circle of life…

Tags

, , ,

Months can go by and nothing extra special happens on my walks. The walks are always special to me because I love the light and tiny changes I observe along the way…neighbours having lawn sales, trees shedding their bark or leafing in the spring, flowers defying the incredibly inhospitable conditions. In fact I was attempting to photograph a spring flower on a very dusty plant when something caught my attention. I think it was the bright white amongst all the red dust covered foliage because there certainly wasn’t much movement.

Notice the red dust on the older leaves, but how bright the growing tips and flower are.

There just a few feet away was a white butterfly solidly clinging to a naked branch on a naked bush riddled with sharp thorns! I decided to see if the butterfly would sit still long enough for me to get a decent shot. Turned out, this Caper White butterfly wasn’t going anywhere. As I got closer I realised there were about 9 or 10 chrysalises lined up on the same branch, and it looked as if this was the first fully fledged butterfly to emerge. The transition from caterpillar to butterfly is really one of nature’s most amazing life cycles.

There were a few Capers flying in the area and I stopped to watch, but the solitary one on the branch held tight. I realised it would have been freshly emerged and trying to dry its wings so it could join the others.

the first morning and the butterfly was clinging solidly to the thorny branch.
White flashes amongst the dusty leaves

The following morning I decided to again try my luck and chase the butterfly trail. Since there was not a single leaf left on the two bushes where I found chrysalises, I hadn’t been able to identify the plant they chose for their nursery. Fortunately, a local woman saw my Instagram post and added the identifying species of both plant and butterfly. Gold. When she said the name of the plant something seemed very familiar. I turned it over and over in my head and then looked it up online. More gold. It turned out, even though these bushes were currently without foliage, I had actually photographed one four years ago in full foliage and with a gorgeous blossom. Eureka! The plant is called Bush Passionfruit and both the blossom and the fruit hold some similarities to the domestic passionfruit. The blossom smells very sweet, has long stamen and the fruit is much smaller but sweet and usually attacked by birds and ants before humans can retrieve it! It is a well known bush food for the indigenous people. Apparently the plant recovers very quickly after the decimation of the leaves.

Tiny little caterpillars feeding on the Bush Passionfruit leaves
Caterpillar about to form its chrysalis
The second morning
Bush Passionfruit in full recovery (photo Jan 2015)
I still remember its heady perfume

On that last morning it seemed I had already enjoyed the peak activity on the previous day…until I walked away and saw another, larger nearly naked bush, with caterpillars and chrysalises on it. This completed the life cycle story. Oh, except for this shot…. someone is already doing some family planning for the future!

(this post was inspired by Kim Smith whose blog is called Nature is My Therapy. She writes compelling stories about her adventures and excellent photos to accompany the words)

what stays in our hearts…

Tags

, , ,

What is it that invites us to love? Is it an invisible filament wrapping around and around, cocooning us with its energy? Perhaps it is a holographic flicker of familiarity, or simply a previously unknown glimpse of ourselves.

Once in a while we see something that shoots straight into our hearts and stays there. So it was for me with a piece of art that I recently viewed at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

For those who might be traveling to South Australia, the Art Gallery SA is well worth a look. It is a gem of a gallery. Recently they closed the main areas for a traveling exhibition of Impressionist work. During the exhibition, they used the time to reimagine their own future display of treasured works. The five main areas have now been rehung with their own collection, to great advantage. As with most things in Adelaide, the gallery is evolving and becoming its better self.

After we had viewed the main galleries we entered one of the smaller galleries and it was there I was smitten. I can’t remember if I gasped or not, but if I didn’t I should have! I know I stopped for a couple of seconds to try to take in what I was seeing. The object of my initial shock, and immediate attraction, drew me in. Was it real? Was it fake? What was it there to tell?

Thirty five years ago in the Adelaide Zoo, a baby giraffe died. It was kept in the freezer of the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston, Tasmania, until an artist, jeweller, and taxidermist named Julia deVille discovered it seven years ago.fullsizeoutput_4ffe

Julia deVille commissioned another artist, Kate Rhode, to create the ‘vitrine’ (glass display case) that holds her sensitively posed and adorned creature. All of the jewellery was created using precious metals and jewels especially for this purpose. Perhaps more than most of the art I have seen in my life, this impacted me for its sensitive execution, and thoughtful inspiration. Julia deVille’s question to the world is:

‘why do we divide animals into arbitrary categories such as food, pets, pests, entertainment, endangered and protected species?’IMG_0569

To my thinking, this gorgeous creature would have perished to dust, or lay forever in a cold dark freezer with no one knowing it had ever existed. Instead, it has a new life. It was always one of nature’s works of art, but now it is also a human work of art. 

