Today I saw swordfighters in the park!
Now, I didn’t go looking for them – of course. Ambling through the river side pathways of Wynyard I spied some sword wielding, chain mail wearing swordsmen and women in the distance. As the distance between us dwindled my thoughts on it being a make-believe exercise were quashed – the clash of steel an ominous sign of the business of medieval combat. I plonked myself down on a park bench and fell under the spell of these group of everyday Tasmanians enjoying a Sunday morning activity. A hastily erected sign told me they were the Van Diemen’s Swordfighters’ Association Inc. and as they tagged in and out of the one-on-one duel, I realized what a colourful world this is.
Growing up, my parents were practical time-managers. We chose a ‘winter-sport’ and a ‘summer-sport’. Or, more accurately – they chose it for us, somehow maintaining the illusion we were in the driver’s seat of changing it from year-to-year (we never did – it was tennis and netball for my sister and I; tennis and football for my brother).
Life continued through the rhythms of each seasonal sport until I left home and decided for myself how I would spend my weekends. Soon, I found myself gifted Sunday mornings for a sleep-in, especially if I’d celebrated the coming of the weekend a little too hard on Friday and Saturday nights. I kept up my Saturday afternoon tennis and followed my husband’s football team throughout NE Victoria and NSW Riverina towns and hamlets in Winter. Then, when my sons were born, the ritual of Saturday morning cricket in Summer and Sunday morning Auskick in Winter became the norm. I did try and give them experiences with other activities, art-classes, gymnastics, and music lessons. But their father’s influence won out and they returned again and again to the predictability of footy.
I love that people find their ‘tribe’ away from sport. A couple of weeks earlier I found myself at a Quilting group. I thought it consisted of a handful of retired women, chatting and stitching their ‘little’ projects. You can imagine my dismay, when I was asked to sign in and out and entered a room of at least fifty people. Then came the ‘Show ‘n’ Tell’ to which I witnessed the most incredible display of creative talent. These people were not just retirees doing a little bit of Sunday afternoon patchworking...they were accomplished textile artists and designers. The next time I hear the term ‘stitch ‘n’ bitch’ I will smile at the ignorance of such a comment.
Bookclubs are another group activity that allows people from different circles to come together and talk about their love of words and story. I think there is a responsibility that also comes with Bookclub – to participating in literary critique and being open to understanding people’s differing opinions on books, makes us understand ourselves and our world better. It is not just a group of people saying, ‘I liked it,’ or ‘It wasn’t for me,’ but a wonderful whisking together of critical thinkers, determined to find meaning from a story.
My partner loves his Sunday morning ‘dirt church’. It consists of a motley group of mountain bike riders of all ages, hitting the local trails for a few hours and culminating in a café stop on the way home. I love the connotation of the term – dirt ‘church’. It’s a play on the traditional Sunday morning routine of worship, but with an acceptance that religion is not always centred around a holy figure. For the DC group of men and women it is about a shared love of bike riding in the bush. And on a sparkling Sunday morning, when the sky is azure blue, and overnight rain shimmers from gum leaves throughout the bush, I’m sure the experience is as close to perfect as it gets. The other thing I know about DC is that for people that don’t have a partner, or family, the social interaction it provides is critical for mental wellness. Especially blokes. Even with more information than ever about mental health, blokes can still feel isolated as they are less inclined to have a regular group of friends they call or catch up with and talk about their feelings. So, if DC is a way for men to just ‘be’ with others, then it is hitting the mark and providing a community service as well as a physical weekend activity.
So, whether it is quilting, bookclub, dirt church or swordfighting, isn’t the world a wonderful place that provides a space for everyone to be the person they want to be? To learn and grow through their passions and interests with like-minded individuals. We are lucky aren’t we?