Why is it we seem to have to go to the brink in life to awaken to ourselves? I don’t know anyone who escapes life’s tragedies and is wiser for that lack of experience. We seem to learn the most profound things from those big moments and near misses. But once in a while, if we pay attention, we get a moment of clarity that raises our awareness and appreciation for life, without the suffering.
Life is full of work and things to be done, or avoiding them and living down a rabbit hole—I choose the first one most of the time. By the time I exercise, clean the body, feed our household, do the most necessary of cleaning jobs and get what sleep I can, there is comparatively little discretionary time. And these days one of my joys is thinking about creating things rather than life’s big questions, which if I were going to be able to answer them, I probably would have in my 68 years on this earth. But I haven’t and probably won’t. I think about colour themes, about how to discern value more effectively, and what effects can be achieved on which kind of paper. And about trying to be honest and kind, both of which are challenging endeavours.
Some days I’m lucky enough that my morning walk helps me see a new corner of the environment to enthuse my painting sessions. In between all of the above I keep inspiring myself with new reading, listening and viewing of other artists’ works. One morning I was listening to a podcast interview with Andrew Greig, a Scottish poet and writer. I love a Scottish accent. (Must be genetic as my paternal Grandmother’s family was named Carlisle.) What captivated me was the title of the interview ‘When I’m dead, I will love this.’ He tells a story of running home in the cold and rain from the fish and chip shop, to keep his meal from getting soggy. And he thinks, as clearly as anything, as he is running, how wonderful running and a hot fish and chip meal would be if he was dead. I get it. It left me with shivers and tears on the rims.
We whir around in our complex world full of news stories and disaster and lists of jobs and people to please, when all the time we are doing the small miraculous things that humans do. We are spellbound at sunrises, marvel at nature, rejoice when we find a key we thought we’d lost, are amazed when our children are so much smarter than we were at that age…or kinder than we realised. These things we know. They are right in front of us every single day and we forget to look. We forget to think, ‘when I’m dead, I will love this.’
**This was going to be my last blog post. I had decided…or so I thought, I had nothing left to say. But after thinking it over the last couple of weeks I’ve decided this is the one place in my life I have the most control, where I can make up most of the rules. I even pay to keep the ads off this page so that you all won’t be dogged by those who glean data to try to sell you things. I won’t try to sell you anything. This is just my experience in the world for you to take or leave as you wish. I’m going to hang around for a while.
Many times over the years Don and I have philosophised about golf being a metaphor for life. It is often uncannily so. Lately, I have been thinking of my journey with painting in much the same way.
Some weeks ago I painted a small experimental piece, based on a YouTube lesson I’d watched. As I was finishing it I tossed the pastel in my hand over into the little pile I’d been using and murmured to myself ‘No, no, no, I’m just not getting it’. I turned out the light and that was it for the day. The next morning I came in and looked at it with fresh eyes, expecting to loathe what I’d done, and instead realised I loved it. I had learned a very good lesson. My discouragement had been that my piece didn’t look like the artist’s in the lesson. Silly me, that’s not what I want at all! I want it to look like my style, not hers—and it does! It is not great, the composition is was not wonderful at all, but the ‘look’ of it is a step closer to what I have been dreaming of, and there it was right in front of me. I didn’t recognise it because I was so preoccupied looking for the other artist’s style.
There are many things to learn when one is creating. It is equal parts thrill and frustration. Frank Gehry, the well known architect, described it well:
For me, every day is a new thing. I approach each project with a new insecurity, almost like the first project I ever did. And I get the sweats. I go in and start working, I’m not sure where I’m going. If I knew where I was going I wouldn’t do it.–Frank Gehry
For me it’s boring to repeat the same journey over and over. I too ‘get the sweats’ every time I start a new painting–as if my life depends on its success, which it certainly does not. Such is the standard to which I hold myself, the self flagellating behaviour I have learned, and am trying to unlearn. But once engrossed in the process everything else falls away when I get those colours in my fingers and see where both my conscious mind and intuition wants them to go. Being swept along in that flow is the payoff.
