Sunday Selections: The fog is lifting

Sydney has turned on one of those magnificent Autumn days, sun warm, breeze gently blowing, wisps of clouds in the sky. Yesterday, I reacquainted myself with my running buddies after a long absence at a club event. I didn’t run … way too unfit for that … but it was so nice to mingle with them and catch up. In the not too distant future is the reality of getting back into activities with them, meeting for training on weekly basis. Life has finally reached that corner I’ve been waiting for and I’m now making my way into the turn. Yippee! So many things are no a possibility again and I’ve decided on an activity to spur my creative juices again. It’s so good to have the melancholy of the past weeks start to lift and feel that I am no longer staring at a dead end.

Today, I am taking my pen, a notebook and selection of Walt Whitman poetry down to the Rocks to listen to some Irish music and watch the world go by. Sit in the sun, drink a few tipples and just soak in the day. It’s been so, so long since I’ve done something like that.

My photos for today’s Sunday Selections, the brain-child of Kim at Frog Ponds Rock, are from my trip to Hobart last year. Enjoy!

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Sunday Selections-Fairytale

I’ve been undecided today. What photos shall I post to join in Kim’s Sunday Selections? I’ve been too busy to collect new pics … they will come … but I have been sifting through the hard drive and come to a mixture.

My theme today revolves around the poem I wrote yesterday. No-one has heard it yet, but I’ve decided that in addition to laying it out here, I will present it to a group this week. I don’t like performing, being the centre of attention, but this poem, for many reasons, seeks to be spoke. It is distilled from the many emotions and thoughts of my life, growing in the realisation that the pretty fairytales we are read as young girls are for the most part, wisps on the edge of reality. The royal wedding this weekend triggered the thought process. I do hope that the newlyweds will be happy, but I don’t doubt that even princesses have their share of trials after they wed their royal heirs. The accompanying photographs are of Venice, once a principality, feigned and fought over, now a part of the Italian Republic.

Fairytale

This, this will destroy you!
This wallowing in despair
This wondering, this angst
This will be the curse that tears the life blood from your heart.

This, this will be the end
Of joy and peace,
Of hope and dreams.
This pity borne of others ways,
Of normalcy and civilised days,
This need for sameness, what others have
Will take what only you can have.

This, this will break your heart.
Hoping for a fairytale
Never true, never whole
A sparkling Cinderella life.
This, this dreaming tale
Of man who sweeps the woman’s life
From ashen grate to glittering hearth
Of man who leads where you must go
A trinket, pretty soldier’s prize,
Is drunken dream not real or true
A blinding propaganda tale.

That, that will save your soul.
Taking stock of what you have,
Looking forwards, not dreaming back.
Saying, “I am woman now,
Of strength and purpose, all my own.
I am she who knows the truth
Behind fairytales and kings-men’s rule!”
There, there is your salvation,
In realising lying tales
That bind a woman’s heart to be
The chattel of some brave, strong ‘he’.
Now, you may stand tall and brave
In face of those who deem your life
Less perfect, less whole, less right than where they hide;
Now, you have the strength to know that
Truth is what you live each day
Not fairytales consigned to tomes
No longer right for modern times.

Now is the time
To turn your back on childish ways
Letting go what cannot be
For even princesses cease to be;
The shimmering haze of Diana’s tale
Or Catherine’s seven year blazing trail
Remain no more in perfect detail
Than those of Brother’s grimmer tales.
Pretty coaches, gilt lined blades
Can trample simple fairytales
With silent slangs and slicing glares
No wicked witch could seek to match.
Now is your time
To realise what blessings lay
In life of independent and modest ways.
Taking stock of self and soul
That break the binding bloodied chains
Of those deceived, of lives less free;
Now is time foundations impaled
Much sounder stumps, more sturdy starts
Than fairytales that demand such chastity not shared by men.
Take stories weak to bonfire bright
And burn the pages no bastard could believe …
In ashes is the only truth of Cinderella’s glittering dream.
That has been
Source of your most aching heart;
There is nothing as true as what you live, what you chose to be
Now is time, now the choice
For broad and wide unblinkered gaze.


