Category Archives: authentic self

luxury, calm, and delight

Tonight, to celebrate our wedding anniversary, I made mushroom soup from genuine field mushrooms (instead of those pale imitations from the supermarket), and sourdough bread. And, yes, I made the bread too. Served hot enough to melt the butter, fresh from the oven; crusty and aromatic with yeasts. Life is good. It was a bit like having everyone around for dinner, even though we dined alone.

How so? I made the starter for the sourdough from kefir from a culture given to me by our neighbour who was given the culture from some Dutch people back in the late 1940s – the culture has been nurtured for some 60(+) years. I made the starter, and then made the bread – without recipes – just based on seeing Mum make bread, my intuition, and trust that it´d work out right. I made a test loaf yesterday and Mum was keen to sample it. She thought it was very good. Marica´s folks had been over for lunch and they gave my dough the once over to see it was ok. The mushrooms came as a combination – raw ones from our friend Taffy, and some my sister Gillian had cooked for us. It felt really great that so many people had helped put together the meal – even if all I did was cook it. I´ve seen it said that it takes a village to raise a child – I think that is probably very true, however, it takes a village to support a marriage, and a village to put food on your table as well. People, who need people.

lucky escapes

run o' the millOver the years I’ve had many jobs. Some of them have been great (like my current role) and others have been pretty good, and, thankfully, only a very few have been hideous. Normally it’s not the job per se, rather the management or my colleagues that have made the job as it was. I have have the privilege of working with some amazing people – I’ve learned a great deal from these generous spirits – often themselves working under difficult conditions.

I’ve lost count of the jobs I’ve had, and even moreso of the jobs I’ve applied for and not got – I know for a fact that there’s been hundreds. Very frequently I’ve been gutted to miss out on the jobs I’ve applied for, and then I’ve found out later that it was a lucky escape. Recently, while tidying up some of the back corners of my life, I found this particular response letter. I’d kept it (I’m guessing) from the late 1980s. The Mill is still in business, by the way, apparently language skills are not a tipping point requirement for selling booze in Wanganui. I’m not in the ‘hospitality’ business any more, but I have been wondering if the guy who signed (name removed because I can) this triumph of communication is the manager, or maybe the owner now.

Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow

Over on the Practice of Leadership, there’s been some discussion about Marsha Sinetar’s book, ‘Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow — Discovering Your Right Livelihood’. There’s no indication in the book that doing what you love will somehow guarantee you will become a millionaire. There’s no ‘and‘ in the title. That’s important. From page 5:

I write of this so that, at the outset, no one thinks I am suggesting that material rewards immediately flow out of the leap-of-faith which is made to do one’s right livelihood. The reason that this book’s title contains the phrase, ‘The Money Will Follow,’ is precisely because we must do the work first, invest of ourselves first, seed faithfully in the small, steady, incremental ways of our chosen work first, and then – as a harvest of abundant crops naturally follows the seeding, watering and constant caring process, of seeds – the fruits of our efforts result.

While the people I describe in the pages are working away at their chosen vocations, simultaneously as human beings. And this is the beauty of right livelihood.

I’ve done many different job roles in my life. All were interesting in their own way. Some I loved. It’s been frustrating when the ones I loved didn’t deliver the financial rewards as well as the other rewards they provided. Looking back at them I can see I was still learning the roles. I thought I had the role down, but in reality there was a lot more to learn to achieve true mastery. Had I learned and worked enough to have been in the top 5% of that field the money would’ve been there too. Patience. Diligence. Faith. They sound so old-fashioned. So un-web-2.

My first business mentor gave me some advice, ‘Keep working kid, you’ll be an overnight sensation after about 11 years of intensive effort.’ I’d just grit my teeth, roll up my sleeves, and work on where the next dollar was coming from. I can see now that was actually good advice. In these days of instant ‘whatever’ it’s easy to believe that just because you think you deserve it, it’s somehow your right to be rich. It is your right to discover your right livelihood. You spend time working on becoming enriched, the money will follow.

Money, by the way, is not the same as *millionaire*. Many people are working in roles they love, but they are not ever going to become millionaires. Nursing, teaching, gardening, the creative arts, and many, many more roles – in fact, heads up, people; only a minute number of employees ever become millionaires, government employees are even less likely to achieve that from their role. But that doesn’t stop them from succeeding in every measure, including any financial measure. History is replete with stories of fame and fortune – and failure. Fame and fortune seem to have a way of conspiring to create failure, usually in people who aren’t rich (and I’m not talking money here) in the first instance.

