Bamboo

bamboo-canes-cane
photo courtesy of cepolina.com

We live in a two storey house set on a slight hill. From the upper storey windows, we can see the distant view of the local shopping village and the rooftops of our neighboring homes. We can also look down into the back gardens of the homes nearest to ours.

We built our home many years ago and quickly established surrounding gardens, including hedging shrubs and trees to bring privacy to our home and to block off as much view of the neighboring rooftops as possible. We also didn’t really like being able to look into our neighbor’s gardens because that meant that they could easily see us in our upper storey bedrooms.

From the street, our home is set well back on the block and the land dips away so, although it is clear that the house is two storeys, it is not an imposing residence. It nestles in its garden naturally. At the rear, however, our home overshadows one of our neighbor’s properties. It must have been intimidating for them to look out their bedroom windows and see our towering two storey brick walls soaring above their back fence.

Now that’s what you call ‘being overlooked.’ Not that we spent our time spying on them. We respected their privacy – but it soon became obvious how rattled they felt by the view when they planted a long row of giant bamboo right along the fence between our properties.

For years, that row of bamboo irked me. Lovely though giant bamboo canes are, they are not the sort of plants you normally use as hedgerows between suburban gardens. They grow so high that their canes bow over. I have seen giant bamboo arching across a country road from one side to another. It concerned me that this bamboo was overshadowing our garden. I was also worried that in high winds the bamboo might even strike our home.

Understanding my concerns, our neighbor did tend his bamboo crop and made sure that most of the canes stayed on his side of the fence – but the effect was that in time the wall of bamboo shut out the light into our rear garden. The flowers and grass we had initially grown there no longer thrived and we had to alter plantings and find other ways to turn mud into a walkable area other than using lawn.

The canes soared so high that our views of the local village shops were obscured and we could no longer see the sky and watch the clouds from our upper storey bathroom during long soaks in the tub.

I complained about that green wall to my family, feeling that it had removed much pleasure from our garden. I missed the flowers and our trees struggled to survive with so much dense greenery close to their own branches. A jacaranda tree I’d planted developed a serious postural defect as it grew straining itself away from the green menace of bamboo and leaned dramatically toward our house, and toward light and space…

On the other hand, over time, we all began to appreciate certain aspects of that green wall. We could no longer see what was happening in our neighbor’s yard. We felt so private in our own home that we often left the curtains open and sometimes walked around our home and garden in various degrees of undress. There were also a multitude of birds that loved the bamboo and often sang to us from it. I remained disgruntled but felt helpless to do much about it, and was torn by these begrudging acknowledgements.

It wasn’t until our neighbors decided to move away to a home that asked less maintenance that the blessings of the bamboo wall became far more clear. New neighbors moved in to the house and loved parties at their poolside with noisy teenagers.

At first, they simply thinned the bamboo wall, allowing glimpses of their activities and noise to come through. A few years later, the man of the house got sick of having to trim the new sprouting canes so often and decided to remove the bamboo altogether. It was a shock to see how quickly it came down under the loud buzz of chainsaws. It was also disastrous for my health, at first, because bamboo cane is full of cyanides and these misted up hill into our home, forming a sticky layer on furniture and briefly causing me ill health.

After I recovered, the immediate effect of the bamboo coming down (besides being able to clearly see the neighbor’s property again) was that we rediscovered sunlight and the sky…These had been obscured for many years. It was hard at first to get used to that vast expanse and all the light coming in our windows. Then I realized that our ash trees were putting on a growth spurt and the jacaranda began growing branches toward the fenceline and not just toward our house.

I don’t think our neighbor realized that what seemed to be struggling shrubs on our side of the fence were actually ash trees that would one day provide a good screen by themselves if they had half a chance to grow properly. He has now planted golden cane palm trees right alongside the same palings. These may not grow as tall as the bamboo or arch over our yard but they have been planted so close to the fence that they will also one day crowd our trees and overshadow the garden. I hope the ash trees can establish a good canopy before that happens, so they don’t struggle so much next time. At least golden cane palms take a lot longer to get to that height than giant bamboo does!

