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Called to Joy

Advent is a time of joyful expectation. Yet it is easy, especially in these times of division and conflict, to get bogged down, overburdened by the weight of all that we are carrying in our lives and in our hearts. Going to sleep stressed or worried is a reality for many people, and it can even seem that happiness at the moment is tantamount to callousness.

So how can we live out our vocation to joy amid today’s present evils or looming uncertainty?

In a word, gratitude.

Brother David Steindl-Rast OSB, in his book Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, states, “It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
Similarly, Dr Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, in her book Daring Greatly describes joy as “a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.”

Now, “gratitude” is one of those nice words. It sits alongside words like “forgiveness”, “love” and “peace”. They are lovely ideas, but putting any of these into practice isn’t always so nice.

Can you think of a time you stood before a wrong that you didn’t know if you had the strength to forgive? Or where you came across a person that made you doubt your ability to love? Or where you were confronted by ideas so contrary to your own values that you wondered if peace even had a role to play in the circumstances?

Similarly, gratitude takes a certain courage and a certain strength to live out.

Our current culture emphasises reward as the result of individual work ethic. “Success” is plastered everywhere as the main goal toward which we all ought to strive. And success, while a relatively fluid term in itself, is implied to be linked with skill and knowledge leading to good careers that pay us well to that we can not only be independence, but also have more than others. Ultimately, we may finally be able to achieve the remarkable feat of … not needing anyone.
In a culture where needing others is a form of failure, no wonder so many people find themselves feeling both isolated and like failures.

Gratitude can turn this idea right around. To be grateful is to acknowledge that you are not solely responsible for where you are and what you have. The very act of connecting with a sense of gratitude bring an awareness that we are connected to others, and to a benevolent power that moves in the world.

But being grateful can be challenging in good time as well as in bad.

Some people fear that being grateful for their own achievements, attained through hard work and discipline, would imply that the credit is not theirs. Being told “everything is a gift” can sound like a cheap platitude, when they actually worked hard for what they have.

On the other hand, some people find just as hard the idea of being grateful when times are tough. Not only can it be hard to find things to be grateful for, but being grateful for something so simple as food to eat can raise questions of “why have I been given so little?”

Along with these two extremes, of fabulous ‘success’ and bitter want, it is so easy at any time to forget gratitude altogether amid the workings of daily life.

But gratitude is a way to engage with the world that neither denies the suffering of others, nor of ourselves. It is not putting on a happy face, or turning away from difficult truths. It is finding the good among it all, even when that good is very small, and seeing God’s presence with us in that goodness.

Heart of spiral fire

I am spinning in circles of ecstacy, and sometimes I get so dizzy I stumble.
I bump into another, and I giggle, expecting them to get the joke, and to laugh with me.
Instead they look at me with caution, and hurry away, muttering to their friends.

I burn red. What have I done? What must they think?
I wanted us to rejoice together. Now they want nothing to do with me.
They think I am unhinged, but the only thing unhinging me is my desire to love.

Still I burn. I can feel the flames leaping deep within,
an ecstatic fire, fanned by the breath of the holy one.
I want to share it, but my words get tangled,
and even I don't like what I hear.
No. No, that's not what I meant.
The only vocabulary I have is theirs,
but honestly, I am not trying to say the same thing.
At least, I think I'm not.
Maybe I have misunderstood them as well.
Maybe they are wrestling words as well.
Tiny little things. Bursting.

And now I want so much to share from the deepest parts,
but I am afraid;
afraid of an 'oh, that's nice'.
At best.
Because there is a gulf between me and you
that cannot be bridged by words.
That cannot be bridged,
only be filled.
Filled by Love.

And it is already filled.
Look and see.


Stories make us Human

I'm telling you in advance. This is a loooong post. Super long. I have put it in 'chapters' to help ease the progress.
And it leads me onto topics of faith/spirituality/religion.
I have been putting off a post on this topic for a long time now, since I knew it would be a quite an undertaking. But I must write it. The past few days have handed me too much on the topic to ignore.
While this post is long, I do feel it is one of my more meaningful ones...

