“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.”
–John F. Kennedy
Courage comes in many forms. My breathing has been a bit strained lately, but I went for my first beach swim in over 12 months this afternoon. No glasses on, I was also literally blind as a bat, and I took Geoff down with me in case of all emergencies. None ensued.
By the way, Geoff didn’t go in. He’s a sailor, and for him “swimming is a fail”.
“The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides, and in its depths it has its pearls too.”
–Vincent Van Gogh
I have a love-hate relationship with swimming, which is hard to understand when you look at our beautiful beach, which is only 10 minutes walk away. Many would sell their right kidney to be able to spend their life at our beautiful local beach and be able to immerse themselves in that crystal clear, salty water which is sparkling in the luscious Summer sun. Then, there’s me who doesn’t like getting wet. Indeed, Geoff was in stitches watching me take eternity to even get my ankles wet. He did an impressive impersonation, which looked embarrassingly like an old lady and not a very gutsy one at that. However, it takes more than that to embarrass me. I might’ve been emerging from my “swim” with only the tip of my ponytail wet, but I did get wet.
Moreover, just to show off just a little, I found my way back to my towel. I swear I did, even though Geoff had seen me emerge from the water and had walked down to greet me.
Going to the beach brings back many treasured memories. While I didn’t live near the beach growing up, we drove down to Sydney’s Northern Beaches for day trips and rented a beach house for a week most years up at Wamberal or Avoca on the NSW Central Coast just North of Sydney, and not far from where we currently live. The waves could be pretty strong and I remember holding onto mostly my mother’s hand and feeling almost invincible. Holding onto Mum or Dad’s hand somehow seemed to save me from anything back then.
Our kids have only ever lived in our current home, and so they’ve always lived a stone’s throw from the beach. We’ve had some wonderful times going swimming, walking the dogs, having picnics with friends. It’s been really beneficial living right near the beach during covid with all that space and air around us, and not much in the way of crowds most of the time. It’s also been a real lifesaver.
Do you like swimming? Do you go to the beach? I’d love to hear from you.
What with living only 10 minutes walk from the beach, you’d think we’d be down there everyday trying to carpe diem seize the day – especially at the moment during the peak Summer holiday period, where even our dog is sunning herself for hours out in the midday sun. Indeed, this is when all the ring-ins descend on the beach like “plagues of locusts”, as though they own the place. Clearly, if the crowds are any indication, the beach is where we’re supposed to be (although social distancing, of course, this year!)
However, just because we live near the beach, doesn’t mean we don’t have to get on with the realities of life just like everyone else. There’s going to work, school, and our endless battle with trying to sort out, maintain and renovate our house and garden. On top of that, there are the personal crises which affect most families from time to time and despite all the advise to take time out for self-care, it’s very hard (at least for me) to fight my fixation on the problem and a need to get it sorted, which isn’t going to happen if I’m swanning down the beach.
Moreover, this Summer has been uncharacteristically cool, and we’ve also experienced frequent heavy rain. While there are some who still feel the need to get outside even in the rain (and they often have a dog or two in tow), I don’t like get wet at the best of times and being rained on is just plain yuck.
Yet, at the same time, there’s still been enough sunny days to at least encourage me to go for a swim, for Geoff and I to go for a walk, and maybe even the four of us to venture along the beach as a family. That is, if we could actually hit our teenagers over the head with a baseball bat so they don’t mind being seen down at the beach with mum and dad…HOW EMBARRASSING!!
Yet, sometimes, you just need to be forceful. Make it happen.
Finally, Geoff and I actually made if over to Patonga Beach, a 15 minute drive away, and walked along the beach and rocks together where we could soak up each other’s company, and also immerse ourselves in such natural beauty. I really love walking along the rocks, and even though I’m now 51 and have well and truly outgrown my spade and bucket, I still remember going exploring through the rockpools with my dad as a kid, and my incredible delight at finding little crabs and shells. Indeded, even now, exploring the rocks reminds me Keats’ immortal poem: On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies When a new planet swims into his ken; Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men Look’d at each other with a wild surmise— Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
What really struck me about visiting the rock platform at Patonga, was the swirling pattern in the rocks. As Geoff pointed out, the swirls were created as the sandstone was being deposited, seemingly by the ocean currents. We don’t know. We’re not geologists, but we do have inquiring minds. So, if any of you are any wiser and know how these swirls got into the rock, we would love to know.
