I adore books. I have a Kindle but it’s astonishing how many times I buy the book, rather than the e-version. And I have too many, at least when I move house!
I adore Ann Patchett. I want to visit her bookshop- it helps that I also want to visit Nashville. So I’m reblogging this for all such reasons, but mostly I’m reblogging this post because I wanted to send the list to all my friends…and this is an easy way to do it!
I’ve read The Cuckoo’s Calling and I liked it a lot. I know Jon Scieszka from his retellings for children- “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, told by A. Wolf”, “The Frog Prince Continued” and others. They are hilarious and clever.
I plan to read several of these titles and I’d really like to hear if you have read some already, or your response to any you do read.
Have you read Ann Patchett?
I have just experienced this brief TED talk- I say experienced to include watching, listening and being moved profoundly.
Please give yourself the gift of the time it will take to sit and absorb the wisdom, the beauty, the simplicity and the joy.
(Click on the blue “TED talk”). This will take you there.
This talk is by Louis Schwartzberg and titled “Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.” He describes living in the country and discovering the joy of simplicity and the beauty of nature. It ends with a statement by Brother David Steindl-Rast, accompanied by a feast of natural beauty.
Somehow, it’s just not happening! the creative flow seems to have dried up. As I drive or wash up or garden the writing happens in my head. It flows, the ideas keep coming and EACH time I feel sure I’ll remember it. But when I sit at the computer or take my writing pen and paper, it’s gone.
I take some responsibility for this. I believe that writing in the morning as soon as I get up (and make a cup of coffee!) is as necessary as breathing. But have I been practicing this lately? No. Do I have a reason for this? No. I’m reminded of the statement of St Paul (and you must remember I had a most religious upbringing) that the good that we would, we do not. Too true. I was pleased to discover that a paradox in mindfulness simply says this another way ” We often practice things that are unhelpful and avoid practicing things that helpful.” We humans are strange beings.
So the days go by. I start writing. It’s something I care about, but it doesn’t hang together. I leave it unfinished and walk away, dissatisfied. I eat something, have another cup of tea. I’d go for a walk or weed the garden, but it’s too hot.
I have a little bubble of enthusiasm, go to the computer, start writing. Frustration, it sounds awkward, doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Is this a moment when I persevere, doggedly? Push through this dullness? In this humour, of course I don’t!
Barbara Kingsolver, one of my writing heroes, describes putting her daughter on the school bus, going to her desk and staying there for the next six hours. When does she do the shopping? keep appointments? see her friends? I’ve spent most of my life in full-time work. When did I fit in all those other demands? Where does my day go? How does time fritter away so easily?
Anne Lamott, another writing hero, describes how, even when she was hung over from both alcohol and drugs, still struggled to her writing, every afternoon. Her book “Bird by Bird” says that’s exactly how you do it- bird by bird, or, bit by bit.
I confess. I have been neglecting my practice. I have let any discipline slide. Any excuse has been acceptable, or, no excuse at all. I’m finding it hard to live with myself. This Kathryn I don’t like all that much. I guess it’s what they say about riding a horse- so, you fell off? get right back on again. So, I’ve had a moment of slackness? Get over it, keep going.
I remember back last year when I was going to write a blog. I worried over a name. Asked everyone’s opinion. Couldn’t settle on a theme. What colour? What picture? How would it be best to introduce myself? What was my voice? The tone? Then one day I sat down and wrote something. And clicked on “publish.” What a moment. It wasn’t perfect, not any of it. In fact it wasn’t even good enough, depending on your point of view. But there had to be an end to the dithering.
And one day I’ll rewrite my “about”. I’ll change the header; I have plans to customize; I aim to go back and edit early posts. I remember my mantra
NEVER GIVE UP.
I’m not giving up. I’m not going away. I wrote this morning and I’ll write tomorrow morning. If I miss one day or even more, I’ll start again, but I won’t give up.
I remember another paradox: “Self blame will slow the process of self development, not speed it.”
