Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Reflecting On Our Words - March

We are now a quarter of the way through 2009 and today being the last day of March, it is "Reflecting on our Word" day.

With my friends Annemarie, Roban, AVT Coach and Julie we have committed to a joint post at the end of each month on a WORD each of us has chosen for 2009. This helps us stay focused and highlights our journey these words are taking us on.

For March we have each taken a photo that represents our WORD.

Roban - Moments in Time - FAITH & JOY


Annemarie - So I Was Just Thinking - DISCIPLINE

Julie - Octamom - EXCELLENCE

Peggy - Middle Age Ramblings - BALANCE

Once again you are all welcome to join in reflecting on your word for the year by commenting or posting on your blog and linking to this post. I'd love to hear how your WORD is guiding you through the year. To revisit our previous months, here is our January post and February post.

"While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see". ~Dorothea Lange

Monday, 23 March 2009

The Boss Has Spoken

I was reading an article about an interview with Bruce Springsteen and it really 'hit home' when he was asked the question "Do you still feel like a 12 year old"?

Here is his reply:

"Of course. There is no part of yourself that you leave behind; it can't be done. You can't remove any part of yourself, you can only manage the different parts of yourself.

There's a car, it's filled with people. The 12 years old kid's in the back. So's the 22 year old. So is the 40 year old. So is the 50 year old guy that's done pretty well, so's the 40 year old guy that likes to screw up. So's the 30 year old guy that wants to get his hands on his wheel and put the pedal to the metal, and drive you into a tree.

That's never going to change. Nobody's leaving. Nobody's getting thrown out by the roadside. The doors are shut, locked and sealed, until you go into your box.

But who's driving makes a really big difference about where the car is going. And if the wrong guy's at the wheel, it's crash time.

You want the latest model of yourself at the wheel, the part of you that's sussed some of this out and can drive you someplace where you want to go".

Bravo Bruce, very wise words.....The Boss has spoken!

Joseph and Charlie, March 2007 - One of my favourite photos of these gorgeous Aussie boys.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Light Is Always There

There is a small plaque in a quiet and picturesque waterside park in Northwood, Sydney, commemorating the exceptional Australian artist, Lloyd Rees.

For much of his life Rees lived nearby and used the bays and inlets viewed from the park frequently as an inspiration for his landscapes. I often walk to this park as it is one of my favourite spots.

Lloyd was a true seeker of light. His paintings, especially in the last twenty years of his life when his eyesight was fading, were filled with light and washed colours. The memorial plaque at Northwood records one of his beliefs, "If you look for light you find it."

The quest for light has always been important to me. Mine is not a search for literal light - more, the search for direction, a message, a cleaning away of uncertainty and the recognition of inner spirit and authenticity.

Occasionally, life seems to be a chasm - a pit I slip and slide into. There is sometimes a sense of overwhelming darkness and no light ahead. What I have learned is that there is always light, I'm just not looking for it in the right place. I am probably searching for it straight ahead, the most obvious place to look when, if I would only glance to my right or left, I would glimpse its radiance.

That special light can come from any direction. A chance remark, a line in a magazine which starts me thinking, the sound of children playing, the words of a song, a comment overheard on the bus - all and any can give insight and a way through. When times are tough I have now learnt to keep my ears and heart open.

Whenever everyday problems overwhelm us, it is a relief when we see a solution, when we know what to do, when we understand the reason for something and the lessons contained within it.

The light is always there......we just need to look in a different direction.

Lloyd Rees painting Northwood Point, Sydney Harbour, 1978

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

I Have No Idea

Some people have a gift for coming up with ideas. But for those that don't it is a real struggle.

Oddly though, the people who struggle most are often the ones who become the most successful.

I also find having too many ideas is not always a good thing.

It's too easy to move on to the next one, and the next one.

If we don't have many ideas, we have to make those we do have work for us.

Today is St. Paddy's Day ....I love so many things about Ireland and the Irish people...their accents, makes me go weak at the knees!! And it's an amazing place!!

If you don't know the way, walk slowly. - Irish Proverb

Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig

My brother's dog, Darcy, March 2009....a good Irish name.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Art of Compromise

As BALANCE is my WORD for the year, here are a few more thoughts on the subject.

According to Aristotle, moral behaviour requires finding the right balance between the extremes of doing or feeling too much or too little. Courage, for instance, is a balance between cowardice (too much fear) and foolhardiness (too little fear). The superior man cultivates a friendly atmosphere, without being weak. He stands erect in the middle, without inclining to either side.

In practice, this means that when we find ourselves in an argument with someone, we should try to look at the problem from their point of view as well as our own. It doesn’t mean that we should weakly submit to their argument, but neither does it mean that we should try to force our argument upon them.

Unfortunately in today’s society, taking a stand or going to extremes is often glorified, while “sitting on the fence” or making compromises often have negative connotations attached to them, as if they somehow imply a weakness in character.

From our leaders we hear statements such as “you’re either with us or against us”. The problem with this sort of extreme statement is that rather than bringing people closer together, it pushes them further apart. I wonder how many of the conflicts in the world today could have been averted if our leaders better understood the art of compromise.

In December 2006 while visiting Kenya, Jessen and I crossed the equator. We went back and forth several times just for the fun of it and then balanced in the middle.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Joseph in the Park

Joseph is 2 1/2 years old, we spend each Monday together and this is a typical scene shot with my digital camera (quality not perfect) of our time spent in the park..

