Gladness and Learning to Float.

There were not many dry eyes when we saw George proudly waking his daughter…

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Gladness and Learning to Float.

There has been a lovely wedding in our family. Three beautiful people – a mother, a father and a little son – were married in a park overlooking the sea. It was gentle and joyful, reflecting the nature of this family, and the love they all bring to us. There was a summer storm the night before, and it refreshed the air and the grass, leaving sparkling leaves and soft clouds in its wake.
There were not many dry eyes when big ones Archie and Edie led the way, and George walked Rachel down the slope to Steven waiting in the gazebo that stood at the edge of the beach. It was at the end of chemo #1 for George, after a bumpy few weeks, and the doctors stopped it early so he could be well for the big event. Seeing him proudly walking his daughter was just the outcome that everyone was hoping for – George most of all.
After the champagne and cake, and when a TigerAir drama had been circumvented by extra airline tickets to Bali being purchased (in the hope of later recompense), the three set off for their honeymoon.
Four year old Ben had been a bit afraid of the water and swimming, so we sent him away with a wedding present of a little flotation vest to use in the pool. (This was mainly to reassure a certain grandma that he would be safe in the very attractive but unfenced pool in the accommodation brochure – too many years of OH&S training as a teacher, I suspect.)
You don’t normally send your parents emails from your honeymoon, but when you need updates on your dad’s health, you are allowed some flexibility in the rules.
So email one told us that Ben had learned to float. He has a wonderful way of expressing himself that can show you all sorts of levels of meaning, if you listen to his words and ponder their richness. This time he said to his mum with great satisfaction “Now I am a person who can float.”
I wonder what those words hint at – was he despairing that he ever would be able to float, did he long to be able to, did he watch other kids do it and wonder why he couldn’t be one of them, does he love the feeling of trusting the water, does he feel as if he has graduated into a new ability level in life? The satisfaction with his expanded identity, and his ability to recognise it, gladdened my heart. It calls to mind the three-fold wisdom of our nature: being, consciousness and joy. Or as I have heard it said, the Hindu scriptures express this as existence, knowledge and bliss.
When you want a second update on your dad’s health, why not add a video clip to your email? The clip shows that Ben has already integrated this new ability into his self-concept, and is now demonstrating both his new ‘doggy paddle’ and comparing it to his ‘old-fashioned paddling’ – I presume this refers to his former style that was pretty well a lot of thrashing around in the water.
Well, Ben, for the grown-ups our life lessons have been pretty similar as we learn to cope with the ups and downs, the unpredictability of life with leukaemia, the lessons and skills we need for chemo, for adjustment, for absorbing new knowledge about ourselves and our life stages. Like you we are surrounded and supported by love, and we are moving from thrashing around to some smoother sort of integration.
Once again I won’t speak for George – his journey is not mine, nor is mine his. We are anchored in each other’s love, and for me, this is the grace where I take off my shoes. Sacred time, sacred place.
In fact, this grandma can say that like you, Ben, now I am feeling like a person who can float. Like you, that makes me very happy.

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What you didn’t want to find in your Mum’s wardrobe just before Christmas.

This Advent, a more disturbing gift has lain in wait for us.

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What you didn’t want to find in your Mum’s wardrobe just before Christmas.

As a child, I was one for sneaking into our parents’ bedroom and feeling the mysterious parcels at the bottom of Mum’s wardrobe, in the weeks of Advent. Even when I knew exactly what was in a parcel, the anticipation of opening it brought future joy forward to me. Mum and Dad had a wonderful way of taking the ordinary and making it special by withholding it and thus filling it with mysterious delight.

This Advent, a more disturbing gift has lain in wait for us. We are beginning to feel its shape and size and bit by bit, understand the meaning it brings into our lives together. You certainly wouldn’t call it delight, but it was more relief when we finally had a name for it, this shadowy thing that was hiding just under our conscious knowledge.

We have known for some time (a year or two) that George’s health was ‘not right’. It was a vague feeling, nothing you could exactly put a finger on, something we tried to explain to ourselves as ageing, or unnecessary worrying. Last Christmas he had a serious infection that did not respond to antibiotics, and eventually had to have a bowel resection. His health seemed to pick up for a while after that, but a few months later he was again exhausted much of the day. This is quite uncharacteristic of him, as he is a fit man and an avid gardener.

One day I went down the backyard and noticed that weeds were running through everything and taking over. That told me something really bad was happening. A short time later he got an infection in his thumb and was on the merry-go-round of medical tests grumbling that the doctor was overreacting.

I am sure you are now getting the shape and size of what was hidden but waiting for us. He has now been diagnosed with Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukaemia. As it is at the intermediate stage, he will start chemo in the new year, once the follow-up tests are completed and a program made. If he responds well, this will become the ongoing rhythm of life for us.

