Monday, June 30, 2008

More Love to Thee

A few weeks ago I finished the book Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee by Sharon James. It’s an enticing biography of one woman’s rather extraordinary faith in the face of both intense suffering and of ordinary daily annoyances. I’ll post an example later. But for now, here is one excerpt from a letter quoted in the book that I found particularly interesting and encouraging, especially the last two sentences. The more I think about it the more I believe it at least ought to be true:

God never places us in any position in which we can not grow. We may fancy that He does. We may fear we are so impeded by fretting, petty cares that we are gaining nothing; but when we are not sending any branches upward, we may be sending roots downward. Perhaps in the time of our humiliation, when everything seems a failure, we are making the best kind of progress. God delights to try our faith by the conditions in which He places us. A plant set in the shade shows where its heart is by turning towards the sun, even when unable to reach it. We have so much to distract us in this world that we do not realise how truly and deeply, if not always warmly and consciously, we love Christ. But I believe that this love is the strongest principle in every regenerate soul. It may slumber for a time, it may falter, it may freeze nearly to death; but sooner or later it will declare itself as the ruling passion.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when I struggled with making love for Christ the ruling passion. And yet I found myself feeling strangely compelled to obedience, while wanting to “kick the gate” all the same. Perhaps, after all, the strongest principle was love for Christ, which gives me some assurance of being in possession of a regenerate soul, though there were faltering moments when that would not have been so evident. Another passage from Elizabeth that speaks to this is below. I think I live a good many days in which my self-consecration is far from perfect, but she gives the remedy:

Lay down this principle as a law, - God does nothing arbitrary ... and if you have real faith in Him, you will not insist on knowing the reason. If you find in the course of everyday events, that your self-consecration was not perfect, - that is, that your will revolts at His will, - do not be discouraged, but fly to your Saviour, and stay in His presence till you obtain the spirit in which He cried in His hour of anguish, ‘Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done.’

Bad news for women everywhere!

I was shocked and horrified to read this post over at Radical Womanhood today. Apparently we could soon be headed for a chocolate shortage! That would be a global disaster. I mean, think about the long-term and wide-reaching consequences! That's the sort of thing that could lead to an increase in the depression of women everywhere ...

Carolyn suggests it might be time to begin hoarding. But hoarding chocolate is just not a possibility for some of us. There'd be only one outcome of me attempting to stash chocolate in my house for future consumption - and it would involve a whole new wardrobe!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bringing out my skeletons

Today I decided that it was time to get my skeletons out of the closet. To bring them out into the open, put them on display for all the world to see. I’d been carting this baggage around for years, growing weary of it. I’d tried dumping it on someone else, stuffing my skeletons into their closet. But they didn’t want them. Didn’t like them, had no sympathy for what I’d been through to collect them, couldn’t handle them. And so they came back to me.

In the end you just have to take responsibility for your own baggage, deal with your own skeletons. So I dug them out, dusted them off, took one last careful look, learnt what I could from them ...

And then took them to the museum:


The skull above that is of real interest is the one in the flash reflection, a Sharman’s Rock-wallaby. The others are a Brushtail Possum and a Rufous Bettong. I've given the Rock-wallaby skull into the keeping of Dr Mark Eldridge, a taxonomy guru whom I've known of professionally for some time. I made a sketch of my skull a few years back so I won’t forget it! You can tell it belongs to the genus Petrogale, owing to certain features, but if I went into the technicalities, you’d probably all be snoring ...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Accessing Eliot

Here is an interesting little introduction to the The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, posted below (I'm not entirely convinced that they have all of this quite right, but then that is the risk of literature - it is open to interpretation):

Eliot was born in St. Louis and educated at Harvard University, but most of his adult life was passed in London. In the vanguard of the artistic movement known as Modernism, Eliot was a unique innovator in poetry and The Waste Land (1922) stands as one of the most original and influential poems of the twentieth century. As a young man he suffered a religious crisis and a nervous breakdown before regaining his emotional equilibrium and Christian faith. His early poetry, including "Prufrock," deals with spiritually exhausted people who exist in the impersonal modern city. Prufrock is a representative character who cannot reconcile his thoughts and understanding with his feelings and will. The poem displays several levels of irony, the most important of which grows out of the vain, weak man's insights into his sterile life and his lack of will to change that life. The poem is replete with images of enervation and paralysis, such as the evening described as "etherized," immobile. Prufrock understands that he and his associates lack authenticity. One part of himself would like to startle them out of their meaningless lives, but to accomplish this he would have to risk disturbing his "universe," being rejected. The latter part of the poem captures his sense of defeat for failing to act courageously. Eliot helped to set the modernist fashion for blending references to the classics with the most sordid type of realism, then expressing the blend in majestic language which seems to mock the subject.

Excerpt from Reading About the World, Volume 2, edited by Paul Brians, Mary Gallwey, Douglas Hughes, Azfar Hussain, Richard Law, Michael Myers, Michael Neville, Roger Schlesinger, Alice Spitzer, and Susan Swan and published by Harcourt Brace Custom Books.

