The 7-Up Lesson

I love how sometimes the seemingly smallest and simplest things can so perfectly portray the grandness and complexity of life. Take for instance, the lemon. But, before I get to the lemon, I have to start with the lime.

Jason and I met and fell in love in Austin, Texas where limes reign supreme. It isn't a large or often recognized throne, but if you think about it, the lime plays an important role there. Austin is very much a drinking culture, and what goes better with your favorite mexican beer, tequila, or margarita than lime? Austin is also very much a mexican food culture, and there are very few mexican or tex-mexican dishes which cannot be made even better by a little cilantro and lime. In Texas, limes are not only plentiful, they are cheap! Surrounded by good food, good drinks and good friends and family, Jason and I were living in the lime light, and we didn't even know it.

So when we first came to Australia we were dismayed at the fact that limes are hard to find and when you do find them, they will cost you. But lemons! They are everywhere and are one of the cheapest things you can buy. We went to a "Mexican" restaurant here and they actually tried to serve us lemon margaritas. Lemon?! We started to snub the lemons because they weren't limes. The lemon-lime issue became for us representative of how we were not seeing Australia as Australia but seeing Australia as Not the U.S. And that, my friends, is a dangerous game to play. As they say, you can't compare apples to oranges. Or lemons to limes. Which brings me to the lemon...

Lemons have an interesting and varied reputation. A lemon can have the connotation of something full of life and vitality and happiness:

Think of the color lemon and what comes to mind? Probably sunshine and happiness. Think of how a bowl full of lemons sitting on a table can change a room. Or how a sprinkle of lemon juice or zest can change a dish. How a tall, cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day can revitalize your body and your perspective on the day. I recently started drinking green tea, and a little splash of lemon juice makes that tea sing! I cannot eat a lemon drop without thinking of my Grandma, who almost always had an old jam jar full of lemon drops handy. And anytime I hear or think of lemon drops, I automatically think of the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow where troubles melt like lemon drops... All of these lemon memories, tastes, and thoughts are happy and positive ones. Now, because I try hard to live on the bright side of the road, this is my preferred view of the lemon. Sometimes, I like to pretend like this is the only reality of the lemon and of life.

I hate to break it to myself, but that isn't the whole truth, and let's face it, a half-truth is no truth at all. Truth is wholeness. Just when I start thinking that life is all roses and lemon drops, I wake up sucking a lemon of a different variety. The truth is that lemon can also mean something negative or defective. When life gives you lemons means life is giving you trouble. That car is a lemon means that car is defective. On this side of lemon life, there is pain, there is suffering, there is greed and selfishness and defectiveness. Lately, I've been more aware of this side of life. Maybe I've read one too many articles about the plight of the planet and its inhabitants and who is to blame for that plight. As a member of the guilty party and as an active participant in its destructive tendencies, I have been feeling weighed down, with a barrel full of sour, sour lemons bearing down on my chest. But then I remembered, that without this side of life, there could be no transformation.

"The most important lesson that man can learn from his life is not that there is pain in this world, but that it depends upon him to turn it to good account, that it is possible for him to transmute it into joy."
-Rabindranath Tagore

"I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate
into a new tongue."
-Walt Whitman

Some people say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Atmosphere says:

When Life Gives You Lemons,
You Paint That Shit Gold

I say, yes, let's make lemonade! let's paint that shit gold! But before we do, let's look that lemon in its pimpled, yellow face and ask it what it wants from us. Accept it for what it is and let it teach us something.

". . . . perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. So you must not be frightened . . . if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any agitation, any pain, any melancholy, since you really do not know what these states are working upon you"
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Our time in Australia has not been ideal. Literally and figuratively, it is as if life has been giving us lemons over the past year. I didn't find a job, we haven't really made many meaningful connections with others, Jason is not all that impressed with his school here (which is the reason we came here in the first place,) we have missed our friends and family like crazy, etc. We have often analyzed and criticized our decision to come here. In many ways our time here has been difficult, but mostly just plain weird. We think it's appropriate that Australia is referred to as Oz because that's certainly what it feels like. But as our time here draws to an end, I can't help but be overwhelmed by the transformative experience of being here, by the beauty of this country and its people. And while I don't think we've really made lemonade out of the lemons we've been given here and we definitely haven't made gold, or even an Australian dollar for that matter, we have learned a thing or two about life, and if you ask me, life lessons are worth more than gold. What we learned is that sometimes you have to go to Oz to see the beauty of Kansas, er Texas. Sometimes you have to go to lemon land to appreciate the lime life. And sometimes, just when you think you've taken a wrong turn, you wake up to find that everything is in its right place.

And besides, now we have 7-Up souls. ;)

Taken in the Yarra Valley
Victoria, Australia

Here is a two song lemon mixtape for you to enjoy with the songs I alluded to above, which also happen to be two of my favorite songs of all time and which I have named Yesterday I Woke Up Sucking a Lemon Somewhere Over the Rainbow:



Would you like to see a slideshow of some very random things I have seen over the last few months which may be interesting to you or may not be interesting to you at all?

Hmmm. Still not sure? Well would it help if during the slideshow you could also hear not one but two! songs from Taxi Taxi!, a Sweden based, not so well-known group comprised of twin sisters Miriam Berhan and Johanna Berhan? Would it help if I told you they have really cool voices and make really pretty harmonies? If the answer to at least one of these questions is yes, then click play below.