Always in my heart, whenever I want to visit.

The work is titled ‘Mother is My Monarch’ and these words accompany it:

Mother is My Monarch,

She is the folds of the universe in which I lie and all becomes still

Truth and Royalty

Reverence and the Revered

Feline Lepidoptera*

Mother Monarch

I hail thee

(*Lepidoptera refers to an order of insects including butterflies)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

fallow…

Tags

,

fullsizeoutput_4f47

delicate detail in light and shadow

Anyone who grew up in the country knows the wisdom of letting a field lay fallow. But if you didn’t grow up in the country you might think a fallow field has nothing much happening. The plot just sits. Wasted real estate. Like a quiet person who may not say much, it doesn’t mean nothing is going on under the surface. A field in fallow still receives rain and sun, may even be planted with a crop that is never harvested, but gets plowed under to help replenish the soil with nutrients. It is a time of restoration.

Humans have our fallow periods. If we are wise enough to not flog our impatient selves over the seeming lack of accomplishment, we can reap enormous benefits from a period of allowing our inner selves to replenish. Our life force comes bubbling to the surface again, renewed. In my experience this can happen over a period of weeks, months or even years. Thoughts and feelings weave in and out of our consciousness as an idea or skill develops into something more fully formed and ready to express itself. But it cannot be hurried. And in my case, it would seem, it cannot be directed. It takes as long as a piece of string, and it goes where I have not been before.

The curious thing is the ingredients that contribute to the end result. It is often very mysterious. It seems to have nothing to do with the final outcome, but contributes to the process the way subtle ingredients contribute to a delicious stew. Have you noticed the difference in flavour of a slow cooked stew that has bubbled on the stove all day long, versus one cooked by faster means?

A slow renewal would describe much of my previous year. Toward the end, only a few weeks ago while we were traveling in the Southwest of the United States, I began to realise the time was not so much a fallow period as a gestation. What has been birthed is a stronger, more energetic self with fresh thoughts, inspiration and appreciation. It feels like the look of drought ridden land, a week or so after a good rain. And  the ‘entrapped nerve’ in my foot is nearly healed. It was taking the long, slower road, of exercise, stretching, rest and shockwave treatments that did the job. I opted to try this less invasive route, rather than the steroid injections. There were moments I doubted I would feel this good again, but I tried not to let this override my thoughts of recovery. An excellent and positive podiatrist and tenacity on my part have won the day. Through the months I finally gave myself over to the process and embraced quieter pursuits with a mind open to various possible outcomes.

fullsizeoutput_4f52

Mud lark frolics in opportune bird bath after the recent rain

You may think I had forgotten you. And writing. Some will have moved on and forgotten this little blog altogether. Understandable. From my end it is often counterproductive to try and confine these changes into some tidy little paragraphs of significance, when they are still busy forming themselves. Of course this process is ongoing, but once in a while it is intensive, as the last 10 months or so have been for me. It seemed better to wait for a time when things felt more fully formed to try and describe what had gone on.

There is no time like one’s birthday to reflect. So, last week on the first day of my 67th year (or is it the last day of my 66th year?) it was the light, the textures and the small everyday things that shone. I missed walking more than I had missed anything in a long time. Just walking. Taking the time to rehabilitate my mobility has not only taught me new things, it has reminded me to appreciate the Now, and the wee, small things.

As Mies van der Rohe said, God is in the detail. A light chaser knows this.

viewer, reader, twitcher, life…

Tags

, , , ,

fullsizeoutput_4c7e

morning light on volunteer basil plant

It is true, that our misery occurs, not because of what happens to us, but the way in which we react to it. Wiser persons than me have said this in very many different ways, but this is how I say it to you.

I shared with you months ago that I was seeking treatment for plantar fasciitis**, an inflammation of the fascia on the bottom of the foot. Over the last few months I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about the manifestations of plantar fasciitis, as well as the treatment. I’ve learned a bunch of other things as well, among them…patience.

I have only just twigged that, for me, this time around, is a much longer process of healing than my first encounter of it some 15 years ago…if, in fact, it will heal at all. It is nothing ‘serious’, as when I had cancer, except that it is. It has threatened the quality of my life significantly. Since October my movements have been very, very curtailed. Even though I had faithfully followed the stretches, the shoe and orthotic support recommendations etc, progress has been slow and frustrating.

