Tag Archives: MH17

New Beginnings.

Being creative, is rather like stacking Lego bricks of all shapes, colours and sizes together blind-folded and having no destination at the start. Much of the time, at least for me, there’s no “end” at the beginning. So, it was when it came to photographing the diminishing remains of our gingerbread house…a Christmas treat. I had no idea what a few simple photographs would become.

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The Gingerbread House in its Pristine State. Made by Bremen Patisserie, Australia.

Last night, after my daughter and I sliced off a few more walls of the gingerbread house, it looked like it had been bombed. The walls were barely upright and overnight the roof caved in and the house was all but destroyed. Yet, the little icing figurines were still smiling, which is a lot easier when you’re an icing figurine and your smile’s permanently drawn on.

Being the end of a year which many decreed an “annus horribilis”, I decided to photograph the crumbling gingerbread house and post it under the heading: “The End of the World”.

Rowena

Getting treatment in hospital a few years ago.

No doubt, I was subconsciously relating back to a few years in my life where I couldn’t wait for the calendar to flip over to the new year. Times when I could sense a dreadful, all-pervading terror permeating through my bones, invading each and every cell. It was vile. Fortunately, my situation turned around but I’ll never forget. Nor, am I meant to forget because that pain is a hand reaching out to those who are still in that house of horrors and maybe, just maybe, I can help ease someone out. After all, I have been there. I know a way.

Perhaps, that’s why I decided to photograph its demise. There was that sense of connection…recognition of an interior state reflected in its crumbling exterior.

At the same time, the ongoing demolition of the gingerbread house, had great comic appeal. What started out as a perfect work of art with its gingerbread walls, iced snow and gorgeous little icing people, was being eaten alive by yours truly relaxing in her chair with a cup of tea. I could see a children’s movie with me cast as the giant villain…Nightmare on Gingerbread Street.

Anyway, as I said, this post was going to read: “The End of the World”.

However, when I took the house outside and photographed it with the sunflower rising behind it like the sun, the post turned on its head and became: “New Beginnings.”

Suddenly, there was hope.

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Holding the sunflower.

That was when things started bubbling away in that great melting pot inside my head. That place where one idea not only leads to another, but somehow they also melt and fuse together, making something new and ultimately significant.

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Sunflower seeds from the Ukraine

You see, the sunflower growing in my backyard is no ordinary sunflower. Rather, it was grown from seeds salvaged from the crash site of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in the Ukraine. It’s grandparents witnessed the horror of that explosion in the sky and crashing devastation.

Yet, being sunflowers, they have no memory of that being passed down from generation to generation. Rather, oblivious to the past, their seeds keep falling to the ground, being eaten by birds and re-sprouting…ignorant.

While initially this might seem a better path, those aching memories also keep those who died alive in our hearts. Ultimately, as much as it hurts when we lose someone we love, we don’t want to forget. We don’t want to let go.

I didn’t take this photo thinking of the people living near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, a Ukrainian with their horrific, graphic memories set in stunning, sunflower fields. It was just like so many other creative  ideas. What started out as photographing the leftovers of our gingerbread house, metamorphosed into something else.

It was only when I saw the little family with the sunflower rising up behind them like the sun, that I thought of the people in the Ukraine.  I thought of the sun still rising and setting in the middle of their war torn homes, where a foreign plane fell like murdered bird from the sky. The plane and all its passengers and crew crashed into their backyards. That’s intimate, personal and sticks to your soul like glue.

I have never met and will never meet these people. There is nothing I can do as a distant Australian to ease their trauma and grief other than knowledge it with this photograph and send my love…the love of a stranger.

That is even though MH17 was shot down on  17 July 2014…two and a half years ago . Yet, just because these were civilian war time casualties, it doesn’t mean we’ll forget and ever stop striving for peace in our time and beyond.

Let’s keep sowing these seeds and helping them grow.

Love,

Rowena

PS I have wondered why my sunflowers don’t look like conventional sunflowers and thought they must’ve been a different type. However, when I saw the photo of the original sunflower in the field, they also had the broad centres, which grow into vast numbers of seeds. This does concern me.

So, today I went and bought two bags of enriched potting mix and have planted 3 seeds in a small pot, saved one seed and planted the rest of the seeds in a huge pot.

