Mental ambling

These last two weeks, when I’ve put myself in yoga postures, I’ve found myself mentally traversing the streets of inner-western Sydney that I used to frequent. I’ve travelled mentally down King Street in Newtown, and down various side- and backstreets I wandered; through Darlington and Redfern; up and down Glebe Point Road. I’ve also found myself mentally inhabiting my various bedrooms and lounge rooms in Sydney — particularly those from my last two houses there. It’s an odd experience.

Up until a few weeks ago, I’d not been on the floor for yoga with any kind of regularity, and it seems that being back in my physical body now that I am yoga-ing every day again is putting me back in those places I spent lots of time in. It’s not really like reliving particular memories — although my memory of those places is obviously necessary for the experience. There’s no such specificity. Instead it’s like I’m wandering through those places anew; a mental experience that’s no doubt cobbled together from various more specific memories. It’s like a waking dream.

There’s a sadness to it, a missing. But it’s a missing without longing. Not at all like the way I miss the various important people it’s now much harder for me to see.

It’s almost as though my mind is taking me slowly through the various places that have been important to me — or at least places I went frequently — so that I can let those memories settle and get on with things here.

The strangest part is that these mental journeys only happen when I’m doing yoga. Not when I’m going about my day, not when I’m lying in bed at night trying to sleep, not when I go for a wander in the nearby park. Of course, the mental and emotional sorting that yoga seems to encourage is half the reason I do it in the first place, so it shouldn’t surprise me that the practice is bringing up all this stuff.

Melbourne and Sydney are compared with one another an awful lot, and I don’t really have anything to add to that conversation, except to say that they’re very different places and that each has its own list of pros and cons. But in a way this is a process of comparing my physical experience of them in my own mind. I had a conversation the other day with a friend on Twitter about my missing of Sydney’s farmers’ markets. There are, of course, plenty of farmers’ markets in Melbourne — a number of them a short way from my house. I said to my friend that none of them were quite the same, and while this is true, I think that what I was really trying to get at is that I’ve not yet settled here into the familiarity I had with where the markets in Sydney were, how to get there, what I might find there. Of how those places fitted into my life, or how my life fitted into those places. And this, really, is indicative of where I am with the move on a larger scale. Despite the familiarity of Melbourne itself to me, and despite my fondness for it, I’ve not yet figured out how my life fits in here, of what it is that this place means or will mean for me this time round.

Then I remember that I’ve only been here for just shy of four months and my not feeling completely settled makes a lot of sense. Before we left, a few people said to my housemate and I that it had taken them six months to a year to feel settled in a new place the last time they made a big move, and now I come to think of it, it probably took me that long to feel settled in Sydney when I moved there from here five years ago. So I’ve got a way to go yet, and probably a few more mental journeys through Sydney’s streets to take. In the meantime, it’s awfully interesting to watch those mental organising processes, if that’s what this is, occurring.

And as for the markets question, there are a few contenders that I think I might warm to over the next few months. Here are some shots I took the other day at Collingwood Children’s Farm, which has a market every Saturday that I’ll get to for the first time this coming weekend. (CCF is a city farm, which none of markets I frequented in Sydney were — it’s rather lovely.)

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Old houses

Yesterday I wandered, on a whim, over to the south end of Newtown. I’d arranged to meet up with a friend in a cafe on King St, and to get there I chose a route that would take me past a house I lived in for two and a half years.

Pearl Street.

A house that will forever be the source of an enormous amount of nostalgia for me. It was the house in which I rediscovered myself after a major relationship breakup, it was the house in which I began to form an idea of what I wanted my adult life to look like, and in which I began to take steps toward that life. My Pearl Street housemates became like family (which I wrote about here when we all moved out of that house).

The house, when I came to it yesterday, had changed a lot. And it was for sale. Its cracked and worn cement front path had been replaced with neat pavers; the front garden we’d grown veggies in had been restructured and reduced; and the entire house, which had been a sunny yellow when we’d lived there, had been repainted a very mild off-white. Pearl Street as I knew it was gone.

I stood at the front gate, still the old green cast iron thing I knew so well, and stared at the place, trying to take in all its changes. Trying to let them sink in. It was sad, but not devastating.

And it seemed somehow appropriate that this place that is so meaningful in my story should have moved on, when I’m about to do so myself. A month from now, my current housemate (and dear friend) and I will pack up our lives in Sydney so we can move down to Melbourne. I’ve been saying for years that I wanted to move back to Melbourne. In fact, I’m sure I came home to Pearl Street more than once from a trip to Melbourne announcing that I was going to move back down south. But something about that house (and many other things besides) kept me in the sunny city. Somehow, I always knew that while I lived in that house I’d not be able to commit to moving away from Sydney.

My housie and I have been preparing for some months now for this move, and the whole time I’ve been swinging wildly between immense excitement and equally immense sadness. I am sad to leave this city. I am sad to leave all the people I love who live here (and near to here). But seeing yesterday that Pearl Street has moved on has somehow helped me to let go a little, to be sure that it is time for me to move on too. It’s not so much that my sadness at leaving has gone, it’s just that I’ve worked out how to hold it so it doesn’t colour everything else.

Home

A few days ago, my friend Sam posted this essay about his impending move away from Adelaide. He’s moving to Sydney (which means I’ll see more of him — hurrah!) sometime in February.