The saying goes that you never appreciate what you have until it is gone. Once the bamboo was gone, the strong winds that used to cross our garden and once ripped a patio pergola to shreds came back. Giant bamboo is often used as a wind break and it was only after the green wall was no longer there that we realized how many years we had a sheltered and private little garden, even if it was super shady. Now, the multitude of windchimes hanging on our back porch don’t just pleasantly tinkle but play a strident cacophony…. The ash trees also grow fairly slowly so have not created a wind break of their own yet.

Time passed and we accepted that a new green wall would one day establish along the fenceline and cut off our views of the sky again. While we have felt somewhat exposed in our house, we can appreciate that the neighbor, having removed the bamboo, got a sudden shock of realization of what it had been obscuring as our house loomed over his in all its glory…

We have since been appreciating the twinkling of neighboring street lights above the rooftops at night and seeing the distant mountains looming grey above the treetops in the early mornings, for as long as those views last. They will one day be obscured again.

We’d come around to thinking that while we had lost our privacy on that side of our house, at least we still had the bush blocks behind our rear fence. Ever since we first bought our land, those blocks have been overgrown with native bushland, even though houses did sit toward the distant road on those same blocks.

When we first arrived, there used to be wallabies hopping through that scrub land but then the owners agisted horses and the wallabies went away. What remained, though, was like a personal bird watching haven for us, where butterflies, birds, possums, lizards, and pythons lived and thrived. We felt very blessed to have that view at our rear (and no sign of the houses). So once the bamboo screen to the side of our rear garden was gone, we turned our focus on appreciating the private, natural space the bush land created at the back – until the day chainsaws and chippers woke us one long weekend and kept waking us up for the week after that.

With so many large bush blocks now being sold in our area to build small residential plots, our rear neighbors had succumbed and removed all the scrub land and habitat we had appreciated for so long. If we were shocked to see the sky and felt exposed by being able to view into our side neighbor’s yard, it was nothing compared to not only seeing the house built on the ‘no longer bush’ block but the whole estate road beside it and every bit of traffic traveling on it.

If you think that scrub trees are useless for anything except wildlife habitat, take them down and see how much noise they once obscured. Every car that goes down that rear road sounds as if it is inside my bedroom… and disconcertingly, a lot of them are slowing down and sitting a while at the corner before turning into their residential estate, quite obviously taking a good look at our home, which once could not be seen from that aspect at all. (I know this is what they are doing because I drove my car around to that road and sat at exactly the same spot once, just like that, so I could see what the estate could see of our house, now….)

My bedroom once seemed like a tree house, looking out to treetops of eucalyptus, white cedar, etc. Now, those views are memories, too.

The bird life has relocated to the bush block next door, though I can now hear some of the little boobook owls in the trees in our front garden. The possums still feed from the bowl we placed on our back fence and I hope we’ll be able to keep that up once houses are built back there. All we can do is wait and see.

The upshot to all this was the reinforcement of the old tenet that life is so changeable. Even when you think things are secure and that you can rest on your laurels and just enjoy the results, something comes along to stir them up. Nothing is set in stone. Some things take longer to change than others but change is always inevitable.

The enlightenment to be had from that upshot was that at every stage of change, despite the initial shock and the removal of a comfort zone, all life adapts. The birds moved habitat. The possums found some other place to live and still come back for their scraps. The little honeyeaters that used to inhabit the bamboo hedge now flit closer to our house and into our garden. instead. We may no longer have privacy in our rear garden but when we sit and dine on the pool patio, it’s quite interesting watching the traffic roll in and out of the nearby estate.

Such things gave me cause to reflect on other shocks and changes that have happened in my life in recent years, especially in personal relationships. Even people you counted on being with you to the end of days can up and disappear, off to find new adventures by themselves. It can be hard to let go, hard to accept that such things are over, even when you know deep inside that they came to a natural end.

Changes are often a shock, especially where life has become extremely settled and predictable – but life is also versatile and adaptable. If we can be flexible enough to move with the flow instead of against it, the pain and traumas of change fade away, eventually. That’s how life moves on.

