Through the window – A Musing

It’s raining, it’s pouring, I wish I was still snoring. All the animals are inside, and slightly damp, the visiting teens are inside, and watching telly loudly. The view through my lounge window is of looming grey clouds and rain. All the plants are holding their leaves to the sky and laughing.

I’ve loved the power and light show though. Only because we have not lost power, for which I am most grateful. Parts of the town have. Trees down, creek rising but on the bright side, no fires. The ‘fire season’ is officially over. On the first day the fire bans were lifted, which was hot and incredibly windy, people went to town burning off. Guess what happened? Yup, fires out of control.

Reminds me of one year a neighbour down the road, lit debris at the base of a tree. The fire began racing up the trunk and the neighbour began batting at it with his plastic rake, sending embers off into the wind. I stopped and told him I’d rung the fire brigade. He gave me a few choice words as he ran for his hose.

Then there was the other neighbour who lit a fire near their fence and a tree. Youngest Daughter and I stood watching as the flames took over the fence and leapt to the tree. I called the brigade.

We’ve watched a fair bit of weather through our lounge window. One year, hail stones as large as golf and tennis balls bounced into our front garden. The car received a lovely array of circular dents in the roof. Youngest Daughter, being seven, raced into the front yard to collect some hail stones and proudly showed me three. We put them in the freezer to keep them.

Another view was our first year here in a bush fire area. It was Black Saturday. I was already freaked out and the power kept cutting out. I was very aware of how fast fire could spread and there were four big fires well within 20 kms of us. The winds of change could easily bring them our way. I was bravely staying, encouraged by a fire-wise neighbour, when Youngest Daughter went to the window. “Mum,” she said, “Look how pretty the sky is.” I whipped around and saw vivid orange smoke clouds. We cut and ran to our friends for the night.

Other views through my window have been spider webs of rain drops in the trees, gymea lilies silhouetted against the sunrise, children making mudslides down the embankment, cats sunning themselves and pouncing upon one another. I’ll keep watching and let you know what we see next.

I’m painting a tree on my wall

Over the past few years, life has changed dramatically. You know, life happens. One of the things has been to get rid of lots of stuff, including furniture. With spare rooms it has been shifted around and with daughters, it has been shifted out. I’ve always leaned towards large pieces of wooden furniture and it has been a substantial effort to move said items.

The result has been a spareness that is pleasing to me. My house looks a little bare. I seem to need to create the space for my mental health and wellbeing and to move on from very painful experiences. It has taken a long time to clear the wall in my kitchen/ living area. Longer to talk myself into painting the wall then believing that I can design and paint the tree.

I drew many trees over the past year before deciding on a curlicue version, much like my doodling. The challenge was then to believe I could transfer it onto my wall. I won’t describe here the many methods and techniques I considered. Eventually, I painted the wall and took chalk to it and began drawing. I erased the first two efforts and the third I am happy with. When finished, I’ll move the family photos to that wall. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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What spare room?

I have been keeping a spare room. Daughters have slept in it, mother and friends. It’s been good. I’ve kept the animals out of it because not everyone can sleep with a stack of furry bodies. But no longer. Youngest daughter has moved back in and it is now her room. Where will I sort my towels?

There’s been me and three dogs and three cats for the last six months. While what precipitated this alone time was heart-breaking, I have been happy living by myself with my Fluffy Floozies (ergo, ‘fluffy floozies’ collective description for said furry peeps). Now I have to share again.

Oh, I want to, happy to do it, more than happy. It’s just confronting. It’s been 30 years since I lived alone and as a young woman, didn’t do so well. As myself now, did absolutely fine, better than fine. Who knew? It’s been a revelation that I can live happily by myself. I hope it’s equally a revelation that  can live with my youngster again.

So, no spare room for awhile. Day trips are us for the rest of the family. Sharing a bathroom again. Ugh. Oh well, I’m thrilled to have her here, we will see what the future brings.

