When Dreams Become Reality

I had a piano lesson the other day, the first of (hopefully) many. I did it with my son, a parent-child class. It was basic stuff, nothing more than I already knew, but it helped solidify a passion for music in him, and began the fulfillment of a long-term dream of mine, to play the piano. I wrote about it on Facebook, as one does these days, and a friend pointed out that it takes a lot of courage to step into a dream.

She’s right.

Piano, for me, was easy, maybe because I’m doing it for my boy as much as I am for myself, but it made me think about those other dreams I’ve harboured over the years, especially the wild ones, the big ones, the ones that I would never ever give myself permission to doubt that they’d ever come to pass because that doubt stood waiting at the door like a death shadow, like a smoke-haze, ready to seep in any little crack and snuff that little dream candle like the fragile life it was.

I had to hope.

My dream, my deepest and most heartfelt dream for many years – more years than I care to count (and I kid you not) was to travel overseas. For a long time it looked about as realistic as my (spayed) cat giving birth to puppies, but in 2011, the year of the First Great Miracle, I did it.

Somewhere Over the Pacific Ocean

Somewhere Over the Pacific Ocean

I cried.

The things is though, the thing that struck me most this week, is the memory of walking in to the travel agents on Liverpool Street in the city for the very first time. I’d walked past that office at least twice a week for years, its jaunty red-and-white sign promising me London! $1839! New York! $2103! Fiji! $518! 3-nights return! Jaunty, easy dreams. Still out of my reach. I had no idea that the idea of walking in would fill me with panic, that I’d feel like a fraud, like I didn’t belong there, that I’d need to sit down quietly on a park bench afterwards and let my pounding heart calm down. I had no idea that waiting in line at the post office with my passport application I’d feel the need to justify myself, I can be here, I can, I can, I can…

I had no idea that stepping into the fulfillment of a dream would mean the ripping open of the fragile dream-shell I’d protected and nurtured for so long. Nobody ever said long dreams were easy things to bear though, and anybody who dares say it is probably lying, or their dreams are young and fresh and they haven’t had to withstand the sun-fading and wind-hardening and brittling of them. You know what I mean? It’s not until you hold up a dream against the reality that you understand how one is faded.

Dreams have to die to make way for the reality they represent. The reality will always be fresher, bigger, lighter, brighter, better, but the death of the dream is still a funny little grief to bear.

Or is it just me…?

 

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On Coming Home

We’re back. I know, you know that. We’ve been back for a while really, a few weeks now. Except…not so much. People ask me all the time, and have asked me pretty much since we arrived back here “Are you settling in to life back home?” They ask because it’s what you ask, and it’s a fair enough question, although the answer is really anything less than straightforward.

I’m reading this book at the moment, called “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking”, by Susan Cain (yes, it’s brilliant, and yes I recommend it highly) and she makes the interesting observation that while extroverts tend to throw themselves into events, introverts tend to need time to process the meaning behind the events. Oh Hallelujah! SOMEBODY understands me!! (okay, I’m sure a lot of you do). It helps ME understand me! It helps me understand why, after being back in Australia for four weeks I finally feel now like I’m actually home, and why it’s okay that it took a while.

So yes, thank you. I’m settling into life back home. I’ve gradually shifted that amazing present to the past, and I’m embracing the memories with gusto. I’ve asked all the stupid questions “Why us? Why were we so blessed to be able to do such a thing, when so many others are struggling?” and “What’s the point of it all? How do we deal with it when we come home and step back into life as if nothing has happened, when SO MUCH happened?”

We learned a lot on that trip. We learned a lot about ourselves, about how to do family well, about how to communicate, about how to be effective parents. We didn’t always get it right, and we learned to forgive ourselves and each other and keep going. We made memories. We made family.

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Canoeing on Lake Louise, AB, Canada

I think, for all that, a little bit of bumpy adjustment time coming home has been worth it.

