Tag Archives: Kahlil Gibran

S – Silence…Motivational Quotes A-Z Challenge.

“Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well that you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
and the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.”

― Khalil Gibran

I absolutely adore Khalil Gibran’s: The Prophet and had to include a quote for my series which is seriously in danger of not being finished before the end of April. So, today I’m going to keep it short and sweet and I’ll be back shortly with T. Tonight is catch-up.

Best wishes,

Rowena

G-Kahlil Gibran: Letters To Dead Poets

Dear Kahlil,

When I finally discovered The Prophet in my forties, I was so incredibly thirsty! I drank and drank and drank, soaking up your words like some magical, healing elixir.

Where have you been all my life and why has it taken so long to find you?  If only you had been there guiding my path, speaking from one poet to another, I would never have felt so alone through life’s valleys. You somehow seem to know me or something even beyond me which I needed to know,  grasp tight and consume. Why didn’t we read The Prophet at school? Why wasn’t it just as important to learn about ourselves and how we tick, as it was to learn all those numbers I barely ever use? Sure, there was Banjo Paterson’s The Man from Snowy River and  Keats’ Odes but why weren’t you there for us too? It’s not easy been young and fighting your way through to the canopy and beyond.

khalil_gibran

Kahlil Gibran.

Yet, when I mentioned you  to my aunt, she told me that she’d written your words in a card to my mother when I was born. That’s right. You’ve been with me even since I was born. Indeed, were those words a seed in my heart? A poet’s heart just waiting to grow tall and strong? Or, do I but dream?

While The Prophet covers so much ground, it is your words about love that have really formed and shaped me. Words whose poetry has grown into understanding, now that I’m older. I can now appreciate the importance of solitude. That it’s quite okay to spend time all by yourself and contemplate and reflect, rather than being part of the crowd just to have somewhere to go. That being home alone doesn’t equal social death.

Gibran Prophet

When I was young, I used to crave intimacy. There was that yearning desire to fuse absolutely with another human being through mind, body and spirit until our boundaries completely evaporated and the two became one.

It’s no wonder I earned myself nicknames like: “limpet” and “Velcro”.

However, while new love has that intensity, you have to work and otherwise function and have space in between souls.

I’d never really given space much thought. That space is just as important as intimacy. That the words on the page become meaningless without that all-important finger space in between. That drawing is as much about the background, the white space, as it is about the subject.

Strangely, this epiphany came to me while helping out in my son’s classroom during his first year at school. So many of the kids wanted to write all their letters and words together, and they constantly needed to be reminded to “leave a finger space”.

All of a sudden, I realised how important space was. That we actually need space as much as the supposed content.

Moreover, this need for space doesn’t only relate to words on the page or a busy schedule but also relates to people. That as much as we love our partner, children, family, there needs to be space in between us to breathe, stretch our wings and to grow:

“But you, children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed.
Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast.
It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye.
You shall not fold your wings that you may pass through doors, nor bend your heads that they strike not against a ceiling, nor fear to breathe lest walls should crack and fall down.
You shall not dwell in tombs made by the dead for the living.
And though of magnificence and splendour, your house shall not hold your secret nor shelter your longing.
For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and the silences of night.”

 

You also wrote about the space between parents and their children. That parents do not “own” their children  and children need room to grow.  These were actually the verses my aunt wrote out for my mother when I was born:

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

However, this need for spaces in between people isn’t just about parents and children but also lovers, husband and wives. That, as much as we are a couple and become one, that we must also remain individuals and not lose ourselves in each other. Become half-people.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Indeed, your vision of love is far from romantic:

“For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.”

However, while this space between individuals is necessary, what about when you are living with the shadow of death, so very conscious that your time together is finite, so incredibly finite and that carpe diem seize the day means clinging to each other with all you’ve got and trying to make the most of every single moment. That you don’t want to let go even for a second and pulling away feels like you’re being torn in half and that anguish is so intense and all-consuming.

I know that feeling. Have been there and yet miraculously I survived and rode out of a couple of incredibly treacherous storms. I still remember the anguish when I found out they’d found fibrosis in my lungs, knowing that could spread rapidly or it could just lie dormant. Not do much at all. Yet, I had to wait over Christmas for an appointment with a lung specialist and the thought of being wrenched away from my family, was pure hell. My daughter was only 5 years old and needed me to do her hair, especially for the end of year ballet concert, which I cried through watching her through stained-glass windows feeling each and every moment like it was my last. Our son had had quite a tough year at school and I was the wind beneath his wings, trying to get him through. My kids were way too young to lose their Mum and I resolved then and there to fight this wretched disease with everything I had. Do anything for love. Indeed, I kept singing the song by Meatloaf as I staggered around the house weighed down by grief. It was funny and I know you’ve never even heard of Tim Tams let alone tried one but they’re a highly addictive chocolate biscuit which is as Australian as Freddo Frogs and Vegemite. Anyway, there I was feeling absolutely rock bottom depressed and I looked into my pantry singing “Anything for Love” and then this packet of Tim Tams looked at me and said: “Are you sure?” In other words, it was asking me if I loved my kids and my family enough to give up Tim Tams so I could buy more time? You might think this is an absolute no-brainer but being a lover of chocolate, that was quite a challenge, which, by the way, I did stick to for awhile. There’s nothing like staring death straight in the face to make you change your life. I cut sugar out of my tea and coffee at home and cut back on sugar big time. My husband was also having cholesterol problems and so we also all but cut out fat and cheese. Seemingly against the odds, I managed to lose 10 kgs while still taking prednisone, which we call “the fat drug”.