I’m staying up late…heh heh

Here I am, sitting at my desk at a time of morning I am normally just waking up. I am not enamoured of early morning sounds or light. I admit I have been in times past but I would rather be asleep. I am determinately an owl.

I have always had difficulty in going to bed early. I still have difficultly in going to bed early. I never want to go to bed early or even at a reasonable time. If I have lights out before midnight, it is a surprise. I still have to get up to go to work and really need a nap in the afternoon (not always possible at work, though it is amazing how much I can type with my eyes closed). I seem to function on a certain level of sleep deprivation. Yet, can I make myself go to bed earlier? Nope.

I have good intentions but there is always one more thing to draw, another game to play, one more episode to watch. It’s never, oh I’ll just get these dishes done or I’ll get this floor mopped now. Which would be bizarre but interesting at midnight. No, it’s always play.

Then I go to bed and read. Eventually when I cannot focus on the words any longer, I relax into sleep. Such good habits, if only two hours earlier.

I am completely baffled as to why my good intentions for a proper night sleep are never met. I suspect I never mean to. I often give myself a good pep talk (about everything really) to get myself to bed earlier and then still crawl into bed at midnight. I’m 53, it’s a long standing habit. I reckon I’ll still be doing it when I’m 83.

This year I am giving up insisting that I go to bed earlier. I’m going to let me stay up as late as I want. (That never worked with kids, I doubt it will work with me.) I’m still going to do it though. Stop giving myself a hard time about staying up late. See what happens.

Drawing my Art: A Musing

I’ve been exploring art. My art. My art, my heart, my words, my stories. Art for my stories and art for art’s sake. I thought I might share a bit of my art, as part of my stories.

I began drawing again two years ago to illustrate my stories. My plan is to illustrate and e publish my own told stories as written tales. I have completed one. I’m not happy with it. I want to pull it apart and re-do it. Of course. It’s going to take a long time and lots of practice until my ‘art’ is good enough.

I also like tattoos. I like variety. I joined an online drawing challenge after observing and commenting for six months. Most of the illustrators are so good, I despair. One of this year’s themes is Shakespeare. I like the “to be or not to be..” quotation and paired it with my first ever Sugar Skull. This comes from a tattoo tradition and while mine may have butterflies, it is within the bounds of tradition. Except, perhaps, for the vampire teeth. Those I drew for Youngest Daughter. Thirteen and excited by vampires and zombies. Well, zombies really. There’s no accounting for taste.

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I’ve experimented with chalk, soft pastels, crayons, oil pastels, acrylics, paint pens, permanent markers, graphite and charcoal. I have mixed all of the above and collaged with them. No-one could ever accuse me of purity. It’s allowed these days, mixing media. When I did art in high school, I believe we were not allowed to mix media. Thank goodness I’m far far from high school.

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I painted the Lotus above as an housewarming gift for a friend. I enjoy painting backgrounds and will use the mixing and texturising of paints as process work. While I am pondering and figuring and working out my feelings, I will mix and smooth, brush and layer, plaster and texturise paint on canvas paper. Then I have an assortment to choose from when I come to create images. Canvas paper, who knew there was such a thing? Marvellous and totally suitable for the learner.

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I am slowly graduating from single images to still life. When someone will sit still for long enough maybe I can practise drawing a real person. Youngest Daughter cannot be still and strangely I draw her older, every time. Mind you, I only learnt to draw faces in January at Yearly Meeting, I certainly haven’t graduated to bodies yet. Well, I try. I study my Pinterest collection and my online drawing program and keep drawing distorted and oddly shaped bodies. It’ll kick in sooner or later. Changing expressions in faces is interesting and my art journal is full of single, random eyeballs and stray cats.

The animals have come in for more than their share of posing and while cats are achievable, there is something about dogs that is more challenging. I have a number of side on, eyeball goggling disturbing pencil sketches that give me a start when I turn the pages.