Until…

img_6465

My collection of shedded gecko skins

I renewed an old acquaintance with a man called ‘Dances with Wolves’, felt a kinship in pain from the death of a tree (Avatar), wept at the horrors of Japanese treatment of soldiers in WW II (The Railway Man), delighted in the wisdom of a Maremma guarding penguins (Oddball), learned about historic figures like Queen Victoria (Victoria and Abdul) and Winston Churchill (Darkest Hour), and felt the anguish of a person who suffers greatly from a wrongdoing they cannot change (Japanese Story). I’ve wept with William Thackeray’s (Hugh Grant) friends for at least the 10th time (Notting Hill), and been completely charmed by a bear named Paddington. I have seen that the chasm of differences that sometimes exist between humans can be traversed more easily than the tinier things that separate us.

Through the porthole of reading I have been allowed inside the suffering and resilience of people who have survived the worst day of their lives (Any Ordinary Day – Leigh Sales). I have gone on a journey with the child of alcoholic and abusive parents, and seen him triumph (Boy Swallows Universe – Trent Dalton). For some ‘light’ relief I learned a new way to meditate that had an immediate and profound effect (The Tapping Solution – Nick Ortner). And then I plunged back into the gritty, horrific reality of someone doing something I could never do (The Trauma Cleaner – Sarah Krasnostein).

fullsizeoutput_4c84

daily twitcher, caffeine and landscape fix

I also became a ‘twitcher’ and joined the week-long annual Aussie Backyard Bird Count with Birdlife Australia. I’ve always been a bird lover, but taking more time to sit and watch has made me keener. ‘The Genius of Birds’ by Jennifer Ackerman has given me a deeper appreciation for their habits, humour, intelligence and social structures.

I’ve taken fewer photos in recent months, having not previously realised how dependant on mobility I had been for inspiration. I began to look more carefully at the light, and the detail in my own surroundings. Experimenting taught me a couple of new editing processes as well.

Our daughter sent us a jigsaw puzzle that has occupied a few hours, so far…. it is a hard one! The photo is by Australian Wildlife Photographer Georgina Steytler who is based in Western Australia. (@georgina_steytler on Instagram). Her photos are stunning and she also works toward conservation. A portion of the cost of the puzzle goes to Georgina and other artists whose work you can select to be made into puzzles as well, @jigsaw_gallery on Instagram.

fullsizeoutput_4c99

light coming into the kitchen in a rare moment of cooking

The summer weather has not been kind to us. We have broken record after record from heat duration and intensity. If ever there was a summer to have to ‘sit things out’ this one would have been an easy choice for me! Since cooking has been very unpleasant, both for the time on my feet, and the heat, I’ve created quite a few meals in the way of salads. I’ve been grateful for some resources in my freezer, and also sourced some new recipes online. The new barbecue/grill that my husband bought before Christmas, and his willingness to use it, has been a godsend!

fullsizeoutput_4c73

feather amongst the withering leaves and bark from summer heat

So. What have I learned?

  • To love and respect my body more.
  • To spend more time reading.
  • New Depths of Compassion.
  • New depths of Patience
  • To live in the present more. I was anxious. I’m less so now, focus in the present.
  • I was reminded that Things/People are often not what they seem.
  • To try and keep an open heart about every situation. We never know what a journey will teach us.

I close with this favourite quotation, because it seems so appropriate, and because once in a while there is a celebrated artist/person whose passing deeply stirs me. With sincere appreciation to you dear reader, and for the wisdom and words of the great poet, Mary Oliver who died last week…

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.

fullsizeoutput_4c79

new editing technique using double exposures and distressedFX app on iPhone

 

**The plantar fasciitis has had a complexity to it called ‘nerve entrapment’. As well as the standard PF treatment of stretches, foot massage, strapping, sturdy shoes, orthotic inserts, I have had a nerve block and saline injections to the foot and area around the nerve. That had only minimal impact so I am currently having a series of ‘shock treatments’ to the bottom of the foot to try and ‘encourage’ the tissue to heal itself. Cortisone injections are not a panacea for this condition, but may provide temporary relief, tho are very limited in their use. The journey is ongoing. I am grateful for it all.

ode to joy…

Tags

, , , , ,

Early Saturday morning, three days before Christmas, I decided to do my holiday grocery shopping, hoping that only a small top up here and there would be necessary for a week or so after. The produce section was the main focus of my effort, sourcing in season fruit and organic vegetables to the degree that I could. We live in a place where none of it is grown, so we never know what the gods of long haul delivery will bring us! One of the veggies on my list was broccoli. The organic version had been full of moth eggs earlier in the week when I bought it, so I went straight for the regular kind. I don’t care for extra protein in my broccoli and the tedium to clean the eggs and the moth damage out of the broccoli is just more trouble than it’s worth, given that it costs more than double the regular.