Change led to change and what was actually one of the lowest points in my life, was actually very productive. As you wrote:

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain…. When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.”

So, I guess in many ways relationships ebb and flow. There are times of intense togetherness and intimacy and times of solitude. Yet, love binds you together through those changes of season and through your sorrows and joys. Loving someone else, therefore, definitely means travelling way beyond the edge of your own universe and travelling to foreign lands. Indeed, sometimes I still wake up and wonder how I got here. Perhaps, you lent me your wings!

gibran art

Khalil, it has been interesting re-reading your writings today after really considering the difference between taking the freeway and the Scenic road yesterday with poet Robert Frost. What you are saying, really supports that journey along the rough, unchartered road, straight through virgin bush. You’re wrestling with the rose and it’s thorns between joy and suffering to map out some kind of trajectory through the wilderness. This is indeed a very tough and perilous journey not only through such perils but also straight through our own fear. That’s a journey we naturally avoid. Stay well clear.

I’m not sure I’m too thrilled about what I’m learning. Why do we have to keep going cross-country fighting our way through the wilderness, when we could be taking it easy? I know I’d be bored there but a bit of froth and bubble wouldn’t go astray.

Sorry, this letter is so long but I guess it was never going to be a short conversation. You’ve inspired me so much!

Many! Many Thanks!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Footprints, Pawprints and Spirits in the Sand: Winter Solstace At The Beach.

I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam,
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
Forever.

Kahlil Gibran: Sand & Foam

Whenever I take my camera with me, a walk somehow turns into an adventure, as I see the world through my second eye.

This morning was no exception.

No sooner had I caught up with the other dog walkers, than I found out that last night was the June Winter Solstice. You see, like so much other things down here in the Southern Hemisphere, things are a bit topsy turvy and upside down. Or, indeed, the right way up depending on your perspective. While so many of you re feasting on Summer, it’s Winter Down Under.

Feasting on the details in the seascape. It was just incredible!

Feasting on the details in the seascape. It was just incredible!

Yet, the dog walkers were all pretty chuffed this morning. There we were enjoying the incredible sunshine in the middle of Winter, tossing our jumpers, coats, scarves to the four winds, while some of the more daring canines actually braved the surf without dipping in a pre-emptory paw first.

Winter? What Winter?

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.

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.

Although the day started out at a brusk 9 degrees Celsius, it rose to a glorious 20 degrees. Talk about spoiled! Indeed, I was.

Returning home, I started cogitating about the Winter Solstice, reading about festivals held overseas as well as scientific facts about the seasons and the rise and fall of the moon and the sun.

Even seaweed takes on an incredible beauty through my camera lens.

Even seaweed takes on an incredible beauty through my camera lens.

What with all this juggling of snippets, facts and reflection, I started wondering about the feet which used to walk along these shores not that long ago and what their traditions for the Winter Solstice might have been.

Aboriginal Language Map of Sydney.

Aboriginal Language Map of Sydney.

Our local area was home to the Guringai Australian Aboriginal tribe. This tribe stretched from the north side of Port Jackson, North through Pittwater, Broken Bay and Brisbane Water, to the southern end of Lake Macquarie.

Another fallen tree in the surf.

Another fallen tree in the surf.

In March 1788, just a couple of months after the English first settled at Sydney Cove, the first Europeans arrived in our local area when Governor Arthur Phillip landed with a party at Ettalong Beach. In June 1789, a more thorough investigation of Brisbane Water was conducted. A rest stop was made at Ettalong Beach before the group passed through ‘The Rip’ (a dangerous passage leading into Brisbane Water). On return, the party camped at Ettalong Beach before sailing to Dangar Island in the Hawkesbury River.

Here are a few quotations from that trip which appear on a a local plaque:

Plaque no 2.: “Monday 3rd March, 1788 When the tide had slacken’d we picked up and found several small inlets between mangroves on one of which island we stop’d and pitch’d the tents: had a very hard rain all the morning Lieut. Wm Bradley March, 1788”.

Plaque no 3.: “Tuesday, 4th While the tents and clothes were drying… a crab was caught and proved very good AM, at day light proceeded up… we found natives all the way up. Lieut. Wm Bradley March, 1788”.

Plaque no 4.: “This plaque was laid on the 3rd of March 1988 to commemorate the landing in this vicinity of Gov. Phillip, Lieut. Hunter and their party on 3rd March 1788”.

Feet…despite my love of history, I’ve never really considered whose feet I am following in as I walk with the dogs along the beach and chat to other dog walkers. By the time we arrive, there are hundreds of footprints in the sand and it’s no longer a fresh canvas.

