Category Archives: Travel

Thoughts on Change and Evaluation

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Just outside my window are two very large trees. They provide shade and colour and a home for the unnaturally loud flock of cockatoos who seem to have taken up residence there. These trees have been here as long as the house, perhaps even longer. The life force in these trees is strong. I look out at them when I awake in the morning, when I do my sun salutations, when I pause while writing at my desk.

But April has arrived, and soon the green leaves will slowly turn yellow, then a brilliant shade of orange, and eventually into a deep red. They will fall on the gentle breeze that blows through the valley here, and everyday I will sweep them up until there are none left to fall. Change happens continuously, no matter what you’re doing.

Whether it be rhythmic like the turning of the seasons or violent like a thunderstorm, change is inevitable. We learn and grow and change through our environments and our experiences. And I have returned to Sydney — the city I was born and raised in – and being home has shown me just how much I have grown within, even if my external features have not altered. I have become more quiet, more observant, more reflective than the version of me who left here all almost eight years ago. I have developed the resilience I always had in far-reaching ways. I have battled bureaucracy, injustice and hardships, and learned from my mistakes. I have seen and lived and loved. Travel has shaped me in ways I struggle to fully comprehend.

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From where I am standing, Sydney looks refreshing, inviting and unafraid to show her true nature. She knows I will tire of her easily and she’s accepting of that. She helps me recharge. I always return.  But this time it feels different. I don’t understand the particulars of why or how or what, but I feel as though I am on the precipice of something… big? Momentous? Different? I’m not sure. But the winds of change have brought me back to Sydney for a reason. And I am trying to interpret what it’s whispering to me. A few weeks ago, I read ‘The Alchemist’. The lessons have stayed with me, even if I was not truly inspired by the writing. I now understand why certain people recommended it to me.

“[M]aking a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”
– Paulo Coelho, ‘The Alchemist’

I made a choice to travel, to embrace the unknown. I sought a different life from the traditional model laid before me, one full of adventure. And when wrapping up these past seven and a bit years, I see I have done that. I had no idea that I would develop a connection far greater than I ever imagined to San Francisco. Or that I would come to understand how much sunshine means to my health after living in the rainy and permanently overcast west of Ireland. Or that I could manage to travel alone throughout Eastern Europe, at my own pace and on my own steam. Or that I’d experience first hand the impact a piece of art would have on me at the National Gallery in London: the Execution of Lady Jane Grey. Finding a small town in New Zealand to show me how to slow down and appreciate the elements central to life: love, family, food and time. That my time in South East Asia would be so colourful and so varied, ultimately reaffirming my need for distance. Or that I would move to Chicago on a whim and find that it would influence me more than I imagined. Already, I’ve lived some great adventures. I wonder what comes next?

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I am starting to view my life less as a series of planned adventures and more as a path, a journey with twists and turns and unexpected hiccups and fortuitous events. And even though I haven’t changed on the outside, I’ve done a hell of a lot of growing on the inside. There’s still plenty more to do, but I can’t help but smile at myself when I think about all I have already accomplished, and all that I am on the cusp of achieving. Here’s to plenty more adventures – both home and abroad.

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It’s all head-down-bum-up at the moment as I finish my classes. I have an obscene amount of work to achieve in a very short amount of time, and my technique at procrastinating is second to none. As you can see!

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I wanted to share this pic of a cute little place I stumbled across on a walk around SF a few weeks ago. It’s tucked up a little alleyway on Nob Hill, and looked so inviting with the red door, grey paint, white trim and red geraniums outside.

Well, must get back to it! See you on the flip side.

Doing Backflips in San Francisco

Last week, we shook off the minus double digits of the Chicago winter in favour of sunny, clear 23C in San Francisco.  We spent some time wandering my old ‘hood. A few things had changed, but not much.

San Francisco is still a place that makes my heart do backflips. It possesses a natural beauty, but there’s much more to the city than a bunch of buildings on a peninsular surrounded by water. There’s a vibe, a magnetic field. I feel real there. I feel like me.

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 “San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.”
– William Saroyan

SF is still my favourite city in the world. I’ve found nothing else that compares.

At the Edge of the World: Navy Pier, Chicago

Chicago’s Navy Pier is a happening place in summer. Warm summer breezes straight off Lake Michigan, ice cream stands, Ferris wheel rides. But for me, there’s something so beautiful and haunting about visiting places that define summer near-abandoned in the winter time. 

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We took a jaunt down the road to Navy Pier the other day, in the midst of a snowstorm. Minus 12C. There were a handful of people around, but very quickly they dispersed and we spent our time almost alone as we wandered around the concourse. It was eerily quiet.

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The ice cream stands had closed before the first snow all those months ago. No one was sitting outside in the sun, sipping margaritas. It was grey, isolated, frozen. Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the Chicago River was completely solid, the river cruise boats tied up to the docks until it thaws out and the crowds return. And to me, it felt like the edge of the world.

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Photo Friday: Oz Park Tennis Courts

When we first moved to Chicago in the summer, we pretty much played tennis every day at Oz Park. We played through what I thought was the cold, until it was only a few degrees above OC. We stopped with the first snow.

This week, I took a wander down to Oz Park to see what the park looks like buried under a foot and a half of snow. Most of the walkways hadn’t been ploughed, but most of us could remember where the paths were.

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The nets are still up, stoically weathering the long, white winter and the unforgiving winds that blow in off Lake Michigan. But the nets no longer sway in the breeze. They’re held down by the untainted, accumulated snow. Frozen in place.

Eventually, the temperatures will rise and sun will reemerge and warm the surface. The courts will awaken from their hibernation, and once again feel the fuzz of new tennis balls and the squeak of sneakers.

I see these courts, these nets as reminders not to forget. Summer will come again. Just hold tight.

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Ode to the Chicago Winter

The American put the finishing touches on this new short film, ‘Ode to the Cold Chicago Winter’ a few days ago, and we released it into the world.

It’s a perfect day to kick back, snuggle up and enjoy a leisurely look at the freezing steam coming from the buildings and homes across the city. It’s something I find beautiful.

Let me know what you think!