Poetry Friday - A Prufrockian existence

There are times when I feel quite frustrated with my life: that it is not what I wanted it to be or all it could be and, worse, that it will stay the same because I haven’t been courageous enough to change it. I don’t actually think I am an especially cautious or hesitant person, or one opposed to change, but I like this adjective when I am in those moods:

Prufrockian

Marked by timidity and indecisiveness, and beset by unfulfilled aspirations.
After the title character in T.S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". Prufrock, the aging hero of Eliot's 1915 poem, is haunted by his cautious, hesitant approach to life and his conforming existence, "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons".

Many of you would be familiar with the poem, and it is long, so I will just post segments of it. You can read it all here.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

...

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

...

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Between tortured souls

Last night I bought a copy of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment to participate in this book club. (The Brothers Karamazov is sitting on my shelf, as yet unread.) I’m not sure how I feel about this - but I am guessing, and rather hoping, that this will be a somewhat light-hearted approach :) - which may be the only way I make it. The last Dostoevsky I read was A Gentle Spirit. That’s a terrible piece of writing (but a great work of literature all the same). It says on the back “A man lays bare his tortured soul”, after his wife commits suicide, and that about covers it. Here's how it ends:

Inertia ... Oh, nature! People are alone upon earth – that’s the terrible truth! ‘Is there anyone alive upon the plain?’ shouts the Russian epic hero. I too am shouting, but I am no epic hero, and no one replies. They say that the sun gives life to the universe. The sun will rise and, when it does, look at it – what is it but a corpse? Everything’s dead, and everywhere there are corpses. Only people are alive, and around them is silence – that’s the earth! ‘People, love one another’ – who said that? Whose teaching is that? The pendulum’s ticking heartlessly, repulsively. It’s two o’clock in the morning. Her shoes are on the floor by her little bed, as if they were waiting for her ... No, seriously though: when they come to take her away tomorrow, what will I do?
Someone tell me Crime and Punishment has a slightly happier ending!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More men should like knitting ...

This fellow over here occasionally puts up a crazy post about what women need to do to catch themselves a man. So, I couldn't resist responding to this one:

....FACT.

Correct me if I'm wrong (I expect just one or two corrections), but I think every woman likes a man who enjoys knitting. A man who enjoys knitting is good - one who enjoys knitting AND yarn shopping, or even perhaps just yarning and shopping, is even better!

This is partly because we love talking about it (and just yarning in general), so it gives us something in common. A man with his own opinions about knitted attire is great. I don't work with any of them, but I wish I did. I reckon they'd be fun to talk to, understand female obssessions and generally be men of upstanding character (note Henry in Northanger Abbey - understanding muslin, a textile of another kind but close enough, got him a long way).

Men, what do you like to knit? Or what knitted garments appeal to you most? I know Ben wears a lovely scarf (which is totally awesome), but apart from that, I'm not sure I know too many other guys who know anything about knitting.

If you do end up knitting, you could end up featuring in something like this:






Or you could make yourself something really useful like this (what is that?):


Or this:


Or support a worthy cause (just take this one at face value):


Or your atrocious knitting could be your fixable flaw, that makes you endearing (this is Cary Grant in Mr Lucky - it worked for him!):


Anyway, get into knitting!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"My boyfriend is Jesus" songs

We often speak, in ever-so-slightly-deprecating tones, about "Jesus is my boyfriend" Christian songs. But what about "my boyfriend is Jesus" secular songs? Have you ever noticed how some secular love songs seem to be grasping at what (only) a relationship with Jesus offers? Here's one from Sarah McLachlan, especially in verse two (I actually love this song, and think the live version on Mirrorball is totally funky - you can listen on youtube here, or some kind of disco version here - have to admit I had some loungeroom dancing fun with that last version - which probably looked a little more aerobics - the "star jump" is my best move):

Sweet Surrender

it doesn't mean much
it doesn't mean anything at all
the life I've left behind me
is a cold room
I've crossed the last line
from where I can't return
where every step I took in faith
betrayed me
and led me from my home

and sweet
sweet surrender
is all that I have to give

you take me in
no questions asked
you strip away the ugliness
that surrounds me
are you an angel
am I already that gone
I only hope
that I won't disappoint you
when I'm down here
on my knees

and sweet
sweet
sweet surrender
is all that I have to give

sweet
sweet
sweet surrender
is all that I have to give

and I don't understand
by the touch of your hand
I would be the one to fall

I miss the little things
oh I miss everything

it doesn't mean much
it doesn't mean anything at all
the life I left behind me
is a cold room
And just incase, like me, you get a little hopeful at such ambiguous lyrics and think 'you know maybe Sarah McLachlan is really a Christian!' listen to this song, Dear God. I only discovered it today, still don't know which album it's from, and found it a little disturbing. It's the classic, "I can't believe in God because the world is full of suffering" argument, but sung persuasively. It frustrates and saddens me to hear it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The greater hurrah

The great hurrah about wild animals is that they exist at all, and the greater hurrah is the actual moment of seeing them. Because they have a nice dignity, and prefer to have nothing to do with me, not even as the simple objects of my vision. They show me by their very wariness what a prize it is simply to open my eyes and behold.
- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

I've already mentioned that I spent some time at Wallaby Creek collecting wildlife data, and I've already mentioned that there was a also fellow from my University there undertaking a mammal survey, for his own Honours. So, one day, during a field trip, as I was wandering about the valley after kangaroos, my "colleague" (I'll just call him my friend from here on) was coming down the hill from the forest where he had been clearing small mammal (Elliot) traps.
As he went by he sung out "come back to the hut and I'll show you a bush rat". I thought to myself 'whatever, I've seen a thousand bush rats' (pictured above) so I took my time getting there.

