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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

What I Brought Back From Africa

April 6, 2011

Tags: order, food, movement, Africa, art, bed time, Berner - Dörte, Berner - Volker, beauty, carpet designer, colors, daily rhythm, desert, elephants, energy, Eningu Clay Lodge, exercise, friendship, gem stone, Kristall Gallerie, lions, mental clearness, Namibia, nap, Ovambo tribe, parent, pietersite, purpose, restraint, savannah, sculptor, sculptures, stone, Swakopmund, Tiger’s eye, t-shirts, weight loss, Welwitschia mirabilis, What I Brought Back From Africa, work, writer

No not what you think!

Recently at a trip to Namibia, my husband attended a conference in Swakopmund, a seaside resort. At a place called Kristall Gallerie – a heaven for gem stone fans like me – I bought a simple necklace from pietersite, a stone that they claim is (nearly) only found in Namibia (there is actually another site in China). Pietersite is a stone marbled in blue, red and gold, and is related to Tiger’s eye. Mine is less dramatic (and less expensive, although pietersite is rather inexpensive overall) - just different blues.

But that is not what I wanted to tell.

After a few days of Swakopmund and wonderful forays into the desert, where we saw ancient Welwitschia plants (I wrote about it earlier), my husband went on a safari with a colleague, and I visited friends in the country.

Dörte and Volker Berner emigrated to Namibia in the sixties. She is a sculptor, he a carpet designer. They spent their lives doing what they like best. They never had much money, but managed to raise three children in the middle of an African savannah. Two years ago, Volker gave over his carpet factory to the people of the Ovambo tribe, and retired to reading and listening to music. Dörte still chisels away at her stones.

Both Dörte and Volker have created beautiful art in a beautiful (if barren) place. Look at their websites (find them at Quick Links, on the left), and see for yourself!

When we were young, Dörte was this quiet and serious girl – I admired her for it. At that time, you wouldn’t have given a penny for me; I was totally into boys, and had no idea who I was, and who I could become. But Dörte already knew about herself. And quietly, seriously, she has created a huge body of work. Her powerful stone sculptures are earthy, solid, beautiful. Volker’s carpets have up to one hundred and fifty different colors – unmatched in their subtlety and color intensity.

We all could be proud if we had built a life full of beauty, restraint and purpose like Dörte and Volker have. If you want to visit them, the Eningu Clay Lodge is close to them – and it probably doesn’t surprise you that the Berner’s have built that lodge too.

So, I brought back the story of their lives and a renewed friendship. But, again, that was not what I wanted to write about today. I brought back the nap.

The what??? The nap! During the five days with the Berner’s, I followed their daily rhythm, and had a nap every day. Lunch at one, a nap afterward. Mostly, I was lying under my mosquito net (which in that area is more decorative than useful), and wondered about this waste of time. But when I came home, I immediately restructured my day around the nap.

As a writer, I of course have the privilege to nap. If you have a nine-to-five job, you still have to wait. But if you are working from home, if you are a home-bound parent, you can implement a nap – it is YOUR day, after all!

This is what a week of regular napping has done to me:

• More energy from early morning to night I am getting up at six, going to bed at ten
• Incredible mental clearness
• Weight loss – which was not even intended; it just seems that I am thinking less of food but more of interesting things
• More work done (of course!)
• More exercise because I am dragging my feet less.

P.S. I also brought back t-shirts with lions and elephants for the neighbors’ kids.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

Tags - see also the non-captalized entries below!