Change, again

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Almost 6 months of changes are slowly coming to an end. There is still more to come in this batch, but the bulk of changes is settling in as we speak. Some changes were gradual and anticipated, others sudden and surprising. Some of them for the good, others for the loss. So instead of gently teasing out information, round it up nicely in words of rhythm, finding the metaphor that would please the heart and put it all in a coherent 1 page blog article, I have been hoarding the information, watching bits of trivia sharpen themselves on spikes of stress and exhilaration.

I am truly made for this, I know, even as I put the brakes on reckless behaviour in the aftermath of change. Much as I enjoy safety and security and stability (and I need them, too, for me and others) I need to row as well as steer. I need to be a leaf floating on the water as well as the stone making up the river bed. How else will I know how strong I am if I am never tested? Heck, that sounds, even to my ears, ungrateful, and yet that’s the last thing I feel. I am not such a dunderhead that I am looking for trouble, that I tweak life out of boredom or a craving for adrenaline. I am not challenging life to put obstacles in my way, I am not asking to leave what I have built to start again just for the sheer adventure of it.

But I do know that life is not just endless cycles of home, work, hobby, sleep. Or, rather, it can be, but I am not meant to do this forever. And isn’t it ironic (systemically tragic, more likely!) that there are many who would be happy to do this forever, who would say that they have a good life? Some of them because they’ve wanted it, but so many more because they truly believe that this is how it’s supposed to be… again, I feel ungrateful, especially as I am thinking about the alternatives I see on the news whenever someone turns the dratted thing on. But I am grateful, looking at places in the world where human life is worth less than a handful of dirt. I am grateful that I have life and freedom and peace and dignity and options, when so many don’t.

It’s just that… well, if we always compare our lives with those who struggle, our expectations of ourselves and our lives diminish. If our lives are stable and secure and safe, then surely that’s as good as it can get?

And yet, for me, that is just the beginning. Necessary, but just the beginning. Because we are so much more than automatons. Because we feel so much more than comfort. Because we can so much more than bread and circus.

“A ship in harbour is safe. But that’s not what ships were built for” (J.A Shedd, 1928)

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Religion

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I was talking about religion with a devout Christian friend.

Given my propensities, there were fireworks – mine!

On the other hand, despite the impasse, there was usefulness to that discussion.

You see, I am a comfortable humanist and agnostic evolutionist – no, don’t ask

The comfortable bit comes from the fact that the above makes sense to me even if I can’t explain how perceiving divinity ties in with the hot bacterial soup that eventually made me possible

If I lean towards a more “you evolved to live, further the species then die” approach I begin to feel uncomfortable, something is missing. If I lean towards a more “you have been created in the image of…” approach, I begin to feel uncomfortable, something is missing. If I lean more towards “humans need special treatment as they are superior to…” then I begin to feel uncomfortable, something is missing.

So I aim for the middle, which feels comfortable. Not many certainties, though.

I believe that at the very least the humans should not be harmed, but they are not entitled to this world as their domain (you can add ecologist to my description 😛 )

I believe that humans need their beliefs and symbols and finding meaning in their own lives, but not at the expense of community, caring for one another and caring for this planet.

And I believe that not knowing is ok, too. Not knowing does not mean your belief is true… it may be, I don’t know. Not knowing does not mean that your belief is wrong… it may be, I don’t know. And belief can’t be forced, so I am stuck with the knowing… or not, in this case

I will think about these things and get more comfortable as I go… we need certainties, us humans…

But being comfortable needs to stem from this thinking about it, and considering, and listening and the like. Comfortable should not mean that this is the way it is and it can’t ever change. I have been happily ignorant about such matters, then I became a Christian, then I became an atheist and then I settled in agnosticism. I was happily ignorant about such matters, then I became an ecologist and settled. I was happily ignorant about such matters, then I started reading and knowing people and loving them and changed from an essentially selfish and entitled human being to a marginally less selfish and less entitled human being I started from being taught right from wrong according to human law and custom in my native country, then I began to adapt and adjust what I have been taught to what I saw served to further my happiness without encroaching on someone else’s – and I settled. So I am comfortable because I changed over time… maybe I have matured? 😛

I was reading Mark Vernon’s “How to be an agnostic” – it was the only book I read as slowly as it was possible for me, because every word was like knowing myself rightly… like the extra time we spend in front of the mirror because we know we look our best…

Vanity, thy name is…

 

PS The photo is one I found on Google Images – it shows two Romanian statues thought to be about 5000 years old. The male figure is the Thinker of Hamangia, his pair is a bit harder to translate, the Earth’s Peacefulness or Patience or Obedience… take your pick.

Land

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With my desire for productivity and for beauty sometimes at odds it makes sense to have a look at this conflict – if conflict it actually is.

It comes as a no-brainer that my insisting on productivity is linked to the size of land I have in my care. Quarter of an acre, that is.

I am no big fan of intensive gardening – I want nature to give me enough of what I want, not a glut of everything. I do not wish to exhaust the land or, heavens forbid, work too much to restore fertility of the land afterwards

That means I have only a limited allowance of fertility available to me, so it makes sense to grow something that I can use.

