Anticipation is built into this time of year. In the Christian tradition we wait for the birth of the child to model and lead us to liberation. The most vulnerable expression possible of leadership – a helpless little person completely dependent on others. Students wait for their end of year results and I still look to the purple rain of jacaranda trees as heralds of marks being posted. The calendar tells us it is time to review, pack up and plan ahead. Business plans get their mid-year check-up and revisions, tweaks are made. We reflect with gratitude on what has been and sometimes have a lump in our throats about missed opportunities or regrets vie for our attention. Lists are made for what to have on menus as friends and family gatherings, parties and seasonal activities of the summer now arrive in the calendar. It is time when we are on the move. And for me this is not academic as I will be moving into my new home by this time next week. Ending the year completely differently to how I started. I anticipated this would be a ‘getting over’ year. I anticipated I would build up some strength again in my heart and my head and maybe even find some room for imagination of possibilities.
What I didn’t anticipate was all the love and kindness I ran into along the way. I learned to receive more and understood the relationship between moving on and holding still better than I have before. I noticed around every corner there was someone who wanted to give me something – free advice, a glass of wine, a secret, an idea, an invitation. I noticed I was waking up from a fog and a malaise located deep and that could be surgically removed, it needed to be massaged out. Each act of kindness and act of kneading – pushing, pulling, stretching. The little beads of yeast being enabled to rise with each rub and fold. In waking up those beads, there has been ferment and heat, there have been releases and metabolic changes, there have been conversions. I have found myself going back to the liberation theologians and lessons I held so dear in the 80s and 90s and genuinely wondered why I let their influence on me become so dormant. I remember reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in the mid 80s – more than two decades after it had been written and assuming the clever people on the planet would get it and fix things up – I truly never thought back then it would come to this. Toxic air in cities belonged to places like Mexico City and Beijing, not Sydney and Canberra. When I first studied about Palau as potentially the first climate change refugees in the 80s, I also thought surely that would be sorted too and lessons in the Pacific would be learnt and as neighbours we would take on responsibilities and support.
The idea of radical localism was embedded in the basic ecclesial communities endorsed by theologians like Leonardo Boff and economists like Manfred Max-Neff. I lived and worked with these frames throughout the 70s, 80s and into the 90s. I shifted my attention and got my hands on some bigger levers. I had roles with the word Chief in them. I also found myself focussed in almost a singular way on one person whose needs were immediate and literally all about breathing and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. His life often spoke to me of the metaphor of the canary in the coalmine. I even flirted with the idea his lung disease was a metaphor for what was happening to the planet and bigger systems.
We can influence, but we cannot control. We can bring hope and trust to any relationship with systems and with each other. We can hold still and move on at the same time. We can remind ourselves what got us here, when we woke up and if possible we can be compassionate to our selves and work feverishly to address and be accountable, and we can kindly and generously forgive ourselves for not seeing what was right in front of us to be seen. Despite mounting evidence, sometimes it is only by hauling over the coals do we find the reason the fire started in the first place. The forensic investigations are necessary to understand exactly what brought us here so we don’t do it again. So we come to understand how an accelerant works and how the smoke fills the air.
I am in that place now, as I anticipate and discern some next steps in my own story.
Like the phoenix not consumed by the fire, but rising up transformed from having flown in and deep to the ashes and rolling around in them discovering new colours. The colour purple created by the dye of crushed conch shells around Phoenicia in ancient Greece often depicted in the feathers of the mythical bird. Purple hues are the colours of this season and made from the equal intensity of red and blue it too holds meaning about coming together to create something more than the sum of the parts. This is where anticipation arrives when elements get put together and in that moment of making, there is anticipation. I am applying what I have learnt from the past, reflecting on what has been and putting in the new learnings of this year together and am wearing purple, waiting with anticipation to see what sparks will fly.