(Graphic: Nathaniel Russell)
I once heard Rupert Everett render himself as ‘electric with thrilldom’ during a BBC interview, and given my affection for his iconic British cadence, and the trap doors into the English language his way of speaking tends to create, the little ditty has stayed with me.
While I’m fairly tentative when it comes to exercising such distinct forms of speech in my own day to day life (still trying to eradicate the over enthused use of cool and interesting from my conversational repertoire - to no avail..) I’m currently finding this expression one I can turn to most aptly to describe the current ritual of a morning swim.
Lake Wakatipu, the body of water into which I have been plunging at 7:30am each morning this month, is to many a treatment in torture and delusion, even on the sunniest of days. But, I find, the more I face its unfavourable hostility with a casual disinterest - even a gratitude - the more I come to know it as a plausible mode or method for experiencing deep joy.
Introducing the new routine of meeting icy water before breakfast, or tending to any other task at hand, has the overly-conscientious and obsessive part of my brain thriving in the act of forming habit. Something I seem to dispel loyalty to when travelling - more concerned with impetuously following novelty, story and potential for humour. However, times like these when I take rest in the hermitage of the hometown, my propensity for regaining order seems to make itself manifest in the most curious of ways. A friend came over for dinner this week, and as we finished our meal and continued to shoot the breeze I absentmindedly, and unbeknownst to me, displayed some aberrant gesture of perfectionism as I folded the navy napkins - bring the right in a third, left in a third over top of the left, dust crumbs, stack. With a bemused and slight grin on her face she said, “You’re quite OCD aren’t you…?” That night I wondered if all the daily dutiful compulsions I perceive as normal, even admirable, may in fact be off-putting and even a little sad to onlookers.
Whether this persnicketiness is in direct association with my nature or just a symptom of too much spare time / self employment I’m not sure.
Notes on self employment -
In this and the below, I’m asking: how to fight the war on resistance. The monkey in your mind telling you that to be at peace in an unassuming, healthy place means you are too comfortable and not exploiting your apparently dormant potential for greatness. But then, how much of this is just glorifying the struggle? Commitment / allegiance to imaginary unease. Self sabotage.
Go to any supermarket and you’re likely presented with grounds for arguing the case that systems of proposed efficiency can in actual fact hinder our freedom - all with comic value assured. The following observation noted in a journal from 2018 may serve as evidence:
“Unexpected item in the bagging area…”
*Lady swipes employee ID.*
*Man attempts to reprocess his goods.*
“Unexpected item in the bagging area. Please remove the item.”
“Oh fuck off…!"
- Tired guy at self check out in Pak n Save.
(I too share this inner longing to retort as passionately to that lady inside the machine.)
And such is the irony of “progressive automation improving the speed of our lives…” We all know sometimes too much arrangement / system can just make us bitter.
I sort of landed in this free wheeling career without needing the structure of institutional scaffolding so to speak. The threat in this however is that there is no formulaic building plan for what steps are next, or exactly when it’s going to become a comfortable space to live in. Some weeks I feel like the framework is just out there getting rained on, kind of half finished and rotting. But just as lengthy cold swims are the propulsion for my daylight hours seeming more easy and satisfying after facing the dawn in a slightly unorthodox way, this discomfort and unpredictability that fills times of waiting for more work projects is the fodder I tend to fuel my writing with.
The indelible fascination with questioning life, the self, and what’s underneath it.
Rachel Cusk put it right in Outline, with one character musing “and if there’s one thing I know it’s that writing comes out of tension, tension between what’s inside and outside. Surface tension.”
This neighbourhood has been home base since I was 7 years old. Confident I could list
every perennial aspect of life that plays out year after year on these streets, I do sometimes question whether or not I’m committing sacrilege to the sacredness that is the nature cove across the road as I roll out of bed, don my dressing gown and meander the path into the water sans swimwear, blasé and privileged.
I even leave a bar of soap down there. Last week I shaved my legs sitting on a rock.
(*sorry Barb and Brian if you have been unwittingly observing the early morning bushwoman spectacle from your breakfast table.)
But perhaps this anecdotal evidence is good proof in my point: maybe in familiarity we learn to exist in bigger, more common spaces with a greater freedom. In coming back to something that feels too significant for us or isn’t fully ours, and trying to befriend it repeatedly, we start to feel comfortable almost anywhere.