However, these footprints dig deeper…Governor Phillip, the Guringai people… into a timeless land.

Turning back the clock even further, Aboriginal people observed the solstice long before Stonehenge was even a dream.

Found on a property near Mt Rothwell, 80km west of Melbourne, there’s an ancient Aboriginal sundial dubbed Wurdi Youang, which was built by the Wathaurung people before European settlement. CSIRO professors believe the ancient Aboriginal sundial could be more than 10,000 years old, an estimate that would have it pre-date the famous neolithic Stonehenge and the only remaining ancient wonder of the world, the Egyptian Pyramids.

CSIRO astrophysicist Professor Ray Norris said the precise alignment of the stones proved beyond a doubt it was constructed to map the movements of the sun, in order to track the seasons.

“What we have found with this stone arrangement, which is a circle of about 50m across, is it’s aligned east-west and what is really interesting is that if you stand at the top and look through this particular gap over the stones, you look at the exact position of where the sun sets on summer and winter solstices and at the spring and autumn equinoxes,” Prof Norris said.

“This can’t be done by guesswork. It required very careful measurements.

“If it goes back, let’s say, 10,000 years, that predates the Egyptians, the Pyramids, Stonehenge, all that stuff. So, that would indeed make them the world’s first astronomers.”

Head of Sydney University’s Koori Studies, Janet Mooney, said the discovery would be an inspiration for young Aborigines and help address what she claims is a fundamental oversight of the skill of the ancient race.

“This discovery has huge significance for understanding the amazing ability of this culture that is maligned,” she said.

So many stories have been etched into the sand, reading like a book.

So many stories have been etched into the sand, reading like a book.

I felt quite a sense of pride learning of these Aboriginal achievements. So often, I hear comments about how Australia has no history. That we only go back 227 years, as though Australia didn’t exist beforehand. Indeed, it was terra nullus…a blank sheet of paper just waiting for the English to start writing its’ story.

Not so. Definitely, not so!

Anyway, none of this crossed my mind as walked with the dogs this morning. All I was thinking about how good that sun felt and how blessed we are to live in an absolute paradise. Of course, this is totally forgetting about the dreary, wet days we had last week and it is this contrast against that cold gloom, that made today so much better. It isn’t like this every day!

So, now the march towards Spring and those scorchingly hot Australian Summers has begun and yet I’m sure you’ll understand why it’s so easy to fall in love with a sunny Winter’s day at the beach!

xx Rowena

Sources

http://treatyrepublic.net/content/australian-indigenous-people-worlds-first-astronomers”>

Further reading About Wurdi Youang

A Blog About Aboriginal Astronomy: http://aboriginalastronomy.blogspot.com.au/

The Morning After…a Walk Along the Beach.

“You see but your shadow when you turn your back to the sun.

Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Last night, as we watched the full moon rise over a sprawling landscape of twinkling lights, I felt such a mixture of hope and dread, like you do when, for whatever reason, you become intensely conscious transience. As much as you desperately try to hold onto the known, the familiar, the beloved; you know your efforts are futile. Change is in the wind and you’re losing your grip. Like that mysterious world at the top of Enid Blyton’s: The Magic Faraway Tree, you don’t know what’s coming next. Whether it’s better or worse, or just different. All you know is that you can’t turn back. That door is shut. Indeed, it’s so firmly shut it’s like that world never even existed and has escaped to the realms of dreams, legend…fantasy even.

I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam,
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
Forever.

Kahlil Gibran, Sand & Foam

Even though I’ve conquered many hurdles, especially in relation to my health, I’m definitely no Captain Courageous. Oh no! I can withdraw inside my cocoon just as much as the next person but I’m also starting to figure out what works for me and that if I don’t want to wallow in the mud, there are things I can do to lift myself out.

When you lose something precious, it is all too easy to forget what you still have. What is left. It’s understandable that I’m upset about losing our escape hatch at Palm Beach but we actually live 700 metres away from the beach, an absolutely smashing beach. Umina Beach fronts onto Broken Bay, just North of Sydney and has a postcard view of Lion Island, Pittwater and across to Palm Beach. Indeed, I can even wave to the Palm Beach Lighthouse and I swear that sometimes it even waves back.

Walking, I find, is also very good for clearing out the soul and after several weeks of rain, the sun returned yesterday and gave another encore performance today. Knowing that Winter is just around the corner, I’m grabbing these sunny days with both feet and getting out to the beach…carpe diem: seize the day!

Wally the Wandering Wombat and Ernie at the beach. But where's Bert?

Wally the Wandering Wombat and Ernie at the beach. But where’s Bert?

So after school drop off this morning, I went down to Umina Beach not only for a walk but to do a photo shoot.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been involved in a project to promote awareness of my auto-immune disease which involves photographing Wally the Wombat whose wanderings from the UK and around Australia are being well-documented. Dermatomyositis can affect children as well so I headed off to the beach to photograph Wally with Ernie from Sesame Street.