One of the things I would love to achieve is to become financially rich while doing something I love. One of my objectives for this year is to spend time working on mastering more of the things I love to do. I intend entering into a personal enrichment programme. Come back later and I’ll let you know how the money sides of things is working out. I may be some time…

so this is christmas…

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

{Refrain}
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight

{Refrain}

And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

{Refrain}

War is over over
If you want it
War is over
Now
John Lennon (and Yoko Ono?)

Another year. I looked at our xmas tree the other night – little lights, and a heritage of decorations gathered over years and from around the world – beautiful. By the next night carefully wrapped gifts had begun to accumulate, and a few nights later there was standing room only under the tree. How fortunate we are – gifts aplenty, not expensive, granted; but no shortage either. The fridge and pantry are beginning to moan as they become ever more loaded – the entire family joined us today – so we’ve catered for 24 today. Actually, probably catered for 44 – but there’ll be time for snacking, later today and of course, tomorrow.

Thrice blessed then. Food aplenty. Presents aplenty. A safe home for us to enjoy it all. Friends and family. Time off from work (albeit briefly). Technology allows me to chat to friends around the world. These are times of prosperity and wonder – it’s just an everyday thing – but they’re all reasons to be grateful. It’s been such as good year.

The year that was:

Most petulant frenzy – when I couldn’t find the passports. Still can’t. Got new ones instead. And getting the photos – argh – I know you’re not supposed to look well for passport photos – but I didn’t recognise myself in the first lot. How come real estate photos make a shed look fabulous, but passport photos make you look direct from the lab?
Most proud moment – when Zofia scored a role at Christie’s.
Most work, most fun moment – crewing on Drawing Closer, the new movie by Trevor Romain and Carl Theil.
Most arty-farty moment – visiting Ben Livingston’s studio.
Most consistent art – Turnbull Group life drawing – staring at nekkid chicks for two hours every Thursday. That’s all good.
Most unexpected event – visiting Trevor and Amiel Romain and rediscovering perhaps the nicest people on the planet.
Most chinese zodiac moment – almost everyone one I know either changed where they live, or where they work, or, in our case, both. We started working on our home and garden, and we’re even selling my Mum’s house. The year of the pig has been a busy year for domestic property and prosperity.

Finally, to you, my loyal readers and commenters – you know who you are – and to the blog friends whose work I read at least once a day (please feel free to write more) – thank you – you’ve helped make 2007 another wonderful year, another year to be grateful for.

Beau Brummell, where are you?

Not too many people would rate me in the fashion stakes. In fact, the fashion police field more calls about my clothing choices than any other unfortunate. What I have found myself wondering lately is: who or what is responsible for the horrid men’s wear seen in downtown Wellington. I am continually amazed at the ill fitting clothing – clearly, suits cost a few hundred dollars through to more than a few hundred – but they fit badly. I am not a tailor, but I can see collars not fitting, rear vents gaping, fabric twisting, and of course, the obligatory trousers exposing an excessive amount of ankle. Horrors. Absolute horrors. How hard can it be?

I think there’s a real gap in the market for a menswear shop where the owners have figured out that most guys don’t mind buying, but they don’t like shopping. There is no need for 10,000 colours of anything fundamental. At all. That clothing can be elegant and simple and functional. That the range can be colour coordinated so that a guy can only buy colour combinations that work. There are no pink ties as there is never an occasion for wearing them. No. Not even Halloween. Men need clothing that is sculpted, women need clothing that is draped. Arms start at the shoulders. Jackets and shirts should reflect this reality. The general theme could be classic quality never goes out of fashion. And the shop assistants genuinely assist. A guy cannot tell if the jacket collar does not fit to the shirt collar does not fit to their neck while they’re walking. That the vent gaps. And as for pin stripes that done line up properly – where is the pride of workmanship? If it was all working nicely, what the guy was wearing would be unnoticeable. You’d just think, ‘He looks good’. Sharp. Smart. Impeccable. Instead you think, ‘Oh lord, who on earth suckered every buyer in town into buying pink ties?’

As I said, what’s my qualification for this critique? I’m a fashion nightmare. I’m not a tailor. But I look at the suits on the street and I think – argh! I want to grab shears and chalk and pins and just fix them up. Why Wellington, why? Has WOW made wearing off the shoulder bin liners acceptable?

what did I want?

What did I want?
I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and Lost Dauphin.

I wanted Prester John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and to eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be the way they had promised me it was going to be, instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.