When I finally made my way back to the hut, my friend fiddled about in preparation and then pulled the head of a creature out of a bag. I looked at its face and exclaimed "that's not a bush rat!". He then pulled its tail out of the bag, and I said "is that a ...?" - at which point I think there might have been a little of a kind of whooping dance around the hut. This is what he'd caught:

If you have no idea what that is, that is because it is one of NSW's threatened species, currently listed at vulnerable. And if you think you've ever seen one before then you'd better go down to your nearest National Parks and Wildlife Service and tell them so. It's a Brush-tailed Phascogale (pictured in a cat trap, not an Elliot trap - it's important to know your traps!). But before you remark "oh, it's so cute" let me warn you that this seemingly harmless, sweet little thing was once known as the "marsupial vampire". (Now I may have come under some Gothic influence of late, but I'm not making this up - see here and here.) That's because it is a carnivorous little beast capable of bringing down a farmyard hen.

I've mentioned already that my colleague removed a snake from under my bed in blase fashion (pictured below). Well, the next thing he did (besides daring me to ride a horse bare-back) is say "well, hopefully I'll catch more of these so it'd be good to know what their bite is like" and promptly offered this creature his hand - before I could do anything to stop him! So our little vampire latched onto this offered hand - as he hollered - and there it stayed. As my friend jigged around sucking his breath in, with this furry little creature attached, he spat out "it's worse than a budgie!". A budgie??!! I could hardly do anything useful for laughing. Eventually I had to get two wooden pencils (because we didn't actually want to harm our friendly little vampire's teeth) into this creatures mouth and prise its jaw open, so my friend could reclaim his hand. Guess he knew for next time.

Back at uni, when he was telling people how I went on this wild bare-back horse ride, just because he told me to, I'd tell people that he fed his hand to a phascogale. Who wins?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

It's better to be single than ...?

There’s a phrase that has been circulating in the Christian circles that I move in over the last few years, and is still being said, regarding singleness, which I believe is ultimately not particularly helpful, so I have decided to blog my thoughts on it. The phrase is:

“It’s better to be single than to wish you were.”

or the long version:

“It’s better to be single and wish you were married, than to be married and to wish you were single.”

I can understand the rationale behind the phrase – it’s the “things could be worse” argument. It’s the “if you don’t like your vegetables think about the children starving in Sudan” argument. But there are a number of reasons why I think that is fostering an unhelpful way to view singleness. The first is simply that it is encouraging a comparison of circumstances. Doing so is never the very best way to deal with your own situation. There are always going to be situations worse and better than your own, and comparing either way isn’t really dealing with the crux of the matter, and is ultimately not the best thing to do for your own growth. And it is not a biblical rationale. You won’t find it in 1 Corinthians 7. The things that are better than something else in that passage (in the ESV) are “it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (and perhaps, in dealing with some single people, the best thing you could do to serve their holiness is to actually to help them get married) and that “he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better” but those just don’t equate to the argument above. (Infact, the "could be worse" argument generally presupposes that what is is bad, which is definitely not Paul's argument.)

That leads to the second point, that the nature of the comparison it is making is not a good one. It’s comparing singleness with a bad marriage. As Candice Watters writes in her book Get Married: What women can do to help it happen (I mentioned that I might read this book here and will have more to say on what I think about this book in entirety later, but she is definitely right on this point): “that’s not a fair comparison – it equates married people on bad days with singles on their best. People who marry well and are committed to their marriages don’t wish they were single again, and singles who are honest about their desires don’t find consolation in married people having bad days”. The saying is true in so far as it is better to be single than to wish you could escape your marriage, because there is no way out of a marriage that you don’t want except through sin, whereas single people can potentially change their situation without sin. But why are we even giving voice to the notion of being married and wishing that you weren’t? How is that helpful? It just shouldn’t be a category. And it won’t take too long before single people will just stop and think, ‘but the vast majority of married people I know don't wish they were single’. Further, in my experience, people I know who have actually gotten out of bad marriages, even very bad marriages involving serious hurt, often remain hopeful of a good relationship. Even an experience of a bad marriage doesn’t prevent people subsequently seeking a good one. So too the idea that you could end up in a bad marriage does nothing to deter people from desiring a good one. There is just no real substance to the argument. There’s nothing in it that’s truly satisfying or genuinely helpful. After my father died people would occasionally try and be helpful and say things to my Mum like “well, you’re better off being single than being married to an alcoholic” (or something similar) and my Mum would just scratch her head and think ‘well maybe so but I wasn’t married to an alcoholic’. How would we then rate singleness against being married and being very glad that you are married?

Far better would it be to encourage single people with the something to the effect that it is good for them to be single, for now if not forever, because that is what their loving Heavenly Father has given them for now – and they can trust to His goodness and use it for his glory. No sideways comparison.

(P.S. I’ve culled a lot out of this post, so if you have a comment, please let me hear it!)

Friday, June 20, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night ...

