I have been thinking. Hard. Listening better. Reading deeper. The world needs to change, and I do too. I’ve thought about change from various perspectives through the years. Every time I moved states or country I changed. I can’t recall an occasion when this wasn’t for the better.
I heard recently, being uncomfortable is necessary. Even some pain is necessary until we emerge renewed. The scars may remain, but they are reminders of how it/we used to be. We don’t like discomfort, let alone pain. Life is very hard a lot of the time, if we are doing it right. All the more reason we need to bathe in joy when we occasionally find it.
I’ve noticed when I’m going through troubling times there are a few things that stabilise me, even give me cause for hope. They are mostly small, simple things…walks…homemade food…learning something new…watching nature…being creative.
Looking at things more closely reminds me of the day I had just cleaned the bathroom and then needed to do something in there with my reading glasses on and suddenly I realised all the dust I had missed! Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know and it’s good to take a closer look. I’m learning all kinds of things about converting basil cuttings with water roots, so that they will then grow in soil. I paid attention and five out of the five cuttings have survived. More importantly, I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the plight of People of Colour everywhere, especially in Australia and the USA. It’s the least I can do given my white privilege. The two things that are most important in our lives are the two things we have no control over…where we are born (what country) and who our parents are. I heard this many years ago and completely believe it, but am gaining a fuller understanding now.
Turning the questions around is a very important exercise too. I remember sitting at a table in a friend’s house 8 or 9 years ago, having a discussion with a third person about when she had colon cancer, the same year I’d had breast cancer. It was a stark wake up call to me, that not everyone reacts the same to things. She said her first thought was ‘Oh, why me?’ And literally, my first thought was ‘Why not me?’ I’m no better or worse than anyone else and people get cancer all the time, so why would I be exempt? We are not exempt from life’s trials and challenges, so we pull on our big girl panties and learn from it. All. There is always something to be learned.
Our local groceries have been out of coffee filters for weeks. There’s a tiny little sticker on the shelf where they should be that says ‘sorry customers, we are currently unable to get this product’. So this morning I tried making my coffee the old way, the way I used to make it before pour-over coffee became a thing. You know what? It tastes better! I may not go back to filters. I could spend the money on something more fun than a piece of paper that gets thrown in the garbage, or I could even donate it to support something I believe in.
What’s my point? When you know better, you can do better. Thank you Maya Angelou, for putting it so clearly we can all understand. Have a great day each and every one of you, go out there and listen and learn and be kind. Let’s all do better.
What I’ve been listening to…
On Being – interview with Eula Biss (also this repeat interview with Isabel Wilkerson here – see mention below)
For weeks I have been ruminating over the whole isolation and distancing scenario, trying to figure out how it is effecting me, and observing how it seems to be effecting others, what we are being told, too. I imagine you are doing the same.
It occurs to me that social distancing in general is actually somewhat agreeable to me. First of all, I don’t like crowds or crowded situations, that’s obviously an advantage. Also I don’t appreciate the smell of certain individuals who either wear too much perfume/after shave, or who choose not to bathe regularly or who consume great volumes of garlic, or who have boisterous children. Keeping some distance is fine with me. I miss hugs.
However, these words advertising a new tv show really hit a nerve:
…a lifestyle show for a world where nobody has a life.
What on earth are they talking about? I have a life. We all have lives right now. They may not be exactly the same as the ones we had a few months ago, but they are our lives and for most of us there is still some room for a variety of experiences within them. I resent someone telling me I don’t have a life. I’m well aware that for the elderly who are being kept isolated from visitors and loved ones, and for the young families, isolated together while trying to home school and work from home, for carers and first responders and for those who have lost jobs or own small struggling businesses, it is very tough. But for a number of us the change has not been devastating. It has been inconvenient at times, for sure, but isn’t life this way from time to time anyway? And aren’t there always people who have it better or worse than us? Didn’t Australia just experience the worst bush fires ever recorded? Those were hellish and mostly completely out of anyone’s control. To be sure, I know people who have been hurting. But we all still have a life, which means we have possibilities and choices.
