Category Archives: Chronic Illness

Weekend Coffee Share -19th September, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? I hope you have had a great week and that all your stars are aligning. I thought that sounded better than having all your ducks lined up, which really makes them an easy target. There are no worries about me on that front. My ducks were rogue years ago, and there’s not a chance of ever getting them all lined up lose to the same location.

Path through the wildflowers

know I keep updating you every week about how long we’ve been in lockdown. We’re now just a week shy of three months and no end in sight. Our state premier is raving on about vaccination rates and getting jabs in arms, and yet the infection rates are still over 1000 per day. She’s also talking about opening up, especially for people who are double-vaccinated. This has resulted in talk of a vaccine passport. This hasn’t gone down well in some quarters, especially in religious organizations. They don’t want to refuse entry to anybody who has not been vaccinated. Yet, at the same time, they seem quite happy to exclude people with disability and chronic health conditions who can’t risk catching covid. After all, the vaccine itself isn’t 100% effective and we still need to wear masks and social distance especially in an indoor community setting.

Patonga from the Warrah Lookout

While we’re on the subject, I also want to point out that while our government prioritised vaccination for adults with disability and chronic health conditions, it hasn’t done the same for teenagers when they became eligible recently. It just goes to show me how little people consider our needs. We’re invisible. Anyway, I rattled a few cages and our kids were vaccinated with Pfizer on Friday and it all went well. However, after having to agitate to get our kids vaccinated, I wasn’t in the mood to deal with anti-vaxers.

Egg and Bacon

All of this covid stuff can really do your head in, and I realized I wasn’t doing so well. So, today Geoff and I drove to the Warrah Trig trail and walked to the lookout. The sign said that it was only 500 metres away. However, what it didn’t mention was all the steep stairs and vertical climbing coming back up, which should come into the equation somewhere. Geoff wasn’t too sure I was going to make it back up, but I figured I’d be okay if I took it slowly and kept stopping. So, we certainly didn’t lock the fastest track time but I did clock up 2,237 steps. You can read more about it here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/09/20/wildflower-walk-to-warrah-lookout-greater-sydney/

Grevillea

On Thursday, I submitted my entry for the SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition. That was a massive effort. I obviously can’t say too much about it. However, your contribution needed to be less than 2000 words on the theme of living between two worlds. SBS is our multi-cultural TV station. So, the theme naturally leans towards living in between two racial cultures. It’s very tempting to go into it further but you’ll have to wait. Suffice to say I’ve been working on my entry on and off for the last month and with a day to go was advised to cut back on detail. So, I cut that out but in the process, the whole story seemed to fall apart and I wondered whether I would have it all stitched back up together again in time. There were no guarantees. however, gradually I felt it coming together and before I knew it I was on the homeward strait adrenalin pumping and feeling pretty chuffed by my efforts. I read it and read it and re-read and it felt like the words were swimming around inside my eyeballs. I also felt tired and was concerned I no longer had the focus to pick up mistakes. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge believer in editing your own work. You see things that aren’t there and gloss over things that are. Have you found that? Well, anyway, time was running out and so I had to press send and be done with it. No more fiddling or bristling around. It was now a done deal. Now, I’m onto the prayer part of that journey.

Lastly, I’ve been getting right into Australian author, Ethel Turner who wrote Seven Little Australians lately. At the moment, I’m reading through her diary and found a list of poems she had memorised. Among them, was Matthew Arnold’s Self-Dependence which I’ve posted here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/09/18/poetry-memorised-by-ethel-turner-self-dependence-mathew-arnold/ In this post, I also touched on how I’ve turned to Ethel Turner as a mentor. There will be a lot more where that came from, and I’m actually considering setting up another blog.

Well, that brings me to the end of another week. A friend very kindly popped over on a rescue mission. I was feeling like blowing things up yesterday. So, she brought us some muffins, biscuits and a lot of love. It was wonderful and much appreciated. I hope you are doing okay and I’m thinking of you.

Anyway, this has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Love and best wishes,

Rowena

Poetry Memorised By Ethel Turner: Self-Dependence – Mathew Arnold

Tonight, I’ve been reading through Ethel Turner’s diary. You could say I’ve become totally obsessed by this incredible author of Seven Little Australians, and around 39 other novels written for children and young adults. Ethel Turner also had a passion for educating and mentoring young Australians through children’s pages in a number of publications. I don’t believe this is a quote, but if you want to be like Rome, you have to act like Rome. That’s another reason why I’m ploughing the depths I’ve never aspired to write a novel. Poetry, flash fiction and possibly the short story are more my forte. I also have fits and starts at writing a diary. However, I don’t just write a few lines – a bare skeleton of what’s happened. Rather, my entries are far more voluminous and I’m pouring my heart out onto the page. It also means I don’t necessarily write that often in my diary. I don’t have the time, and a simple notebook hardly has the space. I could fill one book in a sitting some days.

Anyway, aside from her success as a published author and journalist, I also appreciate Ethel Turner’s perceptive insight into people, the human condition and the ups and downs of life. Even more than a hundred s later, her insights and observations are just as true to life now as they were then.

