shades of the sea!

•August 3, 2013 • 2 Comments

My son reviewed my first self-published book, which is available for sale on Amazon.com and CreateSpace

I originally announced the book here: What’s your Favourite Colour?

shades of the sea!.

The Magic Flute

•July 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment

1-DSCF1207This morning the strains of a flute or recorder drifted up from somewhere outside, and tugged my sleeve, so I wandered down to investigate. I followed the occasional phrases, interrupted now and then with restarts, or shifts to other snatches of melody. A voice joined in singing along from time to time.

Under the eucalypts on the far side of the park, a man stood, flute in hand. A woman, most likely his wife and also the singer, was picking dandelions or roots of some sort– something the rest of us disregarded, but she recognised as good and useful. I passed them and found myself a place in the sun, leaning against a smooth tree trunk, and let his beautiful notes weave around me.

And that was it: a space framed by music, in which so much peace and beauty dwelt. The sun warmed away the winter chill from a sky adorned with a few high, fair-weather clouds. A gentle breeze stirred the eucalyptus leaves and twirled around the children playing on the playground equipment, mingling with their laughter. Down on the oval a father sprinted with his daughter and other children kicked balls or ran races, some serious, some pounding turf for the joy of it. Parents took dogs and children for walks nearby, and further away someone else threw a ball for an exuberant mutt. Noisy Miners tumbled and squabbled, landing momentarily right in front of a surprised toddler sitting on the running tracks, and then flying off again.

The flautist continued playing after his wife had gone, met by a little girl running from the playground equipment. Is this not the peace and tranquillity we all long for? What a gift this man gave us, yet I alone stopped to listen, to enter into the weaving of the dream. I could not give him anything else in return, just my listening.

Eventually I wandered over to thank him and he greeted me with a beaming smile and hearty “hello”.

“China,” he said, proudly showing me his flute – bamboo – which explained the woodiness of its tone, and why I hadn’t been able to distinguish whether I was hearing a flute or recorder at first.

He had no English but tried to tell me about the instrument anyway, clearly delighted by my interest. I thanked him again, although I couldn’t explain that I was thanking him not just for the music, but for the weaving of a vision of paradise across the road from my front door.

What’s your favourite colour?

•June 9, 2013 • Leave a Comment

22Sots

When we lived in Cape Town for a year and a bit, prior to moving to Sydney, my two younger sons were at that phase of life when they tortured me by demanding to know what my favourite colour was. I usually answered green, and sometimes blue. In the end I settled for revenge. I decided my favourite colour was the sea.

“Oh, you mean blue,” they’d answer.

“No,” I’d respond. “Today the sea isn’t blue, it’s grey and sometimes it’s green…”

In time, with my many walks along the beach and time spent sitting on the rocks in contemplation, the answer became a poem. Once we had settled in Australia I hunted through my photographs and placed them together with the poem into a PowerPoint presentation, which I then printed out and popped into a folder.

There is a subtext that follows the life of this little book. Our move to Cape Town following the sale of our house in Johannesburg was confounded by an inability to obtain bridging finance and a six-month wait for the money to come through. Those six months were desperately difficult as my nursing salary was far less than I’d earned in IT. We struggled to feed ourselves. Those days on the rocks or beach absorbing the colours of the ocean were, for me the peaceful battleground as I learned not to panic and to trust my ability to steer my family through crisis.

Eventually the money from the sale of the house came through, every debt was paid and we planned our move to Sydney. The initial putting together of the poem into PowerPoint was during our time of settling in to a new country and a new life. Again, the budget seemed impossibly tight at times, and I dreamt of the possibility of making a few pennies from my writing. I entered the poem into the Eastwood/Hills Annual Literary Competition and it received a Commended.

This year, once again we face a crisis following the car accident in February and the possibility of bankruptcy following on from that. The poem and photographs have become my learning curve and initiation into the world of self-publishing. This poem not only answers the question my sons asked, “what you’re favourite colour?”, it is also a subtext of life – it’s mornings and evenings, blue skies and stormy days, and all of it is beautiful. All of it is my favourite life.

The book is available via CreateSpace: Shades of the Sea or on amazon.com.

BookCoverPreview.do

The hope that is in me

•May 11, 2013 • 2 Comments

warrior

This last week I had one of those crazy-assed moments that let me know, without doubt, that my life has turned upside-down. No – this is not a reference to seven years spent Down Under, as moving from South Africa isn’t a hemispheric shift. Nor is it a reference to the general chaos of living – five of us – on my nurse’s salary and minus a car since the accident in February. Instead it’s a matter of how I live.

One of my nursing colleagues, a very dear soul, wanted to know if I was a Christian. I told her no, not any more, and explained why.  As we chatted it became clear that the reason she asked was due to what she knows of my circumstances and her experience of working with me. I was reminded of a Bible verse: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15. (NIV)

I asked my colleague directly, “is it because you think I could only live this way if I were a Christian?”

And she answered simply: “yes.”

In all my years as a Christian, twenty-five of them, deeply committed, steeped in prayer, no-one ever asked me to explain the “hope that is in me”.