I have begun using coloured pencils again and was determined to draw a dog. I wasn’t game enough to draw the full body but was sure that I could manage the head. Some success but still, incorporating the other side of the face and placing eyes appropriately is a challenge I haven’t mastered. I was quite pleased with the hair though. So pleased I went onto draw a rabbit, with a body! Hooray! Here’s the doggy anyway.

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Okay, long way to go on faces and bodies. Still, battling on. I really want to create the illustrations I can imagine for my stories. I have to keep practising until I am satisfied. That’s how I started in storytelling. Practise, practise, practise, then practise some more. I’ve created collage pictures for the next story I’m planning to publish. Need help with formatting though. I have a long way to go before I will be confident.

Hah! Wait until you see the bulldog on the skateboard!
Happy art.

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We went to the zoo zoo zoo: A Musing

As someone passionate about animals, I have a uncomfortable relationship with zoos. We need zoos (or do we?) to learn about animals and protect species from ourselves. Our local zoos are heavily involved in species preservation globally. Still, we are using animals for human entertainment. My dilemna. More of that another time.

When I was eight, my parents took us to a circus. To their embarrassment, I cried through the whole thing. My distress was in watching the animals do things that animals were not supposed to do. Elephants balancing on tiny steps, ponies running in endless circles with acrobats upon their backs, lions being whipped and dogs without any wag to their tails. At eight I could not explain why I was so upset. I have never been to a circus that uses animals again.

Back to zoos. I like the care and passion of the staff and the commitment to animal welfare, and sometimes there are other attractions. There was a cultural day at Healesville Sanctuary yesterday. I wanted to take Youngest Daughter and Grandson. YD has lots of cultural experience and knows her mob and family. Grandson has no cultural experience and his heritage is English, not Aboriginal. I feel strongly however, that the culture of this land needs to be known and felt by those born of this land. And so we went.

Eldest Daughter and ED Husband were keen to see the animals. YD was keen to stay in the area where Community was. Grandie wanted to watch everything, run everywhere and play. He’s 3 and has a few disabilities that means he functions younger. He’s my good time boy. Grandie was enormously excited by the boomerang throwing. The boomerang went high and the Wurundjeri Elder throwing it caught it nearly every time. When he’s really excited, Grandie holds up both hands, rubbing his fingers together, grinning hugely. He could have watched the boomerang throwing all day. However there were dancers to run through the middle of and dijeridoo players to barge through, puppets to fiddle with and an artist’s not quite dry work to run his fingers over. Painting the rocks and the water holder and the table and Grandma was fun. Most of all he enjoyed having his face painted. This was the first time he had sat still to have his face painted. He obviously enjoyed the experience as he went into dreamy mode and kept pointing to unpainted parts of his face. The face painter happily obliged.

He was impressed with the Cassowary and very much with the Emus, then we went into the Lyrebird Aviary. There is a Lyrebird pair in the aviary and Mr Lyrebird was focussed on attracting Ms Lyrebird. He had every bird noise down pat and, if we were not mistaken, some distinctive electronic sounds and Rap and Beatbox. Mr Lyrebird’s enthusiasm was a little sad as he had a captive audience in Ms Lyrebird. She was ignoring him anyway.

My grandson didn’t notice any of them once he spied the stairs and the high viewing area. Up the steps we went. Him in the lead and ED and I a step behind. He was so impressed with how high he was that he ventured up twice more with other family members in tow. His parents tried to get him to move on and see other animals. Why? He hadn’t really noticed the ones we’d already passed. I figured it was his visit and he could experience it however he did.

He did noticed the koalas when we finally got there. He signed ‘eating’ and said clearly, yuck! The koala was awake and munching on gum leaves, as they do. The energy from the leaves is so poor and takes so long to digest that koalas spend much of their time sleeping. I said that koalas eat leaves, nothing else. He looked at me with disbelief then took off around the koala bridge. It took four laps before he slowed down. A snack and playground play later, he was ready to go.