I have spent years climbing over rocks at the beach. Back when my parents used to have a place at Whale Beach, I used to spend hours down there by the myself, and I’d go down on to the rocks and watch the furious encounters between land and sea. I’d sit on this massive rock, which jutted out into the waves like a mini headland and the waves crashed out the front and swooshed up the side. It was very spectacular, and I almost felt consumed by the ocean, I was that close.
I almost always walk over the rocks in bare feet. Of course, it feels very footloose and fancy-free. Indeed, feeling the sensation of the rough sandstone underfoot, the discomfort of stepping onto those pokey blue periwinkle shells which jab into your feet, is such a sensory experience. It’s just not the same in shoes where your feet can’t see, feel or even breathe it all in. it is as real as real can be especially with the sea breeze slapping your hair into your face. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind at all. I’m fully and completely alive.
It’s interesting too, because each beach is unique. They might look similar, but each and every beach has its own fingerprint embedded in the sand and surf, and it’s own soul bellowing out through the waves and making its presence felt. You can even drive from one beach to the next around here, and the motion of the waves, the action and intensity of the surf, and the nature of the rocks all vary. You could never get bored. Or, at least you shouldn’t. There’s always so much to explore and absorb and it’s all different.
It’s not often Geoff and I go to the beach together. I’ll blame him for that. He goes sailing most Saturdays, and is more of a flat water soul. I enjoy going to the beach, but not when it’s really sunny and I’m likely to fry like an egg and just get burned. I also enjoy sailing, but more on my Dad’s bigger yacht or going out on the kayak. I don’t know how to sail the laser myself.
The other trouble Geoff and I have is trying to find some spare time. Time is constantly going up in smoke, and although our kids are teenagers, they still take up a fair bit of time and emotional energy, and are more likely to need us spontaneously. Indeed, that’s why they have the mobile phones. It’s not so we can keep track of them. It’s so they can keep us on a constant leash…”Taxi!”
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
However, it’s also important for Mum and Dad to have time together and not just so-called “quality time”, which to me is the biggest cop out ever. From where I sit, it’s very hard to have true quality time if you don’t spend enough quantity time together. Indeed, there’s a lot to be said for just sitting a long side someone for awhile, and simply going fishing or going for a drive. By spending time together, you gain a sense of the whole person, and not just a series of disjointed snapshots. You can tell a few stories, and create a few as well. Indeed, being close to someone is being able to read them like a book. I don’t know about you, but when I read a book, I don’t just speed read from cover to cover. I usually read with a pen in hand and underline my favourite bits. Indeed, I also read in between the lines. After all, good writers don’t spell everything out for us in the text, especially when it comes to poetry. (Humph! No wonder I haven’t read many books lately!) WE have to go looking.
“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.” ― Anais Nin
Meanwhile, Geoff and I were looking at going out for dinner tonight. However, most of the local venues are closed tonight and the weather’s a bit blah. So, we’ve ordered takeaway instead. Now that the house is looking better, it’s much more relaxing to eat at home and we’ll head out for lunch when we’re in Newcastle tomorrow.
How to you juggle relaxation, relationships and the never-ending to-do list? Have you been for any great beach walks or activities lately? I’d love to hear from you!
Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share. How was your week? Hope it went well.
You’re in luck this week. I had a moment of weakness in the supermarket and bought a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates. So, you can help yourself to a golden nugget of pure scrumptious indulgence. Yum!
