a summary of summer things…

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The year is spinning by so fast I can hardly believe it. Despite recent years of minimising and editing my environment as well as downsizing interaction with social media, days are full and my energy wanes. Sometimes I think the summer here is like winter in the northern hemisphere, a time for stasis, or at least slowing down. But the one thing I make time to do nearly every single day is walk. I love to walk in the early morning.

Light. Quiet. Relative cool. Promise. Beauty. So many reasons to walk early. And this…IMG_0738

I have no profound topics to share with you this time, but decided that you might find a little gem in amongst some of the things that have interested me in recent weeks.

Podcasts:

Your Creative Push – interviews with various artists and people who share helpful insights for creative practices. This episode is an artist whose work I recently purchased and if you listen until the very end she shares a good tip from Martha Beck for tackling big projects. (Aimée Hoover, artist, website here)

IMG_0724Chat10 Looks3 – This podcast is by two of Australia’s leading journalists, Annabelle Crabb and Leigh Sales. They are brilliant women whose banter is hilarious but they also impart a lot of information regarding Australian culture, books and other media. It makes me laugh so much, if I listen to it when I’m walking I’m sure I’m in danger of being taken away to the psych ward. If you are not Australian it may not make as much sense.

Tim Ferris Show – interviews with people who inspire and illuminate. This episode with Brené Brown.

BBC Food Programme  – A factual, in-depth examination of all things food. Fascinating. This episode is for my Northern Hemisphere friends as it is all about the humble dish of porridge (oatmeal).

Conversations with Richard Fidler – MY FAVOURITE! Yes you can read that in shouty tones because that is how much I loved this episode. And now I want a horse. Or at least to be near one. A radio interview can actually have that effect on a person.

(*note – Not all of these interviewers are the best, but these are still my favourite interviews of recent weeks, usually because of the person being interviewed or some bit of wisdom they present)

Books:

IMG_0770Outline by Rachel Cusk – did not hit my sweet spot but it might hit yours (fiction) I noticed that reviews were varied, though mostly positive.

Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner – a revelation (to me) in writing style. This is a series of essays, some I liked very much, others not as much but overall a very worthwhile book. (non-fiction)

The Summary of Small Things by Carol Adams – a surprising and gentle little book filled with details from six months of a life lived in Central Australia, with awareness and engagement. I was delighted by this book. (non-fiction) This is the second in a series of locally published books (Ptilotus Press) about Central Australia. Carol is a long time resident, artist and author from Alice Springs. Book is only $15 (plus postage) and is available from Red Kangaroo books, 79 Todd Mall, Alice Springs Ph: 08 89532137 and email: redkanga@bigpond.com

Small House Living Australia by Catherine Foster. Over the years I’ve become very interested in the ‘small but perfectly formed’ abode. This book has photos and floor plans of smartly designed homes of 90 square metres (~315 sq. feet) or less. (non-fiction) (there is also a New Zealand version here)

Food:

New favourite salad – http://www.theglowingfridge.com/crunchy-thai-noodle-salad/ 

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This is not my photo, but from the website with the recipe. I ate mine so fast I forgot to photograph it!

(I can’t eat the rice noodles so left them out and still found it delicious. This is a vegan salad as it is, but you could easily add prawns/shrimp, salmon or boiled egg if you want more protein.)

YouTube:

Mel Robbins – is probably classified as a motivational speaker. What fascinated me is this particular ‘5 second rule’ idea. This link is for the short version, lasts only 5 minutes.

This link is for a 25 minute interview with Mel — her story of how she discovered this ‘5 second rule’ which she admits she wishes had a different name 🙂

 

As I look back at what I’ve been consuming…no wonder the days are flying by.  xx

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the dingo chronicles…

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IMG_0694On the second day of new year, January’s Wolf moon had nearly dipped behind the ranges as I stepped out for my early morning walk. I had descendants of the wolf on my mind as I skirted the area I normally walk through, in favour of a, hopefully, safer one. The previous morning my husband and his mates saw five–five dingoes rolling and frolicking in the grass on the 6th Fairway, about 12 minutes’ walk from our house and about a third of the way along my normal route. In the past we have seen two or three at a time, but never five. So, while I was walking I stopped the dog walkers alerting them to the situation. There have been two incidents that I know of a couple of years ago; one with a lady I know who was stalked by three dingoes while she was walking her tiny little mouthful of a dog, and another where the dingoes actually got into a neighbour’s yard and helped themselves to a tiny little canine entrée.