He may not have seen many animals but he was there experiencing so many things. I may have a discomfort about zoos but I would choose to take him again. The animal enclosures make me feel sad, particularly the calling Kookaburra on its own, but the care, passion and enthusiasm of the staff go a long way to making up for it. Healesville took care of a lot of animals hurt in the Black Saturday fires seven years ago. Many of them could be released and those that could not have homes at the zoo. The kooka was also injured and was unable to be released.

As for my grandson, I barely re-told the story of his day at the zoo before he was fast asleep.

Quaker Yearly Meeting: A Musing

Here I am at Australian Quakers Yearly Meeting on a hot humid January day. I have been a Quaker (Religious Society of Friends, http://www.quaker.org.au ) for many years but have been unable to worship with everyone for the last five. We moved to the bush and the Meeting for Worship closest to us closed. There weren’t enough of us. (This is a Quaker joke.)

There are not many Quakers in the world yet there has been a disproportionate impact by Quakers, historically, on some of the most contraversial issues. Hundreds of years ago, it was about women and children in the same prisons as men. Then about children being imprisoned as if they were adults. Primarily about peace, focus grew on the plight of slaves and Quakers were keen proponents against slavery. In Australia there has been a commitment to the rights of Indigenous People and to wherever people are vulnerable and downtrodden, for example with Asylum Seekers and Refugees. (Hmm, I’ve always disliked random capitals but find myself using them where I am passionate.) Quakers have been involved in peace movements world wide and while a small yet passionate group, we are committed to equality (including same sex marriage).

Quakers have a lot of quotes that are used to consider concerns and to inspire.  My favourite is to “let your life speak” and “walk softly over the world greeting that of God in everyone” or to “live life adventurously”. They are my favourites, they “speak” to me as we say. There are many more. In fact, Quakers love writing and talking and talking and …

Ironically, Australian Meetings for Worship are predominantly silent. If someone is moved to speak they may do so and keep it short. Each statement, whether in Meeting for Worship or Meeting for Business for Worship (I know), each statement must be greeted with silence to let the thought settle, rather than immediate agreement or rebuttal. I like silence. I like this practice. Quaker practices evolved in response to the compromise of church and it’s relationship with the aristocracy hundreds of years ago, when people wanted a direct relationship with God. We take this for granted now. But then, it was radical.

While the Religious Society of Friends grew out of Christianity, many Quakers are not Christian. Many are and just as many are Buddhists, Agnostics, Mystics or Atheists. That’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? We talk of the Light within and that all living things are lit from within by the Light (of God). The evidence you find for your faith as a Quaker is yours. We may debate, we may discuss, we may write about it or talk, talk, talk but the principles that Quakers share are about Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Earth and Equality. Spicee! Gotta like that. There are Committees for everything.

It’s been many years since I was last at Yearly Meeting with hundreds of other Quakers. It’s going to be an intense week. For people who worship in silence, Quakers talk a lot. I’m quite looking forward to it. My challenge will be to not join any committees. I really would like a worshipping group close to home. For now I am going to enjoy seeing old F/friends and making new ones. I am going to enjoy worshipping together and going to the healing sessions. The past ten years have been really challenging, it will be good to hold it in the Light.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Blogging 301: Why do I keep on keeping on?

When I first heard about blogging, I could not imagine why anyone would want to share their thoughts or read others. Guess that’s a clue, right there. I didn’t even keep a diary as I couldn’t bear reading back what I had written. I do keep an art journal with my doodling and practise work. I draw images, and zen-tangle them, until I can confidently re-draw them and feel I have added to my repertoire. It’s not a visual journal of my life journey, nor is it like one of those art journals on Pinterest, full of colour and special wording. Nope, it’s just my doodles and image creation.

However, I see in that, growth. A slow building confidence in my own artistry. I have always been creative, trying many mediums. Paint has been the most intriguing for me. Mostly because I couldn’t work it. Collage works for me on a very personal level. Sculpting works for me at another level. Drawing and pen work for me endlessly (I do love a good felt tip) but painting eluded me, until recently.

