Tag Archives: research

T – Time Management: Quotes A-Z Challenge.

“The common man is not concerned about the passage

of time, the man of talent is driven by it.”

Schopenhauer

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for writers and creatives.

I’m currently immersed in researching and writing a collection of biographical short stories ranging along the continuum between fiction and non-fiction. I thought this series of motivational quotes could be a great help to myself and other writers in the same boat who are busting a gut to get that book project done and dusted. However, contrary to my expectations, I’ve been going gang busters on the book and have needed more of a motivational cattle prod to get through the A to Z Challenge…even though I’m finding working on these quotes very informative.

Today, we’re catching up a little and finally reaching the letter T. For today’s quote, I’ve decided to go with time and in particular my dreaded nemesis… Time Management.

I’m addressing time management because so much of what it takes to get that 80,000 word book into print has nothing to do with sticking your head in the clouds and having your feet anywhere but planted on the earth. Yet, for those of us who are creative and very right-brained, dealing with the so-called business side of writing can be a struggle and something we avoid like the plague. Yet, when so many writers are having to juggle paid work, family commitments and the realities of survival, time management is particularly important. It’s the closest we can get to squeezing more hours into a day.

Dealing with distractions is a huge challenge for me. I’m married with two teenage kids, three dogs and we all live life to the full what with work, Church, school. My husband and son are both full on into sailing and our daughter dances upwards of 10 hours per week and has eisteddfods, performances and will be in the school production of Grease. Our son is now a Venturer in Scouts and will be performing in their Gang Show production. Yet, I’ve hunkered down researching and writing this book trying to understand what it’s like to live in any other era but my own. When I put it like this, writing my book seems madness, but most dreams do until they become reality. I need to get this book under my belt. Become a real writer instead of just a gunna-be.

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”

Benjamin Franklin

However, that all comes at a cost. After all, how on earth do you get those 80,000 plus words into print and manage to do it all? Be more than a face staring at a screen and all your family ever sees is the top of your head? Don’t even talk about friends! What are they? That’s the downside of being 100% focused on what truly is a massive goal.

Rosie and ball

Speaking of distractions, a mangled tennis ball has just been deposited on my keyboard and Miss Rosie Border Collie x Kelpie dog and her brother, Zac, are waiting. Two pairs of eyes, ears cocked waiting and occasionally editing as the ball strikes the keys.

It’s hard to concentrate.

It’s hard to know if anything is making sense anymore. I’ve been working on the book all day. Managed to walk the dog but still have a ballet shoe to sew up for tomorrow’s dance eisteddfod. I’m needing to divide myself up into such small portions that I’m not sure what’s left when the book demands so much. Can’t the dog just throw the ball to herself?

Are these questions you have also asked yourself somewhere along the way?

How do you find juggling writing your book with the demands of everyday life? Do you have any tips for success or simply surviving til the end? I’d love to hear from you and I’m sure there are many more like me. Please leave your thoughts and links in the comments below.

Best wishes & Good luck,

Rowena

 

R- Read…A-Z Challenge.

“Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.”

― Lisa See

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for Writers for the annual Blogging A-Z April Challenge. These quotes are particularly geared towards writers working on a large project such as writing a book and aim to help you reach the end of the tunnel.

It was a toss up between READ and RESEARCH today. However, they overlap quite a lot and since I’ve covered research elsewhere, read it is.

For me, reading fuels and refuels a writer. After all, if we keep pouring our words onto the page, we need to put something back. Of course, experience is also important but reading helps us to arrange and interpret these experiences in ways which will excite and entice the reader.

“The more that you read, the more things you will

know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll

go.”

― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

 

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than

the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”
Henry David Thoreau

“The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor. …
“[R]ead a lot, write a lot” is the great commandment.”
(Stephen KingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, 2000)

Best wishes,

Rowena

Q- Question…A-Z Challenge.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.

Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

-Albert Einstein

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for the A-Z April Challenge where I’m choosing a word for each letter of the alphabet and then finding corresponding quotes.

This process has become an adventure in itself, because I didn’t plan ahead and now I’m not only putting these together on the run, I’ve fallen behind. However, there is still honour in bringing up the rear. After, I’m in the process of catching NOT giving up.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the

answers are simple.”