So, if I want to write and be published like Ethel Turner, I need to do what she did. Although she didn’t have a formal university education, it seems she developed her own educational program which not only included extensive reading, she also actively worked to maintain her maths to the matriculation levels she’d achieved. Indeed, after her beloved friend Annie Christian passed away, she seemed to find comfort in doing quadratic equations. I’m not going to go that far to keep up with her, but I am going to chase up the list of poems she memorised.

So, in sharing this poem with you, I’m not sharing her words, but some of the fuel which nurtured her incredible mind. This poem by Matthew Arnold certainly speaks to me. My serious health issues have all but scuttled my career. Yet, I haven’t given up on finding some form of meaningful paid work. During the week, I finally pressed send on my short story for the SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition. Could this be the vehicle for getting myself established? I am down on knees and praying this comes through, although goodness knows what it will means if my dreams actually start to unfold.

Anyway, without any further ado, here’s the poem:

Self-Dependence – Mathew Arnold

Weary of myself, and sick of asking

What I am, and what I ought to be,

At this vessel’s prow I stand, which bears me

Forwards, forwards, o’er the starlit sea.

And a look of passionate desire

O’er the sea and to the stars I send:

“Ye who from my childhood up have calm’d me,

Calm me, ah, compose me to the end!

“Ah, once more,” I cried, “ye stars, ye waters,

On my heart your mighty charm renew;

Still, still let me, as I gaze upon you,

Feel my soul becoming vast like you!”

From the intense, clear, star-sown vault of heaven,

Over the lit sea’s unquiet way,

In the rustling night-air came the answer:

“Wouldst thou be as these are? Live as they.

“Unaffrighted by the silence round them,

Undistracted by the sights they see,

These demand not that the things without them

Yield them love, amusement, sympathy.

“And with joy the stars perform their shining,

And the sea its long moon-silver’d roll;

For self-poised they live, nor pine with noting

All the fever of some differing soul.

“Bounded by themselves, and unregardful

In what state God’s other works may be,

In their own tasks all their powers pouring,

These attain the mighty life you see.”

O air-born voice! long since, severely clear,

A cry like thine in mine own heart I hear:

“Resolve to be thyself; and know that he,

Who finds himself, loses his misery!”

I’d be interested to hear if this poem touches you in any way.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Bright Eyes on Death and Despair – A Gum Tree.

Please forgive me for my recent negativity, pessimism and lack of gratitude. However, there are times where the glass is neither half-empty, nor half-full and no matter which way you look at it, it’s still bone dry. There’s not even a drop of water left to relieve a parched thirst, or even a longing imagination.

It is what it is, isn’t it?!!

That’s what we’ve come to say about those interminable patches of grinding difficulty.

Well, thankfully, my glass isn’t empty yet. Rather, I was even starting to think my glass was starting to refill, as I meandered through the wildflowers with my camera and feasted on such indisputable floral beauty through the lens. Moreover, although I was only a ten minute drive away from home, I could have been miles away from civilization. Off with the bunyips even!

Could be anywhere!

That was until a friend sent me a text while I was out there. I’m not one to be glued to my phone, but I do keep it on me in case of emergencies when I’m out, and I’m sure it pinged. I think I was sitting down on a log at the time reflecting on life, the universe and everything and decided to reply. Things have been pretty rough for her, and she’s spent the last couple of weeks in hospital with her back against the wall. It was the right thing. After all, there’s finding things hard, and then there’s scaling vertical cliffs by your fingernails. I’ve done that a few times with my lung issues, and wouldn’t wish that horror on my worst enemy. I wanted to be there. Yet, at the same time, I also have to pace myself. As you may recall, I’ve lost four close friends recently and my daughter’s unwell. With my own capacity so overwrought, I’ve largely had to withdraw and regroup.

However, whether you say it was God, destiny or being technically inept, somehow we ended up on a Facetime call together. In case you don’ t know what that is, it’s a mobile phone call with visual. I thought she’d called me. She thought I’d called her. Neither of us meant to, and yet this accidental call was freakishly phenomenal.

It all began when she asked me how I was. Well, I have a bit of a dry sense of humour, and joked: “at least I’m doing better than this tree!” I turned my phone around to show her the charcoaled cavity that was once a gum tree. There wasn’t much left of it. It was as dead as a doornail, the embodiment of hopeless despair. I was in fine form by comparison, and I actually started to perk up. Moreover, although I’m not be the world’s best photographer, I have an eye, and appreciated the way the hole blazed through the empty trunk, created a window frame out onto the bush.

The healthy top of the tree

I don’t know why I looked up. There was no reason to. Yet, I did. Much to my surprise, it turned out this dead lump of charcoal was actually still a living tree. There were healthy branches and a thriving crown of leaves up above. I couldn’t believe it, and have no idea how it’s even possible, although gum trees are famed for their resilience. They grow right on the edge of rocky cliffs with only a smattering of sandy soil to sustain them, and they somehow recover from horrific bushfire damage like this one and defy all logic. Mind you, gum trees are also known to fall over at the drop of a hat, and aren’t called “widow-makers” for nothing.

Anyway, all of that had a profound impact. Restored my faith in miracles. Reminded me to keep seeing things sunny side up and holding onto my faith in better days, which it’s starting to slip. Believe that God actually can and does answer prayer. He hears me. I am not forsaken.

