my holiday crush

Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 308I am a city girl who has a very solid relationship with the hustle and vibe of city life, but I do have a quiet crush. I try to resist acting on my heart’s wondering affections, but as often as I can I just acquiesce. I have a longstanding and not-so-secret crush on a little town that pulls at my heart in ways unrivalled by any others.

Every so often I have a yearning and, as a family we are off, northbound, to a place that my soul recognises as home. A place where one feels safe, embraced and unguarded.

Upon arrival the quiet stillness washes over me and into me and I am reminded that I am in the presence of my mentor, my teacher, my shining light.

This small town wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s unashamed vulnerability and rawness is on public display for all to see -hand-drawn shop signs and unbrushed hair are all part of its honesty.  This little town in the Northern Rivers region of NSW is not known for its Opera House or even a Big Banana. Intimate, open conversations with strangers are, in my eyes, its main tourist attraction.

Whilst I love my life in the big city this is my place of refuge and respite. This is my go-to place when I need to recharge, heal and renew. It is like returning to the family home when the outside world feels hostile and demanding – mum’s cooking and your childhood bedroom provide a familiar comfort, and there is no self-consciousness required.

I am inspired by its humanity. Its causes and community values are paraded through its small streets and humble homes. There is unwritten local lore here, but even as a visitor I am amongst my tribe, and I get it.

I love it, and here are some of the things that make my heart smile and my soul sing….
  • I love when you go to the local store looking for Aloe Vera to treat sunburn but they have run out, someone suggests you walk down to the community garden and pick some fresh.
  • I love that you can only borrow 5 items from the local library to leave enough on the shelves for everyone.
  • I love the menu at the local pool – Miso soup with gluten free toast, or a dandelion tea with soy.
Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 372

Menu at the local pool.

  • I love that the large-chain supermarket (hidden away in the back street) has a ‘trade-in’ system set up for the latest set of cards they are giving away to kids, as part of a reward scheme. Bring in your ‘doubles’ and trade them in for cards you still ‘need’.
  • I love that the guy in front of me at the local store asks Sharon, on the checkout, how her birthday party went. (It was a blast!)
  • I love that the pierced, tattooed doctor at the local hospital (it’s a long story) refers to his patients as ‘brother’ (and ‘ sister’ presumably).
  • I love that the community takes it upon themselves to erect their own street signs.
Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 391

Dear trucks and tradies, please slow down. Kids, pets and wildlife at play.

  • I love that the lovely man who has lost one eye stops to help me as I precariously juggle arms full of shopping, all whilst sharing stories of the flood on his property and his family Xmas.
  • I love that the pool at the house we are staying at has a little makeshift ramp so the frogs can get out after a swim.
  • I love that the woman at the local herbal shop that I go to get some ‘Itchy Scratchy cream’ for a mysterious rash that one of my children has developed in the heat reminds me to check her gut-health. A woman of my own heart.
  • I love that my kids aren’t the odd-ones-out when snacking on fresh fruit and nuts when out.
  • I love that even the street art has soul.
Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 393

Enbrace the power of our consciousness.

How can I be a better human.

How can I be a better human.

  • I love that the local gym offers their community free access to their filtered water (so when a bandicoot dies in one’s water tank one does not need to drink it!!).
  • I love that this same local gym just makes up the Xmas timetable from one day to the next. It keeps one’s yoga practice flexible and prevents attachment.
  • I love that the lifeguard at the pool knows everyone by name.
  • I love that pronouncability is not THE major consideration when naming ones cafe.

Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 394

  • I love being surrounded by rainbow colours everywhere you look. It lifts the spirit.

Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 349

  • I love that as you drive into town at night you are greeted by a small, heart-shaped refector attached to the tree on the side of the road.

Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 456

For now I say goodbye to Mullumbimby, but I know I will be back soon.

 

Ever felt like you needed a dose of Sesame Street in your life?

 

“Sunny Day

Sweepin’ the clouds away

On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get,

How to get to Sesame Street?

Come and play

Everything’s A-OK

Friendly neighbours there

That’s where we meet….”

Ever felt like you needed a dose of Sesame Street? I didn’t, but then I did. You know how a realisation can sneak up on you and bonk you over the head and suddenly you find yourself in the awkward position of needing to attend to things urgently? I seem particularly prone to this method of discovering my next move in life.

It was around this time last year that I took off on an extended adventure to the Byron Bay region of Northern NSW with my children and I discovered a love for the vacation – that is vacating my life and setting up elsewhere for a while. I experienced such joy and pleasure and made a mental note not to wait until desperate overload set in before considering the next break. So the theory was in place but for one good reason after another the planning got relegated to the ‘next-week’ basket a few too many times.

So whilst the intention was sitting alone in the dark a light went off somewhere else and illuminated the next step clearly. I needed to create a gap, and by this I don’t mean clearing the schedule for space to get away. I mean a big enough hole (and this would look different for each of us) where you are dangling a bit. Where there is enough distance between the known and the unknown to be able to discover a thing or two. Part new and exciting, part unknown and a bit frightening but a road to discovery either way.

Enter stage left Sesame Street. A childhood fantasy of Brownstone buildings with friendly people sitting around on the stoop, 70’s adventure playgrounds, ethnic diversity and the letter ‘N’. Destination…..New York.

It was a frenzy of organising passports, desperately trying to find accommodation during peak season at a moments notice ( without too much explaining we did spend the first night in our rather expensive hotel room sleeping top and tail in one king size bed), compiling a running list of  itinerary suggestions which were enthusiastically offered by people from all corners of our life, fending off naysayers who thought I had left my run a bit short, trying to tie up some loose ends and then the enviable task of telling my children that in just over a week we would be travelling to the other side of the world. Priceless.

The big hole was born and we dived in just as we were.

As we explored what felt like a stage set from my childhood I came to see something I could only really understand by experiencing it first –  what it takes to feel fully alive.

New York Sept 2013 440 This advertisement, photographed from The Highline in Chelsea, articulates my findings so beautifully. We can’t live a big, full life from the confines of a box. Like a bonsai plant, our lives may have all of its features and external aesthetics intact but what is lacking is a sense of fullness.

The joy of the big hole I refer to is similar to putting a small plant into a bigger pot and leaving it do its thing. Its roots will reach deeper and spread to fill it and its branches will reach further. The initial uncertainty is all part of the aliveness. Making quick decisions, thinking fast on your feet, having to hustle, watching your back – it all keeps you in the moment, keeps you alert and this, I realise, is where the pulsating sense of aliveness comes from.

When we spend most of our time unconsciously going through life’s motions and we are only minimally challenged to discover new pathways, excitement and anticipation dies. Being a little bit uncomfortable and dangling in a space big enough for the edges to be out of reach has taught me how to experience a life rich with possibility and choice and freedom, and I feel expanded as a result.

New York is truly fantastic and inspiring and I have much more to share about my time there, but in some ways the destination is only the scaffolding for the experience. You don’t need a lot of money or time (or preparation as it turns out), just a willingness to step outside your own thimble.

And that’s how you get to Sesame Street.

I have returned invigorated and excited by possibility and my only wish is to share it. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

How have you stretched the boundaries in your own life? What have you discovered? What did it take to get there? What changed as a result?

xM