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Monday
Feb252019

Are these the dying days of paper delivery?

The ‘Thwack!’ of the rolled up newspaper landing on our verandah has woken my beloved and me during almost four decades of married life. That entire time, sitting in bed with our first cup of tea, poring over The Age has been the start to every day, even in the small country town where our paper boy complained vociferously about the weightiness of the Saturday Age. We were only one of two households that had it delivered.

Not that there haven’t been conflicts in this idyllic scenario. It suited my bloke and me when the sports section came separately; he could pore over that while I read the news and opinions. Then there was a separate ‘Metro’ insert which I was happy to read while he looked at the main bits. Once all the sections no longer came separately, it did cause some marital tensions about who had first dibs, but this problem was neatly solved a few years back with the arrival of iPads, to which my husband took like a duck to water, signing up to The Age app as soon as it became available.

So, for the last five years, we have happily coexisted of a morning, as I turn the pages of my beloved hard copy version and he flicks through it on his device.

These days, however, I’m wondering if this cosy habit of a lifetime is about to come to an end.

For one thing, occasionally, our paper delivery is late. If the ‘Thwack!’ that makes me smile with anticipated pleasure at 20 minutes of good reading doesn’t happen till after I have left for work, it’s too late.

Other times there’s a veritable treasure hunt involved in finding it: perched high in one of the trees or deep in one of the bushes in our front yard, under the car, on the nature strip. Our neighbours must chuckle in amusement at pyjama-clad me, prowling anxiously, on the hunt for my daily fix.

But the most compelling reason I’m considering adopting the app is that more than half our recycling each week consists of newspaper, and I need to do something about that. So, maybe it’s time I bit the bullet and went online for my Age reading. It’s the end of an era, and I feel a bit nostalgic. And sad that the accompaniment to my alarm clock – the sound of the paper landing on my front step, will become, like so much else in life, a nostalgic memory.

Thursday
Feb072019

Vale Mary Oliver

Walking almost always cheers me. But on Christmas Eve, not even a saunter through my neighbourhood could lift my spirits. It was a gorgeous day. And I love Christmas: the worship and the music, the food and the gathering of the clans. I was at the start of more than three weeks off work and I was looking forward enormously to this spell of rest and time in the open air.

But I was down. Blue in a way that tends to happen at the end of the year, when I am simply worn out. Once again it had been a year with what felt like more than its fair share of death, illness, bad news and intimidatingly complicated tasks needing urgent attention.

I did one of my usual local perambulations through the string of parks we are lucky enough to live near, up bustling Sydney Road and along small suburban streets. When I was almost home, I was halted in my tracks by a flowering gum at the edge of an oval: the brightest, most iridescent orange I had seen for a long time.

‘Oh!’, I exclaimed out loud, involuntarily. I stopped and gazed at the cheery, outrageous display of colour and saw another wonder contained within it; an aptly named rainbow lorikeet. I was only two feet away, but the bird was not threatened. Head on one side, it regarded me quizzically and long.

‘Hello’, I breathed, which seems to be the word that springs unbidden to my lips whenever I am surprised by the sight of an animal or bird. ‘Hello’, soft and gentle and delighting.

I stood there for a while, the bird and I taking each other in, and then the creature was off, and I went on my way, rejoicing.

When I am sunk in despair, grief, deep weariness or self-pity, sometimes the antidote is as simple as soaking myself in the natural world. This can take two minutes on a Brunswick street, as happened on Christmas Eve. Or it can be a longer immersion. In the new year I spent a fortnight at the beach, when I spent hours each day wandering on the sand and swimming in the ocean. Each moment, I felt profoundly held by mother nature and the Creator God, being healed and restored.

It is a wonderful thing to take solace in the created world, which the Creator declared good. But it is not all about me. Bearing witness to wonder is work in which the Creator God takes delight, because where there is wonder, there cannot be cynicism or violence.

One of the best witnesses to wonder I know of is legendary, Pulitzer Prize winning nature poet and Christian Mary Oliver who died recently. In one of my favourite of her works, Messenger, she writes the lines:

My work is loving the world…

Let me keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.

 Vale Mary Oliver

This was published in the February issue of The Melbourne Anglican

 

 

 

Sunday
Feb032019

Listen to the weather

Doesn’t seem that far back when we Melburnians used to whine when the thermometer hit 32°. ‘What a stinker!’ we’d exclaim, looking fretfully, in those long-ago days before weather apps, for a sign that the wind had turned and was coming from the south at last.

These days, 32° sounds positively balmy; we’re not shocked till it gets into the 40s. A few days ago, on a brutally hot (although still ‘only’ in the high 30s) day, our fine city was blessed, right on 5 o’clock, when your average punter was heading home from work and hadn’t thought to bring a brolly because we had almost forgotten what rain was, with a deluge. As I walked up Bourke St to my tram, I was tickled by the infectious and patent delight of everyone around me. No one was complaining about getting drenched. People were laughing and smiling and saying, ‘isn’t this amazing?’ to complete strangers. Folk were standing uncomplaining on exposed tram stops, staring up at the heavens in wonder.

It put me in mind of the start of the monsoon in India, where people of all ages dance in the street with sheer happiness and gratitude at the coming of life-giving rain after months of ferocious summer. Maybe it was growing up in the Subcontinent that has made me so fond of Melbourne weather. Living for years through four months of hideous heat followed by four months of flooding rains followed by four months of pleasant weather, year after year, made the four seasons in one day of my adopted home town an endless source of fascination. You can never get bored here, at least not weather wise.

Of course, the changing weather patterns the world around are cause for grave concern. We’re a soft lot in the city, merely inconvenienced by the heat or cold or rain; in the country the elements are a matter of life or death, as Tasmania burns on and drought ravages farms across our state. And there is the further degree of desperation experienced by our Pacific neighbours who stand to lose their very homeland, thanks to global warming and the rising of the seas.

I will continue to delight in our four seasons in one day. And try, rather than treating the weather as a nuisance, to be more responsive to what it is trying to tell us and our obtuse politicians about what humanity needs to do, urgently, to preserve life on this fragile planet.

This was published in The Melbourne Age on 3 February 2019

Tuesday
Jan292019

Watch this space

Decluttering guru Marie Kondo, who took the world by storm with her 2016 international best seller The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, now has her own Netflix show.

I have been a fan for a while, and although I have long since stopped trying to fold my knickers in exactly the origami shape stipulated, and never quite managed to thank my socks each time I took them off, I have regular seasons of enthusiastic Kondo-ing, and each time, my house and my life does become a little more pleasingly spare.

Travelling lightly through life is something I aspire to increasingly as I age. All my most recent trips overseas were made even more delightful and carefree than they might have been anyway thanks to my adoption of the principle of taking carry-on baggage only. My longest time away was seven weeks, in both hot and cold climates, and it was easy to limit myself to one small bag. When I returned home, I was discombobulated by the number of clothes and footwear I had to choose from every morning. Life was simpler and sweeter when I only had a couple of outfits for summer or winter temperatures.

Over the recent summer break, I did my first bush-walk in a few years, with all my clothes, bedding, food and water on my back. One of the best things about the trek was the simplicity inherent in having one sleeping bag, three sets of clothes, and the most basic of meal provisions. Unencumbered by too much stuff, my heart and mind were free to take in some of the spectacular natural beauty that surrounded me on those four days.

I’m not a complete Kondo convert. Although I have recycled hundreds of books, I will never reduce the number of volumes on my shelves to 30, as she recommends, because I love the things. They are as precious to me as the art on my walls, they reveal part of who I am, they are my treasures. To speak in Kondo-ese, they spark joy, and I am perfectly content to keep a lot of them.

But the rest of the baggage that fills my life and my house could be drastically reduced without losing anything precious. And in the next couple of years, when my beloved and I move from a sprawling family home to an apartment, we will need all the inspiration we can get from Marie Kondo. Watch this increasingly decluttered space!

 

Wednesday
Jan092019

Tempers evaporate in the great outdoors

Is it my imagination, or are people less cranky at the beach?

There they are, thousands of random people packed into a limited space, and is anyone arguing, or yelling or throwing a tanty? Not as often as you’d expect.

I think the reasons are threefold.

First, there are more adults around, and they are under less pressure. In two parent families, both parents are on call; right on hand to admire that sand-castle, provide a bottle of cool water, venture into the waves with their kid atop their shoulders. Often, a bunch of families holiday together or meet on the shore and the adults can take it in turns to hang out with the littles. There’s a lot more attention to go around, away from laptops and domestic chores and the tyranny of getting out the door in time for creche, school, work.

Secondly, a surprising absence of devices. Sure, there are besotted parents videoing their little darlings every move on their iPhone, but mostly what you see is grown ups gazing philosophically out to sea, counting little heads in the surf, chatting to their mate over a cup of take away coffee while corralling kids, digging trenches or applauding a small person’s first attempts on a boogie board. In the city I’m often grieved by the number of parents ferrying children to school or the shops or the park with their head buried in their damn device. There’s a cute little person just waiting to talk to you here I want to say.

Thirdly, no kid I’ve ever had much to do with, and that includes a goodly number – my own four, numerous friends and cousins, a bunch of foster children - has failed to be charmed by the great outdoors. Take a fractious child away from the TV in a darkened room and show them some space, some grass, some trees, some natural water, and they change; becoming calm and agreeable in less time than you can say ‘fresh air’.

Ross Gittins, in these pages on Wed 2 Jan, quotes Hugh Mackay as saying that being connected to nature is a traditional source of relief from anxiety and adds that ‘grass time’ is vital for the health and well-being not only of children but adults too.

Not all families are lucky enough to spend time at the beach or camping. But there is grass time to be had most places. Leave your device at home and take your kids into the big outdoors. And watch the bad tempers evaporate.

This was published in The Melbourne Age on 6 January