Friday, 27 July 2007

Celtic Blessing of the Elements

Grace of the love of the skies be thine,

Grace of the love of the stars be thine,
Grace of the love of the moon be thine,
Grace of the love of the sun be thine,
Grace of the love and the crown of heaven be thine.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

A Good tradition of Love and Hate.


"There's a good tradition of love and hate staying by the fireside.. "
Sung by Tanita Tikaram

There's a good traditional belief that love and hate between people can be predicted by astrology. I disagree with those good traditions. I don't think love can ever be completely based on the stars, or any other tabulated system. Astrology cannot make you fall in love, nor make the person of your dreams love you. Astrology cannot create love, nor can it promise perfect happiness - that is up to you. Even when you do find that "perfect match" person it is still up to you. Love is not the end of a fairy tale, it's the beginning of an epic saga.

Personally, I don't think astrology should be used to pick your friends and lovers. For me the attraction of astrology is how it can be used as a way of making already existing relationships work better, rather than predicting "love" or "hate" for the two people involved. As anyone who has ever been in love can vouch - the border between love and hate can be remarkably foggy at times!

Astrology's gift is not the fact it can tell you who is right for you, but rather the fact that it can point out the potential problems and weak spots between people. It can show you the areas of your personalities where you both need to adjust in order to make the relationship "fit" better. Because ultimately all relationships, from parents and partners to friends and family, only thrive when they are based upon good communication and the willingness of both sides to compromise when necessary.

In Western Astrology many publications focus solely on Sun signs, which is rather like basing your whole choice of partner on what shoes they wear. Western astrology is far more complex than Sun signs alone. Any good astrologer will tell you that you need to know the person's entire chart, as well as your own, in order to make any kind of evaluation. You need to be able to compare the other major planets.

To give a very brief example:
Moon signs will show up how you both react to life and each other on an intuitive-emotional level. Do you "connect" without words or do you both struggle to get your personal feelings understood by the other?
Mercury signs will show if you both think alike, or have very different ways of thinking and communicating. Could you work together or do you both need separate careers?
Venus will show your attitudes to love and what you want from a romantic relationship. It also governs money so Venus can also point out who is the miser and who is the spendaholic. Venus can tell whether
you should both be considering separate bank accounts!
Mars signs govern energy and aggression. They will show how you react in anger as well as why one of you wants to be off mountain climbing at dawn while the other prefers to sleep in late and watch TV all weekend. Mars will show who enjoys fighting and who prefers to give into keep the peace.. or sulk in seething silence.

Chinese astrology is equally complex and, once again, you need to know both the animal symbols and the elements. The relationship between the elements is particularly interesting. Remember that children's game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors"? The Chinese Elements follow a similar concept. Each element has the ability to conquer, or be conquered, by another element. These are the elements that are seen as hostile towards each other. But unlike that childhood game the Chinese elements each have the ability to nurture another.

Water makes plants grow and creates life
- Water people nurture and are good for Wood people
Wood burns to create fire, warmth and protection
- Wood people nurture and are good for Fire people
Fire dwells in the depth of our Planet and gives it life
- Fire people nurture and are good for Earth people
Earth gives us our ores, minerals and precious stones
- Earth people nurture and are good for Metal people
Metal (to the Chinese) creates steam and water
- Metal people nurture and are good for Water people


Water puts out Fire
Water people dominate Fire people
Fire melts Metal
- Fire people dominate Metal people
Metal saws and axes are used to cut down trees
- Metal people dominate Wood people
Wooden tools dig into the Earth
- Wood people dominate Earth people
Earth absorbs Water
- Earth people dominate Water people

Although these are seen as "bad" compatibility connections it is possible to have a happy relationship between a dominant and weak element - provided the dominant person does not take advantage of their "power". It also should be pointed out that a dominant person who becomes a bully runs the risk of forcing the weaker element person to survive in the relationship by resorting to underhand tactics, such as emotional blackmail and manipulation.