Memorial to the lives lost in the Christchurch Earthquake. On the 3rd anniversary of the earthquake, a single red carnation on each chair in remembrance of all those who died. Photo: Joyce Majendie

Memorial to the lives lost in the Christchurch Earthquake. On the 3rd anniversary of the earthquake, a single red carnation on each chair in remembrance of all those who died. Photo: Joyce Majendie

I also took along a cane chair.

I am currently putting together a farewell to Palm Beach series based on the image of the empty chair. The empty chair has been used to symbolise loss and grief in various works and Geoff Le Pard reminded me of that when he told me about a memorial to the victims of the Christchurch earthquakes called 185 Empty White Chairs with a chair to represent each person who died in the quake. I Googled it and was quite moved by the memorial and loved how they’ve used such an eclectic array of chairs, including a wheelchair, which have all been painted white. It was very evocative.

Vincent Van Gogh:

Vincent Van Gogh: “Van Gogh’s Chair 1888”

So here’s to new beginnings…I think! That and being thankful for all that we do have, even at timesof loss and transition when it’s so easy to forget.

xx Rowena

Umina Beach looking across to Lion Island and Palm Beach.

Umina Beach looking across to Lion Island and Palm Beach.

Chair and foam

Chair and foam

The tide shows no respect for what's been left upon the shore.

The tide shows no respect for what’s been left upon the shore.

Accepting the Very Inspiring Bloggers Award

I would like to thank Phoebe from Musings of  Puppydoc http://phoebemd.com/2015/01/05/blog-awards/ for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Bloggers Award.

I was so stoked to receive this award because after all my trials and tribulations, I would like to be able to inspire others to claw their way forward when they go through periods of adversity. If you are ever going through a phase of darkness, know that the sun never sets. That it’s always shining. It’s just they we don’t see it.

Three favourite quotes which have inspired me through times of hardship are:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Calvin Coolidge

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

― Kahlil Gibran

The last quote came from our son’s pre-school teacher. Early childhood had some difficult moments, particularly due due my debilitating health which saw me hospitalised for 7 weeks when Mister was 3 and Miss was 18 months old. Initially, I would cynically snigger to myself that tomorrow would just bring more of the same but the reality was actually quite different. One day actually could be quite different to another.

“Tomorrow is another day.”

The Sun Set Byron Bay

Sun Set Byron Bay

Three things which have inspired me this week or in recent times are:

1) I heard TV interviews with the hostages who survived the terrorist siege in Sydney’s Lindt Cafe in Martin Place and I was incredibly touched and moved by their courage, survival skills and endurance. There were so many inspirational stories but I was particular moved by the thoughfulness of Marcia Mikhael who calm down two of the younger hostages when they had panic attacks and talked through through some relaxation and meditation techniques to calm them down. She also swapped places with them and moved from a very good vantage point where she could have escaped to being next to the gunman.

2) The outpouring of grief and compassion after the terrorist attacks in Martin Place, Sydney and in Paris. It was inspirational to see how good triumphed over evil.

3) I have signed up to be a part of a global blogging movement called #One Thousand Voices Speak for Compassion. where we will write a post about compassion on 20th February, 2015 …the International UN Day of Social Justice. Read more herehttps://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/bloggers-unite-for-a-better-world-1000-voices-speak-for-compassion/

You will find that many of the bloggers I have nominated live with chronic and serious medical conditions and refer to these on their blogs. I am inspired by their courage though great adversity and the love and encouragement they share.

There are also a few dog blogs on the list. These largely involve stories of dogs who have been rescued and lovingly given a new life yet still carry the emotional scars. There is also a blog about a therapy dog.

Here are the rules for accepting this award (purely voluntary):

1.  Thank the person who nominated you by including a link to his/her blog in your response, and display the award logo on your site.

2.  Nominate 15 other blogs (more or less). Include links to their blogs on your post, and inform them about the nomination.

3.  Mention three things that inspired you the most this week (you can talk about last week’s inspiration too or before that).

My nominations for the VIB award are as follows:

Miniscule Moments of Inspiration: http://www.kathunsworth.com

Bruises You can Touch: http://bruisesyoucantouch.com/

Journeyintopoetry: https://journeyintopoetry.wordpress.com

Yvonne Spence – http://yvonnespence.com/

Lizzi Rogers – http://summat2thinkon.wordpress.com/

Poetry Photos and Musings Oh my!    https://poetryphotosandmusingsohmy.wordpress.com/

Butterfly Mumma: http://butterflymumma.com/

Monika and Sam the therapy dog: Tails Around the Ranch: https://tailsaroundtheranch.wordpress.com/

Psychologistmimi: http://psychologistmimi.com/

Behind the White Coat : https://doctorly.wordpress.com/

#1000 Voices for Compassion: http://1000speak.wordpress.com/

Rachel Mankowitz: https://rachelmankowitz.wordpress.com/

Such Small Hands: https://lilyellyn.wordpress.com/about/

Ali Isaac Storyteller: http://aliisaacstoryteller.com/

Sirena Tales: https://sirenatales.wordpress.com/

Jackie at Lethargic Smiles: https://lethargicsmiles.wordpress.com/

I am Not A Sick Boy: http://iamnotsickboy.com/

Max the Dog: https://withinthekstreets.wordpress.com/  ….Max has inspired me with his very cute doggy looks and I now want to visit Hawaii.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

Walking Through Martin Place: 6 Weeks After the Sydney Siege.

