The Prodigal Violinist.

Last Sunday, I performed Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring at “MY violin concert”.

Before you start asking me for the details of my national tour, or how to order copies of Ms+e shar them in the comments. CD, in the interests of brutal honesty, I should confess that it wasn’t actually MY violin concert after all. Rather, I was performing at: “Music in the Orchard”, put on my the music school where I learn the violin. I know that’s just a minor distinction. A question of being in the fine print, instead of having my name up in lights, but a point needing clarification.

Anyway, as it turned out. I deserved to have my name my name up in lights,and that’s just for turning up. Ironically, playing my violin turned out to be the easy part.

You see, our household has a thieving poltergeist, and last Sunday morning it gave its best performance yet.

The nightmare started when my glasses went missing. Indeed, it hid my glasses  so well, that it took three people to find them. Every night, I put my glasses on top of the pile of books beside my bed. However, it’s not uncommon for me to send them flying during the night, but they usually land in the same old, predictable places i.e. down beside the bed or under the side table. However, this time they travelled further afield and had actually dived into my shoes. In an embarrassing moment of capitulation, I had to call my husband home from Church to find them.

The poltergeists next target was my daughter’s tap shoes. As no day is sacred in our end of year schedule and we’re double and triple booking and splitting the kids and ourselves up between us, my daughter had dance photos on the same day as my violin concert. While I’d really been looking forward to her hearing me play and being a part of my special day, I dropped her off at the dance studio as I headed up the hill. By this stage I was running late for my concert, but I figured that I wouldn’t be the opening act and would be well down the pecking order towards the end.

No such luck!

No sooner had I got there, and I was tuning up and praying to whoever it is who takes pity on mothers trying to pull off a performance while supporting their children and is lucky to be dressed at all, let alone made up. And, as for getting those fingers, strings and bow to cooperate, it was, going to take desperate prayer and serious pity. A case of the prodigal violinist… “I know you haven’t practiced enough, but I’ll help you play those strings and together we will make sweet music.”

As it turned out, I did have a guardian angel and that was my teacher, who was not just playing a duet alongside me. She was my accompaniest and a good accompaniest enhances the performer and compensates for their mistakes to make them look better. I knw she had my back, which gave me the confidence to get up on stage at all when I was only just adequately prepared.

So, let’s fast forward to my actual performance. I was playing Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. It is a fairly difficult piece, but it starts out relatively easy and gets more difficult as you go along. I usually managed it through the first page alright but struggle with the rest. Indeed, we had been looking at cutting out the middle section, but I really liked it and found it very dramatic so I bumped up the practice and went into prove it mode.

However, after all the stress of actually just getting to the venue and trying to find my bearings, I started stumling right from the start and my fingers weren’t getting into gear. There was part of me which was starting to feel my performance was doomed. That if I couldn’t even get the start right, I was really going to botch up the other bits. It was that same kind of dread which overtakes your stomach when you’re on a rollercoaster  and your peering straight down over the edge of the very earth. You are going to die! Yet, at the same time, there was also that awareness that the show had to go on. That I couldn’t give up. I just had to make it to the end.

Then, the strangest thing happened.

After stumbling at the start, I actually nailed the rest of the piece and it really did sound sensational as a duet.

I have a very patient and encourging teacher! A veritable angel!

Do you have any performance stories you’d like to share? Please share in the comments.

xx Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 26th November, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

If you were coming my way for coffee this weekend, you’d be wanting to shut yourself away in a coolroom. It’s been very hot all weekend and it feels like the sun is lashing out at Winter and digging in its heels.

How was your week?

My week can pretty much be summed up by: puppies, daughter’s school formal preparations, researching for the book project.

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First things first, the pups are absolutely irresistible. For those of you who are new to Beyond the Flow, I have become a dog foster Mum for a local pet rescue group called Paws & Claws. We are currently fostering Yoda and Dobbie, two male kelpie pups. They’re now about 8 weeks old and we’ve had them since they were only about 4 weeks old and smaller than an adult guinea pig. They were bottle fed at this stage and incredibly cute. We have two 5 month old puppies of our own, Rosie Roo & Isaac (Zac) as well as our older dog, five year old Lady. While it took Lady about a week to accept our pups, she still hasn’t totally warmed to the “micro pups” and growls when they approach, although I did catch her letting one kiss her repeatedly on the nose this morning. The micro pups are off to get desexed and have gone off to another carer’s tonight for transportation to the vet. So, with just our three, it’s been pretty quiet tonight.