I never pictured myself as a sunflower farmer. Or, you could just called me a “Sunfarmer”.

It has a certain ring to me!

 

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.

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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.

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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

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share October 30, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

It’s already Sunday night for me and Monday’s looming ahead like a dreadful hangover. So, no coffee for me tonight and I recommend you also join me for something decaf.

How was your week? I hope things went well!

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This week I decided to package up the sunflower seeds and drove them up to show my daughter’s class. As her school is a 45 minute drive away, I carefully put the sunflower seedlings in a cardboard box and secured them with the seat belt. I wasn’t taking any chances. They arrived safely and I was quite thrilled with how the talks went. I spoke to my daughter’s class and the one next door largely about the importance of acts of kindness and how it only takes a small gesture to show we care. I spoke about how the journalist and photographer who salvaged the seeds from the war zone and brought them back to Australia via quarantine, took great risks so the family and friends of the MH17 tragedy could have a special reminder of their loves ones.

Wednesday, I attended the funeral of an absolutely beautiful lady from our Church. She was in her mid-70s and has been fighting cancer for about 6 years. Now, I can tell that she really fought that cancer like Gethsemane Sam with both barrels blazing. Yet, all that time she continued to look after her disabled daughter and be an active member of her family as well as the Church. She was well known for her cooking and made us a few meals when I’ve been sick as well as helping out with the kids through an after school kids’ club. There were times I used to drop them off and go straight home to bed and sleep the entire time they were gone. I really wasn’t well. So, you could well imagine what she meant to me and how much I loved and appreciated her from the bottom of my heart. I truly wish I could be more like her and fill her shoes. It’s rather intimidating, but I think people can pick up when your intentions were good even when your efforts fall short.

Thursday night, dancing started up for another term. Instead of ballet this term, our adult class is doing lyrical dance. No, this isn’t where you start singing as you dance around the room. Lyrical dance is a style that combines ballet and jazz dancing techniques. It is performed to music with lyrics so that it inspires expression of strong emotions the choreographer feels from the lyrics of the song. This style concentrates on an individual approach and expressiveness of such emotions as love, joy, and anger. It does not concentrate on the dancer’s precision of movement. http://www.omahaschoolofmusicanddance.com/what-is-lyrical-dance-15-interesting-facts-about-this-contemporary-style/

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The Scene of the Murder in Balmain.

Yesterday, I attended the awards ceremony for the local short story competition I entered a few months ago. I’d written a short story based on a murder in Sydney’s Balmain in 1903 and it had repressed memory and what I thought were some clever ideas and yet it didn’t even rate an Honorable Mention. I have to be honest and say I was pretty upset by the result but I’ve since revisited it and read more about writing short stories and have identified some changes.

How was your week? I hope it went well and that you also have a great week ahead.

xx Rowena

Sunflower Seedlings…Lessons in Kindness.

This morning, I carefully packaged the sunflower seedlings up into a protective box. It wasn’t Fort Knox but they looked safe, especially once I’d strapped them into the back seat with a seat belt. I know this might sound over the top and I don’t know if you can be a helicopter parent to plants. However, if you’ve been following the progress of the sunflower seeds, you’ll know these aren’t any ordinary sunflowers. These sunflowers seeds came from the site of the MH17 crash in the Ukraine in 2014. They’re incredibly precious!

 

That’s also why they were in my car.I wanted to share their story with my daughter’s class. Miss goes to school 45 minutes drive away from home and with my “creative” approach to driving, that was a very long journey up along the free and through bumper-to-bumper peak hour  traffic. Slam on the brakes…ouch.

Hence the seat belt!! Moreover, you could say the cardboard box was somewhat like one of those protective car seats you sit your toddler in. I wanted them to be so safe, that I could’ve bought a Volvo.

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The Sunflower Seedlings.

