Thursday, 10 December 2009

The power of concise - Taming of the Preen

Laundryscape photo by Cecilia Macaulay

Just because you come that way, doesn't mean you have to stay that way.

Most of the nice things that come in jars never asked to be dressed in the equivalent of Hawaiian shirts and painfully loud lettering. But really, its not their fault.
Once I invite them home, I gently undress them, arrange for them to feel a little more comfortable in my cupboardscapes.

Please meet my new improved stain remover, made infinitly tamer by a simple subtraction: all the clutter on the label.
My extra motivation this time?

Imagine you have a garden party invitation celebrating the Emporor's birthday, with all the Japan-connected creators in Melbourne attending.
Imaginge on your filmy, rippley organza slip dress, made for garden parties, is a stain. Shadowy but detectable, particularly to the immaculate Japanese.
You don't want to trawl though all those warnings and persuasions on the label, you just want to teach that impudent stain a lesson, and go on with being a spotless mermaid in foamy white silk.

I didn't read the label. I didn't even do a simple chemistry review, that would tell me silk is essentially some protien extruded by a silkworm, and as far as the bleach is concerned, a silk dress is just one big stain waiting to be dissolved.

I won't make that mistake again, because now my new stain remover only tells me the things I need to know, the things I will predictably pretend not to know when faced with strong temptations, and strong wepons.
Let it sit only one or two minutes.
Never use on silk or wool.
Turn the cap to 'off position' after use.

Thats the kind of Haiku Im in need of right now.
The chemistry behind that last line I'm yet to work out, but I now know that if they bother with an instruction, they probably weren't just doodling.
I will obey.

Concise, useful and beautiful.
If my supermarket stain remover package can transform in this direction, so can we.

As an added bonus, here are the social lessons from my new improved preen container is telling me:
1. Cut the advertizing. Once you are in somebody's life, you can relax and stop promoting, defending, making excuses for yourself. They know exactly how valuable you are already. Go straight to the good suff.

2. Let them know clearly from what direction your troublesomeness will come from, so they can head it off . Not Punctual? A loving wake-up call. Easily worn out? Plenty of recharge rests along the way.

3. Make sure you have an 'Off' position, and get someone to put you into it at regular intervals. All this irrepressability can wear a girl out.

The party days of the bleach-scorched mermaid dress are now over. Bias cut, natural fibre, she clings like a corset, yet feels like a cobweb. As my flawed but still beautiful work dress, it will be buoying my spirits as I draw, write and create. Less admiration, lots more love.

There are two sides to everything.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

"I'm fine thank you"

Global warming in Venice last month. I'm working on it, world, just hang on in there.

Its a satifying feeling, when people ask you a tricky question, and you have a perfectly-formed, spot-on answer.
With six little brothers and sisters constantly asking me 'Why?', and a childhood addiction to reading, having a good answer is something I've come to see as part of being me.

There is one question, however, that had been defeating me for decades.

The question was "How are you?"

I want to be polite, to have conversations without unnecessary bumps and jerks. But I love conversations that are fresh and sexy and real, talking about the things that matter. So until recently, I would choose left or right, sheep or goats, and compromise. Sometimes I'd get caught smack in the middle, still trying to sum up my audience, and the level of connection I wanted with them:

Q. "Tess! How are you?"
A. "Umm.... ???(Well this being alive is kinda complicated.....).

Some people started providing the answer for me:
Q."How are you, Good?"
A. "Ah......??(Oh dear. Redundant so early, and in my own conversation).

After years of holding out for an always-truthful, always constructive response to "How are you?", I found one this year. One that I can choose to use Every Single Time. With anyone. Truthfully.

It goes like this:
"I'm fine, thank you'.

Variations also work. "Wonderful! Thank-you for asking!" and "Things are great! Its very good to see you".

What is miraculous about this answer is that this is what its really says:
"Until this moment, troubles galore. But from this moment on, I'm with you, starting fresh. You and me, we are going to have a fun conversation, and I have every bit of equipment I need to have a fine time with you.

