Finding Your Magic Carpet

It was my birthday on Sunday! We headed north to Byron Bay on the north coast of New South wales. A 9-hour drive there, and a 9-hour drive back!

We only had two days on the ground, but it was worth it. We got so much benefit. It’s easy to forget how important a change of scenery is to your mental wellbeing. My grandmother used to say: ‘a change is as good as a rest’, and I now know exactly what she meant.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve passed another birthday milestone, or because the world is in such a state of flux, but I’ve been in a very reflective mood recently trying to connect different dots to make sense of a world that is changing fast, is out of balance in many ways and requires healing.

It’s funny how life can feel circular.

As a child, I had a very local life. I attended the local school, went to the local shops, had local friends, played in the local park, had a local paper round and ate home-made food.

My travel was through my imagination. I went everywhere on my imaginary magic carpet: China, India and the Arabian seas were my favourite destinations!  Life was local but exciting. Life was simple, but time felt endless. There was always time to play, to day-dream and to just hang out.

Then bit by bit everything changed.


Big supermarkets and shopping malls began to open, overseas travel became accessible, fast food became available, and my very local world began to disappear. And in its place, a world that seemed so much more exciting and more glamorous. As I embraced this exciting world, I didn’t look back.

But then, everything got out of balance.

For the last 6 months, our world has been disrupted. In Australia, we have had bush fires, followed by the pandemic and social unrest.  And my life has become ‘local’ once more.

I have once again shopped in the local natural food store, met local friends, visited local places and returned in my mind to the places I once frequented daily as a child. Places that are now 10k miles away from where I live. The parks that have turned into apartment blocks, the cinema that is no more, and the shops that are long gone.

Life is a journey, but one thing that I have learnt is that if you’re always focused on the destination, you miss so much along the way. I’ve known this at an intellectual level for a long time, but knowing and doing are two, quite different things.

The pandemic has allowed me to get into the habit of practicing what I know and slowing my life down so that I can see what’s in front of me.

In the noise of social media, there have been some great, inspirational poems shared that have provided a source of comfort and thought. Here’s one that stood out for me. See what you think:

When an old man who died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value. Later, when the nurses were going through his meagre possessions, they found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital, and since featured in magazines for mental health. It simple, and eloquent and reminds us never to judge a book by its cover.

Cranky Old Man

What do you see nurses?. . . . . .What do you see?
What are you thinking … when you’re looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit . . . . . .with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food. . . . . .and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice. . . . . .’I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice. . . . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . . . .lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking?. . . . . .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse. . . . . .you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am. . . . . .As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding,. . . . . . as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten. . . . . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters . . . . . . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . . . . with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . . . . . a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . . . heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows. . . . . .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . . . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other. . . . . . With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons. . . . . .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me. . . . . . to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, . . . . . .Babies play ’round my knee, lo
Again, we know children . . . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future . . . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing. . . . . .young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man .. . . . . .and nature is cruel.
It’s jest to make old age . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles . . . . . . grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone .. . . . . .where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . . . . . . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . . . I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . . . . . gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . . . .that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people . . . . . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man.
Look closer .. . . . . .see . . . . . .ME!!
Luke O’Shea

“Our prayer is that you ride these storms until they disappear (they will); ride them with confidence, skill and creativity. Untangle the excessive strands of fear that have woven themselves into your days; separate the noise from the music and sing a song that calms the storm . . . become an example for those less courageous to hold on to and follow. Turn this world into the sanctuary it deserves to be, with the life you deserve to live.”

Guru Singh