In relation to my career - right now there’s no immediate overflow in which my mind gets to bathe (just that metaphorically soaked skeleton of aborted wet timber and plywood) but I think, at least, if I keep coming to the waters edge ready to strip off and be challenged, little bits of thrilldom might have a chance to keep riding on in.
(Image: Edmund Kesting, 1929)
On a temperate afternoon in January I drove a new friend out to the secret river. We sat in its flow and talked under a canopy of green, the current deluging and rushing to escape the miniature dams made of our rounded torsos. Flushing in collective white rapids, enlarging and distorting our thighs. Her green eyes, freckled forearms and auburn hair hanging wet at the tips. My skin taut and bronzed, and gaze soft after a day in the water – a scene locked in mind of mid 20s women.
I’ve been thinking about this age, my age, a lot. What constitutes a meaningful experience of life at 26. A time when tags of designation as to who and where one should be by now can run counter to a peaceful way of seeing all that is. Following prompts from Leigh Patterson’s monthly ‘Moon Lists’ I’m attempting to turn my thoughts away from age group obsession. Things like generation blaming. Truisms of mass assumption that given ones age they must feel as the rest of them do, one for all. My aunty Deb tells me John Reynolds calls himself a generational traitor – a boomer with a mind more akin to the Greta Thunberg’s of this world. I’m so grateful for these ones, and so keep asking myself: why are we so often sat waiting for permission to break from what feels wrong to us? Embroiling ourselves in grossly identified traits devised without any sensitivity to the empirical aspects of our own personal story.
Some days I truly feel geriatric – aged and weary, but full of good spirited nostalgia, more taken by the sentiment of decades long before my time. Others have me convinced I am leaning closer to 6 - more unqualified, persuaded by naivety and utopian hopes alone. But which is a better lens, who’s to say.
One notion that pressed on me as the new year came in was to find and heed intuitive reason, beyond the branded experience. That is to say, reaching the place beneath labelling to instead favour and feel how my body responds to certain people and ideas. In virtue of this I have been penning more words in the voice of my experiential self, not as occupied with how and where they fit in the storyline, or what they might mean to me further down the track. But more a practice in percolation – allowing thoughts and emotions to appear, be acknowledged, and then liberated.
I’m taking a rest from the Greece Stains posts for a bit, and navigating a slightly unforeseen break from the tedium of constant work at the moment. So thought rather than pass the time with my head locked in rewind I would get more up to date, posting what’s been on the mind ad rem.
Happy 2020 to you, whoever you are. May it be a year of great feeling whether you’re old or new, and thank you for being the stalwarts to my never-ceasing cause in finding and sharing le mot juste, or the raison d'etre, or whatever it is I'm doing on here.
On the mind:
Crunch point career moves.
A ‘not quite’ summer: secretly relishing the freshness. More breathing space, not so demanding.
The difference between passivity & patience.
Acknowledging my penchant for simplicity. It’s usefulness in times of transition and fullness.
Pointless identities or imposed ideas of the self: wary of internet use and structuring the online performance (Jia Tolentino ‘trick mirror’ induced!)
What is instinctual and what has become habitual.
(If the habit was changed would the motive be revealed..)
Sundown deck dinners – welcoming others.
Earning none spending none: a limbo of peace, suspended between chapters.
Discomfort is never not useful.
Wind in the big plane tree at 7am.
Ladybird on my sleeve.
12 avos in the back seat.
Mattress topper heaven: guiltless napping.
Early morning jubilation wave - long & easy ride. Me and 3 middle aged men in sun bonnets with Hart St to ourselves. (02/02/2020)
A revisitation of ongoing journal pages written during a summer spent in Greece.
I’m settled into a two storied traditional dwelling, amongst shops and tavernas in the centre of old town Skopelos. Not even 24 hours have passed in this village and my mind is already conspiring ways of returning here annually. Coming to an island set within the established skeleton of the ‘Mamma Mia!’ franchise, I’d naturally assumed there would be an endless string of of tourists and advantageous locals milking it for commercial gain, but it’s quite the contrary. Washing hangs from neighbourhood rooftops, church bells toll every hour, swallows circle the sky overhead, and the surrounding hilltops are neatly parcelled little sugar cube houses with terra cotta roof tiles. Everything is rather gentle and unassuming – fishing boats set in a row, old locals still living out tradition, the wind in the curtains; it’s so simple it’s genius.
