Tag Archives: chronic health

Finding My Happy Feet.

“High heels are like a beauty lift. In a flat, you can feel beautiful, but a stiletto changes your mood, how you move – like a wild, beautiful animal. The idea was always to follow a woman’s wardrobe, her desires.”

Giuseppe Zanotti – Shoe Designer dedicated to providing women with “the most superlative shoes in the world”.

Confession time. While I’ve never fallen head over heels in love with a pair of shoes, I do have a thing for high heels. Indeed, since they’ve become the forbidden fruit, you could even call it an obsession.

Of course, I’m not the first person to believe high heels ooze sex appeal, a sense of fun, glamour and the promise of a glamorous night out. Indeed, anything but a night in with your cat watching re-runs of I Love Lucy.

Unfortunately, some of us are forced to hang up our stilettos long before our time. When even the Stiletto Queen has to hang up her sacred heels, and resort to (dare , I mention the unmentionable) SENSIBLE SHOES.  Or,  as my 11 year old daughter disparagingly calls them, “GRANNIE SHOES”. Whether through disability, accidents, chronic health, we’re left thankful to be alive, able to breathe and even move at all. As trivial as wearing pretty shoes might sound when you’re fighting for your life, they can also represent a broader sense of loss and grief after your life with all your grand plans and dreams, lands on the proverbial snake, instead of the ladder, in the game of life.

“You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

This is the path I tread. I started this journey in my mid-20s when subterranean hydrocephalus in my brain, suddenly became graphically symptomatic. It was hard going to rehab and learning to walk again at 26 when all of my friends were out partying, their careers were still soaring and my life was heading the other way. I’d packed up my apartment and moved back in with Mum and Dad and was off to rehab in very sexy tracksuits, joggers and mixing with the over 80s.

Thanks to surgery, ultimately I largely recovered from the hydrocephalus, but still experienced debilitating fatigue.Moreover, the neurons weren’t firing in quite the same way either. I was fine but not fine.

However, at 35, I developed dermatomyositis, a debilitating muscle wasting disease after our daughter’s birth. It took 18 months to diagnose and by this point, I was in dire straights. As soon as I was admitted, I was put in a wheelchair. That was my legs for the next couple of weeks, followed by a walking frame and loads of prednisone. Despair doesn’t even begin to touch the depths of what I experienced then.  Survival was all that mattered and I didn’t even hope to see my children grow up. That was simply somewhere too far over the other side of the rainbow. I couldn’t even go there. They were still babies and wouldn’t even remember me if I’d passed. Rather, there was only today, tomorrow and each and every day was precious…the sort of precious you hold onto no matter how big the storm, how high the waves. Your life and everything you value, is hanging on by barely a thread and you won’t let go.

“What you wear – and it always starts with your shoes – determines what kind of character you are. A woman who wears high heels carries herself very different to a girl who wears sneakers or sandals. It really helps determine how you carry yourself.”

Winona Ryder

Yet, ten years down the track when the pressure’s eased off a bit, my need for footwear has taken on an element of urgency. The pup chewed up my one good pair of sensible shoes. After trawling round a few shopping centres, I haven’t found anything suitable. Not unsurprisingly, sensible shoes for the younger generation aren’t in high demand. Moreover, as much as my daughter might call sensible shoes “grannie shoes”, there’s still a line. A line I still can’t cross. I can’t. I can’t. I don’t want to turn 80 before my time. Instead, I might just have to go barefoot.

“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet”

― Helen Keller

So, with my shoe situation becoming desperate, I confess I muttered a prayer…a prayer for a pair of simply black shoes, comfortable, supportive and wouldn’t kill me. I wasn’t asking for luxury but something on your feet is a necessity, perhaps not quite in the vein of needing to eat but protecting your feet isn’t frivolous nonsense.

“I’ve spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live? I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes!”

