March 27, 2017 § 3 Comments
Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning. Gloria Steinem
How do I start. 1 year, 9 months and 3 continents have gone by since I was last here. After many false starts and false promises I find myself cross legged on the couch in my Melbourne suburb home and ready to share a story. The windows are open and autumn is rolling in across the busy streets right up to our front door. And by god does it feel good! Not only to be here again, but to feel a sense of coming home – settled.
It recently dawned on me that it is exactly 3 years ago to this day that I made the decision to leave Australia in search of a dream.
I was living in Darwin and had gone to Bali to do a yoga teacher training course. Some whimsical desire to get away from it all and move from my head and into my heart. I never had the intention of becoming a yoga teacher, I just wanted to go away for a month, do lots of yoga and explore my mind – that inner world – sweep it out, open the windows, give it a good air and take the duster to it.
One morning, in a little seaside village of Bali, I found myself in a cafe where you could sit on top of the rice fields, eat organic eggs and watch the golden light rise over the sound of the roosters. Dark clouds were brewing in the east and my heart was dancing. I realised what kind of a negative state of mind I had been in in Darwin. I was reeling from a recent break up and stressed and anxious in my job. The weight of it only seemed to dawn on my once I saw again how things could be good.
With the morning sun on my face, my mind drifted to the previous day when I had stopped to watch an old man painting the gate at the guest house where I was staying. It wasn’t a huge gate by any standards, but it had taken him two whole days to complete. He sat there in such concentration, with steady slow even brush strokes, totally absorbed in his task. The man who painted the gate became my inspiration, my guru, I decided I wanted to be more like him – to be more present, to be more absorbed and joyous in each task, to love each daily ritual.
Because it is my nature to up and leave when inspiration hits and this was no exception to the norm, I started dreaming of my escape. I would quit my job back in Darwin and become… well I didn’t know what… maybe a yoga teacher?
The idea I had planted must have taken hold. Within that very same week one of my fellow students approached me with an offer to teach yoga in her women’s surf school on the west coast of France!
It didn’t take me long to come back to her with a loud and resounding YES!
You see, I had always wanted to learn another language. Not just to get by with a few words but to really know another language. For about a year I had been taking evening French classes with the idea that I would one day move to France and make this dream a reality. How elegantly life seemed to weave itself into place.
I decided I would take a year off, move to France, teach Yoga in the surf school and enlist myself into French classes. I would devote a whole year to learning French!
Little did I know that no more than 6 months later, life would continue on its mysterious path and in some intertwined and serendipitous twist of fate, I would meet and fall in love with a French painter. His name was Jon. When Jon was young he had a map of the world on his desk. In the bottom right hand corner was Australia. For any reason he spent a great deal of time when he should have otherwise been doing his homework looking at it. His eyes would drift through Europe to Africa, South East Asia and come to rest on that island continent straddling the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. He would wonder what the seemingly empty country draped by sea was like. Ever since, he dreamed of visiting one day.
By the time we met I had forgotten about the old man in Bali but in those early days Jon would tell me how he loved the work he did. How painting was a kind of meditation for him where his mind was set free through the labour of his tasks. I respect him deeply for this. In his beautiful and broken English he would say. “I love doing hand jobs”. I would try to hide my smile. I never did want to correct him when his English was muddled, because as well as being sometimes hilarious and enormously cute, it offered a peek into the structure of the language I was trying to learn.
It wasn’t until recently that I remembered the old man who painted the gate and I realised the poetry of it all. Pay attention to your dreams. Dreaming after all is a form of planning.
May 6, 2015 § 10 Comments
I have found myself wanting to apologise for my scarcity here this last year and a half. I don’t want to say it too early for fear any new feeling will just as suddenly disappear, but finally there seems to be a tentative impression that I am coming back – into the kitchen that is. I guess it says something about the type of year it has been. Before leaving Darwin, I was tired, stressed and overworked with new jobs, break ups, house moving, and of course that very solid North Australian heat. All in all it left me largely uninspired to do much in the kitchen. This surprised and saddened me, and I questioned the things that made me happy and how I identified myself with them. With some deep nostalgia, I began to miss what I felt was an essential part of the person I was. The person who took joy in the stained colour of a knife left after chopping vegetables, the smell of lemon and spice hitting a fry pan, the feeling of dough sticky and stuck on my fingers, or the scent of sourdough every time I opened the fridge. I missed time to be still, to gather thoughts, to listen and watch more closely, and to pull it all into something creative. There was however, somewhere in amongst it all, some small confidence that it was just a phase and when more time permitted, that willingness to potter with taste and smell, colour and texture would one day creep back.