I don't need to drag stale stuff into new conversations.
I can turn over a new leaf every few minutes a day. Every new exchange can be a chance to get reminded: I have youth and options and education and sunshine and rain and dancing and I live in a western democracy with hospitals and festivals, and you and I might even do something lovely together and I'm absolutely, positively FINE.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Change your cords, change your life.

Change your cords, change your life. This is something I have just started seeing, and I will not explain it eloquently. I need you to help me explain it, so I will just put up some pictures and stories. awkward I know, and hope for the best.

Before I left for my travels, I had dinner with my sister, her new twins and beautiful husband. There is something miraculous about their house: it is a haven of peace. Two infants, two new careers: Yoga and Photography, so not much money. But everything works. When you want something, with your eyes closed, you reach to the place and there it is, clean and ready to go.

With my ever-perceptive sister I got a conversation on cords going, something I had started noticing with increasing excitement. Katie got all animated too. "Yes, the way Jorge wraps the cord around the hairdryer, I was so moved when I first saw it". Jorge is the one who brought the orderliness to the family. Not forced, but seduced us into it. With excellent results. Anyway, a hairdryer was found and a demo was given.

Cord management, Jorge style

Jorge started explaining: "Professional photographers can't just do that thumb-to-elbow winding thing, because if you do, every turn twists the chord, and the kink stays. Then when you need to roll it out quickly for a shoot, it just doesn't obey you, it goes its own way, and you miss the shot".

A week later, my first day in Copenhagen this trip, I got lucky and got invited on a yacht party. Gorgeous food, gorgeous Danish men, but what really impressed me was the ropes.

On a boat, a few seconds delay can result in getting overturned, and never coming back. Captians go to the bother of being 'ship shape' due to consequences that are less forgiving than those found in other professions.

I'll search my archive for a better photo. The hand grabbing my bunny is Michael Reppy's, my sailor-friend. He is in my old Tokyo kitchen, and wearing 4 things: sunglasses, sandals, t shirt and shorts.
He's wearing the sunglasses because he doesn't have a bag to put them in.
In fact, he doesn't have anything but these 4 things. Not a passport, not one Yen. Or dollar. He was sailing solo from San Fransisco to Tokyo on the Naia, ripping through the Pacific on this fast little boat, and a day away from arriving as a hero. He was two days ahead of the current transPacific world record.
The media attention he was to receive was going to the cause he was sailing for: to save a family of recently captured killer whales, that were starving themselves to death in a Tokyo aquarium.
He fell asleep, and woke up to the buzzing sound of a boat going way to fast. "If I hadn't paused to put my sandals on, if I'd just jumped up on deck and cut down the sail..."He spent a few seconds too long, the boat overturned, and he was fished out of the ocean by a passing freighter.

On a ship, in life, a few extra seconds at the right time can change an awful lot.

Here is another cord picture from Copenhagen. A style of cord arrangement familar to suburban Australians. Note the shoelaces too.

The song of these street musicians was just notes in air, but it had the power to stop traffic. There we were, a crowd of people powerless to keep on walking, because the music was just too beautiful. Music to make you feel how sweetly painful love is, remember things you yearned for once, and might again. Beautiful music that appears only a few moments in a year.

I walked around to the front to see about buying their CD, something I rarely do. There was nothing to tell me their name, no price for the C.D. They were surrounded by people with transfixed faces. People who were not buying their C.D.s.
So close yet so far.
Later, when the crowd had subsided, the cardboard had been proped back up, I found their name and even a CD price etched in biro lines. They were talking with a mate, about how hard it was. They were getting gigs, but there were so many obstacles.

What would it take to put together a CD cover that communicates, a sign that works? Some A4 paper, scissors, marker pen and maybe a Google Image search for some fonts. With hands as deft and sensitive as theirs, it would take a few minutes. Maybe about the same as the time they spent trading stories of their struggles with their passing friend that day. But something stopped them. Told them that they didn't have to, maybe told them that they absolutely shouldn't do such a thing.
They keep their obstacles, the world misses out on their songs.

It was a couple of years ago that I first started winding my cords so they didn't tangle, securing them with the black twisty things they come with when purchased. It felt so decadent, and still does. So much undone work around me: taxes to calculate, grant applications to fill in. Yet I persisted: if the Japanese, if wealthy and successful people can afford to wind up their cords, invest time and effort in winding cords, maybe I'm allowed to as well.

