30 December 2010

Reflecting on Times and Places

Whenever a new year approaches, I know that I need to spend some more time reflecting on the one that is passing, and those that have gone before.  Do you have a similar need?

Perhaps you do not feel that such reflection is a need at all.  Why do we think differently on the subject?

The above questions are ones you may wish to answer in relation to my By Any Other Name blog.  How often do you pursue a respectful exploration of identity?

When reflecting on times and places, and even identities, have you ever thought about how much the world has changed since your grandparents were born - and about what has not changed?

Here are some years to compare (with the help of Wikipedia):

1906  1909  1910  1911  1915  2009  2010

My maternal grandparents were both born in 1906.  My paternal grandparents were born 1909 and 1915.  None of my grandparents will experience 2011.  And none of us alive today yet know if we will experience that year, either.  I hope you think of this fact in terms of facing reality rather than being pessimistic!

My maternal grandparents, Harry and Dorothy, were both born in 1906, the same year as the following:

In political and intellectual life:  A.J.P. Taylor, Hannah Arendt, Leonid Brezhnev

Louise Brooks

My paternal grandfather, George, was born in 1909, the same year as the following:

In political and intellectual life:  Isaiah Berlin, C. Northcote Parkinson, Andrei Gromyko, Simone Weil

My paternal grandmother, Vera, was born in 1915, the same year as the following:

In political and intellectual life: John Profumo, Augosto Pinochet, Yitzhak Shamir

Here are some of my earlier Continual Journeys blog posts that you may wish to think about:

Here are some more of my Continual Journeys blog posts to think about:

A great deal has happened in the world, and in my own life, since I started blogging at the beginning of 2009.  What has been happening in your life?  Have you been reflecting upon what has happened and how it may have changed your outlook on life itself?

You may have noticed that I am ending my second year of blogging with a very long blog post.  This itself is part of my process of reflection.  If you have visited any of my previous blog posts, you will probably have found them to be much shorter than this one.

Here are a few more to visit:

Perhaps you find that my blogs take you on a journey of self discovery.  If you believe you need a more conducive environment for such a journey to take place, how would you describe that environment, and where might it be found?  Could it be a retreat of some sort?

A few more of my blog posts:

And some more...

A retreat can be a place for abstractions, without distractions.  How do you relate to abstractions?  Have you looked up the word on Wikipedia?

16 December 2010

Always with Me

No matter where I might be or what I may be experiencing, my ancestors are always with me.  Over the past few years, I have been developing a deeper relationship with them through explorations of family history.  You may be interested in visiting my Ancestors Within blog on this subject.

In the past few days, one more of my relatives has become an ancestor - my paternal grandmother, who was known to the world as Vera.  Even though she lived on the other side of the planet from me for the last twenty years or so, I have always felt her presence in my life.  Whenever we met again, on my visits to England, or whenever we chatted on the telephone, my grandmother was always cheerful, with a lively mind.

Vera (1915-2010)

Even on the day before she died, Vera was doing crossword puzzles.  That is something to admire in someone who reaches the age of 95.  She liked to do a crossword puzzle every day, and to watch quiz shows on television.  After a recent fall, though, many of Vera's daily routines, and her desire for continuing independence, were put to the test.

Vera loved being by the sea at Shell Island in North Wales, where the above picture was taken in 2000.  She loved a cup of tea, and watching football.  In her earlier years her team was Arsenal, probably because she lived just down the road from its ground.  She met her husband George at a dance in Devon and found out that he liked Arsenal, too.  That blossomed into a romance soon afterwards.

Growing older is a challenge for many of us.  For Vera, though, home games of Manchester United were a regular feature of her life until quite recently.  She said in 2005 that she was getting too old to go any more because whenever her team scored a goal, everyone around her would stand up.  By the time she managed to stand up, everyone else would be sitting down again.

Via and Vera, 1994

I was Vera's first grandchild.  I was the first grandchild for all four of my grandparents, none of whom were particularly religious or dogmatic in any way.  A few days ago, though, my grandmother was singing Abide with Me.  After being told that by my mother, I wondered why.  Not being a follower of a religion myself, and not being a follower of football either, I found out that the hymn is sung at FA Cup Finals.  It will be played at my grandmother's funeral.