I discovered dimension and sculpting paints and canvas paper in a pad (oh joy). Now my head is full of what I would like to draw and blending images. Once I have an image, I can see it in 3D, and can re-position the image on my page to view it from every angle. Now, why can I not do that with my thoughts?

Is that what blogging is about? Is it viewing different topics under discussion from every angle, until a whole picture is built?
When I read other bloggers’ work, I gain an insight into their perspective, their experience of life. It does not allow me to know that person or understand their intimate drivers, but a blog that has connected to my life experience in some way. That in turn creates a feeling of connectedness. I recognise something in the blogger’s experience that I have shared. I do appreciate a blogger who explores a situation and questions themselves.

If writing enables us to view a situation or experience from different perspectives, much like my art journal, then it is no wonder that blogging abounds. And abound it certainly does. There are millions of bloggers, some of whom capture the interest of thousands of readers. I do not read blogs everyday but I do view a number of them regularly and some I even follow.

There are friends’ blogs that I always read. Mostly because they are my friends but also because I enjoy their conversation and with some of them, who are far away, miss hearing their voices. Most of these fall into the category of Storytelling friends, Storytellers from across the world whom I have met through other Storytellers and enjoyed their style, their wit and their stories. I have read enough of their blogs that I find I can reference between them. That has occurred more than once which makes me wonder how those comments and commentary have stuck with me. What resonated that I integrated their experience?

I read voraciously, mostly online and ebooks. I read widely and enjoy snippets of information as much as I enjoy learning something new. I absolutely adore being able to satisfy my curiosity. I don’t have to know everything but being able to look something up the moment I wonder about it, is a joy that is unsurpassed and stems from an education mired in library reference books. The opportunity to read, verify, deliberate and consider another person’s experience is vicarious and unifying simultaneously. Curiosity is not just an human trait but certainly brings joy and entertainment to my life.

Have I answered my own question then? About why I continue to blog, even when I don’t feel like it and sometimes feel I have nothing to say? Yes, it offers an opportunity to connect through sharing, personally and through reading, in a way that is stimulating on many levels. I can only hope that other people enjoy my musings as much as I appreciate theirs.

Teenagers – Shaking my head: A Musing

Most of the dramas in my life in the last ten years have come from my teens. Their dramas, upsets, friendship break ups and break downs, school hits and misses. It’s really hard to keep track. Talking them through it, finding alternative responses, walking them through to consequences of the impact of their own behaviour. Pretty tiring.

I don’t like drama, yet I am surrounded by it. Is it just me or are teens worse? I was pretty bad, in my own head mostly, when I was a teen. I was snarky and nasty. Thank goodness there was no facebook then oh, oh my god. Just think of all the nasty thoughts and things I said. Just think if I wrote them down. It was bad enough that I sometimes wrote letters and posted them! Regrets, I have a few.

But teens today take all that angst into the public arena and it escalates rapidly. A simple misunderstanding quickly became four teens on my doorstep and opposite my house yelling abuse and threats. My 13 year old was scared and had no idea how to handle it. The neighbours were so perturbed that when I finally came out to speak with them (I had been in my studio oblivious), the neighbour came over to make sure we were okay. How nice of him.

I know all these kids and they know me. They wanted to speak with me to tell me what my daughter had done. In between arriving and my becoming aware that it had escalated, threats of physical harm had occurred and my daughter had panicked. Poor darlings. It will blow over eventually but they are all so hot-headed. My girl contributed but she has me to talk to. I worry about the others.

I know there have been a lot of conversations about facebook and we really won’t see the impact of this destructive behaviour for years. No matter how we try to warn them that what they write stays on the interwebs forever, we are not believed. Yep, that’s right, I was never a teen. Yep, that’s right, I never said anything stupid. Yep, that’s right, I never fought with my friends. Yep, that’s right, I don’t know anything.