Looking after a home and the inhabitants’ needs, requires conscious living. It always has, and it still does.
There have been the well publicised shortages, some of which are ongoing in the form of empty shelves, thankfully, no longer people fighting over things. This has highlighted in our home one of the ways in which I manage it—I always keep a backup of things we use regularly, in the pantry. This meant that when we came home from being away and the world had changed, we did not have to worry about desperate procurement of toilet paper, soap, sugar etc. This is called planning and organisation and I have always done it. Previously, it has been met with humorous derision in the form of me ‘always being prepared for a small famine’. No one is laughing now. I’m not a hoarder, just someone who plans a little bit ahead. Partly that comes from living in a place where unexpected weather events sometimes cause shortages of products, both food and otherwise. When the railway line is flooded, goods can’t get to us. If there is a drought or cyclone in an area where certain fruits or vegetables are grown, we may have a lean season. I remember Dad telling me, running out of things causes urgency and inefficiency and it can be avoided by just anticipating one’s needs.
‘Now’ is part of life. And we still have a Now, though sometimes challenging.
Recently I broke a tiny corner off a back tooth. It was very sharp. Thankfully, our dentists are doing emergency work. I had to be at the dentist at 8.30 in the morning and I was not looking forward to it. Our old dentist had sold the practice and retired since last time I’d been. So I tried one of the ‘children’ dentists, as my friend calls the younger ones. He was very gentle and conservative and thought it best to just grind off the sharp corner and watch the tooth for a while. All good. The odd part was the protocol. First of all, they had told me to wait in the car in the parking lot when I arrived, because they aren’t allowed to use their waiting room. Apparently I was also supposed to call them when I arrived, which someone forgot to tell me, or I didn’t hear–it’s a lot to absorb sometimes with all the new regulations. But given they can look out the windows and see cars and the occupants, I thought perhaps they would just see that I was there. When I’d been sitting there for a few minutes, they called me and asked if I was coming. I said “yes, I’m here!” She replied “Oh, just come to the front door and we’ll meet you there.” The dentist met me at the front door with sanitiser, then when I got into his room, the dental assistant met me with more sanitiser, and after that I still had to wash my hands!! Then I had to rinse my mouth with disinfectant, spit into a paper cup that was then disposed of, and finally put on the extra large bib and plastic glasses. I did feel for a minute like I was living in a sci-fi film, or had leprosy and no one told me.
But I still have a life and it is still filled with simple moments of joy.
Despite daily physical therapy exercises for years, occasionally the muscle in my upper left thigh still plays up. I know when it does that, if I jog uphill at the start of my morning walks, it somehow sorts out the problem, and in a few days or a week it stops hurting. After five days of pre-walk jogs, I started out of the house and realised it was fine, no more pain.
There was a full moon and I thought I’d jog up the steep hill to the third tee, just for extra measure. It had been months since I’d scrambled around the rocky outcrops, chasing early morning light for photo opportunities. That morning was the Flower Supermoon and it was especially bright and beautiful, so I had special incentive.
As I crunched around the rocks and dry plants, looking for good vantage points from which to photograph, I thought about how comforting it is to do something enjoyable, however simple it may be. In fact, I’m quite partial to simple things. I was also listening to a gentle discussion via a favourite podcast, about a favourite book by Pema Chödrön, ‘When Things Fall Apart’. It is so full of wise passages…
Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart
We still have a life, and the moments of joy amidst the inconvenience, anxiety and sadness, are there to be seen. We just have to look for them and allow them to exist with everything else.
Three days home. Travel brain is nearly gone and home-brain is working again. Mostly.
We have been away traveling for nearly six weeks. I was going to give you a heads up that I might not be writing and then, with no warning, I developed a nasty head cold a week out from departure. It did not go away before flying. This is not a good thing. If you have ever had to fly when your sinuses are in turmoil, you will know what I mean. In fact the cough and sinus stuff did not leave until three weeks into the trip. So, I was not feeling like writing much of anything and hope you understand.