Song 1: To Hide This Way
Song 2: Old Big Trees

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: this random life
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Picture slideshow created with Smilebox

P.S. Please excuse the garbled sound of the music. It's smilebox's fault. Just pretend like you are listening to it under water. And please also excuse the fact that sometimes smilebox has a little trouble loading up the pictures which really breaks up the fluidity of the show and drives me nuts. Someday I will find a slideshow maker that I am happy with.


The Good in You

We must carry each other.
If we don't have this,
what are we?
-Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

Two uplifting examples of the good in you:



All of Us

From In Switzerland by Raymond Carver


Like this: Lessons from Strangers

A few weeks ago, I was struggling with shyness as I sat on a bench in a park near an old and interesting man (pictured above) who paces the park most days making strange gestures and mumbling to himself and whom I desperately wanted to talk to, but couldn't find the courage to strike up a conversation with. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the answer came in the form of a young man walking by, who saw me sitting there and simply walked up to me and said, "Hey. Whatcha doing?"and just like that, struck up a conversation with me. Isn't it amazing how sometimes we ask these questions of Life, how we struggle and complicate, and cry out, "How?" and then Grace comes in the form of a stranger who says, "Like this."

For The Sake of Strangers
by Dorianne Laux

No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.
And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waits patiently for my empty body to pass through.
All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another - a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms, a retarded child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.
Somehow they always find me, seem even
to be waiting, determined to keep me
as it must have once called to them -
this temptation to step off the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world.

I remember sitting in my car one day, several years ago, at a stoplight in downtown Abilene, Texas, on my way home after a long shift at the bakery. I remember it as a time in my life when I had lost sight of something important, life seemed to have lost its meaning and I grumbled through my days discontentedly, crying out to the ether, "How? How should I live?" And as I sat, waiting for the light to change, the downtown trolley passed by in front of me. In that trolley, hanging out the window was a young, mentally handicapped boy, who had the closest thing to bliss I have ever seen all over his face. He seemed to be having the ride of his life and was looking with fascination at and pointing to some shiny thing on the ground as the trolley slowly rolled through the intersection. I don't even know what it was he was looking at, I remember following his eyes, trying to see what was bringing him such delight, to some shiny spot on the ground beneath him. Maybe it was a spot of oil, a coin, or a shard of glass, shimmering in the light, I can't recall now. But what I can recall with perfect clarity is the image of his rapturous face, so perfectly filled with delight at the sight of the simplest thing, something shining in the light, at the touch of the subtlest thing, the soft breeze in his hair. It was one of those moments where time slowed down, almost stood still. It was as if life, slowly and deliberately, was giving me the answer to my question in the form of this gift of a moment. And somehow, it was what I needed. Somehow this tender gesture jarred me awake to the joy of living. Some of our greatest teachers enter and exit our lives quickly. Be attentive to the things and people around you. They might be embodying the answer to your question, whispering in your ear, "Like this."


Happy Mother's Day!

Jason and I love our Mamas and each other's Mamas. They are both the coolest ladies! We realize how fortunate we are to have Mothers that we also happen to actually like and whom we hope actually like us. If we didn't both Love and Like our Mamas, would we have gotten these?

I don't think so. You know I really don't remember my childhood all that well, but I have this feeling like little Tracy was probably a selfish little ungrateful brat who didn't even realize she was being a selfish little ungrateful brat. Kind of like this kid:

It's funny how long it takes us, or, at least how long it took me, to realize that my Mother is an actual human being and not just some machine programmed to take care of me, to feed me and clothe me and generally make my life easier and better. Like the little kid in the video, I had no concept of the fact that I could hurt or annoy or exhaust my Mom. From my perspective it was more just like ME WANT FOOD. The fact that it took me so long to finally put this all together (Mom = human being?!!!) serves as a great testament to my Mother's selflessness and to my own extreme selfishness. Growing up, it never occurred to me that my Mother might get tired or might not feel like cooking the 1, 332, 688th meal for our family or washing all of our underwear over and over and over or the bajillion other things she did for us.... Cause the thing is she just kept doing all those things day in and day out without ever complaining about any of it. It wasn't until I finally had to start doing all those things for myself and now for Jason, too, that I started to notice, hey, sometimes these things are a pain to have to do, hmmm... I bet my Mom sure did get tired of doing all these things for four people for years and years and years. Ding, ding, ding! And a lightbulb lights up the scene! I mean, how do Moms do all that stuff for all those years and in the case of my Mother at least, not even complain about it? How did you do that, Mom? I used to like to think that parents secretly get granted super powers on the day they become parents and that it's just kept very hush-hush because they don't want everybody rushing to have kids to get the super powers. But all the crappy parents out there sort of ruined that one for me. I guess maybe Love is the closest we can ever get to super powers. That's cool with me.