The last time I was at a family funeral was in 1978, for Vera's husband George.  When my grandfather Harry's funeral took place, I was on a plane to Australia for the first time.  When my grandmother Dorothy died, I was in the middle of my university studies in Australia.  Dorothy had dementia, but Vera was lucky to avoid that fate.  The hymn my mother chose for her mother's funeral was the traditional English version of All Things Bright and Beautiful.

Vera as a baby

Life takes us all to the same destination at its end, whatever our beliefs about that end might be.  Vera was fortunate to have a very long journey and a relatively peaceful end.  There are many who are not so fortunate.

After George died, Vera travelled to world.  She visited relatives in Canada and then explored such places as Morocco, Egypt, and India.  Perhaps my desire to travel was inherited from her.

I will not be able to attend Vera's funeral but I plan to be at a memorial ceremony for her on Shell Island, on a sunny day in June 2011.  She always preferred warm weather to snow and ice, just like me.

Here are some YouTube videos to reflect upon:

Vera was a longtime fan of Bruce Forsyth - something from the 1970s here

Vera's hymn - Abide with Me - Sung by Harry Seacombe

Dorothy's hymn - All Things Bright and Beautiful

13 November 2010

Finding Silence

Finding silence within ourselves can mean slowing down and taking the time just to be aware of being. This process can be a holiday itself. It can be part of a journey of self-discovery.

With the recent commemorations on Remembrance Day around the world, you may have taken part in a communal Moment of Silence. Such moments are usually a way to remember grief, loss and suffering.

While it is important to show respect through silence in such moments, it is also important to develop ways to show respect for the joy and beauty and wonderment of living, also through the use of silence.

I frequently explore the cultural aspects of sound, silence, peace, noise, quietness and calmness, though even that requires me to rest more deeply from time to time. It means that I sometimes take a break from writing this blog to devote my time to Quieter Living.

How, and where, do you find silence?

08 October 2010

Your Amazing Journey Into Existence

For many people who have the good fortune to use the internet in productive and purposeful ways, there are opportunities to access many different online archives and search tools.  We can, with patience and persistence, even piece together the richness of how our own lives came into being, accumulating more and more intrinsic cultural wealth along the way.

Do you know much about your amazing journey into existence? Some of that story may have been lost over the years as members of earlier generations discarded the "old and worthless" pieces of paper that a future relative, such as yourself, may have truly valued.

Some of the documents and other "sentimental" items of value to us may have been lost over the years when family members quarreled, refused to communicate for various reasons, tried to hide unpleasant facts from each other, and perhaps even destroyed photographs, diaries, stories, needlework and other treasures, often out of ignorance rather than spite.

Items may be lost through the mist of ignorance, anger, or mistrust, yet the heritage for future generations from unique documentary records is priceless. Whether just within families, or within the wider community, our sense of meaning and purpose in life can be enriched by an awareness of our own unique journeys into existence, otherwise known as our family history.

Perhaps your relatives over the centuries discarded a portrait of similar worth to posterity as the Mona Lisa. You may have had an aunt or uncle who threw away a great grandparent's diary, merely because it was written in a language no-one in the family could understand. Do you sometimes wonder if that diary may have had a similar historic and cultural significance to the one by Samuel Pepys?

Read Pepys' Diary

Recently, I was told of two women who thought they were helping their frail, elderly mother to "tidy up". Their idea of the task was certainly very different from my own. They threw away all sorts of old documents accumulated over the years, including a very old and "worthless" calendar containing the dates of births and deaths of several generations of the family. In my view, that is a tragedy!

The women who disposed of their own family history were certainly not illiterate or ill intentioned. They just could not see the value (at least to themselves) in what they viewed as unnecessary clutter.

Their mother had arrived in Australia as a refugee from Hungary after the Second World War and the "clutter" reminded her of far more than the sufferings of the past - the yet unwritten story contained within those items was part of who she was as a person. Her carefully kept treasures had disappeared in an instant, all in the name of "tidying up".

Perhaps many people have little desire to "cling to the past". Yet to me, family history is not really about the past. It is about the present and the future. It takes us to a deeper level of meaning in our lives, and in our relationships with others, especially when many aspects of the world around us can often seem alienating, trivial, uncertain, confusing and even oppressive.

What, for example, can we learn about the world of today from the works of Giotto? The above picture, painted in a fresco in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (Padova), Italy around the year 1305, may tell you something about how you view the world, and how you see yourself.

