Sunday, August 26, 2007

finding home

Slowly, slowly Frank and I are digging our toes deeper into the soil sand of Tasmania and making it our home. At times I find this a difficult task - I never in my wildest imaginings envisaged myself living on a small island cut off from the rest of the world.

At other times Tasmania seems the most perfect place on earth. Idyllic. Why would I ever consider living anywhere else? This weekend was one of those times.

With a view to becoming true Tasmanians, we partook of the local shack culture. Most longtime Tasmanians seem to own two homes - one in which they participate in everyday mundanity, the other the shack where they occasionally kick back and enjoy the delights nature has to offer at the beach or by a mountain lake with good fishing. Christmas, Easter and any other long weekend provide the perfect excuse for hiving off to the shack to relax.

I've come to discover the word 'shack' is applied rather liberally and loosely in this part of the world - it may mean a literal shack banged together out of scrap metal and plasterboard from here and there, or alternatively it may refer to a mansion that one only sometime inhabits. This is a case in point!

Some people are particularly generous with their shacks, and offer it out to friends and family, although never at Christmas or Easter. Frank and I fell on our feet when longtime clients asked if Frank would be willing to undertake some tree work at their seaside shack... in exchange for a weekend's accommodation. But not at Christmas or Easter.

It was a tough decision, but we decided someone had to do it, so last Thursday we dragged ourselves to the east coast to chop down a couple of trees. And put our feet up.

We rediscovered what makes living in Tasmania so delightfully easy. It's a stunner of a place. Absolutely beautiful. We stayed in a demure shack just outside Swansea, at a place called Dolphin Sands (and yes, yesterday in the morning sun the dolphins came out to play while the seagulls dive bombed for fish from above). If you check out the map, Dolphin Sands is on the spit of land north east of Swansea. Right across Great Oyster Bay from the Hazards of Freycinet Peninsular. In September last year we stayed nearby, and our return confirmed what we had already begun to suspect - this is our new favourite place in Tasmania... no. wait... our new favourite place in the whole wide world even!

It wasn't all play... we had trees to fix remember? OK, so Frank did most of the work, but I did drag branches and take photos while narrowly escaping being clonked on the head by big pieces of wood! Frank sweetly agreed that I was an excellent worker. I think he might just love me a lot...

And then it was time to kick back, relax and enjoy the scenery.

There was lots of scenery to enjoy...

... I know, I know... it's almost the same picture, but if only you could have seen it. I could fill this whole post with photos from end to end and not capture the incredible beauty. So like it or lump it, here are two photos you must endure in my effort to convey the lushness, the delight, the mystery of that place.

Slowly some of my world-weariness began to slip away. That assignment-induced tension loosened its hold on my gut, church politics paled into insignificance in the face of this sacred space that shouted the existence of a magnificent God, and my breathing gradually evened out.

This... This... This is where life is at! Dropping the heavy load out the car window on the way, drinking in the stillness (between the water lapping the shore, and the fading fizz of receding waves was only silence), allowing the stillness to invade my mind, stamping out the voices attempting to drag my thoughts away from that place and back to pesky troubles, wind fanning my cheeks, loveliness soothing my eyes, God calming my heart.


So now I'm back home, enriched. Mind momentarily cleansed, thinking more clearly than I have for a while, realising Tasmania really is the place to be, grateful to God for his gift of love in bringing me to a place that is beyond anything I could imagine, gulping down the beauty as he restores my soul.

I think I'm ready to write that assignment now.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

10 perfectly reasonable ways to avoid study

1. Super Sudoku

Now that I've finally completed one (it's taken several attempts at various weekly offerings in the free local rag) I feel absolutely no desire to look at one ever again. Driven by competitiveness?

2. Coffee with friends. Lots of friends.

3. Church - OK, so I'm a bit down on church at present, and I would almost rather have been studying.

4. Time out - overwhelmed by life I took a few days to just relax and chill. Delightful.

5. Movie at the local cinema.

6. Clean the bathroom.

7. Dust the house.

8. Cook Frank a super delicious wholemeal apricot cake in an improvised nut loaf tin.

9. Work. Gotta earn a crust! And it's just about the only place I don't feel guilty for not studying.

10. Read about how the pulp mill is being debated in parliament and contemplate the twisting of my stomach as I realise this will probably happen because we have a bombastic, arrogant, meat head of a Premier in Tasmania. His merry men and women aren't much better.

