Narcissus

What is it with kids when their mum is sick that they take advantage? Just kids I hear you say? Is it? Is it not a sign of the ultimate in selfishness that when you are tired, in pain and unwell, they don’t even offer a cup of tea?

I have to think to myself, have I been that unkind? No, I may not be big on sympathy, but I do a very nice line in empathy and have no qualms about tucking a child up in bed, heated toy cuddled tight. Make sure all medicines are taken and good rest is had. I even allow television on during the day when a child is ill. How generous is that?

Do you think it’s just that the idea of mum being sick must be ignored until it goes away? Or is it that they just don’t care. At least my son came and made me some tea, when I asked. Daughter? Not on your life. It’s not like when they are are little and you battle on no matter how unwell you might be. They are old enough to get their own food and sort themselves out.

Disappointing and disconcerting.

Let me tell you a story.

 

There once was a girl. Lila was her name. She was a beautiful child, everyone said so and her mirror confirmed it. For all the years she had been alive, people commented often on her beauty and Lila knew they liked her because of how she looked.

Her mother did her best to teach her that it was the Light within that shone. Sadly Lila did not listen at all, sure that the outer shell was all that mattered. Lila could be thoughtless and unkind to those who did not admire her as she thought fit.

Lila liked best to dance in front of her mirror, to dress in front of it, to sit and brush her hair whilst gazing into her own eyes. Oh such lovely eyes (everyone said so), such glorious skin (even with the occasional blemish). such a wonderful mouth and smile. Lila stopped smiling at others to keep that pleasure for herself. She practised her ‘blank’ look in the mirror so when she used it on people, she could do it just right. She posed and she gazed and could hardly tear herself away.

One day, her mother insisted on going outside for some fresh air, away from the mirror. They wandered to a garden and Lila spied a pond. While her mother walked one way, Lila dashed over to view. Ahh, there she was, how reassuring, just as lovely as ever.

She gazed at the girl in the pond and the girl gazed back. Hmm, she could come out for fresh air often and see herself as much as she liked. Her mother would be pleased she was out and about and Lila would be pleased too.

So, that is what she did.

Of course you know what happened in the end. How the beautiful girl turned to stone (or beautiful boy to flower) and is gazing at herself even still.

and that is the end of the story.

 

A bit of stone soup for the end of the (financial) year

It’s end of the financial year report time, here in Australia. All over the country, community organisations are putting fingers to keyboards trying to compress into forms all the good work they do.

I work with Communities for Children who are in the enviable position of brokering funds to the local area and working closely with community groups. The reports we ask our partners to complete are substantial, providing far more information that funding bodies request. We do our best to fit 3,000 words into 700, to share the amazing work community workers and volunteers are doing right across our Shire.

Not to brag, but we have some outrageously committed and determined community workers and I don’t mind singing their praises. I have the equally enviable task of building capacity (current catch phrase) in community professions so they can best serve the families we all support. So good.

As a storyteller, it is excruciating to hear all the amazing stories and not be able to share them. So for all the community professionals in Cardinia Shire and all the families we care so passionately about, this story is for you.

Stone Soup (trad. adapted)

After a war. Which one? Does it matter? After a war when soldiers released from trenches were drifting aimlessly across the landscape and people were starving from years of destruction that ravaged village and castle alike, two soldiers wandered into a village.

The village was poor and poorer still for the taxes and pillaging of years of war, distrustful and with little to share. The soldiers walked from door to door, offering to work in exchange for somewhere to sleep and something to eat. Doors were not opened or were closed in their faces. Those few who listened, with exhausted courtesy, shook their heads sadly, sure they had nothing to offer.

The gardens were so ravaged and the soil so trampled, that one family had a few potatoes, another some carrots. Each family guarded their lot with the fierceness desperation brings. No children ran through the streets, no talking or laughter was heard and the air was heavy with grief.

“Not to worry,” said one soldier, in a voice that would carry, ”we have our magic soup stone and we will feast tonight.”

“Indeed,” said the other, “that would be just the thing. You get the water and I will start the fire.”

Suddenly industrious, the soldiers trotted off in different directions, one returning with a lazy barrow of wood and the other with a pail of water. In the village centre they stirred the remains of old old fires, from when the village had something to celebrate. With great elaboration they built the fire and dug out their enormous pot that travelled in the trolley they pulled between them.

“Hah-hah!,” cried the first soldier, in a carrying voice,” this will warm us up.” He poured the water in.

“Indeed,” said the other (a favourite word of his, being an agreeable fellow),”We will be full and warm tonight.”

When the water was bubbling, with great ceremony they took out from a velvet bag, secreted in their trolley, a grey stone. They placed it with many gleeful remarks, loud and echoing, smacking of lips and rubbing of bellies.

By this time, every child had snuck from their home and were watching from corners and hiding spots. As children will, they sniffed the air and they could smell the delicious aromas coming from the pot!

“Ahhh, shall I take just a taste, my friend? To check all is going well,” said the first soldier in a resonant voice.

“Indeed,” said the second, agreeably.

A ladle was produced and with much exclaiming and terrific amounts of slurping, the soup was tasted.

“Well?”

“Hmm, it is good but just an onion would make it so much better.”

A gasp was heard from behind them and then the scurrying of little feet. A child ran home and begged his family for their onions.

“Please oh please, it smells so delicious and just one onion would make it so much better. If we put the onion in the pot surely they would let us share the delicious soup?”

The family was convinced and three scrawny onions were found. With heads held high, the family promenaded to the pot and presented their onions.

“Oh, what fine fine onions, and how very kind of you. Would you please stay and share our wonderful stone soup with us?”

