Tag Archives: joy

A Winter Walk.

It’s Winter here. While all too easy to complain about the cold, and sink into a melancholy barrenness, I challenged myself to look out for flowers, colour and inspiration when I went on my regular walk around the Mt Penang Parklands near Gosford, North of Sydney. While Winters here are generally fairly mild without any sign of snow and ice, it’s still a season of slumber, hibernation and low expectations.

Candlestick Banksia

Early on in my walk, I was delighted to stumble across the golden Candlestick Banksia. It felt like a proof of concept that there’s always something positive, you just need to seek it out and not only focus on doom and gloom…or what’s missing. You just need to keep your eyes open and be careful what you filter in and out.

That said, I must admit I was disappointed to see the state of the water lilies which were in the last throws of seasonal death. When I was there last, they were just past their peak, but I had such a wonderful time photographing them and I even filmed them swaying around in the wind. They were magnificent and almost seemed to come to life. However, while the lilies were no longer beautiful in the conventional sense, they were still quite photogenic with their striking wiry forms, even if they weren’t instantly recognisable in the photos. A bit of intrigue and abstraction is good.

Water Lilies

Anyway, I’ve been trying to get out for more walks and I do try to mix it up a bit. It’s also really good to be able to get outside again after months and months of rain. What with avoiding crowds and shops etc to avoid covid and not being able to exercise outdoors for such long stretches of time, I noticed an impact on my mood but even more so on my neurological functioning. I’ve been actively fighting back against that, but it hasn’t been easy and I’m finally starting to feel I’m turning the corner.

Anyway, please stay tuned as I have more walks to come. Meanwhile, have you been on any interesting walks lately? I’d love to hear from you and put a few links in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Reflections in the pond.

Happy Easter Weekend Coffee Share- 18th April, 2022.

Wishing you a Happy and Blessed Easter and Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share! Easter was very low key and virtually non-existent at our place this year, because I fell at my daughter’s dance competition last Wednesday and for some reason haven’t been feeling right ever since in ways that go well beyond the sore foot.

Photo: Emily Stoddart Photography.

The dance competition was intense on steroids both in terms of how incredibly talented, moving and beautiful each and every ones of these dances was, but also in terms of the huge amount of physical and emotional energy it demanded from each of the dancers, their teachers and parents. Miss competed in seven dances I think, which really was a phenomenal effort especially when you factor all the costume changes and steps involved. It’s mind-blowing and I really don’t know how she does it, except she’s been doing it since she was three, and it is her absolute passion and calling. I doubt this is something you can even consider going into half-mast.

The life of a dancer is thwart. There are days where all your ducks line up andeverything goes your way. However, there are also times when it can completely fall apart, which we haven’t really experienced. While I’m a Christian, I still suspect there’s a Lord of the Dance out there too, who is either for or against you on the day. It’s almost like you need to leave a burnt offering on the altar outside when you go in. Well, of course, I didn’t do that, but I did pray that she would come first before she did her classical ballet solo with her new tutu and routine. I wrote a note to myself: Is it wrong to pray for your daughter to come first with her ballet solo? The other dance mums I conferred with thought it was fine, and were equally enthusiastic to see her perform, which was absolutely delightful and made my day. There’s inexpressible joy, but it can get a bit foreboding, and I can’t even begin to describe what goes through your mind while you’re sitting there. However, her dance went beautifully and she won. She has won other sections before, but this meant so much more. She was competing in the open section which is the highest level, but what it meant was that she’s on track for reaching her dream of becoming a ballerina. It was a resounding: “YES!!!” (although she still has such a long way to go!!)

Of course, I was proud. However, my overriding emotion was relief and pure joy!

BY the way, I drew on my years of supporting my daughter’s dance efforts, to write my 100 word weekly contribution to Friday Fictioneers: Last Flight of the Swans: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2022/04/13/last-flight-of-the-swans-friday-fictioneers-13th-april-2022/

However, somehow this ridiculously compulsive book addict managed to make it to the the local Pearl Beach Book Sale on Saturday. Trust me. For a book addict like yours truly, it’s up there on a temptation level right alongside a chocolate shop. Moreover, since all the Easter eggs had virtually sold out by Thursday according to my husband, feasting on books it is.

