Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Perfect Day

Lychees ready for picking

Ever notice how the universe often delivers just exactly when you need it to? I do. It happens regularly for me. At least that is how I see it.

On Saturday night after dinner, I was whining a bit about the town I live in. I had held back as long as I could, trying week after week, month after month, to embrace the positive attributes of this small town in Queensland, but suddenly it seemed that the negatives had just been outweighing the positives more and more lately. I was no longer capable of keeping my opinions and thoughts about this town silent. 

My approach to expressing my thoughts and feelings about this place we call home now came spewing forth in a slow and steady flow like hot lava down the slope of a Hawaiian volcano, slowly and thoughtfully, but stinging and hot nonetheless with the potential to do irreversible damage along the way. I said this town had no life force, no energy, there were no good restaurants, no interesting shops, too many dilapidated houses, too many miserable, scowling faces. It feels dead to me. There is no forward movement here. There is a dull, lifeless quality that permeates everything. There is a stubborn stuckness (my new word) in attitude. I went on and on. 

It was probably hard to hear. Even if most of it is or was true, nobody wants to hear this kind of criticism of the town where they have spent most of their life. He listened. He heard me. I got it all off my chest. It was only the beginning of what is sure to be further conversation about the future and where we will end up. It should not come as a surprise to either of us really. One does not move to a town of 25,000 from a city of 2.5 million without a few hiccups. As much as life in the big city was wearing me down, the scale and contrast of "downsizing" was pretty drastic. It would take time. 

I do like several aspects of small town life. It's not all bad. Traffic is a non-issue. I still find myself arriving early for everything, never really believing it will only take 5 or 10 minutes to get from one end of town to the other. There is something to be said for limited choices. You don't waste much time dithering over unlimited options for everything from which shop to go to or which restaurant or which concert or which are lucky to have a choice between two. Pollution is not an issue. Overcrowding is non-existent. It is quiet. It is safe. 

So, Saturday night turned into Sunday morning and life went on as it does. We were up for a walk at the crack of dawn, said g'day to a mob of roos up the street and over at the park, came home, made breakfast, enjoyed the gentle breezes that blew through the house, did a few domestic chores and then I suggested we go out for lunch. This is fairly rare as I have come to the conclusion that there really are no good spots in town for this. I kid you not. Not a one. However, about 3 weeks ago, I had noticed a new spot opening on Wharf Street and was curious. A couple of the gals I play tennis with had heard it was pretty good and I was eager to check it out. 

It was a newly renovated space in one of the town's old historic buildings. As soon as we stepped inside, I knew things were looking up. The decor was instantly appealing - all black and white with splashes of bright citrus green, banquettes lining the walls against the windows and an open kitchen, a beer garden out back and a larger room for big parties - the Forest Room - decorated to reflect the name. It was really well done. Was it possible they had actually impressed me? Indeed they had. We sat by the window in a cosy corner and the food was not outstanding, but it was fresh and more than adequate. The service was a bit wonky but given it is early days and they were short-staffed, all was forgiven. The menu had several things that seemed interesting, so we will return to try a few more things. This little jolt of newness was right on time. 

The Forest Room at Alfresco on Wharf St

After lunch I suggested a drive. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We decided to pop in on some friends just on the outskirts of town. They live in a charming old Queenslander house on a large acreage. When we arrived they were entertaining another couple on the wrap around porch for lunch and they insisted we join them for a cup of tea, so we accepted. It was really lovely to sit and chat and look out at their expansive lawn and all the surrounding trees and birds and butterflies flitting about. The couple we just met were interesting and chatty having just spent two years caravaning around the country after selling their house and all their possessions, then set off to explore the entirety of Australia. I wanted to hear everything, to feed my soul with tales of their adventures and discoveries. Again, just what I needed. 

After tea, we were invited to help ourselves to mangoes and lychees that were growing on the property. I picked both for the first time and although for many it is just an ordinary experience, it occurred to me that even this simple act of picking and peeling and eating a lychee off a tree was something I had never done before. In Canada, the only lychees I have ever eaten were purchased at a grocery store and they were brown on the outside. These lychees were red on the outside and sweet and juicy on the inside. Had you asked me minutes before if they grew on a tree or a vine or came up out of the ground, I would not have been able to answer you. But now I know they grow on trees and taste a whole lot better right off the tree, much like any fresh fruit or vegetable.