Image from: creationswap.com

Tale as Old as Time

As you have probably figured out by now, I am a bibliophile. While I try to live simply, I just can't resist a book. They leap into my hands whenever I leave the house. (Also when I am at home, but they are usually already mine, so it is not so dangerous). But while books can contain stories that are rollicking good fun, I take stories much more seriously than mere entertainment.

Stories have been around for as long as humans have. Our ancient ancestors sat around campfires sharing stories. They painted them on cave walls. They wove Dreamings or envisaged mythical creation stories. Since the dawn of time, stories have told us who we are.

Even in this modern age, when even books can start to look like a niche or antiquated idea, we haven't changed that much. What is Netflix for if not to transmit stories - more and more, whenever we want, as much as we want. We can't get enough of them! And that, I think, is of great importance. It tells us something about what it means to be human.

Seeking myself in books

I have always been in awe of books. I remember buying books and opening them with hopeful expectation that within its pages I would find... oh, everything. Pure magic, absolute truth, meaning, God, myself. I was constantly anticipating a book that would unlock all the mysteries, reveal to me all the hidden things. I knew even then that books were powerful, and I sought the most sacred book of all.

Naturally, a child like this, brought up in a Christian home, looked to the Bible for salvation, hoping to find transcendence through its tissue-thin pages. Maybe being part of a religion with a sacred book started this all off for me in the first place. But I will admit that I did not find transcendence there. I found many other things, some of them deeply troubling (but my journey with the Bible is another story for another day). So I widened my search to include more kinds of books.

There were some that came close to something magical for me. I discovered books whose authors seemed to be searching for the same thing I was, and so I fell in love with Traci Harding's The Ancient Future trilogies. I found characters that seemed to be haunted by the same ghosts as I did, and so found kin in Charlotte Bronte's works. I found messages that resonated deep in my heart, so Dickens' A Christmas Carol became one of my treasures. But no book could unlock all mysteries to me, and grant me enlightenment, even if they did fan the flame of my heart.

I turned to the idea that perhaps I could write this book of perpetual transcendence. I think I may have set the bar a bit high there, since I have never managed to finish any book, since I can see straight up it isn't the miracle book for which I had hoped.

And then, studying theology, in my course on the Hebrew Bible, I came across ideas that beckoned these thoughts back to the fore.

We learnt about the Hebrew Bible as the story of a people. It was history as shared memory, a story that told these people who they were, that gave them identity and meaning. If we don't have a story, we become as people without a memory - people who don't know who they are.

The idea of Story started haunting me with nagging persistence, playing on behind my everyday thoughts, surfacing in my mind through the humdrum chatter. Story... story... story...

Do we get to keep our stories when we die?

During our Lenten book study this year, we read Abiding, by Ben Quash. Allow me to share with you a passage that stirred my mind to flame (and for my non-religious friends, bear with me - this is just what got me thinking):

"... another question [that] haunts the modern mind [is] whether there are 'whos' in heaven at all. Does the very fact of being a 'who' - of being someone, a unique, particular person - mean anything after we die, except in the minds of those who are left behind?

"I was surprised by a recent conversation with a chuch-going friend who said that she did not expect in any way still to be 'her' after she died. She imagined herself returning to the ebb and flow of the cosmos. And this expectation may be a very widespread one in the popular imagination. An eloquent account of it [...] is found in the final volume of Philip Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials, when the children Lyra and Will travel to the land of the dead, to release a numberless host of whispering shadows from perpetual darkness into a reunification with the vibrant cycles of material life. This release is, of course, a release into 'oblivion', in the sense that all personal consciousness comes to an end, but it is at least a form of living.

"[...] On what grounds can Christians sustain their hope for a heavenly abiding, in which the particular 'whos' that people are will find themselves safeguarded and treasured?"

