Maybe you’re not old enough to know them, or maybe you were lucky enough to have had crooners like Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, Jim Croce, Dan Fogelberg, Joni Mitchell and Janis Ian as the soundtrack to your most memorable years. I’ve always been drawn to the stories in their songs. When I was sick, music was my go-to mind medicine. These artists and others like them brought me solace when I needed it, a focus for my mind, and best of all comfort.
They still do. I was driving along in the car yesterday and a wave of tearfulness swept over me. I had already put the windscreen wipers on before I realised the rain was my own. Jostein Garder described this general sadness that I feel, in his book ‘Sophie’s World’. He called it ‘world-sadness’. That feeling of connectedness to all the tragedies in life, happening everywhere. It can be so overwhelming. So tiring to have this kind of emotional hyper-sensitivity. If only I could flick the switch and find my happy self in moments like that. Instead, I have learned to just let the waves of it wash over me.
Have you ever been deep in the world-sadness and the most perfect song has come up in your playlist or on the radio? Yesterday it was Gordon Lightfoot, ‘Rainy Day People’. So beautiful. My rainy day person is my friend Flo. She popped in the other day with a gift for me. She said, it had pretty much bought itself before she had time to think. Somehow these are just meant to be yours, she said. I opened the parcel to find six exquisite tea mugs, each with different blue and white moroccan mosaic patterns. They are so perfect. They reminded me instantly of the china my Mum collected, that precious, carefully curated selection now amalgamated with my own. I held one of the mugs in my hands and smiled gratefully at my friend. I don’t need gifts, but the thoughtfulness of hers made me feel profoundly fortunate. How lucky I am to have a friend like her. Someone who understands me, who somehow knows just when it’s time to call. I hope you’ve got some rainy day people in your world, too.
If you haven’t heard this Gordon Lightfoot classic lately, or ever…
here is Rainy Day People:
I had a chat with my son yesterday, about responsibility and growing up. About how as he gets older his chore list will inevitably grow. I explained that it’s time to begin carrying his own weight more rather than expecting to have everything done for him. His chores aren’t very onerous. He’s been sick and can’t do as much as a ten year old should. But I am a big believer in doing as much as we can, no matter how we feel. It’s better for the mind, in the end. Even when it is, so hard. His beautiful eyes welled up and it took me by surprise. “Why are you sad, little guy?” “I miss being little,” he said. He crawled up into my lap and let the big tears roll down his cheeks. Mourning the end of babyhood. I confess, I could fully empathise. I often wish I could go back in time and be in my mother’s arms, cradled and cushioned from the big wide world.
Last week one of the mothers from school died in a motorbike accident. Her name was Nikki. At her funeral, the people close to her stood and spoke; so bravely in the face of their grief, about who she was, about how it felt to be without her. She had three children, the youngest was born on the same day as my son. Her son and middle daughter both went through the junior school years with my two.
My most vivid memory of her is the time she hosted our Year Group party at her house. She opened the front door in a floor length emerald green silk dress. She was stunning. The sight of her long, willowy form, the wow factor of her gregarious personality and beauty. It was both intimidating and impressive. It’s hard to comprehend that she is not here anymore.
The tragedy brought into sharp focus the gift that each day truly is. I think this truth is always close to my consciousness, yet still, it slips away sometimes. I forget the inevitable and get bogged down with all the daily tasks and endless aggravations of life. I lose sight of how lucky I am to be alive, to be able to have conversations with my babies as they take on the incremental approximations of their adult selves. To hold them when they cry and raise the bar for them when they need to push a bit more. I’m here, parenting and loving. That’s no small thing at all. But oh, my mind has so many questions!
I’ve been wondering, why. Why we strive for things. I don’t know why I tried so hard to put my kids through expensive schools, now they are happy in our local schools. I don’t know why I care so much about the state of the carpet that I won’t invite people over. I don’t know why I strive to do it all.. all. of. the. time. It makes me grumpy and listless and down. I wonder why I feel like a failure if I’m not groomed, cheerful and deeply fulfilled as I go about my many thankless tasks, like so many other women seem to be. I wonder if I should be. I wonder what it is all for. I wonder if it will all be worth it in the end.
Do you wonder about that?
