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*Chapter 26 - The Amber Rose*

Early Saturday morning. 22nd of July. I woke up in my bed, covered with my green bedding set, complete with puppy dalmatians. My bedroom was bathing in golden sunlight and as I opened my eyes, I caught a glimpse of the black chiffon dress I was going to wear on the day. The dress would be accompanied by red shoes, a red leather bracelet and red leather backpack. Perfect match for my pale white skin. I'm particularly fond of the combination between black, white and red. He liked it as well.

At first, it seemed to me like the dress was floating in the amber rays of sun, which danced around the room. I soon realised that it was because I had hung it close to the sheer pale pink curtains, therefore creating a contre-jour effect. I'm back, I thought. I'm back in the town where I spend the first 18 years of my life. What a pleasure to wake up in the bed which a few years ago was so spacious, that I could easily hide underneath the sheets and pretend that I built a fortress.

Now, the fortress has been moved, from reality, into my dreams because the bed has somehow shrunk and I am no longer able to put the pieces of the bridge back together. The bridge has burned and the ashes which touched my skin gave me wings of fire. I did not know that I could fly, right from the start. Perhaps because I was focusing on my breathing and then, someone, somewhere, decided that I would stay for a while longer, as it was not my time to leave. Those mili-seconds shall forever remain frozen in my mind. I was anxious to know the answer.

So, I asked myself, I asked him, I asked her and whoever was listening to me. Is this it? Next thing I know, my heart skipped a beat and then, the struggle began. The answer was no. I felt the fire on my skin and my wings were emerging. So be it, I though. I'm alive. There was no white light and therefore, my story wasn't complete. Other chapters were waiting to unfold. From that moment onwards, the pages of my life's novel kept on flowing. I have decided to embrace each and every line of my book, for better and for worse. I told myself I should enjoy every moment and focus on the simplicity of life. No more complicated scenarios which would end up not happening in real life, no more what ifs, no more fear of the unknown.

I'm alive, I'm here now, that's what matters. Today is mine, I own it. And if today is mine, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow will be mine as well, regardless of the scenario. I've not realised how lucky I am, until I looked back on my journey so far. Oh, how blessed I feel today. I do what I love and I love what I do. It gives me the energy to move forward and gets me out of bed each morning, with a smile. My life would not be the same without photography. I'm surrounded by people who love me for who I am, with my flaws and imperfections.

Last but not least, I'm healthy and therefore, able to do what makes me happy. I'm able to travel and see the wonders of this world. I'm able to photograph such magnificent places and share my images with the people I love. I'm able to enjoy simple things such as holding his hand, embracing my family and my dearest of friends. I'm able to cherish their presence and the time I spend with them. Now, I chose to focus less on the materiality of life and more on the meaning of it. I place less emphasis on the actual objects I receive from my loved ones.

Now, it's more about the symbolism of the gifts and how they relate to the ones who give them to me. It's more about the sentimental value and about what they make me feel. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. The path towards simplicity is not all sunshine and butterflies but I am learning how to master it, one step at a time. Apart from the lessons on how to live & enjoy a simple life and focus on the little things, I am also learning how to say thank you.

This sounds rather dull, doesn't it? Saying thank you is easy. Right? Well, not really. At least, not for me. This is because I used to take most of the things for granted and not fully rejoice about what I had. Not anymore. Today I'm grateful because: I'm alive I'm healthy I have photography I have my parents with me I have my friends with me I have him I've had people pray for me I have received an answer to their prayers I've been treated by super-humans (doctors, nurses and the entire medical staff) I've got a blonde angel I've got a black haired angel I have music in my life I was given the gift of time I was granted the strength to rise like a phoenix I met outstanding people whom I managed to keep close I can eat chocolate every day I have amazingly fluffy siblings ( 3 dogs and 1 cat).

I wake up every morning and I see daylight I have a home I can travel the world I had access to education I'm learning how to use my creativity I have such a wonderful life story I have found love (more than once) I have learned that there are various types of love I no longer see passing away as an ending Speaking about the simple things, on my birthday, the image which stuck with me the entire day was from our journey through Norway.

One evening, while the ship was cruising towards the next destination, I stood on the balcony and gazed at the sun, as it was slowly yet surely gliding through the clouds, towards to ocean, to rest. It was beyond words. Simply majestic. The sea, the light, the clouds, the colour palette...

Everything was so perfectly aligned. I could see the meeting point between the sky and ocean. It was there, so clearly contoured by the rays of sun, falling diagonally upon the horizon. That's the place where I'll reunite with all the lovely beings, ever so close to my heart. When the time is right, I'll find my way and they'll be there to greet me. No sooner. No later.

There's no need to rush, because no matter how long it takes to finish my story, they will wait for me. One page, one memory and one heart beat at a time. As I finish writing this page, I'd like to give a toast, in your honour. You, the people I love, who make my life wonderful each and every day.

Today's choice is a lovely, sweet, amber coloured, rose wine. Why? Simply because I'm learning to live la vie en rose. Cheers!

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