Abiding, Quash, pp 228 & 236.

Quash answers his question by citing John 14:2, which says, "In my Father's house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?", along with the evidence he sees in Jesus' resurrection showing him still to be an individual, 'who', rather than some amorphous beingness indistinguishable from all other beingness.


But neither of these approaches satisfied me. The discussion here seems to me to be: do we get to keep our stories even after death?  One side says no, not at all, and the other says yes, absolutely. I think when it comes to God - to the Mystery, to the All, to the Truth-beyond-our-knowing - it is not a matter of either this or that, but always a matter of both this and that. I can't help but think that stories are more significant than something we live out and then shed. I am convinced that stories are more meaningful than 'entertainment'. They give us our meaning, and if I am to believe that life has any meaning at all, I have to believe that stories aren't tied simply to the material world, or to our homo-sapiens heads. If I am someone who believes in a beyond, then I am (intentionally or not) ascribing to the idea that there is a story bigger than us, bigger than our material life. And if there is such a story, where do our individual stories stand in comparison?

Are they obliterated by the sheer magnitude of "The Greater Story"? My friend and I used to fear the idea that after death we would lose our individuality and be incorporated into a great 'oneness', like a drop in the ocean. As much as the idea seemed rational, we resisted it, protective of our sense of self.

So are our stories so individually powerful as to stand in opposition to "The Greater Story"? If that were so, what would be so different between the beyond and right now, where we see stories coming into conflict, our sense of self standing in the way of peace?

I have another proposal: I suggest that it is both.

I imagine the 'beyond' to be a place where we discover that we truly are One. One with the One. United, one body (in the terminology of my faith: 'united in Christ', or 'the body of Christ'). This, however, does not imply losing our sense of self, our story, but having our story grow! Realising that everything is our story. Your story, my story, they complete each other. We will discover, that after all, they are one story. I don't know how that idea makes you feel, but it makes me feel inspired. It makes me feel connected. And I listen to that feeling, because (lover of Ignatian spirituality that I am) I interpret this sense of awe as being from God -  a smile of sorts.

Our story

Now that I have this idea developed to this point, I can't escape it (and nor do I want to, because it is captivating, compelling, and asks of me to rewrite how I read the world).

Yesterday I received a book in the post as a gift from my friends in the Danthonia Bruderhof Community. It is called Called to Community: The Life that Jesus Wants for His People edited by Charles E. Moore. It contains writings from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Joan Chittister, Dorothy Day, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Mother Teresa, Jean Vanier, Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove, Benedict of Nursia, and many lesser-known others. All these people have known what it is to live in community. And I don't just mean a neighbourhood, but an intentionally-lived expeirence of community with others, sharing meals, work and leisure - life, really.

I opened the book yesterday and read the Forward, by Stanley Hauerwas. He is another who knows what it is to live in community, and whose ideas I studied during my Christian Ethics subject, and whose ideas I loved the most, since they argued that our best ethics can only function in true community. Without it, we have little choice but to compromise to survive.

Anyway, he writes on the first page, "It is quite understandable that many people today feel the need for [community]. After all, we live in a social order that has confused freedom with the isolation of the self. We may think we know one another, but our 'knowing' only intensifies our isolation from one another. This is because, although we bump up against one another, we share no common story and no corresponding judgements about what is true, good, and beautiful. As a result, we become strangers to ourselves and to those we call friends. In such a social order, people too often confuse community with being in a crowd."

There is so much more worth reading in this book, but I shan't continue. I am pretty sure you can get is for free as an ebook, so if you want to read it, you can decide that.

