Friday, October 26, 2012

Walking in Sapford's Corner

 On one of my many walks in Allora while trying to catch a vision of whatever I was trying to catch a vision of, I thought about my journey.  It seems that we go through life getting nicked up along the way.  Sometimes, we get bruised and in a way our own pain gets in the way of seeing a bigger picture. It can also get in the way of being the person we were meant to be.  Sometimes our fear of pain leads us to do things to protect ourselves and others that we have no desire to hurt.  Sometimes that desire to shield others from pain actually hurts them even more.
Here, at the historic Sapford's corner, I spent a lot of my time trying to tap into something greater than myself.  There were many themes and theories explored that took me back to something deep within me that had died, my heart.  There is nothing harder for the world to take than that inability to love again.  Part of that reason is perhaps, the world just really doesn't know the difference between love and sexual attraction.  It's made me think hard about intentions when interacting with people.   You see the open nature of a child.  I want to be that child, but I have had to learn about love again.
Allora is sheep country.  When I approached the sheep to take a picture of them, because I was amused by how the driver just pulled up and stopped off for a pint at the pub, the sheep cowered away and started bleating.  Instinctively, they are afraid of people, yet are born into captivity and know nothing else.  They are handled, sheared, rounded up and marked as owned beasts.  Fear guides them, but fear doesn't save them.  I have never heard of sheep living in the wild, but mountain goats, yes.  Sheep have been described as dumb, but peaceful animals that run in herds.  I decided to look up wild sheep and of course saw almost all breeds of wild sheep have horns to defend themselves.  Domesticated sheep breeds, not so, so they resort to the flock mentality as their primary defense when they are in groups as small as four.  A lone sheep is viewed as without protection from the world and is not expected to survive.
 In the Goomburra Forest Reserve,  I saw this tree completely stripped of all of its bark.  Actually, stripped is the wrong word to use, it sheds its bark, standing completely naked.  It was glistening in the sunlight and I just stared at it, thinking that quite possibly something was wrong with it, but as I continued on, I saw several other 'nudist' trees.  It was just its nature and I was questioning it because it was different from what I had seen before.
So the last sign to see was one that told me to keep on walking,  For a town that has a total population of less than 1,000 people I began to see that it's true, we do see the world as we are and not necessarily as it is.
Sapford's corner, historically was a place of both healing and pain; and often healing does not come without pain.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Icing the Equator

It was snowing back home, or trying to, when I finally landed in Australia. Today was new firsts for me.  It was the first time I had crossed the equator.  It was the first time I crossed both the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.  It was the first time I was in Australia.  I had neglected this blog during this trip, so I am retro posting because I did want to document along the way my journey and actually reflect on this journey that taught me about our cousins.  There is a saying about how everything tries to kill you in this country, I supposed that could have been said about the new world when they colonized it centuries ago.  With regard to Europe, it seems they have always had a concern about population size, and so many were forced to leave Europe and find their fortunes in either the New World, or if they were in Debtors prisons, forced to make the journey to Australia.  I had lived in the United Kingdom for two years during the end of the Thatcher administration.  One thing I observed was their class system, it's so pronounced there.  That need to be titled, positioned or well healed and their subservience to the royals.  I observed the tax battles first hand when the ill fated poll tax proved to be the fatal blow to end the career of Margaret Thatcher.  
But it's not 1990, and I am not in the United Kingdom.  What is the best way to describe Australia at first blush?  They have their own brand of English and the people are incredibly down to earth.  In Queensland, it was not uncommon to see people walking into the local stores "black footing", which mean sans shoes and socks.  I resisted the urge to be snobbish and smiled and people would say g'day to me.  I was quiet at first as I listen to the rate and color of their speech.  They had their own language and coarse wording, but what I noticed about so many people was their incredible love of exploration and they knew their history.
When I first arrived, the driver was telling me about the horrible droughts they were having in Allora, which is an incredibly small town where the author, P. L. Travers grew up.  Those of you who have read the "Mary Poppins" series will know who P. L. Travers is.  I hadn't know that she had spent her childhood here before I arrived, but it's kind of a funny thing, because I would say about myself, "I'm like Mary Poppins, I go where I am needed."  It's also the location of a small museum that houses a replica of the Talgai skull that was found here, estimations range from 9 to 11 thousand years old.  For religions based on the story of Adam and Eve, that throws a horrible wrench into that theory.  The original skull is housed elsewhere, in the Shellshear Museum, Department of anatomy at the Sydney University, but nonetheless, the replica is housed their small museum.  I thought it was interesting that Allora township in Darling Downs actually sold the skull instead of donating it.  
 It was an incredible drive from Brisbane to Allora, and I have a habit of shooting photographs out the window, because it helps me to keep the moment alive when I go someplace new.  The weather was terrifically warm and I was very happy to have stowed my winter coat in my luggage.  Here, spring was coming to an end and the very beginning of summer was upon them.
 I was getting use to the altitude of their small pass, and was shown and told about the aboriginal affection for these mountains, which the driver apologized for their lack of size and said, "well, they're really not mountains, more like hills, but to us, they're our mountains."  The aboriginal people call two particular mountains 'the guardians', not allowing anything bad into the outback.  I was only able to get a quality shot of the one below.  I have to say that I felt like Dorthy, in the Wizard of Oz.  Only I wasn't off to see the Wizard or looking for a place called home and I have only passed through Kansas and have no desire to return there anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Going with the wind, but not gone

