Sunday, December 26, 2010

almost one

It has been quite a year. One in which this blog has not necessarily been a high priority, but one in which I have learned that in order to hold onto the things that matter, sometimes you have to let go of many things that don't. It has been my happiest year ever, I can say that with absolute certainty, and for that I am so grateful. I can't believe it has been almost one year since Rosa arrived and changed all of our lives so deeply, none more than mine. This little poem might have been written especially for her, but then it applies equally to all children, and all the sweet girls sleeping tonight under our roof.

Little One
Bless this little heart, this white soul that has won the kiss of heaven for our earth.
She loves the light of the sun, she loves the sight of her mother's face.
She has not learned to despise the dust, nor to hanker after gold.
Clasp her to your heart and bless her.
She has come into this land of one hundred crossroads; I know not how she chose you from the crowd, how she came to your door, and grasped your hand to ask you the way.
She will follow you, laughing and talking and not a doubt in her heart.
Keep her trust, lead her straight and bless her.
Lay your hand on her head, and pray that, though the waves underneath grow threatening, yet the breath from above may come and fill her sails and waft her to the haven of peace.
Forget her not in your hurry, let her come to your heart, and bless her.
Rabindranath Tagore

Thursday, November 4, 2010

take the weather with you

I recently heard the English actor Stephen Fry speak about mental illness, which as a sufferer of bipolar disorder he knows a bit about. He said that a person's mental state should be seen as their own personal weather. It was a mistake, he said, to see that it was raining and think that could be changed. It should just be accepted - it is raining therefore it will continue to rain until it stops. Raining. But it was equally futile, he said, to think that it would continue to rain for all eternity and that life was no longer worth living because the rain would never end.
I always thought Fry was talented, and sometimes funny. I had no idea he was so compellingly wise.

Monday, October 25, 2010

you have to read between the lines

There was once a young girl who discovered that she liked to make bread. She made it whenever she could and it was always very good bread so that made her happy. When the young girl grew into a young woman and she had to find a job, she naturally looked in a bakery and was hired the very same day. The big bread-making benches and mixers and ovens were very exciting for someone who had only ever baked at home in her own small kitchen, but after many months of working every day in the big bakery for somebody else the woman began to lose her passion for making bread. She saw the unnecessary ingredients that her employer made all his bakers put into the dough to help it rise better and look whiter and stay fresher for many more days than it normally would. She felt bad about feeding this kind of fake bread to the people who came to the bakery. It started to make her sick. She planned to save all the money she earned from working at the bakery and use it to leave the town and travel to another country where she might find something else she liked doing. She eventually saved enough to leave the bakery and she tried other jobs, but there was nothing in her life that she loved doing as much as she loved making bread. More than a year passed and she returned to her home town, which she loved, and was offered a job at the same bakery she had left. She thought maybe it would be different but she was wrong. The fake bread made her sad and she lost her joy. Then she met a man who she loved even more than making bread, and they were married and her joy returned and multiplied though it had nothing to do with bread. She and the man became a family, then a larger family, and she spent more and more time away from her job at the bakery. She went days, sometimes weeks, without giving the bakery a second thought, but dreamed almost daily of making her own special heartfelt bread to feed her family. As her youngest child grew, the woman faced returning to the job at the bakery that weighed so heavily on her heart. She knew that her wages would help her family, and that it would feel good to work the dough with her hands and feel the heat from the bakery ovens. But in her heart she knew that it was not the same as the making of real bread.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

in which i see the light

In summer the Robinia tree in the corner of our garden is showered in leaves of an astonishing green, radiating light and life. Through winter it has been a mass of sticks and thorns but I have still thought it beautiful, maybe because I know what is to come in just a few months. 
I think this tiny glimpse of green is what nature likes to call The Light at the End of the Tunnel. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

raindrops on ... nasturtiums

Mother Nature was having a particularly fabulous day when she came up with nasturtiums, you'd have to say. They smell sweet, they're a work of art, you can even put them in salad - and they never even seem to try. Not needy and showy like roses, which are beautiful too but in a trumped-up kind of way. Nasturtiums are more like a little brown girl in a yellow sundress and bare feet.
So I hope someone patted Mother Nature on the back after her nasturtium moment, although she doesn't strike me as somebody who'd need anyone else's validation for a job well done. She's more of a: 'Here is my work. Admire it as you see fit. Ultimately I do not require your attention or praise - you need it more than I do.'
A few days ago I was kind of craving a nasturtium day, because it seemed that not much was going right. But then just yesterday I was down on all fours above Rosa and I leaned right in and gave her a big noisy kiss on the cheek and she just gazed into my eyes, six inches away, and smiled at me. Nasturtium moment.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

