Tag Archives: women

The Long Walk Home…Friday Fictioneers.

Hayley knew she shouldn’t be walking home alone at 2.00 am. That rapists don’t care about equality and a woman’s right to safely walk the streets at night.

However, she’d spent her taxi money on one last drink, and that wasn’t the best idea either.

Indeed, bad decisions were lining up like dominoes waiting to fall, and she knew her guardian angel was working overtime tonight.

“Hey, Hayley. You alright?” Matt asked putting his arm around her shoulder.

She was pleased to see her brother’s friend, forgetting she was more likely to be raped by someone she knew than a stranger.

….

100 Words

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson. Click here for other stories inspired by the prompt.

The Secret…Friday Fictioneers.

 

“I hate you!” Alice screeched at her parents. She might’ve been difficult, but she wasn’t stupid. She knew this was another attempt to force her to “self-calm”, as the therapist put it. They’d tried everything…mediation, relaxation, mindfulness, yoga. Yet, instead of bringing inner peace, they’d only fueled an endless, inner rage. She had to scream. Smash something. Carve a stream into her arm to let the tension out.

This time, they let her run.  After all, there was nothing more to say. Yet, they still clung onto a completely irrational hope, that somehow their only beloved daughter would find her way back out of the darkness and into the light.

……

My humble apologies for going over the word limit. I don’t know why Dale’s beautiful photo prompted such despair in my piece this week. However, I’ve never been good at meditation or sitting still.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Digging Up More Family Bones.

The Case of Maria Bridget “Whosywhatsitmecallher”

If I could jump in a time machine right this minute and go back to any moment in history, I’d set the dial for the 19th November, 1915. Or, to be on the safe side, even a day earlier. The place would be 42 Colin Street, North Sydney (Now in modern Cammeray. By the way, the house is still standing).

Obviously, this seems like a totally random time and place to go back to. Indeed, I’m sure many of you would choose to back to a much more significant point in history, and rewrite events for the greater good. Perhaps, you might go back to the 4th April, 1968, fighting to prevent the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Or, perhaps you’d go back to the 28th June, 1914 in Sarajevo and deal with Gavrilo Princip, the man who assassinated  Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife. As you may recall from your high school history lessons, their assassination was the final spark which triggered World War I.

Above: Perhaps you’d like to go back in time and prevent these events.

These are noble gestures, and I commend you. Normally, I would be more concerned about making a valuable contribution to the greater good. However, right now, my needs are simple.

I’d just like to ask my 3rd Great Grandmother to fill out her own death certificate, instead of leaving such an important family document in the hands of her daughter. Unfortunately, she not only left out some significant details, but also included misinformation. Not that I’d go so far as saying she lied. However, the people filling out these forms need to consider the people following in their footsteps, who not only need answers, but also the truth. After all, filling out a death certificate is NOT a creative writing exercise!

wind-from-the-sea

Andrew Wyeth, The Wind From The Sea, which conjures up images of ghosts, absent friends etc.

This brings me back to Maria Bridget Flanagan, who went on to marry John Alexander Johnston and gain another surname. Recently, I posted a story about how a vagrant set fire to her house , after being inspired by the actions of the Mosman Bomber. However, while I was thrilled to bits to stumble across this story, in so many very basic areas of family history research, Maria or Bridget (this seems to vary with the wind) is a very slippery fish and she’s determined not to get caught. The questions remain.

Getting back to her death certificate, it states that she was 79 years old, making her year of birth around 1836. Her father is given as Martin Flanagan. She was born in County Clare, Ireland. She spent 6 years in Victoria before leaving for New Zealand. After returning to Australia, she spent 32 years in NSW, putting their arrival in NSW around 1879. Age at first marriage is unknown and his name is given as __Flanagan. Age at second marriage was 26. Spouse: John Johnston.  These details conflict a little with her marriage certificate, which said she as 23, making her date of birth closer to 1841.

map New Zealand

Maria Bridget Flanagan immigrated from Victoria to New Zeland and Married John Alexander Johnston at Invercargill in 1864.

