I listened to a recording of you sing last night. You sang a song to the moon. You were alone on a stage six thousand miles away, and I was at home, in the home in which you grew up. The symphony gathered like wood nymphs congregating in the forest, creeping through the long, tall grass until they found you; you, an angel with gossamer wings. That’s how I saw you in my mothering mind’s eye.
You stood alone on that stage, and I could see you, feel your joy to be there. I felt your excitement, your anticipation, your giddiness, your sense and seriousness of what you were about to do. You were about to gift an audience the most beautiful sound they would ever hear.
You sang so beautifully, your heavenly voice scaling earth to sky, the richness of your low tones, the soaring clarity and thrill of your high notes brought your mother into ecstasy, and I broke down and cried. My chest heaved with a swollen heart, and I understood yet again in my life what it means to burst with pride.
I am proud of you, the daughter whom I admire.
You stand alone so often, not just on the opera stage, but on the stage of struggling life. You are not one of those people who land on their feet, effortless into your desires. You work, you fight, you lose, you win, you thrive, and sometimes it must feel like you just survive.
You are the most amazing young woman I know.
You inspire me with your curiosity about life and people and what makes this world both good and bad. You have such a level head and an innate sense of fairness. You teach me so much about patience and acceptance, about struggle and reward, and also about fun.
The first time that I saw you lying on my stomach, your wrinkled face turning toward the light, I knew I loved you more than I could love any living soul. I joked that you looked like Winston Churchill, then you snuggled to my breast, no longer alone in the womb but with me in your new world. You blossomed into your beauty, and I still stare mesmerized by your truffle eyes, your sallow skin and your long dark hair.
You were always an advocate of your own special style. You wore baskets on your head and pretended they were hats. You shuffled around like little girls do in my grown up adult shoes. Today you still love hats, sweeping, statement hats, and shoes an architect designs.
When you slipped on a wet leaf one winter, your heel escaping beneath you, your devastating injury robbed you of your career as a flutist, but you picked yourself up, and gradually one foot in front of the other you found your way back into music, to an instrument you dug deep inside to find. You didn’t give up.
As a little girl you stood back, alone, even at nursery school. You surveyed the landscape of your dreams, and only when you felt safe in your own perception of trust did you launch forth, gracing the children and adults around you with your spirit.
You fell in love with a boy when you were four, and found yourself torn between two loves when you were four and a half. By six years old you had knocked a young suitor out with a golf club, and he still loved you.
Today the “boys” that please me are the ones who cherish your love, and also know how to make you laugh. When you throw back your head in abandon your laughter warms my heart.
You stand today on the precipice of your longing. Those gossamer wings once again ready to take flight. I watch. I want to be there to catch you if you fall, to mend your delicate heart, to punish all who hurt you, but I cannot. For you are a woman on top of the world, and I stand beneath you, in awe and adoration of the person you have become.
Fly my darling, fly.
Your adoring mother.
Tuesday – Continuing with the Epistolary experiment
We are both getting old. I celebrated 56 years of my life last week, and I celebrated 55 and a half years of your life same day. I am told Santa Claus brought you down the slim chimney of my parent’s first house on my first Christmas Eve. I don’t remember meeting you back then, but once you arrived we were never to be parted. They placed you in my cot.