Here we are, alive and able to love. We breathe, our hearts pump the baseline rhythm, our feet syncopating a melody we never pause to hear. We are so consumed with the minutae of our micro-worlds. The planet turns, ice caps melt, species become extinct, wars burn through vast swathes of humanity, mothers die, stars are born, lava erupts from our molten core. Rainbows arch across the sky above the school gates. And on goes another load of washing.
I’m going to leave here a beautiful song, as a tribute to all the people who have left us, we hope, for a ‘better place’. My friend played it for me last Friday. She’d been to Paul McCartney’s recent concert and she knew I would love this song as much as she does. When Nikki died, her family and friends pulled together a truly beautiful funeral service. At the end of the end there was some kind of tragic peace, some sort of beauty and grace as they faced their final farewell. I wish all my wondering could help me comprehend why things like this happen. There is too much sadness in the world. I hope he is right and at the end of the end, there is no need to be sad.
Can you be a kind one? A full-of-love one? A generous-of-down-time one? A less-of-doctors one. A more-of-reading one. A happy-new-schools-move one. A much-more-camping one. A fixing-the-house one, a finding my writing muse one. A painting-pictures one.
That kind of one?
Ta. I’m ready for you, 2018.
I woke up this morning and attended to my paperwork pile, firing off emails and getting shiz done before anyone else in the house had stirred. Feels good to start with a productive burst. We did our usual New Year’s platter extravaganza last night. All the yummies. Tawny port. Reflection on the year we’ve had and our goals for the one ahead. Then at 12, we stood on our deck and watched the fireworks bloom across the dark sky. The Sky Tower lit up like a giant sparkler. A cool breeze and the warm arms of my man around me filled me with calm optimism. Twenty Eighteen is going to be a good one. It will be so different for us. I think it is time for change.
My hubster is in the kitchen making us a morning cuppa and the New Year has dawned quietly overcast. I see the Jacaranda tree we planted a few years ago is having it’s best season yet; a harbinger of good things to come for all of us. Masses of heavy bunches of purple drip from it’s slender branches raining petals on the lawn and path. It’s a beautiful sight. One day, it will stretch across to the house and fill the corner of our place with dappled shade. I wonder how many New Years will roll by before that happens? What will they hold?
I don’t know about you, but I am ready for last year and all it’s challenges to be history. It’s time for New. Yeah.
My ten year old just came into our room, all wuffly headed and sleepy. “Welcome to 2018!” I said.
“Oh yeaaah!” he said. And he mused to himself ‘What’s my New Year’s Revolution going to be?’ I smiled. That is surprisingly apt.
Happy New Year everyone! May this one bring peace and calm and happiness and fulfilment for all of you, in whatever shapes those things take for you. It’s a wobbly time in global politics, so I really hope it’s a optimistic new year for everyone, in spite of it all. May all the ‘revolutions’ be internal and useful.
The tears have been near the surface for me again today. It’s always a bad time of year for me but just recently parenting life has taken on a new bitter-sweetness.
I’ve been watching other people’s children on facebook, kicking goals, making ground, celebrating life. Prizegivings, certificates, milestones. Their parents radiate pride as they share footage and photos and so they should. I click away, liking, loving and wowing all the posts. I am all for recognition and reward; praise is the foundation of solid self esteem. And what they’ve been doing is so impressive! The highlight reels I see of other people’s children are in the particular vernacular of the winner: best, excellence, outstanding, achievement. Their joys and successes follow the same arc as one other, soaring to the top of their worlds, what ever those worlds may be.
With each of those social media posts, I think of the other parents. Parents like me, whose children march to the beat of a different drum. Their own rhythm, slightly out of step with the norm but no less laudable. I think of all the myriad of other parents whose kids are not at the tip of the standard bell curve. I wonder why we don’t tend to post as much about our children, about their successes and achievements. Do we worry about the opinions of the traditional ‘winners’? Do we feel embarassed? I hope not. It got me thinking about what I really value in what my kid’s have done this year. None of it has been recognised by either of their schools; we wagged both Prizegivings this year. No one stood in assembly to acknowledge them. It’s a shame, because they both deserve it.
If I were the leaders in their schools, I would have noticed these things about my kids. I would have recognised their brilliance, perhaps. But I’m just their mum, so I will shout it to the blogosphere instead. Let’s start with Bee.
