Tag Archives: Photography

My Ostrich Moment

I don’t like conflicts or disagreements. Most of us don’t.  My natural inclination is to be positive and optimistic, always give the other party the benefit of the doubt. So when life throws these negative episodes in my way, my first instinct would be to bury my head in the sand or run away. Much like the poor ostrich has falsely been accused to do when it comes under attack.

This was particularly true when I was younger. Most often I would give in for this instinct, try to walk away or at least look in the other direction. What conflict? I didn’t see anything. And if I didn’t see anything, it wasn’t going to be there anymore. Or so I hoped. But that’s not how it works. Conflicts get worse by time if not dealt with. Life teaches us many lessons and one thing I feel I’ve learned something about is conflict resolution.

I credit much of my initial growth in this area to one specific conflict situation. Just before my thirtieth birthday, I was appointed to my first management job, as the Head of a Division of thirty some people, all considerably older than me. I knew it was a tall order, but believed that I could do it – with a lot of learning along the way. Some of my staff were very enthusiastic and others much less so. I observed this already in my first few days, but gave in to my inclination to look the other way. I was hoping that if I just worked hard and showed them that I was a good leader, things would calm down. I was wrong, I could sense it. So one day in my second or third week on the job, I decided I needed to do something uncharacteristic to me. Not to hide my head in the sand, but instead try to define and understand the problem a group of my most senior staff seemed to have. I needed a higher vantage point. So I invited six of them for lunch.

So when all of us had received our plates, I didn’t resort to small talk, but asked them how they felt about my appointment to this job. I wanted to hear them out. It was like opening the flood gates. They all talked and I listened. I learned they had a deep concern: my appointment to this important job was a disaster for the Division. I was of the wrong gender and by all counts far too young and unexperienced. The only woman ever to hold this job before me had been very experienced, twenty years my senior, and she had failed miserably. And the youngest male who had ever held this job was forty when he started, ten years my senior. They asked me to withdraw from the job so it could be opened for a new search.

Wow! I certainly did not have the odds on my side. My first thought was to run – fast and far. But I didn’t. I decided to acknowledge their fear that I may not succeed. I also understood that they feared for their jobs as this was a time of “right sizing” in the company, many divisions were merged or abolished altogether. I told them that I believed I could succeed, but only if we all pulled together. I had a lot to learn. I also told them that I wanted six months to demonstrate that I was the right person for the job, that my only interest was the success of that division. If I was proven wrong, I would resign at that point. Anyone can survive for six months, so we had a deal.

Almost six months later, my Division held the customary semi-annual retreat to review progress and to plan for the future. Our day-long meeting was set in the beautiful Stockholm archipelago. I opened the meeting but before I even got to the agenda, one of these six people asked if she could say something before we started. She took the floor and told everyone in the Division about our lunch discussion. She told very bluntly and honestly what I had been told and how I had responded. While she was talking I observed amazement on many faces. Then she said that she and the others wanted to apologize to me publicly. And so we lived in harmony, survived as a Division and worked together successfully the next five years.

This conflict was the first one I had tackled head on in the workplace and it taught me many valuable lessons. I have since faced many other conflicts and helped to resolve countless ones. To me, the key ingredients to successfully resolve a conflict, whether in the workplace, in the family or between friends or neighbors, are the following:

  • Acknowledge the conflict as soon as it starts, when it has not yet had the time to grow and fester, and do not brush it under the rug;
  • Try to define the issue objectively, detach from the personalities involved as much as possible. A lot of hurt can be avoided if we are able to be objective and look at the issue and say here it is, this is what it looks like and then ask, with honest intentions to resolve the situation,  how do we find a new way of doing things, a way forward;
  • Listen attentively so that we actually hear the other party;
  • Acknowledge that the problem took its time to develop, so the resolution will also need to take its time;
  • Understand that sometimes only small steps can be taken to start with, instead of trying to resolve all of it in one go; and
  • Understand that particularly when the conflict has been allowed to escalate and bad things have already been said, forgiveness will need to be part of the solution.