Proud to be Tasmanian?

Back in the day, back when I was about twelve years old, there was a show we all used to watch on TV, called “News Free Zone” (okay, it was a while ago. In the interests of full disclosure I have to admit that Mr. Google helped me out yet again with the name of the show, although he doesn’t have much at all to say about the rest of this post. The rest of this is all my thoughts and memories, so you’ll just have to put up with any inaccuracies).

Where was I? Oh yes.

Back in the day, back when I was about twelve years old, there was this sketch comedy show, and none of it is particularly relevant, except that it had this one regular segment called Australia Street, which chronicles the stories of the inhabitants of a share-house, each resident reflecting a state of Australia. Remember that show anybody? With the prissy Victoria Bitter, and Sunny Queensland with his floppy hat? Okay, it was the 80s. It was a long time ago. But it was kind of funny. And even if I didn’t fully get the jibes about the stereotypes of each state at the time, I did get the bit about Tassie. I was from Tassie. Heck, I was IN Tassie, and one thing I knew was that you don’t get many representations of Tasmania on TV or movies, or in stories.

So in this share-house on Australia Street, Tassie Franklin was a large hippy-ish woman living in a shed out in the back yard. She wandered in from time to time, eating an apple (Tasmania is famous for growing apples), and she’d say dim-witted, random things, and everyone would humour her for a few minutes and then tell her to nick off so they could get on with what they were meant to be doing. Something like that.

Good old Tassie. Left off maps and generally forgotten. Lives out in the back shed. In-bred. Two heads. Something about a convict past.

The other day I asked a friend who was born and raised on the mainland how she’d seen Tasmania while she was growing up, back in the 80s and 90s. I can’t remember the words she used, but the slightly patronising smile is one I remember from mainlanders years ago. The “oh, you’re from Tassie! How…sweet.” Like we were all a bit simple, a bit on the slow side. A bit not quite with it, with the notion that they should slow down their speech and thought patterns a little. My friend apologised, she’s a passionate Tassie advocate now, and I told her thank you, I was glad to hear that it wasn’t just my perception, or my own poor interpretation of memory. I remember visiting my cousins on the mainland and hearing that same patronising tone in their voices sometimes, or those of their friends. “Oh, you’re from Tassie. How…sweet!”

I remember the attitude back then, whether implied or spoken, that anyone with a brain gets out of Tassie as soon as they can. That the obvious step for anyone with some intelligence is to leave for the mainland. And many did. My friend questioned too, what does that do to a place when all the thinkers are encouraged to leave.

When we were in Canada we stopped at a bakery in a little town in Southern Alberta, run by an Australian woman, from Wollongong. We chatted a while, and she said “Tasmania eh? You don’t meet many Tasmanians!” We talked about how long she’d been in Canada (some twenty years now), and how she’d had a Tasmanian friend once, and how expensive it was to get to Tassie, which prohibited a lot of Tasmanians from travelling to the mainland, and limited others from travelling as often as they’d like. I remember the miracle that happened in the early 90s when budget airlines first began their Tasmanian operation, and suddenly poor students like me could travel, some for the first time in their lives.

I remember the feeling of “stuckness”, that of “missing the boat” because the man I fell in love with and married had no desire at all to leave Tasmania in spite of his wild intelligence. I remember feeling “dumbed down” by the sheer fact that travel was such a limited option. I remember resenting Tassie’s smallness, its apples, the vast expanses of treacherous water surrounding it, the attitude still of “Oh you’re from Tassie. How…sweet!”

Tasmania from space (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Tasmania from space (source: Wikimedia Commons)

I never chose to live here. I just…did. And after a while you learn to accept that people are coming now, moving TO Tassie and not just from it, intelligent people, thinkers, and not because they think it’s…sweet.