Carrie Bradshaw, Sex In The City

louis-vuitton-patent-paradiso-flat-sandals-36-noir-black-00016

So, after that long preamble, perhaps you can now understand why I was so overjoyed when I spotted a pair of black, Louis Vuitton sandals in the local Vinnies charity shop. They were completely flat and fit me perfectly. I’m not even sure if they’d been worn. Time to do the happy dance, except wait, there’s more. There were also two pairs of luxury Italian leather shoes. These shoes would’ve cost around $3000 new, so I was overjoyed to pick up the lot for $35.00. One pair was a little on the small side, while the others have a small heel and I’m not exactly sure how far I’ll be able to wear them. I might need to use my walking stick or stay sitting down, but I don’t care. I’ll find a way. Find somewhere suitable to wear them, and I’ll be the phoenix soaring from the ashes of disability, chronic health and all efforts to make me old before my time.

By the way, ever the storyteller and writer, I also had to cast a thought about how they got there. Whose shoes was I walking in and where were they going to take me now?  We live round the corner from Pearl Beach, which is a bit of a millionaire’s hideout. It’s where Bill and Melinda Gates stayed when they were out in Australia, and its not impossible that they might have belonged to the likes of Nicole Kidman, Cate Blachette although Hugh Jackman might be too big a stretch. It might even be possible that Carrie Bradshaw and her enormous shoe collection migrated there after Sex In The City folded. Whatever, I hope whoever owned these shoes, led a good life and will share a bit of their sparkle with me. After all, I’m still trying to re-climb proverbial ladder, and reach back up for the stars.

Meanwhile, I’m giving thanks for such a spectacular answer to prayer, and I can’t wait to launch into the next chapter. Surely, it has to be amazing! After all, I’m a believer.

Have you experienced any miracles lately? Please share them in the comments.

xx Rowena

PS The featured image was taken at Circular Quay alongside Sydney Harbour.

Weekend Coffee Share – 12th February, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Hey, what do you feel like today? I’m not sure I can deliver, especially if you’re used to more complex beverages like a “pumpkin spiced latte”. Nothing like that exists around here, but I do have Twinings English Breakfast Tea and a coffee machine. I’ve been virtually coffee free for a few weeks now. It was reeking havoc with my digestion, although I succombed a few times when Zombie Woman needed a caffeine hit.

Perhaps, that’s what I needed today because after waking up at the normal time, both of the kids were sick and I was feeling whoozy and went back to bed. I woke up at 3.45PM struggling to move. I’ve been under a lot of stress in the last week, and it’s gone straight to my muscles. Need a crane to get around at the moment. Anyone got a spare?

 

The highlight of the last week, was writing a philosophical/humorous post about searching Ebay for the Meaning of Life. On one hand it seems a little bit out there, but on the other hand, I’ve been wondering why I didn’t think of this before. My way of thinking is pretty off beat and turning to Ebay for the answers is the sort of random thing I’d come up with. I was feeling pretty distraught at the time and the really quirky side of my brain so this invitation. Ebay said you could “search for anything”. What about Hope? Do you think I could find hope on Ebay? Well, Ebay doesn’t promise that you’ll find what you’re looking for. When it came to hope, Ebay delivered bike parts.

If you’d interested to see what else Ebay offered up on the important questions of Hope, Despair, Optimism, Pessimism, Love, Hate, the Meaning of Life, the Meaning of Death, I love to hear your thoughts: Life According to Ebay.

The kids are settling into school well. They had school photos on Friday, which were a lot more painless than expected. I thought it might’ve been difficult to get my daughter out the door. She’s just into her second week of high school, but I’ve seen school photo day up there before and you could call is “Look at my hair day”. All the girls seem to take giving their hair 100 brushes out in the sun to a whole new level. Wow! I can’t remember when I last went to the hairdresser, not that that’s a good thing. The hairdresser I was going to closed down and change isn’t something I tend to do well. Besides, as you well may be aware, a hairdresser doesn’t just cut your hair. They’re your psychologist, psychiatrist, philosophical advisor and ego stroker. It’s a demanding job. So, I’ve been left to fend for myself.

