A letter to my friend (#1)

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.—Albert Schweitzer

Letter to my friend
November 2018

Dear Michael,

Someone asked today, as an exercise in gratitude, what the highlight of my day was.  I replied by telling them I’d spent the day in tears.

As you know there have been many tears lately, yours and mine, and I’m crying again as I write this, I’m finding it hard to catch my breath and quell my sadness. The gratitude comes from knowing how lucky and blessed I have been to have you in my life; knowing I have someone in my life who makes saying goodbye so hard. I know we will always be friends, but I will miss seeing you every day.

I don’t think I would survive now without you in my life. You bring the sun with you; you light up the room, you bring laughter and fun but most of all I have valued your wise counsel, your belief in me and encouragement along the way.

Friends cheer each other on, I know that, but you were daily at forefront of my horror and you cheered me on when my biggest achievement was getting out of bed and standing up straight. You have made me feel loved and cared for in a time when I was sinking. You have been a trusted and faithful ally through the ugliest of days, taking me away from the office, making me eat, giving me cause to laugh, checking in on me minute by minute, hour by hour; and when my head gradually rose above the watermark you were still there.

We are an unlikely duo who have become firm friends. I thank God and the universe for bringing us together. We’ve been the dream team: MJ and Pippin, Harvey and Jessica. We’ve played a long game and smashed some big goals this year. We’ve enjoyed intellectual debate and I know it stung when I won but Jessica’s composure and experience will always trump Harvey’s suave impulsiveness.

You’ve taught me what real love is, what true friendship is, you’ve taught me to trust myself and back myself, you’ve encouraged me to fly and pushed me when I was afraid. You’ve listened to me rant, you’ve supported me when I’ve doubted myself, you’ve helped me see the light and taught me to have fun again.

If there truly is such a thing as a soul mate, I believe you are mine. Maybe I have relied on you too much, but the pain of your departure is so intense that it could only be the separating of souls.  You know me in a way only a very special few do. I appreciate your acceptance of my quirks and failings. Your relentless jibes at my (few) particular nuances has helped me laugh at myself and taught me not to take life so seriously.

One of my greatest joys has been watching you fill people up.  You are passionate about life and you value your friendships.  I see you reach out and care for people before you take care of yourself. I see you go out of your way for those you love and expect nothing in return.  You are like a knight who goes to war for those you love, without hesitation.  You love fiercely and unconditionally. It’s who you are. I see your strength, your passion, and I see your vulnerability.

Thank you for allowing me to witness your vulnerability, for trusting me, for confiding in me, for sharing your heart and allowing me to hold the space for you, on the few occasions, when you needed it.  You have grown stronger this year without realising and while you are independent and don’t like relying on others, just remember you’re not Superman, Batman, LeBron or any of the super heroes, you’re a man and you need a support team too mate.

I hope you know how much I appreciate you, how much I appreciate everything that you have done for me and I hope that you know I would do anything for you.  It’s inevitable that relationships change over time and while life is taking us on our different paths, please know, I will always be there for you. You’re my person (you were brave enough to volunteer) and while you have ‘K’ now, know I will be your person for as long as you want.

Thank you for getting to know me, showing me the sincerest support and unconditional love. I can’t thank you enough for the countless half strength flat whites on almond milk, or the times you stopped traffic for me, or held me back from stepping off the curb too early, for all the Pimms jugs, roof top bar chats, my first espresso martini and Jagerbomb, for the gorgeous photos, best Japanese food and the million laughs; for not shying away from my tears and trusting me with your heart and your story and your inner most feelings. Thank you.

I want you in my life forever Michael, you’ve made every single day better. That’s what makes your move so hard. I’m ecstatically happy for you. For the new life you are about to begin; a new job, a beautiful partner, a new home. You deserve it all and more.

I know you will never see yourself in the words I have written but I’ve seen it every single day, and so much more. It’s why you deserve this incredible new life that’s unfolding for you. You deserve every good thing the universe has to offer Michael because you make the world a better place.  I love you for it.

For these reasons and many, many more, the highlight of my day, was you.

xxx

Advertisements

Round, rounded, roundabout

Still round the corner there may wait, A new road or a secret gate.                        J. R. R. Tolkien

No sharp edges, no straight lines. The challenge was to be more rounded.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting


In life we wait.
There is a distinction between the kinds of waiting one is required to abide.