So I told her how leaving the church wasn’t easy, because I knew it would hurt the folk there who loved me, and I loved them. I told her how, if I continued to follow the Christian way of thinking, believing that my own dear father would be condemned to hell wasn’t something I could maintain. If I were God, I wouldn’t condemn him. How could I be more merciful than God? And I explained that I didn’t believe it was just to deny two people who love each other the right to express that because they were the same gender. God, if this God exists, ought to know better than anyone, why it is that they love each other. With much deep pondering and searching, yes, and prayer, my conscience would no longer allow me to be a Christian, and so I left.

And in leaving, I searched my soul long and hard and found that my values left with me. I kept them all. In leaving, I flung wide the gates to let the rest of the world into my life (no longer “them”, the non-Christians and “us”, the Christians) and I began to truly live.

Now I will give an account of the hope that is in me: I have choices to make. Every moment of the day, every situation that arises, I can choose whether I want to walk as someone overwhelmed and victimised or walk as the hero of my story. There are so many other heroes out there. Some we hear of, many we don’t.

Viktor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Man’s Search for Meaning)

I do this my way, as an imaginative person. I have long puzzled over the way in which I consistently identify with particular character types in fantasy stories. So I live my life out on two levels: the here-and-now concrete reality that everyone can see and the mythological parallel that I can see – and perhaps those who understand story.

Much of my life has been the journey of the young initiate to the place of learning – the college or temple that trains the archetypes – the wizards, the warriors, the healers, the intellectuals and so forth. That path alone has a series of crises to be contended with, lessons to learn, so by the time the initiate arrives at the place of learning there is already a healthy body of practical knowledge to be organised and shaped. However, in no good story does the student ever get to remain at the wondrous place of learning for long. Instead, the trainee is bundled out into the wild again for challenges greater than ever before. To you it might look like I have a tight budget or an ill family member, or an aching back, but to me I have monsters to fight, folk to rescue, defend or heal, and I might acquire battle wounds on the way.

And that, my friends, is the hope that is in me. I am a hero on a journey. The challenges demand ever more of me, and I learn and grow from them. The more I remember who I am in my mythical world – the sort of warrior-druid I want to be – the more I am able to bring that aspect of myself into my daily life and live the reality. It is an incredibly powerful life force magic I wield.

None so Lucky as “Fortune’s Foal”

•May 9, 2013 • 1 Comment

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There are some strange magicks in the world that I’m learning about now, as an adult. They begin in childhood, these ethereal energies, played out with vigorous and passionate imagination. Let me explain:
When I was about seven years old, I saw the film National Velvet. It set me on the path of becoming a passionate lover of horses. While Velvet might have only had one imaginary horse at a time, I had herds. In winter I rode imaginary Lipizzaners to school, and in summer I was the only girl who could commune with the wild horses that travelled everywhere in my imagination. And whenever my friends and I played a game that was set in motion by me, the theme was consistent. It involved horses, and reasonably invariably, one or other horse would become ill or injured and would need to be brought back from the brink of death before the vet put it out of its misery. These games were so elaborate and vivid in our young minds, that we wept real tears over our desperate imaginary equines.

Now, when I look back at that time of my life, in my mind’s eye I see all the little girls everywhere (and maybe some boys, too) who played similar imaginary games. I see, rising from their fervent fantasies, an extraordinary energy and power rising up and gathering together, a potential like a stored up prayer, waiting to be put to use.

I have turned the final page of Anita Bell’s story, Fortune’s Foal, and I have been granted a strange and joyous privilege. I have watched backwards in time, as my childhood fantasy of healing desperately ill horses, after seven years of careful storage in whatever realm such things are stored, found its way from South Africa to Australia. It gathered and coalesced around a teenager who needed all the magick imaginable to live out the story and save a little foal from certain death. Not “almost certain”, please note. There is no “almost” to qualify this. There were no modern stories of horses surviving this disease, because the prognosis was so bad that they would be destroyed to end their suffering. If the disease did not kill them, which, without intervention it would, then humans killed them, out of mercy.

Anita’s account of her journey with her horses, and particularly Lucky, is a page turner from beginning to end. What a young lady (yes – young lady without “listen here” appended) of courage and strength of will! While she gives the credit for strength of will to her colt many times in the story, it has to be noted that she and that colt matched each other every step of the way.

The story stretches out into the community around the unfolding drama, turning strangers into friends, and grumpy folk into angels of kindness. What’s more, the strands of this story have not ended but continue to unfold in every hour of Anita’s life to this very day, for it’s her story. Given that it’s Anita’s story, it is inevitably told with delightful wit and self-deprecation that anyone who has communicated with Anita in any way will recognise.

What I imagined as a child at play, Anita lived in painful and joyful detail, and it is so much more than I imagined, so much bigger, so much more triumphant and far-reaching. All I can say is thank you, Anita, for making my dream a reality, for saving Lucky, and please pass him an apple for me.

http://www.amazon.com/Fortunes-Foal-ebook/dp/B00CBWLYZA

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Fortunes-Foal-Anita-Bell/9781483976907

Pulling weeds…

•April 27, 2013 • 2 Comments

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Weeding the garden brings me face to face with the ghost of what was there before and what will be again, Wild bush hiding at the edges, between the stones, bleeding from the old and dying tea tree that was here before this house, and from around whose roots I pull weeds. Weeds…no, not weeds – not unless you step back from looking too closely. Not weeds but homes; communities, ecosystems and burgeoning life is what I pull. And the tears start yet again.