As I approached the broccoli bin, a strapping young Aussie man bent over it examining the choices carefully. He picked one up and put it back, then another, and finally chose one. But as he held the chosen one, his serious face dipped down, looking and inspecting more. Ever so carefully. Finally he chose a second one. As he stood up, towering over me (I’m very short on one end) and began to walk away, I quickly said to him “Oh, those are the two I wanted!” He looked at me and said very sweetly “Oh, really?” I laughed and said, “No, no, I’m just joking!” His face broke into a relieved, open-mouthed smile and he chuckled as he walked to his trolley…or maybe that was clucking at what a mad loser he’d just encountered…hard to say.

A lady and I nearly collided trolleys but we finally got our signals right and as we passed in the aisle I said to her, “These things need turn signals”. It’s an old joke, but it made us both laugh. I joked with another fellow that we were ‘doing the dance of the trolleys’ and he laughed as well.

By this stage I suppose I was in danger of being hauled off to the looney bin, or at the very least being pulled up for misdemeanour merriment. But, unbridled, my mirth knew no bounds.

There were numerous other people at whom I smiled warmly. Some mirrored the radiance, others looked stunned, as if they could not even consider a smile. Perhaps I did look a little out of place. Finally, at the checkout, the staff member who was looking after the self-check-out registers, and I, exchanged smiles and best wishes for the season. It occurred to me that what could have been a stressful shopping trip was made very fun because I could connect with people in a light hearted way. It may have even improved their day, who’s to say?

As I drove home, I realised I was genuinely relaxed. At Christmas!! And for the weeks leading up to it as well. This was unfamiliar territory. Some weeks ago I realised I was teetering on the edge of depression, as many people do this time of year. What is the saying ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten’. I needed to make some changes. About the time I took that decision, or probably because I took that decision, some things came into my life to assist me. Have you ever noticed how that can happen? I discovered a new (to me) meditation technique which worked for me from the first time I tried it. I began my early morning walks again, though my foot is still quite sore. The walking is just so good for me mentally. We are all different. Because these things were good for me does not mean they would be good for everyone else, or anyone else.

Others may look forward to finding just the right gift for everyone on their list. They might revel in cooking foods that everyone looks forward to all year long, or writing that family newsletter to keep in touch with everyone. But for me, I knew I needed to say ‘no’. No to most of the gift giving, all the decorating, baking, card sending…so that I could say ‘yes’ to giving myself space to find my inner joy again.

We have had unprecedented high temperatures so far this summer, up to 43 and 44C (109+ F). The traditional Northern Christmas, celebrated with decorated pine trees, snowy landscapes and mountains of food hot from the oven just doesn’t translate well to this hot, arid zone climate. As I sit here, sipping my iced coffee in air conditioning, having gotten my chores out of the way before the day gets too hot, I’m thinking of those very sensible countries who practice ‘siesta’. I can see more serious relaxation in my future, and a little bit of celebration with close friends. I always have plenty to be grateful for, but this year I will add something else to the list. I will celebrate the gift I have given myself…the space to rekindle inner joy.

My warmest and very best wishes of the season to you all. I’m sending along my very favourite of all the season’s greetings…

IMG_6380

land of the Basque…

Tags

, , , ,

93T5GW6qTimWcva86QaZfQ

Spanish cheese and marmalade on homemade bread at the market…Don’s little treat

It’s not a new concept that there are many ways to learn things. There have been theories around for decades about ‘multiple intelligences’, different ways each of us have of internalising information. I was a very poor history student in high school and university. I would memorise the events and dates and regurgitate them at appropriate times to achieve passing grades. But almost none of it stayed with me in a useful way. I couldn’t understand the relevance. In fact, it wasn’t until the last decade that places and dates and people became more real and relevant for me. As we have traveled, watched some excellent TV programs and movies, and I have occasionally read a tangential volume relating to some aspect of our travels, I have begun to gain some perspective.

 

In 1937 during the Spanish Civil War, Generalísimo Francisco Franco did a deal with Mussolini and Hitler to bomb the area known as the Basque country. Some say it was in order to eliminate one of the key communication centres for the republican forces, most abhorred the methods. The bombings were controversial since it was a military action against a town of civilians. The town and a disputed number of inhabitants were all but wiped out from the bombings. Afterward Franco was able to move in and take the Basque region, and its people, for Spain. This destruction inspired a number of artists to create pieces, including one of Picasso’s most famous paintings, Guernica.

Fast forward 81 years…

We began our recent trip flying to London then to Bilbao in the Basque region of Spain, and then by car to Donostia-San Sebastián. Our intentions were to recover from the jet-lag-cotton-wool-in-head thing while exploring someplace new. On our way from Australia we were delayed in London because a tyre on the plane needed changing. These things always seem to happen when you are on a tight deadline, or when you’ve just been traveling for 22 hours straight. Still…you want the tyres on the plane to work.