She has grown to the staggering height of 6’1 this year. That’s a long way up for a 12 year old. And a lot of exhausting growing for her body to do. A few times, the school nurse has called me and expressed her concern about Bee’s rate of growth. We spoke to an endocrinologist, she’s fine. She’s just a tall girl. Willowy and beautiful and still with that gangly pre-teen kind of way of loping about, completely unaware of the head-turning going on around her.
Early in the year, Bee lost her Nanna, followed swiftly by the loss of her beloved pony. These twin sadnesses were felt keenly and can still knock the wind out of her sails. Emotion runs high for her as the hormones storm through. She is changing and learning the harsh realities of life and death as her eyes open up to the adult world.
For the first time since starting school, she built a new kind of friendship group. Her assorted friends gathered together based on mutual respect and kindness; turning away from the ‘cool’ girls who would turn on them and try to make them feel bad. How proud I am that she has learned how to identify kindred souls and nurture friendships with them. This is a massive life skill and she aced it. In addition, she has begun thinking about the bigger issues in our global community, often beginning conversations around our dinner table about topics like poverty, gender equality, international politics and ethics.
And yet, through all of this massive amount of change, Bee has retained the sweet childlike loveliness that really typifies her nature. She is still the animal loving, cheery, kindhearted, tea-making, tomato loving darling she has always been. She still squeals with excitement about things and says inappropriate things at inopportune times (ha! wonder where she gets that from!) And I feel positive about braving the hormonal storms with her in the year ahead. She’s amazing and I am so proud of her. At my prize giving, I would award her with a ‘Quiet Wisdom’ Award. She’s faced the hard stuff this year and made it through with insight and sensitivity. I rate this chick. I hope that when she’s older she will choose to be my friend, I’d really like a friend like her.
Zed has had a tough year too. It’s the fifth year running that he has been ostracised by a big portion of the boys in his year. He’s been tormented about his looks, told he should go kill himself, been heckled for being sensitive and different. In the bigger context, he’s been dealing with a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and has been so tired that most mornings I have had to physically dress him. This bone sapping fatigue meant he had a massive struggle at school on the days he made it there. Even when he was able to spend energy, he has had to pay for it dearly. Sometimes, he would crawl into the bushes at lunchtime to sleep and get away from the teasing. When he was discovered, the mean kids just turned even that into a new thing to give him grief about.
He’s been physically bullied too. Zed achieved his karate black belt this year, and although I am proud of that, I am prouder that he didn’t use it to hit back at his tormentors. He could have and neither his Dad or I would have blamed him. But he took the pain they inflicted and restrained himself, crying only after he got home; all of the emotion and difficulty of each day released in a tidal wave of grief and confusion.
He’s a brilliant kid. Funny, soft-hearted, quirky in the most entertaining way. He can be aggravating too, but if you explain it, he is quick to stop. He’s not the kind of boy that is considered cool by those with social cred at his school, and so he and his heart have been battered and bruised. He has borne all of these things with dignity and determination. At my Prizegiving, I would award him with “Most Stoic in the Face of Significant Difficulties”. Because, in spite of it all, Zed was a dedicated team member at basketball, an enthusiastic student of karate, a ceaseless seeker of friendship. He dug deep during his first ever exams and tried his best. I am proud of my boy. At ten, he still can just manage to curl his long limbed frame up into my lap and lay his head on my shoulder. He is compassionate and caring, hilarious and interesting. He deserves so many accolades this year; he’s a dude.
Both of our kids are starting at new schools in the new year. I don’t know if their new schools will see them for who they are but I hope with all my vulnerable mother heart that they do. Thing is, I am having a prize giving, but the prize is my children. I’m giving them into the care of their new schools, desperately hoping they will be valued as they should.
Perhaps your kids are like mine. Precious, unique and outside of the norm. I hope that you and they take a moment to appreciate what makes them amazing during this season of awards. And for all those parents out there without certificates to share on social media, please know that I see you and your beautiful children, shining on regardless.
“Success is not achieved by winning all the time.
Real success comes when we rise after we fall.”
When I am not actually writing, I am think-writing. Do you do that?
Entire sentences or small phrases get worked and reworked in my mind. Like a boiled sweet tumbled over and over in your mouth, savoured until all the sweetness has dissolved into a sharp, final shard. Then; gone.