The last week disappeared while I was wrestling with our son over his subject choices for the last two years of school. Moreover, while preparing for that, I realized that we really need to get the house in order to help him get focused and organized. That was a rather dire realization, because our place was packed sky-high with towers of books, photo albums and homeless ephemera. After all, for him to achieve his best, this place not only needs to be a well-oiled, organized machine. It also needs to be an oasis of calm, where our swirling vortex of out-of-control student can crash and immediately find inner peace. Of course, this process goes a lot more smoothly when the parents are exceptionally Zen (in your dreams!!)
Now, that I’ve actually thought this through further now, it’s finally hit me that I’m trying to create utopia. That a home isn’t a factory, and a family isn’t made up of exceptionally well-controlled test subjects or computer-generated characters who only do what they’ve been programmed to do. Unfortunately, families are made up of real people each with their own inner worlds and aspirations and it’s a bit much to ask anyone to put all of that on hold for two years, although a degree of self-sacrifice is to be expected.
The other thing is, that no amount of prayer or feverishly tinkering away with life, is going to protect us from fate. Good and bad things happen and just because he’s doing his HSC, we can’t give him some sort of vaccination against adversity and bad luck. Moreover, to be honest, I don’t know that I would want to either. I’d rather he developed resilience within from fighting his battles, and not succeeding in the short term because he took the easy way out. We also have our Christian faith, but I don’t believe God has promised to protect us from adversity. He’s just promised to be there with us through life’s ups and downs. However, I still have faith in the power of prayer.
That said, I still see glaring examples of the things I do for our son, rather than leaving him to do them for himself. Most of these are those relatively small things around the house, but they do add up. I did leave him to hand in some school notes, which have been in his bag for awhile, but they made it in today…yippee!! Miracles do happen!
I’m looking at working on two main areas to help him get organized at home. Firstly, I’ve been on a cleaning rampage. Focusing on all the stacks of books teetering on just about any flat surface around the house, I’ve already dropped off a boot load of books and another pile is mounting. These books have also accumulated a lot of dust. So, moving them on is good for our health as well. Once I’ve got through the books, the photo albums are next on the agenda. As an enthusiastic amateur photographer, the photo albums are also everywhere, and I also have loads of old family photos as well. However, I’ve started scanning more of them in and then I can store the bulk of them in the roof. Have some room to move. The other area I’m working on is our time management and keeping tabs on all the appointments. We’ve missed a few things on at the school, and that’s had repercussions. So, it’s pretty important, especially next year when students get a zero for a late assessment, unless there’s a rock solid excuse and I’m talking about something akin to an alibi.
However, although I sound particularly fired up, I’ve actually been struggling at half-mast. It’s the tail end of Winter here and virtually everybody’s fighting something off. I’ve been sleeping through most of the day and then getting a burst of energy after dinner and staying up too late and the terrible cycle repeats. However, I have a busy day tomorrow so this could be the turning point which will get me back into a good routine. Being the perpetual optimist, I live in hope.
However, it hasn’t been all responsibility during the last week. I’ve also been reading Charles Dickens’: Oliver Twist and have made it halfway. I’m really enjoying it, although poor Oliver’s trials and tribulations are rather intense and pulls at my heartstrings. He’s really happy at the moment and away from Fagan and his darstardly crew for the second time, but things have been too good for too long. I know his luck is about to turn again. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. It is fairly quick-paced and there’s a good amount of philosophical reflection throughout, which I enjoy and Dickens is famed for his well-developed characters. They really come to life.
Meanwhile, our daughter spent much of the week away snow skiing down at Perisher-Smiggins in the Australian Alps. She had a ball. Haven’t seen any photos yet.
Have you been doing any reading lately?
What about your writing? How is that going?
In terms of post through the last week, there was:
“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”
– Sarah Kay
It’s a tough life living near the beach here on Australia’s East coast just North of Sydney. Although the mercury might plummet to single figures, it doesn’t stay there for long and the sun can be absolutely glorious. Indeed, during the last week, it’s been perfect.
Umina Beach, NSW.
“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.”
After spending a few days indoors with our daughter competing in the local dance eisteddfod and our son performing in the annual Scout and Guides’ Gang Show, I was busting to get outside, spread my wings and soak up that balmy sunshine.