Ultimately both Chinese and Western Astrology are only a means of understanding ourselves and others better, not Harry Potter's magic wand. The truth is that every relationship is made up of two ordinary people who bring with them all their "baggage" of past history, flaws and phobias. Since there are no perfect human beings so there cannot be any perfect relationships. There are only wonderful, miraculous, horribly complicated flawed real people. If you can accept that fact, and learn to rejoice in those horrible yet wondrous complications, you will find love and you will have that enduring relationship.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Creative Blogger Award


I am so thrilled to recieve the Creative Blogger award from a blogger I admire for her own creative writing style - HollyGL. I'll be grinning like a Cheshire cat all weekend now!

I've copied the information and history of this award from HollyGL.

This award originated with Christy at Writers Reviews, and is "for those who bring unique and creative elements to their blogs. For those who incorporate art, music, creative writing, photo's, and other beautiful visual effects into their website. For those who put a unique spin on things and come up with new
ideas. This award is for the artsy, the funky, the inventor, and even the rebel. This award is for those creative individuals who stand out from the crowd."

My choice of "creative individuals who stand out from the crowd" are:
Twilight for her unique personal thoughts on astrology
Amel for her "three beautiful things" concept
Sadiq for a blog that feeds the eyes, ears and soul
Jeff Lilly for changing the way I view words forever

...and the rules:
1) If you have received an award simply choose either the dark or light background image and save it to your files, then post it proudly on your blog!

2) Pass the award on to five other people, you can choose any of the awards from the series, you do not have to pass out the exact award you received. Choose whichever of the awards below that you'd like to give out. You can give out one of each or five of the same one, whatever you prefer.

3) You can change the size and color of awards to suit your blog, that's up to you, it's your blog, just leave the titles the same.

4) Please link back to this post so that people can read these rules and so that the meanings of the awards will not be lost.

5) If you feel that you or a friend are deserving of an award and no one has given one to you yet then email me at sayhitochristy(at) and tell me about your website.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

The Critter

Edited to add that this entry has been entered into the Artsy Essay contest. Thank you Random for letting me know, and thank you Judith for a great idea! :-)

Judith Heart Song Artsy Essay Contest
What is your favorite and most inspiring possession? Tell us about it, and if you want an extra creative challenge... tell us about it without naming it until the very last sentence of your essay:):):)

Fifteen years ago I found myself in a ramshackle repair shop on the edge of town. My mom's clothes drier needed a new fan belt and we'd been told this shop was our best bet. The "shop" was an old barn that was crammed full of broken electric appliances and greasy parts on rickety hand-made shelves. While I waited to be served I noticed something odd huddled in a corner. A strange and very grubby piece of.. furniture? Or was it a wooden box? No, not a box as it had legs. What on earth was it?

The man behind the counter noticed my stare and called out "You can have the filing cabinet for R20 (about £1.50) if you want it."

And that's how I ended up returning home with "the critter".

The Critter was the ugliest piece of furniture I have ever seen as well as the most bizarre. It's whole charm lay in that combination. Basically it was made of up of three separate portions. The "body" was a large wooden drawer rather like a huge wooden shoe box in shape. It had a little black handle in the centre that looked just like a bulbous nose. This box fitted onto a frame with long wooden legs and an extra shoe-box type "lid" fitted on top. Put together it stood about hip height and looked just like some strange fantasy animal from Alice's looking glass world.

While cleaning it up my mom and I discovered that it was made of solid oak and cleaned up to a very lovely mellow sheen. We also found, wedged at the back of the drawer, five ancient business cards. They were very aged, but the name and address was still legible. It was a law firm in our home town. My mom checked, but the firm no longer existed. However she did find that the name of the solicitor on the card was still in the phone book so she gave him a call out of curiosity.