doe: a deer, a female deer

I had to have this lovely deer when I saw it in a retro furniture shop out in the backwoods one recent weekend. When I say backwoods, I'm referring to a town that has a distinct Twin Peaks atmosphere about it, being set at the foothills of a mountain. At this time of year there's always a bracing chill in the air, although I'm never sure if it's from the frosty atmospheric conditions or the dead bodies in the back streets.
The nice lady in the retro furniture shop restores and sells beautiful furniture from the 1950s and 60s, which looks about as foreign in the backwoods as a small spaceship - possibly a time machine. She told me this deer was missing some antlers, although I prefer to think of her as a mother deer anyway, since she's so lovely and placid and graceful. Or maybe it's school holidays in the woodland glade and she's climbed this mountain of boulders, at great risk to her own personal safety, in order to get FIVE MINUTES PEACE. That expression on her face is deer for: Do not even think about following me up this mountain. The girls think the mountain looks like a pile of poo. You say potato.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

season's greetings

We bought this wondrous new ornament at a second-hand shop that's just opened nearby, and discovered on the box that it is a Weihnachts pyramide, or Christmas pyramid. Apparently they are very big (figuratively and literally) in Europe. The idea is to light the candles around the bottom, and the warm air sets the fan at the top spinning, which makes all the little people inside spin too. We fired it up on the night we bought it and turned off all the lights. Hard to say which member of the family was more mesmerised, although the looks on the girls' faces (all three of them) were priceless. It occurred to me that most traditional Christmas activities are much more enjoyable when it's cold outside. Hot lunch, open fires, carol-singing. And how sweet would it be to give hand-knitted mittens and scarves as Christmas gifts, if only it wasn't 35 degrees.

This is quite the turnaround for me, if you'll forgive the somewhat obvious reference to the above. In years past I would dread winter - in fact I'd start dreading it in early Autumn, thus missing the beautiful leaves changing colour and instead gritting my teeth against the coming cold. My jaw would only unclench some time in Spring, and not because of the signs I now cherish - tiny buds on the peach tree, green shoots defiant against grey skies - but only when the weather turned warm.

I credit the girls' school with my newfound appreciation of the seasons. They have such a focus on nature and its changes throughout the year, learning poems and stories that are based around the seasons and all their glory. It is a rare thing in this part of Australia to embrace winter. We tend to kid ourselves that we're living in the tropics, and try to shut out the cold by shutting down. I'm learning that embracing the cold can warm you very effectively from the inside.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

layin' everybody low with a love song that he made

I was thinking the other day, as you do, what my favourite song of all time would be. Naturally I could not make such an immense decision, but I did go as far as making a shortlist, and this song would be way up there on that list. It makes me cry every single time I hear it, for lots of reasons. It's so filled with teenage angst and that heart-shattering love that you think might actually kill you. And while I love it, I don't actually own a copy of it, so I Googled it today and found out that some hip band called The Killers, which I think the young people are listening to these days, has done a cover version. It does do the song justice, which apparently the lead singer feared it may not, although his voice tends to prove that nobody other than Mark Knopfler can bring it down so low it makes your knees give way. But then it also got me thinking that if any man on the planet sang this song for me, whether he could hold a note or not, I would be his forever. Right after I picked myself up off the floor. And I can say this secure in the knowledge that it will never happen.

Can't do anything, but I'd do anything for you.
Can't be anything 'cept be in love with you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

this way up

Call me what you will - daydreamer, stargazer, procrastinator, bubble girl - but I can't get enough of the great big blue skies these days, when the sun is performing under duress but still managing a magnificent show (even if it does end early). It may be a little light on substance, but for me the wide blue yonder is the closest thing I have to religion. Even when it's more grey than blue, just look at those clouds. It's like your own private viewing of the Sistine Chapel, minus the queues and price of admission. Doesn't matter what the day holds, what ungodly state the world is in, the house is in, your mind is in. Go outside, look up and open your eyes. I defy you not to be amazed.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

time as a whole

It will shock nobody who knows me that I am not very good at time management. I struggle to get my shit together unless there's a deadline fast approaching, breathing down my neck or even pinning me to the ground. This could be seen as a good thing in some ways, as it so clearly illustrates my grasp of the whole "live in the now" mantra. I am so mindful of what I'm doing right now (starving) that what I should have been doing three hours ago (ie preparing dinner) has clearly passed me by. Embrace the moment or plan ahead? Is it really possible to do both?

The minutiae of time, the regular tick-tock, is often my worst enemy. It's in the big picture that old father time and I seem to see eye to eye. Just lately I've had cause to compare and contrast this time with this time last year. Is it really twelve whole months since I suspended self-doubt and spent two nights alone in the big smoke as part of the Happiness and Its Causes conference? Since I joined in a group meditation with Tibetan monks without knowing the tiny little seed I carried with me would be a sleeping Rosa just one year down the track?

As winter approaches, I remember feeling cold and nauseous last winter as I sat on the lounge in my hideous but delightfully warm flanno jarmies, cursing my inability to stomach milky tea, relishing every moment of Around the World in 80 Gardens and dreaming about sweet babies and warmer climes. I hung on every word Monty Don uttered, imagined myself having a little boy named Sol and a magnificent garden in the Spanish style. Before bed I'd use my Natio skin toner, still in Monty mode, thinking about growing and travelling and babies, and I'd read the key ingredient on the front of the bottle: Palmarosa. Something about that word. Turns out I was growing and travelling the whole time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

wish you were here

This is Maisie Sladen. I knew her, many years after this photo was taken, as Grandma. I had never seen this photo until today, when my mum brought it and several others to show me. They came from the home of a great aunt who is selling up to move into a unit and is trying to clear out old belongings before the move. I wasn’t prepared for the impact these photos would have on me - the incredible emotions I felt when I looked at this beautiful young woman and recognised in her Grandma’s dazzling blue eyes.

