Spice Alley, White Rabbit Gallery and Neurosurgeons


Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting my new neurosurgeon. Indeed it was a privilege, to meet such a humble and kind man. I presented a selection of my favourite scans from the past two decades, and as he studied them, he asked how on earth I had managed to inflict such damage. I tell you, after a lifetime of answering this question, you get quite nonchalant and so I muttered something about a bad man, my falling, and things of that ilk. I should have just brought him a copy of my book. Once he was over the shock of that discovery, he examined my head, neck and shoulders, all of which contorted in pain. I was booked in for nerve blocks and associated tests, and bid him farewell. My morning had required me to be a patient, vulnerable and hurting. The following part of the day would see me reclaim who I truly am, which is somebody who gets transported by beauty.

My daughter and I took off on a grand adventure, firstly to the White Rabbit Gallery at Chippendale, a magnificent space that used to be a luxury car showroom. The exhibition The Sleeper Awakes had started that day, and we were so entranced by the colours and symbolism that we forgot to take photos! It would have seemed almost rude to have not been in the moment. Trust me, if ever you are in the city, it’s worth a visit! I did however, manage a snap of the glorious tea room. The best cages are empty ones; beautiful in their emptiness.

We walked with our lovely friends to Spice Alley     at around 5pm, before it got busy. There was a wild variety of vendors, and the difficulty was deciding! There was plenty for a vegetarian like myself to choose from. I settled on the best vegetarian fried rice I have ever had! The heady spices were combined in such a way as to delight the taste buds. As we ate and drunk our bubble tea (and wine), we talked about everything from Nikola Tesla to Facebook, movies and authors.

When we boarded the train for home, I felt exhilarated, as one does at the end of a fruitful and satisfying day. I was exhausted and in pain, yes, but the over-riding emotion was gratitude. Gratitude for caring specialists, good friends, art galleries, delicious food, a new hangout and a happy child. My body feels frail; in need of reconstruction, and the pain is merciless. I was a patient, scans in hand. For the most part, I was still Raphaela, an irrepressible spirit who will not have her life dimmed. You can be both, and balance it well. The next day, I was in bed, but never mind. Last Friday, I was both a patient and healed.

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Frida Kahlo


When I was seventeen, I was informed that I would be crippled and then die if I didn’t have risky surgery. I hadn’t had time to digest this information when I came across the extraordinary visage  of Frida, gazing at me from the newspaper. I cut out the story, continually gazing at her face. ‘The Broken Column’ spoke of my own wounds. I couldn’t believe that a woman from another era had captured my experience. She was  a storyteller of the highest order, unafraid of revealing her pain. She touched death with each stroke of her brush. All the things we commonly run from, she embraced. I had found my heroine.
  When I heard that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s work was coming to the Art Gallery of NSW, I could hardly breathe. I had waited twenty years for this moment. I took my daughter, and she was as entranced as I. She knew how much Frida has meant to her mum! We stood in silence at each painting, holding hands. 
   Frida inspired me to paint my body cast. Rather than viewing it with disdain, my former cocoon  was kept out of respect.
  
  

Frida was unafraid of confronting what would ordinarily remain hidden. She paved the way for a legion of young women. I remain in her debt.


MRI’s, a Painting and Pegs!


The period between school terms went by in a purple haze, taking with it, Prince. Fans woke in shock to hear the news of his passing last week. This year has taken so many individuals in the arts, and it’s only April! 

The holidays were divided between time at home, and being out. My daughter caught up with a few of her gorgeous friends, and it made my heart soar to witness the bonds deepening. The girls put down their electronic devices and made up dances and spells, plays and songs. We also went to plays, including The Peasant Prince, and Cautionary Tales for Children at the Sydney Opera House. It starred the extraordinary Virginia Gay. She held my daughter spellbound.

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I was gifted these divine bird pegs by a friend. I have written about this friend before. A nurse, she has had health issues the past few years, and has astounded me yet again, by putting her hand up to support a local lady as she flies to Singapore. This young lady has MS, and her symptoms have escalated. She has gone to Singapore for intensive chemotherapy and stem cell treatment. I am thinking of both these valiant women. They will be in my heart every time I peg an item on my clothes line.
 My friend Diana Reynolds is an artist, and she gifted my daughter and I this enchanted painting. It has pride of place in our home school room, where we get to admire it daily. To check out more of Diana’s work, click here.