Even seaweed on the beach can take on a magnificent beauty and I loved its jagged shadow.
These photos were taken over two beach walks this week. On Friday I went by myself for some much needed solitude. Not necessarily that sitting on a rock all by myself type of solitude, but definitely not having to worry about dogs pooping or lunging at other dogs who for reasons unexplained seem to press the growl button not an enthusiastic wag of the tail. I didn’t have to wait for anyone else to get dressed or find a missing shoe either. Rather, I could simply get in my car and go.
A lone photographer on the beach…
“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”
As much as I simply love going to the beach enjoying it at face value, at times I also push myself to squeeze in a beach walk to de-stress, raise my heart rate or improve my overall well-being.
Today, our daughter asked if she could come with me, which was great because she’s competed in a dance eisteddfod during the week and has her grade six ballet exam in three weeks and more phenomenal stress there, along with the final preparations. Getting out of the house, out of the studio and onto the beach and expanding your horizons across the vastness of ocean which extends off as far as New Zealand or even South America. Isn’t that incredible!
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”
I love photographing shadows down on the beach. They’re so intriguing and distort as the sun nears toward sunset which is when I usually manage to get there. Shadows are also mysterious, enigmatic, and alluring. They’re not just something you accidentally capture in your photo which needs to be Photoshopped out. The other thing about these shadows, is that for users of real cameras and not phones posing as cameras, shadows are our take on the selfie. otherwise, I still need to stop a complete stranger to take our photo and I don’t feel entirely happy about handing my camera over especially when I take my glasses off and I couldn’t even see them make a run for it.
“A human being is only breath and shadow.”
Another favourite subject of my beach photography is the seagull. Although I’ve probably overloaded my hard drive with seagull photos, I keep taking them. As annoying as they are, I love seagulls.
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”
When you take a closer look at these photos, you’ll see that our beach is surrounded by bush and is relatively untouched and natural. You can walk down the beach during the week and only run into a few dog walkers and virtually have the entire stretch of beach to yourself even in Summer. It makes me wonder why anyone would ever compete to find enough space to stretch out their towel among the multitudes.
Anyway, reality bites and I’d better get dinner into the pie machine and onto the table. It’s a cruel world, but Masterchef finals week starts in ten minutes so I’d better get a move on.
Jonathan Livingstone Seagull wasn’t in the mood for mindfulness, meditation or even having some kind of a chat down at the beach this morning. Usually, he’s quite happy to pose philosophically and even stands statue-still for the camera as though he’s had a bit of modeling experience. However, this morning he was either out to carpe diemseize the day or might’ve been late for an important date further down the beach. On the other hand, perhaps, he was simply trying to raise his heart rate after absorbing more of my physio’s wisdom than I (who was slowly wondering along the beach absorbing life through the lens).
You’ll also notice that a bit of a breeze was ruffling his feathers. It was a brisk 17°C down there today, which might have some of you leaping for joy shouting “Summer!” However, that’s considered cold here. That said, over the last couple of days the weather’s been awful with temperatures around 9°C, chilling winds and rain. Of course, these near blizzard conditions forced many frost-bitten locals to rug up and stay home, especially of the teenage variety. So, with the sun back out and the mercury rising, the whingeing Aussies were back out singing the Alleluia Chorus.
“Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect. –
And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at
the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t
have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”
I’m pleased I snatched a few moments away from my research to get outside and stretch my wings. I’ve lost myself somewhere in between the lines over the last couple of months and am slowly recalibrating myself for a marathon, not a sprint, on the book project. Darn it. I want to get something finished. Published. Done and dusted. Grr. Could I possibly write a book about trying to write a book? Would it take off? I’m getting desperate.
However, in the meantime, it’s good for the soul to get out there, inhale the ocean air and the beauty all around me and return to the present for a bit. After all, I’m sure it’s quite possible to get buried alive in the past and that doesn’t sound good.
Thought I’d better show you the bigger picture. Ocean Beach on a beautiful day.