Sometimes I remember what I wanted to write about, but most often it is an ephemeral mist by the time I pause long enough to retrieve it.
I’ve just been so occupied lately that there has been very little time for ‘me’ stuff, like blogging. The moments I have of solitude, have been away from my keyboard, or without pen and paper. So all the writing has just happened up there, in my own mental ‘cloud’… if only it was a true backup disk! I miss writing here so much! Hello again, people!
I thought I would do a little catch up piece today, in the vein of the wonderful Pip Lincolne’s Taking Stock posts. This is how things are right now. How are they for you? Feel free to copy and paste and add your own list to the comments. I’d love to know what’s going on in your world, too!
Making: Every minute count. That often means my days start at 5.30am to feed horse and walk dog before all the other commitments.
Cooking: big family meals mostly. Our current favourite is my Chicken and Leek Pie. I’m also making the occasional batch of cookies. Just recently my friend Flo gave me a recipe for oat choc chip cookies and they are SO DELICIOUS and EASY! Reckon they’d be good with cranberries too. Sing out if you want the recipe.
Drinking: Gin and Tonics made with lemons and limes from our own trees. Gin-and-tonic-time is a bit of a favourite time to get to at the end of each very busy week!
Reading: Nothing, not even newspapers!
Wanting: A large docile Clydie-cross all for me… and a country property to bring him home to. Ha! Dreams are free.
Looking: closely at the detail of nature. Right now I’m into raindrops on roses… well, raindrops on anything. So beautiful.
Playing: Dixie Chicks “Cowboy, Take Me Away”
Deciding: what is the best kind of education for a divergent child?
Wishing: I had more time in each day so that I could really actually get to the bottom of my to-do list, even just once!
Enjoying: the company of our giant doofus doggie, Wookiee. Have I introduced you to this very cool dude yet? Meet Wookiee the 8 month old Labradoodle, favourite member of the household by unanimous vote.
Waiting: for it to be acceptable to put my Christmas Carols on repeat
Liking: being a zookeeper
Wondering: if Nik Kershaw has any current music… (off to google)
Loving: the smell of chaff
Pondering: the sense of this crazy-busy urban lifestyle we lead
Considering: whether we should investigate that…
Watching: nothing. Too busy.
Hoping: The weather stays horse/dog friendly for the entire summer holidays
Marvelling: at how much I can do these days. Like; I do something, then I can do another thing(!) and then I can keep going and do another and another. It’s amazing!
Needing: a remote thoroughbred feeding/checking/smooching system
Smelling: like a farm most days
Wearing: gumboots and old jeans with the occasional foray into teaching attire
Following: the weather forecast like a country girl
Noticing: how often I crave the wide open spaces and solitude
Knowing: the run from here to Christmas is going to be mayhem
Thinking: that we are so lucky to have such a great local high school to send Bee to next year
Feeling: emotional a lot lately, guess it is that time of year again when my thoughts are drawn to all the people I love who aren’t here anymore
Admiring: my girl and her tenacity during her first one day event recently
Sorting: my “Rachie Drawers”… those generic holding places where things go and disappear. I’ve lost my engagement ring and I need to find it!
Buying: hmmmm. A horse float and a new horse have removed our buying power for anything else at present, but oh it is soooo good to finally have a float! And lovely to have the beautiful Rosie in our family.
Getting: worried about what the above will do for Christmas buying
Disliking: our dog’s penchant for courier packages. I think he thinks they are chew toys delivered conveniently just for him; something new every time!
Opening: my mind to new possibilities as the New Year approaches
Giggling: at all the hilarious things our Zed says and does, he’s very funny… most of the time!
Feeling: worried about whether my mothering is going to benefit my kids or hinder them, they’re getting older and so much more independent. My mothering is struggling to keep pace with their rates of inner growth! I hope I can find a way to be a less anxious mama.
Snacking: ooooh. Snacks… that sounds good. I wonder what I can find in the cupboard?
Coveting: good camp chairs. Ours are all torn and overtaxed from our large-arse situation. Pony Club camp is just around the corner!
Wishing: the Christmas rush was over
Helping: Riding for the Disabled with their cookie-icing fundraiser was fun!