11. I know I don't need to say 11 because this post is only 10 perfectly reasonable ways to avoid study, but tomorrow we're going to the East Coast for a few days. I'm debating whether I need to take the books or not. Probably do. But probably be healthier if I didn't. I don't know... anyway, if I leave them at home it's another good reason not to study!

NB Blogging is not a perfectly reasonable way to avoid study. It is plain denial of reality. So I'm going now. Straight away to hang the clothes on the line study. Really. I am. Eventually.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

confession of a would be adult

It's Thursday, and I have the day off work. I have an assignment due on Monday, and I'm supposed to be studying hard, but I'm not. I'm doing a Super Sudoku and slobbing around.

I did have a shower earlier, but on my way to dressing, I became distracted by the Sudoku, so at 11am there I stood, puzzling over boxed numbers, wearing nothing but a dressing gown, when there was a knock at the door.

I froze, immobilised by guilt and embarrassment. Instead of studying I was standing half naked wasting time. Oh the shame of being caught.

So I sneaked over to a place I knew I couldn't be seen and waited for the mystery door knocker to go away... I figured it was just the neighbour's son anyway. Or a delivery man. And I could always go out and pick up the delivery later.

Only the person didn't go away, they came down the drive way and I was horrified to see they were a friend I would be quite happy to talk to. I flew to the bedroom, hurriedly threw on some clothes and ran to the front door... only to catch a glimpse of their car driving off down the road.


Ever since then I've been wracked by guilt. Not studying, ignoring a friend, motivated by fear. Oh the shame of it all.

Of course I could no more study wracked by guilt than I could study with an unfinished Sudoku in the house. So I eventually phoned my friend and confessed I had been home and apologised profusely... and managed to catch her slobbing around sipping coffee and reading a novel, something she never usually does during the day!

What a relief! She wasn't expecting me to be home anyway! She was having a lazy moment too! We'd caught each other out.

Ahhhh, now I can study!

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Friday, August 10, 2007

ah, no, never

Seen recently in the latest Homecare catalogue...

I think it's safe to say I have never wished for something like this. I would rather be soaked through with rain than caught dead using it. I choose to free my hands by wearing a raincoat with a hood rather than a strange contraption that could potentially cause nerve damage.

Thankyou Home Care, but no thankyou. (Though I must admit your apple corer works very well)


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

what value a life?

It's been a cry day. Not just because the sky has wept big, beautiful tears of life, but because my eyes won't stop leaking all over my face.

It's silly really. I'm crying because I'm upset, and then I'm crying because I'm upset that I'm upset because I don't think I have a right to be upset. If that makes sense.

Church is supposed to be the bastion of love, peace, joy and harmony. Right? But I feel all jumbled and grumpy about it. I pour hours of voluntary time into church activities. I realise I'm supposed to pour cheerfully, and most of the time I do. But sometimes I feel disgruntled. Disgruntled because in all the pouring out of my heart and soul, I receive little recognition. My precious offerings trampled into the mire of being taken for granted. I feel unappreciated and used.

Lest my pity party grows too large I will admit that if I feel this way, there must be an element of my offering that is unreceived by God. It's quite possible that I keep back a small portion for myself, hoping that some kudos will return to me. I forget that it's really all about God and his glory. I'd like some glory for myself please... and so my mournfulness stems from the lack of glory coming my way.

It's all rather confusing. I'm crying because I feel used, abused and oh so weary. Yet I'm also crying because God deserves my whole offering, not just part of it, and so I weep over my hard, selfish heart.

I think this feeling of being undervalued reaches deep into my soul, because everything I looked at today started me off crying again. I walked past the Country Women's Association shop. An old lady sat dolefully behind the counter waiting for someone, anyone, to step inside and fall in love with the country women's home made baking and hand knitted cardigans. It struck me that in not too many years these country women will have died, and perhaps their craft will die with them. And we'll all rush past to the chiq, modern stores to buy almond friands and mini cheesecakes, designer jumpers and merino socks without even realising these women have gone. A loss to society and we won't even notice. Good, honest, hardworking women undervalued in a society that's lost touch with the earth and it's hard earned produce.