But beauty… ah, beauty is just as important. Not to say that productive plants aren’t beautiful. Just that I have this quirk of reacting to showy, OTT beauty.

There is an abundance of extravagant scent passing by a fence trailing with jasmine and honeysuckle, a disturbing wealth of trembling in a stand of poplars and maples, an uncompromising quality to tractor seat plants and barberry and a deceptive frailty to pink then cream then green toon trees. And this is still spring, so I am not even going to go near fir trees rising from the snow, or ginkos blazing gold in autumn or the post-card worthiness of pohutukawa in bloom at Christmas (summer!).

I want all of the above and more!

And the only limiting factor at the moment (if you do not wish to count ignorance) is acreage. I may be able to squeeze quite a number of fruit trees on a quarter acre, but for the rest of the forest I dream of I need a lot more space, given that I am not into hortitorture (as my tutor called bonsai, espaliers, pleaching and other bending of the nature laws to human whim).

Some people tell me they are looking for a flat piece of land to build a house, I am asking for a couple of hills cattle have trouble navigating. Others are downsizing while I try to go all out and all over the place And when others are discussing the merits of easy care low maintenance minimalist zen borders I am learning to propagate cuttings so that I have more, more and yet more of every single specimen I encounter. No, I am not looking down at those others, I like all their gardens, I just… dream of a forest.

Because it takes all sorts, the native gardeners and the foliage gardeners and the ornamental gardeners and the orchardists and…. And forest people. Like I want to be.

Day time is easy: finish with the mortgage, set the little one up, find a piece of land that suits and go forest.

Night time is hard. I am human, after all, on a different timeline than trees and getting… younger by the day

I would like to see that forest…

Energy

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I was completing an assignment yesterday on metabolism, as one does

If there was one thing I took from that assignment (ok, ok, it was quite interesting, so maybe not just one thing!) was that life requires energy. In the absence of energy there is no life. Maybe life is energy… I don’t know, not going there at the moment.

But we need it and each drop of it is parsimoniously eked out to make it last and drive as much activity as possible. The body even uses the waste product (heat) to maintain energy production and storage. The body is also more efficient at utilizing energy than anything we’ve been able to come up with.

So far so obvious. Now we come to the nitty-gritty: how in the world do we mobilize all this energy to serve our purposes? Oh wait, do we have a purpose? Quick, get back to the drawing board and get thee one

But other than being cheeky, it’s not just the purpose that we need energy for – I use enormous amounts of energy for waiting!. The body uses most of the energy just to stay alive (you know, allowing our big brains to control breathing, heart pumping, digestion); in contrast, we use most of our energy for the little things in life, for the non-essentials. Or rather, we have set up our world so that we need to perform lots of non-essential activities in order to maintain said world. Let’s see, we need to use a lot of energy (dig some ore to make into components of a car and the roads, work at a particular job) that will allow us to drive to the supermarket to buy something like food which we then need to store, prepare and cook in order to eat. The last bit is the only one truly essential. The rest is inefficient at the best of times. We have less leisure than the animals we don’t want to compare ourselves with. We ruin our health by specializing more and more when I believe we were meant to be generalists. We also think this is normal and pity the ones who don’t have the “conveniences” we do.

And yet we dream of the simple life. Which wasn’t that simple, as it was brought home to me by reading to the little one about prehistoric life.

Because I am not really complaining as such… my rant is more around the wastage of energy. So maybe what I am looking for is a simpler life. Yeah, I want to have my cake and eat it, too! I want to spend less time (oh, the links between energy and time need another blog article for sure!) for the basic needs ; that means having shelter, water and food close to home, being knowledgeable about health care, paying taxes for the systems I use. Basically I want to arrange my life so that I have most of the conveniences but not so much of the consumption.

So that I can concentrate more on being human…

Beauty

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You know that assumption you are making when you have a little knowledge and it seems like a lot of knowledge and you don’t know what/that you don’t know?

No? Let me elucidate

I was browsing in an op shop, as you do I saw this painting, of a girl looking into the distance from a window, over a body of water. It caught my eye because of the simplicity and the beautiful lines and the colour (blue). So I picked it up and got the shock of the day when I saw the signature: Salvador Dali. No, I didn’t think I got an original, it was just that as a young teenager I read his autobiography and saw some of his more famous works, and there was not much of what I would call ordinary in either Which meant that I thought a mad genius could only possibly create the same type of work over an entire career. Presumptuous, much?

So I bought the painting; it will join the growing body of paintings and prints and art books that start to clutter my house. And I started considering beauty.

I make this difference between natural and human made beauty. A quirk, I am sure, but one that sees me in rapture seeing mountains but indifferent to paintings of the same. Or loving the description of Yorkshire moors in “The secret garden” but unsure whether I would like them if I actually saw them… I plan to put this to the test one day!