However, that wasn’t my only discovery for the day.

I ended up taking my friend on my walk through the wildflowers and stuck my phone inside a lush bush of glowing yellow flowers which simply made my heart sing. She absolutely loved it…not only the capacity to enjoy the flowers, but she also loved my commentary. It was very simple and even child-like as I bumbled around the flowers chatting away like a much younger, female, Australian David Attenborough. It was all completely spontaneous, which was its beauty.

As it turned out, I’d stumbled across a way of taking somebody out of their world and transplanting them somewhere else.

That was, perhaps, the greatest miracle of all, and I fully intend to expand on it!

Do you have any survival stories you’d like to share? Please leave a link in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 22nd August, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Before I ask you how your week was, and if anything, indeed, anything at all has transpired in your neck of the woods, let me offer you a drink.

If you’re in lockdown here in NSW, you might be wanting a stiff drink, although it could be worse. Covid could be spreading like wildfire unabated. We had 830 cases overnight and three deaths. Parts of Sydney have now gone into an extreme lockdown and a nightly curfew from 9.00pm to 5.00am I believe. Meanwhile, we live on the NSW Central Coast which was classified as part of Greater Sydney, but we lobbied the State government to be reclassified “regional”. That was passed, and so we’ll be left out of future Sydney lockdowns unless our own incidence warrants it. That’s a relief, I think.

Meanwhile, over the last couple of months, frictions have been mounting in the community. There’s the vaxers versus anti-vaxers, different attitudes to wearing masks and as the incidence of covid in Sydney has shot up and Police surveillance has increased, heated discussions about protecting civil liberties have also eschewed. Again these tensions climaxed on the weekend with large, sometimes violent, protests in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast and it just makes me wonder what on earth these people are thinking and what gives them the right to keep the rest of us locked down longer?

My personal view is that too many people take breathing for granted. As someone who has crook lungs and lives with dodgy breathing all the time and has experienced crisis point, being able to breathe is something to take seriously. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not important. Indeed, most of us think that not being able to walk is one of the worst things that can happen to you. However, not being able to breathe is fatal. I’m not prepared to play Russian Rouette with my own life let alone the lives of those I care about. My 15 year old daughter sums things up well: “Why can’t they just stay home for a month so we can get out of this?” Short term pain, for long term gain. Sounds logical to me. However, we’re still hearing about parties being held. Party is now a euphemism for “super-spreader event”. Well, at least, it is for the parties that make the news.

Meanwhile, I’ve been sinking into a deep state of hibernation. I’ve always been a bit of a pyjama princess. However, now after wearing PJs for a few months, and then putting on real clothes, they feel so scratchy on my skin. Unpleasant. I bought a really soft pair of cloud pyjamas from PJ Guru Peter Alexander, and they’ve been so soft. However, they’ve probably had the equivalent of 10years wear during lockdown and are wearing out. Never fear. I’ve ordered a replacement.

Anyway, as I said, I’ve been in a state of hibernation. I wasn’t feeling 100%, and didn’t get out for a walk for a few days. Then, I felt a bit wonky on my feet, and decided to wait until Geoff was free. On Saturday, we drove over to Pearl Beach and went for a walk around the rocks and peering into the rockpools for signs of life. It was rather liberating to get out. You know how it is once you finally fight off the inertia and get out there and you feel like you’re soaring on eagle’s wings, and wonder what took you so long to get out there. I blame the politicians. They keep telling me to stay home. I know they didn’t tell me to eat chocolate, and they do allow us out for exercise. However, the predominant message is to stay home, and I have.

So, after going out for our walk yesterday, Geoff and I went out kayaking today. I know that sounds incredibly sporty, especially for someone with disability issues. Well, I can assure you that I’m no Jessica Fox (Australian gold medal Olympian kayaker). I’m slow and I don’t have a lot of stamina, but we did manage to move and had in some ways a rather indulgent time out there on the water together. It was pure bliss. You can read more about it here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/08/23/kayaking-in-lockdown-a-new-beginning/

Having a pair of kayak’s on top of the car makes us look so adventurous and such a different interpretation of myself compared to writing in my chair at home.

Meanwhile, we’ve been watching The Voice on TV. This year, the judges are Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy, Rita Ora and Keith Urban. I always love watching the show hearing the music and the backstories of both the performers and judges. It’s all about people to me, and being an extrovert I need people more than ever. I see the judges smiling and chatting away on the TV and all sense of perspective just evaporates and they’re right here in the loungeroom with us and not a thousand miles away. I don’t know where it was being filmed but they’re hugging, breathing on each other without a concern in the world. So, it can’t be Sydney right here right now, which we all know anyway as these things are always filmed in advance.

By the way, here’s a real treat from The Voice, where Guy Sebastian performs Climb Every Mountain with contestant Julee-Ann who is legally blind and had to ask if anyone had turned a chair after an absolutely stellar performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKfOlZtNlxI

Also, Seann Miley Moore sings The Prayer by Andrea Bocelli & Celine Dion- The Voice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki_r85XrxnE

Anyway, throughout much of the last week, dog Zac has been sprawled across my lap like a rug. He’s so beautiful and almost fused to my soul.

This is another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Kayaking in Lockdown…A New Beginning.