I once begrudged the existence of that wall of delightful bamboo because of the sacrifices that had to be made to allow its existence – the loss of my planned gardens, etc. Yet in truth, it brought much to my life that I hadn’t fully appreciated until it was forever gone.

In the end, I’ve learned from these experiences. Today, while acknowledging the discomfort of change, I am letting that discomfort ride. I am waiting things out and trying not to be disgruntled. I am listening to the birds and taking their cues for adaptation. I am trying to flow with life and not to hold it back.

I know that all change, too, is passing. Change is a pendulum, swinging between the active and the passive phases of life, into and out of our comfort zones. So there will come other comforts in the future to replace those that are lost. All I have to do is keep on plying my life and wait things out.

Blessings!
Lianne

Lilipily Spirit – Empower Your Life, Connect with the Divine

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A Tidbit About Lianne…

My front door is an artwork!
My front door is an artwork!

I was born old.

My nickname as a child was Granny because I would walk around with a serious look on my face, observing, with my hands behind my back, twiddling my thumbs.

Being born old is a hard thing to be saddled with as a child. People, even family, look at you oddly. You get classified, slotted, picked out as being unusual.

Children should be learners, not look like they were born knowing everything. I didn’t say much, but when I talked it was apparently flooring.

So you could say it took a long time for my body to catch up and to finally reach a point where I was no longer unusual, where I could finally fit in with society and flow with life. Well, so I thought.

The trouble was that no matter how ordinary one looks on the outside, no matter how ordinary your tasks and roleplays can be, and no matter how much you smother yourself in order to fit in, the spirit still finds a way to rise and shine.

It took me a long time to realise it, but now I am finally glad it does. It is that spirit that connects me with the deeper truths of life and the cosmos, that helps make sense of destiny and purpose, that allows me to transcend the difficulties and express beauty and positivity in even the darkest moments and through the mightiest challenges.

Yes, as this ordinary human, I do fail and I am flawed. I have lived long enough to make many mistakes and to not always live up to others or my own expectations or ethics. Yet this spirit inside me can’t be quenched. Even when I falter and doubt, or find myself set back, it keeps bubbling up to find its own level like a spring spilling out onto a hillside of green grass, flowing away to fill the pond below.

Every time I should be defeated, I stand up and keep on keeping on. Every time I find my way is blocked, I take a detour and keep on going. When troubles assail me and my guts churn their mightiest eddies, I redistribute the energy into a creative task that makes my heart sing and leaves me smiling as I go to bed.

My mother was a smoker and liked to have a cigarette when she sat on the toilet. Her husband was a sailor who spent long months at sea. On one of his trips to foreign lands, he’d bought her a lovely metal lighter that had a flip top and she was so proud of it. It was special because it was a gift from him and she loved the way she could just flick it open, click the metal wheel with her thumb, and watch the flame flare up. Yet one day, during a long session in that small room, she came hurtling into the hallway yelling that she’d dropped the lighter into the toilet. (I suppose that’s what happens when you can’t put your ciggies and lighter down long enough to wipe your bum).

I must have been ten when I saw her standing there, distressed. There was no one else in the house to turn to. She’d tried to fish the damn thing out of the bowl with the toilet brush but now the water was a pea soup of manure and the lighter could no longer be seen.

That ten year old girl stood looking down at the brown pea soup in the bowl and made an instant decision. Quickly, I dove my hand deep into the murky sludge and fished the lighter out.

My mother was flabbergasted. She lived on the story for years, telling all our friends and family. No wonder I was marked out as an odd ball!

The thing is that in that moment I realised ‘shit happens.’ I thought, what was the worst thing that could happen to me if I fished the lighter out, and I knew my hand and arm would be coated. So I thought, what would I do about that? I would wash it.

I’m a quick thinker and very decisive. My mother didn’t even know all that went through my head. I fished that lighter out, took it to the sink and washed and dried it for her, and then lathered and scrubbed my hand and arm until every bit of sludge and smell was gone.