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Before the disillusionment

This poem sort of fits my mood just now, as my naivety , believing that honesty is rewarded, is destroyed. We can go looking for the truth, but we may not always like what we find. It’s not always pretty. This was written when I wished to know more, when I wanted to understand. Now I do know more and there will no doubt be more to learn, but I cannot say I truly understand.

Journey

In night’s green haze she sits, she waits
For shafts to seize upon,
To swim and squirm in pools of light
That come with each new dawn.
The canopy of leaves that cool
The floor beneath her feet
Screen harsher beams that burn too bright
On flesh so pale and sweet.
All at the once she’d bare full glare
If foliage were to fail,
But evergreen’s the canopy
That shields her heart, her soul.
A little at a time she creeps
’Cross debris feeding roots,
A little at a time she nears
Each clearing, hid from view.
Inquisitive, ’til day she dies
She seeks for naught but truth,
As Wisdom tries to shield the source
Of solar’s harshest rays.

Paths lead left and paths lead right
To climes less harsh and bleek,
But in those sites she knows her heart
Will still set out to seek
The places far, the corners near
Where Others cannot leave.
The fiercest winds, the coldest snows,
The burning deserts’ suns
Feed more the soul of honest hearts
Than peaceful, quiet fields;
So central track, less well defined
By tread of hordes before
Becomes her dark, yet dappled tour
Through forests deep and wild;
Chasing beams of fractured light
That merge as trees disperse
Reveal the plains not meant for all
Kept hidden from the crowd.
Exposed, bereft of leafy shade
Her Wisdom sits and waits.

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A dog’s best friend

I adore dogs. With a little bit of yard space, I’d have a couple, something between the size of a border collie and a Newfoundland. Yeah, I like them big! And anyone who knows me understands how much I miss my Bear. Our psycho cat Cocoa was meowing and jumping at his picture last night. She’s a total nutter!

At the Aussie Bloggers Conference the GOFA and I saw this aged pooch, obviously adored by his owners and not so able to get around easily anymore.

If only we were all so cared for in our dotage. And if only we all had friends like this.

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The Arrival

I picked up a book last week. It was among the children’s books, marked down by 50%. The picture on the cover caught my eye and I opened its pages to find not a single word. Page after page was completely devoid of the markings that form any recognizable language, although there were symbols that could be construed, were intended to be construed, as the words of an imaginary language. The real tale was conveyed by the drawings, some pages containing frames like a comic strip, others devoted to a single large image. In the most exquisite detail, the drawings told the story of a migrant/refugee, who left his family behind to seek a new life for them all in a foreign land. Fortunately, the tale had a happy ending with his wife and child finally joining him after a long separation.

The book is “The Arrival” and the author, Shaun Tan, expresses himself so superbly in the images that the meaning cannot be missed. It is not a children’s book. His use of sepia versus grey tones gives subtle emphasis, the imaginary animals and foods demonstrated the foreign-ness of a new land, the symbols represented the second-languages all migrants must learn.

Tan’s own heritage shaped the concept underpinning this book. He realizes the importance of belonging to a group or culture. He’s noticed the racism that is directed at people of non-European background – his father, Australian Aborigines, himself. In the interview on the page link provided, he even questions the definition of what it is to be Australian (implied in his confusion about the term ‘un-Australian’).

We don’t have to leave the country of our birth to feel alienated. Indeed, Australia’s Indigenous suffered the indignity of terra nullius, promises never realized, separation from and loss of family, Dreams lost to ‘progress’. Having grown up with migrants and living with my GOFA, the book touched a chord with me. Images remiss of Ellis Island probably tugged at my Celtic heritage as well. Regardless, this book is a supreme expression of loss and belonging that should transcend, race or culture. The tale could apply to the refugees of Europe at the end of the Second World Ward or the refugees of Vietnam and its neighbours. It is the story of the Irish who traveled to the ends of the earth far from their faerie trees.

If you’ve not read a copy, go find one. It is simply gorgeous. It is the story of disenfranchised who find a better life elsewhere. The ending, however, is not the happy ending all displaced people find. Many never find their families, never ‘belong’ to a cultural group again, never comfortably settle into a new culture. Oh, that nations did not matter and culture was all encompassing.  Read it anyway. A story with a happy ending is always uplifting. It is the hope of everyone who has ever risked what is dearest to his soul.