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Wild Dingoes on the fairway in front of our house

Dingoes are gorgeous creatures but they are a nuisance in an urban setting. The area where we live is between the golf course and the bush so it is a difficult place for the Rangers to patrol—very easy for the dogs to slip through to the scrub and go undetected. The dingoes are protected so would only be caught and relocated, which is good, but first they must be caught.

Last year during my time away from blogging, a friend sent me a notice about a writing competition in a nice magazine here in Australia. Just to exercise my writing muscle, I entered. It is intimidating to know where to start when one has such a wide scope for subject matter. I finally settled on a reworked post from this blog since the article was to be something that exhibited Australian life. It was about previous encounters I’ve had with the dingoes –you might like to read the entry here– the dingo and the light chaser. It was not selected for the magazine, but I’m sure they received many pieces and who ever knows what judges are looking for in these things? And it might just be crap, I don’t know. It’s important to keep one’s perspective about why we write so that our fragile egos are not too damaged. As you can see, I’m undaunted.

Just after sending the entry, I was laying on the sofa in the dark one morning, waiting for it to be light enough to walk. (I sometimes wake up at ridiculous hours) Out of the pre-dawn came a chorus I will never forget. The family of dingoes must have been within metres of our house as they began their serenade. It was obvious there were younger, higher pitched voices mixed with the more experienced, deeper ones, practicing their howling skills. It lasted maybe ten or fifteen seconds. I peered into the darkness. Couldn’t see a thing. But they were there.

Again, the day after I began writing this piece, an adult dingo was within metres of our house, sniffing through the fence at the little white yapping morsel next door. If I was cruel I would wish the dingo bon appétit. The entire neighbourhood bristled to life with workmen jumping down from their scaffolds to watch and neighbourhood dogs announcing the dingo’s journey as it moved, unhurried, along its way, into the rocky outcrops and relative safety.

breathe in life

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IMG_8283Why do we need someone to remind us that our view of the world is unique? Why is it so difficult to understand that each and every life on this planet has had a different trajectory? Siblings can grow up in the same household and have extraordinarily different lives. We can stand side by side seeing the same view and appreciate very different aspects.

Maybe it is scary to think that others are different to us, even though we know that for the most part we are the same. We have the same motivations, though they modify with the individual. We have the same emotions, again, greater or lesser, from person to person. But it’s that teeny tiny little fraction of difference that we either focus on, and fear, or forget to celebrate…or find it necessary to express creatively.

Over a year ago I started listening to podcasts. I imagine most of you have been doing that for a while and I’m a lagger in this pursuit, but timing is everything in life. We discover when it is our time to discover. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear, as the wisdom goes. In podcasts I have found a great resource for inspiration at a time when I wanted to make some changes in my creative practices. One of the best quotes, among many excellent ones I’ve heard is…

IMG_8026breathe in experience, breathe out poetry –Muriel Rukeyser

A friend of mine says to me that the art I make is as a result of ‘having a life’. The first time she said it I knew it was true, the way you recognise truth by feeling it in your heart, rather than thinking it in your head. But this recent quotation was a beautiful reminder. And so if we breathe in our experiences, and we wish to be creative with them, we can breathe out whatever art we want to make. And it will be unique. No one else can replicate it. We can strive to be the very best version of ourselves because no one else can do that.

As a result of my creative quest and podcast listening, I began a new drawing practice. I can only say to you that the previous way I had of drawing seemed to impede my self expression. Perhaps I had not practiced enough, but I was bored with trying it that way. And so I thought I would begin again, as much as that is possible.

