Family matters

I have been busy, offline:

learning about a network of family in New Zealand, Canada, and Scotland that was previously unknown to me; reveling in the new-found solidarity of knowing where I come from; knowing where I stand in the world.

David Millar, my great, great-uncle, born in Scotland, settled in Mangawhai.

David Millar, my great, great-uncle, born in Scotland, settled in Mangawhai.

I have been busy, offline:

celebrating the birthday of one our longest lived family members, my father; he turned 95 in early May.

I have been busy, in real life:

helping my sister put together a creative activity programme for our 92-year-old mother; it is already producing wonderful results,

Painted Lady inspired by Pauline King's art, painted by Mother

Painted  Collage Lady, inspired by Pauline King’s art,  by Mother

including an increase in my own desire to explore painting,

Playing with Paint by Gallivanta, inspired by Pauline King

Playing with Paint by Gallivanta, inspired by Pauline King

and to play.

In moments of down time, I have played with Facebook and WordPress,  and the camera on my mobile phone.  Using the WordPress app was interesting, but not particularly satisfying. I am happy to be back on my laptop, where reading, commenting, and writing are all so much easier. I am happy to have access to my usual camera again.

These recent days, offline, have been enriching. But were mostly made so because of  the wonderful inspiration I gain from my WordPress family. In particular I would like to thank Ellen Grace Olinger for encouraging my interest in colouring and colouring pages, and Pauline King,  The Contented Crafter , for her artistic support and guidance.

Family matters, in real life, in digital life, in history, and in the here and now. Bless you all.

ps: Having written this post, I went to read the newspaper and found this in my horoscope ~”Family matters are favoured today.”  Indeed! For once the horoscope and I are in agreement. :)

© silkannthreades

 

Differing Sensibilities

To state the obvious: when people of different cultures and differing sensibilities meet for the first time, there can be life-changing outcomes.

I am thinking here:

of the literary fame that followed  Flaubert’s romp through Egypt; of  Maxime du Camp’s ground breaking travel photography;

Stele at  Karnak, Egypt, Calotype taken by Maxime Du Camp, French writer and photographer (1822-1894)

Stele at Karnak, Egypt, Calotype taken by Maxime Du Camp, French writer and photographer (1822-1894)

of  Edward Lear’s beautiful sketches of the Nile;

Edward Lear, near Malatieh, 1867.

Edward Lear, near Malatieh, 1867.

and of the courage of New Zealander, Ettie Rout, who, though demonized in her own country, fought strenuously and eventually successfully for the issue of free prophylactic kits to our World War One troops.

On a quieter, more gentle scale, there is my own life-changing encounter. It goes like this: –  with music if you wish, by  Omar Khairat  https://youtu.be/re78QlR0rhI

                                       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 I once lived in an apartment complex in Cairo. At the front of the building there were two small, square gardens, separated by hedges, and a concrete slab path, leading to the five storey stairway, at the building’s entrance.  One of the gardens became MY garden. It actually belonged to all the apartment dwellers on our side of the building. No one seemed to mind that I supervised its care. The garden opposite ‘mine’ was claimed by the building’s caretaker and his family. It was their domain.

Our caretaker or Bowab, Ahmed*, was of a weather-worn, indeterminate age. Perhaps in his 60s,  perhaps not. He had lived in the city for many years, yet he remained a country man at heart.

"The Banks of the Nile" by Sayed Mahmoud http://www.wissa-wassef-arts.com/bm.html

“The Banks of the Nile” by Sayed Mahmoud http://www.wissa-wassef-arts.com/bm.html

He didn’t have much time for the refined and tidy rows of my city garden. Grudgingly, he would admire the salvia, the gazanias, or the begonias, or whatever was the flower of the season, but it was his own garden that held his heart.

He was very proud of his creation, and knew each plant within it. He delighted in introducing me to the new, and usually self-sown, arrivals in his garden. But Ahmed’s greatest pride was reserved for his small collection of ‘baladi’ roses.

He had a half-dozen of these ‘baladi’ rose bushes growing in the centre of his garden, under the partial shade of a small pine tree. I don’t know how to translate  ‘baladi’ precisely.  I like to think of it as meaning an ancient rose of Egypt, as opposed to the newer  varieties that grew in my garden.