He was stunned. Even though he was now in his nineties he remembered the Critter well. He'd been 18 when he joined the firm, got those business cards and bought the Critter. The reason why it had a separate top and legs was that it was a radical new idea in office furniture. You could buy extra modules and drawers to increase it's size over time. As it turned out he never bought any more drawers for the Critter and when he eventually had his office renovated he sold it and bought a nice new steel cabinet with four drawers. He asked us if we'd let him have the business cards, which we did.

Now that I knew the Critter's past it started to seem even more charming. For all it's ugliness it was to be a very handy piece of furniture. When I was at college it held all my papers and documents beautifully filed away in it's innards. Later when I started sewing for myself it held every single pattern in two perfectly filed rows and my sewing machine fitted just perfectly on top. Then, when I got my computer the top was where I had my first bulky dot matrix printer and later still it held my scanner and served as storage for all my computer related bits and bobs. That one huge drawer was always just the right size for whatever I wanted to store and the sturdy frame meant it could carry weights other lesser furniture couldn't cope with. Added to that the long tall legs meant that all sorts could be stored beneath it from boxes and books to waste paper bins and printer paper trays. For fifteen years it wedged itself neatly into any odd corner or empty spot and it was always useful.

So why the past tense? Sadly I had to let the critter go when I married and moved to the UK. The price of sending my stuff was too high to justify keeping the Critter and so I had to put it up for sale. The first couple who came to view were very enthusiastic and so was I until they started to say how it was a bit bigger than what they needed, but once they'd cut the legs down and got rid of the false top it would be perfect. WHAT?? Hand the Critter over to butchers? NEVER!! I told them I was very sorry, but I couldn't sell it to them and they left looking very confused.

The second person looked untrustworthy and admitted he was after "something for the stuff in the garage" so he left disappointed as well. Finally I struck gold with the third man. A wispy birdlike man who ran a local antique store. He ran his hands over the Critter like a horse breeder admiring a thoroughbred and spoke in soft tones about "craftsmanship". He knew about the removable top with it's little ball and groove clips and he even knew the name of the manufacturers. After a brief negotiation I waved goodbye to the Critter lovingly wrapped up in an old blanket on the back of his trailer. It was a sad moment, but at least I know it went to a good home.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Are you the Black Sheep of the family?

This is an adaptation of a longer article I wrote in 2003. All the pictures were on transparent backgrounds, but for some reason they went a bit weird once I went beyond "preview" to "publish post".

The first thing you need to know about Chinese astrology is that there are actually 60 year signs, not 12. There are 12 symbolic animal signs and 5 elements that together form a permutation cycle of 60 years. (There are also day and month signs, but we'll just stick with the basic 60 year signs here)

So how do you figure out your complete year sign? Well, the Chinese new year is a complicated event based on the first new moon at the end of winter/beginning of spring. If you're born in January or February you need to check with a good Chinese calendar to see which year you fall into.

To list all 60 sign combinations here isn't practical, so I'm simply going to give the 12 animals and the 5 elements and the basics on how those elements affect the signs.

The twelve animals, in order of appearance to Buddha Himself, are:

Rat - Intelligent, charming, ambitious, hard-working and hyperactive. Think Mickey Mouse combined with Bill Gates. Rats are born to achieve.

Ox (also called Buffalo) - Patient, persistent, clear-thinking, stubborn and powerful. The original "immovable object." Oxen are born hard-workers.

Tiger - Courageous, charismatic, Impulsive, generous and persuasive. All Tigers are restless at heart. Tigers are born to rebel.

Rabbit (also called Cat) - Diplomatic, intuitive, friendly, sensitive and peace-loving. Like Brer Rabbit, they can be cunning. Rabbits are born to adapt.

Dragon - Fearless, irresistible, idealistic, and self-sufficient. Dragons think they can conquer the world. Dragons are born to blaze ahead.

Snake - Sophisticated, sensual, wise, efficient and self-contained. Mesmerising and unique. Snakes are born to charm.