Of course, I could’ve left the sunflower seedlings safely at home but I felt there was something bigger at stake. That I didn’t need to wait until the flowers actually bloomed to share their message of kindness, love and reaching out even to complete strangers when tragedy strikes. That we all start out as seeds and with love, care and nutrients and we can grow up into someone gorgeous and productive, giving our seeds back to the earth, feeding the animals and helping to wipe away the dark clouds by simply being ourselves…nothing flash. I also thought of the teachers who were onboard and how they sowed those metaphorical seeds into so many students, who went on to carry their message forward. BUT…then I also think of all those beautiful passengers whose lives were tragically cut short…every day people who were just coming home from holidays. Of course, I think of the Maslin family who lost their three beautiful children and have created a foundation to raise money for children with dyslexia. I want to help sow those seeds too. After all, words are seeds and being able to read is something most of us take for granted.

So, as I watched the sunflowers poke their heads through the soil, I came to realise that  just the fact that the seeds had sprouted, was enough for them to speak. Tell their story.

The sunflower is extraordinary and I’ve always had a connection with them but not in the same way I have now.

In August 2014, commercial flight MH17 was shot down by terrorists in the Ukraine killing everyone on board. That plane which bore the brunt of so much anger and hate, crashed into a stunning field of sunflowers, a coincidence not lost on the media. Photos and footage appeared of the ugly scar carved into the sunflowers’ heart and photographer said that the sunflowers even turned their faces away from the wreckage.

Paul McGeough is the Sydney Morning Herald’s Senior Foreign Correspondent specialising in the Middle East. He’s accustomed to reporting on horrific events around the world, the same way the rest of us eat toast for breakfast. “When most people are running away from a place, photographer Kate Geraghty can usually be found running towards it.” Yet, they were guttered by what they saw and felt drawn to bring sunflower seeds back to Australia from the crash site to give to the families and friends of the victims.  They wanted to give them something to remember and honour their loved ones who weren’t soldiers fighting in a war. There weren’t going to be any medals. They were just everyday people going on a holiday.

Nothing more, nothing less.

The children making the love hearts.

Our children making the hearts cards we sent out. They look quite young now.

I received about 40 seeds and decided to share them with our local schools to create some kind of ongoing tribute of legacy for those who died.  However, I was too anxious to plant the seeds last year but I planted the first lot of seeds ten days ago and six have sprouted.

Of course, the seedlings arrived safely at school and I ended up sharing them with my daughter’s class and a year 6 class.  I also shared the letter I’d received with them wishing”May your sunflowers bloom” and the photo of the original plant in the Ukraine. I also had one of our red hearts stuck in there.

It was a simple story with a few precious props but the kids were riveted, sitting still and absorbing it all and asking questions at the end. I spoke to them about the kindness of the journalist and photographer salvaging the seeds and bringing them back to Australia via quarantine. I spoke about how we can feel powerless when someone is going through hardship and that though we can’t change anything, we can show we care through little things like a card. I also spoke about the importance of learning and literacy. Many of the Australians killed had been teachers and a little boy from Perth, Otis, had dyslexia and his family has set up a fund to raise money for dyslexia. I wanted them to appreciate that you can plant a plain, ordinary seed and when you nurture that seed, it can grow into something big, bold and colourful.

You can tell kids to be kind, keep their hands and feet to themselves, watch their language, and you might be lucky to see some change.However, I know these kids were changed by this story…a very simple story of plucking, sowing and nurturing the seeds  and I can’t wait to witness the harvest.

It is my hope that these sunflowers and their story will truly honour all those whose lives were tragically cut short through anger and hate and somehow carry their legacy forward.

While sowing a few seeds might not seem monumental and the sort of thing you’d ever expect to change the world, but I strongly believe they can!

Hearts Ettalong

They’re sowing the seeds in our hearts!

xx Rowena

 

 

Sunflowers…Sowing the Seeds.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult it’s been for me to plant a few seeds.

That’s because these are no ordinary seeds.

These sunflower seeds were grown in Australian Quarantine from the seeds brought back from the MH17 crash site in the Ukraine.

You’ll no doubt recall MH17 was the Malaysian airlines flight, which was shot down over the Ukraine  on the 17 July, 2014.

Therefore, these seeds represent each precious individual whose life was tragically cut short through terrorism and war. More than that. They strangely represent hope. Hope that their legacy will gone on. A reminder that love conquers the grave and they won’t be forgotten. Faith that the goodness in people will triumph over the bad.