Apologising: less than before. I like that I am learning NOT to apologise so ceaselessly for everything. It’s exhausting feeling responsible for myself, let alone for others.
Hearing: a lawn mower, children playing at the kindy next door, cars whooshing by, the wind in the eaves, the rustle of leaves, the birds singing with Spring happiness as if this season will never end. Yet, it will and I am grateful for that. A big part of me is craving winter hibernation right now! I am happy for warmth and nice weather, truly. Just keen for a bit of a break in general…
She looks so relaxed, on the first day of her island holiday. Gently swinging in the hammock, a mug of chai tea cradled in her hands; those eyes are tired, though. She looks outward to the ocean.
It is glassy today, clear as air to look into. If she were out there wading in the shallows she would see fish, lazily cruising in the warm edges of the reef. On the horizon, a solitary white rimmed island marks the separation between water and sky. She saw a whale breach out there earlier this morning. The sum of all these things, warm air, calm seas, chai tea. It is all in stark contrast to her inner world.
She tries to let it all go, all the daily pressure of normal life. All the past. All the words unsaid and things undone. Lists unchecked. It is hard to relax, and it should be simple. It is hard to carve out time where she can be nothing but herself. But she has, it is here; now, for the next hour or so. She sips on her chai, letting the cinnamon and spices swirl into her senses. The flavours of calm.
She’s not sure if she wants to spend time with herself after all.
Where is she, anyway? Losing herself has happened gradually. Task by task, caring for others. Loving others is a sacrificial pursuit, for women everywhere. Loving them with all she has is a habit of obligation and a daily choice. She didn’t know the cost of it when she signed up, but she knows now. Yet she would have paid anything to have this, have them. This life. And when the fabric of her wears thin and tears into the unwritten contract -of motherhood, of marriage- with hard words, she feels the failure. Sharp. So mean. She never really intends it for them. The words are really for herself. She sighs over it, swinging back and forth in that hammock. She is tired of turning herself inside out to examine it all.
So she walks through all of life in this body; this middle aged vessel of experiences, faded dreams and old philosophies, the mother-wife shell. The girl she also is; so shrouded now, by her roles and responsibilities. She has survived all the things. Her world is secure and her love is strong. Her family are happy. She thinks these thoughts like a mantra of protection. They have made together exactly the life she hoped for, the one she yearned for all those years ago, wishing into her teacups for a family of her own.
Her eyes close and she lets her head sink back against the woven hammock.
There is a woman here on the island, travelling alone. Her husband died three years ago, and since then, she has retraced the steps of all the travels they did together. She watches this woman in the restaurant, alone in her grief at her table for one. She wonders if there will be release when she has completed her solitary itinerary. She wonders if the goodbyes and the remembering are helpful. She wonders if she could be so brave. Life, on her own again. It makes her shiver in the tropical heat. No.
She thinks about her little family, out on the glassy ocean, casting handlines into the water in the hope of bringing home fish. She tries to imagine the joy and horror as they reel in slippery living creatures. It is the first time her children have been fishing. They are having much-yearned-for quality time with their daddy and she is struck by a sudden pang of… what is that? Jealousy? He’s been so busy lately. He is a great Dad. She chose him for them and that thought makes her feel proud satisfaction. She did that. A gift for their future selves and developing psyches. It was a good choice. She’d choose him all over again, she knows it.
The girl she is, takes a big deep breath and sighs it out into the warm air. She is okay. No crises to avert this afternoon. A small smile contracts her cheeks upward, crinkling the skin by her eyes. So fortunate to be here, this day, in this way, in this place. She aligns her girl and woman selves and blows across her warm tea. Seriously, she thinks. The best way to relax is to stop thinking altogether. She reaches for her headphones and scrolls through until an old favourite fills her consciousness. Yes. You Can Close Your Eyes by James Taylor. Her empty tea cup now nestles in the sand. She drifts out of her messy mind on a tide of chilled harmonies.