There is waiting that must be endured such as waiting for—a bus, an appointment, test results, news from a lost loved one …

There is waiting that is observed with tolerance. We wait for the traffic lights to turn green, the kettle to boil, the pizza to arrive …

Outside these watch checking, magazine flicking, foot tapping, finger drumming, carpet pacing moments of waiting there is anticipation—a different kind of waiting.  Anticipation flutters, it tingles.  Anticipation contains expectation—like the countdown to a holiday or a long-awaited reunion with a dear friend.

Today’s prompt took me back to the top of Brinkley Bluff on the Larapinta Trail, in Australia’s Northern Territory, where we waited in anticipation for the sun to set.

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

Using tech to keep track of resolutions

“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. ”
― Anaïs Nin

“Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately.”
― Charles M. Sheldon

Every year between 41 and 63% of us, depending on the country you are from, make resolutions, set goals and have shiny new aspirations for the year ahead. January is usually a month of promise. All our plans are firmly in our heart and mind, they are enacted with zeal. February sees us still buoyed by our visions, by March we are slipping away slightly from the goal. In April, May, June that little voice in our head tells us we really should get back on track and do that stuff we’d planned. Sadly, as the months roll on the resolution is a dim memory, discarded detritus. Most resolutions don’t see the year out.  80% are forgotten, sidestepped or bypassed in 3 months.  Does that mean it’s futile to set resolutions?  I don’t think so, though I think there are better ways to improve life.

I gave up on the resolution idea a long time ago.  It  didn’t work for me, I sucked at it and it added more pressure than was necessary to a life already complicated in other ways. I opted instead for making a bucket list to support a well lived life.  It was a long list of joyful activities, challenges and pursuits to colour and flavour the year ahead. No pressure, no strict deadlines, no do or die expectations. Some years later I started creating a photographic montage, a treasure map of sorts, a nice visual reminder of those bucket list items which I started to call my love list (giving it a more positive spin). The visual cue was  successful. I achieved way more on my love list than ever before. It was appealing, motivating and in view each day.  Some time in between I used post it notes and a big wall chart to plot my goals and progress.  The visual was good. Adding, updating and moving notes to the progressed section was appealing.  I experimented with boldly writing goals on the shower screen in non-permanent pen.  In bright colours my yearly goals were accompanied by affirmations and uplifting quotes.  There was no missing them. They were quite ‘in your face’.  I liked that too. Though I’m not sure I saw any progress.

This year, as I contemplated my visual treasure map, my son intervened.  He sent me an invitation to view his goal list for the year.  He was building accountability by sharing his goals and aspirations.  I was honoured that he would consider me a worthy ally in his quest.  The vehicle he chose to keep track of his goals is a tool called Trello.  He encouraged me to use it too. My first challenge for the year.

I have a fairly open mind when it comes to technology but I’m awkward with it.  I love pen and paper, I love building things and crafting things by hand.  So I wasn’t at first impressed by it.  It felt flat and bland and simply too hard for me to work out.  Until one Saturday morning with a cup of tea I decided to explore a little more.  I moved away from the way my son had used it and painted my own adventure.  I created something I liked. I added some images for appeal and was quite happy with my creation. Doubt lingered however. I wasn’t convinced it would be as immediate, arresting and useful as my good old A5 photographic treasure map. It required a different set of behaviours and habits on my part for it to work.  I can report, that two months later, with a little persistence and a change of attitude, I’m hooked.

I am pretty sure Trello was never designed for a middle-aged woman (despite how young at heart, vibrant and energetic she may be) to create her love list for the year.  It is, however, a brilliant project management tool that can aid the smallest personal project through to the very largest corporate projects.  It’s basically a great big empty wall you can fill with ‘post it’  notes to keep track of your stuff. You can add comments, create lists, add labels, cue due dates, send messages to other people in your project, label progress and that’s just in the free version. For a small fee there are loads more tools at user disposal.  Oh, gosh, that sounds like an advertisement, doesn’t it?  It’s not meant to be.  I simply wanted to share a new tool that is working for me that may work for you.

It’s an extremely flexible tool too.  Once you create your “post it notes” you can move them around and order them, you can insert new ones at will, discard them, batch or group them.   I am finding it a useful place to hold my ideas, I can share them, I can ask for input from my son who I share my board with.  My initial fears and concerns have been allayed.  I am referring to it regularly to keep track of my progress and add new adventures.  It’s fun and engaging.  I could use it to plan an overseas holiday.  I could also have used it to plan the multi million dollar project I am managing at work.  If you are looking for a way to motivate your goal setting or a neat project management tool, check out Trello.

If, like me, you are a novice with technology, keep Walt Disney’s sentiment in mind – don’t be afraid to keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things. Being curious leads us down new paths and who knows where that will lead?