It’s difficult when you can’t describe beauty. Words come easy for paintings and books and people and nature. Music though… I just can’t find them. And I can’t get into theatre, although I have watched several plays on TV that have changed my life… to see the play on the stage with other people around feels embarrassing – another quirk 🙂

I pay attention to beauty. It has never occurred to me not to, probably because I started young. I had help, of course. My house growing up had art books and stamps and china and crystal. No, we didn’t have that much and not luxury items as such, but enough to look through a porcelain plate to the translucent world beyond. Enough to listen to the sound of crystal. Enough to figure out I really like figurative art. And then again, I lived in a country that had both natural and human made beauty galore (ugliness, too, just for comparison). So it wasn’t difficult to admire fields of wheat with poppies, corn flowers and corn cockle. Or a crisp winter’s day with hoar frost sparkling under a bewilderingly blinding sky. Or cathedrals with avenues of scented roses, perfect for a best perfume competition. Or paintings that would move one to inspiration. The first blooming tree in spring, the lime green new foliage of oaks, magnolias in the inner courtyard of the university, night near the sea and people when you get to know them… and still so much more to see, so much more beauty to experience!

A story I once read said that that elves were immortal because they fed on beauty…

History

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I was somewhat confused last week for a couple of days. They were not good days, to be fair. I was walking in the old part of my town, where houses sit in quaint or highly maintained beauty. I like old houses, although I wouldn’t necessarily want to live in one. I love the quality of materials, the ornate details, the spacious feel of them, the established gardens. I wouldn’t want to take care of one by myself though, they were not meant for it and I would end up resenting it.

But I digress…

I was confused because here I was, watching history, surrounded by it, and yet I longed for history with everything in me, until it was painful. It took a lot of walking and analysing to figure out that, like beauty in another article, it was the degree of history, for want of a better word, that I was getting all muddled up about. Let’s see if I can explain.

I live in a very young country, set on very young land. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy living here and there is something to be said about the rebellious certainty of youth, children and teenagers alike. When I arrived here, I was in human years a bit older than this country. But human years being what they are, I am now much older than this country. A different generation already. Hence part of my discontent. From peer I feel now like a parent, wanting to guide, to teach, to shelter. If you have teenagers you know how well that will go down

I am grumbling, I know. There is nothing to be done, there is no substitute for time and experience both. So there is no fault. It’s just that, human years being what they are, I will be long gone before anything changes, and that is annoying

The confusion I felt was exactly this generation gap. The houses I was admiring are old in human years alone, and even then just barely. The history I was longing and yearning for goes a lot further back. Not just in human history, but sheer age of the land. Something to lean on to without feeling guilty I suppose

I can see only two ways forward. No, I am not going to get over myself. Denying a need does not a content human being make!

First of all I can get closer to the natural world of this country, especially as represented in the myths and legends of the native people. There is, after all, a time line of nature that might even be called permanence in our language.

The second thing I can do is travel to a place that has the history I need. Like burnt out execs blobbing in an all-inclusive resort I can also go to get my fill of history in older countries set on older land.

Sounds simple and in a way it is… now for the waiting until money and other things line up… maybe start with a passport as my Christmas present?

Mountain

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I grew up on the plains, near the river. I know the impossibly wide stretches of land that call the eyes to reach further, and then further still.

I live a few minutes from the sea. I know the foam of the waves giving shape to the wind, and the reflections of the sky in the water.

I want to plant a forest. I know the way the canopy breaks up the sunlight and the branches fluttering their leaves make me tip my head up and name their colours.

But I am mountain people. Born as I was, growing up as I did, living as I do, with the plans that I have… that has never changed. I remain of the mountains, and the mountains are calling.

One in particular, the one nearby, is in many ways a representative. I always think of this mountain as masculine. It’s a volcano, therefore younger than most mountains I have seen. Much, much younger than the mountains I always longed for. But he allowed me a home, and thus became the axis of my life. Loyalty and awe started it, then a better understanding therefore love grew alongside those. Confidence, too, now that I think of it.

I am happy today, and walking fast to contain the feeling (at least in public), I was watching this mountain. The snow glowed pink in the sunset, then faded into blue. The beauty replaced the human aloneness, that sharp tone that gives happiness its actual power. Beauty beyond humanity however, notwithstanding the eyes that measured it. And yet I was happy, so I couldn’t think of myself as lacking beauty – a human quirk, I am sure 🙂

So I talked quietly and acknowledged that in my mortal pride I can still recognize the degree of beauty we’re talking about.

You see, I have always felt this mountain as alive and awake and aware. Powerful, oh yes, and sacred to its original people. Not suffering fools gladly, and very much particular about the people who are allowed to climb. With sacred springs and odd far-seeing faces, with a terrible temper and a pleasant disposition 🙂

Whimsy, but then symbols are allowed for the people who choose them.

I am living here, near this beautiful mountain.

I am trying my wings around him, wobbly flight then sure gliding. There will be many more mountains. In my native country, I hope. In places I read about and love, with mountains so old that even myths are becoming new stories again. In places where autumn cloaks the mountains in colours that reach into the soul. I will see his brother through the drifts of sakura flowers.

And then I will come back, and the first sighting after the long travel will be the same:

Beautiful

Calling

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