a very overdue thank you!

 

rabbit and bag, a prize to be won!

rabbit and bag, a prize to be won!

Roma of Craft Odyssey had bought some wool which was very colourful (see the post) and after turning it into a bag and a very attractive rabbit, offered it up as a prize. I entered, just for fun, after all how often do you win a lottery or raffle?  And I do hanker after one of her more historic rabbits. (I have so much stuff. How could I justify it?)

Last year was, well, unproductive for me. To say the least. Events somehow kept on snatching me away from my plans. My health pre-occupied me.  My blog was neglected. WordPress itself was ignored. My learning was interrupted. My heart was downcast. Each day I would promise myself that tomorrow I would sit at the computer and do something, but another day would pass.

The email from Roma arrived to  notify me of my momentous win- Yes, way down here in Australia, I had won the bag and the little rabbit!  But it was ignored. I’d reply tomorrow, then the next day then … it became easier to put it out of my mind. The parcel arrived, very soon after. More excitement and it was so cute. Still ignored. The Craft Odyssey blog post announcing my win? No response from me.

flowers for you from my garden.

flowers for you from my garden.

Do I have an adequate excuse? No, how could I? Such generosity from Craft Odyssey, to donate her work and then to post it all the way from the UK to rural Australia. The gift delights the children who visit as does the story of how it comes to be here. The win thrilled me; the arrival thrilled me; I am ashamed.

Your kindness lives in my heart!Craft Odyssey, thank you a thousand times. Forgive me ten thousand times.

 

Heritage Rabbits

Source: Heritage Rabbits

Some of my favourite rabbits from Craft Odyssey. (click on the above link.)

Not only is Roma a creative and skilled craftsperson she is kind and generous. I commented on her work soon after I had discovered her blog. Sometime in the ensuing conversation I mentioned my baskets of wool waiting to be knitted or crocheted. One obstacle to my creativity was my difficulty in finding patterns and teachers. Roma, faraway across the ocean, offered her help. Such a generous soul!

And, a postscript on the rewards of blogging. A comment may lead to unexpected and unthought of rewards. I delight in the community I am joining around the world-of friends made- passions and joys in common, wisdom shared, kindness, support and encouragement offered … mentors, role models, teachers … a rich, international community.

The best laid plans of mice and men…

Six children sitting around my kitchen table colouring in. How did this happen?

Six children, busy and happy.

Six children, busy and happy.

I’m on a break from full-time work.I haven’t written anything for weeks. I have hundreds of unread emails.  My friends are being neglected. There’s gardening to be done, boxes to be sorted and emptied, an entire house waiting to be painted, my “to do”  list is endless… and six children colouring in. Yes, I’m babysitting one of them, but six! In my living room? How did this happen?

The day began with no commitments. Hours stretched before me, waiting to be filled. My co-houser would be away for several hours. Space.  Solitude. Quiet.  I could sit, I could write, I could ponder and dream, let my thoughts meander.

Knock on the door:

Could I babysit for a couple of hours?

Of course, after all one of my priorities is creating community, building networks and providing support. I am committed to putting the ideal into practice. As my father would say “putting my money where my mouth is.” I’m good at the mouth bit. So, babysit? One child? Couple of hours? Sure. No problem.

However, it is school holidays and there are other children who live close. One child became three, became four… five… six. A mention of colouring in to the youngest and soon all six had joined in. I mentioned find-a words, mental arithmetic exercises, spelling … as long as I provided sheets, they would  do them.

These children wanted school! They were bored, they had nothing to do,their mothers were either at work, or recovering from late shifts. This little gang were wandering around the street, looking for entertainment or something to occupy them and an adult to supervise. I sympathise and remember my own childhood with much gratitude.

I grew up in a village. Our house was on a hill sloping steeply down to a river. Other houses were scattered between paddocks. I climbed trees, built cubbies, fished in one of the creeks and wandered about. There was a house with space under it’s verandah post where we left pieces of moss and flowers for the fairies. And I read books, any book I could lay my hands on. I had a favourite spot in the pepper tree where I could lie back and read- soft breeze, birds, the smell of the pepper tree and endless time. Adults were not part of it. No one supervised us. We never complained of being bored.

184There were jobs. I had younger brothers and a sister to keep an eye on; there was  washing up and clothes to be hung out and brought in, chooks, ducks and geese to be fed, sometimes a cow and a calf,  but in my memory it’s one long sunny day that went on forever.

These children in my street have nothing like I had. There are paddocks to roam in and trees they can climb, but they aren’t  accessible. Most are in someone’s backyard and children aren’t welcome. Ride your bike up and down? Gets boring after a while. Read a book???  Reading is becoming a lost art and the little one can’t read.

