We received an email from a lovely friend, courageously explaining that she had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She also mentioned she would be starting treatment at Chris O’Brien’s Lifehouse, which may gift her more time. We saw her shortly afterward, and my daughter wrapped her arms around the diminutive Scot. This lady knew that her days were numbered, and prepared those she loved. She showed her husband where everything in the house could be found, and planned her funeral. Her dearest wish was to die at home, and we were very grateful that she was able to do so. The petite bushwalker, social justice advocate, swimmer and birdwatcher fell into slumber last Monday, and yesterday, we celebrated her life. She had enjoyed a crisp glass of wine (or whiskey), films and music, as well as the company of children and animals. A life well-lived. After refreshments were served, my daughter and I went for a stroll, and came across the most magnificent bird mural. “It’s a sign,” she said, and I truly believed it was. Our friend was adaptable, moving countries and going on adventures as others might change clothes. She was also reliable and a meticulous planner. Her traits held her in good stead, as well as those of us whom admired them and hoped to emulate them. The Kingfisher is a member of the Australian Kookaburra family, and is a promise of peace, abundance and love. How apt that we stumbled upon a wall filled with such symbolism?
I had been given very little hope of ever having a child with IVF (after three attempts). Despondent, I went for a walk in a local park. I was standing under a tree, brushing away my tears, when an empty bird’s nest fell at my feet. I took it as an omen, and cradled the precious gift. I still have it- behind glass in my cabinet-eleven years later.Just the other day, I was walking with my daughter, and the nest pictured above landed at my feet! I marvelled at the time and effort that went into building it; a perfect home and refuge. Of course, it came home with me, and my little bird was just as enchanted as I, coming close to inspect the handiwork. Nests and eggshells from newborn chicks are items I tend to find regularly. What are yours?
A little bird came into my life on Valentine’s Day. She was found on the floor of a cage; her wings had been hacked with what appeared to be scissors. She had no tail and was ailing. Desperate to rescue her, she came home with us. Over the months, I have been in awe of her spirit. The feathers underneath her crippled wings would twist and bleed, causing terrible pain. When they fell out, I would pick them up, and feel how razor-sharp the damaged ends were. Despite the anguish she must have felt, she had a personality that was bigger than her. She whistled the Adams Family theme song, danced and chatted all day. She would run across the dining table when she saw food. Vegemite toast, pumpkin soup and cups of tea were her favorite. We named her Friendly, a fitting moniker.On shopping day, she would see you come in with the bags and dance from side to side in anticipation of a honey stick. She would lock the other cockatiel in their house, run away with Lego pieces when my daughter was playing and generally cause mayhem. She would even pick up a pencil and try to draw in my daughter’s workbooks, just as she had seen her do. When her wings hurt, she would cry, and come to me for comfort.
Recently, she grew a proper tail, and her feathers grew strong. She became obsessed with flapping her mighty wings. To my despair, she got out the other day. Friendly flew to a tree in the park around the corner, hopping up on the farthest branches, annoyed at any attempt to catch her. We shared information about her on community pages and many kind people shared her picture, in case she flew from the tree. The fire brigade advised to leave her there overnight, as it was now dusk and she was settled in for sleep. They didn’t want to startle her. At dawn, the fire brigade came, and tried to catch her. Irritated, she flew off. My daughter and I combed the neighborhood for hours, whistling the Adams Family theme song, and calling out her name. Despondent, we had set off for home when my phone rang. She had been found!
Friendly had flown a block away, landing in someone’s front yard. A group of teenage girls had been on their way to school when they found her, and notified the home-owner, who took her inside. They were having Vegemite toast for breakfast, and Friendly ran across to their plates and helped herself! She looked mighty proud of herself, without a hint of distress. After devouring a honey stick, she had a mammoth nap. We held our little bird, watching as she slept. Strangers as well as friends, celebrated her return. It touched my heart to know that so many people were celebrating alongside us.
