past and future

Earlier this morning we dropped our youngest at the airport, she’s now old enough to travel on her own without the hassle of ‘unaccompanied minor’ paperwork, a reminder of the future that blows us along like a wind at our backs.

Then. with an unexpected appointment free day I relished the opportunity to come into town and continue my thinking and planning. A rare privilege so grabbed with glee.

Because the future is on my mind these days, I thought I’d plug into some of my past. I walked from a tram stop at the top end of town through the alleyways of the CBD to one of Melbourne’s first laneway café strips, Centre Place. It contains a favourite haunt from the late 90s, Jungle Juice. I frequented ‘the Jungle’ when I had an office in iconic Nicholas Building a stones throw away. The place reminded me so much of the pokey cafes I experienced in Japan in the early 80s. I was surprised to see very little had changed. The bagel based menu, the impossibly small kitchen in full view of the cramped tables. The music was still alternative and cruisey, and the tables still attract journal-ers and readers. On the way out I wandered passed the lifts on the ground floor of Nicholas House and smiled to see that the ‘lift ladies’ have been retained. When I was based there the same women had worked the two lifts for 30 odd years, relieved at times by one of their daughters, a relative newby at only 15 years in the lift. The same woman stood at the threshold, cardigan and bun in tact. She viewed me suspiciously as I peered in to see the family photos still adorning the walls. Is there another building in Australia still served by ‘lift ladies’? Is the Nicholas Building stuck in the past or has it progressively retained something of value from the past? How can we tell the difference?

We are who we are because of our heritage. Like the trees that I can see from where I now sit in an intentionally very different café (Weston Hotel lobby) the essence of who we are stays consistent while we are extraordinarily adaptable and resilient to the changing environment. (By the way, I’m amused by the 30-something urban professional discussion nearby about golf handicaps and tan lines …) So I wonder about the joy of the journey, and the capacity to embrace the present and honour the past. Jungle Juice is no longer part of my present. Going back there was like looking at a dog-eared photo from a favourite old album.

When we go on holidays we like to take photos to capture the memory. We know its not going to last so we capture it. We also do it with our kids, keeping things and images that will remind us of a present that is history as soon as it happens. I will always remember Johanna, in her faded green windcheater and flowing hair turning confidently to wave at us as she disappeared out the departure gate door this morning. I don’t have a picture, but it will be an iconic memory.

Every day is a gift.

Failing unexpected tragedy, we have a stack of years to live. As heart warming a story as Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman’s Bucket List is, the sad fact is most of us will probably only start working our list when the end is tangibly close. I said to Maria after we watched it a few months ago, ‘let’s start today’.

The future is about living. Life is not about going through the motions waiting for an opportunity to do ‘good stuff’ later, when the kids are older; when I get a different job; when I’m retired; when I’ve got more time; when I’m fit. There is beauty, truth and goodness everywhere. Smell the roses, go for a surf.

As Zac and I did yesterday. The water along the surf coast was disgustingly brown, apparently because of the rivers spewing flood waters into the bay and in turn into Bass Strait. Despite forecasts to the contrary, the wind tossed the swell into rubbish. So the water was putrid, the swell was messy. We exhausted ourselves and could count our combined rides on one hand. But it was better than staying at home.

The future is not about waiting for a fanciful reality that only exists in commercial TV land. It is a slow brewed reality created by our commitment to live fully today. And tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that. The perfect ride on a glassy point break is only so in the context of the brown mess we tried to ride yesterday.