I send my co-houser to the shops as soon as she drives in – bread rolls and sausages, let’s feed the mob.

My neighbour returns home and I feed her. The children leave, reluctantly and slowly. I feel torn. I would like to continue to entertain them, but I don’t have endless time to give them. We’ve gardened earlier, searched for grubs and I have things I must do.

kindnessThe day ends. I haven’t crossed much off my list. I had no time to sit and dream but I have given. I have chosen to give my time, my attention and my compassion.  Perhaps this counts for more than time for myself. Perhaps I am learning about priorities of lasting value. And perhaps this is an opportunity to practise acceptance, acceptance of what is.

 

 

Thank you Oliver Sacks.

I’ve just read the article published in the New York Times on the 19th of February where  Oliver Sacks announced that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.       (My Own Life.)  It’s a beautiful piece of writing- moving and provocative, hopeful and inspiring. But then, hasn’t Oliver Sacks always been challenging, moving, inspirational?

Oliver Sacks, Professor of Neurology at New York University.

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks

I first heard of Oliver Sacks when “The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat” was published- an account of his work as a neurologist with patients living with difficult and rare conditions,  such as Tourette’s Syndrome, Autism and Parkinsonism.  Amazing stories about the resilience, courage and resourcefulness of these people, examples of our capacity to change and adapt. I knew little about such conditions, so this book was eye-opening.

“Awakenings” is probably his other most well known work. It’s an account of his work with a group of patients suffering sleeping sickness, years after there had been a pandemic of the disease. He was able to wake them, briefly. A sad and amazing story- later made into a movie starring Robert de Niro and Robin Williams.

His article begins

“A month ago I felt that I was in good, even robust, health. At 81, I still swim 1.6 kilometres a day. But my luck has run out….now I am face to face with dying”.

He continues

“It is up to me to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can….”

I could take that statement as the way I want to live my whole life.

And…

“Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well)…..

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have given much and I have been given something in return;…

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

IMG_0327Please, I beg you to read the article. Like me, you will be moved, challenged and inspired. What I would say if I received this diagnosis? What would I want for the time remaining me? How would I feel? How would I sum up my life?

How would you sum up your life? What would you want for the time remaining to you?

What better than to be able to say

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have given much and I have been given something in return…above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking anima, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

“Ah, sleep it is a blessed thing.” (Rhyme of the Ancient mariner.)

Kate and the dog, after a busy day.

Kate and the dog, after a busy day.

Sleeping is a beautiful thing.

I speak as a person who can’t always manage it. Today I’m singing, chatty, smiling at everyone I meet, happy, positive, busy…I slept last night!  I hadn’t realized how badly I was feeling until today when I’m  feeling so good.

I know with my head how sleep is fundamental. Fundamental to our health, our well-being, our motivation, our energy… do I need to go on?

But today I feel it in my body, my mood, my level of activity.

The dog could even read and still sleep.

The dog could even read and still sleep.

Do you sleep well? Do you take it for granted? Do you wake up, after a good night’s sleep feeling rested and renewed? And do you take a moment to be grateful? Light a candle sometimes, in gratefulness? I’m quite boring- I nag my friends to be grateful for their ability to sleep. I simply cannot comprehend what it must be like to lie down, close your eyes and…go to sleep, every night. Just like that! Even when I’m sleeping better, I never go to sleep quickly and I almost never sleep for more than four or five hours at a time.

For so many years I lived with not enough sleep. Mornings I struggled to wake up, to get going, to get to work, was late regularly.  I struggled through the day. Most times my main aim was to stay awake. Couldn’t focus, couldn’t concentrate, rarely felt alert, energetic, keen. Didn’t make longterm plans, day to day was enough. Life  was hard. I struggled to get out of negative to zero. Get into the positive? Seemed impossible. I don’t remember ever sleeping easily and well.

The man would tell you he can sleep anywhere! Oh the envy.

The man would tell you he can sleep anywhere! Oh the envy.

Why did I continue like this? Think about common attitudes to sleep. I accepted the view “live with it, if you think about it you only make it worse”.  Or, “anyone can sleep, it’s all in your mind.” Or, “you sleep more than you think”.  And the criticisms: ” You’re always tired, You’re always late,…” Unless you’ve experienced chronic lack of sleep, you cannot understand. It’s the truth of “walk a mile in my shoes.”

For whatever reason, I lived with it. With chronic lack of sleep, with exhaustion, with poor concentration, with poor motivation- after all, why want to do something when I’d be too tired anyway?