We have shared many secrets over the years. I have cried, my nose tucked on top of your nose. Perhaps it was my tears that softened your straw filling and soaked it into disintegration. I’m sorry if that was the case. I hope you haven’t minded my amateur repairs. I think the new flashy bandage the doctor gave me for my hand is a better fix for your nose, than the bulky ace bandage that smothered your face almost beyond recognition. The skin tone of the Coban better fits your faded once-upon-a-time golden fluff. I got my hair coloured yesterday. I’m not bald like you, just white – snow white underneath the painted on blonde. There is no cure for your baldness, and even if there was, I like you the way you are. I don’t mind being reminded of my aging when I look at you and watch you fade. I dare not let my hair go white though, as to do so would remind my dearest love that he is aging too. I think it is an American thing, or maybe just California dreaming that buries age in dye. Twenty-five years ago my dad suggested I box you up and send you to the teddy bear hospital to get you fixed. I thought about it for a while and came to the conclusion a month ago that I simply could not do that. Again it’s about loving you the way you are. It’s also about fear – fear of change, fear that you will not look the same or smell the same. You host a thousand scents; of infancy, childhood, the first perfume I bought when I was a teen, the dried in sweat of the first time I made love and sobbed with you afterwards, him gone, you and me alone in the bed and I, asking you, wondering if I had given away my virginity too young. You spoke to me back then, reassuring me every time I tipped you forward to hear the gentle growl from inside your tummy. I don’t remember when your voice box fell silent. I still tip you now sometimes hoping you will speak again.
You carry the dust of continents in your round, still soft belly. I wonder what the airline staff thought all those years when I fastened the seat belts around you. My heart almost broke the first time I traveled without you. But I came home to your worn out hands, your creaking arms tired from my childhood handling. It must have been the oils from my skin that wore away your leather clad paws, hands and feet. I did an awful job stitching black felt around your worn out hands – your now black-gloved forearms. You were such a sport in the olden days. You played sick so well lined up in my imaginary hospital; home-made beds for you and walky-talky doll, long-legged-Polly Anna doll, stuffed dog, and the occasional pretty doll that mum brought home from business trips. You outlived them all.
You were a good student too, sitting to attention on the classroom bed with the above cast of characters, my home-made school books tucked into your lap. You learned so much, and I did too.
I sat you up on my grown-up bed today, tucked up against a pillow. You were wrapped in the cotton blanket – the first blanket, from my almost 29 year old daughter’s ancient crib. As your cover fell away and revealed you, it revealed me too. I laughed. I too have worn frilly white socks that cover my legs from toe to thigh. Like you, I wore those socks to cover and support the frailty of aging. I went to the people hospital and got a new knee some months ago, not much fun. Don’t you think those frilly socks give such great support? And as for hands, again like you, one of mine barely works anymore. They couldn’t fully mend it at the people fixing place.
I look into your brown glass eyes, and they reflect a past, the present and a future too. They speak to me in loving calm of joy and pain, love – lost and found, lessons learned, lessons failed, hopes and dreams and trust, but most of all you speak to me of the gift of acceptance.
Thank you Teddy. All my love xxx
This week I am experimenting with the epistolary form. I intend to write a letter a day and post it here.
You are not the first rattlesnake I’ve met. A few of your kind held me hostage one summer in my home in big Sur. One gave birth, live birth – I’m impressed, right outside my door. That mother took to the shade of the barn door a few steps from my front door, and when I tried to leave she came out and hissed. Funny how your hiss sounds just like a spray of water escaping from a hose. I waited inside the house, hoping she would leave but she was joined by 2 other snakes. They formed a triangle in front of my door, a warning triangle, almost as stern a warning as the characteristic shape of your head. “Get a bucket of ice water and throw it on top of the snakes,” one friend said. “They don’t like cold water. They’ll curl up and you’ll be safe and then you can leave,” he said. But I would still have had to come back, and who knows how many more would have joined the reptile army? So I stayed inside instead and read a book.
Get a burlap sack, make it damp, and throw it in your direction, the man from vector control suggested last month, when I asked him how to usher you along your way. “And what good will that do?” I asked my expert. I’m told the dark, warm, sun-steamed sack would have seduced you into leaving your natural habitat beneath the brush, or even have tempted you out of the burrow you followed the no-longer-gopher into a few Fridays ago. “And then?” I asked the expert, who later mailed me photos of your kind, who knows why, and first-aid instructions in case you might bite. Thank you, by the way, for not retaliating when I accidentally dropped those daisy heads right on top of your head. My intention was to dead-head the flowers in my garden, not you. Not then at least.