Recently, I came across this message online:

“Any lister with knowledge of Bridget Maria Flanaghan nee Docherty, aged 23 years, possibly employed in or around Invercargill c.1864. She was the widow of one Quintin Flanaghan and was Ireland-born (County unknown). Not known if he came to NZ or she arrived as a widow. She married from the home of Richard Pilkington, Dee Street, and witnesses were Louis and Alice Cramer, hotelkeeper of Tay Street. Any advice appreciated. https://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com/hyperkitty/list/new-zealand@rootsweb.com/thread/USLOAJOWTWJWECJU2ABMXTX3FCIKGWQE/

Well, you would think this message provided great hope, insight, a Eureka moment worthy of jumping out of the bathtub and running naked down the street. Well, I would’ve run naked down the street, if only I’d been able to confirm the details of the message. I haven’t been able to find a Quintin Flanagan, but I have managed to find a Bridget Doherty with a father Martin, but they were living in Kerry. That said, this Bridget’s brother was later living in Ennis, County Clare. It might not be all wrong, but surely Mary Ann Wilson, her own daughter, would’ve known which county her mother came from. Then again, so many things fly under the radar in a busy household, but I would’ve thought it’s an odd thing to get wrong.

Map of ireland_1808

Map of Ireland 1808

In the meantime, I started looking for a Bridget Doherty with a father called Martin who fitted into the right time framework and I did find somebody. There as a Bridget Doherty christened 15th February, 1841 in Currow, Kerry, Ireland and her parents were Martin Doherty and Ellenora O’Brien who were married at the Roman Catholic Church, Castle Island, Kerry. Following on from this, I found an arrival of a Bridget Doherty as an Unassisted Immigrant  onboard The Sultana arriving in Melbourne 1st April, 1858. She was 18 years old, which places her date of birth as around 1840 and in the picture.

However, if you’ve ever tried your hand at this family detective business, you should know that 1 +1 doesn’t necessarily = 2. Indeed, a myriad of random details all need to align. Even then, you might have doubts, and end up with a “cold case”. Of course, you don’t throw your hands in the air and chuck all your research out. However, you also need to switch off, or at least shift, that stubbornly obsessive detective focus. Or else, you’ll go mad. After all, we’ve all heard about those cops who turn to drink after being unable to solve that elusive case of the crim who got away.We don’t want to be next.

When I get stuck like this on one of my people, I usually start sniffing around their known haunts for clues, looking for even the scantest hint of a scent. Sometimes, I’ve been lucky and I’ve found the missing piece. However, there have been a few particularly slippery fish determined to slip out of my grasp. There’s also a point where the records run out. Then, you simply have to accept, that you’ve reached the end of the road.

So, still intent on finding out what I could about this Bridget Doherty, I set the ship into reverse and sailed back across the seas to Curnow, a very pretty town on the Ring of Kerry. I must admit that I felt a bit lost arriving in Curnow, and wasn’t entirely comfortable in my new-found shoes as a “Doherty”. Did they really fit? To be honest, it felt like plucking names out of a hat, and goodness knows which name I’ll be looking for down the track if I’ve got my Bridget wrong. It’s moments like this, that I ask why women change their names just to get married? It makes them very hard to track down, and more often than not, it deletes their personal history altogether. After all, Bridget was a someone long before she became a Mrs!

Anyway, thanks to Google, I found myself in this gorgeous Irish town of Curnow, where she was Christened, and then onto Kenmare where some of her siblings got married. It was in Kenmare that I was in for quite a surprise, although it had nothing to do with finding Bridget’s origins. Rather, it was a case of seeing an almost identical twin.

Above- The Cammeray Suspension Bridge, Sydney, completed in 1892. Below:Kenmare Suspension Bridge Completed in 1841. Perhaps, not identical twins on closer inspection but pretty close.

Kenmare Suspension Bridge

You see, the Kenmare Suspension Bridge, which was completed in 1841, was almost identical to the Cammeray Suspension Bridge built by Maria Bridget Johnston’s brother-in-law, Alexander Johnston, and her husband. Indeed, while Maria as living at The Boulevard, she was only a stone throw away. If this is indeed the right Bridget, isn’t that incredible that she travelled all the way from Ireland to Sydney and then gets to see a piece of home appear stone by stone before her very eyes. Of course, I love the pure poetry of that. The sense of that beautiful bridge, which has provided a link between numerous descendants here in Australia, now connecting Bridget and her descendants in Australia back to her home in Ireland.

If only I could be sure that it’s true!

Just to add insult to injury, I’ve also been able to find out so much about this Doherty family. Details which have eluded me with other branches of the family, where I know who’s who, and equally who is not. This just added salt to the wound, and I can’t tell you how much I was wanting this Bridget Doherty to me mine. Indeed, I was even thinking of bending the facts ever so slightly to make them fit, which is an unforgivable sin for even a novice researcher.

Dromore Castle

Dromore Castle, Templenoe, Kerry.