One day, on the way to work, late as usual, I heard a specialist in sleep disorders interviewed. He described me. He described how I couldn’t sleep- hours to go to sleep, difficulty waking, feeling jetlagged all day… and named it as a sleep disorder!

Revelation! If I had a sleep disorder, then I could do something about it! It could be fixed! Maybe I would sleep and maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t always be so tired.

What to do? I found a hypnotherapist. One session and that night, I slept! I spent the next day in a state of wonder. I knew I could do anything. Fly to the moon, climb Everest, anything was possible. And I wondered. Did people who slept well feel like that every day? Was life that easy? That much fun?

Pusska liked to keep some books handy, just in case she couldn't sleep.

Pusska liked to keep some books handy, just in case she couldn’t sleep.

Did better sleep continue? Am I now one of the fortunate ones who go to bed and go to sleep? Well no, it hasn’t been that simple. There have been periods when my life has been calm and sleep has been better. There was one scary and difficult time when sleep was disrupted completely, but that’s another story.

I understand myself better now. Such self understanding has taken sixty-six years and several years with a wonderful therapist. Self understanding, growth and change don’t come easy. Having now experienced times when I am rested I have great compassion and admiration for my sleep deprived self. How did I survive? How did I hold down jobs? Even turning up for work was an achievement. I can forgive myself for so much.

Today? I continue to learn about and to understand chronic insomnia.; to be grateful for the simple, necessary things of life; and to cultivate those practices that aid my rest.

For the times I’m rested and refreshed I shall be forever grateful. And for those other times? I’ll accept them and not worry. Today I know that if the non-restful times continue I seek help and I know that I will be helped. And I’m grateful for wisdom and experience that has given me tools so I’m no longer powerless or helpless.

Sleep comes naturally for cats.

Sleep comes naturally for cats.

What are some of the things I’ve learnt? Knowing when to ask for help and being able to accept it and having the courage to be vulnerable and humble enough to learn.

 

 

The Great co-housing adventure begins!

images[6](Or, as Max says in “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Let the show begin!”)

Well, it’s almost begun. Angie, my co-houser hasn’t arrived yet, but all her things are here. (Well, except the clothes and things she needs for the next few weeks.)

Life is an adventure!Here’s some of the background to this adventure.

Angie and I have been friends for forty years. More than friends, she’s part of my family. We have cared for each other, slept on the floor at each other’s homes when we’ve been homeless. She’s the person I have phoned in the middle of the night, after I have phoned for an ambulance. Over the years we have  guarded each other’s back, when trouble was stalking.

We’re often single. Careers and security have not been our primary aims. So we haven’t reached middle age, financially secure and affluent. ( Most of the time we realise how  very secure and how richly abundant we are in so many other ways.) For many reasons we have chosen to buy a home together.

There are so many reasons. I am passionate about the necessity to create community and build a safe and loving space where we can belong and have that absolute sense of trust. I love the Wendell Berry poem which says “home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

to give my presence, my aim

to give my presence, my aim

I want home to be that place of unconditional love, total trust and safety…the place where I know I can be completely vulnerable… and I’m not thinking only of these four walls here and of Angie and myself. I am committed to building a larger community and helping to create such a space for others.

With Angie here, I can relax. There’s someone else to share all the jobs.  There’s someone who loves  and supports me through thick and thin. There’s someone who will give me space and silence and solitude whenever I need it. There’s someone to provide that rare and special feedback that will enable us each to grow and blunt our sharp edges, to point out when we  have been less than the best we can be.  There’s someone to laugh and play with, to have fun. So much, so much to be so very grateful for.

The garden will be started- finally! The house will be painted. (I HATE THE COLOURS!) Together we will practise living frugally and sustainably and we’ll be better at it, because we’ll  have each other to prop up our resolve when we fall into lust and wanting. (We both love things- books, paintings, beautiful objects… and I adore clothes. I fall into lust and wanting very easily.) We have more than enough.

(And you thought this was going to be easy, Angela!)

Life in the moment!

Life in the moment!

I said to Ange the other day: “Thank God you will finally be here!!! We can paint and garden and start a market stall and go to the gym regularly and get fit and have picnics at the beach and invite people for meals and sort out boxes of stuff and get started on that photographic project and you can begin building and making and maybe we’ll have some hens and we’ll sit about and read and have a glass of wine together and cups of tea and…(I stopped for a breath)”.

Angie: “I’ve been looking forward to resting and doing nothing much for a while!”

(Silly girl!)

