I have been thinking. Hard. Listening better. Reading deeper. The world needs to change, and I do too. I’ve thought about change from various perspectives through the years. Every time I moved states or country I changed. I can’t recall an occasion when this wasn’t for the better.
I heard recently, being uncomfortable is necessary. Even some pain is necessary until we emerge renewed. The scars may remain, but they are reminders of how it/we used to be. We don’t like discomfort, let alone pain. Life is very hard a lot of the time, if we are doing it right. All the more reason we need to bathe in joy when we occasionally find it.
I’ve noticed when I’m going through troubling times there are a few things that stabilise me, even give me cause for hope. They are mostly small, simple things…walks…homemade food…learning something new…watching nature…being creative.
Looking at things more closely reminds me of the day I had just cleaned the bathroom and then needed to do something in there with my reading glasses on and suddenly I realised all the dust I had missed! Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know and it’s good to take a closer look. I’m learning all kinds of things about converting basil cuttings with water roots, so that they will then grow in soil. I paid attention and five out of the five cuttings have survived. More importantly, I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the plight of People of Colour everywhere, especially in Australia and the USA. It’s the least I can do given my white privilege. The two things that are most important in our lives are the two things we have no control over…where we are born (what country) and who our parents are. I heard this many years ago and completely believe it, but am gaining a fuller understanding now.
Turning the questions around is a very important exercise too. I remember sitting at a table in a friend’s house 8 or 9 years ago, having a discussion with a third person about when she had colon cancer, the same year I’d had breast cancer. It was a stark wake up call to me, that not everyone reacts the same to things. She said her first thought was ‘Oh, why me?’ And literally, my first thought was ‘Why not me?’ I’m no better or worse than anyone else and people get cancer all the time, so why would I be exempt? We are not exempt from life’s trials and challenges, so we pull on our big girl panties and learn from it. All. There is always something to be learned.
Our local groceries have been out of coffee filters for weeks. There’s a tiny little sticker on the shelf where they should be that says ‘sorry customers, we are currently unable to get this product’. So this morning I tried making my coffee the old way, the way I used to make it before pour-over coffee became a thing. You know what? It tastes better! I may not go back to filters. I could spend the money on something more fun than a piece of paper that gets thrown in the garbage, or I could even donate it to support something I believe in.
What’s my point? When you know better, you can do better. Thank you Maya Angelou, for putting it so clearly we can all understand. Have a great day each and every one of you, go out there and listen and learn and be kind. Let’s all do better.
What I’ve been listening to…
On Being – interview with Eula Biss (also this repeat interview with Isabel Wilkerson here – see mention below)
For weeks I have been ruminating over the whole isolation and distancing scenario, trying to figure out how it is effecting me, and observing how it seems to be effecting others, what we are being told, too. I imagine you are doing the same.
It occurs to me that social distancing in general is actually somewhat agreeable to me. First of all, I don’t like crowds or crowded situations, that’s obviously an advantage. Also I don’t appreciate the smell of certain individuals who either wear too much perfume/after shave, or who choose not to bathe regularly or who consume great volumes of garlic, or who have boisterous children. Keeping some distance is fine with me. I miss hugs.
However, these words advertising a new tv show really hit a nerve:
…a lifestyle show for a world where nobody has a life.
What on earth are they talking about? I have a life. We all have lives right now. They may not be exactly the same as the ones we had a few months ago, but they are our lives and for most of us there is still some room for a variety of experiences within them. I resent someone telling me I don’t have a life. I’m well aware that for the elderly who are being kept isolated from visitors and loved ones, and for the young families, isolated together while trying to home school and work from home, for carers and first responders and for those who have lost jobs or own small struggling businesses, it is very tough. But for a number of us the change has not been devastating. It has been inconvenient at times, for sure, but isn’t life this way from time to time anyway? And aren’t there always people who have it better or worse than us? Didn’t Australia just experience the worst bush fires ever recorded? Those were hellish and mostly completely out of anyone’s control. To be sure, I know people who have been hurting. But we all still have a life, which means we have possibilities and choices.
Looking after a home and the inhabitants’ needs, requires conscious living. It always has, and it still does.
