Time Out – On the Streets of Sydney

I’m on a roll! I’m even losing some of the extra ‘rolls of ‘insulation’ I’ve been carrying around my middle. I’m walking the streets, the byways and (occasionally) the highways, in my effort to colour pink some more of those six pages of the Sydney Street Directory that I have photocopied on my wall.

Last night, I walked with a friend up and down some pesky little curvy, dog-legged, inconveniently interconnected streets down in the bottom left-hand corner of my map. They were the kind of streets where you have to back-track a lot in order to cover every little bit of each street. But we covered good ground and clocked up a good 70 minutes of walking.

Walking is good for the body, soul and mind. The way I do the walking would not, in any way, be called ‘wandering’. It would more likely be described as ‘prescribed’ and somewhat obsessive. For a picture from a past walking project see this post. The prescriptiveness works for me. As for the friends that sometimes walk with me, they’re usually just happy to humour me – or at least they pretend to be happy.

Walking with purpose and very detailed map in hand, helps me to take time out from my recycled thoughts and take note of the houses I walk by and, very importantly, the street names.

Occasionally I stop to take a photo!

Occasionally I stop to take a photo!

My attempt to cover the streets in any given patch with the least amount of back-tracking keeps my mind whirring with ‘problem-solving’ energy. If my mind’s not quite up to problem-solving on any particular day, then I choose a patch that has very straight-forward, straight streets in a neat cross pattern.

For those of you reading in places like the United States where it means something for someone to tell you to head west down First Street and then turn north up Straight Street – this navigational certainty doesn’t work in the older parts of Sydney, where streets and houses developed in a more haphazard, curvy, run-with-the-lay-of-the-of-the-land kind of way.

I have not tackled this part of the map. Yet.

I have not tackled this part of the map. Yet.

It’s raining as I type. But in an effort to keep that roll rolling, I shall be thankful for umbrellas and get myself out there!

With my map, of course. No aimless wandering for this girl.

Daily Prompt

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Time Out – With My Diary Closed??

The elastic makes my diary easy to re-open.

The elastic makes my diary easy to re-open.

Taking time out from my diary is easier said than done.

The other day, when I and my pot plant returned home from work for some time out, I went ahead as instructed and cancelled appointments and meetings I had with people over the next few weeks. There were some that felt harder to cancel than others. Mostly, people just said ‘No Worries! Take care!’ and so I didn’t worry and I did take care.

A couple of appointments I kept for my own well-being. A couple of those occur today.

The difference between my sleep last night and my sleep the night before (I had no appointments yesterday) was quite marked. Admittedly, I had some other things on my mind as I lay down to sleep – thoughts that had developed as a result of the introspection that happens when you take time out. The introspection was illuminating – but not without pain. So sleep was mostly a fitful kind of thing last night.

What interested me, was that I wasn’t so much losing sleep over the results of my introspection – but over the speaking engagements that were looming in the not-to-distant-future. I’ve learnt the hard way, over time, that one should never make decisions or send emails in the middle of the night. So I resisted the temptation, in the middle of the night, to work through my diary and cancel every future commitment.

The thought that got me a little sleep in the end, was something I’d read that night to steer my introspection in the right direction – about how God is committed to me – unfailingly – with a ‘stick-to-it-ness’ that is unmatched by any other. I could let go of commitments for a while, because he was committed to me – no matter what.

So I’m heading off to my commitments today – trusting that God will be doggedly following me with his unfailing, committed love. I’ll be finishing the day with a friend’s offer of a walk with no obligation to talk – that’s one I wouldn’t turn down.

Tomorrow, there are no commitments – apart from one very helpful one – so I trust I will rest well tonight and not see so much of the moonlight.

Daily Prompt

Time Out – With the Birds

I’ve always fancied having a pet cockatoo.

For those of you not familiar with Australian birds, here’s a fine example:

"I'm gorgeous!"

“I’m gorgeous!”

The trouble is, I’m quite scared of birds. With good reason! We used to have a pet Galah (another fine, feathered Australian) who loved my father, tolerated my mother and brother, and hated me. She was jealous! She would even go as far as pretending to flirt with me (this bird would actually flutter her eyelids and purr like a cat!) in order to make me feel it was safe to tickle her under the chin (her favourite gesture of affection from my father). As soon as I plucked up the courage to put my finger near her chin, she’d lunge in for a bite!