The other drawcard about this Pearl Beach Book Sale is that the books are top notch. Pearl Beach is a rather exclusive retreat, and attracts a lot of creative people, who seem to have great taste in reading material. I arrived mid-afternoon, and I don’t know how much the books were at the outset, but I was paying $2.00 each. Of course, this was an absolute steal. So, it didn’t make too much sense to be too selective. It was more a case of fill a box, another box, and while you’re thinking about it, why don’t you fill this one too. The irony of all this was that I’m actually in the process of seriously downsizing our book collection, and the boot of the very same car I drove to the book sale, was full of books I’m planning to drop off for the next book sale at the local PCYC.

Another issue is that I am not a voracious book reader. I read a lot doing my history research. However, that’s mainly involved old newspapers online. I also read blog posts. I also do a few Bible studies and try to read my Bible daily. So, it’s not like I’m not reading at all. I’m just not one of those people who polish off a couple of novels a week. Geoff was doing that without any dramas when he was commuting to work on the train. However, he’s been working from home for the last two years. So, he’s reading has dropped off a lot. He’s just finished reading a Harlan Coben novel: Hold Tight. Have you read it? We’ve been making our way through a few TV series based on his novels. I mostly love them, although there was one that I felt had too much violence, and was just too seedy. I managed to pick up another Harben Coben at the book sale: Just One Look.

Meanwhile, we didn’t really celebrate Easter. I haven’t been well since my fall last week, and my dad had surgery last week and we thought we’d leave it a week or two. Yesterday, was also my brother’s 50th birthday and he didn’t mind when we got together. However, I did spend last night going through my photos and fishing him out. I might actually manage to get this photo attempt printed up.

Anyway, I hope you and yours had a Happy and blessed Easter.

Love and blessings,

Rowena

All dance photos were taken by Emily Stoddart Photography.

Weekend Coffee Share 10th January, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, I am going to launch off the New Year with a huge philosophical question: why do I always leave writing my coffee share posts down to the last second where I’m racing the clock and nearly missing out by a hair’s breadth?

This sums up 2022 so far and may look familiar to friends of Max the Dog.

I don’t know. Indeed, now more than ever, I have no excuse. The air is covid soup out there, and so I’m either at home or walking around in nature, although I must confess I went to the opportunity shop last week albeit wearing a mask and avoiding all human contact because right now we know EVERYONE has the plague, even if they haven’t fully appreciated it themselves. I guess that also includes me, and my cough, but I always have that so it would be hard to know. Although I’m triple vaccinated and take my daily dose of 1000mg vitamin C, I fully expect to KNOW if and when I get covid on account of my crappy lungs.

Anyway, I’ve become so distracted that I’m distracted from my distractions, and even spent two days entering my family history stuff into Wikitree like a woman possessed. To be honest, I can’t really explain it, but there I was populating cyberspace with all these people who were strangely represented by little Lego people in my head and their little Lego city started out as Surry Hills and Paddington in urban Sydney, and spread out over the Blue Mountains to a place called Rylstone near Orange. It’s a place I’ve never heard of before but it was interesting reading the little newspaper clippings I came across about their life out on the farm there, especially after they’d come out from Ireland.

In a sense it’s not surprising that my need for people interaction, family and friends has become rather warped when I’m an extrovert living underground. We just had Christmas at home with the four of us and were even counting the three dogs this year. Yes, that means there were actually seven of us for lunch and almost enough to constitute a “party”. My parents decided not to attend the big family Christmas to be on the safe side, and by the end of me trying to convinced them to go, Dad won out and we stayed away too. I couldn’t be sure our kids didn’t have it, and I didn’t want Dad’s siblings who are mostly over 70 catching it and going down badly.

However, we made our own day, and we razzled things up a bit with a genuine German Gingerbread House from our local German bakery, and we went driving around looking at the Christmas lights. These were people’s houses so mostly they weren’t as spectacular as what Natalie had to share from Toronto, but there were a few houses that really made a valiant effort. Indeed, they were completely over the top in a way that had to be be seen close up to be fully appreciated.