Dear Mother, I am sorry for reducing you all those years to my maid, my cook, my chauffeur, etc. without ever recognizing your wholeness. I'm hoping to have a brighter child who will catch on to that fact a little sooner and cut me some freakin' slack, but it will only serve me right if that doesn't happen. Sometimes I like to think about the little one or ones Jason and I will hopefully have someday who will undoubtedly take us just as much for granted. And when I think about this little ungrateful kid selfishly demanding things from us, I like to picture you and Pops and Jay and Barbra all sitting around us, watching with smiles in the satisfaction of things come full circle and thinking, "It's your turn now, suckas!" And while in my own slow way I am coming to understand and appreciate the hard work that is involved in being a Mother, I am also getting glimpses of the Joy in taking care of loved ones, of the Gift that Motherhood must be. When I think of my time as a nanny and all the Joy it brought me to take care of litle Eli and little Abe, to witness their daily struggles and triumphs and general adorableness...I am blown away by thoughts of what Motherhood must be like. All of this is to say, you have accepted the pleasures and pains of Motherhood with such Grace. For that and for all the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made and underwear washed and dishes cleaned, I could go on and on and on, I Thank You. I Love You. You are a Good Mom.

I agree with everything that Tracy said. I too have taken my mother (both my parents actually) for granted for the majority of my life. It hasn't really been until the last few years that I have really been able to think of my parents as actual people. As I get closer to the age they were when they had me I've started to realize how big of a life adjustment it really must have been to all of a sudden have this new, helpless little person to be responsible for. It's nothing that you can really prepare yourself for, but when I was younger I thought that I would reach a certain age and I would have children and it would all just happen naturally. I didn't realize that before parents are parents, they're people just like everyone else. They don't have it all figured out. They don't always know the answers to the questions in their own lives, so why should they be expected to have the answers for someone else's? As a child I was frustrated by my parents' limitations. I thought that if they had the power to bring me into the world, they should also be able to make sense of it for me. Now I realize, however, that their limitations are what make them so special. The fact that they are ordinary, limited people who did such an extraordinary thing in raising me with such love and patience is what really makes them wonderful people. What I'm trying to say, without sounding too conceited, is that I feel lucky to have such great parents who raised me and made me into a person I'm happy to be. Not everyone can say that. Also, I know it's mother's day and I've been talking about both of my parents. That's because they're such a good team, that I find it hard to attribute anything about my upbringing to one without giving credit to the other. It would be easier if there were a parents' day. That being said, mom, I love you! I wouldn't be the man I am today without you, and I fully realize that and appreciate it. I feel lucky beyond description to be your son! Love, Jason

Barbra and Jason, Christmas 2007

My Mama and Me, Wedding Day 2009
photo by Emily Chastain

P.S. Don't worry; those are not real tattoos. We figure Chrissy has enough for all of us.

The Good in You

Living | Local boy with cancer turns into a superhero for a day | Seattle Times Newspaper


The Way You Make Love

My Soul Sister, Ruth, is blogging daily Rumi translations by Coleman Barks over here, coupled with her own amazing photographs. This was yesterday's post:

The way you make love
is the way God will be with you.

This is Rumi's variation on the Golden Rule.
-Coleman Barks

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about Love and Passion, the physical and spiritual kinds, and the ways of course! they are intertwined.

They try to say what you are, spiritual or sexual?
They wonder about Solomon and all his wives.

In the body of the world, they say, there is a soul,
and you are that.

But we have ways within each other
that will never be said by anyone.

A few weeks ago, a Spanish man, a cellist with wild hair and deep dark pools for eyes who seemed old enough to be my dad, hit on me at the library, and it had an interesting and somewhat profound effect on me. I was perusing the jazz cds when he walked up to me and said, "I was watching you from across the room and I said to myself, there is a woman with a lot of passion. I can see it in you. My heart compelled me to come over to you..." I immediately started sweating profusely and turning red because this kind of thing makes me very uncomfortable, and well, I kind of laughed in his face a little, partly out of nervousness, partly because I had no idea how else to respond, partly because I do not see myself as a passionate person, but also because I am NOT the kind of girl this sort of approach works on. I mean, I love me some cheese, but not that kind. I quickly told him I was married and he responded, "Oh, but I would still give anything just to be part of your life... Oh, to be your shoes, your dog..." Wow. Who says stuff like that? Well, I ended up talking to him for awhile which some people may think is crazy, but I did it because I believed he had something to teach me. It was easy to make fun of him, to laugh him off as a sexually frustrated, ridiculous man with no respect for the fact that I was a married woman, but that would be me reducing him to something that is only part of who he is, just like he was reducing me to my sexuality. (When it became clear that he was not interested in any part of me besides my sexuality, I said goodbye.) But he did teach me something. I mean, that was a very passionate act, going up to a complete stranger because he felt compelled to, saying the kinds of things he said to me, and while I do not respect his lack of respect for the sanctity of my marriage, I do respect his boldness of spirit. And it's got me thinking about my own lack of boldness and about the many faces of Love and Passion. You know, sometimes Love is a gentle river winding slowly, which ever so softly changes the landscape of the hearts it meanders through. And I want that to be the way God is with me and the way my Love for myself and others comes, as a gentle peace in the heart. But not only, for Love is not one thing only. Sometimes Love is something very different, sometimes Love is a passionate flame that engulfs its habitat and changes it forever in an instant. Sometimes Love is Fierce. I think I have a lot to learn about fierceness of Spirit, about Bold acts of Love. There is something to be said about, something of value in accepting yourself and others for exactly who they are, for accepting the moment for exactly what it is, letting Love and Life come gently meandering through (my row, row, row your boat approach to Life) but I think Life is trying to tell me about another kind of Love, another way of living. I'm talking about the kind of Love that transforms, that challenges us to be more and to do more...I think this is in part why I am afraid of bold things, situations, and people, like my fear of great heights and the ocean and anger, because I have not yet learned this way of living and loving. I am often shy and lazy. But I don't want to Love or be Loved fearfully or lazily. You know it seems like Jesus was a pretty cool cat, a gentle soul who loved and accepted everyone, but there was another side of his Love that exploded like flames, that came like a sword in the cleansing of the temple when He overturned the money changers' tables and rebuked the dove sellers for turning the temple into "a den of thieves." That story always scared me because I have always been afraid of anger. I preferred to picture Jesus healing people with a gentle touch, petting little lambs and stuff like that. I believe He loved wholly every one of those people he criticized, but at the same time, he wanted something more for them and more for this world. Maybe we shouldn't be afraid to sometimes let Love come in the form of Passion, even anger, to sometimes overturn some tables, not from a place of hate, not in a pointing fingers kind of way, but in a way that says, yeah, all that greed and meanness and injustice and crap in this world, its in me, too, and only the flames of Love can wash us clean. Love isn't just something that comes from the ether as spiritual feeling in our hearts, it's something that we make, that we give form to. I mean, isn't that what this whole world is anyway, Love given form? I'm talking about Love as Action. I'm talking about translating all that Love and Goodness and Passion you have in your heart into something tangible, something that will transform the world, little by little. Here are some things I'm telling myself in my attempt to live more passionately with my body, soul and mind:

Have the courage to walk up to a stranger or a loved one and say something, even if it is difficult or awkward to say, if you feel compelled to. (It may just change their life and yours.)

If you find out about some injustice, don't be afraid to be angry about it, but do something, too. Make a call, write a letter, volunteer, spread the word, etc.

Kiss your husband like you mean it.

Love your friends and family and, well, everyone like you mean it through thoughts, words, and action.

Think about what stirs the greatest passion in your heart, and then apply yourself in whatever way you can think of to that thing.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Cause you know, I want God to be with me this way, too, with powerful, fearless, audacious presence. I want to be transformed by the fierceness of Love. Even if it hurts. Because there is another side of The All: the Love that heals, and I guess what I am saying is that for the evolution of our hearts and minds toward oneness with It, we need both.

Love is here; it is the blood in my veins, my skin.
I am destroyed; He has filled me with Passion.
His fire has flooded the nerves of my body.
Who am I? Just my name; the rest is Him.

P.S. Thank you strange man from the library. Though not in the way you had hoped for, you inspired me to make Love!


A Rather Long Account of a Rather Long Walk

Last Wednesday afternoon, after traveling by train and bus to Apollo Bay on Victoria's glorious coast, Jason and I began our journey of through-hiking the Great Ocean Walk. Following the tradition of using trail names for hiking journeys, Jason and I shed our normal nomenclature and became "Kiba" and "Timber" respectively. Kiba is a Japanese word meaning fang which echoes two of Jason's favorite things in the world, Japanese culture and wolves. I chose the name Timber from the lyrics of Joe Pug's song, Hymn 101: "I've come to test the timber of my heart."

With high hopes and heavy packs we began our walk on a cool and grey day. During the course of the day's hike, we spotted sheep, cows, a flash of a wallaby darting through the trees and one human being. We camped peacefully that night surrounded by sweet smelling Eucalyptus trees and the sounds of possums fighting, or at least awful sounding threats of fights. The following morning, I woke early and had my first koala encounter as a cute and chubby koala made its way down a Eucalyptus tree no more than 5 feet away from me. We both stopped and stared at each other for a minute. I don't think I will ever forget that moment. We saw two more koalas that day, plus a snake and a lizard and some really beautiful, brilliantly colored birds as we made our way through the fern forest to the bay. We started to struggle a little physically that second day as soreness set in, and I did get ants in my pants (literally) but all in all, the first two days were quite tranquil.

But on the third day, the rain and cold, strong winds came, and it poured on us all day long. We had no choice but to put on our ponchos (thank you Jay and Barbra!) and brave the rain and cold. This was Kiba's most difficult day. Some days, you've got it, and some days you just don't. His pack was not fitting him properly and had rubbed his shoulder raw, an injury which plagued him the rest of the journey. This was actually one of my strongest days, so I forged ahead and occasionally turned around to encourage Kiba, saying things like, "You are a champion!" I was amazed and grateful for how naturally we took turns being the strong one. One day I was struggling so much and so tired of walking up a hill that seemed to never end, that I leaned down and picked up a rock and threw it down as hard as I could and screamed, "Agghhhhh!" Kiba just stood there patiently, waiting for my tantrum to end, with a slight smile of understanding on his face. We eventually made it to camp, but heard along the way that the rain was likely to continue for the next couple of days and thought about calling it quits. Kiba DID NOT like the idea of continuing to hike through the downpour. We decided to sleep on it, and the next morning we awoke to blue skies! It did rain almost every night after that, but it never did rain on us during the day again. We did however remain pretty damp and therefore cold the rest of the time because our stuff never did dry out. While the blue skies and koala we discovered in the tree above our tent that fourth morning felt like blessings, the holes a mouse had chewed through our tent and through our bag of cashews during the night did not so much feel like a blessing.