Guggenheim exterior, Bilbao, Spain
Travel is a good thing. It is. But it is not among the easier undertakings one might pursue. When I say travel, I’m not talking about a vacation to the beach where you bask all day, between margaritas and naps. Our version of travel, while perhaps not arduous, does deplete one’s energy. We walk a lot, see a lot, process a lot of information. Therein lies the second physical challenge for this trip. Walking. I have had a sore foot for months. It gets better and then worse, then even worse still, which it did on the trip. ‘Plantar Fasciitis’ is a common problem for which there is not much known about either cause or cure. Some things work and some don’t. Sometimes it leaves and sometimes it doesn’t. I know because I had it 15 or so years ago and that is exactly what I experienced. The exercises the podiatrist gave me did not work, in fact made it worse. Stopping them, adding stretches of my own saw it go away in a couple of months. This time I’ve had it much longer, have tried both the previous methods of stretching, as well as nothing, had a couple of days of complete absence of symptoms but essentially nothing has fixed it. So I walked. In pain. For six weeks.
I dropped into bed every night of the trip, exhausted mentally and physically, but did actually manage to take in the experiences and enjoy it for the most part. Just not the pain.
Well’s Cathedral Musical Director practicing with musicians for a future performance.
And while we are at it, there are a few other things I will enjoy not dealing with for a while.
having to forage for every meal based on food intolerances. This is not easy and I spent a good deal of the time being hungry. Yes, I lost weight.
having a different shower to figure out with each and every change of accommodation…It is a fact, every hotel in the world has a different shower mechanism from every other hotel. Am sure there was a primordial agreement in the ethers that caused this to happen.
soooo much processed food…if it says on the packet it is healthy for you, it isn’t. Generally, food that is good for you doesn’t come in packets. And while I’m thinking of it, not everything must be consumed on a waffle or wrapped in bread, piled on pasta or rice or have onion or garlic flavouring added.
searching for a place to wash our clothes—I nearly kissed my washing machine when we returned home. What do other travellers do to clean their clothes? Hand washing is just not possible, most hotels and B&B’s don’t even allow it, and frankly, hand washing is not my idea of travel fun.
crowds—I can hear the neighbour’s little dog yapping this morning, and even that is music to my ears compared to crowded, noisy places.
the smell of cigarette smoke in front of every building on every street in every country.
filthy toilets–having to lay toilet paper on the seat before I can sit down, because there are never paper seat covers in the toilets where they are needed, only the cleanest ones have them! Humans are filthy creatures at times.
bad coffee—there are a lot of people who don’t realise you can have the best coffee machine but if the beans are bad, it won’t make good coffee. Likewise, stewing coffee or storing it in an urn is just ruining any chance that coffee has of being good.
loud mouth people in airports, especially on their cell/mobile phones (don’t you know everyone around can hear you? and does not care about your employee problems??)
crappy hairdryers–(my husband hypothesised, there must have been someone traveling just ahead of us putting the same bad hairdryer in each different hotel, or there had been an excellent sales pitch to sell the same inferior device to four different hotel chains!) I have a new shorn hair style and vow not to need a hairdryer for future travels.
bad lighting in bathrooms—worst lighting prize went to two, otherwise nice, B&B’s, best lighting prize goes to the Sheraton at the Falls in NiagaraFalls, with a magnification makeup/shaving mirror with it’s own lighting as well as a surround light for the large mirror. Bless them.
filthy, smelly taxis—our daughter has promised to explain to us how to use UBER. Nuff said.
and while I’m at it, taxi drivers who use their phones while driving (not to mention bus drivers who talk on their phone WHILE filling out paperwork, WHILE driving—please leave multitasking to people who are not driving, or walking down the street)
High fructose corn syrup—my sworn enemy.