I want to draw more childlike, I have decided–from my imagination, playful, and relaxed.

 Picasso said…

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but the rest of my life to paint like a child.

Having actually seen a painting by a teenage Picasso, I can vouch for the fact that he was a classical painter at a very young age. Most people don’t think of his work in that way at all.

So for the year 2018, I wish you the ability to breathe in life and its experiences, and breathe out whatever creative expression you choose. It may not be easy, but it will be your unique legacy. I leave you with wisdom from poet ee cummings, who fought all his life to be recognised as himself…

A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words.

This may sound easy. It isn’t.

A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

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the perfect gift

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fullsizeoutput_3e83They were a new family in our neighbourhood. Partying and a high threshold for noise and disruption seemed to be their goals in life. We knew their daughter, our travel agent for a couple of years—lovely and good at her job. We also knew of the husband, reputed as a good builder. In fact the house they bought was in need of a renovation and was eventually turned into a stunning home.

The disruption to our quiet cul-de-sac-life was noticeable. Apparently they did not quite appreciate the subtle characteristic of the quiet neighbourhood. We wondered when it would calm down. A year or so after they moved in we heard on the grapevine that the son had had an accident which sounded very much like one from partying too hard. For a while there was doubt he would be able to follow on in his dad’s footsteps as a builder. As he recovered, we noticed that their large life seemed to get quieter and smaller.

Processed with VSCO with oak1 presetA year or so later, we had returned from traveling only a week or so earlier. We were still at the settling in phase. I had let our dog out into our unfenced yard, which was our normal routine. I walked him mornings and either my husband or I walked him evenings as well. But for a little midday pee, he would wet the tree out the front on the golf course side of the house, and then settle himself in the sun on our grass until ready to come in again.

Over the recent year or so, I noticed he had gotten hard of hearing. He was 18 years old, after all, though he still looked fit as a two year old. A result of his growing deafness was that when I would call him, he would often go in the opposite direction, disoriented, no doubt. And I had not realised that occasionally he had started wandering a little further afield to the neighbours on either side of us, even climbing the steps to one house for a daily treat!! The secret life of pets!

IMG_0312It was afternoon and I was home alone with Storm. I let him out and only a few minutes later there came a knock at the door. It was our close neighbour who had been feeding him the treats. Visibly shaken. ‘It’s Storm’. I sensed what was coming. He had been hit by a car on the road side of our house, the side where I thought he never ventured. Later everyone said that they had never seen him there before, which was some small comfort. Our neighbour assured me he died instantly but told me not to come up the driveway that he would bring him if I had something in which to wrap him. I handed Storm’s clean bedding fresh from the clothes line to our neighbour.

It was a horrible day, as you can imagine. I felt so responsible because I was the one who had opened the door for him. Later I realised it was far better that it was me than our daughter. I was surprised to see flowers at our door soon after, from the woman who had hit him. She was from the house of the noisy neighbours. I learned that she felt horrible and even though our neighbours said she was driving too fast around the bend, I had not witnessed it.

It seemed to me I could carry the burden of resentment and anger about it forever, or I could forgive and move on. I knew that no one would do such a thing purposely. I walked across to the house and the young son answered the door. I asked if I could see his Mum. As I entered I could see her and her husband, in the shadows of the room. ‘Let me have it’ she said. That was not why I went. Through my tears and choked words I told her Storm had been a rescue. He had lived 17 good years with us and that it was I who opened the door to let him out that day and that she mustn’t blame herself.

It took me longer to forgive myself.