In the Griffiths Valuation, I actually found Martin Doherty living at Templenoe and his landlord was a Reverend Denis Mahony, who was a rector of the Church of Ireland. He also owned and built Dromore Castle in Templenoe, looking out over the Kenmare River. A keen proselytiser, he set up a soup kitchen at Dromore during the Irish Potato Famine, and preached to the hungry, who came for food at the chapel at Dromore. His proselytizing activities made him rather unpopular. In 1850, he was attacked in his church at Templenoe. On returning to Dromore, he found another angry mob had uprooted flower beds, felled trees and were about to set fire to the castle. It is claimed, that they were only stopped by the intervention of the local priest[1].

As you can see, without any confirmation that she was my Bridget, the story was running away all by itself, and I was like that poor dog owner being pulled along by their dog at an alarming rate, and almost becoming airborne. The story had me by  the short and curlies.

Of course, I had to put on the brakes. Take stock. Find the line between fact and fiction, and not let myself be lured over into dark side. Reject this evil temptation to fabricate the evidence, and do that boring, methodical Police work… going over and over the data again.

“Yes, it is very true, that. And it is just what some people will not do. They conceive a certain theory, and everything has to fit into that theory. If one little fact will not fit it, they throw it aside. But it is always the facts that will not fit in that are significant.”
Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile

What was it going to take to find those missing pieces, which would complete Maria Bridget’s story and discern our Flanagans, from our Docherty/Doherties?

Moreover, why does it matter? Is it only the thrill of the chase that leads me on, and nothing to do with who I am, my DNA and genetic heritage? Am I something of a sham?

I don’t know. Hoever, I’ve come so far in such a short time, surely this mystery will be kind to me and let go of her secrets.

Maria Bridget Flanagan, Doherty, Docherty…Come out! Come out! Wherever you are!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Writing all these details up has indeed been rather helpful. I’m now thinking that more information may have been captured when she married John Johnston. Although I ordered the marriage certificate, it contains very little information. Indeed, it doesn’t contain enough information for a legal marriage. I think that information is out there somewhere. That’s my next port of call. Wish me luck!

 

[1] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/2014/06/dromore-castle.html

E-Eileen Agar…A-Z Challenge

As you may be aware, my theme for the Blogging A-Z Challenge is Writing Letters to Dead Artists, who have touched me personally in some way.

Today’s artist is British surrealist, Eileen Agar, who I came across in rather a unique way. You see,  while I was compiling my list, I came across an art personality quiz on the Tate Gallery’s web site… http://www.tate.org.uk/art/find-your-art-inspiration. This is part of Women’s History Month, and it allows you to see which woman artist is your perfect match.

Since I love such quizzes, I sharpened my brain and tried to answer the questions as honestly as I could. Confession time. This is not as easy as it sounds, because I find it all too easy to cheat, and present a more idealized version of myself.

As it turned out, I was told that Eileen Agar was my perfect match. Indeed, this is what the quiz told me:

Love to play: Eileen Agar

“You are curious and perceptive, with a playful sense of humour. You love nature and collecting beautiful objects. Highly imaginative, you look at the world from a sideways perspective. You’re open to new experiences and appreciate life’s absurdities – much like Eileen Agar.

Agar (1904–1991) was one of the few women artists to become associated with the Surrealist movement. In fact, she was the only British woman artist to show work at the International Surrealist Exhibition in 1936. A lot of her work is assembled using different found materials and objects, such as feathers, beads and shells. She often took the natural world as her cue, responding playfully to the landscape around her (see her photograph of ‘Bum and Thumb Rock‘).”

Well, this was a bit of a surprise for this meek, mild-mannered reporter…a  Clark Kent in a woman’s body.

Let’s start off just by talking about her hats. These were artworks in themselves. Her best known is the Ceremonial hat for eating Bouillabaisse (a rich, spicy stew or soup made with various kinds of fish, originally from Provence). This was no ordinary hat. It “consisted of a cork basket picked up in St Tropez and painted blue, which I covered with fishnet, a lobster’s tail, starfish and other marine objects’ 1 Well, she was friends with Salvidor Dali who had a lobster on his telephone, so I shouldn’t be all that surprised.