I suspect that a pet Cockatoo would not be much different in its approach toward me. Even if it didn’t bite me, there’s the very real possibility that it would screech – very loudly and very persistently.

But I do love them! I love their character, their playful eyes, the way they dance if they know they have your attention. Occasionally, they will learn to talk by imitating words they hear. My aunt’s cockatoo used to fairly constantly cry out the name of my cousin! It was clear that my aunt was in fairly constant communication with her son…

When I long for a pet bird, or a dog, or a goldfish, I realise it’s a longing for connection with living things that respond.

I figure I’d be better fostering relationships with humans who aren’t quite as likely to bite me – though they may, occasionally, screech.

This morning, on my first day of some prescribed ‘time-out’ from work, I began the day by sitting at the kitchen table reading and eating my breakfast. I was feeling cold. So, I did something I’ve never done before in this place I’m staying, I took a chair and placed it neatly on the very tiny verandah at my back door. There I sat, in the sun, with a book and a coffee. I felt the sun on my face and heard the birds in the trees around me.

I shall do this again! One day I may even see a cockatoo while I’m out there.

Daily Prompt

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #10

Today brings us to the end of Ten Days of Ten Things I’m Thankful For. Not that I’ll cease being thankful! At least my aim is to continue quietly in this vein over the coming days and weeks.

This morning, after fulfilling my usual Monday morning duties at work (that’s introducing out visiting speaker for the week), I headed in to speak with my boss about the possibility of taking a day off each week for the next few weeks – I’ve been struggling to keep up with life and work since arriving in this country and the struggling was getting the better of me. After a helpful chat, he sent me out with the instruction to take a couple of weeks off – effective that hour!

So I, and my pot-plant, walked back out of the college grounds, into my car and down the road to my apartment. And here I am – prescribed rest and quietness.

The pot plant is still experiencing some fragility in its return to full health. So, though the students and staff at work were delighted to see its return today, I trust they will be even more delighted to see it even more strong and healthy in a few weeks’ time. I trust that I too will follow the plant in its trajectory toward well-being.

Today I am thankful for:

1. Over-hearing the tail-end of a talk this morning, from 1 Peter, reminding me that God does his best refining work in us through our trials and confusion.

2. Encouragement regarding my work so far.

3. Permission to leave that work behind for a while.

4. A wise boss that not only gave permission to rest, but gave suggestions in order to make that rest even more restful.

5. A cancellation on a meeting with a student – before I even had the chance to make the cancellation myself!

6. A book to read.

7. Sunshine on my back as I read it.

8. God’s free, unending love for me – without me having to barter with him.

9. A dinner tonight with my family.

10. Hope to hold onto.

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #9

This morning I did something I shouldn’t have done. To be more precise, it was something that I regret doing. It’s not that it was something that, in and of itself, should or shouldn’t be done. It’s just that I wish I hadn’t done it.

I looked through a folder of photos on my computer.

The other day, I was intending to download just one photo from my camera to my computer and normally it would just download the one (or ones) that hadn’t already been downloaded. This time, for some reason unknown to me, it downloaded every picture on my camera. That meant I had two years of photos neatly collected in one folder. A lot can happen in two years.

So it was to this folder that I went, looking for one or two photos to ‘pretty up’ today’s thankfulness post.

What I found was many pretty photos, many memories, many friends and family members, many photos that, when taken, captured moments of joy. But in that mix, inevitably, there were photos in which, with hindsight, I now see pain and confusion peeking out from my eyes. There were photos that made me miss my more familiar ‘home away from home’. There was beauty in other lands that just made me sigh.

Within a matter of minutes, my flicking through the photos had produced a growing pain in my heart – a pain of love, loss, regret and yearning. All I had wanted was a couple of pretty photos!

Mercifully, I had to cut short the journey down ‘photographic lane’ to go to church.

It was the best thing I could do. Though, inevitably, there were challenges waiting for me there, I also found comfort. I was reminded that loss is the way to gain and that I follow a Saviour whose victory came through pain.

My heart still feels tender but, at moments like these, I am helped by focussing on the present. Today is the 26th April, 2015 – not some other date or time or era.