“When he crawls into the sack, pick it up and take the rattler away.” The snake man said. “Where to?” I asked.” I don’t know. Just somewhere else.” He said. “Like my neighbor’s garden?” I jest. And so, not willing to trap and remove you in a sack, or even grab a spade – the wise man’s next suggestion, and chop off your head, you are still with us, a guest among my flowers.
When I startled you with daisies you raised your head, and your little tongue danced in and out testing the air for prey or danger. I backed away. Slowly. I went to fetch my camera. When you curled up and settled down again, camouflaged in the wood chips, I looked for you and snapped a shot and posted you on Facebook. Some people “liked” you. I saw your cushiony imprint under the lavender just now. At night I spray my sheets with lavender scent and snuggle down, a little like you, and I long for the peace of undisturbed sleep.
You were not what I expected, when I left my home in London and moved to California. Snakes like you do not slither-slide side after side along the underground tracks among the rats. I was not prepared for your diamond back, the risk of your venom. We had talked of earthquakes, my American fiancé and I. We had planned for shaking buildings, gathered emergency supplies of food and water. We planned for sun and warmth, even temperatures topping one hundred. We planned for fire and flood. We did not buy a snake kit. I did not expect to have to worry more than most about the risk of an attack from your kind. I did not know before I got here what poison already existed in my body. I do not get the warning rush of adrenaline a sighting of you should cause. I did not expect to have a kidney and an adrenal gland removed. I did not expect that tumor.I travel cautiously in my garden now, even announce my presence. I stamp my feet, call out “snake, I’m coming.” My intention is not to surprise you, but to give us both fair warning. We need to share this place, this space. We need to share the beauty.
When you are sleeping tucked beneath the daisies, I watch you from a distance. I look for the beauty in the skin you shed, in your reinvention-resurrection. Like you I feel the warmth of summer sun, and when I’ve had enough of scorching skin, I too search for the shade, a place where I can hide, a place where I can shed a skin, can camouflage, where I too can adjust and change.
I love animals.In these two sets of photos I have tried to capture the Koala Bear we are tempted to interpret – cuddly and you want to hug him. I have tried to get lost in the details and focus on the other side of the Koala.Look at those claws.
In the next pair of photos I have looked at the cow as a beloved farm yard animal, and then again as a commodity.
I am traveling in Australia right now and am having trouble finding spots with adequate bandwidth to post videos. So, while I have the opportunity, I want to give you a taste of some of what I have seen. Please excuse the quality of the videos. I took them with a phone camera. I hope you will celebrate these wonderful animals with me. Who can resist Koala Bears?
I adore these Kangaroos. It was very windy on a beach when I took this film, so prepare for some noise.
Last video for today … I have never seen such large pelicans before.
We have travelled through volcanic owned landscapes. We have marveled at mountains rising from seemingly bottomless glacial rivers and lakes into a never-ending sky. The New Zealanders, original and immigrants, clearly took the time to consider the beauty before them before naming mountain ranges, lakes, glaciers and towns with names like “The Remarkables,” “Aspiring”. The rivers named “Roaring Meg” and “Gentle Annie” speak to the collective sense of humour and acknowledgment of characteristics of people and geography by early New Zealand settlers.
New Zealand is a land of story. There is a creation story attached to everywhere you go. Stories tell of how the country was formed, about how places were named, about early settlers, and even more recently about a sheep local school children named Shrek. Shrek came down from the mountains one day. He was wooly beyond belief, shearers estimating that he had evaded them and hadn’t been shorn for seven years.
