Sunday, June 28, 2015

The home improvement week

My own blog reading has slipped terribly, so you all have my sympathies and a free pass to skip this diarising (I will write about books or something else soon), but I have now reached the end of home improvement week, and am feeling pleased.

Monday was to be gardening day, as Tuesday and Wednesday were originally forecast as wet, so my amazing and generous Aunt came around, bringing a crowbar and mattock, and we set to work (she actually loves being involved in “projects” and volunteers to do so, and said to me ‘you know I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it’). I should have taken before and after shots so the magnitude of this day could be appreciated. The first job was to remove the three understory camellias out the front, but when I did a little preliminary digging on this I discovered that at least two of them were suckered off giant roots close to the surface from the two monster camellias. So, one was totally unsalvageable, because it was just sprouting from a long piece of root we cut out, another had a few little roots connected to it so has been transplanted out the back, with a hope and a prayer, and so far still lives, and I took a few little bits with roots off the third and potted those, and my Aunt then took the large bush home to have a go at it. Next we pulled out a ragged old photinia out the back, that was way too big for the garden bed (and found three nice old china saucers buried in the dirt underneath it!), and next was trying to clean up the jasmine next to the garden shed, which we ended up having to remove completely, as it was beyond control, a huge tangled mess behind the shed and busting up the fence. (When I spoke to the old lady next door she said this place was actually empty for about 12 months before the family put it on the market, which explains why parts of the back yard were a bit crazy.) Underneath the big mound of jasmine was a large old stump, that had been there so long the paving was done around it, and my Aunt says ‘we can just take small steps and have a go at it’ and before the day was out we’d chipped the whole top off it, and I have four bags of the pieces we splintered off in the shed waiting for my fire pit. So, I was amazed we got so much done and particularly that stump out, and am very thankful to my Aunt for the help.

Here are a couple of pics of my Aunt in action on the stump, with the remnants of the jasmine, then the next one shows three camellias on the left. That tall one staked on the end of the garden bed is one of the “saplings” that was growing up under the others, which will give you some idea of how tall they are. The two in the large pots are small pieces off the other (and I would like a nicer table and chairs eventually!) and next to that is the square of dirt that was once the old stump. I now have seven camellias out the back, mostly in pots, which is a bit excessive, but will wait to see what colour they all are before I decide what to do.

Tuesday I took one last load of green waste to the tip (after two trips on Monday afternoon), cleaned up a few things in the garden, then wizzed in to Bunnings to get paint for the next job. Tuesday afternoon a friend was going to come for a visit. She has just returned from six weeks in hospital treating post-natal depression, and is wonderfully frank about that experience. She was coming at two, but it turned out her baby was having an epic sleep, so at four she still wasn’t here and we rescheduled. That was frustrating at the time, but I understood and there was no way I was going to begrudge the baby or the mother that sleep after all the dramas they’ve lived through. So, I set to work on chalk painting furniture as soon as I knew she wasn’t coming.

Wednesday morning was more painting, then lunch with the rector, assistant minister, and families and children’s minister, in my youth minister role, for us all to talk about what we’re doing. Then Bunnings visit the third (I think!) for a replacement jasmine, which I decided to plant on top of that old stump to grow along the fence, and more painting/waxing furniture.

Thursday was bed shuffling day, so I dismantled the single bed in my room (which is all I’ve ever had, because in share housing you don’t have beds bigger than you need them), to be reassembled in the spare room, and then put together a queen bed I bought on ebay a few months ago in my room, because my Aunt and Uncle had given me a mattress for that. So, my Aunt came around in the middle of this process also, and I’d said to her on the phone that we might have time for an “adventure”, as she calls them, in the afternoon. So after dragging furniture and mattresses about we went to the Strathnairn art collective and had a look around the gallery and the studios before having a cup of tea out on the lawn. It was a gorgeous day and that was a lovely place to spend some of it. Then we just went for a bit of a drive in the countryside out the back of Hall, which is very picturesque. Here is proof.