The foot is strapped and receiving regular ice packs. The mountain of laundry is done, repairs to the garden are nearly done. And there are murmurs…of future adventure…
What keeps me traveling? I’m glad you asked. The mechanics of it are tiring, frustrating and downright unpleasant at times. However…when things take my breath away, or a sudden connection of a piece of knowledge turns on a light inside me, or something unexpected brings me to tears, it feels all worthwhile. When I see Wells Cathedral and a lump sticks in my throat, when I am gobsmacked by the incredible Guggenheim at Bilbao, when a Spanish woman spins her grandson in dance to a Basque folk song, when the most powerful show of water I’ve ever seen tumbles and mesmerises so that I can hardly look away, or when I stop in an ancient cemetery and realise that the man in that grave signed the Declaration of Independence…that is when I know I’m not done yet.
It hurts so good…give me more.
Samuel Adams resting place in downtown Boston, Mass.
Niagara Falls from the Canadian side
Dancing to the Basque Folk songs in Donostia-San Sebastian
Here, in the heart of Australia I stopped. Three days before Christmas I sat on a bench with a path converging in front of me and a sunrise that was the harbinger of rain for Christmas. Lots of rain. We welcome rain, in the arid lands, whenever it chooses to anoint us. I sat on this bench feeling grateful that my family was home and for all the goodness Life has brought us.
My path has never been very predictable, and I have liked it that way. Life has presented many more amazing twists and turns than I could imagine. I have regretted nothing that has appeared at my feet…on the path. Now, living half a world from where I began life, it seems like there was nothing else I could have done.
Three days ago I saw this path converging. Today I see it was a divergence with a brief intersection only. Our family is gone, necessarily leaving space between the two paths once again. As we parted, it was the reopening of an old wound, a raw and painful aching in the solar plexus, for something you can no longer have. Time, and writing about it temporarily cover over the longing, anticipating a future time when our paths will briefly converge again.
It seems a month or so ago when I wrote there was change in the wind, I was correct. The change in the wind has not altogether been the weather. True, we have had an extended winter/spring, but the changes were also born from inner need, and a rash decision…
Our weather here in Alice has been like no one local can recall. We have been here 25 years and it is certainly different than we have experienced. When I started writing this, a few days ago the morning temperature was 3C. Yesterday at the same time, it was 20C. In anyone’s book that is quite a variance. The miraculous result of our ongoing winter/early spring weather is that both the domestic gardens and the bush have made huge strides in recovering from last summer’s plague of giant grasshoppers and heat, followed by the early winter hail storm that pretty well finished things off. That Mother Nature, you can’t beat her and you can’t figure her out!
today’s same lemon tree bursting with new foliage
unripe lemon on denuded tree five months ago
While the outer kingdom has been busily regenerating, my inner dominion has been a little volcanic. I made a couple of habit decisions a month or so ago. I first decided to start meditating again. To do that I needed to modify my morning routine. For approximately the first three hours I am up, starting at about 4.45am, I am doing self-nurturing things. I begin with meditating for however long the urge moves me, sometimes 30 minutes, sometimes as long as 50 minutes. I then go for a 40 minute walk. I don’t time it, but I have two routes and they both take about that long because that is how much my body will tolerate and still have energy left for other activities as the day progresses.
Desert Pea near Botanic Garden
During the walk I have begun listening to podcasts. I have immersed myself into a new world and I am learning. What is the saying? When you know better, you do better. And that means change. Listening to people who are able to articulate their inner and outer journey is valuable to me. It has reminded me to trust my inner voice, which is so sweet and persistent, compared to the ‘self talk’, ego voice which is mostly berating and negative. I now realise I hear them as two different voices and it’s important to differentiate. It takes some getting used to. The self talk must change…starting with, the crisis of writing confidence I have also been wrestling with. I have been reminded that all great artists, a category to which I do not, nor do I care to, belong, have confidence issues most of their lives. I know my writing is improving all the time, and I’m satisfied with that. It is the subject matter I have been a bit worried over. What do I possibly have to say? And then…at about the same time I was writing this post, I had one of those shower-epiphanies–you know, when you are showering and allow your mind to wander and suddenly it bestows upon you a revelation.
Cue Hallelujah Chorus.
‘What if I see my writing as snapshots of the ordinary, but light-filled, similar to my photographs?’ I can happily live with that. Time will tell if others can happily read that!
