Wonder

I do not know why I go so long cooped up inside feeling trapped and anxious about all the things left to do when I can step outside to feel the breeze, smell the flowered perfume on the air, see the sun cascading through tree canopies and be instantly well again…

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If my bags weren’t always so heavy with books I wouldn’t take the bus so often to class, either. Not only is bus transit here unfailingly late, but walking releases so much stress (and doesn’t require carbon fuel). It’s one of the reasons I think I was born in the wrong climate zone, because I walk so much less frequently at home when it’s cold, despite knowing how much I enjoy it and how beneficial it is. Where I am in Australia, it never freezes. It also never ceases to amaze me the different flora I encounter even just on my 20 minute stroll to campus. Fuzzy spiky flowers, purple trees, jasmine blossoms that smell like orange blossoms and only come out after a decent rain, hibiscus, honeysuckle, ombréd bougainvilleas, other tropical plants I can’t name… this earth is so wondrous!

And yet, we are ravaging it every day as a species. Every purchase seems to be marred with the destructive processes by which the product came to be, and even when you try to be conscientious, someone will point out that in fact the parent company is a subsidiary of some evil monoculture-promoting, diversity-destroying corporation that is wiping out entire populations of endangered animals and slowly taking over control of our entire food-production system for its own profit.* Or they’ll point to a study that says the way you’ve chosen to eat and be good to your body actually kills children in the Amazon. Well that’s an exaggeration, but I mean, how do you know for sure? (and really, people, stop doing that). How do you make good decisions without having an anxiety attack every time you pick up an apple that says ‘organic’ but doesn’t have a seal of certification?**

voting with your dollhairs

If you’re like me, it can easily become overwhelming. It’s a daily struggle to remember that I cannot and will not change the world single-handedly. I can only change myself, keep my heart, mind, and motivations in the right place, let my actions flow from there, and remember that the rest is not in my control. We are called to be stewards of the earth, and I hope it is not too late for me to make some impact, however small, in prolonging our ability to inhabit this earth well. What legacy will we leave here? I know my beliefs have undergone a lot of questioning and a lot of changes over the years; I’m not always sure about everything I’ve been told by the Church, or school, and I can’t always be sure about everything we’re told by science either, but I can feel the ground beneath my feet and see the sky above and it is wondrous to me. If we stop questioning, if we stop caring, we are lost.

Aaron would say, just grow your own food already and stop buying things you don’t need. Simplify, dammit!*** Sounds deceptively easy…hmm… (and yet, I’m the Mennonite here, how does that make sense?)

Hang on let me just finish my law degree. Uggghhh.****

I need a walk.

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*Everybody now: Mmmmmonsanto! That was too easy.

**Because, well, without certification, are we just falling prey to marketing divisions that know most consumers won’t scratch below the surface of what a simple change in label-wording actually means? And anyway, who owns the rights to that certification and what boards of directors does the CEO also sit on, what think-tanks do they sponsor and which political parties do these give funding to??. That’s not even to get remotely in to the topic of resource extraction to support our insatiable appetite for non-renewable energy, or the fact that the ocean is dying and full of so much garbage that it can be seen from space! Argh!!

***He might also say, stop thinking about this in a problems-oriented frame and start thinking about it in a solutions-oriented one! Mmm, buzzwords…

****Actually I love law, don’t worry, parents.

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Revolución

Revolución

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

  – Walter Benjamin

100th Post!

In honour of this, my 100th post on this blog, Sydney had a massive firework show!!
Happy 100th Blog Post, Robyn Thiessen!

Well, no, it was actually the 100th Anniversary of the… well, just read this excerpt from Australian Aviation online: “A international naval review and the next Pacific International Maritime Exposition will be held in Sydney in October 2013, to coincide with the centenary of the arrival of the first Royal Australian Navy fleet into Sydney in 1913.” There. Supposedly it was the biggest event in Sydney since the 2000 Olympics (not to mention that two One Direction concerts were in town the same day and the NRL the next day…Sports!). Prince Harry came, as per custom, to kick things off and represent the Queen, and over one million people were there to watch. I was very fortunate to be invited by a friend, Holly, and her boyfriend Mitch to join them in watching atop the Glenmore Hotel from its rooftop patio in the Rocks (the original landing point in Sydney Harbour of the colonists…/convicts). We were packed shoulder-to-shoulder with other people, but the view was well worth it. I’ve never seen anything like that. They had images and videos of the Navy’s achievements and actions through the 100 years displayed like magic on the side of the Sydney Opera House, there were light shows along with fireworks, tall ships in the harbours, and even fireworks dropped from flying aircraft overhead. I think I stood dropped-jaw the whole 30 minutes. I don’t even want to know how much money goes in to producing an event of that scale…. it would no doubt be a staggering amount. Frivolous, absolutely…. but still spectacular.