It was only a matter of months after this photo was taken that Maisie got the news her husband Roy, a taxi driver, had been killed in a road accident not far from home. She was left to raise a three-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son (my dad) on her own, and to forge her own life through unbearable sorrow, in turn creating a defining chapter in our family history.

I stared at this photo for so long, trying to absorb every tiny detail, as though that might recreate the tiny missing bits of history. I wanted so much for Grandma to be here, so that I might ask her about Roy and about this photo - Who took it? What were you doing that day? What was your life like? Were you happy?

I couldn’t ask any of it, of course, so I just made myself a cup of tea and sat down at the kitchen table with the album open, staring at the grainy images and remembering. It was the closest I could get to having a cuppa with Grandma, who made me my very first cup of tea (and roused at me for making gulping noises when I drank it) and whose cupboards were always full of Lan Choo tokens.

When I look at her as a young mother, immaculately dressed and with her perfect complexion, before the well-earned wrinkles I knew, I understand why she was always wearing jewellery, buying Avon and painting her fingernails with three coats of rock-hard Cutex. I see why her bedroom always smelt of perfume, why she had a dressing table with not one but three mirrors, and I know that even when she was up at daybreak milking cows at the age of 65, the beautiful Maisie Sladen was still inside her, holding on to happier times.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

shelter from the shit storm

Last week I took Rosa on an outing, one of our first, that was not entirely without potential for stress but which went quite swimmingly, as it turned out. I walked back to my car with my six-week-old baby in my arms, feeling happy to have completed my task without incident, when I was suddenly confronted by a person who was craving an incident and entirely surrounded by stress. He marched across the road and shouted at me (and I remember this word for word, though I'm not sure why): "Excuse me, I know you have a child and all, but could you not park someone in? I've been waiting here for over half an hour and now I have to go to work.'' And before he had even finished his sentence, he turned on his heel and marched back across the road to where (I'm assuming) his parents were waiting for him in their conspiratorial huddle. "Sorry" was all I could manage in reply, though I assume it didn't make it through his suffocating air of self-importance. I put Rosa in her car seat, as slowly as possible, remarking to her how some people are just not very nice. Then I got into my car and waved at Mr ME-ME-ME as I passed.
This man does not deserve to be mentioned here, and maybe this story shouldn't be either, but the point is that two years ago, had this happened to me, I would still be sitting in the gutter crying. I would have fallen apart. And I think that most women with a six-week-old baby would struggle with such an aggressive confrontation. But oh what a corner I have turned. My reaction was purely one of disbelief. That any person could choose to heap such ill-meaning aggression on anyone, without any consideration of the effect that might have, is beyond me. But I looked at that big black cloud intended for me and I turned the sucker around, back from whence it came. I like to call my new mindset: IMMUNE TO OTHER PEOPLE'S SHIT.

Monday, March 1, 2010

time waits for no mum

The past seven weeks have been pretty special, to say the least, and I have been floating on a cloud that's an equal mix of hormones, a happy baby and - in keeping with the letter of the day - a husband on holidays. I'm pretty sure my own frame of mind made all these things even better, and I'm about to find out how strong that frame really is. All good things, including husband's holidays, must come to an end, and today I flew solo in the morning school run with no reported turbulence. Lunches were made, breakfasts eaten, clothes dutifully worn, hair brushed, teeth brushed, shoes .. check, check, check .. car keys .. check .. baby .. check. There were no tears at school (not even from me) and as I drove home with my one remaining pre-school child, it seemed all eventualities had been accounted for. Then came the surprise. I was expecting noise to come from inside the car, and not from me or the radio. I wanted, and for a split second fully expected, to hear "Where are we going now Mum?". My seven-week-old bundle, oblivious to all but the most basic of earthly needs, did not oblige. And for a moment I was left longing for the passenger I had just left behind, at a stop called kindergarten, on the first leg of her journey.
Time, you must cry farewell, take up the track. And leave this lovely moment at your back. - Kenneth Slessor

Monday, January 25, 2010

monday's child

And now she is here. How did the earth ever turn without her? She arrived at 10.06pm on Monday, January 11, 2010 in the most perfect way, into arms that were made to hold her. I cannot believe my good fortune, though I owe many thanks to Kate, Kim, Jacqui, Marlene, Josephine, Harriet and all the other good women who were watching over me and Rosa as she made her way into the world.
Today there are wonderful people enduring terrible sadness and the injustice of it is almost unbearable. All I can do is look around me and see my many blessings, count them, savour them, and be eternally, overwhelmingly grateful. Every one of them is so precious.