My fantasies of returning to the 60’s and feeling like Francoise Hardy or Leonard Cohen on Hydra don’t now seem a stretch too far under the light of a European summer.
I found it very hard to practice camera restraint in the hours following my arrival yesterday, and it got me into trouble. Following a trail through the houses after visiting Panagitsa of Pyrgos I happened upon a hilltop restaurant just as dusk set in. An elderly man was fortuitously placed amidst colourful chairs and flowers in pots, so I began to capture the scene…excessively perhaps. Busted, he promptly offered honest comment: “That’s enough ok! Enough now! No more photos!” in a very stern, Greek tone. My gut sank in the familiar way it seems to when I am doing something I perceive to be innocent and a Greek tells me off (Acropolis museum woman, ‘don’t smell the shampoo’ woman.) I apologised, and exited via the nearest corner path, but turned around to take one more shot of the view. Meanwhile he had risen from his seat to follow me, keen to see if I had respected his order – fervid I had not.
Conviction rose up in me the rest of the evening. Perhaps he’s right, perhaps I am not being respectful enough here? A little entitled. Stuck in my own cultures ways? I forget that just because we speak different languages it doesn’t make these people any less human. And pointing my camera at them is a little like I’m at the zoo.
A fair bit dismayed and feeling sorry for myself I go for a lone volta along the promenade after dark, reaching a beach with daybeds and retired sun umbrellas, so I sit.
Within seconds I am approached by a 13 (?) year old boy sipping from a fizzy can. He says hello and stares. I return pleasantries, a simple “hi,” assuming he is of the totally innocent kind. From here the scene escalates to him commanding, “common…” He gestures to the isolated and ill-lit end of the beach and repeats some indistinct action with his two hands. “You and me. Let’s go, common. Why not.” I reject and ignore, finding refuge in the cool technical glow of my cellphone. He doesn’t move. In fact, he inches closer, his face staring directly into mine and mutters the words: “kess me.”
(I do not oblige.)
Today has been spent at Agnodas (still there…)
Catching a bus through the country I arrived at the cove around 11am, perched myself on a rocky crop at the end of the beach and wrote. After a lengthy swim alone equanimity returned. All the tension complied in the city now gone. Stood on a sea urchin on the way out, lodging multiple spikes into the ball of my left foot and toes. Hobbling with best efforts past the taverna shortly after, three local waiter boys came to help. They sat me in a blue painted wicker chair in the shade and diligently bathed my foot in vinegar, dabbing its residue with a paper napkin.
After this I made friends with a tiny Italian woman named Amalia. 84 years old, from Toreno (Torh-RRREE-noh!), visits Skopelos with her husband each year. She used to teach Italian language, history and geography to intermediate aged students and was rather witty. We swam together, bobbing around out in the deep for quite some time. As we made our reemergence to dry land she wobbled and laughed, “my equilibrium has gone with the years.” She also said cute things like ‘oup’ and ‘scuza.’ We ate lunch with her husband, who spoke zero English but had kind eyes and loved to smile and laugh whenever we attempted to converse. I learned of how they met and fell in love – him a friend of her brother, arriving on the doorstep to teach him maths, her opening the door and feeling an instant pang of desire. He was 16, she was 19. They paid for my meal, and once again I am struck by the generosity of beautiful strangers.
Soon after I meet with the old German woman who is staying in the same pansion as me, Ilsa. We’d met in the kitchen earlier that day after she emerged from one of the rooms sans pants and underwear. I’ve since learned much about her, and gathering the pieces I can tell she is a free-spirited wanderer who has never quite felt ready to stop. We swim and sunbathe until the evening bus back to town. Floating about 100m from shore she tells me that if she ever writes an autobiography her years and times in Greece would heavily feature. I ask what specifically and she replies, “the Greek light. and the music…and the romance.”
“Greek lovers?” I ask.
“Oh yes, many.”
We eat dinner at a local taverna where, turns out, eager boy from the night before plays bouzouki in the corner with his dad. I avert my eyes for a time, but am sure to make him regret his little untoward episode.
A revisitation of ongoing journal pages written during a summer spent in Greece.
* Approaching my writing / documentation with reserve - self inflicted pressure to make this count for the future.
* Confronted with how much I rely on slang. How slack and unclear my communication can be at times. Eloquence is my latest quest.