Official website of the Cappella degli Scrovegni
(also known as the Arena Chapel)

We can gain new perspectives on what is important in our lives by comparing ourselves with those whose footsteps and choices brought us physically into the world, and by comparing ourselves with the "cultural ancestors" who produced and preserved the best of our global inheritance and world heritage. You may even see your own life as a work of art. Where do you find inspiration? Where do you find your identity?

06 October 2010

The Road to Recovery

Being healthy is often a prerequisite for travel, though some people travel to engage in some very unhealthy pursuits while others travel to seek medical assistance.  Travel can be dangerous, or it can be a route to safety.

I am currently travelling on the Road to Recovery. It is the most important journey I have scheduled at present, having been unable to plan anything more adventurous over the past year because of illness.

My good fortune is two-fold, however. Firstly, I did not suffer ill health during my extended research trip in Europe last year. Secondly, my recent surgery was a complete success and I am likely to be "back to normal" quite soon.

The services of a public hospital near my home have given me the chance to convalesce in my own surroundings, without going into debt. This certainly makes it easier to recuperate, especially after the psychological challenges and uncertainties of my recent condition and experiences.

There are quite a few similarities between travelling and being ill. In both, the idea of normality is frequently challenged, and both can be an unpredictable adventure.

The ability to recover both emotional equilibrium and physical homeostasis are to be appreciated and even celebrated. I have been given the opportunity to continue my journey through life in a relatively robust state of health, physically and financially. My convalescence is a time I hope to use wisely and well, however long the Road to Recovery may be.

05 June 2010

The Spice of Life

Variety's the very spice of life, 
That gives it all its flavour.

William Cowper The Task 1785

I am quoting William Cowper today, instead of William Shakespeare. As with By Any Other Name, my Shakespearean-titled blog about identity, I will be taking a break from writing Continual Journeys for a while, the reason being that there is so much variety in my life at present and I really want a quieter life.

My writings will continue on Quieter Living and Ancestors Within. On all four of my blogs, your comments will still be truly welcome and appreciated. I would love to hear from you.

You may also wish to contact me by email: writetovia (AT) gmail.com for a more private form of correspondence. And if you have been following Continual Journeys or By Any Other Name, you may wish to do the same with one or both of the others to keep updated.

The spice of my life

My creative journeys are tremendously absorbing at present. My artistic projects and writing pursuits require far more hours each day than are available to me. My research continues apace. My mind is filled with ideas. Life is opening up new opportunities and it is difficult to make choices. So, join me on Quieter Living if you would like to know more.

Another reason for the title of today's blog post is that it relates to something I hope to write about in more detail on my Ancestors Within blog over the coming weeks, namely the role of spices in my own heritage. Do you know much about their role in yours?

My husband's heritage also has a connection with the spice trade, especially his and its association with the Venetian Republic. World trade had its basis in the spice trade for a very long time. It was the source of our now "globalized" existence.

Even if other activities have now overtaken spice at the centre of world trade, we are all affected by the financial and commercial activities of others, however indirectly. Perhaps if all businesses were run on the principles of social enterprise, we might not have any financial crises in the future.

Affording spices

I have been fortunate. The investment strategies of the angel one (my husband) and I always err on the side of caution. This probably places us as more trustworthy financial commentators than anyone whose wealth has been depleted over the past few years. Perhaps we are even more trustworthy than those financial experts who may still have far more wealth than I am ever likely to possess in my lifetime, even after their loses.

What are the "spices" in your life? Today, it is not expensive to buy most spices. What is rare and wonderful today and difficult to purchase without great wealth? In my view, many people in the "advanced" economies of the world live in more material comfort than even the richest Renaissance Merchant of Venice (A Shakespearean connection this time, not a Cowper one!).

So, with variety being the spice of my life, as long as it is achieved with caution, I know how I will approach to the future.

 Now I will switch off this computer for a while and have some quiet time in my debt-free, simple way.

I hope your various continual journeys will be wonderful.

04 June 2010

Moving Onwards

My travels have taken me to many parts of the world.  The only way I can make a difference, to assist just a few people in need, is to be in tune with where I am now and live a simple life. Do you do the same?

I am not sure if the woman above, in my African picture from 1994, saw herself as rich or poor, or happy or unhappy. I wonder how she is today? How are her family? What might their lives be like?