Rosie & Zac BW

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Moving onto our daughter’s school formal. She’s 11 almost 12 and will be finishing Year 6 at the end of the year and going into High School next year. This change also marks the transition from being a child and becoming a teen, a development I am watching with mixed interest. We already have a son who is 13 and in high school so we’ve already ventured down this path but it’s going to be different with a daughter but I’m just not quite sure how at this stage. At the very least, there’s the cost of make up which has already skyrocketed thanks to dance.

Anyway, last Thursday, I took our daughter shopping to buy her formal dress. Their “formal” is more of a semi-formal and it’s not in the league of hiring limos or anything like that. Thank goodness! However, we did need to find THE DRESS and as many of you will know, that’s not an easy thing. I asked her whether she wanted to have the whole browsing experience or just find something straight away and she was sort of in the middle. I had the feeling that she definitely wanted to go shopping with me for it and turn the process into an experience. After all, she’s the one who talks to me about having “mother-daughter time”.

The funny thing about this whole shopping experience, is that my daughter and I are polar opposites in the size department and it was so strange because neither of us fitted into anything much in way too many of the shops. She seems to be an XXS and I’m an XL and 174 cm tall.

She found a dress she loves. We had afternoon tea at a cafe together and then ran into her friend and her Mum and promptly lost both girls in the crowded shopping centre and were talking to security until we finally spotted them. Of course, they’d lost track of time.

Meanwhile, I’ve been engrossed in a research project looking at a group of Irish Famine orphans from Midleton Workhouse, County Cork who sailed out to Australia onboard the John Knox in 1850. I am descended from one of these orphan girls, Bridget Donovan, and started researching the other girls to shed light on her journey. This has now evolved into quite a philosophical journey as I look at how God, fate, determination play out in their lives. So, far, it seems they all went their separate ways.

Anyway, what have you been up to this week? I hope you’ve had a great week.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Our Little Dancer & the Dance Solo.

Our Little Dancer gave her first solo performance today, and it was pure enchantment. More to the point, SHE was enchanting. Not just because she’s our daughter. Rather, because she’s reached that long awaited point, where she’s transcended years of training, commitment, lost ballet shoes, laddered tights, and entered the realm of magic. A realm so far beyond words, that I barely know where I am.

I don’t know whether you’ve been to this place yourself, but it turns being audience, into a flight without wings. One minute, you’re simply sitting in your chair. Then, inexplicably, you’re zooming off to unexplored realms and your feet are dangling in the air.  I suppose other people would simply describe this as their “happy place”, without all the flounce. However, as far as I’m concerned, a bit of flounce is quite approppriate. After all, we’re not describing a balance sheet here!

Unfortunately, at this stage, I can’t share any photos of her dancing or even in her dress. All I have at this point, is a photo of her costume hanging up last night. There was no time to even get that precious “before we leave” photo…her dark hair perfectly twisted into position, flawless makeup, lipstick, pink tuille all in motion swooshing out the door. Indeed, perhaps a shot of pink in motion, would have been more true to life than a staged shot in the hallway anyway.

Despite my spangled descriptions, my daughter wasn’t making her debut at the Sydney Opera House. Rather, she was performing with her dance school at a local nursing home. This was such a great place to start out. It not only gave students a chance to give to the local community, but it also allowed them to get experience in a less controlled but forgiving environment.  While the majority of residents were very attentive and could well have been seated in the Opera House, there was the occasional person walking through a performance on their Zimmer frame. A few sang along to one of the backing tracks and no doubt, there were those who fell asleep. Yet, this unpredictability is great, because it helps the dancers to  learn how to deal with distractions and adapt accordingly. A studio is a very controlled and largely predictable environment, which makes an excellent nursery, but the outside world is the stage.

Anyway, there I am in my seat wound up like a spring. I can’t wait and yet, I’m also absorbed in each of the other solos. I’ve seen them all before, and yet they still give me goosebumps. Take me on intense emotional twists and turns at 240 kph, which I can’t explain. I am just the passenger. A member of the audience. I don’t know how they make their magic. I just experience it.

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Ballerina Girl.