Lastnight I went over to the city after work and joined the frenzy at the MYER stocktake sale. I was actually just wanting to look at the mattresses, because my Mum is quite insistent that I get a new one, so I had to fight my way right up to level 6, feeling a little out of patience with people who just stand there on escalators, and wanting to get out of there as soon as possible before the temptation to find another few hundred bargains took over me. Did you know, that you can spend $2899 on a single bed mattress? And that is just the mattress! And just a single mattress! I was simply staggered at what has happened to the price of beds since last time I looked. So, anyway, then I caught the bus home from the city, and it was dark and raining and the bus just seemed to take forever to get to my suburb. From where I got off I had to walk past Camperdown Cemetery to get home. It's incredibly old (by Australian standards) and just a little spooky. There are many large, old, upright gravestones that anything could hide behind, and it's dark on that stretch of the street. That and it was later than usual and a little deserted owing to the rain. I had just walked past the old wrought-iron gates leading into the cemetery when the night was shattered by a sudden dreadful snarling, lunging growl from right on the other side of the fence, followed by a piercing shriek and that died away. I stopped dead on the footpath and willed myself to turn around. Then I heard "oh I knew you were going to do that".It turns out the whole thing was some kind of lark set up for the guy who was walking down the footpath behind me. Eventually I laughed too. But they took years off the life of poor, unsuspecting me!

On a brighter note, amongst the tombstones of the many famous people buried in this cemetery, including the tomb of Bathsheba Ghost (rather disappointing that that was just her name - if I believed in ghosts, tortured souls wandering through the night looking for loves lost and children taken before their time I'd think Bathsheba, as we know her story in the bible, would be a likely possibility!) you'll find this plaque.

Poetry Friday - The phoenix riddle

Today I thought I would travel back in time (both in my age and the period of the poet) and share a poem I studied in highschool by the metaphysical poet John Donne. Essentially the poets speaker has fallen in love, at an age when those around him appear to think it's a mockery. So he takes up a defence of his love, telling his hearers to go about their own business and leave him to his, asking what harm his love has ever done to anyone ...

THE CANONIZATION.
by John Donne

FOR God's sake hold your tongue, and let me love;
Or chide my palsy, or my gout;
My five gray hairs, or ruin'd fortune flout;
With wealth your state, your mind with arts improve;
Take you a course, get you a place,
Observe his Honour, or his Grace;
Or the king's real, or his stamp'd face
Contemplate ; what you will, approve,
So you will let me love.

Alas ! alas ! who's injured by my love?
What merchant's ships have my sighs drown'd?
Who says my tears have overflow'd his ground?
When did my colds a forward spring remove?
When did the heats which my veins fill
Add one more to the plaguy bill?
Soldiers find wars, and lawyers find out still
Litigious men, which quarrels move,
Though she and I do love.

Call's what you will, we are made such by love;
Call her one, me another fly,
We're tapers too, and at our own cost die,
And we in us find th' eagle and the dove.
The phoenix riddle hath more wit
By us ; we two being one, are it;
So, to one neutral thing both sexes fit.
We die and rise the same, and prove
Mysterious by this love.

We can die by it, if not live by love,
And if unfit for tomb or hearse
Our legend be, it will be fit for verse;
And if no piece of chronicle we prove,
We'll build in sonnets pretty rooms;
As well a well-wrought urn becomes
The greatest ashes, as half-acre tombs,
And by these hymns, all shall approve
Us canonized for love;

And thus invoke us, "You, whom reverend love
Made one another's hermitage;
You, to whom love was peace, that now is rage;
Who did the whole world's soul contract, and drove
Into the glasses of your eyes;
So made such mirrors, and such spies,
That they did all to you epitomize—
Countries, towns, courts beg from above
A pattern of your love."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Refined and cultured me

I've just checked Ben's blog for today's entertainment, and he has posted about the Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel. After this week's wild and feral posts, I thought perhaps this was a fitting moment to drop in one of those 'I'm a refined, continentally-travelled, sophisticated, cultured, artistic, well-read sort of person' lines and say, very casually, like it's a commonplace occurence, "oh, yes, when I was Vienna I saw the Bruegel exhibit".

I really did. I got on a plane in Townsville, leaving the sweltering tropics and their wild animals behind me, and got off in winter Vienna, December 15. It was magic. It was an exhibit of the Pieters and one of the Jans and it was simply marvellous.

Anyway, that just provided the perfect opportunity for adjusting public perception ... :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Feral me

Just in case you are not yet convinced that I was indeed once half-wild, here is a photo of me taken during a night of trapping in far North Queensland. I’m holding the pouch-young of a Sharman’s Rock-wallaby, and looking like I came out of the trap with it. I don’t know whether my face is covered with pimples, owing to the total lack of any sort of face-cleansing regime during trips, with all their dirt and humidity, or covered with insect bites, owing to the plethora of tropical insects, including about ten times their fair share of mosquitoes. Anyway, that is me a la’ naturale and then some. I’ve got no secrets left! But how sweet is that creature? Rock-wallaby pouch-young at this stage of development made being on the side of the sort of hill on which rock-wallabies lived at 3 am, laden down with gear, worth the while. They’d look up at me from inside the pouch with their large dark eyes, so soft and velvety and so exquisitely formed. I’d just want to hold them and look at them for a while - before attempting the difficult part, which was stuffing them back in.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The horse, the snake, the terror