For 7 years we have inched slowly toward each other. Forgiving is not forgetting. Very early on this hot Christmas morning as I returned from my walk, I saw their family gathering on the veranda. We waved and greeted each other warmly and I wished them all an unreserved Merry Christmas. I realised one of the best gifts I have ever given myself or anyone else, was the gift of forgiveness. One size fits all, and the returns are gratefully received.IMG_0659xx blessings to you all.

early risings…

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As I understand it, we tend to be either morning risers or night people. I can’t say with certainty if I was born with the early riser’s tendency, but it was certainly nurtured into me. I’ve been getting up before sunrise since I was very young. Those early summer mornings as a teen went mostly unappreciated, I must admit. Rising at 4.30 was to help Mom make umpteen sandwiches for my Dad and brothers to eat during their day of work at the Christmas tree farm. (Corsi Tree Farm is now operated by my brother, visit here) Fried bologna (fritz) sandwiches, unadorned, save a little mustard, is forever in my memory. None of us ever tired of eating them, only of making them! Lunches made, boys and father packed off to the farm, Mom and I would have breakfast and begin our daily chores at home. It was always a good feeling to know most of the day’s hard yakka was done by lunch time.

School started for us at 7.30am, so even when summer was over we had to wake early for five to use one bathroom and get to school and work. At 2.15 in the afternoon the bell would ring and we catapulted from our seats into after school activities or jobs. Growing up in this kind of environment created some very productive people!

These days I wake early, mostly because I can’t sleep any longer. It’s one of life’s ironies that when you reach a stage in life where you have time to sleep, you can’t. However I think I am, at heart, a morning person, so there are worse afflictions that could, and have, happened. 

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Probably my all time favourite photo, capturing my favourite phase of the moon, a bird, a tree and the sky at early dawn, all things I love.

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Pink virga and rainbow adorned sky

When the light is still tenuous is my very favourite time; moon still visible, a couple of stars perhaps, delicate symphony of morning chorus. If only it could last a little longer. Clear days produce stunning, ombré shaded skies…and flies. Cloudy skies hold the element of surprise…and even more flies. Hard to say which skies I love more. The flies I love not at all. Just this week, pink infused virga, defied gravity, evaporating before reaching the thirsty ground. Cloud and sun played hide and seek, sending shafts of light to illuminate mountain tips, tree tops and grasses before suddenly being swallowed by grey. As a light chaser, I am utterly compelled to photograph all of it, though my efforts are not always successful.

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Morning sky this week

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Galahs in gum tree

The first part of my walk is the quiet, contemplative stretch that takes me to the back of the golf course along rocky outcrops and where I seldom see any humans, but occasionally a dingo or kangaroo. Galahs tumble from their perches, wheeling through the sky and calling to each other. Occasionally some lunatic crested pigeons try to impress each other with mating manoeuvres while balancing on high wires. To each their own.

The second phase of the walk takes me toward civilisation where I encounter a few early risers like myself. Easing into the day, we nameless regulars make our rounds, loners like me as well as enthusiastic dogs accompanying their more sedate human companions. The last quarter of the walk is up my street where I can see who is moving in and out, who has put in a new garden, who has their garbage bin in place for weekly collection—who hasn’t bothered to bring it in from last week’s collection. Occasionally I have a brief conversation with a neighbour but mostly at that early hour, it is just a wave of recognition.IMG_6464

Sun reaches higher and burns away the long blue shadows of early morning. Soft golden highlights transform into harsh daylight, edging objects with brittle, little black seepages. Gone the promise. Enter reality, where earlier images are but shimmers in my mind.

Good morning from Central Australia.

Are you OK?

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fullsizeoutput_3e75I’ve hit a speed bump; a creative block, perhaps–but not a snag that hangs me up completely. I have a slowing down of creative flow. Consistently crowding out the writing and drawing, is the growing presence of other obligations. No matter that I have reduced Christmas to a minuscule event, no cards, only gift is for our daughter, no baking except the normal once every couple of weeks event, I don’t seem to be able to have the time, or perhaps it’s the mental energy, for creative pursuits at the moment. Last week I wrote and wrote, in excess of 10 hours, with no satisfying result. You may have noticed you didn’t hear from me. I have a deal with myself. If I’m not able to produce a piece worthy of your time, I won’t publish. I know you won’t begrudge me the indulgence of not putting that pressure on myself.

