Highschool reunion - 30 years!

It was like walking into a room of noisy ghosts – the gathering of my classmates who graduated from highschool in 1984. Most of us (I think) had forgotten each other – squinting to read the name badges pinned to our chests with the letters far too small for our aging eyes. In the noise of shouting and laughing voices and loud retro music, we circled and milled about, slowly remembering some of the highlights of our school life.

My best friend at school (and my best friend still), Suzanne, and I went together. What an honor – to have witnessed each other’s lives over the years, remaining so close despite being separated by countries much of the time, full of gratitude for the freedom to follow our hearts, pursuing what we believe in and helping others. We purposely arrived a little late – waiting for people to have a few drinks to ‘loosen up’.  Even though we mentally prepared for the gathering as best we could  (looking over old school photos and searching personalities through facebook) it still all seemed a little surreal.

Overall it was refreshing to feel that there was seemed to be no real sense of competition - that may have been the case in a 10 or even 20 year reunion where career, income ‘success’ or even good looks! may have taken on more importance. The brief snatches of conversation possible in such a crowded cacophony, tended to be more about whether you had any children (and then raving on about them) and where you lived rather than what you were doing or had done.  It was wonderful to see the shy, intelligent wallflower of our final year become the life of the party – probably the most publicly ‘successful’ person in her career as a comedienne of international standing.  

I was remembered (fondly I think) as that girl who always had a campaign going on, who stood up for her beliefs and principles and who played the lead role in the high school musical. Former classmates told me that they had enthusiastically voted for me in election campaigns over the years and looked perhaps a little wistful that they hadn’t done more for worthy causes. And I felt, again, vaguely guilty that I had not done (am not doing) more to effectively ‘make a difference’ - witnessing, with eyes wide open, the relentless devastation of the last thirty years on the planet and on our human culture.

We're still the same people at our core – the kind and compassionate ones, the intelligent nerdish ones, the outwardly confident ones, the sporty ones, the practical, organizational ones (thanks to them the gathering happened at all!). My 30 highschool reunion seemed to me like a kind of zen practice for that time near our deaths when we reflect on how we have lived and what we have done with our lives, the people we have known, our experiences, our choices – the sum of us.  Overall, I am quite content – let’s see what the next thirty years brings!

Class of 1984 PBCSHS











Staying 'real'

Staying 'real'

Time can seem to be an enemy, but is such a great teacher too…Sometimes in those beautiful dawn celebrations, watching the sun rise out of the ocean, time stands still for a moment and there is clarity and everything seems as it should be. Then the day goes on in relevance and irrelevance – a dance in trying to keep it real.

We live on the Gold Coast now, the place I grew up, the place that I struggled to keep my identity intact as I grew through adolescence and there was so much influence and pressure to ‘be a certain way’.  The Gold Coast is famous not only for it’s beautiful beaches and surf, but for casinos, night-clubs and plastic surgery. There’s an influence, no doubt, and it’s not always a healthy one!
As Pacha travels through the big transition of teenage-hood, I’m aware of balancing the influences and reminding ourselves about who we are and why we are here! Surfing has been a constant anchor for her - to nature and to freedom and empowerment - take a look here!
A couple of weeks ago we were invited to take part in a deep ecology women’s retreat, co-facilitated by the ocean and an amazing team of wise and empowering women.  It felt like a warm embrace – nurturing and accepting of who you are, no matter where you are on your life’s journey.  There were new tools to help stay true to yourself and negotiate life’s ‘dramas’ and deep (re)connections to other women from different places. I’m so grateful to Eshana who has created the beautiful Foresthaven retreat centre with her partner Peter Cumming - I hope to work with them in the future inviting people along for deep ecology workshops – perhaps from Japan?

I watched as Pacha peeled off the layers of other people’s expectations of her to come back to her core – an exuberant, joyful, free spirit – strong in body and mind. We all jumped into a raging ocean, attempting to stand on our surfboards – asking the powerful waves to be kind to us since we are only feeble humans, being tumbled and turned and rinsed out… refreshed!

In the meantime, Yani got to stay with his great inspiration, Rasta - musician, activist and one of the best free surfers on the planet. Yani came home with renewed sense of peace – a steady calm and inexplicable faith that he could make his own good story, following his heart – in service to life…
The following weekend, we travelled to another surf competition near Coffs Harbor and were able to reconnect with a rainforest activist friend that I hadn’t seen for 20 years! Andy and his teenage son, Finn, live on a most beautiful intentional community – just minutes walk from the wild ocean in the middle of a national park. Self-sufficient in energy and water, lots of good healthy local food and a community that celebrates together and supports each other…it was another heartening reminder that there are many ways that humans can survive and thrive into the future.

So, even though we are based on the Gold Coast, we are so lucky to have wonderful friends, family and long, strong connections with the people here who stand up to protect the natural beauty of the place culturally and environmentally). Last weekend we were invited to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of the GECKO (our local environment group) – which happened to coincide with the 15th anniversary celebration of the Sloth Club at Café Slow! The highlight for me was going along with my Mum (who received an award for her environment work) and my sister – and remembering the many, many campaigns over the years and the wonderful people we’ve shared them with!























15 years – the Sloth Club.

15 years – the Sloth Club.
'Buttercup' - photo credit: Lucy Cooke
I can never forget the day I met the Sloth. 
Bound and trussed like some living pot roast and left in a concrete laundry tub, awaiting the day it would be dispatched and it’s scrawny flesh become part of a meal for a family living in north-west Ecuador. Leaving it alive was a way of keeping the meat fresh I suppose, its suffering silent, unnoticed and irrelevant. And this is what initially brought my world crashing down, this defining tendency of  human beings - this disconnection to suffering.
I was inconsolable. But somehow, with as much cultural sensitivity as possible, we managed to buy the creature in order to win its freedom. With this beautiful animal laying in my lap, touching its green-tinged, insect-riddled fur, gazing into its permanently smiling face, I started to realize just how amazing Sloths were – gentle, unequivocally unthreatening and so extremely slow. As it determinedly inched it’s way up the tree, little was it to know it had sparked a movement in a country where the ideal character was the antithesis of Sloth.
15 years later and the Sloth Club continues. A family of caring, openhearted and non-judgmental humans of all ages and backgrounds - slightly bewildered that this movement has had such a profound impact – a non-religious, environmental, cultural movement that runs multitudes of ‘campaigns’ – but works primarily on the ‘soul’ level.
For me, watching from afar and continuously inspired by the latest ideas and campaigns - it seems like the most simple, most humble approach is having the deepest impact – simply Love.
It’s so inspiring to see these ideas and sentiments infuse many other ‘movements’, saving them from becoming strange parodies of the dominating, controlling system behind this nightmare of destruction.
And while of course we all still aspire to ‘become Sloth’ – lately I have seen our movement like those Hobbits in the Lord of the Rings classic. Knowing that our quest to protect Life is all but impossible, but never giving up - trying to find humour and humanity in all our activities, however small and seemingly insignificant. As Gandalf says as he describes the barefooted hobbits Bilbo and Frodo undertaking a seemingly impossible mission against impossible odds:
I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”
With a big smile and proudly bare feet (usually!) - it is my honor and joy to be a member of the Sloth Club.