(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 relieved 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 into the distance and told me of experiences eating at outside 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, dolmades, big tomatoes, excessive feta cheese and fresh salads.
Greece seems to be the one 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 little hut on the beach with an old Greek family - waking in the morning, opening her eyes and hearing a squawking, only to look out the window and see the old house mother strangling a chicken in her big black apron. She spoke of feasts, vast fields of yellow sunflowers, wild roaming goats, the colour purple, daisies, more old women in their 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 keen 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 too. 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.
I’m starting to adjust back into the rhythms of here. Feeling appreciation for old and familiar summer comforts:
Bare feet, secret beaches, lying on hot deck tiles, morning dips in the lake, long stretched out days, long stretched out views.
Some parts of family life at home are definitely daggy, but in saying that, I don’t know how many more summers I’ll get to be languid and observant for multiple months at a time here. I’m noting that I can simultaneously hold on to the new parts of me - built from travel and expansion - whilst still nursing those deeper longings that are so innate I could navigate my way back to them with closed eyes.
The first day of the year began with a still, warm, grey morning.
I walked half way down our street in my pyjamas with togs, towel, and notebook in hand to sit quiet at the beach.
I like how on mornings like this time feels slower, almost suspended, making it easier to commemorate the significance of the night before.
We were all just in this bubble of stillness with no other sensory distractions. Me, that girl being taxied across the water by her dad on a paddle board, that other couple sitting in beach chairs to my left, and the rest of the town out of sight around the bend of the peninsula.
One thing I’ve grown proud of over recent years is the progress I’ve made towards living more in utter simplicity. Realising that’s where my best work, moments, relationships, and best self are found. This priority shift has made me see that all I actually need is in disregarding excess, not in acquiring more of it.
At the beginning of last year I set myself the task of keeping a digital journal, as opposed to a handwritten one. The intention was to limit my physical belongings as I traveled, and to become more considered in my approach to writing - seeing journalling as a tool for refining communication, not just as a space for brain dumps and long emotional soliloquies. As a result, by the end of the year I had penned some 84,000 words across various documents for personal keeping. This obviously provided some constancy in relieving any pithy qualms I navigated, but mostly it just became a delightful way of reliving each day before I went to bed, teasing out the details that would in the past have seemed so insignificant. As I wrote, I began to view my life as more of a story unfolding.
I heard an interview with a novelist on the radio a few weeks ago, and during the conversation he went on to say “some books we fall into the way we fall into a lifeboat.”
And this is the most delicious thing, I now realise, deep in my endless love affair with words. We not only find that safety by reading them, but perhaps in writing them too.
Some more thoughts shared with Self Practice Journal. Considering the role of compassion and resilience, and how we might employ these virtues when facing the tricky business in our society today.
'In ongoing attempts to see beyond monotony, and consider with more weight the paths I cross on a day to day basis, I often wonder how the world would wear the warmth of my appreciation in moments like these. As I walk, do my feet paint a trail? Is it gentle, digestible, helpful?'
Shared thoughts on memory, growth and nostalgia, in an essay written for Self Practice this month.
My return to Melbourne has me asking: how can we attempt to explain feelings that are too big and complex for words? Obscenely thankful, I am experiencing total nostalgia and familiarity in the most unlikely scenes. Seeing the colours and tones of old locations as they transition from my memory into real time again, while simultaneously drinking them in completely anew - so novel and never before been known.
I’m finding it hard to fully articulate the way this is moving me.
- Not belonging to one set group or place, but many.
This year I’ve been trying on different lives, different ways of being and seeing. Rather than condemn this, thinking I am unstable and fickle, I am coming to welcome it as a sign of contentedness in all settings. Feeling at home wherever, often in vastly contrasting spaces. Feeling each one as relevant in the moment it is being played out, and not wanting to go back nor forward from it until the time truly comes.
- We are all beautiful ideas in motion.
- Discarding superfluous things, ideas, expectations. The words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh ring true as I picked them up after a dear friend gifted me her book, A gift from the sea: “the solution for me, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes - a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return.”
- Seeking experience that validates the understanding that all objects carry energy. Taking more time to feel and acknowledge this as it moves and shifts in my body throughout the day - preventing stagnancy.
- Prayer being submitted more with actions than words. What then are we asking for in a given moment in time?
- Ideas only being in conflict when they are applied all / both at once. But one at a time, with appreciation, they each hold their own validity.