Horse - Cheerful, noble, energetic, unselfish and temperamental. Think of the wild mustangs of America. Horses are born to be free.

Goat (also called Sheep) - Creative, peaceful, imaginative, eccentric and disorganised. The "arty" types. Goats are born to be creative.

Monkey - Entertaining, likeable, witty, and resourceful. These people ARE the barrel full of monkeys! Monkeys are born to scheme.

Rooster (also called Chicken or Bird) - Honest, flamboyant, generous, thoughtless and critical. From the proud peacock to the strutting cockerel, Roosters are born to survive.

Dog - Loyal, idealistic, individualistic, faithful yet wary. Dogs are champions of the weak. Dogs are born to protect.

Pig (also called Boar) - Cultured, determined, trusting and kind-hearted. Sometimes excessive, Pigs are born to want the good things in life.

The elements and how they affect the 12 animal signs:

Water - called "Black" - this gives extra creativity and sensitivity. Combined with strong or forceful animals Water makes them more gentle and adaptable. Combined with mild animals Water makes them more creative, but more indecisive.

Wood - called "Green" - this gives warmth and humanity. Wood people enjoy working with their hands and are happiest when busy. Wood makes all the animal signs more caring and co-operative.

Fire - called "Red" - this gives energy and inspiration. Fire is more emotional and excitable than the other elements. All signs are more forceful with Fire as their element.

Earth - Called "Brown" - this gives patience and common-sense. Earth makes all signs more practical, but also more stubborn. Earth people are faithful and loyal, but demand praise and loyalty in return.

Metal - called "White" - this gives power and strength. Metal makes the signs bolder, but also more stubborn and intolerant of new ideas or change.

To use myself as the example. I'm born in 1963. So I'm a Black/Water Rabbit. A double combination of creative and sensitive with a strong tendency to drift off in mid-conversation. Water Rabbits aren't exactly "solid", but we are nice. :-)


1930~White Horse. 1931~White Goat. 1932~Black Monkey. 1933~Black Rooster. 1934~Green Dog. 1935~Green Pig. 1936~Red Rat. 1937~Red Ox. 1938~Brown Tiger. 1939~Brown Rabbit. 1940~White Dragon. 1941~White Snake. 1942~Black Horse. 1943~Black Goat. 1944~Green Monkey. 1945~Green Rooster. 1946~Red Dog. 1947~Red Pig. 1948~Brown Rat. 1949~Brown Ox. 1950~White Tiger. 1951~White Rabbit. 1952~Black Dragon. 1953~Black Snake. 1954~Green Horse. 1955~Green Goat. 1956~Red Monkey. 1957~Red Rooster. 1958~Brown Dog. 1959~Brown Pig. 1960~White Rat. 1961~White Ox. 1962~Black Tiger. 1963~Black Rabbit. 1964~Green Dragon. 1965~Green Snake. 1966~Red Horse. 1967~Red Goat. 1968~Brown Monkey. 1969~Brown Rooster. 1970~White Dog. 1971~White Pig. 1972~Black Rat. 1973~Black Ox. 1974~Green tiger. 1975~Green Rabbit. 1976~Red Dragon. 1977~Red Snake. 1978~Brown Horse. 1979~Brown Goat. 1980~White monkey. 1981~White Rooster. 1982~Black Dog. 1983~Black Pig. 1984~Green Rat. 1985~Green Ox. 1986~Red Tiger. 1987~Red Rabbit. 1988~Brown Dragon. 1989~Brown Snake. 1990~White Horse. 1991~White Goat. 1992~Black Monkey. 1993~Black Rooster. 1994~Green Dog. 1995~Green Pig. 1996~Red Rat. 1997~Red Ox. 1998~Brown Tiger. 1999~Brown Rabbit. 2000~White Dragon. 2001~White Snake. 2002~Black Horse. 2003~Black Goat. 2004~Green Monkey. 2005~Green Rooster. 2006~Red Dog. 2007~Red Pig. 2008~Brown Rat.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Songs by Signs

Taking up the tag Jeff left me I've decided to do something different with the song theme. I'm going to combine two loves of mine - music and Chinese astrology. I've picked songs or musicians I love, but made it more of a challenge by also finding ones with lyrics that fit each sign as well as being written/performed by musicians from that sign. (whew!)