Yesterday, I walked through Sydney’s Martin Place for the very first time since the terrorist siege in December. It’s been 6 weeks. Experiencing something of a swirling vortex of emotion within, I felt unnerved, strange and just sad. Yet, with all the historic buildings still pretty much the same and the usual contingent of penguins in business attire, Martin Place was strangely business as usual.

Well…not quite!

“I am forever walking upon these shores,

Betwixt the sand and the foam,

The high tide will erase my food prints,

And the wind will blow away the foam,

But the sea and the shore will remain forever.”

― Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

I wasn’t there as a voyeur but as someone trying to make sense of a horror which could never make sense. I had wanted to get in there earlier to pay my respects and leave some flowers. However, with my broken foot, I couldn’t get into the city. Now, leaving flowers no longer seemed appropriate and there was no means to express a grief which runs inexplicably deep, almost as deep as the historic Tank Stream, which lies buried beneath Martin Place’s  landmark GPO where most don’t even know it still exists.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

A lot of tears have flowed into that stream lately and it’s been bursting its subterranean banks…or should I say through the pipes. Yet, now as time  passes, those tears are ever so slowly leaking through the cracks.

Above ground, everything appears almost, almost “normal” even though it isn’t. Not yet, anyway. We’re human…not machines. You can’t just press a stopwatch and your grief instantly goes away… along with your fear or at least a little reticence. After all, it could just as easily have been you, me, someone else we know and love and we know it. We’re no longer naive. It’s no longer “over there”. As I’ve said before, Australia has lost its innocence.

After a personally draining but positive day of medical tests topped off with a filling at the dentist, why did I feel the need to go to Martin Place? I really should have been unwinding and Luna Park or even a ferry trip would have been better options.

Yet, there was something stirring and resonating in my heart…a very strong, deep sense of grief..even a sense of anguish for all those who had been taken hostage and their families but mostly for Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, who lost their lives. I needed to let that out.

I naturally feel a strong identification with Katrina Dawson, not only because she is also a Mum but because our family has been living with my tenuous health for almost 9 years and we have had some very, very anguished close calls. I have felt my children being torn away from me like having my heart ripped out of my chest and it is agonisingly painful. To know that her family is actually living that hell, that grief, makes my heart ache and there’s also anger because it didn’t have to be. Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson did not have to die that day.  This is probably some kind of survivor’s guilt. After all, it is hard to understand how I’m still here when my body has been ravaged by so much disease: my muscles, lungs, skin, bones. I doubt there’s a part of this body which isn’t being held together by safety pins. Yet, somehow I’m still breathing and even walking. Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were fit, healthy good people who had done nothing wrong. They just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and through some absolute miracle, my kids still have their Mum.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

The kids and I taken during my 7 week stint in hospital 2007. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

The kids and I. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t make any sense but I’m incredibly grateful and also incredibly conscious of other families who are living this grief.

I have walked through Martin Place countless times before. The clock tower still looms over the top of the historic GPO almost like the moon, even in daylight. I pass by the Cenotaph honoring those who gave their lives during a different type of war where we seemed to know the rules. None of that has changed, although some extensive renovations are underway.

Then, as I’m making my way through Martin Place, I starting thinking. Nobody knows where I am. That I’m here. I started wondering whether I should just possibly call my husband and let him know that I’m in Martin Place. If something happens, not that it’s going to happen because it can’t, nobody knows that I’m here. Lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice although all the reasons why Martin Place was hit last time, are still there. That hasn’t changed. I feel like I’m walking through a minefield and I need to report in. That something could happen and nobody would even know that I’m here. That a confession is in order. Yes, instead of catching the train straight home from the dentist at Milson’s Point, I’ve caught the train into the city, traversing the imposing span of the Sydney Harbour Bridge alighting at Wynyard  Station. Despite my broken foot, I have managed to hobble up George Street to Martin Place and even up the hill. I can already hear them saying: “What was she thinking?!!!”

I’d already had a very emotionally charged, exhausting day what with medical tests and having a tooth filled at the dentist and I still had violin ensemble ahead. Yet, I felt drawn to Martin Place, needing to pay my respects and also to try to fathom the unfathomable.

I am walking up through Martin Place, which has a bit of a hill. Up, up, up. I’m not entirely sure where the Lindt Cafe is located but my foot is now starting to tire and I’m wondering if it’s all too much. I’m slowly putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

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

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

A famous photo called: “The Dancing Man” was taken in Martin Place at the end of WWII of a man jubilantly dancing in Martin Place near the corner of Elizabeth Street. This photo has come to represent joy and celebration and yet it was almost taken right at the location of the Lindt Cafe…a scene where chocolate indulgence has turned into horror and tragedy. This paradox intrigues me. No one else seems to have made this connection.

Amidst all these questions, I wonder if place has a sense of memory? Does the soil buried beneath metres of concrete also wonder why all this has happened? Why it happened here? Who knows?