There is something very important that I forgot to mention in last night’s post. That is that, if you have ever seen Faces in the Mob, which you really ought to if you are to call yourself a true Australian, the white horse seen below is the very same white horse featured in that movie. (Is it still “name dropping” if I am referring to animals?) The sequence below was actually taken at Wallaby Creek, the site of the data collection for my Honours project. Wallaby Creek is a reknowned macropod study site, if you move in zoological circles. When I arrived at James Cook University, Townsville, to do research after university, my introduction to people went something like this “This is Alison – she’s one of Peter Jarman’s Wallaby Creekers” and people would nod and say “arrgghhh”. The shot below, which was the beginning of the horse-riding sequence, shows the hut that was home for my time there. It had no power, no water, no actual doors or windows. One evening one of life’s nightmares was realised in this hut. I had come in from a dusk search, plotting the location of the kangaroos, and went round the small piece of wall that existed inside, and saw something inexplicable in the fading light under my makeshift bunk. I said to myself ‘I wonder what that is?’ and bent down for a closer look, when it reared up and came at me. Then I think I said something like “it’s a SNAKE!” as I all but fell backwards out of the hut. Thankfully at this time there was another fellow from the university there doing a mammal survey, who was just au fait, apparently, with snakes under beds. He pinned it’s head under a broom handle, while I held the light from a distance, and removed it. It was actually only a python, but there’s no discriminating when it comes to snakes under beds (and it was behaving in a strangely aggressive fashion such that we weren’t sure till we could get a good look at it). The old adage goes that you have to take a carpet python three miles to get rid of it, which proved true because the next morning python was back asleep under the floor boards in the corner. And for the remainder of the time there it went out, via the window, every evening, on its nightly forage, and returned in the small hours of the morning and just became part of life. We’d say things like “have a good night Horatio” as it slithered out the window.

I wasn’t entirely happy about being in this hut in the middle of nowhere with one other guy. But there wasn’t much to be done about it at the time, and so I strung tarps up down the middle of the hut and marked out my territory. I soon discovered, also, that it was a good deal preferable to being there on my own. I spent one week alone in that hut, during Autumn when the dingoes howl, and I have to confess that for that week I walked a fine line between sanity and hysteria. Every evening as darkness crept down the valley I had to steel myself against the rising terror (it was before the days when mobile phones were in common use, and uni students certainly didn't own one, and I doubt they would have worked there at any rate, so I had no contact with the “outside world”). I made sure there would be no reason for me to trudge down the paddock to the outhouse any time during the night, out of fear and dread that something unknown might enter the hut while I was gone and ambush me on my return. The morning that my week was over, and I could respectably leave, I got up at the crack of dawn, seized with a totally irrational panic to get out of there as soon as possible. I had finally let go of the mental fortitude that had held me there all week and was shaking with the relief that I had survived and could now go home. The whole “into the wild” experience, heading off into the woods to “live deliberately” (as Thoreau put it) and commune with nature (and I really did! – I could get within five metres of every kangaroo in the valley, I knew them by name based on natural markings only – all this owing to the work of those who had gone before me – and I talked to them!) is just a little over-rated.

I also perhaps didn’t adequately set up the scenario below. I was back in the hut for lunch one day, when the fellow mentioned above, who clearly didn’t have enough work to do, said to me “I’ll give you a leg-up”, with a nod outside. I looked in the direction of his nod and said “I’m not much of a horse rider”. He said “so?”. And I thought, “so indeed! – allright then!”. So, this challenge and this leg-up is how I came to be astride that horse (if any of you spared a thought as to how one gets on a horse that is not fitted with a saddle, well I, disappointingly, didn’t run up behind it and leap on like John Wayne). He then got the camera ready to capture the moment. (Yes, I am wondering what this guy really thought of me too – inciting me to such idiocy. If you are not at all familiar with horses, a person shouldn’t just get on a horse they know nothing about, when they can’t even actually ride one, without a bridle, saddle or a helmet. Even an experienced horse rider would take care getting on an unfamiliar horse, with all the necessary gear in place!)

Gothic Austen

Ben came through on his review of Northanger Abbey (I had every confidence that he would!), and I have been shaking in my seat.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Horsin' around

The silliest thing I was ever dared to do:






And just because once wasn’t enough and you're supposed to get straight back on your horse, as they say, I had another go. (I left out one shot here because it was the most unflattering shot of my behind, looking as big as the behind of the horse! These pictures, in which I look a little hefty I must say, were taken during my fourth year of university, when I had 'let myself go', and those pale jeans are just tragic!)

Uninspired ...

I'm going through another of those phases of feeling like I have nothing much to say, and thus feeling dissatisfied with this blog. I go to work each day, which rarely provides a blog-worthy moment, come home each night, attempt not to actually spend too much time on the computer, because I have been stuck in front of it all day, and try to keep up reading good books, but don't always (and perhaps I shouldn't underestimate the value of posting a good chunk of what someone else has to say!). I'm not married to someone intelligent and interesting or theological, with whom I can discuss things. When I have a thought, to develop it into a blog post that actually ends somewhere seems to require a lot of time. So in between the times when I actually have something I’ve taken the time to say, I figured I'd post a few pieces of nothing much, but I think the stretches of nothing much are getting longer :) ... Anyway, for now I am all out of teenage love stories and warts and the latest crochet project isn’t done yet, but there's always old photos ...