What do you do to relax and unwind while working on a bit writing or creative project? After all, all writing and no unwinding makes for a wrung-out soul. Indeed, we do have our casualties.
Welcome to the Mt Penang Parklands, North of Sydney and about 20 minutes drive up the hill from my place.
I ended up here by default today after dropping my daughter off at a dance audition callback next door. It was such glorious, sunny Autumn day, that I packed my camera and headed off to the park for a walk. Of course, with that combination I was hardly expecting to raise my heart rate or even get close to 1000 steps. However, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?!!
Since the majority of you live overseas, I thought I’d better give you a quick rundown on Autumn in the “Australian bush”, as we call it. The majority of Australian trees aren’t deciduous, which means we don’t have the intensity of Autumn colours that you get in some parts overseas. Indeed, the bush stays pretty much the same shade of green all year round. In many ways, that’s a shame. After all, Autumn leaves are nature’s stained-glass windows and they’re absolutely magnificent, glowing in their splendor against a bright blue sky. Yet, we Aussies are proud as punch of our gum trees with their distinctive scent of Eucalyptus. Indeed, the gum tree is one of our greatest Australians. For so many of us who have travelled, it has always meant home.
While there weren’t any Autumn leaves in the park itself, there were some liquid amber and plane trees on the walk there, which soon captivated the lens. They’re so beautiful and a dazzling kaleidoscope of colour. I also love watching individual leaves dangle from the very edge of a twig, as their brilliant, desiccated colours flicker in the wind before drifting in a captivating twirl down to earth. I picked up a handful and brought them home. Of course, it’s not the same as seeing them outside in the sun, but now I have a touch of Autumn at home.
Despite being dazzled by the Autumn colours, I was soon struck by the lone gum tree featured at the start of this post. Somehow, as it drew me into its orbit, time slowed right down and the big, wide world slipped away as I spotted a black ant making it’s way up the trunk. Like all teeny black ants, it seemed overly ambitious trying to make its way up to the top, which must have been the ant equivalent of climbing Everest. Moreover, since this tree was covered in bumps or some kind of “tree pox” after a rugged invasion by bugs, it would be a particularly rugged journey for an ant. I don’t know whether it was just me, but none of that registered from a distance, and it was only once I’d moved in closer, that its story became manifest. By the way, this bumpy surface is by no means typical of gum trees. This tree has had a exceptionly bad run. Indeed, it would be well within its rights to ask: “Why me?”
It’s funny how I fell for this quirky looking gum tree when the pond clearly takes centre stage.When I came here for a previous dance event, I’m sure there were flowering water lilies floating on the pond. I’d been researching Monet at the time and with a good dose of imagination, I could almost feel myself walking through Monet’s garden, especially when I closed my eyes.
However, when I went there today, the vegetation had died back and was looking unsightly, neglected and was literally begging to be pulled out. Indeed, it looked like the gardener had gone off on an extended “smoko”and I could’ve pull them out myself given half a chance. However, when I got up close, it turned out these dead-looking plants were actually habitat. Indeed, there were five Dusky Moorhens (a species of water bird) in there. Goes to show how we need to view the environment through fresh eyes, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who would’ve destroyed their home due to my own misguided perceptions of beauty. Well, as they say, you learn something new every day.
Anyway, that’s enough about trees. Let’s talk about flowers.
While there weren’t a lot of flowers in the parklands, there were some remarkable beauties. There were two different species of Banksia. There was Banksia Integrifoliawith its huge, leathery green leaves and cone-shaped flower and also Banksia Spinulosa, whose flowers look like glowing, golden candlesticks.
Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the names of the other flowers. So, that’s enough of trying to name stupid flowers. These can be the “red” and “yellow” flowers. I don’t know why somehow else didn’t come up with that? Genius!
After all of this, what more could I ask for?
Well, on a different tangent entirely, the Chrysler Car Club was having a day out and there was a fascinating line up of vehicular temptation…dare I say lust?!! It was also rather quirky seeing all these old classics out en masse and I loved it. Retro is my middle name.