Dr Suess

Personally, I believe that questioning is more important than knowledge and once we think we know everything there is to know about a subject, that we’ve condemned ourselves to ignorance. There is always what we don’t know we don’t know and that’s probably what we need to watch out for most.

When my kids were being taught to write at school, they were taught to ask the following questions (otherwise known as WWWWH):

Who?

What?

Where?

Why?

How?

Even though we might be well down the path from those early writers, as we’re getting caught up in the flow, creativity and showing off, I’ve still found it helpful to come back to these basics…Have I covered the WWWWH? After all, while we might know our story or subject, our readers aren’t mind readers and it can be all too easy to think we’ve communicated what our readers need to know, when in fact we haven’t. It’s still stuck in our head.

I am currently working on biographical short stories which fit somewhere on the spectrum between fiction and non-fiction. I not only need to cover the WWWH of each of these characters, but where they were in time and place and there’s no room for mistakes. It has to be right. No assumes or slacking off. So, asking questions is very important and I’m so grateful for Google and all the resources which are right at my fingertips without leaving home. Getting the answers is nowhere near as painful as it used to be back in the day. Indeed, we researchers are incredibly blessed.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 20th August, 2018.

Welcome to Another Coffee Share!

How are you? How was your week? My manners have improved this week, as I often launch into an animated diatribe about my week, without even thinking of you. While you could interpret that as “rude”, I’ll excuse myself by saying that I’m excited to catch up with you and I thought you might be interested in a few snapshots of Australian life. That’s one of the things I really love about our Weekend Coffee Share is gaining a more personal insight into what it’s life to live in an other country.

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Bushfire Viewed from Ettalong Beach, NSW.

After seeing some spectacular photos of the fires ravaging California and hearing horror stories of mass destruction and heartbreak, we had our own local  bush fire this week over at Killcare, North of Sydney and about a 15 minutes drive from here. I woke up one morning and feel a thick cloak of smoke immediately wrap around me, and there was a definite tightness and constriction in my lungs. I have about 55% lung capacity. So, the panic buttons went off and I was wondering whether I’d need to get out. However, the wind must’ve changed because the smoke dissipated and by afternoon, I actually ventured to our local beach where I could photograph the towering plume of smoke without suffocating.

Saturday, saw a different kind of fire. Our kids were attending District Scout Camp at this very remote camp site at Sugree Bag Creek. Different scout troops were attending and each had its own camp fire blazing by the time we’d turned up late afternoon after our daughter’s dancing. These fires don’t just happen and there’s quite a lot of science involved. I saw our scout leader clearing away the grass with a shovel, and I’m not sure what else was involved but when my husband picked the kids up the next day, I was told that the fires didn’t go out overnight and the local bush wasn’t set alight. People are so quick to criticise and blame teenagers. Yet, here we had at least 50 or so kids with fires, bush and no problems.

My husband and I decided to turn the drive into more of an experience, which is why I’d come along. Of course, only one parent was required to do the actual driving. It was about a 90 minutes drive to the camp site and while you think of the outback in terms of remote in an  Australian sense, once you leave the road less travelled and continue onto the roads rarely travelled, it doesn’t take long for you to either experience that sense of getting away from it all or feeling isolated and I little bit vulnerable. There’s “nothing there”. However, ideally you don’t go camping in the supermarket car park and you actually do experience all that’s entailed with getting away from it all and you find out what you’re made of. You find interest in nature and the simple life instead of being glued to electronic, TV or having your nose in a book. This is living.

This lecture is as much for myself, I should point out. I could easily have read a book for much of the drive instead of engaging in conversation or looking out the window. As we drove off the main road and kept driving and driving onto what was by now more like a driveway or a cattle path, I noticed a rising sense of impatience…”Are we there yet?” I felt like we’d almost driving off the edge of the earth and I should’ve been embracing it. Enjoying the get away. Appreciating the benefits of switching off instead of being constantly switched on and lit up like a Christmas tree. By the time we reached Spencer, it was like “there’s nothing here”. I was really hanging out for some coffee and cake by then too. It was 5.00pm and everything was shut. Well, that was except the “Dunkirk Hotel”…an open air pub with a wooden sign suspended over a picnic table.