There have been the well publicised shortages, some of which are ongoing in the form of empty shelves, thankfully, no longer people fighting over things. This has highlighted in our home one of the ways in which I manage it—I always keep a backup of things we use regularly, in the pantry. This meant that when we came home from being away and the world had changed, we did not have to worry about desperate procurement of toilet paper, soap, sugar etc. This is called planning and organisation and I have always done it. Previously, it has been met with humorous derision in the form of me ‘always being prepared for a small famine’. No one is laughing now. I’m not a hoarder, just someone who plans a little bit ahead. Partly that comes from living in a place where unexpected weather events sometimes cause shortages of products, both food and otherwise. When the railway line is flooded, goods can’t get to us. If there is a drought or cyclone in an area where certain fruits or vegetables are grown, we may have a lean season. I remember Dad telling me, running out of things causes urgency and inefficiency and it can be avoided by just anticipating one’s needs.
‘Now’ is part of life. And we still have a Now, though sometimes challenging.
Recently I broke a tiny corner off a back tooth. It was very sharp. Thankfully, our dentists are doing emergency work. I had to be at the dentist at 8.30 in the morning and I was not looking forward to it. Our old dentist had sold the practice and retired since last time I’d been. So I tried one of the ‘children’ dentists, as my friend calls the younger ones. He was very gentle and conservative and thought it best to just grind off the sharp corner and watch the tooth for a while. All good. The odd part was the protocol. First of all, they had told me to wait in the car in the parking lot when I arrived, because they aren’t allowed to use their waiting room. Apparently I was also supposed to call them when I arrived, which someone forgot to tell me, or I didn’t hear–it’s a lot to absorb sometimes with all the new regulations. But given they can look out the windows and see cars and the occupants, I thought perhaps they would just see that I was there. When I’d been sitting there for a few minutes, they called me and asked if I was coming. I said “yes, I’m here!” She replied “Oh, just come to the front door and we’ll meet you there.” The dentist met me at the front door with sanitiser, then when I got into his room, the dental assistant met me with more sanitiser, and after that I still had to wash my hands!! Then I had to rinse my mouth with disinfectant, spit into a paper cup that was then disposed of, and finally put on the extra large bib and plastic glasses. I did feel for a minute like I was living in a sci-fi film, or had leprosy and no one told me.
But I still have a life and it is still filled with simple moments of joy.
Despite daily physical therapy exercises for years, occasionally the muscle in my upper left thigh still plays up. I know when it does that, if I jog uphill at the start of my morning walks, it somehow sorts out the problem, and in a few days or a week it stops hurting. After five days of pre-walk jogs, I started out of the house and realised it was fine, no more pain.
There was a full moon and I thought I’d jog up the steep hill to the third tee, just for extra measure. It had been months since I’d scrambled around the rocky outcrops, chasing early morning light for photo opportunities. That morning was the Flower Supermoon and it was especially bright and beautiful, so I had special incentive.
As I crunched around the rocks and dry plants, looking for good vantage points from which to photograph, I thought about how comforting it is to do something enjoyable, however simple it may be. In fact, I’m quite partial to simple things. I was also listening to a gentle discussion via a favourite podcast, about a favourite book by Pema Chödrön, ‘When Things Fall Apart’. It is so full of wise passages…
Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart
We still have a life, and the moments of joy amidst the inconvenience, anxiety and sadness, are there to be seen. We just have to look for them and allow them to exist with everything else.
This is not the return (again) to blogging that I imagined. I’m moved to write to whomever have hung on and to any others who might be hearing the plight of Australia’s drought, heat and bushfires that have raged for months.
I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains…
I think of these words each day as I dread turning on the news. Almost daily we hear of worsening fires and personal loss, as well as livestock, habitat and native animal losses. I watch it because it is uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable, I know, as for those who are living it.
We grew up in a small town. When almost anything happened, you would either know the person, the family, or know someone who knew them. That is how Australia feels to me. We are the same size as the contiguous USA, but only a tiny fraction of the population size. We have traveled all over Australia and it has always been our favourite kind of travel. So when something devastating happens, it feels like it is happening to someone we know. My heart is very heavy. I watch so I can understand the challenges and witness the triumph of humans during tragedy, as well as the horror when humans make bad decisions…like starting fires in a tinder dry country.
Parts of our country have been in drought for 5 or more years. Last year the Murray Darling River was so dry in spots that millions of fish died, towns ran out of water, farmers went out of business, entire regions suffered. Farmers have had to de-stock their stations because they are out of grazing land and feed is too expensive for them to buy when they have no income. Further, lands this dry are vulnerable to dust storms that carry topsoil thousands of kilometres, here to Alice Springs and beyond.