Met Julianne, Conor and Theano for coffee and food at a bistro cafe near Kolonaki square this morning. We discussed magazine plans and decided our next meeting will be on the beach in two days time. Julianne carried a canvas bag with cylindrical wooden handles that was screen-printed by hand for $4 in a textiles workshop they had visited in Uzbekistan.
After we parted ways I found myself seated at a central restaurant with uniformed rows of outdoor tables where the streets Adrianou and Eolou intersect. Here I tried taramasalata and was given a small shot of mastika on the house for dessert, which I drank only because the waiter was cute and wouldn't let me leave until I'd played my part in this apparent tradition. What was left of the afternoon saw me walk; lost in the national gardens under old cordia myxa and thunder. My phone has been dying most days, so I've made my way home through inventive memory recall and broken conversation attempts. Rania had dinner waiting when I arrived back at her house - fish soup, courgettes, and green beans with lemon. 'Picasso and Antiquity' opening at the Cycladic museum tomorrow night, and more thunderstorms forecast for the day - secretly pleased to have a break from the heat.
* Azurite: dark blue
*Conichalcite: dark green
*Drachma: ancient Athenian coin
*1100-700BC: Geometric period
I’m slowly gathering the pieces to make a bigger picture of this culture as week two rolls around.
Yesterday I had a meaningful encounter with a lady in a shop without a name. Sauntering down a narrow cobbled alley in Plaka after seeing a book of Cavafy poems placed on a window bench. Her collection was artistic and thoughtful - part gallery part antique store, curated in a way that visually questioned the intersect between contemporary and vintage or past and present.
As we spoke I gathered she was someone as struck by the passage of time and its sentiment as I am. Exchanging musings on the topic she shared a thought I have been processing ever since:
“People think Greece and the history and the offerings are all based around the ancient, but it is not ancient - it is present. In the air that you breathe. When you go up the Acropolis, take your time. Feel it. No need to share anything or take photographs because there is nothing really there anymore, but the holy rock is still there. Just sit, feel it, think of what it means then and also now.
And the theatre of Dionysos just below - it was a teaching place when Greece was in a time of being the most advanced civilisation. It was a place to teach people about feelings, through theatre and art.”
I spent the evening inside the Acropolis museum doing what she said - taking my time. Learning of the Parthenon’s funny history, observing salvaged ruins from the 5th Century BC Persian destruction, and having my mind completely bathed in the antiquities of well crafted marble and bronze.
Here I sit, atop the sacred Acropolis perched on a stone at the foot of the Parthenon’s East pillars. I experience a hint of underwhelm as the obnoxious drones of westernised accents seem to kill any poetic sentiment the site once carried. It’s a zoo up here - people coming for the selfie and not a whole lot more. Watching them (heeding to stranger’s instruction from yesterday and not partaking in the photo taking for once) my mind is cast to an irony: Once a place of sanctity, worship and the highest honour, now one us humans seek to conquer only for self interest. Perhaps I’m too cynical, or perhaps it’s the heat, but once again I’m being reminded of the temporary glory of our man made pursuits. Legacy gets passed on and fragments remain, but with time the original value and intent are forgotten.
I squint my eyes and try imagine I am the only one up here, the curves in the marble catching the softness of the sun as it prepares to set, and I feel it more. The structure deeply impresses. Almost so much that the mind can hardly fathom the laborious toiling of the ancient makers, and as I look out over the creamy rendered cityscape I can’t help from feeling it’s familiar…genetic memory perhaps?
I wonder who stood here, looking up as I do in this very same position: what they thought and felt. Their political position, relationships, religious views. And I wonder who will stand on this patch of earth another 2587 years from now and wonder the same of the person that is me.
These pillars are enormous, and the concept of time even more so.
A revisitation of ongoing journal pages written during a summer spent in Greece.
Up in the air now. Aretha Franklin plays in my ears and I feel a stirring of delicious independence, all the while surer of a connection to those I love after my speedy time in Auckland. I don’t think I have felt more calm about anything in my life. I made way through customs like I was playing a role in a waking dream - certain I am unaware of what awaits me on the other side of the world, ready to blow a fuse and have my current mind shattered into a million tiny new pieces.
A father and daughter are sitting beside me, reminding me of me and mine. As we took off he reached for her small hand and held it inside his, the way dad does and always has and said, “well, here we go.”