That’s the story of my life. I deal with things on practical levels. I observe, assess, and do.

When bad things happen, I deal with them, and then get on with living. I may not be all sweetness and light but I get a lot out of living that way.

Someone put a huge hole in my front door one day. The door had been specially made large to allow my adult disabled son easy access to the house with his scooter. So it wasn’t something that could be easily replaced, and at the time I didn’t have much money to outlay on a new door.

I am an artist. I looked at that door and panicked, thinking that if anyone saw the door like that they’d know it was easy to break in. I wanted to fix that door before anyone saw it. No one else was home at the time to help me. So I set to work.

The door was not particularly solid. It was one of those packed doors that wouldn’t take nails even if I had wood to put on it. So I grabbed a roll of plaster bandage from my art room and set to work. I filled the hole, and I smoothed the surface, and realised that I had to make it beautiful somehow.

By the end of the day, as my husband arrived home, the door was almost complete. I’d laid the bandage over it to build up layers, added squiggly worm spirals to make it artistic, colored the whole lot in rainbow tones, and was halfway through gluing glass mosaic tiles to the bottom by the time he walked through it. He and my disabled son helped me finish those last elements on the door, so the work became a family affair.

The next day I added the blessings of the om mantra and namaste in gold writing. You can see a photo collage I made of the door, above.

I knew it was a hit when my grand-daughters arrived for the weekend. We usually enter the house from the garage because we drive straight in, but they jumped out of the car before the roller door closed, and demanded to be let in the front door. They said they wanted to go through the ‘rainbow door’.

So now our front door is a talisman. It says, enter with love and peace, or stay away!

This is what I do with challenges, even frightening ones. I deal with them. I turn negatives into positives. I make the best of every moment.

Small things always count in my life. Small things add up until they are big things. I reckon that if you deal well with the small moments, you’ll get enough skill to manage the big ones when they happen.

For me, all life is an artwork. I believe we are all authors of that art. Ideas are important, even little ones. Concepts can enable evolution.  I believe in finding beauty and empowerment everywhere. Anything you find inspiring can be a tool for that, even the most mundane.

Life is gifted with everything we need. All we have to do is see, take on what we see, and do something with it. That’s easier said than done for many, but for me it’s something I naturally lean in to. I rarely give up even when I should be walking away. Even if I’m forced to give up, I still hold to the hope of future change. I hate throwing things out if there is some possibility of repurposing them. Even my kitchen scraps feed a possum family in my garden.

Until the age of eight, I grew up with a stoic Nanna who always told me, ‘Waste not, want not.’ Of course, she lived through the years of the Great Depression, when they had to make the most of whatever there was. I can’t say I never waste anything, but I certainly try to never let go until it’s obvious I’m not the one who can recycle it. Over time, I’ve learned to let go of some things, though. Which brings up another of Nanna’s sayings – ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.’ Or, in memory of my mother’s plight, don’t stand there losing what you love just because you’re afraid to deal with shit.

When ‘shit happens’ I dive in and salvage what is beautiful and needs to be kept, and then I wash the rest away and move on.

Namaste!

Lilipily Spirit – Empower Your Life, Connect with the Divine

Nature’s Table

photo courtesy of cepolina.com
photo courtesy of cepolina.com

When I was young and newly married, my parents-in-law built a new home for themselves on a bush block at Venus Bay.

Before they were my parents-in-law, they had cleared the land by themselves using hand tools, ready for that building. Each weekend after work was done, they would gather up their family and head to their bush block to work.

After their son and I met, I was invited to join that party, but none of the children (young adults) worked during those weekends away. Instead, we walked the sandy streets together, went to the surf beach, hung out under starry skies and had a good time.

My parents-in-law never complained. They never asked their children to help. Their children just enjoyed those outings and didn’t seem to ever think much on helping.

I may be wrong in that memory. A lot of time has passed since then, but these are the things I remember about those times. Of course, I was falling in love back then, so my memory may be skewed. I do know that we spent a lot of time having fun while they worked, and each day we would join them for lunch and dinner, that my future mother-in-law had also found time to cook.