Maori mythology tells us how the world was created, but traveling in New Zealand we are frequently reminded by guides and travel articles about how the north and south islands were created. According to Māori mythology, the North and South Islands of New Zealand came about due to some mischief by the demigod Māui. While fishing at sea with his brothers one day, Māui caught a very big fish. While he wasn’t looking Māori’s brothers fought over the fish and chopped it up. The larger remaining portion of the fish became the North Island, thus the Maori name for the North – Ika-a-Maui (the fish of Māui) and the next largest portion became the South Island. All the smaller chopped up pieces became the mountains, lakes, rivers etc. This is one demigod’s story. As you travel through New Zealand you will hear more stories claiming rights of creation and ownership of the land. What would we do without our myths and legends? We are like school children getting off the bus. Memories of early school days are sparked by our Driver, Pete, and his references to our collective selves. We pull into a car park off the highway and Driver Pete calls out “Scenic people, listen up, and I hear my first form teach, Miss Grant calling us to order – Miss Grant’s class line up in twos please. Pete stands up in the bus as though at the front of the class. His stomach is hanging over his trouser belt now. It has been a long hot drive and it is no wonder his shirt is sticking to him and as he runs his fingers over his thinning scalp beads of sweat help hold his thinning hair in place. “We only have fifteen minutes here. Get off the bus quickly and follow the signs into the rain forest walk. Anyone can do it. It is not difficult.” Tired and stiff passengers stand up, stretch and reach for cameras. A few of us spot Kea birds hopping from car to parked car. We are excited pointing the birds out to each other. “Scenic people.” Pete’s voice is first form teacher threatening. “Do not be tempted to take time to take photos of the Keas when you get off the bus. They will still be here after your walk.” I ignore Pete. I take photos until he catches me and shoos me along with the rest of the herd. I whisper a deal with my husband. Ken is to do the walk and take photos and show me later. He is to take the “big girl camera”, my friend, Kim’s nickname for our new Canon 5D mark ii. I am to double back and hot foot it to the car park in search of those beautiful birds. I try to catch the Keas in flight, but my photo is a blurr of colour. I catch one playful kea attempting to rip an antenna off a car, while his buddy tries to eat his way through the seal around the window. Who knows what mischief they would create if they pecked their way into a car? I love these demon gorgeous birds. Pete herds us into our seats. We are on our way to Milford Sound. From his driver’s seat, microphone close to his lips, Pete talks to us about the difference between a Sound and a Lake. I know there has been some dispute, and i have to admit I wish we were on our way to Doubtful Sound – another descriptive name given to this body of water but curious discoverers.
To be continued …..
We are sitting in a cafe in Papakoura, about a half hour drive outside of Auckland airport, New Zealand. Not a great coffee lover, I am amazed at the silky soft hot drink I’m sipping.This is truly the best Latte I have ever tasted. The company is rather special too. When our flight landed ahead of schedule at 4:am from San Francisco to Auckland we headed out for the train station in Papakoura where we would meet up with The Northern Explorer train to Wellington. “You’re early.” The woman at the ticket counter had a warm smile and a cheerful demeanor. We would soon learn that the warmth and friendliness this woman showed us is common in New Zealand where strangers are welcome. We asked if there was anywhere we could get a coffee and hang out for the next couple of hours while we waited for the train. It was thanks to the blonde curly haired ticket lady that we ended up Chez Trish on the outskirts of this little town.
