Tag Archives: joy

On a cake and a prayer

In the small hours of Tuesday morning, I settled into bed and into my 15 minutes of  dedicated, purposeful reading with my current book   Heaven on Earth by Stephanie Dowrick. My bookmark was placed, from the night before, at page 118, and, when I pressed open the pages, this is the prayer that greeted me:

Watch, dear Lord, with those
who wake or weep tonight.
Let your angels guard those who sleep.
Tend the sick.
Refresh the weary.
Comfort those who are dying.
Soothe the suffering.
Have mercy on those who are distressed.
We ask this for your love’s sake.

Augustine of Hippo

I know very little about Augustine of Hippo. I don’t know exactly when he wrote this prayer.  I don’t even know if I like him, or his ideas, or would have liked him way back when. But it moved me deeply  that someone, a hugely long time ago (somewhere, perhaps between 386 and 430 AD) wrote the words that I needed to hear, that I needed formulated for me, in 2014.  It moved me that, on the very day I needed them most, they appeared before me. But, in truth, it was more than being moved; it was more as if Augustine himself,  scroll in hand,  had reached through the ages and said, “Here, take this, I wrote it for you, right here, right now.” Was it a miracle ? (Unlikely)  Was it timely? (Certainly)  Did the prayer work? Possibly, but evidence suggests not for the bone-tired sister I had in mind. But, for me, it did bring some peace and rest and I have repeated this prayer every night since.

Last Sunday, the recent, particularly stressful weeks of  letting ‘nature’ take its heart-breaking course with my daughter’s mental health came to the inevitable conclusion; and she was hospitalized for the sake of her health and well-being. No fun for anyone: not for the daughter, crying uncontrollably; not for the mother listening, helplessly, on the other end of a phone thousands of kilometres away, across land and sea, and not for the on-the-spot aunt, trying to cope, in utter weariness, with the complex needs of elderly, frail parents and a troubled niece.

A few days on, a few prayers later, another phone call to my daughter and I hear words that cradle me: “Mum, they keep bringing us little cakes. They are so delicious. It’s so good to eat cake again. ”  Thank you, thank you, anyone who wants to be thanked. My daughter is delighting in cake once more.

This is only the beginning for my daughter’s recovery. It may even be a false start. Years of less than perfect mental hygiene do not vanish at the pop of a pill or two. Many of the bloggers I follow are affected by mental health issues; by health issues; many are weary; many are caring for family; many are grieving. There is nothing unusual about these situations. They are part of the human condition. As Stephanie Dowrick writes  on page 150 ” First Noble Truth: In life there is suffering.  We free ourselves whenever we ask:  “How can I help?”

And, I would add, by asking, “How can we help each other?”  By being “Angels” for each other? By prayer, by care?  By simply being there, and here, and taking time to listen, to read, to be compassionate and to lighten each other’s load? And by reminding ourselves, over and over, that in life we can also find joy and laughter and fun….and cake. 🙂

Helping  make the Christmas Cake; circa 1988, New York

Helping make the Christmas Cake; circa 1988, New York

© silkannthreades

 

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Now is the hour

After my brief break to honour  Anzac Day, I am returning to my blogcation story.

Two nights and three short days have passed. Now  it is time for my friend to embark on the next stage of her journey. It is time, it is the hour, for us to say goodbye, just as we have  done before. We know the words well. They are words that are integral to an island childhood of many farewells, and, sometimes, few returnings.

Words, as integral as the liturgies, the creeds, the  hymns and Bible stories my friend and I  absorbed,  filtered through layers of cultural and religious and missionary ambiguities and diversities. The miracle is that  we absorbed and retained any of the Anglican faith at all, surrounded as we were by every religion, and interpretation of it, that one could imagine. For example, Diwali was almost as much fun as Christmas; the sounds of the   Call to Prayer were more part of our day than the ringing of church bells; fasting could mean Ramadan or Lent, missionaries could mean Methodist or Mormon, and so on; but, as children, we simply accepted  all the differences of faith with equanimity, as part of what made our community specifically ours.

As a parting gift, and in memory of those early shared bonds of faith, my friend gave me an extraordinarily beautiful book “The Scrolls Illuminated”, illustrated by Australian artist  Fiona Pfennigwerth.

