Monday, March 31, 2014

On Sacred Ground

Earlier today I spent time at a very special place: the rock platform at the south end of Port Macquarie's Town Beach.

I've written about this rock platform before (see here, here and here). It is for me a sacred place. By this I mean that whenever I'm at this particular place I always feel at one with the energizing and transforming Presence within and beyond all things.

This Presence goes by many names: Life Force, the Universe, Divine Love, Great Spirit, Holy One, Sacred Mystery, God. I don't believe what name we use ultimately matters. What is important is that we find the name and/or image that best attunes us to this Presence, and that we then immerse ourselves in it, allowing this Presence to awaken, energize, transform and guide us. My experience of this place, this little rock platform on the south-eastern Australian coast, never fails to open me to all these things.

The challenge, of course, is to stay open; to seek, recognize, and respond to God's presence no matter where I am. I suppose another way of saying this is that our calling as spiritual seekers is to both seek and embody the sacred on every ground; or, in other words, in every situation in which we find ourselves.

One more thing: I've mentioned before that I like to think that my wedding will one day take place upon the sacred ground of this rock platform, of this "somewhere-in-between" space that at times can be both sea and land; a place where it can feel as though one is walking on water!

Like I said, it's a very special place.

NEXT: A Visit to Gunnedah

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
On the Rocks
Sharing a Good Thing
Another Time, Another Place
Somewhere in Between

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Quote of the Day

As persons of faith, we welcome this further development in our marriage law, which has evolved over the centuries in response to changes in society and in scientific knowledge.

We acknowledge that some (though not all) of the faith organisations to which we belong do not share our joy, and continue to express opposition in principle to such marriages. We look forward to the time, sooner rather than later, when all people of faith will feel able to welcome this development.

– From a letter of support for marriage equality in England and Wales
by the Cutting Edge Consortium and the LGBTI Anglican Coalition.
Quoted in Terence Weldon's article,
"Prominent English Religious Leaders 'Rejoice' in Gay Marriage"
Queering the Church
March 28, 2014

Related Off-site Links:
Britain's First Same-Sex Marriages Go Ahead as PM Speaks of 'Powerful Message'The Guardian (March 29, 2014).
Gay Couples Marry for the First Time in England and Wales – Leon Neal (AFP via Yahoo! News, March 30, 2014).

Image: Braden Summers.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Return to Oz . . . Sydney to Be Exact!

The first three days of my current visit home to Australia were spent in Sydney. As I mentioned previously, I timed my arrival in Australia to coincide with the completion of my friend Raphael's inspiring Adelaide-to-Sydney bike ride, "Cycling to March," which raised awareness and funds for melanoma education and research. Raph (pictured at right) finished his 1900 kilometre ride in Sydney's Centennial Park on the morning of Friday, March 21. For related images and commentary, click here.

Above: On Sydney's famous Bondi Beach with friends (and Raph's siblings) Iggy and Collette – Friday, March 21, 2014.

Above and right: Views of the central business district (CBD) of Sydney – Saturday, March 22, 2014. The unusual-looking building at far right of the picture above is Sydney Tower, about which Wikipedia notes the following.

Sydney Tower is Sydney's tallest building and the third tallest in Australia (with the Q1 building on the Gold Coast and the Eureka Tower in Melbourne being the tallest). However by non-floor height or spire height, it is the second tallest in Australia. It is also the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere (after Auckland's Sky Tower). The name Sydney Tower has become common in daily usage, however the tower is also known as the Sydney Tower Eye, AMP Tower, Westfield Centrepoint Tower, Centrepoint Tower or just Centrepoint. The Sydney Tower is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers.

The tower stands 309 m (1,014 ft) above the Sydney central business district (CBD), located on Market Street, between Pitt and Castlereagh Streets. It is accessible from the Pitt Street Mall, and sits upon the newly refurbished Westfield Sydney (formerly Centrepoint Arcade). The tower is open to the public, and is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in the city, being visible from a number of vantage points throughout town and from adjoining suburbs.

. . . Designed by Australian architect Donald Crone, plans for Sydney Tower were unveiled in March 1968. Construction of the office building commenced in 1970, and tower construction began in 1975. Prior to construction of the tower, the height limit in Sydney had been set at 279 m (915 ft), to allow for safe overflights by flying boats.

Public access to the tower began in August 1981. The total cost of construction was A$36 million. In 1998, the addition of a lightning rod to the top of spire extended the tower's overall height to 309 m (1,014 ft), which is 327 m (1,073 ft) above sea level.

While AMP managed the Centrepoint shopping centre, the tower was officially referred to as "AMP Tower." After the Westfield Group took over ownership of Centrepoint in December 2001, the name was changed to Sydney Tower.

At very much the last minute my original plans for accommodation in Sydney inexplicably fell through. This meant that I found myself at Sydney Airport on the morning of Thursday, March 20, with no where to stay!

All I can say is thank goodness for Facebook . . . and for friends like Anne and Sarah (above).

Within an hour of sending out a message on Facebook, Anne messaged me back and extended a generous invitation to stay with her and her partner Sarah in their lovely home in Beecroft, a northern suburb of Sydney. I had attended school with Anne's sister Polly in Gunnedah.

Above: A great photo of Raph and his sister Dominica – Centennial Park, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Dom had just arrived back to Australia that morning from Cambodia, where she had been volunteering at an orphanage.

As I think most readers of The Wild Reed would know, Raph dedicated his Adelaide-to-Sydney bike ride to his sister Tess (a friend and former student of mine) who sadly died of melanoma in 2012.  I'm pictured at right with beautiful little Mabel, the daughter of Tess and her husband Victor.

