Monday, 30 September 2013

All I have is one teardrop.

Today I learnt that a friend’s father died, and I am jealous.
I am jealous of all the things he could say and do when he was
last with his father:  talking and smiling and touching and seeing
and remembering and joking and being together.  I don’t know
exactly what he said, but I know he said - and heard - the most
important thing:  I love you.

I said it too, to a heavily-sedated man with a ventilator tube
stuffed down his throat, held in place by a large unevenly cut
strip of surgical plaster across his face.

I love you. Thank you. I’ll miss you. You were wonderful. Good bye.

I said all these things, I think, to a man whose chest may only
have been moving up and down because of the machine pushing
air into his lungs. Somebody said later, that he was already gone
by the time we gathered around him in the ICU, and that
his reaction to my words might have just been a reflex,
a coincidence.

Because when I said these things, one tear gathered and rolled
from the corner of one puffy, closed eye. 

So I said a bit more. 

Don’t cry. Don’t worry. I’ll be okay. We’ll be okay. I’ll manage. 
I’ll take care of things. Go in peace.

Some of it was a lie. I’m not okay. I’m not managing. I don’t know
how to take care of anything. I cry. I worry. I have very little peace.

I hope my friend will be better off. I don’t know what else he said
to his father, but I hope he got to say all the things he needed to.
All the things he will need days and months and years from now.
When the if-onlys, the should-haves, and the why-didn’ts
come calling, I’m hoping his last memories of his father
will see them off at the door.

All I have is one teardrop. Sometimes it feels like everything,
and sometimes it feels like nothing. But it's all I have.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (Book 1: The Mysterious Howling) - by Maryrose Wood

I like many, many things about this book. I'm going to tell you
about some of them, but not all. Because what I liked best about
this book was that I just looked at the front cover, liked it and
bought it. In other words, I somehow never got down to reading
the back cover. And I'm so glad I didn't, because it made it
such a delightful surprise for me to open the book, start reading,
and discover for myself exactly why those children were Incorrigible.

I don't want to deny you that pleasure, so I'm not going to tell you
much about the story. What I will tell you is that Maryrose
out-Snickets Lemony. She surpasses him, yes she does.
I found her storytelling more interesting, her humour more subtle,
and her style of 'speaking' to the reader more natural.

The story is set in 19th century England, and is told from
the perspective of  a young fifteen-year-old, Penelope Lumley.
There's a sprinkling of Jane Eyreishness about it; no Mr. Rochester
though (perhaps he'll emerge in Book 2, The Hidden Gallery).

Miss Lumley, a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy
for Poor Bright Females, travels to Ashton Place in response
to this newspaper advertisement:

"Wanted Immediately:  Energetic Governess for Three Lively
Children. Knowledge of French, Latin, History, Etiquette,
Drawing and Music will be Required - Experience with Animals 
Strongly Preferred."

After a brief and somewhat odd interview with the lady of the house,
Penelope is hired:

"And with that, they both affixed their signatures to the bottom 
of the letter of terms that Lord Ashton had prepared. Penelope 
hardly thought this necessary, but Lady Constance assured her 
that signed, binding contracts were the custom in these parts, 
a charming formality which she would not dream of omitting."

So Penelope becomes governess for the three alphabetically-christened
Incorrigibles - Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia.

This is where the story really begins! Unfortunately, this is also
where I have to stop telling you anything more about it so as
not to spoil the surprise! Just know that this is one of the most
scrumptious children's books I've come across in a long time,
and it must be read!

Do not begin to assume you know exactly what an Incorrigible child
is like, because you do not. Not this kind of Incorrigible.
Any expectations that you have about the storyline are going
to be in shreds. Which reminds me,

Do not succumb to the temptation of reading the back cover. Also,

Do not fear the wrath of Lemony Snicket should your loyalties sway. 

Do not think you are too old/educated/busy to read this book.
Finally, and most importantly,

Do not die without having read this book.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A Liebster for me!

I love the definition of the word "liebster" because my name means the same thing! Thank you, Barb and Groundwell Farm for nominating me for this award!

For those of you who don't know what a Liebster Award is, it's an award given by bloggers to other bloggers to help discover small blogs and give them recognition. It works a bit like a chain letter (without the dire consequences!) in that each nominee gets to pay it forward by nominating other blogs they like; there's also a fun question-and-answer section that I'm looking forward to.

Eleven questions I got asked
Here are the questions that were put to me, and my answers:

1. What do you think about sheep?
 I do not get to meet very many, but there are two sheep that will always remain in my memory. They had the most serene, beautiful faces. I would sit by them every afternoon and sketch them. I was 16 or so at the time. I did not realise that the reason they were tied up behind my landlord's house was because they had been selected for sacrifice on Eid Al Adh'a (this sacrifice is a reenactment of the prophet Abraham's sacrifice, and performed on the last day of the Haj pilgrimage). The halal ritual (similar to kosher)  involves calming the animal down, being gentle with it, praying and giving it water to drink first. It is quick and painless in comparison to the usual type of commercial slaughter.  I once read of a German study that compared the two methods, which found that when animals are stunned first they die slowly and painfully, but with little outward expression of pain, due to being stunned. The animals slaughtered in the halal method lose consciousness - and consciousness of pain - within a few seconds, and pass quickly. Outwardly, however, from a human's perspective, there is a lot of blood flow, and the animal's muscles continue to have involuntary contractions even after the heart and brain have stopped. I had no knowledge of all this at the time, so needless to say I was horribly traumatised by the sight before me. I was even more horrified later that morning when the landlord's driver showed up with a gift of fresh mutton for our family - a gift made out of my two serene, beautiful friends. For a while after that incident, I became a vegetarian. Whenever I think of sheep, I remember these two.

