#8 outdoor recreation

This post the last in a series where I'm recording the appreciative thoughts and emotions associated with various spaces in our house. For context, read my post Thinking about houses.

Salt water soaked skin, dust on our shoes, dirt under our fingernails, sand between our toes, sun warmed bodies. This space is the magic door that transforms us from urban life to the well cliched 'great outdoors'.

In a past life I had an insatiable appetite for philosophy; keen to understand how we make sense of the world. In that season I read some French philosophy that described the difference between idols and icons in religious practice. Idols, as the argument goes, are essentially mirrors; they act as reflections of our own desires and pathological longings. Icons, on the other hand are 'doors'; they open us up to realities beyond themselves. I found that very helpful, and even though I hadn't thought about it for decades, I recalled it just now when I considered the objects in my shed.

If you thought that Woollies bag was simply a receptacle for Maria's gardening paraphernalia you'd only be partly right. As an icon, it it a doorway to mindfulness, regeneration and friendship. Most weeks, she carries that simple bag and walks a few minutes along the street to the best little community garden you could imagine. Every other item on that stand has its own iconic meaning, including the different hats I hang on the top ... different hats for different purposes.

The Bianchi is a hand-me-across from (my brother-in-law) Gregg. I'm no cyclist but I ride a bike (ask me about that distinction one day!). It is an iconic doorway to friendship and fitness. That bike means I get to wander down the street and feel part of a community to which we have only belonged for a short period of time. Immediately behind the Bianchi is Rachel's tourer, her companion of her solo rides in Australia and New Zealand and her preferred mode of transport when she's in Melbourne - which she's not at he moment. Instead we are looking after her ride while she guides walking tours in Kakadu and along the Larapinta during the southern winter. The blue bike was the cheapest hybrid I could buy circa 25 years ago from the Melbourne Bicycle Centre. Zac and I shared it when we lived in Brunswick. It has lived outside for most of its life, but it's as solid as a rock and still serves me well as my IGA and cafe ride.

Hiking boots and camping gear pepper the nooks and crannies. Our extended family has developed a love for bushwalking in recent times, and while some gear has its spot upstairs, the chunky stuff belongs in the garage! Oh what joy; the simplicity and purity of walking in the natural environment. The scents and silence invite reflection or conversation, both worth so much in our normal contemporary lives.

But of course sheds also accumulate 'stuff'. I'm no handyman, but what garage would be complete without tools, hardware, ladders and tubs of useful things (and some not-so-useful). And where else can you store those mattresses that mean on special occasions every available bit of floor space is commandeered for friends and family. Those aren't just bits of foam and springs: them there are icons of hospitality.

As with everything else hanging on the wall in our place, this mirror is a treasured possession. It was a farewell gift from my Japanese mates after doing our year 12 together more than 35 years ago. There is Japanese scribble from them on the back which reminds me of their love of life ... I love being able to hang this on the wall in my shed.  

What started as a cliched ridden learn-to-surf lesson in Noosa in my early forties opened up a world of stoke. That rack is a stack of stories. Those boards are icons to an engagement with nature, a lifestyle and friendships that have shaped my world significantly in the last 10 years. I am still laughably poor at riding waves, but oh what deep enjoyment I feel in my being when I paddle out and immerse myself in the ripples of the ocean and manage to ride one towards land. 

Our garage door is out of sight from the street, which means I can leave the door open and potter around in private. The ritual post surf routine leaves this frequent happy scene.

The centrepiece of the garage is the icon to rule them all. The camper trailer. In a past season it was the caravan. That was when we lived and worked for long periods of time on the NSW north coast. That was when the kids could join us for weeks at a time. Now is when Maria and I want to be away for weekends, to walk and just be; a simple hiatus, to plug into and feel part of the natural world. It is pregnant wth possibility. It promises and delivers with relentless consistency - regeneration and joy.

I was inspired to write this series in a large part by my love of good design. So far, not much of that in this post! But one thing I have learned is what makes a well designed transition from the street to the entrance of a home. It includes elements like:
  • a change in surface
  • a turn
  • access to a vista not immediately clear from either the front door or the street
Our driveway is classic Barwon Heads, pebbled concrete. It's kind of smooth, but not sanitised. Our back door (family entrance) is through a gate, and the front door involves a small step onto a front porch, beautiful. And a bit further down the drive, this wonderful icon-box called a garage beckons. (Funny that there is no room in our garage for our (too) many cars, which of course can also be either idol or icon!)

I don't have a favourite space in our house; it is the mix that makes it special for us. But without this ordinary but special shed, my experience of the world would be substantially impoverished.


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