Tag Archives: life

A walk in the autumn leaves

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“Come with me for a walk in the autumn leaves” are some of the forcefully sung lyrics about a relationship at crunch-point that accompany the viseral guitar sound of the Huxton Creepers in their song  Autumn Leaves. Keats wrote more tranquilly of a “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” in his poem To Autumn. Despite living in Australia where indigenous plants are not seasonally desiduous, my picture of autumn is still shaped by deciduous trees losing their now coloured leaves and by the sight of children and animals frolicking in piles of fallen foliage. Another Australian 80’s band Pseudo Echo’s album Autumnal Park (which didn’t originally contain the title track) has a cover that shows a park in autumn as seen through horizontal slat blinds. What they were inferring with this title I’m not sure – it certainly wasn’t the end of their career, but rather the beginning; perhaps a sense of varied musical tracks like leaves with different colours, or perhaps they just liked the sound of the words. I certainly find a park of deciduous trees beautiful in autumn.

Each autumn I try to make a local pilgrimage to somewhere my senses can drink in the range of red, orange and yellow hues in the cooling air and where I can admire the variety of coloured shapes that cover the ground. Ashes, maples, oaks, liquid ambers, forest pansies, poplars and other trees provide an autumnal feast for the eyes. It is more than just the leaves I want to absorb at this time of year. In a world where we have largely lost a sense of seasons in our disconnection from the agrarian, from religious calendars and other seasonal differentiators, many things that were once special – being only available at one particular time of year -can now be found year-round. Autumn is a transitional season in my mind, it signals the end of hot summers and prepares us for the early darkness and cold of winter days. Autumn is still a sign that plants, animals and humans experience seasonal changes, year by year and throughout each lifespan.

Autumn can be poignant – a metaphor or elegy for lives or relationships drawing to a close, as in the Huxton Creepers song – but as a season where fruit ripen and are ready to harvest, where trees change their state, it can also alude to change; to growth and maturity. In Gilmore Girls, Rory’s first kiss with her beau Dean comes during her hometown Stars Hollow’s autumn festival as the leaves are changing colour. Her mother Lorelai has to process her daughter’s growing independence and adulthood as Rory confides this life first to her friend Lane before her mother and Rory has to negotiate the awkwardness of her first boyfriend becoming a part of her traditional mother/daughter movie night.

Wherever you find yourself in autumn, find a park where the leaves are falling and take stock of what season your life is in. Whether you find yourself weeping at an ending as the leaves fall and the trees are laid bare or whether you’re feeling joyful in the midst of your life, all the more completely as you spy the exquisite shades of the autumn leaves, find a park in autumn and mark your season.

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Seeing life as dollhouses and marshmallow men

  
One of the superpowers that photography gives you is the ability to make the tiny enormous and the gargantuan miniature. Like a child with a dollhouse, you gain a kind of control over the scale and proportions of the world. 

Sometimes I wish I could exercise this power in my life: make the problems that appear insurmountable tiny with a burst of a ray gun, a honey-I-shrunk-the-kids moment. Other times I wish I could inflate things in my life like the Ghostbusters Stay Puft marshmallow man or the giant kitten in The Goodies, so I could realise the importance of these things and remember their prominence. Despite the recent arrival of Comicon in town, I may not have a superpower, but photography does gift me with the power to reimagine my world and the problems, highlights and priorities of my life. 

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Life’s conveyor belt

Shopping centre escalators

From below it’s as if the people are moved by magic, carried across my field of view in ordered lines. Some gaze around glum-mouthed, others stand straight with purpose, phone to ear. Prams travel upwards along with trolleys in this midday insular domed world. On they go towards consumer destinations. Branded bags of many colours pass by me grasped by their eager purchasers. Some people are content to be passengers, carried along, but others quicken their own journey, striding upwards with arms swinging.

Life is like an escalator, sometimes we surrender ourselves to its pace, and sometimes we fight for control, assert our will; stamp our style on the journey. At times we are hesitant to step on or hop off, afraid of stumbling and making a fool of ourselves – but ultimately we are all heading in the same direction, no matter how we travel the distance.

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Green is good and other life lessons

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I Walk the Line: five positive life principles I’ve adopted and embraced.

1. Seeing green is good

I read somewhere that psychologically just seeing greenery (grass, shrubs, trees etc.) lifts our moods and does us good emotionally as human beings. As someone who struggles with living in the ‘burbs and with the way we concrete over everything in cities, I try to keep reminding myself to get out into the green and just look at the plants, or sit on the grass.

2. Clean creatively

I hate routines, although I know they often do me good. I classify myself as a ‘project-oriented person’, rather than a ‘maintenance-oriented person’. I like novelty, and new projects and crises and stagnate with routines and the maintaining of daily repetitive tasks. In struggling to maintain household and personal routines, one way for me is to try to keep things creative. I bought some (purple, because it’s my favourite colour) dice and allocated each number a cleaning task. My aim was to throw the dice each day and go with the cleaning task the dice landed on. This worked for me for a little while anyway, as a person who loves variety I’ll just have to keep coming up with creative ways to maintain my house.

