All the world’s a stage, when you look at it.

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“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Søren KierkegaardIt’s

So much happens in the world, in life in general, in a fortnight. A few media stories, among the many headlines, caught and kept my attention. I found myself  reflecting at different times on a variety of matters. My reflection has led me down different paths; some in search of clarity, some nonsensical and irrelevant (maybe that should be irreverent) some paths have led to a greater sense of acceptance and an awareness that, come what may, I owe the world an attitude of gratitude. 

Pop icon Prince died. Many beautiful tributes from celebrities and fans around the world shone a light on his talent and helped me realise how instrumental he was in forging a brave new world in music.  Though I was never a fan, I do agree that he was a talented musician and, in my mind’s eye, I remember seeing his flamboyant appearances on countdown, a popular music TV show, when I was younger.

Queen Elizabeth II turned 90, making her the first monarch to still rule at that wonderful age. When I see the Queen in photographs with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she reminds me of my own grandmother and I wonder if the Queen too has a heart of gold as well as being an incredibly determined, passionate and focused leader. I’ve marvelled for many years at her particular talents. Her job is certainly not one for the faint hearted and she seems to manage it with dignity, grace and ease.

The 25th April in Australia is ANZAC Day. It marks the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli of Australian and New Zealand troops in 1915.  But it is more than that.  It is a day of remembrance in Australia, a day to give thanks to all the men and women who served and died in war. The ANZACs embodied the qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice. These qualities contribute to our sense of national identity. My own flesh and blood have fought in various wars, their stories I am only now uncovering. Lest we forget.

This past week marked the one year anniversary of my most recent trip to Nepal and the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed 9000 people and left close to 21 000 people homeless. The initial earthquake and many powerful aftershocks devastated many parts of Nepal which sadly are still in rubble. Apart from the human cost and loss of life many buildings have been marked as condemned with little in the way of financial support reaching those in need. Having been among the people of Nepal at that time and experiencing terror like never before, it is cold comfort to be living in safety knowing those in need are still suffering.

Having been a teacher of ancient history I read with bated breath about the discovery of a 4500 year old female mummy in Peru. The mummy and the items found with her suggest she was of nobel rank and that gender equity existed at the time. Fascinating exciting stuff.  This significant finding opens the door on a civilisation about which we have little knowledge. While cause for celebration archeologists disagree on a number of points, and there’s the rub, while this is an exciting discovery leading to new insights we also, and rightfully so, have more questions to answer, theories to explore and ideas to support.

I was startled to realise it had been 10 years since the Beaconsfield mine disaster that made news headlines around the world. A rock fall in a gold mine in Tasmania trapped 17 miners. As luck would have it fourteen escaped relatively quickly, leaving 3 men trapped below. For two weeks the rescue efforts were televised and were the focus of many Australians.  Two of the three men trapped below were rescued. the third, Larry Knight died in the collapse.  I remember meeting the two survivors Brant Webb and Todd Russell at a book signing. While I am sure they will forever and a day remember their experience their humble, exuberant, larrikin spirit will stay with me forever. I am known to wear my heart upon my sleeve and empathise deeply with others and this was definitely one occasion where I truly felt a maelstrom of emotions vying for release.

The game is afoot – Game of Thrones that is.  There has been much buzz about the next season of Game of Thrones. Not a show for the faint hearted. Fans are enthralled with the idea of Jon Snow being reprised and raised from the dead.  In this show, if such a thing were possible, the reanimation of this much-loved character would be like an ill wind which blows no man to good. Would death by such means not change one’s outlook, would not one’s heart be as cold as any stone?

This year marks the 400th year since the great Bard himself departed our fair earth. Shakespeare died on April 23rd 1616. Interestingly, he was baptised on April 26th 1564 and so, many people celebrate an assumed birthday on April 23rd. If the numerous events locally and internationally are anything to go by the celebrations have been as merry as the day is long. With so many opportunities to celebrate with plays, dinners, fancy dress and readings it is hard to find the one event that’s the be all and end all of celebrations. For goodness sake it’s hard to be fancy free when you are torn and indecisive.  Amid all the hype I did find one option rather inviting. It was a challenge to weave five of Shakespeare’s most common expressions into a conversation.

I trust my attempt has not set your teeth on edge. I have not slept one wink wondering if the method in my madness will please or displease. I trust none will be up in arms over too much of a good thing. There are over 20 phrases coined or popularised by Shakespeare in the above post. Can you find them?And thereby hangs a tale of a week, or so,  in review.