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Sunday Selections: Ruined

My thoughts this weekend have been morose. The devastation I see in our world is so vast, much of it driven by our own greed. I wanted to post something uplifting, but the illusions have been shattered and my soul is sad for what should be, rather than what is. Ladies and gentlemen, let the ruins of one of the greatest civilisations in history be warning to us all. I give you, Rome.

Remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, of Gemini fame.

The Coliseum

Remains of a grand city

Can you see the ghosts?

Sunday selections is the brain-child of Kim, author of Frog Ponds Rock. Please, pop on over and see what she and other contributors have to offer this week.

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You gotta see this!

Ginger Rogers, aged 92 and her 29 year old grandson. Gimme legs and flexibility like that in my old age and I’ll tear my skirt off too!

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Warriors and heroes

“The roots of violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles.” (Mahatma Ghandi)

Perhaps it’s the lack of real conflict, the absence of war that’s caused the aberration in the words ‘hero’ and ‘warrior’. English, language in general evolves as we do, but I must say I do not like the new expanded definition of these two words. First, the NRL started using the term ‘hero’ in relation to its players; last night, I heard a new AFL advert refer to footballers as ‘warriors’. Describing people with attributes that they simply have not proved is something the media needs to rectify.

A hero in my mind is someone who risks his life or quality of life for the sake of others, with no expectation of personal reward. It’s the stranger who runs into a burning house to rescue a child, the woman who runs the women’s health clinic in a region where she is likely to be a subject of rape herself, the recovery workers in the earthquake zones, the nuclear power plant workers trying to minimise disaster in Fukushima, knowing they cannot avoid the extreme levels of irradiation and effects on their bodies.

Japanese nuclear workers

A warrior fights, knowing that he may well lose his life. If he’s fortunate, he may come away with nothing more than scars to his body, but it’s likely that those to his psyche will balance the tally if his physical wounds are limited. A warrior, as opposed to a thug, has an ethical code, believing in not picking on anyone weaker than himself, never throwing the first punch and only going so far as to ensure the safety of himself and those dear to him. He does not seek to simply vent rage, but rather protect what is important to him, to stand up for the rights of others.

Gladiators fighting

Sportsmen risk nothing of import. They gain substantial income in an enterprise that is relatively short-lived and based purely on self-gratification, the accolades of an adoring club of fans. The pleasures that come, the girls, the fast cars, the bank balance, come with little consideration for the impact on others; no conscience and, as evidenced by the string of sex scandals in recent years, no morality. They are worshipped for no real reason other than their freakish athleticism and strength. When the gladiators fought, they really did risk their lives, their income, and their social status.

A hero is selfless and expects no recompense for his deeds and he must humble. It is this that differentiates the two most clearly. Some warriors are heroes, performing acts of such bravery in circumstances so dire that they never expect to survive. A soldier on the battlefield who draws fire away so that his comrades can make a counter assault to escape would be a warrior-hero.

The heroes I see in Australia today are few. Of the deceased, I could name Mary MacKillop and Eddie Mabo. Dr. Helen Caldicott, the anti-nuclear campaigner is a current Australian I admire, but I’m not sure she counts as a hero. There are people I admire, from those I work with in healthcare who give many more hours than people often realise, to those who teach our children and yes, even the police who protect us, despite the rotten eggs in the barrel that they must periodically fish out, who abuse their power. I share my life with a warrior and know how he thinks, I know what drives him, I understand his morals and beliefs, but he’s not a hero. Few people become heroes. Fewer still, of those heroes are remembered for the sacrifices they made to better someone else’s existence. Even Bonnie Tyler mistakes hero for warrior.

Anyone know where I can find a bona fide, real life Australian hero? Perhaps the search and rescue teams working the earthquake zones and the nuclear power plant rescuers are worthy of the tag of ‘hero’.

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The Golden Rule

I’ve been living the Chinese adage “may you live in interesting times” this last fortnight. I could really have done without it. It’s been one of those weeks that has made me stronger, sealed my resolve somewhat, to prove several people, in several areas of my life, wrong. Screw them. This is my life and I’ll be damned if anyone else is going to tell me what to do. If I choose a path that others don’t like, then they can simply rack off. I am a very strong believer in the power of choice. Buddhist philosophy argues that we always have a choice. The choices may well be limited, they may not offer what we want, but there is always a choice. By focussing on this premise, I feel I remain in control of my own destiny.