So at this moment, on this day, I am thanking God for:

1. The whisper of a friend’s recent encouragement to keep writing no matter how I feel, as I ate my sandwich today and wondered if I could be bothered writing or not.

2. The will to get up and walk to my computer.

3. The blessing of a quiet afternoon and evening ahead to rest.

4. The sound of rainfall outside which gives me every reason I may need to stay indoors and curl up under a quilt in front of the heater and read (or sleep).

5. An old friend at church making me laugh out loud (very loudly!) as he recounted some very ordinary tales of being drenched in storms on his way to work this week.

6. A functioning computer and internet connection.

7. Memories of last night – a ‘Mental as Anything’ Concert that I’d been invited to in order to make up a table. Turns out that I knew (and loved) most of their songs. I smile now as I picture my foot tapping along. I almost had the courage to get up and dance – almost – but I certainly danced on the inside.

8. Boiled Eggs – ready comfort in a neat package.

9. Prayer and a hug from the minister and his wife at church this morning.

10. One beautiful reminder from the photos perused this morning – of one moment in time when I was truly in the moment – and loving every minute of that moment.

Sunshine, an espresso, some reading material and something purple. All good things to have in any given moment.

Sunshine, an espresso, some reading material and something purple. All good things to have in any given moment.

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #8

Last night I had dinner with two good friends who happen to be readers of this blog. One of the them commented on the impact the ‘thankfulness’ posts are having on her. The thankfulness lists have been directing her thoughts to things in her own day for which she can be thankful.

I’ve noticed, that the more I am inclined in my thoughts and my heart toward thankfulness, the more it impacts those around me. It’s true for all of us. The things which consume our thoughts will, inevitably – even indirectly – come out in our speech as we share with friends.

That’s not to say that we should never share the things that are difficult in our lives; the struggles we have to come to terms with our present experience. It would be false not to. Last night all three of us shared the things which are troubling us – the areas in our life where we are so in need of help and clarity. However, that sharing was done with our hearts, minds and dinner conversation already engaged in thankfulness. It made all the difference.

Today I am thankful for:

1. Sunshine and warmth, allowing me to open the windows and let the house dry out a little after the storms of the previous week.

2. Dinner cooked for me last night.

3. The gentle heat of a pleasantly spiced Satay.

4. The comfort and familiarity of my own kitchen. We were eating and cooking in the apartment of mutual friends who are away (we had permission!) and therefore reflecting on the challenge it can be to find the necessary implements when cooking in someone else’s kitchen. We can take the blessing of familiarity for granted.

5. A beautiful view of a bay and the city lights from our friends’ apartment.

6. A Magnum ice cream for dessert.

Chocolate and Ice cream: Could I ask for more?

Chocolate and Ice cream: Could I ask for more?

7. Friends to share and pray with.

8. An opportunity to stay in bed a little longer this morning.

9. The anticipation of a sandwich for lunch. The two slices of bread are thawing as I type.

10. A cup of tea in a mug made of fine china.

Daily Prompt

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #7

Today, it’s all about lists!

Lists are right up my alley – or should I say street? I’ve been walking street after street in the Inner West and, if I were so inclined, I could make quite a long list of them.

I’ve also been visiting cafe after cafe – ticking them off the list in the index at the back of the Good Cafe Guide. It’s from 2014, but I figure that makes me a little ‘yesteryear’ and makes me quirky-ly short of up-to-date. Dare I say that it gives me ‘street-cred’?

20150214_180143

The Guide!!

Today I am thankful for:

1. A friend offering to get up early and walk with me this morning.

2. Wisdom shared as we walked.

3. The patience of the friend as I ran down the little cul-de-sacs shooting off the main streets, just so that I could colour them in on my map later.

4. The surprising glimpses of bits of Sydney Harbour as we rounded bends and peeked between houses.

5. The quiet streets of gorgeousness that run parallel to the main roads of despair!

One such quiet street of gorgeousness.

One such quiet street of gorgeousness.

6. God-given imagination to wonder at who might be blessed by the $10 note that fell out of my pocket while we walked. (We’re trusting that note may appear on someone else’s list of thankfulness today!)