She is the picture of relaxation, that woman on the hammock. Eyes closed, headphones on. The late afternoon quiet, deep upon her. Slowly, the tide creeps up the sand and the day sighs to a close. She muses softly about all of her sisters-in-arms, shouldering big burdens and costly contracts of love.
the sun is slowly sinking down and the moon is slowly rising so this old world might still be spinning round and I still love you. So close your eyes you can close your eyes, it’s alright I don’t know no love songs and I can’t sing the blues, anymore but I can sing this song
–and you can sing this song when I’m gone
James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. It was the soundtrack for my holiday week; for me it is the song of parent to a child, or an adult to themselves. I love it so much. Have you heard these two singing together before? Happy sigh…
Three years ago, our family went on holiday to this very Pacific Island. It was a very different time. I was so sick back then, and full of trepidation that we would have a medical emergency while I was away. I remember how it took weeks of agonising effort to pack and how the things we brought with us included a box of medical supplies and equipment. I remember waking each morning into the humid air and swallowing down my medications, hoping I could cope with the day ahead. In the context of how ill I was, Tonga was very kind to me last time. But this time, my simple ease of being throws our last experience into stark contrast. I am amazed at how different I am.
I’ve been in remission now for two years. I’m stronger, fitter and have more stamina. Last trip, I managed some floating in the ocean. This trip, I’ve kayaked and snorkeled and swum and throroughly enjoyed everything the island has to offer. I was struck last time by the similarity of this place to my childhood home in Papua New Guinea. And last time, it was a kind of catharsis for me, being here. I had time to reflect on my childhood memories and say goodbye to that place in my mind I had never truly left. This time, it is a tangible physical remembrance and a positive one. Cruising over brilliant coral reefs, to the slow shushing of snorkelled air, takes me back to happy holidays in Madang and the Duke of York Islands. Scooping green coconut jelly from the shell for breakfast. So many strong memory cues. I feel peaceful and alive, rested and immensely grateful.
I hope the contrast between sick and well, will always strike me. I hope I will always feel this grateful for the gift of wellness. It is a beautiful thing to walk through the world without the weight of all that. Freedom. Yet I am perplexed by the necessary cost of wellness and ‘freedom’. They are not actually free at all, we pay in busy-ness, responsibility and pace. We lose the time to think, write, create. I haven’t blogged in so long and I’ve missed it keenly. Here, on a tropical island with no daily tasks to complete, no punishing schedules, no animals to care for and none of the usual husband/ kids/ homestay student demands it is easy to think I just need to change the way I do things at home.
None of the things that need doing are outsource-able. No one else will magically do them. I know, feeling rested as I am, I will put my shoulder into things when I get home. There will be a honeymoon period of almost enjoying all the motherly-housewifely tasks. I will be grateful for my own home again, eager to cook my family fresh New Zealand produce. Keen to drive my own car and be independent. Happy to get the laundry all tickety-boo. Maybe the answer is in micro-breaks. I’ll make a conscious effort to get out of the house and catch up with friends. Go alone somewhere for a morning just to write. Take a book to the top of the mountain with the dog. Start yoga.
But most importantly, I am going to begin planning the next holiday. Somewhere different next time. Somewhere it will take us a long time to save for, but that will create amazing memories. Travelling is a gift to the soul and a chance to breathe and get perspective. It pulls us all back together and we play cards again, minds cut loose from the relentless pull of social media. I need to prioritise travel more in our family budget. All of us are so relaxed. As I write, my hubster is swinging in the hammock, my kids are reading books; he on his tummy, idly circling his feet in the air, she, twirling her hair meditatively, small piece after piece. Their skin is nut brown, the dark circles gone from their previously pale faces. It makes me sublimely happy.
Speaking of reading, I read an extraordinary book in the first few days here that had me quite consumed. It’s a novel by a first time author, Gabriel Talent, about a girl growing up in Mendocino with a mentally unstable survivalist for a father. Harrowing and hard going, the writing is however, breathtaking. I found myself pausing frequently to marvel at his facility for description, more like poetry in parts than prose. I wouldn’t recommend it as a relaxing read, but it is stunning in it’s style and expression. ‘My Absolute Darling’ if you are like your fiction gripping, disturbing and even temporarily soul destroying….
Now I am reading W.Somerset Maugham’s ‘South Sea Stories’. He is also a king of description, although more sparse and understated. I love that he is describing the Pacific I love, but from many generations ago. Fascinating. Here is his description of the ocean, the very same that twinkles just beyond my fale doors.