Baladi kittens with a touch of Egyptian Mau http://www.emaurescue.org/index.php

Not Roses but Baladi kittens with a touch of Egyptian Mau ? http://www.emaurescue.org/

 

Ahmed was rightfully proud of his ‘baladi’ roses. They were exquisite in their shape and colour, and scent. And, almost every morning, after I had walked my children to school, Ahmed would be waiting in his garden to give me the first rosebud, or buds, of the day.

Over time, this early morning meeting developed into our own special ‘baladi’ rose admiration society. In honour of the rose, and in the best tradition of meetings, our proceedings followed a protocol. Each meeting began with the presentation of the rose. I, then, gave a vote of thanks, after which the floor was opened to discussion. The words were almost always the same, but, to the utmost limits of my limited Arabic, we extolled the virtues of the ‘baladi’ rose. We exclaimed over its merits, and we expressed sorrow for the poorer relative who inhabited my garden.  We shook our heads over my outwardly lovely roses because they could never know the true joy of being a ‘baladi’ rose. In quiet accord on the overwhelming superiority of the ‘baladi’ rose, the meeting would end with another vote of thanks from me, accompanied by  an appreciative inhalation (aka a jolly good sniff) of the rose’s perfect perfume.

We loved those roses, Ahmed and I. We were devastated when the ‘baladi’ roses, perhaps tired of city living, decided to curl up their roots, and die. We talked about buying replacements, but, though Ahmed seemed to search everywhere, no new ‘baladi’ roses came home.

Strangely, the loss of the ‘baladi’ roses did not herald the end of our admiration society. Each early morning, as I returned from the school trip, Ahmed would present me with a rose or two picked from my own garden. The thanks would be the same, but we would wrinkle our noses over the paucity of the rose’s aroma, and we would commiserate over its deficiencies; its lack of integrity and stature, when measured against the one true standard of roses; the ‘baladi’ rose.

That same year of the death of the ‘baladi’ roses, my family and I left Egypt. It was hard to go; to leave my on-loan garden, our street,

Trash collection, our street, Cairo

Trash collection, our street, Cairo

our friends.

Shopping on our street. What's on Gallivanta's list?

Shopping on our street. What’s on Gallivanta’s list?

It was hard for them to let us go, too. The night we departed for the airport, Ahmed was there, by the taxi, waiting to say goodbye.  He first shook hands with my husband, and then crushed him in a bear hug. As he released my husband, I saw Ahmed surreptitiously wipe tears from his face. I turned away. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t know how to say goodbye to the giver of roses. As a woman, I couldn’t offer him the bear hug hiding shyly within me.   That was out of the question. I had not, in all our day-to-day contacts, even dared to offer a hand in greeting.  Perhaps a smile and a thousand thanks would have to do. But, before I could prepare my face and words, Ahmed stood in front of me, hand outstretched. Briefly, but firmly, we shook hands.  I didn’t hear his words. I didn’t hear mine.  I was conscious only of tears and the rough, earthiness of his palm.  There were no ‘baladi’ roses to give, yet, in that short, final meeting, we exchanged a priceless rose in a class of its own.

*Ahmed (real name not used )

© silkannthreades

 

 

 

Love Handles ~Love in ten lines

I am not one for blog challenges. I undertake very few ( too lazy, I am ;) ). But what’s a girl to do when  the lovely blogger you persuaded to find a special totem pole in Oregon, nudges invites you to get busy on the ‘Love in Ten Lines ‘ challenge.  Well, not much you can do, except hop to, and fall in line.

Here are the rules for the challenge

  • Write about love using only 10 lines.
  • Use the word love in every line.
  • Each line can only be 4 words long.
  • Nominate others who are up for the challenge.
  • Let them know about the challenge.
  • Title the post:  Love in Ten Lines
  • Include a quote about love ( this can be your own)
  • You may write in any language

And here , Britt Skrabanek,  is Gallivanta’s response to your gauntlet. It’s a photo poem ( phoem?) , called Love Handles.

When you choose love

When you choose love

or love chooses you

or love chooses you,

 

Remember love has handles

Remember love has handles,

 

for love needs holding.

for love needs holding.

Love is not froth
on the chai. Love

is earthy, love is

is earthy, love is

the china cup, love
is the pot, love

 

pours the tea; love

pours the tea; love.