Along with my evolving tidy-cord life, my life is having more and more little patches where there is clarity and readiness. Maybe one day soon the patches will join up. Clarity for generativity. Clarity for redeeming lost hours, lost sales, lost boats, lost whales. Clarity and maybe even small giggly children, looking kind of like me.

I'm Australian, we know, from little things, big things grow.

Jorge and Katie, parents of a few hours, glimpsed May 2009

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Sado 'The Way of Tea' for beautifying life, Samurai style

"Make your personal life orderly and restrained, to allow you to be violent and daring in your creative life"

This is a paraphrase of a Proust quote I found in the website of the extraordinary Melbourne cosmetic company, Aesop.

I would like my life to be successful in the rare and unique way that Aesop is successful, so I this is advice I wish to take. Which is why today I invited Adam Wojcinski to host the first regular Japanese tea ceremony gathering at my house.

Adam embodying the Tea way of being, inspiring three onlookers.
Look at the posture of his hand, imagine his breathing. Yes, something special.

From 16th Century on, Samurai have been practicing the Zen art of Sado 'The way of tea', to transform themselves into beings deeply efficient and effective in what they do.
Constant adrenaline, constant anxiety would have been a natural, but not useful response to living each day in the shadow of certain violent death.
The rhythmic, ritual actions of tea ceremony would replace the 'fear' mindset with a 'focused' mindset. As anyone who has ever been under threat knows, stress cannot be overcome by impotent attempts at 'relaxing', That's the moment the entrepreneur would loose his company, the student would fail their course. Elite warriors, athletes, businessmen know that clarity, focus, and perfect preparation for the unexpected is the only way to earn the mental stillness that can bring relief and quiet joy.

It seems incongruous at first that the fragile cherry blossom is the symbol of the ferocious Samurai. Then you see the sad truth: both are destined to fall at the moment they achieve their full glory.
With Sado, Samurai found a way to refine their smallest movements, and to beautify the lowliest of their actions. The very action they used to draw water from the kettle on tatami at home would one day be used instinctively in circumstances that would be otherwise petrifying, drawing their bows from horseback as they fled or pursued enemies. Te ceremony cultivated an intensely aware appreciation of the mundane, the present moment, in a life when any cup of tea shared with friends could be your last.

Bamboo whisk, bamboo ladle, tea in its caddy, and the kettle singing softly as water boils over a charcoal hearth.

Igniting the charcoal on the veranda. Once it started glowing, Adam laid it on the impeccably arranged, incense-sprinkled ashes of the brazier before being brought in and seen by the guests. Special permission was sought from AQIS (quarantine) to import this clean-burning tea ceremony charcoal from Japan.

This box of tricks holds implements of feather and bamboo, for deftly arranging matcha (powdered green tea) to evoke a certain atmosphere. The tea in the caddy was sifted carefully, and when I commented that its surface evoked a mossy landscape, Adam said "that's the idea". Even in exile, the samurai may still have a pocket-sized reminder of his carefully tended garden.

Adam shows my sister Katie the ritual way of receiving a bowl of tea. The 'front', which is the most interesting or notable part of the bowl, often a dent or flaw, is presented towards the guest. As the guest raises the bowl to drink, she makes a half-turn, to avoid any disrespect when lips touch the honoured place.

Katie, a teacher of resilience, takes on a joyful look as Adam explains the Sado way of being.
We had recently had a conversation on how it is our flaws, not our perfections, that connect us to each other. Maybe some new refinement of this hope-giving idea just went 'click' at hearing this Sado respect for the imperfect.
In each gesture, refined over centuries, you may suddenly see the answer to a problem of the day, a change of mindset that either solves the problem, or dissolves your distress about it. Here is my insight of the day:
When I saw the state of the soles of Adams pristine Tabi socks, I felt distress that my floor was not as clean as it could be. Beautifying through cleanliness (subtraction), rather than ornament (addition) is a basic tenant of Sado.
Adam had obviously spent hours making everything he brought to my house immaculate, yet assured me it was all completely fine. Suddenly, I believed him. I realized, you don't worry before a battle starts, you just use that energy to get into action, preparing everything you might need. You don't worry after a battle has started either, you just make the most of what you have got, and if you live to fight another, make any changes next time.
Nowhere to worry!
"Hold on tightly, let go lightly". There is no doubt about it though, I will clean the floor with great enthusiasm this time next month.