I had had one chance – for ten minutes yesterday afternoon. Helen of Troy, whatever your true name may be – and I had known it – and I had let it slip away. Maybe one chance is all you ever get.
– Oscar Gordon, “Glory Road” Robert A. Heinlein

My father died back in 1990. It’s taken us some time to sort out his stuff. Partly because Dad was a collector – a hunter/gatherer of the old school; and partly because he was a graduate of the 1930’s depression and his collector behaviours became reinforced. “You never know when it’ll come in handy.” And quite frequently that has been proven to be correct. The last few days have been a bit of a nightmare – we’ve (my sister, brother-in-law, and myself) been working through the tail end of the various collections – and there is a continuum of values – some things have sentimental value, some have commercial value, some have entertainment value, and some have recycle value. And some things are just valuable for helping balance the load on the way to the landfill.

I was unable to get leave from work so Friday night saw frantic grabbing of rental vans, scarfing down food (no pasta lest I go to sleep at the wheel), and then on the highway north to my old home town. I spent the last night in my childhood bed, and listened for the call of the poaka – the pied stilts. Their beeping call used to reassure me on empty nights, but on Friday night it was just the sounds of the wind. Saturday dawned cold – as if wanting us to get finished and get on with our lives. Dad used to say “Cold shoulder, hot tongue”, and it was bitter outside.

We packed and loaded, with laughter and tears, Dad’s prized books. I don’t have the room or really the interest for all of Dad’s books, and so some fairly heartrending decisions were made. When we were kids, if we got sick, we were allowed to get up and get a couple of Dad’s books to read. Dad’s collection was essentially about New Zealand history and culture, Māori culture, and in particular, New Zealand flora and fauna. Dad had a particularly soft spot for New Zealand birds.

I don’t recall that he had any exceptional favorites, but I have a happy memory of him showing us the Ruru – Ninox novaeseelandiae – the native owl (Moreporks) that used to sit on the post and wires when we lived on our farm. Later the adult ruru were joined by a clutch of juveniles – I can remember their eyes glowing with the reflected light from the house. Dad told us stories about how in some areas the ruru nested in tomo – like hakoke, the extinct laughing owl – in holes the ground instead of in trees, and how there was even a place named for their home – Putaruru. He said that in the Māori tradition, the ruru was the guardian, the watcher. I loved hearing their calls at night – some say the call is ‘mournful’ or ‘haunting’, but I have always found it friendly and reassuring – a clear sign that things are as they should be.

As I drove home on Saturday night, I got to thinking about reading – I guess the books in the back were talking about their new lives living with Marica and I. I read non-fiction voraciously, however I love it when an author can persuade me to get on a raft down the Mississippi, or some other adventure. I’d told Marcel that I planned spending time while driving plotting out a novel I’m working on. Instead, I spent the time thinking about how the books now in the back of the van had influenced my father – provided the education he’d hungered for but had never been able to achieve in a formal sense. As a result of his reading and learning he’d willing shared the ideas, information, and insights with me; and so, in a way, I was carrying not only my father’s collection, but in many respects my own collection. I didn’t have to bring it all, just the bits I wanted and needed; but no matter what, I couldn’t avoid bringing some of my heritage with me; now and where ever I go in the future.

I drove in our gate, flicked the van off, and stood outside in the still night air. The moon was exceptionally clear and the stars were bright. I could smell the fragrance from the night blossoms. It was good to be home. From somewhere very close, a ruru called. I felt uplifted – it was as Dad said – everything is as it should be.

every thing tells a story…

Some years ago I took my Mum to Townsville, far north Queensland. She’d had some surgery that hadn’t gone well. I was working three part time jobs being as full time work was unavailable. It was the middle of winter and some recuperation in the tropics seemed like a good idea for us both – I wanted my Dad to go with us, but he wouldn’t be parted from home. Off we went and we had the best time. We really enjoyed having a decent cappuccino – Wanganui being something of a coffee desert in those days. I decided to buy a cappuccino machine – and snapped the dividers out of the polystyrene box the machine came in to act as a chillybin (esky for the full Australiana) when we drove up to Cairns. We made very full use of the box – it was absolutely brilliant for keeping food and drinks cool. When it came time to come home there was no room in our suitcases to bring the box home – and so I went out to the dumpster to toss the box away. The nearer I got to the departure point, the worse I felt. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such complete guilt as I consigned our helpful friend to the trash. I went back to our rooms and I told Mum about what a complete fool I felt about feeling guilty about discarding the box. She felt the same – but there was no way we could bring the box back with us. Years later I still feel bad. And slightly silly about being emotionally attached to polystyrene packaging, repurposed as a chillybin.

