From Above




My dad loved the ocean. He grew up in Kleinmond, diving for Abelone and fishing. He loved to live near to it, he spent his holidays playing in it, and his family came along for the ride. One day, I will take his ashes back up to the skeleton coast of Namibia, one of his favourite places in the world. I will go with my boys and some friends and go fishing. Hopefully, catch a big one, but more importantly, take him back to a place that he loved.

I like the ocean. Always have. I like to body surf, at some point I enjoyed diving, I dig scuba and I like to take the family down to the beach early mornings to go swim with the dog. But I’ve never LOVED the ocean. Growing up in a town that had a great break surf, I wondered why I didn’t share other boys’ obsession with surfing. On those holidays in Bettys Bay, going to the beach was cool – but my happy place was the Botanical Gardens, and hiking up to the waterfall.

By the time I was in my mid-20s, I was forming a new habit. Hiking. Not trekking, mind you. Day hikes and weekends away at this point. I finally got the opportunity, with a friend, to visit the Cederberg. This rugged mountain range, about 3 hours from where I lived, had always intrigued me. But somehow I had never gone there. It wasn’t a thing for us growing up, and as an adult, I suppose I didn’t put it out there thus far that I was interested. But when I was 25, I got the opportunity. The weekend did not fulfill my hiking expectations…but it ended up giving me a much greater gift.

My friend Pieter had neglected to tell me that we were going not on a hiking weekend, but a Christian leadership weekend. I was still grappling with my own definition of spirituality at the time, but I went to Church and was not completely out of sync. But the level of engagement was a bit beyond me, and I elected to leave them to their marathon prayer meetings and to rather go spend some time by the stream. To read, to reflect.

The book I had was the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. And it was a game-changer.

The fundamental tenet of the book is our freedom to choose. Our freedom to see the world as we want to see it. To be aware of the script running in our head, to examine that script, to interrogate whether that script serves us, and then change it if needed. To change it through your thoughts, your words, your actions, the people you surround yourself with, and the things you choose to focus on.

And I realized, at that stream, that I was not living an intentional life. I was still letting the objectives and dreams and preferences of others – including my dad – determine my script.

We all have heard the term “flipping the script”. It’s not that easy, but like starting to train for a marathon, it just takes the start, and then a considerable amount of dedication to build the muscle of intentionality. On the backside of that effort, there’s a fitter healthier you, and I mean that in the metaphysical sense.

So I made a start. And it’s been a lifelong journey. But along the way, I realized that oceans are cool, but for me, mountains are better. In the latter part of my 20s, I started to seek out the mountains more regularly. My love affair with multi-day hikes and treks really started in Peru, then came the Himalayas, and at this juncture, I go for at least two long hikes every year, and I am up on mountains every weekend. I’ve also never been to the Maldives, Seychelles, or Mauritius. I still love going to the beach, but it’s because of the joy of being with my kids and my wife and the dog. And I’ve been back to the Cederberg many many times.

Whatever my dad was or wasn’t, whatever his loves were or weren’t, I’m free to determine my own script. My own way of being in the world, and to pursue my own loves and interests, and waking up each day with intentionality. I can take all the good things that he taught and shared with me, and hold on to them, but equally, I can discard all the things that don’t serve me in my own life. I hope my boys will share my love of the mountains – but maybe they’ll be ocean lovers instead. Or maybe they’ll want the wide expanses of the desert or the wonderful natural diversity of the bush and all the creatures great and small that inhabit it. Whatever their predilection will be, I hope that I’ll have my radar tuned to it, and find a way to marry my loves with theirs.

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