The fourth day's hike was pretty tough as we had to hike a large portion along the beach, which sounds nice, but when millions of grains of sand, carried by 100 bajillion mile an hour winds, are pelting you in the face and body, and the weight of your pack is making you sink into the deep sand at every step, it doesn't seem so nice. Oh, but once we got through that section and climbed back into the hills, we got some of our most spectacular views and also spotted some sort of wildcat on the trail ahead of us, which was really refreshing in its unexpectedness. That fourth night was to be our most dramatic. I awoke in the middle of the night to what I feared was a mouse running across my face. I sat up suddenly, but I still wasn't fully awake, so that when Kiba asked me what was wrong, I had trouble articulating what I thought had just happened. "Um, uh, I think a... I'm pretty sure that a..." While I was trying to spit it out, I heard Kiba, who had turned on the lantern while I was stammering, gasp and move suddenly. I assumed it was a mouse he had just seen, so I high-tailed it for the door of the tent, but Kiba wasn't saying anything, (which I soon found out was because he was trying to capture and squash the mouse that was in fact in our tent) so as I was trying to get my ass out of the tent, I was yelling to him, "Am I getting out?!! Am I getting out?!!" (If there was a mouse in our tent, I was definitely getting out, but if not, I didn't want to waste the energy.) Finally, as I'm halfway out the tent, Kiba informs me that he just saw the mouse jump out the tent below me. Sigh. Have you ever awoken to the feeling of a mouse running across your face? It isn't very much fun. It was at that moment, that I lost it a little bit and allowed myself to cry a little. I was so exhausted, hungry for something besides nuts and cold canned beans and thirsty for something besides dirty and disgusting tasting water, in pain from sore muscles and sores on my feet which looked like they were getting infected and which made every step painful, tired of sleeping with no pillow and tree roots stabbing me in the back, sick of being cold and wet... and we still had such a long way to go. But, I knew it was dangerous to feel sorry for myself for too long. There was little I could do about the physical aspects, but I knew I had to stay strong mentally and emotionally. I think this was one of those moments that I grew up a little. I meditated on the following words from Rabindranath Tagore's Sadhana which I took with me to reread:

"Man's freedom is never in being saved from troubles, but it is the freedom to take trouble for his own good, to make the trouble an element in his joy. It can be made so only when we realize that our individual self is not the highest meaning of our being, that in us we have the world-man who is immortal, who is not afraid of death or sufferings, and who looks upon pain as only the other side of joy."

In those moments of pain, when I thought I couldn't take another step, as is often the case in my life it was the little things that kept me going. Grace would come in the form of a butterfly floating by, disappearing down the trail in front of us, or a heart-shaped leaf at my feet, in the thought of loved ones cheering us on ... But then sometimes, grace would not come, sometimes I would try to listen for your voices and instead of hearing you say, "Go, Tracy, Go!" I would just hear you snoring and see you lying in your bed all cozy and warm, and in those moments life seemed to be saying, "Hey! Make your own grace, why don't ya? What do you think that well of strength in your heart is for, silly?!"

If you do not get it from yourself,
where will you go for it?
-The Zenrin

And in those moments of digging deep, of believing in myself, I found a part of myself I had not known before, or at least had not spoken to in a long, long time.

Days 5, 6, and 7 were the longest and the most physically demanding. Up, down, up, down, up, down. That's pretty much how they went. My knees and back and feet were screaming! Kiba's ankles and shoulders were screaming! BUT! we saw gorgeous green rolling hills, breathtaking views of the ocean from way up high, a couple more wallabies, kangaroos, more sheep and cows, horses, a very scary snake, and even got to feast on fresh blackberries which were prominent in the hills! What a treat! On night 7, our last night, with only one medium day hike left, we could hardly contain our excitement! We fantasized about all the delicious food we were going to eat the next day when we returned home and about sleeping in a real bed (well, actually it's just a futon mattress on the floor, but, still!) We finished the Sci-fi novel, Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke, which I had been reading to Kiba each night in the tent. I was skeptical about it as I haven't read any sci-fi since like 5th grade, but since Jason seems hellbent on turning me into a big nerd, I figured I would humor him a little and give it a go, and it turns out I really liked it.

The bus ride home felt like the most luxurious ride of my life. The seats were so soft and it was so warm in there! The distance it took us 8 days to cover, the bus covered in about an hour. I listened to some pretty music on our iPod on the ride home and it was then, as I reflected on our journey, that my heart soared! (You were right, Ruth!) It soared right alongside every other heart that has ever soared, and in that moment, I felt the All in me. And suddenly, every step and pain and elation made perfect sense and were a part of this completeness I felt in my heart. What can I say, but that I felt pretty darn grateful to be sitting there in that peace, pretty darn grateful to be alive. I reflected again on the words that came to me one night in the tent as I lay half asleep which I kept repeating incessantly in a half-conscious state, the lyrics to M. Ward's song, To Go Home, in which he sings,

"God, it's great to be alive,
takes the skin right off my hide,
to think I'll have to give it all up someday."

Generally, I feel like I kind of sucked it up as photographer. It was overcast much of the time, so the conditions were not optimal for good pictures, and I didn't always take a lot of time and care with the shots, and in the case of the wildlife shots didn't have the zooming capabilities to properly capture. Furthermore it is very awkward to hike with the camera out, so I often kept it tucked away and therefore missed out on some kodak moments. Anyway, those are my excuses. But, I think I got a few good ones. Here is a little slideshow I made:


Sky Wheel of Terror!