We need to explore our inner depths, solve new problems and gain new insights. Part of that for me has been the very basic task of sourcing supplies. The challenge of living in a remote area with few resources for art supplies has meant that some weeks I spend almost as much time sourcing materials as I do painting. A lack of good paper has been my biggest problem. I can order it and it will be here in two weeks, if I know what to order. Which I don’t. Until very recently, when I had completed enough painting on different surfaces to finally have a preference, I was stumbling around with this one. I watch videos and learn techniques for applying marks to a variety of surfaces. And then I practice. At this point in my learning trajectory it is hard to know if the problem is with my technique, or the surfaces…probably both! I’ve even learned how to apply a rough surface to smooth boards and papers making homemade pastel paper. Now, if the ordered supplies do not show up as scheduled, I won’t go completely without. It’s all part of the process and no doubt will change time and again over the coming years.
I’ve had a couple of worrying breaks in the process while we had more urgent things to attend to in our life. Always I reminded myself I only needed to return to the task for one minute. One break was planned–the pastel dust was a problem. I was trying to paint in the office with carpet on the floor–light carpet at that! So I made the decision to move out to the little space that is our ‘shedio’. Two thirds of the space is my studio and one third is Don’s tool shed–so christened ‘shedio’. It is not a glamorous space, but it is very practical and not unpleasant, having been renovated about ten years ago. It is surprising how far that journey is, however–those ten steps between the front door and the shedio door. And because of break-ins in the town I have to always lock the front door behind me when I’m in the shedio, and likewise the shedio door if I come into the house for a break. That transition happened a few weeks ago now and along with the new car, I’m starting to feel comfort with both situations. Always in the back of my mind, though, is the thought that if I feel pressured or lost, I only have to be there for one minute…no matter the result.
We don’t know what we don’t know. With every painting I am finding new problems to solve. Somehow the information I need to keep moving ahead comes into my life and I move forward one baby step at a time.
Sweaty hands, learning, solving problems, making preparations, small victories, crappy results, baby steps…how is art anything but a metaphor on Life?
This time last year we were watching large swathes of Australia burn. I rescued a little kangaroo joey, that sadly died a few weeks later, too. As we watched the very disturbing video of our country on fire and the animals and humans in deep distress, so began a year of not wanting to turn on the news, but being afraid not to. I felt powerless. Of course things only got worse in that regard, as the year went on. I tried to focus on the things I could do something about…self, home, communications, donations and everyday life.
One very gratifying thing I did was donate to The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. They have done something that few recipients of my donations have done over the years. They send updates via their ‘go fund me’ page and by email. The most recent update brought tears to my eyes and I thought you would find it interesting to read. One of the main targets, funded by the donations, are drinking stations used not just by koalas, but other wildlife as well. It’s fills the most basic of needs, water, in a very dry land. And it involves humans to keep them maintained, which seems like a great way to raise our consciousness about what we can do. So here is their lovely update.
We are still reaping some rewards from the rains at Christmas, though we’ve had days filled with hot, dry wind and so things are drying out and looking tired again. There is no real rain in sight, but we watch the horizon with hope.
Cicadas are having a bumper year, if the number of nymph shells I’m seeing, and the deafening din are indicators. They are incredibly hard to see until they are lying dead on the ground. I gaze up at the trees and can never find them, though the tree is screaming with their presence. I did watch one flying a few days ago–a strange noisy blur as it went singing along overhead. I’m sure I’ve come across some mythological tale of the sound of cicadas being used to drive one of the gods insane. What chance does a mere mortal have? At least the carnivorous birds will be feasting well. Here is another little treat for your viewing pleasure, the work of artist Lucienne Rickard in Tasmania. She has spent the passed sixteen months drawing exquisite images of extinct Tasmanian animals and then erasing them for her Extinction Studies. Get the reference? In some cases she spent over a hundred hours doing a detailed drawing of an animal, and then erasing it while viewers watched on. Recently on her Instagram feed @luciennerickard she drew the loveliest life size image of a cicada nymph, not included in the extinction studies, just for ‘fun’. Her work is really superb and I highly recommend having a look.
