Sunday, 29 December 2013

Determination - My One Little Word for 2014

This word sprung to mind a couple of days ago whilst I was in the shower.

DETERMINATION I said out loud, OH YES that will be my word for 2014.

I'm determined to be the best I can

I'm determined to find at least one positive thing every day

I'm determined to live a full life.

I can already feel the power of this word, it encompasses everything as the definition says:

Firmness of purpose; resolve; the act of making or arriving at a decision; the act of deciding definitely and firmly.

In 2009, four Blog friends and myself began a tradition of choosing one word each for ourselves in January - a word that we can focus on, meditate on, and reflect upon as we go about our daily lives.

My One Little Word from previous years were:
2009 - BALANCE
2010 - SEEK
2011 - SHARING

These words have each become a part of my life in one way or another.

They've been embedded into who I am, and into who I'm becoming.

They've been what I've needed (and didn't know I needed).

They've helped me to breathe deeper, to see clearer and to grow.

I have come to believe a single word can be a powerful thing.  It can be the ripple in the pond that changes everything.  It can be sharp and biting or rich and soft and slow.

From my own personal experience, it can be a catalyst for enriching your life!

So forget the New Year resolution and select ONE LITTLE WORD to serve as your guide throughout the year.

“We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.” 
~~ Sonia Johnson

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, Sydney, November 2013 by Ken Unsworth

Friday, 6 December 2013

Man of the Century - Nelson Mandela

Dr Nelson Mandela died today (5th December 2013) aged 95.

He was unique, a rare breed and his legacy will live on as an inspiration to all.

R.I.P. (Return If Possible)

"A Winner is a Dreamer Who Never Gives Up"
~~ Nelson Mandela


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Jacaranda Tree and the Power Lines

November in Sydney is a picturesque time because of the Jacaranda Tree.

Streets are awash with the magnificent purple-blue blooms of Jacarandas as they put on a breathtaking floral display, later falling to the earth carpeting the ground with a mass of colour.

It is said that if you are walking underneath the Jacaranda tree and one of the trumpet blossoms falls on your head you will be favoured by fortune.

I found one such tree in Willoughby, the next suburb from my house, when I was driving home the other day, and to my astonishment it was living in harmony with power lines.

I was genuinely awestruck by its beauty and marvelled that even though it had been hacked over the years to accommodate the power lines it had won the battle and now lives in harmony with the power lines.

What an achievement.

"If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I would say books, friends and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature."
~~  John Burroughs


Monday, 28 October 2013

The Dressing Gown

Ah the comfy dressing gown.

There is no more apt uniform of sloth than the dressing gown.

Merely owning one is a sign of hope.  A signal of slovenly intent!

Dressing gowns accompany the state of doing nothing, but what are we actually doing when we're doing nothing?

THINKING, that's what we're doing.

Society fears the population with time to think.

Populations like that have been known to change things.

This is why the dressing gown is the true uniform of REVOLUTION.

In some far distant point in the future women and men will marvel at the day the seats of global power were finally over-whelmed - by an army of people in dressing gowns.

“Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting, and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age."
~~ Florida Scott-Maxwell

This is Diego, the next doors cat who visits me every day and hangs out with my cats Wilson and Ellie.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Strolling Through The City

In nineteenth-century Paris, there was a type of man known as the flâneur.

He was a sort of strolling dandy, a work-shunning poet, who ambled through the city, lingering in the arcades, lolling on benches and making observations.

Some of the most extreme flâneurs used to take a tortoise on their walks, because they liked to let the tortoise set the pace.

We can be a modern-day flâneur in our own town:  just set out from your front door and make a deliberate attempt to walk slowly.

It will seem unnatural at first, but that is only because we are starting to overcome years of A-to-B speed-walking conditioning.

Soon the slower pace will become more habitual and you will take great pleasure in the world of limitless wonder that ambling opens up to us.

Of course having your camera on hand is an added bonus!

“But the beauty is in the walking -- we are betrayed by destinations.” 
~~ Gwyn Thomas

“Now shall I walk or shall I ride?
'Ride,' Pleasure said;
'Walk,' Joy replied.” 