Opening our hearts to wonder, to awe, to beauty, to joy

the savour of lavender.

the savour of lavender.

I have just experienced this brief TED talk– I say experienced to include watching, listening and being moved profoundly.

the joy of roses.

the joy of roses.

Please give yourself the gift of the time it will take to sit and absorb the wisdom, the beauty, the simplicity and the joy.

(Click on the blue “TED talk”). This will take you there.

This talk is by Louis Schwartzberg and titled “Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.” He describes living in the country and discovering the joy of simplicity and the beauty of nature. It ends with a statement by Brother David Steindl-Rast, accompanied by a feast of natural beauty.

A grateful heart.

Thank you

Thank you

Today I find myself aware of so many things I’m grateful for.

I arrived home last night after a trip to visit my brother and sister. My sister has a mental illness, my brother cares for her. Every day of my life I grieve for my sister, my baby sister, ten years younger. Every day of my life I am grateful to my brother and his care of her.

My sister, my brother, myself and pet rabbits- a very long time ago!

I am grateful I was finally able to make the trip. I have wanted to for so very long and I’m so very glad that at last I  have the time and the energy. I get to see where she lives, share her birthday and spend some time with both of them.

During the long train and bus travel, I texted and phoned the friend I was going to stay with en route and my brother, reminding me how much I appreciate mobile phones and emails. I’m running late? No problem. Send a text. I’m feeling distressed?  Text a friend I know will understand. I get messages from caring friends to let me know they’re thinking of me, phone calls from friends to check how it’s going.

I’m home again. Send some emails to let everyone know how it went. So simple, so useful.

Gums and European trees at our picnic spot.

Gums and European trees at our picnic spot.

Southern New South Wales is so different to the Mid North Coast. We don’t get much change of season, a few deciduous trees, a few spring bulbs.  Canberra is a city of trees, many of them from the Northern Hemisphere- oaks, elms, ashes, spruce, cedars, birches…such an abundance and all with delicious new spring growth. I could have walked and touched and marveled and enjoyed for many days.  I’m grateful I could experience them even briefly.

I meet some of the community who support my sister and I’m overwhelmed by the love they have for her and for the loving-kindness they extend to me as I break down in tears. I am so very grateful.

the joys of Spring.

the joys of Spring.

Coming home our bus to Sydney passes through the Southern Highlands. One of the  pleasures of my life is to visit this area in Spring and Autumn, something I haven’t been able to do for too long. It’s green and lush. Lilacs are in bloom. Fences and trellises drip with wisteria. Blossom trees, tulips, roses…old stone houses…lambs…I feast on it all.

A moment of synchronicity. We’re stopped briefly at Bowral station and I get a phone call. It’s a cousin with whom I have a special connection and had accidentally dialed the day before. The synchronicity? She lives in Bowral and is about two minutes away- driving! Unfortunately there is no time to see her, but we make an agreement for me to visit soon, something else I need to do.

If we can care for ducks, can we not care for each other?

If we can care for ducks, can we not care for each other?

Then, on a busy main road the traffic both ways is held up. For what? A family of ducks- mother, father and six ducklings are crossing the road, in safety. Bless the softness of the human heart that stops to let ducks cross. And remember this moment as a reminder to trust that goodness of the human heart to care for both my sister and my brother when I am not able to do so.

Brain surgery and other scary things.

A reminder to live fully.

A reminder to live fully.

A few years ago I had brain surgery. The right branch of my carotid artery had an aneurysm, big enough to need surgery. I am alive because I have a clip (I call it a paper clip) on my artery.  The MRI also found a second aneurysm on the left branch of my carotid artery. Since then it has been checked regularly with an angiogram. I can’t have another MRI as the magnetism could  pull the clip out, or at least dislodge it. Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?

These were found by accident. I had no symptoms, but had complained to my doctor about my ear- feeling blocked,  giddiness, pain when I flew… it was probably sinus, but just to be sure…The ear was fine, but…I had an aneurysm. MRI, visit to a brain surgeon…too big to ignore, must be operated on.

Found by accident? Or one of the many blessings and miracles of my life?

Tantrum from me. Definitely did not want brain surgery. Handouts from the hospital- skull with piece cut out pictured on front. Threw it away, without reading. No one was going to do that to me.

great scar, shame about the hair.

Date set. The ninth of July. Uh oh. My most auspicious date, my day of celebrating my re-birth. How could this be anything but positive? Coloured my hair plum. After all, it was going to be shaved so I could experiment. A nasty colour, for me.