Rat - Intelligent, charming, ambitious, hard-working and hyperactive. Think Mickey Mouse combined with Bill Gates. Rats are born to achieve. Famous Rats: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cat Stevens, Donna Summer, Grace Jones, Katie Melua, Kim Wilde, Mick Hucknall, Olivia Newton-John.

My song choice is "So Beautiful" by Mick Hucknal/Simply Red

I was listening to this conversation
Noticing my daydream stimulated me more
I was crumbling with anticipation
You'd better send me home before I tumble down to the floor

You're so beautiful but oh so boring
I'm wondering what am I doing here
So beautiful but oh so boring, I'm wondering
If anyone out there really cares

Ox (also called Buffalo) - Patient, persistent, clear-thinking, stubborn and powerful. The original "immovable object." Oxen are born hard-workers. Famous Oxen: Jon Bon Jovi, Sammy Davis Jr, Bruce Springsteen

My song choice is "Dancing in the Dark" by Bruce Springsteen

I get up in the evening
and I ain't got nothing to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain't nothing but tired
Man I'm just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help

You can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire
even if we're just dancing in the dark

Tiger - Courageous, charismatic, Impulsive, generous and persuasive. All Tigers are Tigger at heart. Tigers are born to rebel. Famous Tigers: Roberta Flack, Lionel Ritchie, Kenny Rogers, Stevie Wonder, Robbie Williams

My song choice is "No Regrets" by Robbie Williams

I didn't lose my mind it was
Mine to give away
Couldn't stay to watch me cry
You didn't have the time
So I softly slip away...

No regrets they don't work
No regrets they only hurt
Sing me a love song
Drop me a line
Suppose it's just a point of view
But they tell me I'm doing fine

Rabbit (also called Cat) - Diplomatic, intuitive, friendly, sensitive and peace-loving. Like Brer Rabbit, they can be cunning. Rabbits are born to adapt. Famous Rabbits: Seal, Phil Collins, Harry Belafonte, Whitney Houston, Julian Lennon, Neil Simon, Dusty Springfield, Sting

My song choice is "Englishman in New York" by Sting

Takes more than combat gear to make a man
Takes more than license for a gun
Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can
A gentleman will walk but never run

If manners maketh man as someone said
Then he's the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

Dragon - Fearless, irresistible, idealistic, and self-sufficient. Dragons think they can conquer the world. Dragons are born to blaze ahead. Famous Dragons: Count Basie, Bing Crosby, Neil Diamond, Placido Domingo, Tom Jones, John Lennon, Cliff Richard, Ringo Starr,

My song choice is "Forever in Blue Jeans" by Neil Diamond

Money talks
But it don't sing and dance
And it cant walk
As long as I can have you here with me
Id much rather be
Forever in blue jeans

Snake - Sophisticated, sensual, wise, efficient and self-contained. Mesmerising and unique. Snakes are born to charm. Famous Snakes: Bob Dylan, Paul Simon AND Art Garfunkel, , Dean Martin, Dionne Warwick, Shania Twain.

