Tag Archives: freedom

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull: Three Day Quote Challenge

“Why, Jon, why?” his mother asked. “Why is it so hard to be like the rest of the flock, Jon? Why can’t you leave low flying to the pelicans, the alhatross? Why don’t you eat? Son, you’re bone and feathers!” “I don’t mind being bone and feathers mom. I just want to know what I can do in the air and what I can’t, that’s all. I just want to know.”
Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Having so many favourite quotes, I turned to Richard Bach’s  Jonathan Livingston Seagull for my first quote, because seagulls live right around the world and mean something to everyone. Yet, although they’re a common bird and they can get pretty annoying when you’re trying to eat your fish and chips, I can’t help loving them. They’re such a part of going to the beach.

I chose this particular quote because more than once in my life I’ve been asked: “Why can’t you be normal?”  I’m a bit disappointed that it took me more than 40 years to ask: “Why would I want to be?” We’re not all meant to be the same!

Seagulls

I would like to thank Olive Ole from https://travelmuch.net/  for nominating for the «3 Days 3 Quotes Challenge».

Olive lives in Denmark and produces a stunning travel blog with some very striking images. Being Australian, I really appreciate being able to explore other parts of the world with her.  So don’t hang around here – go check her out!Let me talk you through the rules of the challenge:

  1. Three quotes for three days.
  2. Three nominees each day (no repetition).
  3. Thank the person who nominated you.
  4. Inform the nominees.

I am nominating three people who have encouraged me as I’ve flown my own path:

1) Kat from Time No Matter

2) Geoff Le Pard from https://geofflepard.com/

3) Monika from Tails Around the Ranch

Hope you feel inspired through this bit of inspiration.

xx Rowena

Photos: Rowena Curtin

So, You Used To Be A Dancer? Life Lessons From Dancing (Reprise)

You might be aware that I recently took up ballet again…albeit at an elementary level. I am absolutely loving it and thought you’d enjoy this encouragement to put on your dancing shoes! xx Rowena

Sirena Tales

NIK_5824Ask [yourself] what makes you come alive and go do it.  Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”~~Howard Thurman

Folks keep coming across my path, voicing their passions along with their regret in not pursuing those passions.  So, I am running this post from the archives again, with some new photos. The original post, with many generous, thoughtful comments, is here . 

Sure, I’ve already reblogged it, but since the yearning for a more vitalized life continues to come up so relentlessly, I am repeating this reminder: DO WHAT MAKES YOU COME ALIVE.

Not solely for dancers at all, this is for anyone who seeks a spur to vitalize.  This piece does also go out to the medical technician the other day who danced for 10 years and sorely misses it and the dance studio owner who confided that ceasing to dance for herself…

View original post 585 more words

M-A Letter to Dr Maya Angelou #atozchallenge.

Dear Dr Angelou,

It is such an honour to meet you and finally feel your words lap around my feet like the waves. Indeed, I seriously wish I could dive deep into all that you wrote and all you are. However, running into you spontaneously like this, can only be an unplanned stop over on the way from A-Z. Indeed, the juggernaut is about to leave without me, which is quite a common phenomenon for a chatterbox like me!

Although I’ve frequently come across you searching for motivational quotes, I’d never read your poems before. Indeed, it was only once I was working away on these Letters to Dead Poets, that I finally read some of your poems. I was blown away and left with such an unquenchable thirst for more. Yet, as I said, the juggernaut was moving on without me so I could only take a few bites…certainly not enough pretend I actually know you any better than strangers passing in the night. However, as I’ve said before along this journey, there also has to be that starting point. That point in time where we make new friends.

heartman 24.6.2010

“Heartman” Drawn by Mister 2010 aged 6.

After all, there’s that constant ebb and flow in relationships, as our lives pass through different stages and terrain. As much as we might resist change, clinging to the friends we know, even by the very tips of our fingers, there’s that changing of the guard. That as time and tide sweep through, people come, they go and some remain. After all, no one grows in a stagnant pond.

Moreover, now that I’m older, I’m gaining a deep appreciation of what it means to learn. That learning isn’t something we simply do at school and put aside. Rather, learning is a lifelong journey. That we need to keep absorbing those all important nutrients to feed our minds, bodies and spirits so we don’t seize up and rust away. While it’s therapeutic to sit and contemplate, we also need to keep moving. Not only with our feet, but also our eyes, absorbing all we see. Only then can we develop vision… insight. See all that lies unseen. That’s when we truly let the bird out of the cage.