Well, here we go.
I haven't ever been confronted by my propensity to idealise as much as I was arriving here. Lack of sleep, culture shock and my contradicting selves all converged under the hot light of Athens as I wheeled my suitcase to Meintani 19 only to discover buildings that bear resemblance to the council flats of Collingwood - people’s balcony plants are suffering, cigarette smoke leeches in through every crack, and the rubbish collection system seems to be on holiday.
Refreshed myself in the shower, and once I felt composed enough to make my first conscious appearance in public I set out to walk the streets. It’s interesting, allowing myself the time and space to gather pieces and make a slightly broader picture, to see how my confidence begins to resurface.
I can now hold onto something - a point of reference, my pride perhaps.
I saw the cats, the street-side citrus trees gifting their produce to the gutter, the sheets hanging off rusty old balustrades, the old men with their komboloi, young lovers on scooters. I found Greek mountain tea, a health food store, and accidentally ordered three meals at a café.
The smell in the air this morning is reminding me of Carlsbad - eating goat’s yogurt and porridge with papaya on the balcony. Although the scene here is less predictable, I stare out over a main road at dirty white apartment buildings with their multicolored canvas sun flaps and it finally hits me I am somewhere older than I can grasp. I haven’t yet begun to consider the antiquity of this land, but as I make my way to the archaeological museum this afternoon I am hoping a romance with Athens will feel more steady and real.
Well and truly over my initial feelings of displacement. Athens is exceedingly brilliant; I am falling deep in love.
There’s an element of insouciance to the Greeks. Yet, if you are doing something annoying they will surely tell you. I can’t find words to put them in a box, all I can do is appreciate their looseness. They seem to know what pleasure is - how to celebrate, how to relax. In Theano’s words: it may not be as pretty as Italy or other places, but it’s real. There is nothing fake here, and everyone accepts that - it’s messy and it’s chaotic and it is what it is.
I am acutely aware of how entitled I am as I operate in this new reality. At times I find myself just expecting the comforts of my own home, forgetting that I am the tourist and I am ignorant. I think things like “this train station has such terrible signage.” Or “these people respond rudely when I merely ask a question.” Of course. I’m not in an English speaking country. I am in their country - a visitor - and when in Rome you do as the Romans do, so to speak. This is their every day life…even if it’s far removed from the familiarity of mine. I think I’m still adjusting / coming to terms with / even realising that I’m not in a culture that’s akin to my own, and it’s going to take some effort and a little grace as I fumble my way through to a more comfortable Greek version of myself.
“Everyone meets every island in a different way."
- Cab driver Nikos A
“Ikaria is a special situation. Nirvana situation there.”
“Heaven on earth?”
“Something like that.”
- Cab driver Petros
Thinking about origins a lot. Of people (cultures, races, physical attributes), instruments (materials, makers), places (what happened where I am standing before it was the way it is), language (how one can be bilingual, how words are created, how languages have split according to province.)
I find I am most impressed by the concept of time over anything else. It’s difficult to entirely relate to the historical things I am seeing, so vast and incomprehensible to the modern mind. What resonates however is the prompt to appreciate process, and those who have given us what we now have and take for granted.
Visited the Exarchia laiki agora this afternoon - fruit heaven, ample fresh olives and an elderly man selling green beans who said ‘brrrr’ and made a shivering gesture, wrapping his hands around his body when I said where I was from.
Rode the metro lines and walked home without needing to look at the map on my phone: assimilating.
(Image: Marino Marini,1952 by Herbert List)
Developing a sensitivity to energy hierarchies after many swift moves through changing contexts in the space of a short time. The shift after just three days in an environment closer to home saw me a little scattered, confused, and indifferent to my former self. Settling into familiarity meant letting my guard down more, in comparison to the moments of transit and arrival. Upon landing, everything felt slightly homogenous and unchallenging. All too easy, which is at once a relief and a grievance. I never thought it during, but it seems that feeling out of my depth is a preferable and comfy state. Or is this just some unconscious way of punishing myself - keeping myself from rest?
I’m being confronted by the way I seem to fall in love with every place I spend time, making it tricky to know which is truly befitting and which is just a mirage fuelled by the details and the people of that particular brief and fleeting moment as I travelled along.
Why is it I only feel I know myself and my ambition best when I am moving and alone.