“The Pacific is inconstant and uncertain like the soul of man. Sometimes it is grey like the English Channel off Beachy Head, with a heavy swell. And sometimes it is rough, capped with white crests and boisterous. It is not so often that it is calm and blue. Then, indeed, the blue is arrogant.
The sun shines fiercely from and unclouded sky. The trade winds get into your blood and you are filled with an impatience of the unknown. You forget your vanished youth, with it’s memories, cruel and sweet, in a restless intolerable desire for life.
But there are days also when the Pacific is like a lake. The sea is flat and shining. The flying fish, a gleam of shadow on the brightness of a mirror, make little fountains of sparkling drops when they dip. There are fleecy clouds on the horizon, and at sunset they take on strange shapes so that it is impossible not to believe that you see a range of lofty mountains. “
I love Maugham’s observations of the changing moods of the Pacific. Each day here is so different. Today we are overcast and the ocean is grey on grey, rippled by a warm breeze and gently lapping on the shore. The palm fronds are swaying gently and the wildlife mostly quiet, indolent in the heat and waiting for the cool of evening. I am about to get up and make myself a chai tea. I will take it down to the beach and blow the steam across the rim and over the horizon. Exhale, inhale.
Two and a half years ago, my girl’s dearest dream came true when she rounded the corner of the stables at her riding school and met a very special pony. A pony of her own. She couldn’t speak for half an hour; lost in a thrall of wonder and joy. It was the beginning of such a beautiful friendship. This is her on that day, the picture was later used for the cover of the Horse and Pony ‘Ponies’ mag.
We’ve just had the vet out to see our beautiful girl. Her leg has been swollen and not responsive to ice, poulticing and wrapping. She looked at it, grimaced a little and got the ultrasound machine. After looking at the ligaments from every angle, she started her next sentence with “I hate to be the bearer of bad news…”.
I swallowed, hard. She talked about how the type of injury was the sort of thing they usually see in high performance sport horses, that it is often career-ending. Our mare had injured her check ligament in the paddock (probably reliving her heydays with all her galpals). The vet showed me on the screen the big hole in her ligament.
Then it was time for a thorough check up. And more bad news; her melanomas have spread into her face and through her gastointestinal tract. She is not a young filly, our girl. This year she’ll be 25 years old. The treatment for her leg injury means six months of penning, treatment and rehab. There is no treatment for the spread of the melanomas. She won’t be flying around like the fiery showjumper she is, anymore.
We are faced with having to weigh up that beautiful pony’s future. To make the hardest decision of all. How do you know if euthanasia is even right? How do you explain that sometimes, that is the kindest path, to a kid who loves this pony with all of her being? I don’t know if I’m doing it the right way. I’m talking to her about how responsibility means making tough decisions sometimes; about not letting her beautiful pony suffer longer, about letting her go with the dignity she deserves, while she is in a happy place, surrounded by love. And in between I’m fighting back the helpless sadness of this mothering task and wondering how on earth we will say goodbye.
I want to shield my daughter from the sorrow of it all, but my arms can’t hold it back. This pain we feel is as much a part of living as the air we breathe. It’s as much a part of loving, as the happy times. So often I’ve had to say to my kids: the cost of great love is the grief we must shoulder when we lose our loved ones. When the sadness of loss overwhelms us: it is proof of the depth of our love, of how lucky we have been.
Lyndsay-pony (elsewhere on this blog referred to as Lulu) will always be a special part of our family. The gifts she brought us when we were lucky enough to become hers will be treasured forever. There is no forgetting a beautiful girl like that. She hasn’t just made my daughter’s pony dreams come true, but mine too. I don’t know how we are going to say goodbye when the time is right, but we will. We will find a way that is respectful and kind and beautiful. I hope that the rainbow bridge really is there. I hope we’ll cross over one day and find her there, waiting to wuffle into our palms again and push her beautiful big head up against us. I know my Bee will want to twist her fingers through her mane again and whisper secret pony murmurs into her grey ears.
Until then, sweet girl, we will just miss you with deep gratitude. Thank you for making our lives so much better. I’m so sorry we can’t fix you and I wish with all my heart that you could stay with us. Be free, Sweetness. Go run into the bright sunshine and let the wind fly your hair.