…Core of my heart, my country! Her pitiless blue sky, When sick at heart around us, We see the cattle die…
Fires have spread like angry beasts to wine producing regions and fruit growing areas, previously moist enough to resist them. While it is true that people who live in the bush sometimes allow too much build up of fuel on their properties, it is also true that previous fires have been more manageable. We are witnessing unprecedented heat and winds on top of drought and the results are quite literally catastrophic.
A few days ago the government deployed military personal and boats to assist in areas where the power, food and water were gone and to evacuate people. Some were taking refuge in and near the water, where possible, because the fires were still threatening, having already taken hundreds of properties and an unknown number of lives. Over a thousand people have been evacuated on navy ships, while many thousands more have vacated the fire threatened regions when and if they can get petrol to do so. This is not easily possible in some areas where fuel is scarce, though being transported in, and where there is only a single highway in and out of the areas. Fallen trees and fires that have jumped roadways have necessitated road closures, trapping people in some cases.
In fires back in September/October, a huge area of koala habitat was destroyed, as were hundreds of koalas. People began bringing Koalas to the Port MacQuarie Koala Hospital and their Go Fund Me page saw generous donations from everywhere, enabling their important work for now and the future. They will be using some of the money to establish wildlife drinking stations over a wide range of lands, but the loss has still been devastating. Estimates of losses at nearly half a billion animals have shocked all of us.
Now we are donating to the people who have lost everything. Most of these people were living in regional areas because they love it, but also it is less expensive. Many do not have insurance and cannot afford to rebuild. The government is working on helping them, but of course no government can afford to rebuild housing for so many lost properties. And no one can replace a lifetime of physical mementos. But with help many will be able to rebuild and move forward.
Here in Alice we have learned 2019 was our driest on record. We received only 67mm (2.6 inches) of rain where our normal is 289mm. This, after a particularly dry previous year. Our town basin water is at its lowest point ever. We have had many more dust storms than normal, and high winds much of the time in between, drying the land out further and creating poor air quality. Mostly it is not heavily laced with smoke, though sometimes it is. Areas around Alice have burned periodically over the last year. We live in a place where everything is brought from a distance where it can be grown, so we are quite vulnerable when large scale flooding, drought and fires happen. Unprecedented, sustained temperatures in excess of 40C up to 46C (114F) have taken a toll even on the native vegetation.
This morning as I write I can barely see the mountain for dust in the air. But I know the winds and heat we have had are moving south and will worsen their fires. I feel somehow complicit. There are dire warnings for this day in particular. There are still hundreds of fires burning, many out of control. If you are seeing these stories in your news, believe them. It is real, and much worse than most of us ever thought we would see. We know we are in this together, that Australians are resilient and compassionate people—even more so for the hardships suffered.
And finally, to the thousands of volunteer firefighters who make up most of the crews. I cannot imagine how exhausted you are, the horrors you have seen or the size of your hearts to protect your fellow beings. We are all enormously grateful.
An opal-hearted country, A wilful lavish land– All you who have not loved her, you will not understand–
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. Andthe ‘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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
jigsaw puzzle photo taken by award winning photographer, Georgina Steytler
don’t judge…it’s a 1000 piece puzzle…
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!
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.
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.
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…
There is a long tradition of lawn sales in Alice Springs. In the US we called them garage sales. Either way, it’s a way of moving along items you no longer want or use so that they find new homes, and so your home is less cluttered…or has more space for new stuff, depending on your motivations. My reason for decluttering is because I have discovered I function better, and more peacefully, with less stuff to have to store, clean, use, wear, whatever. I’ve never been a hoarder or even much of a collector. I am too much like my paternal Grandmother for that. My first serious divesting of goods was over three years ago. It felt wonderful to have space in the cupboards and drawers, but I realised how difficult it is to responsibly dispose of things you no longer require. The process made me respect the act of acquiring new things much more deeply. In addition, we also have the concern of waste in the world, and how to dispose of things properly and conscientiously.