These photos of Geoff and I kayaking in lockdown are living proof of just how deceptive a photo can be. There we were floating on a magical, diamond carpet as the radiant Spring sunshine cast its magic over the water. It’s absolutely beautiful, and would make for a perfect postcard. There’s the bright blue sky dotted with a couple of woolly white clouds. There’s also the radiant Spring sunshine which isn’t hot enough to burn , but warm enough to defrost the Winter inertia. Indeed, Spring is something you feel right throughout your mind, soul and spirit; and you just feel invigorated. You don’t need flowers in the frame to know it’s the season of rebirth.

What the photo doesn’t say, is how hard it was for us to get there, or how long it’s been since Geoff and I went kayaking together. To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember. That’s despite having the kayaks sitting in our backyard, and it’s something we both love doing. I last went kayaking with friends back in January, but Geoff was at work and he went out with one of the same friends on a night kayak run without me. Meanwhile, our friend kayaks several times a week, especially during lockdown. Indeed, pre-lockdown, he used to kayak across Broken Bay to Palm Beach using a head torch to guide his path. Of course, I’ve told him he’s mad. His mother has told him to phone a friend and report in. Yet, at the same time, he’s like an age-old adventurer, and good on him. Yet, at the same time, I cry out from my chair in the loungeroom…”Me too!”

Don’t you love my dreadful kayaking hat!

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy for us to just grab the kayaks and run. For some reason, we need to paint the house first. Research and write a series of books. That’s on top of the usual stuff like going to work, looking after the kids and throwing the ball endlessly for the dogs. For us, getting the kayaks on top of the car and down to the wharf is like packing up for our annual holiday and what with paddles, life jackets, water shoes etc we almost need to pack as much gear too.

Geoff’s Kayak.

On top of this, there is also my health and physical disability issues. When you struggle to walk and it doesn’t take much to have a stumbling fall, it doesn’t seem logical that paddling might actually be easier than walking. I don’t feel very competent at paddling because I’m a novice and my husband used to do white water kayaking in the Tasmanian rapids and also played canoe polo competitively. Our friend has also competed in the Hawkesbury Classic. The two of them could well and truly paddle off into the sunset at quite an enthusiastic pace together, while my kayak might drift round in a circle, and I might just enjoy floating for a bit. In other words, I’m not even trying to keep up unless it’s for conversation, which case they need to go at my pace which they do quite happily without complaint.

While I absolutely loved our paddle today and found the exercise and sunshine exhilarating and loved just drifting along like a cloud on the water, there were quite a few reflective moments.

The last time I was kayaking there, I was at a picnic with a group of friends. We had such a wonderful time out on the water, and as I said, unfortunately Geoff had to work. My friend Lisa was there with her son and I went out on the kayak with him. He’s ten years old and loved diving off the side and was full of such energy. Lisa was much more serene. She was like a beautiful swan gliding across the water as she paddled and her smile lit up the sky. It’s the truth. No exaggeration. Anyway, she passed away a few months ago after a long battle with breast cancer. I’ve mentioned that before. As much as you can try to convince yourself you’re okay and that you’re back on your feet again, I really missed her. Missed her deep inside my bones type missing her. I also miss being able to hang out with our friends in person as well. That hurts at a really deep level as well.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie…the calm before the splash.

Then, there were also memories of going out kayaking as a family when my parents had a beach house at Palm Beach. It was a short season, but they had a jetty and a boat shed and it was so easy to get the kayaks in the water as long as it was high tide. The kids were much younger then, and Bilbo our beloved Border Collie (who some of you may remember), was there along with Lady and we’d paddle with the kids, paddle with the dogs. Paddle alone. I even went paddling when I was going through chemo to deal with a flare of my auto-immune disease. I loved kayaking that much, and yet now I rarely go.

Out on our kayak adventure.

Why is it so?

Well, Geoff was grateful I talked him into going today, and decided that the kayaks are going to stay on top of the car. That’s a statement, isn’t it?! It’s like having your sword drawn, and being ready for action.

Move over Huckleberry Hound. Lady enjoying her kayak adventures.

That’s particularly important during lockdown. Somehow we need to find things we can do within the scope of the restrictions, while acknowledging but not dwelling on all the things we can’t. We are very lucky to live in this beautiful part of the world and be surrounded by beautiful beaches, and still waterways. It was also a choice.

Miss pretending to be out in the kayak. It’s a beginning.

Do you enjoy kayaking and have any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

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The Ghosts of Birthdays Past…

A few weeks ago, it was my birthday. In previous years, I’ve fully acknowledged and celebrated my birthday on the blog with equal enthusiasm and interest as the real world. However, this year, I didn’t quite get here, and it probably also reflects that my birthday in the real world didn’t go off with a bang this year either.

Happy Birthday six years ago! I look and feel a lot healthier now.

It was good, and indeed better than expected. However, my birthday (30th July) actually marked the day that Greater Sydney was supposed to come out of Covid lockdown, and I, and the collective we, knew after the third week of hard lockdown and with one week to go until our blessed release, that it wasn’t going to happen. There was going to be no extravagant birthday cake covered in candles with either my parents in Sydney or with my much loved friends. Everyone was going to be locked inside their little cells at home, and only let out for bad behaviour (my perspective on exercise).