 

Yesterday, I spent some time at the Canterbury Province Field of Remembrance in Cranmer Square, where our Anzac Day will be commemorated on April 25th.  In the Field are 632 simple, white crosses, one for each man and woman from our region, who was a  casualty of war in 1914-1915.

Canterbury Province Field of Remembrance, Cranmer Square, 2015

Canterbury Province Field of Remembrance, Cranmer Square, 2015

As I walked around the rows, I thought of the unprecedented grief which sat at family tables that year. The cup not used, the plate not laid, the tea not poured, the meal not cooked, the empty chair, the hand not there to tousle a child’s hair….. there was grief; there was love with nowhere to go*.

Grief has softened with the years, and love has found a place again. Some of that love is in these crosses, all with handles;  most not known to us personally, but handles which we can whisper quietly, and hold faithfully  in our collective soul.

For those of you reading in New Zealand, you will know  there are many ways in which we are being encouraged to remember the centenary of the Gallipoli landings. One way which I have found meaningful is to place a virtual poppy on my relatives listed in the Auckland War Memorial  Cenotaph Online Database.  Perhaps that is something you would like to do for your family, if you have not already done so.

*  “grief is just love with nowhere to go” ; a saying I read this week in an interview with Cambridge author, Helen Macdonald. It is my love quote for Love in Ten Lines.

© silkannthreades

 

Hands – my own; my inheritance

In my hands, I see,
Father, Mother, Me.

( Trinity by Gallivanta 2015 )

Hands – my own; my inheritance.

'I am my own long hands And their live touch of you.'    Pair by Paul Engle 1908-1991

‘I am my own long hands
And their live touch of you.’
Pair by Paul Engle 1908-1991

Eternal in us as ancestral-wrought Curve of our thigh and the gripped shape of hands.' Earth in our Blood by Paul Engle 1908-1991

Eternal in us as ancestral-wrought
Curve of our thigh and the gripped shape of hands.’
Earth in our Blood by Paul Engle 1908-1991

This post, and the poem, Trinity, are dedicated to Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales , and to Marylin at Things I want to tell my mother . Both Marylin and Brenda  recently urged me to have a go at writing a poem. Trinity is the result. :)

This post is also dedicated to the poetic muse of my blog, William Blake. ( I am sure he will be pleased to know. ;) )

Photo-poem, based on a quote from Blake’s Auguries of Innocence.

© silkannthreades

Hands

Hands.

I love them,

Paul Engle "Paul Engle" by Source. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Paul Engle" href="//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paul_Engle.jpg">Fair use via Wikipedia.

Paul Engle “Paul Engle” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

especially helping hands,

 

‘Don’t wait for the wind to blow you through the door,
If you need help, here is my hand, I said.’
( Moving In by Paul Engle, 1908-1991)

creating words to hold the soul.

‘..We live by no mind that is only reason,
For there are in us strengths older than thought –
Memory of moon-earthed seeds, the treason
Of spring in our hearts, old family-named corn lands –
Eternal in us as ancestral-wrought
Curve of our thigh and the gripped shape of hands.’

( Earth in our Blood by Paul Engle, 1908-1991)

Curve and shape of hand

Curve and shape of hand, hold the soul.

This post is dedicated to Linda at  The Task at Hand, and to all those bloggers who pursue the craft of the wordsmith.

'..........I  said your hand Was curved like wave-marks on the sand.' Lost Things by Paul Engle 1908-1991

‘……….I said your hand
Was curved like wave-marks on the sand.’ Lost Things by Paul Engle 1908-1991

 

© silkannthreades

Thoughts on Palm Sunday , or how I didn’t become a chaplain.

http://www.gardendesign.com/ideas/art-botany-les-fleurs-animes  The Pansy from J J Grandeville's The Flowers Personified 1847

The Pansy  from J J Grandville’s The Flowers Personified 1847

In my mid-forties, when I was brimming with confidence, and, yes, hubris, I contemplated a career as a chaplain; specifically a workplace/industrial chaplain. With this aim in my mind, I enrolled in a few courses to learn some basic counseling and communication skills.

