Tag Archives: happiness

Weekend Coffee Share 14th January, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

If you were to come over to my place for coffee this weekend, I’d be apologizing for the preponderance of crates, and random flotsam and jetsom all over the loungeroom , and recommend we head out for coffee today. I’m sure you know how it is. Once you let all that compressed clutter loose, you have a monster on your hands and it’s a massive effort to divide and conquer and finally get rid of the piles. It feels like this is all I’ve been doing in January, but that isn’t quite the truth. At least, I hope it’s not. What a way to spend the Summer holidays!

dog beach zoom

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

Just in case you’re living in the land of snow and ice, you might want to get changed into something a little more comfortable, and we could well head for the beach. If you’re feeling energetic, we coud also take the dogs…Lady, Zac and Rosie. Zac and Rosie are 6 month old border collie x kelpie pups and they’ll definitely raise your heart rate. They love running and are so sleek, graceful and beautiful to watch speeding through the sand. From this, you’ll understand that they’re off the leash and truly able to let themselves go. Fortunately, they are well attached to us and haven’t disappeared chasing a seagull down the far end of the beach. It happens often enough down there and it is quite a challenge to retrieve your charge. .

We’re not planning to foster any new pups at the moment. The new school year starts in a fortnight and I’m working flat out to get the kids and the house ready for the new school year. Can we get it sorted this year? We’re in much better shape than previous years, when we’ve arrived back from holidays the night before and winged it.  That was much easier back in primary school, when the kids were younger. Our daughter starts high school this year and that’s all new uniforms and we’ve had to wait for the skirt to come in. Yes, I have made myself a note. With so much going on, I’m sure my brain’s run out of RAM.

I don’t know if you’re into research at all. However, as much as people talk about being focused to succeed, research is more like following a random goat trail through the wilderness. That said, you need to leave some flags, markers or pebbles along the track, so you can find your way back to the fork in the road where you darted off.

This week, I’ve dug out my research on the Johnston’s of Islay, which I haven’t touched much for the last 15 years. This is an exploding file and I’ve achieved quite a lot on this line. Yet, there were still quite a few deadends all those years ago, which were worth revisitnig now that so much material is available online.

Of most general interest, the Johnstons of Islay were whisky distillers, and dare I suggest, heading back into the not so dark ages, that they were whisky smugglers as well. Now the story is really starting to get interesting, especially when you start hearing about distilling operations concealed in deep limestone caves. No pirates required. These were my ancestors. By the way, the Johnstons founded Laphroaig and Tallant Distilleries.

I’ve never been to Islay and a trip isn’t on the cards any time soon. So, I’m doing my best to try and get a feel for the place. Part of that, as an Australian, is getting my head around what it’s like to live in a small island community, when we live on an island CONTINENT…a land of sweeping plains.

Image result for Islay historic photos

Above: Map of Islay, Scotland. Ireland is to the South.

Trying to get some appreciation of Islay’s size, I did a bit of a comparison. Islay has an area of 619.6 km² Now, here in Australia, we think Tasmania is small. It’s also an island and Geoff’s grown up there and so we have a reasonable understanding of what it’s like to live there, adjcent to the Australian Mainland, and infamously being left off the map. Moreover, when we were taught to draw the map of Australia, I’m pretty sure that Tassie went into a one cm gap. That’s small. It’s much larger when you get there and realize there’s a hell of a lot squeezed into that deceptively small space. However, compared to Islay, Tassie’s a giant…a whopping  68,401 km². Not a useful comparison after all. Even Bali’s  more than double it’s size at 5,780 km². This leaves Singapore being the closest size comparison, measuring in at 719.1 km².

Aside from chasing whiskey smuggling ghosts and trying to get ready for the new school year, I did watch a great movie…It’s A Wonderful Life. I hadn’t heard of it before but it was on display in the supermarket and I’ve been enjoying re-watching my stash of DVDs, some of which, have never made it out of the plastic.

Have you ever seen the movie? Despite my ignorance, it’s considered a classic Christmas movie and one of the most watched American films. Well, I’m Australian so maybe that’s why I haven’t seen it. Or, perhaps I’ve just been living under a rock. ore likely, I was out celebrating Christmas, and not stuck at home watching the box. After all, Christmas is in Summer here.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t focus on the Christmas aspects of the film. I was more interested in the plight of George Bailey who is among the town’s brightest and can’t wait to leave this one horse town and explore the world. He has big dreams of world travel, going to college and he worked dime by dime to put the money away, but there was the competing pull of the family business and helping people out. This is a pull I relate to myself. The need to be here and look after the family versus writing, travel and becoming all that I could be in myself, which could very well come at a high price. Relationships versus achievement? Do we have to make a choice? Or, can we have it all? That, I believe, is one of the great questions of our generation.