The unending stream of Christmas hype on TV, online and in the shops is overwhelming. It is no wonder this is a difficult time of year for many people. If you are a person who loves Christmas and all of the busy-ness of it, lucky you. I was once obliging, working myself to a frazzle with shopping, decorating and baking. I am no longer in that place. It is no wonder incidents of depression, domestic violence and self harm are higher this time of year. In my case it is just the ‘overwhelm button’ that prevents life from resuming its normal service.

‘RUOK’ is both a suicide prevention charity and a national day here in Australia. The national day was in September, but it seems to me a reminder now wouldn’t hurt. We are encouraged to engage people with this single question, ‘Are you okay (RUOK)? in hopes we can make a difference, somehow, some way. There have been plenty of times when I should have probably asked this question and didn’t. I’m always wary of people feeling like I’m prying or invading their privacy. But I’m also pretty sensitive to body language and verbal cues so I do often ask people how they are going? I wait for an answer, and sometimes ask again if it seems warranted.

IMG_0439The weather here had been unusually wet and so I had been using the alternate walking route, turning left out of the driveway. I’m a bit foggy some mornings and I don’t think so clearly at 5.30am, just put one foot in front of the other to get myself going. Somewhere along the 40 minute walk I usually wake up and by the time I’ve had coffee shortly thereafter, I’m hitting on all cylinders.

On this particular morning I turned left and walked about 3 minutes. I had passed an unusual feather laying in the road, and decided to go back and pick it up. As I tucked it safely in my pocket I realised the road and surrounds were quite dry again, and that my favourite route–in the opposite direction, would probably be dry enough for me to not get ‘bogged’*. I continued walking back toward my house, passing the driveway from which I would have turned right, had I been taking this route originally.

Once passed the driveway I noticed some movement up ahead. Eventually I realised it was a neighbour, bent over and working in her ‘landcare for wildlife’ patch of ground. It is actually a second, and vacant, lot next door to the house she and her husband built from homemade mud bricks. She has toiled for years, removing buffel grass, and other introduced species, so that the native flora would thrive. This, in turn, made it a haven for native animals and she had regular visits from wallabies, lizards and many different birds.

She and her husband had invited us for a little barbecue when we first moved to our house across the road 17 years ago. But it wasn’t like we’d moved from another town and knew no one, we had a circle of friends established. We became friendly neighbours, but nothing more. To be perfectly honest, I found them exhausting. He was very self absorbed and she talked a million miles an hour and had no ‘off switch’, so when we had our little neighbourly visits I always had to plan an exit strategy. I hasten to add, this is as much about my own limitations as is about any behaviours they might have. Being an introvert, I often feel very overwhelmed by people and so I need to feel that I can cope with the situation.

I wore my earphones and was listening to a podcast, but cheerily waved and called out ‘Good morning, Karen’(not her real name) as I approached. She jumped to attention and the verbal shower began. First she had me smell a native plant that is good for colds, then she jumped into a sad fact about her son who had been very ill all year with back surgery and recovery, then she was back talking about the landcare for wildlife, then about a small wallaby that sheltered from the storm on her veranda, then things took a deeper turn. I mentioned it had been a long time since I’d seen her around and she said her son was in Melbourne and she had been going back and forth seeing him.IMG_0504

I recalled our last substantial conversation over a year ago, almost two years now. Her husband had left and moved interstate with a young woman he’d been having an affair with for several years, so Karen had told me. She had been shell shocked on that occasion and recalled it briefly in light of the fact that her son had not seen anything of his father during his year of treatment. I was suddenly aware she was wiping tears from her face. Unprompted, she said, ‘I’m not crying, it’s just the weather’. I gave her a hug. Her body was tight and stiff and she scarcely stopped talking as she related the story of losing many family members early in her life, not speaking to certain other family members due to their extreme judgement of her life choices, and finally drawing breath, she said ‘it’s hard when you are different to everyone else’. There it hung, in the humid, warm, silent air of the early morning. More tears. It was not the weather.

I listened for about 15 minutes and finally she said with a slight smile ‘I needed this, I was feeling a bit down this morning’. And I felt it was okay to move on. At least she would know that someone nearby knew her plight. Sometimes just knowing that someone will listen is enough. And sometimes we take the wrong turn out of the driveway, only to find it was the other way we were supposed to go.