Today I find myself aware of so many things I’m grateful for.
I arrived home last night after a trip to visit my brother and sister. My sister has a mental illness, my brother cares for her. Every day of my life I grieve for my sister, my baby sister, ten years younger. Every day of my life I am grateful to my brother and his care of her.
I am grateful I was finally able to make the trip. I have wanted to for so very long and I’m so very glad that at last I have the time and the energy. I get to see where she lives, share her birthday and spend some time with both of them.
During the long train and bus travel, I texted and phoned the friend I was going to stay with en route and my brother, reminding me how much I appreciate mobile phones and emails. I’m running late? No problem. Send a text. I’m feeling distressed? Text a friend I know will understand. I get messages from caring friends to let me know they’re thinking of me, phone calls from friends to check how it’s going.
I’m home again. Send some emails to let everyone know how it went. So simple, so useful.
Southern New South Wales is so different to the Mid North Coast. We don’t get much change of season, a few deciduous trees, a few spring bulbs. Canberra is a city of trees, many of them from the Northern Hemisphere- oaks, elms, ashes, spruce, cedars, birches…such an abundance and all with delicious new spring growth. I could have walked and touched and marveled and enjoyed for many days. I’m grateful I could experience them even briefly.
I meet some of the community who support my sister and I’m overwhelmed by the love they have for her and for the loving-kindness they extend to me as I break down in tears. I am so very grateful.
Coming home our bus to Sydney passes through the Southern Highlands. One of the pleasures of my life is to visit this area in Spring and Autumn, something I haven’t been able to do for too long. It’s green and lush. Lilacs are in bloom. Fences and trellises drip with wisteria. Blossom trees, tulips, roses…old stone houses…lambs…I feast on it all.
A moment of synchronicity. We’re stopped briefly at Bowral station and I get a phone call. It’s a cousin with whom I have a special connection and had accidentally dialed the day before. The synchronicity? She lives in Bowral and is about two minutes away- driving! Unfortunately there is no time to see her, but we make an agreement for me to visit soon, something else I need to do.
Then, on a busy main road the traffic both ways is held up. For what? A family of ducks- mother, father and six ducklings are crossing the road, in safety. Bless the softness of the human heart that stops to let ducks cross. And remember this moment as a reminder to trust that goodness of the human heart to care for both my sister and my brother when I am not able to do so.
My local book club that I started several months ago, has now also become a sewing group. Some of us meet in local rooms to sew, whether that is clothes or embroidery or patchwork or knitting or cochet or making curtains or …if you’re me, until now…to talk and be with others. Doing things together has always seemed to me to be a powerful communication. Busy hands seems to free up the mind; talk follows and often, true community. Here’s an inspiring story of change using a traditional craft. Enjoy it and be inspired!
Originally posted on ideas.ted.com:
Khalida Brohi grew up traveling between two very different parts of Pakistan: the bustling city of Karachi, where her parents moved so that she and her sisters could go to school, and a small village in Balochistan, where her family has its roots. Brohi got a modern education, and also developed a deep reverence for her tribal traditions. Those two threads often tangled – especially when it came to the treatment of women.
As a teenager, Brohi watched as, one by one, her childhood friends entered arranged marriages, sometimes against their will. When she was 16, she received word that a close friend had been murdered by her family in an “honor killing.” She set her mind on starting a movement to stop these practices. But as it gained momentum, it also spurred a backlash.
“We were challenging centuries-old customs in these communities. They stood up, saying we were spreading un-Islamic behavior,”…
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A few years ago I had brain surgery. The right branch of my carotid artery had an aneurysm, big enough to need surgery. I am alive because I have a clip (I call it a paper clip) on my artery. The MRI also found a second aneurysm on the left branch of my carotid artery. Since then it has been checked regularly with an angiogram. I can’t have another MRI as the magnetism could pull the clip out, or at least dislodge it. Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?