I wonder how much more traffic congestion there is on the streets of India since I took the above picture in 1985. Does Jaipur still have charm (something I would not like to see changed)? Is there still the mixture of poverty and opulence that I witnessed (something I would like to see changed)?

How much has changed for the better or for worse in Iran since I was there in 1985? What hopes for the future might this woman have had? Perhaps her children and grandchildren are contented with their lives today. Who am I to know one way or the other?

The two little boys in my picture above, taken in Nepal also in 1985, may be adults now but there is a possibility they have not survived. It is something I will probably never know. Were they happy and successful in school? Did their parents have the means to support them adequately? Perhaps they now have children of their own.

And what of the people of Pakistan? They were certainly mostly very pleasant to me in 1985. Would they be the same now if I travelled from Iran to India through their country in the months ahead, just as I did in the 1980s?

I wish transport companies in Australia would have the artistic inclinations of Pakistani truck owners. I am not sure if the people of Pakistan still make their vehicles into works of art. Do you?

In contrast to my explorations of southern Africa, on the back of a truck in 1994, I also travelled in style across Switzerland only a few weeks later. I love cruising on the beautiful turquoise waters of the lakes, looking up at the mountains and enjoying the architectural treasures of the country. I had a first-class pass for the boats and trains.

There is probably quite a lot of poverty and despair in Switzerland, even with its reputation as a financial centre. I climbed some steps in Bern in 1994 and found my way partly blocked by a couple of heroin addicts who were injecting themselves.

I also felt uneasy around the railway stations in some of the larger Swiss towns. Would I feel more comfortable in Switzerland today?

Even in Australia, my home, I can still feel unsafe or uncomfortable at times. It is probably quite common to feel disillusioned or fearful when hearing the news media's headlines, or hearing a speeding driver nearby.

This picture, above, is of Mow Cop in England. It is a landmark that I think of as part of my own heritage, especially as it is one of the most interesting places I see near my mother's home when I return to England and when I leave. I took the above picture when I was returning to Australia in 2005, having just said goodbye to my mother, not knowing when I would next see her.

Mow Cop, in contrast to many other tourist attractions, began as a fake and became something of real worth. It started as a folly, built in the mid 1700s as a summerhouse for a wealthy landowner. It resembles the ruins of a non-existent medieval castle and now is genuinely worth visiting, even just for the views over the surrounding countryside.

Today, though, I must move onwards. But where to next? I really do like to stay quietly at home, here in the town of Dorothea. My journey will probably take me no further than the Internet for much of the time, as I shape and reshape my work as a writer, researcher and social entrepreneur.

I wonder how many people now spend their afternoons leisurely sipping wine in Piazza Navona in Rome. When I took the above picture in June 2007, I had no awareness that there was such a thing as a subprime mortgage. I am fortunate in that I have never lived in debt, nor travelled in debt.

Yet I don't know what the future holds. I try to live within my means. It is quite easy really to choose a simple life, at least it is for me.

As someone who has already travelled widely, and someone who has already had twenty wonderful years of married life, my aim is to give hope to others who are trying to overcome despair, difficult relationships and other challenges.

Perhaps you have a better understanding of the world than I do. I hope you do...

15 May 2010

The Bigger Picture

One of the reasons to travel is to overcome feelings of parochialism and provincialism.  Even travelling within our own local region, interacting with people we would not normally meet, is a way to open our minds to different ways of living and thinking.

When I travel, I often feel overwhelmed by my own ignorance.

This blog post is called "The Bigger Picture" for a reason.

This blog is called "Continual Journeys" for a reason.

What are my reasons? Why am I writing this blog?

It is something I will leave for you to ponder.

How do you describe the bigger picture?

07 May 2010

The Origins of Art

Have you ever thought about the journeys of people whose travels were experienced long ago?  How did your prehistoric ancestors relate to life in the universe? How similar to our yown thoughts might theirs have been?

The best way to gain an insight into the thoughts of prehistoric people is probably through their art and artifacts:

When I look at the beautiful art and architecture of pre-literate cultures, I often wonder if we humans have advanced very far at all. Perhaps we have even gone backwards instead!

22 April 2010

Remembering Icarus

For anyone whose travel plans have been in disarray in recent days, the story of Icarus is one that may come to mind.

