As we travel through Tasmania and Australia, here are Richard’s thoughts:
I’m writing today from a sweet little cottage on the island of Tasmania in Australia. My feet are on convict-hewn wooden floorboards in this former penal colony, and the window I’m looking out reveals Hobart harbor where over 70,000 convicts and about the same number of farmers and settlers arrived in the mid 1800s from England to begin colonizing this down under land. Tasmania is a particularly beautiful part of Australia, with high, heavily-timbered mountains and clear rivers and animals (like the Tasmanian devil, that you don’t see anywhere else in the world. (A cute little wallaby hopes around in the gorgeous garden beneath my window. We found this cottage through serendipity and a Fodor’s travel book….owned by an interior decorator immigrant from Holland named Wilmar who lives in his restored Victorian mansion and rents the gardener’s cottage (called “Corinda cottage” in case you ever expect to visit Tasmania) to lucky people like us.) We spent last week in Melbourne watching tennis. We got to the Australian Open each morning by riding bikes down a path by the Yarra River. Everything is different here. The birds toot and ping rather than cherping, and the trees have no bark or stripped bark. Australians are remarkably friendly and accommodating, and quite amazed by the ambitions and audacity of Americans.
We travel a lot with our speaking and writing, and one of the things I will try to share most weeks is perspective from new places. That is one reason for the word JOURNEYin the title of this new column.
Linda and I are entering a new season of our lives. The last of our nine children, Charity, just left for the England London South Mission (the very mission where we once presided) and so we are now, for the first time in 38 years, Empty Nesters. The Summer of our lives, the busy, blooming, full-house and full-spectrum season of peak demands is now over, and we enter, as so many Meridian readers are also entering, the Autumn of our lives. There is a little different slant of light now. Our worries and concerns are not less, but they are different than they were, and it is clearly a time of transition.
We think a lot lately about the seasons of our lives, about where we are and where we have been. We want to appreciate the past even as we head into the future, and we want to understand how our stewardships are changing. That is one reason for the word AUTUMNin the title of this new column.
We are here in Australia, and headed next for China on a speaking tour, presenting lectures on life-balance and family-strengthening to civic and business leaders in a dozen cities. But we are also here to write, particularly to try to finish a book I have been working on for years called Tennis and Life, a book that uses the game of tennis as a metaphor for life. (Unlike in other games, the score keeps starting over in tennis, each game is like a new day, and some points are worth vastly more than others. It is the most mental of all games, and the only one where you warm up with and depend on your opponent. In these and many other ways, tennis is the best symbolic case study I know for the workings and unfoldings of life,) There are other books I am working on too. You know about The Three Deceivers, and Linda and I are also trying to write one on the Top Ten Parenting Ideas over the last thirty years of working with families around the world.
We write a lot. It is our job as well as our passion. We believe in what Benjamin Franklin once said, that everyone should, at all times, carry two books, the one he is reading, and the one he is writing. (Though we would have to carry quite a few more than that, since we are always reading and writing more than one. Books are an addiction for Linda and I, as well as a love.) We are always writing or thinking about writing. That is one reason for the word NOTESin the title of this new column.
Writing and reading and traveling are all things that help you to observe and to notice and to see. They are things that broaden your perspective and that expand your awareness. They are not the only things. Prayer is probably the most important broadener and expander–prayer and meditation and worship and spiritual forms of thinking. It has been said that the difference between men and God is awareness and perspective. He is aware of all, and has all perspective and thus is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. If our eternal goal is to become more like God, we must pursue awareness and perspective. If we view ourselves as stewards, if we seek synergicity and serendipity rather than satisfaction and self-preservation, we will find that our whole life, and all the seasons in it are filled with adventure.
We like the new. We try to find and appreciate uniqueness and freshness, and we value diversity. We feel blessed to live now, at a time when the whole world is within reach, yet within it are a thousand different worlds, each one able to teach us a thousand things. We measure our progress by our increasing awareness and perspective.
That is one reason for the word SEEKER in the title of this new column.
I used to be in the habit of trying to listen to Garrison Keeler on NPR on Saturdays, because I found that his stories of “a quiet week in Lake Wobegon” expanded my awareness and perspective. I liked spending a little of my weekend with him. What I am hoping is that you get in the habit (or stay in the habit if you were a regular reader of The Three Deceivers) of spending a little of your weekends with me in this new column. And I hope you send me your thoughts and responses and reactions and inputs (to Richard@meridianmagazine.com).
Some of the ideas I share each week will be a little half-baked, because they will be new, and that’s OK, because the whole idea here in this less structured, more serendipity column is to develop our thinking together. We won’t compare lives (Comparing is usually a negatively charged, energy wasting kind of thing to do). You and I have different circumstances, different jobs, different challenges, different needs. We may be in different seasons, and we certainly see and feel different things. And that is the GOOD thing about it! I often try to think of people as “crystal ball heads.” Everyone has so much in their head–things I have not seen, things I have not thought about, things they have experienced that I have not. If you had a crystal ball, in which you could see everything, you would have unlimited awareness and perspective at your fingertips. Well, in a way you do, because every person has a crystal ball head, and if you can look into their heads, trying to see what they see and find out about what they know, your own perspective and awareness would multiply by far more than you could ever gain if you relied only on your own experience.
So journey with me, seek with me, as we travel together through the seasons of our lives. If you have a young family, cut and paste this to your parents. We are writing for families of all ages, from those with burgeoning families to the empty nesters.