Not only did we cancel attending the big family Christmas, we also cancelled our annual family holiday to Byron Bay to see Geoff’s sister at Nureybar two doors down from Liam Hemsworth btw. We couldn’t be sure that we wouldn’t be taking covid with us and that area is heavily anti-vax and into natural therapies and it really didn’t feel like it was going to be a true holiday. That we’d be having to be so vigilant, we were better off at home. However, we will take a rain check.

So what with going without the big family Christmas and the holiday to Byron Bay, it sounds like we’ll soon be wearing hessian sackcloth and truly going without. Some would say there’s growth and something strangely cleansing about all of this. You know, leading the simple life and all that. I’m not so sure. I get onto that devil of envy Facebook and see friends smiling away and having real holidays. Am I smiling back at them? What you you reckon? I haven’t stayed away from Facebook completely but it’s definitely not my friend right now.

Meanwhile, outside beckons. Not in a pleasant way though. It’s telling me to go for a walk. Exercise. That’s wonderful when I get there. However, it’s rather cosy at home in the air-conditioning and it’s muggy out. You can almost see the steam rising off the lawn. There’s good reason to go into a sort of comatosed limbo right now and wake up in March when it’s not so hot, muggy, and this covid peak they’re promising is gone. I can go into a crowded room of friends again with a mask and smile, hug and drink champagne without keeling over dead.

So, I’m probably not the best entertainment right now. However, I can recommend a good book. I loved reading Amanda Lohrey’s: The Labyrinth, and I’ve started reading Kay Warren’s: Choose Joy. I really should’ve been delving into that, because I’m been choosing to grumble instead. Well, grumble might be understating things a little but you get my drift.

Anyway, Geoff and I have been going on quite a few walks and even a trip to the Mt Penang Parklands, although the photos are still on my phone and in the pipeline, as the saying goes.

Well, I have to admit I’m proud of myself. I’ve been typing like crazy against the clock and thought that my hour was up but I still have 45 minutes to go. Well, of course, I still need to add a few photos and pretty it up a bit. I’ll even add a few links. Gee, you’re going to get all the bells and whistles now when I thought I might need to cut it short and come back later to finish it up.

This means I can now share my top ten songs for transitioning from 2021 to 2022:

I also shared a few insights into what Christmas 1921 was like after such a strange and challenging couple of years. Of course, we think we’re badly off and the world’s never known anything like this before, even though we’ve all heard of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919 and there was something about two world wars as well. However, why let truth get in the way of a good story? Anyway, I shared a letter English-Australian author Ethel Turner, wrote to Australian children in 1921 and a fundraising drive she organised, while also writing a post setting the political and cultural context. Our 2021 wasn’t so bad after all.

Anyway, I have vowed to be more organised next week. Actually do my Weekend Coffee Share on the weekend instead of Monday afternoon Sydney time.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Like Your Life Depends On It: Life Lessons from Dancing

Another great jolt to pursue our passions! xx Rowena

Fot some reason, this didn’t reblog properly so here’s a link through to the original post: https://sirenatales.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/like-your-life-depends-on-it-life-lessons-from-dancing-2/

Carpe diem seize the day all!

xx Rowena

Sirena Tales

The gifted, generous choreographer and dancer Robert Battle was spurring us to dig deeper in performing the movement phrase he had just taught us. Although I took his classes years ago, I can still feel the thrill of hearing him urge that “when you dance, you should move as if your life depends on it!”

The drama and sweep of that statement have galvanized me on more than a few occasions. But I confess that it took awhile for me to appreciate just how far-reaching the ramifications are for Mr. Battle’s fabulous advice.

Photo: Essennelle Studios Photo: Essennelle Studios

I was reminded of this again yesterday as I was buying a book about dance at a lovely independent bookstore. When the young woman who had been helping me was ringing up the sale, she paused, and suddenly asked if I am a dancer? Yes! What kind of dance? Contemporary or modern.