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I hope you are all OK. xx

* ‘bogged’ is an Australian term meaning ‘stuck’, usually in mud.

be brave…

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IMG_9593This year has not been all beer and skittles. Okay, there were a few pints of Guinness while we were in Ireland, but definitely no skittles. Of course, travel is only life being lived in a place other than home, so we can expect some challenges along the way.

My story begins five years ago. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer the year previously and it was my first year check up. The surgeon, with whom I had developed an immediate bond and trust, advised me to have a breast MRI as well as the high resolution mammogram. She told me at the time she only recommended this when she felt it was warranted due to the unpleasant nature of the test. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t detail it too much, but suffice it to say, she was right about the unpleasantness of the test. During the first MRI I had a panic attack. That was a first in my life. A panic attack feels like your body and brain have become disconnected from each other and are in a desperate struggle to gain back control; you can’t breathe deeply enough and you need to come out of your skin, all the while your brain struggles to make sense of it.

I knew from a friend of mine who had experienced panic attacks after having a detached retina, that they could come back at seemingly random moments in the future. I didn’t dwell on this idea, thinking that the main challenge would be for me to just return for subsequent, yearly MRI tests. That was a challenge, and thank goodness for Valium! A low dose taken only half an hour before the test, reduced the anxiety enough to establish steady breathing and relative calm. The rest I could overcome.

It never occurred to me that I would be on a tour through the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina when the next panic attack would happen three years later! It was a large-ish tour group, which, despite the cool autumn weather, made me warm. We had finished viewing the top floors and headed to the basement…through a tiny, curved and enclosed stone staircase, with no visible end. Three steps down the narrow staircase and instantly I knew, it was not a good idea. Not wanting to go into full panic mode I looked behind me. Fortunately there was no one, so I tapped my husband on the shoulder and told him I would be waiting for him outside when he finished.

When he emerged, half an hour later, I was sitting at a table with a drink and only the memory of the horrible feeling remained. He said he was sure he could take me down to the basement to see the servants’ quarters by entering the exit, since there was no one else coming out at the time. In we went. Sure enough, it was interesting and I was fine.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. –Eleanor Roosevelt

The next time the panic welled up in me was almost exactly a year later, also in a large-ish group, standing in a queue waiting to ascend the Space Needle tower in Seattle, Washington. We were there with another couple and we had already been up the tower the previous evening, but the tickets we held allowed a second visit. The consensus among the other three was a desire to see the view in the daylight, and so we would go again.  (I am not a fan of high vantage points, usually preferring earthier details and experiences. I am also not a fan of crowds. At. All. That said, most of the time I do these things because I don’t want to retreat into a life of fear.)fullsizeoutput_3e6c

IMG_0490About half an hour into waiting I felt my old nemesis welling up inside me. It is not simply a feeling of  discomfort, it is an irrational terror that threatens to overwhelm. Knowing we still had a long ride up in a lift/elevator ahead of us, and also having already seen the view in gorgeous evening light, I said quietly to the group, ‘I will be waiting at a table over in the adjacent park area when you are finished.’ I’m not sure they understood but they kindly did not try to convince me to stay, nor did they make me feel badly after the fact.

During our self-drive holiday along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland this October, we came upon the Doolin Caves. We had the time to visit and it was a highly recommended stop, so we did. The only caves I’d previously visited were  in locations you could access from a more or less horizontal plane, and a wide opening, but just below ground level. They were not via a single door entry point, 210 steps in descent, (about 90 metres) down into the earth, through some very narrow passages…facts which I did not learn until we had paid for our tickets. I know.

