Fingernails

Here’s a weird fact; your fingernails and hair grow much faster in Singapore. My friends who live in Singapore confirmed this was the case. Mine continue to grow fast even though I left Singapore at the end of November! I actually think I had to cut them 3 times one week. (I don’t like having long fingernails.) It’s slowed down a bit now, but I still seem to be needing to cut them every week, which seems a lot to me.

Andante

In the nick of time, I bump into Gary at the bus stop

Caught in indecision,

my better self on the brink of winning;

I will not get the bus,

I will walk home mindfully.

But my brain is still racing in three different directions at once

and the adjustment will not come easily.

This week, my friends are true companions.

They keep suddenly appearing,

like mindfulness angels!

Yesterday, in a café, like three wise Magi,

crowned with twinkly eyes betraying a readiness to see the funny side,

Alex, Martin and Gary arrived at the next table

as I was meeting colleagues.

As unexpected as if they’d ridden in on camels.

Today, Gary stands tall, relaxed;

ready to pause.

We reflect on how difficult meditation and mindfulness is these days

and how important it is

to become acquainted with your own mind.

He surveys the street with a shrewd gaze,

diagnoses a hidden epidemic;

an outbreak of mindlessness.

By nighttime I will discover I carefully filed my receipt in the expenses area of my purse,

but forgot to pick up the pens I’d just bought.

They must be sitting there, on the checkout still,

or did I somehow drop them on the floor and not into my bag?

This is what constant divided attention does for you;

So many lost things.

We go our separate ways

Encouraged

I realise I’ve been marching heavily.

Now I will stop pelting it hell for leather

and return to walking lightly,

with kindness

on this fragile earth.

I am neither strolling

nor marching

nor racing ahead

I am walking

at a walking pace

How else should I walk, after all?

Gary’s right; it’s been good to me so far, this jar.

Being present

In my travelling, I really wanted to be present in each place and with each person. I didn’t want to get to the end and regret not having really paid attention to the beauty around me. Or even to any ugliness. I wanted to fully experience everywhere and everyone.

Since I’ve returned, I have realised that I’d like to carry this attentiveness with me wherever I go. Wherever I am I am here, now. I am with the person I’m with, or on my own.

On Sunday we had some friends round for a meal and had some time to reflect together. To my delight, a couple of them gave us a mindfulness jar as a gift:

It has 52 cards in it, each with a mindful practice on it. One for each week of the year. What a delight!

This week’s practice was to go for a mindful walk for 15 minutes or more each day. So, after a very cerebral meeting with some colleagues, I went for my first one. Here are the views I would not have seen had I not been. It was so refreshing!

And, knowing I was going to be practising some mindful things, here was the sky from my bedroom window this morning. This show quietly goes on, but so easily I miss it each morning, because I’m already thinking of all the things I have to do. I don’t want to miss it anymore.

Happy new year!

May your vision be clear and your life full of love in 2020. Here’s to the ongoing journey. I wonder where yours will take you…?

A few years ago, I came across the poet John O’Donohue for the first time. This quote I saw so grabbed me that I immediately looked for the rest of the poem-prayer. Every year I find myself thinking it’s a good one to start a new year with:

“May I have the courage today

To live the life that I would love

To postpone my dream no longer

But do at last what I came here for

And waste my heart on fear no more.”

from A morning offering by John O’Donohue

Happy Christmas! 💫 🎄

A couple of perspectives from my travelling:

1. A major part of the joy of travelling is coming home. This Christmas I particularly feel for people who are forced to travel and have no prospect of returning home, particularly asylum seekers who are exiled from their own country and barely welcomed in ours, where the language, culture and climate are so different, where they have to relearn how to do everything you need to do to survive. They face these challenges in a situation where they have no status, and are not allowed to work to earn money and provide for themselves. I can only begin to imagine how demeaning that feels.

The crazy thing is that they are usually very skilled people, who really want to contribute and who are real grafters as well. I also feel for people on the streets who have no home to return to at all.

Of course the Christmas story involves a family travelling. They were returning to Joseph’s ancestral home. But what that was like for a pregnant Mary I don’t know. And shortly afterwards they had to flee to Egypt; a much longer journey to a country where the language, culture and many other things would have been different. Food for thought…

2. Weirdly, although many of us struggle with the short days and dark nights and mornings at this time of year in our time zone, when I was in Australia, I remember I reached a point when my body was longing for the days to get shorter (at the very point when they were in fact getting longer over there). I was longing for dark and cold! And I have loved coming back to the dark and cold. I wonder whether viewing this season as one for hibernation (as a few of my friends have been doing) is a more positive and natural way of living in it. Demanding less of ourselves each day. It’s a thought.

Anyway, I hope whatever your circumstances that you and yours have a happy Christmas. And wherever there is darkness, may light come.

A Maori Feast (“Hangi”)

Early on in our tiki tour of New Zealand, we went to a Maori cultural evening, which included a hangi feast. Most of the food they cooked was very influenced by a westernised diet (especially all the meat), but the cooking method was a very traditional thing. The meat and sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes being a very traditional Maori food) were cooked in a pit underground for several hours. It was laid in baskets/containers on top of really hot stones and covered with damp cloths and a load of earth to trap the heat from the stones around the food. I must confess this meat was deliciously cooked, very tender. And the desserts were pretty good too! I’m not sure but I’d guess there were about maybe 150-200 people at this experience! No mean feat to cater for that number. But this Maori family seemed to have got it down to a fine art.