Of course the really funny bit in all this was that was exactly how I thought as a teen. I was absolutely convinced that I was smarter than both my parents (I still have a sneaking suspicion that it is true). I could certainly talk them under the table. I was so argumentative. I refuse to argue at all these days. Must be tough on my 13 year old but she’s my fourth teen and I’m well practised. Mind you, she still manages to come up with some combinations I haven’t quite handled before and I have certainly had some terrible drama with her birth mother (upon whom we currently have an intervention order, I kid you not). But, all in all, she’s a kid and she’s my kid and I love her.

Interestingly it was her not-friends’ threats toward me that made her deactivate her facebook account and state that it was not okay to treat me like that. Love that. I have always been (over – if you ask my kids) protective. I quite like being on the receiving end. I do feel for them all though. They make their lives so much harder than needs to be. Then again, they are teens. There are adults that behave like that without hormonal excuses.

So, tomorrow I will drop her to school and walk her into the office to explain. Then she’s on her own. Hard as it is she has to deal with it. We will go through responses again to practise. She wanted me to walk her to her locker (actually she doesn’t even want to go to school but that won’t work) but I have to go to work. I have faith that the school will look out for her and she will have to keep her head down. The scary thing is that kids seem to think they can get away with bashing each other. One step at a time.

She’s brave my girl. As feisty as she is, I really wouldn’t have her any other way. But if I heave a sigh and shake my head on occasion, I know you will understand.

Memory Gems – A Musing.

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In stolen moments, all alone or with one dog at my side, I sip my coffee and finally relax and tumble my memory gems through my mind.

Passerbys stop to pat my dog which he welcomes. Me too. It is almost as nice to receive compliments about your pooch as your child. My dogs are floozies willing everyone to stop and pat.

My work day week takes a lot out of me. I think, I ponder, I write, I broker relationships between organisations and people, I collate news and share it, supervise staff and monitor programs, read, write and allow the many conversations and information I have gathered during the week to percolate through my brain, allowing new ideas to bubble to the surface. See? Everything is related to coffee.

I gain my energy from time alone, spent writing, reading, drawing, painting, sculpting, pasting, tearing, creating. I wander about my garden and I ponder and plan, plant and pull. There’s a lot of alliteration in my life. I draw energy from the earth, trees, plants, flowers, animals and the sky. I notice those moments of the sunlight through trees, a cobweb stretched across my path, a moment’s fragrance and much like my dogs, ponder it all later. I think about the trees I noticed driving to work and my dog’s faces as I gave them a last pat (and the random cat that joins the throng) and I savour them.

From childhood I learnt to gather those moments, the little treasure troves of gems, to share when life dulls or becomes overwhelming. Dealing with large groups of people is overwhelming, or groups that oppose one another (or think that they do). Worrying about one’s children and other people’s can be exhausting. Other people’s anxiety grinds against my own and I seek solace in my gems. Those shining moments when the world offered a glimpse of beauty. The more you find, the more you see.

Sometimes there are surprises. One evening this week, after completing an intricate drawing, I went into my bedroom, flipping the light on and stopped still with surprise. On my bed, looking equally surprised, was a beautiful chocolate Burmese. “Hello!” I assumed he came in through my open window and made himself at home. The effort it would have taken to get up to my window, balance and jump down probably required a nap. I walked slowly around the bed and offered my hand for a sniff. I quickly worked out that he preferred a stoke to a neck scratch and we were friends. I got ready for bed, wondering aloud to him who he was and who was missing him. A personable gentleman, he made himself at home and tried to settle on my pillow. I had other ideas and scooped him off. He liked the cuddle so settled down to sleep alongside me for the night. When we put him out in the morning, he was unwilling to leave and seemed disconcerted that he had to go before being offered breakfast.

We have wondered about him since. My bedroom window stays open and I watch for him. Handsome and obviously well cared for, we hope he is safe at home.

Another gem for my treasure trove of memories.