Tag Archives: hands

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

 

 

 

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

Connecting the World with Maps and Music

Today is the last day of  Mental Health Awareness Week in New Zealand. The main theme of the week is Connect which is one of the five ways of achieving, and maintaining,   Well-Being , for each and every one of us.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know how fascinated I am with connections and connectedness;   how I love  to see the weavings we make in the tapestry of our world. So, with the theme of Connect very much on my mind this week, here is another post dedicated to the silken threads, delicate stitches, the warps and wefts, the skilful hands and minds, that bind us together on the great work-in-progress that is life’s journey.

Remember the Atlas? What we used before Google Maps. Here is my copy of  Bartholomews Advanced Atlas of Modern Geography, Tenth (metric) Edition, published in 1973.

Tools that connect the world

Tools that connect the world

It was given to me, as a school prize, in my final year at high school, (presumably for Geography; the book-plate is missing, so I no longer know ).  It is a beautiful book and was, once, much used. Mostly, it sits idly on the bookshelf, these days, which is a shame because it is full of wonderful information and exquisite workmanship, every bit as fine as that which is found in a Gallery masterpiece.

The last map in the Atlas is of New Zealand, which seems an appropriate placement for a small country, almost at the end of the world. Here is where I live;  Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand, the World…….

Christchurch

Christchurch

Thanks to early settler, Charles Alured  Jeffreys (1821-1904) of Glandyfi, Machynlleth, Wales,

Machynlleth and Plynlimon and Cader Idris

Machynlleth and Plynlimon and Cader Idris

my city , supposedly, has the most street names of Welsh origin of any  New Zealand settlement. In the suburb of Bryndwr, we have the names Snowdon, Garreg, Plynlimon, Idris and Penhelig and Glandovey ( Glandyfi). And we  pronounce those place names in ways that no Welsh speaker would recognise. Curiously, the only residents of our city who pronounce Idris correctly, (so I am told), are those with Islamic or Coptic  backgrounds. They say “Id (t)ris” and we, of British ancestry,  say Aye tdruss. What the Cader Idris/Coptic/Islamic connection is about, I don’t know, but Idris is one of the   Ancient Prophets of Islam, and may also be Enoch of the Bible.

It is, perhaps, because I see  Welsh words on a daily basis

Plynlimon Park, Christchurch, is no Mountain

Plynlimon Park, Christchurch, is no Mountain

that my ears and eyes were alerted to the sounds and sights of Mike Howe’s blog, where Mike shares with us the true landscape of Wales; the landscape which our early Welsh resident, Mr Jeffreys, tried  so hard to impose on his raw, new homeland, Christchurch.

Here is Mike’s tribute to Carl Sagan, who like the Idris of Wales and Idris the Prophet was a philosopher and man of wisdom . The music is called Pale Blue Dot.

The images in the video clip are from Skomer Island which my Atlas says is here 🙂

Skomer Island

Skomer Island

Mike’s music may come from hands and heart, enfolding and unfolding the spirit of Wales, but, for me, his music travels; it has no boundaries. For me, some music is about a place or time, a memory or an emotion, but my favourite pieces are those that travel; pieces that are music for the journey.

Another of my favourite composers of  travelling music is Mulatu Astatke; this composition is called When am I going to get there? 

And now I have; got there; to the end of my post on connectedness. Has your Well-Being improved? If not, and my route around the world has been too long for you,  look to my side bar, and rest, whilst you listen to Mike’s soothing Time Stand Stills.

© silkannthreades

The world is in good hands….