Lawn sales, a solid tradition here, are both sociable as well as practical. Some even find them fun, which they are—on the day. However, the sorting, pricing and organising preparations are more like punishment. That part can be made more fun with friends to help, but ultimately you just have to make the decisions yourself. Recently a good friend and I had a ‘team sale’ where we put things together so that it would have a larger presentation. I didn’t have nearly as much as the one a couple of years ago, because I have been pretty careful not to accumulate things again. What I had realised, however, was the first culling uncovers things that later on you can see you should have let go of as well. Hence the most recent cull and gathering of things.
photo courtesy of google
There is such an eclectic selection of things people put into lawn sales; things you have never even heard of or seen before, but suddenly yearn to own at that bargain price! There was a humorous documentary made in 1996 about the culture of lawn sales in Alice Springs. It is called ‘The Search for the Shell Encrusted Toilet Seat’. I saw it on TV all those years ago and have searched for it to watch again but have not found it. It was clever and quirky and I think surely it will find a place on YouTube or somewhere one of these days. It tells the story of someone who saw a toilet seat with sea shells ‘suspended’ in acrylic for decorative effect. If you have ever sat on one, which I have because my former mother-in-law had one, you would know they are most disconcerting. You feel like your bottom will certainly come off the worse for the experience, but in fact no lacerations were caused in the use of that seat. There are some things in life we really don’t need to experience. The fellow in the documentary prevaricates and doesn’t purchase the shell encrusted toilet seat when he first sees it. He later regrets it. But where was it he saw it? At which lawn sale of dozens had he seen it? Thus begins his search to retrace his steps through Alice’s interesting lawn sales and characters.
The view over our rooftop of the blood moon full lunar eclipse with Mars in attendance
Each sale has its own unique quality. I’ve always strived to only sell things that are well kept and clean, even if they are well used or old. My friend is the same and so the items we had were of that ilk. The starting time was 7am, and believe me when I tell you, people were parked on the street at least 10 minutes before that, so you’d better have yourself organised! We had the sale at my friend’s house about a three minutes’ walk around the corner from our house. It was the morning of the beautiful blood moon and rare full eclipse, with Mars in attendance. As I set out from our house at 6.36am and walked up our driveway, I looked back. Over the roof of our house was the beautiful sight. I hoped it was an omen for good sales!
Social and material exchanges
One person’s trash is another’s treasure…
The evening before, my friend had arranged things on tables, so that the following morning all we had to do was carry the tables out of the garage to the carport area. Easy. The punters swooped like hungry birds, one going immediately to the large number of CD’s and DVD’s we had, saying ‘Here they are!’ as if she had discovered gold! We haven’t played any of them in years and are not likely to, given we only have one old boom box left to play the CD’s, and nothing on which to play the DVD’s. Early on, a nicely presented and discerning woman came and very, very carefully looked over everything. She added an item at a time to her purchase pile. When she finished she had quite a stack and had to make two trips to her car. A little while later she returned, accumulating another stack of things and then departing. Finally, a while after that she returned again, buying several more items. We heard her say as she walked out of sight ‘you won’t see me again, but thank you for the great lawn sale!’
And we didn’t.
As they used to say in the newspaper in the small town I am from,
‘And a good time was had by all’.
(In the link above, to my previous post on this topic, there are references to helpful guides. In addition you may find what Courtney Carver has to say helpful. This link is for clearing your wardrobe, but she has books and other courses you may find more interesting, or you can just use her newsletter for inspiration)
Just after the sun had broken over the horizon, sending a few bleak wintery rays across the grasses in front of the house, I looked out the expanse of windows that stretch the width of the west facing end. There, about 30 feet in front of the windows, silent and purposeful, strode a lone Dingo. So quiet, the neighbourhood dogs even missed a good chance to raise the alarm. So quiet, I later wondered if I had seen it at all. Nearly the same colour as the dried, blonde grasses, only the dark spot of his eye and his nose and the sunlit hairs on the ridge of his back and the plume of the tail shone his shape. Perfect camouflage.
Lingers in my mind’s eye like a dream.
I set out for my walk moments later, in the direction the Dingo was heading. A single lone Dingo was probably nothing to be concerned about since I wasn’t walking a small dog that might be mistaken as breakfast. I kept my eye on the tall grasses walking over crisp, frosted ground, down the desolate back of the golf course on a Sunday morning. No further sightings. I wondered…is this the new normal of our cohabitation? The Dingo casually strolls through the neighbourhood while I keep a watchful eye and go for my morning walk.
Stranger things have happened.
The day before, a small mob of Wallabies had converged on our patio, scratching themselves thoughtfully, studying the windows…the same windows on the world through which I had seen the Dingo. The two adults and two joeys probably saw their reflections, or maybe some slight movement inside as I adjusted myself for a better view of them. Most likely the reflections of the rocky outcrop and sky behind them was their point of interest. It must be very confusing for them. Imagine if we all became focused on what was behind us rather than moving forward. The Wallabies were not seduced. Slowly they moved up the breezeway that gave them safe passage to the bottom of the driveway and within a few hops of the road. If they cross the road safely, which has always happened in the 20 years we have lived here, there is only one row of houses and then they are back in the bush again.