Friday morning my rescheduled friend came around for a coffee and chat, then I hit the shops to get ingredients for a dinner party that evening. My book club has been reading the book Bread and Wine, by Shauna Niequist, about food and community, so that night we got together and everyone had to bring along a dish made from one of the recipes in the book. The food was very American and a little strange, but I took dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon as an appetiser, then a white chicken chili soup style thing. Interesting. We have a fabulous evening of feasting together, and I have been inspired to get my act into gear on the hospitality front.

Saturday was prepping for youth group, which was revision on the Sermon on the Mount for the last week of term, then my Uncle and Aunt came around and my Uncle and I went off to Bunnings to return the garage door knob, which had failed, and get a replacement and put that on (I’ve had a few door-lock dramas, but hopefully they are now good), while my Aunt stayed here and planted little surprises in my garden, then a dinner organised by a fellow at church who does a summer and winter solstice event every year.

So I feel like another week off would be nice to do a little more relaxing, now that the majority of the home improvement jobs are done. I knew the week would disappear very quickly. I was going to do things like go see a movie, which I never got around to. I realised that I have only seen one movie since moving to Canberra, when a friend from Sydney was visiting. It’s another one of those things that, without someone obvious to go with, I just don’t do. I guess I don’t particularly enjoy seeing movies on my own or I would (as I can trust my own self-indulgence that far), but I was going to do it this week. (There’s always the guy who said I could call him, but I am not going to do that. I think if he meant anything by that he’d have called himself, not let so much time go by waiting for me to do it, and if he didn’t mean anything by it then I'm not going to make a mess by calling, which would then be all my fault for calling, and after bad experiences in the past I don’t do phone calls in any case – if I had an email address or we were Facebook friends I might have dropped a line to see whether I’d get an answer (though I’d rather not initiate anything at all), but I'm not making phone calls.) Then there's my ridiculous yarn stash, which I also didn't get to.

All up it’s been a good break though, in terms of getting the things done I wanted to get done. I am loving my little town house, more so after having spent a week at home in it. For the money I had to spend I don’t think I could have done better. I believe I have one of the best units in the complex (there are a number of different floor plans, some of which are a bit nonsensical, and mine is set back a ways because there is a strip of visitors parking out the front so I am not so close to the people opposite me, and my aspect is the best and I love the back end of it facing north, and the neighbours behind are lower set, so I don’t look into their windows out mine etc), and it has turned out be so convenient to facilities, yet also so close to some lovely countryside. Perfect. And having my Aunt and Uncle live reasonably close and be so willing to help has been an absolute godsend. I hardly know how I’d have done it with out them.

Now I just have to change gears for work tomorrow.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A little holiday report

So I am back from my solitary holiday. I drove off on Tuesday morning in the rain, with a miserable head cold I’d succumbed to over the weekend (I’d battled the sore throat for the last week of work, as there were things to do, then went to the consecration of a Bishop in Goulburn Cathedral on Saturday and foolishly wore stockings and a skirt, and despite the new Bishop’s wife very kindly lending me a blanket my feet were still freezing, so by that afternoon I was falling under its grasp – how folks went to church in those old cathedrals in medieval Europe I don’t know), wondering how it would all turn out.

But I actually had a fabulous time.

I was listening to Sara Groves in the car on the way and the song came on 'I believe in a blessing I don’t understand. I’ve seen rain fall on the wicked and the just. Rain is no measure of his faithfulness. He withholds no good thing from us'. That was well-timed and reminded me that the bible always refers to rain as a blessing and provision from God, not as a spoiler of holidays, and we certainly needed it in Canberra, so I wasn’t to complain. (The rest of that song is also worth listening to as I have blogged here).

I drove up to Moss Vale, then went on to Robertson for a look about, before doubling back to take one of roads down through Fitzroy Falls to Kangaroo Valley, which was just so picturesque. I poked around the quaint village of Kangaroo Valley for a while before taking Kangaroo Valley Road over to Berry. That’s a narrow, winding road of slightly treacherous nature in the wet, but I quite like that kind of driving and it was worth the scenery. Then I went in to Berry for a short look around before checking into the B&B I had booked, which was just perfect. It was the cheapest thing that came up on Stayz when I was looking, but was unexpectedly delightful. This is my room (as a bonus they gave me the ensuite room), and the chair by the fire that I spent many hours in, which was exactly suited to my purpose.