Slowly but surely I am nearing the Channel 7 TV Studios, which I know from the news broadcasts, are directly opposite the Lindt Cafe. This, it turns out, was no coincidence.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

This is the Lindt Cafe.  It’s located on the corner of Phillip Street, metres away from the NSW Supreme Court and the Reserve Bank. At least in Australian terms, this area is steeped in history. It is also metres away from St James Church. St James, with its simple almost austere Georgian lines, was designed by former convict Francis Greenway, consecrated in February 1824 and became a parish church in 1835.

Breakfast At Tiffany's

A Very Different Breakfast…

A block away, there’s Tiffany’s jewelery store and I can’t help but think of the movie and see Audrey Hepburn in all her elegance. Moon River  flows through my heart like a stream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7SI7N22k_A but then there’s this dreadful discordance…a Monday morning and a hot chocolate at the Lindt Cafe…

That certainly wasn’t Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The Lindt Cafe is empty. Indeed, it hasn’t reopened since the siege. The entrance has been boarded up and there’s a slide bolt stuck on the front. It’s sort of bolt you usually see on a side gate in your backyard, not on the front of a cafe. It looks very weird and out of place like the can opener my grandfather used to shut his garage door in later life.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

The future of the Lindt Cafe is seemingly coming out of limbo. Apparently, it’s being renovated and a memorial will be set up in the new cafe. As much as I’d always wanted to go there in the past, I don’t know if I could go there. Although I’m a serious chocoholic, there are so many other places to go where there are no memories…just coffee and cake. That’s what I’m looking for. I don’t need to be a hero. I don’t need to take such chances. I don’t even need to be brave. With more than enough adventure on my own journey, I don’t need to take on fresh, unnecessary challenges.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

That said, I can’t just stay at home either. There’s that yin and yang…the tension where carpe diem seize the day becomes rather blurry. We know the world has changed…especially after events in Paris only served the reinforce the warning yet while need to be vigilant but not afraid.

There is a difference but the challenge is to find it and to stick with it.

XX Rowena

This is the fourth post I’ve written about the siege at the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place, Sydney. Here are some links to previous posts:

During the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/terror-in-australis-the-siege-in-sydneys-martin-place/

At the end of the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/only-9-sleeps-before-christmas/

This is Our Sydney: Originally posted on kazblah: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/this-is-still-our-sydney/  

Recovering From Trauma: Petrea King https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/recovering-from-trauma-petrea-king-a-must-read/

Send Christmas Cards to Katrina Dawson’s Kids: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/lindt-cafe-siege-sydney-please-send-christmas-cards-to-katrina-dawsons-kids/

Should We Have A Happy Christmas? https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/should-we-have-a-happy-christmas/

A New Year’s Wish: Ask What You Can Do for Your World: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/a-new-years-wish-ask-what-you-can-do-for-your-world/

Compassion in Action!! Sowing those precious sunflower seeds…

Back in December as the New Year approached, I posed a new vision:

“Ask not what the world can do for you but what you can do for your world.”

– Rowena.

It’s an ambitious question particularly as I’ve been largely parked at home for the last month with a broken foot and what I’ve coined the “Operatic Cough” which really does involve some combination of choking, gasping and the bark of an Alsatian. Even at the best of times, I’m not usually physically out and about but have my moments.

Like most of humanity, I could describe myself as a grain of sand in the overall scheme of things or…

a seed.

What can I do?

Well, I can do what I’ve always done…write about it and now thanks to the world wide web, my “writings about it” spread around the world, even if they are still not being read by the masses. Last year, they actually found there way to 62 countries, which really amazed me when I only have a small following.

Yesterday, I encouraged you to join us for “1000 Voices Speak for Compassion”.

Today, I would like to share a beautiful example of Compassion in Action.

In an age when news has a very short life span, it sometimes feels like the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 has been consigned to history. While I didn’t know anyone on board the plane personally, I spent the day in front of my TV set with a torn and broken heart not knowing who was on board and doing a mental calculation of all the people I knew who traveled regularly and was relieved when I knew they were all on home soil. It took quite some time for the names of those on board to be released, although it seems that those who were affected knew fairly early on. Yes, they knew.

Yet, many of us have a broad circle of friends and acquaintances and there’s always that stranger we sat next to on the bus who might just have been on board. All of a sudden, at least for me, these incidental connections suddenly gained weight and I really did feel a personal connection to all the Australians on board. Although geographically big, Australia has a relatively small population and when something like this happens, there’s usually a personal connection. Somebody we know, knew someone on board. In our family, my husband actually knew an American who had lost family members through a online photography community he belong to. I remember the look of stunned horror on his face when he told me the news.

I am a great believer in the love of a stranger. I have experienced it many times myself, largely in relation to my ongoing health issues and disability but there have been a number of times where I have loved a stranger very, very deeply in a way that defies logic. At times, I’ve almost been consumed by such love and compassion for a stranger and these feelings generally have no outlet. No means of expression. Moreover, these feelings aren’t always easy to live with either because as much as there is great love and compassion, there is also great pain. A pain I could perhaps choose to leave behind. Walk away from. Decide not to get involved. It’s not my problem and yet quite often circumstances draw me further in. I stray across an article. Bump my mouse accidentally and stray across a post, a story that I was destined to read and I am carried further and further along this path…a journey I never intended to take with someone I don’t even know and most of the time, I can even tell them I care.