Speaking of carnivorous birds…a family of Pied Butcherbirds (Cracticus nigrogularis) has settled around our place for the time being. They are mostly insect and small animal feeders, and they have the most beautiful song, similar to that of a Magpie. The two youngsters are nearly the size of the parents, which are about the size of crows, but their behaviours are that of teenagers–still wanting parents to feed them, and still wandering about, curious to test all kinds of things in the environment. One day a young one found its reflection in our windows and it pecked at the image, trying to get a response. The parent came along and tried to distract it, but the youngster was determined, so the parent must have thought, ‘Well there’s one that’s occupied for a while, I’ll go check on the other one!’ and flew away. Eventually the teenager departed, but it was back the next morning, peering into the glass deeply, turning its head side to side trying to figure out that alternate Universe on the other side.
I feel a kinship with that young Butcherbird sometimes…wondering if there is some great intelligence watching me peer into the everything-ness, trying to figure out what to do with life on my side of the glass.
We worked our way through all the seasons in five days over Christmas. Three days before, it was pouring rain, which we badly needed and was an absolute gift. It was also unseasonably cool. My winter track suit even made an unexpected appearance one morning, but the high humidity had me changing again before lunch time. Ok, so our version of seasons is less extreme than most, but it was still quite unusual. We went from the hottest November on record, to almost the coolest Christmas on record. We only missed by about 2 degrees celsius….it was 26C (78F) and the record was 24.2C(75F)
The additions of daughter and sausage dog added their own weather pattern to the immediate environment. When the house that I had tidied within a hair of its existence suddenly looked like a whirlwind had hit, she laughingly swept her hand through the hair and sang ‘I’m home’. I realised I had missed all of the disarray and young energy.
The river flowed energetically for the first time in a couple of years. We’ve had other trickles and teases, but nothing that would lead one to believe the water table was being replenished. This one hinted it might just happen by the time La Niña is finished with us.
There are amazing changes that happen when you live in an arid zone and the rains come. First of all the smell is delicious…once you get passed that first shower that highlights the smell of decomposing things. Eew. The eucalyptus and rain trees perfume the air like walking into the soap factory we visited earlier this year. The factory made their own herbal and other essential oil essences and I could feel myself being uplifted with every breath. It is the same here, after a good rain. Driving to pick up my husband from the airport which I hadn’t done in almost a week, felt like I had been transported to another planet—the one with green stuff on the ground and a landscape that has been sharpened by a high definition filter.
Another change that rapidly takes place is not just the growth of plants, but the very appearance of them, where previously had been barren soil and rock. The wild Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) first emerged after a rainfall of only 10ml a few weeks ago. By the time another 80ml had come, it was filling every available space and growing larger each day. Surely I had just missed it in years passed, but it seemed to be everywhere! When we visited the soap factory at Babylonstoren earlier this year, we had taken a tour of the gardens. We learned that our common jade plant, growing with abandon, was edible! I’d seen kangaroo eating the tips of it but until our guide showed it to us and mentioned it was edible, I had not equated the kangaroo experience with a human one. She said, watching what animals eat can often give us a clue to what we can eat, and then there is chocolate which is toxic to dogs. Never mind. Wild Purslane is also edible, and has a salty, slightly sour taste and a slight crunch. It reminds me of the texture (but not the flavour) of Japanese wakame salad.
As well as the Purslane multiplying, the Naked Lady lilies positively raced toward the heavens with each day of cloud and rain. The day the cloud cleared, they opened their pinkness to the world. Their life is brief but there is no sadness to it. The blushing blossoms nod in the breezes, rejoicing a short, happy life.
Once the rain stopped, the cloud cleared fairly quickly but unfamiliar humidity remained heavily in the air and morning dew sparkled on the newly emerged green shoots. Insects flourished too, everything from mosquitoes to flying ants, bees, dragonflies and bush flies, a veritable feast for birds. We’ve already discovered a few intruders, attacking the refreshed garden. And so it goes. Temperatures returned to the more normal range, but on the very tolerant side through Christmas, and headed toward hot for the New Year. It was a wonderful break.
My usually quiet days turned to a happy mixture of baking and cooking, sausage cuddling, the occasional short nap, tv viewing, drinks with friends, gift exchanges and basking in love. Four days and a hundred photos later, the house was suddenly silent again. Only the orchestra of Pied Butcher birds and Cicadas singing, and the tumbling of the washing machine remained. There was no warm little body squirming into my lap, no funny quips or gorgeous smiles from our daughter, no reliable assistance and generous compliment from my husband. Armed with ham sandwiches and Christmas baking, at day break they slipped quietly out of the driveway and began their 1500 kilometre journey to her home. Faced with a pile of clothes, sheets and towels to wash, only the sheets now remain. Her perfume clings to them. Maybe they can wait until the scent has faded to nothing. Then I will be able to bear washing them. This was the first time in 8 years she had been able to be here for Christmas. Of all the years, this one would have been my choice.
