Category Archives: The loved ones

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Three months and three continents later, I’m back home in wintery Melbourne. Despite the icy cold winds after three months of sunshine (with San Francisco being a notable exception) it is so good to be home!

Just a few trip highlights before the comprehensive travel reporting begins:

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New friends in Fort Cochin, Kerala, India

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The canals of Kolam, Kerala, India

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Temple celebration, Neyyar Dam, Kerala, India

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Early morning Zurich, Switzerland

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The first and last time I will try natto (fermented soybeans), Frankfurt, Germany

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Villa Lante, Viterbo, Italy

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Lost…somewhere in Italy

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Following the signs to Rome (on the Via Francigena), Italy

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Statue outside a hospital in Rome, Italy

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Estruscan ruin on the Via Francigena, Italy

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Villa Monastero, Varenna on Lake Como, Italy

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Australians represent. Clare Bowditch at World Domination Summit, Portland, USA

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Reunion in Chicago!

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Campfire on the beach, Lake Michigan, Michigan, USA

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New York by tall ship

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Walden Pond, Concord, MA, USA

 

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., USA

Hiking San Francisco

Hiking San Francisco, CA, USA

What a glorious trip! Looking through the photos makes me excited all over again. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

 

 

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Farewell owl

When I arrived back in Rushworth for a few weeks of rest/planning post-work and pre-travelling, I was delighted to discover an owl in the tree outside the kitchen window.

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Who doesn’t love spotting an owl? I had never even seen one in Rushworth before. There is plenty of bird life but it took me by surprise to find this guy in the tree.

When I’m back in Rushworth, I can easily forget that I’m surrounded by animals. It’s like, totes real nature here. From inside the kitchen, MJ had noticed there were some birds in the tree making quite a racket. I decided to go take a look. I don’t know why. I might just as easily have glanced towards the tree and glanced away. When I got to the tree, the birds were dispersing…and I locked onto the owl. I called MJ out to take a look.

Except for that first time, when I saw it immediately, the owl was really hard to spot in the tree. When I went out to check on it a couple of times, I was sure it had flown away. But, if I persisted, eventually I would see it hidden amongst the foliage of the tree.

I kept an eye out for the owl, but not ever day. When I realised after a week the owl was still in the tree, I became obsessed. I would check on it every day and was fascinated by the way it would follow me around the yard with its eyes and swivelling kneck. I read up about owls of Victoria (this one is a Southern Boobok – I’m more familiar with the name mopoke owl). I reflected on the meaning of owls (FYI Wisdom, Mystery, Transition, Messages, Intelligence, Mysticism, Protection, Secrets) and wondered whether there was something I was supposed to get about this unlikely visitor.

A friend of mine, my partner in Martha Beck love, generously offered that I could be calling animals to me. I would have loved that, but it seemed I was feeling less intuitive than usual and probably just searching for meaning in an owl that had stopped by for a while.

I continued my cerebral search for answers because I didn’t feel up to much else. Despite having longed for space and time to explore the inner depths of life, the universe and everything, since leaving work all I really wanted to do was read novels, dig in the garden and cook dinner. The idea of meditating and reconnecting seemed a bit too hard right now, thank you. I didn’t mind, I was happy to rest. But I did wonder whether I was squandering this visit from the owl, or even worse, missing the point entirely that it was indeed not time for rest, but time for action. DEEP INTERNAL WISDOM-SEEKING MYSTICAL ACTION.

In addition to my gardening, cooking and reading I was also supposed to be planning for my trip. I’ve left planning to the last minute before (I’m a dreamer and schemer, not a planner). But I was heading off for three months in a few weeks and didn’t even know where I would fly to. I had ideas, but I didn’t have airfares and every day (nay, every hour) I wondered whether I should change my itinerary all together.

I would have LOVED some intuition, but my radar was broken. I was getting mixed signals all over the place – hence why planning was even harder than usual. My style of planning is forcing myself to sit down and look at options until one ‘feels right’. But nothing much felt right. It all felt neutral.

Have you ever thought about 11:11? I noticed 11:11 before I realised it was a thing that (crazy) people write about. Over the years I’ve come to feel reassured about life when I notice 11:11 on the clock. Consequently, I feel less reassured when I see 11:12 or 11:13. Well, for about a week I saw 11:12 and 11:13 more than even felt possible. Talk about sending a doubting intuitive into a spin! I don’t take any of this seriously enough to live my life by it, but I’m not nearly rational enough to be impervious against a ‘bad’ sign.

One night, I woke up in the middle of the night with a premonition that I’d been shot in the shoulder. Oh dear. When I can’t get a clear vibe on whether a decision I’m making is a good one (i.e. all those neutral feelings I’d been having), I assume it’s all bad and I’m walking into certain death or something worse. If I hadn’t been seriously doubting myself before, I was now. Was the reason why I couldn’t get good feelings about this trip because it was doomed?

I wrote to my Martha Beck-loving friend and told her about the premonition so that if I do get shot in the shoulder, it will make a good story afterwards.

Despite the gloomy premonition, slowly but surely I reluctantly locked in plans for my trip – I booked a round-the-world ticket, applied for a visa, set out an itinerary (well…a loose itinerary). Still with no clear sense that any of it was a good idea. Indeed, less than two weeks out from a month in India, all I know is when and where I fly in, and when and where I fly out.