2. Identify your most unloved possession.  How did you acquire this thing?
My grandfather's sword. A ceremonial British Army sword - he was the Inspector General of Police (in the days of British India) and used it only in parades. I doubt it has seen blood, but I, being a writer and a stumbling follower of non-violence, have always thought of the pen as being mightier. My cousin inherited it, but when he moved to Australia, he gave it to me.

3. Why did you think you needed it?
I didn't, but as it belonged to my mother's father, I have kept it out of some sense of obligation. Although I do hope to pass it on to my brother or nephew at some point.

4. How did it disappoint you?
It didn't, but a weapon, even a ceremonial one, is an ugly thing to display. So it somewhat distresses me that I have to store it in my home. Its length makes it hard to put away in a drawer! So I'm forced to let it lay flat on top of a cupboard or cabinet, and worry about whether or not it's being correctly stored, and also have to dust it every once in a while.

5. What is your favorite gardening tool?
I have to say, my hands! My gardening is limited to potted plants on the balcony, and I like interacting with them gently. As far as actual tools go, the one I've enjoyed most was a pick axe I used to dig great big holes in my backyard in Bahrain, in the year 2000. I was in the midst of psychotherapy to process my childhood sexual abuse experiences at the time, and I would come home shaken, disturbed and relatively spaced out. Digging the holes felt great, and let out a lot of anger and pain. It was hard work, but made easier by pretending that I was digging graves for the relatives who sexually abused me. Of course, pretending is as violent as I get:  the holes were actually intended for tree saplings. I planted seven, and heard recently that they have all grown into fine ficus trees.

6. What got you started blogging?
I really can't remember! I've just been a huge fan of the internet from the start, so as soon as I discovered Blogger, and found it easy to use and with nice features to organise everything by date and with labels and widgets, I jumped on. I originally had close to ten separate blogs, until I decided it made more sense to consolidate them into one - this one - as they all had something to do with art, earth, ink, and/or soul.

7. What is the best way to build community?
I think you need to personally be what you want to achieve for a community. And to me that means feeling and acting with sincerity, compassion and respect for everyone and everything. You start with yourself and then the people nearest to you in heart, blood or proximity. And you move outward from there. You don't need grand gestures or huge investments, you do it like a ripple, and somehow that connects and saves the world.

8. When was the last time you grew something and produced a yield?
I would love to be able to answer this question differently, but all I've done lately is plant mint cuttings. I use the mint in salads and tea, and my little bird Hello likes to sit on top of his cage and have me feed mint leaves to him.

9. Did you save seeds from your yield?
It has only just struck me, after reading this question, that there might be something in existence known as a peppermint seed.

10. The last time you entered the wilderness, what brought you there?
I know this refers to the actual wilderness, and that would be I-don't-know-when. I'm not sure if carefully preserved US national parks count, but if so, then it's Yosemite or the Grand Canyon. Otherwise it would be picnics with friends and family out in the Bahraini desert, when I was younger. That phrase, though, "entering the wilderness" has a whole different meaning for me, as I have Major Depressive Disorder, and on the occasions when I've had a severe depressive episode, this is what it feels like:  entering the wilderness. (I am not there now).

11. ?
So it was ten questions I got asked. But here's an 11th question:  Where is my 11th question?

Eleven random facts about me
1. I sometimes forget to brush my teeth.
2. I have three piercings in each ear, but don't usually bother with earrings.
3. I had the reading level of an 11-year-old when I was 6.
4. If I could live a long and healthy life on pizza and vanilla ice cream, I would.
4. I am a huge Harry Potter fan.
5. I do not know what my purpose in life is.
6. I used to work as a clown.
7. I would like to be immortal.
8. I once tried to kill myself.
9. I talk to myself, and I reply too.
10. I collect unusual alphabet books.
11. I have been scared of swimming in the deep end of the pool ever since I saw Jaws.

Eleven blogs I nominate for Liebster Awards
And now, here are my 11 nominees (in no particular order):

Lunar Hine

Which Main? What Cross?

Diary Of A Street Coin Collector

Home Is Where The Art Is

Infinite Souls Farm and Artists' Retreat

The Phytophactor

Handwritten Recipes

Letters of Note

Muttering Fool

Advanced Style

Serpent Mandalas

Eleven questions for my nominees to answer on their blogs
here are my 11 questions for you to answer if you choose to accept your Liebster Award (scroll down after the questions to see the rules and guidelines for how to go about accepting the award).

1. Does your mother know you're here?
2. What do you like shopping for?
3. What is your favourite time of day to sit down and blog?
4. What is the most magical place you've ever visited?
5. Have you ever cried with joy?
6. If you could meet me, would you want to?
7. What inspired you to start this particular blog?
8. Have you ever written fan-mail to a celebrity?
9. What's the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up and open your eyes?
10. What's the last thing you do at night before you close your eyes and go to sleep?
11. Where are your keys?

The Official Rules of the Liebster Award:
(thanks to Lorraine Reguly for providing this information)

"If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:
1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)
6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.
7. List these rules in your post. (You can copy and paste them from here) (and link to Lorraine's blog to thank her if you like, as I've done above - Naz.)

Once you have written your post, and published it, you then have to:
8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)
I would like to add that you can nominate someone who already has been given this award, as long as they have less than 1000 followers/subscribers. The idea behind this award is to recognize new bloggers and help promote them! The benefit is that you get from doing this is that you get some promotion, too!"