He is no relation. I used to look after his mother when she was 7 years old and now I have the privilege of spending a day each week watching Joseph blossom.

Date: March 2009

Note: A little way into the video I ask Joseph what else do we like and he says "Swing Low" which is a song I have been singing to him since he was a baby.."Swing Low Sweet Chariot"....bless his little heart to remember that.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Carpe Diem - Seize the Day

The scene is in my mind still. Actor Robin Williams, playing the role of teacher John Keating, in the movie "Dead Poets' Society", is discussing in hushed tones the Latin phrase Carpe Diem, with his bemused pupils during an early encounter.

"Seize the day, gentlemen. Seize the day". Those words sent a shiver down my spine. They filled my mind. To this day they carry a powerful message for me. The Robin Williams character encouraged his students to open their hearts and minds to their dreams and follow through with actions.

Sometimes, as the movie showed, dreams may not be understood by others. Yet those experiences we have when we reach up and out, to extend ourselves, are the experiences and emotions we remember with great affection for the rest of our lives. They are the technicolour passages of our lives.

Many people live black, white and grey lives. Just notice the colour of the clothing they wear most days. A passing brushstroke of colour may influence them only occasionally. Those who are bold enough to seize the day are seizing life and its challenges. They dare to dream. They dare to be different.

There are always exceptional teachers for us, and not just at school. I'm sure you have heard that perceptive quote, "When the pupil is ready the teacher will come". When you sincerely wish to discover why, how, when and where, the teacher quietly arrives. Be ready. The teacher can just as quietly leave if the pupil is not tuned in.

Most of us never ever understand just how we change people's lives with a comment or remark. When we say what they think, show what we feel, make a fool of ourselves if necessary, we encourage ourselves and our friends to push against the bars of the cage of safety to enlarge its dimensions. I know it is better to lose on my feet than to play on my knees.

I am learning through philosophy, blogging and my friends to enjoy the experiences, the scenery, the weather, the food, the "everything". I want to stretch myself and live with passion.....in other words I want to "seize the day".

This is my scrapblog friend Cynthia and myself in England in July 2008. We became friends through scrapblog and when the opportunity arose to meet each other in person we "seized the day".

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Bird By Bird - When Words Fly...

BIRD BY BIRD is a beautiful, soulful laugh-out-loud book: the sort that you find yourself reading out to friends. Ostensibly, it's about how to write. It's also about motherhood, finding God and dying gracefully; about why we read books and the need to express life's inexpressibly beautiful moments - the ones that change and deepen us.

Written by the American author Anne Lamott - political activist and former Salon.com columnist - was originally published in the United States in 1994 and now released in Australia in 2008.

The daughter of writer Kenneth Lamott, she recalls when she was a child, his friends - all writers - would come over for drinks and then "pass out over the dinner table". Her father's writerly advice was: "Do it as a debt of honour". And make a commitment to finishing things".

Why we write is not so important, neither is being published, Lamott likes to remind us. What is more pertinent is becoming conscious to use writing as a tool, "to live as if we are dying".

By drawing on her own experiences, she illuminates the trials of being a writer and there are many.

There is no secret to her success, although Lamott's own routines are instructive: She sits down around the same time every day - to train the unconscious to kick in creatively - and then tries to quieten her mind to "hear what that character has to say above the other voices (which) are banshees and drunken monkeys". Writing is also about listening - to an inner voice - and she likes to imagine this voice as a "long-necked, good-natured "Dr Seuss" who invents characters.

Chapters are dedicated to all aspects of writing - character, plot, dialogue, set design - and how to move beyond "really shitty first drafts". She hoards ideas and whispers on index cards, stuffed into her back pocket. Occasionally she'll pull out gems such as one about her young son, Sam, looking up at a cold starry night and saying "It smells like moon".

For all her compassionate intentions, Lamott is often at her most hilarious when she's being bitchy about other writers, especially when the green-eyed monster grips her. If she's brutal about some of her friends, she's also brutal about using everything in life as material - just changing it enough so the person won't notice.

At times the book feels like a passionate manifesto. "Tell the truth," she urges. "If you're a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act - truth is always subversive".

Her words could put off aspiring writers or those foolish enough to think that it ever gets any easier. For the committed, she will INSPIRE!

Kakadu, Northern Territory, May 2007 - Australian Heron ready to fly

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

A Gift - Old Age

Every so often, I happen upon an e-mail that truly touches the heart. As I was beginning my workday this morning, I received the following excerpt by an anonymous author and feel that it is worthy to be shared and cherished.

May those who read this be blessed and filled with gratitude for “this we call life". And for those who've already seen this, may this be a reminder of the marvelous miracle of being you.

"The other day a young person asked me how I felt about being old. I was taken aback, for I do not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, she was immediately embarrassed, but I explained that it was an interesting question, and I would ponder it, and let her know.

Old Age, I decided, is a gift.

I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body, the wrinkles, the baggy eyes, and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror (who looks like my mother!), but I don't agonize over those things for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, and my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4:00 AM and sleep until noon?

I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 and 70s, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love ... I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.

They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten and I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it)."

I believe people are like fine wines, they get better with age!

My good mate Mark & I in January 2006 at a hat party in Kings Cross, Sydney.