Today is the anniversary of Kellie‘s death. All over the world, the people she impacted in life will be feeling a deeper ache today. 365 more days around the sun on this blue and green planet, in our little sector of the universe. For many of us she is our Supernova. A brief, brilliant miracle. A solar biker chick, burning trails in the galaxy. Spinning on a dime and firing up the skies as she blazes past.
I think of lyrics from a song that has always helped my own mother-grief, Bright Star by the Indigo Girls. This song has always spoken to me and for me. Today I’m dedicating it to Kellie’s girl, Ash. For me, it is the song from a daughter to a mother she has lost. I’m sure Ash has her own grief music closer to her generation! I just wanted to share this one from my heart to hers.
Fare thee well my bright star
It was a brief brilliant miracle dive
That which I looked up to and I clung to for dear life
Had to burn itself up just to make itself alive
And I caught you then in your moment of glory
Your last dramatic scene against a night sky stage
With a moment so clear that it’s as if you’re still before me
My once in a lifetime star of an age
So fare thee well my bright star
Last night the tongues of fire circled me around
And this strange season of pain will come to pass
When the healing hands of autumn cool me down
-Indigo Girls ‘Bright Star’
Today I received an email from Kellie’s husband Mark. He wrote to share the latest news of the Scholarship Fund they created in Kellie’s name. I love the idea of a legacy like that. Her passions, her generosity. Here is what he wrote:
Hi All –
With today being the 19th of July, I thought it would be meaningful to celebrate our memory of Kellie today with an update on the scholarship.
Nicola was our first recipient who went on to achieve remarkable success in her final year with a GPA of 6.66, two publications, and several readings. Beyond this she was continuing to submit to larger journals. She shared how this would not have been possible without receiving the award. In short, the outcome for our 2016 recipient exceeded all expectations.
Luc, Ash, Ann, Charlotte and I attended the presentation event late last year at QUT where the 2017 recipient was announced. We have another very worthy recipient in James (picture attached). I am particularly pleased to understand James specialises in writing Sci-Fi. As part of his address, it was good and unexpected for Luc and Ash to hear Glen talk about Kellie’s passion and engagement in class.
As I think about Kellie’s legacy, the part that resonates (as I write this note) is how she never gave up exploring and sharing her passion for life with those around her.
The ‘Ann and Charlotte’ Mark speaks of are his new wife and new baby. The family is doing really well according to my sources, in case you were wondering like I did! Babies are magical joy bringers. Big love to the van Meurs. And big love to you Kel. Your angels are here doing their thing; your angel gift to those writers enables them to do theirs.
Yippee Ki Yi Ay.
I’m on my way.
Back in the saddle again…
…not exactly. This time I’m back in the stirrups again. This will be my seventh downstairs-region-surgery and I feel like I’m becoming an expert at donning the theatre garb. I’d prefer to be donning the actual-theatre-garb. Reckon the other patients in here would too. We’re lined up in recliner chairs, hairnets and compression knee highs on, politely smiling at the surgeon and anaesthetists who call on us, trying not to think about the fact that very soon, our hoohas will be seen by those very same people.
I don’t like it.
I have set my jaw in resolute forebearance. My exterior is calm and quiet. Only my blood pressure gives anyone any clue that it upsets me to be back here again. The nurse hums and hahs and goes off to let them know. She’s worried about stroke risk. I’m not, I know it is just a reasonable physiological response to gynae surgery. If you think about it, it’s absolutely ridiculous. I have to suspend my mind, somehow, and not think about the fact that there will be knives in my lady bits, while I am unconscious! Of course my blood pressure is high, that is an alarming thing!!!!
So, off I go. Pretending to be brave again and feeling like a scared kid. (be gentle with me kind surgeon)
I look forward to being on the other side of it.
How do you cope with pre-op nerves?
UPDATE: They were so lovely and gave me lots of nice medicines to make it all okay. I’m out and delightfully ‘lala-land-y’. Resting in bed for a bit now and no lifting for a good long time. Shame I couldn’t get them to instruct that there should be no cooking, child ferrying, washing or otherwise domestic delights for the next six months! Ha. Just thought I’d let you know that it all went really well, the surgeon found two more unhealed incisions to repair from the last surgery, so it is good that I agreed to get it done. Should be good as new now! 😉 Happy days. I’m off for a snooze.