Her face…

View original post 418 more words

So, You Used To Be A Dancer? Life Lessons From Dancing (Reprise)

You might be aware that I recently took up ballet again…albeit at an elementary level. I am absolutely loving it and thought you’d enjoy this encouragement to put on your dancing shoes! xx Rowena

Sirena Tales

NIK_5824Ask [yourself] what makes you come alive and go do it.  Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”~~Howard Thurman

Folks keep coming across my path, voicing their passions along with their regret in not pursuing those passions.  So, I am running this post from the archives again, with some new photos. The original post, with many generous, thoughtful comments, is here . 

Sure, I’ve already reblogged it, but since the yearning for a more vitalized life continues to come up so relentlessly, I am repeating this reminder: DO WHAT MAKES YOU COME ALIVE.

Not solely for dancers at all, this is for anyone who seeks a spur to vitalize.  This piece does also go out to the medical technician the other day who danced for 10 years and sorely misses it and the dance studio owner who confided that ceasing to dance for herself…

View original post 585 more words

William Blake On Joy & Suffering

Man was made for joy & woe;

And when this we rightly know,

Thro’ the world we safely go.

Joy & woe are woven fine,

A clothing for the soul divine.

William Blake From “Auguries of Innocence”.

Featured image:

“When the Morning Stars Sang Together”

[Book of Job, no. 14]

ca. 1804–7
Pen and black ink, gray wash, and watercolor, over traces of graphite
11 x 7 1/16 inches (280 x 179 mm)

 

The DNA of Happiness

As I explained before, I am slowly making my way through the Proust Questionnaire, a tool commonly used by writers for character development. It’s become my goal to work my way through this list a question at a time, preparing for a motivational memoir that I’m working on.

While some of the questions don’t require a huge amount of thought, the first question is a really, thought-provoking challenge:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Now, perhaps, I could’ve simply taken this question at face value and just jotted a few things down.

However, why get straight to the point when you can procrastinate and turn a simple question into a journey?

So, I’ve taken this opportunity to explore the DNA of Happiness.

What actually makes us happy and when you think about being happy, what sort of images come to mind?

Not the “I’ll be happy when…” but the real stuff. What has brought you the greatest, personal happiness?

Or, to put it another way, “What have been the happiest days of your life?”

I wonder if they look anything like mine?

Our Wedding Day....The Happiest Day of My Life. I smiled so much, my face hurt!

Our Wedding Day….The Happiest Day of My Life. I smiled so much, my face hurt!

“Happiness is a vine that takes root and grows within the heart, never outside it.”

― Kahlil Gibran

I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.
Martha Washington

The Arrival of Our Little Man...I couldn't take my eyes off him!

The Arrival of Our Little Man…I couldn’t take my eyes off him!

What does it mean to be happy?”
One kid declared:”If I have a million dollars in the bank, I’ll be happy.” Another announced:”If I’m number one in my chosen profession, I’ll be happy. But I won’t settle for number two.”
The discussion continued with comments in a similar vein. All agreed that money, success, and achievement would make them happy. Not one of these seventeen and eighteen year old kids talked about love, children, relationships, marriage, community or friends. Which made me wonder: When your resume is perfect, how does your soul feel? …If we can buy big houses and powerful cars, we may be able to achieve the illusion of security, but it is still just an illusion. If we do well at school or work, we may get a sense of accomplishment but there will always be a something more to accomplish- happiness will always be around the corner.
Real security only comes when we are comfortable with who we are (and the feeling is enhanced when we are in a relationship where there is mutual love and understanding. Real happiness is a by-product of a life well lived.

Letters to Sam– Daniel Gottlieb

Bringing Miss home from hospital.

Bringing Miss home from hospital.

True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Celebrating my Second Birthday with Teddy (my parents don't like to appear on my blog).

Celebrating my Second Birthday with Teddy (my parents don’t like to appear on my blog).

Giving to other people is what makes me feel alive. Not my car or my house. Not what I look like in the mirror. When I give my time, when I can make someone smile after they were feeling sad, it’s as close to healthy as I ever feel.”