After their house had finally been built, (again, by their own hands), they set to creating the gardens surrounding it. On one little terrace (the house was built on a hillside) there was a lovely acacia tree growing, with droopy leaved branches creating dappled shade. My father-in-law thought it was a grand place to build a picnic table, to make the most use of that shade in summer when work in the garden needed to be done, and when time out for refreshment needed a space to sit.

He was an artist like myself but had mostly given up that skill by the time I had met him. Instead, his old artworks were kept in storage boxes and he rarely looked at them. He showed me a few times, and then stashed them away again. They were so good, I thought it was a pity that they were hidden away and that he never really expressed those talents any more.

His idea about that was that he was older, now, and those talents belonged to another time, when he wasn’t a husband and father, and didn’t have to focus on working to make a living. I didn’t fully engage with those concepts at the time, but later in life after I had finished with my career as a minor actor on stage, film and television, and never intended to go back to it – nor ever reached the heights I imagined I would reach when starting out on that path – I also put aside those memories and memorabilia from my own life, because they were no longer relevant to me and because I felt that I had underachieved them – so, nothing to brag about!

It wasn’t until much later, after my son became disabled (and life became far more poignant), that I realized (as I had when talking with my father-in-law many years previous), that talents should not be shelved just because they didn’t achieve what we dreamed of at the time. Talents are skill gifts given to us when we are born and it is disrespectful to not express them, somehow, or to re-purpose them if the old usages have become invalid.

I am still happily using my talents, today, but I am no longer an actor. Luckily, I had more than one talent to express. I no longer had any desire to be on stage or in front of an audience. Instead, today I let my works be the viewable elements and I thoroughly enjoy being able to still express myself like that when I am at an age far older than my father-in-law was then. I do not believe that age or life roles should ever get in the way of enjoying those god given skills.

Anyway, back to the picnic table in my parents-in-law’s back yard. He finished building that lovely little table and the run of concrete steps leading down to it. It looked so inviting sitting under the tree but because the table top was bare marine plywood it looked very plain.

He asked me to paint a picture on it, so I did. I painted a picture of a happy family and laughing children. It was bright and colorful, and he was such a darling man and so respectful of my own talents, that he really loved it. For many years, they used that table for refreshments when working in their garden.

As time passed by and our own family grew, our visits to their home at Venus Bay became more rare. When we did visit, we would always tour the house and garden and see what had been happening while we were gone. The vegetable patch still thrived under the auspices of my mother-in-law, who was truly a mother earth figure with a huge green thumb, but the little picnic table had become sadly neglected. There were sap spots and bird shite fallen onto the table top and dark marks where the sap had gathered leaf detritus and dirtied. Over time, the sap and shite degraded my happy picture, spot by spot, until it became seriously faded.

What happened? Well, my father-in-law had become older, more tired, and struggled to keep up with tasks. Instead of taking time out from the garden to sit and take refreshments on the table and then go back to work, he cut short his workload and went inside to sit and rest when he was done.

Even marine ply begins to delaminate, chip, strip, and curl up at the edges over time, and eventually that little table was a sorry sight. The tree also overwhelmed it and you could barely get underneath to sit on the little stools he’d placed there.

Because the table didn’t look so inviting any more, not even my own children wanted to sit at it when they played in their grandparent’s back yard.

My father-in-law had a stroke in his 70s and never fully recovered after that. Every time I see a decrepit picnic table, whether made of wood or stone (like the one in the picture), I always think of how much hope inspired the building of it – set on aspirations of pleasant times with friends and family sitting around it, or of just taking in the beautiful views and ambiance of the surroundings that once motivated its erection.

I wonder at the story behind the table and how it came to be neglected. If it sits in a forest, was it once well used but the families grew up, moved away, or became more interested in other lifestyle threads?

I don’t see a ruin. I see all that once was or all I can imagine it once was. Such tables represent to me a dream, a hope, an effort to embed pleasure and rest.

