Wednesday, 24 August 2011

School Shadows

I wrote this for Kombai , my friend Prema's blog, but it fits here as well...

In between the two main sets of buildings that make up our school is the main staircase and the toilets. In a winding set of buildings full of loud girls and sunlight this is the only quiet shaded place - this windowless section where high school and junior connect.

The main staircase, the "Golden staircase" as it's called because of the pale golden tiles the nuns polish regularly, is out of bounds to small feet. It's for visitors only. No-one walks on the Golden staircase... or at least that's what the nuns think. Sometimes we sneak there in the early morning and slide down it when no-one can see us. Girls stifling giggles as they zoom down steps that gleam pale gold in the dawn sunlight. I'm sure the nuns would find it apt that we always used the staircase to descend.

In winter, when the staircase is all in shadows. We'll sit in a huddle in the dark near the doorway to the stairs and tell ghost stories of the half nun who is said to float through that section. Only half of her, from the waist up... Very strange, but we never bother to wonder why. Who cares! A ghost story is not meant to make sense. It's meant to be creepy and half a nun is definitely very creepy!

Problem is when you need to go to the toilet... alone. Then half nuns floating in the shadows doesn't seem so much fun. But I'm never afraid, I know I'm watched by other eyes. In the cool shadows beside the stairs there's a picture in a frame. I remember the first day of school, being rushed past it and wondering what the words were. It's a big picture, big as a movie poster. It's an angel painted in soft golds.

The words are a prayer I didn't know before I joined this different world of nuns and girls. This world of women can be overwhelming, noisy, emotionally charged. Girls becoming women are their own poltergeists. Girls becoming women taught by women who have given up being women... it's a strange place. A half world of fragments of being. No-one is whole. No wonder even the ghosts are in portions!

But the angel is whole. The angel in the cool shadows is complete and in time I will get to read all the words and remember them when I need to pass through the stairway in the dark on winter mornings. Over the years I've spoken them in my head on many a dark journey. Warm golden promises for those who walk in the cool shadows.

Today I stumbled upon the prayer on a website... an accident? I'm not so sure. One of the girls who used to fly down those stairs died last week of cancer. She was buried yesterday.

So one of us finally got to fly up the Golden Staircase...

Angel of God,
my guardian dear,
to whom God's love commits me here,
ever this day,
be at my side
to light and guard,
to rule and guide.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Feeling Funny

Well... two months of blood tests and scans and the doctor still isn't sure what's up with my hands. Some fingers are numb and other fingers are over sensitive so that even the slightest touch is painful. Water feels like gritty sand, my favourite fluffy blanket feels like a door mat. Continued pressure, like holding a cup or clicking the mouse button, starts to build up tingling and electric "shocks" that turn into burning pain. It can feel like my hands are on fire.

You don't really realise how much you use your fingers until you can't use them. Typing has become... challenging. Any posts you read here nowadays were written in carefully measured segments of working a bit - resting a bit. Dressing, eating, brushing my teeth or holding a cup, turning a book page... I no longer take any of it for granted.

But this post is actually about an even more important touch that many of us take for granted - the touch of another hand.

You see, when I was sent for blood tests last month my doctor decided to check all diseases that might cause these symptoms. Since I had a blood transfusion in an African hospital prior to 1989 I'm considered at risk of having caught hepatitis or HIV. I was tested for both last month and I'm glad to say I'm fine on both counts, but the experience of those tests was eye-opening.

I've had at least seven sets of blood tests since this started and all of them were the same routine for the nurses - once they've taken the blood they hold some cotton wool over the area to stop the bleeding and then put a plaster over the spot. Most of them chat a lot as they work. I think they do that because some people are nervous around needles.

But on the day I went for the HIV testing it was quite different. She was chatty until she saw what test I was down for. She did say she'd never had to do an HIV test before and then she went quiet... and put on extra gloves. For the first time I felt scared having blood taken, because her nervous-tense silence made me feel weirdly alone and isolated.

After she took the needle out she hesitated... then handed me the cotton wool. I held it to the tiny spot of blood on my arm, wondering if I'd imagined her hesitation. Was I being paranoid? Was I just feeling weird because this was the only blood test that implied you'd done something "wrong" in order to contract the disease, even if we know now that many innocent people get HIV and AIDS?