Here are afew great quotes from the movie:

Pop: I know it’s soon to talk about it.
George: Oh, now Pop, I couldn’t. I couldn’t face being cooped up for the rest of my life in a shabby little office…Oh, I’m sorry Pop, I didn’t mean that, but this business of nickels and dimes and spending all your life trying to figure out how to save three cents on a length of pipe…I’d go crazy. I want to do something big and something important.
Pop: You know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important. Satisfying a fundamental urge. It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace, and we’re helping him get those things in our shabby little office.
George: I know, Dad. I wish I felt…But I’ve been hoarding pennies like a miser in order to…Most of my friends have already finished college. I just feel like if I don’t get away, I’d bust.
Pop: Yes…yes…You’re right son.
George: You see what I mean, don’t you, Pop?
Pop: This town is no place for any man unless he’s willing to crawl to Potter. You’ve got talent, son. I’ve seen it. You get yourself an education. Then get out of here.
George: Pop, you want a shock? I think you’re a great guy. [to Annie, listening through the door] Oh, did you hear that, Annie?
Annie: I heard it. About time one of you lunkheads said it.
Clarence Oddbody
  • Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?
  • [Inscribed in a copy of Tom Sawyer] “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence.”

Mr. Henry F. Potter

  • [to George] Look at you. You used to be so cocky. You were going to go out and conquer the world! You once called me a warped, frustrated, old man. What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk, crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help.
-+-

Anyway, I clearly enjoyed the movie and got a lot out of it.
Any thoughts?
Well, it’s Sunday night here and I have one pup chewing a pencil to bits and the other up on my lap. He’s managed to cohabitate with the lap top and is draped over the right arm of the chair while the laptop is perched on the left with a good gap from my cup of tea.
This has been another Weekend Coffee Share. Eclectic Alli is hosting a coffee share and Here’s the link up. Come on and join in!  We’d love to have you along!
How  has your week been? I hope you’ve had a great week and I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to in the comments.
Best wishes,
Rowena.

Weekly Smile… 17th July, 2017.

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

Mother Teresa

Any motivational guru will tell you, that when you least feel like smiling, is just the time to get out there are find something, anything to smile about.

It’s  mid-Winter here and we recently lost our older dog, Bilbo and to be perfectly honest, I just feel like hibernating. Not so much because I’m feeling depressed. It’s simply my response to the cold. In much of Australia, our houses are not designed for the cold and since we only need the heater on for about a month a year, I tend to tough it out until my fingers and toes are numb. There’s no central heating. So, while the winters aren’t as cold as other places, inside the house could well be much worse.

I’ve had quite a few things, which have made me smile this week. To read the extended version, you can refer back to my Coffee Share Post

The biggest smile I had this week, was watching my son performing in the Gang Show. The Gang Show is a variety show put on by scouts and guides and it was a real delight to see him smiling throughout the entire performance. He danced and acted well too, and I really admire his commitment to rehearsing for something like 4 months. It’s been a big effort.

“I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”

-Doris Day

Our surviving dog, Lady, has also brought me many smiles and much love particularly since Bilbo passed away. I’ve never seen such a happy dog. She wags her tail like crazy, and her entire body quivers with excitement. Naturally, that has to cheer you up!!

Lady kids coffee

Lady with the kids leading her astray. She’s not allowed up to the table. 

Lady spreads so much happiness, that I’ve been thinking of using her as a therapy dog. However, I looked up the stringent requirements, and suspect we’re a bit too laissez-faire. Lady doesn’t always come when she’s called and I also found out that being  “portly”, can lead to rejection as well. Not to be deterred, I noticed how much joy she brings to people simply walking down the street, and thought that could be our thing. That we don’t need to be part of a program or strut our stuff to share her zest for life with people who need it most. We can think global and walk local.

