I’m sorting through my photo libraries deleting thousands of pictures and I came across this gem taken one morning on a trip to Australia in 2010. Dave is planning our route for the day, pouring over maps, guidebooks and brochures to figure out what we want to see and where we want to go. On this trip as on all our other travel adventures he had made all the arrangements for accommodations, rental cars, flights, and excursions. He had done his research so we would spend time in three very different parts of Australia during our two weeks there.
I know how very lucky I am to have my own personal trip planner who has organized the adventures that have taken us all over the world.
Lessons From the Sydney Opera House
Christmas Down Under
“I’m preparing to die. ” I visited with a woman in her eighties who told me she is spending a fair bit of time reading, writing, learning, talking and thinking about death. Even though she isn’t terminally ill she wants to be ready to die. She feels the more she can prepare herself for death and accept it as a natural part of life, the easier it will be for her and her family.
I just finished reading Madeleine L’ Engle’s book The Summer of the Great Grandmother where she describes the last summer of her mother’s life. L’ Engle says we experience a series of ‘letting go’ events or ‘deaths’ that can prepare us for the end of our life.
L’ Engle suggests we die to childhood and are born to adolescence. We die to adolescence and become adults. We die to our single selves when we become someone’s partner or parent. When we move to a new place or a new career we experience a kind of death. She thinks these experiences can teach us things that will make the end of our lives easier.
We spend much of our childhood and adolescence being educated and prepared for our adult lives. Many couples attend counseling sessions or retreats to prepare for marriage. I took prenatal classes and read books to prepare for parenthood. Many people take seminars and visit a financial planner to prepare for retirement . It makes sense that just as we prepare for these other deaths and rebirths during our lifetime we should also prepare for our final death and rebirth.
Teaching Our Children How To Die
Let’s Talk About Our Parents
My Grandmother’s Epitaph
The Winnipeg Art Gallery is all boarded up these days. There are surfboards, skateboards and snowboards on view in our Boarder X exhibit. The works by indigenous artists get you thinking about our relationship to the environment and other people in new ways. The bright surfboards in the photo above come from Australia and were created by artist Vernon Ah Kee. They have aboriginal rainforest designs on the front and use the colors from the Australian aboriginal flag. On the back of each surfboard are black and white portraits of Vernon’s relatives. Only half of their faces are shown. The colorful surfboards are surrounded by texts that were chanted during race riots in Sydney Australia in 2005
and accompained by a provocative and at times jarring video.
You can stand in front of this cityscape of Winnipeg for a long time finding new and interesting things in it. It was created by Roger Crait, who was a passionate skateboarder as a teen and young adult. To me the wings on the planes and insects look like painted skateboards and there are skateboards hiding in other places too. Both skateboarding and painting are activities that require lots of practice if you want to become skilled at them.
These cedar boards were designed by Jordan Bennet who is from Newfoundland. They were inspired by stories he heard about the land and the history of his people.
I had some elementary school students in the art gallery this week and I gave them a whole variety of felt shapes to make designs of their own in Jordan Bennet’s style. They came up with some pretty creative stuff. There’s a fascinating trio of pieces related to snowboarding. First this digital photograph by Mason Mashon where the tiny snowboarder surveys the route ahead and…..
and then these two pieces Sky Blanket and Clouds by weaver Meghann O’Brien.
Mark Igloliorte shows viewers the similarities between kayaking and skateboarding in his video installation
Skateboard-Kayak- Flip- Roll.
Boarder X brings together elements you might not think have lots in common but you’ll be excited to see how they do and you’ll find lots of personal connections of your own as you walk through the exhibit.
