Stepping out on opening night

Every moment of one’s existence one is growing into more or retreating into less.         Norman Mailer

In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying so get into motion and grow. Lou Holtz

Julia Cameron talks of artists dates. This was a practice of mine some time ago and I fell off the wagon. Due to a recent change in circumstances I have felt isolated, alone and needing connection. I’ve identified activities and events to attend, I’ve flooded my calendar with them in fact but when the time arises I find it hard to get dressed and step out the door. It’s so much easier to stay at home and hide from the world.

Scrolling through social media I noticed a friend was interested in an event. Looking into it I discovered it was an opening of an indigenous art exhibition at a gallery I follow. I popped it in my calendar thinking it could be a nice opportunity to get out and be around people.

An hour before the event I was already seeing myself curled up on the couch with a book and cup of tea. I was making plenty of excuses not to go. Noticing this self-defeating pattern of behaviour I messaged my friend and asked if she was going. She was unwell. She did however encourage me by reminding me of the artist date concept. After a little delay I threw caution to the wind  (oh yes, risk taking needs to become a bigger part of my life from now on. Minimal as those risks might be in the short-term) and got dressed (yep, big decisions here too. Could easily have derailed the whole thing right in the wardrobe. To cut the crap and the debate in my head I selected a simple dress and sandals. No fuss – simple and easy) and headed out.

A lightness instantly descended upon me, or is that the heaviness lifted? Either works and perhaps are synchronistically synonymous in this instance.  Parking a short distance away and walking toward the gallery, passing Friday night revellers I felt a freedom and a confidence in having made the decision to step out of the house, out of my funk and into life. Choosing action over inaction and movement instead of ‘stuckness’ felt great.

The exhibition was intimate. The works pure and innocent with captivating colours and symbolism. Compared to other crowded opening nights it was an event attended by a small number of art enthusiasts passionate about indigenous art. I wasn’t exactly surrounded by people and I didn’t connect in any overt way with anyone but it was nice to share the space and see the appreciation for the works in the demeanour of others. It was a shared experience.

My excursion wasn’t a long one but gosh it was liberating. Some readers may think that odd because going out on a Friday night is such a normal thing to do and going to a gallery opening isn’t exactly skydiving. When the fabric of your life has been slashed and your self-esteem and sense of self-worth have been demolished by the cruel acts of another and tragic circumstances it’s hard to stand up straight let alone step out into the light.

I know this is just a small step to recovering and rediscovering life. I am looking forward to many more opening nights and opening myself to new and exciting opportunities.

 

A year of inspiration: inspired by my friend Catherine and the need to step out and into the light and explore life from a new perspective.

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Inspired by ritual – setting an intention that welcomes mystery and wonder

Inspired – Of external quality, as if arising from some external impulse.

Inspired. That’s my word for the year. It came to me on a hike across the top of the Blue Mountains on New Year’s Day.

Selecting a word of intention, of direction, guidance or positivity as a focus was once an annual ritual of mine. I can’t remember when I let the habit slip. Perhaps it was several years ago that I selected a word and it trickled through my fingers like sand and was forgotten. Thanks to my friend Gay, from Create, I was reminded of this lovely New Year ritual and was overjoyed when the word came to me while out in the Australian bush.

With the beating sun upon me, cicadas chirruping above and the open track ahead, I mulled over possible words. Productive came to mind instantly. I pondered, “would I set myself up for more of the same? Could the intention here see me manic and stressed, as I had been in 2017, refusing to rest?” It didn’t feel quite right. Purposeful rose up as a butterfly hovered across my path. That’s a good word. I have always wanted to live a life of purpose and authenticity. Grace, I’d selected before. Ease rated a mention. To glide through life with a sense of ease would be delightful. Words alighted momentarily, like the butterflies, then flittered away. I was not perturbed. I walked on, the intention still in mind.

Then it came to me – inspired. This year my intention is to be inspired. This word is a guiding light, it will help me navigate the way forward even in the heaviest fog. After a hiatus; a time of feeling adrift, bored, directionless. A time of isolation and limited social contact I felt a new energy and desire to move on. Inspired is perfect for me now. After many years of being goal driven and focused the last several years have seen me beached. I’ve found it hard to identify the niggling need inside me, I’ve found it hard to know what direction to take, what action to fill the gaping hole, how to satisfy a tormented mind and itchy fingers. I’ve been on the edges of a terrifying chasm and longed to step back but wasn’t sure how.

The lack of ritual tore the chasm wider. Routine helped a little but too much structure only made me more rigid. Something was missing. There was no mystery or magic. No celebration of belief or faith. Selecting a word for the year is a step away from the edge and a return to myself. It’s also trusting the universe, a higher power.