This coming Thursday, my parents will be celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary and all sorts are coming out of the woodwork and turning up for the festivities. My Dad is the only one making a speech, and I’ve supplied him with photos so there’s been no role for myself in all of this, which perhaps could be a good thing. However, that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about their big day and what it was all about. I just don’t have much to go on, because I wasn’t there which isn’t always a given but that’s how it was for us. Obviously, many of the people who were there on the day are no longer with us or have drifted beyond their orbit. One of the interesting snippets from my parents’ wedding was that my grandfather was a pastor and so he had another minister there at the start so he could walk my mother down the aisle and conduct the service. My Dad’s family was Catholic and Mum and her family were Lutheran and they got married in a Lutheran Church. That meant Dad’s family needed to get dispensation from the priest to attend. I don’t even know what that is, but it sounds serious. Mum’s wedding car also broke down on the way to the Church. The reception was held at my grandparents’ home in Lindfield.

2david-bottin1957

Anyway, while I was pottering around with my research, I found a photo of my mum taken at a school reunion back in the 80s and found her year had set up its own web site, which included pdfs of the school newsletter. I was particularly interested in the Principal’s reports. One was headed “the casual cult” and spoke out about the horrors of casual dress, manners and the “bodgie pack”. More time research required. Also, there were quite a few references to the girls outperforming the boys academically, which I hadn’t anticipated from that era. I have sensed that the needs of boys are being swept under the radar, which is all well and good if you only have daughters and don’t believe in some form of equity.

I’ve also been making considerable progress researching not only my grandmother’s career as a concert pianist, which I’ve mentioned before. She worked as a music critic in the 1950s for the Daily Telegraph and despite so many of the old newspapers being uploaded onto Trove, the Daily Telegraph has only just been uploaded and I’m finally able to read her reviews without trudging into the State Library viewing them on the reel to reel and paying a fortune to print them out. I’m now in the process of converting them to text and pasting them chronologically into a word document. Sounds all well and good but why did she have to attend so many concerts and be so prolific? I know. I’d be complaining if there was only a handful of words but it’s going to take some time to get this under my belt. 1950 alone is currently standing at 30,000 words and I’m not done yet. I should also point out that she had four children under ten at the time, although her mother lived with her and she also had home help. Nevertheless, she was an extraordinary woman.

Book

By the way, I am still making my way through Raphaelle Giordano’s: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One. This supposed novel features a whole lot of steps towards finding greater satisfaction and fulfillment in your life. This week, I focused on: “Throw out ten things”. That was all well and good. However, it didn’t bargain on us stopping at a roadside sign advertising “FREE” in huge red painted letters. We had no idea what was free when we pulled over. However, being out in the country, we expected something along the lines of oranges or horse manure. However, much to our delight, there were bags and bags of good books, which somehow found their way into the boot of our car. Although common sense tells you not to bring bags of books into your house when you’ve just downloaded your ten items, the book didn’t say you couldn’t. So, now I’m clearing more space and my husband will no longer be sleeping on the train. He has a lot of reading to do.

Meanwhile, you might enjoy reading my review on the book so far and my progress Here.

Books

So much more creating more space…there’s an avalanche of books.

Lastly, I have come across a blog share, which you might like to take part in. This was my first week over at Thursday Doors hosted by  Norm 2.0. . Here’s my contribution.

St Johns Parramatta door

Thursday Doors…St John’s Cathedral, Parramatta, Sydney.

Well, that’s me done for another week. It’s been great catching up and I look forward to catching up on your news.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Virtual Cafe Crawl Through Paris.

“The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay, I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café.”

-Oscar Hammerstein II

If a mighty caffeine hit is what you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. I’m inviting you to join me on an almighty cafe crawl through Paris’s left bank, as I desperately try to find the cafe where I used to hang out back in the Summer of 1992.

By the way, I apologise if our tour darts and criss-crosses all over the place. This is a virtual tour and you’ll find me curled up in my ink-stained writer’s chair inconveniently parked in Australia.  So, the dots could well be scattered all over the map.

“You can’t escape the past in Paris, and yet what’s so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn’t seem to burden.”

-Allen Ginsberg

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m desperately trying to find the cafe I hung out at with my friends in Paris.

cafe-st-michel

Our cafe located somewhere near St Michel.

So, after much preambling, you’re invited to join me on a cafe crawl through the Left Bank. By the way, I can’t help wondering whether we’re being joined by the ghosts of creatives past…Hemingway, Cézanne, Picasso, Braque and Jim Morrison. Who knows?