 

I also contributed to Friday Fictioneers this week. That was quite a lof of fun and my flash transferred the usual travel debacles into the realms of teleporting… Not the Taj Mahal

How has your week been? I hope it’s been great.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 21st January, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

You’d better hold your horses and psych yourself up. We’re not having coffee this week. Rather, we’re piling into the dog mobile and heading off to Dog Beach. I hope you’re feeling brave, because you’re taking our 6 month old Border Collie x kelpie pups, Zac and Rosie. They have such raw energy, that you could end up flying along behind them like a kite. On the upside, just think of all the energy you’ll burn off!  Meanwhile, I’ll take Lady, but I will give you a hand.

dog beach zoom

Dog Beach: my daughter inscribed this with a stick in the sand.

How has your week been? I hope you’ve had a great one.

This week’s been a bit of a struggle for me in some ways. I’ve still been battling The Cough, which I’ve now christened “Fergus”. No offence to anyone named Fergus, but it sort of sounds like wheezy creepings within my lungs. I went back to the doctor again and am on another round or two of antibiotics, but am finally on the mend. Enough to shout a yahoo, but not quite enough to leap in the air yet.

As you could well understand yourselves, something like a cough or cold which is chronically annoying but not necessarily serious, can still be a pain in the neck. Moreover, you still feel you have to keep doing life and stuff, while feeling entitled to your own private nurse and a good strong dose of TLC. I also want to be a part of life and do things with my husband kids, family and friends and not be shut away in the house all the time. So, I feel like I’ve swallowed Dr Dolittle’s classic Push-Me-Pull-You and it’s been hard to juggle it all.

Image result for Dr Dolittle's classic Pushmepullyou

Both of the kids have been away at different camps this week. Our daughter was on a Young Carers Camp at Camp Breakaway and our son has been away with scouts. While you’d think this would’ve given me a breather, I still had to provide some transport and our daughter had to pop back for a dance workshop. So, there was more driving. Packing for Scouts, was also an ordeal. They provide such easy to follow check lists, and yet the kids inevitably leave something behind at both ends. Trying to get His Lordship’s bag packed was also like pulling teeth. Indeed, I’ve seen him more compliant going to the dentist.

As they say, never work with children or animals.

Geoff & Lady 20 Jan 2017

Indeed, it was quite a deal piling all three dogs in the dog mobile with three humans tonight. The pups were so exuberant. Zac even ran over the rocks at a sprint, and I could see how these dogs could walk over the backs of sheep. They’re unstoppable. Meanwhile, Lady has this way of surruptitiously wandering off, and at one point was heading for the sand dunes, which are known to house rabbits and  other critters. This area runs up to the road and as Lady has zero traffic sense, Geoff had to bolt after her. Meanwhile, Rosie started to follow Lady. Humph! Out came the leads!

Amelia & pups dusk Jan 20 2018

 

By the way, I almost forgot to mention that after dropping my daughter back at camp, I went on a bit of a detour. Indeed, I am the Detour Queen. The camp was on the coast about two hours North of Sydney and there are some wonderful beaches up there. So, I puttered down to Budgewoi where I had half a dozen battered prawns for lunch and then spotted a sign for Norah Head. My friend’s family had a holiday house there when I was at school, and I still remember a few very special birthdays in the sand dunes. Those sand dunes were revegetated years ago and have in effect disappeared. However, the lighthouse is still standing. No one’s buried that along with my youth.

Norah Head Lighthouse

Norah Head Lighthouse, NSW Central Coast, Australia. 

With school going back in a week, I’ve been working desperately hard to get the house sorted out. However, progress took a huge step back in a sense today when we finally got the Summer clothes down from the roof. I have been known to frequent the local opportunity (or thrift) shops on a rather regular basis and have spotted more than the odd bargain, especially when it comes to my daughter. She could become a jetsetter and have what looks like a year’s worth of outfits without spending a cent. However, her wardrobe couldn’t possibly house all of this, so we’re having to do a cull and I’m thinking garage sale. Meanwhile a Mt Everest or two of clothes is choking up the loungeroom and my husband’s peering through fabric and crates to watch the cricket.