Establishing this word for the year ritual allows me to drop the resolutions, the need to create lists I won’t refer to and the anxiety from not ticking things off the list. A single word sets a positive intention. It encapsulates how I want to feel and what I want to experience in the year ahead.

There is no one way to choose a word. I let mine float up on it’s own. I will either meditate or go for a walk with the question – ‘what might my word for the year be?’ You might make a list or do a search for positive words or adjectives, find a theme or link among the words and then identify one word that sums up a particular theme. You might spend several days simply noticing what words stand out as you go about your daily tasks. Thoughts about how you want to feel or not feel can help. Sometimes the way we don’t want to feel is a good pointer to identifying our true north. For instance, if you keep feeling bored perhaps your word might be inspired or capable or inventive. Look at the goals you want to achieve. How would you sum them up – aligned, bountiful, complete?

I am keen to see where this year’s word and all it’s connotations take me. I am excited to see where inspiration arises and the form it will take. Do you select a word for the year to live by, to focus on, to lean on? Do you have an alternate ritual that acts as a compass to steer you toward the mystery and magic of life?

 

A year of inspiration. Inspired by Gay Landetta, 

Framed

 

If the eyes are windows to the soul, what are windows?

Arches, doorways and windows offer perfect frames through which to present the world.  These photos are a handful of the many, from my travels, that offered me a chance to observe and absorb the world in digestible portions. (Above: Duomo in Florence)

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi—can’t believe my luck to have this view from both the restaurant table and my convent room window.

Ruins in Rome

A glimpse of the sea from my room in Riomaggiore

Within Rembrandt’s house museum, Amsterdam.

 

The juxtaposition of elevation

Elevate

Two Images juxtaposed —

ethereal, cheesecloth clad, crystal waving souls
floating
to unexplored realms
faces raised to the light,
smiling in joyful anticipation

 —

black suited, anxious bodies
riding steel contraptions
to the next meeting,
heads down,
foreheads creased,
thumbing messages into small devices.

—Merge!—

Elevate
Rise
Ascend

 

The wonderful art of learning

Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.   Anon

As an educator I love learning. Not all lessons are learnt in a classroom nor taught by teachers. Life has a wonderful way of teaching us new things. Today I was pleasantly surprised, through a small detour in my routine, to learn about a type of printmaking called collagraphy.

Collagraphy is a form of printmaking where the artist creates prints from ‘plates’ upon which they have adhered textured materials in the form of an image. Lithography, in contrast, begins with the artist chiseling the image out of the plate from which they wish to create prints.

Ink or paint is added to the plates. Once printed colour can be added to emphasise details at the artist’s discretion.

Artist Jacky Lowry is currently showing an exhibition, Western Wonders, of her collagraph prints at the Caboolture Regional Art Gallery.

I am soaring after this quick lesson and immersion in her work.
Who will educate me next?

Scaling new heights in Rome

Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world the way they’ve been told to.  Alan Keightly

I’ve climbed a few mountains in my travels. I’ve scaled the 1237 steps to the Tiger cave temple in Thailand and made my way up several other steep staircases to magnificent temples, castles and rooftops all around the world, but the hardest climb I’ve ever made was up just 28 wooden steps in Rome.

My journey up the Scala Sancta, the Holy Stairs, also known as Pilate’s Stairs was one made on my knees.

The Scala Sancta are housed in one of the most important papal sanctuaries in the Roman Catholic Church. I grew up indoctrinated in the Catholic faith but was never aware these stairs existed. By luck and a Lonely Planet guide-book, I discovered them on a trip to Italy some years ago.  Early one morning I set off on foot to locate the very unassuming building that houses this treasured relic.

It is thought Jesus climbed these stairs, once part of Pontius Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem, on the day he was sentenced to death. The stairs were later transported to Rome by Saint Helena, she secured a number of other holy relics also. The Holy Stairs were housed in a few places before the current sanctuary. The marble has been covered with wooden treads to protect them from wear and at certain points there are little glass windows that offer a view to the marble beneath and to stains, thought to be the actual blood of Jesus.

The truly devout will think poorly of me, for I had not worshipped in a church for many years nor had I knelt in prayer for some time, though my faith was strong. Having travelled across the world and appreciated the peace and quietude of other sacred and blessed places, I felt moved to join a small number of morning visitors up the stairs.

What I didn’t realise, despite my sincerity and solemn approach, was that to truly pay homage, to honour and respect the sanctity of the chapel and the man to whom it stands in remembrance of, one had to go slowly, with deep reverence. Each of the faithful climbers offered a prayer on every step. Not a short and sweet prayer but a decent, well-considered prayer. Many worked rosaries in their hands. I later discovered many climb the stairs to be forgiven for sins and seek favour with God.