So, “Go away negative self-talk, it’s a new day!“
native grass and button daisies
native grasses in early morning
field of button daisies at Olive Pink Botanic Garden
Season for the trees to get their gear off
Jacaranda blossoms fallen after rain
Also part of my new morning routine; I am not writing emails first thing, as I have done previously. I am writing ideas. Some might make it to the blog one day, most won’t. After about an hour of writing I allow myself to check emails and answer them. I have to make exceptions to this practice if there are family things going on with our daughter or with my Mum and close friends/family overseas.
The new routine was going well, though not easily. But that was to be expected. And then… I tried to fix a ‘little’ computer problem that was a result of upgrading my operating system. As these things often do, the ‘fix’ was waaaaay worse than the original problem. I back up everything, always. I knew I would get it all back together eventually, but did not expect it to take 8 days 22 hours and 42 minutes, but who’s counting? Two days into that process, my left arm developed a strange ‘rash’ that I decided must be eczema. I’ve had problems with this in the past, but nothing as nasty as this one, and I’ve always been able to identify what I had eaten that had caused it so that I could avoid the food in future, or eat in limited quantities. This time my efforts were for naught. Finally after a week with no improvement I went to the doctor. He took one look and said ‘If you hadn’t had the Shingles vaccine three years ago, I would say you have Shingles. It is classic looking for that.‘(That’s why he’s the doctor, ahem.) I had a quick flashback to the nurse who administered the vaccine telling my husband and I, ‘The efficacy of this one is only 80%.’ Whether it is hubris or a case of positive thinking, one does not think they will be in the unfortunate 20%. Still, I consider myself very lucky that my experience was not as bad as that of my Grandmother or my Mother-in-law. I’m sure the vaccine* has helped mitigate the more miserable and serious symptoms.
I can now go back to eating normally, having eliminated a whole swag of foods from my diet for the passed week, and the rash should be healed in two-four weeks.
So, my friends, life is never dull. If it is, you aren’t doing it right.
(*If you are over 60, I would recommend getting the Herpes Zoster Vaccine. We had to get a script from our doctor, take it to the chemist who ordered it and then we picked it up and took it to our GP, whose nurse administered it. If you have ever seen anyone with normal to serious Shingles, you would not hesitate to do this. It is a very painful and nasty thing to experience. My own was only minor pain the first few days and lots of itching.)
Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. -Thomas Merton
Some things are happening. Inside. As of yet, the outcome is not evident, but I know when things are afoot. I find great comfort making images of things outside of me, which reflect the inside of me as well.
Standing alone and crooked, this tree surrenders to itself.
As you would have seen many times, the subtitle to my blog is ‘surrender to yourself’. I explained how this came to be and what it means in another post a couple of years ago. It’s a nice post, go ahead and read it if you haven’t. Surrender makes way for new things to come.
Echoing in my mind has been something a friend said to me a few weeks ago ‘go out there and find that beauty’. Thank you F. We just never know the effect, a few words we share might have on someone.
Wildflower with raindrops.
Male pygmy goanna (half of the pair) who live in our loft space from time to time. The pavers are the size of bricks, if that gives you an idea of his size. Female is about 2/3 his size.
Captive rain droplet.
Surrendering sounds easy. It kind of is, and isn’t. Remaining open and letting things go, so that they might be replaced with new challenges and discoveries is scary, exciting, hope-filled, and for me, necessary.
What are you willing to give up, in order to have what you want? -Elizabeth Gilbert
I thought I would post some recent photos so that you will know I have not lost interest or forgotten you. I’m surrendering to my inner voice at the moment. Forgive me if I’m slow to read or respond to your comments. I’m not far away, just a little ray of light, really.
Patch of legume type wildflowers.
Wildflower with raindrops.
‘Pussy tail’ wildflowers.
Port Lincoln Parrots seem to perfectly match the current environment.
Looking through the Callistemon flowers at sunrise on Mt Gillen…from our patio.