Long may the memory last.
**The long drive happened because the airlines are not yet transporting animals and there was no place Allison could leave Leni while she came home. Her lovely Dad offered his driving services and flew down to drive with her north, and home again, and then flew home from Adelaide. It was a big effort for all of us, but so worth it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
the smell of cigarette smoke in front of every building on every street in every country.
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.
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.
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??)
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.
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 NiagaraFalls, with a magnification makeup/shaving mirror with it’s own lighting as well as a surround light for the large mirror. Bless them.
filthy, smelly taxis—our daughter has promised to explain to us how to use UBER. Nuff said.
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)
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.
Samuel Adams resting place in downtown Boston, Mass.
Niagara Falls from the Canadian side
Dancing to the Basque Folk songs in Donostia-San Sebastian
Here, in the heart of Australia I stopped. Three days before Christmas I sat on a bench with a path converging in front of me and a sunrise that was the harbinger of rain for Christmas. Lots of rain. We welcome rain, in the arid lands, whenever it chooses to anoint us. I sat on this bench feeling grateful that my family was home and for all the goodness Life has brought us.
My path has never been very predictable, and I have liked it that way. Life has presented many more amazing twists and turns than I could imagine. I have regretted nothing that has appeared at my feet…on the path. Now, living half a world from where I began life, it seems like there was nothing else I could have done.
Three days ago I saw this path converging. Today I see it was a divergence with a brief intersection only. Our family is gone, necessarily leaving space between the two paths once again. As we parted, it was the reopening of an old wound, a raw and painful aching in the solar plexus, for something you can no longer have. Time, and writing about it temporarily cover over the longing, anticipating a future time when our paths will briefly converge again.
It seems a month or so ago when I wrote there was change in the wind, I was correct. The change in the wind has not altogether been the weather. True, we have had an extended winter/spring, but the changes were also born from inner need, and a rash decision…
Our weather here in Alice has been like no one local can recall. We have been here 25 years and it is certainly different than we have experienced. When I started writing this, a few days ago the morning temperature was 3C. Yesterday at the same time, it was 20C. In anyone’s book that is quite a variance. The miraculous result of our ongoing winter/early spring weather is that both the domestic gardens and the bush have made huge strides in recovering from last summer’s plague of giant grasshoppers and heat, followed by the early winter hail storm that pretty well finished things off. That Mother Nature, you can’t beat her and you can’t figure her out!
today’s same lemon tree bursting with new foliage
unripe lemon on denuded tree five months ago
While the outer kingdom has been busily regenerating, my inner dominion has been a little volcanic. I made a couple of habit decisions a month or so ago. I first decided to start meditating again. To do that I needed to modify my morning routine. For approximately the first three hours I am up, starting at about 4.45am, I am doing self-nurturing things. I begin with meditating for however long the urge moves me, sometimes 30 minutes, sometimes as long as 50 minutes. I then go for a 40 minute walk. I don’t time it, but I have two routes and they both take about that long because that is how much my body will tolerate and still have energy left for other activities as the day progresses.
Desert Pea near Botanic Garden
During the walk I have begun listening to podcasts. I have immersed myself into a new world and I am learning. What is the saying? When you know better, you do better. And that means change. Listening to people who are able to articulate their inner and outer journey is valuable to me. It has reminded me to trust my inner voice, which is so sweet and persistent, compared to the ‘self talk’, ego voice which is mostly berating and negative. I now realise I hear them as two different voices and it’s important to differentiate. It takes some getting used to. The self talk must change…starting with, the crisis of writing confidence I have also been wrestling with. I have been reminded that all great artists, a category to which I do not, nor do I care to, belong, have confidence issues most of their lives. I know my writing is improving all the time, and I’m satisfied with that. It is the subject matter I have been a bit worried over. What do I possibly have to say? And then…at about the same time I was writing this post, I had one of those shower-epiphanies–you know, when you are showering and allow your mind to wander and suddenly it bestows upon you a revelation.