Eileen Agar wearing Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse

Yet, can I see myself stepping out the front door and even walking down the street wearing such a hat? Not on your life. That said, I have been known to stand out in my own peculiar ways. Indeed, I’ve photographed tea cups in the waves and on the beach. I’ve also photographed a huge Eeyore on the beach looking wistfully out to sea. I also bought myself a pair of pink, satin ballet slippers and attended adult ballet classes, which meant crossing over some pretty high boundaries as a middle-aged woman living with disability and chronic health. So, I have broken a few conventions in my life, and as a child, I even dressed up as a shepherd one year, because I was sick of being an angel. That really was breaking all the rules, but no one said a word.

However, there is one very clear connection I do have with Eileen Agar. That is collecting things. For years, I’ve walked along the beach collecting shells and other detritus. Indeed, not unlike Agar, I actually used these shells while making cards. I have also kept other items like the cuckoo clock parts I salvaged from the neighbours throw out pile just in case one of us goes into sculpture. Ideas were definitely ticking over, even if all this stuff is currently stuffed in drawers or stashed in the roof.

Oh yes. Before I forget, there’s also the old piano currently sitting in our lounge room. As you may be aware, you can‘t even give a piano away these days, but I have plans to give this ailing piano a makeover and turn it into something else. Indeed, this piano has “POTENTIAL” written all over it.

Just like me.

When it comes to Agar’s works, I struggled to find anything I could really connect with. While I like a bit of surrealism, I also like to know what I’m looking at or at least have some clues. I just didn’t get that with most of her work. I didn’t get that spark, that intensity of feeling or any sense of identification. The closest I came was Head of Dylan Thomas, which I really do like after all and if I cut it out and stuck it to my wall, I know I’d love it. It’s just that trying to get through 26 artists in a month is a daunting task, especially when I’m tackling new artists just to fill in letters of the alphabet.

Yet, after reading about the colourful and effervescent life she led, it has made me wonder what we’d be like if each of us could be a 100% unadulterated version of ourselves, unimpeded by social conventions, expectations and our own inhibitions. Would we also be swinging from the chandeliers with the likes of Agar and Dali? Or, would we still be exactly who we are?

However, being creative isn’t just about breaking boundaries and social norms. It isn’t just about being consumed by the creative process, but being unable to live in the so-called “real world” either. There is a balance and some of those restraints are a good thing…a necessary evil. I do believe there needs to be some kind of balance, although I’m not always good at achieving this myself.

Lastly, there’s one very strong distinction between Eileen Agar and myself. Agar chose to remain childless to pursue her art, while I decided to get married and we have two kids and now three dogs, who are almost just as much work.

That’s something I’m going to think about as I explore these dead artists. How many of them married and had children…a family? Indeed, does an artist have the capacity to have two loves? Or, does art have to be all-consuming flame for you to make it to the top? Or, are there personality traits in these artists which aren’t well suited to long term relationships and the responsibilities of parenthood? As many parents know, parenthood is all-consuming. It’s very hard to switch off and it’s the same with the creative drive. It can be all-consuming.

It’s something to think about.

Each of us has our own choices to make.

By the way, I thought Sia’s Chandelier was the perfect musical accompaniment for Eileen Agar. What do you think?

A Letter to Eileen Agar

Dear Eileen,

I am currently writing a series of letters to Dead Artists who have inspired me in some way. As it turns out, we’ve only just met after The Tate Gallery matched us up. However, I don’t think we’re about to run off into the sunset together yet. I have reservations.

That said, I quite fancy your Head of Dylan Thomas and I was wondering if you’d mind painting my head like that with a bird’s eye view through to my thoughts.

Indeed, perhaps I should have a go myself. I think my version would have something of Van Gogh’s Starry Night inside with all those enigmatic swirls of turbulence. I also like your idea of using collage and sticking bit on. I’ll need to give this a bit of thought and get back to you.

While others would probably ask you a question more pointed to your art, mine is addressing the psychological aspects. Did you ever feel self-conscious wearing your fancy hats, like the Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse? Were you ever concerned that people would laugh, and you’d be ridiculed? Or, do you have a thicker skin and couldn’t care? You really must’ve had a sense of presence, very much like your friend Salvador Dali.

I wish I could be more expressive and let a little more of myself out of the bag. I always feel I have to hold it all back. Keep smiling. Clean house, happy kids. Sometimes, it feels like all that Spray and Wipe can even wash away your very self. Yet, I know what it’s like to be laughed at. Ridiculed. I try to avoid it if I can.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Reply From Eileen Agar

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your unexpected letter.

“I have spent my life in revolt against convention, trying to bring colour and
light and a sense of the mysterious to daily existence. But the English urge
towards philistinism is impossible to avoid, though one may fight it root and
branch. One must have a hunger for new colour, new shapes and new possibilities
of discovery.”