The Scrolls Illuminated, illustrated by Fiona Pfenningwerth

The Scrolls Illuminated, illustrated by Fiona Pfennigwerth

Fiona takes 5 ancient texts from the Bible and uses her understanding of Australian nature, and the Bible, to bring the texts  ” across time, culture and geography to those of us in the 21st century “at the ends of the earth” – and anywhere between.” She enriches old stories of faith by adding a unique Australian filter; much as we children grew our faith through a particular Pacific lens.  The book was  the project for Fiona’s Honours and PhD studies in Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

And the result of her talent and study is Joy; pure Joy.

I commend joy Ecclesiastes 8:15

I commend joy
Ecclesiastes 8:15

Update:

Yesterday we commemorated Anzac Day. “Now is the Hour”/  “Po Atarau” has been  sung as a farewell to our troops as far back as the First World War. It was also sung when passenger ships left Fiji. “Now is the Hour” became a huge international hit in the late 1940s, thanks to Gracie Fields and Bing Crosby.

© silkannthreades

 

Precious Jewels….fake or fine?

Jewel

“late 13c., “article of value used for adornment,” from Anglo-French juel, Old French jouel “ornament, jewel” (12c.), perhaps from Medieval Latin jocale, from Latin jocus “pastime, sport,” in Vulgar Latin “that which causes joy” (see joke (n.)). Another theory traces it to Latin gaudium, also with a notion of “rejoice” (see joy).” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=jewel

Precious jewellery from my grandmother

Precious jewellery from my grandmother, perhaps inherited from her mother.

“Sense of “precious stone” developed early 14c. Meaning “beloved person, admired woman” is late 14c.” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=jewel

My mother's autograph book; her own entry for 24 July 1933

My mother’s autograph book; her own entry for 24 August 1933

Another beloved, admired jewel in ‘my book’, who brings joy and rejoicing, is dear, true friend  Lisa Brunetti . A few weeks ago, I asked if she would permit me to use one of her paintings to illustrate a poem  written by my daughter. Yes, of course, she said, and sent, not one, but eight, beautiful photos of her work. Such generosity of spirit and kindness warms my heart to its core.    And, for those of you who already know Lisa, sending so many samples via her ultra slow internet connection was not a simple matter. It took time and considerable effort. Thank you, Lisa, friend with a soul as beautiful as a rare Ecuadorean Emerald.

My daughter’s poem needs some final editing before it is ready for posting on my blog, but here are a few lines, to put a sparkle in your eye, until the final version is available.

Lark of lizards, plastic little gecko,
how I love the echo of your calls,..

…so often past the midnight have I seen
you, gaudious gelatinous-fingered gecko,
munching moth-mouthed on the meshing screens

Geckos and their lives were an integral, and much loved,  part of my childhood in Fiji. As they talked and stalked their way along ceilings and walls, or simply rested, stilled and waiting,  they kept us company. On long tropical nights, we watched each other, and together listened to the radio and each other’s words. My daughter, in Cairns, is learning to enjoy and understand  their companionship.

No geckos for me, on this cold, hail-ridden, third day of autumn, in Christchurch. Instead, this  bright jewel came to my window during a brief respite in the storm. I smiled at the way it looked at me, and  I said “Kia Ora, welcome to my window.”

True Friend or Autumn Leaf?

True Friend or Autumn Leaf?

But, then, I wondered if I had chosen the wrong greeting because, it seems to me, this little one may not be our native Orthodera novaezealandiae,

but its South African Springbok rival, Miomatis caffra,

that was accidentally brought to New Zealand in the 1970s.

The endemic New Zealand praying mantis …  is currently wide spread through out most of the country, but faces the threat of at least local extinction in many areas because of the competition from the Spring bok praying mantis. If nothing is done to protect our native praying mantis, within a few decades we may no longer be able to observe its intriguing way of life in our gardens. http://www.canterburynature.org/species/lincoln_essays/nzmantis.php

Pray tell me are you jewel or thief?

Pray tell me are you jewel or thief?

Pray tell me, someone,  if this gorgeous creature is jewel or thief? True friend or autumn leaf?

[I wonder if our rugby board knows that the rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand has taken a leap off-pitch, and New Zealand isn’t winning. The Spring Boks are taking out the All (Green) Blacks big time, and on our own home turf.]

One last diamond to add to my post:

Before this month ends,  I will receive a visitor from across the Tasman Sea. We haven’t seen each other for more than a decade. In fact, we have seen each other only once or twice in the last 45 years. But we are bonded by a shared childhood and our friendship has endured. I wonder if either of us understood the sturdy ring of truth in these words, when Jennifer penned them in my autograph book on 15 June 1967, in our island home, Lautoka, Fiji.