At times I lose myself in an automatic attempt to keep harmony with others - curious and impressionable so as to keep even and learn what there is to learn from them, yet in the process seem to disregard a sense of my own view and assurance. How often do I use my voice with absolute authority. Penning definitively? ‘Perhaps, I think, maybe’ are all phrases overused. Is this reluctance to standing with feet firmly in one camp born of a life of nomadic shifts and constant context changes? I can’t be giving these thoughts enough time to take root and be tested…
But in many ways I see that as ignorance - choosing one way and sticking to it, blind to all others, unadaptable and closed.
Is it aimless or wise to stay so open?
Is it really trepidation - fear of being wrong, losing control, losing respect?
Psychologists speak of ‘unbearable feelings’ linked to a core internal belief that acts as an insidious rudder diverting our feelings from safe places. Identifying mine I often see it clear in these examples - it’s the worry of being misunderstood. Being fickle, uninformed, contradicting myself.
Casting my mind to a conversation with a friend (hi Layla) last week, this seemed to be a common theme for the both of us. We spoke of being curiosity driven, to the point of no focused attention. A phenomenon described by the writer of an article I read a month ago as being a ‘liberty junkie.’
The addiction to the thrill of new knowledge and each novel experience that comes with it. Like a sponge, we need restorative niches - spells of deprivation from the resource that so fills us up - in order to wring out the contents we’ve drenched ourselves in so willingly. To regain shape.
I find everything in this world so interesting and want to take it all in, but the constant barragement of wonderful, hearty ideas in a new place (cities in particular) leaves no time to actually stop and consider which ones took well in me the most. How do we focus our efforts and hone knowledge of one certain thing, invest in one sole practice, build a home on one solid notion.
“I don’t think it’s fickle, it’s good, as long as you don’t lose yourself in it,” she said.
I sit in in the departure lounge and reflect on three months in Greece that are far too lofty to pour in to one quick post.
The weeks came to an end on Zakynthos, in the Ionian Sea. An island that by first impression was fat bellied Australian men on quad bikes, and tavernas with ‘Greek’ menus that have been raped by British preference: chips and steak. No more horta, no more fava.
I quickly formed my own routine here - spending little, swimming lots. The beach in the evening giving me the solace I craved and once again I found my best self living by the sea.
Tourism makes me scared for the world. It’s foolishness and superficiality. Money at all costs, taking and consuming and creating, for these means only. But being a nomad am I contributing to the problem? (I think the amount of bottled water I’ve gone through while on the islands equates to more than I have since high school.)
I try not to engage in the act. Rather, I find it more appealing to slip into a local routine. With respect for the daily rhythms of a place - ones for now and ones from then. I’ve become sensitive to the ignorance of pridefully sharing a newfound opinion on the tiny little surface I’ve just so happened to scratch.
Think I’ll resolve it by saying,
I’m a visitor, not a tourist.
Here to observe and engage as I take part and take parts with deep thanks.
As I move on and start to miss the moments, I’ll look to the journal pages I diligently penned each night and let these memories naturally take their rankings. Space and time often do this. Being away from the reality we tend to look back on moments with even more sentiment... But I don’t want to condense my feelings and the thoughts my mind gathered here into a top 10 list.
Over time I want to share those that are worthy and universal, and I hope in reading them you’ll go back there with me too.
(Image: Nigel Shafran’s Work Book)
Relaying some words written for work recently, because they feel relevant as a season living in a new culture inches closer:
The only methods, teachings, and experiences worth pursuing are those that continue to open you. Closing only causes disconnect and distrust. Now more than ever it’s important that we remain curious - We are all beautiful ideas in motion and if we are open to let it, someone else’s genius may just spark the fire of ours.
Studies prove that the human brain registers a broken heart, or emotional wounding, in the very same way it does a broken bone. Our bodies are so very clever, yet we forget how much influence our actions can have on their ability to thrive on this more subtle level. We all know how to nurse ourselves with kindness and rest, but often only when we are sporting some form of overt physical pain. How willingly are we gifting ourselves the same time to heal wounds that are not as straightforward? For many, exercise is relief - the kind that means constant distraction, engagement, intensity. For others, release may come in the form of quiet - processing through passive, gentle movement explorations such as walking, yoga, or stillness.
Considering pain, trauma and movement: whatever practices we are drawn to as a means to process emotional pain, can we offer up a little more respect for our bodies and their incredible work? Whether carrying physical or mental ‘trauma,’ seen or unseen, these great vessels have our back…literally. And time to rehabilitate and rebuild is needed all the same.