"Pick up a heavy thing as if it were light, and a light object as if it were heavy"
This is one of the many sayings of Rikkyu, a great figure in Sado. I first heard this principle of successful action in a tea class when I was worrying about how to communicate something delicate to a housemate. It transformed how I handle conflict before it becomes conflict.
I'm looking joyful here as I pick up this feather-light bamboo whisk, and for good reason.
These days I've been noticing how the blithe way I just strew things around ruins my life. All the time I waste searching for documents, fossicking for change in my handbag, could be reclaimed, if only I put things down with mindfulness and respect for what their next function would be.

With this whisk, Adam just taught me the other half of "heavy as if light', stabilizing my hand to the floor as I grasp it, and using 'Zanshin' when I put it back down - withdrawing my hand with a wistful feeling of departure, not an abrupt discounting of the object, as if we never had a relationship. This mindset, Adam explained, was how samurai were trained to withdraw their swords after dealing with an opponent, acknowledging the significance of what had happened, their once-in-a-lifetime connection.

After drinking the tea, the host then allows us to appreciatively view the implements, usually asking who made them, a chance to hear any stories about them. Praise or display of financial value is not in the 'wabi' spirit of Tea. We are generally unaware, but even highly cultivated people in the past owned very few objects, and according to Feng Shui, every object you own has some power over you.
Here I ask if the tea scoop has a nickname. 'Ume no Kaori' (scent of plum blossom) was Adam's reply, a name appropriate for a utensil used in winter, which came to him as he was passing by plum trees in blossom the other day.

When younger, Adam won a scholarship, and spent many months in Hiroshima studying full-time sect of tea established by the Samurai Ueda Soko in the 16th Century. To be in the presence of mastery, of any kind, is a mesmerizing experience. The elegant effortlessness of Adam's movement comes from many hours of great effort. And where does great effort come from? You can feel it, its in the room. "Passion", said Adam. "You can't do anything to stop it".

Adam holds open Tea Ceremony classes in South Yarra, Melbourne, every Saturday morning. 0409 353 370

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Borrow your own restaruant, change the world: Millet Sisters of Melbourne

This Sunday I will be eating utterly unique 'peace cuisine' , created with hope and love by the Millet Sisters at a restaurant they have borrowed on its day off.
Millet Sisters Cuisine photo by Ponzu
Its exciting, because I can also be sure that not only will the food be good, the other guests who turn up for this 'Family lunch' are highly likely to be active, creative lovers of Japanese culture, people who are quite satisfied to go about quietly or exuberantly changing the world.
"Share the surplus" is the most exciting of permaculture's design principles. Exciting because so many un-resourced dreams suddenly seem possible. It just takes a few seconds of creative thinking to realize all the surpluses out there, waiting for you to skillfully, responsibly claim them, and add value. Empty bedrooms in lonely houses, empty restaurants, long-parked cars, unused paint in garages.
Detail from Wabi-Sabi, where every element of decor
gathered here has a history to wonder at.

How do you persuade a restaurant to give itself over to you?
There is a skill to claiming a whole restaurant though, in this case, Wabi-Sabi Salon in Collingwood
I suppose you would have to give the owners two things:
  • Desire to support what you do, because its admirable and lovely
  • Confidence that everything would be in perfect order, better than they left it, when they turn up for work the next day
Oh, and of course there would be the networking factor of introducting new batch of customers to the establishment and all its charms. "If Tokyo and Collingwood had a love child, it would be Wabi Sabi Salon" The Age, Epicure

On Sunday, I will ask the Millet Sisters and Maki exactly how they approached 'Wabi Sabi', and see if I can work out why the restaurant said "Yes". These are answers that have the power to make our lives amazing.