Our first stop is La Palette at 43 Rue Seine on the corner of Rue Jacques Callot in St Germain. It has a large terrace overlooking Rue Jacques- Callot. The restaurant’s façade and the interior of the second salon, are registered as historic monuments. The second salon has a larger back room with dining tables, and is stylishly decorated with ceramics from the 1930s-40s. Meanwhile, the bistro is traditionally a gathering place for Fine Arts students, nearby gallery owners and artists. La Pallete was frequented by Cézanne, Picasso,  Braque and later by Ernest Hemingway and Jim Morrison. Today’s celebrities include Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts.

“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Our second Stop is Les Deux Magots. Its outdoor terrace is apparently a great spot to soak up the atmosphere of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. From there, you can also see the historic Saint Germain des Pres Church and Abbey. The nave and bell tower date back to 1014 AD, while its foundations date back to 543 AD. So, definitely worth checking out.

Les Deux Magots was founded in 1812 at 23 Rue de Buci and in 1873, it moved to Place St-Germain-des-Prés. In 1885, the shop gave way to an alcohol-serving café, which took on the name.

The Café started playing an important role in Parisian cultural life and Verlaine, Rimbaud and Mallarmé, to name a few, were regulars at the café. In 1933, the cafe launched its Prix des Deux Magots award. This is a major french litarary award presented to new works, which are generally more off-beat and less conventional than the more mainstream Prix Goncourt.

Les Deux Magots has also been frequented by numerous famous artists including: Elsa Triolet, Louis Aragon, André Gide, Jean Giraudoux, Picasso, Fernand Léger, Prévert, Hemingway and others, the café hosted Surrealists under the aegis of André Breton, and Existentialists around Sartre and Beauvoir.

Our next stops are going to be a lot quicker…

3) Cafe Dauphine 17 Rue Dauphine

4) The Luxenbourg  4, Place Edmond Rostand

5) Cafe Le Depart 1, Place Saint-Michel 75005, Paris

6) Cafe de Flore  172, Boulevard Saint-Germain

7) Cafe Le Buci  52, rue Dauphine 75006 PARIS

Finally, I stumbled across Cafe Conti at 1 Rue de Buci. Finally, this could be it. I have emailed the details to a friend, hoping he can see or remember something I can not. 

By this stage, Geoff is also home from work and I’m handing him the photo album and the laptop to help playing spot the difference. Did my photo match the image? We couldn’t be sure and in the end, all we had was eye-strain.

In a way, I hope it is. However, because it closed this year, I’d rather it was somewhere else. I’ve always wanted to go back and enjoy another cheap cafe au lait watching the crowds pass by. I’m sure my friends are still sitting there, looking exactly as they did 24 years ago.  After all, haven’t you ever noticed how memory does that. It freezes moments in time for eternity.

By the  way, speaking of Cafe Conti, it’s recent claim to fame is its dog. Or, perhaps I should be saying that the dog is famous. His name is Orson and he’s an exceptionally cute Cairn Terrier. You can read about his travels here: Orson Paris dog and there’s also an exceptionally cute video.

So, that ends our rather exhilarating yet exhausting cafe crawl of Paris’s Left Bank. I hope none of you objected to me appropriating Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night, also known as The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum and transporting it from Arles to Paris. For me, it’s the ultimate French cafe scene. I had to use it.

Do you have a favourite cafe in Paris? Please share. I love a good story served up with a coffee and a French pastry is an extra special bonus.

Thank you for joining me!

xx Rowena

 

Why Journal?

As the Blogging from A-Z Challenge continues and today, which should have been a simple Saturday, has now become J is for Journal, my tune is starting to switch from Edith Piaf’s “Je ne Regrette Rien” to: “Why Why Why Delilah?”

When I first took on the challenge, I almost thought it would be too simple. However, even though I already post most days, I’m usually writing about the day’s events or something which has fired me up, rather than conforming to any kind of set format. So far, I been needing to do quite a lot of research to complete the daily post and by the time I’ve uploaded the photos, the day and even the night are gone. At the same time, however, I can feel myself being stretched and challenged and participating has really helped me take things up a notch. Growth usually comes at a price, after all. I’ve also discovered some fabulous new blogs… a fabulous kaleidoscope of people and tales.