A Diamond Friendship

A Diamond Friendship

Mother's Autograph Book 1933

Mother’s Autograph Book 1933

May your friendships be blessed jewels in your life.

© silkannthreades

For the love which from our birth….

I am thinking about love…..and our expression of it.  I am thinking about Bishop Valentine before he became Saint; about Saint Valentine before he became Valentine. I am thinking about who he was,  or  who they were , and what they may  have become….the dream sales team for the business of Valentine’s Day?  🙂  But, mostly, I am thinking of love.

Not romantic love so much as the love which is extolled in  the hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth;

The love which from our birth over and around us lies“….the “human love of brother, sister, parent, child”….the love from “friends on earth and friends, above“, the love that comes from “gentle thoughts and mild”.

And I am thinking of how that love finds its form in the most unexpected places,

Unexpected loving thoughts

Unexpected loving thoughts

where, for the most part, it sits in quiet, patient, unobtrusive abundance,

waiting to support us, when called upon,

and ever willing to send us gentle, trans-formative love letters ~

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” Thomas Merton

love letters that help us to see that the loving heart, contained within,

can be released and applied, like nature’s salve, to heal the  woe of the broken landscape.

Bindweed holding it all together

Bindweed holding it all together; making the most of the possibilities

© silkannthreades

Dear Friends

In my previous post, on Joy and Woe,  your loving, supportive, compassionate comments brought me tears, laughter and a huge amount of joy. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This post is my Valentine’s love letter to you all.

The Blessings of Saint Valentine (whoever he may be!), chocolate, flowers , gentle thoughts and mild, and love, be with you all.

Gallivanta.

Joy and Woe are woven fine

Man was made for Joy & Woe,

And when this we rightly know,

Thro’ the world we safely go.

Joy and Woe are woven fine,

A clothing for the Soul divine;

Under every grief and pine

Runs a joy with silken twine.

I don’t like to dwell in Woe. I prefer to seek the  silken run  in the cloth; the run of Joy . But, sometimes, the woe is like a shroud over one’s face and it’s hard  to see through it; hard not to feel overwhelmed.

Our cheer-leading public service campaign, All Right?, says that, as we approach the third anniversary of the  earthquake of 2011, it’s all right to feel overwhelmed some days.

It's all right to be overwhelmed some days

It’s all right to be overwhelmed some days

So I was, yesterday. Very. I am not alone in my whelmedness.

The experts are worried by our numbers: ‘The initial trauma may be over but experts say earthquake-weary Christchurch residents will endure at least six years of “man-made” stressors as the region battles bureaucracy.’ (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11197956 ) The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority  has even produced a draft document on its psychosocial plan for the city. It “says anxiety and stress will continue to dog the population due to ongoing battles with insurance, land issues, changes to schooling and problems rebuilding homes and businesses.” 

So, three years on……my house is repaired, but my insurance claim for the external areas of  my  property has yet to be settled. I contacted my insurance company, AGAIN, 10 days ago, and, although they have not once forgotten, in the past 3 years, to send out an invoice for my steadily increasing insurance premiums, they admitted that they had forgotten about my outstanding claim. I was assured that the matter would be  resolved, speedily.

Ho-hum, twiddle my thumbs, nothing has happened yet. What’s another 10 days added to 3 years, especially when my claim is  minor compared to those of some other claimants. And getting the financial settlement is but the first step in the process.  Finding someone to do the repair work will be  extraordinarily difficult. I could be waiting another 3 or 4 years for that to be done.

Is it important? Does it matter? Not really, in the overall scheme of life, but it’s all so unavoidably in your face; an ever-present reminder of altered states; altered dreams.

I  live in one of Christchurch’s  least badly damaged suburbs, yet these photos are all  taken within a two-minute walking distance of my home.  They represent only a sample of what I see on a daily basis in my immediate neighbourhood.

Take a look….

Homes, untouched,  untended, and unoccupied, since February 2011 and being slowly overwhelmed by nature.

Overwhelmed

Overwhelmed

Homes erased,

Erased

Erased

and properties exposed to man-made post earthquake stress disorder.

There are some small signs of progress, of normalcy.

Homes are being repaired,

Signs of Progress

Signs of Progress

and some have been repaired.

Recovered

Recovered

But there remain many abnormalities, some of which are intriguing and require us to restructure our thought processes to new levels,

Raised to new  heights

Raised to another level

and give us something upon which to ponder  (with a giggle and a smile ),

Another level

Another level

as well as a precious  moment, to be still, to refocus on holding fast to the silken twine of joy,

Entwined hydrangeas

Entwined hydrangeas

the Heaven in a Wild Flower.