Whitlams for free

I was sitting here this morning feeling not-in-the-mood for any of the music in my "library" here at work and thinking it was time for something new when someone left a pile of CDs on the table by the door. It's The Whitlams and The Sydney Symphony Live in Concert. Apparently the CD came free in the Sunday Telegraph a few weeks ago. I like the Whitlams, and I saw them live once on the River Stage in Brisbane and thought they were great (and I have this vague notion that once upon a time I sort-of-knew someone who was dating the drummer, but I can't for the life of me remember who), so I was rather stoked and am enjoying it so far! It's queer though - like Whitlams meet brass band.

When fondness makes the heart grow absent
I gotta find an orbit a little closer to the ground
When fondness in my heart is absent
I'm in awe of the sabotage within
Fondness Makes the Heart Grow Absent, The Whitlams

Ben v Jane

Ben, over here, simultaneously riled and amused women everywhere last week with his take on the latest version of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Having watched Northanger Abbey last night I have to confess that I am hoping he has a shot at that one also ;-). I have to admit that it contained material for parody and I'm curious to know what a guy thinks of Henry's understanding of muslin ...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

One day at a time

I’m catching up with someone occasionally at the moment, who is going through one of life’s more challenging moments. I am sure I have said it to them, and I know that they have said it to me, that they just take one day at a time. I got to thinking about “one day at a time” and wondering if that is the best way to make it through such times, or whether perhaps we need to look further ahead, and think bigger scope, like 1 Peter 1: 3-9. Perhaps when times are dark and we can’t see past the immediate circumstances, we simply have to take one day at a time. So, for then:

Anyone can carry his burden, however heavy,
until nightfall.
Anyone can do his work, however hard,
for one day.
Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely,
till the sun goes down.
And this is all that life really means.
- Robert Louis Stevenson

We have each day to be faithful for the one short day, and long years and a long life will take care of themselves without the sense of their length or their weight ever being a burden.
- Andrew Murray

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The most exasperating book shop in the world

Today I wandered up King St, Newtown, on my way to Glebe Markets, and idled into Gould’s bookshop. I have previously moaned about the state of this bookshop, but can never help going in there regardless. Gould’s is actually across the road from Moore Theological College, that southern-hemisphere bastion of the truth. So I thought, you never know, it might be worth a look in the “Christianity” section. This is what that aisle looked like:


The poetry aisle, however, was looking slightly more sensible than usual:


As was the art row:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Poetry Friday - Alone

Today I have a poem by Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon is best known as one of the war poets, but the poem below is not a war poem. You can read about the life of Sassoon, A Wounded Poet Who Sang the Crucible of a Generation, in the archives of the New York Times (though the poet himself was British).

ALONE

"When I'm alone"—the words tripped off his tongue
As though to be alone were nothing strange.
"When I was young," he said; "when I was young ..."

I thought of age, and loneliness, and change.
I thought how strange we grow when we're alone,
And how unlike the selves that meet and talk,
And blow the candles out, and say good night.

Alone ... The word is life endured and known.
It is the stillness where our spirits walk
And all but inmost faith is overthrown.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On a yacht to Martinique

Today I am on a yacht to St Anne, Martinique, in the Global Corporate Challenge. It looks like a nice place to be headed, if one has to go somewhere on a yacht! So far I have trekked up through Chile, Venezuala, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and St Lucia. It's fun. At each destination we get a little blurb about the locale, written by someone with a fine sense of humour and a love for the curious, a few facts about the country plus some stunning photos. Josephine, the wife of Napoleon, was born on Martinique. Venezuela has the world's highest waterfall (it's 16 times bigger than Niagara) and, despite the country's smallish size, has produced the third most Miss Universe winners of any country. Vieux Fort, St Lucia, apparently, looks like it got dressed in London and styled in France because the British and the French actually went to war 14 times over this little island. All the world's mini-mokes have ended up in Barbados (if you were wondering where they went), where the city of Bridgetown in the only city outside Continental US that George Washington ever visited. In Honduras you should look for a cinder block hotel as opposed to a wooden one as rats find it harder to access the non-wooden buildings ... and so on I go.
My "personal best" at the moment is 17,835 steps in one day. On a normal weekday I can easily do 16,000 steps. It's on the weekends, especially rainy weekends, that it's harder to make the 10,000. But I give myself a little slack, because what you miss out on the razzle dazzle you pick up on the hurdy gurdy, and I figure that I have a reasonable "exercise habit" already, and that's really all we're aiming for.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A midweek joke, of sorts

Q: Is the glass half full or half empty?
A: What's it matter, pretty soon you're bound to spill it.

It's actually a line from the song The Girl with the Weight of the World in her Hands by the Indigo Girls.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Coffee, coffee, coffee

This weekend I’ve had a lot of coffees. This morning I had a coffee with Nicole, which was just lovely. We were supposed to be discussing the EQUIP book club, and we did, in amongst everything else (to which the book club was the subtext, and they were great "elses"). Then this afternoon I had coffee with a girl from work. This is the first time I have spent any time with this girl outside of work, so it feels like we crossed an invisible line. I have been thinking for some time, since we moved floors at the end of last year and our team seating was reconfigured, that I should get to know this particular girl better. Then she moved the other week to a flat just down the road from me, and I figured that maybe now was the time ...