My favourite was a hot red Plymouth named after the Steven King horror movie classic: Christine. That car was hot! Hot! Hot! I definitely had a severe case of red car envy. That said, if I see that car lurking in the local streets, I’m out of here. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Well, that about covers my trip to the Mt Penang Parklands. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Have you been on any photographic walks lately? Where did you end up? I’d love to hear from you and please leave your links in the comments.
PS Our daughter’s audition callback went well and she will be appearing in Swan Lake later this year.
The beach was literally littered with seaweed on my walk today. This was so exceptional, that I had to give this photo a post all of its own.
I’ve seen underwater forests of kelp down off the Victorian coast around the famous surf spot, Bell’s Beach. The carp you see on the beach down there is huge and rather luscious lying there in the sun casting magnificent shadows on the sand. These were still beautiful but their eye-catching appeal was seeing hundreds of seaweed clumps scattered on a usually bare beach.
“I hate you!” Alice screeched at her parents. She might’ve been difficult, but she wasn’t stupid. She knew this was another attempt to force her to “self-calm”, as the therapist put it. They’d tried everything…mediation, relaxation, mindfulness, yoga. Yet, instead of bringing inner peace, they’d only fueled an endless, inner rage. She had to scream. Smash something. Carve a stream into her arm to let the tension out.
This time, they let her run. After all, there was nothing more to say. Yet, they still clung onto a completely irrational hope, that somehow their only beloved daughter would find her way back out of the darkness and into the light.
My humble apologies for going over the word limit. I don’t know why Dale’s beautiful photo prompted such despair in my piece this week. However, I’ve never been good at meditation or sitting still.
Last weekend, I mentioned that I was reading Raphaelle Giordano’s: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One. I’d first spotted it at Gleebooks while on holidays at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains West of Sydney. I don’t know why I bought this book. It was positioned in a huge stack right next to the register in prime real estate “look at me!!!” territory. It was also set in Paris. Then, the cover boasted that over 2 million French readers had loved it.Clearly, this book was going to be the next big thing, even if I hadn’t heard of it yet. For once, I was going to be ahead of the pack.
However, being somewhat restrained, I waited til I arrived home and headed to our local bookshop, Book Bazaar. Of course, I couldn’t remember anything about it other than the colour…a delicious shade of musk pink. Well, at least that was the colour of the title. Oh yes…it was a French novel. Thank goodness Mandy is good at cryptic puzzles. Clutching my book in my fingertips, I was off on a virtual trip to Paris.
I don’t know whether you’ve ever considered this, but buying a book is always a bit of a mystery. A leap of faith. A stab in the dark. Even when you’ve heard raving reviews and its been loved and adored by the masses and has even been elevated to the best seller lists, that’s still no guarantee it’s going to touch, inspire or even prod you.
So, I shouldn’t be surprised that with a title like: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One, that I might be set for some kind of transformation. Moreover, now that Winter’s evolving into Spring, that I might even be set for a metamorphosis. Indeed, I’m no longer reading the book as a novel. Rather, it’s turned into a challenge. As the main character documents her visits to Claude a routinologist (whatever that is…), he provides her with a series of accumulating steps towards finding fulfillment. Described as a “third world problem”, her life is the epitomy of happiness and success on the outside, yet feels hollow and empty inside. She isn’t satisfied.
I didn’t buy this book because I’m not satisfied. Rather, I bought it because it was a French novel set in Paris. I spent six weeks in Paris in 1992 after finishing university and I like reflecting back on my time there, despite going through an existential crisis and the horrors of the “Paris dumper” (named after a Sydney band and I believe it was their lead singer who had a similar experience. As I’ve said before no one ever tells you that the city of love, is also the epicentre of heartbreak and despair. Indeed, in hindsight, I no longer wonder why there are so many bridges in Paris…
Anyway, I decided to follow the steps outlined in the book and see where they lead me. I had no great expectations. Indeed, I had none at all. After all, as I said, I wasn’t dissatisfied with my life. However, I had the feeling that I should be. That I should be bothered that I haven’t been in paid employment since I had chemo five years ago. That I should feel panic stricken that I haven’t edited my book “manuscripts” and got something out there. That pouring my heart and soul into so much research was an utter waste of time and a symptom of some kind of deep seated mental health issue which should be drawn out from the depths and slayed like the proverbial dragon. How could I be content when my life was up shit creek without a paddle, especially when I’ve always been a very driven person? Perhaps, that was just as worthy of exploration and change. Surely, I couldn’t possibly be happy when my life didn’t tick most of the boxes. Indeed, I’d ticked a few of those boxes you are supposed to avoid at all costs such as living with a severe life threatening illness. Actually, make that two.
