The art of flying.

Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form. — The heart sutra.

A stunning short film documenting a murmuration of starlings.

Whilst science has not yet completely explained the exact mechanism that allows unimaginable numbers of birds to respond to each other with such swirling simultaneous unity, a research team of theoretical physicists published a paper in 2012 that found that a change of direction (known as a critical transition) in one bird was reflected by the 6 or 7 birds nearest it. And so on out through the flock.

This range of 6 to 7 birds was found to provide the optimal balance between cohesiveness and the discrete, separate formations.

Short film about “murmurations”: the mysterious flights of the Common Starling. It is still unknown how the thousands of birds are able to fly in such dense swarms without colliding. Every night the starlings gather at dusk to perform their stunning air show.

Because of the relatively warm winter of 2014/2015, the starlings stayed in the Netherlands instead of migrating southwards. This gave filmmaker Jan van IJken the opportunity to film one of the most spectacular and amazing natural phenomena on earth.

Reference: https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/the-incredible-science-behind-starling-murmurations

Why Ripley?

 

Why do we call our camper van Ripley?

Well, its simple really. I have been avidly following the YouTube travels of Jorge and Jessica in their 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro for a while now.

They named their kick-butt beast Ripley, and although this serious 4WD adventure machine is on a totally different foodchain to our sedate Auto Trail FB… I see their journey and their passion as something to aspire to in many ways.
I have no idea if they named it after Sigourney Weaver’s character in the Alien movies…but I have totally stolen the name in homage to both.

Jorge and Jessica have been a little quiet of late, but if you are interested in the spirit of adventure travel,  it is well worth putting aside a little time to explore their backstory here: Live Work Wander.

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Sunshine Beach trip.

Up early for a shakedown trip to stay a few nights at Sunshine Bay.

One thing about driving a camper van, is that it teaches you to slow down a little and enjoy the journey.
As you climb and descend and wind your way along the lesser roads you inevitably collect a tail of cars that want to overtake you.

I have nowhere
to go and
nowhere to go
when I get
back from there.
—A.R. Ammons.

You can see them bob out to check for oncoming traffic and then snap back in again when there isn’t an opportunity. You can sense them sit impatiently, awaiting an overtaking lane or slow vehicle pull in. I have been those people. I know how it feels.
Now I am getting a dose of being the cause. I keep an eye for opportunities to let the others pass.
Continue reading “Sunshine Beach trip.”

Setting up.

Sitting in the filtered afternoon sun with Juno planning some adjustments, modifications and additions to the motorhome.

Random Ideas jotted in my notebook:

Measurements and sketches for cutting down sun reflectors to place in the side widows and sunroof.
A drawing of one of those cool little rope hammock things for storing fruit in.
A clip on herb pot for the kitchenette. A magnetic notice board. Hooks for hats.

That sort of stuff.

And a wish-list of more practical items:

  • Tire pressure generator.
  • Toolkit. Three question marks next to this one.
  • Leveling ramps.
  • External BBQ.
  • More comfortable outside chairs.
  • Filter for the fresh water hose.

Then:

I guess she is going to need a name. Because thats what you do when you have a relationship with something big like this.

Author John Steinbeck made his famous wanderlust adventure across 10,000 miles of America in a GMC pickup with custom slide on camper-shell.
He named it Rocinante after Don Quitote’s horse.

Then the Blues Brothers had the Bluesmobile, and even Beyonce has a Jaguar named Honeybee.

I recently watched a video that included a camper van named Ripley.
And, being a fan of the first Alien movie, I sort of liked that.
I think I’ll steal it.

Onwards…

It was one of those moments when you just feel that your life is pivoting on a blade edge. The slightest movement or choice or decision and it will tip off one side or the other. And then away it will run.

My partner Kelly and I have been looking for a camper van for a while now. Several years in actuality.
Every time we found a van with all the things we were looking for it was outside our price range or it was located just far enough away as to make checking it out logistically impossible before it was sold.

In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble. –Linji Yixuan

Then one evening, totally unexpectedly, Kelly found an ad for a motorhome that was exactly what we were looking for!
And it was literally a 20 min drive away.

Standing in the Kitchen looking forward.