These were found by accident. I had no symptoms, but had complained to my doctor about my ear- feeling blocked, giddiness, pain when I flew… it was probably sinus, but just to be sure…The ear was fine, but…I had an aneurysm. MRI, visit to a brain surgeon…too big to ignore, must be operated on.
Found by accident? Or one of the many blessings and miracles of my life?
Tantrum from me. Definitely did not want brain surgery. Handouts from the hospital- skull with piece cut out pictured on front. Threw it away, without reading. No one was going to do that to me.
Date set. The ninth of July. Uh oh. My most auspicious date, my day of celebrating my re-birth. How could this be anything but positive? Coloured my hair plum. After all, it was going to be shaved so I could experiment. A nasty colour, for me.
Brain surgery. It was too big to get my mind around. An aneurysm. It was too scary to contemplate, so I didn’t. The reaction of other people surprised me. They seemed to think this was significant, urgent, frightening… It wasn’t until afterwards I began to hear the stories: the young woman who had died on my local beach- an aneurysm had burst; the man who was now paralysed down one side, an aneurysm had bled…I had protected myself by closing my eyes to the reality.
Brain surgery. Yes, but they weren’t really operating on my brain were they, only an artery. Afterwards, checks every hour. What’s your name? What’s the date? (Who knows? I’ve had an operation, been in Intensive Care.) Where are you? Count to ten. Most questions I could answer, although I did ask them to come up with something different, I was getting bored with the same ones.
There were effects. My sleeping was destroyed, until it reached crisis point and I had to demand extreme help. My short term memory is affected. But…I am alive. My brain still works, quite well really. I like it…a lot. And I truly value it… greatly. In fact, I love and cherish it.
And I still have an aneurysm. A small one, but an aneurysm. I’m always aware of it, ticking away up there in my head. And now I know how serious that is. I have been told by the psychiatrist who treated me during the sleep crisis, that the brain suffers some damage as soon as it is exposed to oxygen. So mine has suffered some damage already. I do not want to run the risk a second time. I do not want to experience another sleep crisis. I know why sleep deprivation is a torture, I’ve lived it.
But, nor do I want to run the risk of the aneurysm bleeding or bursting. Neither have good outcomes- death or incapacity. So I have regular angiograms and trust the results, trust that while it’s small it’s harmless.
On Friday I had an angiogram, hence this post. I am left confused by the results. It showed no aneurysm. I ask “Do arteries heal themselves?” “Has it disappeared?” “Is this the result of a simple life with little stress?” “Can I celebrate or has there been a mistake?” I wait to hear from my brain surgeon.
Meanwhile I shall live this day- fully, richly, moment by moment, because I have experienced how fragile life is. I have no excuse but to treasure each moment I have.
Monday, the twenty-second of September is the Equinox. The time of equal light and darkness. Everyone on earth experiences a twelve hour day twice a year on the Spring (Vernal) and Fall (Autumnal) equinox.
And now I quote from the Gratefulness website - “These events remind us that we are one planetary family and motivate us to live in harmony with all life.”
I didn’t know. I didn’t know that on the Equinox all over the Earth we all experience a time of equal light and equal dark. I marvel at this. I am filled with wonder. All over the earth our day and night will be the same! I can sense our sameness, rather than our difference.
“let there be praise of our mutual beauty, our total loving of the World.” ( gratefulness webpage)
Saturday I joined people gathering together as part of a worldwide movement to demonstrate their commitment to save the planet and to focus attention on the supreme importance for all of us all over the world to halt climate change. Here in our Valley the focus was to highlight the problems with coal seam gas development and fracking.
Sunday, all over the world, people will gather to show this same commitment- to halt climate change; to stop the burning of fossil fuels and to end increases in carbon. This day has been organised prior to the UN meeting of World leaders this week to discuss the coming crisis in climate change, the UN’s Emergency Summit.