~~ W.H. Davies

Fountain near the Sydney Art Gallery

Mural painted on a house in Surry Hills, Sydney

Juneau, Alaska we came across two husky dogs while walking around the town. - May 2013

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Sunday Drive and the App

Does anyone still go on a Sunday drive? The 1970's, I suppose, was the last time it was commonly done. People would set out with no set purpose or aim, heading up the coast, then motor back to town.

The car itself was so engrossing, so interesting, so innately sexy, that time spent in its company required no further reward.

To most of us, that now seems nutty. The point is to get somewhere!

Young people in particular have fallen out of love with the car. They would rather travel on public transport and check their iPhone/Smartphone, the item that's replaced the car as an expression of freedom and adulthood.

There's a battle being waged over those digital devices, some argue the apocalypse is upon us: parents, themselves distracted by their devices, have allowed a generation of young people to rewire their own brains.

This, of course, brings hoots of derision from those who argue that humanity has always embraced new technology and become richer and wiser for it.

The history of the car - and of that Sunday drive - might be a good place to start.

When cars came on the scene there was great anxiety. The technology was seen as alarming and dangerous; drivers were required to hire a man to walk ahead of the vehicle waving a red flag.

In retrospect this seems absurd, yet this was followed by a period that, to our eyes, now appears equally absurd: a time in which the new technology was embraced with such abandon, with such uncritical glee, that it was allowed to remake the world in its own image.

Cars were fun and liberating - that's why we fell for them with such a swoon - yet they also poisoned our lungs, chewed up our countryside and brought foreign wars to secure fuel.

We were unwilling to put any limit on a device so intriguing, so liberating. Adding a seatbelt was a battle that took years. Lead was left in the petrol because the engine seemed to like it.

Most of us look back at that period with bewilderment. We now believe the car should be tamed so it suits our wider needs: seatbelts, emission limits, a better balance between spending on road and rail.

Which brings us back to those digital devices. We are midway, it seems to me, along a road we have already travelled. As with the car, we started with outright anxiety - the red-flag period - then entered a period in which the technology became dominant, as if it were setting its own rules.

This, for many households, is where we are now. Kids and adults sit, dotted around the house, all using different devices, skipping from app to app, for hours at a time.

This is not done to get anywhere, to achieve anything; it's for the pleasure of time spent with the device.

Remember that Sunday drive?

The spaghetti junctions of LA still represent the worst of the motor car and its unfettered dominance. Will the rewired spaghetti of our brains come to represent a similar period of uncritical embrace?

No sensible person believes we can take a hammer to all new technology. True, we couldn't eradicate those mechanised looms, but they could be bent to better suit human needs.

Maybe we now need some push-back of our own. If nothing else, someone needs to say the obvious: if you wanted to produce a machine for creating social anxiety, particularly in teenagers, you'd probably come up with something that looked exactly like Facebook.

When parents demand children put down their devices, or when they make a deal with themselves to take a digital holiday, they are not being Luddites. They are merely getting ahead of an inevitable wave - one in which we will all understand that this technology, like all those that preceded it, must be bent to our needs.

"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race."
~~H.G. Wells

"Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly."
~~Author Unknown

This is me at the family home in 1974 in my Sprite

Love this photo!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Pay It Forward Day

Thursday April 25, 2013 - Pay It Forward Day

Please join me on Thursday and let's create a ripple effect that will last all year.....until 2014 when we can do it all Ground Hog Day!

Pay it Forward Day has now spread to more than 50 countries around the world. It's mission is simple - together we can change the world - one good deed at a time.

One good deed might not seem like much, but if everyone did something good for someone else then the cycle of generosity and kindness can spark us to become better people.

Operating on the premise that we all have it in our power to help another, one individual truly can change the world.

A day of great is that! And kindness is contagious!

"They say don’t believe your own hype, but if you don’t why would anyone else? To be great you have to believe you can do great things."
~~ Charley Johnson

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, Sydney, Australia - November 2008

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Rainbows, Happiness and Risk

The more money and material goods we have, the more we want - and the less they bring us satisfaction.

The real key to feeling good it seems is to give and keep on giving.

When we stop putting a monetary value on what we do, it is immensely liberating.