Brain surgery. It was too big to get my mind around. An aneurysm. It was too scary to contemplate, so I didn’t. The reaction of other people surprised me. They seemed to think this was significant, urgent, frightening… It wasn’t until afterwards I began to hear the stories: the young woman who had died on my local beach- an aneurysm had burst; the man who was now paralysed down one side, an aneurysm had bled…I had protected myself by closing my eyes to the reality.

Brain surgery. Yes, but they weren’t really operating on my brain were they, only an artery. Afterwards, checks every hour. What’s your name? What’s the date? (Who knows? I’ve had an operation, been in Intensive Care.) Where are you? Count to ten. Most questions I could answer, although I did ask them to come up with something different, I was getting bored with the same ones.

Yes. yet another cat picture! But, oh how he sleeps.

Yes. yet another cat picture! But, oh how he sleeps.

There were effects. My sleeping was destroyed, until it reached crisis point and I had to demand extreme help. My short term memory is affected. But…I am alive. My brain still works, quite well really. I like it…a lot. And I truly value it… greatly. In fact, I love and cherish it.

And I still have an aneurysm. A small one, but an aneurysm. I’m always aware of it, ticking away up there in my head. And now I know how serious that is. I have been told by the psychiatrist who treated me during the sleep crisis, that the brain suffers some damage as soon as it is exposed to oxygen. So mine has suffered some damage already. I do not want to run the risk a second time. I do not want to experience another sleep crisis. I know why sleep deprivation is a torture, I’ve lived it.

But, nor do I want to run the risk of the aneurysm bleeding or bursting. Neither have good outcomes- death or incapacity. So I have regular angiograms and trust the results, trust that while it’s small it’s harmless.

On Friday I had an angiogram, hence this post. I am left confused by the results. It showed no aneurysm. I ask “Do arteries heal themselves?”  “Has it disappeared?”  “Is this the result of a simple life with little stress?” “Can I celebrate or has there been a mistake?” I wait to hear from my brain surgeon.

The gift of life.

The gift of life.

Meanwhile I shall live this day- fully, richly, moment by moment, because I have experienced how fragile life is. I have no excuse but to treasure each moment I have.

 

 

 

 

The Equinox.

Day and night of equal time.

Day and night of equal time.

Monday, the twenty-second of September is the Equinox. The time of equal light and darkness. Everyone on earth experiences a twelve hour day twice a year on the Spring (Vernal) and Fall (Autumnal) equinox.

And now I quote from the Gratefulness website – “These events remind us that we are one planetary family and motivate us to live in harmony with all life.”

I didn’t know. I didn’t know that on the Equinox all over the Earth we all experience a time of equal light and equal dark. I marvel at this. I am filled with wonder. All over the earth our day and night will be the same! I can sense our sameness, rather than our difference.

“let there be praise of our mutual beauty, our total loving of the World.” ( gratefulness webpage)

How can we not protect them?

How can we not protect them?

Saturday I joined people  gathering together as part of a worldwide movement to demonstrate their commitment to save the planet and to focus attention on the supreme importance for all of us all over the world to halt climate change. Here in our Valley the focus was to highlight the problems with coal seam gas development and fracking.

Sunday, all over the world, people will gather to show this same commitment- to halt climate change; to stop the burning of fossil fuels and to end increases in carbon. This day has been organised prior to the UN meeting of World leaders this week to discuss  the coming crisis in climate change, the UN’s Emergency Summit.

the joy of roses.

the joy of roses.

Sunday also happens to be The International Day of Peace, established by the UN as a day of global ceasefire to strengthen the ideals of peace within all nations. And it is World Gratitude Day, started by the UN Meditation Group  to promote the cause of worldwide gratitude. An auspicious time- the Equinox and special days, all falling around each other.

At the TED@unilever conference, Keith Weeks, Unilever Chief Marketing and Communications officer is quoted saying “When someone asks what is the case for sustainability?  I ask ‘What is the case for the alternative’?” Good question. We know what we have to lose, well we know some of it, if we fail to halt global warming. And it is unthinkable, unbearable, heartbreaking. But what if we act as if climate change is happening and we humans can halt it? What do we have to lose? Maybe we won’t be quite as affluent in some countries.  Maybe we will need to change our lifestyle. Maybe life will become simpler. Is that a negative?

They are losing their habitat.We could all dedicate five minutes to spend in meditation. We could all contemplate the beauty of this Earth and our love for her. We could ponder our humanness and all we have in common. We could sit in gratitude for all that we do have. We could remember what we have to lose.  And we could consider what we can do.

 

POSTSCRIPT.

Today is Tuesday. The Climate March has happened all over this Earth. This link will share a report.