The start of a new year finds us layered in a residual happiness from the Christmas/New Year festivities that should be nurtured and sustained. The downtime over this period lets us unwind and relax and gain perspective. This time of year is also heart-warming with renewal of old friendships and catching up with close friends and family. We get the opportunity to do non-routine things; whether it is a lazy breakfast with friends, baking festive foods, reading a book in bed or as simple as a relaxing walk along the beach.
I caught up with a couple of old friends for coffee. Three hours later we were still chatting in depth. It was refreshing to hear what they had been up to over the year as well as the escapades of other mutual friends. These snippets of conversation expand your immediate world that tends to narrow with the demands of life. We need to broaden our attention and keep a rich perspective, so savor your festive season bliss as long as possible.
Our furry feline friends do bring joy and a softness to our hearts. They can be mad-cap and throw a crazy-appleton: bolting from one place to another for no apparent reason. Common sense and logic play no part in this mayhem. They can be indifferent and ignore all your advances regardless of treats or cuddles (what did you do?). They can play like kittens with the curiosity that a forgotten shopping bag can bring, or the dangling end of a belt that sees all your clothes pulled off their hangers, landing in an unceremonious pile at the bottom of your wardrobe. But they can also be affectionate and loyal. They sneak onto your lap while you’re watching TV, or rub against your legs when you’re in the kitchen (because your sole purpose at the bench is food preparation for them – or so they think). They absorb and reflect you mood, but mostly they simply hangout, happy just to be with you.
Canberra in Winter is a daily eclectic mix of temperatures. When we landed the pilot said “Welcome to Canberra, where the local time is 8.35am, and it is currently -6oC outside.” Knowing Canberra as I do, I had brought with me a coat, scarf and gloves, but I was questioning whether a beanie would have also been warranted. The trade-off is that during Winter in Canberra the skies are generally clear and the midday hours are spectacular and warm, requiring the need to peel off layers that are required at the start of the day.
Exiting the airport, the bracing chill was numbing my cheeks, making me rethink the beanie option to a balaclava. Wouldn’t that make a scene – Canberra visitors in ski masks. The visitors would be rather conspicuous whilst the locals that are used to the weather simply dress in suits. It feels good to snuggle within warm clothing, with a bracing nip on your cheeks for contrast. Go outside and feel the weather, rather than just observe it from inside your home, office or car. Feel alive.
I took a stroll down to the beach. The light breeze was fresh, straight off the southern ocean. The vista vast, the scenery splendid and the sand underfoot familiar. Where were the people? I know it’s winter and not analogous to a beach visit, but a winter seascape has a lot to offer. The solitude of the beach, the continuous and hypnotic roll of the waves, and the cool brisk breeze to make you feel alive. Today was ideal as the gusty southerly wind had even taken pause for the serenity of the moment. The low clouds threatened and created a picturesque moment, framing the distant Eagle’s Nest promontory. I even poked a digit in the retreating tide (only brave enough for that digit to be my finger – too chilly for toes 🙂
The moment was broken when those burdened clouds began to drop their moisture, but this too was a treat. The light moisture sprinkling my face, the determined dash back to shelter and the squelch of the sand from running feet, all got my heart pumping and cheeks flushed. It reinforced that life is beautiful and serendipitous moments can be fleeting. Make sure you enjoy them all!
One of the brilliant reasons to visit with the opera is the orchestra. The feel of the music coming from the actual instruments themselves. The melody of the individual sounds blended together by the chief wrangler, the conductor. The music is one of the greatest dimensions of the opera, but there are many other attractions. The voices, the emotion, the drama/love/tragedy, the majesty of the performance, the story unfolding on stage. All of which sweeps you up into another world.
I saw Cavalleria Rusticana, a short opera, followed by Pagliacci, another short opera, that Opera Australia had turned into a modern interpretation set in rural Italy. Opera is no longer a soloist caterwauling about tragedy, but a feast for the senses, with action, emotion and performance. Both operas involved love triangles or quadrangles and were blended into one story line, before and after the interval to keep the audience guessing.
Try something new and see how it differs from your expectation.
Some old faces and some new. The invigorating stimulus of a classroom of like-minded writers. The challenge before us is refreshing and our teacher seems to have an original approach. The pursuit of knowledge is a worthy task. Other opportunities for more knowledge abound. Things of interest can be presented in all manner of people-watching, hands-on experiences or free lecture series.