Another complication for me, of course, has been that the kids are currently on school holidays and we’ve gone away to an absolute slice of paradise at Sydney’s Palm Beach and I have no intention of spending the whole time with my head stuck in my laptop. I’ve been out kayaking the my daughter while my husband and son were out sailing today and I also had an impromtu paddle to rescue our dog Lady yet again after my daughter noted she’d left our backyard and was heading for her favourate rabbit hunting ground. Later in the day, we went for a drive to Whale Beach. It was a bit late for good photography. However, we all enjoyed clambouring over huge slabs of sandstone which have fallen from the cliffs throughout time and feasting on the dusky pinks of the fast-fading light.It was so timeless and serene, that we almost drifted in suspended animation. That is, until Mister who had been showing off his rock climbing skills one minute, was now well and truly stuck!! As they say, pride goes before a fall and he was along way up and the ground was naturally, a long way down.

I’ve divided this post into two parts:

1) Why journal?

2) Journaling: Dear Anne.

Why Journal?

When I was 11 years old, I started writing my first journal or “diary” as it was known back then. My teacher was a committed and passionate diarist and he just encouraged us to use a student diary, which allowed about a paragraph’s worth every day. The aim seemed to be establishing that routine, the consistency rather than writing pages and pages and not being able to keep it up. While hardly the Diary of Anne Frank, this diary does talk about the arrival of our first dog, Lassie and so I really treasure it. Having something like that from your childhood is so very, very special. At least, it is to me.

As much as I rave on about the virtues of keeping a journal and a regular one at that, I must confess that my commitment has waxed and waned and over the years, Consequently, my diaries read more like a series of stepping stones than a smoothly flowing stream. Indeed, quite often, it’s been quite such long leap in between entries, that I’d make it into the long jump finals. This is hardly surprising because I struggle to even comprehend consistency, let alone maintain some kind of routine day after day after day. That said, my blog shows that I’m somehow capable. It’s just that I’m inconsistently consistent. Or, perhaps Aldous Huxley got it right:

“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead”.

If you are interested in the benefits of keeping a journal, or the “why”, I recommend you read here: http://www.easyjournaling.com/2011/07/101-reasons-to-write-a-journal/

Probably the main reason I keep a journal is to document not only what has happened but also how I feel about it as a form of historic record. Having started writing diaries from such a young age, I have long appreciated being able to read about the past and pick out the bits which resonate in the here and now and have been able to identify certain threads or themes, which weave throughout my life journey. Following these threads over time and reading about my personal ups and downs and revisiting the details, has really helped me gain a better grip on who I am, where I’ve been and my place in the bigger picture. I have also been intrigued that even though so much has changed both around me and within, that there is still this sense of self…me…something solid and concrete which I could stick a flag in a claim as my own. This is quite a breakthrough for someone who has been through brain surgery and even had that self revamped and even further challenges came which I became a parent and also developed the muscle disease. A sense of self isn’t something I take for granted and it has been a long battle where journalling has really helped both in terms of providing feedback on my progress but also consoling me along the way.

Another famous diary.

So, writing my journal has also been cathartic. Being quite emotionally intense,  I need to get those emotions out. If for whatever reason, I can’t express that angst, then it travels inward, a bit like poison and threatens serious consequences. After all, we all know stress does nasty things to our health. Journalling is very good. It helps to vent and let out a hell of a lot of steam!!

Journalling was particularly helpful as an angst-ridden teen when shattered romance and rejection inevitably resulted in very intense emotions and my diary and my dog bore the brunt of these. As I’m sure most of us have been there, these are the sort of emotions you can’t really put into words in a verbal way and given that friends can blab or run off with your latest love interest or “prospect”, there’s good cause for keeping a journal and sticking to your own counsel.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 (1985) Poster

Since having children, my journaling has taken on another function, particularly given my precarious medical situation. A parent is something of a human super-computer watching, analyzing and storing millions and millions of snippets about their kids. Kids just love it when people reflect back on their journey, their story and all their little battles from the cut finger and surgery out at Westmead Children’s Hospital to the stitch at Little Athletics when Mister came last by a country mile and when he sang Imagine with his class in the school musical. I store all their medical histories and bits and pieces about their milestones in my head as well as in their precious “Blue Books” where everything is recorded for posterity.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/09/Diary_of_a_wimpy_kid.jpg