 

Life unfiltered – looking through different lenses

image

The lens we look through will determine what we see.
Renee Swope

I often encourage people to intentionally focus on a particular perspective by having them consider an idea or a topic through a framework, paradigm, theory or viewpoint.  I’ll say – “let’s look through the lens of a …”, “we’ll explore this through the lens of …”.

This idea of exploring the world through different lenses is interesting  and has been quite pertinent to me this last week.  When I reflect, my first encounter of looking through a different lens came, oddly enough, in my childhood through the cartoon character Mr Magoo, a near-sighted retiree who bumbles from one comical escapade to another. This was the first time I realised (and no doubt, I couldn’t actually articulate it back then) that I could see things others may not or that I could view events differently from my own vantage point. Kaleidoscopes, a type of lens, with their colourful and varying patterns composing and recomposing themselves as reflected in tiny mirrors, enchanted and transfixed me. The world looked different through a kaleidoscope.  I suppose the camera lens was next.  My father had an avid interest in photography and the idea of freezing a moment to be viewed at another time drew my attention. How bewitching to view an image with the benefit of hindsight, with distance, from outside the situation looking in.  To capture a moment to help strengthen a memory is so compelling.

Then there are words,  another set of lenses through which I’ve experienced the world.  Books and poetry, letters and essays. I’ve seen the world through the lens of many an artist too – their paintings and photographs, their sculpture and film have intrigued, moved and delighted me. They have taught me many lessons, sent me off on journeys of discovery and more.

I’ve looked through the lenses of different theories and notions, of different ideologies and standpoints. I’ve tried to employ the lens of empathy to inform my actions, thoughts and beliefs.

I have viewed life and explored its many wonders, trials and events through the lens of a  curious though private child, a complex, self-conscious teenager, a grieving granddaughter, an unyielding and misunderstood young woman, a loving and loyal wife, a vigilant and watchful mother. And it’s this chronology, this moving from maiden through matron and heaven forbid I say it – to crone that I now find I look through a different set of lenses.  Yes, alas, this new type of optical through which I will now view the world, only part-time mind you, are a full framed, clear lensed set of pretty little goggles.

Looking glass, drinking glass? Reading glass!
An affront.
My age, you say, crept up on me
I can no longer compensate.

Glasses.
The reading kind for you today, you see.
It’s your age.
Harrumph

Hush. Hush.
Time to look at the world differently.

It should be a trial, and yet, it’s not.
It simply is.
You see.
It just, bloody well, is.

In and out. Test this, test that.
Look up, look down.
Read this, read that.
Look near, look far.
It’s time for glasses you see.

Tsk Tsk.
Drinking glass?
The looking glass?
Venetian glass?
No, no a reading glass.

Hmm,
I see.
Ho hum,
So dumb.
I’m numb.
What a bum.

Itch! Witch!
Through the looking glass, a grandma I see.
Grey hair.
Crinkles and wrinkles.
The clearer I see, the more damned I be.

Nature is kind, my aunt once said.
Your eyesight goes and with it the wrinkles and crinkles, the greys and the years.

Blink, blink.
Such a to do.
There’s really no fuss.
I’m settled and calm, surprisingly.
Rally and rant – oh, no, not me.

It’s a change.
It’s flow.
New optics,
Silver shot locks
Different look. Different outlook.
No longer a maiden. Alas, a crone.

Wait, wait.
It’s an interesting life.
This cycle of things.
It’s simply a new lens, or two,
through which to filter the world around and beyond you.

image

The world is pressing in on me

image

I hope that, by looking at my photographs, people will develop a better understanding of the world around them and more empathy with the people in it. – Lucian Perkins

I feel decidedly unsettled after visiting the World Press Photo Exhibition.  I realise the images are meant to affect the viewer but I wasn’t expecting to walk away so heavy hearted.

Many of the images shone a light on human tragedy, on life around the globe, on the pointless nonsensical nature of war, terror, hatred and force.  In the past I have walked away having been moved by the resilience of the human spirit, triumph against the odds, and the rawness of human emotion.  This year I found myself contemplating the role of the photo journalist and the personal lines they  cross to deliver to us news from around the world in an effort to inform and move us.

I couldn’t help but shudder.  What must it be like to photograph human bodies having fallen from aeroplanes, been slaughtered at play or left to die in fields? I contemplated the range of emotions that would surface when confronted with evil, hatred and violence such as that portrayed in a great majority of this year’s images. I cannot imagine how one keeps perspective, how one is not strongly impacted by the terror and horror of being present at such scenes.