Here’s an amazing thing though. When I was in the US I met people who thought I was interesting, fascinating, exotic even, because I was from Tassie. I met people from cities wider and vaster than my entire state who thought I was the exotic one–not the simple one, not the stuck one, not the one who’s obviously inbred-two-headed-less-than-intelligent–the exotic one.

It made me think about Tassie differently. It made me see the stereotypes for what they are–stereotypes, from people who had little real experience of the a place rich and beautiful and steeped in history. It made me happy that, even if by default, I chose to live here. And, most importantly, it fuelled my desire to write Tasmanian stories.

I’m doing it now. I’m kicking off on a new novel, a Tasmanian novel, which is partly why I’m exploring these thoughts. I’d love to know how common these thoughts are. Are you Tasmanian? From the mainland? From elsewhere, and never heard of Tassie until you started reading my blog? Drop me a line. Help me with my research. Tell me YOUR Tassie story. Please?

This is My Hobart

I’m tired. Really tired.
I went back to work a few days ago (I work a few hours a week as a distributor for a marketing company). It’s funny being in Hobart again after so long in cities wider and grander and a million times bigger and a million times more foreign.
The familiarity of these places threw me. I think it’s because I’m tired. Really tired. But also because I’m different and they, for the most part, are not.

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It’s a funny place to be in, and I’m very aware that window of observation will be open to me for a very short time. Soon enough I’ll walk these streets and not notice them at all, not think about anything except a thousand memories of walking these same streets a thousand times before. But right now, while I’m tired and while that window of observation is open, I thought I’d show you my city, the places I’ll walk a thousand more times without noticing. It’s a good city, really.

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This is the mall. It rained today, all day, which is unusual for Hobart. Two days ago I got sunburnt. That contrast in weather is pretty normal.

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I got a coffee in town, which is pretty normal, and thought about how many old buildings  there are. Hobart is over 200 years old, which is an infant by European standards, but compared to Calgary, a mere babe at 100 years, it’s an ancient city. We have some beautiful architecture that for the most part I take for granted. I didn’t even get to the older, genteel parts of the city.

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And then there’s the modernist 1950s influence. We have a lot of that, too. Those blue windows you can see poking out the back are the library, by the way.

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And this is it. This is looking down from the street I park my car on, down onto the main road, and beyond that is the highway. There are other, prettier views of Hobart. I wasn’t coming to capture it’s beauty today as much as it’s familiarity. This is My Hobart. Two lanes of traffic. Peak hour that lasts five minutes. The mountain that comes and goes with the weather. These are the scenes that I know like the back of my hand.
To tell you the truth it’s good to be home, but at the same time familiarity makes me a little sad too. It makes me, strangely, nostalgic for places that are different.
I’m tired, really tired. And it’s good to be home. But to tell you the truth, today I’m homesick for America.

Oh, Canada! Part two: the Rockies

So this morning I get up, and this is what I see:

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Pretty much all I can think to say is WOW. What else is there?
Funny thing. Whenever I get back to Hobart from Melbourne I have the same thought: ‘Ohhh, so little, and it calls itself a city!’ And ‘Ohhh, so cute! And it calls itself a highway.’ Heck. Now I’ll be all ‘Ohhh, it’s so cute! And it call itself a mountain!’
Hmmmm.

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Gotta go. There’s a cloud coming. I think I have to walk in it!

P. S. Sonnie! I miss you. How quick can you get here???

Oh, Canada! Part1: Vancouver

We’re in Vancouver.

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People have been saying to me for a long time now that Canada is beautiful, that I’ll love it, that the scenery is spectacular, and that it’s like Hobart…Hobart, Tasmania, that is. I can’t comment on Hobart, Indianapolis.

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And guess what I’m going to tell you: it’s spectacularly beautiful, I love it, and yes, it’s like Hobart.
Actually, it’s like Hobart on steroids. Powerful steroids. Everything we love about Hobart is here, but there’s more of it! Bigger river, more quaint little streets, more shops, bigger mountains. High rises. High everything. Much, MUCH bigger mountains.