When a child loses a parent, they also lose this ready-reckoner and such a swag of memories that they literally lose a huge chunk of themselves. To combat this, I have written my own journals expecting my husband and kids to read them and need them. I have also tried to record what the kids have done and their funny little comments etc in journals that are their own. I did this much more when they were younger and and also at times when my health has reached a crisis point. It has slackened off of late as I’ve been well, busy blogging and I’ve also been wanting to hand the batton over and get the kids to write in their own journals. Miss has a had a few stop starts but when it comes to Mister, I’d have an easier time pulling teeth. Writing isn’t his thing. At least, not at the moment!!

https://i0.wp.com/d.gr-assets.com/books/1345386687l/1950183.jpg

While discussing journalling as a family, we have found out that my husband’s Great Great Grandfather, Irishman Daniel Burke was mentioned in Jail Journal by John Mitchell. John Mitchell was an Irish radical who was exiled to Tasmania but managed to escape to America. It turns out that Daniel Burke who lived in Westbury, loaned him a horse which was instrumental to his escape. Finding a historic, personal reference like this is priceless to a history lover.

While I have extolled the virtues of writing not only a journal but also the virtues of making journalling an ongoing, life-long habit; I should also point out some challenges.

If you are wanting to really do your journals justice, you also need to re-read them and that also means thinking about how and where you are going to store them where they can be somewhat accessible but also protected against the elements. This can be quite problematic for a prolific journal-writer because storage can become a serious problem, especially if you’re on the move.

That’s where writing your journal on your computer has real advantages over using those gorgeous handwritten journals, which really do look inspirational and pretty but probably aren’t the most practical solution.

The other problem with putting all your journals in one spot is that if there is some freak of nature, one goes up, they all go up. Also, if they are private and someone else finds them, they’ll have your entire life’s story in their grasp. Is that what you want?

Naturally, anybody who has written a private journal has included those personal secrets that are your secrets and there remains that lingering question about whether they should be burned. That is an incredibly personal matter. I haven’t destroyed any of mine but I have considered it.

So do you keep a journal and do you find it helpful and if you are doing the A-Z Challenge, what did you blog about today?

xx Rowena

An Old Dog Teaches Humans New Tricks About Love.

For some reason, many humans arrogantly believe they are innately superior to dogs. That they have all the answers and there is nothing at all they could possibly learn from their best friend.

I beg  to disagree.

If only humans could only interpret paw prints, they’d know that their canine counterparts also have a significant understanding of matters philosophical and psychological, although like so many of our canine achievements, they have gone unnoticed.

Perhaps, you’re already aware that I am quite the dog philosopher. My particular field of research is how to teach old humans new tricks.

Unfortunately, I’m not having much success.

Although you might think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, this is all lies. Pure human propaganda!!

Dogs, both young and old, are more than willing to learn new tricks…just as long as we consider them worthwhile. Of course, there has to be a point… a sense of purpose. After all, we’re dogs…not robots!!

I’m sure you’d understand that once you’ve worked hard to reach that all-important 10,000 hours of practice and have finally become a champion, be that a champion ball chaser, stick fetcher or sheep herder, you don’t want to start all over again and lose all those precious skills. You see, whenever, you take on a new skill, there’s that very steep learning curve and you have to put in quite a lot of time and effort to reach the top of the hill. So, if you’re already dedicated to your chosen field, you might not have the capacity to take on something new and master that as well. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn new tricks. It’s a matter of choice. After all:

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Although I’m not all dogs, I’ve been quite willing to try new things and extend my horizons.

In the last two years, I’ve gone from being your garden-variety backyard dog and stepped out into the world of extreme sports. I’ve been sailing, kayaking and hardest of all, I’ve even welcomed another dog into our household. Hence, I’ve had to share the things I value most with my uninvited “guest”: Mum, Dad, the kids and even my precious tennis ball.

To further stretch my patience and my heartstrings, Lady, the new dog in our family, still hasn’t worked out that tennis balls are for retrieving. Instead, she ignorantly runs off with them and parks herself on the grass where she chews them up and even pulls their fur out bit by bit. I might be patient but that’s a lot for The Ball Fetching Champion of the Universe to endure.