Of course the family would be delighted and the men rushed home to bring tables and chairs and bowls.

There followed some laughter and conversation until the next tasting.

“Well?”

“Hmm, it is good but just one potato would make it so much better.”

Another gasp and scurrying of feet. Another parade of proud parents and their potato. More laughter and conversation and tasting. And so it went until there were onions, potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, apples (for sweetness) and a veritable mish mash of greens and other vegetables plus considerable dollops of dripping.

By this time the whole village was gathered in the centre, around the fire, with tables and chairs and bowls, laughter and conversation. It was a festival of good spirits and kindness shared.

Eventually the soup was declared ready and all who tasted it declared it delicious. Finally will full bellies, warm from friendship, all returned home, including the soldiers in a comfortable barn and dreams were dreamt of better times ahead.

The next morning, presented on a table in the centre of the village was the Soup Stone and under it a note.

“Dear Villagers, thank you so much for sharing our Stone Soup with us. Without your wonderful contributions it would not have been the soup it was. We gift you all our special Soup Stone and wish you many happy evenings of sharing and laughter.

from the Soldiers”

And so it was.

What of the soldiers? Well they had got up before dawn, left stone and note and trundled onto the next village, picking up a nice grey stone on the way. We always need a bit of Stone Soup.

and that is the end of the story.

 

Old and new Selfies

My youngest daughter is not far off becoming a teenager. I’ve been through teens thrice now, two girls, one boy and a myriad of other children. All my kids have been fostered and the youngest is permanent care. The eldest girl is 25, the next 13 and the youngest, nearly a teen. While they are all very different people, what strikes me the most is their similarities.

The digital age reached us when the older girls were in their teens. Until that time, I had benefited from many hours of home grown drama. Yes, the hormonal kind but also the kind staged in my living room. The living room you see, had a wall of mirrors and provided ample opportunity for my girls to view themselves while choreographing dances, plays or concerts. I was treated to them all. Often.

The glory of girls admiring themselves and the movements of their bodies reflected over and over and over. The second eldest particularly loved those mirrors and was distraught when finally I pulled down the paneled monstrosities. There were plenty of other mirrors for her to admire herself in but she mourned the lost of the big mirror.

Now we have selfies. Those photos taken of yourself by yourself, shared with yourself (and the world) on whatever social media platform you indulge in. The older two girls have grown out of the selfies, oh well maybe not entirely, but gone are the days when I found surprise photos on my phone and camera. Particularly when daughters are posed in my own bed (and I had to get out of it and go to work) or on my comfy chair.

I knew we had moved passed older forms of photography when my youngest, then three, ran to me after I snapped a photo on my ‘old fashioned film’ camera and demanded to see the picture. She could not comprehend what I had done with it. This child has far surpassed the older two in her ability to create selfies.

At any moment she will demand a photo taken, to see it straight away and then want to know when I will print it out and display it. Yes, we do still print out the photos and they must be displayed. How they still all love seeing themselves in a photograph, pouring over images of their younger selves and remembering how much I (must have) adored them.

The youngest however, has more equipment and opportunity to indulge her selfie moments. I have sat through a variety of productions but this afternoon I had to watch the ‘movies’ she had made on her ipod. She had been entertaining herself making movies of her ineptly funny magic tricks; presenting the news of tables, chairs and plastic bags; and pretending to be a spy while sitting next to me in the car.

The big difference these days is I am so tempted to share, via my own social media platforms, these very funny moments of a child so enamoured of her own image and comedic talent. I want to share them because they are funny and this child knows that she is beautiful and is so very sure that I would want to sit through twenty minute videos of her magic tricks where the plastic bag disappears when she tosses it out of shot.

I would have shared the other girls’ antics as well. The princess stories and the Rolf Harris heroes (I kid you not) and the dance performances that were obviously impromptu. I actually enjoyed all of it, even though there may well have been times where I may have had other things needing doing.There were other times that I laughed as loudly as I did today.

I am filled with intense pleasure that my child likes herself, that she enjoys her own humour, that she can entertain herself for hours with herself and that she is so confident in my love and adoration that she just assumes I want to watch them all.

Aren’t I lucky?

Seal Pup’s Song up soon

Finally, my first book on Smashwords, to be listed soon. The first foray into wild seas for a little Australian Fur Seal pup is met with adventure and excitement. This tale has been a spoken word story for more than fifteen years and has finally made the transition to written. Beautifully illustrated with Dr. John Gibbens photographs, the story has been a part of my heart for many years. May her adventures never end (but perhaps tempered with a little more wisdom).

Seal Pup’s Song

Seal Pup’s Song is the story of an Australian Fur Seal’s first adventure into the sea. Using the beautiful images captured by Dr. John Gibbens http://www.sealimages.com and working from a told story, the tale highlights the perils of the sea for a young seal. It has been an interesting process to transition from spoken word story to written and to find the images that best evoke the tale. Much of the immediacy of the told story is not available to me. I don’t get to see the audience’s response but hopefully I will hear from readers when the book is released. I will let you know.

Strolling through the Sanctuary

Strolling through the Sanctuary

One of my favourite places is Phillip Island. I enjoy animals and natural environments. Years ago, after my first visit to Seal Rock, I created the told story Seal Pup’s Song. As a told story it had a lot of power, with children throwing there hands over their eyes as the shark advanced on the pup. In the written story the focus has shifted to the images and text, which has been an interesting journey in itself. Much like the photo where my mum, daughter, grandson and I strolled along through the bird sanctuary on Phillip Island. I could tell you about it but the image evokes the serenity.