One of Coy's reflections: “The world was a very complex structure that could bear contemplation only from the sea, and terra firma took on soothing proportions only at night, while on watch.” (in “The Nautical Chart” by Arturo Perez-Reverte)
Sydney, Port Jackson and Broken Bay: an agglomeration of experiences and impressions. Glittering high rises of the central business district accentuate charming older neighborhoods. The crazy bustle of traffic and preoccupied people hurrying along contrast sharply with the natural beauty of the surrounding hills and waterways. Having visitors proved to be an excellent reason for exploring this diversity. Bruce and his boys were treated to ... long hot walks into Sydney, afternoons in big surf at Manly Beach and Palm Beach, jumping off dangerous rocks, a fairly short and calm ocean voyage to Broken Bay which turned two little faces slightly green nonetheless, a hike to the top of a waterfall, hairy dingy rides, getting splashed by waves in the rock swimming pool at Avalon Beach, a larger assortment of food then Kaj and Shay really felt they needed, and an occasional shower. Their visit had been a joyful event and when Bruce momentarily lost the passports and tickets at the airport we were almost glad. We did not, however, have much time to feel sad about their departure as we were filled with excitement because we were expected back at the airport the very next day ... to pick up my parents.
Their 3 week visit invited more exploration, including going inland. We had a fantastic stay in the Blue Mountains for my birthday, admiring the truly spectacular Jenolan Caves. Wine, champagne and chocolate tasting in the Hunter Valley also made for a perfect day. With them, we discovered Middle Harbor, a haven of calm surrounded by National Park, just 15 minutes driving, or a couple of hours of quiet sailing, from Sydney's CBD. On a “girls-day-out” my mom and I came to the astonishing realization that a large part of the CBD has underground shopping centers and tunnels filled with store connecting these shopping centers. Unreal! Nicoline was thrilled to have her opa and oma there to play card and board games with, and to be present during the long awaited occasion of getting her ears pierced. Tristan received extra willing ears to listen to his discussions about cars and extra eyes to admire his drawings. They both delighted in displaying all their various skills to an entranced audience. Scott and I were happy to be able to share this part of our life with them. Their visit was altogether too short.
I cherished every moment of these 5 weeks of visits. Enjoying the various sights of the Sydney area and most of all ... the company. Even though a large part of the reason for this journey was to have solitude to reflect and explore and meditate and write, of course one of the things I miss most is company. After our visitors left, we were so fortunate as to enjoy company for a few more days. One Sunday we took Colin, Sue and Freya sailing in Port Jackson. Like us, Colin is having a F41 built by Steve Ikin. They're hoping to be sailing theirs within a couple of months. They also treated us to a delicious seafood brunch at their beautifully renovated home. The next Sunday we met Leonoor, Dick, Steph and Floortje for a sail in Broken Bay. Leonoor is the cousin of a friend of my sister's. Dick has been transferred by Shell from the Netherlands to Sydney for a while. We had a delightful time sailing and tasting several bottles of wine. On a return invitation we spend a “gezellige” (cozy) and happily active day at their house: sharing stories about living away from “home” over a piece of the most scrumptious home-made Dutch apple pie this side of the equator, playing tennis-baseball, jumping on the trampoline, and enjoying a good glass of wine and fine food in a warm home.
Even though we haven't missed a house per se, lately all of us have been looking longingly at nice new apartment buildings. What's that all about, you may wonder? Well, the way we figure it: it's “the beehive syndrome”. After all the solitude of the past year, having people-contact at close quarters has opened a little door again? And we've started longing for more of it? And what better set-up then huddling together in one dwelling? Lots of families together in one large building sharing each others dinner smells, favorite music, fights, and phone conversations on the balcony? (From our berth here in Newcastle we can watch the huge -size of one of the walls, we think- TV screen in one of the apartments on the 4th floor. The kids been considering calling those people and asking them to keep the phone line open.) Nah, I'm sure that's not what we would ultimately like either. But there's again a very human example of “the grass is always greener...”, even for us, whom people frequently see right now as “on the other side of the fence”.
With an active social life, however, comes a loss of “time for oneself”. And I've come to realize that I'm not ready to get back to that previous life again (if I ever will be again, to that degree). I had to learn to slow down, to enjoy having only myself for company during those lonely night watches, to be able to work things out without being able to meet and talk things over with another female ... and however hard that has sometimes been, it has been a good experience in the end. I turned 40 last month. I feel privileged to be part of a generation for whom turning 40 means finally coming into one's own during a prime time in life. Being able to make the transition from living your life according to what you think other people think you should be like, to being who you are, and following your dreams, while still active and young.
I still haven't quite overcome my unease about traveling out in the big blue ocean, but I do feel that I need to hang on to this adventure for a while longer. I am immensely grateful for this opportunity, and plan to get as much out of it as possible. I know that a lot of my bigger questions about Life will not be answered during this trip (if ever), but I'm still in the middle of wanting to contemplate in peace at least some of them. I'm not looking for “reason”, not for a solution, nor for so-called objective knowledge. I read this Martin Heidegger quote somewhere recently: “Thinking begins only when we come to the knowledge that reason, glorified for centuries, is the most stiff-necked adversary of thought”. I just would like to think things over. I would like to read still more about what makes us tick, about what makes the world turn around, about what can be done to make it a better place. Even though, this last century, science has made us feel that we now know almost everything there is to know about life, in face, as dear Einstein pointed out, the more science tells us, the more mysterious life becomes.
Luckily there are quite a few people out there who can write very eloquently about this, and I'm looking forward to more musing over their words. I am deeply concerned about the future of our planet and of humankind. We need a change in collective consciousness about this future. We all need to become part of this change -even one grain of sand will eventually set the whole mountain sliding. I now feel slowly ready to tackle this more in-depth then I've been able to do before. I'm still far from sure what road that will take me on, but this current adventure of ours is helping me to find it. Reading is inspiring – David Suzuki's “The Sacred Balance. Rediscovering our Place in Nature” is a jewel-, as is living more simply. Yes, I know, compared to a lot of people on this earth we still live a very luxurious life, but compared to where we come from, we've made some changes. We've noticed that it works quite well to live together in a small space. We life happily with less: less clothes, less “toys”, less multiples of “stuff” (shoes are still a sore point, but even that collection is rather small these days)... We are very aware of how we use energy and water – did you know that a citizen of an advanced industrialized nation in six months the amount of energy consumes that has to last the citizen of a developing country his entire life? Tie this to the fact that fossil fuels are a finite, a one-time gift from the ancient life of our planet- can't ignore that. Because we live on water, it's bringing us very close to this sacred source of all -including ourselves- and inevitable very close to nature. We feel clearly we are very much just a small part of a greater web of life. This is an experience that will help us decide how to alter the way we live. It is showing our children that there is a way to live life with more awareness. This is something that has been close to my heart as long as I can remember: being able to teach and show children that there is more to life than I knew at that age. And more than anything trying to preserve that intuitive knowledge of the interdependence of all things.
I'm excited about being able to explore so many more thoughts, write so many more words and, to paraphrase Umberto Ecco in “Kant and the Platypus”, and not write so many, simply because my ideas are not clear in that regard, and enjoy so many more experiences during our upcoming sail to and stay in New Caledonia. Yes, we are going on another several day passage. I've worked on easing the unease by lots of visualization and by re-establishing why we went on this adventure in the first place. After hanging around in the Sydney area, with all its familiar aspects, it almost feels like we're just starting out again, with one big difference: we know ES a lot better and trust her a lot more. We understand the new living conditions AND the weather pattern a lot more in depth. My issues with fear of not having control over the situation have changed somewhat. They had played such a big part at the start of our trip because life was suddenly so removed from everything familiar, and especially the weather elements became to play such a great part in feeling safe. I was faced with a totally new situation. This is what I knew I needed. This was a situation we had created. It was time to grow more, to learn more, to be challenged. Well, I certainly am. The degree of this fear of the elements and the solitude and the being on our own without much availability for support was a surprise to me, however. I had set up one situation -the time-out from “daily life”- but of course the Universe had more to teach me than that.
Isn't it great, though, that the one thing one can always trust in is that everything in this world constantly changes? It forces us to evolve. Buddhists believe that change is inevitable, because all things are transitory. It is very difficult for humans, and especially we, “modern” ones, to modify who we are. One of the reasons being that as a race we feel we have already come so far. How much more can we possible evolve (and on top of that: how on earth are we ever going to find the time to do this), we ask ourselves. However, if we are deeply convinced of a truth, of something deep inside, we can change anything through the effort of our will, through the setting of our intention. That intention focussing on life circumstances, relationships, or illness. Not that this is easy to do. It is a struggle, a lot harder then one would even think possible. If I think back on this time last year ...! Un-plugging from our previous life and getting ready to go on this trip was incredibly hard, physically, mentally and emotionally. However, big changes like this can be realized. One lesson I cherish learning and will work on continuing to remember, is brilliantly illustrated in Isabel Allende's newest children's book “Kingdom of the Golden Dragon”. A young Buddhist monk, who is also a prince, is climbing a snowy mountain with his master and there they encounter many unstable areas and deep crevasses. The prince is becoming fearful of crossing yet another one when his master points out that “Fear is in the mind, like all other things. Our thoughts form what we believe to be reality.” The prince says: “My mind is creating a very deep crevasse, master.” To which the master replies: “And my mind is creating a very strong bridge”.