However, while one is allowed to be a bit self-indulgent when their birthday plans go up in smoke (especially a Covid smoke), I know things could be worse, and that I have so much to be grateful for, especially when I see covid through a global lens. I checked the stats just then (which I don’t do on a global scale all that often) and globally there have been 206 million cases and 4.35 million deaths. In America alone (which ops the charts) there have been 621k deaths. Australia isn’t at the bottom of the charts and we have a much smaller population, but we have had 948 deaths. So, we have largely been spared the full force of this scourge here, although our lockdowns have been pretty tight and for vulnerable people like myself, we’ve spent much of the last 18 months in varying degrees of isolation and social distancing, while, of course, there are others who haven’t complied with restrictions or have lived away from the major cities and haven’t had to worry too much.

Happy Birthday Mister!

The other thing is that given my poor health and the somewhat dire state of my lungs, I am thankful and overjoyed for every birthday I have. So, I’m not saying that I spent my birthday at home crying either.

Me this year at the Mt Ettalong Lookout.

My birthday was on a Friday, and Friday nights are generally quite busy even in lockdown here. Our son has zoom with his youth group which sounds pretty rowdy and a lot of fun, and our daughter has a dance class right at dinner time. We also have our small group meeting for Church and we were getting together for a zoom party. So, we decided just to get Chinese home delivered that night, and deferred our family celebration to the following night, when we had home delivery from a local smokehouse we hadn’t tried before. This is I guess what we’d call “American” food, and I was particularly wanting to try Southern Fried Chicken that wasn’t from KFC. I made a Banoffee Pie for my birthday cake.

What a view – There’s Pearl Beach in the foreground looking across to Lion Island

Meanwhile, during the day Geoff and I went for a bushwalk at the Mt Ettalong Lookout, which has the most magnificent coastal views over Pearl Beach to the right, and Umina Beach (home) on the left. When you see these photos, you’ll have absolutely so sympathy for my tough lockdown situation, and think I’m deluding myself. I’m in God’s country. However, breathtaking ocean views is not immersing myself in a room filled with my friends and being able to hug each other and talk totally oblivious of exchanging the air we breathe and what it might contain.

Looking across to Umina Beach and the outlet on the top right marks the entrance to Brisbane Waters in NSW (Not Queensland just to be confusing).

I know presents don’t make a birthday. However, I’m not going to deny how much they meant to me and how nice is was to open the front door and find a little treasure there. It was wonderful, and it meant so much more during this gloominess of Covid – a gloominess which, if we’re really honest with ourselves and others is at least a somewhat constant undercurrent of varying dimensions.) especially when you’re an extroverted people person like myself.

I was quite surprised when my mum ordered me a violin cake for my birthday in 2012. It was something of a premonition! Good on you Mum!

Anyway, I wanted to share a bit of the brightness which came my way on my birthday and offer each and everyone of you a virtual piece of cake.

Have you have any special celebrations during lockdown and what did you do?

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 6th June, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I don’t know whether I should be apologizing for taking an extended blogging break, or whether you’ve all been grateful for a reprieve. Only so many hours in a day and all that. I get it. Truly, I do. Indeed, that’s why I’ve been missing in action for awhile and have been blogging much more intermittently this year. Real life has overtaken me, and I’m also striving towards what must be a writer’s Holy Grail…finishing a book and getting it published (or indeed, self-publishing).

My contribution to the the great libraries of the world, book shops, op shops, and no doubt recycling bins; is a compilation of short biographies of Australian soldiers who served in WWI and fusing family background, battle details, letters home and diaries where available with a focus on the psychological aspects of war and the inner man. How did they survive physically and mentally? Of course, so many didn’t make it and instead “went West” as the saying went. So, death and dying is also a significant aspect. I’ve been working on this for about 18 months now, especially since the horrendous Australian bushfires and their choking smoke forced me underground, only for Covid to send me back into my bunker not much later. Indeed, I’ve been calling this my “Covid Project.

Meanwhile, there’s been a lot going on.

On Monday, I attended my dear friend, Lisa’s funeral. We’ve only been friends for just over six months, and yet we connected very deeply and neither of us thought our friendship was going to be that short. Lisa’s been fighting a very aggressive form of breast cancer for eight years. She’d had three brain surgeries, and after the cancer started eating through her spine, there was more surgery and she had a rod put in her spine. She was married with three boys, and the youngest was only two when she was diagnosed and he’s now eleven. Sometimes, people turn to survivors like Lisa, and be inspired by their strength. After all, they’re a personification of the miraculous. They can also became what my mother calls “a case” where they suddenly become the pet project and helping them out seems to become more about people gaining Kudos that actually helping the person themselves. You can also feel sorry for them. However, when we first met Lisa, she looked relatively well and she had the most beautiful smile. We went on picnics, kayaked, saw in the New Year, the visual overrode the intellectual knowledge that she was already on borrowed time, although I was somewhat prepared to lose her. I made a conscious decision to love her, be close without holding back, even though I knew it was going to hurt like hell. However, we both needed each other and I’m glad I was there to help lift up the last six months and help her feel loved. Indeed, when a friend went to see her, she said she felt “overwhelmed by love”. A friend and I spoke at her funeral, and although we didn’t know her for long, we knew her well. At least, the Lisa she was then which is after marriage, kids, cancer…quite a lot of life.