The Dakota Boat
Parfleches for the Last Supper
A Controversial Statue
Jaws drop, eyes widen, and voices exclaim when I take kids into the room at the Winnipeg Art Gallery where Australian born, London-based artist Ron Mueck’s enormous sculpture The Girl is on display. The little girl has just been born and her umbilical cord is still attached. Blood remains on her wrinkled and folded skin. You can see the glisten of saliva on the baby’s lips, the wet of mucus in her nose and her tiny eyelashes. You need to walk slowly all around the figure and think about it. Mueck says that while he spends lots of time making the outer surface of his giant human beings it is really the life inside them he is trying to capture. After our older son was born my husband walked around the delivery room carrying him and talking to him. “I wonder what he is thinking,” he said to me. Mueck’s sculpture has that quizzical thinking look about it. Mueck has created other life-size sculptures of babies. He made the first after the birth of his child. Mueck reflects on the strangeness and assertiveness of infants and the way a new baby tends to totally dominate our lives. Mueck’s Old Woman in Bed is on display just a few steps away from The Girl. This art piece shows a dying, vulnerable woman in her hospital bed. She is as tiny as Mueck’s baby is big. One high school girl in a group I toured through the exhibit had tears in her eyes. “My grandfather just died,” she said to me. “My mom is trying to connect with his soul.” Artist Ron Mueck made the Old Woman in Bed after visiting his wife’s beloved grandmother in the hospital. The woman is curled in a fetal position, and her wrinkled skin, so like the wrinkled skin of the baby, links her clearly with the new born girl nearby. This exhibit juxtapositions the beginning and end of a woman’s life beautifully and in such a moving and compassionate way.
The Girl and Old Woman in Bed are on loan to the Winnipeg Art Gallery from the National Gallery in Ottawa till October 4. They are not to be missed!
Portrait or Landscape
A Quick Dip into the AGO
Landscapes for the end of time
Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. -Zora Neale Hurston
It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage. – George William Curtis
The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling but in rising again after you fall. – Vince Lombardi
Great buildings that move the spirit have always been rare. In every case they are unique, poetic, products of the heart.- Arthur Erickson
Make a joyful noise- Psalm 98:4There are always flowers for those who want to see them.- Henri Matisse
Rest is not idleness- John Lubbock
I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed.- Oprah Winfrey
I took all the photos in this post on our trip to Australia in 2010.
Other posts about Australia…...
Edge of the Trees- An Aboriginal Perspective
Lessons From the Sydney Opera House
A Curious and Troubling Nativity Scene
I took a photo of this cartoon in 2010 when I visited the Museum of Sydney in Australia. It shows an Indigenous mother and child dressed in European style clothing, seated on a city street. Non-indigenous onlookers are gathered around staring at them. The cartoon called A Curiosity in Her Own Country is by Phil May and appeared in a Sydney newspaper called the Bulletin in March of 1888. In 1888 Indigenous people in Australia lived in poverty on reserves or in camps on the fringes of cities. They were kept out of sight. Many people rarely saw them. So it is easy to imagine that when they did, they might have stared at them as if they were unusual or exotic. Ironically in the 1800s, the word ‘curiosity’ meant a unique item worthy of a place in a collection. The cartoonist satirizes the fact that the woman is seen as a ‘curiosity’ in her own country. The woman and child are drawn realistically while the onlookers are caricatures.
In 2009 Australian artist Martin Sharp created a painting called Australia based on the 1888 cartoon. It was also on display in the Museum of Sydney during our 2010 visit. Sharp’s rendition reminds me of a nativity scene. The mother and child both have halos the way Mary and Jesus often did in Renaissance paintings. The stars adorning Sharp’s painting remind me of the starry sky in Bethlehem that led curious onlookers like the shepherds and Magi to Jesus. Was Jesus a ‘curiosity’ in his ancestral home?
Both May’s 1888 cartoon and Sharp’s 2009 painting make me wonder who we relegate to the status of ‘curiosity’ in 2014.
Other posts about Mary ……….
She Was 13 Years Old
Only Five Star Hotels for the Holy Family
Thinking About Mary
“This book would make a great movie,” I thought when I was only a few chapters into The Rosie Project. So I wasn’t surprised to discover that the author Graeme Simsion first wrote the story as a screenplay and that the movie rights to The Rosie Project have already been sold to Sony Pictures.