Quite often, these journeys also take me away from paying attention to my own family. Those who are my first loves and I can get a little lost in a sense on these journeys. Indeed, I have been learning over the years how to switch back and forth a bit better so I am still present in the present.

Anyway, I was catching up on my newspaper reading today desperately trying to clean up when I found a followup article to the MH17 tragedy. This is the second article I have found by Australian journalist, Paul McGeogh.

Sydney Morning Herald’s Chief Foreign Correspondent, Paul McGeogh was deeply and exceptionally moved by MH17.  “More than 25 years as a correspondent have taught me to curb sentimentality as I observe the unreasonable randomness of pain, suffering and uncertainty in this world.”

However, McGeogh and  Sydney Morning Herald photographer Kate Geraghty felt in a sense called to send sunflower seeds salvaged from the actual time and place of the “crash” to friends and family of the victims.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

What started out as a compassionate gesture, actually became a personal quest. We’re talking about taking seeds from a hostile war zone with extremely  limited access and bringing them back to Australia, which has equally restrictive quarantine laws. It doesn’t take long to realise that this compassion gesture would, at the very least, be complicated.

http://www.smh.com.au/world/were-from-the-government-and-were-here-to-help-the-mh17-sunflower-seeds-offer-20150102-12gjis.html

You can read McGeogh’s account and see photos taken at the time here:

http://www.smh.com.au/world/my-christmas-offering-sunflower-seeds-for-mh17-families-from-the-fields-of-ukraine-20141226-12dily.html

This story of the journalist and the photographer is such a powerful example of compassion in action. I can just imagine that these two live out of a suitcase chasing the big stories with the focus and enthusiasm that has made them amongst the best in their field.

Yet, as McGeogh pointed out, this journey was about 38 murdered Australian and their family and friends and yet his compassion was inversely proportioned to the people he was desperately sought to touch. This time not through the power of the pen and the camera but through action, deed and the heart.

Our family was also touched by this tragedy in a very personal way and our kids drew hearts on red cardboard, cut them out and stuck them on paddlepop sticks and sent them to people we could identify knew the victims. There were quite a few schools affected and they became the focus of our efforts. I also photographed the hearts beside our local beach before I sent them off.

The hearts photographed on the waterfront.

The hearts photographed on the waterfront.

The red hearts were inspired by the red poppies which the children make each ANZAC Day honouring those who died at war. Historically speaking, these people were in the forces and civilians haven’t been honoured, at least as far as I’m aware. The 38 Australians who were murdered on Flight MH17 were also casualties of war…a war which had nothing to do with Australia. They weren’t in uniform fighting for their country. They were simply on holidays. No matter who you are or where you live, holidays are sacred.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find the most recent story online.

I also learnt of a different kind of seed.

You might recall that three Perth children Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin and their grandfather were among those onboard MH17. A charitable foundation has been established not to only honour their memory but also to help make a difference. The Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin Foundation will assist children with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. It turns out that young Otis had difficulties.  The details of how to donate are in the article:

https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/lifestyle/a/25344883/maslins-set-up-dyslexia-fund/

I’ll also mention a foundation set up to honour the memory of mother and barrister, Katrina Dawson, who died following the terrorist siege in Sydney’s Lindt Cafe. The Katrina Dawson aims to continue her devotion to women’s education :http://www.thekatrinadawsonfoundation.org/

It is incredibly inspirational that both these families are wanting to give back to the world at a time of absolutely paralysing and debilitating grief. It is incredibly humbling!!!

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”― Kahlil Gibran

I am left in respectful silence…

Love!!!

Rowena

Sunflower Collage, Miss aged 7 2013.

Sunflower Collage, Miss aged 6 2012.

The sunflower pictures here were made by our daughter at school when she was 6. I subsequently lacquered it for conservation and mounted it on a canvas. The original was simply made using sunflower seeds, construction paper, glue and a teacher’s inspiration. The collage has obviously taken on deeper significance after attack on MH17, which fell into fields of flowering sunflowers in war-torn Ukraine. When I look at this picture I often think of the beautiful Maslin children who were just like my kids…all our precious children and so very, very loved and cherished!!!

 

A New Year’s Wish: Ask what you can do for your world!

The countdown is ticking: 10,9,8,7,6,5,,3,2,1..Happy New Year!

In the light of recent tragic events, I sub-consciously found myself reworking the words of President John F. Kennedy. Indeed, in  this rogue terrorist era where there seems to be no respect for national boundaries, this variation seems far more appropriate:

“Ask not what the world can do for you, ask what you can do for your world- Rowena.