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Interviewing David

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“I’m a little bit naked, but that’s okay.”
― Lady Gaga

If you could interview a work of art, what would it be and what would you ask?  This sounds like a pretty random idea, I know, but it came from listening to a radio interview by Richard Fidler, on Conversations. He was talking with a gentleman who had a very unique, full body tattoo and at one point Richard commented that he’d never interviewed a work of art before.  It got me thinking, what a neat idea.

The hardest part of this scenario, once you’ve taken the leap into the quirky world of oddity and imagination, is selecting just one artwork to interview.  How do you choose one piece that you’d love an audience with to get to know better from a world full of magnificent works? I’ve visited some of the most magnificent galleries in the world and enjoyed the talent of local artists as well as great masters. I appreciate and am enthralled by a variety of mediums, subjects and artistic styles. Yes, choosing just one is tricky. So I simply shut my eyes and decided on the first image that came to mind. It was a close tie between Michelangelo’s David and the Venus de Milo.

In the end, I thought David might be fun. Now, I’m never going to be an award-winning journalist and I’m sure, once I post this piece I will think of a trillion other questions but here were my initial thoughts, interests, curiosities.

David, I imagine it gets pretty tiring having droves of people comment on how large and out of proportion your hands are each day. What other unique challenges do you face?

Do you suffer from body image issues?

What do you feel is your most endearing feature?

If you could swathe yourself in a single outfit, what fabric would you choose?

You have one day to do anything you like. Where would you go and what would you do?

How do you feel about Michelangelo after all this time? If you were to meet now, what would you share with him?

Your surroundings are pretty stark. What’s your favourite colour?

Can you account for your continued celebrity?

Tell me about your earliest memory.

Where would you like to be five years from now?

What did I miss? What would you have asked in addition? Like I said, no Pulitzer Prizes for award-winning journalism for me but this exercise, as well as being a bit of quirky fun, challenged me to think in different and creative ways and that’s a good thing to do occasionally. I also found I was anticipating the responses and I now have a different viewpoint from which to think. Pretty neat.

How could you challenge yourself to think outside the realms of  the everyday?

Coastal walking, it’s gold.

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When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.  Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve been fortunate to visit several places by the sea of late and I’ve taken full advantage of these visits to indulge with morning walks along the shoreline as well as afternoon frolics. I find the energy of the ocean and a sandy beach satisfies the body, soothes the soul and clears the mind.  It’s hard for me to go long periods of time before returning for more.

After a particularly busy few weeks at work and finding myself unaccompanied for the weekend I went in search of a local walk. My objective was to get out into the fresh air, collect some geocaches and walk for hours. So I hopped onto the geocaching website and found a power tail, by the sea.

I should briefly explain what geocaching is and what power trails are. I was introduced to the world of geocaching about five years ago by my son. At first, I didn’t quite understand how it worked but I was soon hooked once I discovered the places it took me, that it involved getting outdoors and there was a little challenge built-in (I’m a sucker for a challenge). It ticked the boxes for a  fun pastime.

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See those little smiley faces? They represent the caches I found on my walk.

I describe geocaching as being like a treasure hunt. More officially, it is an activity or pastime in which an item, or a container holding a number of items, is hidden at a particular location for GPS users to find by means of coordinates posted on the internet. Once you find a cache you sign the logbook inside, get back on the net and log your find. This creates your personal tally. I have, to date, found 771 caches. Caches are hidden all around the world. A power trail is a path with a large number of caches placed within close proximity to each other. Power trails are a fun way to quickly increase your find count.

Back to my amazing discovery. I located a power trail of about 24 caches along the coast, an hour’s drive from home. Perfect! I packed a small backpack with hat, water, phone (to use the GPS system), pen to log caches, camera to snap the view and sunscreen. Then I was on my way.

The walk I completed is part of a longer walk referred to as the Oceanway which consists of 36 kilometres of walking trails and tracks developed by the Gold Coast City Council. These paths meander along the coast, the ocean is not always in sight but you can always hear the crashing of waves and smell the sea spray. I was delighted with this walk and would rate it as one of the best short walks I’ve done.  The walking path led me across sand dunes, through Casuarina scrub and along beachside board walks. Parts of the walk were quite isolated with little foot traffic, only the occasional bike rider and the beautiful melody of birds. It’s an easy walk along graded tracks and trails, perfect for families to bike ride along. I revelled in the variety, the seclusion to hunt for my caches and the space to clear my head without sharing the path with hoards of people. Though it was surreal at times to step out of scrub onto well maintained pathways fronting luxury accommodation and popular beaches. Despite the small sections of peopled track I was able to power along relatively unimpeded.