My MRI results weren’t what I wanted them to be. I had hoped to receive a procedure known as a discogram, to shrink my remaining discs. It was found that they had all desiccated, which explains why I wince every time a bus or car I am travelling in hits a bump. I have no shock-absorbers! I wish it were merely a case of changing the shock-pads! There are many more issues, which I have neither the time or inclination to see to at the moment. I only had one day in bed throughout the holidays, so I am relieved. I carried on, throughout social occasions sometimes with the aid of a stiff drink and for that I am grateful. It is a nasty, merciless agony, which has grown into a monster. I humour it; I temper its fury and I promise it the world if it will just let me do what I need to do. When my daughter is  a little older, I will have that longed-for overhaul. I will admire the bird pegs, and the symbolism behind them. They have the ability to fly, and yet they are anchored. Perhaps it’s a comfort, behind grounded. They know that they have a choice.

Term 2 has just begin in Sydney, and I look forward to many more adventures. You could live for a thousand years and still not experience all that there is in this world. I had a conversation with a friend who is extremely ill. She told me her simple wishes for the next year or so. In light of her disclosure, I am going to apply for a passport. Life is too damned short and it flies by like a bird unanchored. Pain and illness, nor nothing else is going to stop the experience of new horizons. It mustn’t.

Teena, Doggie Perfume, Art and Whimsy


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On a blustery and rainy Sunday, we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art at The Rocks. I love this place; it is eclectic, ever-changing and has magnificent views over the harbour from the rooftop café. I met some friends, and we were excited about attending Teena the dog’s farewell from the exhibition space. Teena, the daschund, even has her own perfume! It smells of wet dog, in homage to this precious little being.

Teena’s dad, David Capra, interviewed a lady from mindDog Australia, and she was awe-inspiring! Sydney-based, this organization advocates for people with depression, PTSD and other challenges to be matched with a companion dog. It makes all the difference to the individuals involved.

We also went to Grayson Perry’s My Pretty Little Art Career . I found it mesmerizing. The detail in each of the pieces is extraordinary! What a remarkable and gifted artist Grayson is. There is still time to go see the exhibition, before it closes on the 1st May.

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There has been a bit of outrage about the proposed Australian $5.00 note. This is what we are getting.

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This is what many of us would prefer.

Dame Edna Everage, a pie and beer.
Dame Edna Everage, pies and beer. Which one do you prefer?

Whimsy is an essential component in leading a tolerable life. May your week contain much whimsy!

Gnomes and Destiny


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When I was nineteen, I started a business, selling my art and poetry, as well as crystals and curiosities at markets and on consignment. I was extremely busy during this ten-year period, particularly when I reflect on all the surgery I had at the same time! I lived in a grungy, funky part of Sydney, and would often walk down the street to hang out at the all-night bookstore and grab some fabulous Indian food. I was into ceramics, and had my Greenware fired in the kiln of a nearby business, before painting them. I only managed to hang onto two of my pieces from this time. Before I left the area, I retrieved them from the shop where they had recently been placed…

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I haven’t paid them much mind in the intervening years, only to gift them a smile as I passed them in my living room. I have pared back my commitments since Christmas, and have made time to clean and reflect, de-clutter and organize my home. I stopped yesterday and studied my little friends, reflecting on a time when I had created and painted, written and pottered. I recalled the nights spent painstakingly painting them; the joy I felt when what I had created was bought. I looked closer, and noted that they hadn’t been cleaned for a while. Getting a wipe, I lovingly set to work. I turned them over, and there on the base was my daughter’s name, a daughter I wouldn’t have for another decade. I don’t know why I had thought to send them off with the following: Painted with love by E.Rose.