Common life, common story

Having had this experience of community myself while at Taize, I understand the wholeness that can come when living with others in this way. I understand how in community life like this, individual stories can become one shared story, like music, each with your own unique part of course, but all integral to the beauty of the whole. Each individual. Each needed by the others. I remember realising at the time that the girls I lived with, even the ones I wasn't close to, had become part of me. My own self was augmented by their selves. The individual 'me' we tend to be focused on these days seemed so meagre. Yes, it was integral, and I didn't want to lose myself, but I realised that by sharing my life with these people I found that there was only more and more of me, not less.

My passion for community, and the being haunted by 'story' was all a continuum. But I only recently managed to put it together.

If my idea is that after this life we gain more story, like more parts in music, then the experience of community life can bring us closer to that now, in this life. Of course not all communities are healthy, and I certainly am not advocating cults. But community, done well, is a way of living even now in the kingdom of God. For me, heaven is other people. (For those who know Sartre's 'Hell is Other People' - I think it is a brilliant portrayal of what Hauerwas was meaning when he wrote, "our 'knowing' only intensifies our isolation from one another." In such a case as Sartre presents, it would be hell).

The Story continues

But I don't think my being haunted by Story ends here.

Even tonight, I opened a link on a friend's facebook feed (to an article entitled More Evensong, Please) and in it I find this: "To paraphrase Alisdair MacIntyre, we can only know what to do and who we are if we know what story we inhabit. Everyone is searching for a meaningful story."

I think when all these synchronicities occur together it is something I am being asked to listen to. Even if you would like to argue that we only notice these repeated things because we are already sensitive too them, then sure - but even then, I think we are made sensitive to them for a reason.

So, seems like I could do with reading some of Alisdair MacIntyre. Even a quick google search of him tells me he's my man just now.

Checking In... and BOOKS

Sorry I have gone a little off the air these past couple of weeks. Uni is back and I am racing to keep up with my Koine Greek studies. I am actually already a week behind (hoping to catch up on Monday with 10 hours of solid work).

On top of this I have been on a wonderful reading spree, and to get much read, one has to close that computer and social media and focus on just the book (and the steaming cup of tea). As I already mentioned, I enjoyed Cursed Child very much - very, very much. And after that nourishing jaunt back to the Potterverse, I needed more Harry Potter to cure my Pottery cravings. Thank heavens for drinkingcocoa's 'Snape: A Definitive Reading'. Exactly what the doctor ordered! I have been sneaking away to read another page. And another page. Loving it so much. If you like Snape, you absolutlely ought to read this book. It is fabulous.

In other news, today was National Bookshop Day here in Australia, and there is a very big push to save the Australian publishing industry and its authors after Treasurer Scott Morrison announced plans to allow mass import of books published in other countries when there is an Australian publisher who has the territorial rights to be the publisher for that book in Australia. The implications are massive and potentially devestating.  But I am so proud of the Australian publishing industry and its authors for pulling together so magnificently - their plan has been excellently executed:

National Bookshop Day, and so many people making a trip to the book shop, and there are lots of things happening at book shops, like facepainting, author readings and meet and greets, and artists creating artwork in store. Fabulous! And every person who walks in gets a free book:
In this book the issue is thoroughly explained, and then well-known authors write their thoughts on the matter. This book was also given away with many newspapers. And the hashtags #saveozstories and #bookscreateaustralia are dancing around the internet. It's so impressive how the industry and the authors have made themselves heard in loud and organised and intelligent ways. These people are strong and clever and loved. I feel such a wonderful sense of community in the book-loving echelons of Australia right now. Job well done! Awareness raised! And for anyone inclined to be generous with petition signing...

So, this means, of course, I bought another book today. *eep!*

Sounds amazing. Can't wait!!

Img credit: http://booktothefuture.com.au/?p=2979


Yet another of my religiousy posts.

I know most people on my flist aren't that in to religion, but I do work for the church, and my time living in the monastery was the most meaningful thing I have ever experienced, so please excuse my enthusiasm for this side of things. It is where my musings tend to lead...