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Part of the Wild Atlantic Way coast near Doolin Caves

Did I say I prefer earthier details and experiences? Yes, I think I did…

I firmly believe that the Universe conspires its energies to create the lessons that will help us move forward in life. I was on the cusp of my next lesson. Gathering courage, while trying to remain calm, I awaited the start of the tour. There were only eight members in the group, thankfully. I convinced myself, if necessary I could come back to the top. Under instruction we all donned bright yellow or white hard hats. I tried to distract my anxious brain by listening to the entertaining banter of the guide. He explained to us how the men who discovered the cavern crawled through narrow passages about 500 metres to get into it the first time. Somehow that didn’t have the reassuring effect I was hoping for. Still, as we slowly descended, I tried to focus as he built our anticipation for what we were to see at the end.

About halfway down the descent, despite the cool temperature, my palms began to sweat. I found myself taking deep breaths while continually repeating in my head ‘you can do this, you can do this.’ At about this point I pushed hard through the urge to turn and rush up the stairs. In my mind I knew I was not really in any immediate danger. Finally, we arrived at the main cave. It opened out before us, revealing the largest stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. It was 28 feet long and it was a jewel. It was a difficult lighting situation and so briefly I forgot my fear as I tried to recall skills to get decent photos with my iPhone (my only camera).

We carefully picked our way through a couple of other smaller caves. And then, what goes down, must come up! Only 210 steps to freedom. Legs, don’t fail me now!

Once in the open air again, I felt the enormity of my achievement. It wasn’t, of course, seeing the biggest stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. The big accomplishment was facing my fear. I don’t know if this is the last experience when I will have to face this particular fear, but knowing I got through this one will empower me in future.

In the words of Elmer Fudd:

Be bwave widdoe wabbit.

(I’ll have another Guinness please!)

 

(If you or someone you know has panic attacks, I feel my experience of testing the waters in modified and less threatening circumstances has been key to dealing with this challenge. Also, try to surround yourself with loving people who will not judge or embarrass you if you experience an episode in their presence. xx)

The blossoming.

IMG_6940“Progress is incremental for us, both as individual creative beings and together as a society and civilisation. The flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst. It’s just that culturally, we are not interested in the tedium of the blossoming.”  —Debbie Millman

 

I thought you might like to know how my break, and my blossoming is going. The break has gone fast, the blossoming a bit more slowly.

A few people have asked if I missed writing the blog…well yes, and no. I’ve missed expressing myself with words. And I missed touching base with you, though I have managed to keep up with some of you by other means. I realised, when I was considering taking a break, it felt like I needed to just live my life for a while without looking for stories or wisdom about which to write. It is the old story of the well running dry.

A week or two ago I was listening to a podcast and heard:

You can’t connect the dots by looking forward, only by looking back.

That made sense to me. So, I began connecting some dots. And then within a day or two I read something Joseph Campbell wrote:

If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.

Do you see that these quotations speak to the opposite ends of the spectrum–the getting of the wisdom, and the invocation of wisdom as we seek our way? Or maybe you see it differently–do tell me!

So I have been reading and listening and walking, cooking, painting, photographing, traveling, learning and yes, even a small amount of writing. I have been filling up my vessel with life. Whenever you wonder where your wisdom or ideas come from, allow life to wash over you and seep into your being. The seeping is important. Seeping takes time.

One day, six months ago, a friend had received a bouquet of tulips the day before she had to go away. She wouldn’t be able to enjoy them so she asked if I would like them. The light that shone on and through the tulips in subsequent days was beautiful. I couldn’t resist photographing it. At first the petals grew more translucent and opened wide, then little by little, petal by petal, they began to deteriorate and fall away. Still the light shone each day and I gave myself over to photographing their demise. It wasn’t tedious, it was beautiful. It was life.

Author, William Gibson, has a succinctly descriptive term, “personal micro-culture”, by which he means all the things you surround yourself with—people, books, and any kind of ideological input.

So this has been part of my personal micro-culture, the nourishment for my blossoming. I have returned to blog again and share thoughts with you, and hope you will share your thoughts with me too.

xx Ardys

the murky truth…

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clouds reflected in the receding Todd River

I took this photo earlier this week. It is the clouds, reflected in the Todd River, after the last lot of rain had stopped. Well, nearly–we had a little shower again yesterday morning despite my phone app insisting all was ‘clear’ and there was ‘0%’ chance of rain. Meh.