Today she is singing and dancing, and as I watch her I shake my head, incredulous. I wouldn’t have thought that a frail little bird with butchered wings and no tail would ever be capable of flying as she did; nor of evading the fire brigade! Wings can be clipped and we may not have the rudder necessary to balance. It doesn’t mean that it will remain so. Balance returns and broken wings heal. Just ask Friendly. She has had her taste of adventure and I think (hope), she is now happy to stay put. She just wanted to see how far she could go on her healed wings, and the answer was a long way! The birds she hung out with and the friendships that were formed will remain a mystery, but with her outgoing personality, I am sure she charmed the native birds.
Many thanks to Annie for nominating me for this lovely award!
- Post the award picture on your blog.
- Write a short paragraph about yourself and what your blog means to you.
- If you could be any animal, what would you be?
- Nominate others.
There is never enough time, have you found that too? As an aside, we often tell ourselves that now isn’t the right time. I ask myself, when will be the right time? Do we wait for the planets to be aligned? Sometimes, you have to plunge straight in. I don’t know where time goes, I honestly don’t. 24 hours has glorious potential when I wake at 5am, but I soon run out of sand. My daughter and I are planning on opening an Etsy shop by the end of the year. I have a desperate need to take her to the opera, the theatre, each and every cove and parkland around Sydney. I can’t sit still. I am afraid to stop. The truth is, I don’t know how to anymore. I find my release by helping her locate her point of peace. We went and saw The Peasant Prince yesterday at the Monkey Baa Theatre, and I watched the joy on her face as she “got” the lesson regarding never giving up, believing in yourself, and trusting your instincts. I realized that my point of peace is wherever she is.
I am sometimes terrified of failing her. The worst moment of my life was when I almost died after surgery when she was three years old. They let her ride with me on the trolley, and she stroked my hair on the way to theatre. I am her teacher, her guide and her parent. I am everything to her. I have been putting off having medical tests because I am quietly afraid. I have been waking in the middle of the night, crying in pain. People don’t witness this war going on within my body. It is getting worse. If I fall down, there is nobody to pick up the gauntlet. What occurred with my last surgery scarred me. It was close. I had bigger surgeries, before I had her, but I was filled with the bravado of youth and had nothing left to lose. Now I have everything. I keep on keeping on, but shall get the tests done and see a surgeon. I am on Lyrica at present. I don’t know if you know of it. It was designed for epilepsy, though is also used for neurological pain. It has knocked me about as I get used to it! I am willing to try anything. The bone and metal shards left in my spinal canal literally feel as if I have been knifed in the back. I guess I had been, many years ago.
My daughter is on school holidays, and as we walked to the park today, I stumbled. I told her to go ahead as we were meeting friends at a playground. After she left, I looked down, and there was this nest.
Lovingly created, the chicks had flown and it was discarded. I picked it up, and carried it to the playground. I have always found nests to be my symbol of hope. One dropped to my feet when I was despondent during IVF. I still have it. Every time I have been in hospital, a dove has perched on the windowsill of my room. It can’t be coincidence. As I caught sight of my daughter playing with her friends, the pain diminished. I brought the discarded nest home with me. My evenings may be filled with pain and I may no longer be able to sit on a bench without back support. My lungs may struggle, and I may find it all hard and lonely. However, when I look at a nest or a bird, my resolve strengthens.
Sometimes we have to grab time back; either that or smash the hourglass. Sometimes, time can seem to stop. It does for me when I see a transcendent performance, or delight in the antics of my child or pets. Referring to pets, that includes our hermit crabs. They can be enormously entertaining and run like the wind! The only relief I have is to seek out beauty. It is the source of that which is mightier than this merciless pain. If you look hard enough, you will find it. If you close your eyes and concentrate, you can stop time.
Can you feel it too? There is loneliness and pain, darkness and light flitting about the earth. Christmas Day in Australia is taking place on a full moon. You can’t get more intense than that! People seem to be exhausted and have let traditions slip. Annual get-togethers haven’t happened, and events attended each Christmas have been neglected. I was feeling melancholy, then realized that I haven’t been to a carol service, local markets, nor caught up with friends. All the things that make life lighter and give you something to look forward to. The only event we went to was the lighting of the Martin Place Christmas Tree, and I was finding it hard to sustain the Christmas spirit until I went to a loved one’s house and was gifted these blankets.