I was seated in the waiting area beside a couple of middle aged American fellows who kindly offered me a newspaper article they had been reading and finished. When we learned the flight had been delayed by at least an hour, they began to chat with me, something I normally don’t encourage when I am a captive audience. But they had been kind in offering me the newspaper article on how birds cope with heat (don’t judge–living in a hot place and being a bird lover it was interesting to me!), so I felt I should be polite. They were on the way to Pamplona and then to San Sebastián and Bilbao. As we swapped ideas for eating places, they gave us one for San Sebastián. It’s hard to know which freely offered tips are ones to follow up on, but in our initial explorations the evening we arrived, we found the place and Flat Tyre Guy’s recommendation did look interesting.

 

The first morning in Donostia*, we had a fantastic time wandering around the town, stumbling upon the Saturday markets and more importantly, my favourite fruit…fresh figs. Unbelievable as it sounds to those who know my love for fresh figs, I had forgotten it was late summer in Spain, and they might still be available. Having had little breakfast (the hotel only served continental pastries and fruit–bananas and apples–none of which I could eat) I zeroed in on a gentleman selling figs and, ‘dos, por favor’ later, we were looking for a seat on which to sit and enjoy our jammy, purple treasures. Conveniently adjacent to the market was a small square with lovely gardens and mosaic seats.  It was the essence of Spain. The figs were as sweet and juicy as any I have eaten and that goes back 45 or so years when I first tasted them in Rome!

Continuing on we decided to re-scout the location of the restaurant the fellow traveler had shared. Most lunch places don’t open or start serving before one o’clock. We relaxed into people watching for a while and then we spied the nearby travel bureau. We found a couple of brochures with local information and tours. Unusual to our experience most of the tours included entry fees into places, but not transport to get there. You were expected to get your own self there! This seemed like extra work that contravened our primary objective for San Sebastián, so we abandoned that idea.

t4YqX+kLQFCQz+vms55E1Q

Morgan Restaurant, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain

By the time one o’clock arrived we were both pretty hungry. Being first on the scene at opening time meant we got a seat, but normally one would need a booking. The restaurant was small with long shared tables and had a menu that was arranged two ways, two courses and drink for one price, or three courses and drink for another price…we opted for two courses, which was 25.50€ per person. We each ordered a drink, me water and hubby wine, which we assumed was a glass, but which turned out to be a BOTTLE. Fortunately, since I only had the water, I could assist with the bottle of wine! However, the unplanned rosè did not do anything to relieve my cotton-wool-brain!** The food was of a very high standard and so for about $90 Australian we had an amazing meal including very nice rosè! It was a restaurant we would have never found on our own so, ‘Flat Tyre Guy’, wherever you are, thank you for the recommendation for Ristorante Morgan!

After lunch we wondered out into the shaded laneway and up to the nearby public square where we had sat and people watched before lunch. In our absence activities had evolved and a large group had gathered around a small group of musicians.They were singing and swaying en masse to the tunes; some dancing, some with arms around each other’s waists as they sang from small songbooks. This was obviously an activity familiar to them, as were the songs and such was the passion with which they sang, it moved me to tears. It’s not often I spontaneously cry in a foreign country in the middle of a crowd, but once in a while it happens. I’m thinking back at the moment I stepped off the bus in Gallipoli. I dissolved into tears and I don’t even know anyone from that battle. Other people tell me this phenomenon happens when we are in places like Normandy or Gallipoli, where huge numbers of lives are lost. I wonder…

n0tozmb5SjqR58cDHvkdCA

A few enjoyed dances…

 

Ok, they might have been jet-lag-cotton-wool-rosè tears, but the emotion was deeply felt. It reminded me what a privilege it is to be able to travel, and that there are countries and people who are willing to share themselves with strangers. We later learned the songs were Basque folk songs. Thank goodness the Basque people and their lovely food and folk songs survived and thrive today. And thank goodness my perspective is forever changed.

 

*Donostia-San Sebastián is the full name of the city, but Donostia is the Basque name and San Sebastián is the Spanish name.

**cotton-wool-rosè-brain is why I failed to take any photos of the lovely plates of food. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

a curious woman sees…

Tags

, ,

Windows and openings fascinate me. Have you ever caught yourself watching what goes on, beyond the place you are occupying, only to suddenly realise you might be prying? We are curious creatures. Perhaps, it is the downside of the creation of glass. It lets in the light, but also encourages the wandering eyes of the observant…not to mention cameras.