Recently I read a blog that retold an old Zen story. The story goes that an old farmer had a series of incidents in his life, each one seeming either very bad, or very good. After each one, his friends either commiserated with him or congratulated him, and each time his response was the same… ‘maybe’. In other words, he wasn’t buying into the outcome, one way or the other, because after each seemingly good outcome, some catastrophe would develop and after each disappointing outcome, something good would come. The story wasn’t over until Life said it was.
When I was 17 and in my last year of high school, we were required to take entrance exams for certain Universities that we wished to attend. I had not realised results could be withheld until it was known the score. My results were sent directly to the one and only University I had chosen to attend. They had a rather high standard for admittance, and I had a lower than expected score on the entrance exam. I was sick the day I took it. Even though my grades were well above average, this exam was crucial. I missed out.
For a while I convinced myself I didn’t care and that I didn’t even want to attend University. And then came a letter. The University had a ‘quota program’ for students who were in the exact position as myself. I would need to bring a portfolio of my work and be interviewed by a staff member of the Fine Art Department, to which I had applied. The drive was several hours away and my dear, supportive Mother delivered me at the appointed time. To say I was nervous might be the understatement of my life to that point. Petrified might be closer to the mark. The interview seemed to go fine but the Professor who interviewed me showed me some of the other portfolios and I could see the competition was of a high standard. Many students had had four years of art in high school and their skills were far beyond mine. Our little school had not even had an art teacher until my final year. To try and get a portfolio together, I had taken two classes at once most of the year, using a free period as extra art time.
After weeks of waiting, the news was good. I was accepted. Years later the professor with whom I had interviewed, told me, often the students who are admitted under the quota program achieved better results than those admitted under normal circumstances. He felt it was because the quota students ‘wanted it more’. Maybe.
One hundred aspects of the Moon exhibition at Art Gallery New South Wales. An eclipse of the moon depicted by artist Yoshitoshi, late 1800’s.
Japanese Quince, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Seeing Frida Kalo exhibition at Art Gallery NSW. She was bigger than life, and this photo seemed to say that.
Mercantile Hotel, Sydney Rocks with morning light.
zen tea at the Fine Food Store
the Fine Food Store, for breakfast. Excellent.
On our return trip from a short break in Sydney, Don and I were seated in our respective window and aisle seats in economy, with a seat between us. Because we are very frequent flyers, Qantas will often leave a seat vacant between us, for more comfort. Just after the door had closed and I had fastened my seat belt, I heard the head attendant saying to an elderly woman, you can have either seat 20B or seat 5B. Don and I were in row 5, and yes, you guess correctly, she chose 5B. She was a large woman, not so much overweight, as just tall and wide. She was also not nimble, and the seats are narrow. Seemingly inexperienced with flying, she attempted to climb over me as I was trying to get out of my seat and give her easier access. She didn’t grasp what was happening. Awkward. The attendant, gently took the woman by the arm and pulled her aside to allow me to get out and then for her to get into the middle seat. It was crowded. I adjusted myself, leaning toward the aisle side of my seat, and continued reading. After we took off, an attendant came to assist the woman to the toilet. While she was away, another attendant quickly whisked us out of our seats and into Business Class seats for the duration. Life, as well as the attendant, had seen a different vision for us.
Countless experiences of this nature fill my life. Life knows what it is doing, even if we sometimes don’t. It’s never over, til it’s over.
the photo I nearly missed, after the sunset…not over until it’s over
I have just successfully completed the final hurdle in the track and field event that was the transferring of our internet account to the new National Broadband Network.
To be perfectly honest, it has been a tedious week at times, but at the moment I am standing on the dais accepting my gold medal for installing our NBN modem and net phone and having everything operational. Advance Australia Fair!
About a week ago I got the news that the replacement skylights for the ones smashed during the hail storm had arrived.
We are still waiting for the second lot to arrive. Immediately following that news I managed to lose my reading glasses out of a pocket on my morning walk. I found what was left of them.
what was left of my glasses
Apprehensive that there was an unfortunate pattern developing, I was greatly relieved when I was able to get into the optometrist the next day and order new glasses. I’m waiting for those to arrive–hopefully not smashed.