I still don’t like conflict, but now I don’t hide or run from it. Once the issues have been resolved, and good intentions to follow through have been demonstrated, harmony and peace usually return in time. What is your experience?

Time Square and the Pink Hippo

Just came back home from a big city urban safari.  A trip loaded with work and all the stresses of the modern world. Although it was good, or what’s commonly called successful, it was nothing like the safaris I’m used to. The big city certainly makes me run faster, speak louder, listen less, and in general adjust to the rapid urban pulse of human achievement.

A big city definitely is a place where people rule.  An urban jungle where the huge buildings provide some shade from the sun and the cars roam the streets. They can certainly kill you if you’re not constantly on your watch. A manmade kingdom with a few implanted, lonely pieces of the nature providing some warmth to the stone filled environments. A few representatives of the animal kingdom can be seen walking the sidewalks, tightly in the leash for their own protection.

On a nature bound safari, whether in the north or in the south, I immediately feel the deep connection with the nature. And I realize that I am a visitor in the nature’s wild kingdom. That is a very special feeling. There is a keen awareness of not being in charge in that environment, but at the same time a deep sentiment of being part of it. A sense of oneness, peace and awe. Such a contrast to the urban jungle and the modern life we are so accustomed with.

At home relaxing after my “urban safari”, I was reminiscing over the safaris we were so fortunate to go on in the past. We always preferred to drive ourselves, whenever possible, and tried to avoid the most “touristy” safari parks in an effort to find some truly genuine wild kingdoms. That of course came with two “givens”: not to disturb the wild, and be prepared to encounter some unscheduled adventures along the way. I hope we minimized the former, but we certainly had our share of the latter. I have already told many stories in my earlier posts but there are countless more…

After my sweaty walks in the big city, I came to think about the most spectacular bath I’ve ever taken. One late afternoon in Ethiopia we were searching for the hot spring we knew would be located in a small oasis in the Awash region, which for the most part was dusty, dry savannah. We were fairly close to the location and could already see the tall trees reaching for the sky, when we came across a group of hyenas.  They were many and some of them were huge. They were probably planning for their evening meal.  Right after that encounter, we found the hot spring. The surroundings were incredibly beautiful with flowers and lots of green vegetation. And the water was warm and crystal clear.

hot springs in awash ethiopia

We were a bit hesitant to jump into the inviting water. Perhaps we would see six hyena heads watching us from the high edge of the spring. But we jumped in anyway, couldn’t resist the opportunity to wash out the day’s dust as we didn’t have any shower at our simple camp grounds. And we were lucky, no hyenas guarding our clothes when we finally climbed up after our refreshing bath and swim in the desert oasis.

The traffic jams in the big city reminded me of another “jam” we came across while driving in a national park in Kenya. We came across a huge herd of water buffaloes crossing our trail. They had the green light, we had the red. There must have been between 150-200 animals. We stopped immediately and very quietly, literally holding our breaths. And tried to be invisible while they passed on all sides of our vehicle, some nudging it. It seems we had stopped a bit on the cross walk.

buffaloes in queen Elizabeth national park in uganda

 

Dining out in the big city also reminded me of another time when we dined out in the wild on one memorable New Year Eve in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. We had several adventures and encounters packed into a single day. First in the morning we spotted a huge male lion. It was quite rare as they tend to move very little in the day time and often get their meal served by the females at night. Then on our afternoon drive we found a small herd of elephants. They were covered by some trees and high grass so we just stopped on the trail and watched them quietly. Somehow the mother sensed our presence. She took a few quick steps in our direction and showed clear signs of dislike by raising her trunk. Having learned from our earlier encounters with elephants, we didn’t need another warning.  It was time to retreat immediately.

