Tag Archives: life

Wandering your way

Walking is an integral part of traveling. Even if you’re on a tour bus or a cycling tour, you will still do your share of walking, let alone if you are a true backpacker or a pilgrim of some sort.

For those of us who live at home in suburbs, or rural areas, with cars the main means of transport, staying in the middle of the ‘old town’ of a European city and walking everywhere is a pleasant novelty.

I grew up in a hilly area and find there is something I dislike and even distrust about flat country. I want to be able to get a view out over the countryside (maybe it’s some throwback military instinct to look out for enemies from high places). However I have to admit that flat places make for easier, although ultimately less rewarding, walking.

Wandering is a special sub-set of travel walking. At home when I walk I don’t often just take a meandering path and wait to see what kind of people, places or events I can stumble across – when you’re at home you don’t tend to want to just wander until you happen to come across a hairdresser, supermarket or train station – but when I travel I often wander. Of course you can do research and plan out your route ahead of time, or you can take the more risky route of the wander. The wander may mean you miss meeting times, see dud ‘attractions’ – and fail to see major ones – or that you suddenly find yourself in a ‘seedy’ part of town. But you may also meet helpful random strangers, discover surprising sites and be forced to use your initiative and problem solving skills to get yourself out of a situation.

I’m a fan of the fantasy genre novels that involve some kind of quest where a motley band of would-be heroes must walk together across varying terrain to save a friend, confront an enemy or find a treasure that will prove their royal pedigree or fulfill their destiny. In The Legend of the Seeker, the TV adaption of Terry Goodkind’s novels, The Seeker travels with his Confessor and Magician: they flee enemies, save innocents and seek treasures that they believe will confirm their own roles and help tip the scales in favour of good. These heroes don’t exactly wander, but all the action of their stories comes from the people & places they encounter on their travels.

Growing up we were partial to the TV series Monkey (1978-1980) and avidly followed the questing but wandering Monkey, Sandy, Pigsie & Tribitaka (Monkey did have the advantage of being able to call his cloud and travel that way at times. As kids we used to practice trying to call the cloud – but sadly failed).

Bruges has a great (flat) old city in which to wander. You can wander along paths by the water ways, over bridges and always come across museums, churches, fabulous doors, a lolly shop, somewhere you can drink cherry bear and random happenings, such as art installations. While wandering a few years back I came across a Polish group of friends who thought I was a local and asked me for directions. We ended up having an informative discussion about Ghent and they showed me some videos (while standing in the pathway). Luckily for them I was also able to give them directions. Unfortunately I’m yet to make it Ghent, but it was a nice random interaction and I was travelling alone at that point, so the people contact was welcome.

Once on the Japanese island of Ojika I ended up going for a long day’s wander along roads, past rice fields, and came across the shrine to a very round stone in a hole by the sea. I also came upon a lone rural vending machine at the crossroads of the rice fields and accidentally ordered a daytime G&T in a can due to a language misunderstanding.

I also (probably ill-advisedly) took a road down to a supposedly nice beach. The route turned out to be quite long and steep and not all that scenic and as I laboured back up a local woman stopped her car and offered me a lift to the top. I’m not a usual hitchhiker but she seemed genuine so I gratefully accepted a ride. Had I not been meandering, I may not have exposed myself to the need for the kindness of random strangers (who thankfully weren’t also random serial killers).

When we travel with a very fixed itinerary, our expectations of what we’ll see and do each day are high. Inevitably attractions sometimes disappoint and we can’t fit in all we wanted to do and getting lost frustrated us as we miss our goal (the opening hours of a museum or cafe). When you wander l, experiences tend to come to you as a bonus, whatever you discover, and you come across things you may have otherwise missed. Of course you can also encounter bad situations (and there are countries and places where you would definitely not be advised to wander), but a wander in a relatively safe space with your wits about you can be spontaneous and special. As many of us live highly scheduled lives, I heartily recommend engaging in some travel wanders.

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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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Filed under A creative life

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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Filed under A creative life, A deliberate life