Perhaps, I just didn’t realize I wasn’t happy with the status quo. That somehow I found enjoyment selling sausages at the scout fundraising BBQ at our local Bunnings hardware store. That I found pleasure in spotting a red rose just leaning into view through the window behind my desk. The window itself had an enormous cobweb so I wasn’t even looking at a perfect rose. It was rose through the cobwebs and in my deluded state, I found that even more alluring. I loved that juxtaposition of opposites…the comedy. I had made peace with my imperfect life and didn’t feel compelled to fetch the broom. Perhaps, I’d given up.
So, I stated writing the points out from the book on post it notes. Two post it notes:
You are responsible for your own happiness.
Throw out 10 useless objects.
If you looked around me, you’d say that I’d have no trouble throwing out 10 useless objects. Indeed, I could throw out, or re-home thousands of objects and never hit the sides. However, it’s not the last step that’s the most difficult. It’s the first. Of course, I could throw away 10 useless bobby pins which weren’t taking up any space whatsoever. However, wouldn’t that be cheating? Shouldn’t I be thinking about the spirit of the challenge and actually making a noticeable change to my external environment? Personally, I didn’t view this as over-thinking, but a case of being more conscious about my actions. I gather ten things into a crate and they hit the bin. I crossed the task off my list. And yet…
Somehow this desire for more space was addictive. I needed more real estate.
However, to create more space, you need to have somewhere to put things.
You also need to have discipline in addition to those create flights of fancy which have created the teetering stacks of books, paperwork and miscellaneous detritus which have fluttered onto my desk and built a nest.
It’s going to take a lot more than a line from a book to reform my desk but I am serious about it. Somehow I’m going to conquer.
PS When they said to throw ten things out, they didn’t mention anything about not bringing new stuff into the house. I don’t know how this happened, but we were driving back from the Scout camp yesterday and we spotted a sign outside a farm which said FREE. We had no idea what it was and thought it was most likely oranges or manure. However, there were bags and bags of books. We started going through them and it was a bonanza…an entire collection of Sci Fi, which my husband snapped up. Have no idea where all these books are going to live but they’ve certainly dumbfounded my quest for more space!
There’s a fine line between madness and genius. Indeed, I’m currently feeling like the madness side of the equation has taken hold of my brain, but sadly I’m missing the genius component. I know what I’m wanting to say, and yet my brain’s stuttering and I can’t quite get the story out. Meanwhile, Monet, the man who is rattling my brain, was a mixture of the two. Moving into his twilight years, Monet was a man not only possessed by his water lilies, but was also trying to create what could well have been his greatest gift to humanity.Yet, afflicted by failing eyesight and chronic self-doubt, he was floundering. Indeed, he wrote to a friend that “Age and chagrin have worn me out. My life has been nothing but a failure, and all that’s left for me to do is to destroy my paintings before I disappear.” So, I’m hoping that you’ll join me on another detour. One which could well be life-changing.