Lately I’ve had cause to work through a lot of my possessions from my past. They’re just things – inanimate things – usually man-made, but not exclusively. Some things I’ve kept, some things I’ve sold, some things I’ve given away, and some things I’ve dumped. At times it’s been heart wrenchingly traumatic; other times it’s been a ‘oh no, just no, what were you thinking?’ moment. I have been wondering why some things are so hard to deal with. My niece, Catherine, said, ‘The trouble with all your stuff is, every thing has got a story. There’s nothing here that doesn’t have a story to go with it.”

To which my sister, Gillian, replied, ‘Well, yes. That’s why it’s here. If it didn’t have a story we wouldn’t bother with it.’

When I used to leave Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport, there was a sign that spanned the highway – ‘Every story has a beginning, a middle, and a beginning’. It was an ad for something – I have no idea what. But I loved the idea then, and now. When things arrive in my hand it’s rarely the beginning of the story. Rather it is part of the middle of a story. And the story continues once the thing leaves my hand. Objects don’t attain their own energy or their own personality – that’s what we/I ascribe to them – it’s their role in our stories that makes them hard to part with. What I’m realising is that the story doesn’t end when the item comes to me, and really, it’s better if I keep the story going by keeping the item moving. I’m feeling better about it that way.

the last avocado…

avocadoThis is an avocado (Persea americana). Not a particularly large avo, not a trophy avo, true; but it was very tasty. I’d have to say more tasty than any other, ever. Why was it more exceptional than usual?

Some years ago I managed to get an agreement with my father about where I could plant my avocado tree. It was barely a sapling then – a young, grafted avocado. We sorted a space – in itself no easy task as Dad was (rightfully) very protective of the space used in his garden. I dug the hole, and we planted the tree – I planted, Dad supervised and made sure I was doing it right. The avo proceeded to go backwards for some months, and then away it went – the russet coloured young leaves growing into the lush dark green as they matured. After a few years the avo flowered and then later produced fruit.

I can remember the first fruit – small, not unlike the one in the picture above. But no avocado was ever more cherished, and it was the first of many. Very many. I used to have a bit of an arrangement with the birds who’d help me get the avos down from the top branches, in exchange for a few pecked scraps. I climbed the trees on stormy nights to enjoy the full surge of the wind and rain. I used to pile lawn clippings and other garden trimmings under the tree to build up the nutrients. I love the soft, pale creamy green flowers that open on different days, and I’d hope/wish/pray for warm days in Spring so the fruit would set. We went through quite a lot together – I spent a lot of time up in and around my avo tree. It was always welcoming and generous to me. I used to bring bags of avos for my wife to be, and future in-laws; and there was always room for another avo in my diet. My fruit of choice, and – I like to think it was the careful feeding – I believe my avos were the best flavoured ever, far and away superior to those mass produced supermarket offerings. I love avos, and as I wrote here before, I’m sure there’ll be avos in heaven, and if not, it’ll be job one for me to get some planted asap.

As my friend Marcel would observe, some scripts in my life are becoming reworked from the threads of the past. Tonight, Marica and I shared the last avo we’ll take from the tree. It was just perfect. The tree itself is fine, but I don’t imagine we’ll be able to get any of the next season’s crop. Someone else will. I hope they take good care of my friend. A true friend is one who nurtures you.

write on

It suddenly seems like I haven’t written here in a very long time. It’s not that I’m not writing, I’m working through the update of the AkoNet web site and that uses up my writing for the day. There’s only so many words available in any given day – by the time I blow some at work, and then more later working on the site, there’s not many left…

simple solutions are best

I’ve been away for the last couple of days sorting out some of my past lives. It’s alternatively hilarious and tragic, but almost always enlightening. Often the discoveries about me, myself, and I come thundering in and give me a whomp and I’m amazed at how this stuff happened around me and I didn’t notice, didn’t know, didn’t catch on, and/or didn’t care.

The most recent learning was to discover that when I was a child I lived with my parents and siblings in a tiny village – today a slightly fashionable widening in the road, then it was a little wider, but a lot less fashionable. There was also a magazine – I’m guessing tabloid (later: actually broadsheet – 17 x 22 inches – about twice the size of tabloid) in size – that had a dusky pink cover – the Auckland Weekly News.

According to my sister, there was a family who lived in this little town, and they never traveled in their car without a supply of Auckland Weeklys. Apparently, they would tear out pages from the magazine, and throw them out the car window as they drove along in order to frighten the elephants away.

I didn’t see any elephants driving up or back. Damn effective I’d say. I believe the Auckland Weekly News ceased publication in 1963.