We drove over and took a look. Now this vehicle was more than a camper van. This was a motorhome.
At 7.3 metres long it included toilet, shower, kitchenette and oodles of storage.
It was an Auto Trail FB.  An opportunity to travel completely off-grid and in comfort.
And,  it was in pristine condition with only 6,000 km on the dial.

The only problem was that it was sitting tantalisingly over on the far side of the outer margins of what we could afford.
We talked it over. We weighed the pros and cons. We consumed large quantities of alcohol to lubricate our decision making processes.

We spun through online forums searching for other owners of similar motorhomes.
We contemplated the brevity and vicissitudes of our rounded lives. We noted how the universe had seemed to slide all these Swiss cheese holes of serendipity into alignment in an attempt to nudge us onwards.
Eat this sandwich, it seemed to urge. I made it myself!

We wrestled with our heads and our hearts for several days fully expecting it to get sold in the meantime.

The view aft.

Eventually we came to a decision. We would not buy it.
That was totally the sensible thing to do.

We decided to go out and celebrate with a coffee.
Only the thing is…. on the way to the cafe we almost drove right past  another Auto Trail FB parked in the driveway of a residence just up the street. What were the chances!?!

Bam. We looked at each other. There we were on the knife-edge. And we both knew it.
We could keep driving. Or we could pull in. There would be consequences.
As we pulled up behind the Auto Trail the owner popped out from behind a wall. Turns out he had just returned from a trip and was cleaning out a clutter of sand and empty wine bottles. He had an easy gleam in his eye.

An hour later, after an enthusiastic and inspiring conversation with this guy we knew everything was about to change….

Here there be dragons.

Dragons Gate is situated atop a high waterfall that cuts from the legendary Longmen mountains above the Yellow River at Hunan.

Carp that have endured the difficult and treacherous journey upstream are faced with this final leap of faith at the gate.
Those who succeed are transformed into dragons.

Dragons have always held a special place in Chinese mythology. Known as Lung, they are closely associated with the power and fertility of water, and are often used to symbolise courage, perseverance and accomplishment.

Seiko (Yeh Kung-tzu) and the dragon.
Yeh Kung-tzu was a man who loved dragons. He studied dragon lore and decorated his home with paintings and statues of dragons. He would talk on and on about dragons to anyone who would listen. One day a dragon heard about Yeh Kung-tzu and thought, how lovely that this man appreciates us. It would surely make him happy to meet a true dragon. The kindly dragon flew to Yeh Kung-tzu’s house and went inside, to find Yeh Kung-tzu asleep. Then Yeh Kung-tzu woke up and saw the dragon coiled by his bed, its scales and teeth glittering in the moonlight. And Yeh Kung-tzu screamed in terror. Before the dragon could introduce himself, Yeh Kung-tzu grabbed a sword and lunged at the dragon. The dragon flew away.

Many of us (note to self) fall into the trap of becoming infatuated with the idea of spiritual accomplishment and self transformation in our zen practice. It is easy to decorate ourselves with the accoutrements of practice and hang memorised quotes out as banners displaying our knowledge.

But when faced with the reality of actually leaping to meet the face of our dragon we can only scream and drive it away.

To love the dragon is to finally recognise a love of our own true selves. That is why the dragon came to Seiko.

I think we all face a choice to make the final leap at Dragons Gate.
We must all come to a true understanding that the scales of the carp are already the scales of the dragon.


Featured image via dianham

Silence. 

If we were not so singleminded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, Perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death.

Pablo Neruda (as translated by Stephen Mitchell) 


Photo taken with my iPhone in the small town of Budgewoi 112 kilometres north of Sydney.

Kelly and I were walking back to our hotel from dinner, crossing a wooden bridge I looked out and noticed this father and son fishing off a jetty across the river. You can just see a very patient Pelican that floated expectantly awaiting any unwanted catches.

Wild geese. 

In Sung China,
two monks friends for sixty years
watched the geese pass.
Where are they going?
one tested the other, who couldn’t say.
That moment’s silence continues.
No one will study their friendship
in the koan-books of insight.
No one will remember their names.
I think of them sometimes,
standing, perplexed by sadness,
goose-down sewn into their quilted autumn robes.
Almost swallowed by the vastness of the mountains,
but not yet.
As the barely audible
geese are not yet swallowed;
as even we, my love, will not entirely be lost.

–Jane Hirshfield