Above: Raph's mum Bernie and brother and sister, Iggy and Mim.

Bernie and Mim were Raph's support drivers throughout Cycling to March.

Left: Raph's youngest sister Collette and her boyfriend Jeremy – March 22, 2014.

Above: Iggy was so happy to see me . . . but we haven't announced anything just yet!

Above: Raph and Bernie with our good friend Garth.

Above: Garth and his wife Jenya's two beautiful daughters – Saturday, March 22, 2014.

Above: Collette and her good friend Jenine on Bondi Beach – Friday, March 22, 2014.

Above: Iggy!

Above and below: Sydney's Central Park. Featuring a "living green facade and vertical garden," Central Park is billed as "Australia’s finest green space project."

Writes Josh Gliddon in the Australian Financial Review:

Inner-city developments, such as One Central Park in the old industrial inner Sydney suburb of Chippendale, have thrown that outdated logic on its head. Now the inner city is cool, and old industrial sites are being reclaimed for cutting-edge, trendy and green living.

“[We] purchased the old Carlton United Brewery site from Fosters in June 2007, with planning approval for a concept master plan in place,” said Fraser property ­manager Lisa McCutchion. “The developer achieved a modified concept plan consent – with ground-breaking green infrastructure entrenched into the master plan – in February 2009.

“Design development for the vertical gardens was undertaken over several years, with planting undertaken at the earliest stages of construction to ensure plants had sufficient time to establish before construction ­completion. One Central Park is now substantially complete,” she added.

At the core of the One Central Park plan is Vision 202020, a national program to increase green urban space by 20 per cent by 2020. And that deadline is less than seven years away, say the people behind One Central Park.

The core of One Central Park’s green vision is a 6400-square-meter public park, called Chippendale Green, which is located right in the heart of the development.

“Chippendale Green is now listed on the 202020 Vision Map of Australia’s finest green space projects,” said Ms McCutchion.

“One Central Park’s vertical gardens and planter boxes have also added 1200 metres of green space to the 202020 Vision Map.”

The public park at the heart of the precinct climbs the side of the floor-to-ceiling glass towers to form a lush canopy, Ms McCutchion said in a statement.

“Using 250 species of Australian flowers and plants, the buds and blooms of the vegetation form a musical composition on the facade.

“Vines and leafy foliage spring out between floors and provide the perfect frame for Sydney’s skyline.

“It’s surprising and delightful to see a soft green facade in this highly urban context,” she said.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Raph's Inspiring Journey
Raph's Journey Continues
A Surprise for Raph . . . Well, Somewhat!

For more images and commentary on Sydney, see the previous posts:
An Afternoon on the Harbour (2012)
Leichhardt (2012)
Sydney Sojourn (2010)
Strathfield (2009)
"Harbour City" Sights (2008)
Newtown (2008)
Travelin' South (Part 1) (2006)

Notes Wikipedia: The name Australia is derived from the Latin australis, meaning "southern." The country has been referred to colloquially as Oz since the early 20th century. Aussie is a common colloquial term for "Australian."

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Surprise for Raph! . . . Well, Somewhat

My friend Raphael McGowan's inspiring 1900 kilometre Cycling to March bike ride to raise awareness and funds for melanoma research, prevention, and a cure, concluded in Sydney's Centennial Park on Friday, March 21, 2014. . . . And, yes, it was great to be there!

As I've mentioned previously (here and here) Raph dedicated Cycling to March to his sister Tess (a friend and former student of mine) who died from melanoma in 2012. Tess's husband Victor and their young daughter Mabel were on hand to welcome Raph and his mum Bernie and sister Mim, who throughout Cycling to March were Raph's support drivers. Also present were Raph's brother Iggy and sister Collette. Raph's dad and older brother Jeremiah and his family were unable to be in Sydney, while his sister Dominica arrived from Cambodia the next day.

Opening image: Standing center with (from left) Victor, Bernie, Mim, Raph, Collette (holding Mabel), Jeanine (a good friend of Collette's) and Iggy.

I arrived in Sydney from Minneapolis via Dallas on Thursday, March 20 – the day before the completion of Cycling to March. My trip back to Australia had been some time in the planning, yet I couldn't mention it to too many people, and certainly not here or on Facebook, as I wanted it to be a surprise for Raph. And although my presence at Centennial Park completely surprised some (Iggy and Collette, for instance), it wasn't a total surprise to Raph because, as he told me later, he had heard "talk" I might be back in the country but that he wasn't sure exactly when or where! He was actually half-expecting me to show up in Goulburn, where a special dinner was held in his honor on Wednesday night. Of course, even though my presence was only somewhat of a surprise for Raph, it was still wonderful to be there to welcome and congratulate him and to catch up with him and members of his family after almost two years.

Following are some images from the March 21 event held in Sydney's Centennial Park to celebrate the completion of Raph's inspiring Cycling to March. For Sydney's Channel Ten's coverage of the event, click here.

Above: Jonathan Stretch of the Melanoma Institute congratulates Raph on his successful completion of Cycling to March.

Above: Raph and his mum with Paul Hillbrick of Cycles in Camden. Paul generously donated to Raph the bike he custom-built for him.

Later in the day Iggy, Collette, Jeanine and I enjoyed time on Bondi Beach, which is where I'm pictured above with Collette.

Above: My friend Garth with Raph, Dominica and Mim – Saturday, March 22, 2014. Dom had just arrived back from Cambodia that morning – and with a "What Does the Fox Say?" t-shirt for Raph!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Raph's Inspiring Journey
Raph's Journey Continues

Images: Michael J. Bayly.