Monday Musings: My sled dog teacher

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It’s that time of year. When we’re all becoming reflective, pondering the year that was. The year of the sourdough starter, the home workout, the fledgeling attempts at gardening and (regrettable?) batches of pineapple beer.

Then, as the novelty (and homebrew hangover) of lockdown began to give way to equal parts anxiety and fatigue, the realisation for many of us sunk in—there’s no finish line in a pandemic. At least not in the way we think, or hope.

Blair Braverman, an American adventurer, dogsled racer and author, writes about the parallels between her sled dogs mid-mush, and us mid-pandemic, when there’s little idea of how far it is to our destination.

Her dogs will run flat out, unaware of the distance they must cover, whether it’s 10 km or 100. But despite their enthusiasm on the trails, this unfettered pace isn’t sustainable over the long run and Braverman must ensure they rest early and often. She must anticipate their needs before the need actually strikes, which by then, it’s too late.

She draws the comparison to humans in the wild unknown of 2020 and how we must be proactive in caring for ourselves and others. “Because if you don’t know how far you’re going, you need to act like you’re going forever,” writes Braverman.

“Planning for forever is essentially impossible, which can actually be freeing: It brings you back into the present. How long will this pandemic last? Right now, that’s irrelevant; what matters is eating a nourishing meal, telling someone you love them, walking your dog, getting enough sleep. What matters is that, to the degree you can, you make your own life sustainable every day.”

So, while we’re hedging our bets for the year to come—the revived resolutions and hopeful return to normalcy—2021 is still a year of shifting finish lines and unknown variables, requiring endurance and compassion above all else.

The good news is, with a growing number of viable COVID-19 vaccines in their final stages of trials, suddenly there is hope. In the language of the Inuit, mushers of note, we may well be entering a period of qarrtsiluni.

Seth Godin drops this beauty on us in his daily bite-sized blog. Qarrtsiluni is the Inuit word for “sitting together in the darkness, quietly, waiting for something creative or important to occur.” It’s a word that conveys a shared and visceral sense of anticipation and calm before something wonderful.

Here again, in this poetic, untranslatable Inuit word, is a reminder that being patient and sometimes still is not the same as stagnation. Because like Braverman’s good boy and good girls, we don’t know what’s around the next bend of the trail or if we must forge through another blizzard. And when running towards an unknown ending, as in this pandemic, we must focus only on the factors we can control and front-load on the things that restore our energy, our resilience and sense of hope.

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What the world was musing over this past week:

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The greatest shoal on earth

South African freediving champion Beth Neale was one of the few people to witness the annual sardine run along South Africa’s east coast. Captured by Neale on camera, this marine phenomenon is one of the planet’s largest migrations in terms of biomass. She hopes that the beauty and grandeur of the sardine run will promote awareness and appreciation of the interconnectedness of the ocean ecosystem.

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The name game

African Travel has created a contest for travel advisors to name Yima’s handsome son—a new male baby black rhino. The winner, to be selected by award-winning National Geographic magazine photographer Ami Vitale, is a free educational trip to Africa. You have one more week to submit entries—no Horny McHornface, guys!

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A giant, pink avian invasion

Tampa International Airport, which doubles as a contemporary art museum, is installing a massive floor-to-ceiling pink flamingo sculpture. Robin Nigh, the City of Tampa’s Manager of Arts and Cultural Affairs, says that the 6-meter-tall piece of artwork is intended to provide a visual respite—a unique, kitsch and fun welcome for visitors and returning Floridians.

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Productions at sea

If you’re missing cruising, and the myriad onboard entertainment, Norwegian Cruise Lines is offering a small reprieve. NLC has made available an exclusive performance of one of its top-rated production at sea—The Choir of Man. Prefaced by a poignant message from cast member Denis Grindel, this video features beloved toe-tapping tunes, an ode to theatre and boatloads of positive energy.

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Greenlight for WTM Africa 2021

WTM Africa is a go for 07-09 April 2021. Reimagined as a live/hybrid event to provide a much-needed platform for connection, this will be the first of its kind in Africa and mark a much-anticipated return to IRL shows after a tough year. Look forward to seeing you there!

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Safaris for a new era

Planning your post-pandemic excursions? Look no further. National Geographic has shared its Best of the World pick for 2021 and beyond. Think destinations that speak to serious adventurers, pioneer sustainable tourism, and uplift local communities. South Africa makes a feature under the nature and wildlife category for its inherently socially-distanced safaris and ease of independent travel.

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Lucky number 21

Associated with luck, risk, taking chances and rolling the dice, the number 21 is rich in symbolism. So, will 2021 live up to this hype? Tom Standage, editor of The Economist’s “The World in 2021” unpacks the ten trends to watch in the coming year. Standage teases, if you’re looking for more silver linings and lessons learned, you’ll have to pick up the 35th edition print copy.

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Does practice make perfect?

If you want to generate unique ideas, practice may not make perfect[LS5] . A new study shows that routine brainstorming sessions are unlikely to make you more creative. Rather, novel inspirations come from different perspectives and random thoughts—and more often in the morning. The researchers suggest business brainstorming that truly taps into creativity must be free of constraints and push people out of their comfort zones—something more closely resembling improvisational exercises.