Morrie…Tuesday’s With Morrie, Mitch Albom.

Graduation from the University of Sydney in 1992.

Graduation from the University of Sydney in 1992.

Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it- then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult, no longer matters.”
M.Scott Peck: The Road Less Travelled.

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.

-Aeschylus (Quoted by Robert F. Kennedy in his Eulogy to Martin Lurther King.4th April, 1968.)

Overseas Travel. Pictured here in Florence, Italy.

Overseas Travel. Pictured here in Florence, Italy.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.”
“On Joy and Sorrow” Kahlil Gibran

Performing My Poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop, Paris 1992.

Performing My Poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop, Paris 1992.

Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
John Keats: “Ode to Melancholy”.

What with all this pondering about happiness and also its inter-relationship with sorrow, I thought I’d better start reading what seemed a pretty good authority on the nature of happiness…”The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C Cutler. Although I am only up to page 75, this book really is well worth reading.

The Dalai Lama basically states that: “The purpose of our existence is to seek happiness.” This happiness can be achieved through training the mind. Underlying all the Dalai Lama’s methods, there is a set of basic beliefs that act as a substrate for all his actions: a belief in the fundamental gentleness and goodness of all human beings, a belief in the value of compassion, a belief in the policy of kindness, and a sense of commonality among all living creatures.”

In terms of how to train the mind, the Dalai Lama says:
“When we speak of this inner discipline, it can of course involve many things, many methods. But generally speaking, one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this,one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to happiness.”

Christmas brings a lot of happiness....and also heartache.

Christmas brings a lot of happiness….and also heartache.

Yet, despite getting all philosophical, perhaps happiness really is as simple as this:

“Happiness is a warm puppy”- Charles Schultz.

Bilbo as a pup.

Bilbo as a pup.

I’m sure Bilbo would agree!

xx Rowena

PS I should mention that while I’ve been researching happiness, I’ve come down with serious bronchitis. Today, I was back to the doctor and given a powerful combination of two antibiotics and am on the nebuliser every 2 days during the day. If this doesn’t work, I’m off to hospital tomorrow afternoon. Although my health isn’t great, I am happy and content.

Why is this so?

Perhaps, because my ongoing health battles have made me quite conscious of seizing the day and what matters. For me, that’s my family, my writing, being part of community, my faith, getting out with the dogs and walking along the beach in the sun, photography, playing my violin. I am living my life to the very fullest. Things could be better. Could be worse but I’ve worked through all that and really do have a strong sense of hope that I am going to keep winning this ongoing battle.

-+

Happy New Year

Drawing smiley faces in sifted flour. Teaching the kids to make pizza inbetween Mummy’s chemo sessions Jan 2014.

I was still going through our photos putting a slide show together for 2014, when I revisited this smiley face our daughter drew in the freshly sifted flour.

Naturally, I love it.

Not only because it is such a wonderful expression of childhood delight in the incredibly simple but when I revisited that photo today, I remembered the context. Miss drew that smiley face in the middle of my chemo treatments last year.

You see, making pizza was the first of my “structured” efforts to teach the kids how to cook a meal. As you could appreciate, this wasn’t some sort of preparation for when they move out in 10 or 50 years time and making them self-sufficient. Rather, it was about there immediate here and now. They needed to learn how to feed our family.

Sure, you go into chemo with a positive attitude but seriously as a parent, you do need to consider the what ifs and not just leave your family in the lurch. This is what I and others call: “optimistic realism”. Like many of our cooking efforts, there was a lot of fun, humour and error in our efforts and we were cooking with somewhat “primitive” implements house minding a rather poorly equipped beach house.

Yet, both the pizza and the apple pie both turned out well in the end.

I now find this image very reassuring that our kids had fun and drew smiley faces even in the midst of what really were terrifying times for us all. It gives me a great sense of relief, even though I know we’ve all been through the ringer as well.

You can read our original cooking pizza and apple pie post here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/day-3-yeast-pizza-from-scratch-and-quirky-apple-pie/

I would love to hear any of your stories of experiencing joy during a trial!

Best wishes for the New Year!

xx Rowena