Cue Hallelujah Chorus.
‘What if I see my writing as snapshots of the ordinary, but light-filled, similar to my photographs?’ I can happily live with that. Time will tell if others can happily read that!
So, “Go away negative self-talk, it’s a new day!“
native grass and button daisies
native grasses in early morning
field of button daisies at Olive Pink Botanic Garden
Season for the trees to get their gear off
Jacaranda blossoms fallen after rain
Also part of my new morning routine; I am not writing emails first thing, as I have done previously. I am writing ideas. Some might make it to the blog one day, most won’t. After about an hour of writing I allow myself to check emails and answer them. I have to make exceptions to this practice if there are family things going on with our daughter or with my Mum and close friends/family overseas.
The new routine was going well, though not easily. But that was to be expected. And then… I tried to fix a ‘little’ computer problem that was a result of upgrading my operating system. As these things often do, the ‘fix’ was waaaaay worse than the original problem. I back up everything, always. I knew I would get it all back together eventually, but did not expect it to take 8 days 22 hours and 42 minutes, but who’s counting? Two days into that process, my left arm developed a strange ‘rash’ that I decided must be eczema. I’ve had problems with this in the past, but nothing as nasty as this one, and I’ve always been able to identify what I had eaten that had caused it so that I could avoid the food in future, or eat in limited quantities. This time my efforts were for naught. Finally after a week with no improvement I went to the doctor. He took one look and said ‘If you hadn’t had the Shingles vaccine three years ago, I would say you have Shingles. It is classic looking for that.‘(That’s why he’s the doctor, ahem.) I had a quick flashback to the nurse who administered the vaccine telling my husband and I, ‘The efficacy of this one is only 80%.’ Whether it is hubris or a case of positive thinking, one does not think they will be in the unfortunate 20%. Still, I consider myself very lucky that my experience was not as bad as that of my Grandmother or my Mother-in-law. I’m sure the vaccine* has helped mitigate the more miserable and serious symptoms.
I can now go back to eating normally, having eliminated a whole swag of foods from my diet for the passed week, and the rash should be healed in two-four weeks.
So, my friends, life is never dull. If it is, you aren’t doing it right.
(*If you are over 60, I would recommend getting the Herpes Zoster Vaccine. We had to get a script from our doctor, take it to the chemist who ordered it and then we picked it up and took it to our GP, whose nurse administered it. If you have ever seen anyone with normal to serious Shingles, you would not hesitate to do this. It is a very painful and nasty thing to experience. My own was only minor pain the first few days and lots of itching.)
Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. -Thomas Merton
Some things are happening. Inside. As of yet, the outcome is not evident, but I know when things are afoot. I find great comfort making images of things outside of me, which reflect the inside of me as well.
Standing alone and crooked, this tree surrenders to itself.
As you would have seen many times, the subtitle to my blog is ‘surrender to yourself’. I explained how this came to be and what it means in another post a couple of years ago. It’s a nice post, go ahead and read it if you haven’t. Surrender makes way for new things to come.
Echoing in my mind has been something a friend said to me a few weeks ago ‘go out there and find that beauty’. Thank you F. We just never know the effect, a few words we share might have on someone.
Male pygmy goanna (half of the pair) who live in our loft space from time to time. The pavers are the size of bricks, if that gives you an idea of his size. Female is about 2/3 his size.
Wildflower with raindrops.
Captive rain droplet.
Surrendering sounds easy. It kind of is, and isn’t. Remaining open and letting things go, so that they might be replaced with new challenges and discoveries is scary, exciting, hope-filled, and for me, necessary.
What are you willing to give up, in order to have what you want? -Elizabeth Gilbert
I thought I would post some recent photos so that you will know I have not lost interest or forgotten you. I’m surrendering to my inner voice at the moment. Forgive me if I’m slow to read or respond to your comments. I’m not far away, just a little ray of light, really.
‘Pussy tail’ wildflowers.
Wildflower with raindrops.
Patch of legume type wildflowers.
Looking through the Callistemon flowers at sunrise on Mt Gillen…from our patio.
Port Lincoln Parrots seem to perfectly match the current environment.