Rowena, don’t be afraid of yourself. Most people shoot themselves in both feet before anyone else has even taken aim.

By the way, we have more in common than you think.

Amelia Mad Hatter Cake

If you put your daughter’s Mad Hatter Birthday Cake next to my Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse, there’s more than just a passing likeness. Indeed, I might make myself a new Cafe Hat. Something with little cups and saucers stuck on top.

By the way, do you think you could include a packet of Tim Tams in your next letter please? I’d like to try a Tim Tam explosion. It sounds very indulgent and just my thing.

Outrageously yours,

Eileen Agar

Featured image: Head  of Dylan Thomas, Tate Gallery, London.

 

The Drowning – Friday Fictioneers.

Watching myself through an oblique lens, I’d blown to the four winds. Defragged like a faulty hard disk. Mid-40s, degree, career …now stealing food off strangers’ plates and sleeping rough.    

“No, Julie! Don’t do it!”

Ravenous, she’d snatched the pizza straight off the table, and was scoffing it on the beach like a Bangkok stray… twisted, distorted, wild.

“Julie! Julie!” I slapped. “Wake up”

“Nobody gets me. Never has.”

“What about me?”  I beseeched, but my words fell flat.

Praying for eternal nothingness, destined for oblivion, she slipped into the surf. Floundering. Gasping…

I ran.

Safe on the beach, slowly our breathing merged…again.

…..

This week’s prompt brought many things to mind for me. The first thing which came to me, was backpacking through Europe and being so tight with money and rationing our food and then watching others leaving food behind and feeling like we could almost lick their plates. I still remember that ravenous hunger!

From there, my thoughts drifted towards being homeless and being that hungry, you could snatch that pizza out of a restaurant in what felt like an act of utter desperation. Who would do that? How bad would it have to get to take you there?

I wonder…

I don’t know whether you’ve ever wrestled with yourself like this before where you’re split in two. Perhaps, not in such an extreme situation, but a time where you’ve been through hard times and you end up talking to yourself. Or, you’ve experienced God comfort you. Or both.

Becoming homeless and being swept along that dreadful downward spiral, is only be a paycheck or two away for most of us. I’ve never been homeless, but I have fallen on hard times and have often found this voice within myself guiding me along. Giving me encouragement and strength I didn’t know I had.

Given the very dark nature of my piece this week, I just wanted to explain it a little further. After all, when you play with words arranging them into very dark and foreboding pictures, I felt the need to debrief in a sense. Let the reader know that all is well.

Well, almost!

xx Rowena

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff. This week’s photo prompt kindly comes from © Dale Rogerson.

Mothers’ Day Coffee Share.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s Mother’s Day here in Australia. So Happy Mothers’ Day and I hope you’ve all had a great week. To read about our Mother’s Day, here’s Mothers’ Day & The Ghosts of Mothers Past.

Mummy

Cards and flowers from my kids.

If we were having coffee tonight, I’d invite you to join me watching Masterchef Australia. The contestants are doing an invention test using meat and three veg with English Master chef Marco Pierre White. No lamb chops with peas and mashed potato and diced carrot here. Two minutes to go and the tension’s intense. Go! Go! Go! The music’s accelerating as the plating up begins. Oops…under cooked…DISASTER!!!!…30 seconds to go! 10, 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1…Time’s Up!

Masterchef

This is cruel. Watching Masterchef when we’ve had an express meal. It’s Mother’s Day…not Mummy Masterchef Night. Mummy does nothing night! Nothing at all!

The stars just twinkled at me and said, who are you kidding?

By the way, the new Australian season of Masterchef kicked off last Sunday. To celebrate, I chucked all the limp carrots out and wrote this post.

Sunday night is a precursor to Monday and the start of another week. However, at least I’ve had a pajama  day and been able to take it easy. No breakfast in bed but I did receive hand made cards and flowers from the garden from the kids and a tulip from Geoff and bought flowers. I also had a surprise for Geoff. His mother passed away 16 years ago and on Saturday I found some Willow pattern china at the opportunity shop. Geoff’s Mum also collected elephants and I found a Mothers’ Day card with an elephant on it. I don’t also remember my MIL on Mothers’ Day but I did this year.

Geoff as baby slide

Geoff as a baby.

Tonight, I wrote about how we celebrate an Australian Mothers’ Day, while making a tribute to mothers past. More than a history, buff, I did honours in history at university and I am mindful that women haven’t always had choice. That even an education, is a relatively recent leap forward…not only for women but the general population. Indeed, an education is still beyond the reach of much of the world’s population. So, we need to be thankful. Not take what we have for granted.