The other day Jason and I finally experienced the Giant Sky Wheel that lives across the street from us.

Have I mentioned before how terrified I am of heights? I am terrified of heights. I would really rather not be up there when I could be down here. Down here is so nice. BUT! for some unknown reason, I decided I wanted to ride the Sky Wheel, and for some reason I wasn't nervous about being up high, or maybe I just didn't think it through? This is quite possible, kind of like the time I thought I would give up cheese...we all know I did NOT think that one through. Perhaps I temporarily forgot about my severe case of acrophobia? Or maybe I didn't make the connection that ferris wheel = up high? With me, you never can tell. (And neither can I.) All I know is I was all, "Yeah, this is gonna be fun!" before we got on and then BAM! we got on, and it started going up, and I was literally frozen with fear. I would not/could not move. Jason was laughing and taking pictures of me.

(This is what fear looks like.)

And I was shushing him as if his words might make the whole thing collapse and holding onto him like a big fat baby. The ride paused when we were at the very top and the man in the cage in front of us could tell I was freakin' out and turned around to say in disbelief, "Are you scared?" As in, "are you actually scared of this stupid little ferris wheel ride that a small child would not be afraid of?" I managed a teeny tiny "yes." I was practically crying, guys, over a stupid ferris wheel ride! Seriously, it isn't even that high. But I just knew it was going to break any second and that it was going to be the end of me. I was examining the ride, asking Jason, "Why is it making that awful sound? Do you see how rusty those bolts are! Do you think if we fall this cage will protect us?" It wasn't until the very end of the ride that I finally started to relax, but then it was over. I was still alive! But I felt like an idiot for freaking out so much. I said to Jason, "And I was just learning to enjoy it! And now it's over." And he said, "Yeah, and isn't it a lot like life. We finally learn to stop being scared and enjoy ourselves, and then it's over. So, we might as well stop being scared now." He's pretty wise, that one.

(This is what Jason was enjoying while my eyes were closed.)

So, this got me to thinking about fear and its over represented place in my life, and I was going to try to expound on what el profesor said, to say something wise or useful or something! about fear, but honestly, I haven't figured out how to not be scared, (if you have, please fill me in!) so, this is not a story about me overcoming something or learning anything. Really, it's just me laughing at myself and hoping that you laugh at me, too, because really, if we can't laugh at ourselves or allow other people to laugh at us, then we are taking ourselves way too seriously. I recently finished reading Paul Auster's The Invention of Solitude in which he writes: "The world was turned inside out, swept away, and then immediately reborn as a kind of metaphysical jest. There was no room in that world for a man who did not have a sense of his own ridiculousness." If that is the world we live in, then I think there is a place for me because I'm starting to get a pretty good sense of my own ridiculousness.

Have a ridiculous day!


Bricks for Bears

Jason and I were watching the tube last night and then this ad came on, which you can see part of below or all of on youtube. Our mouths were agape and my eyes filled with tears. Why oh why do people do things like this? I had no idea such a thing existed. If you are also alarmed by this and have $10 or more to spare, please go to http://www.bricksforbears.org.au/ and make a donation. And please spread the word! Let's encourage respect for all living things!!


The Great Ocean Walk

In a couple of weeks or so, the Professor and I will embark on a journey within a journey within a journey within a journey. That is to say we will journey the Great Ocean Walk within the journey of being here in Australia within the journey of being together within the journey of being our individual selves. Whoa, that's a lot of journeying. As Lao Tzu said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." In this case though, it is only 104 kilometers. Here is a trailer for a new documentary about the The Great Ocean Walk and walking in general:

It should take us a week to complete it. We are a bit nervous about it because we know it will be challenging, both physically and mentally, but we are also very excited because we know it will be rewarding and full of beauty. I will be sure to take lots of pictures to share with you when we get back. And hopefully I will learn a thing or two. And maybe I will lose a couple LBs (or KGs, rather) from my thunder thighs. To learn more about the Great Ocean Walk, you can go here.

In honor of April Fool's Day, here are some GIFs for you:

gif maker
Gif maker


The World is Your Kaleidoscope

I made another VERY amateur video by putting together a WHOLE bunch of photos on iMovie. It covers three random days: a hail storm one afternoon, a night of sitting on the deck watching the lights and movement below, and finally, a night of fireworks in reverse. I've been working on my bokeh skills, so most of the pictures are purposefully out of focus. I tried to go in and out of focus to reflect the way my mind often moves the same, clarity coming only so often. But I also hoped to show there is beauty and purpose in the in-between moments, before and after clarity. Watching it may make you a little dizzy, but that's kind of what I was going for because sometimes living in this world, even just watching it from above and then trying to make sense of it all in my mind is pretty dizzying. Sometimes, you just have to let go of all that trying to comprehend. There are times it takes a lot of courage to live that way, to just sit back and enjoy the view. Most of all, I wanted the video to represent this idea:

-quote by James Edward Allen

The song on the video is Ndabaiwa from the Stella Chiweshe album, Talking Mbira.
Anyway, here it is. I hope it doesn't make you puke.