Here is a short video clip found on youtube of the fireworks in action, if you’re interested!

And a few poor-quality phone pics I took from the Glenmore Hotel…

Aussie flag displayed on the side of the Opera House
More Fleet Review fireworks
 

I’ve been thinking lately about all the people in my life who have helped get me to the point where I am right now, as well as who make the journey incredible along the way. I feel so fortunate to know the people I know. Even with an event like Saturday night’s, I would never have gone or seen the show from the vantage I did if it hadn’t been for Holly and Mitch, who I wouldn’t know if it hadn’t been for Caitlin (since Holly is one of Caitlin’s oldest friends), and I wouldn’t know Caitlin if I hadn’t gone to France and been put in the residence I was, (I wouldn’t even be in Sydney if it weren’t for her and Josh and Stu and Shaz…as well as encouragement from numerous people at home) and I wouldn’t have been to France if, well, the deconstruction could go on and on. It really makes me pause and consider my own actions and influences on my friends and acquaintances, whether I am a good friend or not and what I can do to be a better friend and person. Because I just… I just couldn’t do this on my own. Not figuratively – literally. When I get down – and I do get down sometimes – I remember this, I remember all the wonderful people, I think about the goals I’m working towards, and I am able to pick myself up and refocus.

Amazing what a little break from school can do for one’s outlook, isn’t it?

Speaking of, this two week mid-semester break has been just what the doctor ordered. I practically feel like a new person. I’ve been out! I’ve been to the beach numerous times, I’ve organised my class notes in prep for exam time, I’ve caught up on [some of] my reading and I’ve watched the first season and a half of the West Wing (where has that show been all my life?). I went to a little island in the Harbour called Cockatoo Island, where Holly and I drank a jug of cocktail and shared a pizza whilst sitting in the sunshine watching sailboats go by all afternoon… and last night I saw a show at the Opera House with my roommate and her boyfriend (Cinematic Orchestra with 40 musicians from the Sydney International Orchestra). It’s been a good break. Today is Labour day, and uni resumes tomorrow!

Today is also my amazing mother’s birthday!!! Happy birthday mom – you and dad are at the very top of my list of people without whom I couldn’t be doing what I am doing, and I am increasingly grateful for all you have done for me and the love you’ve shown. Your retirement is about to get amaaaazing (when I get a real job, that is).

Cockatoo Island!
This is Holly, she is wonderful!
My first visit to Coogee Beach – about a 10min bus ride from my place.

The weather has never been awful in this fine country, but it’s been even better since spring began. I found myself walking home from the bus stop late one Friday night a few weeks ago. My feet were killing me so I took my heels off and walked barefoot on the sidewalk. My usually busy street was very quiet, and the cement was still warm. I wrote earlier this year about spring in a cold climate; new life after a barren winter, and how one really must experience it at some point. Well, spring in a tropical climate is equally intoxicating, even if life never ceased for most of the flora. Warm soil, crab grass, palm leaves… jasmine blossoms, orange blossoms, faint salty air from the ocean only a short drive away… It’s ethereal, magical, yet I feel those smells viscerally. I smile involuntarily. No jacket and no shoes. Divine. Memories of my childhood March breaks spent in Florida flash by and I am overwhelmed again with how blessed I have been.

This little blossom is the potent origin of one of the delightful scents I experience on my walks.
Sydney city line at night, from the Manly Ferry
The Harbour Bridge, as seen from a ferry
Reunited at last! Caitlin and I at Middle Harbour.
Lots of days look a little bit like this….
…and lots of nights look sort of like this (dinner for one?).
Brunch with friends to see off Stu (far left) who moved to Melbourne 😦
 
A shot with me, further proof that I have friends.

It’s not always easy being this far away from home and from my close friends and family. And despite being in the same hemisphere, Aaron is still very far away with a time difference and an equally busy schedule which makes staying in touch difficult at times. But little bursts of happiness and kindness (and modern technology…) give me strength to brush off the bad and move on to the next good thing.

New motto. Heh.

Now, will someone remind me of this next time I’m despairing? (I estimate this to happen shortly before exam season in one month).

Peace, love, blessings and good vibes.