elephants in queen elizabeth national park in uganda

When coming back to the lodge, we met the man-eater. A lion who had killed a park ranger a couple of years earlier. She was of course now in the small museum at the lodge for everyone to see, after being hunted down and killed by other rangers. A legend was circulating in the park about the ghost of this man-eater. She had been seen walking along the dirt road to the lodge at night…

After a nice late dinner outside at the lodge, we all decided to celebrate the New Year on our little terrace with the view to the river. We had a bottle of Champagne saved for this occasion. So a few minutes to midnight we walked back to our accommodations in the moon light under the African starry sky.  It was a very beautiful and clear night. Suddenly we hear a sound in the dark. We all stop in our tracks and listen. It was a repeating sound of big feet.  Like something big and heavy walking in the shadows…in our direction. We decided to retreat behind some tall trees next to the path we had been walking on. And past us walks a huge hippo straight towards the main lodge. He had a pink glow in the moonlight…

a hippo in queen elizabeth national park in uganda

Later on when we enjoyed our night on the terrace, he came back to greet us. He obviously liked the grass next to path leading to the river and we could observe him in the moonlight for a good part of an hour. And now he seemed even more pinkish. I can still picture his silhouette against the moonlit river bank. It’s not every day one meets a pink hippo at midnight.

White Little Bird

Come to me white little bird

don’t be afraid

your life is going to meet you

halfway, if you dare.

Come to me white little bird

deep waters to wade

your purpose is going to greet you

soon enough, if you care.

Come to me white little bird

this has been said

your miracle is going to treat you

over and over, if you share.

White little bird

It’s you I’m talking to.

Friendship Lost

I’m terribly sad, don’t want to be mad

we had it and now it’s gone.

There was joy, not just for a ploy

we had it and now it’s gone.

We used to talk, while taking a walk

we had it and now it’s gone.

Watching for mail, now is a fail

we had it and now it’s gone.

I had a friend, not only pretend

we had it and now it’s gone.

I’m sad, we’ve lost what we had.

Whassup? (or Guest Post VI)

Hiff, it’s me again. Have to report some new developments. Things don’t seem to be quite normal around here. I mean this morning was completely fine. Mom and I had a nice Sunday stroll in the park. I had lots of time to readf my morning paper around the bushes cause mom was so occupied with her camera. There were some white birds in the marsh. I don’t care about them, too far for me to swim out there. So I focused on my favorite exercise, squirrel waiting.

 

But this afternoon things started to change. I think someone is coming to visit. Mom went to the grocery store today! Why? It’s Sunday and she just went to the store yesterday… When she came back I saw she had bought some cans. Chicken stew!? But she didn’t put them where my food is – yes, I know where my food is, I’m always checking out the stash of treats. They all went into the pantry.  That’s weird. The labels looked good.  I’m such a slow reader, but I thought it said ravioliff . I am not sure what that means, but I told mom I’d volunteer to eat them. I saw peanuts too, but can’t have them. Don’t wanna get sick.

She also bought water! Why can’t we all drink water from the tap filter, like we always do? That beats me. But maybe all that is for someone else?

Then more weird things happened. I was sitting comfortably on the terrace warming myself and enjoying my Sunday when mom suddenly came out with dad. They didn’t sit down. Instead they asked me to go in. First I thought it was because it was quite hot. But then they started to move the stuff inside. All of it! Where do I sit now? I’ll have to regain my access to the living room leather sofa…Mom can you put my black cat pillow there? I said pleeaaff!

I just looked into the laundry room. It’s so full of chairs now that mom can’t even wash my woollen red blanket. What if there’s an accident? Not that I have accidents, but maybe mom spills her coffee on it? She is so clumsy at times. The whole thing is puzzling to me. I heard mom talking about someone called Isaac. I don’t know him and I think I’ll not like him.  He hasn’t been here before and I hope he doesn’t come. I might bark if he knocks on the door. And I’ll definitely growl.