Have you found that it’s hard to know quite what to do and where to turn after the funeral is over? That’s what I felt last week. There was a part of me which thought going back in time to before we met would be the answer. However, you can’t do that and I don’t want to wipe out our friendship or forget her. I’ve put her photo in a frame. That’s a start. I wrote a song, a poem. I think about her much of the time, and I baked her boys a cake. I can’t change the world, and as Benjamin Franklin and other before him in various variations wrote: “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.

Anyway, dealing with my grief took me to my usual haunt…the op shops. Never knock a bit of retail therapy. As long as it doesn’t take you too far into debt, it can work miracles and if you’re going round the second-hand charity stores like me, you can save a small fortune (not that you’d be able to afford all of this stuff new.) I am particularly thrilled with my new to me fleecy-lined, purple jacket. I also managed to get my mum a beautiful designer top for her birthday.

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By the way, I almost forgot to mention that we had to buy our son his first suit to wear to the funeral. I had hope to buy him something smart from the op shop. However, he insisted on something new, and who doesn’t feel fabulous in something special that’s new? He looked incredibly handsome, and I was so proud of him, especially because he’s spent his whole life with his own serious ill mother, and the parallels to our situation were obvious. Why not me? I wouldn’t say I have survivor’s guilt. It’s more a case of survivor’s question marks.

Yesterday, Geoff and I went for a walk. Naturally, I needed to lighten my mood and walking is a true-blue healer. Moreover, we went for a bushwalk where there are some absolutely breath-taking coastal views. So, we were immersed in nature. The sun was shining, although being Winter here, it was a little chilly, but we certainly weren’t rugged up. Indeed, I think it was about 16-18 degrees Celsius. Not bad for Winter, hey?!! One of the highlights was finding a flannel flower, and it looks like there’ll be a carpet of them in about a month’s time. So, I’ll have to keep an eye out. While you’d think I’d be back at this spot at least once a week given it’s alluring beauty, I usually only get here a few times a year. As usual, life gets in the way.

Flannel Flowers

I should mention that I have two dogs up on my lap- Lady and Zac. Nothing like a drop in temperature to attract the dogs to a warm lap, and having my keyboard perched on their backs doesn’t seem to bother them – or the constant clicking. They’re also keepin me toasty warm.

How have you been? I hope you’ve been well. I look forward to hearing from you and catching up.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 8th March, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Happy Birthday to my 17 year old son , and Happy International Women’s Day. I’ve just woken up to wih my son Happy Birthday, and I’m not planning on staying up for long, and my stomach feels like I’ve swallowed Draino and my back feels like it’s been run over by a truck. I could say, that’s the power of positive thinking. That that’s me looking on the bright side. Well, I am looking at the bright side because I’ll feel bettter after a bit more sleep. I might also feel better if I wasn;t trying to type with a chewed up tennis ball under my right wrist too. There’s also an expectant do parked in front of my chair, too. That’s Rosie and the other two, Zac and Lady, are parked right in front of the door. I don’t know whether they’re hoping I might actually levitate out of my chair to take them for a walk. If so, they’re dreaming.

Our gorgeous little man as a new born in hospital.

17 years ago today, I became a mum and my husband and I became parents. I don’t think we truly understood what that meant at the time, even though we knew their were huge responsibilities and sleepless nights with our little bundle. I think beyond all of that, our fundamental feeling was profound and overwhelming joy. I’d had an elective caesarean. So, there isn’t a lot to say about that, except Geoff still hasn’t recovered from the stress of trying to juggle the video camera, SLR etc and actually seeing the baby. It was exciting times. Our hospital was also still using cloth nappies. I have no idea why because i was 2004 and they’d changed to disposables by the time our daughter arrived just under two years later just so she could always be first with the birthday, although she was the youngest and clearly number 2.

Little Man and Mum in Tasmania late 2005.

Meanwhile, I used to taken International Women’s Day a lot more seriously and have even gone into the local march and was on the organising committee. Today, I think International Women’s Day can also be able having a rest, taking it easy, and making birthday cakes.

Last week, I ended up heading down to Sydney for my first medical specialist’s appointment since covid and in just over a year. This was a big milestone in terms of feeling safe and being able to take what now amounts to an almost negligible risk, and also in extending my personal freedom.

We went out for lunch in Kirribilli afterwards, and also walked down to the harbour to fully soak in the magnificent views of the Sydney Opera House and the sheer imposing grandeur of the Sydney Harbour Bridge which truly towers over the top of you their almost stretching a protective arm around like like a father towering over a small child.

Walking back up the hill, I spotted a pair of boots sitting on a street corner.

Not only that, the boots were around the wrong way and looked plain odd, which of course told a story they wouldn’t have told if they’d been around the right way.Of course, I have no idea what they were doing there.

Whose boots they were.

That turned out to be part of their appeal, and their inspiration.

Of course, I photographed the boots, and needless to say, I wrote a post about them, which I’d like to encourage you to read: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/03/06/boots-under-the-bridge/

After all, they made a perfect analogy for how we respond to people who don’t quite fit the norm.

