Means different things to different people......here is my version...........
I have struggled throughout my life to find space where I feel authentic and where things are real. Within the mundane complexity of jobs, relationships, family, friends and daily life there are so many unsaid expectations and conflicting priorities that it is easy to lose perspective and clarity. In modern life, the gap between the origin of our basic needs (water, food, shelter and love), and how we obtain them has widened to such a degree that we are often unaware of this schism, and do not see it as a reason why we feel dissatisfied, restless and unfulfilled. As I have grown older I realise that I find authenticity in nature and the present moment. Both link back to a very basic reality, a simple grounding connection to the earth......to the origin of all our basic needs and most of what we know and experience.
In this connection the schism closes, life makes sense and a couple of fundamental, inescapable realities become apparent. For me, the most acute is impermanence, an awareness of perpetual change, an infinitely diverse, moving, shifting array of lifeforms, growing, living, dying; change driven through space and time, by interactions operating along infinite scales in all directions and dimensions to form a tune.
The perpetual song of life is unpredictable, precious, and very beautiful with a complexity that ensures it plays only once, never to repeat in the same way again. Within this song each life unfolds uniquely, a physical body, a mind and a spirit, which in unison create the thoughts and feelings which play out as actions and choices, bringing to bear the simple law of cause and effect.
Our actions, combined together form a course through time which crosses and influences the unique paths taken by a vast array of other living creatures. The ripple created at each of these intersections is felt within the song, changing the tune as it travels outward. Eventually, each ripple comes full circle, returning to touch us in some way as a natural consequence of our very own action. Cause and effect.
A search for reality has been a constant theme in my life. It is a source of great restlessness and occasional distress. I like to look beneath, to question, to identify assumptions and test perceptions to see how they hold up. I seem to be on some kind of quest to determine just what stands true, regardless of external circumstance.
At age 43 the above paragraphs pretty much sum it up for me, only three things..........the first, an awareness that everything changes all the time, the second, the knowledge that each action affects other lifeforms and thus carries a natural consequence and the third, an appreciation of an intense and subtle beauty, intrinsic to life in all forms.
Everything else generally feels like a house of cards or some kind of bizarre and occasionally amusing game. Challenging, sometimes fun, often not fun, and very often, not real. If I lose awareness and become over involved in the game, confusion and instability predictably arise, followed by an often desperate struggle to get back to the basics where things make sense.
When my daughter was born eighteen years ago, I had an intense desire to show her what I knew of nature, to have her experience the diversity of life, the intricate and beautiful complexity, and the subtle connections which drive the song. I wanted her to see it, but far more importantly I wanted her to feel it and in response to love and respect it. In many ways this wish was selfishly motivated, I wanted someone to share the experience with and see things the way I did.
From a very young age we took Soraya camping, we went to Dwellingup, the Goldfields, the Murchison and of course my childhood home, Kalli. On these trips we looked for bugs, frogs, tadpoles, birds nests and lizards to photograph. We found tracks and followed them or made plaster moulds as keepsakes. We collected bones and used a guide book to identify what animals they were from and wrote in journals to document our finds.
We rode around on motorbikes exploring breakaways and creeks, searched for waterholes and looked for marks from past aboriginal life and early white settlement. At night we cooked on a campfire and looked up at the moon and stars and memorised the constellations. We took night walks to look for geckos and find wolf spiders by the glint of their eye in the torch beam. We would go to the beach and collect shells and catch ctenophores in a bucket to watch them swim before letting them go. As Soraya grew older, we took her overseas, to the Maldives to stay with Mariyam our wonderful friend, to Thailand, to Malta, to Libya. On these trips we wandered the streets, ate local food and and as much as possible met local people and got out into the wilderness and far away from tourist thoroughfares. Soraya thrived on these experiences. Having a young child with us was never a problem. People loved her and she got to meet wonderful characters from many different nationalities and see a diverse array of circumstances, most not as fortunate as ours.
As a young child, it was apparent that Soraya had a close affinity to nature and a natural kindness to others. She displayed empathy and wisdom beyond her years along with an inquisitive intelligent mind that grew in complexity with age. With natural insight she was able to recognise the subtleties in life and appreciate the unspoken layers of intricacy. Soraya is now eighteen and has finished school and completed her first year of university. In the past few years she has travelled on her own to Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand as well as completing many voyages on the Leeuwin II as part of the volunteer crew.
Soraya's life has not been simple. Her Dad and I divorced when she was six and both of us have since re-married. So, she found herself with two Mums and two Dads, two very different households and numerous sets of grandparents. There have been many many people with extremely diverse personalities involved in her upbringing. As mother and daughter we get on incredibly well and communicate easily on many levels, often without words. I am extremely proud of my daughter, she is kind and strong, wise and empathic and driven to leave a positive mark on the world.
Like me, Soraya finds solace in nature. Initially, this manifested in a love of the bush, and creatures of all kinds, however as she has grown older it has morphed into a love of the vast ocean and the sense of freedom that comes with sailing on a tall ship.
As a member of the volunteer crew on Leeuwin II, she deeply appreciates the return to basics that sailing offers. The ship goes nowhere unless the crew and trainees physically work together as a team to drive it. While at sea, modern life is distant, computers and phones are replaced by a simple routine of physical work, food and sleep.
She loves seeing the positive influence sail training has on the lives of kids, many of them troubled, who board the ship to undertake a voyage. Extremely grateful to have found a niche where she can be authentic and valued, there is a recognition that a trip on the Leeuwin II can change a young trainee's life in a valuable enduring way, something she is proud to be part of.
I have friends with very young children and in recent weeks the topic of how to bring kids up in our complex modern world has arisen several times. Clearly, there is no right answer to this question, every child, every parent and every family is different, yet, there is one thing I believe everyone needs..............it is a connection back to reality, to the very fundamentals. To expose children to the basics that underpin life, to show them the beauty, the diversity, the complexity, the impermanence and interconnectivity that drive the show, is to give them a mechanism with which to make sense of the world. It is a foundation that holds true regardless and intrinsically teaches responsibility and consequence. It is a pathway to stability and a tool growing minds can use to navigate life and develop their own unique response to the difficulties and choices that will invariably come, despite all our efforts as parents to protect them. Above all, an awareness of basic reality is an invitation to take part, to mindfully join the song, to change the tune with thoughts, feelings, actions and choices and thus, influence our own future and that of life itself.