We also have an obsession with happiness as though it were yet another purchasable product.

As a child I once tried to stand in the end of a rainbow to feel the colours on me. I ran back and forth across a wet field with friends shouting directions across the cow pats.

But rainbows can't be seen from close up.

And the irony of happiness as a product is that it disappears when we look directly at it, as ephemeral as that rainbow.
When we are young we jump into a pool whether we can swim or not.

We have no fear.

Either we swim or we drown.

Before the age of thirty important things happen to us which shape the rest of our lives.

The first is:
We become aware of ourselves and our own thinking. We reach the age of reason.

The second is:
In our new-found maturity we begin to think in a more adult way.

We become grown up.

Recklessness and risk are not compatible with age.

Risk becomes something which must be carefully considered.

Or is it!!!

We all have a negative voice in our heads that stops us from taking risks. Ask yourself what you really have to lose.

Most of the time it's about ego and less about any real loss. Go first. Have the courage to do something before waiting to see if others are willing.

“Two bubbles found they had rainbows on their curves.
They flickered out saying:
"It was worth being a bubble, just to have held that rainbow thirty seconds.”

~~ Carl Sandburg

Cockatoo Island Art Exhibition, Sydney Dec 2011

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Is Print Dying?

Print — literature, journalism, you name it — has experienced an extended obituary over the last decade, alongside the rise of digital media.

Having survived 500 years of technological upheaval, Gutenberg's invention may withstand the digital onslaught as well.

There's something about a crisply printed, tightly bound book that we don't seem eager to let go of. Holding a book in my hand and the visceral act of physically turning a page that, for me at least, can't be matched with pixels on a screen.

Printed books are universal – anyone can read them today or at any point in the foreseeable future. What guarantees are there that you’ll still be able to read the Kindle book you pay for today in five or ten years time? Will you have to buy a fresh library if a device comes along to displace the Kindle?

Books are timeless. When you present a book as a gift, you do not have to worry about it going out of fashion. Also you cannot loan an eBook to a friend without physically giving them your e-reader, which really isn't an option.

Somehow, books are not the same when they are in electronic format. Perhaps one day in the future when e-books become obsolete and are replaced with even more high-tech alternatives, the children of this generation will say the same.

And so I hope that printed books never die. I doubt they will anytime soon; convenience has not killed other markets but made those markets revisit their roots. Perhaps the eBook revolution will ask publishing to reinvent itself and we will all come out for the better.

When the machines go dark we’ll need a written record of all that has transpired here.

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” 
~~ Haruki Murakami  

British Library, Camden, London, July 2008

My Bookends

Picture from Pinterest

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Good Company

The evening closes in on a warm summer's day.

The wine is coursing through you and through your friends but not down into the tributary of political discourse that can end up in an almighty row, but down the waterfalls of laughing memory.

Long forgotten stories and cackles emerge of times past while grand plans are made for the future still to be lived.

Sharing bread, barbecues and those generous anecdotes - the simple gentleness of caring for the people you love.

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." 
~~ C.S. Lewis

Celia and Marja, two very dear friends who live in Christchurch, New my second home!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Sleeping in Your Clothes

After a busy day I sometimes find myself lying on the couch drifting off into a hypnagogic state in front of a monotonously TV screen.

My brain is just awake enough to inform me that at this point I should really get up, brush my teeth, wash my face, get undressed and lollop into bed.

However, if I do get up, brush my teeth, wash my face and get undressed then by the time I am ready to lollop into bed, I'll be wide awake again and the delightful spell will be broken.

So instead I revel freely in the moment that sleep threatens to envelop me.

The enchantment in nodding off and then nodding awake a few minutes later is like a gentle rollercoaster that goes slowly enough to be thrilling while managing to avoid the unpleasantness of any theme park sensations.

Next time this happens to you my friends, remain motionless, allow your mind to wander off and enjoy the thrill of sleeping in your clothes.

Leave the TV warbling to itself and luxuriate in the sensation of stalking slumber.

When you wake in the small hours with a slight chill, you can sleepwalk to your bedroom before your duvet greedily swallows you whole.

"Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night"
~~ Dave Barry

This is Bella (Joseph and Charlie's dog) relaxing on the couch in Cromer.  She often sleeps on the couch in front of the TV!  January 2013

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Now, Listen Here

There are all sorts of work shops and self-help books for people who find themselves lost for words in social situations, but the people I really wish would get help are the ones who won't shut up.

Recently, as just one example of many, I went to a small dinner gathering where I knew only the hosts - lovely people.  Most of the other guests seemed lovely too, but I can't say for sure. One woman dominated the evening so comprehensively there was no chance to get to know anyone else.  She talked about herself virtually non-stop.

She was oblivious to the discomfort and boredom around her, the restless body language, the glazed eyes, the failed attempts at diversion.  By evening's end, my mouth was locked in a rictus of feigned interest that bordered on cramp.

Some people somehow have never developed to the point where they take an interest in other people's lives.    Experts say one of the really negative things about this is that they don't learn things.  They remain where they are.  Listening is what takes you into another person's world and expands your own.

These people must have a lack of curiosity and maybe had poor role models.

Another psychologist points out that, these days many people may not be getting any conversation modelling at the dinner table at all. She said "we don't sit down and pass the conversation around the table with our families any more".  "It's like a social skill we no longer use".  And email and social media she says are one-way broadcasts.

"You are just trying to get across your message in your own way and in your own time.  And you're not really being mindful of the other".

Conversation is definitely a collaboration, not a performance.  With conversation skills the most important one by far is the skill of listening.  Long after people have forgotten what we talked about, what they will remember is how we made them feel.

It takes two to have a conversation - something we often forget!

“An appreciative listener is always stimulating.”
~~ Agatha Christie

"When I'm in a bad mood, I don't listen".
~~ Cathy Freeman

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, Sydney November 2012.  Two sculptures - Wind driven installation of 222 bamboo 'bird-scarers' tuned to D Minor as a reflection on 222 lives lost in the Bali bombings and the Mirador highlighting the complex relationship between man and nature.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Cloud Watching

When we pause to look up from our earthbound scurrying, we will see that the skies offer an ever-changing drama.

Clouds shift and flow and move: the sky is never the same two seconds in a row.

As the sun moves, so the colours change and the interplay between the wind, the temperature and the sun create spectacles of infinite variety.

Clouds will form themselves into fantastic shapes, even for a second appearing to resemble an object from our world: a rabbit, a saucepan, a dragon or a heart.

Then they are gone, ever-changing, formless yet with form, solid yet fluid at once.

Clouds are natures poetry.

"Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty and live life with your head in the clouds"

"Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky"
~~ Rabindranath Tagore

When I was visiting my friend in Christchurch, New Zealand in February 2012 the sky often put on a display like the photo above.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Be Like Water

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."
~~ Lao Tzu

There’s a concept in Taoism, “wei wu wei”, which is often translated as “action without action” or “effortless doing”. I prefer to think of it more in the sense of “action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort”.

This is an important concept, because effortless action is a way to not only achieve focus in a world of chaos, but to be effective without stress, to respond to any situation with economy of effort and action, and to pursue our passions while beating procrastination.

Think for a moment of times when you've struggled to work, and instead procrastinated by heading for your distractions — email, social networks, blog reading, games, whatever your flavour might be. I am very guilty of these distractions!

This struggle is often a losing battle for most of us. We fight against it, but only win occasionally.
According to Lao Tzu effortless action is an easier way to find focus and beat procrastination.


An appropriate mental image is that of water, which seems naturally effortless in its action. It isn't necessarily still, nor is it passive, but it flows naturally around obstacles and always gets to where it’s going.

This is effortless action. It uses gravity and the natural contours of its landscape, instead of forcing things. Water can never be anything but effortless, and yet it is quietly powerful.

"We must learn to position ourselves effortlessly within each moment, rather than stumbling through time. We can either escape from the moment or stay with it as it unfolds and do something good with it."

And this is exactly right. Are you trying to escape the moment, fleeing from it and struggling against it? Or are you inhabiting the moment effortlessly?

"Simply stay at the center of the circle."
~~ Tao Te Ching

"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."
~~ Lao Tzu

I took this photo in Norway in July 2010, it shows how effortless and powerful water can be.