Anyway, for someone who was only popping by in a hurry, it seems I’ve digressed completely.

Didn’t I ask you about what it means to be a woman?

This brings me to your poem: Phenomenal Woman:

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

– Maya Angelou

This led me down another path entirely and now I find myself perched into front of Caged Bird glued to the spot:

Caged Bird

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou

While I’m not entirely sure what inspired this poem, at this point in time, I only want to read it through my own eyes, from my own perspective.

I am feeling like your caged bird. This is something I feel from time to time as a parent, particularly when my writing takes off soaring like an eagle but then the realities of life snatch me, bringing me back down to earth and back into the cage. Trapped tight within my captor’s hands, I’m trying furiously to flap my wings. Let me fly! Let me fly! Spread my wings! I wriggle, jiggle and even peck at the hands which constrain, but to no avail. I’ve been caught and locked up in a cage for their pleasure.

Sometimes, I look up at the sky and wonder if it’s even worth trying to fly, knowing I won’t get far. Yet, like that stressed-out bird trapped inside a house frantically beating its wings and bashing its head against the window trying to escape, I persevere. Have faith. One day, I’ll finally get out and reach the sun.

While this might sound like a woman’s lot, my husband has even more constraints. While he might appear to come and go with much more ease, he’s actually pinned to the ground. A mouse stuck in a perpetual treadmill going round and round and round through a cycle of bills which need to be paid and the work which needs to pay. Well, that’s on a good week. No matter how much you earn, I’m sure it’s probably a struggle to make ends meet. We’re all “poor”.

I am relatively lucky. Although my mobility issues can place me in a sort of cage and I can feel trapped inside myself, they’ve also set me free.  I have the time and space to write. Express my inner world. Build  elaborate castles made of words, set a few blocks back from the beach where they won’t get washed away by the surf.

beach wide angle 2

 

Yet, as much as being a parent has seemingly clipped my wings, it has also done quite the reverse. Through my kids, I have learned to ski, taken up the violin, been introduced to Haiku and appreciated so much more of our Indigenous culture. They have opened my eyes so much, helping me break through those doors of perception to become a much more complex and multilayered human being. My health challenges have done much the same sort of thing.

I am now finding that what doesn’t kill us, not only makes us stronger. It also makes us more diverse, complex and gives us much more insight and compassion. I can’t speak for everyone who has suffered but ultimately I see beauty in everything around me. There is no longer that Great Chain of Being. We are one. Every single part of this planet is incredibly and intricately interconnected. Without even the smallest part, the whole is inevitably less.

Indeed, I love what Issa’s Haiku:

Look, don’t kill that fly!
It is making a prayer to you
By rubbing its hands and feet.

Issa.

So, this leads me to consider whether we each need to throw our lot up in the air regularly to clear out the cobwebs. Re-examine where we are and see ourselves from a new perspective. Not just ourselves either. After all, we don’t just live in a world of selfies but of millions. Therefore, the journey is not just about ourselves, but also how we connect with the whole.

Earth from space

Our planet needs compassion + action.

I doubt this is a journey we could ever hope to complete. However, that doesn’t meet we shouldn’t pack up our bags and have a go.

Anyway, before the juggernaut leaves me entirely behind, I’m off but I’ll be back.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

Mummy & Amelia

An extraordinary moment.

PS after completing this letter, I strayed across your Letters to My Daughter. This really seems to be an answer to my unspoken prayer. Thank you very much! I thought you’d appreciate this photo of her:

Amelia cartwheels

Happy Birthday…1000 Voices for Compassion.

Twelve months ago, I joined up with an incredibly inspiring group of bloggers rising up against terrorism and hate in our world with a bold new project…1000 Voices for Compassion. This group seemingly sprung up after the terrorist attacks in Paris, bringing together bloggers from all around the world, who fought and continue to fight for all that is good in humanity.