Having left our suitcases at the station under the watchful eye of our ticketing friend, we stumbled into cafe Mottletop out of the warm drizzle that reminds me so much of Portia’s “gentle rains from Heaven.” If a coffee shop is filled with books I know I have come to the right place. No wonder the coffee tastes so good. What is it that makes a place welcoming? Naturally the scent of freshly baked goods,cheese scones, muffins, brownies and much more is enticing. The long red glass top table with a shelf of magazines beckoning from beneath the glass reminds me of home and I want to pull some of them out and flip through recipes in the Woman magazine, and indulge in the photos and stories from National Geographic. I scan the book shelves to see what’s there. The books we carry tell us so much about each other and Trish, and her assistant, Faith, are as delightful as the tomes in the refectory style cafe. “Are you travelers?” We’ve shared our travel plans with Trish and Faith and Trish, delighted to have a couple from San Francisco stumble into her shop is introducing us to all the locals who roll in for their early morning fix. It took me a few seconds to respond to the question. Where I come from “travelers” is another name for gypsies, or tinkers. i smile at the thought and say yes. Trish jumps in and tells the sandy haired man wearing an open fleece jacket over a polo-neck and shorts;”They’ve come all the way from San Francisco and ended up here in little Papakoura’. I love Trish. She is one of those women who radiates warmth, friendship and sheer joy at being in your company.I discover when leaving that she is huggy like me. Trish’s locals are interesting and as welcoming as she is. it is the first day back at school and we share the anticipation of a new school year with a couple of teachers, one of whom is clinging to the hope that the kids keep their energy in check as she is tired this morning, and the other has “butterflies in my stomach. Much like the little ones, I suppose.” We have moved from the bar stools at the counter and settled at a table. In this position by the door and window I feel as though I am holding court being greeted by all who come and go and share a slice of life with us. “It’s my son’s first day at school.” A man stands with coffee mug and scone in front of us and makes his announcement. “Congratulations” I say and “you must be so proud.” What strikes me is this father’s age.He has the look of a man in his late forties, maybe early fifties. I cannot imagine having a young child of my own about to start school. There is so much time between here, where I am now, and there where my own daughter was twenty-two years ago. “They’re travelers,” our fleecy friend feels the need to point out to our proud father. We repeat our itinerary which at that time saw us leaving New Zealand after a two week visit and heading out to Australia, Singapore, South Africa, and Brazil before returning to San Francisco. Since our coffee chez Trish we have added Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana to our list of countries to explore. Trish takes a photo of us for her Face Book page. We exchange hugs and I promise to send postcards. Armed with hot-buttered cheese scones we head back to the station, thankful for my new purple rain jacket bought at REI in a “just in case” moment. The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world.The distance between San Francisco and Aukland is 6,543miles. We have spanned an enormous gap. Yet the gap that we have travelled across is extraordinary in many ways, and I feel sensitive to where we are, what I know, and more importantly don’t know about it. In London, underground commuters are used to the recording of the woman with the BBC English accent calling out “Mind the Gap,” when the train doors open at each station and bustling passengers push and shove to get off and on the train. The newer tubes have been designed to cover the gap. The gap to be minded as I travel in New Zealand and onward is that of culture, history, customs, social norms and expectations,and language. It is all too tempting to fall into the pseudo-comfort zone of believing that the English language is “English” everywhere it is spoken. I know all too well coming from England and living in the USA that this is not so. There are words, and phrases, and idioms that while the words are the same the meaning is not. Each group of English language speakers have their own subsets of communicators who express and understand each other according to many sociolinguistic factors. For now i am delighted that the spelling I use, English English, as opposed to American English is the same as that used in New Zealand. Such a colourful place! (Sorry. I couldn’t resist it.) As a British person traveling in New Zealand, I need to be mindful of the history. I need to be respectful of the past, of the pain and strife inflicted on the native Maori people by the British settlers. There are under-currents still today. There is a gap between us, a gap in understanding and acceptance of the past. I will write more about the history and mythoology of this great land as I move along with my journey. What I can tell you now is that I will certainly take heed and mind the gap.
Hello Everyone. Happy Friday. I hope you had a super Thanksgiving. Please take a look at the last couple of posts to get ideas for bread recipes. I will be baking one loaf today, and another on Saturday to join our non USA friends.
I am so encouraged to see followers from India, Croatia, Bangladesh, Russia, Republic of Korea, Canada, UK, Iraq, Israel, Belgium, Macedonia, Australia, and many others showing interest in our special day. It would be great to see recipes from all over the world. I would be really grateful if you could repost my Blog and see how many others can join us. Stay in touch during the weekend. I’m off to prepare to bake now.
Tip: Make sure to have all your ingredients weighed and measured before you start. Remember not to let the yeast and the salt touch in the bowl. Put them in on opposite sides.