“People leave imprints on our lives, shaping who we become in much the same way that a symbol is pressed into the page of a book to tell you who it comes from. Dogs, however, leave paw prints on our lives and our souls, which are as unique as fingerprints in every way.”
― Ashly Lorenzana

Bilbo and paw prints

No paw dipping for Bilbo. He stayed well clear of the water…and the other dogs for that matter. He’s the canine equivalent of a bloke standing alone holding his beer in the corner at the pub.

If you would like to read more about the mood-boosting power of dogs, this article is very comprehensive.

If you have a dog, how do they help you smile?

The Weekly Smile is hosted by Trent McDonald at  Trent’s World and you can join in the link-up here.

xx Rowena

Family Portrait Port Arthur.

This wall at Port Arthur’s Government Cottage was just begging to become a screen, a backdrop for a family photo. This moody mix of light and shadow across convict-made bricks, was photographic magic. I rounded up the family and photographed their hand shadows on a wall .

dsc_2336

That is after testing it first.

dsc_2343

Doesn’t this remind those old family and school movie projectors and making rabbis on the screen? Or, is it just me?

xx Rowena

 

Like Your Life Depends On It: Life Lessons from Dancing

Another great jolt to pursue our passions! xx Rowena

Fot some reason, this didn’t reblog properly so here’s a link through to the original post: https://sirenatales.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/like-your-life-depends-on-it-life-lessons-from-dancing-2/

Carpe diem seize the day all!

xx Rowena

Sirena Tales

The gifted, generous choreographer and dancer Robert Battle was spurring us to dig deeper in performing the movement phrase he had just taught us. Although I took his classes years ago, I can still feel the thrill of hearing him urge that “when you dance, you should move as if your life depends on it!”

The drama and sweep of that statement have galvanized me on more than a few occasions. But I confess that it took awhile for me to appreciate just how far-reaching the ramifications are for Mr. Battle’s fabulous advice.

Photo: Essennelle Studios Photo: Essennelle Studios

I was reminded of this again yesterday as I was buying a book about dance at a lovely independent bookstore. When the young woman who had been helping me was ringing up the sale, she paused, and suddenly asked if I am a dancer? Yes! What kind of dance? Contemporary or modern.

Her face…

View original post 418 more words

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

Weekend Coffee Share 2nd July, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share, a new financial year and GROAN…the Australian Federal Election. I have voted and the polls close in 15 minutes and then the coverage begins. For better or worse, we live in a very marginal seat and so our votes really matter. I’ve long been conscious of that and taken my vote seriously, even though I’m not a party player. This sense of the importance of the power of those individual votes, however, has been reinforced by Brexit, which I’m still watching from the sidelines.

Thanks for popping by! Could I get you a cuppa while we’re catching up? How about a Double-Coated Tim Tam?  We also have an open packet with only four biscuits remaining so you’d better get in quick. Tim Tams are an extremely endangered species but thank goodness they reproduce quickly enough to overcome the high attrition rate.

I’m not going to whinge anymore about the cold and the imminent possibility that my fingers and toes are about to drop off. Or, simply shatter like ice! They’re usually deep purple or very worrisome shades of grey! This isn’t just a product of the cold but Reynard’s Syndrome, another bonus thanks to my auto-immune disease, dermatomyositis. While I LOVE research, it can also get a bit scary, even terrifying: “while infrared therapy play’s it’s part in relieving the painful symptoms, drug therapy or surgical intervention may be necessary.”

I was joking about my fingers and toes falling off, wasn’t I? Looks like I’d better get back on my bike and get the blood pumping. I think it’s almost frozen too.

However, as the saying goes… cold hands, warm heart!

Family-Tree

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was doing some family history research. This has been an obsessive passion of mine since I was a child. Over the years, it’s grown way beyond names, dates and finding our where we come from to becoming more of a sociological project, placing my ancestors back into their geographical and historical contexts. Many of our historical Australian newspapers have been digitised and uploaded, enabling ready searching where you can really scrounge up some dirt on your ancestors. After all, you don’t earn yourself a headline being virtuous and helping little old ladies across the road. Oh no! It’s all about crime, divorce, notoriety and back then petty theft made the papers and the nitty gritty sordid details about divorce made the papers as well. So, if your ancestors were even just a little bad, there’s some good reading!