Icarus on Wikipedia

Safe flying is something we humans may have come to take for granted in our instant 21st century world. Fast food and fast travel are creations we demand to make our ambitions a reality.

The first successful human flight took place in 1783, a year when an Icelandic volcano changed the course of history.

As a well informed traveller, you will by now be aware of at least something of the history of Icelandic volcanoes. I have never been to Iceland but I have been in volcanic regions elsewhere.

Here is a link to one of my Quieter Living blog posts, mentioning one of my experiences near a volcano in South America.

I almost experienced a volcanic eruption at Mount Ruapehu during a snowy afternoon in New Zealand in 1994. On our way to the volcano, a driver coming the other way stopped our rented campervan and suggested we turned back. My husband and I accepted his advice - the other driver was a vulcanologist.

12 April 2010

The Inner World

Many people travel just to be able to say afterwards that they have been to a particular place. Such motivations appear to be based on a desire for status rather than understanding.

Travelling to satisfy curiosity is the first step towards understanding. While we can find out a huge amount of information online, and avoid crowds in the process, we may also enrich our lives by travelling inward. This starts with an awareness of the body and mind, especially the brain.

My travels around the world have been challenging and sometimes dangerous yet I have survived to enjoy the processes happening now in my brain, my body and here in my home environment.

I am especially interested in the inner worlds of people who are highly sensitive, like me. If you are a sensitive and intelligent person, you may find this link uplifting and inspiring: Dabrowski.

10 March 2010

A Rural Retreat and Something to Eat

With more and more of the world's ever-expanding population of humans cramming themselves into cities, we are gradually either gobbling up or wasting all our food.

The Long Man of Wilmington (shown in my photograph above from May 2005) is situated on a steep, eroded hillside in the south of England. Like many other such mysterious figures in English landscapes, theories abound about its possible agricultural significance.

My picture above of Ollantaytambo in Peru (taken in January 1987) reveals some of the town's Inca features. I was particularly impressed by the irrigation channels in the streets and the huge agricultural terraces above the town. The Incas of Ollantaytambo knew the value of their food, growing it within a formidable fortress.

The distinguished Pakistani gentleman above (in my photograph of November 1985) may be a descendant of the ancient Indus Civilization. The landscape around his home was rather parched during my visit, however.

Perhaps water will be more of a political issue than oil in the future, all around the world.

For most of 1988, I was working near Euston Railway Station in London, England. A few months later, I was travelling through Euston in New South Wales, Australia (my picture above of January 1989). The Australian Euston is very different from the English one.

I was surprised by the flatness of the Australian agricultural landscape, the lack of traffic, and the lack of evidence of much food growing near the main road. Perhaps I was more interested, at the time, in enjoying the peace and wide horizons, rather than thinking about the local and global economy.

Yet now I think of the water politics in Australia, especially as I rely on the same river for my survival as the one irrigating crops for export. Should water from the semi-deserts of Australia be exported so that more Australians can buy imported flat screen televisions?

Perhaps the woman in the picture above would not have experienced many problems with drought. I met her while I was exploring the lush landscapes of Indonesia in 1990. The bananas plants were grown in the highly fertile volcanic soils on Mount Merapi.

With droughts, fires, floods, earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, soil erosion, urban expansion, oil depletion, water pollution, population pressures, and interpersonal injustices, I at least try to make my modest suburban home and garden into a "rural" retreat. I even attempt to grow some of my own food.

And I truly appreciate having something delicious and nutritious to eat.

26 February 2010

Excursions To Scientia

The American author Ernest Hemingway once said: "Never go on trips with anyone you do not love".

It is important to recognise, however, that there are several types of love and that some trips are better when the relationship is based on one sort of love rather than another.

In 1988, I took a trip alone to the west of Ireland. It was the first time I had travelled very far without being on a guided tour. On the left is a picture of a sign post that greeted me as I set off on a hired bicycle one morning. Fortunately, I met many friendly locals along the way who helped to point me in the right direction.

In my view, friendship is the best sort of love for most travels, but what does friendship mean? The philosopher Aristotle called friendship "philia". The English word philosophy begins with the ancient Greek word for friendship, so philosophy really means being friendly to wisdom.