Newton Family & bilbo

A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007.

I also want to be thankful for my kids, my family and wallow in that today, without looking over my shoulder, which I must say I’m doing less and less now they’re getting older. To be perfectly honest, I am probably better suited to older kids and I am in much better health now too, which certainly lifts my outlook.

Happy Family Golden Book

The Happy Family

This week, both my kids are doing the NAPLAN tests. How do I begin to explain our Australian NAPLAN tests? Parents stare at each other blankly and I’m not even sure that my kids even know what NAPLAN is and they’re about to sit the !@#@# thing. All I know is that while the teachers downplay it and say it tests them more than the kids, I know NAPLAN will definitely be counting towards my daughter’s high school applications, even though high school is 2 years away. At the moment, she’s focused on applying for our local selective high school. Try explaining that to a ten year old who has changed schools this year and is fighting a rare digestive condition, gastroparesis. She might only be 10 years old but this year has been quite stressful. She’s also learning dancing, violin, Baritone Horn and performing in the Scout Gang Show. I haven’t turned her into a performing seal doing grueling hours of tutoring. Will she regret it? Or, can she pull this entire thing off whatever it is? Sometimes, it feels like we’re collectively passing through into some other dimension and it really is full on. Naturally, we need to aim high and not settle without going for it, which like it or not, brings the whole family into the dynamic. It’s hard for a ten year old to see the bigger, longer term picture and not get caught up in the now.

Meanwhile, I’m still recovering from the A-Z Challenge. I’m now in the process of cutting and pasting my posts back into Word and print off the DRAFT. Can’t believe I wrote so much! Thank you very much for those who have checked out my posts. Tomorrow, we all post our survival posts.

I’m so sorry. I just realised that I’ve reached the end of our coffee share and I realised that I forgot to offer you tea or coffee. My apologies. I was so focused on all that Masterchef food that I wasn’t thinking about drinks. I’m a lousy host but I’ll make it up to you with a few Tim Tams. These ones are dark chocolate so the kids haven’t devoured them all.

Hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to catching up!

The Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster.  You can join this week’s Coffee Share on her blog or by clicking on the “Linkup Linky“.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day & the Ghosts of Mothers Past.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

Today, it’s Mother’s Day. That means roadside stalls have sprung up along the main street overnight, bursting with white chrysanthemums. The rest of the year, we don’t even think about chrysanthemums and to be quite frank, they stink…at least a little bit. However, here in Australia, white chrysanthemums mean it is Mother’s Day. Chrysanthemums flower in Autumn and because we’re upside down and topsy turvy, we don’t celebrate Mother’s Day in Spring. Indeed, it’s almost officially Winter.

Of course, I have no idea what white chrysanthemums have to do with being a Mum.

Artist2

After all, no sensible Mum with little peoples has anything to do with white. Indeed, white to me evokes images of the elderly. There’s “Kids! Be careful on Grandma’s white carpet!!!” Or, visiting someone in hospital where there’s white on white on white and the sense of being trapped inside a white antiseptic cloud. White to me means sterile and has nothing to do with dirty fingerprints, washing, dirt and sundry mess. Or, of course, warm hugs and having my toe nails painted rainbow colours either!

Mummy & Amelia

Me and my gal.

Being a mum doesn’t mean peering at your kids through a keyhole. Being a scientific researcher in their white lab coat observing children in a laboratory environment. It means getting down on the floor and being a kid and getting your fingers dirty…playdoh, paint, mud, food and unfortunately there’s also what we’ll call the “business end” to contend with.

Children were never meant to be clean!

That, to me, is also unconditional love. Giving your children the space to be and express themselves, albeit within some kind of limits.

Jonathon & I reading

Mister and I 2007

Giving birth was just the beginning and parenting is forever. A parent’s love has no end. Being a tad exhausted and cynical, I’ll add that a child’s demands never end either.

That said, I have always needed “me time” and don’t believe any parent should become their kids. That you can be involved and know your kids, while still maintaining your self. For me, my interaction with my kids is a fluid thing. Sometimes, they need me more than others and there are times when I can also give them more or less of my time. A word of encouragement to parents of little ones, that you do get more of a balance as your children get older and more independent. It can be really difficult when they’re small. Hard to get a break and even enjoy that elusive hot cup of tea (having hot drinks around little ones is verboten and I still remember how much I longed for that hot cup of tea!!)