With a genuine respect I proceeded, offering some long memorised prayers alternating with personal prayers of gratitude and thanks. It was a humbling and moving experience.

At the top of the stairs is a private, papal chapel adorned with 13th Century frescos and a 4th century painting of Christ, thought to have been begun by Saint Luke and completed by an angel. This Sancta Sanctorum, is viewed through a grated opening.

Descending is much easier with a set of steps on either side of the Holy Stairs. These can also be used by those interested in viewing the chapel who do not wish to or cannot ascend the Holy Stairs on their knees.

Once reserved as a place for popes the Scala Sancta and the Sancta Sanatorium are now open to the public for a small entrance fee. When visiting ensure appropriate and modest attire is worn. Arriving early in the morning there were no tourists in sight. In fact the whole piazza was empty.

It is easy to be critical and questioning when faced with monuments of faith. Is the story true? Did a man called Jesus climb these stairs? Were they once part of a palace in Jerusalem? Are they stained with blood? Whose blood is it? Regardless of faith, regardless of belief or facts; historically and anthropologically this experience made my mind buzz with intrigue. It served as a gesture in humility a chance to count my blessings and reflect on the sweetness of life. I hobbled away more enamoured with life than before my visit, which is saying something — I was in Rome after all.

Have you been somewhere that moved you to experience the world in a different way?

Nature’s micro structures

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge from The Daily Post is for the topic:

STRUCTURE

Here’s the prompt the good people at The Daily Post offered:

Today, take a moment to notice the structure of everyday things around you. Note the lines, freckles, and tiny hairs on your arm, and imagine the biological blueprint that created them. See the bricks of a building, and realize that they were individually placed there by another person. Then, share with us a photo of the structure of something wonderful. We’re eager to see details through your lens.

There are examples of structure all around us.  I am fascinated by the intricate way things fit together and work in conjunction with each other.  I marvel at architectural structure and the process of building but my focus today went to the natural environment. With so much on offer I could not settle on one image, nor do the several below fully sate my curiosity.

Looking into the micro structures of life

The spaces we inhabit are extensions of us

“Houses are like the human beings that inhabit them.”
— Victor Hugo

I have owned only two houses in my life. The first for seventeen years. It was heart wrenching to leave having inhabited the space for so long, seen my children grow there and begun my married life there. It was my first really grown up thing to own.

It flooded you see. After a huge renovation that transformed the house it was inundated with filthy flood waters in 2011. While others left the area, part of our house was still habitable but changed. The sense of peace and tranquility we’d established felt sullied. Each time the rains came, panic rose in my chest. Would we flood again?

So having loved that space and the surrounding area we made the difficult decision to leave. Four years on, I feel really comfortable and settled. I inhabit a new space. A large, open, light space. On a hill. Each nook and cranny of this space reflects our personalities. It’s comfortable and convenient, close to the city and facilities yet tucked away from the hustle and bustle with a forest close by.

Now, my beloved and I find ourselves at a new juncture of our lives. Nearing retirement, with a moderate debt still in play. We have discussed ways to become financially independent. One solution is to downsize. My anxiety levels rise at the thought. I feel like I belong here. There are so many positive reasons to stay. There are so many features of where we live we couldn’t find elsewhere for a fraction of the price.

We’re at a crossroad.

I know it’s only a house we inhabit and that it’s the people you are with that make life full and worthwhile. I do know that. I also like comfort and beauty and space. It is more than just the house too.  One becomes settled in a place, part of the landscape, especially when that landscape appeals to the senses, as the river did (before it flooded) and the forest now does.

There is another element in our mix. Do we stay in this city, my beloved’s hometown, or do we move to a much-loved holiday destination in the Blue Mountains? Crossing state borders as well as a new threshold.

Why is it so hard to make these decisions about a material possession? Well, I think it’s because, for me at least, my home is my safe place. My retreat from the world and a place I can craft to express myself. A house is not just a place to inhabit but a place that creatively reflects who we are. Location too plays a role, as mentioned earlier. Where we live is as much an extension of us, or we become and extension of it, as much as the house itself.

What is special about the place you inhabit?

Delightful synchronicity

I woke early, eager to read the one word prompt that would focus my writing attention for the day. The word — synchronise — conjured images of elegant swimmers with noses  pinched, swanning about impossibly blue pools.  I thought fleetingly of time too and bronze cogs revolving in an elegant dance.

I put aside my thoughts to meditate a little, after which I drew an oracle card. My intention was for a message to shine a light on my day.  After shuffling, and before selecting a card I offered up a few words—”Blessed be“.  When I turned the card a delighted chuckle rose from my throat and into the crisp morning air.

My card was ‘The bee‘, with a much needed and timely message.

Synchronicity, the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection, was at play.