When: Sunday July 5 , 12 noon~ (Last Order 3:30)
Where: Wabi Sabi Salon 94 Smith St Collingwood
      Melway ref. 44 B5 or Tram 86 Stop 15

Pre-booking is not necessary but highly recommended.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Sydney's other most beautiful building - Renzo Piano

Like a flower rising amongst gravestones.
I had unavoidably glimpsed this tall building many times in my recent holiday on Sydney harbor, but hadn't seen it until I approached it strolling in from the Botanical Gardens.
Maybe its all about foreplay - it had been a day of wandering though, being ambushed by the small and grand treasures of Sydney's Darlinghurst, Paddington. I was all ready.

Then this building appears from across the water, amongst hard, hard company.

Aurora Building by Renzo Piano
Its veil of almost-imperceptibly curved glass, with a sheen like the bluish-light on a lotus leaf, makes the building seem to breathe and sway. Its walls unfurl as do leaves, but in shapes that keep you captive, trying to work out the puzzle of which way the layers really curve.
There is something gently optimistic and celebratory, the way this building widens as it rises, all culminating in this lovely anther of an antenna.

The sail-shape at the top borrows the love we already have for that other building, its near-neighbour on the harbor. But I love this building more: Look at the function it is obliged to carry out.

Its not unlike the hero Katsumoto, from Hollywood's The Last Samurai. Though the purpose of its existence is a terrible one, in one breath it has both playfulness and dignity, strength and delicate beauty.
Which brings us to the why this 'falling in love' first happened.

Just imagine my life, if I could be like that.

I never, never thought of it until seeing this building.

Artist: Paula Modersohn-Becker (German 1876–1907)

Sunday, 7 June 2009

What to do when people make you feel bad on purpose?

This is a question I came across on Kemps creative happiness blog.
I just recently realized that its a usual in our culture that if somebody makes you feel bad, you should make them feel bad in return - that's fair, just, you have a right. People do it to people they love, even.
Like they feel obliged to.
We even do it to ourselves, cause ourselves pain, thinking it will help us behave better next time 'How could you be so stupid!' etc.

There are arguments for and against just avoiding people who do this pain-inflicting. But since 'these people' are most people, self included, if you get good at managing this cultural curse we have, you will become an amazing person, with a rare, useful skill.
Id like to some of that.

Reality-feedback is a multi-purpose problem solver. "Hey, I feel bad. Did you intend that?"

Imagine being told such a thing with a simultanious communication of love: held hands, hand on back.

Many a monster can be melted by simple illumination, just being seen.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

hot mail box - aussie Ingenuity

Hot mail box

Driving from a perfect day of hiking, I saw this Hotmail box.
The perfect day just got perfected.
This is where the ingenious hotmail-box owner probably goes to walk his dog and get his inspiration: the Mt. Worth Hiking trail, a temperate rainforest just over an hour out of Melbourne. The lovely Meetup hiking group let me tag along. I was happy all day long.

New Zealand Apple Mac mailbox by applefritter
A google image search, I found the New Zealand version.
"Marry a New Zealander", my dad once said. I never got a chance to ask why, and though he never went there, pictures like this mailbox make me think he must have been onto something. In my experiance, there are more Eccentrics per capita there than any other country in the world. The island mentality - maybe it gets them thinking that their contribution really counts, they can do something to change the world.

Imagine coming home grumpy to that. How could you not start smiling?

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Edgevertizing - story of the itinerant Japanese knife-sharpener

knife shaperner photo by Cecilia
Marginal overheads
This itinerant Knife sharpener does the rounds every few months at my neighbourhood in Tokyo.
No office, no rent, no clocking in necessary, just a bike, a wetstone, and some slips of paper in mailboxes to tell everyone he is in town.
knife shaperner photo by Cecilia
Because he does his work where we can see him, we feel we already know him. We see other people's knives being sharpened, and wonder why we should miss out, so just put in our orders too.

