30 April 2013

sharing secrets

When you live alone you actually don't have many secrets. It seems to me that secrets usually involve more than one person. "Please don't tell..." because other people are involved in the secret.

Recently a dear friend died, and with her went my secrets. Noone can blackmail me now... I jest, of course, but there are some things that one might prefer to keep, ...well, ...secret!

Who do you tell your secrets to? I guess we all have someone with whom we like to share things that are best kept private. I have different people in my life who share and discuss different things, each of us with the other. These are confidences, rather than secrets as such. What I share in confidence with one is completely different from what I share with another. Perhaps it comes down to shared experiences and situations, or different levels of trust. But when it comes to having secrets,  perhaps now I should (if I ever have the need to share anything) simply send a post card.

If you haven't heard of the PostSecret project, watch this TED talk. It seems we all need to be heard, one way or another. You can whisper your secret, if you like, or you can simply send a postcard.

Click here to hear and read about the wonderful project and then consider the difference this man, Frank Warren, and then the second blogger who rescues and reunites photographs and people, have made in the lives of so many. I tried to find the blog mentioned at the end of the TED talk, but there are so many similar sites out there that for now I leave it to you to locate any missing photos via these sites. This site had useful information, including looking for the serial number of a camera embedded in photos. It's really amazing, what can be done. The world really is a very small place sometimes.

Today I am grateful for secrets kept. 

29 April 2013

ps i'm listening to this at the moment

The writer Elizabeth Gilbert is growing on me. This interview, Big Think Interview with Elizabeth Gilbert reinforces the good opinion I had of her as a speaker. I wish I had seen this before I read the book; perhaps I would have been kinder in my opinion and actually enjoyed the book more.

It's been a busy kind of day, and my spring cleaning has resulted in a huge mess on all the surfaces and some kind of order in the cupboards and drawers. I'm at that point of no return... there's no way I can put everything back where it was, so I will continue to strive for minimalism.

I can't remember, did I blog the minimalist blog before? Here is the inspiration for my wardrobe sorting, and (when I find it again) this link that will take you to an interview that is quite useful in my quest for simplicity.

Today I am grateful for hand cream.

28 April 2013

the age of memoir

Elizabeth Gilbert may not be as famous as Julia Roberts, but they do have something in common. It is a book which makes average to good aeroplane reading, Eat Pray Love. I have to say that I didn't really enjoy the book. It seemed rather shallow, and left me wondering whether the journey was a superficial one or whether much that was felt was left unsaid.

However, when it comes to public speaking, Elizabeth Gilbert is well worth listening to. Her talks, like this one at the 2011 ICAN Women's Leadership Conference, are a mix of good sense, humour, compassion and wisdom. I don't believe that she sets out to inspire or motivate, but stays in the role of a story teller. The anecdotes allow other women to feel that they are not alone in their rites of passage (I really don't like the way the word "journey" is used these days, but find myself using it too!) To me, without the distance and objectivity of the page, she comes across as a far more genuine person than the writer did.

I think I like the fact that she is unpretentious, can turn a joke against herself without being self-deprecating, and doesn't try to offer advice. That in itself is a pretty big achievement, when one considers the success of her book.

I first heard one of her addresses via the wonderful TED talks that keep me sane when I think my brain might atrophy around irregular Italian verbs. Click here to listen to that 2009 talk about creativity.

Phrases that resonated in the 2011 talk were these (typed hastily as I listened).

"the age of memoir"

"other people's goals"

"deeply true inner voice"

"there have never been people like us before"

If you have time, do listen to the talks. They make very pleasant Sunday morning listening, offering plenty to think about without feeling that you need to change your life and take over the world.

Today I am grateful for Youtube.

27 April 2013

on pulcritude

Having used derivatives of the word pulcritude twice this week in very different contexts I decided to blog about it. I like the English language. I like all its subtleties, many of which are sadly lost on people who neither listen nor care to expand their understanding.

The more people tell me that my Italian is lacking and English is easy, the more I want to shout "To speak and understand English in all its complexity is NOT easy! You have no idea of how much you don't know!" And so words like pulcritudinous float into my mind.

I decided to write a blog about it, but a quick search showed me that this blogger has already written a better post  than I was planning to write.

We all have our own interpretations of words. For me, the adjective pulcritudinous brings up visions of a Rubens type of beauty. It works for me, somehow. Maybe that is because of my introduction to the word.

I remember very well the first time I met the word outside the covers of a book (and by association that might be why it is so much in my mind at the moment). An artist wanted to paint me nude, because of my "beauty", but I turned him down. I suspect that his motives were more that he wanted to ogle my pulcritude. He painted me nude anyway, from his imagination. With very beautifully painted curves. Flattering, or kind of creepy? I still haven't decided. The painting is hidden away in a garage in NZ. I was never quite comfortable with his view of me.

But thanks, Bill, so many many years later, for giving me the word pulcritude.

Today I am grateful for  the English language.

26 April 2013

The Spirit of the Heart - review

The Spirit of the Heart

This book, subtitled "Stories of Family, Hope, Loss and Healing", lives up to its full title. It is best read as a collection of stories, some of which follow on from the previous story easily, and some which are best revisited after a break.