Occasionally, over the years, I have taken a photo of a scene through a window or opening. But this trip I decided, where possible, to document what I saw as often as I could. Sometimes I didn’t want to invade privacy so I looked but did not photograph. Once I took a photo when the sign said ‘no photos’. Such a rebel. I assumed it was referring to the goods within the woollen mill, not the actual window or beautiful scene framed beyond. Surreptitiously, I tapped.

No woollens were harmed in the making of this photo…

IMG_4871

Melin Wlan Woollen Mill, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales

Looking over the collection of images I realise I have captured a layer of reality that may have otherwise only been experienced subliminally. The seen, and almost seen, the imagined, the incomplete and the exquisitely lighted. Ephemeral. To explain them too much would be to deny you, your own imaginative wonderings, so I’ve only included brief titles and categories. Share your thoughts…

(click on any photo and it will enlarge)

the ecclesiastical…

 

the places…

the unusual…

the food…

people…

the uncategorised…

the weather…

Fde664mXTPu51NvekOTKTQ

Boston, Massachusetts, tail end of the hurricane

 

long live books…

Tags

, ,

Several days before we were to travel, a notification from Amazon came through that an e-book was available for $2.99. ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury was having its 65th anniversary. Since it was first released in 1953, the year I was born, I thought perhaps it might be one of those very interesting full circle experiences. I missed it the first time around, and probably the subsequent four rounds, but heard about it many times over the years. I’ve only read a couple of books from the science fiction genre, one by CS Lewis called ‘Childhood’s End’, over 35 years ago, and one recently by Ursula le Guin, the first in the ‘Earthsea’ series. I enjoyed both, and thought another classic in the genre might be worth a look. So I downloaded the book to my iPad hoping it would be a good one for the journey.

I always like to start a book before our trip begins, partly to make certain I have chosen well, and partly because I find it difficult to get into a new book when in the middle of travel distractions. I was probably 50 pages into Fahrenheit 451 when we settled ourselves into the Qantas seats, ready for the 17 hour flight from Perth to London…well, as ready as you can be. That is a long-ass flight.

As I settled in I checked out the inflight entertainment to see what might be of interest. Straight away, in the ‘premiere’ category, I saw the title ‘Fahrenheit 451’. Wha???? I hate to watch a movie before I read a book…how-some-ever…I was very, very curious. A new release, it is one of the new generation of films produced by Netflix and Amazon Prime and similar production companies. I was wary but thought I’d give it a whirl. I had not read enough of the book to know if the film was adhering strictly to the original story, but I could certainly tell the visuals were created in modern minds and not trying to reflect the imaginings of the 1950’s. The story was compelling, but the book had grabbed me right from the start as well, so at least the film version hadn’t completely ruined the story line and message.

One of the visuals Bradbury uses, almost as another character in the book, are the enormous screens used as walls of the house. A person wears ear phones that connect, apparently wirelessly, with the streaming events happening on the ‘walls’ of the house. Wow. Remember, this was written in 1953, before computers, WiFi, and bluetooth ear phones!!!! Tell me more, Mr. Bradbury!

As I later discovered, the film does not follow the book exactly, but it was engaging and worth a viewing, nevertheless. It carried much of the same cautionary message to society. The story, by the way is about the burning of the world’s books in some future, unnamed year. It paints a dark view of the world.

Having finished the Fahrenheit 451 movie, and eaten a meal, I was not quite ready for sleep…like I said, a long-ass flight. Diving into the selection of movies again, I  came up with one I had never heard of—‘The Bookshop’. It is a recent, British production with actors I enjoy—Bill Nighy and Emily Mortimer. Fortunately I hadn’t read the reviews of it before I saw it or I might have missed an enjoyable film! What do reviewers know anyway! The juxtaposition of seeing a film about a world without books, against a story about a love for books, which by the way, is placed in about the same year as Fahrenheit 451 was written, was utter perfection. One must keep the energies in balance!

The young woman, who is struggling to open a book shop in the 1950’s small English town is pitted against the will of another woman who doesn’t want her to open the shop. Our heroine meets an older man who is a recluse, but loves to read. He writes to her a hand delivered message (this was long before emails…) requesting she send him books she thinks he might find interesting. What do you think she sends him? A certain title, just released, by Ray Bradbury. (Fahrenheit 451)

The man loves Bradbury. Of course. The story progresses into a lovely, gentle but sad story, with a tiny dash of hope. Perfect to sleep after on an airplane.

Somehow all of this ‘book stuff’ settled into my travel-addled brain and when we popped out the other end of the second leg of the journey in London, I was hatching a plan to try and find and photograph every book store I could on our travels. A pity the plan was ill conceived. Book stores are few and the ones that exist were not at all the picturesque type I envisaged. More’s the pity.