The Maori evening wasn’t just about food. There was a lot of explanation of other important things about Maori culture, and there was a kind of welcoming ceremony and concert of traditional Maori dance and music for us, as well as a walk to the river to see Maori warriors rowing and to visit a traditional Maori village.

I’ll do a separate post about remarkable musical experiences throughout my trip where I’ll post some of the Maori music.

Kiwi food

Right. Where to start??? I spent a month in New Zealand, which meant plenty of time for eating delicious food! Unfortunately (what a terrible shame), my kiwi aunt and uncle and my cousin and his partner all appreciate really nice food, and my aunt is lamentably good at preparing it. And we all really enjoy going out for a bit of foodie delight as well. And as it was only the second time in our lives that we’ve had the chance to all be together, we decided to make it count. It’s a tough gig, but someone’s gotta do it! 😂 I am going to struggle to limit the pictures. Prepare to dribble…

🥇 No.1 food in New Zealand: ice cream. Hokey Pokey flavour (sort of honeycomb) is a particular speciality, but actually they have more flavours than you can shake a stick at. The day of my arrival I ended up with one the size of my face! I’m putting Les’ picture up as well to prove it was peer pressure!

Breakfast, Ken and Les style. Ooooh but this was good. Drizzled with a drop of maple syrup:

This was a fairly typical banquet that Les served up of an evening. All delicious, all healthy……except for the dessert. It so nearly could’ve been healthy with that delicious fruit salad! But they told me (a) ice cream is a New Zealand thing and (b) this particular type of meringue is a New Zealand thing too (very different from meringue you buy in England). So what was I supposed to do?? I had to try them all, right?:Our first meal out at an Asian fusion place with my cousin Stu and his partner Tash 😋😋😋:Another spectacular offering from Les:I did probably eat more meat in New Zealand. But I very rarely have this sort of breakfast. It was a real treat we enjoyed on my first weekend:

Ok. So those were food highlights of the first weekend. Of a month. Oh la la!

Packing and the forgetting of things

So I’m off to visit my folks for Christmas now. And in the rush of finishing last tasks and getting ready, it’s been amazing how much easier packing has become for me. Admittedly, it’s a lot easier going from my own home to mum and dad’s than packing to go from one unfamiliar place/country to another, of course. But also, I recognise just how skilled I’ve become at packing, through practice. I know the dimensions and capacity of each section of my suitcase inside out and back to front now! And I know how many clothes I need for 2 weeks. (It’s pretty much the same amount as for any length of time.) And I know that it’s really worth limiting the amount of footwear you take to save space in the suitcase. (I also am able to be more realistic about what footwear I will find useful.)

I’m hoping I’ve not forgotten anything, having said all that!… Ah. Tights. I forgot those. But if I really want to wear them, I can buy some new ones. (Always useful.) This is another perspective I’ve come to through travelling. It’s really not the end of the world if you forget something or leave something behind. Saying that, I don’t think I actually lost anything on my travels. (Or if I did, I’ve forgotten about it already, so it can’t have been that serious.)

The worst forgetting of things I did was accidentally leaving a pile of currency behind at my Aunt and Uncle’s place in New Zealand, when we went travelling for three and a half weeks! That was a boo boo. I wasted a lot of time and energy mentally berating myself about it, before realising that I could just spend the money using my bank card and then do a transaction with my relatives when we got back where I gave them cash as they transferred the same amount into my account. It was a faff, and I really should’ve listened to my Uncle and got him to take the cash out and give it to me as then I’d have avoided the bank charge and the hassle for all of us of doing an international bank transfer. But then the lady in their bank was so nice, it was a delight to give them some business, actually. (Can’t believe I just said that! Normally I hate banks on principle. [Sorry if you work for a bank!])

That story gives you an indication of just how systemically culturally lovely people are in New Zealand. Even bank employees at work! Nothing too much trouble, and a lot of chat about our holidays and hers while we waited for the hamster to run around its wheel on her computer. What a breath of fresh air!

Things I learnt while travelling #256 (there must have been at least that many): there’s not a lot of point wasting time and energy mentally berating yourself when you make a mistake. Better to think, ‘Oh well, I could’ve done that better, but I didn’t manage to’, let it go and move onto more useful questions like: What is the situation now? And how can I move forwards in it?

The thing is, while ever you’re mentally berating yourself, you are not able to be fully present. You are living in a very negative version of the past, rather than noticing the gift of the present moment. I set out on my travels knowing that I wanted to be fully present in all the wonderful places I would go to, and with all the people I would spend time with. I hope I can carry that sense of presence with me now, even when I’m not travelling…

Time for more food!

Time for another food post I think… So, I’m working my way backwards, so have reached Australia. I didn’t spend very long here, so it’ll be a short one.

Here was the best meal in Melbourne, given my less than a week experience! 😂 This meal was so fabulous partly because of the view and the weather as well as the food. And the jazzy music quietly playing in the background. And the fact that there weren’t too many other people there so it was quiet and I stayed quite a while, journalling away. Brunch at St Kilda beach pier café. What a delight:

This little meal and the coffees, Italian cake, wanderings, wonderings, moseying around a local craft market and praying that followed it were also a winner for me. What a delight a good friend and fellow theological nerd is in a very unfamiliar place, halfway round the world from home! Thanks for our extended prayerful brunch-craft market-beach walk-coffee and cake, Sally 💕:And this splendid offering was my hostess Carol’s banana bread, which I can testify is indeed a wonder and delight, especially when dry fried and slathered in butter, as recommended! 😋: