This time last year

maibara station

An early morning Shinkansen to Kyoto. The perfect cone of Fujiyama in the distance, a department store bento box, seasonal mochi.

 

grey fish

Shosei-en Garden:

“even the fish are a bit drab,” wrote a disappointed western tourist on tripadvisor, but i only read that afterwards; we came upon the temple gardens at random, biking kyoto in search of japan’s longest wooden building.

 

sanjusangen-do

And then, Japan’s longest wooden building. Inside, a reverent procession of silent tourists without cameras, and 1001 carved statues of Kannon, who represents mercy. A candle and thoughts for a friend at home whose 2014 was challenging.

 

sou sou district

Biking through narrow inner city streets. Stopped for shopping: unexpected new shoes, an artfully folded handbag, scraps of bright fabric.

 

toshikoshi-soba

Dinner at the train station: soba for a long life, or to let go of hardship. Edamame, pickles.

 

yasaka pagoda

Temple-hopping, taking silent, frozen back streets between crowded places.

 

new year selfies

To Kiyomizudera for the bell (“struck once for each of the 108 earthly desires believed to cause human suffering” – wikipedia), and countdown to midnight.

 

fortune frogs

an orange shrine

winter in gion

& then, on New Year’s Day, it snowed.

 

(More pictures from that trip).

For depression

greyscale

My dear old cranky friend, today I am grateful for you.

The way you are a scratchy blanket muting what’s too hard to face. A quiet cave; as much a retreat as a hiding place. As many buried treasures as monsters.

Your paradox: how you shut people away from one another, and you create intense connections between them in the tender places.

How you are a messenger, spitting & cursing your way through a critical missive that couldn’t be shared in polite company.

Your itinerant ways: how even when you move in without asking, track mud over the floors, eat all the good snacks, use the clean towels, fill every room with suffocating white smoke – eventually, eventually you leave again.

How you could have been worse.

 

(See also: this story)

Echoes from a quiet weekend

a marker

A proud kererū, “a bittersweet stretch”, no idea what the time is.
Reeds and lilies. Forest path meditation at botanists’ pace.
Literal sanctuary, original instructions, all the blessings of the ancestors.
Soundless – or speechless, rather, the rain and birds remind me.

 

sanctuary

“Always, though, the real reason I go on a retreat is to find out what I am retreating from within myself”
– Julie Leibrich, Sanctuary: the discovery of wonder.

&

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Rumi

 

skeleton leaf

How compassion can never be a technique, but must be experienced as a feeling.

& how there’s no point in ‘should have’, because whatever’s been was and you’re just arguing with life.

 

(Thanks to Aio Wira
& to Rachel Tobin
& to Julie Leibrich)

A taxonomy of personal failure

dislike

Necessary failures:

  • things you weren’t ready to let go of, that needed to be released,
  • things you were striving for, but didn’t need,
  • things that were going in the wrong direction, and couldn’t turn back,
  • those heartbreaking truths you didn’t feel ready to face,
  • things that needed to be broken apart before you could put them back together,
  • “if you intend to rise from the ashes, first you have to burn”,
  • life-saving failures.

If at first you don’t succeed; experimental failures:

  • failures on purpose, to test an assumption,
  • fast, frequent failures as a method of learning,
  • worthy efforts that nonetheless didn’t create results,
  • each of Edison’s “10,000 ways that won’t work”,
  • the beautiful long shots you were betting everything on,
  • the calculated risks that were worth it for the possibility of success,
  • the attempt that didn’t quite pan out, but might be worth another try.

Dumb failures:

  • lessons you’d already learned,
  • predictable defeats,
  • those things you never really wanted, that should have been on your to-don’t list,
  • patterns of failure that you don’t learn from,
  • the failure to trust your instincts; to accept your own wisdom.

The missed opportunity of failing to be fully present.

Surface failures that cover deeper failures:

  • dropping balls because you’re too busy, because you overcommitted, because you forgot to take your own needs seriously,
  • miscommunication that talks past a deeper conflict that has never been resolved,
  • failing by default through not really trying, because of fearing failure.

& those things that can feel like failures, but aren’t:

  • imperfect offerings that are good enough for now,
  • awkwardness that is human and charming,
  • a heart that’s too wide open.

 

(For my friends at Fail Club. A work in progress.)

Ten things I have been learning, lately

love you

  1. Every puzzle is more possible to solve than it first appears. There are always tools, tricks, allies, new approaches.
  2. The extent to which my level of introversion depends on the environment I find myself in. Surrounded by smart, interesting people, I can be as energised and engaged as a proper extrovert.
  3. That no-one else has all the answers, either.
  4. A useful metaphor about procrastination and attention that is helping me change my relationship to work. One of the monkey’s most useful insights: the importance of play and anticipation.
  5. How if something is meant to happen, it probably will eventually. At the same time, if it’s within your control to make it happen, you are never going to ‘feel like it’, so you may as well do it now. (Related: the art of self-administering a compassionate kick in the pants).
  6. Positive deviance: maybe just a particular kind of ‘strengths-based approach’ – the idea of solving problems within communities by looking for examples of people who have already solved the problem, and working out how to share their knowledge.
  7. The critical importance of storytelling: to make change, to build connection and to be heard.
  8. That some time in the last couple of decades, ‘catalyst’ became a strategic planning cliché. Which is a shame, because scientifically speaking, it’s a perfect metaphor for certain kinds of aspiration. A catalyst is small, almost nothing, but is exactly what’s needed to change everything.
  9. The value of workplace ritual: ordering, setting intention, making things happen. Post-it notes as spiritual mechanism.
  10. “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.” – Joseph Campbell.

Thanks Marianne Elliott, whose writing inspired this post.

Hello again, world

Heraclitus quote on a piece of Melbourne street art that resembles an official street sign

You can never step into the same river twice, said Heraclitus.

All things flow: the river might have the same name but it’s made of different water; you grow and change so that you’re not the same person who took that first step.

It’s been almost fifteen years since I puzzled out HTML and built my first website on Chickpages, a pop-feminist clone of Geocities which the internet has so thoroughly forgotten that it doesn’t warrant a Wikipedia entry.

Years have smoothed some edges, sharpened others, and carved me into a thirty-something version of myself who has collected new ways of thinking, and found different things to say. Teenage Moira Clunie might have recognised this person, but could not have imagined its existence.

And this big information stream (remember when it was a superhighway?) has grown to a river, shifted course, washed away old assumptions about the ways things needed to be. It’s a prominent part of our landscape now, not the obscure little brook that geeks and misfits once waded through.

So: here is another website. I have a lot of opinions, and I wanted somewhere to share them with the world. Hello, again.