After visiting Monet’s stunning garden at Giverny, now we’re catching the train to Paris, where we’ll be meeting up at the Jardin de Tuilleries, not far from the Louvre. From there, we’ll be heading into the Gallerie de L’Orangerie to experience Monet’s incredible gift to the French nation and humanity…a spectacular series of water lily paintings. Monet gifted the paintings to the French nation on November 12, 1918, the day after Armistice and two days before his 78th birthday. Monet wasn’t only wanting to commemorate peace. He also wanted to create a peaceful place, where those shaken up by the war could rest their weary souls:
“You see, while shrapnel from mortars, grenades and, above all, artillery projectile bombs, or shells, accounted for an estimated 60 percent of the 9.7 million military fatalities of World War I, it was soon observed that many soldiers arriving at the casualty clearing stations who had been exposed to exploding shells, although clearly damaged, bore no visible wounds. Rather, they appeared to be suffering from a remarkable state of shock caused by blast force. This new type of injury, a British medical report concluded, appeared to be “the result of the actual explosion itself, and not merely of the missiles set in motion by it.” In other words, it appeared that some dark, invisible force had in fact passed through the air and was inflicting novel and peculiar damage to men’s brains.
The Gallerie de L’Orangerie explains his achievement:
“This unique set, a true “Sixtine of Impressionism”, in the words of André Masson in 1952, testifies to Monet’s later work. It was designed as a real environment and crowns the Water Lilies cycle begun nearly thirty years before. The set is one of the largest monumental achievements of early twentieth century painting. The dimensions and the area covered by the paint surrounds and encompasses the viewer on nearly one hundred linear meters which unfold a landscape dotted with water lilies water, willow branches, tree and cloud reflections, giving the “illusion of an endless whole, of a wave with no horizon and no shore” in the words of Monet. This unique masterpiece has no equivalent worldwide.”
It was in 1914, at the age of 74, when he had just lost his son and could see no hope for the future, that Monet felt a renewed desire to “undertake something on a grand scale” based on “old attempts”. In 1909, he had already told Gustave Geffroy that he wanted to see the theme of the water lilies “carried along the walls”. In June 1914, he wrote that he was “embarking on a great project”. This undertaking absorbed him for several years during which he was beset by obstacles and doubts, and when the friendship and support of one man proved decisive. This was the politician Georges Clemenceau. They met in 1860, lost touch, and met up again after 1908 when Clemenceau bought a property in Bernouville near Giverny. Monet shared Clemenceau Republican’s ideas, and we also know of Clemenceau’s keen interest in the arts. During the war, Monet continued his work alternately in the open air, when the weather was suitable, and in the huge studio that he had had built in 1916 with roof windows for natural light. On 12 November 1918, the day after the Armistice, Monet wrote to Georges Clemenceau: “I am on the verge of finishing two decorative panels which I want to sign on Victory day, and am writing to ask you if they could be offered to the State with you acting as intermediary.” The painter, therefore, intended to give the nation a real monument to peace. At this time, when it was still not certain where the decorative series was destined, it seems that Clemenceau managed to persuade Monet to increase this gift from just two panels to the whole decorative series. In 1920, the gift became official and resulted, in September, in an agreement between Monet and Paul Léon, director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, for the gift to the State of twelve decorative panels that Léon would undertake to install according to the painter’s instructions in a specific building. However, Monet, prey to doubt, continually reworked his panels and even destroyed some. The contract was signed on 12 April 1922 for the gift of 19 panels, but Monet, still dissatisfied, wanted more time to perfect his work. Clemenceau wrote to him in vain that year “you are well aware that you have reached the limit of what can be achieved with power of the brush and of the mind.” But, in the end, Monet would keep the paintings until his death in 1926. His friend Clemenceau then put everything into action to inaugurate the rooms for the Water Lilies in strict accordance with Monet’s wishes.http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/en/article/history-water-lilies-cycle
Unfortunately, I didn’t know about this exhibition when I was in Paris, and as I’ve mentioned before, with my love of expressionist art, I wasn’t as keen on Monet at the time. However, now I can just imagine what it would be like to stand in the middle of that room surrounded by Monet’s lilies and the deep sense of peace and serenity which must fill the room, as though Picasso’s dove of peace had built its nest in there. It feels like a miracle.
Have you ever been to the Gallerie de l’Orangerie? What was it like? How did it feel? I’d love to hear from people who’ve experienced the collection first hand!