I do not condemn.  I am agog. Startled into contemplation.  I cannot begin to place myself in their shoes to even get a glimpse of the courage and strength needed to shoot these images. Nor can I fathom the unrelenting turmoil, destruction and deprivation suffered by so many around the globe.

This year I was overwhelmed by the heaviness of the exhibition. Oh, there was variety, I know that as I sit here and reflect. I guess that’s why art is so subjective. I interacted with the images and those that stood out for me were the ones that burdened my heart.

I am haunted by Mark Metcalfe’s image of 25 year old cricketer Phillip Hughes being cradled by his mates after being struck on the head by a cricket ball.  This story made headlines in Australia. The country was shaken by the subsequent death of this young man several days later.  The tenderness with which these men attended to their friend was moving. Tears well even now as I recall the scene portrayed by Metcalfe.

Photographer Arash Khamooshi investigated public hangings in Iran. In one of his images an old woman, given permission to kick the chair from under the condemned man and send him to his death, chooses instead to slap him. The slap is a public declaration of forgiveness, thus saving the life of the man who took the life of her son. I am speechless.

An oasis amid the horror was Michele Palazzi’s photograph of a Mongolian mother and child at rest, in their tent. There was a gentleness to this photo that softened the blow the others had landed. I felt myself draw breath, not realising I’d been holding it as I moved from image to image.

The intent of the World Press Exhibition is to confront and provoke the viewer through visual story telling. This year I walked away feeling raw rather than uplifted. I can’t shake the images or the depths of depravity, sadness, and the heinous reality in which many of my fellow humans live.

Is it naive of me to give thanks for my life and the hand I’ve been dealt in the wake of what I’ve just viewed? Perhaps. But I am grateful and I thank God for my many, many blessings.

Is there more I can do to raise awareness, aide and improve the lives of those faced with tragedy and violence and circumstance? Perhaps there is. And so the exhibition has succeeded in moving me to tears, to think and to take action.

I congratulate the photojournalists for their moving, emotive and thought provoking work, the organisers of the exhibition for 60 years of insight and the Brisbane Powerhouse for hosting the display.

 

Where’s the magic gone?

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl

Last year I decided to take a photo a day and post the image. Just anything that caught my eye, stood out, was beautiful or intriguing or quirky. It was a fabulous challenge. Most days the challenge was selecting just one image to share. Why share? I think initially it was to keep me accountable. As time went on people enjoyed seeing the world through my eyes and they started to look for the odd, exquisite and satisfying in their lives too.

At the end of my experiment I had become so habitually used to snapping that photograph that I kept reaching for my camera well into the new year.  In fact, I often still take random photos, though more often I stop and drink in the image before me and really enjoy it, in the moment.

My friend Nick, the Breakthrough Adventurer, recently took me on a half day adventure with a camera. The premise was to seek out the awesome in the everyday. When given certain parameters and actively looking we can find real beauty in the world around us that we might otherwise pass by without a second glance.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hubbub and routine of life. Many people live for their next holiday to get away, explore and enjoy life. For many, the magic is only in the special moments. My view is that there is so much life between holidays why not live each day and find the adventure, the beauty, the magic in the everyday?  Some of us are conditioned to do that, we’ve had practice, or we’ve been forced by external events to see the world differently.  If you need a helping hand might I encourage you to carry a camera. A mobile phone with a built-in camera is handy, portable and oh so convenient. But, there is something intrinsically different when you look through the lens of an actual camera. So, when you can, say on weekends or days when you don’t have too much to carry, opt for a traditional camera. It enlivens the experience somehow.

Magic? What sort of things am I talking about? Well, your kind of magic and mine may differ greatly. Among the things that have  intrigued me recently are

  • seeing a purple balloon float past my ninth floor window
  • a crumpled and discarded black serviette  on a wooden table
  • the sight of our Brisbane wheel being dismantled
  • The patterns of black mesh with young seedlings entwined within
  • a pile of bricks on a building site
  • fungi on a fallen tree trunk, shadows on a wall, the silhouette of trees on the horizon.

For me it’s random, though nature inspires me. It’s the unexpected and unlikely, the discarded and easily missed that rouses gratitude in me.

As you go about your day press that ‘shutter’ to capture the special events or objects you come across. Record the magic in each day. It’s a satisfying and enriching activity. When you have a collection you can review your anthology. You might notice themes, particular colours, textures, places that recur and bring you joy.  You will have created a map of your world. Instead of seeking joy elsewhere or only on special occasions you’ll bring joy into your everyday awareness. Seeking and longing will dissipate to be replaced by a solid peace with what is here and now.

The magic hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s right here, right now, in front of you. Can you see it? Go ahead and look for it.

Happy snapping,

Shannyn