India, you have infiltrated my senses

…to be wrapped and cradled in an enchanting scent upon your skin is a magic all on its own…― C. JoyBell C.

I have the smell of India in my hair. I’m unwilling to wash it out. It’s warm and intoxicating. It’s a musky dry smell of sun-baked clay, of dusty books, of sandalwood and a hint of rose. There are remnants too of mouth-watering street food with notes of coriander and tamarind. A touch of smoke from wood fires and the breeze of mountain air linger still.

Oh India, I wore you on my skin and in my hair for, but a moment and you have infiltrated my senses and lodge now firmly in my memory. I am infused with you. Swathed thus I will draw upon these cues to ferry me back to you, until I walk again on your surface and among your people.

Advertisements

Pass the popcorn ― how to have more fun

Uimage

It’s crazy, waiting for the universe to knock on the door and offer fulfilment on a platter.  ― Shannyn Steel

If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that nobody is here forever. You have to live for the moment, each and every day . . . the here, the now.”    ― Simone Elkeles

I’ve been marking time. Waiting for something to happen. Waiting for something to change. Waiting to find the thing that would propel me into the joyful, purposeful life I’d hoped for. Toward the end of last year the penny dropped and I suddenly understood what I already knew but wasn’t able to acknowledge. It’s crazy waiting for the universe to knock on the door and offer fulfilment on a platter.

After all that waiting I’ve finally twigged that the trick to this whole fulfilment thing is to get out there and do stuff that I want more of in life. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A startling discovery, made as a result of this brain wave, is that the one thing I want more of in my life right now is not time, not spiritual connection, not more authentic relationships, though that would be nice too. What I want more of in my life right now is fun. Yes, fun. Now don’t get me wrong. My life is not devoid of enjoyment. There are plenty of things that bring me joy; spotting a flower dewy with raindrops; the smell, texture and colour of soggy leaves on the forest floor after a thunderstorm; the smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of kookaburras laughing from the great pine tree in my neighbour’s yard. Those things and more fill me with joy. I also have many pleasant ways to pass the time that would constitute enjoyment too. Long strolls on the beach, reclining with a good book, baking a batch of cookies for my beloved’s lunch. Those things are enjoyable to me. What I’m after is in a whole different category.

Fun to me is more outrageous than enjoyment. It’s buzzy and exciting and perhaps more “in the moment” rather than a slow burn. Do you see the difference?

I have begun gathering a list of big fun and little fun activities in earnest.  Big fun activities are those that may cost a bit of money and require a little planning like indoor skydiving, parasailing, swinging on a trapeze. Little fun is something that could be undertaken on the spur of the moment, is relatively inexpensive and something that could raise the fun factor on any given day. Such as jumping on a swing in the local park and throwing your head back to drink in the sky.

Maybe you’d like to do the same. As ideas come to mind they could be written on a piece of paper, thrown into a big bowl with the intention of pulling an idea from the ‘popcorn’ bowl to infuse life with fun.  I’m going to experience ‘popcorn’ fun weekly and plan big fun, depending on the scale of it, monthly or quarterly. Oh, and I am going to scheduled those big fun activities to give me something to look forward to and to ensure having more  fun becomes a reality rather than a hope, wish or a dream.

Here are some popcorn fun ideas my friend Margaret, a kid at heart who  hasn’t lost sight of how much fun life can be, shared with me to start filling the bowl. I hope you get some ideas to add to your list.

Build a sandcastle or mermaid on the beach.
Water pistol shooting
Play SNAP (the card game)
Bubble blowing
Slide on a flying fox
Chew bubble gum and pop it.
Watch a funny cartoon
Singing in the shower
Dancing nude under the moon
Walk barefooted to the park
Feed the birds
Read Dr Seuss aloud
Pull weird faces and take pictures to replay
Walk on stilts
Dress up as a chicken
Three legged race
Sand dune sliding on cardboard

Connecting to place

12095279_10153209684358652_1135329227969903972_o

The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind. Lewis Mumford

When I was young I used to associate Sunday mass with strong, floral perfume and giddiness. The intense perfume the old ladies wore coupled with the tropical heat and hunger (mass was at 6pm, dinner time) would make me giddy.

Purple reminded me of my friend Colleen, who loved the colour. On seeing it I would instantly be reminded of her bedroom, with the soft gauzy curtains and lush shag rug, where we spent hours playing as children.