On Wednesday morning I went in to Berry Village and poked around, thinking it was going to be the worst day weather-wise. Berry has many nice shops that I popped in and out of. I wasn’t intending to “shop”, and there were a lot of expensive home wares and gifts, but I managed to find a few things to buy regardless (that weren’t expensive homewares). Then when I felt like I’d had enough of walking about in the rain I went back to the B&B and just sat in that chair and read and did some “therapy” on myself for the rest of that day, and added some paper to that fire when I had finished with it.

On Thursday morning I decided to just drive over to the coast, and took a little walk at Seven Mile Beach, parked and watched the waves crash on the headland at Gerroa in the rain, then drove back along to Nowra. When I reached Nowra it was really pouring and driving down the main road was uninspiring, but I pulled in to a nursery, found there was a Salvation Army Store down behind it, then stopped at a Mission Australia Store I passed and enquired about an old wares shop I’d heard of and went there, then when my feet and a lot of the rest of me was soaking wet I went home again to the fire and my fire buddies (see photo – the cat was hilarious).

Thursday night I came back in to Nowra and had dinner with Philip and Lyn Miles and collected a painting that I had bought from Philip, that he had had I an exhibition, which was exciting. I had a lovely evening with them. They are interesting people who previously worked as missionaries in Japan for 15 years (and while they were gone Philip stored his enviable book collection at Matthias Media when I worked there and I used to raid it). Philip now paints, as well as doing pastoral work in an Aboriginal Community Church and is also a Lego modeler – all things cool! – and there was interesting conversation to be had, including discussion of the nature of art and inherent good versus status good etc. I was inspired.

Friday I just headed off back the way I came and stopped in at Fitzroy falls for a look at the waterfall (once again it was spitting rain) and the old wares shop, then pulled in at Goulburn and bought an old mirror that I had seen the previous weekend and decided to buy if it was still there for my kitchen. (I bought way too many old things that I hadn’t intended on buying really.)

I really enjoyed myself and the time to just pause and reflect and read away from usual life (you can do these things at home, but for some reason you don’t), with a few hours of sight-seeing thrown in each day. I’m definitely going to do it again. You could do it as a retreat or planning weekend (if you are one of those people who makes such plans) with a friend who was happy with the same arrangement and get together for dinner or some such thing, which would be nice. (Because the B&B didn’t provide cooking facilities going out in search of dinner was the one thing that I didn’t particularly like doing by myself.)

Since returning I have prepared and delivered my youth group class, and am now ready for home improvement week!

Monday, June 08, 2015

A long weekend afternoon stroll

I had a lot of freelance work to get done on this long weekend to finish up that work (hooray!), but I was done in time to take a stroll this afternoon to a little old cemetery on a hill nearby that I have spied and been wanting to visit. Entombed within it were a lot of Southwells. Three of my grandfather's siblings married Southwells as there were a lot of them about these parts once, and who knows what connections there might be.

It's so beautiful here. When I bought this place I actually had no idea how close I was to such lovely vistas.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Transforming our pain

One of the excellent things that has happened to Canberra since I have lived here is that Dr Andrew Cameron, an academic theologian of some brilliance, who used to give the Centre for Christian Living lectures when I lived in Sydney that were always stimulating, is now the Director of the St Mark’s Theological Centre here. I was recently glancing through the latest St Mark’s Review, and was arrested by the front page where Andrew Cameron was quoted from his address at a graduation of counseling students. I love this (if it’s unclear who is being quoted, the first paragraph is Richard Rohr, and the second is Andrew Cameron):
 “I’ve been very struck by something written by the U.S. Franciscan thinker, Richard Rohr. ‘If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter. Indeed, there are bitter people everywhere, inside and outside of the church. As they go through life, the hurts, disappointments, betrayals, abandonments, the burden of their own sinfulness and brokenness all pile up, and they do not know where to put it ... Exporting our unresolved hurt is almost the underlying story line of human history’,” he said.