The day was unfolding nicely. They then invited us to join them on an excursion to the riverbank next to the Brolga Theatre where a late afternoon concert and twilight market was taking place. I had heard something of these monthly events, but had not been to one yet, so this was a welcome invitation to check it out. We all met shortly after for drinks and some live music set before a backdrop of the Mary River with a few sailboats and small yachts, anchored intermittently and  bobbing softly on the water. 

The entire day was really unplanned and spontaneous. Each segment presented itself effortlessly and simply and we went with the flow and it took us on a perfect little journey that filled all of  our senses. The unexpected visuals at the new bistro, the delicious tastes of freshly picked fruits, the sound of live music, the balmy breezes of late summer on our skin, and the smell of gardenia blossoms and mock orange near the river. 

Borrowed Gardenia Blossom ;-)

My complaints of the night before dissipated as I recounted my day and I felt grateful again. It felt like the universe had provided me with a reminder and it shifted my thinking back to a more positive outlook. I can choose to focus on the negative or I can choose to focus on the positive. 

And it is indeed a choice. It is presented daily. The trick is to choose wisely.

I'm working on it. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Planting new Seeds

I remember my last semester at Ryerson and the stress I experienced. The final papers. The final exams. The pressure (mostly self-imposed) to complete and pass all my courses so I could earn my degree. It was weeks and weeks of high anxiety. I recall I gained about 10 lbs. and even started smoking cigarettes after having quit for 6 years. I took up drinking Scotch at the bar at Oakham House next door to the Journalism building. I did not even like Scotch but it seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, what journalist worth their weight did not know at least a little something about the varying degrees of peat in a dram of good aged single malt Glenfiddich or Macallan? 

Somehow I managed to get through it. In the end I collected my piece of paper that proved I did the required work, quit smoking again, stopped drinking Scotch, found a real job and as for the 10 lbs., well they stuck around for awhile. No one is perfect. 

Studying and deadlines have never been my forte. There are days when I still find it hard to believe I got through. In fact, I still have a recurring nightmare that I did not get my degree. That I am clamouring to find my way through the hallways of the school, cannot find my locker, have not studied or read any of the course materials and the underlying fear throughout these nocturnal journeys through hell is that I will have to explain to my parents that I did not graduate. That I failed. Failed myself. Failed them. Simply fucking failed. When I wake up from these sweat-inducing dreams, for a brief moment I believe I did not succeed. I screwed up. I blew it. As I come around, open my eyes, shake it off, I am always so relieved to realize it was just a dream.  How is it that I am still plagued with these nightmares 30 years later? What part of me still needs to please mommy and daddy? Do we ever feel we have done enough or been enough in their eyes? Why do we allow our failures (seeming or otherwise) to outweigh our successes in their eyes? As much as I know mine have been proud of my accomplishments, I still fret over their opinions of my downfalls. 

The need to please. That bitch has to go. She simply must because the truth is, she will never be enough. Even in the past when it seemed she may have had their stamp of approval, the problem was that she did not have her own stamp of approval. She was too busy trying to turn herself into something that would make them happy, all the while sacrificing  herself to the cause until the day came when she knew she could not go on with the facade her life had become and it required such a dramatic upheaval of change that it made her anxiety-stricken final term of university seem like a walk in the park compared to what she had to do now.

She is not even sure where she summoned the strength and courage it took to turn her life upside down and venture down an entirely different path. One of uncertainty. And as much as she knows intellectually that nothing is really certain in life, hovering in it for the last four years has been the biggest challenge of her life so far. The question of why is ever present. Why did she have to do it? Why upset the applecart? The apples were all piled up neatly, unbruised, attractive, ready to be eaten and enjoyed but now they are spilled and rolling all over the ground, getting dirty and battered and landing on their sides, or upside down, some getting lost under the cart, some snatched by birds, others gnawed on by rodents, but some actually surviving in tact. 

And it is in those, the intact spilled apples where she is finding her strength. The parts of her that were there all along that have survived the spill. And they are perfect and ripe and juicy and their seeds are healthy and alive and she will devour the fruit as it falls and then plant the seeds and start over again and the fruit she produces will be of her own making and she won't try to squeeze them into a cart again. She will eat them as they ripen and let them land where they may fall as nature intended.

Nothing will be certain. And that will be OK.