Finally, our daughter is centre dining room floor. She is beautiful. Beautiful, almost in an unearthly, ethereal way, becoming some kind of pink sylth whose materialized out of the air. Who is she? Where did she come from? Is she some kind of mysterious geni who escaped from an empty Coke bottle? I don’t know but she moves as light as a feather across the floor with such grace and poise that I’m totally spellbound. Me, the mother who gave birth to her earthly being, but this is a magic woven by her other “mothers”. Her dance teachers who’ve nurtured the butterfly out of her crysalis. Given her something I could not. Sure, I could give her the fire and the spirit, but I couldn’t help her mold and shape it into something that’s her own.

You see, as much as I love to dance and have even been doing adult dance classes for the last year, I have some disability and chronic health issues and let’s just say, that I’ve been unable to “reach my full potential’. Indeed, I try to resist saying “that she didn’t get it from me”, because I wasn’t me. I couldn’t be me with all that extra baggage, especially when I didn’t know it was there and what was causing my difficulties. I just thought it as me. Yet, despite having the hydrocephalus , I did ballet as a child and even had private lessons for awhile. I wasn’t always quite so clunky.

I often wish that I could experience more of my daughter’s dancing. At least in theory, I feel I could watch her dance all day everyday, which isn’t exactly true. However, as it stands, I feel like I’m peaking through a crack and I only get to experience the barest slither. Everything goes on behind closed doors, which it needs to, but I do crave for more. It would be nice if she danced more at home. Let me inside a little more. This is a comment lament of the parent, as sense of being on the outside when once upon a time, they were on the inside.

 

Yet, I know this is only the beginning. Not the very beginning but the beginning of her stepping up and starting to step out. Next year, she’s due to be getting her pointe shoes, and that really will be a huge development. That’s a ballet dancer’s coming of age…a right of passage. A ritual I never experienced, but I’ve been waiting for just as much as her. Indeed, I have my own pair of pink, satin ballet shoes with pink satin ribbons. They might not be pointe shoes but they’re beautiful, and they were my gift to myself. They were the materilization of a dream. That someone who struggles to walk, can also learn how to dance and dip their toe into ballet as a participant, and not always be a spectator relegated to the sidelines. After all, life’s too short to sit it out.

And now, my little dancer is asleep. All wrapped up in the world of dreams and I need to follow suite.

xx Rowena

Dusk: Day 3 – B&W Photo Challenge

Yesterday, I finally managed to nip down to the beach just before the sun had disappeared entirely, and the golden sand had descended into complete darkness. I know my mantra is carpe diem seize the day, but thanks to a weird sleep virus which has exacerbated my night owl tendencies, I am carpe nightum (or however you put that in proper Latin).

So, in my defence, I say: “At least, I walked the dog. At least, I did get to the beach and while it doesn’t need to be quite so dark to avoid the risk of skin cancer, it is a more sensible option than cooking myself under the midday sun.

Jogger Ocean Beach

Colour.

Our beach isn’t overly crowded outside the peak Christmas – New Year holiday period. So, heading into evening in November, there were only a couple of dog walkers stretching over quite an expand of beach. There was a soft lapping of something which could hardly be called waves against the shore and it would’ve been quite relaxing and melodic if I hadn’t been trying to get my B & W image when I’d clearly left my run too late. The magic hour had set.

Of course, Lady didn’t care. She was nose down sniffing and I kept a cursory glance out to make sure she didn’t opt for a swim at dusk without adequate time to dry off. She has quite a thick coat and is definitely NOT “quick dry”.

Anyway, it’s time to pass on the mantle for the next person to pick up the Seven Day Black & White Photo Challenge. Today, I’m handing over to  Geoff Le Pard who enjoys a good walk around London and might as well take his camera with him.

Best wishes,

xx Rowena

Magpie On the Cross: Day 4, Seven Day B&W Photo Challenge.

This photo was taken on a day trip to Wollombi, NSW where my Great Great Grandfather married his second wife, Jane Lynch in the very quaint stone Catholic Church.

Wandering through the historic cemetery, I was struck by this momentary fusion of elements…a magpie perched on a cross, a historic headstone.

Being Spring, I had to be careful taking this shot, as I’d already been warned about swooping magpies and I wasn’t one to argue with that. Well, that’unless a resonating image was up for grabs.

A magpie doesn’t tell quite the same story, as spotting a crow in a graveyard and yet it’s presence resonates and feels a bit forboding. As it would be, I guess, if I were a small bird.

Today, I’d like to ask Irene Waters from Reflections & Nightmares if she’d like to take up the challenge.

xx Rowena

Not A Very Willing Santa Pup!