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Launching into Motherhood.

Yesterday, I visited my cousin in hospital with her brand new twin boys. I hadn’t quite forgotten that elation of a new baby but it was really delightful to have such a poignant reminder, especially x 2. Of course, I remembered and savoured when my two were first born. They’re now 12 and 10. So, even I’m starting to turn back the clock. Do a bit of time travelling remembering what it was like right there at the very beginning when my children were nothing but a blank slate. Moreover, when my son was born, my knowledge of babies was a blank slate too and much to my surprise, they let me take him home without sitting any kind of test…just a “Good bye, Mrs Newton. Bon voyage!!”

 

Thinking about my cousin becoming a mum these days, makes me reflect on what becoming a mother meant in the past. Just a few generations ago, there was no contraceptive pill. Having sex meant the likelihood of having kids, regardless of your plans. My grandmother had seven children while juggling an international career as a high profile concert pianist and her grandmother had 8 daughters living out on a sheep property in the bush.

There was no choice in the matter, although there were some contraceptive strategies around.

This puts an altogether different slant on motherhood with motherhood being more of a destiny, than a choice.

I wonder how that impacted on being a Mum. Your children are still your children and your own flesh and blood but it would have been hard going through strings of pregnancies and births under difficult conditions, while bringing up a handful underfoot. No sitting in your seat and being waited on hand and foot, even though there was “help” for some.

Jonathon & Amelia Cutouts

The Kids.

We forget that this idea of having 1-2 children to give them some kind of privileged existence, is a very new concept. Indeed, so is being able to feed the family without having to grow your own food.

 

Scan10423

The Thinker: me as a baby back in 1969.

Personally, it is important to understand that our modern way of life and the things we take for granted are very, very new and not something which we should take for granted. Indeed, it’s strange because for so many now, the question is not about preventing pregnancy but enabling conception. We’ve been able to work out the stop part but not the go and not having children is the new heartbreak. Well, not new but it’s certainly replacing the lament of the old woman in the shoe who had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

University Graduation

Just ask Virginia Woolf: attending University hasn’t always been a given.

While becoming a mother isn’t revered in our modern world, I encourage younger women to make their own decisions about what’s right for them and find your own path. Does money buy happiness? Parenting may not give you happiness either but somehow you need to find out what you want. You can find a heap of ways of finding intellectual fulfilment without working or by working part-time. Or, you can be a parent and work full time. You need to find out what rocks your own boat and be firm. If that means, not having kids, no apologies required. Good on you for not going down the wrong path for you.

No woman or man should have a gun at their head forcing them to have or not have kids. At the same time, you need to be honest with yourself and your partner and know you’re both on the same page.

While that might not be the pink fluffy Mother’s Day message you anticipated, it’s a helpful reality check. Children are such a precious and priceless gift but they also come with huge strings attached and we can’t just send them back. Or, just tie them up round a pole like a dog when we need to duck into the shops or have a quick break. Thank goodness for family, day care or a good friend.

So, after that fairly deep journey through the pros and cons of motherhood, I wish you all a very Happy Mothers’ Day, sending my Mum a huge THANK YOU for all her unsung assistance throughout the years. I love you!

How did you celebrate Mother’s Day today? Are there any Mother’s Day traditions where you live? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

xx Rowena

 

 

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

Dear Ms Plath,

How are you?

I hope time and tide have brought you peace.

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

Sylvia Plath

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

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

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

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

dogs

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

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

Morning Song

 Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry

Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.

In a drafty museum, your nakedness

Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I’m no more your mother

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

Effacement at the wind’s hand.

All night your moth-breath

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

A far sea moves in my ear.

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

In my Victorian nightgown.

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

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try

Your handful of notes;

The clear vowels rise like balloons.

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

Bex Ad

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

50s dress

An 80’s Woman

I’m an 80’s woman

in a fifties dress.

I want my cup of tea.

I want my Bex.

I went to university

and had a career

but then I had kids

and now I’m stuck here…

with Weetbix in my hair

custard on my clothes;

this vegemite foundation

gives my skin a healthy glow.

Once I watched the docos,

filled my brain with heaps of books

but now I just watch Playschool

and the Wiggles have the look.

I used to hit the gym

was lookin really thin

but now my belly bounces up

and almost hits my chin.

So in search of inspiration,

I went off to the mall.

Tried to find a new look

but nothing fits at all.

So I bought myself a G-string

to shoot back all the peas

Maybe soon I’ll win the war

and finally get some peace.