Cath and my husband Dave
My friend Cath was reading The Rosie Project when we shared a house in Minneapolis this summer and her brief description of the plot intrigued me so when I saw a copy on sale for half price recently I picked it up.
There are really two projects going on in the book. The Wife Project created by an Australian college genetics professor Don Tillman is launched to help him find the perfect wife. Don who has Aspergers has created an exhaustive questionnaire to seek out a woman who meets all his qualifications for a mate.
The second project in the book is The Father Project. It is the crusade of a young woman searching for her biological Dad. Don with his genetics background is the perfect person to help her. In the process he begins to like her even though she is woefully wanting when it comes to meeting any of his perfect wife criteria.
Both Rosie and Don are changed as their projects proceed. And we are left wondering who in this world is really ‘normal’ and ‘ordinary’ or ‘perfect for each other?’ Is anyone?
This is the kind of book you can almost read in one sitting. Its light but interesting and funny and if it wasn’t fall I’d say it would make perfect beach reading.
By the way a sequel The Rosie Effect will be released this month.
I’d offer to let you read my copy of The Rosie Project but I’ve already decided I’m going to give it to my cousin and her husband. Simsion has dedicated his book to Rod and Lynnette which just happen to be the first names of my cousin and her husband.I don’t think they know Graeme Simsion since he hails from Australia and they live in Winnipeg; still it’s kind of a cool coincidence.
The Language of Flowers
The Aviators Wife
The Queen Who Wouldn’t Eat Gingerbread
Filed under australia, Books
Edge of The Trees by Fiona Foley and Janet Laurence
Outside the city museum in Sydney Australia I stood behind one of the 29 pillars that symbolize the 29 aboriginal clans around Sydney in 1778 when the first convict settlers arrived. Edge of The Trees, the name of the artwork comes from a historical essay describing the event from the new arrivals perspective…. “struggling through the surf they were met on beaches by other people looking at them from the edge of the trees.“
As you walk through the ‘forest’, voices in the Koori language speak the names of the 29 aboriginal clans and the places where they lived.
Some pillars have hair, shell, bone, feathers, ash and honey embedded in them and the names of native plants now extinct have been carved or burned into the wooden columns.
Because the piece is interactive you can stand among the pillars and try to imagine what it might have been like for the aboriginal people to watch the arrival of colonists who were about to change their lives forever.
I wish those of us whose families immigrated to countries and took over aboriginal lands, could go back in time and put ourselves for just a moment in the shoes of the people who saw us arrive in the places they’d called home for thousands of years. Would that change our present perspective and attitudes?
Other related posts…..
What Do Mennonites and First Nations People Have in Common
‘You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering the bad things.’
Last month I read M.L. Stedman’s book The Light Between Oceans. Here’ s four reasons why you should read it too.
1) You’ll learn lots about lighthouses. This book made me want to visit one.Tom Shelbourne the main character in the novel is a stoic, hardworking Australian lighthouse keeper trying to erase difficult memories from his family life as well as his service in the military during World War I. His life revolves around keeping the lighthouse light burning and loving his vivacious and passionate wife Isabel. As Tom tends the light and teaches his wife and their young daughter Lucy about his job we learn about lighthouses- how they worked and their history and importance. Lucy whose name by the way means ‘light’ washes up on the lighthouse island shore as an infant in a boat with her dead father. Tom and Isabel mourning three miscarried pregnancies decide to keep her. Should they have?
2) You’ll have to consider some tough moral questions. Much of the story takes place on an island called Janus. Janus is a two faced Roman god and this story emphasizes that there are always at least two sides to any moral dilemma. There are no easy answers to the question “What is the right thing to do?” The book also reminds us that when we make moral choices our choices effect many other people and can continue to do so for generations. One reviewer actually called the moral dilemmas in this story ‘exquisite’. This is how Ralph one of the characters in the novel describes making tough moral choices… “Right and wrong can be like bloody snakes: so tangled up that you can’t tell which is which until you’ve shot ’em both, and then it’s too late.”