My song choice is "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkle

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

Horse - Cheerful, noble, energetic, unselfish and temperamental. Think of the wild mustangs of America. Horses are born to be free. Famous horses: Barbara Streisand, Paul McCartney, Chopin. Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Geldof, Jimi Hendrix, Janet Jackson, Nelly Furtado

My song choice is "I'm like a Bird" by Nellie Furtado
I'm like a bird, I'll only fly away
I don't know where my soul is,
I don't know where my home is
All I need for you to know is
I'm like a bird, I'll only fly away

Your faith in me brings me to tears
Even after all these years
And it pains me so much to tell
That you don't know me that well

Goat (also called Sheep) - Creative, peaceful, imaginative, eccentric and disorganised. The "arty" types. Goats are born to be creative. Famous Goats: Mick Jagger, John Denver, Julio Englesias,

My song choice is "Rocky Mountain High" by John Denver

He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below,
he saw everything as far as you can see.
And they say that he got crazy once and he tried to touch the sun,
and he lost a friend, but kept the memory.
Now he walks in quiet solitude, the forest and the streams,
seeking grace in every step he takes.
His sight is turned inside himself, to try and understand
the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake.

And the Colorado Rocky Mountain high,
I've seen it raining fire in the sky.
I know he'd be a poor man if he never saw an eagle fly,
Rocky Mountain high..

Monkey - Entertaining, likeable, witty, and resourceful. These people ARE the barrel full of monkeys! Monkeys are born to scheme. Famous Monkeys: Shaggy, Johnny Cash, Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, Kiri Te Kanawa. Christina Aguilera, Will Smith, Celine Dion, Kylie Minogue.

My song choice is "Let's Talk about love" by Celine Dion

Everywhere I go all the places that I've been
Every smile is a new horizon on a land I've never seen
There are people around the world - different faces different names
But there's one true emotion that reminds me we're the same...
Lets talk about love

Rooster (also called Chicken or Bird) - Honest, flamboyant, generous, thoughtless and critical. From the proud peacock to the strutting cockerel, Roosters are born to survive. Famous Roosters: Wagner, Strauss, Natasha Bedingfield, Bob Marley, Jennifer Lopez, Josh Groban, Eric Clapton, Bette Midler, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton,

My song choice is "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Oh, oh, oh
I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We've been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can't live that way

Dog - Loyal, idealistic, individualistic, faithful yet wary. Dogs are champions of the weak. Dogs are born to protect. Famous Dogs: Cher, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Kate Bush, Madonna, Liza Minnelli, Prince, Sade

My song choice is "Starman" by David Bowie

There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He's told us not to blow it
Cause he knows its all worthwhile

Pig (also called Boar) - Cultured, determined, trusting and kind-hearted. Sometimes excessive, Pigs are born to want the good things in life. Famous Pigs: Ali Campbell of UB40, Mika, Bryan Adams, Elton John, Jerry Lee Lewis, Marie Osmond.

My choice is "Bring me your Cup" by UB40

I've got the bottle, bring me your cup
Pop the cork, and try a sup
And when you're empty, Ill fill you up
Well drink it down till the sun comes up


I forgot the rules!
1. Each person who wants to join in has to write about
5-10 songs that had an impact on them in their life.
2. They should link back to me as well as Jeff.
(his link is in his name here or on the left under psychosomatic wit)
3. Then, if so inclined, tag one to five more people.

I am tagging two people:

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The Scent of Freedom

I actually wrote this in hospital on the back of a Get well card, waiting to come home and start a blog. I'm cheating and bringing it forward, because back in April virtually no-one read my blog and this is still my favourite post. :-)

There she goes again. Second time this afternoon. Purposeful and brisk. Never stopping or looking about. I watch her from my hospital bed for a few brief moments of hallway between glass walls and double doors and then she's gone again.

I can't remember when I first realised she was going past over and over. The first day after an operation everything is surreal and disjointed. You sleep, they wake you. You sleep again. In between you feel bad and nurses come and go. Nothing feels real and time has no meaning, but somewhere in the middle of all that blurriness I began to notice the walking lady.

At first I thought she worked at the hospital. She walks with such purpose and determination. Then, somewhere between the first day and the second, I notice the hospital name tag on her wrist and the slippers on her feet. That's a surprise. She's one of "us", a patient.