Unfortunately, what seemed like a relatively simple task of finding out when John Gardner/Gardiner came from has become mission impossible. To that unfathomable mystery, you can add his wife, Mary Sullivan. She could actually be a bigger concern because, two roads which had seemingly been divergent in the geneological woods, could to be merging together. Just because Sullivan is a fairly common name, that doesn’t mean that your ancestors aren’t common…if you catch my drift. Being related to yourself isn’t what this quest is all about! While I’ve bagged my husband out about Tasmanians being inbred, it seems the Irish Catholic community in Sydney’s Surry Hills could be worse! Thank goodness, my mother has German/Scottish heritage and comes from inter-state and we’ve diluted the pot!!

Convicts NSW

Convicts in Sydney, 1830s.

By the way, you might also be interested to know, that it looks like I’m related to three sheep-stealing, Irish butchers from County Cork who were caught, sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in 1838 and dispatched to the colonies at His Majesty’s pleasure. While I don’t condone theft, you could argue that they were enterprising businessmen with a keen eye on the bottom line, reducing costs and maximizing profits!

Aside from playing Sherlock Holmes with my geneological research, I’ve had a fairly quiet week. Tuesday night, we watched our daughter dance with her school at Showcase, a regional dance festival and the kids are involved in final rehearsals for the Scout Gang Show which is now only 2 weeks away. I am continuing my ongoing Roald Dahl reading/research project and am getting through Charlie & The Great Glass Elevator.

DSC_1847

A View of Heaven…Sunset Down the Road.

Probably the highlight of the last week, has been Thursday night’s breathtaking sunset where the entire sky metamorphosed into a mesmerising sunburnt orange. It was electric and needless to say, I catapulted straight out of my lounge chair and down the street my camera despite a bung foot, cold, and encroaching darkness.

It was definitely worth it! It’s amazing how that bung foot got moving without any kind of complaints, when I was only seeing through my eyes with that same absolute tunnel vision as the children of Hamelyn being lured away by the Pied Piper. Such intense and captivating beauty, was a much needed pick-me-up when I’ve been feeling flat, achy and blah! Moreover, having those photos to remind me of the moment, carries that wonder forward. Keats and so many poets, artists and philosopher’s didn’t get it wrong when they advised turning the the beauty of nature as an instant pick-me-up!

DSC_1071

Yum personified…Koi Dessert Bar, Sydney.

The kids will now be on school holidays for the next two weeks. We have no plans to go away but a trip down to the Koi Dessert Bar in Sydney’s Chippendale is must.

Doll in bed

The 1940s-1940s Paisley Eiderdown

By the way, any of you thrift shop/ retro junkies, I picked up two single bed eiderdowns today. Don’t know how many of you remember the 1940s/1950s paisley eiderdowns but my grandmother had one and it migrated to our place. So, even though I no memories of ever jumping in either of my grandmothers’ beds, I can wrap myself up in this and think of Mama Eunice. I might even have a cup of Twining’s English Breakfast tea in one of her tea cups as well. By the way, I also picked up an original 1970s metal milkshake cup and some vintage cake covers/fly screens. This is Australia and I’m also hoping these domes might protect our dinners from marauding dogs! I’m sure Lady’s ancestors had been sent out with the convicts for repeated food thievery and take it from me, I bet they stole more than just a loaf of bread. Indeed, I reckon those so called royal Cavaliers, were operating in cahoots with those wicked sheep stealers. Never trust a pretty canine face!

How has your week been? Good, I hope!

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. You can click  for the linky to read the other posts.

Best wishes for the week ahead!

xx Rowena

 

 

Wet Weekend Coffee Share 5th June, 2016

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share Australian Style. That means it’s Winter here and we’re thinking Hot Chocolate, although I’m currently drinking tea.

What are you sipping on? No doubt, many of you are trying to quench the Summer heat with a long, Iced Tea.

Autumn Leaf Palm Beach Sydney

Autumn Leaf, Pittwater, Palm Beach, Sydney

Personally, each season has its own character and beauty. Summers I love the long extended hours of sunlight and going to the beach at the end of the day. Autumn…I usually appreciate relief from the stinking hot Summer heat and the occasional flash of stunning Autumn colours. Winter is a time of hibernation, rest and restoring the soul before events take off again in Spring. Spring…it’s great to see the sun again and enjoy a bit of sun before it gets too hot. I enjoy other people’s gardens.

Spring and Autumn are my favourite seasons and Autumn edges out in front. I love those stunning Autumn leaves with their kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and yellows which glow like nature’s stained-glass windows backlit by the sun.