Flowers at midday

Flowers Martin Place

My interest was also driven by a dreadful terrorist siege here in Sydney’s Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, which shut down the CBD and saw two precious people killed. Sydney-siders rose up and left flowers in Martin Place by the thousands just like thousands took to the streets of Paris marched, many under the banner: “Je suis Charlie”. I was stuck at home with a broken foot unable to pay my respects, feeling incredibly powerless and indeed shell shocked. What had happened to our beloved Sydney?

give peace a chance-yoko ono-lennon

These acts of a few were horrific but the incredible response of the many said we do not accept such hate.  At the time, it really did feel like we needed another Woodstock. A new John Lennon to “Give Peace a chance” or perhaps even that the second coming couldn’t be too far away.

For me, 1000 Voices of Compassion met that need.

Back then, I knew nothing about blog shares and like-minded bloggers coming together regularly in online forums of sorts. However, I loved what I heard and joined to do what I know best…wielding my pen. I’m not too good with a sword and would no doubt injure myself in any attempt to save the world. Chop off my own foot! That’s not going to help anyone.

Jean Julien Peace for Paris

Jean Julien “Peace for Paris”

1000 Voices, therefore, provided me with a vehicle, a way for me to feel like I was doing something towards building a more diverse, inclusive community where people from all walks are valued, respected and embraced. I felt less alone. Less paralysed. I could do something. In my usual fashion, I could write about it. Moreover, through writing about the need for compassion, love and understanding in our world, instead of promulgating hate, I felt like part of a wind of change. That in the spirit of the pen being mightier than the sword, that words expressed via the pen, pencil or keyboard, could be mightier than the bullet.

I remember the excitement, the buzz as our very first 1000 Voices posts went live and what it meant to be a part of that. It was electric. I felt like I was joining a modern day Woodstock. We were taking a stand! We were one but we were many.

That was just the beginning.

On the 20th of every month since then, we’ve come together and shared our posts about various aspects of compassion.

The theme I probably found most moving and just incredible was Forgiveness, which was our theme for January 2016 link. This felt like the equivalent of feasting on superfoods for my soul and I felt so enriched. Incredibly blessed. My post Forgiving the Unforgivable addressed my struggle to forgive an auto-immune disease which has ravaged my life.

Right from that very first blog share, being part of 1000 Voices for Compassion has seriously opened my eyes and dramatically expanded my world. I am no longer just an Australian sitting in my chair in Sydney. I have become a citizen of the world with friends scattered yet bound together, all over the world. That’s such an incredible thing and I find myself telling my family about my friends in London, Paris, America like they were living next door, even though we’ve never met. Our world has become so much smaller and incredibly intimate

Through 1000 Voices for Compassion, we have indeed created our own village, which might seem a bit utopian but it is real.

I now tell my local friends that I’m part of an international group of bloggers writing about compassion and while that certainly sounds impressive, I’m quick to let them know that it’s a group anyone can join. It is not exclusive.

How many clubs let you join where they don’t care if you’re turning up in your pyjamas for a chat?

This is my kind of place!

What has being part of 1000 Voices of Compassion meant for you? Please leave a link and also mention a favourite post you’ve written or read.

Love and Blessings to you all!

xx Rowena

Rowena sun

Together we can spread more light throughout our world!

 

 

 

Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

Our deepest condolences to the people of Paris in the wake of the latest terrorist attacks. We stand in solidarity as you defend: Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

I can only offer my words. Words from the heart but we have to have faith that the pen is mightier than the sword. That the pen can fight for all that is good in our world…even though the technology has changed.

The Statue of Liberty. Source: Wikipaedia.

The Statue of Liberty. Source: Wikipaedia.

On October 28, 1886 the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French people to the United States, was dedicated. More than a century on, she still represents freedom and in our modern world, still shining her light.

Paris is known as the City of Light.. la ville des lumières!

We are with you!

xx Rowena

Catharsis!…A Poem.

Words trickle down the page;
iridescent raindrops
growing wings,
taking flight.

A catharsis,
the fog now lifts.
A croakiness clears.
The lark has returned.

Rowena Newton

written on the train on the way to Sydney yesterday 17th August, 2015. I’d had a rough time getting the kids off to school and was heading off to Surry Hills on the way to a medical appointment. Well, Surry Hills wasn’t on the way but nothing better than a detour.

My apologies to the lark for substituting it with a sea gull in the photo but this gull is in a league of it’s own…a Jonathon Livingstone Seagull perhaps…

xx Rowena

Anne Frank 70 Years On: Our Vigil.