So, how are things at your end?

Before I head off, I thought I’d just update out on the vaccine roll out there. Well, to start that story off, we’ve had over 42 days without any community transmission here in NSW, which is wonderful news, and further praise for our response to the virus. Without the imminent virus threat, we’ve been able to wait to get the vaccine through the proper government approval processes, which also means vaccination is only just kicking off here. Vaccination began on the 22nd February, and they’re still just starting to vaccination health and aged care workers who are in category 1a. We fit into 1b of people with health conditions, and last night I heard that we’ll be eligible from March 22nd. That’s only a few weeks away as along as all goes to plan. I still don’t know how I’ll go with getting the vaccine via my local GP. They have nothing written up about it on their web site, but I should have faith, shouldn’t I?!! I shouldn’t panic. Freak out or desperately long to have some peace of mind?!!

Well, what do I have to worry about anyway? It appears covid isn’t here and yet, when it gets out of its box, it truly takes off and as we all know, you can’t tell you or someone else has it and it turns out this early barely detectable stage is when it’s most infectious. It doesn’t do a lot to ease my concerns. However, I’m not really complaining about taking measures to stay safe, because I’m still here and a year ago I had a chest infection, breathing difficulties and was concerned hospital would be full of covid cases and it would be too risky to go. Thankfully, that never happened here, and friends of mine who are even more vulnerable than I, are still around. I say that not to show off, but to show what is possible. We should never give up on what is possible, because sometimes, it can actually come to pass, and the worst case scenario passes us by.

Humph. I’m not sure whether I should spend so much of our coffee time talking about covid. There’s so much more going on, but at the same time, i is having a daily impact on our lives. I’ve decided no to go to a physical Church service until I’m vaccinated, because people are singing and not wearing masks. Indeed, our Church has taken a stand against it because they feel the Church is being discriminated against when restrictions aren’t so stringent in other places, especially sporting arenas. However, singing has been shown to be a super-spreader. So, their decision counts me out. Moreover, when you’re having to make decisions all the time about wearing masks, hand sanitising etc, it’s hard to ignore covid’s omnipresence in our lives, and for that longing to boot covid out once and for all to reach fever pitch.

I hope you and yours are doing well and keeping safe. What have you been up to this week?

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

An Empty Harbour – Sydney.

Yesterday, my husband and I went down to Kirribilli for lunch after the first appointment I’ve had with one of my medical specialists since Covid started ravaging our world. I usually go on an outing after these appointments as a much needed pick-me-up, and often end up at Kirribilli by the harbour, where I might catch a ferry into the city (and by city I mean Sydney and yes I’m coming to you from Australia). The other place I end up is Surry Hills, which is also characterised by the terrace house, but is more inner city than harbour if that makes any sense.

There’s a lot to dazzle you in Kirribilli. Obviously, you need to go no further than the Sydney Harbour Bridge whose Northern arch is parked right in its front yard. Across the harbour, the Sydney Opera House is smack bang in your face. You can’t miss it. Although I’m Sydney born and bred, I never tire of these monumental architectural feats. Yet, there’s still the beauty of the harbour itself, which is usually a hive of activity.

Selfie.

So, I was rather taken aback when I was down there yesterday, and the harbour looked “empty”. There was water without boats. No cruise ships were parked across at the International Terminal. Of course not! Could you imagine the huge public outcry??!!! Yet, only twelve months ago these cruise ships were simply part of the scenery. Of course, I photographed them whenever I was in town, because they’re still a novelty to me and they’re absolutely massive, and almost unbelievably big, glamorous and totally dominated the waterfront. However, they’re now gone, and I wonder if these super-spreaders of disease will ever be back, or at least in quite the same way.

However, this emptiness isn’t just confined to the water either. The harbour foreshore is also conspicuously empty. There are no armies of tourist ants marching around the usual suspects. Indeed, in hindsight, it sinks in that we were alone and didn’t see anyone else posing in front of anything. The SLRs, phones and selfie sticks were all gone along with all the people. Not that Sydney’s become a ghost town yet, but she’s not what she was.

How you feel about that, probably depends on your perspective. Less humans is always a good thing for the environment. We are a destructive breed. However, the economics must be tough. I don’t know to be really honest. We live in a protective bubble both thanks to me needing to social distance and my husband needing to work from home to protect me, but also because he has a good job, and he managed to survive the extensive staff cut backs at the university.

There’s been much to lament about covid, but environmentally speaking, it has eased the pressure a little, and perhaps also reminded us of what we’re doing to the planet. That maybe we don’t need to go, go, go quite so much and that we cause pause, slow down and connect more with each other, and it’s not the end of the world.

Geoff in shadow and a glimpse of Kirribilli. This is the chopped off version of the covid beard.

Obviously, our lessons here are quite different to places overseas where so many lives have been lost, and there is so much grief. It’s hard for some of us to grapple with that, but we also struggle with the effects of isolation, or being jammed in together with no escape. I think for many travel offers something to truly look forward to, and also allows many to keep in touch with close family and friends. So, the very tight travel restrictions are really being felt. Last year, our son was booked to go on a six week history tour of Europe, and instead he ended up in lock down with Mum, Dad and his sister and doing school at home. Not only that. We were also living in sheer terror of seeing another human being in case they might secretly, unknowingly have the virus, and particularly that I of reduced immunity and shitty lungs would die. The fact that storm has seemingly passed, doesn’t negate what it was like to live through it, and that until we are vaccinated, the risk, however minute, is still there.