7. The anticipation of breakfast at the local bakery in the area where we were walking.

8. Anticipation that proved well-placed!

9. Perfectly cooked poached eggs on soy and linseed sourdough toast, in the bakery.

10. Discussions over breakfast about our God who invites us to ‘dialogue’ with him – no matter how pain-filled and confused our side of the dialogue may be.

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #6

This morning I awoke to sunshine! Well, once I opened my blackout curtains, I could see the sunshine. I’ve now gathered up the wet towels that had been soaking up intrusive rain through gaps in windows and little, hitherto unknown, gaps in the wall.

Everything is now getting a good dose of sunshine! Things are being put back in order.

Today I’m thanking God for:

1. The return of sunshine and the brightness of things.

2. Being free to get back into my walking routine for an hour this morning.

3. Another seven or eight streets walked on my walking map (more on that in another post)

An older map from a previous project with the catchy title 'The Inner-West Architectural Appreciation Walking Tour'

An older map from a previous project with the catchy title ‘The Inner-West Architectural Appreciation Walking Tour’

4. The joy-giving sound of someone practicing the piano as I walked by (I can’t vouch for their joy in practicing…)

5. The sound of a leaf-blower outside signalling the local council’s efforts to get our streets back in order after the recent storms.

6. My brother popping in on his way home from work and washing my dishes for me. Unfortunately I missed him while I was out walking.

7. The colour purple – and the clothes I have in this colour.

8. A stimulating lecture on ‘Otherness and the Book of Job’ last night. My mind is still whirling!

9. A new, inspiring helper in my efforts to get my weight and fitness back in line.

10. Apps. (I had never used these marvels until very recently – the Scrabble dictionary is my favourite)

Daily Prompt

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #5

The rains and winds continue – as does my thanks for shelter and warmth.

However, today my thanks is inspired by an entertaining email sent by a friend regarding ‘collective nouns’. The list contained many examples I’d heard before and many I hadn’t.

I had never heard of a ‘troubling of goldfish’! So today’s thanks are inspired by the lovely goldfish, Dorothy, that I’ve been minding for friends while they are travelling.

Today, I am thanking God for:

1. The fascinating variety of collective nouns.

2. One goldfish to mind being no real trouble at all. A collection of goldfish? Now, that’d be another matter entirely.

Dorothy - pausing her enthusiastic swimming for photo opportunity.

Dorothy – pausing her enthusiastic swimming for photo opportunity.

3. The reaping of rewards after a little trouble taken to clean out the filter pump.

4. The joyous sight of Dorothy, after the filter was working again, forgetting her troubles and swimming ‘like she just don’t care!’

5. A no-trouble stir-fry for dinner tonight (with chicken…not fish).

6. The reward of groceries purchased, after troubling through the wind and rain.

7. News alerts and broadcasts to warn us of potential storm trouble brewing.

8. The comfort to my cold feet, after the trouble taken to fill a hot-water-bottle.

9. Life lessons learnt through troubles.

10. Answered prayer as God helped me to diplomatically and warmly welcome visiting speakers at work today – a mostly trouble-free day.

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #4

As I prepare to go to bed,* the wind and rain are lashing against the windows of my apartment. It’s nights like these that my thankful thoughts go immediately to warmth and shelter.

Tonight I finish the day thankful for:

1. A roof over my head.

2. Windows that close.

3. Curtains that dampen some of the drafts.

4. A beautiful quilt that kept me warm as I read a book on the sofa.

Duck Egg Blue - I trust the ducks have somewhere to hide tonight.

Duck Egg Blue – I trust the ducks have somewhere to hide tonight.

5. A fascinating, illuminating and sobering book to read.

The book just happens to co-ordinate with the quilt!

The book just happens to co-ordinate with the quilt!

6. Bed socks to keep my feet warm – in and out of bed.

Warm Feet - Warm Heart

Warm Feet – Warm Heart

7. A bed.

8. Today’s promise of an end to the heat of summer.

9. The subsequent anticipation of wearing clothes that are more ‘wintery’ and therefore more to my liking 🙂

10. A visiting speaker at work today, bearing good news of many who’ve found lasting shelter under eternal arms.

* I wrote this last night. It’s still raining and blasting a gale this morning. I read the Daily Prompt just before I went to sleep and then couldn’t get the song out of my head ‘…red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue…I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too.’ It will likely be some days before we see a rainbow anywhere.