Hand-made in Ethiopia, their sale benefits Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, an organization founded by Dr Catherine Hamlin, whom still does the rounds of the hospital in her 90’s. I had tears when my daughter and I were gifted these blankets. Young women had crafted them a world away. The fact is, one can be in Ethiopia in a day. Restoring these women’s dignity restores us all. I will treasure these blankets all my days.
My little girl asked me to close my eyes Saturday afternoon, and presented me with this little girl, aptly called Noel. I have wanted a cockatiel for the longest time and am delighted with this addition to our family. I couldn’t have asked for a more thoughtful and wondrous gift! It has been cute watching our little birds desperate to impress her with their songs and tricks. She adores them, and loves going into their house and hanging out with them. Whilst birds and thoughtful kids, blankets and people such as Dr Catherine Hamlin are in the world, life is great.
It has been a new frontier, starting home schooling. I identified as the ‘school mum,’ helping out, and attending assemblies and concerts, carols, fetes and movies. I think we have both felt a little adrift this season as a result. It is a whole new way of life, and we are so grateful that she will be seeing her old school friends as well as new friends through the holidays. I am so grateful to my friend Lisa, who is a librarian. She brings around books aimed at dyslexic kids. The stories are engaging and it is a joy to watch my daughter read. We are getting there with building up her confidence. This lady contacted me, explaining we had mutual friends and that she would like to help. Help you have, beautiful one.
I have had periods of ferocious flashbacks and what those in the know term ‘the horrors.’ Aptly titled. Trying to function whilst your heart is in your throat and your voice is unable to relay what is going on inside your mind… We have needed to stop, and just be together. We all need to stop once in a while and have nowhere to go and nothing to do. There has been a lapse in traditions this season. I love the story I heard of a lady who goes on a long walk and picks flowers with her children before opening the gifts around the tree Christmas morning. This week, I shall be honouring some of my standards, and it will seem I am being drip-fed light. It will feel like Christmas. I wish there was time to see everyone I want to, and go to everything I desire to. Time is a cruel master on this earth, and you can only do what you can do.
Moving has brought home to me how much we tolerate. I am sleeping better here, and am certainly much more content. How I lasted in the former place, I don’t know. You become used to unpleasant situations, but then it reaches a point when you break and say, “I can’t do this anymore!” In the breaking down, there comes the breakthrough that you need. It is so quiet here, and the fragrant roses continue to bloom. Life isn’t perfect, and there are challenges, but at least I can be alone with my thoughts. This is the home that love and friendship built, after all. I shall never forget everyone’s kindness.
Go gently through this season, and please, be kind to yourself. I think we will look back on 2015 as the year of dramatic change, with people leaving and lives being shaken to their core. We are almost through it, kids. As I watch Noel throw her water dish from her platform, I smile. She looks at me, as though saying, “what do you think of them apples?” I think those apples are fabulous, as I do this life. So much is out of our control, but if we adhere to our traditions, we can take refuge in what is familiar and safe. That is what I shall be doing this week, and it shall feel great.
I have five little birds. They are glorious creatures, whom live in my laundry. Two are finches, two are budgies and there is a canary. A breeder told me that they should not be put together, that they don’t get along. I left the choice up to them, opening up the houses (we don’t call them cages around here), so they could play freely. They care about each other. The others look on lovingly as the finches gather feathers and celery leaves to assemble a bed. Setrena the canary trills at the window whilst the budgies preen each other. Harmony. Even their songs collect inside a singing bowl like molten honey, the sound concordant. If a little pixie was in charge (me), women might be like these birds. Intrigued by each other’s customs and way of doing things. Lovingly looking on as one of their own is praised or elevated. Sharing from the same seed bowls, and being generous with each other. No gossiping, irritation, cliques or other such nonsense. If women were like birds…