Choices don’t come without consequences; there’s always a trade-off. We may change jobs to gain a promotion, but leave behind a workplace where we were comfortable and had friends we valued. The lure of the promotion, the challenge of new and previously untested abilities may ultimately be more fulfilling than remaining within the comfort zone of a long held role. Perhaps we move cities, to experience life in a different part of the world, a different culture. We choose to have a child, the drop to one income or even, to parent alone. Ultimately, the balance that we all seek in life is a constant juggling act, for the balls we try to keep in the air keep changing colour, size and weight.

I get very annoyed with people who try to direct my choices, who try to tell me what I should do. I rarely push friends in a particular direction, for I believe that whilst I can be an effective sounding board, I do not have to live the daily grinds and joys of my confidante and cannot know, completely, what it feels like to be them. I can put on their shoes for a little while, but the wear on the soles and the stretch on the laces will be different to my shoes and it will I never feel the same way as my friend.

I will always encourage those I care about to seek their own happiness, the peace for their soul. I will never tell them to do something that will harm them or their relationship with another. Someone did that to me last week and I am still angry. Very, very angry. People must remember that we live our own lives, we are the masters of our own souls. If we believe that we know better than another, a perfectly sane individual, then we commence on the road to disenfranchising them of their right to self determination, disillusionment and force our own values on them.

There was discussion this week about the Golden Rule. One person commented that in Christian terms, the Rule is expressed as, “Do unto others as you would have done to you.” Her comment was that not everyone wants “done” to them what is “done” to others. Christianity is the only world religion to express the rule in this way. Other religions express the Rule in terms of desiring for others what we wish for ourselves, or in not doing harm.

Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: Do nothing to others that would cause pain if done to you.

Buddhism: One should seek for others the happiness one desires for one’s self.

Taoism: Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your loss.

Confucianism: Is there one principle that ought to be aver on throughout one’s life? Surely it is the principle of loving-kindness: do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.

Zoroastrianism: The nature alone is good that refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself.

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do unto others. That is the entire law: all the rest is but commentary.

Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.*

There is a significant difference between “doing” a thing and “not causing harm”. Doing something does not always help; many of the world’s Indigenous people would argue that they have first hand experience of the negative effects of being “done”.

If we each remembered that we have our own hopes and dreams and thought about how hurt and angry we would be if those concepts of our mind were destroyed, perhaps we would not think ourselves so virtuous in shooting holes in the lives of others, in forcing our opinions on them. We should stand back and asked ourselves how we would feel if someone came and dismantled our values, challenged our choices, forced their views upon us and denigrated us if we refused to comply. Live and let live. It is a simple matter of respect. And if you choose to enter the realm of another, respect the ways of the people with whom you have chosen to integrate, rather than forcing your own values down the throats of those who have their own beliefs. Go gently, wherever you go lest you cause offence. Go gently, lest you find yourself on the receiving end of someone else “doing” to you what you do not want!

*Beebe SA, Beebe JS, Redmond MV. Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others. Fourth Ed, Pearson, 2005, p.63.

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Her beauty and her terror …

This country has terror  to meet the worst in the world at present. Mother Nature has let fly in Australia in the past few weeks, beginning with the floods in New South Wales, but yesterday’s “inland tsunami” in Toowoomba and the ongoing flood crisis has left most of us astounded. The floods in Rockhampton a week ago affected an area the size of France and Germany combined. Now, we are watching much more of Queensland inundated. A friend in Brisbane, who lives in one of the suburbs expected to flood, tells me his home is on high ground … I just hope it’s high enough.

It’s been a terrible start to the year for so many people. Lori, author of RRSAHM, has lost her heart and must raise her children alone. Another friend lost her husband just after Christmas to cancer, diagnosed just a year earlier. They too, had a newborn that she will raise alone. How many others in Queensland will lose someone they love?

Many prayers this week, for many people I do not know … and some I do. If you have a penny to spare, please donate to the Queensland flood appeals.

Queensland Government Flood Appeal

Australian Red Cross

Salvation Army

Lifeline

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