This afternoon, I pulled out my camera, donned my elf outfit and dressed the pups up in their Christmas outfits. I  never take a snap just for the hell of it. So, I should’ve known it was going to take more than spontaneous enthusiasm, to pull off this quasi professional photo shoot.

No doubt, you’ve also seen those uber cute dogs in Christmas catalogues. You know, the ones with huge, puppy dog eyes dressed up as Santa, elves, reindeer and Christmas trees. Don’t they just make your heart melt? Melt enough to buy your unsuspecting dog an entire new wardrobe.

Well, I’ll blame my daughter for falling victim this year… and the pups.

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The Micro Pups Last Week.

Besides, who wouldn’t be tempted to dress up two, six week old pups, especially in identical outfits? Well, I would’ve done the matching outfits,if only the store had delivered. As it was, we had a Santa and an elf. In addition to the micro pups, we also have our older pups to dress up in the Christmas spirit.  While they’ve grown up very quickly, they’re still only 4 months old and this will be their first Christmas. So, who wouldn’t want to do something special?!! The shop didn’t have their size and so we bought a Santa hat for them and a Christmas Tree outfit for Lady, who could well be an XL. Of course, she blames that on the fur coat, but we know better!

Such are the best laid plans of mice, men and me. As we rushed through the door with our grandiose plans, no one had briefed any of the pups, and they weren’t convinced. If they can it eat it…If they can chew it….If they can chase it…They’re in. “Wearing”…Now, that’s another story, and they made it quite clear, THAT wasn’t part of their contract!

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Our lack of planning didn’t help. We burst through the front door and before developing any plan of attack, our daughter was trying to guide little Dobbie’s paw through the leg of the Santa suit and it wasn’t going on. Getting stuck on claws and being too narrow for even his skinny puppy legs, it was a beast to put on Dobbie was NOT amused!! Needless to say, that was a fail.

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Zac, our 4 month old Border Collie X was next up. He was wearing a pseudo-luxurious Santa hat, which was attached via an elastic band. The elastic is a critical element of the hat’s design, as you’ll see from the photographic evidence. Well, he was wearing the hat for a few seconds. A very smart and innovative dog with a real gift for turning anything in into a chew toy or something to chase, he sat there shaking his head watching the white pom pom swinging backwards and forwards and trying snap at it with all his might.

Rosie Claws

This thrill didn’t last long as his sister, Rosie, soon stepped in and snapped hold of the hat. Santa’s hat was a red rag to a pair of voracious jaws, and it disappeared out into the backyard. Their latest prize.

Yoda Elf

Meanwhile, I managed to get Yoda into his elf suit without too much difficulty, and put him on top of the green wheelie bin…my makeshift studio. With the backyard looking like a moonscape scattered with chewed up detritis, the bin lid almost looked glamorous by comparison. These shots weren’t there yet, but showed potential.

Obviously, I need to be more “strategic”, and have now put this one down to “practice”.

Next time, I’ll stick to the Scotto motto and “Be Prepared”.

How have you gone photographing pets in costumes? Any success? Any tips? I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

PS I should mention that the pups were under close supervision wearing these costumes. It doesn’t take much for puppy mischief to become tragic.

 

 

Our Son and the Rescue Pup.

This afternoon, I was tapping away on my laptop, when I glanced over and spotted a priceless moment. Our son was snuggled up on the couch with our Border Collie pup, Zac (ie Isaac Newton)  watching The Good Doctor. It’s Sunday afternoon, which quite frankly should be declared a “snooze zone” before having to return to the realities of “The Week” on Monday. Hence, I’d slept in, and was still in my PJs. That explains how I managed to capture the moment. I didn’t need to leave the house, or even my chair. My camera was sitting faithfully by my side, just waiting.

Zac is almost 4 months old, and we’ve had him since he was a little 6 week old pup, along with his sister Rosie. Rosie was meant to be a foster pup, and simply passing through. That was before she got caught in our heart strings. Zac and Rosie have also become inseperable. After all, they’re more than brother and sister. Now that the rest of their litter has dispersed, they’re “twins”.

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Rosie (left) Zac (right). Not quite identical twins.

