prague to Paris for a getaway in the West last weekend. Along with time walking along the Seine, the Tuileries Gardens, around the Eiffel Tower and Arc D' Triumph and Trocodero, and mass at the Notre Dame on Ile d'Cite, visiting the Musée de l’Orangerie in Jardin des Tuileries became the thrilling highlight for me. 

all photographs: paintings of Les Nympheas by Claude Monet from Musee l'Orangerie, Paris

As far back as I can remember, Claude Monet has been one of my favorite artists; his Impressionistic style has always resonated, deeply. Last weekend, on this first visit to L'Orangerie, my love for Monet's art has grown exponentially.

It is difficult to explain in mere words the substantive presentation of Monet's Les Nympheas (The Water Lilies) ... so I'm including several photographs, along with quotes from Monet, to better portray his masterpieces and their sheer beauty.

"It took me time to understand my waterlilies. I had planted them for the pleasure of it; I grew them without ever thinking of painting them." -Claude Monet

"My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece."

"I can only draw what I see."

"Everything I have earned has gone into these gardens." (on his gardens at Giverny)

"Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment."

"It took me time to understand my waterlilies. I had planted them for the pleasure of it; I grew them without ever thinking of painting them."

"I know that to paint the sea really well, you need to look at it every hour of every day in the same place so that you can understand its way in that particular spot and that is why I am working on the same motifs over and over again, four or six times even."

"It's on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly."
"Thanks to water, [Monet] has become the painter of what we cannot see. He addresses that invisible spiritual surface that separates light from reflection. Airy azure captive of liquid azure ... Color rises from the bottom of the water in clouds, in whirlpools."

Starting the Discussion: What art inspires you? Who is your favorite artist? Do you have a favorite art museum you go to for inspiration?