Personally, these seeds have come to have additional meaning about sowing goodness into our young people, especially the battlers, and helping them to grow up straight and tall on the inside.

Many of the Australians who died on board were teachers. Teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a vocation. It means having vision and seeing the sunflower blooming in each and every child…even before the seed has been planted. Ideally, that faith continues through the storms.That can be and usually is a very challenging, but also rewarding, thing.

The Maslin Family, who lost their three children in the crash, started a fundraiser in their memory for children with dyslexia. Their youngest son,Otis, had dyslexia and treatment is long term and expensive and so is diagnosis.

Putting all of these people together, the sunflowers for me came to mean giving kids who are struggling to read and learn that helping hand to do their best. Reading might always be difficult for them, but even if you can simply give someone the capacity to read, fill out forms and read the day to day stuff, it would change their world completely. It would set them free in ways those of us without dyslexia have never considered.

For some reason, this has become very important to me. It’s become my heart. Not because I’m a writer and I live, breath and devour words, but also because I know what it’s like to be on struggle street, not knowing if you’re ever going to get out.

Although quite different to dyslexia, I was born with hydrocephalus which went undiagnosed until I was 25. At that point, my neurological symptoms spiralled dangerously out of control. I couldn’t put my finger on my nose, was falling over a lot, forgetting the basics and getting the sequencing of basic tasks out of whack in a way that was almost funny if it wasn’t so disturbing. This increased pressure on my brain obviously wasn’t good.

Yet, I was lucky. I had surgery and had a shunt put in. Over time, most of my symptoms have eased and if it wasn’t for the auto-immune disease, I’d be back on my feet.

There is no surgery or quick fix to cure dyslexia and other learning difficulties. I guess that’s what I like about what the sunflowers represent. That you plant a small seed yet from that tiny thing,  big, bright happy sunflowers grow…yippee!!

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On Sunday, a year after receiving the sunflowers, we planted 12 seeds in a seed planter and we had a little ceremony out on the back lawn, using an upside down laundry basket as a table. We had our stunning red climbing rose in full bloom as a backdrop. Nothing symbolises love more than a red rose other than a human heart.

If you would like to read about the sunflower seeds, click here

I was too anxious to plant the seeds last year. Actually, this wasn’t anxiety but more of a reality check. That’s because I am a serial plant killer and our front yard is currently littered with dead bodies following my most recent splurge. I always vow to change but my track record speaks for itself.

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Mind you, sowing the seeds is only the beginning. Seeds don’t magically turn into sunflowers overnight. They require tender, loving care and that correct balance of wet and dry soil, sun and shade and exposure to the elements yet protection as well. My husband found the sunflower seeds inside the other day and said: “they’re meant to be sunflowers, not cave flowers”.

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Initially watering the seeds in the kitchen sink. Overdid it a bit.

So, now I’m watering them with the spray bottle morning and night and have covered them with a sheet of plastic creating a mini greenhouse and am leaving them out in the sun by day.

It’s only been four days so far. So, still too soon to see any shoots poking their heads through the soil but I’m doing my absolute best to help them along.

I hope you will join me on this journey.

BTW if you would like to find out more about the Mo, Evie & Otis Foundation or donate, please click here: Maslins Set Up Dyslexia Fund.

xx Rowena

Acceptance?

For the last few months, I have participated in a monthly blog share #1000speak at http://1000voicesspeak.org/ This is a group of bloggers who are wanting to bring out the best in humanity and somehow make a difference.

This month’s topic is acceptance.

To say that I struggle with acceptance is the greatest understatement. I am outright oppositional, rebellious and fight it with every cell I’ve got.

Not that I’m a bad person or rebellious by nature. It’s just that I believe too much in the power to change our destiny, the future, the world within us as well as the world around us just to accept the status quo. It might be hard work and quite a lonely journey going against the flow sometimes. However, somebody’s got to do it and thank goodness, I’m not alone.

For many years now, I have wrestled with acceptance and, in particular, with the first verse of the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

While this prayer is the foundation of the highly successful Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 Steps Program, what’s amazed me is how much I could actually change. It was way beyond the realms of what I ever considered possible.