There is a wanderlust in my blood that just won't go away.  There are places that just seem to call to people, like a secret is about to be whispered to them.  When the whisper comes, I have found, in my past experience, you go.  There are many people who don't understand what I am talking about.  They are stuck with their obligations, their responsibilities and there is nothing wrong with that.  There is a time and season for everything.  However, there seems to be something wrong with staying 'safe and secure'.  If we don't allow ourselves to be pushed and strengthened, what happens to us in moments of weakness?

Sometimes when a new adventure comes my way, I can't help but feel my stomach churn.  I don't know it all.  I don't know the whole path.  I don't know the plan from one day to the next.   I only know that first step that leads on to the second step.  I can't see how it's all going to come together and for once I don't have all of the answers.  I have a round-trip ticket to an adventure that I don't have all of the pieces for, and though the destination is a physical one, I am wondering what I am going to learn and who I am going to meet along the way.

I am on my way to Allora, Australia.  What awaits me?  I don't exactly know.  Does that worry me?  It's is the good kind of nervousness,  like the kind I went through the first time I went to Paris or my first flight or my first kiss.  It's the not knowing it all that actually gives us that tingle of excitement.  It is that state of being when you just realize we really don't want to know it all.  We really do love learning for ourselves and not being told how it's all going to turn out.  It's that innocence I love. Whatever I see, whatever I will experience, it will come unadulterated.

In this age of information overload, it seems we get fewer opportunities to not know.  It makes me realize how we may have become too comfortable with the boring and predictable.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Just out of reach

It's Sunday, not a calm one, a blustery one.  The kind where the cool winds bite your cheeks instead of kiss them.  The evidence is the ruddy nose that threatens to run, but I wouldn't know that right now as I have been obsessing over a pair of dispossessed shoes that are twirling in the wind, suspended in the air  and performing a sort of dance.  All of a sudden it's a story, the unknown kind, the best kind.  Some little boys shoes wound up being tossed up there, put out of reach but just dancing in the wind.  Perhaps  they were always there and I just noticed them as a sort of trophy of the conquered.  The asphalt is full of underdog and bully stories.  Sometimes we forget how violent children can be.  Those first battles in life where you learn to stand and not be afraid, even if it means you might lose the battle.  For many, it's the story of the internal mob.  For others, being the adored.  But the vast audience of the group seem to be controlled by a desire to be unnoticed.  There is a fear in being noticed, a greater fear of standing outside of the crowd.  The enormous fear of not belonging to anyone. 

The goal was to be liked for many and there were so many who just absolutely hated school for a very good reason, the pecking order.  Popularity meant a lot to kids when I was growing up, but then again, it depended on what neighborhood you were in.  Not every child has had to fight, not every child has been laughed at, but many do the laughing.  Children have a way of finding ways to pick at each other as they grow older, have you ever noticed that most people will say their favorite class was kindergarten?  The younger children were sheltered, isolated from the older population of children.  They arrived and departed before the others, had songs, arts, ABCs, 123s, and the ever popular nap time and snacks.  That is the first year, where you learned to control your bowels and say "please" and "thank you".  Everyone was beautiful and you never grew up.  