So, how do you know if you are friendly to wisdom, or even just friendly? How do you know anything? Perhaps the Latin word "scientia" may be just as useful here as the Greek word "philia".

You may know that "scientia" means knowledge. It is the origin of the word science. Have you been on any friendly excursions to Scientia recently?

06 February 2010

Love, Loss, Life and Nostalgia

There are few experiences more unpleasant than unrequited love, except for the permanent loss of someone we truly know and love. I am not the sort of person to celebrate Valentine's Day.  It seems to me to have more to do with purchasing products than expressing genuine love.

Although we have been married for over twenty years now, my husband (the angel one) and I live life as if we are still on our honeymoon, every day. He cooked a lovely, very romantic lunch for the two of us today. It does not matter what the calendar says - every day is a day for genuine love.

Thinking about genuine love

Valentine's Day can be a very painful experience for many people, especially those who are single, feeling lonely and perhaps even have their birthday on that day. Have you ever tried to book a restaurant table for a family birthday gathering on 14 February?  Most tables on that day are reserved for (temporary or permanent) couples.

Is Valentine's Day a time of nostalgia for you, or a time for thinking about loss or love, or even loneliness?  Is it an important day in your family for something other than romance?  Do you ever travel in search of love?

01 February 2010

Singing, Dancing and Travelling

I wish I could sing. Some days, I sing better than at other times. Most of the time, though, my singing is unworthy of any audience.

Even rainbow lorikeets, galahs and sulphur-crested cockatoos fly away when I try to communicate with them in my own similar squawks.

This youtube video might give you an indication of my singing:

My dancing is probably worse than my singing. I tried ballet as a four year old but did not want any more lessons after accidentally tripping over another little girl in the class.

My next attempt at dance training was in my early 20s. I was asked to leave the class after just a few weeks when my conduct was considered disruptive. The main problem with my behaviour was that I could not look at myself in the large mirror in the dance studio without laughing at what I saw.

Innate talents and misguided hopes

Perhaps my lack of talent in the realms of singing and dancing are enough reason for my pursuit of other activities. It may be why travelling seemed like a much better use of my time in my twenties, rather than attempting to become any sort of performer, especially on a regular, disciplined basis.

After I finished university, in my mid thirties, I thought I might have enjoyed being an opera singer, but then reality set in quite quickly when I compared my voice to those on great recordings. My innate talent may be lacking but I do gain enjoyment of the sound of my singing efforts when I am in the shower. There are no misguided hopes in that sphere, especially when my husband shuts several doors between him and the sound I am making.

Fitting into old clothes and feeling fit

Now, I think I may take up dancing again, but not in a misguided way. Having successfully lost some unwanted weight, I look forward to opening an old suitcase full of the clothes I enjoyed wearing before my waistline expanded.

Having eaten too many cakes in England and too many large dinners and ice creams in Italy last year, dancing around my living room between reading and writing seem like a good use of my spare time. I will continue to do my yoga style stretches in the warmth and comfort of my bed each morning after my husband has gone to work. That has been the usual extent of my fitness regime. And please don't expect me to get up any earlier in the mornings!

Exercise in comfort

Most forms of exercise do not appeal to me as I am not a competitive sort of person and I prefer being at home alone while I dance rather than make a fool of myself again in public. A regular exercise routine does not appeal to me either as I do not like a rigid schedule or a feeling of guilt when I am not feeling in the mood for a particular activity. I like my comfort too much to wish to endure anything voluntarily unpleasant.

Although I do most of the strenuous housework myself, and try to weed the garden whenever my surroundings become too much like a jungle, dancing is a more aesthetic response to my physical place in the universe. I have decided to use medieval music as its rhythms appeal to me more than most modern forms. I don't know why.  You will not find any videos of my performances on youtube though!

If you have visited my Quieter Living blog today, you will have seen my ideas there about aesthetics. I at least know that my own dancing might not be very beautiful, especially as I am not talented enough to perform for others, except perhaps in a comedic context (as with my singing).

21 January 2010

Searching for Meaning

One of the most thoughtful reasons to travel is to find a deeper meaning to life. It is one of the reasons why I travel.  Even before I left school, I had a range of menial jobs to provide myself with at least the beginnings of economic independence.  I was a conscientious school student, too, and felt that my studies were the only route to happiness, and meaningfulness.