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A chill went through me. When I had finally fallen pregnant with IVF, I had another name altogether picked out for this baby, if it was a girl. In my eighth month, I dreamed of her, and she said that her name was E. Rose. (full name obscured to protect privacy). I changed her name accordingly. I had no recollection of ever signing my work with her name years before. How many hundreds of times had I done so? I called to her and told her the story and she was as delighted as I. “You knew me even then! You loved and wanted me before I was here!” I certainly did. Slowing down and having time to notice my little gnomes gave me a great gift. My daughter was intrinsically entwined in my younger years, letting herself be known, even on an unconscious level. When you say “I can’t do this anymore,” and allow yourself to slow, it’s amazing what you notice. Gnomes may even hold a breath-taking, thrilling message, just for you.

30 Day Challenge, Day 30! Anything I want to Write about!


I have a myriad of wondrous things to write about today!

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Firstly I want to tell you about Tiny Notes. My daughter and I discovered a pink post-it-note on the window of the train carriage when we sat down. Beautiful people place them around Sydney, and the recipients Instagram the notes upon their discovery. It certainly gave us a lift this morning!

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‘I am Jack’ by Susanne Gervay was inspired by her son, who had been bullied at school. It resonated so widely that it was turned into a play by The Monkey Baa Theatre Company. My daughter and I were thrilled and stunned by the performance. It was funny and heart-wrenching. As a parent, it offered a window into life from a child’s perspective. Get along and see it if you can. We had a great talk afterward, about how important it is not to bottle things up, and the need to share your worries.

We found an extraordinary room at the Casula Powerhouse, filled with chandeliers offering an eerie light.

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I finished reading ‘Here comes the sun,’ about an Australian band called The Sunnyboys and singer and guitarist Jeremy Oxley’s battle with schizophrenia. He and his wife Mary overcame a great deal and managed to thrive. It is an inspiring love story and study of a talented man regaining his health.

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We also saw a koala, frogs and many other animals at Wildlife World. It has been a great few days in my household!

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We are going to have a little break away to go camping. We will be staying at a place filled with Koala Bears, parrots and dolphins. I look forward to sharing the experience with you late next week!

Mourning and Death Exhibitions


Death exhibition, Casula Powerhouse
Death exhibition, Casula Powerhouse
I heard last week that a friend had passed away. She was a mum of three and had fought cancer with grace and might for a number of years. I had only seen her recently, giving her a hug at a local fair. “I would love to catch up soon,” I said, and she smiled her radiant smile. I felt numb with shock when I heard the news. I wanted the world to stop spinning for a little while, but it refused. I had to take my daughter to an art workshop early the next morning. After I had ordered breakfast at the art space, I turned around and saw a hearse. Here I was, trying to distract myself with business, and death was all around. I couldn’t escape it.
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A death exhibition had just opened. I couldn’t avert my eyes, so decided to embrace it. This feared wild state called death… The cessation of all that was and all you were prior, leaving lasting memories and the love you carried in your heart. A gift to those who love you.
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"Grief" by Helen Shelley
“Grief” by Helen Shelley
I viewed the exhibition, the works using a myriad of mediums. Photos of those who looked asleep, a TV set to distribute white noise. It was peaceful. It wasn’t morbid or frightening, just silent and respectful. I don’t understand why people die, particularly the young. Two women I adored have died the past six months, and I have raged and wept and reminisced. I now found myself ensconced in a death exhibition, as though it were a preview of coming attractions. It is my duty to live a good and full life, in tribute to those who only had half of their expected years on earth. When I pop off, I want to leave my daughter enough wondrous adventures and memories to last her all her days.

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My daughter decided to dress up in one of her classes as a pilot bride. Just before the actual wedding, she leapt out of her plane and parachuted to earth. I thank God for each day I get to spend with this exquisite little girl.
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On behalf of my late friends, I promise not to take this painful, ecstatic gift of life for granted. Just a few weeks ago, my friend was working, helping an elderly lady in her home. She wasn’t dying. She was living to the end. Every second was accounted for and respected. Now is all we have. Let’s make it count.

  

Lizzie’s Art.


Art is a beautiful medium of expression. My little girl loves her art, and attends a local studio each Saturday. She is there for almost three hours. I love seeing the pure joy on her face when she shows me her latest creation. My house is filled with her art. It provides a visual showing […]