With the Dingoes.
Almost 40 years ago, I looked out of another expanse of windows. It was a whole lifetime ago for me–for the world. I was high atop the World Trade Center in New York City. The place was called ‘Windows on the World’. We were there for a cocktail reception for a national gathering of Television Promotion Managers and Art Directors. Below, an enormous world of skyscrapers, tiny ships and cars, and even tinier humans, spread out for many miles. They went about the business of the world. And now, I watch the business of Mother Nature where species learn to live with one another and it is survival of the fittest. No trace or photos of any of it, just what my brain has selectively conserved. Why would this memory visit me now? Why can I remember conversing with two fellows from Australia, one from Sydney, one from Wollongong, forty years ago, but have trouble remembering what I had two days ago for breakfast?
How do we reconcile the worlds within us? For the most part it is an unconscious process. But now and again we tell stories and make art and that turns something with seemingly no purpose into something of value.
I knew if I left writing about our travels until I got home again the writing would not be the same, if it even happened at all. There is always so much catching up to do, even when you are away for only three weeks, as we were. And then there is this thing I have noticed…I am never the same when I return from a trip to another country. I can never quite fit back into the same groove as when I left. Truth be told, I kind of like that. Travel changes me in ways it is difficult to describe. At least I have photos, and a few notes I managed to make along the way.
Debris along Bruce Bay
About a week into the trip, on a grey, overcast and lightly raining day between Franz Josef Glacier and Haast in the northwest of the South Island of New Zealand, we came upon Bruce Bay. We had not heard of it but it came at a time when a break in the driving was welcome and we were curious. When we first got out of the car I noticed an odd pile of smooth, white stones. It was obvious they had been intentionally placed there, but to what purpose? Looking up and down the beach we could see that there must have been some serious weather in recent times. The beach was eroded and large pieces of trees and giant seaweed had been washed up. Don walked off a little way, while I studied the stones. I was curious about the source of the stones and looked over the edge of the small precipice created by the erosion. Down below, maybe 10 feet, I could see smooth stones scattered all over thewet sand. It appeared people had been walking down to the beach and choosing a stone to bring back up to the top. And then, being human, they did a very curious thing. Each stone had been written on with texta (markers). There was either a message or a person’s name. I wondered if the name on the stone was the person who was writing the message, or someone they were missing. While we were there we noticed a couple of other people who arrived just after us, contributing to the pile. We did not. I recently heard, it says more about us, the things that we don’t do, than the things that we do. I wonder. Don said he was amazed how many people were carrying permanent markers! We laughed…and later I realised I had one too, in my drawing kit!
Stones of humanity
The day was monochromatic, ranging from mid-grey to almost, but not quite, black. As I looked up I saw Don standing on the beach, debris strewn on the sand as far as one could see. At my feet were the stones, a kind of monument to the human race, I supposed. Individual, but gathered together as a whole. Most were inscribed in a very considered way, and so neatly done, some faded, some vibrant. I took the photo of Don. And then I took a couple of photos of the stones. I wish now I’d taken more, why, I have no idea.
Some faded markings on beach stones
Later that evening we settled into the least luxurious accommodation of our trip, and logged into the Wifi to check email. The room was cramped and smelled of dampness, which was the prevailing condition in this part of the island. The wifi was good but there was no telephone signal! Haast is in a 244km blackout zone, and was just about to get mobile phone reception for the first time at the end of May 2018. This small, remote community had a nice information centre and several motels large enough to hold a few busloads of tourists. The town also housed the people who serviced it all. Don looked up from his iPad and said, “I’ve just gotten a message from Steve…Dad has died.”
I thought of that solitary silhouette I captured on the beach, and the pile of humanity represented at my feet earlier that day. I wonder how many people have a photo of themselves on the day their last parent has died? Alone, but not yet knowing you are alone. It was all okay, but still. Don had returned from seeing his Father, for what he knew would be the last time, only two weeks before departing for New Zealand.
Such is life. And death. They find us no matter where we are.
Evening stroll to the concert. View of the Yarra River.