If you’re joining me this weekend, then you’ll need a good raincoat, gumboots, umbrella and a bit of pluck and courage to take on the heavy rain. That is, unless you’re a duck.

It seems like someone’s upended the heavens and that great swimming pool in the sky, is falling down. Still falling down. There have been dangerous, surf conditions, localised flooding and absolutely no incentive for heading out. For us, that’s been limited to driving the kids around. We’re no longer that interested in chasing the bright lights. Too much hard work…especially in the rain! The Georges River in Southern Sydney has burst its banks, along with the Wilson River in Lismore. As it’s flat around here, I’m sure there’s some localised flooding but we’re fine at home.

Last Thursday, I had my first job interview in around 4 years. It’s a one day a week job at my daughter’s school working in community liaison. I’ve done this type of work before but I haven’t seriously returned to paid work after having chemo two years ago. I had my last job for 5-6 years and so it’s been a long time since I’ve been through the interview process. Even if I don’t get the job, I am pleased with how it went and how I came across. These days, I’m more concerned about finding the right fit, than having to push the proverbial uphill to “make it work”.

I find out if I’ve got the job tomorrow, which may mean I’m pulling my old business-self back out of the closet during the next week. I am quite used to dramatic changes around here but as I was sorting out Summer and Winter clothes this afternoon, I was consciously aware that those business clothes might need to be moving centre stage…yikes!

This brings me to today’s job…sorting out our Summer and Winter clothes and boxing the Summer clothes up and having some snug woolly jumpers to wear, instead of needing a dog on my lap. Well, make that in addition to to dog!

Speaking of dogs, Bilbo has parked himself right next to my chair and his nose is almost on the laptop. You see, I’m eating a Vegemite sandwich with my cup of tea and dogs LOVE Vegemite. Lady, who as second fiddle has to sit further away, is lying on the floor just as keen but more of a sleeping assassin.

Van Gogh Sunflowers

Sunflowers – Vincent Van Gogh.

With all this rain, I’ll need to hang up my latest art acquisition: Sunflowers by Van Gogh. While other fools have forked out many millions for their Van Gogh, I picked mine up at the charity shop for $20.00. It might be a print but those sunflowers are still smiling at me and spreading their much needed cheer! Just what I need with the gloomy wet outside! Read more here.

By the way, my weekly flash fiction also fitted in well with all this  rain: A Rainbow In The Sky

How’s your week been ? Hope you’re all doing well.

Thanks for popping by! This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at  Part-Time Monster . You can click here for the linky to read the other posts.

xx Rowena

 

Sunflowers-My Budget Van Gogh

“One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way”

Vincent Van Gogh

Nothing like buying a million dollar painting for $20.00 from your local Opportunity of Charity Shop. While unfortunately my find is clearly a print and I’m forced to visualise the brushstrokes etched into the thick golden paint, it could nearly be the original.

Not a bad find for $20.00 and our renovator’s nightmare can actually feel a tad loved as I add such a spirited piece of beauty to its ho hum walls, especially when you consider that other of Van Gogh’s Sunflower masterpieces, Vase With 15 Sunflowers last sold for $39.7 (£24.75) on March 30, 1987.

Now, all I need to do is work out someway of turning our humble “beach” backyard with its sandy soil, into a magnificent field of smiling sunflowers with their stunning faces all turning to the sun.

Do you have a favourite Van Gogh?  Please share.

xx Rowena

 

R-Rilke: Letters to A Young Poet #atozchallenge.

Dear Rilke,

I am writing to you during my series of Letters to Dead Poets.

Indeed, this series was inspired by your book: Letters to A Young Poet, which contains your correspondence with a young German poet: Franz Xavier Kappus dating from February 17th, 1903 to December 1908. Kappus sent you some of his poems, essentially asking your opinion. Was he good enough to be a poet? Or, should he abandon his dreams? That was pretty much the gist of his first letter.

Unfortunately, I only came across these letters when I was a middle-aged poet, whose poetry had been swamped by the realities of growing up. Yet, somehow my inner poet rekindled and we finally met finding that your advice for young Kappus still held true.