3) You’ll become emotionally involved. Some reviewers claim the book unfairly manipulates you emotionally and others write if they knew how emotionally wrenching it would be to read the book they never would have started it. The characters haunted me while I was reading the story and continue to do so. They say in order for a novel to be good the characters in it must change and readers need to care about those changes. The characters in this book all deal with dramatic change and are dramatically changed themselves and sometimes you can hardly bear to turn the page to find out what will happen to them next.
4) You’ll realize that setting can become an actual character in a story. My fellow blogger Larry Verstraete recently wrote a post on our Vast Imaginations site about the different ways an author can make the setting of a story become a character and M.L. Stedman, the author of The Light Between Oceans does that in particular with her evocative descriptions of Janus Island but also of the town of Partageuse.
And if none of these four reasons grabs you let me just say the novel will interest star gazers, pianists, travelers who’ve been to Australia and people like me who enjoy novels with letters in them.
Other posts about books……….
Anne of Green Gables- A Faith Perspective
Flight Behavior- I’m Back in the Kingsolver Fan Club
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Filed under australia, Books
In June we had visitors from Australia and it was interesting to observe their excitement about deer and black bears and even chipmunks, animals they’d never see in their home country. Then I remembered how on our visit to Australia I found the animals there endlessly fascinating. I’d seen kangaroos before in zoos but to view them in the wild was exciting for me.
We stayed in the Hunter Valley in the province of New South Wales for several days and I went for a long walk each morning. I saw plenty of yellow highway signs with black silhouettes of kangaroos on them warning drivers to stay alert. Each morning on my walk I’d count the number of kangaroos I saw hopping across the road, through the vineyards and or in among the trees. My record one morning was thirty -two kangaroos.
They seemed to be everywhere. I had to delete some of the kangaroo pictures from my camera because by the time I left the Hunter Valley I must have had taken close to a hundred pictures of kangaroos.
On my walks along the ocean in Manly Beach, near Sydney I frequently spotted Australian pelicans. They looked very different than any pelicans I’d ever seen before with their distinctive black markings on their wings. Australian pelicans are larger than any other kind of pelican in the world. Their enormous pink bills or beaks are also much longer than those of their fellow pelicans in other countries.
My daily walk in the town of Mittagong let me witness an interesting battle between an early morning fisherman and an octopus. The angler had snagged the octopus and was trying to reel him in so he could take out his hook. However whenever the man got the creature close to shore it used its suction cups to fasten itself to rocks and the man had one heck of a time trying to pry the octopus loose.
Golfing was hard for me because the five courses we played in Australia all had such interesting creatures inhabiting them. I was forever putting down my clubs to get out my camera and take a picture of a lizard on the green or a large turtle unconcernedly plodding across the fairway. Although most of the water hazards on the Australian golf courses came with signs that warned us to beware of poisonous snakes we never encountered one.
The birds of Australia were noisy. We found the birds so loud particularly on the golf courses, that they became really annoying. On one golf course a worker was driving around in a cart shooting off blank cartridges to scare the flocks of noisy birds away. He told us to plug our ears while he let out one deafening blast after another. Many of the birds in Australia were particularly flamboyant and colorful. I ended up deleting quite a few bird pictures from my camera too.
It’s not only the present day animals of Australia that are fascinating. At the Australian Museum of Natural History we learned that the dinosaurs roaming Australia in pre-historic times were unique as well, certainly very different than dinosaurs in other parts of the world. What is even more exciting is it is only in the last few years that many of the Australian dinosaur fossils have been discovered. Several years ago evidence of three new kinds of dinosaurs were unearthed, species paleontologists had never heard of before. The giant wombats that roamed Australia from 2 million to 10,000 years ago particularly intrigued me.
Australia has many other unique animals I didn’t get to see- the emu and the dingo to name two. However I did encounter enough of Australia’s distinctive creatures to confirm my belief that the world is indeed a place of diverse beauty and creative wonder.