It’s become very clear that never of us need to go clothes shopping for a very, very long time. On the other hand, there’s some scope for me in the shoe department, especially after Rosie ate my favourite shoe for lunch. They’re nothing glam. Rather, they’re shoes for people who work on their feet or need added support. Or what my daughter condescending refers to as “granny shoes”. But they worked for me and sensible shoes is where I’m at these days.

Speaking about fashion, it’s an exceptionally rare moment that I even think of fashion. However, I was getting to the point of shooting The Cough, and spotted a very glamorous Vogue magazine and decided buy it and stick my face over the top. I haven’t gotten around to that yet but here’s the photo and perhaps it can ignite a few dreams of your own. I’m getting more and more interested in fantasy these days. Reality is over-rated.

Reality is only limited by your imagination!

As I’ve been reading back over this coffee share, I’ve detected a note of melancholy and wondered whether I should zoop it a bit bit. Add a bit of razzle dazzle and make it more positive. But, we don’t have to be all happy happy joy joy all the time and sometimes we do just need to move into what I’ll call a minor key, before we can reach the high note.

So, how was your week? I hope you’ve had a good one. Please let me know what you’ve been up to in the comments. 

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli ,  Here’s the Linky Come on and join in!  We’d love to have you along!

Weekend Coffee Share 26th March, 2027.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

You’ve struck it lucky this week. After weeks and weeks of torrential rain, today I can finally offer you a cup of sunshine, which, when you’d been deprived of sun for so long, is pure gold and way better than a measly tea or coffee.

The sun is shining. So, why on earth am I sitting inside on my laptop when I should be outside seizing the rays?

It’s okay. I’m working on it. I’m still waking up and trying to psyche myself up for my “twenty minute walk”. Now that the rain’s stopped, I’ve run out of excuses for the physio. So, I’ve gotta: “Move it! Move it! Move it!” I almost feel like praying for rain. And for all of you motivation types, I know I’ll enjoy it once I get started and that it’s about time I went and checked out the beach before Winter sets in, but the power of the couch is very alluring.

I am finally starting to get a bit of direction and focus at last.

About a month ago, I received a rather generous assistance package through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This included a physio, Occupational Therapy and psychology combo as well as a personal mentor, 9 hours of cleaning and a budget to really Spring clean the house and get it back in order. Ten years of chronic illness have truly swamped the place!! So, at the moment we’re getting started. Friday, I began the dreaded process of sorting through about 5 in trays, hoping that by now, all that paperwork was well and truly redundant and headed straight for the WPB (waste paper bin AKA recycling).

Woy Woy March 20

Taken on one of my recent “ten minute walks”.

The other advantage of getting rid of this excess paperwork, is that it distracts the mentor from culling my collections. After all, if anything is well into that endangered category of “not being used for the last 6 months and collecting dust”, it’s my collection of antique and vintage tea cups. Moreover, even I have to admit there’s considerable “excess”. However, before I do the hard yards sorting through my beloved “old ladies”, I’d much rather throw out the old school notes.

1936 Eunice in London

Meanwhile, I’ve been head down tail up transposing newspaper articles about my grandmother’s career as an international concert pianist. These started going online the week of her funeral, which was rather freaky at the time when articles from 1935 suddenly started rising to the surface. I am viewing her career through a much broader social context, which is much more time consuming but has created a much more interesting story line. For example, there was a review of a London performance which she’d kept as a clipping in her scrapbook. However, when I found it online this week, I read the full article which mentioned the arrival of Sudeten Jews in London in 1938 and how Jewish children were being adopted by English families. It’s fascinating reading history forward instead of reverse, which, of course, is how it was experienced.

