Space to breathe and contemplate life


I’m back from a few days on the Gold Coast after presenting a paper at an education research conference and have been reflecting on my leisurely and rambling rumination whilst there …

Sitting in the cool lobby of a hotel I had the pleasure of inhabiting for the four days of my stay, I was waiting for my shuttle to the airport. I had just walked along the magnificent Queensland coast where Surfers Paradise meets the sea, and had surrendered myself to the gently rolling ocean waves.

I’m not a great fan of the area and it’s high tourist trade, but was incredibly grateful for the opportunity I’d had to engage in deeply stimulating dialogue with an international community of my peers, and to sit in my 19th floor room overlooking the panoramic vista. The setting of our research gathering amongst the proliferation of high-rise apartments of Surfers Paradise saw us bordered by the endless coast on one side and Tamborine Mountain beyond the Hinterland on the other.

It reminded me of a beautiful book I bought for my boys years ago. Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker (1987) is described as a tribute to her love of Australian wilderness and fierce commitment to protecting it from destruction Also It is a book created from original artworks that depict the unfolding story of change through the imaginings of a young boy, telling the story of a place further north where the incredible Daintree Forest meets the sea. It predicts how this space where the elements and forces of nature come together might be irrevocably changed to accommodate our desire to appreciate and access such places of beauty. I remember that I took my boys into the Melbourne Art Gallery at a time when they were young and dreaming their own dreams of possibility, and we were privileged to see the original artworks for the book.

The television is playing in the background in the lobby, and from a distant place I can hear The Last Post sounding. Young men and women walking along the street in front of me are wearing war medals, returning from a local ANZAC Day march, and I am taken in my mind to scenes of heart-wrenching death as beautiful young lives are lost on the sandy shores of Gallipoli. Another coast, another place where the rich landscape meets the sea. Another place where the elements and forces of nature have been witness to and changed by the desires and ambitions of ‘progress’ and ‘protecting’ and promoting what is ours.

In the odd news reports that drift across from the television I hear about plans to purchase massive instruments of war that will cost billions of dollars and contribute to a culture of alienation and intimidation, and I consider how all these stories collide.

I am ruled by a government, overseeing a population, overwhelmingly out of touch with the key issues we are facing. Even as I sit in my air-conditioned lobby, having enjoyed the sights from my eagles nest perspective, waiting to board my fume-belching plane back home, I am overwhelmed by the impact of our decisions. Decisions to bulldoze protected forests; dump oil in unique marine environments; cull exquisite sharks in their homes; refuse critical assistance to people and creatures who need it most. Decisions to buy exorbitantly priced instruments of war and protect our borders from those we fear who come across the sea to share what belongs to all of us, and send them away to be imprisoned for being ‘illegal’. Decisions to support the clearing of more irreplaceable ‘spaces’ and re’place’ them with concrete jungles filled with constantly revolving editions of ever-new technology, and retire on massive tax-payer funded pensions … but we will tell those in dire peril we have no money to support them in their need.

And I wonder what we can do to change it.

In the lobby people are coming and going, some excited to be launching into their holiday adventures, others like me preparing to reenter the ongoing story of their lives. Two young sisters are using the couches as mountain ranges, climbing and navigating their way through imagined adventures.

From all corners of the world, people are going about their business, while in so many places, where the landscapes meet the sea, where mountains overlook winding rivers, where forests embrace their rich environments, the planet and her dependent inhabitants are struggling to survive due to the heartless, thoughtless, senseless decisions and actions being taken now. It is my observation that in most cases assaults on living creatures and our planet stem from our inability to open our hearts and make choices grounded in loving wisdom. Greed, fear and suspicion do not create sustainable solutions. Answers will never be found in instruments of war. Loving compassionate hearts, working collaboratively and open to each others’s truths, are the only foundation on which humane, sustainable decisions can be made for our collective future. A government working secretly at times, blindly at others in a seeming time warp is not sustainable for people, planet or anyone’s profit.

So what to do … I seem to recall a song from my childhood about shining a light in my little corner of the world … that if we all shine our light in our little corner we can illuminate the world. I guess this means we need to polish up our strengths, open our hearts and step out to use our loving influence and our compassionate example in all instances. Share whatever we can, grow whatever hope and capability is possible in our little space so that we can heal and prosper collectively … as one interconnected organism.

Now that I am home from my sojourn, I need to figure out what that next step will be for me … might just go and polish my heart and my courage while I give it some thought …

About Jennifer K Miles

I am an educator, researcher and writer, passionate about storytelling and its power to change perspectives of self. Through undertaking the journey of my own transformative learning, I now work with adults to support them in drawing forth stories of the strength and potential gained in their lives, as they move towards the creation of their stories as yet untold. My three beautiful adult boys are the most precious part of my story, and continue to walk with and support me in undertaking my PhD research. I write about story and transformative learning ... the circumstances of our lives and the stories remembered; influences on the construction of our self-identities - positive and negative; critiquing the assumptions and limitations we have come to accept about ourselves, our potential, and our place in life; daring to imagine a story untold.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s