Such is life that even the most enduring edifices degrade, eventually. Even mountains are worn away by wind and water. People’s lives eventually begin to seize up and activities that once fostered the energy of life are no longer accessible. Circumstances change, so that the original ideas and modes are no longer valid.

Does this make them unworthy or unmemorable? No.

We should not look on such ruins with any less romance than we do pyramids and ancient Roman courtyards. We should not disregard the achievements others have established in their history just because they made no headlines or because today they live on pensions and hobble on a stick.

All life should be remembered as worthy. All the small moments make for a very large life, if every moment was fully lived and appreciated.

My father-in-law was a human man who had flaws and failings, like most of us, and there are some who have said he had more than most – but my memories are of his wit, his graciousness, his kindness, his mercy, his humor, and his joyful expression of art in life even as he thought he had shelved those skills. In the house he had built, the kitchen, dining, and lounge room were one long room, separated only by divisions where you could see the ceilings in each area quite clearly. The kitchen had a bright new leaf green ceiling, the dining area had a bright postbox red ceiling, and the lounge area had a deep blue sea ceiling – and this was in the days before modern art became so popular…

Refreshment at his table is no longer available. His life ended many years ago, now, but every time I relive those memories he lives in my mind as if he is alive, still. I see and hear and even smell him so clearly, and feel his powerful energy and presence.

I love those memories.

Blessings!
Lianne

Lilipily Spirit – Empower Your Life, Connect with the Divine

Barren Ground

photo courtesy of cepolina.com
photo courtesy of cepolina.com

The seed forms with all the right intentions – full of goodness and nutrition, completely capable of bringing new life into being under just the right conditions.

You’d think that all it would need is sunlight and rain for it to sprout its new green furl and sometimes that does actually happen. The seed thrives on hope and opens up to a new beginning as soon as those precious elements touch upon its face – but if the third ingredient necessary for its ongoing existence isn’t there, then the seed will always die.

That third ingredient is fertile ground.

Often, a seed will land on barren ground and none of the necessary ingredients for its further existence arrives. The seed withers as it waits and all the hope and promise of a delightful burgeoning future never happens.

This doesn’t mean the seed was wrong in its preparation or had ‘bad’ elements that caused it to ‘fail’. Its surrounding circumstances prevented it from taking hold.

Seeds never launch until they are ready to become more than they are. They are fully capable of becoming more than they are – but if they launch and the right elements don’t arrive to nourish that transformation and ground it in the world the seed is lost.

What happens then? Well, the cycle begins again. The seed rots back into the earth. The barren ground it falls on is nourished by its passing. Even in death the seed creates new beginnings. Those new beginnings are only delayed. The next seed that falls on that same ground embeds in the nutrients left behind by this sacrifice.

Human life is full of seedings that are sent into the world to sprout. If those seedings fail to take off, to launch, or to establish it doesn’t mean they failed. It just means they fell on barren ground, on infertile soil, that they launched at the ‘wrong’ time and landed in the ‘wrong’ place.

We can’t always hang back waiting for the right time and place. Often, the right time has arrived just because we are burgeoning with goodness that needs to be shared. In a seed’s life, that is always the right time to launch.

There are no guarantees in life but all attempts at creating life and new action are never wasted, even if they fall on barren ground. We may not have intended to become the fertile ground for others’ creations instead of our own, but destiny has its own way and we are not always privy to its purpose.

There is no such thing as failure, therefore, when our actions do not embed. Instead, our efforts allow others to succeed where we did not. Our ‘failed’ efforts thus provide new opportunities, just not for us. That’s the way of the cosmos, which does not give higher merit to one over another.

We all have our place and purpose in existence. We all leave traces of nourishment in the world from our passing, whether that is in relationships that ‘failed’ but where the participants found new life growth after the association or activities we strived to establish and failed to make work but where enough was left for others to use, expand on and gain success with.

I honor all past associations and efforts, all failed relationships and failed actions. Each has left me with something that has built my being to become who I am today and who I can become in the future.

Nothing is ever wasted. Barren ground is just an opportunity to serve others.

Blessings!
Lianne

Lilipily Spirit – Empower Your Life, Connect with the Divine