Recently, your letters inspired my own series Letters to Dead Poets… as well as their endless questions! I wasn’t intending to explore the great questions of life. Rather, I came up with the theme for a simple blogging challenge where you write your way through the alphabet during April and many of us have a theme. I had been intending to write about Sydney landmarks but didn’t have time to take the photos and thought this would be an easier choice. While the theme might sound rather morbid, it was actually meant to involve a bit of humour. The only trouble was that most of the poets who’ve inspired me, weren’t funny and had more than truly wandered onto the dark side of the force. So, this has actually been a rather probing journey and nothing like light entertainment.

However, as my husband pointed out, the” lightness of being” has never been my thing[1].

Initially, the plan was to keep these letters short and sweet, moving through the poets like an express train roaring through stations, taking very quick and limited stops. In retrospect, that was wishful, short-sighted thinking. After all, how could I ever engage in any kind of conversation with such minds and not explore the heights and depths of what it means to be human?

I can assure you that’s no quick conversation!

So, I’m retreating  to my cave with a different poet every day and on some days even two, while still trying to juggle the realities of life like what we’re having for dinner and needing to wash a stinky dog. To be honest, it’s become something of an orgy of ideas and I’m absolutely exhausted from so much delight. Indeed, I wouldn’t mind booking myself into some kind of facility where I could write all day and collect my meals at the door. Of course, I have no intention of staying. I’d simply be on “sabbatical”!

After all, I love my family and I love living life, which is what’s given me the strength and resilience to delve into some pretty hard questions and the journey isn’t over yet. Indeed, the end isn’t anywhere in sight. Or, is it? I’m so immersed in the journey that I don’t even know where I am.

rainer_maria_rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke

This brings me back to you. Indeed, as young Kappus said:

“And where a great and unique man speaks, small men must keep silence.”

Franz Xavier Kappus 1929.

While you exchanged letters with Kappus just over a hundred years ago, my question is: Would you offer the same advice to young poets now in the 21st Century?

The world has changed a lot but have people at their core still stayed much the same? Does a young person need to go through pretty much the same apprenticeship to become a poet? Or, would you actually advise them not to become a poet at all? Tell them to “go and get a real job”? That being a poet doesn’t pay. That indeed, too many poets have paid with their lives for the privilege and that’s too much!

Why become a poet when there’s such a smorgasbord of alternatives which aren’t such a risk? Safe, secure jobs, which don’t take you to the very depths and dump you there. Leave you  without a thread to find your way out of the labyrinth? Indeed, could it be that staying skin deep could actually be a better road? Just keep on looking forward. Indeed, peer deep into your phone and never glance away.

Of course, I’m not asking you these questions to just to fill the page. I have two kids. While many parents would be thrilled to have their kids follow in their footsteps, I definitely do not want my kids following in mind. Indeed, I pray that a river washes my footsteps away, so they have to blaze their own trail.

Scan10538

My feet photographed in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris in July 1992.

After all, you ask any parent what they truly want for their kids and they all say the same thing …”I just want them to be happy”.

Yet, does being a poet make you happy? Indeed, is being a poet the exact antithesis of happy?

It’s not looking good. Indeed, suicide, depression, drug abuse, all seem to be our tools of trade. That’s hardly an endorsement!

Mind you, I also wonder whether writing poetry actually lets the darkness out. That it’s actually therapeutic.

I understand you were very influenced by Jens Peter Jacobsen who wrote:

 “Know ye not that there is here in this world a secret confraternity, which one might call the Company of Melancholiacs? That people there are who by natural constitution have been given a different nature and disposition than the others; that have a larger heart and a swifter blood, that wish and demand more, have stronger desires and a yearning which is wilder and more ardent than that of the common herd. They are fleet as children over whose birth good fairies have presided; their eyes are opened wider; their senses are more subtle in all their perceptions. The gladness and joy of life, they drink with the roots of their heart, the while the others merely grasp them with coarse hands.”

Jens Peter Jacobsen

What do you think?

Or, is the jury still out?

This brings me to the question of Paris. In a letter to Lou Andreas-Salome you compared Paris to the Military Academy and you “could not say worse than that” and “Often before going to sleep I read the thirtieth chapter of the Book of Job, and it was all true of me, word for word[2]”:

“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
21 You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
22 You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
23 I know you will bring me down to death,
to the place appointed for all the living.

24 “Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
when he cries for help in his distress.
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
when I looked for light, then came darkness.
27 The churning inside me never stops;
days of suffering confront me.
28 I go about blackened, but not by the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29 I have become a brother of jackals,
a companion of owls.
30 My skin grows black and peels;
my body burns with fever.
31 My lyre is tuned to mourning,
and my pipe to the sound of wailing.