Reading has taken an upturn. I finally finished 'The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything' by James Martin s.j. I am now starting on another Ignatian book, 'Inner Compass' by Margaret Silf. Am still reading the intro, but I like her writing voice. For the church book study we are reading 'God, Where Are You?' by Gerard Hughes, s.j. (author of 'God of Surprises'). So! It's all very Ignatian reading just now.

Hughes is writing about his experience attending a Jesuit school, and then joining the Jesuits and his time in the novitiate. Sounds all very severe and cold. He remained a Jesuit though, writing many books that were full of much spiritual wisdom, so I assume that his experience with the Jesuits is going to improve and time passes in the narritive.

Meanwhile, Martin and Silf (and Hughes also), are all into Ignatian spirituality and are wonderful at sharing its wisdom. I think times have changed a lot in society, and in the church as well.

Another Ignatian connection: The sisters at Taize, who took care of me when I was a volunteer there, were Ignatian. And it is thanks so much to their spiritual direction that I had my life-changing experience of God - a God who is closer to me than I am to myself.

So, I am truly grateful to Ignatian spirituality. I was wondering about that, actually. I am a fully-professed Franciscan Tertiary, but if I could choose again, would I align myself with Francis over Ignatius now?  But then I thought of Pope Francis and how his demonstration of such a Franciscan spirit is so inspiring and relevant to our times, and I realised I can love Ignatian spirituality while still feeling aligned with Franciscan values. Plus, I then remembered, Pope Francis is a Jesuit! Hah. A helpful little message there.

And then there is the chap, who has a fondness for Benedictine spirituality. Ahh, what a pair we make.

I really need to organise another Franciscan gathering. I am meant to be the area convenor, but I am so nervous of asking too much of the members down here, most of whom are quite old now, that I am always reluctant to organise a gathering. Silly really, they would probably all love it. I do miss our monthly gatherings up in Newcastle.

But I am finding quite a sense of community in reading. All these Ignatian books on top of each other is giving me a sense of being surrounded by others of Ignatian spirituality. That is a beautiful thing. Books are amazing. I love books.

Speaking of communiy, when I was in high school, my dream was to one day own a castle. My reason for this, I have realised in hindsight, was not for the building (romantic as it would have been), but because in all my fanstasy novels with castles there was a community life around a castle. Squires and knights and stablehands and cooks...

That's what I want, what I have always wanted, loved and valued. Community. Leaving school was hard for me because I lost a community. I wanted to be a teacher because I wanted to work in a community. Well, the church sure fulfills that requirement of a workplace. And I am soooo looking forward to living in community too - sharing a house with others. I just wish I could live with all my loved ones in our own little village. And I know so many people who are lonely and craving community in one way or another... I don't think we are meant to live like this - so separated. And the spirit of distrust that pervades these times doesn't much help. I want to live a different way - be unapologetically counter-cultural. I guess I can be a bit of a hippy. :P

In ethical news, I am doing Plastic Free July - where I am trying to avoid all single-use plastics for this month. I haven't managed entirely, but I have been really making an effort. It has been fun to buy cheddar in wax. And only chocolate in cardboard and biodegradable cellulose wrapping. Means I have to stop and more shops, and spend more money (since I am always buying the good brands), but I am appreciating what I am buying so much more.  Peeling the wax from the cheese and then wrapping it in beeswax cloth to preserve it in the fridge instead of cling film... Buying blocks of butter instead of tubs. It is making me feel much more connected to the food and I love it! They said I wouldn't go back, and I think they were right! Oh, and today I made the most amazing salad with items from my veggie box, or that I bought from the store using my bamboo or net produce bags. So fun!

As much as theologically I don't think I would fit in with Mennonites or Hutterites, I do love the idea of their faith touching their whole way of life. For me, this ethical living and this community living is all a way of making my faith more than just an internal feeling. And boy, I am loving it. I don't want to go around converting everyone to some extreme take of faith, but I do want to be there for people who are looking for just such a holistic approach. A monastery for everyone.