Lovely Things of Late

Well, friends and family, lots of lovely things have been going on in Australia. There are about a bajillion million festivals going on, the weather is changing with nice cool breezes, Footy season has started, we finally heard some quality live music (blues!) AND the Professor and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary with homemade lasagna and chocolate cake and then Rushmore at a rooftop cinema! And can I just tell you all a TMI story about our anniversary because I think it might make you laugh? (It also might gross you out.) Okay, well, on the morning of our first wedding anniversary, Jason called me into the bathroom to, "see something awesome!" The something awesome was a GIGANTIC, rainbowed glistening snot bubble which Jason had just shot out of his nose into the sink. I looked at it, looked at him, shook my head and walked out of the room as Jason proudly proclaimed, "Happy Anniversary!" I pretended I was annoyed because I figured that's what a good wife should do in that situation, but secretly, I thought it was awesome. I just thought you might want a glimpse into our glamorous lives. We didn't give each other gifts because that's not our style, but we did put lit tea lights in our eyes to commemorate our first year of marriage because that is our style.

Also lovely of late was an AWESOME! FREE! exhibition at the Arts Centre called Experimenta Utopia. We got to scan ourselves, see what we'll look like when we are older, communicate with singing plants, play in a virtual forest and much more. The future of art is looking pretty awesome. Future Tracy? Not so awesome.

Even more loveliness? Yep, and this part is the most lovely of the loveliness if you ask me. I took advantage of a really neat program sponsored by the Melbourne City Library called Living Books, part of Cultural Diversity Week, in which citizens could book 30 minute one-on one chats with extraordinary people from different countries who ended up in Melbourne with interesting stories to tell. I got to meet one of the coolest and bravest people on the planet, a man from Southern Sudan named Akoc Manhiem. His story begins with war and hunger and lions and murder, but it does not end there. Akoc is a much too positive person to let it end there. His story is ongoing, and while in many ways it is still a story of struggle, it is also one of hope and triumph. Since escaping Africa and landing in Australia, Akoc has helped to establish and direct the Lost Boys Association of Australia, received the City of Yarra's Citizen of the Year award, and will soon graduate from university. He also returned to Africa recently to move his family to safety in Nairobi. He believes that Love can bring peace. And he definitely believes in laughter, which is one of the things I learned from him that I held closest to my memory and heart as I walked away from our meeting. He laughs with the best of them. He laughed as he talked about seeing a river for the first time and running from it. And he laughed again when he talked about seeing the ocean for the first time, how he turned away and covered his eyes, saying in disbelief, "What is this?!" He laughed about how when he returned to Africa with a video camera the children, completely in awe said, "You must be connected to God!!" It's funny, too, because as I walked away from him, shaking my head in disbelief at meeting such a man with such a life lived and such a life yet to live, I was thinking to myself, he must be connected to God.

Another lovely thing of late (actually I'm pretty sure it's been there for a long dong time, but it's new to me) is the State Library of Victoria. It's only one of the most amazing places I've ever been, and hopefully I will happily spend many hours there, reading and wandering and people watching. I'm just wondering why it took me so dang long to go there in the first place. I went today and took the pictures you see below, and after I did that, I sat at a table in a large reading room and just listened to the silence, interrupted only by creaking wooden chairs, footsteps, an occasional cough, a book slammed, a page turned. I wrote two things in my journal: "My soul was meant for quiet places." and "Surrounded by words, there is so little I want to say." And I thought of Borges saying, "I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library" and nodded yes, Borges, me, too!



If I had a genie and with it wished for selfish things, I think I would say, "Genie, make me sing like Jonsi!" (Not that singing beautifully for other people is a selfish thing, not at all.) The Sigur Ros front man is releasing a solo album in April called Go. Here is a neato mosquito trailer for the film they made which features the album's songs.


Lost Things

Hey people. Stop being so lovely and amazing. You're killing me.

"Each man dreams his own heaven."
-John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things

"when more than was lost has been found has
been found
and having is giving and giving is living"
-ee cummings, from when faces called flowers float out of the ground

(As usual, it's cut-off here. Watch it on youtube.)


Random Cuteness: Post in which I use the words MOST AWESOMEST four times.

Would you like to see some random and adorable animals I've come across lately? You would? I was hoping you would say that.
(Click to enlarge, especially the little duck...he's looking right at the camera in the most adorable way.)

Here is a precious boy we met at St. Kilda Beach wearing the MOST AWESOMEST t-shirt ever. His most likely intoxicated father made him come ask me if I would take his picture. I was delighted! Him, not so much.

I'm not sure what this little guy's name is, but I think his feet are cute. He followed us for a bit on our walk around Albert Park Lake, but left when he realized we didn't have any food.

Jason and I walked home through the gardens the other night and saw about 20 of these precious possums, not to be confused with the Opossum of the Americas.

And the cutest little duck you ever did see in a sea of stars. (Actually, it was a dirty lake.)

And last but not least, the cutest animal I know, wearing the MOST AWESOMEST apron ever! given to him by his MOST AWESOMEST wife.

Now, go be your cutest and MOST AWESOMEST self.


Manners for Living

Here is a little poem I think I wrote yesterday. I say think because sometimes I worry that what I think I've written is actually just something I read once and am regurgitating. I read so much poetry and so many quotes that it's hard to keep track of who said what. Truthfully, I don't think it should really matter, but many people would disagree I suppose. Not that I would want to take credit for someone else's work, I just don't think we should try to own words or images or ideas. And besides, I don't want people to think of ME when they read my thoughts, but the ideas themselves and the Truths they attempt to point to. Anyway, these words sounded particularly familiar when they came out. I googled them but nothing came up, so maybe I did write them? I don't really care, I just want to share them. But! Please do let me know if you know that someone else wrote it, so I can give them credit.