"Spend one month learning somthing people need done, spend the rest of your life doing it" Bill Mollison

Now I live with a Nobu Sushi Chef,the quality of my kitchen life has risen, my knife collection glistens. Most Aussies don't sharpen their knives. Even permies. We just use more brute power, put up with things being slower, difficult, just doesn't occour to us. And we have no neigbourhood knife sharpener
Cecilia in boots, Japanese demonstration garden edge
Become an Edgetrepreneur
if you were in my neighbourhood, and had a good reputation, I would pay you to do these things on my doorstep:
  1. Green Clean my car
  2. wash my dog (if I had one)
  3. Train me to train my dog (if I had one)
  4. put a dripper water system in my front garden
  5. put in a better lettbox (mine is squeezy for my mail)
  6. put in urban swales to catch my downpipe water
  7. graft me some replicas of my favorite fruit trees (you would bring the rootstock)
  8. Tell me a very funny story
Thats just the doorstep. There are 100 things I need help with inside, but thats for another day.

Got any good edge stories?

Monday, 6 April 2009

The left wing kitchen sink at 3CR radio station

Recording a Community radio show the other day, I enjoyed 3CR's approach to keeping the studio kitchen sink clean.
A clear kitchen sink achieved without Nagging is a sign of great design skill.

If you'd like to hear how to get an edible balcony garden going, tune in to 3CR on 855AM, at 5.30 tomorrow (Tuesday) evening. Cecilia and some very nice left wing ladies had fun.

If you come across a well-done kitchen sink message, please send. We could put them together for an undeniably life-enhancing exhibition.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Nursing home creating peace though ingenious (Permaculture) design

This story gives me hope that Permaculture Designers are everywhere, unbeknownst to themselves. And a demonstration that Permaculture can fix maybe.... maybe...everything.

Illustration by Cecilia Macaulay
Its the story of Adards, a Nursing home clever and loving enough to receive even the violent demented elderly. These might be ladies and men whom no other nursing home could accept or manage, people who were otherwise heavily sedated, or living all their last days frighted and distressed.

I've not visited yet, so what I write is based on old website information, and a remembered newspaper article read about six years ago.
It starts with Dr Sam Tooth, and Dr Sam Ginsberg, compassionate and imaginative professionals who saw that things could be different. They gathered allies and set out to create a home, and environment in which frustrations and escalations just couldn't take root. Bill Mollison would call it 'Using Aikido, rather than Karate', guiding the energy of the residents to flow and dissipate harmlessly, instead of using our energy to block and overpower, with distress and cost on all sides.

Adards' 37 bed Nursing home was finally opened in 1991, in Warrane, Tasmania.

Now for a tour, with images taken from Adards (difficult to find) website.

Now how wonderful is this?
Right thing in the Right place
Doors that go to 'staff only' areas are camouflaged, with only a hole for the key. Patients who want to follow the nurse instead open and wander through the obvious, unlocked door, and back into a living area, and soon forget the original nurse-trailing mission they had set out on.

Here is the same trick with the residents wardrobe: the clothes in the 'real', camouflaged wardrobe can stay nicely folded, but there is an accessible wardrobe for residents to have a good old rummage through their stuff. Instead of futile folding work for the nurses, more time can be spent chatting. The level of staff contentment in this home is legendary, as something visitors can see, and something their long-service statistics show.

Designing for things to happily follow their nature
I remember hearing that this home its built on a hill. Because the residents don't see a wall keeping them in, they 'forget' to rail against it, the challenge to escape is not there. I also remember a story that there was a bus stop installed in the gardens, where an elderly lady would spend hours happily waiting, so she could go and pick up her daughter from school. Imagine being convinced your little girl needed you, and people you don't really know keep hauling you back, stopping you. The muddled thoughts won't go away, but the reality they collide with can me made softer, more human.

According to the website, there really is an old car in the garden, that the men like to polish and sit in, 'cause a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

Adards is actually 4 individual, domestic-style homes, each linked at a central hub, and edged with own garden. The gardens are there to be wandered in, and who would want to wander if there wasn't something to seek out? A dog and a kitty-cat, a BBQ, and the familiar site of a clothesline are comforting domesticities, with long verandas for wet-whether wandering.
The gardens are separated not by a forbidding fence, but by a shared aviary and chook shed. Not the end, but the start of something interesting.