Last night, as part of a global tribute to mark the 70th anniversary of Anne Frank’s death, we lit candles and read passages from her diary out loud and recorded them to post on the official Facebook page.

My husband and son take part in our vigil to honour the life of Anne Frank.

My husband and son take part in our vigil to honour the life of Anne Frank.

I don’t know if anyone else in the family really appreciated its significance or what it meant to me personally but they went along with, no doubt what they thought was another one of Mum’s crazy ideas, somehow sensing that there was some import somewhere.

This is one of the passages we read out. I chose this one because although Anne Frank suffered, she also saw the good and had a real joie de vivre, even while being imprisoned and in hiding in the Secret Annexe.

‘As long as this exists’, I thought, ‘this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?’
The best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely or unhappy is to go outside; somewhere they can be alone, alone with the sky, nature and God. For then and only then can you feel that everything is as it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature’s beauty and simplicity.
As long as this exists, and that should be for ever, I know that there will be solace for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances. I firmly believe that nature can bring comfort to all who suffer.
Oh, who knows, perhaps it won’t be long before I can share this overwhelming feeling of happiness with someone who feels the same as I do.”

– Anne Frank: ‘Diary of A Young Girl, 23rd February, 1944.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve spoken to the kids about Anne Frank and or the horrors that she endured due to Nazi anti-Semitism and no doubt it’s going to take a few more attempts for the penny to finally drop and that one or both of them might also see the value in journalling as well, which I would love.

Our tribgute to Anne Frank at Sydney's Palm Beach. We lit a glowing circle of tea lights.

Our tribgute to Anne Frank at Sydney’s Palm Beach. We lit a glowing circle of tea lights.

The way I see it, the kids are like piggy banks. One coin might not seem like much and rattles around feeling lonely inside piggy’s empty belly. However, one by one, those gold coins start adding up and pretty soon that piggy is getting heavy and seriously worth breaking into. You have loot! You can go and blow all those savings on that much desired “something”!! (Sorry, I’m a spender not a saver. If you want investment advice, you came to the wrong blog…make that the very wrong blog!!)

When I was growing up, girls weren't supposed to even surf. There are so, so many things my daughter rightfully takes for granted!

When I was growing up, girls weren’t supposed to even surf. There are so, so many things my daughter rightfully takes for granted!

So, hopefully after last night, a few more gold coins have gone into their precious heads and they will appreciate and not take for granted the freedoms they have. The ability to say what they think without being put in gaol, although it may land them in time out! To appreciate that being able to walk along the beach, is a blessing and not something to take for granted because for us it is always there. I hope they will also appreciate that although alot of kids and teens feel their parents may not understand them and that some level of conflict with your parents is almost a right of passage through the teenage years, that they are very much loved and all any of us really can do is try and do our best. We are all mortal with feet of clay.

It has taken me the best part of a life time to appreciate that in my own parents. Even now, I’m now ashamed to admit that I’m their harshest critic. Mum and Dad, I am incredibly sorry for that and commit to change. It’s all very well to champion the Golden Rule but it’s also something I need to implement myself. As I somehow commit to change, I’ll just add that I’m not alone in this. Aren’t we all guilty of judging harshly and being so incredibly demanding of those who brought us into the world? They were no doubt young and naive like the rest of us and didn’t quite realise what they’d taken onboard. That parenting is a lifelong journey. That birth was only the beginning.

Although I’ve posted this link to an interview with Otto Frank, Anne’s father, before it’s worth repeating. He speaks such wisdom and like the rest of the world, we wish he could have had his family back. I could imagine the horrors he has endured!!

Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWRBinP7ans

Like so many I cherish the memory of Anne Frank and send her our love and this quote I love from The Little Prince by St Exupery:

“You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them…In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…You – only you – will have stars that can laugh.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Love & blessings to you all and may we all know and appreciate what it means to live  in the free world and the joy of being able to step outside the four walls we call home!

Rowena

If Only A Dog Coat Had A Zip!

When you are afraid, even a few simple steps can turn into the journey of a thousand miles.