I have been working more on my manuscript, Without Words, which is... I don't even know. A bit of a spiritual memoir, I guess. Goodness, revisiting some of that stuff now is amazing. Too look back at times when I was miserable and to see now how that fits into a story - and not just any story, but a life-changing story, a story that made my world come alive... To read back over my desolation now and to realise how much I value its place in my story...

Story.... so important...
But more of that next time...

“The stories we love best do live in us forever. So whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” - J.K. Rowling

I have been thinking a lot about stories...

And death.

And what it means to be human...

It will become a post, eventually. Later.

Also, in other news, aaaages ago, in my youth (haha, okay, it was 2011, so I had already finished uni and was working full-time, but anyway, *ahem*) I made a Professor Snape facebook page. This was way back when I discovered 'pages', and I like learning how to do thing by doing them, so I made a page. Well, I liked Snape, so... I decided to make it Snape. Well, that was fun. Then I did nothing with it.

Then, after four years of nothing at all, just last year people started randomly 'liking' it. It now has over 2000 likes. Pretty good for no effort whatsoever. I don't know what happened there. And before you ask, this was before the devastating news of the death of Alan Rickman (*heartbroken*). So, for whatever reason, I am now the uncertain creator of a rather quiet Snape fan page. How ridiculous. (this is not a plug, but in case you were curious, not that there is much to see: https://www.facebook.com/Professor-Snape-208430472538585/)

The other ridiculous thing? I rediscovered my fanfiction.net account! I hardly dare read the story I wrote. I bet it's awful. I wrote it in 2002. So... I would have been all of 14? At least it is Snape/Lily, so I can be proud of that. Remember the days of fan theories? Oh, they were so good. I guess we still get that a bit with Doctor Who... but oh, waiting all that time for the next book, arguing excitedly with other fans about what was going to happen.

I remember waiting and waiting for the fifth book, and defending... a few lines of spoilers - shouldn't bother anyone, but just in case...Collapse )

I bet there are lots of people here who knew all along. Weren't they good times?

I also rediscovered fanfics I had favourited. Oh, how many hours I would spend reading them...

And now... having read them again, knowing so much more about the characters now... I just want to go and have another go.

It's so strange though, so find this old profile of mine, and my little bio... and to remember that girl, the girl I was. And to feel like she is right there, right now, on the other side of this screen. Goodness, she was enthusiastic. Bubbly. Hopeful. I liked her. I miss her.

She's probably still in here somewhere, but she cannot exist alone. Any version of myself (of any of us) is inextricably linked to our circumstances and relationships. Of course, we are always ourselves, but... things are different, and so are we. We are not complete people walking around in impermeable bubbles of self-ness. Other people, relationships, circumstances are living parts of us. It's a light show.

I always loved school. It was devastating to finish. I grieved for years. My heart does still ache for it. But I have found other joys too now. But I miss life when there were people whose lives were so linked to mine, day in, day out. I always know myself better with loved ones around. It will come again. Like a wheel. You have to complete a circuit to move forward.

I wish to shriek with laughter again.
In effort to make the best use of the vegetables I got from my veggie box, and thus also not spend my money on other food items (that would be far less healthy), I got myself into that kitchen and made my first ever soup. (Unless you count that one other time I made soup, which would really be more accurately described as that time someone else was making soup and I was in the room).

Voila! My beetroot and cauliflower soup, with roast onion and garlic. Garnished here with baby spinach leaves and fresh parmesan.

For someone who doesn't cook, I was immensely proud of myself.
Chappy on the other hand was... supportive. "What do you think?" I asked, beaming. "It'll be fine with a little salt."
But I think that's a matter of taste, rather than a proper assessment of my soup, because I am really enjoying it.
I guess not everyone is going to love beetroot and cauliflower moosh in a bowel.

I think the thing I am proudest of was finding something to do with those beetroots before they went mouldy.