You never hear about a horrible Kindergarten teacher.  The memories are usually warm, and then comes first grade, where you are released into the general population of your primary school.  You marvel at your new classmates, the halls, the bigger kids and there are new expectations placed upon you.  I was tested for advanced placement when I was very young because I could read like the wind, the only problem was I couldn't understand what I was reading.  The words were just words and held no real meaning for me.  My transition into the first grade was a little rough, because they had placed me in a classroom with much older children.  I was small, so I could barely fit into their big desks, and I was wondering (and so was the rest of the class) what I was doing there.  All I had done was figure out the cipher of our script and was able to read aloud anything I touched, it seemed strange to me that this should be perceived as any sort of superior talent.  I hadn't really 'learned' anything.  I was a functioning parrot at the age of six, and wanted to be more than a parrot.  

I looked around the classroom rather alarmed.  Either I hadn't grown enough over the summer, or I was in the wrong classroom.  How could that be?  I reported to where the card told me to go, even the teacher was besides herself.  The adults muttered amongst themselves about my presence in the class, and I remember being hustled into the library for about a week where I was given a series of tests, reading evaluations and the like.  One week in a library going through their entire SRA reader series.  I think I was asked if I would like to stay with the big kids or join my first grade class, I elected to join the first graders.  I recall that I had a lot of fun with them, but I sometimes wonder what could have been if I stayed with the giants.  They had given me the choice and I had opted for the safety of the small ones.  

The shoes are still dangling on the power line.  I can hear the screams of children playing in the park, hopefully not tormenting each other.  Fall has come and already the sun is setting on this Sunday.  It's a very good thing we remember laughter more than tears and still look for faces in the clouds.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Today I felt the rage and let it go

As I sit here, writing, with an unlit cigarette in my mouth, not trying to quit, not trying to start, but just letting it dangle from my lips, I realized I smoked for so long because it was the only way I knew how to breathe and not kill someone.  I smoked my anger and rage for so long.  I hurt myself because I didn't want to hurt others.  I have heard it said that smoking was some form of slow suicide, but I disagreed with that comment, because I found it meditative to breathe in the smoke, think of a solution, and burn up the anger and rage with each puff.  I exhaled all of the darkness and thought of how the Native Americans used tobacco.  They used it, we abused it.  It wasn't about being cool, hip, or social smoking, as a matter of fact, smoking is very anti-social, but I never was the very social kind of gal.  I usually go against a crowd because, well perhaps I just don't trust group think at all.

After all, group think usually has us killing each other off, looking for a scape goat to kill or terrorize.  No, I would rather be that loner that stands and says, "No."  I have heard a lot about people who have said that we need to be more positive, and I have sincerely given that a great deal of thought.  However, we have to still clean the house.  I usually equate positive thinkers to those who wish for something, but don't do anything.  I think I have wasted a better part of a year just thinking about this.  I think I was trying to assess my own mental state of polarity and I came up neutral.  If you go overboard into the positive realm, perhaps you create a false vision; actually this might apply to both realms of thought.  

What if you just take the polarity out of life?  I thought about that for a moment.  The world of science works that way.  Nature works that way.  So if I am unaffected by either, then I can let my rage go.  The change agent is myself.  However, no matter how many times people say these words, it's just air passing from their lips.  Let's go back to the dirty house.  The positive person looks at the house and says, "What a clean place this is."  Perhaps believing their words to 'speak life' into the home.  

The negative person walks in and observes with the kindness of the most vicious critic you can think of, "What a dump!"  Have they spoken death on the place?  Haven't they just made an accurate observation?  

In both cases no one is doing anything about it.  

I see myself as a neutral person.  I will say, "What a dump." and I will look at the potential to transform it.  I will start visualizing what I need to do, get the supplies, and clean it up and put my signature on the whole process.  After I am done, I will smile, take a hot shower, and quite possibly, smoke a cigarette and wonder why I was so pissed off to begin with.  Everything gets dirty.  Clean it up.