One thing which has been quite interesting about researching my grandmother’s journey, is that I am reading all these facts, stories etc as her grand-daughter, a writer-storyteller and researcher and NOT primarily as a musician. I read the list of her performance pieces like a shopping list, yet without the  recognition. I’ve been ploughing through the articles and trying to get through them all and so stopping to listen to the music itself hasn’t been a priority. However, I finally Googled Beethoven’s Waldstein and a few others, and they were as familiar to me as breathing. They were such a part of my childhood and I remember falling to sleep to them on my parents’ laps. It’s so precious to relive these moments, even if it is through the exceptionally humble speakers on my laptop. So, I am inspired to listen to these more and to get the stereo operational. That is, if that thing is still called a stereo!

Meanwhile, real life realities always beckon me back from the joys of research and discovery. I’m finalising my daughter’s application for the local high school, while we wait on the results of the selective schools’ test. This involves an academic test for selective class and three auditions for the CAPA or performing arts stream. These auditions are filling me with dread. STRESS x 3 is not something to look forward to and I am becoming quite an adept motivational coach as she does various auditions. It’s just lucky that I’m a natural performer. It’s just an ironic twist that I don’t have an act, unless you include stand-up comedy after my latest trip.

dancer box

Just as well I have my own creative and stress outlet. Tomorrow night, I have my last contemporary/jazz dance class for this term. I am truly going to miss these classes. We have so much fun. Not only with the dancing, but with the hilarious commentary, my pink satin ballet shoes with ribbons attached and the way so many of us seemingly “breathe out” during these classes. I know this sounds like a paradox, because learning dance as an adult sounds very intense and it’s such a perfectionist thing, but we’re not trying be prima donnas. We’re wanting to stretch ourselves physically, psychologically and philosophically and laugh from head to toe. It’s magic…even if my dancing has a way to go!

I have cut back on writing on my blog this year. However, I am still enjoying writing my weekly flash fiction for Friday Fictioneers. You can read this week’s effort here.

So, how has your week been? I hope it’s been great and that the week ahead goes well for you too!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Nerd In the Brain. You can join in the  Linky.

Xx Rowena

Why We Must Watch the Paralympics.

If you believe in equality and love incredible sporting action, get in front of your TV and watch the Paralympics in Rio. Come and support some real heroes who’ve risen out of the ashes of adversity to become elite athletes. This competition is seriously intense and you’ll soon find yourself getting right into it… all from the couch!

Although I don’t watch sport, I decided to give equal attention to the Paralympics in Rio to the able-bodied games. While this started out as a ethical standpoint, it grew into a form of kinship. After all, I live with disability and chronic health issues and these are my heroes. The people who were dealt cards similar to my own, and instead of giving up on sport, persevered. They loved it. Sport moved them in ways which defied their physical being, and the Paralympics provided them with a dream. More than that, it was somewhere to hang their dreams and turn them into goals. In this new environment, they were no longer the slowest, the last to be chosen for the team but through their hard work, dedication and sheer tenacity, they emerged elite athletes. Moreover, in many instances they became medalists, standing up on the dais. That’s such a different story to that deflated kid always coming last.

“People have this idea that struggling is a bad thing, but struggling is brilliant. If you see someone struggle and overcome it, it is infectious. It makes you feel good to be alive”.

 Kurt  Fearnley: Pushing the Limits. Kurt is an Australian Paralympic Gold Medalist among other achievements.

http://www.kurtfearnley.com

tortoise_and_hare

Sport isn’t easy for a tortoise.

 

I have absorbed so many stories from the Paralympics and the stories I’m hearing and telling pertain to Australian athletes. I wanted to share a bit of Brayden Davidson’s journey to Rio. The 18-year-old long jumper, was born with cerebral palsy.

As a 6 year old, Brayden Davidson was that kid. Always coming last in sport. Always the last kid to be picked for teams and, as I can share, this is completely demoralising and you can’t help feeling like a loser, a failure, somebody who’s been left behind.

As his Mum said:”He loved sport but he hated sports days because he was never fast enough, never strong enough,” she said.

Even though Brayden loved sport, his family could’ve directed him into other interests and kept him out of school sport. He could’ve spent PE lessons in the library. However, his grandmother was a woman of vision. After one particularly bad day at school as a six-year-old, he retreated to his late grandparents’ house where his dream to become a Paralympian was born.