Walking through this life
I am unable to say
How and Why and What,
Just Yes and Please and Thank You.

photos taken at Shenandoah NP


Taneda Santoka


Do you like haiku? I do! I remember the first time I came across Saigyo, I thought I could just die quite happily right then and there in the dear old Abilene Public Library. I came across the name Taneda Santoka in the Haruki Murakami novel I'm currently reading, Kafka on the Shore. By the way, Jason and I are both in some deep, deep LOVE with Murakami. We are delightfully ripping through his novels like our lives depend on it. What a genius he is! Anyway, so I looked up Taneda Santoka and fell in some deep deep love with him, too. Here are a few things I've learned about him so far: His father squandered the family's wealth on women and booze. His mother, exhausted by life, threw herself into the family well when Taneda was a boy. The sight of his mother's lifeless body pulled up from the well was, as one can imagine, something that deeply troubled Taneda for the rest of his days. He had a nervous breakdown and dropped out of school. His brother committed suicide. His wife divorced him. He had a drinking problem. He attempted suicide on more than one occasion. He often wandered alone with only a begging bowl. And yet! And yet, he wrote this beautiful poetry. He was a haiku rebel, not adhering to the traditional 5-7-5 structure. I like people who aren't afraid to push the envelope. And while many haiku poets write about cherry blossoms, Taneda wrote often about weeds.

In happiness
Or sadness
Weeds grow and grow.

One of the things I appreciate most about haiku is the way it brings together the inner and the outer, the spiritual and the physical. It evokes feelings of intimacy with context, combining so beautifully attention to surroundings with awareness of the heart. For me, haiku reflects the oneness of the sadness and joy of living.

Haiku shows us what we knew all the time,
but did not know we knew; it shows us that
we are poets in so far as we live at all.

-R.H. Blyth

Even the sound of the raindrops
Has grown older.

All day,
Without a word-
Waves crashing.



Poem by David Whyte
Photo taken at Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne


I'm Pretty Sure That's All There Is To It

Quote by Saint Augustine

Photo taken at St. Kilda Beach


February 11 is a special day: For Dennis and Jon

Hey, Dennis and Jon, go here:

You'll have to watch the fullscreen version in order to read the text. (Especially considering your ages.)



Waste Not, Want Not

Our most limited and precious resource is being used as if it's in infinite supply. Everyday people use it up to make money and gain power. They buy it and sell it as if what they're getting in exchange is worth something more. We even use more of it so that we can leech it to the last reserves, just to see our children waste it only as easily. No, I'm not talking about natural resources; although, the parallels were intentional. I'm talking about time. I don't agree with the expression, “time is money.” I think that time is worth more. Time is the most limited resource for anyone on this planet. We are only given a set amount, and none of us is sure how much. True, time, like energy, is virtually unlimited as far as the universe is concerned, and depending on your religious beliefs, the soul may be immortal. However, the one thing that every living being is guaranteed is death. Industrialization has facilitated the spread of technology and resources which have allowed us to live longer than ever, but it has also forced us to spend more of our time at work than people ever did before. But, however you slice it, our time in this life is limited, and its something that we will never get back. So why don't most of us appreciate what little of this resource we have? Now, I have been lucky to have an abundance of time to myself lately. Time that is mine to do with what ever I want. Free time (most people would be more excited about free money). But I end up spending a lot of my time thinking about other things that I “should” be doing with it, while not appreciating what I have right now; the only time that I am guaranteed. I find myself thinking that I should get a job so that I can have money to use in my free time. Because that would be the responsible thing to do. Invest time now and convert some of it into money so that I can enjoy my future time more. Just hope that the market doesn't crash before then. I realize that's an investment we all have to make. That's the way the world works, whether you like it or not, but it's something that I have a hard time reconciling myself with. I prefer to gamble. In fact, I recently came to the realization that I have a gambling problem. My name is Jason and I have been gambling seriously since 2001. I've gotten into debt pretty bad because of it. I have a mountain of student loans that I have accrued (so that I could spend so much time in school to learn how to properly use words like accrued). I've spent as much time in school as possible, in hopes of spending less time outside of it, to pay off the money that I spent in it. But, I do it mainly because I have more free time now than I will have when I am done. True, I do have to work hard and spend time studying, but it's not the same type of day to day, time consuming routine as a normal job. I know that when I get into the “real world” I'll be working a lot more hours per week, and I won't get as many vacation days. The work might not be as hard, but it will use more of my most precious resource. So, why do I waste this time that I've gotten on credit worrying about what I'll have to spend for it, instead of appreciating it before I have to give it back? And why do people who spend most of their time at work, so that they are able to enjoy free time, use it to worry about things that won't matter after their resources are used up anyway? I want to appreciate the time that I have right now. Actually I take back what I said before. Maybe time is like money, because I think that all money is spending money. True, you should save some for unexpected situations, but if you're not planning on spending it, what's the point? Carpe diem!

You'd better get busy, though, buddy. The goddam sands run out on you every time you turn around.... You're lucky if you get time to sneeze in this goddam phenomenal world.
- J. D. Salinger
Franny and Zooey