I spent a couple of days hunched over my laptop trying to research more and more about destinations to ‘inform’ myself out of my indecision. Still…no signs from the universe. And any signs I was getting from the universe (a well-timed email, a phone call from India) didn’t feel quite right. Like the universe was TESTING ME! Oh universe…

Two days ago, I got up from being hunched over my computer and decided to go outside. If my intuitive radar had wanted to send me a sign, I had crowded out the signal with words and pictures on websites. I sat  near the owl for a while and just wondered about what I might like to do in India. I got a few whiffs of ideas – no bolt from the blue I’m afraid – but I did feel better.  I reminded myself that even if my intuition feels like it’s on the blink right now, it’ll come back in good time…if I let it.

Next day, owl was gone.

Reuben is awesome (an extra special tip)

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This week I tricked the world into letting me talk about my nephew Reuben.

Read it over here at Lip Magazine.

“It’s inhumane the pace at which people live in this society”

Liz Gilbert and me

A few of us headed up to Sydney last weekend to see Elizabeth Gilbert speak at the Sydney Opera House.

I am a huge fan – follower might be more accurate – of Liz Gilbert. I have read Eat, Pray, Love numerous times (it’s a handy book to love because there is usually a copy in any hostel you ever stay in). It’s become one of those books I read for relaxation and comfort. It’s like a 350 page reset button for me. It’s a story about travel, language, history, spirituality, self-knowledge and personal drama – my favourite things. It’s light and funny too, so a delight to read for strong stretches from a cosy position on a couch or a less cosy position at a boarding gate.

Liz Gilbert is also a wonderful public speaker and reflects thoughtfully and wisely on a range of topics that seem to overlap with so many of the topics I wonder about too. I guess that is the gift of Liz Gilbert – her ability to reflect so calmly and clearly upon ideas that are swirling around in the heads of so many of us. Her self-assured and calm certainty is also wonderful for someone like me, who often crowds out any pinholes of wisdom with self doubt and the good opinion of others.

I was delighted while watching this long interview below, that Liz spoke to that desperate feeling that I (and I know many others) had about returning to regular, busy, scheduled life after holidays. Skip forward to around 29 mins (if you’re in a hurry) for some wisdom on the indefensible pace of our lives.

 

Have an authentic Christmas why don’t you

Hey tipsters (tippies, tiperifics, tiptantulors), here is my tip from Christmas. Now that it’s the middle of January it’s more of a reflection on the past. However, the best time to really think about what Christmas means is probably not two weeks before (or, as my mum said on Christmas Day, “NOT TODAY SARAH!”)

99 tips for a better world: have an authentic Christmas (11 of 99)

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I’m going to take a guess that you feel ambivalent towards Christmas.

I certainly do. Deep, wide-ranging, conflicting ambivalence that is harder to unravel than just getting through the season without asking too many questions. So I don’t.

I struck it lucky in the personality and preferences lottery for this time of year. I love wandering through a supermarket listening to the Beach Boys sing Blue Christmas. I think Christmas decorations are fun and anything can be improved by draping a string of flashing lights over it.

Yet, I feel conflicted by the rampant consumerism of Christmas. I also feel conflicted by the overuse of the cliché ‘rampant consumerism’. I feel confused about the secularisation of a religious holiday – I am less bothered by the secularisation than I am the meaning-vacuum left behind. In practical terms Christmas Day tends to be more about recovering at my mum’s place from a frantic December than a celebration of anything much at all.

I am also ambivalent about Christmas naysayers. There is an abundance of people highlighting all that is wrong with Christmas. I understand the compulsion to express your concerns about the wall-to-wall advertising binge that starts in October. But there also seems something counterintuitive about it – “this-is-a-holiday-about-kindness-and-love-and-you’re-all-crap-and-doing-it-wrong!”

Despite my ambivalence, or perhaps because of it, all I know is that I would rather be topping up the reserves of Christmas cheer than pulling out the plug and letting it drain. So I get into “the Christmas spirit” and give presents and share food and decorate a Christmas tree. I put aside those niggling thoughts and get through to the 26th of December with a smile on my face.

But what if my ambivalence is part of the problem? I’m bothered by the mindless way we plough through this period, and yet my current survival technique is to mindlessly plough through this period.

This year I will strive to unravel some of my ambivalence and cut through the noise. I will ask myself what Christmas means to me and try to celebrate accordingly. An authentic celebration of Christmas will be unique to each one of us – a representation of our histories and our values and the family and friends we celebrate with (or don’t). For some of us it will be bells and whistles, for others quiet reflection. But I think we will instinctively know it when we see it.

In my search for meaning I will do my best to avoid Christmas clichés about “the true meaning of Christmas” (what exactly would that be then?).

I will also be wary of “true meaning of Christmas” clichés about volunteering at soup kitchens (do we even have soup kitchens in Australia?) While I question the advertising and shopping I will also question the imagery I’ve been fed through American movies and Christmas catalogues since the day I was born.

I’m not sure yet what Christmas does mean to me. Although, I heard a great quote last night that struck me might encapsulate the whole thing:

Well, I mean, you know, the longer I work and live the simpler my theology gets. And there’s many, many things I’m willing to entertain and think about and talk about, but fundamentally it still comes back to that God is love. And I mean that pretty literally, that God is, if nothing else, and that’s a big if, but if nothing else, God is that force that drives us to really see each other and to really behold each other and care for each other and respond to each other. And for me, that is actually enough.*

*from the podcast, “Presence in the Wild” with Kate Braestrup, On Being, December 13 2012 (listen to it at http://www.onbeing.org)

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