The layout of the whole home is so clever, I wish I could show you here, but you will have to visit the Adards Nursing Home Website for now.

Use the power of rhythm
Anticipate and plan for change
During the day, the central hub that connects the four wings, or houses, is closed. Residents are free to wander in their own garden, veranda and living areas.
Sundowning time is when life's losses and defeats are deeply felt, and the fractiousness this leads to is planned for. Activities to distract and divert get get the residents over the toughest time of day, then dinner can be enjoyed.
Night is when old thought bubble up, and the wandering begins. This is not forcibly stopped, but designed for. The central hub is opened, connecting the corridors of all four homes. Down they hurtle, making great progress along passageways unfamiliar during daylight hours, passageways circling them back to the safely of their own rooms. Back in there own beds, the energy that fueled their expedition all spent, they rest.

Allowing every person, every creature to make their contribution
The amount of meaningful connections is a measure of riches.
I remember being tiny, up on a stool washing the dishes, ecstatic. My mother had arranged an apron, an underwater tea towel to stop things breaking at the bottom, and here I was (3? 4?) making a contribution.
Its a built-in human need, to contribute. In this kitchen at Adards, the stove is lockable, and the hot water lever is removable, so residents don't get burnt while pottering, helping, and enjoying being immersed the comforting smells and routines of getting dinner.

Wimpy excuses, or happy results.
The carpet and upholstery feel like cloth, but are waterproof. The 'Fireplace' creates a cozy glow to gather around, but all heat comes from ducts. Other places would justify their vinyl chairs and industrial feel by blaming the messy silly patients. In yet other places, coziness is exclusive to those with tip-top faculties. But there is very often a way to get a really good result with whatever flawed human beings you start with, if you look beyond the obvious, keep searching for alternatives. All of us are flawed, all of us could do with forgiveness and damage-control planned in.

We are not islands. Strategic changes to the 'ecosystem' we live in can significantly, effortlessly change us. What a relief. Thank-you Adards.

If you enjoyed this story, and got some ideas for your own life, own projects, I'd love you to share them in the Comments section. My next post will be an intimate exploring of the permaculture design principles as seen performing their small miracles at this special, life-giving place.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

"Excuse me, could I rent your bicycle for the evening?"

Just as I was coming out of my local IGA supermarket, a fellow approached me and asked "Excuse me, do you have a bicycle I could rent for the evening?".

I was so impressed with the question. The universe had blessed me with a Leunig moment, and there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity.

But I like STUFF. I don't have much of it, but the STUFF I do have is chosen carefully, wiped tenderly and frequently, and often re-painted pink (Not the bike though, not yet).
So before I answered, I used some Permaculture observation, to determine if I would get the bike back.
Middle aged (good, he has made it this far, must have some sense),
Conservative vest and lace up shoes - mmm... good.
Lunch stains on the vest - not great but neither is the bike.
A (ragged) notebook under his arm with 'Comedy' scrawled as a heading.
Comedy. That cinched the deal. In my extensive 'People trusting' experiances (as an international woman of Mystery and expert people-judger), having A Dream Of One's Own is the best indicator of trustworthiness. If you are valiant and positive and quick-thinking enough to get up on a comedy podium, you won't have much need to steal bikes to get by.

So I said 'Yes'.

He had calculated he'd need 19 rejections before getting a "Yes", but struck me on the third ask.

I did ask why he didn't have his own bike on hand. Well, his mates from years ago, from the Great Victorian Bike ride had just turned up in Melbourne, and is bike was at home on the outskirts, and he really, really wanted a ride with them.

We drove home, he got the bike and said "$30?" I said "That's exactly what I was thinking", and off he peddled.

He ended up giving me $40 for a late return. They went to the pub that The Simpsons was filmed in (the pre-war Melbourne Simpsons), and there was apparently too much happiness for him to leave earlier than necessary.

A few times since then when I've let circumstances stop me from doing lovely things, I think of TheBikeBorrowingMan. I calculate for 19 rejections,get brave, and Just Do It. Its often way less than 19, and it only FEELS bad (no damage, really)

Maybe I should have paid him the $40.