Rubbish: Today hasn't been too rubbish-laden... yet. Oh, but it is coming...
1 Sanitary pad
1 tea bag
1 avocado pit and skin

How I could have done better:
I could have composted the tea bag and avocado bits... I really ought to look into getting one of those kitchen composty things (http://www.bokashi.com.au/) but still... the fact that our granny-flat living means our kitchen is in our bedroom makes me reticent to start composting in there...
I am using my one and only cloth pad today. I am keen to buy more, but I am also keen to keep on budget... And this fortnight it is beeswax wraps that I am buying.

These are the pictures the lovely Tasmanian lady who is making them for me has taken. She showed me different types of fabrics, and I got to choose, and then she imbued them with wax. Can't wait to have them to replace glad wrap. :D

Maybe next fortnight I can buy some more cloth pads. There are some good ones made in Australia, and even here in Tasmania, so if I am being really ethical about it, I guess that means I can't really justify buying these...or this... or this! Or this, oh my! Or indeed this. They certainly do make being a woman fun in these little ways.

But here is where I fall for the day: It is my turn to organise family dinner, and since I am flat out studying for an exam, I didn't have time to do any grocery shopping... so I have ordered pizza. There will be pizza boxes, and foil from the garlic bread, and a plastic bottle of coke, and paper bags on everything....

But, on the other hand, I am really getting some good study done. So much Greek to learn! Just had my final skype tutorial for the semester. Eep!
Exam is on Friday.
We shall see....

Veggie box day!

This time I received a butternut pumpkin, some tiny carrots, some asian greens, a bag of apples, and a huge cauliflower.
Considering I already had 23 apples, and am not a fan of cauliflower, it is not an overly exciting box this week, but oh well, that's the luck of the draw.

I am a little disappointed by the amount that i wrapped in plastic this week. Often the asian greens are, but I figured, fair enough, what else would they do? But this is a bit more plastic than I was hoping for...

My apple situation...

The problem is, I'm not much of an apple eater, and since living in Tasmania, I am being given apples left, right and centre - so many people down here have their own apple trees and have more apples than they know what to do with. Thinking of what I might be able to do with them... I hate wasting food.

Last night I prepared a potato bake using lots of potatoes, sweet potatoes and onion from previous veggie boxes that needed eating. So proud I managed to think of, and make the effort to make, something edible (and quite tasty) with veggie box bits and bobs.

Oh, and below are the three knitted cotton dishcloths I bought at the last market. I have been using the teal one. All the ridges make it do a great job of cleaning off plates and such. Very pleased with them.

In other ethical living news, I decided today to keep a log of all the things I throw out each day (or recycle). I hope that I can look at it all, be shocked, and see ways I can improve in little ways.

This is what I have written for today:

June 1st:
1 sanitary pad wrapper - at home - bin
1 piece of paper towel (used for wiping up the coffee I spilt on myself) - at work - bin
1 cellophane wrapper for packet of biscuits - office morning tea supplies (not my jurisdiction) - at work - bin
1 plastic biscuit tray - office morning tea supplies (not my jurisdiction) - at work - recycling
1 small instant coffee sachet  - at work - bin
1 small sugar sachet - at work - bin
1 egg shell from my lunch - at work - bin
shallot off-cuts from my lunch - at work - bin
1 piece of paper towel - hand drying - at work - bin
1 mouldy apple - at home - bin
1 plastic apple bag from veggie box - at home - bin
2 plastic bags from grated cheese - at home - bin
1 Dare milk bottle - at home - recycling
1 milkybar wrapper - at home - bin
7 catalogue/junk mail - at home - recycling
1 tea bag - at home - bin
1 carboard carton of milk - at home - recycling
1 soup tin - at home - recycling
1 sheet of aluinium foil from cooking dinner - at home - rubbish

I had no idea that I threw out so much in a day! Especially when I am already making an effort to create less waste. So, how can I improve?