So, those of you who know that I like to refer to pictures that I take along the way of this journey, here is the ribbon to tie this mess of words up.  Many people go around looking for a sign of what to do next.  Perhaps, not everything is so divine at the intersection of Cook and Rice street, perhaps it is; but do you really need a sign to tell you to make dinner?  

Life is the act of living.  Each day, you need to decide if you are creating or destroying.  There are seasons for both.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Be Anxious For Nothing

It was a few months ago that I found this place, a used bookshop in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I rushed through the stacks and saw someone's breathing dream.  There is just something about old books, the dog-eared pages, the musty smells that sometimes accompany them.  They have been lived in, dreamed about and sometimes it's just the pulp of pulp.  It's the readers that keep these works alive and you can tell a lot about a culture by what is celebrated or pushed into a hidden corner. It's a strange thing to discover a book store and then when you try to scour the web to find it again, to remember the details, the seating areas and how almost each and every detail had the touch of the proprietors hands, only to come up short and not find it.

I had been in a rush, it was the end of a day, and I snapped the picture because I wanted to remember this place, this storehouse of secret pleasures, serialized novels, the ink that had been poured out because there are many stories in this world.  In spite of the economic downturn, the bookstores still go on and the invitation to hear the lives of others continues.  I had remembered my excitement as a youth about finding these places throughout the cities.  New authors, old olds, and the ancients that had stood the test of time.

I have remembered, not forgotten going through those marvelous stacks, perhaps to find an obscure work, a celebrity's biography and advice about how to live life.  There are no shortages of others trying to tell us how things are or what to do to be like them.  I used to read them for their comical value.  Even more hilarious are the books that try to tell you how to be yourself, how to love and accept yourself in a world of forced compliance and conformity.

I lingered, I scanned the aisles, the stacks and thought how I could lose myself for days here.  The winter months are fast approaching and winter usually meant finding a good book during the hibernating months.  Little seeds of thought and wonder, when perhaps you find a work that isn't so well read, or well written and perhaps you wonder how it made it into print.  Books were times of sharing stories, inspiring thought, an intimate exchange of ideas between the writer and the reader.  I remember what it was like to be enthralled by the voice of the writer, and have know times where a work laid there, half read because there was nothing that engaged my mind.

I remember the days of actively seeking out new works, discovering old voices and hearing the dialogue bounce like music in my mind.  The conspiracy that would take place as you worried for a character, and cared, in spite of their obvious flaws, you had compassion for them.  There was something about them that you identified with and at times, there were those you had little in common with, but their story compelled you to listen.  How did they deal with the circumstances of life, of love, and even of death?  That wanting to know, perhaps gleaning some lessons, or hearing the pastoral display of their image, surroundings, the stereotypical use of language to immediately project an image in your mind of what surrounded them, who they were speaking to, and how they reacted to the latest threat or travesty that befell them.

If you notice, there isn't a story without tragedy or conflict.  There is a war and in the midst of all of this drama that plays out there is a challenge of the heart.  We sometimes bemoan the choices of the characters and have to be swayed by their decisions or not.  The reader could decide to be the impartial observer, having a moment to forget about their own troubles in life to concentrate on the fictions or real problems of others.  However, do we have a sense anymore of what it would be like to be in another person's life?

I thought of how much work revolves around our material appetites of money, sex and food.  The higher works try to take us out of the base realms into love and virtue.  Still higher yet, we see the works that act as puzzles to stimulate our intellect.  Until we reach the spiritual realms of morality, God and Church,

The range of our human experience is catalogued in books, without a right or wrong place of being.  Still, the need changes as our words and usage changes.  Languages that are used are living languages, but the human experience is ever changing as we go on.  Bookstores are those repositories of just how much we have changed as documented by the writers of their ages.  What was valued, believed, shared and reserved is a deep reflection of what mattered most.

It's not always easy to go through these changes, but the results are usually worth it.  Humanity wasn't built for comfort or easy answers, it was meant to grow in ways we may never get to witness in our time.  That's where hope comes in, a deep hope that we will value one another and our collective experience on this world.