Friday 19 January 2024

Getting to know you

 Since we moved into our new house near the river, I have been taking walks in the morning or evening to get to know the area. I am getting to know some of the familiar sights: the neighbour who puts out a bowl of homegrown cucumbers for passersby to take, the driveway decorated with chalk drawings by local children, the people catching crabs in the river. Even some of the dogs taking their owners for walks are becoming recognizable. I am getting to know this place, its characteristics and the other creatures who call it home.

Last week, as I walked by the river, I found myself asking a strange question. Is this place starting to get to know me? Is it possible for a place to know you? Certainly the people and the other creatures have this capacity, but what about the trees, the river, the rocks? 

I took this photo of myself down by the river last week and, afterwards, realised the shirt I was wearing. I bought it at the Coldplay concert last year. The message, 'Everyone is an alien somewhere', had a certain appeal and truth that saw me wanting to add it to my wardrobe. I felt like an alien in this foreign place. No one had caused me to feel this way. It was simply unfamiliar and unknown.

I can't explain how, but I feel that this place is beginning to embrace me and include me as part of the ecosystem. Each day as I walk I feel less alien-like and more at home. It has been important for me to get to know this land and this waterway, but I feel the country is also getting to know me. As I take time and notice my surroundings, the paths I walk are inviting me to engage more. 

I have entered into a relationship with this place which is still young and fresh. I am no longer an alien in this place.

Friday 5 January 2024

2024 Word of the Year - Flow

 In the last few weeks Guy and I have been in a time of great transition. In early December we packed up our home in Margaret River, helped our adult children move their belongings into their own spaces (they are staying in Margaret River), and moved to the big city, Perth. This brought with it many mixed feelings. I have not been sure about moving back to the city, the faster pace, the traffic, the noise... We are now living in a church house in a part of the city unfamiliar to both of us. We now live a short walk from Derbal Yerrigan (also known as the Swan River). 

When we last lived in Perth we were close to the beach, living near the river is quite foreign. What does it mean to live by the river? How will the river speak into our lives as we dwell so close? These questions came alive again in the last week as we took a few days holiday in Singapore. We have enjoyed visiting Singapore before, but on previous holidays always stayed in a popular shopping area. This time we tried a different area close to the river. I found walking, dining and sitting by the river delightful. Watching life pass by on the water or along its banks, staying alert for signs of wildllife, and observing how the shifting weather changed the moods of the river had the potential to while away many hours.

This experience and the location of our new home had me thinking about Mechthild of Magdeburg, one of the beguines I spent a few years studying in my PhD. Mechthild grew up by the River Elbe in Germany. She would have become accustomed to the seasons, currents and movements of the river. So much so, that when she talked of her relationship with God one of the prominent images is flowing. Living in the flow of God's love is integral to Mechthild's writing.

"Daily I offer you whatever I have:

Nothing but baseness.

And you, Lord, shall infuse me with your grace.

Then I can flow from your love."

Flowing Light of the Godhead, Book V, 20.

I spent a number of hours trying to grasp exactly what Mechthild meant by being in the flow of God. And so, now I have the opportunity to experience a little of what she saw. It is a different river, on a different continent, in a different century. Perhaps as I notice the ebb and flow, the stillness and the turmoil, the way people connect with the water, the way I come to know it more intimately - the river will be my teacher.

In the past my words of the year have had an associated goal, a longing for change or growth. This year is different. In adopting the word "flow" I am inviting myself into a year of discovery, a year of noticing, a year of being attentive to the country I live upon. I want to listen to the stories of First Nations Peoples of this land and its waters. I want to take time on the river's bank and not just speed past as many do along the adjacent freeway. There is no goal, just an invitation.

Happy new year to you all!