- Jose Ortega Gasset’s words, “to be surprised, to wonder, is to begin to understand.”
- Distinguishing what skills I seek to add to my repertoire purely because they might make me more impressive or superficially interesting, and which I wholly commit to out of sincerity - regardless of outcome or perception.
- Observing how I organise my experience of the world. My contradictions, insistences, long standing beliefs, and systems of value.
- Thinking about water and its significance and role in self acceptance / comfort / healing.
(Photo: René Magritte, The Art of Conversation)
Just a quick note to pen, because I’ve been playing around with my tendencies and motivations this past two weeks - in regards to what is worthy of documentation, and what really needs to be publicly shared.
Having just spent nine days at sea with old friends the slate of my mind feels clearer. The short break from existing like the rest of humanity carried with it more than I initially expected, and I’ve really just noticed that now. Today as I relive the sensations, moments, and rituals that were our reality for most of the trip, I’m trying to look more deeply at our natural tendency to appreciate the weight of things only after they have passed and gone. Rather than resent myself - demanding I be more present next time - I want to gently view it all, with curiosity. Because in actual fact, as present as we aim to be in the present, it will never feel like a full enough picture to soak in until every form and detail has had it’s chance to come forward. Something that I’m beginning to see only happens in retrospect.
On the flight home yesterday, still salty from our pre flight swim in the ocean, I asked myself: what are the really important things that need to be documented, expressed or explained about this trip. Because surely the world doesn’t need another photo of a girl posing in a bikini at the bow of a yacht. Surely it needs to know more about the joy of eating breakfast slowly with friends at your table, the generosity of others sharing their reality so you can find your dream, the freedom in trusting nature’s course, and what happens inside of you when you witness the vastness of the night sky while anchored at sea.
Being on the boat taught me a few valuable life parallels. Like planning ahead and knowing variables / conditions, all while staying fluid, flexible, adaptable.
It got me pondering states of flux -
The ebbs and flows of weather patterns.
The wind and tide being not too dissimilar to emotions.
The understanding of home as more of a feeling, not just walls and windows.
When I was at the helm one afternoon another boat up came up ahead carving a similar route to us, and Polly said to me, ‘stay on your course so he knows where you’re going.’
It struck me as a practical instruction, but later I came to look at it through more of a philosophical lens. There were no mapped rules in that moment. No lines in the sea. Just as there aren't any for our relationships, or life for that matter. But perhaps this tells that it’s with our actions we can best communicate where we aim to end up as we travel along blindly, and hopefully avoid collision in doing so.
Thoughts and questions on documentation -
I think at times I concern myself too much with capturing things rightly, all to make them more real or justifiable. But why does another’s knowledge of my experience make it more notable? Why do I give over the sacred nature of my very own moment to rest in the hands of others, letting their perceived judgment of it dictate the way I move about in that space and time.
Do I let it easily pull me away from the very people I am in it with; only to give a very fickle glimpse to those I am not with?
Why do I value the approval and opinions of some people in my life over others? What makes me so calculated in these times?
Experiencing my life as a movie in my own head. I can faintly hear a constant storyteller’s voice - myself in my old age - recalling these little and big moments to someone down the line. Then letting that narrative dictate my movements, and influence more considered decisions... Ones I would like to watch, read, and hear about.
“Substance over form: learning to pay attention to how things work and feel, not just what they look like.”
I read these words somewhere a few months ago and they’ve stuck. I’m still learning, but I think I’m liking the result of the process.
(Photo: Allan Kaprxw, Comfort Zones, Madrid 1975)
A lot of strangers have quick become friends this past 6 weeks, filling my daily quota for quality time and good conversation, and also prompting me to stop and gently consider the way I walk about the world. One of them asked me the other day, “do you know who you want to become?”
A curly one which later had me dig up these words I had written years ago, to refresh myself in committing to the answer:
Should we be successfully restored to our given purpose, maybe we’ll find that it never needed fixing in the first place.
It's not in the heading out to chase, but the coming back.
It's not a case of doing, but of being.
Not one of needing more, but less.
Not adding, but subtracting.
A matter of discarding the distractions, labels, and ill fit conditionings - finding redefinition through objective looking as we strip off who we’ve always believed we should or must be to stand face to face, unashamedly, with the person that we are.
Thanks, bye and see you again in one month Hobart.