The great conundrum

During the week I read this post over at the Purple Cellar . As a teenager I read a lot of Elisabeth Elliot. In some ways I wonder if they did me more harm than good in that I already was reserved and shy and had no real idea about boys, and so being told not to even go out of my way to speak to, or be friendly towards, a guy I might be interested in, well I suspect it created the ice queen. Being told to “play hard to get” probably wasn’t that helpful either. I was led to believe that if a guy was genuinely interested he would ask you out and that was all there really was to it. Years later I had older men I respected telling me things like "a guy is not going to ask you out Ali unless he's fairly sure the answer is yes" and "you must never under-estimate the fragility of the male ego" etc. So, in response I had a slightly more "proactive phase" in which I tried being a little more "friendly". However, I think I did that badly and that is now nothing more than a source of mortification and remorse to me (email is bad! - I am not at all given to being "forward" in person, but I have sent one or two emails which make me cringe - or they would if I hadn't purged my life of them and trashed them) and I am simply never doing it again! One of my flatmates had the book He's just not that into you, so I read it and set myself free from wasting time with guys not taking any initiative (read this book if you are tempted to make excuses eg the guy is wounded, intimidated, not quite sure you're interested etc etc - he's not, he's just not interested enough). Then someone gave me the "Jane Austen Guide to Dating", just as an Austenish coffee-table kind of book, which is actually a very intelligent, realistic book, written by an Englishwoman and so perhaps a little more appropriate to we Australians than some of the American material (Americans seem to get educated in all these curious little rules, like you should never accept a date for Saturday night after Tuesday, or you're being too available - so you're supposed to say no and expect the guy to ask you again?!). Then I had the opportunity of observing a fellow who I was actually made certain was interested in me, to see what he would do in the face of no interest shown on my part, and the result was: absolutely nothing! So, you know, perhaps those older men were on to something. Then I met a fellow of fine calibre, a man capable of taking the lead, who understood that he was the guy and I was the girl and what that meant, who asked me to coffee in beautiful fashion (and I know coffee doesn't = "date", but it's a good place to start) and it was all just perfect - only problem with this hero is that he wasn't a Christian. So, I am back a little more at the Elisabeth Elliot end (though I do think she’s rather extreme) - if the guy won't/can't take the initiative, well, he is just the wrong guy. But go read this, written by a guy, and if you feel like setting off after a faint-hearted fellow, well don't hear me disapproving - though mind you don't go assuming the guy is faint-hearted, when he could just be Mr Just-not-that-into-you, and if so then gutsy girl might not be the thing, and how you tell the difference seems to be anybody's guess. Or read this, about women cracking twigs and rustling leaves, which sounds like how the bush turkeys go about their business, but I think that is the idea. Anyway, if you thought this post was headed somewhere, my apologies. It wasn't. You won't find any dating advice here. I've got no rules, games, manoeuvres ...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Meandering doings and thoughts

Last night I went and saw the movie Prince Caspian, and loved it! It was one of those Fridays where I was just going to come home and do something exciting, like crochet (I actually don't mind quiet Fridays), but then a friend wanted to catch up for dinner so we went to Wagamama’s, where for dessert we shared the most scrumptious white chocolate and ginger cheesecake with honey and lime-rind sauce! Afterwards we thought we’d see a movie and I really wanted to see Prince Caspian. (By the way, does anyone have any thoughts on Facebook etiquette at this point: I noticed throughout the week that a number of my facebook “friends” from church (mostly from the evening service, which I haven’t been at so much of late because I am more committed to the morning congregation) were attending an “event” to see Prince Caspian (organised by someone who is not my facebook friend but as a general open event), and I would have perhaps joined in on this one but figured that I could hardly just invite myself to something that I wasn’t actually invited to could I? It’s one of the features of facebook that I am not so pleased about: that people can watch the social action of others and potentially be made extra-aware that they aren’t part of it (not that I was bothered that I wasn’t part of this one - and God was obviously arranging something else because it was good that I spent time with my other friend).) So we wandered to the cinemas and it was on at 9:25pm, which was fine, but I was rather staggered to realise that it was midnight exactly when it ended and then that I had missed the last bus home by a few minutes, such that in the end my only real option was a taxi.

Anyway, there is an interesting review of Prince Caspian here, which reflects what I thought was good about it. Curiously, while we were at the cinemas I needed to use the bathroom (well that is not so curious but what follows is a little more so) so I found what I thought was it, but the door was fixed wide open and there was a women visible inside wearing a strange outfit appearing to be up to something peculiar, so I hesitated before entering. It turns out that she was in there as part of a Sex in the City promotion and giving out free, um, products, of which I got a handful. On that note, I appreciated reading this comment by Carolyn McCulley during the week regarding the movie Sex in the City. It was good to be reminded of the insidious nature of sin and of the benefits of a deliberated avoidance of entertainment which is unhelpful at best.