I have a severe chronic illness and yet I was able to learn the violin. I skied. Have now had over 20,000 views on my blog. Yet, at the same time, I found that despite my best efforts, there were things I couldn’t change. Straight after skiing down Front Valley at Australia’s Perisher Resort, I developed pneumonia and my auto-immune disease flared up and I went on to have chemo shortly after. That wasn’t part of the plan but I guess it just went to show me that I can’t control everything. That life does respond to a remote control.

Over the last 12 months, my views towards acceptance have been challenged again by the impact of terrorism in our world. Just over a year ago, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine killing everyone on board. This event silenced the world and we were united in shock and grief. How could this happen? Once again, our sense of security was at the very least challenged and the ground beneath our feet perhaps became a bit more uncertain…especially after terrorist sieges in Sydney, Paris and more recently events in Tunisia.

What can we as mere little people do in the face of such hate? How can we reach out to those who had so tragically lost loved ones and convey our deep love and our sense of solidarity? That although we’re strangers, that we feel such love, compassion and wished there was something we could do? How can we show that we don’t accept such acts of terrorism or violence when we might not have a voice?

It’s a challenge!

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke

After the loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, the kids and I made a series of red love hearts which they cut out and taped onto paddle pop sticks, which they could stick in the ground like the red poppies we have on ANZAC Day in remembrance of those who served our country and in particular made the ultimate sacrifice. Quite a few of the Australians on board were either teachers or students and so we sent these hearts to the schools involved.

Our tribute to the victims of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. We posted these hearts out to their schools and communities where we could.

Our tribute to the victims of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. We posted these hearts out to their schools and communities where we could.

By sending these letters, we weren’t actively combating evil directly but we were doing something and I guess I made a bit of an unconscious decision not to forget those people who died on board Flight MH17. Not because I knew any of them personally but to say that it’s completely unacceptable for a civilian aircraft to be shot down NO MATTER WHAT.

But how can I do that? How can I just one little speck lost among the hundreds and thousands ever hope to make a difference when governments and political leaders with greater minds than mine struggle?!

The determination in our hearts can move mighty mountains!

The determination in our hearts can move mighty mountains!

That said, I don’t think we should ever underestimate the power of the human heart and how it can move mighty mountains and blow evil right out of the water! What the little people might lack in might, we can have in passion and determination.

Moreover, when all of us little people come together, we become a powerful force. We have days at school which require a gold coin donation and while I might put in a couple of dollars, as a school we might raise $700-$900.00.

That is people power.

Through blogging, I have also been able to see the power of “the pen” in action. Moreover, through 1000 Voices for Compassion, hundreds and indeed a thousand of us write about compassion each month and spend that time thinking and even putting goodness into action.

I have to believe that each of us is being that difference and making a stand against horrors which should never be accepted.

xx Rowena

An Oasis of Gold: Sunflower Seeds MH17

A sunflower
among sunflowers
in a sprawling field,
her face shines
brighter than the sun.
So glorious,
her luscious, golden smile
weaves its magic:
captivating poets, painters, dreamers…
as well as a wee child’s heart.

Stretching her green leaves
ever upwards,
her time has almost come.
Thousands of seeds
all set to burst
into the azure sky.
Spread their wings.
Fly around the world.
Grow new life.

Yet,
in her very prime,
when her seeds were all but ripe,
devastation hit.
Slashed from her roots,
brutally cut down,
all but decimated
by the exploding metal bird,
she was gone.

Seeds of hope.

Seeds of hope.

Her seeds scattered
across the scorched earth:
tears wrenched
from her broken heart,
fused with molten metal.
Once so filled with promise,
now,
they’re just
part of the wreckage.

Yet,
plucked from the ashes
and sheltered in the strangers’ hearts,
those precious seeds
flew to foreign fields.
Found life in the Australian soil,
where they now stand tall:
still captivating poets, painters, dreamers…
as well as a wee child’s heart.

Beneath the Southern Cross,
they stand…
Ukrainian sunflowers blooming
in the Great South Land.

Rowena Newton
19th July, 2015.

To read more about these sunflower seeds, click here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/seeds-of-love-plucked-from-devastation-flight-mh17/

A personal message from Sydney Morning Herald's Chief Foreign Correspondent,  journalist Paul McGeogh & Photographer Kate Geraghty who sent me the sunflowers.

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