It is a tumultuous time, and I don’t want to speak for him, but I do want to say that we are finding it is bringing us together in an intimacy that is redolent of our earliest times together, where we set out the kind of way we wanted to live our lives, what our values and beliefs were, and how we wanted to be together.

Many things in the parcel along with the unsought devastation, fear, concern and forced changes have been real and precious gifts to us: our family with whom we shared the news over takeaway  pizzas and several bottles of red wine, or by phone for those away,  are our lifeline and our comfort. We are so proud of each one of them, and so grateful for all the kindnesses and practical ways they have shown their love for us.

Friends and extended family members are our good fortune too. Mum’s heart is sad, in her love for us wishing we did not have to face this future, but the way she has lived her life is our model of courage and trust.  We have a sense of being loved and sheltered as we rearrange our understandings and perceptions in response to opening the wrapping paper.

There is much life to be lived yet, and we are blessed and held in the deep peace that lies below the stormy waves.

Strangely enough, this is where I take off my shoes and find the common bush afire with God.

 

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George’s garden. December 2016

 

 

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Not Actually Walking The Camino.

I have been debating internally for a while about whether or not to start writing my blog again. I have loved writing it in the past, although it is hard to tell whether it is a useful thing to do …

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Not Actually Walking The Camino.

I have been debating internally for a while about whether or not to start writing my blog again.

I have loved writing it in the past, although it is hard to tell whether it is a useful thing to do given the state of the world, and how small my little patch is in the larger scale of things. All the same I have decided to write again if for no other reason than the sheer pleasure of forming words around my thoughts and experiences.

It was never a decision to stop forever, but rather a reaction of exhaustion and grief in radically changed circumstances.  Adjusting took longer than I thought it would, and so it fell silent.

I have learnt much in the ensuing months, and I guess the new learning will express itself along the way, in my perspectives on life. I don’t intend to deliberately explore it all here – it is a bit raw for that. Suffice it to say, that my husband is well after a long period of recovery from surgery, and my mum has stabilised after her stroke and the events that followed it, and some remarkably skilled interventions since.

Two friends have each walked the Camino in the last two years. I have been envious I will admit, as it was one of the things I hoped to do in my retirement, but my body aged faster than my plans and it was no longer possible. I found myself wanting to live vicariously through their journeys. It was quite a struggle to find out how to turn that around for myself so that it became a growth moment.

The first dear friend brought me back a pair of ear-rings from the end of her walk. One day as I was putting them on, it occurred to me that there are many forms of long roads that we walk alone, even though in company, and some of them are steep and hard but have beautiful times as well. Since then, I wear my Camino ear-rings often, especially on days that might prove to be challenging. They remind me that for the present, this life right here is my Camino.  I don’t always make it with grace and good cheer, and sometimes not even with dignity, but I guess there are few who sail through any Camino unscathed and they all celebrate it in the end.

And so it is in Stroud Street, Cheltenham.

The clacketty bird has come again with the spring and woken me with its exuberant noise, and now it has moved on and the magpies have followed it in a quieter voice. Two babies have been born in another generation of our extended family (both with excellent taste in parents), the pansies have died off and the petunias are in, and I walk the little dog in sunshine rather than in the rain and wind, which in the end I have learned have their own pleasure.

The wheel turns and everything is in its right season whether or not I approve, accept, fight or love it. Time to take off my shoes and see again.

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Trying To Write When Too Weary.

Trying to write when too weary.

Today I sat down to try and write a blog post. I try to get one written in the third week of the month.
Life has been hectic this past couple of months and my focus has been on getting through all that is necessary each day. No time for waxing lyrical!
Things are calming down now, but I am still finding I need to step out to regenerate.
I have just written a short meditation on dryness to give you a brief picture of how things are. You will see it is not all bad. However, as Peter Cundall used to say at the end of each ABC Gardening Show
“That’s your blooming lot for now!” See you soon.

Meditating on Dryness.

Dry and can’t write
Dry as chips
Dry as a bone
Dry the washing
Hung out to dry
Wrung out and dry
Dry the dishes
Dry the baby after a warm bath
Smell of powder and
Warm baby-ness
Snuggle up and cuddle
Take a deep breath and smell it
Dryness before rain
Landscape of longing
Parched and wasted
Dry after rain
Not quite dry of course, still dripping with sweet air and water
Dry under a roof
Listening to the rain and wind outside
Thinking of people not dry
Cold, wet, abandoned
Leaving addiction
Striving to get dry
Been dry and counting the time
Proud dryness
Dry eyes
Dry your eyes, there you go
Dry skin
Depletion
My dryness of heart and soul

needing deep water.

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