Family news

It was my niece, Annie’s first birthday yesterday. She’s such an adorable little thing who has always been very happy and good and easy plus very engaging and interactive from a very young age (I realise that not all babies are like her, through no fault of their own or their parents – I have another niece who screamed for four months with reflux!). Here are some photos:

This is Annie with a present I sent up, which is a fabric mail box with letters and packages that she can stuff into it and pull out again (I wanted to give her a wooden Noah's ark, but the practicalities of finding a nice one and then mailing it to Darwin proved undoable):


This is her mastering the art of walking with her Uncle Josh:


You will notice in one of these photos an arm in a cast. That is my brother-in-law. Last Sunday afternoon he had an accident on his dirt bike and broke both wrists. Just stop and think about life with two broken wrists for a second! Considering the general seriousness of motorbike accidents and what else has happened to people who ride bikes in our family (that’s how my father died) we’re thankful that he only has two broken wrists. However, on Monday he in having an operation involving a bone graft from his hip and will be in hospital for a week. The wrists need to heal properly for him to be able to continue his career flying military helicopters, so if you are inclined to pray for him that would be appreciated.

The poem

So I just fiddled with the poem to make it post and NOW it goes up saying that it was posted at 6:30 this morning, actually make that yesterday morning. It has a mind of it's own!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Where is my poem?

I scheduled a poem to go up this morning, and so far it doesn't appear to be there?!
It's so frustrating sometimes not being able to access blogspot at work, so I will have to wait until I get home to fix that one.

Poetry Friday - Let it be forgotten

Today I thought I'd share a poem by Sara Teasdale, a twentieth century female poet that I like, who lived from 1884-1933. In 1929 she became divorced from her husband of 15 years, Ernst Filsinger, for reasons I haven't ascertained (and in 1929 there must have been a reason) and later committed suicide. I won't run Sara for a month, but a vast amount of her poetry is available on the web for any interested reader, along the themes of love and longing, beauty, nature and death. There is something about the poem below which really captures me, for reasons I can't quite explain. However, I do stumble on the metre and feel like there are too many syllables in the second last line (because "flower" and "fire" push one syllable in my reading) but that doesn't ruin it for me.

What it is about is for the reader for fill in ...


Let it be forgotten

Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
Forgotten as a fire that once was singing gold
Let it be forgotten for ever and ever,
Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.

If any one asks, say it was forgotten
Long and long ago,
As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
In a long-forgotten snow.

Sara Teasdale

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

P.S.

I should perhaps have mentioned in last night's post that I used to work with Gordon Cheng, at Matthias Media, and we're chums. So I wasn't attempting to start a blog war or be toooo impertinent :). I actually think he's a very nice guy (don't be fooled by that "evil" thing!).

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Chosing the poison - special post for Gordon

I couldn't resist writing a little post, especially for Gordon. For the last couple of months it has taken me around an extra ten minutes to get to bed. The reason being that some time ago I went to the doctor, and when he came to the usual closing question "is their anything else I can do for you" I said, "yes, well how about this?" and showed him the bottom of my foot. In the middle of my heel there has lived for years a plantar wart! - and in recent times it had started actually paining. So he looked at it and we discussed my options (as you do when you have serious business with the doctor): burning, freezing or poison. I chose the poison (it sounded like he thought burning would require a GA, which I thought was quite ridiculous, but this wart has been there a long time and gone deep). So, every night I have had to soak my foot in hot water for at least five minutes, remove the dead bits and pieces, apply the extra-strength ointment, find a band-aid ... and I am usually just about to go to bed and then I remember 'oh bother, the wart routine' and so I go and get the bucket and sit on the edge of the bath with my foot in it and daydream for a while, and then begin surgery. The last few days I have started to wonder if I was still killing wart or just killing my own foot. And now I think the fight against the monster within has finally been won, and I am a wart-free human being!

(If only I could deal with the rest of my "warts" in the same fashion ...)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Some kind of blinks

Work was fairly slow today, and so as I did a few things I listened to this talk today by CJ Mahaney, called The Troubled Soul: God's Word and Our Feelings. He opens with this quote by Paul Tripp:

“No one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you more than you do. You’re in an unending conversation with yourself. You’re thanking to yourself all the time, interpreting, organising, and analysing what’s going on inside you and around you.”

It's a good talk. If anyone followed the link to the sermon Rejoicing Always by John MacArthur that I posted a few weeks ago MacArthur also makes a similar point; that strong people talk to themselves and discipline themselves and pull themselves into line with truth, while weak people listen to themselves. We are to listen to the word of God, and then talk to ourselves.

Then I listened to another by John Piper called Fighting for Faith with God’s Word, which was just excellent.

Today I also read this post by The Procrastinatrix, which I appreciated. There are times when I feel like I have been rather "out there" in mentioning singleness, so it was refreshing and heart-warming to find someone else being honest. I've been doing some reading on singleness lately, which I am saving for later. It's been good having a reason to read some books (I tell myself it's "research" :) ...). However, a couple of times last week I brought up one of the dilemmas, and feel that I got on a small soapbox, so if start talking toooo much about it in public, well someone clamp their hand over my mouth quick smart!

And finally, here are two good articles I read in response to the "major controversy caused by an art exhibition featuring the photographic work of Bill Henson", one at Just in CASE, and the other from the Dean.