Flogging ourselves too hard at the gym in attempts to overcome emotional fragility is kind of like fighting fire with fire, for we cannot remedy something by condemning it, we’ll only add to it’s destruction. Instead, can we bring curiosity rather than fear to our pain and go from there? As Bessel A. van der Kolk says in his book ‘The Body Keeps the Score,’ “We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body. This imprint has ongoing consequences for how the human organism manages to survive in the present.”
As autumn unfolds at home in the southern hemisphere, and with the knowledge that warmer weather awaits me in Greece, I have been looking closer at my relationship to movement. What motivates it, and what fruit it brings.
Despite the weather, I find whenever I am living here I will still book-end my days with a walk on the track. Many times the walking is needed to move out of a headspace that is less than inspiring, and it’s on those days I’m more thankful for strangers - being the reason I still know I am capable of being who I really am. Some days, when I’m feeling weary and dazed with utter delight, I see things more uncensored. Becoming more aware of the urgency for thankfulness as I consider that the quiet scene unfolding will never again be relived the way it is here and now.
To be present, tolerant, balanced and graceful.
The thing about movement - be it walking, or hiking, or whatever - and doing the same moves, same height, every day, every week, is that the practice and the action doesn’t change. The mountain / track doesn’t change, the thing that changes is you. And this is precisely the point. Showing up and observing how different you are every time you approach it is a way of self regulating and checking in to see where your mind is, and how you are showing up emotionally and mentally on a day-to-day basis.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept in relation to place lately.
Late afternoon a few weeks ago I sat on our neighbour Noelene’s porch as she recalled her own time in Greece in the 1970’s. She took me on the most beautiful journey with her words, and fascinated me thinking very soon I’ll have my own words to put to the very same places and pass on to others in my old age. She looked off and told me of nights eating outside at tavernas in the heat under lantern lights, with stray cats wandering the streets beside them, donkey travel up old cobbled paths to accommodation in Santorini, vine leaf dolmades, big tomatoes, excessive feta cheese and fresh salads.
Greece seems to be a country people recount with such sensuality and nostalgia. One week later, my insurance agent Debra told me of her time on Crete with a girlfriend, staying in a small hut on the beach with a Greek family - waking in the morning, opening her eyes and hearing squawking, only to look out the window and see the old house mother strangling a chicken in her starched black apron. She spoke of feasts, vast fields of yellow sunflowers, wild roaming goats, the colour purple, daisies, more widows donning black aprons, and buying giant sardines straight from the boat.
I’m anticipating the most hedonistic love affair with the natural world, and feel ready and willing to fully lean into every thing the Greek culture can offer me - to eat like they do, learn like they do, see like they do. But these nightly pink dusk walks around the neighbourhood prompt me to always keep faithful to the rhythms of my true home, wherever I may be.
(Image: Yasmine Ganley (anyone girl founder) + Jiho Yun)
A recent series of poems featured in collaboration with Anyonegirl.com, speaking to communication barriers, female instinct, and the weight of our words.
The whole process gave me a rush of some weird brand of nostalgia - the kind that usually motivated me to watch bad 80’s movies starring Steve Martin, or that one where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito are supposed to be twins.
In fact, I couldn’t describe with any accuracy how I was feeling. I just knew it felt like I’d been there before, and would be back there many times again.
Today I’ve been reading over old stories I had briefly noted to fill the monotonous days of an in between season at home early last year. Only to now recall these days as incredibly fulfilling. One entry was titled: ‘Not super profound, just thoughts that were pleasing.’ I smile a bit when I see this, because isn't it all? In whatever way, shape or form our weeks tick on, they are all laden with big moments, etched from a place of great thanks. As I ponder the themes that seem to compel me to write most days I think I owe it to the little band of voices sitting on my shoulder giving me their two cents - the seasons, the passage of time, nostalgia, innocent interactions, and insignificant remarks that seem to slip and fall into a deep pocket of my mind reserved for times of existential analysis.
I sometimes worry the ideas I faff about describing on this site may unknowingly take on the tone of someone intensely new age - complimentary to Bondi beach and words and sayings like “bebes” and “summer vibes” and “child of the universe.”
But I think I will go on to share, even if it’s just for my own sweet relief.