Job 30: 20-31.

I was rather surprised to read about your disdain for Paris. Yet, I related to much of what you wrote. Like you were pining for the vastness of the Russian Plains, I initially found Paris very noisy and claustrophobic. Indeed, I started thinking about a train trip I’d taken on the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth across that vast expanse,  the Nullarbor Plain. Oh to be an eagle able to take off and spread my majestic wings without flying straight into a wall!!

330px-Nullabor_plain_from_the_indian_pacific

The Nullarbor Plain, South Australia viewed from the Indian Pacific Railway.

Naturally, I couldn’t help but notice that too many poets have been casualties in Paris. Jimmy Morrison mysteriously met his end in a bathtub in Paris and Oscar Wilde died destitute in his Paris hotel. Is it no coincidence that the world most famous cemetery x is located there?

I don’t know. Do you believe in coincidence? Or, was there some dark influence at work? That at the very heart of the light, there is also the shadow? That life itself is all about this intimate dance and fusion of light and dark?

Anyway, getting back to young poets, my son is only 12 but I wanted to show you a poem he wrote recently for school. I was rather impressed and while I gave him a hand, it was all his own work. I would really appreciate your opinion and a bit of advice.

Do you still believe there’s a place for poets in our world or must we all go out and get a real job?

Yours sincerely,

Rowena

 Through My Window

Looking out my window,
I hear a sound.
Scutter scutter.
Scutter scutter.
Out in the garden,
there’s a little white rabbit.
Mum!
Dad!
But when we get back,
it’s gone…
just like a puff of smoke.

No one believes me.
They just say
that I’m dreaming.
Imagination overload
all over again.
But I know what I saw.

Now,
that I’m back here alone,
the rabbit returns.
It’s glowing gold,
red eyes flashing
in the darkness.
What is it?
Why has it come?

Then, I blink again.
The rabbit burns up into flames
with an even brighter glow
and is gone.

In the morning,
I found no rabbit prints

in the grass.

No sign of the rabbit at all.
Yet,

I know what I saw…

a mysterious rabbit

hopping outside

my bedroom window.

By Mr J

 

[1] Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

[2] Reginald Snell: “Introduction”, Letters to A Young Poet, Dover Publication, New York p. 5.

P-Sylvia Plath: Letters to Dead Poets #AtoZchallenge.

Dear Ms Plath,

How are you?

I hope time and tide have brought you peace.

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes and all is born again.

Sylvia Plath

I am currently writing a series of letters to Dead Poets and while I wondered whether you wanted to be disturbed, I didn’t want to leave you out. Your voice still needs to be heard, even if I’m still having trouble navigating Ariel myself. That said, some have appealed.

Rather than mailing this letter, I decided to come in person and I’ve brought you a cup of tea, a biscuit and my little black dog, Lady.

While black dogs have been cast as a euphemism for depression, Lady exudes happiness. Every morning when I stagger out to the kitchen half-awake, she’s almost combusting with excitement wagging and whack-whacking her tail. Her entire body quivers and as you move closer, the whacking speeds up. It’s rather hilarious and really makes my day.

So, I thought you might appreciate meeting Lady. Dogs have been shown to cheer people up and our dogs have certainly helped me through thick and thin.

dogs

That’s right. We also have an older dog, Bilbo, but he’s much more reserved and not all that social. He’s like that loner standing in the corner clutching his beer. That said, he loves us. Not always a bad thing to equate “danger” with “stranger”.

Anyway, I thought we could have a bit of a chat Mum to Mum. I enjoyed your poem:-

Morning Song

 Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry

Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.

In a drafty museum, your nakedness

Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I’m no more your mother

Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow

Effacement at the wind’s hand.

All night your moth-breath

Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:

A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral

In my Victorian nightgown.

Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try

Your handful of notes;

The clear vowels rise like balloons.

Being a Mum is incredibly rewarding but isn’t easy.

Bex Ad

Indeed, I wrote An 80s Woman in 2006 when my kids were 5 and 3 and performed it at a local talent quest. I know it’s a long way from my glory days back at the Shakespeare Bookshop in Paris but one of the judges was Country & Western sensation Kasey Chambers.

50s dress

An 80’s Woman

I’m an 80’s woman

in a fifties dress.

