Sunday, August 20, 2006

Making Progress

My thanks to Freebird for reminding me of my resolutions and seeing that it was time for a treat. As you probably noticed, too much brooding on the war and its impact on my partner and our life together was starting to make me spiral downward again.

Anyway, its time for the weekend report on my resolutions.

So, Resolution #1: Exercising three times per week, eating no junk food, and having plenty of home-cooked food. I am proud to report that I managed to complete my first week with a flourish. After we didn't go bowling because our baby was sick, I managed to get a walk in by getting off my bus a number of stops before arrival at work. I entered my workplace a little sweaty, but flushed with success. Just to achieve a totally gratuitous level of success with this, I also went for another swim later in the week and a short walk yesterday. And I have made some more healthy meals for the freezer, as this has worked well and freed up my evenings quite a bit, with no need to cook every night and the reduced washing up.

Resolution #2 : Having $100 per fortnight automatically deducted into an account that I don't touch. That account remains untouched. I can't remember when we last saved any money, so even though the amount is small so far, I feel quite satisfied every time I think of it.

Resolution #3: Doing something for myself every week that doesn't involve food and that feeds my heart, my mind, my spirit. I thought it would be best to vary these treats as much as possible and I also thought of Rob's comment about striving to make myself a more interesting and educated person. So, just on impulse, I went to the National Art Gallery and hit the jackpot.

The first exhibition there was for an Australian artist called Imants Tillers. His exhibition was just the kind of art I truly like. Firstly, his works are massive in scale, the kind where one work takes up a whole wall. I like an artist who knows how to take up space! And secondly, his pieces were like an extended conversation between European and other kinds of art and his personal experiences. I am very interested in certain kinds of post-WWII European art, so I loved this. And his parents were refugees to Australia from Latvia, so his work was full of images of loss, disaster, fragmentation and survival. And it ended with the most beautiful reflections on the Australian landscape as a kind of regeneration.

The second was for an Indigenous Australian photographer called Michael Riley. I was very happy about that because while, to my shame, I can't seem to summon up much interest in traditional aboriginal art of the "dot painting" variety, I am very curious about contemporary Indigenous art. I am particularly interested in what it has to say about the survival of aboriginal people in Australia and the general dilemmas they have today, like how to preserve and develop their culture in modern Australia and what parts of broader Australian society they can feel part of.

The Riley exhibition was trying to get away from the usual images of aboriginal people in Australia - either a sort of frozen image of the "noble savage" type or the very sad modern images of people living in squalor or drunk on the street, and of young people killing themselves by sniffing petrol. There were a lot of images showing his friends and relatives as basically much more modern and complicated figures, "real" people rather than symbols of something else, whether noble savages or victims. And some particularly happy images of kids and young people. The moment I saw those, my mood just lifted. And also some completely different works which were all about spirituality and survival.

Afterwards, since I was still thinking about the Riley exhibition and it was just around the corner, I visited the Aboriginal Tent Embassy at Australia's old parliament house. This embassy is very controversial, not just among white Australians but among aboriginal people also, but I have always liked the way it sprawls across the front lawn of what is a very manicured environment. I associate the old parliament house with so many images of Australian history, and I like their presence there - informal, messy, and assertive about their right to be there, both in Australia's history and our present. It was just a bonus that there were kids playing and running around, much like the photographs I had just seen. Anyway, I walked around, paid my respects, and then sat quietly in the sun, thinking of when I last visited there, while I was having a rest from our first three unsuccessful attempts to conceive our baby. I let the woodsmoke from the fire blow over me, just connecting with the way it is used in aboriginal ceremonies for general cleansing and healing. The symbolism around me and the memories of that time made it a sacred place, for me as well as for them, and I removed my shoes as a mark of respect for both.

And the combination of the exhibitions and the visit to the embassy helped me. While its hard to put my finger on why they did, I think it was because, in my rather sad state of mind, the common themes of the two exhibitions about destruction and fragmentation, about loss and mourning, drew me in. There was something comforting about these things being universal, about them being basically the human condition, that lifted my thoughts above my personal problems. And something about the exhibitions and the embassy, the images of survival and regeneration, soothed my heart and left me with this little flicker of hope about the future.

Am I too young for the consolations of art and philosophy?


Blogger Rob said...

"There was something comforting about these things being universal, about them being basically the human condition, that lifted my thoughts above my personal problems."

Emily, I'm happy that you are making progress on your resolutions. You are to be congratulated and encouraged to continue. We all have problems throughout our lives. How we cope with them decides whether our lives will be happy or sad. I try to live by this motto (which I've often share with others here on the net):

Don't sweat the small stuff because in life everything is in the grand scheme of things - just small stuff! Think about it!

7:35 PM  
Blogger freebird said...

See, I have my uses ;-)
Congratulations on your resolution keeping! And that sounds like a fabulous day of 'Emily time'. What will you think of for the next one?

6:27 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Rob - Did you ever see that Dilbert cartoon, which shows the universe and a tiny, insignificant point labelled "your job"? Maybe I should get one and re-label that point?

Freebird - Of course you have your uses! I did truly appreciate you re-directing me onto something positive.

5:55 AM  

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