We have just returned from a little ‘warm up’ trip to Melbourne. Even though I arrived home beyond tired, I’m calling this a warm up trip because it is a small prelude to a longer trip in a week’s time, to New Zealand.Here is how the Melbourne trip came about…
Satu Vänskä, Principal Violin, Australian Chamber Orchestra
A little over two weeks ago I saw a television interview with Satu Vänskä, Principal Violin, of the Australian Chamber Orchestra. The ACO has on loan a 300 year old Stradivarius Violin and Satu is the talented musician who plays it for their performances. Her interview captivated me as she described the violin as an extension of herself, as her ‘voice’, were she a singer. She explained the ACO has a fundraising program that enables them to purchase vintage instruments which become part of their orchestra. They are not just for show, they are participants in their art. She played a couple of short examples of the music they would be performing. It went straight to my heart, the way things do when we are open to experiences.
It so happens my husband was already booked to travel to Melbourne about a week hence, for a series of meetings. He encouraged me to check the ACO performances and see if they happened to coincide. They did. And there were seats available.
I believe in synchronistic adventure.
We enjoy listening to classical music but are not cognoscenti, especially me. I just listen and enjoy. Neither of us had ever attended an ACO performance. But there was something about the sound of that Stradivarius, even heard over the inferior quality of television speakers, that filtered to my innermost being. I suppose that is what great art does. But there is more…
Dad and Mom in Rome
About forty years ago, when my Italian speaking skills were fresh enough from studies to be of some use, I organised a trip to Italy for myself and my parents. In those days I could only get two weeks off from work so it was an ambitious plan. We flew into Rome, enjoyed the delights, picked up a rental car and headed to an area about 70 miles outside of Rome to meet my father’s extended family, then south to the Amalfi Coast, then back up through Tuscany and through Cremona on our way to the Lake Como area. Like I said, ambitious. Dad and I took turns driving —oh the things a fearless father and a confident young daughter can achieve! I wonder if my Mother spent the entire trip with white knuckles?
When we neared the Cremona area, Dad sprung on me that he wanted to stop, to see if we could find anything about the Stradivarius violins that were made there in the 18th century. Himself, a musician, Dad was from a very musical family. His father played the violin and his Uncle made violins, one of which is in the possession of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. Musical talent certainly skipped my generation, though perhaps there is a lingering gene or two in my other creative endeavours.
Keep in mind, this was well before GPS systems, the internet or smart phones! We had only an ‘old school’ road map and my Dad’s sketchy knowledge of the Stradivarius. I could scarcely believe we actually found a museum or school or some such place, where there was said to be a Stradivarius. But when we arrived it was ‘chiuso’—closed. The hours were posted on the door so we decided to try and return when it would be open again. As we turned to leave, an Italian gentleman came into the piazza. Dad, never one to hold back, but knowing not a word of Italian, stopped the man, then realised I would have to do the asking… thanks Dad. If you’ve ever learned a second language, you will know that often it is not the difficulty of asking the question that is the problem, it is understanding the reply that is tricky. Eventually, what I understood was that this gentleman, a ‘professore di musica’ was also the person who came once a week to play the Stradivarius that was kept on display here–to keep it in good working order. He told us when he would be playing if we wanted to wait.
Eventually the door was opened, probably after siesta, I can’t quite remember, I just know it was a warm day and we were waiting on hard stone benches in the piazza for a while… We were told where to go and il Professore, true to his word, was preparing the famed violin. He, and we, were the only people present. He played. Dad was riveted. Me? I was young and not as appreciative as I might have been. The uniqueness of the moment didn’t fully sink it at the time, but somewhere deep in the folds of my grey matter it has been waiting to come forward and be gratefully acknowledged.
Hamer Hall, where the ACO performed
Hearing that Stradivarius on television restored that memory as if it was only a few years ago. Perhaps the spirit of my Dad was urging me to go to Melbourne. It was the sort of adventure he would appreciate. The actual star of the performance was the up and coming Australian Soprano, Nicole Car, who has performed in London and Paris to acclaim and who is performing later this year at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. She was superb.
But for me, the star was the Stradivarius.
What a voice Satu has…a three hundred year old Belgiorno Stradivarius that lives on through her artistry.
If you live in Australia, the ACO tour continues for the month of April. Also, there is a performance from this series that will be played live on April 22 with Nicole Car singing. I will be out of the country and can’t imagine that I will get to hear it, but who can say, with these synchronistic things? Link: http://www.abc.net.au/classic/live-music/classic-live/