Into adulthood, fish and chips was a meal that transported me to the beach, a place where we had indulged in this treat as children.

Our senses connect us to the world. They are of course valuable in and of themselves but they can also imprint experiences and emotions associated with them in our memories, for a very long time in some cases. Our senses can evoke strong emotional reactions.  There is a particular spray deodorant that triggers extremely negative reactions in me whenever I smell it. It sends me reeling back to a time and place that wasn’t one of the happiest in my life. On the other hand, there is a smell that I can’t describe to you because it isn’t readily available.  I imagine it occurs only in certain places but I vividly remember as a shy and socially inept teenager visiting the house of my uncle’s friend, a stranger to me, and instantly feeling at ease and at home because this house smelt like my Nana and Papa’s house. I’ve always been strongly aware, quite sensitive and reactive, in some cases, to sound, smell, touch and visual input.

After visiting an interactive exhibition about my city; in which a number of residents shared a smell they associated with the city and vials of some of those smells, including thunderstorm, frangipani and garbage were on display to strengthen the experience; I gave pause to consider if I have any associations linked to my fair city and where none instinctively existed, I began to ponder what associations I would consider best suited to the place I now call home.

It sounds a little odd, I know, but many people do this, perhaps unconsciously. Do you have any connections to where you live? Does it have a colour, a taste, a symbol, a sound that is quintessentially about the place you live?

What follows are my mental and sensory associations to my city.

Smell: The smell that reminds me most of Brisbane was formed in my younger years before I even lived here. The annual Royal Exhibition was a phenomenon I was captivated with. Growing up in a regional area we simply didn’t have anything comparable and so the smell that permeates the air at that magical wonderland is Brisbane to me. It’s not the smell of the cattle pavilion nor the scented wood chopping arena, it is in fact the aroma of Dagwood Dogs (frankfurters o a stick, coated in batter and deep-fried) and tomato sauce.

Symbol: The muddy, murky Brisbane river snaking across the city is the strongest image I have of Brisbane. The river is such a prominent feature of our landscape and lifestyle that  I can’t think about the city without also bringing to mind our river.

Colour: Jacaranda purple is the colour of Brisbane.  In my first year of university the flowering Jacaranda trees around campus took my breath away. The whole of Brisbane is transformed by these blossoms for several months a year. Parks everywhere are dotted with purple covered trees and carpets of purple flowers underneath. I love the deep shade they take on just before a thunderstorm.

615904_10151101347583652_206251919_o

Sound: Cicadas and the Australian summer pretty much go hand in hand. I used to dread the chirrup of these insects on a hot and sultry afternoon when the heat and damp hung in the air, the grass crunched underfoot and ice cream would drip down cones faster than one could lick it. There was a sense of helplessness in the sultry heat that they conjured in me.

Credit to Dodgerton Skillhause

Credit to Dodgerton Skillhause

Touch: If I had to share a touch or texture that is Brisbane I would say it was bindis.  Yep. Those pesky barbed prickles that hide in lawns, parks and anywhere green.  I cannot tell you how many times my joyful run toward a playground swing would be crippled by feet burning and smarting from the sting of imbedded prickles.

 

Cradled by a posy of blessings

Train tracks in rural area.

If you take a deep breath, calm down and listen, all things can be dealt with in some way. Just breathe.
                                                                    Katrina Vella

Do you ever feel like you are derailing? That life is so hectic you don’t know whether you are coming or going? I’ve had a few weeks like that. I’ve been working on a wide range of projects at work (all terribly exciting and totally divergent) all with short timelines. I’ve traveled so much for work recently that one morning I woke up and didn’t know where I was. Feeling the pressure of deadlines and being in constant transit took a physical and mental toll. I felt like I was trapped in a fast-moving train heading for a cliff.  Several dear friends and family members have suffer personal tragedies, and while it’s not me experiencing that terrible grief,  it’s heartbreaking not to be able to ease their pain.

Of course I realised something had to give before I crashed or plunged into the depths of some great abyss. As I took action in that direction, the universe conspired to deliver a posy of blessings.

I took a day to find some calm. I always have a sense of unease taking a day off work, even when it is sanctioned, and this day was no different. However,  as the day unfolded I realised that I’d made the right decision and settled.