Woke up this morning feeling wearied, and weighted, by the woes of the big world and of my little domestic world. On the home front, there was the minor despair of realising that the repair work on my bathroom had stalled yet again. On the international front, there was the sadness of remembering that today, 6 August, is Hiroshima Day. And to make the 68th anniversary of that dreadful day even more distressing, there was the news of further problems at the Fukushima nuclear power station; namely that radioactive water has been leaking in to the sea. http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/asia/9006381/Radioactive-water-emergency-at-Fukushima

What next, I woe..ed to myself. Some port wine, or gin, to fortify my spirits, as recommended to our women folk in years long gone by.  Not quite the tonic at 10 in the morning, I decided, but   only  just. Also I didn’t have any  in the store cupboard :). So, what next? Well,  what came next was exactly the tonic I needed. It was a television interview with our New Zealand Wonder Woman, Helen Clark.  Helen Clark used to be our Prime Minister. She was the first woman in New Zealand to be elected Prime Minister http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Clark  Her government was defeated in 2008, and Helen, looking weary and disheartened ( at least, I thought so), resigned from politics.  In 2009, she was appointed head of the United Nations Development Programme; she is the first woman to hold that position. And, she has recently been appointed for a second, four-year term. According to Forbes, this makes our Helen the 21st most powerful woman in the world and a possible candidate for the first female United Nations Secretary General.

But it’s not Helen’s power, or her ‘firsts’ for women, that inspire me the most. It is her compassion, her love of her family, her hard work and her wonderful intelligence.  Oh…and her skiing and mountain climbing prowess  are impressive, too. It was a joy to hear her talk this morning about the importance of bringing hope and resilience to places like Haiti and Niger. She is obviously challenged and energised by the problems of the world; tackling them with intelligence and common sense and profound understanding. She has found her feet on the international stage and she is thriving again. Helen,  good Helen, I thought, if the world is in your hands, we have hope.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Helen_Clark_UNDP_2010.jpg(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Helen_Clark_UNDP_2010.jpg)

Hopefully, this link to the interview will work for those of you who are interested and live outside New Zealand.

http://tvnz.co.nz/good-morning/extra-helen-clark-video-5527781

http://www.odt.co.nz/entertainment/books/267242/academic-addresses-well-worth-effort

And, if there is hope for the world, there is hope for my bathroom. A minor problem, for sure, but vexing all the same. I have a feeling that Helen, being the good Kiwi lass she is, would have got stuck in with paint and plaster and fixed the problem herself by now.

© silkannthreades

A Grand Plan

Towards the end of last year, I devised a grand plan for 2013. The aim of the plan was to improve my giving to friends and the community.  I am blessed by wonderful friends who bring me all manner of gifts: fruit, jam, soup, stews, casseroles, cakes, curries, chutney, garden produce, magazines, books, clothes and even, one time, a pair of earrings. I like to give in return and I especially like to give baked goods, in particular home-made bread.  I love to make bread. So my grand plan was to make a loaf of bread each day to give away. I made a good start but, after a week, the whole wheat flour and the bread maker machine decided to disagree, and I had so many bread failures that I gave up  trying to feed the neighbourhood. Making a half decent  loaf for my own consumption was barely manageable let alone for anyone else.

But I am nothing, if not a trier, so about ten days ago, I revisited my grand plan and returned to my bread making. Here are the results.Light Rye Bread

More breadDaily Bread

I had  fun with my bread making, and, as I mixed and kneaded and waited for the dough to rise and to bake, I realised that a few lessons had risen out of the process, too; namely, my grand plan was not grand, but grandiose! Of all the bread I made, I was only able to gift two loaves. The rest was needed for my own household.  Making bread every day might be fun but I would need super powers to make enough bread to give away a loaf a day.  More importantly, I gained a new appreciation for the words “Give us this day our daily bread”.

We are so used to thinking of bread as that basic “stuff” that we always expect to buy at the cheapest possible price from the supermarket, that we have, I believe, forgotten the wonderful  creation that bread truly is. We have cheapened bread to such an extent  that we no longer see it as  life-sustaining bounty which is brought to us by the  hard work and effort of many farmers and diverse workers, as well as the skilled hands of artisan bakers and the humble hands of home bakers.

Bread, especially daily bread ( and, dare I say it,  even supermarket bread), is a  valuable, precious gift.  Ideally, it is crafted from the best of natural and man made resources and brought to  the table with a generous serving of love. No wonder it gets top billing in the Lord’s Prayer.

Now, for those of you who are gluten intolerant, I am posting this harvest arrangement as a token acknowledgement of the delights of corn bread and gluten-free bread alternatives 🙂 Harvest

© silkannthreades