The day after the glasses incident we had an appointment with our tax agent. We have never resented paying taxes because we know if we hadn’t made the money in the first place there would be no tax to pay. Yes, occasionally we’d like to see it better spent, but that’s a separate issue. It took both of us about two hours each to get all the details and receipts together for this appointment and so far we have not heard from the agent that we have forgotten anything. Could there be another gold medal in the offing?
And just when we were feeling like the week was a bit of a slog, here came a FaceTime chat from our daughter and boyfriend in Greece.
💕’We are engaged to be married’💕
Boyfriend surprised her with a ring in the bottom of a wine glass while overlooking the sea, from a cliff top wine bar on Santorini. Could it be any more romantic? We are very happy for them, and for all of us. Daughter and Boyfriend have been together for 4.5 years, having met two weeks after she moved to Adelaide and having moved in together only a few weeks later. When love happens, it seems it is obvious, at least in our family. Hubby and I spent only 6 weeks together before becoming engaged so we kind of know how it can happen. We enjoy the future in-laws and of course our son-in-law-to-be and look forward to the future together.
walking the Bradshaw trail
along the walk at the Telegraph Station
clear sky walk at the Telegraph Station
The next day we celebrated with a beautiful walk at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, something we have been meaning to do for years. And then we were back to seeming like we weren’t quite clearing the hurdles again. There was the morning I sat on the toilet and ‘mid-stream’ noticed a very large spider next to me. There was a worrying message from family, flaring of arthritis, and things seemed back to normal.
At times Life feels like preparation for the Olympics. We train and practice and drag ourselves back from defeat and frustration, time after time. And then we have a win. We have a win that makes the rest of it seem worthwhile, or at least tolerable. I’ll accept the gold for the technical win, but the real win, of course, is seeing someone I love accepting the ring.
You have probably heard the expression ‘pearls of wisdom’, and to some degree that befits this story. However it is even more than that. It is a story about paying attention to our commitments, the feelings of others, and being in the moment.
We had a visit with Mum in March, tho we have just returned a few days ago from our most recent visit. During the March trip we arrived one morning to her apartment and she presented me with a small plastic bag and the remnants of what was once her favourite pearl necklace. Knowing I used to make jewellery and still had the tools, she said to me “I know it isn’t worth much but it means something to me, will you fix this for me?” To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to repair it because my jewellery making days are done. I’m kind of like that when I’m done with something. I don’t usually go back to it, though things can wax and wane over the years before I reach that point. But I would do just about anything for my lovely Mother ( just as she has done for me over the years) so I said I would do my best and return it to her.
Mum’s memory is not what it used to be (not sure mine is either, for that matter!). There are days when she remembers things and days when it is a struggle. She told me she had forgotten to remove the necklace before going to bed that night and it had broken in her sleep. She had searched the sheets and carpet for what pearls she could salvage but I could tell from looking at the remains in the bag, some were missing. The cleaner had already come that morning and vacuumed and changed sheets, so any unfound pearls were well and truly gone by now. That would make the task more challenging.
As one does with things about which we are unenthusiastic, I delayed repairing the necklace until a couple of weeks before our return visit. I estimated there were about 20 small pearls missing. Perhaps you will call it luck; I call it synchronicity, that the only pearls I had, other than a few freshwater pearls, were small glass ones. They were the perfect size and near perfect colour to complete the necklace. How did that happen?
When I returned the pearls to Mum, she was visibly happy, and immediately started to tell the story of how she came to have them. It was the first thing she bought herself, with her first pay check as a registered nurse, back in the late 1940’s. I had never heard that before and was so glad I had persevered to repair them.
A couple of days later, my niece was visiting us and the conversation led to my recollection as a small child, probably in about 1959 or 1960. I was watching Mum getting ready to go out for the evening; most children are fascinated to watch their parents do ‘grown up things’. I recalled her putting on makeup, which she seldom wore, and then opening a velvet covered, shell-shaped box to retrieve the jewellery inside it. Mum sparked up as I was recounting the memory, and said
“That was the box the pearls came in, and I still have it!”
“What?” I was truly shocked.
“It is in the bedroom in a little compartment on the bed head.”