It is my heartfelt desire that we now extend our vision way beyond our own back pockets. As overwhelming as it may feel at times, somehow we need to attain a more global perspective and not just switch off because it’s” happening somewhere “over there .  We need to switch on to both the good and the bad of what’s happening elsewhere and have a heart. It is our world and it’s the only world we’ve got. Moreover, both spiritually and environmentally, it’s pretty obvious that it’s long past time to act. Our world is gasping  for breath with a breaking heart but we still have hope.

This is a big paradigm shift for me personally. I’m more of a “think local” sort and there is always more than enough to do here but that no longer means switching off to the bigger picture but somehow just stretching my boundaries a little. That’s what growth’s about.

The baddies have always been out there somewhere.

The baddies have always been out there somewhere.

Meanwhile, the “baddies” are still out there. Moreover, as recent events have shown, they’re no longer over there but also over here.

As much as we would like to believe that we are well-camouflaged among the hundreds and thousands, who’s to say we or someone we love dearly won’t suddenly be plucked out of the multitude? Be one of the unfortunate “chosen ones”?

Hero-victim of the Lindt Cafe Siege Katrina Dawson was just going out for a morning hot chocolate with a colleague and friend. Tori Johnson, was just going to work just like Principal Tahira Qazi who was shot a day later in in Pakistan. These were just ordinary people leading ordinary lives. Eight children died in Cairns seemingly murdered by their mother and aunt…just ordinary kids.

Who is immune?Who?

Me, of course.

Statistically-speaking,  it would have to be a particularly stupid terrorist to see our place as any kind of target. It’s certainly not the Taj Mahal or the Sydney Opera House. The only way a terrorist would get here was if they got lost.  Indeed, they’d have to be very lost. They wouldn’t  even bother knocking on my door for directions to somewhere strategic. We’re a long way off the beaten track unless perhaps they’re heading to the beach.

That said, I won’t be staying home forever. At the moment, our whole family in on holidays living in some blissful state of suspended animation. The kids are currently playing with the dogs and I would be spending some time at the beach if it weren’t for the broken foot and the mega cough. Very few of us live in a concrete bunker and neither do those we love. We catch the train. Enjoy a show at the Opera House and might even pause for a hot chocolate and a chat with a friend.

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed vaccine against evil or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In 2014, we have witnessed yet again the harm that one or the few can inflict on the many. It is my heartfelt prayer for 2015 that the good of this world can come together and have a truly transformative impact. Turn the mountain of evil on its head so humanity can learn what it is to love and be loved on a global scale. Surely, this doesn’t have to be a rosy-coloured fantasy? That together, we can all join hands and somehow make it happen. After all, it’s amazing what people will do to achieve profit and greed! Just imagine how our world would change if we also applied that strength, focus and determination to being nice to each other instead?!!

The power of love.

The power of love. Photo: Rowena

The Golden Rule: Treat Others As You Would Like to be Treated!

However, that change isn’t going to come easily. It will come at a personal cost. Starting out small, it begins with you and me. The trouble is that despite our best intentions, we are still only human. Made of yin and yang. Let’s hope and pray that if we each make just a few small changes, the forces of good could gain enough momentum to turn things around. After all, just as one person has done so much harm, one person can do so much good!!

 

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste,

it is better that you should leave your

work and sit at the gate of the temple

and take alms of those who work with joy.

Khalil Gibran

Be the change. Photo: Rowena

Be the change. Photo: Rowena

However, when it comes to making these changes myself, I am more than aware of my own feet of clay…one of which is currently broken too, by the way. For me, all these good intentions begin at home with my husband and kids. It is easy to wax lyrically writing lofty, philosophical principles. It is so much harder to walk the talk 24/7.My house is a mess and I struggle to teach my own kids the golden rule, even through my own example. However, that doesn’t mean that I should just give up.  Throw my hands in the air or fall in the mud on my sword. Like all of us, I just need to keep walking with God in my heart and “Try! Try! Try!”

 

2015 is the UN International Year of Light and Light Based Technologies. After the moral darkness of the last weeks, this seemed like quite the antidote. We have been through the darkness and now we are heading for the light. Well, this theme seems to  be focusing more on the physical not metaphorical properties of light but perhaps we can adopt our own slant. I am certainly going to light a candle or two and let the light shine through the darkness.

Love

Love. Photo: Rowena

Through this blog, I have really managed to connect with a whole range of people around the world. Through the eyes of a little white dog, I have experienced a touch of Hawaii. I have been to India and enjoyed a meal. I have been to Ireland connected with a families all over the world. Shared words, art, photography and walked in so many different pairs of shoes and I’m sure I’ve become more enlightened by stretching my boundaries getting to know all these incredible, intelligent and thoughtful people.You have changed me and my world.

Now, let’s back to writing down those resolutions.

Hmm…It looks like giving up chocolate can wait. Now, in 2015, just being plain nice is so much more important!

Arnott's Nice Biscuit

Arnott’s Nice Biscuit

Our Border Collie Bilbo out on the mud flats. No doubt he is looking for his tennis ball. He doesn't care about the view and certainly tries to avoid the water.

The Thinker: Our Border Collie Bilbo out walking at low tide.

I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam,
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
Forever.

Kahlil Gibran.