Am I the only person in the world who can’t weed a garden without crying?

Little spiders run for your lives, worms, dive for cover! I’m sorry. It’s not my choice. And trees – I know – I pluck from around your roots the gentle blanket of growing things that holds the moisture and shares the processing of mulch, feeding you. I’m sorry. Flee little skinks and hide between the rocks. Each little creature I see I will handle with care, move aside, give time for escape, leave the leaf that has become a shelter against the storm of my passing on a gentle sunny day. It’s not my choice to pull weeds.

I am so aware of that haunting of the bush, in this garden especially. It overlays the place, seeps through the lichen and moss, whispers through the grasses that aren’t supposed to be in a suburban garden and rides in on the wings of the butterflies. We are allowed here only because Nature has stayed her hand; by some strange agreement she allows us to be and do what we will, but only while we pay attention. The minute our backs are turned, our attention is elsewhere, she will reclaim what is hers. The Wild will return and make a mockery of our careful borders and trimmed bushes. The Bougainvillea will tear down the cover over the patio and spread its glorious riot of colour like the joyful angry madness of an uprising of the oppressed. The moss will eat up every brick in the courtyard as only moss can – did you know moss devours bricks? That gentle green fuzz reduces hard man-made stone to dust, to soil, to gardens for growing little plants and before you know it, the Wild has returned.

For now, the weeding will get done. It’s part of the contract. I need a home for my family. But one day the Wild will rise up and take what’s left of my body home to be one with the dust of planet circling a star in the zodiac of some other distant galaxy.

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Fuck that….

•March 20, 2013 • 3 Comments

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So I’ve done it…got myself into trouble for using the F word at work. It’ll pass, and I’ll work on a Galactican alternative: “frak”.

There are two things in this that have me thinking. One, I can do nothing about. That is my own belief that swear words do not hold as much power as non-swear words. The words that question my values and integrity are far more hurtful to me than a swear word – in my opinion. I can’t even remember my precise wording, but it was probably “for fuck’s sake” – which does roll off the tongue most pleasingly and carries just the right degree of contempt when faced with something petty or small-minded. “For frak’s sake” will have to suffice, in future. (I’m not sure why substituting a different word makes it less of an offence when in the meaning is identical, but people are very strange creatures.)

The second thing is this – why did it matter to me to use a simple, unimaginative word like “fuck”? Why has it been mattering to me? Why have I seen myself as compliant in the past, when others see me as anything but? The answers to these sorts of questions don’t rise swiftly and easily to the surface, but if one pays attention to the right calls and cues, the answers come.

This morning it was Currawongs. There were several calling and crying to one another just up the road near the rose garden. Their voices were insistent and I dressed quickly and slipped out into a day of pristine blue and bright sunlight. I wish I could explain how particular birds call to me. They create sort of tug on my solar plexus and I simply have to go and investigate, and sometimes, like this morning, just listen. They were scattered around in several trees, nearby and further up, and across, the road. Most of their discussion centred around the nature of the surroundings and what sorts of food and features could be found where. But underneath that was the gathering of elders and sense of ritual, and I was invited to be present.

As I listened and walked between the roses, taking in the loveliness of dewy petals and end-of-season scents, the answer broke through. Using the F word represents breaking free from all those years of being “good” according to the dictates of the church. With that, goes the importance of not forgiving straight away, holding grudges and remembering wounds – all those things that being a “good Christian” does not allow. I need that rebellion. I need to scream to the sky that I am my own person and NO-ONE, deity or otherwise, will take my power from me again. I will make my own decisions – and they will ultimately be the right and good ones – but they will be on MY terms and in MY time, and not because some great organisation that has sucked me in tells me what I should do. And there it is….

Why do I feel as if I have been meek for so long and not standing up for myself? It’s not something from the last five or so years, because I’ve been fighting that hard. Those who know me know have seen only the fighter and wondered at my level of fury.
No – it’s twenty-five years of being a deeply committed Christian that’s done it. Twenty-five years of the wise words of “love your enemy”, “pray for your persecutors”, “’It is mine to avenge,’ says the Lord”, “turn the other cheek”, “return good for evil”, “blessed are the peacemakers”, “blessed are the meek”… They sound lovely, but they have denied me, stomped all over my being-ness, my here-ness. They have not allowed me a self that can also be violated, hurt, denigrated, abused, ignored, downtrodden, misused and otherwise slapped around. Instead those words have told me I must take all that and sweetly return nothing but good, after all, “I am a worm, and no man” (or woman) in the eyes of the Lord.

So, yes, I am angry – a quarter of a century angry – I will not back down any more. Frak that!

But, I need to learn a new way, because losing my temper means losing power in a different way. When the student is ready…

 
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