I am keen to return and complete the full length of the coastal walk to begin at the spit/ seaway and continue across the state border into New South Wales. It’s not a challenging walk in terms of gradient but it does satisfy my hunger to cover distance. I’ve long had my heart set on returning to Scotland and Cornwall to walk the wild and windswept coastlines. In the meantime, I can satisfy my heart’s desire to meander along the coast with this and a few other coastal walks I’ve discovered at home.

I thrive in the world’s wilderness areas and along her coastlines, the lure is almost primordial. Is there a place that calls to you?

 

 

 

Skylarking: a slow sweet Sunday

 

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I went to the bank and asked to borrow a cup of money. They said, “What for?”
I said, “I’m going to buy some sugar.” — Steven Wright

Last weekend I went on a sweet journey to sugar heaven.

It all began with my beloved bemoaning that the lolly shop, at the nearby shopping centre, no longer stocked a particular type of lolly. He calls them ‘talkies’. I know them as ‘conversations’. Do you know the ones? They are usually shaped like hearts, come in a variety of pastel colours. They’re a hard chalky lolly with little messages written on them. Sweet little messages like “I love you”, “You’re cute”, ” Be mine”.

Remembering a small advertisement I’d seen recently I suggested he try one of the confectionary warehouses.  A quick google search revealed that the one I had in mind did indeed stock these conversation candies, in varying weights from 300g to a kilo, all at very reasonable prices.  That little tidbit of information was filed away with only  a modicum of interest by my sweet toothed beloved.

Sunday morning unfolded in a relaxed manner with breakfast on the deck and reading the papers before I was very romantically invited to join said beloved on a trip to the hardware store; a date I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Having sated ourselves with our browsing of timber fence palings, posts and rails and with few other plans for the day,  I suggested we check out the candy warehouse.  There was some hesitation from my partner in crime as it required a jaunt across our fair city. Several moments later however we ventured out in search of (one of) his favourite childhood sweets.

The drab old warehouse gave nothing away as to the delights within. It’s exterior was dull compared to the bright and colourful interior. On entering the we were greeted by an enchanting bouquet that was akin to the joy of waking, as a child, on Christmas morning and seeing a well stocked Santa bag at the foot of the bed. It was heavenly.

We scampered about, aisle after aisle, oohing and ahhing and exclaiming “remember these”, “look at this”. We were surprised by the massive sizes of some packages and the wide variety of chocolates, lollies, nuts, and other products. Needless to say my offer to grab a basket upon entry, that was initially ignored, was soon accepted. My husband was like, well, a kid in a candy store.

As the basket quickly  filled  I heard cries of needing to rationalise the quantity of the selections already made. Before approaching the register, one lone kilo packet of jelly beans was left behind and we scarpered out the door with a year’s supply of  swagger.

As a non sugar eater myself, though I do confess to regularly having sweet cravings, I marvel that I  enjoy browsing lolly shops and bakeries without salivating. I did, however, make two small purchases; there was something for everyone. The  deal on cacao nibs drew my attention and I was overjoyed at finding my favourite decaf black tea, currently difficult to find elsewhere. We both left skipping with the joy of a fun purchase.

Hold the bells, I’m not advocating a diet high in processed sugar. Everything in moderation should always be the mantra, though I can’t say just how long this stash will last given the ‘healthy’ appetite for junk food my darling possesses.

Sometimes it’s the little things; like spending time together, making new discoveries and releasing your inner child that are the sweetest treats in life. How sweet does your weekend look?

Two pressing questions I need answered.

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Whatever is in me is stronger than what is out there to defeat me.  Caroline Myss

What is the point of perspective? You know those times when things are pretty shitty and life seems difficult then something happens to you, someone you know or in the world and BAM everything is suddenly put into perspective.  What’s the point of that perspective gaining moment?

Numerous times I have had cause to pause and consider this, either as a result of my own experiences or those of others I have witnessed.  Numerous times I have experienced the clarity that comes from such a wake up call and the conviction that I will live differently, be different as a result. Then, as often happens, the perspective fades, the conviction dwindles and the clarity smudges and becomes murky again.  Why does the perspective fade?