Sticking to the schedule of my lazy and reclusive January, I have decided to share in a roundabout way the contentedness that has struck me over the past month by pulling out some old memories, and passing them on to you. I hope however the year has begun for you it takes shape in a way that is easy to keep filling as the next 12 months roll on.
I’ve found that swims and a good picnic dinner are always there to remind you if you’ve somehow forgotten...
11th February - a break in the weather.
Today felt like ‘Noah's last letter’ by Aaron Zigman, walking through the forest, catching raindrops on my tongue, the smell of wet pine, and a nostalgia for movies like waking ned divine and in my fathers den, or moody walks to a cabin in the woods of Oregon, or down to the wild chalk cliffs of Chuckmere Haven in a thick fog. All about 3 quick minutes from home.
17th February - friendliness begets friendliness.
House sitting at James’ tonight. His mum left a beautiful gift on my bed. Again, I feel it should be the other way around…these blessings are so unfathomable, nonsensical, and so underserved. I wandered the tussock clad hills as the sun went down earlier and felt I could almost cry the happiest most reverent tears.
This entire summer. It’s heaven. Going to have a starry bath with a cup of tea now, then swaddle myself in a woollen blanket and stare at the stars outside some more.
31st March - familiar.
I went to the movies alone on Wednesday. A little date with myself. No-one else’s agenda or thoughts involved, I just sat anonymously in seat 23 of the third row and slipped into the bizarre world of a middle-aged English woman dealing with her newfound singleness. I remembered our old neighbour Noelene once telling me “sometimes it’s good for the soul to go see a movie alone.” She is good with hearty, honest, practical advice like that. “It’s good to play the field,” were her parting words to my sister as she bid us farewell to navigate the world of university and the expansive pool of eager young boys that was likely to come with it.
Arrowtown looked handsome that autumnal evening. The streets were sedate and the Blue Door’s alleyway was empty. I smiled as memories from the best summer ever flooded back into my mind. But at the very same time I didn’t want it to be any time but this, so I buried my nose into my scarf and wrote a note on my phone - something about wandering small towns at night and feeling romantic..
21st April - more dates with myself, knowing her better.
This week has once again been filled with many words - but mostly in a professional sense. I can feel my relationship with them changing slightly, when I look at how little I am journalling, and the pull to note my observations becoming less apparent or enjoyable. Perhaps this is just a season of less output. Which is brining quite a welcomed stillness…Sometimes the whirlwind of revelations and written creations feel like they are coming at me and out of me from every which way. It’s divine, but overwhelming at times. I am so obsessed with words I can’t seem to do them in moderation, or by halves. It’s either days wanting none or indulging in a sort of full blown infatuation.
21st May - dressed in white.
There is a white blanket of fresh snow on the mountains and hills today, after yesterday’s rotten weather. I stayed under blankets in my white dressing gown all weekend after being knocked back by a sudden bout of fatigue. All I wanted to do was eat carbs, stalk the Royals, and not put mascara on. The familiar wintry smell of our neighbourhood wafted in the bathroom window after my shower, beckoning me to go out there and liven up the senses. I’m always banging on about seasons, but that’s only because they are so majestic in this town. It’s like living inside a picture book with images telling the most changeable story.
2nd June - thursday.
Got up at 5am to go exploring - I left the wee cottage in the frosty dark and just drove. Turned the necessary turns to get closer to Fraser Dam which I decided I would visit to watch the sun rise, forgetting it was Central Otago, and winter, which meant instead I was greeted with a menacing dark fog and hoar frost. I sat in the car in the middle of the unmapped road at 7am listening to Concerto FM and entertained fears that I may be murdered by a stranger at any minute. Pavarotti didn't help ease the tension of the situation. Once the light of day came I drove on a little further and entered a vast and wintry wonderland. It was unlike anything I’ve seen, and felt like I was the only person on this newfound frosty planet.
6th June - every drop a little miracle.
On the mind:
Permanent impermanence - the gift of seasons.
Watching Noelene look out across the lake, moving slowly - thinking of growing too old, feeling like I want time to stop so she doesn’t have to.
Feeling steady - relishing the cold, standing in the snow and finally understanding purity.
Realising how deeply joyful I really am here - underneath all the stories.
Fantails in the garage, bundled close together on a wire - teaching me about withstanding storms and finding warmth in being with others.