Ismael N Nuno, MD, retired heart surgeon, invites the reader to share his story, his observations, and perhaps more importantly, his reflections. These are supported by many anecdotes, with sufficient medical detail for those non-medical persons interested in the area of heart surgery to learn in general terms about the procedures and options for patients. The stories are written in very accessible narrative language, and carry the reader into intensely personal areas of family life and hospital drama; for the squeamish there are just a few pages where descriptions might be a little too vivid.

Once I accepted that I was reading a collection of stories, rather than a sequential book, the occasional repetition of statistics or allusions to the same anecdote became unimportant. The stories themselves are gripping. The personal reflections are thought provoking, and Dr Nuno does not shy away from giving advice about life choices.  His honesty about his own regrets and failures add a dimension that is unexpectedly personal and revealing.

One wonders if, now that the doctor can no longer perform surgery, he is looking for another way to serve mankind. He uses his own mistakes and regrets to illustrate points, but it seems that he is not quite sure if he will be accepted if he talks about the spiritual happenings that he often alludes to. I hope that he follows this book with one that addresses in depth those things touched on briefly at the end of stories in this volume.

This is an interesting, easy read which raises as many questions as it answers. Unresolved issues around the spirit, anorexia, acculturation and the loss of traditional values in the pursuit of excellence in a specialist field give us cause to reflect, exactly as, I suspect, the author intended us to.

21 April 2013

humble is as humble does

...is it just me?

I started to write this blog post some time ago. And then I thought better of it. But it sat there, waiting for me to come back and finish it.

I was feeling cross with all the FB posts where people were saying they were honoured and humbled - over and over - for the recognition for their works, for mentions in print, for their successes. I was cross that these artists were claiming to be feeling humble when they were plastering their successes repeatedly in different forms on an almost daily basis over several pages on FB.

I stopped writing this post because I wondered, was I envious of their successes? I decided that it wasn't the case. I was grumpy because to me it was all false. Not the success, but the "humility".

I call it advertising. But almost false advertising, wanting to come across as someone who wouldn't celebrate and enjoy this (often well deserved) attention.

What is it all about, artists? Why can't you celebrate your successes by shouting out how excited you are? Why not talk in terms of happiness, surprise, and pleasure?

Perhaps I am getting crotchety in my old age. But I don't think these people are honoured and humbled as much as they are self promoting. Artists need to do that. But, dear artists, why not promote yourselves proudly? Don't pretend to be feeling humble when you are telling literally thousands of people what you have done, while counting on the power of Facebook to spread your stories far and wide.

Humble is as humble does.

Be proud. Be happy. Advertise blatantly. But don't pretend.

Today I am grateful for honest celebration of successes. 

other blogs

I keep checking other blogs, waiting for the next post. Sometimes I am rewarded.

It has just occurred to me that some of you also patiently check mine. Without reward.

I've been busy. I've been out and about. I've been doing. And now I am being.

Is that enough?

Today I am grateful for silence. 

8 April 2013

poor little nz...

There is a tiny cottage I know quite well in NZ that went on the market recently. I saw the sales stats for it today.

Incredibly, half the viewers of this property are from the USA. A few (multiples) are from France, the UK, China, and Canada, plus a few (one of each) from various other countries.

And about 3/8 of them are from NZ.

I find that quite disturbing, somehow.

I wonder what the stats for a property in Italy would look like. I can imagine... and yes, I am guilty too.



Today I am grateful for barking dogs.


7 April 2013

essential and less essential reading

I was recently given a copy of

The Power of the Introvert 

by Susan Cain. 

This extensively researched and beautifully written book talks about the power of being an introvert in our modern and noisy world where, to be seen as successful, one must come across as an extrovert. Unless, perhaps, you are someone like Ghandi.

It is not an "easy read" once you get well into the book, as the research is not watered down for the casual reader. But even a "busy" person would gain much from reading at least the first half of the book, and educators would relate well to the research as familiar names and projects are pulled into a new way of looking at the attributes of family members, students and colleagues.

(I have formatted the title this way because the cover of the book itself gives that feeling of quiet, and then quietly affirms that to be an introvert is not a negative thing. My copy, unlike the one in the link, has a white cover and is, unquestionably, quiet). 

I followed this book with what might be its antithesis, the equally interesting but inversely empowering book "Are You Smart Enough to Work for Google? by William Poundstone. If I had not previously read "Quiet" I would have been much less interested in this book, but it certainly made excellent "airport reading" and I look forward to making time to finish the book soon.

(Can something be "inversely empowering"? I'll have to think on that a little further. Perhaps I have just coined a very useful phrase).

But today, after the luxury of sleeping in, safely back in my beloved village after almost four months of "living out of a suitcase", I read a blog column from the New York Times that jogged me into writing this post. It is entitled

I recommend it to you. I have put it in large format bold so you don't miss it. I would call it "essential reading".

It is Sunday, a day of rest, a day for reflection, and for family and friends. So, rather than face the dreaded unpacking of my jumble of bags from various trips, I think I'll head out to a late and lazy lunch with my very neglected friends, and ease back into my "normal" life as gently as I can.

Today I am grateful for publishers. 

2 April 2013


 Lining up the troops...

Dealing with an invador (no, don't worry, it wasn't Zacchi dicing with danger)

Looking for the next challenger

A winter stroll, a dog, two swans, and plenty to think about. 

If I were a bird, would I be a swan? How does the swan move so smoothly, appear to be so serene, yet command and defend with such formidable force? 

Today I am grateful for literature.