At the traffic lights I spied out an old man. Small, wizened, hair sticking out in every direction - rumpled and tiny. Yet there he stood neatly kitted out in his khaki suit, mustard sweater and brown leather shoes, in his best dress for errands around town. Precious, well meaning, but somehow insignificant in a fast paced world of business and commerce. Another life undervalued.

I might feel hard done by at church. Those feelings might even be valid (and I think to a degree they are), but I'm not the only one who is undervalued and unappreciated. The earth is littered with seeming insignificance that is, in reality, precious, of inestimable worth, to be cherished and treasured.

I know I value myself highly - that's half my problem - but how much do I value others? How am I doing at cherishing and treasuring the lives of those around me?

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Friday, August 03, 2007

oh dahl...

When I said I felt like dahl, I didn't mean this much...

What was the recipe thinking?

(And yes, that's after we ate some of it, and yes, it tastes better than it looks, but no, it isn't as good as our favourite Indian store. Maybe because we're imagining how bored we'll be with dahl by the end of that saucepan!)


bravo steve bracks

Finally a politician I can admire. One who acts with principle and integrity. One who isn't driven by an insatiable need for power, recognition or votes. One who, for these very reasons, isn't a politician anymore. (Is the implication here that there still aren't any politicians I can admire?)

Allow me to introduce Steve Bracks, former Premier of the State of Victoria.

Last Friday Mr Bracks announced his resignation as the Premier, effective this Monday. His announcement shocked the state and the country. Here was a man at the peak of his popularity, less than one year into his third term as State Premier... and he was walking away from it all? Madness!

I admit I've never really paid much attention to Steve Bracks - sure he's one of the better looking politicians around (and believe me, that counts!) but I haven't lived in Victoria since I was 10 years old, I'm only now rejecting my Liberal party roots while Bracks was a Labour man, and I've been too caught up in local Tasmanian politics to think about anything else.

But suddenly here was a man with the courage to walk away from the top job and step into the background. Incredible!

And the reason why? He needed to be there for his family. Fantastical! His son recently crashed the family car and was charged with drink driving and Bracks decided he needed to spend more time at home. At Friday's media conference his wife, Terry Bracks, was obviously delighted.

Now excuse me for asking, but whoever makes decisions like that?! Family before personal ambitions?!? We wouldn't have any successful public figures if they put their family first. Would we? ...OK, that's a sweeping statement. Maybe there are a few successful people who put their family first, but I suspect the demands of the job must make that very, very difficult. (Also begs the question, that if we all put family first, would anything get done in the world?)

I'm sure my delight comes nowhere near that of Terry Bracks, but Steve Brack's decision has left me delighted none the less. It's almost like his decision to resign while still in his prime has given all of us permission to make similar decisions. Setting aside the fact that we shouldn't need permission, he's brought priorities to the fore and it's struck a deep cord with me.

I seem to be drowning under the weight of feelings of under achievement. I look at people I went through Bible College with, and several of them are now changing the world. Meanwhile I exist in obscurity, making but tiny differences in the world around me.

I feel insignificant.

I want to place my relationship with Frank first. I deeply value my friendships and want to cultivate them. I'm not taken with the idea of pursuing a nursing career with all I've got. I'm attracted to the concept of being a down to earth little person, with my small sphere of influence, faithfully living by what I believe. (To me that is where life is lived, in the every day small things) And yet I feel a constant pressure to do something big. I don't even believe in it, but I feel a failure because I haven't done something the whole world will recognise as amazing.

I'm beginning to recognise the source of this pressure lies way back in the past, and I'm moving towards telling it where to go, but still it influences me, and to a degree I allow it to control me.

So when Steve Bracks resigned, maybe he didn't give other people permission to go easy on themselves. But he gave me that permission! Someone at the top of his game conceded the match. Ah, the freedom... the freedom that could be mine if I can just stomp on those pesky voices from the past which demand I be the best at everything. If I can let the truth of real significance sink into my soul I might be released from the merry go round of seeking approval. If I can find the value in the little things I will find contentment. If I can nestle into that little place in God's love reserved especially for me, right under his arm, right by his side, the judgements of others will become irrelevant.

So bravo Steve Bracks! Bravo on a hard but great decision. May many of us take your lead and find significance in things that really matter. May I take your lead and not be swayed by the opinions and approval of others.