Of course, with such young pups, you don’t know anything about their personalities, psychology or outlooks on life. You can only base your selection criterion on things like markings and which pup comes to you first. I was the one who chose Zac, because he had distinctive black and white markings, which I thought looked more like Bilbo. Our daughter chose Rosie as she has a broad, white stripe on her face, which she thought looked like Bilbo. Rosie also has black spots on her legs, which I wasn’t too sure about, but others loved. Both dogs were looking short-haired and Bilbo and every other dog I’ve ever had, has been long haired. However, I reasoned that short hair is better suited to our beach lifestyle. It was a tough choice.

Zac was instantly “my dog”, and he was also the pup most determined to turn a  recalitrant, growling Lady, into “Mum”. Rosie palled up with the rest of the family and was a little more cautious about turning to Lady for love. It soon became clear that Zac and Rosie were inseparable, and that having both dogs could be much less work than the one. They could occupy each other.

Back at the end of June before the pups came along, our beloved Border Collie Bilbo passed away. He was 11 years old and we’d had him since a pup. Back then, our son was 2 years old and our daughter was crawling. So, not only had Bilbo seen the kids go through the childhood years, he’d also been with us through each and every up and down with my severe health struggles. I don’t know whether all of that made him a sensitive soul, but he certainly was a very special dog.

And, Bilbo was also a survivor himself. Indeed, he was only a young pup when I was admitted to hospital for about eight weeks and he went from having the kids and I at home almost every day, to me being in hospital, the kids staying at my parents’ place and Geoff getting home super late from work after touring Sydney seeing the rest of us every day. On top of that, the pup also lived through the trauma. A stress beyond stress.

 

Above: RIP Bilbo.

At least, that’s how we explain Bilbo’s act of determined destruction, which could have killed the wee pup. Bilbo went exploring under the house chewing the the wifi and computer network cables. When an exhausted and irate Geoff retraced his paw prints under the house, he found that Bilbo had even started chewing on an electrical cable and must’ve received a slight zap, which made him stop.

Obviously, that wasn’t the best of times for us.

So, when Bilbo passed away, he took a lot more than memories along with him. There was also the deepest and most compassionate empathy, and an understanding of us which came with walking through the valleys and mountain tops with us and in our hearts.

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Lady.

While we have another dog, Lady, she doesn’t have that same sense of empathy or emotional depth…and isn’t quite so melancholy either. She’ll greet you with an uber-enthusiastic wag of the tail, which could almost take your leg off. She has different talents, but she also doesn’t fetch which was a rather difficult gap for us to ignore. We are a ball throwing family and that requires a dog to fetch, even if he was an annoying, obsessed maniac  more often than not.

Zac & Rosie

Zac & Rosie when they first arrived, aged 6 weeks.

Wanting to let our emotions heal before we adopted another dog, we were going to wait until next year and get another pure-bred Border Collie. However, I got word through the pet rescue group that some Border Collie x puppies were coming in. I could also see that our son could use another dog  now. At the time, this was more of a vague hunch than a neon sign.  although until Zac settled in, I had no idea that he had such a special capacity to heal. A capacity not unique to him, but not universal among dogs either. That he has a gift.

Reversing up a bit, not long after Bilbo died, I caught the flu and a nasty respiratory infection. With my underlying health issues, such infections become life threatening and I developed a powerful, incessant cough which was absolutely terrifying. After losing the dog, the kids were particularly concerned this year and didn’t have Bilbo for support.  After all, it was hard times like this, that Bilbo had always been there for every single one of us. Shaken by such fear on top of grief, our son in particular needed the love only a special dog can give.

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That’s why I was so stoked to see our son so snuggled up and entwined with the dog today. As a parent, we so often feel like we’re flying blind.Even when we know we’re doing our best, it’s all to easy to feel like we’re floundering. That despite our best efforts and utilizing every single resource we’ve got, that we’re still getting sucked into the vortex and drowning…along with our beloved child. Seeing our son so relaxed, content fused with the dog and knowing we’ve all made it through the storm, was such a relief. An answer to prayer in a way that made so much sense and yet seems hard to put into words on the weekly praise list…RESCUED DOG SAVES TRAMATISED CHILD.

And, so I’m happy.

In addition to sharing my joy, this photo marks Day 4 of the Seven Day Black Photo Challenge, which a friend roped me into on FB. The idea is that you post a B & W photo every day for seven days and you nominate someone new to take up the challenge every day. Today, I’d like to nominate Trent from Trent’s World.

Have you have a special dog or pet who has whispered magic into your life? Please share.

xx Rowena