Heaven in a Flower

Heaven in a Flower

Hold fast…that’s as much as I can do for now.  None of this excitement business…All Right? Maybe :)

Not yet 🙂

© silkannthreades

Variations on a Blue Christmas

The National Gallery in London features a painting each month which you can download as a wallpaper. Over the last 12 months I have enjoyed some lovely paintings, courtesy of this wonderful service. The masterpiece for the month of December is  ‘The Nativity” by Piero della Francesca.

The Nativity (1470-5)

The Nativity (1470-5)

The Gallery notes explain the painting, and its context, and it’s fascinating to read about the magpie, and the angels without wings, and why the donkey is not paying attention to Jesus and the ox is. But there are four aspects of this work that I adore; the blue robes, the hairstyles of the angels, the informality of Joseph’s relaxed foot and the little birds amongst the plants near the angels’ feet?

The coolness and calm created by the gentle colours in this Nativity reminded me of the year I decided to decorate a little potted Christmas tree, in my garden, in white and silver and blue.

White and Silver and Green

White and Silver and Green

That Blue Christmas was in 2005, I think, and, although I don’t have a Christmas tree this year, indoors or out, I felt a great need for another round of Christmas Blues. So I set to, quietly and slowly, piece by piece, filling my world with blue.

Perhaps my mood was influenced by a 15th Century Italian interpretation of the Nativity or, perhaps, like  Juliet Batten, author of Spirited Ageing, I am responding to a natural need to be soothed and swaddled and lullaby-ed through what can be a hot, rushed and hectic Antipodean festive season.

Last night an early summer storm raged through the inland section of our province. Hail stones destroyed farmers’ crops but, here, in the city we were spared the worst of it. As a result I woke this morning to the blessing of gentle rain on my parched garden

Rain in  the early morning light

Rain in the early morning light

and the  tranquility and peace of the soft tones of  morning light on the blues of my Christmas preparations.

In one corner of my living room, I have placed my own Nativity Scene. Not made by a famous artist but painted by the small, meticulous hand of my daughter when she was about nine or ten. The figures are  slightly worn, the lamb has sustained a chip, but the Nativity set is loved, and a  favourite decoration, no matter how I choose to colour my Christmas.

A Child's Nativity

A Child’s Nativity

No Christmas time is complete without music. I love the traditional old world songs but, this year, I am enjoying a loved New Zealand carol,  Te Harinui  (Great Joy ), written by  our own Willow Macky to mark the first Christmas service in New Zealand in the Bay of Islands in 1814. 

Meri Kirihimeti

© silkannthreades

Minutiae

The days are busy; the evenings too. Not with big, important tasks;  just  the minutiae of daily life… . bread to bake, clothes to lavender, meals to prepare, groceries to buy, dishes to wash,  feet to scrub, vases to fill, socks to find,  hair to brush, a friend to visit, a neighbour to chat to, a letter to write, an email to send, a text to answer, and phone calls to make and  to receive….

My mother is improving and gaining strength. She will return home soon, we hope. Her  progress is good. I phone her once, sometimes twice, a day. A hospital is a busy place.  Our conversations are brief.

But I  grab a moment of the call, to talk to my brother or my sister; whoever happens to be with our mother when I phone. They are tired. I hear it in their voices. Whilst one sibling is at the hospital, the other cares for the house and my father. Care responsibilities are 24 hours.

Later, when it is 1 in the morning here, I may phone my sister again. It will be 10pm in Cairns. We discuss the day’s events. I am yawning and, suddenly, my sister switches from talking about hospital matters to something about ‘hammering nails’. I am silent for a while, wondering what this means. My sister is silent, too, for a moment. Then she laughs and asks, “What did I just say?” “Something about nails,” I reply. She laughs again; her great,big, only-my-sister-can-laugh-this-way, laugh. “I fell asleep. I was talking in my sleep,” she says.  A short while later, it happens again. We hang up before our words become any more incomprehensible 🙂

There are other calls to make at other times. To friends; to my aunt, in a rest home, to let her know that her sister is okay; to my uncle and my aunt who are moving to their retirement home. To others we Skype. My father likes to Skype chat. He types well and knows how to use those emoticons 😀

Thus are the smallnesses that occupy my days; that keep my fingers flying, my voice activated, and my brain engaged (mostly).

But there are other smallnesses that rest my body and mind; that communicate by ancient paths and provide calm and continuity,

and call forth joy every morning.

© silkannthreades