Although it’s about different places, the essay quite aptly describes my own struggle to figure out where to call home. I’ve lived in Sydney now for as long as I lived in Melbourne. In between the two, I lived in Canberra for a few short months. Growing up, I called Forbes, a small town in Central West New South Wales, home.

In a way, all of these places are still home for me. It’s like they contain different versions of me — almost as if, visiting, I might run into myself. And in a way I miss all of these places. Or maybe I just miss those versions of me. Nostalgia is a funny thing.

When it comes time for me to bid Sydney farewell, I’m not sure how I’ll feel about home.

Anticipation

Every day at about this time our front gate squeaks open and I stop what I’m doing, unsure whether to expect a knock. The screen door clatters open and there is a pause. From wherever I am in the house, I turn to look in the direction of the door. Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh. The screen door clatters closed again, and the gate squeaks.

Later, I will go into the front hallway to find the mail, pushed under the door by our overly helpful neighbour.

Hand-painted maps

I’ve been thinking, reading and writing about maps lately (the adventuring to Coogee in my last post was, in part, research related to the map work I’m doing), and I came across this video on Brain Pickings. Fascinating. I love that Jerry’s work on the map is so systematic, and yet there’s such wonder and imagination involved in its creation. It reminds me of some of the reading I’ve done on designing cities, and the idea that we should be designing incompleteness, to allow for some organic development in our urban places.

Jerry’s Map from Jerry Gretzinger on Vimeo.

(There’s also an article about Jerry’s map on The Atlantic website. And if you’re interested in more map-goodness, also check out this Brain Pickings post on the BBC series The Beauty of Maps.)

Adventure

Looking back over the last few posts here, I’ve realised that I seem to spend an awful lot of time writing here about not doing things. Or at least about needing to do nothing because I manage to keep myself busy and occasionally need a rest. But I rarely write about the things that I actually am doing.

So I thought today I would write about something that I’ve actually done. Today I went adventuring with a friend — a kind of research project for both of us. We caught the bus from Newtown to Coogee with no real plans, except to look around and maybe find somewhere we could eat pancakes. We wandered along the beach, in the rain, and took pictures of sand, boats, trees. We found a cafe in which to eat pancakes (yum!), and we wandered around a local green grocer without shopping baskets, trying to resist the temptation to buy any food. We walked up hills into the residential streets, gazing at all the interesting houses and interesting gardens.

We talked a lot, and I got damp toes. And we took pictures. Here are some of mine.

Letting things settle

I had thought I’d write a whole lot of blog posts while I was in Melbourne. I thought I’d be so excited about what I was doing that I’d want to share it.

And I was excited. But I worked out pretty quickly that I wouldn’t be able to share it for some time, even if I wanted to. More and more lately, I find I need to let things settle before I can approach them again in writing. This is true in my personal life as well as the stuff I write that I call ‘work’ (the line between the two is often very difficult to distinguish).

It’s nearly two weeks since I came back to Sydney, but I still don’t really feel like things have settled. A number of things have shifted, in subtle but important ways. I’ve tried to find an appropriate analogy for what’s going on in my head, but they all sound far too dramatic, when the action that’s caused the shift wasn’t really anything special.

The first yoga class I taught when I got back to Sydney was strange. It was one of my corporate yoga classes. At lunchtime I found myself in a very familiar office building, sitting on my mat in a very familiar empty wing of the fourth floor, chatting to regular students. Then the little travel alarm clock I use to keep time in yoga classes ticked over to midday, and I suddenly realised that I was the one who had to teach the class. For some reason, it came as a surprise. And then when I did start teaching, I found myself making changes to my usual way of sequencing poses, and the words that came out of my mouth focussed on different things: the spine instead of the arms, the feet instead of the legs. I found myself walking around more, watching, really watching my students. Most of my classes are made up of regulars, but that first week back it was as if I was looking at a whole lot of new people — not because of any real change in the way they moved, but because I was looking at them differently.

The strangest part of all of this was that it all happened without me even thinking about it. Usually when I make these changes to the way I teach (or the way I do anything, really), it’s a conscious decision, but this wasn’t conscious at all. It just happened. I don’t know yet whether they’re good changes or bad changes or changes that make no difference at all, and I don’t know whether the fact that they’re unconscious is good or bad or has no meaning at all.

This teaching anecdote the best way I can think to describe what I feel is happening in every part of my thinking and behaviour now. I’m doing things differently, just subtly, in my writing and in my general life stuff too. To be honest, the fact that it’s happening without any conscious thought on my part is driving me a little batty. I have no idea how any of it is going to turn out, or why I’m even doing it in the first place. I just have to have patience. And, let’s be honest, patience isn’t exactly my strong point. (Just to prove that to myself, last weekend when I was in Canberra with my family I had a couple of little tantrums. The first involved surprise tears before breakfast and a fair bit of confusion for my poor Dad, and the second involved ranting at Mum while I stomped around reluctantly packing my bag to go home.)

I’m sincerely hoping that things do settle (at least a little) sooner rather than later. I think they will. I’m working on a number of exciting projects at the moment — some writing, some yoga — and they seemed to have at least calmed the frustration to below tantrum-causing levels. It’s a better mental place to be.

So I might eventually get to sharing some of the half-complete drafts of posts I wrote about the MWF sessions I went to in Melbourne. I hope I do; we saw some pretty great stuff. But I might not either. And, actually, as frustrating as it has been, not really knowing how things will turn out, even with whether or not I press ‘publish’ on a blog post, is also kind of exciting.