Long term, I can buy more cloth pads, I can start composting, I can buy white chocolate from Unpacked or even the place where I get my veggie box instead of buying cellophane-wrapped chocolate, especially when that chocolate is Nestle.

But tomorrow, I can take loose sugar (which I can buy from Unpacked) and take a little container of it to work - it won't be hygenic enough for the OHS rules to use for everyone in the office, but I can use it and thus strike that sugar sachet off my list. I might also take some loose leaf tea and a strainer so I don't have to dabble in tea bags. Might have to see about real coffee too...  I could wipe my hands on the cloth towel in the bathroom at work instead of using paper towel, but it's always damp and I doubt it's hugely sanitary. Maybe I can just use my skirt. ;)

And I will email Source (where I get my veggie boxes) to enquire about the plastic packaging - since they are promoting that it is organic, and they sell loose items like they do at Unpacked, and also cloth pads, bamboo toothbrushes, unhomogenised milk... So, I reckon they will be receptive to some feedback about the plastic in their veggie boxes. Maybe they could talk to the farmers they buy from and ask them to sell them unpackaged fruit and veg? I reckon the people running the veggie box show would care too, so hopefully I don't come across as too bothersome...

Edit: I added a couple more items to the end of the rubbish list. Plus, more photos!

My "paper towel" replacement towel is all washed and clean again. :)

My new bamboo produce bags.

Ethical living update.

Today was my day for buying groceries.
There is a new store in town called 'Unpacked' that sells lots of loose goods, without packaging.
There was lots of types of flours, oats and muslies, nuts, dried fruits, spices, chocolates, fruit and veg, plus giant containers of soap and washing liquid etc that you pour into your own containers. All very ethical.

I went today, with my shopping list, and bought there all that I could find from my list (plus a few extra bits and bobs).
I got Shampoo, laundry liquid, cucumbers, limes, dried cranberries, parmesan cheese, salad greens, plus some cacao nibs and some bamboo produce bags.

Then I went to 'Frescos Fruit and Veg' store. I have never really been in them before, but they are a local chain. I was quite disappointed by the amount that was wrapped in plastic or on styrofoam trays, and the amount of cage eggs they sold. So... I only bought from them a carton of free range eggs, tomatoes avocadoes and feta cheese.

Then I went at last to Coles, a big old supermarket. I topped up my shop with things the other two stores didn't offer:
brocollini, shredded roast chicken, honey leg ham, greek yoghurt, milk, prawns (special dinner tonight), a can of mushroom soup (for the potato bake I will be making tomorrow), garlic sauce, (now it devolves) crisps, chocolate, sour rainbows, and (on the spur of the moment) two pyrex bowls with silicon lids.

I did all the math when I got home. Turns out I only spent $8 more by shopping at Fresco and Unpacked than if I had just gone straight to the supermarket. For a more ethical choice (Unpacked at least) I am happy with those figures.

And I have commissioned a set of beeswax wraps! They are pieces of material that have been imbued with wax, and function like plastic cling film for keeping food fresh. I will get them next week. :D

Oh, and while we're on it - at the church market on Saturday, I bought three knitted cotton wash cloths made by one of the parishioners. Now I will wash my dishes, and when the cloth gets on a bit, I will wash it in the washing machine. :) Speaking of which... I really need to wash my "paper towl" (made out of actual towel). All of them are dirty sitting in a little platic bin under the sink...

A little 'ello

Just a little about me...
I'm a girl in my mid-20s. I adore reading and writing and music, but most of all I love exploring the Spirit.

I have been brought up an Anglo-Catholic Christian, but I love the beauty of all forms of spiritual expression, even atheistic expression. "God" isn't the only name for that great something behind everything.

I currently am studying Tibetan Buddhism, reading heavily about Universal Sufism, and undertaking my novociate to enter the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis.

This is the path I walk. May you all be blessed on yours.


Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord.

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