“I believe Christianity brings something unique to the making of ‘sacred’ wounds. In 2 Corinthians 1, St Paul describes ‘the sufferings of Christ as abundant for us’, such that ‘our consolation is abundant through Christ’. It follows, he believes, that we are ‘able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God’.”
I went googling for the source, and found this quote from Richard Rohr, here:
All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain. Great religion shows you what to do with the absurd, the tragic, the nonsensical, the unjust. If only we could see these “wounds” as the way through, as Jesus did, then they would become “sacred wounds” and not something to deny, disguise, or export to others.

If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter. Indeed, there are bitter people everywhere. As they go through life, the hurts, disappointments, betrayals, abandonments, the burden of their own sinfulness and brokenness all pile up, and they do not know where to put it. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

Exporting our unresolved hurt is almost the underlying storyline of human history. Biblical revelation is about transforming history and individuals, so that we don’t just keep handing the pain on to the next generation. Unless we can find a meaning for human suffering, that God is somehow in it, and can even use it for good, humanity is in major trouble.
I like that. I know I still have some wounds that need transforming. I recently read the book Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson, which I won’t discuss in detail here, but I appreciated her chapter on Owning Your Response to Others (called Choosing to Overcome: Moving Beyond Hurt).

I am actually taking some leave soon and going away for what I am calling a “retreat”. (I believe I have blogged long ago along the lines of how for years what I have done for holidays is visit family, because in the absence of anyone obvious to take holidays with that is the default, so this time I am going somewhere else. Folks often point out the advantage of singleness being that you have the freedom to do what you please when you please, but to my mind that is a freedom that stands primarily if you wish to do it alone, in that as soon as you’d like to do a thing with somebody I don’t believe it’s very much easier to arrange something suitable with other independent adults that you don’t normally live than it is with a spouse. So I am doing what I please when I please and taking a holiday by myself. (I do actually have an dear old friend who asked if I wanted to go to Hay-on-Wye book Festival with her in England, which would have been so fabulous, but as I wanted to get the house-buying thing done I didn’t commit to that at the time, then I was recently tagged in a Facebook post of a single friend in Sydney looking for people to go to the coast, but I’d already booked elsewhere, so there are options, and I acknowledge that I might need to do more in future to find them. But I am actually really looking forward to a few days away by myself this time. I intend simply to explore some nice scenery and read books.)) I feel the need to deal with some hurts that seep every now and again. And after discussing a situation that has long grieved me with someone who’s in this business they suggested I write everything I'd like to say in a letter, leave it for a few days, then burn it, so I might try that. (It isn’t possible in this situation to give a letter to the person concerned, letters given have wrought nothing, and I have tried in vain many times in the past to request a conversation, which the other person doesn’t agree to or engage in, and with the way things now are I can’t initiate anything further myself and just need to leave it to God.)

I’m also really looking forward to then having a week at home. I am busting to have the time to do some things here that I haven’t yet got to. The two spare rooms are not yet properly sorted or set up and beds need to be swapped around, I want to transplant some bushes in the garden, paint some furniture, and just be here during the daylight (as I moved in just as daylight saving ended I feel like I am barely here when I can see outside) to sit in the sunshine and drink tea. But that's not what this post was meant to be about ...

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Why the world will always return to monogamy

This is another little paragraph of The Man Who Was Thursday from GK Chesterton that I went back in search of:
In that place they dined and slept, both very thoroughly. The beans and bacon, which these unaccountable people cooked well, the astonishing emergence of Burgundy from their cellars, crowned Syme’s sense of a new comradeship and comfort. Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one. That is why, in spite of a hundred disadvantages, the world will always return to monogamy.
So true it is that the magnitude of difference between doing a thing alone and doing it with one other is immense, as is the difference between being alone against the world and having one other on your side.