IMG_5083

Just look at these titles…Austen, both Bronte’s…but it was the copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin that really got me. I held it and it spoke to me, this hard copy book from another age, from the country of my birth.

That is until the very last stop while we were in Wales…a place called Hay on Wye. It is located at the mouth of the Wye River, near the border between Wales and England. And it is known as ‘Town of Books’. Holy moly, did they have books, and book stores. And what do you think I found? A vintage paperback of Ray Bradbury’s book, ‘Dandelion Wine’ and many other enticing volumes.

You might have thought the Town of Books was an appropriate finish for this journey’s theme. So did I. But wait…there’s more. At the end of our travels in the USA, we flew into Los Angeles to await our Qantas flight back to OZ. As I turned a corner toward the international club lounge, I stopped in my tracks. There it was in front of me, a FIVE story screen that was also a wall…a Ray Bradbury wall. Beautiful images floated from edge to edge, between ads for designer watches and perfume. I got cold chills and for a moment felt nauseous. Bradbury’s 65 year old futuristic vision was here. The future is now.

EEw8khuxSzWI%lI6JbtafA

Bradbury’s imagined, moving wall at Tom Bradley International in Los Angeles.

Think what an adventure that book gave me. Long live books.

 

hurts so good…

Tags

, , , ,

Three days home. Travel brain is nearly gone and home-brain is working again. Mostly.

We have been away traveling for nearly six weeks. I was going to give you a heads up that I might not be writing and then, with no warning, I developed a nasty head cold a week out from departure. It did not go away before flying. This is not a good thing. If you have ever had to fly when your sinuses are in turmoil, you will know what I mean. In fact the cough and sinus stuff did not leave until three weeks into the trip. So, I was not feeling like writing much of anything and hope you understand.

fullsizeoutput_4906

Guggenheim exterior, Bilbao, Spain

Travel is a good thing. It is. But it is not among the easier undertakings one might pursue. When I say travel, I’m not talking about a vacation to the beach where you bask all day, between margaritas and naps. Our version of travel, while perhaps not arduous, does deplete one’s energy. We walk a lot, see a lot, process a lot of information. Therein lies the second physical challenge for this trip. Walking. I have had a sore foot for months. It gets better and then worse, then even worse still, which it did on the trip. ‘Plantar Fasciitis’ is a common problem for which there is not much known about either cause or cure. Some things work and some don’t. Sometimes it leaves and sometimes it doesn’t. I know because I had it 15 or so years ago and that is exactly what I experienced. The exercises the podiatrist gave me did not work, in fact made it worse. Stopping them, adding stretches of my own saw it go away in a couple of months. This time I’ve had it much longer, have tried both the previous methods of stretching, as well as nothing, had a couple of days of complete absence of symptoms but essentially nothing has fixed it. So I walked. In pain. For six weeks.

I dropped into bed every night of the trip, exhausted mentally and physically, but did actually manage to take in the experiences and enjoy it for the most part. Just not the pain.

wells-cathedral-england

Well’s Cathedral Musical Director practicing with musicians for a future performance.

And while we are at it, there are a few other things I will enjoy not dealing with for a while.

  1. having to forage for every meal based on food intolerances. This is not easy and I spent a good deal of the time being hungry. Yes, I lost weight.
  2. having a different shower to figure out with each and every change of accommodation…It is a fact, every hotel in the world has a different shower mechanism from every other hotel. Am sure there was a primordial agreement in the ethers that caused this to happen.
  3. soooo much processed food…if it says on the packet it is healthy for you, it isn’t. Generally, food that is good for you doesn’t come in packets. And while I’m thinking of it, not everything must be consumed on a waffle or wrapped in bread, piled on pasta or rice or have onion or garlic flavouring added.
  4. searching for a place to wash our clothes—I nearly kissed my washing machine when we returned home. What do other travellers do to clean their clothes? Hand washing is just not possible, most hotels and B&B’s don’t even allow it, and frankly, hand washing is not my idea of travel fun.
  5. crowds—I can hear the neighbour’s little dog yapping this morning, and even that is music to my ears compared to crowded, noisy places.
  6. the smell of cigarette smoke in front of every building on every street in every country.
  7. filthy toilets–having to lay toilet paper on the seat before I can sit down, because there are never paper seat covers in the toilets where they are needed, only the cleanest ones have them! Humans are filthy creatures at times.
  8. bad coffee—there are a lot of people who don’t realise you can have the best coffee machine but if the beans are bad, it won’t make good coffee. Likewise, stewing coffee or storing it in an urn is just ruining any chance that coffee has of being good.
  9. loud mouth people in airports, especially on their cell/mobile phones (don’t you know everyone around can hear you? and does not care about your employee problems??)
  10. crappy hairdryers–(my husband hypothesised, there must have been someone traveling just ahead of us putting the same bad hairdryer in each different hotel, or there had been an excellent sales pitch to sell the same inferior device to four different hotel chains!) I have a new shorn hair style and vow not to need a hairdryer for future travels.
  11. bad lighting in bathrooms—worst lighting prize went to two, otherwise nice, B&B’s, best lighting prize goes to the Sheraton at the Falls in Niagara Falls, with a magnification makeup/shaving mirror with it’s own lighting as well as a surround light for the large mirror. Bless them.
  12. filthy, smelly taxis—our daughter has promised to explain to us how to use UBER. Nuff said.
  13. and while I’m at it, taxi drivers who use their phones while driving (not to mention bus drivers who talk on their phone WHILE filling out paperwork, WHILE driving—please leave multitasking to people who are not driving, or walking down the street)
  14. High fructose corn syrup—my sworn enemy.