So I quit my job and most of my life in Darwin, on a quest to slow down, come to Europe and learn French. I went from Darwin, to Paris and then to a small surfing village near Bordeaux where I taught yoga in a women’s surf school. After going briefly to the States for a friends wedding I came back to Europe to spend three weeks with my uncle on his little piece of land just on the outskirts of Brussels. Here I picked vegetables from his garden on the same land my great great grandfather farmed and I cooked them in the same kitchen my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother and my great great grandmother all cooked in before me. And perhaps with the memory of all my ancestors behind me, I began to feel that old love creep back in. That old joy of rinsing the thick soil off carrots and beats, of breaking the florets off a broccoli. That old delight in allowing the ingredients to tell me what to do with them. And that old pleasure in plating it all up and sitting around the table in the autumn evening light. The joy in someone else enjoying what you cook. And finally some quietness and stillness started to sink below the surface. I never really thought it would take more than a year.
My next move was to Toulouse. A pink city in the south of France. And I have been here for roughly the last five months. For the first time since leaving Australia I have a little space to curl up in at the end of the day and call my own, an oven to cook in, a bath to sink in, and a lovely little french man to get to know. At the end of May, I move to Maine for the summer where I have some work managing a cafe for some friends at 44 north. Its a little late to pledge something for the new year, but I am hoping this one will hold more pens with words and more wooden spoons.
Bisous a tout le monde!
March 28, 2012 § 7 Comments
I love it how the shadows get longer at this time of year, creeping into far off corners, exploring unknown territories. A certain stillness. If I listened hard enough I feel like I could hear the pumpkins growing ever so slowly in the vegie patch and a pomegranate breaking open in the dappled sunlight that falls behind the house.
February 29, 2012 § 2 Comments
On returning from India, I vowed to keep my pace slow, to let that country that had saturated my thoughts and body linger into my Melbourne life. But I knew it was stolen time when a week had passed and I still felt no hairs turn grey. I needed a strategy. I decided to make sure I do the things that make me happy. I would take a photo a day, I would draw more pictures, I would write more often in a book with thick cream paper – pages that allowed my thoughts to spill out and look comfortable there, all in a row. It didn’t matter for the words meanings, just the black on cream, the repetition making the messy letters look organised, thoughtful.
My photo a day has ended up being more like 3 photos every 3 days, often at night, just before bed, when I remember. But it doesn’t seem to matter, its a small piece of time out, like that quiet moment smokers have on the veranda. I haven’t noticed any more hairs turn grey. Here are some of them.
February 26, 2012 § 5 Comments
Im a little tired of late, and pulling my thoughts into words seems to get stuck somewhere far back in my brain, unable to reach the nerve endings of my fingers to type anything audable or useful. So I am keeping this simple… just the recipe and a few photos. I know it has been a bit of a trend of late – perhaps some quite moments when life slows down will solve this problem and my thoughts will be inspired to carry themselves to my limbs. Until then, here is a recipe for Harissa. I was dreaming of this all winter, waiting for capsicums to come into season, it is a delicious spicy sauce great on curries, fried tofu, burgers, lamb cutlets….
Recipe for Harissa
2 red capsicums
2 tsp cumin seeds roasted
2 tsp coriander seeds roasted
5 small bullet chillies de seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp salt
100 ml oil
Roast the red capsicum in a hot oven until black. Place in a bowl with a plate on top in the fridge until it cools. Once cool, peel off the skin, remove seeds and finely dice.
In a hot saucepan toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Roughly crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle before adding roasted capsicum, chillies, garlic and salt. Grind and pumice until smooth. Stir in the oil.
This will keep under a thin layer of oil in the fridge for up to a week.
September 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
Overtime the city has been compared to an artwork, a machine, a sculpture and a poem.
But it is more than these things on their own. A city is composed of memories, feelings, interactions, desires and passions. It is both a natural, built and thought entity shaped by culture and geography. It is a place where lives are told, where natural forces ebb and flow.
It tells a narrative about the people who live there and how they relate to the world. Together these stories make up a place and connect all who dwell in them.
Spirn, AW 1988, ‘The Poetics of City and Nature: Towards a New Aesthetic in Urban Design’, Landscape Journal, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 108-126.