I found myself at the Sir Jerry Price lecture on Science and Technology to Secure the Future for Water and Energy. Big ambition, Big targets. We need the Big thinkers of science to collaborate and answer these sorts of questions. It was held at the Australian Synchrotron by CSIRO, who have a wealth of extraordinary minds to absorb and address these outstanding problems of our time. The short version of this lecture was the nexus of increased energy needs, increased water needs and the over all carbon impact as we look to the future. Three different approaches were presented that were not mutually exclusive. The brilliance of these approaches was the big vision broken down to manageable pieces, even when some of those pieces don’t exist yet in science. This creates targets of focus to solve the problems of the future. I came out of the lecture hopeful.
When you look at a challenge in its entirety, it can seem insurmountable and overwhelming, but dissecting the challenge into digestible morsels can make the solution a reality. Scientific discovery and collaboration can achieve the impossible. So get out there and get yourself some knowledge.
The unbridled enthusiasm of a puppy is contagious. The joy of seeing new people and new things is projected to everyone present. The waggly tail that starts at the hips for a full body twister reinforces the welcome.
I got to cuddle Roy this week; he’s a 14-week old black Labrador puppy. He still has his puppy rolly polly skin and feet too big to do anything but flop around while dancing on the spot in greeting. A wet and licky tongue, expressive ears at the sound of something new and such a high pitched yelping of hello, all add to the experience.
Puppies are great fun and just to remind everyone of my position on fuzz-therapy: animals of any kind are good for the soul, pat a pooch or cuddle a cat, connect with another living species. These simple gestures bestow great comfort and warm the heart. It’s good to feel the unconditional love that comes from a kindred spirit.
Some things become too routine and you forget their impact until you experience it again with someone for their first time.
I seem to be making a habit of dinner at South Bank. This time a lovely Italian restaurant where we sat outside watching people promenade along the river. We had enjoyed a meal of pasta as the sun set. Then at 8pm my dining buddy almost fell off his chair. The sculptured chimney stacks lined up along the length of the river started humming and erupting in rolling balls of flame. Our proximity made it rather comical. I knew the humming was a prelude to the bursts of gas and flame, but it hadn’t occurred to me to explain what was to come. I thought it was just normal waiting expectantly, until I saw my friend halfway out of his seat. Oops, my bad 🙂
It was a five minute show of co-ordinated shooting flames along the length of the river with spectacular visuals. The radiant heat was a telling sign of how close we were. So don’t forget that something old can be new again when viewed vicariously through the first-time experience of someone else.
A quick runaway to Queensland will turn us all into sun-worshipers. I traveled north for work and found that there is warmth and sun amongst them there beaches. I even got to wear my sunnies and slap on some sunscreen. The feel of the sun was very welcome after a cold winter of endless short days. The warmth on your body loosens both muscles and tension, melting away the cares of the world.
I returned home to find another sun-worshiper taking up my favorite spot on the couch [Yes Sheldon, I have a spot too!] The north facing window allows in the winter sun from its aspect in the Northern hemisphere, and in summer is shaded and cool with its aspect directly overhead – the perfect spot.
Here are a couple of photos that I was able to snap. This is how to relax and only serious sun-worshipers can achieve “dead ant”, “pretzel twist” and “side splat”. Find your spot and have a go at these new yoga positions. Soak up the sun while it’s still coming in through the window, both literally and figuratively. There is no time like the present.
One of the good things about a holiday is finding that treasure that will remind you of all the fabulous things that you saw and did. My spectacular Kimberley trip was captured in some aboriginal art which I bought as unframed canvases. Upon my return I had them framed by collection and hung in my study.
They are now a constant reminder of a fabulous time in a remote part of Australia. We need to remember the good times, to savor the richness of the scenery and the diversity of the wildlife. Spectacular hardly does it justice, but reliving it again and again is a joy.
There are good times and not-so-good times, and having touchstones to reawaken the memories of the better ones is essential. Surround yourself with the good stuff as it will give you an inner glow and drive that is sustainable. Go and choose something of your own that represents a great holiday or a significant moment. Pop it in a prominent position and it can be your secret inner guilty pleasure to restore your equilibrium.