Florist window in Kirribilli.

We wait.

Well, some of us wait.

Others are invincible. We’ve had over a month since there’s been any community transmission here in NSW. It’s very tempting to throw caution to the wind, and get out there and party.

However, our defences at this point are not infallible. One slip up in hotel quarantine, and it’s out. Moreover, we won’t know where it is until someone symptomatic is infected. Yet, does this justify such caution? So many restrictions?

Here we were late last year trying glasses on over our masks.

Given our current status, it’s not something to lose sleep over, but I’m still largely social distancing, trying to remember to wear my mask in high thoroughfare areas, washing my hands more than I’ve done in the last ten years, and won’t set foot on a train. If I’m in a small group, I’ll give my friends a hug, but I don’t shake hands. I think of it as insurance. Moreover, I don’t blow the sacrifices I’ve made through the last year, by not seeing this through to the end.

Meanwhile, close friends of mine have barely made any changes. Life’s gone on. However, we respect each other’s decisions. Well, most of the time. I do like to see people comply with the government’s restrictions, particularly as organizations. Do the right thing. After all, to use a phrase borrowed from World War I, we need to do “our bit”. Moreover, for those of us who are more susceptible, we need to go the extra mile which might seem unnecessary, but for us it might not matter. For us, the risks are still too high.

Loved being able to have lunch in a cafe in Kirribilli, and that the table was cleaned when we arrived and great precautions were maintained.

Meanwhile, Geoff and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch in Kirribilli and soaking up those magnificent harbour views on a perfect, sunny Sydney day.

How is covid impacting you where you live? What are you going through? I would love to hear your stories and hope you and yours are keeping well and safe.

Love,

Rowena

PS The vaccine roll out has been slow here in Australia. Given the low incidence rates, there understandably wasn’t the urgency and it was good to wait and see how it went overseas first. However, now that I’m hearing about friends with my auto-immune disease being vaccinated overseas and responding, I’m keen to line up.

Vaccination began on the 22nd February, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of the first category, which includes frontline medical and nursing home staff. he urgency wasn’t here and they’re just starting to vaccinate health workers and frontline staff. These people fall into category 1a, where I’m in category 1b. Although the TV is looking promising, it could well be more than a month before I get my first jab. Again, I’ve got to talk myself through the anxiety and be thankful the vaccine has been developed so quickly or at all. I’m not really suffering or doing it tough, but who isn’t hoping the mass vaccination is going to help restore some real sense of normality. Who wants to live in covidland, even our covidland of very low incidence for any longer than we have to? No! Of course not. We all long to escape. Go back and just enjoy walking down the street, stopping off at a cafe or browsing through a shop without thinking, logging in, wearing a mask and being able to shake hands with a mate.

Thursday Doors – Kirribilli, Sydney.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!

Today, we’re heading down to Kirribilli, located smack bang on stunning Sydney Harbour. Indeed, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is parked here with one foot in Kirribilli, and the other planted across the water in Miller’s Point. Not unsurprisingly, the Bridge dominates Kirribilli with its sheer physicality, but also in terms of sound, whenever a train rumbles across all that steel with its echoing, idiosyncratic roar.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge viewed from Kirribilli today. In so many way, the bridge is the gateway (or door) into Sydney.

In a sense, our trip to Kirribilli represents the opening of an invisible door. This door marks the dividing line between the safety of home, and the more risky context of Sydney and Covid 19. Although there hasn’t been a case of community transmission for over a month, clusters have seeming sprung up out of nowhere, but usually connected somehow to the hotel quarantine program. While contact tracing does a fabulous job of identifying potential spread, it doesn’t actually prevent you from catching it. It only tells you after the fact. Due to my auto-immune disease and associated lung fibrosis, I am at a heightened risk of catching the virus if it’s around, and also having a more dire outcome. So, for me, caution makes a lot of sense, especially with the vaccine around the corner so I don’t have to lock myself away forever.

However, there’s also a risk that avoiding medical treatment for these conditions could also be harmful, and all my specialists are located at Royal North Shore Hospital about a 15 minute drive North of Kirribilli, and I often go to Kirribilli afterwards as a reward.

So, that’s how I ended up having lunch with my husband, Geoff, in Kirribilli and comin across this really beautiful and richly ornate door as we walked down to the water’s edge.

Isn’t it something?!!

However, even to the most one-eyed door lover around, it still couldn’t compete with this…magnificent Sydney Harbour.

The thing that particularly struck me about Sydney Harbour today was just how empty it was. It’s usually a hive of activity with ferries criss-crossing the waterways and people moving around on the foreshore. There could well have been one of those towering cruise ships in port, as was often the case before covid. Sydney Harbour isn’t usually this empty, even on a weekday.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip to Kirribilli, and I apologize for being a one-door-wonder this week, but hopefully this is a sign of things to come and I’ll soon be able to get out and about more and venture further afield.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Dan Antion.

Best wishes,

Rowena