In search of some answers this is what I have discovered, so far.

The definition of perspective , which originates from the Latin word perspicere meaning transparent, clear, to see through, is a term used today, especially in art, to refer to a process of representing, on a flat surface, an image as seen by the eye. From this Wikipedia definition I get the sense that perspective, related to my questions, is about seeing something in relation to where we stand and seeing something from another person’s view-point.  This led me then to the Dalai Lama (Yes, it’s a leap but go with me on this).

The Dalai Lama believes the purpose of life is to be happy. He discusses how humans naturally prefer happiness to suffering.  I do not wish to misquote the Dalai Lama but in the interests of expediency I hope to paraphrase what I learnt.  Happiness and suffering fall into two categories: physical and mental. From what I understand, our mind can influence the degree of our happiness and suffering. It’s there, in our mind, that our suffering inflates, drags us down, consumes us.  It’s there too that we can learn to heal from the tragedies, upsets, upheavals we face.

Suffering helps us develop compassion and love for others, this aids us in supporting our own sense of wellbeing too. Compassion and love help us to maintain hope. If we are discouraged and lose hope, says the Dalai Lama, we risk diminishing our ability to face difficulties. The reality of other people’s suffering helps us improve our determination and capacity to address not only theirs but our own suffering as well.  So, if I understand this correctly, when our ability to develop compassion for others grows, our own inner strength and peace increases. Therefore, regardless of the severity of what we ourselves are facing, be it minor first world problems or nightmarish injustices, these issues become easier (perhaps marginally) for us to deal with, their weight becomes less burdensome, the edges softened and, through this, our mental stability increases which in turns allows our physical wellbeing to be addressed. I guess, in this way, there is a small shift in the balance of the universe also.

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. Rumi

I know for myself, whenever faced with a ‘perspective’ defining moment, I realise how very small I am in the grand scheme of things, how tiny I am in the cosmos, and then come the resolutions to live differently, to think and to act differently.   This mental state lasts for  a few weeks, or months, depending on the severity and impact of both the initial situation and the ‘wake up call’. I determine to focus on what really counts in life and then, slowly but surely small issues creep up that become over inflated problems and the cycle begins again.  Am I, through this process, increasing my resilience? Am I, through this process, increasing my compassion? Am I, through this process, making any progress or contributing in some  minute way to the greater good?

Caroline Myss talks about healing being a type of pain that allows us to become aware of our own strengths and weaknesses and of our ability and capacity to love and do damage to ourselves and others. She talks of how the most challenging person to control in life is within each of us. Myss says that if we define ourselves by our wounds (our suffering) we lose our physical and spiritual energy and therefore risk illness. So, these wake up calls, are they designed to pull us back from the brink of whatever small or large tragedy we are facing to repair us a little so we can continue to function purposefully in the world? Are they designed to allow us, through our empathy and compassion, to lighten the way for another, so they too can step back from the brink of suffering, if even just a few inches, to catch their breath?

If what Myss and the Dalai Lama say is true, that what affects the mind affects the body, is there some grand universal plan to keep us on a somewhat even keel so that what drains our spirit is not allowed to completely drain our body?  So that when one is addressed the other is also addressed?  Is this too grand a leap to make?

Is this why our perspective fades? Is it because, once we have righted ourselves a little the urgency dissipates? Is it because once liberated from the crushing weight of our problems, once our head is again just above water and we drink in more resuscitating air, our quest to change is abandoned in the luxury of the respite?  Is it because these tiny moments of grace are enough to transform us and the world by infinitesimal increments? Is it part of a beautiful and elegant design that we each must improve ourselves and make continual small contributions to  ensure the cultivation and preservation of compassion and love in the world?

I fear my thoughts have steered me off course. Perhaps my initial conclusions are outlandish and naive.  So, where am I as a result of my initial pondering?  I’m not greatly more enlightened and I now have more questions than answers.  What I do I know for sure is: that suffering is part of life; that we will have things put into perspective for us is inevitable; that this helps us regain a semblance of equilibrium in our search for happiness; that perspective will fade is also inevitable. I know too that to make change as a result of our experience is hard and not always actioned (how to address this and ensure our resolve counts is too large a question to tackle here).  Something else I know for sure is that the beauty of the human spirit lies in its strength to overcome, to feel compassion for others in our darkest times and to continue to love despite the travesties and trials of life.

What in your experience is the purpose of perspective and why do you think seems to fade?

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