Without qualifications, where and what would a person be? What freedom would they have?  Would opportunities for a satisfying life exist at all without a few certificates to prove my worth? How else could I escape the bleak, damp confines of one of the most remote corners of Britain?

After a great deal of effort and uncertainty, I prevented myself from becoming yet another unemployment statistic in the early 1980s.  As I sit here today, thankful for the journey of my life and glad I am able to write this down, I no longer need to search for meaning.  My Quieter Living blog may explain why.

When I visited Athens in 1994, I knew very little about ancient philosophy. The Acropolis was swarming with tourists.  The marble below my feet was very slippery and the sun above me was very fierce. There was scaffolding and even a crane there and it felt more like a building site than the birthplace of the Western mindset.

Our tour guide had an accent that was difficult for me to understand, as were her probably very knowledgeable explanations. She had written books about Ancient Greece. I did not even know who Plato was. Whenever I saw the word Plato written down, I thought it was pronounced plarto, not play toe.

Now I have a teddy bear called Plato. My teddy bear seems more real to me than the philosopher Plato, though the philosopher may have thought otherwise during his lifetime.

Here are a few links you may find interesting:

A month or two earlier, I had been in Zimbabwe and Botswana. I enjoyed learning about the traditional beliefs and symbolism of the people, and about the different tribal groups. Many of the conflicts in Africa, Asia, Europe and elsewhere are due to cultural differences between people.

Here are some Wikipedia articles you may find interesting:

Mysteries are an enchanting aspect of travel. Here I am (above) in 1986 in Macchu Picchu, long after the Inca civilization was destroyed by the conquistadors. We are fortunate that the Spanish invaders never found Machu Picchu, although the diseases they carried quite likely wiped out the population. Destruction has often been a side effect of travel, especially by those seeking wealth.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, much of my monetary wealth is used up when I travel. Yet the wealth of my memories, knowledge and experience accumulates year by year. Do you search for meaning in mysteries, or do you prefer to find meaning in money?

Many people look for meaning through a religious group, though I am not one of them.  Above is a picture I took in the year 2000 in Paris. It is of a warm spring evening on one of the quieter bridges over the Seine.

Notre Dame de Paris can make us wonder about meaning, not just for ourselves but about the people who built the cathedrals of Europe. I have always found the dogma of religions quite oppressive though I do like to sit quietly to contemplate and meditate, as my peaceful, Quieter Living blog might suggest.

It can be difficult to contemplate anything while sitting or standing amongst crowds of tourists. How and where do you find meaning?

In 1990s, I visited Borobudur in Indonesia. I had some very interesting experiences there, interacting with the local people and Asian tourists.

My husband and I were on our belated honeymoon and had booked on a day tour to Borobudur from Yogyakarta. We were the only passengers on the minibus tour that day so we had the services of the guide and driver to ourselves. We had also bought some new clothes the previous day so we wore them for our trip. We probably looked rather more tidy than many other Western tourists.

For some reason, the people we met at Borobudur treated us like VIPs. We had already travelled through Bali and the eastern half of Java and had never been treated as we were that day. It is another of those mysteries I am yet to solve, though perhaps it was because we did not look like scruffy tourists.

Both Machu Picchu and Borobudur were hidden from human knowledge for many years. Both are on a similar latitude in the southern hemisphere. The traditional track up to Machu Picchu was one of the first climbs I did with the person who became my husband. We climbed Borobodur together on our honeymoon.

In 1994, while visiting Zimbabwe, we visited the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. There is something that those ruins, the ruins on the Acropolis, the ruins of Machu Picchu, the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, and the ruins of Borobudur all have in common. Do you know what it is?

The pyramids of Egypt have something in common with all of these places too. I have never been to Egypt but my paternal grandmother has been there and has seen the pyramids.

In our marriage, we continue to climb towards greater understanding as we try to interpret each other's meanings.

06 January 2010

Reflecting on the Past

It is summer here in the town of Dorothea. It is the time when I most like staying home.

A new year has begun and there is so much that I want to do in the weeks ahead. I am a warm weather person so my energy levels are higher when I don't need to wrap myself up in too many layers of clothing.

So far this year, I do not have a trip planned. I still have to write up most of my findings from the last one!

If you have a journey ahead of you, I hope these links to some of my Quieter Living blog posts may be useful:

So this is the beginning of another year of Continual Journeys...