Tuesday, January 25, 2011

one flick...

2011 was supposed to be different. "No more death," I said, "please."

Well, not literally no more death - that's a little unrealistic. Just no more death of people I know. (Please) There were too many last year - too many deaths, too many widows, too many fatherless children. So full of vitality and life, and then (some in an instant, unexpectedly): dead. I wept for them all as I struggled to find space for the pieces of sadness inside of me.

Frank tells me I'm addicted to the internet, something I try and deny, but it must be true. Why else did I check in with facebook, email and the news just as I was walking out the door at twelve? "Tasmanian hiker falls to his death in NZ" blared ABC Online, and I never can resist clicking through, just in case I might know them.

And it turns out (sickeningly, distressingly) I did. So full of vitality. Hiking, climbing, relishing the scenery and life, and then (in an instant, unexpectedly): dead. That loping walk, his laconic humour and cheeky grin, the assuredness (but understated) with which he carried himself: gone. (And I'm supposed to see him next week, at a training day)

Appointments made me move, but I phoned Frank and shed a tear or two as I told him the news. Between the lines my heart whispered (as it convulsed and froze in turn), "Be careful my love. It could happen in an instant, unexpectedly - don't you be dying too." And as I rode through town I muttered to myself, "Be careful girl. It could happen in an instant, unexpectedly..."

And then I realised that mixed in amongst the shock and sadness and dazed incomprehension, was fear. Some of these men had no chance to say goodbye. Life was ripped from them by a tree, a cliff (so rude). We none of us know what lies around the corner... death could be but a flick away, but we'll never know it until it happens.

The city dazzled me with its amazing technicolour as I rode to my meetings. Sky of azure blue, reeds and grasses along the river levee the perfect foil. My legs flowed with power and strength as they carried me forward. A headwind made me focused and determined. I loved being alive today. I cherished it. I thanked God for life. My life. And as I revelled in the wonder of it all, I laughed at death and vowed no matter how thin the veil to the other side might be, I wouldn't let it cow me. Death might come at any time, but I won't (I can't) hide at home and try to beat it by avoiding every risk. And I won't fuss over Frank at every moment.

No. I shall embrace life. Not as if every minute is my last, but conscious that it could be. Not protectively warding off 'that moment' for as long as I can, but fully aware I can't control my destiny. And if I can't control my destiny, I may as well lay my anxiety aside and rest. Why waste energy on what I can't change? Instead, be at peace, live well within each day. Enjoy the good life, and leave my earthly end with God.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

ready as a mangrove propagule

Frank and I walked the length of Long Beach today, and what can I say - it is a long beach.

Merimbula Bay from Pambula Beach

When we got back we discovered we'd walked almost twelve kilometres. Sore legs reign in our apartment this evening! (And unbelievably we have blisters on our heels from all that bare foot walking)

I couldn't help noticing the mangrove seedlings strewn across the length of the beach. Wherever the high tide had reached, there lay a seedling or two. To be more precise, what we were seeing were black mangrove propagules, live seedlings dropped from the trees already equipped for photosynthesis. All they require is a suitable landing place above the tide, and within seven days roots are established and the mangrove is off and growing. Ingenious.

I'm still to set my goals for the year (distracted by a twelve kilometre walk I suppose), but the mangrove propagules gave me some inspiration. I have an overall aim in life, and generally my daily grind is helping me achieve it, but there's always room for improvement.

Today I found another broad goal for the year... to be like a black mangrove propagule. People and experiences have equipped me well for going and growing, and I know what I want to do. Right now, 2011 is a blank slate. I'll still be working the same jobs, but there are plenty of longings and dreams and unknowns floating around in my mind. Who knows what might come along? And if or when it does, I want to grab the chance, like the mangrove propagules. They don't always get it right (a beach isn't such a great place to land), but when they hit the perfect habitat, they're ready. Roots down, they're set. Growing and doing that thing mangroves do.

I guess that means 2011 is my year of being an opportunist... from that quiet place of reflection and awareness, I'll be ready to move as soon as the opportunity arises. Well, that's the goal anyway!

(What do you know - that's two goals for the year already!)

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Monday, January 03, 2011

lingering over crabs

This is a little bit crazy, but at first I thought it was the mangrove seedlings snapping their leaves together. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the movement, but (try as I might to catch them at it) as soon as I turned, all was still. A few steps further and Frank pointed them out - an army of crabs scurrying sideways down their holes as we trod the board walk above their heads.

Pied Oystercatcher, Top Lake, Merimbula NSW

Given the birds who lurked nearby, on the hunt for tasty morsels, the crab's dash for safety was understandable, though some gamely continued to shovel sand with their pincers, one eye on us, one on their food, sifting the sand at furious speed.

Spotted Smooth Shore Crab, intertidal zone of Top Lake, Merimbula NSW

With no schedule to keep, we lingered a while, marvelling at the agility and speed of the crabs, their diversity of size, shape and colour, while others walked on by. Couldn't they see the crabs? we wondered. Had they stopped and stared earlier? Is it possible that, while we marvelled, they just weren't interested? Here a world of crabs were putting on a fabulous display as they went about their business, and people didn't even look.

Not that I'm the world's most mindful person. I imagine I miss a lot in my not-paying-attention rush. What beauty or insight lingers in the shadows of my awareness? If I slowed down, would I discover treasures to feed my soul and calm the angst, treasures like crabs in the mud on a cloudy summer's day?

New year resolutions are not my forte, not because I don't keep them. I just don't make them. Instead I prefer broad goals, although I don't even get to them a lot of the time, mostly because I don't take the time to reflect. I'm too busy doing things, which makes me think those crabs have something to teach me. About slowing down, taking time, paying attention, taking notice.

This all resonates with a quote I read this morning.
Contemplation can be defined as paying attention. It is about a way of seeing. We live in a world today where we are deluged with information. The emails come in. The mobiles ring. A text here. A website there. Excited by the process, we can all too easily become people who are skimming over the surface of life. John Naish has described our condition as infobesity, seeing it as a different sort of fatness and producing profound stress. There is a sense that we need to slow down, to settle and pay attention to things in a new sort of way.
Chris Sunderland, The Dream that inspired the Bible
Stopping and noticing things, contemplating nature - all provide a path from information overload to peace. I don't want to rush through life unobserved, and I could do without unnecessary stress.

There are probably a few other 2011 goals I need to make, but this seems a good place to start - a commitment to slowing down and taking notice. And who knows, perhaps everything else will flow naturally from this stillness.

In the interests of sharing my mindfulness moment, here's a photo chock full of crabs... pause if you like, and see how many you find. Or just admire the mangrove pneumatophores.

The world is an amazing place, that is for sure!

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