That’s what happened when it came to getting Bilbo, our mature-aged, introverted Border Collie clipped today. What could have all been very Simple Simon, turned into a drawn out ordeal…not just for him but also for all the humans involved.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we were getting Bilbo’s woolly coat belatedly clipped for summer. Or, as it turned out in the end, clipped to free him of his badly tangled coat. His aversion to being brushed while his winter coat was moulting as well as standing out in the rain, had caused serious matting and getting it all shorn off was the only way to go. The last time we had him shorn, I was grieving as the poor mutt faded from black to smoky grey as his coat disappeared.

This post covers Bilbo’s last encounter with the shears: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/summer-loving-a-dogs-perspective/

However, this time I was cheering. At least, I would be cheering if we could actually get him inside the mobile dog salon so operations could begin.

The dog salon pulls up.

The dog salon pulls up.

So the Dog Salon pulls up and we took Bilbo out the front on the lead. I felt like an absolute cad taking the dog out there to be “tortured” when he thinks he’s off for a walk. His demeanor quickly changed and he curled up inside himself on the front lawn and wasn’t coming out.

As I’ve said before, Bilbo is not good with strangers at our place  at the best of times. He is usually withdrawn and reticent in social situations and what you’d describe as an introverted introvert. He is very much our dog and he loves my Mum as well but he keeps close. Even when it comes to people who come to the house regularly, he’s apprehensive and I usually hold him back for about 10 minutes so he settles down. Then, he’s fine. I think people don’t always realise that some dogs like their space and need time to warm up just like some people. They also really don’t like being smothered with affection by strangers, which through their eyes, might simply be a pat. These are the sort of dogs who would enjoy sitting in the corner at a party if they were human and be quite content simply observing the proceedings. That said, he can be quite friendly and isn’t a risk.

At this early stage, now that Bilbo knows he’s not going for a walk and something strange is afoot, he is not in a good way. He is refusing to let the dog groomer pat him and he is looking quite frightened and skittish. I know what he was like when I bathed him and I am concerned about how the clip is going to proceed…or even if. Naturally, we are concerned about the dog groomer’s safety which is why Geoff is going with him but she also has to have enough faith to know she’ll be safe. She has been bitten before and working with dogs day in day out, Bilbo’s withdrawn fear has her on alert. An old hand, she senses serious trouble.

This whole battle of wills just confirmed my belief that dog coats should all come with a zipper so they can be conveniently removed for cleaning and seasonal adjustments.

However, that isn’t going to happen so it’s a case of smooth talking. Reassuring the dog he’ll be okay and also reassuring the groomer, which also involves having Geoff in there with Bilbo. The dog is afraid and no doubt can sense what is at least my concern. Not that I was afraid but I was  stressed about how Bilbo would respond. What’s more, given the state of his coat and some underlying skin irritation, all that fur urgently needed to go!!

There are advantages of having helicopter parents. We keep our offspring both of the two-legged and four-legged variety under some kind of control…or at least we try!! Bilbo was needing close-range helicopter hovering at this point. He really wasn’t happy!! However, our support and the groomers’ patience slowly won Bilbo over enough.

The groomer noticed the fur balls behind Lady’s ears and so we decide to give them a quick clip and hope that Bilbo settles down when he sees Lady “survive”. Lady wasn’t too keen to go in either. I think she remembered the last time she jumped into a car with a stranger and she never saw home again. That was when we picked her up. However, she emerged unscathed and was her usual sociable, tail-wagging self. Unlike Bilbo, she’s quite the extrovert and social butterfly! She loves people and any attention she can muster.

While Lady is being fixed up, the male husband groomer is sitting down with Bilbo and building a rapport. Bilbo is warming up a bit and he’s now deemed a reasonable risk but as I said, Geoff was still going in the float with him. No one was taking any chances.

Bilbo has been clipped once before and really was a lot happier after that. Once he was in there and the clip had got started, he was relatively calm. I think he might have remembered that losing his coat was going to be a relief  and started to settle. He was still a wound up spring but he was somewhat compliant.

The clip gets underway. Look at all that fur coming off. As I said, it was like shearing a sheep!

The clip gets underway. Look at all that fur coming off. As I said, it was like shearing a sheep!

The dog groomers were excellent and worked well with him. He wasn’t comfortable but he was clipped.

The clip is almost over...