Sunday also happens to be The International Day of Peace, established by the UN as a day of global ceasefire to strengthen the ideals of peace within all nations. And it is World Gratitude Day, started by the UN Meditation Group to promote the cause of worldwide gratitude. An auspicious time- the Equinox and special days, all falling around each other.
At the TED@unilever conference, Keith Weeks, Unilever Chief Marketing and Communications officer is quoted saying “When someone asks what is the case for sustainability? I ask ‘What is the case for the alternative’?” Good question. We know what we have to lose, well we know some of it, if we fail to halt global warming. And it is unthinkable, unbearable, heartbreaking. But what if we act as if climate change is happening and we humans can halt it? What do we have to lose? Maybe we won’t be quite as affluent in some countries. Maybe we will need to change our lifestyle. Maybe life will become simpler. Is that a negative?
We could all dedicate five minutes to spend in meditation. We could all contemplate the beauty of this Earth and our love for her. We could ponder our humanness and all we have in common. We could sit in gratitude for all that we do have. We could remember what we have to lose. And we could consider what we can do.
Today is Tuesday. The Climate March has happened all over this Earth. This link will share a report.
I feel overwhelmed. Stuck. Blocked. Frustrated. Can’t move forward. Can’t move back. Can’t move sideways. Haven’t been writing, haven’t been to the gym, the “to do” list just keeps on getting longer.
Know that feeling?
I live in a spacious house. All by myself. Large rooms- back deck and front porch; wide, long room downstairs; gracious loungeroom and a huge, sunny family room + kitchen. When my co-housing partner lives here, there will be the grand total of two of us
But. I can’t settle my work space. Right now I’m camped in the dining room (yes, there’s a dining room as well) – computers set up on the dining table, papers strewn everywhere, books stacked…Angie, my co-housemate suggests the second bedroom is my space and some stuff is in there- left over clothes of mine that don’t fit in my bedroom, a largeish table, full boxes and plastic crates, all my paperwork, stationery…Downstairs is stuffed with furniture- a desk, a workbench, cupboards, bookshelves, books and books and books, filing cabinets, plastic crates full of stuff belonging to both of us, all my parents’ family photos waiting to be sorted, my notes from courses I have run, old letters (of course!), boxes of Angie’s…all waiting to be sorted. There’s no garage, so downstairs is where it’s all at. My stuff, and it is stuff, is scattered in three places. No wonder I keep losing things.
Where do I settle my study? upstairs? second bedroom? downstairs? the dining room? turn the loungeroom into a work space? Where do we put guests?
I haven’t mentioned the garden. You remember the garden? One of our aims is to be as self sufficient as possible, so the garden is a top priority. Well, here I am, eighteen months later, and I’ve only been playing around the edges. Where will I create the beds? How will I make them? Where do I start? Treated pine edging or colorbond or? If I put a tree there, will it stop the sun? Questions, uncertainty, indecision… and I’m back where I started from, feeling stuck.
By now, you’re probably feeling irritated with me and want to tell me to “stop carrying on , just get on with it!” I’m irritated with me!
However. And there is usually an however. I have watched people talking about how they feel blocked and I have seen that they have solutions. I’ve watched them reject any options or possibilities. For some reason they didn’t want to move forward.
What does this tell me now? That I am refusing solutions? Choosing to stay stuck? Why do I keep rejecting any possible solutions? What am I frightened of?
This is a life lesson, of course. It’s not just in our homes or gardens we get stuck. How many times have you been at a point where you have felt powerless, you can’t make a choice and your life’s been in a holding pattern?
And isn’t it an uncomfortable place to be? No energy, restless, I take to prowling about, unable to settle anywhere. Nothing gets done.
What was I told once? It doesn’t matter where you start, you’ll always get to where you need. Here and now, it doesn’t matter what choice I make. All that matters is to start. It’s my old friend, fear- the fear of making a mistake. What did I learn, many years ago, from Susan Jeffers? To “feel the fear, and do it anyway”. What do I have to lose?
P.S. If you have an idea about the garden or the house, I’d love to hear it. Think outside the square!