Sure enough, when I went to look, it was there. It was an epic, full circle moment, an insight to my Mother’s life that may never have happened–if her necklace hadn’t broken, if I had not kept the tools to repair it, if I had not honoured my word to repair it, if she had not kept the box, if my niece had not visited, if Mum hadn’t had that moment of clarity…if, if, if…
Life is much more miraculous and surprising at times, than anything I could ever imagine.
We have been in the USA visiting and, hopefully, helping my Mother and immediate family for the last two and a half weeks. Our intentions were good, but our execution of the plan left a little to be desired. We had booked the trip 10 months ago when Qantas was having a good sale on Business class seats to the USA (two for 1!!). And at that time we had just returned from a trip there and it seemed like two weeks would be long enough. Erroneous thinking on many levels. We are left wondering what led us to this decision, so that we don’t repeat it.
Our Qantas 737 plane to Sydney, named Retro Roo, painted with old style livery
Mum was good when we got there, but two of the last three days of our visit she was in hospital with an unexpected urinary tract infection. Did you know that this is a very common ailment in the elderly? The doctor who spoke to us was very nice and further informed us how this effects elderly people, and to some extent why. I thought I would share it since you may have someone in your family that is in a similar situation.
The doctor said that elderly patients, in general, have ‘less reserves’ in their system, so when this infection establishes itself it often appears that the affected person is confused and dizzy. He went on to explain why this happens. When a person has a UTI, they feel as if they need to relieve themselves more often than normal, thus dehydrating them slightly. This dehydration effects the blood pressure, so that when they stand, they are dizzy, and often fall. The dehydration also effects the brain function, and people can seem slightly more confused or less sharp than normal. If this is someone who already has some dementia, it can seem somewhat normal, since people have good days and bad days with that as well.
Members of Mum’s gardening group at the assisted living home.
In Mum’s case she had not really noticed the burning with the urination that is often the telltale symptom, and so she fell twice in three days while getting up in the night. We had spent all day with her both days, and she had not commented on symptoms, or seemed much out of the ordinary. In fact, we did not know about the first fall, until the second one happened. How this can happen in an assisted living place is a very long and involved story that has to do with patient consent and how the issue is reported etc. Regardless, it is just plain frustrating.
The second time Mum fell she was wearing her medical alert necklace, which has a motion detector on it. When it detects a fall, they try to contact the person. If the person is unresponsive, they send paramedics, which they did. Mum was unconscious so they took her to the hospital. They ran many tests and immediately established that she had the UTI and started antibiotics intravenously.
Through what can only be viewed as a snafu of ridiculous proportions (internet not working properly, phone not working, hotel not having us listed as registered guests, despite the fact we had been there for 10 nights already), no one was able to get word to us until we appeared at her apartment the following morning, to find her gone, but the dog there alone. The assisted living place was able to update us and that is when I learned of her fall three nights previously. None of the rest of the family even knew about that one, since she was not wearing the medical alert necklace that night (they are uncomfortable for sleeping and Mum had removed it)
Mum was very confused that day and the following day. It wasn’t helped by the fact that hospitals are lousy places to get any rest! We took her home on the second day, and after a night of sleep, and two days of antibiotics in her system, she was like a new person on the last day we saw her. We spent most of the day with her and then left for the airport to fly home to Australia.
Sometimes trips are good just to break you out of your normal routine
On the long haul flight coming home, heavy fog was predicted for Sydney, so our flight was diverted to Fiji for refuelling in case we had to fly around a bit before landing, or fly to a farther airport. So, 17 hours in the same seat on an airplane was a new record for us, and not one I care to challenge. The fog did not eventuate in Sydney, but farther up the coast.
Yesterday after we arrived home and went to the grocery, unpacked bags and made some dinner, I remarked “I’m sure I have some idea how Mum must feel when she is confused. My brain has the acuity of chocolate pudding.”
Mum is good and we are exchanging emails already. I am deliriously happy, having awakened in my own bed and now enjoying a really good cup of coffee. The brain is less pudding-y and more protoplasm-y this morning.