As I was studying the photo, I realised that its reflection was mirroring my own, ongoing lack of clarity. Often when we are about to burst forth into a new skin, things can be cloudy…lack focus. Sometimes, I have noticed, I need to leave one thing behind before the new one makes itself known. Step off the precipice and see what rises to meet me.

This is not a sudden decision, it has been rolling around in my mind for months, but the time seems right to take action. I have loved blogging for the last five and a half years, and am so appreciative to those of you who have read, liked or commented. Having never taken an extended break, now, with things seeming a bit murky, the time seems right. In approaching this decision I tried to think which would make more sense to you, to just drift away, or to tell you that I’m taking an extended break. So now you know what I have decided to do.

Be well.

xx Ardys

 

the howls and the quiet…

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the arid lands have a distinct tropical look now

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the changes in Alice due to wetter than normal weather. The Todd River has flowed three times in 2017 already. Of course what is ‘wet’ weather for us would be normal for others–everything being relevant. By now, we have nearly reached half of our average annual rainfall, and we are only a month into the year!

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Headline in last week’s Advocate

Previously, I speculated on the fact that there might have been a rise in the population of Dingoes. I would rather not have been right. Below is a very compromised photo of the Dingo that stalked me. That I had presence of mind enough to even take the photo is fairly surprising. I am not well known for my acts of bravery. Last week an article in our local newspaper told of an ‘explosion’ of Dingoes in Central Australia this season. My speculations were vindicated. Locals are being warned to keep their pets on leashes, which they are supposed to do anyway, but some don’t. The Rangers are trying to trap the Dingoes and release them out bush. I woke one Saturday morning about 5.30am to the sound of Dingo howls very near our house! It was at least two, and likely three, of them, judging from the pitch of the various howls. It was somewhat melodic but quite unsettling, at the same time. I tried to go outside to hear where they might be, because it was still too dark to easily see. But they stopped as soon as I opened the door and I couldn’t get a fix on them. But close. I’m certain.

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Dingo watching

It reminds me of the coyotes that have become very comfortable living near humans in the USA. A few times when we have visited in recent years I have heard them howling at night. In southern Ohio we never saw or heard them when I was growing up, but we do now.

Things change.

Something that never changes is the quiet upon returning home from our travels. How soothing is our environment here–unless the neighbour is using his leaf blower or building a fence with an angle grinder… I also enjoy many of nature’s sounds when at home–although some, not so much. It is a cool rainy morning, and just now the window beside me is open. After weeks of piercing cicada song, I relax (perhaps rejoice is a better word) at the absence. The overnight rain has temporarily stilled them. Their sound is called ‘song’ but is more like white noise, and when it is gone you suddenly realise what quiet is again. There is very light patter of rain on the metal roof, and the somewhat strident call of a Magpie-Lark in the distance. No motors or human noises, save the gentle swish of the ceiling fan above me.

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clouds low on the MacDonnell Ranges this morning

Just after hearing the chorus of howls a week or so ago, I walked and listened to a podcast which has given me new appreciation of the quiet. The interview was with Gordon Hempton, an ‘acoustic ecologist’. (yes, it is a thing!) Woven throughout this quiet interview are many of the recordings he has made over the years. He tries to find places of ‘silence’, which in his world means ‘quiet’—without human sounds, only nature. I think he must not have visited Australia yet, because here you can experience a quiet that speaks. I was listening to the interview and sound recordings through earphones in the early morning, before most of us are making our human noises. At times I wasn’t sure if I was hearing local birds calling and waves crashing (not likely, but still, it has been a wet summer…) or his recordings. It was quite remarkable.

Both sounds and silence speak volumes. Listen.

(The above link is from the website so that you can listen to the interview on your computer, but if you are a podcast listener, ‘The Last Quiet Places‘ can be found by searching through your podcast app for ‘On Being’ with Krista Tippett, and then either the title, or Gordon Hempton)