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Monday, January 17, 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Week 24, Reflections at the Halfway Point

The opportunity to work less and with more quiet and less stress is one of the great benefits of sabbatical. After seven years of hard effort at UM, I felt the need to step back, reflect, and reconnect with parts of myself that it seemed were fading away in the busy day-to-day. In the push for success in my career and in obtaining security for my family, I had the sense that I had over-shot something of value; a lightness of spirit that I had once enjoyed seemed increasingly distant and hard to access.
Some would argue that the loss of optimism and light-spiritedness is inevitable as one ages and takes on greater responsibility. But there are youthful spirits in all walks of life, including our own, who show us that this is not the case, that light-spiritedness can be cultivated, even in the face of life's challenges.
Which brings me back to myself, here in NZ, with plenty of time (maybe too much) on my hands, five weeks into summer break and half-way through my time here, trying to surf and bike my way back to a more wonder-filled way of being and of looking at the world.  After five months of grasping effort and waiting, I feel a familiar lightness stirring, tentatively, and it is a relief.
Looking forward, the question then arises, How can I cultivate
and strengthen this joy? Gratitude, the topic of my Week 21 journal, is certainly part of the answer. Over the next five months, my goal is to discover still more.

Surfing - a bloody difficult sport - at Kaka Point.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Weeks 22 & 23, Mom's Visit

Mom and I at Tunnel Beach
This journal entry will have to suffice for two week's worth. My mom leaves today, and I've been focused on her for the past two weeks.
Mom's visit has been book-ended by days in Dunedin, and in the middle of her stay, we took a five day trip south to the Catlins and then further along the Southern Scenic Route to western Southland.
The Dunedin days were filled with what have become typical outings for us: beach trips to Brighton and St. Clair, walks to Allans Beach, Victory Beach and Sandfly Bay, and various explorations  of this beautiful city.
Allans Beach in the rain.
Brighton Beach.
 The trip south through the Catlins was magic. The Catlins is off the beaten path and contains some of NZ's most pristine coastline: amazing beaches and bays, and rugged points. We had an amazing night of Yellow-eyed Penguin viewing at Curio Bay, saw dolphins at Porpoise Bay, and had incredible hikes to Nugget Point and the Cathedral Caves. Other beaches we visited, and surfed at, were Kaka Point, Tautuku Bay, Porpoise Bay, and Colac Bay. I hope to go back to the Catlins before our time here is over.
Mom at Nugget Point
Jen and Ellie at Nugget Point.

Ellie and yellow-eyed penguin
Mom, Ellie and I, Cathedral Caves.
Moms are dependable. Of all our family, it's only the moms who are coming through with visits. And for my mom travelling isn't a passion, so it's largely about seeing us and our lives here. I've been surprised at how important it feels to have Mom here to witness our lives. It somehow validates the experience.
 Many things have been said about family. I've learned, with Mom's NZ visit, that your family are those to whom you want, and perhaps need, to show your life (Look here, see what I've done!), and none more so than Mom. Only family knows how far you've come.
At Sandfly Bay with sea lions.
So thanks Mom for making the effort to get down here. We had a great time with you and are sad to see you go.