The foot is strapped and receiving regular ice packs. The mountain of laundry is done, repairs to the garden are nearly done. And there are murmurs…of future adventure…

What keeps me traveling? I’m glad you asked. The mechanics of it are tiring, frustrating and downright unpleasant at times. However…when things take my breath away, or a sudden connection of a piece of knowledge turns on a light inside me, or something unexpected brings me to tears, it feels all worthwhile. When I see Wells Cathedral and a lump sticks in my throat, when I am gobsmacked by the incredible Guggenheim at Bilbao, when a Spanish woman spins her grandson in dance to a Basque folk song, when the most powerful show of water I’ve ever seen tumbles and mesmerises so that I can hardly look away, or when I stop in an ancient cemetery and realise that the man in that grave signed the Declaration of Independence…that is when I know I’m not done yet.

It hurts so good…give me more.

shifting focus…

Tags

,

This morning I was reading an article about how to blur the background of photos on my iPhone:

You won’t always want to take photos with a blurry background. In landscape photography, you’ll want everything in focus from near to distant objects.

But there are many situations where a shallow depth of field will improve your image.

If the background of your scene is messy or distracting, it takes attention away from the main subject. Blurring the background eliminates distractions and makes the subject stand out.

And so it is with life.

gjmLusExTOCkDSR+%pEbXA

focussed on the weather…

Looking at the ‘big picture’ where everything is of equal clarity, you can see what is going on, in a general sense. But if you stay in that mode all the time you find that your attention is very scattered, first looking at the sky, then the buildings, then the trees, cars, birds and so on.

Sometimes we need to bring our focus sharply onto a single subject, in the present, so we can see what is important. Clear away the distractions. What is important might be a person, an emotion or a moment of realisation. When we are unable to shift focus back and forth, and then edit the image, our picture of things can get all out of whack—too fragmented, narcissistic—take your pick of a variety of counterproductive behaviours.

We need both ways of seeing.

This winter various aspects of life have gone in and out of focus for me. I look at the big picture for a while, and then zoom in on practical or emotional needs. However, I can never stray far from creative endeavours of some kind, and every now and then poetry pops into my head. If you ascribe to the theory that Elizabeth Gilbert (and others) talks about in Big Magic, you might believe me when I tell you, there are ideas in the form of energies that exist on a different level from our normal experience. We  can tap into it the way we hear sound as it moves through the atmosphere, or see light via different vibrations. These energies move through a person, and can be brought into our plane of existence. If it is not responded to, it will move on, allowing someone else to bring it to this plane. This seems as plausible to me as any other explanation for creative inspiration–elusive and mysterious to most of us.

If I respond quickly, the idea often comes pouring out, almost completed, with little editing required. It is usually brought to me in a moment of intense experience. I sometimes think my memory is quite strange…remembering the moment that inspired a poem for many years; or a particular little café in Bratislava, Slovakia, 8 years ago because I had the most delicious hot chocolate I’ve ever had. But if you ask me about a particular movie or book I’ve seen/read, my memory is likely to be very vague. I suppose it is the intensity and relevance an experience has for some of us that is the determining factor.

Regardless, these energies seem very real to me, and are a source of joy and satisfaction. Thank you for reading.

More

After I kissed you goodbye in your ear,

You looked at me and said ‘I love you.’

I replied ‘I love you too’ and your lips quivered ever so slightly—

the way sorrow settles into a person when they need

a little more time,

a little more nurturing,

a little deeper loving.

That look stayed with me like I had failed you,

But you were the one who had to go,

So I could only kiss you and say goodbye.