Tag Archives: love of a stranger

Out of the Depths…Friday Fictioneers.

The river’s fury knew no bounds. Swallowing and regurgitating all in its path, the river gushed through precious Queenslander homes, but didn’t care… just buried its dead in mud.

Pete and Julie clung to each other like limpets. Photograph after sodden photograph fished out of the mud, their memories were falling apart in gloved hands.

Despair…utter despair.

Then, the aliens landed. Strangers wearing gumboots, rubber gloves, carrying spades, mops and plates of food. They’d salvaged their daughter’s precious teddies. Mud was glued to each and every fibre, but for the very first time, they knew they could make it.

………

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo prompt is © Karuna

A series of floods hit Queensland, Australia, beginning in December 2010. The floods forced the evacuation of thousands of people from towns and cities.[2] At least 90 towns and over 200,000 people were affected.[2] Damage initially was estimated at around A$1 billion[3] before it was raised to $2.38 billion.[1]

Three-quarters of the council areas within the state of Queensland were declared disaster zones.[5] Communities along the Fitzroy and Burnett Rivers were particularly hard hit, while the Condamine, Ballone and Mary Rivers recorded substantial flooding. An unexpected flash flood caused by a thunderstorm raced through Toowoomba’s central business district. Water from the same storm devastated communities in the Lockyer Valley. A few days later thousands of houses in Ipswich and Brisbane were inundated as the Brisbane River rose and Wivenhoe Dam used a considerable proportion of its flood mitigation capacity. Volunteers were quick to offer assistance, and sympathy was expressed from afar…Wikipedia

At the time of the floods, I was staying near Byron Bay in Northern New South Wales and also experienced the deluge. People talk about the sound of rain on a tin roof, but this was terrifying and yet at the same time, strangely beautiful at the same time. We have family and close friends in Brisbane so these floods were very close to our hearts.

I felt I had to write something uplifting in response to this prompt which I found quite disturbing.

xx Rowena

Sunflower…A Christmas Miracle.

This sunflower growing in my garden finally unfurled the last of its petals today. By the afternoon, it had turned its golden, yellow face towards the warm Australian sun, oblivious to the long and winding road which brought it here.

What it doesn’t know, is that it’s “grandparent” witnessed the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in the Ukraine, killing all 298 people onboard.

Moreover, this sunflower doesn’t know that an Australian journalist and photographer salvaged seeds from the crash site and brought them back to Australia. These seeds were cultivated in quarantine and their seeds were posted out to family and friends of the victims.

may your sunflowers bloom

A personal message from journalist Paul McGeogh & Kate Geraghty who sent me the sunflowers.

That’s why it’s extra special that the sunflowers are flowering for Christmas. It means so much!

How these seeds ended up in my garden is a long story, but I have been sharing their story on my blog. I have also taken the seedlings to local schools with a view of teaching the kids about compassion, kindness and how even the smallest acts of kindness can make a difference. I am a real believer in the strange, inexplicable love of a stranger. That as much as we expect our loved ones to be there in our hour of need, frequently we are touched by the love of a stranger who steps out of their comfort zone and is there for us. This is not so much heroism, and yet it is. We can all make a difference, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant we might feel. Every single one of us are movers and shakers, especially when we get together and the one becomes many.

sunflower-and-hand

What I particularly like about the sunflower story is that it perfectly illustrates that even in the depths of darkness and despair, even when the world seems swamped by violence, anger and hate there is still human kindness, love and compassion. There are still individuals who will stand up and be counted, even at the point of putting their own lives on the line.

That’s huge.

A few months ago, I received a request for sunflower seeds from a relative of the Malaysian pilot who was him in the attack. They’d lost their seeds when they moved and she was devastated and started search the web until she found me and the blog. That meant so much to me. I sent her 5 seeds and I hope they flourish. We’re keeping in touch.

I still have around 2o seeds which I’ll be planting shortly and I am doing my very best to produce plenty of seeds to take their message forward.

Although I didn’t know any of the people on board personally, I never want to forget them or what happened. Yet, I also remember how the love of two strangers reached out through the darkest of hours and gave love.

So, I will do what I can this Christmas to pass the message on.

xx Rowena

 

 

Heartbreak in Paris…Flash Fiction.

Nobody warned Chloe that the City of Love, was the City of Heartbreak. Or, that the River Seine flowed with lovers’ tears.

Yet, what could she expect from a holiday romance? A wedding ring?

Instead, he’d returned her letters and wasn’t returning her calls.

The lights of Paris had gone out and as Chloe leaned over Pont Neuf, she felt herself being pulled in.

“Nobody’s worth dying for,” a firm arm grabbed her, pulling her back from the edge.

What was she thinking? He wasn’t worth this.

An infinitesimal flicker of light broke through the darkness.

She was free.

This has been a Flash Fiction Challenge from Charli over at Carrot Ranch

August 31, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a goodbye. It can be the last polka until next time; a farewell without end; a quick see ya later. How does the goodbye inform the story. What is the tone, the character’s mood, the twist? Go where the prompt leads.

writing in Paris

Writing on the Window Sill at the Hotel Henri IV July, 1992.

After graduating from university, my friends and I went backpacking overseas and met up in Paris for about six weeks of what turned out to be fairly intense soul searching. I don’t think I actually met anyone who actually found love and lived happily ever after. Indeed, I met a American from the Bronx at the Shakespeare Bookshop, whose lover had thrown his guitar into the River Seine in a rage. Isn’t that just a perfect Paris scene?

My tales of love gone wrong in Paris are hard to explain. More a case of meeting an attainable soul mate I met through my time staying in Heidelberg. So this was someone I knew really well and never crossed the line romantically but when he cut me off and sent me packing, even if it was for my own good, it hurt like hell. Soul mates aren’t easy to come by.

Fortunately, I was traveling with good friends who looked out for me and I guess I also wanted to reinforce the role that we all have as by-standers in saving someone’s life. This has been in the Australian news recently as an Australian woman who was critically injured in the terrorist attack in Nice on Bastille Day, and was saved by a stranger who stayed with her.

We never know quite how a touch of human kindness can touch somebody’s life.

xx Rowena

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!!!