However, in the spirit of love and acceptance, which is key to all my philosophical beliefs, we have become friends. Lady has also taught me the power of positive thinking and that it’s good to wag your tail once and awhile.

This is what it means to live in harmony.

On the other hand, my research has shown that humans are very set in their ways and can’t even teach themselves new tricks. Instead, they just keep repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again non-stop.

In my first post, I mentioned that humans seem to have a strange aversion to being “nice” and that indeed there’s quite a lot of “haters” out there. People who would much rather hate than love, accept and encourage. I found this very difficult to understand because most dogs innately try to be good. We want to love and be loved, although there might be a few exceptions. So many humans, on the other hand, seem to be hell bent on being mean, hurtful and just plain nasty.

On the home front, I’ve mentioned how my very own family takes great delight in throwing my ball into the water at Palm Beach, even though they know how much I suffer. Then, adding salt to the wound, Mum takes photos and video footage of me writhing in agony thinking it’s funny…a huge game. That is, instead of saving my ball and helping me out. That really hurts…especially since Mum uses the Golden Rule as her mantra:

The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

As we move further afield, you just need to turn on your TV.

Last year, we had the shooting down of MH17, the Sydney Siege, the Pakistan Massacre, seven children murdered seemingly by their own mother in Cairns.She also murdered their cousin.

Fast forward to 2015, the United Nations Year of Light, and we have Paris.

Perhaps, I’ve missed something but from where I sit, the humans haven’t learned anything at all.

Well…

That’s not entirely true because you can’t judge the many by the few.

Australians mourn the loss of hostages in the Martin Place Siege. We send their family and friends our heartfelt condolences.

Australians mourn the loss of hostages in the Martin Place Siege. We send their family and friends our heartfelt condolences. Photo: The Age.

Indeed, following the Sydney Siege, the heart of the city was overflowing with genuine grief and floral tributes. There was an overwhelming outpouring of love. One man might have been evil, pure evil, but millions were good. While that couldn’t change what had happened, it did show that the humans do have a capacity for love, compassion and empathy. There was also that campaign #I’ll ride with you that reached out to show love and acceptance to Muslim women in the aftermath of the siege.

This very encouraging development was certainly something new. Perhaps, the humans are learning, after all.

We’ve been on holidays this week so it’s been difficult for me to really process what has happened in Paris with limited TV access. However, I did see people coming together and lighting candles and another hashtag emerged: “#Je suis Charlie”. While I don’t believe all those people loved the magazine itself, they supported free speech and not being shot for your opinion.

While hate tried to tear down these cities, love has triumphed. It really has.

Love.

Love. Photo: Rowena

But that doesn’t let us off the hook…humans or dogs.

I don’t have all the answers but if we perhaps start with the Golden Rule and treat others the way we would like to be treated, humans and dogs will both be learning new tricks and helping to spread  love throughout our aching world.

“For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Reach out and connect with somebody beyond your comfort zone. Share the incredible power of love.

Reach out and connect with somebody beyond your comfort zone.  Share the incredible power of love. Photo: Rowena

However, I’d just like to request one little furry exception to the Golden Rule…

Do I really have to be nice to cats?

This thing between cats and dogs goes way beyond me and that pesky cat next door. It’s in our blood…our genes. As long as there have been cats and dogs on this planet, it’s been war and that isn’t going to change any time soon.

Humph, this Golden Rule is more of a problem than I thought. It’s all very well to treat everyone you like the way you’d like to be treated but it’s quite a different story when it comes to your enemies. However, there can be no exceptions to the Golden Rule. It doesn’t work like that.

Humph. At this point, it’s very tempting to head back to my laboratory and stick to research. There’s such a gaping void between research and practice and I have no idea how to build a bridge. I might be smart and The Ball Fetching Champion of the Universe. However, being the change myself is just too hard.

Humph!

Perhaps, I’ll have to bring in an expert. I have heard about households where cats and dogs are family but there certainly aren’t any in my particular neck of the woods.

Yes, indeed. This is a great place to launch the next phase of my research.

Who knows, perhaps with a bit of training and some loving support, even I might just be able to love cats after all but I suspect that dogs will be living on the moon long before that happens.

Love & a fairly cautious wag of the tail,

Bilbo