“And [his grandma] said to him ‘look you’ve got a disability, the Paralympics that’s what you can do’.

“If you dare to dream, it can come true.”

Brayden initially set out to compete in swimming. However, his cerebral palsy made the muscles in his shoulders too tight. A coach told him he could not modify the strokes so he quickly lost his passion for swimming.

But just four weeks after taking up long jump about six years ago, Davidson was competing at his first junior national competition and his love for the sport has stuck.

Davidson defied all odds, and a groin injury, to jump of 5.62 metres to clinch gold in Rio. The jump was 11 centimetres better than his previous best and broke a Paralympic record. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-13/reynella-east-college-assembly/7840694

As a teenager, I shared Brayden’s humiliation in school sports. I had been born with undiagnosed hydrocephalus, or fluid on the brain. While my coordination wasn’t too bad before puberty, it really deteriorated then and my struggles were further exacerbated by a massive growth spurt.

I don’t know why PE teachers have to divide the class into teams and get the cool kids to pick out kids for their team. It’s totally humiliating for anyone at the bottom of the pack for whatever reason. Of course, no teacher would do this to an academically challenged student and yet your uncoordinated kid is fair game. Gets crucified each and every sports lesson. Naturally, it’s all too easy for these kids to retreat from sport altogether. That is when they really need that exercise and could really use the sort of cheer squads usually reserved for the jocks.

Rugby - Olympics: Day 3

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

 

I have been lucky when it comes to my hydrocephalus. In what seemed like the ultimate bad luck, it was diagnosed when I was 25 and after a rapid descent into a neurological abyss, I had brain surgery. I had a VP shunt inserted which managed the pressure in my brain and I began what was a very slow a gruelling recovery process, which was rudely disrupted by a shunt malfunction and further surgery. For someone whose identity was entrenched in academic achievement and had graduated with an honours degree from university, this was crippling. Things couldn’t get any worse and from where I sat at the time, I could never see myself living independently again. I told a friend that “I can’t even look after a gold fish let alone kids”. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to spend the rest of their life with me. From where I was sitting then, I wasn’t dead but life had reached a full stop. Moreover, despite being told that “I am a human being, not a human doing”, I had to get back into my old work shoes and get my life back.

Ultimately, I did. I succeeded.

Perhaps even more unlikely, I met Geoff and found my soul mate and someone who accepted me as I was and just loved me. We got married. Bought a house and a couple of dogs and then had our two beautiful children.

Since then, we’ve been dealt a further blow when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis (an severe auto-immune disease related to Muscular Dystrophy) and Institital Lung Disease.

Walking the Great Black Line.JPG

On your marks. Get set! Go! Doing the three minute walk at Rehab.

While I haven’t made it to the Paralympics, I’ve conquered physical hurdles way beyond my dreams. Not just through my own efforts but the teachers who became “the wind beneath my wings”. People who slowly but surely unravelled all that ridicule I experienced in PE at school and believed in me instead.

My journey started out with an Adventure Camp with Muscular Dystrophy NSW. There I went down a water slide without my glasses on as well as having muscle weakness. I rode a camel, went sandboarding and complete shock of shocks, I rode a quad bike. I went from there to ski down Perisher’s Front Valley supported by the Disable Winter Sports’ Association and my instructor. I had a surfing lesson and most recently, I signed up for an adult ballet class expecting to spend my time sitting down but instead have mostly been keeping up with the class. It’s an absolute miracle and I’m so chuffed.

These experiences as a disabled person conquering physical hurdles in the sporting realm, have shown me just how important sport and dance are for everybody. Taking this further, the Paralympics provide athletes living with disability that higher place to aim for. After all, we each achieve more when we have an ambitious goal, a destination, something challenging to work towards. Everybody deserves that.

So, switch on the box and prepare yourself for some great sporting action from some very deserving sporting heroes.

Bring it on!