The clip is almost over…

Then, it was time for his bath. Our poor boy. He really doesn’t like new experiences all that much and getting a bath is definitely something he files under “torture” and “over my dead body”. However, although there was initially a serious scuttle of claws, the bath went relatively well.

A shorn Bilbo having his bath. Looks like he much prefers the salon treatment to the hose.

A shorn Bilbo having his bath. Looks like he much prefers the salon treatment to the hose.

We knew from last time there would be no blow dry. Definitely no blow dry!! That sound was too much like the vacuum cleaner…his usual nemesis!

Suddenly, after all that kerfuffle, it was over. Bilbo was clipped and working as a very good team, we had all succeeded.

Bilbo's even starting to look like a happy camper!

Bilbo’s even starting to look like a happy camper!

“Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be. If we do our best, we are a success.”
Zig Ziglar

It was funny when his whole ordeal was over, you could see such a sense of relief. A burden had been lifted. He’s been freed, liberated. Vive la liberte. He was trotting back inside and when Lady saw him, she really did a double take: “What’s happened to you , mate?!! Had a fight with the lawn mower?”

You bet!

We also had a surprise after all that fur had come off. Bilbo has actually lost some weight. I had suspected he’d lost a bit and transferred it to Lady but the shorn coat doesn’t lie. It shows every single ripple and bulge and is just as  unforgiving as a human wearing a wet suit.

Bilbo is now trotting around the house with a real spring in his step. Grumpy dog is almost happy with a new zest for life.

Yes, he really has been set free!!

xx Rowena

 

Terror in Australis: the Siege in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Today, it’s 9 days before Christmas and our Christmas tree is standing in a plastic bucket of water almost naked awaiting decorations. We’ve had a very busy weekend with our daughter’s dance concert and I played my violin at the school Christmas carols and we also had to get the decorations out of storage.Oh yes, our son and I made our Christmas cake as well. To be honest, we’ve almost been too busy for Christmas!

Tonight was going to be the night. Being a bit of a flamboyant type, I usually like to turn decorating the Christmas tree into something of a ceremony with some Christmas cake, mince pies while the sounds of Hark the Herald Angels Sing echo throughout the house. Our decorations are an eclectic mix accumulated over the years and include snowmen and coloured-in Christmas stencils the kids have done over the years.

Martin Place at Night

Martin Place at Night

However, how can we possibly dress our Christmas tree tonight while hostages are still being held captive in a siege at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place? They’ve now been held captive for over 11 hours.  We all know the impatience of being stuck in a queue for more than 5 minutes and the fear of being trapped in a lift for any length of time and none of these horrors even comes close to the psychological and emotional trauma of being held captive by a gunman and it’s pretty safe to assume that someone who would take people hostage in the first place might not be the most stable of characters.

Clock Tower, Sydney GPO, Martin Place.

Clock Tower, Sydney GPO, Martin Place.

However, the tide stops for no one and so we went ahead with decorating the tree although instead of the usual Christmas cheer, we were watching the rolling news coverage instead. So much for Christmas carols and a bit of Christmas cheer but there are bigger things at stake.

Rather than just rehashing what’s already being rehashed and rehashed in the media, I won’ t go into details here. I would recommend going to the Sydney Morning Herald’s website at: http://www.smh.com.au/

However, as you might not have heard of Martin Place, I thought I’d provide something of a back story. After all, you would think that the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Sydney Opera House would be more likely choices for a siege but once you look around Martin Place a bit, the thinking becomes clearer.

Map Showing the location of Martin Place, Sydney.

Map Showing the location of Martin Place, Sydney.

Martin Place was officially opened in September 1892 and was named after the Chief Justice, Sir James Martin, a former New South Wales Attorney-General and Premier. Moore Street (between Pitt and Castlereagh streets) was widened and renamed Martin Place in 1921.

This iconic photo known as "Dancing Man" was taken in Elizabeth Street,  Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

Celebration in Martin Place: This iconic photo known as “Dancing Man” was taken in Elizabeth Street, Martin Place where this exuberant gentleman is celebrating  the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

The Dictionary of Sydney writes:

“Martin Place has been called ‘the heart of the city’, and it was added to the Australian Heritage Commission’s list in 1989. It is the site of the Cenotaph, built in 1927, and some of Sydney’s finest buildings front it, including the GPO, two Commonwealth Bank buildings, Challis House, the Australasia Bank head office, the Colonial Mutual Life building and the APA building. Martin Place was also the site of the spectacular but now demolished Hotel Australia and the Rural Bank head office. It is home to the head offices of the Reserve Bank and a number of other banks.