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Today we drove to Stanley Park (no don’t get confused. This is no park-down-the-road-with-a-swing-set, this is a massive multi-acre nature reserve, complete with Aquarium and nature trails. And totem poles. And beaches, where my kids paddled in the water and watched some even more enthusiastic tourists get their gear off and swim! (In their bathers). Tomorrow we’ll go back, and possibly the next day, and maybe the day after that as well.
Truth is, I think we could spend a month here and still not see everything Vancouver has to offer. That’s the trouble with it really. That’s the trouble with Canada really. It makes you fall in love with it, then gives you far too much to even know where to start. We’ve got four more days.

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Oh yes. We saw our first moose. Sorry. Mousse. Close enough, eh?

It’s not WHAT you know

It’s been a fun week. In fact, today being Wednesday (for me, at least), it marks the end of our first full week in the USA, and a rich and full week it has been, too. In one week we’ve stayed in three different houses in three different locations, all wildly different, all of which with something unique to offer. I posted a lot of San Francisco pics last time, here are a couple of the places we visited afterwards:IMG_6309

Yes, those are real, wild DEER grazing on someone's front lawn

Yes, those are real, wild DEER grazing on someone’s front lawn

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Black Butte, Northern California

Black Butte, Northern California

 

Our hotel had a swimming pool!

Our hotel had a swimming pool!

We drove six hour’s north to visit Katy and George for the weekend. We picked up a rental car in downtown San Francisco – had to upgrade to an 8-seater just to fit all our luggage in – and then Tony had to do a super-quick crash-course on a) how to drive a car that looks totally different inside to any we’ve driven before, b) how to drive on the right, and c) how to drive in San Francisco. At the car rental office one of the staff told me that her mother is Indian, and she’ll drive anywhere in urban India, even with it’s crazy road rules (or lack thereof), but even she is scared to drive in San Francisco.

We did it though. Hats off to Tony, who drove well, and who took us North for one of the most beautiful sightseeing tours I’ve ever been on. We loved our time there. Katy and George live in a tiny historic gold-rush town. They fed us, and took us to Oregon to see the most beautiful little art galleries, and we oohed and aahed at the scenery again. We laughed and ate and dreamed and talked and came away feeling full and loved and happy.

And drove ANOTHER five hour down to Sacramento.

The cool thing? It’s so worth it.

We planted ourselves in Sacramento because I wanted to visit people. We figured we’d find something else to do to fill in all the extra time. We didn’t expect that it’d be filled in the way it was though.IMG_5709

We went to visit a little after-school program run by Debbie, who I’d met last year. Debbie had set up a pen-pal system between her after-school kids and my daughter’s class back home, and the two groups have been corresponding throughout the year. We weren’t sure what to expect, but they made us feel quite at home, and sat us down in a row and the kids took turns to ask questions about Tasmania, about their school, about the wildlife and the food, about what we thought of America. They showered us with gifts, and we chatted for a good hour or so while our kids made themselves at home with theirs.

Afterwards, the bit we didn’t expect and could never predict, the mother of the girl my daughter had been writing to asked whether we’d like to come back and see her daughter’s horse. She bought us all pizza for dinner, and drove us to a ranch about ten minutes out of town, where the kids climbed trees, patted miniature horses, rode a full-size one, played soccer, ate fresh figs and cooled off under the sprinklers.

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IMG_6528It’s getting late and I’m hungry and I have other things to do, and even if I had the time I don’t think I could fully express the joy of this last week, or my gratitude to the people I’ve met and the places they’ve taken us. It’s been wonderful. Truly wonderful.

I still can’t say I’ve done a lot of tourist things, and even at the end of the trip there’ll be a lot of big exciting tourist things we won’t have seen, the time we’ve had with our precious friends is priceless, and the experiences they’ve provided for us are worth more to us than any tourism brochure can offer. It just goes to show really, it’s not what you know, it’s who…