Have you been watching the Paralympics? Any favourite events or stories?

xx Rowena

 

 

H: Q & A With Hemingway #atozchallenge.

So, there we were down on the beach with the opportunity of a life time. I could actually ask Hemingway THAT question!

However, do you think I could find the words? I had enough trouble writing a letter to Ted Hughes and I pretty much sidestepped all of that. Although Hemingway is known for his trademark, minimalist style, does that mean I can simply ask him straight out, at point blank range?

Well, I’m about to find out.

Using a permanent marker, I wrote the letters  on the back of an old receipt:

WHY?

Before I could change my mind, I stuffed the note into the bottle and my son threw it far beyond the waves. Of course, some crazed mutt sploshed through the surf trying to retrieve it but gave up once they’d found their old stick.

I didn’t know how long I’d have to wait for a reply and to be perfectly honest, was rather apprehensive. Who in their right mind would have the insensitivity to ask a question like that? So much for the Golden Rule and putting myself in someone else’s shoes. I’d let my insatiable curiosity totally overpower all discernment. Why couldn’t I simply leave the man in peace?

However, almost immediately, I spotted the bottle floating back through the waves towards us. Despite being fully dressed, the kids strode out through the water to retrieve it. Battling it out, of course, to see who  could get there first. Without any hesitation or directions from me, our daughter popped the cork and pulled out the note:

Dear Rowena,

Please don’t let my death

define my life.

-Hemingway.

A very valid point! Indeed, so wise!

I really loved The Old Man & The Sea and I no longer needed to read in between the lines.

He just was.

ernest-hemingway-with-typewriter

This has been part of a philosophical series of letters to Dead Poets who have inspired me, which is part of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge. They are a cocktail of fiction and non-fiction.

xx Rowena

 

H- Ted Hughes: Letters to Dead Poets #atozchallenge

‘It is occasionally possible, just for brief moments, to find the words that will unlock the doors of all those many mansions in the head and express something – perhaps not much, just something – of the crush of information that presses in on us from the way a crow flies over and the way a man walks and the look of a street and from what we did one day a dozen years ago. Words that will express something of the deep complexity that makes us precisely the way we are.’

-Ted Hughes, Poetry in the Making

Dear Mr Hughes,

Hopefully, you don’t mind being jolted from your slumber. Through some twist of fate, I am  writing letters to dead poets. By “dead”, I don’t mean to infer that you no longer exist. It was just an idea I had after reading Rilke’s Letters to A Young Poet. Kahlil Gibran wanted me to clarify that:

“I am alive like you, and I am standing beside you. Close your eyes and look around, you will see me in front of you.”

Kahlil Gibran

Writing these letters hasn’t been as easy as I thought. I’ve never fumbled around so much trying to write a simple letter before. While the concept was a flash of inspiration straight from the muse, getting them done has been much harder than expected. Indeed, this journey is taking me straight up the mountain via a goat’s trail and I’m left stonkered beside the path waiting for my brain to catch up. Ouch! I’m not even half-way.

Even a kid in single digits knows you write about what you know. That’s the ABC of writing. However, I barely know you at all. So, writing you a letter must be tantamount to heresy.

That being the case, why have I written to you? Why not write to someone else I’ve known for awhile?

Well, I’ve observed that we also write about what we’d like to find out, in pursuit of the question, taking our readers on a thrilling, exhilarating ride. Personally, that sounds much more riveting than being bored by a know-it-all.

So, this letter is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship! After all, just because we didn’t go to school together, we can still be friends. Spread our wings!

So, while there are people who know your work inside out, I’m the new kid on the block. Indeed, I only stumbled across your poetry recently after reading Max Porter’s poignant novel: Grief is the Thing With Feathers. Your friend Crow turns up in the story to comfort a grieving family after the wife/mother passed away.

Crow_(poem)

Crow

 

Crow’s Theology

Crow realized God loved him-
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.

And he realized that God spoke Crow-
Just existing was His revelation.

But what Loved the stones and spoke stone?
They seemed to exist too.
And what spoke that strange silence
After his clamour of caws faded?