Martin Place provides both a ceremonial and recreational focus for the city. Because the GPO and its associated telegraph office was originally the place where news first broke – the shipping news – people have long gathered in front of the building at times of national significance. They flocked there at the ending of wars, which was why this location was chosen for the Cenotaph, which has always been a more significant gathering point than the main war memorial in Hyde Park. The famous photograph of the ‘dancing man’ has cemented this place in the story of the ending of World War II. Today, Anzac Day and other commemorative services are held at the Cenotaph in lower Martin Place, which is also the site for the annual Lord Mayor’s Christmas tree. Giant screens, first erected to allow Sydneysiders to view events from the Olympic Games in 2000, are now a regular feature of the Sydney Festival, while political demonstrations in Martin Place are a constant part of the ebb and flow of the city’s life. In 2008 it filled with people to hear Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s speech making an apology to Aboriginal people of the Stolen Generations.”

http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/martin_place

ANZAC Parade through Martin Place 1930

ANZAC Day Parade through Martin Place 1930

Personally,  I think of Martin Place as a quiet place of reflection where you can take a bit of  time out from work while eating takeaway or perhaps a sandwich and there’s always a large contingent of pigeons.Come rush hour, there’s also the rush and bustle and Martin Place transforms into a sea of rapidly moving legs. It’s a great place to go people watching. Take photos and feel completely immersed in Sydney.

Here I am dining out in Martin Place after attending the Sydney Writer's Festival last year.

Here I am dining out in Martin Place after attending the Sydney Writer’s Festival last year.

Quite aside from its Martin Place location, the siege is in the luxurious Lindt Cafe. I’ve never actually been there myself but friends have. It’s the sort of place you go for that special indulgence and in so many instances, sharing the chocolate you love with the person you love. Lindt chocolate is absolutely divine and to be perfectly honest, many of us would have fantasized about being accidentally locked in Lindtland with all that chocolate. Obviously those chocoholic fantasies are a very different scenerario to what’s now going on at the Lindt Cafe. One minute, the hostages were in heaven, the next minute they were in hell.

This siege is like having a bullet shot into Australia’s heart and it hurts. It bewilders. We can’t understand why something this awful is happening here. Our innocence, our naivety perhaps, that these things might happen overseas but do not happen here, has been shattered. Nowhere is safe.

Traditionally, Australia has been geographically isolated from “trouble”. World War I never reached our shores and while the Japanese dropped bombs around the Australian coast notably in Sydney Harbour and Darwin, the war was largely waged on foreign soil. Intellectuals, writers, artists, performers have all lamented this isolation and have often fled our shores either by necessity or design. We were something of a backwater but the world has shrunk and we can no longer depend on this isolation. We are now part of the world wide web. We can’t turn back..whether we want to or not.

It is now more than 12 hours since the siege began and it’s hard to believe that there is no end in sight.

It is shuddering to think about what the hostages are going through…as well as their family and friends. I know that anguish of living in suspended animation and the thought of being taken away from those I love and who love me…even though I’ve never been in a hostage situation. That is anguish and we’ve seen a few of the hostages who escaped on TV and their terror is chilling.

We pray for the peaceful resolution and for the safe release of the hostages and for healing from this anguish.

I am also praying about the repercussions of this event. People are angry, scared. We’ve had our very way of life threatened and it’s only natural to fight back and defend you and yours as well as your beliefs. We do not want terrorism or violence of any sort in our country and while we do need to defend our country from internal and external attack, we also need to nurture a culture of love and acceptance where people of all  cultures and creeds feel at home. That said, extremism of any sort needs to be dealt with strongly so we can continue living in a free and just people.

I am hoping to wake up in the morning and hear that the siege is over. That it has ended well. My goodness. I am now heading off to sleep in my own bed while the hostages and sleeping or more likely spending the night with a gun point at them. Reminds me not to take things for granted and to be thankful, even though I’ve had a run of bad luck lately.

I send them, their family and friends my love.

xx Rowena