I really love my kids!

I really, really do!

But is it wrong to crave

a bit of me time too?

I’m an 80s woman

in a fifties dress…

An 80s woman

in a fifties dress…

I want my cup of tea

And I want my Bex!

Rowena

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

50s ironing

We barely even use our iron.

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

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

You might also like my Kombi song:

Dakadakkadak Dakkadakkadak

Don’t look forward

Don’t look back

Dakadakadak

Off the beaten track.

Watch the sun start to rise.

Open up those tired old eyes.

Dakadakadak

Dakadakadak

Dakadakadak

Dakadakadak

Feel the salt air

Through your hair

Stretch your spirit

Everywhere…

Who needs money?

Who needs fame?

Heaps of shoes?

A private plane?

No more boundaries

No restraints

No more boss

Or mortgage pains!

Hit the road

Without a plan

Find a self

You understand

Don’t give up

Don’t give in

Find a skin

You can live in

And begin.

Dakadakkadak dakkadakkadak

Dakkadakkkadak dakkadakkadak.

Don’t look forward (Living here)

Don’t look back (Living now)

You can be…

Dak Dak

Rowena

Dorothy Dix Talks

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

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

I also found  Maya Angelou incredibly encouraging.

Sylvia Plath's Grave

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

 

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

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

Love and best wishes,

Rowena

Do you have a favourite poem by Sylvia Plath?

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

M- Dr Maya Angelou Replies.

Heart Hands red heart

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Maya Angelou.

Dear Rowena,

It’s been such a pleasure to meet you and thanks for the stopover, albeit brief.

I really enjoyed chatting with you over a glass of Iced Tea. Although I can’t say I enjoyed your Vegemite, those Tim Tams were divine! Indeed, I’d be truly grateful if you could please send me some more. Meanwhile, I’ve enclosed a signed copy of: Letters For My Daughter. I hope it’s what you’re looking for.

“Occasionally, all too, we meet people briefly yet the immediate trust we feel, informs us that bonds have been forged, forged forever on the pulse of a day or a week’s closeness.1.”

By the way, I like what you are doing with this series of Letters to Dead Poets who have inspired you over the years and retracing your steps as you go.

“We are braver and wiser because they existed, those strong women and strong men… We are who we are because they were who they were. It’s wise to know where you come from, who called your name.”

“I find in my poetry and prose the rhythms and imagery of the best – I mean, when I’m at my best – of the good Southern black preachers. The lyricism of the spirituals and the directness of gospel songs and the mystery of blues are in my music or in my poetry and prose, or I missed everything.”

You have such an adventurous, inquiring mind. Keep those questions coming. I can’t promise that you’ll always find the answers but never give up trying.You never know what you’re going to learn along the way and even if you do end up somewhere off the beaten track, perhaps that where you were meant to be all along.

 

Rather than writing anything too structured, I thought I’d simply share a few thoughts:

“The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.”

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” However, this letter will have to do.”

“I’m working at trying to be a Christian, and that’s serious business. It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy – it’s serious business.”

“Everybody born comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory. We come from the Creator with creativity. I think that each one of us is born with creativity.”

“Of course, there are those critics – New York critics as a rule – who say, ‘Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer.’ Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing. I work at the language.”

amelia heart painting

My daughter’s painting

“All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.”

“When the human race neglects its weaker members, when the family neglects its weakest one – it’s the first blow in a suicidal movement. I see the neglect in cities around the country, in poor white children in West Virginia and Virginia and Kentucky – in the big cities, too, for that matter.”

Kids Angels Uniting Church 2008

“You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.'”

“Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.”

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

“Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you’re inviting a person into your life.”

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

Keeping writing! “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Joy!

Maya.
Please note that words in quotation marks are direct quotes from Dr Maya Angelou and the rest of this letter is fictional but written, I hope, is keeping with her outlook xx Rowena

M-A Letter to Dr Maya Angelou #atozchallenge.

Dear Dr Angelou,

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

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

heartman 24.6.2010

“Heartman” Drawn by Mister 2010 aged 6.

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

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

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

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

This brings me to your poem: Phenomenal Woman:

Phenomenal Woman

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

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

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

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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

– Maya Angelou

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

Caged Bird

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maya Angelou

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

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

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

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

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

beach wide angle 2

 

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

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

Indeed, I love what Issa’s Haiku:

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

Issa.

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

Earth from space

Our planet needs compassion + action.

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

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

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

Mummy & Amelia

An extraordinary moment.

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

Amelia cartwheels