And what loved the shot-pellets
That dribbled from those strung-up mummifying crows?
What spoke the silence of lead?

Crow realized there were two Gods-

One of them much bigger than the other
Loving his enemies
And having all the weapons.

Then, I found out your incredible losses. I can not begin to imagine what you’ve been through!

(pause)

Ted Hughes

Anyway, I’m sure you know all about the awkwardness of the blank page. Indeed, I stumbled across The Thought Fox tonight:

The Thought Fox

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Besides the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

-Ted Hughes

The thing is that if we all just stay in our comfort zones being experts of what we know, we’d never grow. Rather, we need to take those cautious, tentative steps  out of the nest to explore The  Road Not Taken before we stagnate.

So, this changes the perspective. Getting to know you, is a sign of growth and it’s quite alright to acknowledge that we’ve only just met. That this is the beginning. After all, we’re not all going to be old friends who went to school together. Indeed, we’re spread our wings.

Actually, through writing these letters to dead poets, I’ve actually come to appreciate how little I really knew about the poets I’d always supposedly known. Indeed, I’ve almost felt consumed by my own ignorance wondering how on earth I could possibly pull of each letter and yet it’s happened. I’m really coming to appreciate that being inspired by a poem, is but the tip of a huge iceberg. There’s so much more.

However, when it came to getting to know you, your personal life had actually preceded your poetry. At least, I’d heard about the tragic aftermath of your relationship with Sylvia Plath. I wasn’t going to mention Sylvia at all. No doubt,you don’t want to be tied to her for eternity, especially when you’d gone your separate ways in life. I get that. At the same time, I wonder how you survived it all. How you kept going? So many other poets never made it to the other side of the rainbow but you did.

Sylvia Plath isn’t the only poet who has taken her life. I am becoming more and more conscious that poets are an endangered species. Even just looking at my small selection of dead poets, the stats aren’t looking good. Severe depression is almost in our DNA…not that I’m depressed myself.

poet

This troubles me…the mental health issues of being a poet, a writer, a creative soul. Why is it that so many of us go over the edge? Does our flame burn so bright, that we somehow combust? Or, does our writing spring from some subterranean pond…a pool of tears? That only the sad, depressed and broken need apply?

As I said, that troubles me because I don’t want to press all the wrong buttons and start dancing on the wrong side of the edge myself. I have fought tooth and nail with everything I’ve got to survive and be here with my family. Live my life. Carpe Diem seize the day. As much as writing is breathing to me, I don’t want to blow myself up in the process.

Moreover, as writers, I have a very strong conviction that we also need to look after each other. After all, if one of our own falls down beside the road, don’t we need to be the Good Samaritan and help them up? Quite frankly, once you know the pitfalls of being a writer, you have to stop and look out for your colleagues. Band together. That should be written in our charter.

Indeed, I would argue that saving a life is far more important than giving birth to a book and getting it published,  as much as I’ve dreamed, striven and worked the very hard yards and pray I’ll get there soon. When one of your own is hurting, you need to respond and not just stick your head in a screen.

Mind you, that’s all well and good in theory but when you’re in the zone, the rest of the world can disappear. You’re just left hammering out those words, going with the flow like a person possessed. Indeed, perhaps you are. This can obviously make it a little hard to live up to your social conscience when you’re off somewhere with the muse and not in touch.

That’s well and truly me at the moment and I’m just trying to get from day to day through these letters of the alphabet without completely pissing off my husband and the kids. Even the dogs aren’t real impressed. I know we writers have to balance writing with reality but when inspiration hits and it’s all consuming, I’m even reluctant to pause in case it runs away. Inspiration can seemingly be so fickle that if you give it the cold shoulder for even an instant, it could well desert you. Find someone else!  Once again, your book project bites the dust.

Anyway, as I said before, this is just the beginning and I am really thankful for this opportunity to meet. Here’s to new friends!

Warm wishes,

Rowena

Heart Hands red heart

Photo: Rowena Newton & Mr J.