Day two is long and boring. I watch out for her and notice the details. She's dressed in pyjamas and a cardigan. Her straight grey hair frames a narrow face. She's small and slim, wiry even. She never glances into our ward on her trips, but what I can see of her face shows an expression that is serious, determined and intense. In the afternoon the nurses take out the last of the drips and tubes and I can finally walk without dragging hospital hardware along with me. The freedom is exhilarating. I even dare the distance to that double doorway. From here I can look both left and right along the passageway. It hardly sounds much, but even walking to the doorway is a stunning achievement from the "me" of the day before who couldn't roll over when the nurses changed the sheets. I stand till I'm tired then go back to sit by my bed. The walking lady goes by and I wonder at the time she takes between passing and returning. Always so determined and intense, like a wild animal setting out on a hunt. Yes, that's it. She's a little wild fox. Not tense, not stressed, but with every fibre of her being is focussed on her purpose.

On day three I venture into the great unknown. I know that the best way to speed up getting out of here is exercise so, slow and wobbly, I walk first left to the entrance doors to the floor and then back along past my ward, around the L bend corner and on down to the very end of the passageway. On the way back I glance into another ward and see the Fox lady putting on her slippers. I stop by the nurse's station and read a poster on detecting tumours to give her time to reach me. She almost makes it past me, but I smile and say, "MORNING!" as loud as I can. She blinks and winces.. smiles slightly.

"You're walking?" she states more than asks. I nod and tell her proudly about how I've managed to reach both ends of the passage today. She glances beyond me the way cats do when they don't really want you to stop and notice them, but she isn't unkind. She does the polite thing and lets me tell my story. Then she looks me in the face and says, "I go to the stairwells, when I walk." She sees the puzzled look on my face and explains, "There's a stairwell at the end of the passage. If you go through the doors you'll find them. No-one uses them. I go there for the fresh air and the view. I can see the hills from there," She pauses, "my farm house is beyond them." Abruptly she turns and walks away - the lure of the stairwell too strong to resist. I think of saying I'll walk with her, but she's already strides ahead and I can sense company is not what she craves. I go back to my ward, but later when I take a second walk I decide to try the stairwells.

At the end of the passage there are fire escape doors. Feeling a little foolish and furtive I try a door. It's a bit heavy, but it opens. Behind is a wide tiled flight of stairs. Surprisingly modern and stylish with chrome rails, pale cream tiles and huge expanses of window reaching from ceiling to floor. They look more like the stairs to upmarket offices or apartments than a hospital. A cold clear breeze is filtering up them. It's a shock after the over-heated stuffy hospital wards. I stand for a moment and sniff the air. It smells faintly of wet earth and grass. Somewhere down there a door is open to the world. The real world. I step forward onto the landing and walk across to the large glass expanse. She's right, beyond the parking and the sterile gravel areas between the hospital buildings you can see hills and trees. The sun is setting now and everything is glowing in the twilight. So beautiful.

Later that night, when I can't sleep and feel overwhelmed by heat and hospital smells, I go back and stand there in the cool crisp air, watch the moon rising above the distant trees. Now I understand what drives the walking lady. It's the scent of freedom.

Day four I watch her pacing past with new eyes. Now I understand why she reminds me of a wild creature, a little fox. This farm-living outdoor woman must feel even more trapped inside than I do. She lives in a world of wide wild windy spaces. This hospital must feel like a cage. Any lesser creature would have pined away by now, but foxes are survivors. She knows how to stay calm and observant. She knows how to feed her soul with a few quick breaths of outdoor air from the stairwell. She can bide her time till freedom comes. Little fox lady with her bright and determined eyes... taking her dose of freedom three times a day. Nothing else matters, she never stops to talk. She has better places to be than standing talking to other sick people. She has a fragment of home calling.

Day five I take a walk down to the end for the last time. Tomorrow I'm going home. I stop to say good bye to a few companions I've made on this journey. I think of the fox lady and stop by her ward. Through the glass I can see her lying on her bed. She's fully dressed and a packed travel bag and shoes are lying neatly at the foot of her bed. Her eyes are closed and she's smiling... really SMILING.