I want my cup of tea.

I want my Bex.

I went to university

and had a career

but then I had kids

and now I’m stuck here…

with Weetbix in my hair

custard on my clothes;

this vegemite foundation

gives my skin a healthy glow.

Once I watched the docos,

filled my brain with heaps of books

but now I just watch Playschool

and the Wiggles have the look.

I used to hit the gym

was lookin really thin

but now my belly bounces up

and almost hits my chin.

So in search of inspiration,

I went off to the mall.

Tried to find a new look

but nothing fits at all.

So I bought myself a G-string

to shoot back all the peas

Maybe soon I’ll win the war

and finally get some peace.

I really love my kids!

I really, really do!

But is it wrong to crave

a bit of me time too?

I’m an 80s woman

in a fifties dress…

An 80s woman

in a fifties dress…

I want my cup of tea

And I want my Bex!

Rowena

Indeed, there used to be a phrase: “Take a Bex and have a good lie down”. Like so many things, Bex was too good to be true. Bex caused kidney failure and your kids got up to mischief while you slept.

50s ironing

We barely even use our iron.

When my kids were smaller, I really struggled. While I was seriously struggling to look after them while afflicted with a muscle-wasting, life-threatening disease, I also saw myself as a career woman, a writer and it felt my life had fallen down the toilet. I felt like an 80s woman who’d somehow woken up back in the 1950s. It was dreadful. I don’t think I was really suited to little kids and am much happier now that my kids are older. Now that the disease is in remission, that’s made a huge difference as well. You could just imagine what it was like trying to keep up with them when I wasn’t well and my husband was working long hours in Sydney. My own home became something of a prison…especially after I fell over at home and couldn’t get up against and was left lying face down on the ground for over half an hour with no one to help. Being at home, became dangerous. Not only for myself but for the kids. Our son was three and loved climbing the back shed. I remember his excitement. Seeing the world from way up high and his absolute sense of childish wonder spotting “mountains” he hadn’t seen before. I also remember him falling off the shed and somehow caught him in my arms, despite having bi-lateral carpal tunnel and being unable to open a simple bottle of water.

I know life is difficult but did it have to be that hard.

You might also like my Kombi song:

Dakadakkadak Dakkadakkadak

Don’t look forward

Don’t look back

Dakadakadak

Off the beaten track.

Watch the sun start to rise.

Open up those tired old eyes.

Dakadakadak

Dakadakadak

Dakadakadak

Dakadakadak

Feel the salt air

Through your hair

Stretch your spirit

Everywhere…

Who needs money?

Who needs fame?

Heaps of shoes?

A private plane?

No more boundaries

No restraints

No more boss

Or mortgage pains!

Hit the road

Without a plan

Find a self

You understand

Don’t give up

Don’t give in

Find a skin

You can live in

And begin.

Dakadakkadak dakkadakkadak

Dakkadakkkadak dakkadakkadak.

Don’t look forward (Living here)

Don’t look back (Living now)

You can be…

Dak Dak

Rowena

Dorothy Dix Talks

Anyway, I’m sorry. No doubt, you’re not wanting advice but I’ve brought you something I stumbled upon by Dorothy Dix…  Dictates for a Happy Life . While I’m usually very suspect about what I call: “Prescriptions for Happiness”, she offers sound advice. I’m going to print these off and discuss them with my family. Give them to the kids. After all, everybody’s life is their own “road not taken” and we’re each bush-bashing cross country and need all the help we can get. Not only maps, torches and practical stuff, but also spiritual and emotional guidance. I also try to pray. As much as it can feel that God’s incredibly distant and aloof, I’ve actually experienced him carry me over most of life’s pot holes and strife.

Indeed, you might want to read Mary Stevenson’s  Footprints poem.

I also found  Maya Angelou incredibly encouraging.

Sylvia Plath's Grave

Sylvia Plath’s Grave. Her epitaph reads: “Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted.”

 

However, is all of this too late? It seems you can no longer change your mind.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your cup of tea and Tim Tam. I don’t mean to be flippant, but I often wonder if the answer is simply more chocolate…as long as you’re not a dog.

Love and best wishes,

Rowena

Do you have a favourite poem by Sylvia Plath?

PS: Sylvia Plath save me a very simple thank you in response to my letter. Of course, we talked but I don’t talk and tell!