3. Let in the sun

This one is a physical and metaphorical challenge. I find if I’m in a bit of downcast mood, I tend to keep more curtains closed in my house and so this mantra is a reminder to let physical light into my house. On another level, ‘let in the sun’ reminds me to remember the things that give me emotional energy and life, and to make time for those things, even in the midst of busyness. For me some of those things are pursuing creative endeavours (art, craft, music), catching up with long-term friends who are easy to be with, listening to live music and walking in natural surroundings (in the bush, on the beach).

4. Learn from the cat

In my busy times, I try to learn from my cat. He can sit for hours on end, seemingly staring at nothing (or everything). He’s pretty content as long as he has food and ready access to someone to sit on, or a bed to cover with his shedding fur. He is a pretty minimal meow-er, only reserving it to ask for essential needs. He is content with little, and easily shows his contentment with a happy rumbling purr.

5. Embrace the absence

A few years ago I got into blogs and books on minimalism and de-cluttering. Having grown up in a hoarding-tendancy household, it’s taken a while for me to appreciate that freedom and a sense of home can be found in not being surrounded by hundreds of possessions. I used to find comfort in sleeping surrounded by bookshelves, wardrobes and craft materials. I have hobbies that tend to involve a lot of ‘stuff’. But I’ve been learning to appreciate physical (and resulting mental) space in the rooms in my house, since doing some de-cluttering. I also appreciate being able to let go of items I don’t use, and find them a new home and use with friends, people in need or in op shops.

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The Good Wife, Alfred Nobel & National Pig Day help me write my obituary

Cross at Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Theresa)

In Loving Memory is the topic of this ‘Daily Prompt’, which I’ve started following, as I submit to the discipline of regular blogging! ‘What would I want someone to write in my obituary’ is something I do think about – what will my legacy be? What will I be remembered for? An older friend with cancer died this week, and we all have the best impression of her character – to say ‘she was a lovely person’ feels like it encapsulates her, or like telling her life story could not add to our already fond and positive feelings for her, which we gained from knowing her personally over years. It sounds completely sappy to say ‘she lives in our hearts’, but it’s true, she’s in my memories, and not necessarily in a specific memory, but as a composite memory summed up as a positive presence who was there in a phase of my life.

Last night I was catching up on Season 5 of ‘The Good Wife’ and (spoilers, if you’re a season behind like me) I got to the episode where Will Gardner dies when his client goes mad with a gun in the courtroom. I had never seen that plot twist coming – I woke up still thinking about it this morning! In the episode that follows Will’s death, everyone is dealing with their grief and several characters say ‘I loved him’. Alicia Florrick is talking to her daughter, who suggests Will is now in heaven, and Alicia says something to the effect that he did some bad things, but he was trying to be, or to bring about, good, by doing the bad things. I believe the impression you’re left with of Will is that he was hard-nosed, passionate and dedicated to his work to the end, but that he was also well loved, although all who loved him had never expressed it to him in those words – a lot had gone unsaid.

Then there is the famous case of Alfred Nobel who one day in 1888 read his own obituary in the paper, where it had been accidentally published instead of his brother’s. Apparently he was horrified to see how he would be remembered as a ‘merchant of death’, having been heavily involved in the business of explosives, and that this was a turning point in his life. Unknown to his family, he left much of his fortune to fund the prizes that became the Nobel prizes. Until I heard this story, I didn’t know anything about Nobel’s involvement with explosives, but only about the peace prize.

I don’t tweet a lot, but recently I noticed it was ‘National Pig Day’ in the USA and I knew I had photos of the pig sculptures in Rundle Mall in Adelaide. So, just for fun, as I love the novelty and variety of having different days of the year dedicated to different people, animals, plants or causes, I tweeted my photo. Well, due to the hashtags I used, my tweet got picked up by City of Adelaide who decided to take up the cause of sending porcine love across the Pacific. I can safely say this is the most mentioned & re-tweeted tweet I have ever made. I’ve probably had my 5 minutes of (extremely minor) social media fame now, and I think it’s a great thing that social media is transient, because I wouldn’t want to think that when I’m gone, I was only known for tweeting about National Pig Day!

Last year I studied a course in visual arts, and at the end of the course we had to write an Artist’s Statement. This was a long and arduous process for someone who is not particularly into self promotion. Reflecting on your own art, and noticing themes, and then reflecting on what you want your art to be about, and bringing it together into a succinct statement is a daunting task. However one thing that aided me, was a job application for a copywriting job I’d put in last year. They asked you to nominate three words that defined you. I would like it if these three words were associated with me when I’m gone: Creative, Compassionate and Concrete. I’d like to be known as someone who not just created works of art, but as someone who also thought creatively. Someone who left a visual legacy behind, but not just a legacy of beauty, a legacy of compassionate advocacy for the marginalised and dispossessed. And I’d like to be remembered as someone who didn’t just create art in a garret, or theorise about justice in a safe place, but be known as a person of action, who got in amongst people and made theory concrete. I’m also a Christian, so I don’t just want to be known as someone who strived to do all this in their own strength, but as someone who lived an authentic life, sharing the compassion that comes from God. And if this is what I want to be known for, it’s a spur for me to get on and be what I want to be known to be.

 

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