Free at last little fox? Now I'm really smiling too.


Sunday, 8 July 2007

Rocking Girl Award - Thanks Random

A big thank you to Random for the Rocking Girl award. As a once geeky teenager I cannot describe how utterly smug I feel to be finally voted as "cool". ;-)
It is so PINK! wow
Now for my nominations for the female bloggers who I think "rock".

Thank You Jeff

Thanks to Jeff for such a great complimentary write-up on my being his 5000th viewer.

Crow's Feet is particularly fascinating, because Michelle has a way of writing about spiritual, even occultic things. Yet, she is open-minded and finds herself compatible with most people's beliefs. I am learning a lot from her.

That's high praise coming from a blogger like Jeff who writes such thought-provoking and insightful blogs himself. :-)

Thursday, 5 July 2007

The Gardening Angel

Many years ago the neighbours who lived next door to my parents had a woman gardener named Eunice. We probably would have never met, except my mom saw her one lunchtime, sitting under a tree knitting. My mom had loads of wool left over from years of knitting. She asked me to go down and ask if Eunice would like it. Eunice spoke virtually no English, but it was easy to see by her beaming smile that she was interested. I gave her the bag of wool, she said thank you. We thought that was that, but the next morning, there in my parents garden, against the wall, was a brand new tiny flower bed holding a brand new bunch of seedlings.

Slowly over the years we reached an unspoken understanding. Eunice was a very proud woman. She would not take hand-outs or charity without repaying in some form. We would offer Eunice something and she would take it.. and the next morning we'd have more flowers in the garden. We gave what we could because we knew that Eunice struggled to survive. Working twice a week as a gardener is not enough to live on, even if you are living in a shack with no rent or electricity bills, but Eunice also took care of her grandchildren. Eunice is one of far too many grandparents taking care of their grandchildren in Africa - most often because the parents, their children, have died from AIDS.

We gave food, clothing and household items that Eunice would wrap up tightly before balancing them on her head to take home. All graciously accepted with a smile and then repaid for with that magical never-seen gardening work. Once she even moved and replanted a shrub to a spot she clearly considered more pleasing to the eye. And we never saw her do any of it! She must have worked before dawn, walking several kilometres to get to our house. Her repayment far outweighed our gifts in effort and thoughtfulness. She was our Gardening Angel.

Both our friendship and our flower beds increased as the years went by. Twice a week we would look out for Eunice when she came to do our neighbour's garden. She was easy to spot. Over six foot tall with a "solid" matronly figure befitting her grandmother status. Eunice never wore shoes, never lived in a real house, yet she always carried herself with dignity and grace. She knew how to make even the sickliest seedling flourish, she taught me the only Xhosa I know, and she showed me how shared humour can bridge any language barrier.

My parents left Africa almost three years ago - three years without food parcels or help for Eunice. I worry about how she is coping. This is for you Eunice - I hope you're doing okay.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

To the Miracle Workers

A while back I wrote, in The Image of God, how it amazes me how people can take suffering and create beauty from it. Last week my family and I had to deal with that concept on a smaller scale. Not suffering exactly, just loads of irritations, indignations and frustrations.

It would be nice if you could just say, "Stop the world, I want to get off", but life doesn't work like that. Life goes on regardless of how we feel. So we have to take our "lemons" and start planning a good batch of lemonade.. or a good batch of whisky sours!!

Maybe the real miracles lie in the small steps forward we take when we feel too tired to continue rather than the "big" moments. Is there more heroism in leaping into a burning building to save a child once - or in getting up every day and continually trying, never giving up, for an entire lifetime?

Raising my glass of "lemonade" to the true miracle workers:
The plodders,
the doers,
the volunteers and helpers,
the ones who keeps the cogs moving and never get noticed .