A Christmas wish for the still life


Hi everyone, is it hot where you are?

It’s pretty hot here today. The sun painted dawn in glowing pastels but then turned fierce, a burning ball of relentless yellow. Now the mercury is over 40°C and not expected to drop much below 30°C overnight. Inside our wood cabin, I can only gaze out listlessly at tinder-dry countryside. We’ve no air-conditioning, just a ceiling fan reminiscent of a 1950’s Central American spy saga dreamed up by Graham Greene. I’m not used to feeling this heat and worry I won’t be able to get all my work done today. I’m sure Mr Badger would be holed up resting quietly in these conditions, but I can feel frustration rising through my perspiration. Or am I missing something here…

Could Mr Badger be smarter than me at these times? He knows instinctively how to handle the conditions in the real world around him. Like so many humans, I expect to be able to control the conditions I experience and choose the perfect environment to function more effectively for getting things done. So much to do, and so many seemingly vital demands on my time. In a hyperactive world, we can’t afford down time. So we increasingly disconnect ourselves from the natural world. In our home, office or car there is no summer heat. There are no squalls or downpours any more than we feel the winter chill. With the conditions just right, we can keep active and striving for more, every day, 24/7.

Even when we take time off for holiday we want the conditions to be just the way we’ve come to expect them. We travel the globe in an ever-expanding search for new more meaningful experiences. Fantasies confected by the relentlessly growing weekend travel guide urge us on. Yet, the destinations seem to appeal because they sound like a luxury form of home. Resorts created with air-conditioned hotels offering the opportunity to view foreign vistas as comfortably as one could on TV. All packaged up with the reassurance of restaurant quality food the like of which is probably found in your local good food guide.

So, today I find myself forced to swap the controlled lifestyle I expect, for something else, something which feels ancient and alien. I can’t get on with much as the heat holds me down. I pick up a book and as the fan hums, nod in and out of a doze. Debby says how good it is to see me resting with my mind disengaged. And that’s when it hits me. I don’t think to stop for rest. The conditions are always conducive to work, so I work. Sundays used to be different, so we got rid of them. The idea we needed time to recover from all the busyness of our lives was jettisoned. Now we can shop seven days a week, just as we work at all kinds of chores, paid or unpaid seven days a week. The human inspired world demands ever more activity and ever more consumption.

Finally, I realised today was a gift. I could really appreciate what was happening around me in a world bristling with smouldering power. Because of the heat, I couldn’t be terribly active. Still life, that rarest of experiences in our modern world of more, settled over me. Gradually, as I have rested my life has come into balance with the world I truly inhabit. The very heat itself seems to have settled with me and I am at peace with it.

With Christmas just days away I want to wish you a peaceful time. Whether you are looking for still life or not I hope you may find it creeping up on you in a delightful, unexpected way. If you are planning to travel on holiday then I hope you will find some way to fully engage in the otherness of the experience. Perhaps more with a pilgrim’s mind as my friend, Satish Kumar wrote:

“When we journey as pilgrims, we go with a sense of the sacred, without making demands – and indeed, we expect a certain amount of inconvenience and hardship on the journey, whereas tourism expects the world to be arranged for it. In the age of ecology, perhaps pilgrimage and tourism need to come closer together.”

For me this Christmas, I will not travel. Living by the bay, I know I am never more at peace than when immersed in the water. By throwing myself daily into the churning, ever-changing waters of Port Phillip Bay, I get to experience the seasons. Afterwards, a restorative cup of coffee with friends means my life is complete. Yes, life can be that simple and with summer’s already elevated temperatures you’ll see my flip flops resting quietly on Brighton pier most days. Why, even Mr Badger might venture out of his hole for an experience like that.

With love and peace to all


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