On the eve of this magical day I went to the cinema, something I don’t do often. I’d won tickets to the pre-release of a film. It wasn’t a great film but I appreciated the night out, it was fun, especially because it was out of routine. Arriving home I didn’t set my alarm for my usual 4.30 am rise and I snuggled down under a warm comforter, as the temperature had dropped significantly.

Arousing from my slumber I was surprised to note I’d slept an hour later than usual.  Feeling slightly dazed but energised I hit the pavement for my walk. It was brisk out.  I went out in my usual gear of shorts and t-shirt but others were rugged up in long pants and jumpers.  Walking later, after the sun had risen, I met a lot of people I don’t normally encounter and so had many warm interactions, smiles and good mornings from people I haven’t met before. Of course my attire was the focus of many comments. While it was brisk I was warm from the movement. These random interactions were buoying.

What was especially warming about my walk was being transported back to my childhood, and into my grandparents’ kitchens, when the distinct aroma from the Weet-Bix factory enveloped the air around me. Weet-Bix are a wheat based biscuit breakfast cereal here in Australia. I don’t eat them now and I never really enjoyed them in the warmer weather but in winter time, my grandmothers would pour warm water over them to soften them, then heat milk on the stove to drown them in, after swirling lashings of honey over the top. It wasn’t exactly food for the gods but the smell of warm Weet-Bix is divine. Being  reminded of the many winter mornings I had spent being loved and cared for by my Grandmothers was a beautiful omen for the day.

Arriving home I sent my friend a message and received a thoughtful blessing from her. She wished me an enjoyable day and “some peaceful space” with a little emoji flower attached🌸. Simple words but their beauty and the heartfelt care and concern behind them struck me.

Flicking briefly onto a social media site the first post I came across was from another friend, whose flower photo seemed to fill the room with its vibrant colour.  It was a simple flower, nothing flashy about it, but it had a stunning effect, and lifted my mood.

13177626_10153409201437186_7640727075549171753_n

I baked cookies and soon had my house smelling like a warm and buttery. I love the smell of cookies baking at the best of times but on a cold day, there’s something extra special about it.

13214558_10153642822043652_1261874500_o

I felt as though someone had picked a posy of wild flowers and delivered them to me this morning. I was caught in a net, suspended and cradled from a fall. I was reminded that amid all the sadness, the hustle and bustle and the struggles of life, there is joy and beauty and a multitude of blessings. The key is to take the time to see them and appreciate them. I was reminded too by the words of a wise woman who counsels that; if you take a deep breath, calm down and listen, all things can be dealt with in some way. Just breathe.

Wishing you a posy of blessings today too.

lovak_045

 

A pocket full of treasure: reflecting on January.

When my son was young he used to collect things and stow them in his pockets to enjoy later. Typically, he would forget about them and I would discover his pockets full of treasure on washing day. It was kind of fun in a way to see what he’d collected and remember where we’d been when he discovered each small item and tucked it away for safe keeping. There were all sorts of things in those little pockets from shells and rocks to sand and bus tickets. All very precious and intriguing to my little man.

Years later I find myself with a pocket full of treasure. Having committed to taking a photo a day for the year, I spent yesterday flicking through “January” and delighting in the memory of each day. The daily fun and joy and wonders come back ever so clearly to be enjoyed again.


So January has zoomed by in what seems the blink of an eye and the click of a button but my pocket full of simple photos has allowed me to take another look and appreciate the richness of my days. Life seems somewhat fuller with a small token of remembrance.

I am reminded of that saying: “collect memories,not things.” It certainly is rewarding.

Blessings to you. I trust you’ve enjoyed a joyful January.

Shannyn

The gnarled torment of grief

“Wear not your mantle of grief.

Shrug off the hollow, devouring creature cloaking you; tugging at your innards with cold, gnarled, spindly digits.

You are not permitted to wear the signs of grief and loss – throw on instead your coloured shawl of bright pinks and yellows and green. A brave and and trouble free facade must shine.

Expect no allegiance in grief.”

The black arm bands are hidden, a vibrant mask in place, the tears mostly dried but your memories are still fresh and your presence ever near. The rawness of your passing is fading and the hollowness in my heart is slowly diminishing but you will never be forgotten ; you are precious to me still.

flower for gra