The outcome of one such course, Basic Preaching Skills, was the opportunity to deliver a Reflection at our church at our first Palm Sunday service of the 21st Century.  I was very touched by the love and support of the congregation for my endeavours, but I am thankful that, later on,  the employers of chaplains were less supportive, and sensibly turned me away.

With Palm Sunday, tomorrow, I have been remembering my brief stand at the pulpit, so many years ago,  and thinking how my faith has changed. In my  own Palm Sunday terms, I suspect I have fallen off the untamed colt/donkey.

Here’s an extract from my Reflection, which, as some of you may surmise, is based on a poor understanding of theology and an idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible.  The Reflection is titled Wild Rides.

“From babyhood in Bethlehem, onward to manhood in Jerusalem, God has given his people a leader, a healer, a companion in humanity, doubt and faith. This man has gathered, ON THE WAY, fame, friends and followers, and the requisite enemies, too. He is Jesus in the tradition of Abraham, Moses, Jacob, David, Elijah… he’s the Son of Man who could be King. But on Palm Sunday, there is a pause, a change of pace, between the restoration of Bartimaeus’ sight and the whirlwind that follows the triumphal entry to Jerusalem; …….  Jesus, the man of humility, outspoken critic of pomp and ceremony, pauses, lifts his feet off the ground, and takes a ride. He IS the WAY.

In Mark’s description of Palm Sunday, we see a Jesus who momentarily stops directing and healing and preaching, who allows himself to be; to be adulated, to be carried forward, to be King. This creates a challenge….but the challenge is not so much to the owner of the colt, or to the Roman and religious authorities. It’s a challenge to us.

The challenge, I believe, is to be; to be like Jesus and accept God’s gracious offer of a ride into a faith that will move mountains. God loves us for the faith of our comfort zone, a faith that is scheduled and timetabled, that will take us through the week, through 40 days, or 40 years, if necessary; but on Palm Sunday we see God offering a deeper faith of infinite implications and dimensions, and unbounded journeys.

Jesus is the Way. Through him, through Palm Sunday, we know we can accept God’s offer of a faith that moves mountains. God doesn’t offer crowd control, or silent, unchurned stomachs, or freedom from screaming. But, if we accept what, undoubtedly, will be the wildest ride of our lives, God’s underpinning hand of steadfast love will not let us fall. …….”

Hmmm….well, as I said, I do seem to have come unseated from my ride in recent years  but I haven’t been trampled, yet. Which means that, despite my doubts,  I still find great comfort in prayers offered by friends, by our Minister, and members of our church. And, in various past crises related to hospitalization, I have valued, beyond measure, the support and calm guidance/prayer of hospital chaplains.

And I  value beyond measure all the loving thoughts and good wishes that have come my way in response to my previous post.  I am happy to report I am starting to feel almost as perky as these beautiful pansies, given to me on my birthday. :) ( I am also happy my path led to blogging not chaplaincy, even though I have the utmost admiration for chaplains and the wonderful work they do . ;) )

Palm Sunday thoughts in the company of birthday pansies.

Palm Sunday thoughts in the company of birthday pansies.

© silkannthreades

I get by with a little help …from friends, flowers and family

I have been in a rough place since my last post. Almost a month ago, I wrote that I wanted to feast on life, not fear.  And I really meant it. I really did. But Fear, with its fiendish companion Anxiety, decided it was time to make a meal out of me. They set their teeth into me, tore me apart in their jaws, and tried to devour me chunk by chunk. Most unpleasant. ( I hope they got indigestion.)

Friends and family rallied round and helped me prise loose those nasty jaws, and patched me up.  But the struggle has left me tired and short on creativity. Yesterday was the first time in nearly a month that I felt energetic enough to take some photos.

They are not particularly good photos but I am posting them as a way of saying thank you to friends everywhere, and to family, for keeping me steady and upright in recovery.

You are the flowers around me,

The flowers that surround me

The flowers that surround me

you are  perfect companions,

Buckwheat, a perfect companion

Buckwheat, a perfect companion

and help to keep my pathway blooming.

The pathway blooms

The pathway blooms

And, just for fun, let’s lighten the mood with my song of the day

Postscript

The reasons behind my rough patch are multiple; some are earthquake related stresses, and some are family-related. For privacy reasons I am not able to discuss all of the family-related issues.

© silkannthreades