So I figured maybe I was just being paranoid, until it was time to take away the blood-stained cotton and put on the plaster. She just froze - staring at my arm as if the cotton ball was a cobra. She looked so unhappy and guilty. I took it off myself, rolled it tight in a tissue I had in my pocket. Her smile of relief was HUGE. She took it quickly and threw it in the bin. Putting on the plaster was a similar scene - fear and acting as fast as possible with as little contact as possible.

I felt more alone than I ever have in any medical situation before, but it did get me thinking...

what is it like to have people not want to touch you
every single moment of every day?

No-one to comfort you with a hug when you're sad or a pat on the arm when you're scared. No-one to hold out their hand to help you, or to welcome you. Not because they're not there to do it, but because they're too afraid, or repulsed, to touch you. I can't think of anything more lonely.

We sometimes forget how important human touch is to human well-being.

I'm proud to say my mom knows better. In the early 1980s, when AIDS was the new terror in the news, we were in town shopping. We noticed the crowds all moving away from one area of the shopping mall - they were all avoiding a small table with two young men standing behind it. As we walked closer you could see the sign and pamphlets on the table. We recognised them then - it was two young men who had been on the news. They were on a charity cycling tour, to help raise money for AIDS awareness.

they both were infected.

They stood there in complete isolation. One was trying to smile - the other was clearly in a bad mood. Can't say I blame him when everyone was moving to the far wall to go past their area of the Mall. My mom made a bee-line to their table. I went with her. I watched the looks of shock on the young men's faces as she asked them if she could take a pamphlet and how to give a donation. It was nothing in comparison to the stunned expressions when she held out her hand. My mom shook both their hands before we left and so did I. As we walked away we turned to wave and I remember the BEAMING smiles of those two young men as they waved back.

It only took a few seconds of human touch to brighten their entire day. Just one hand in another.

a handshake
a pat on the arm

a hug...

you hold the power
to make a wonderful difference
to someone alone or scared or sad

Never forget it.


Sunday, 21 August 2011

In Remembery

Yesterday I was sent news that a schoolfriend of mine had passed away. It was a shock - I never even knew she'd been seriously ill. I've been thinking about the past times we shared, remembering so many things...

She was a good friend and, briefly in our early teens, a formidable enemy. She was a really good artist. She once saved a hamster from the school bully. She was creative, sensitive, passionate... complicated. She had fears and flaws, as we all do. I'm sure she grew out of a lot of them. I'm sure she found new "grown up" fears and flaws to replace them. That's what being human is all about, after all.

We muddle along - we do the best we can - we die.

It sounds a bit grim put so bluntly, but it's not that way at all. Being alive is a huge, and wonderful tapestry of happenings, choices, paths rejected and journeys taken. A human life isn't a book, it's a whole series!

I only knew her for a portion of her childhood and teenage volumes. We lived in the same town and stopped to chat over our adult years, but that was more like flicking through a few pages than reading the entire book. I don't really know who she grew up to be. I don't know who she was when she died.

What I do know is that she was a part of my life for many years and I can't remember those years without remembering her.

That's why this tribute isn't "in memory", but

In Remembery

For Jenni
1963 ~ 2011

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Queen's Meme - 7 Royal Questions

It's been ages since I did a Meme, but I just couldn't resist this one, by Queen Mimi. In her words:
The Queen's Meme - 7 Royal Questions

The Random Meme is well...random. Haphazard. No synchronicity. No rhyme or reason. I'm allowed once in awhile to be random. So I looked deep into the recesses of a tired pencil brain today and wrote down the first thing that popped into my head. That's a dangerous proposition. I hope you enjoy this totally random meme.

I did enjoy it a lot. :-) Thanks Mimi, I've been sadly lacking in inspiration lately.

here are the questions, and my answers. Anyone wanting to play please add your link to Mimi's original meme post HERE.

1. What is your favorite summertime flower?

with extra creamy cheesy sauce and grilled chicken on the side.
(can you tell I haven't had lunch today?)

2. Are you behind on your blog?

Am I a behind on my blog???

Oh wait... wrong question.

Since you assked... yes, I'm behind on everything lately,
blogs, emails, cleaning houses, life in general...
but never on my "100 Reasons for Peace" thimbles. ;-)

3. What has irritated you the most recently?

Most? World News.

4. What was your last Facebook status post?

A joke I copied from a friend:
I Just figured out why I am overweight! The shampoo I use in the shower that runs down my body says, "For extra volume and body." I'm going to start using "Dawn" dish soap. It says, "Dissolves fat that is otherwise difficult to remove". Re post if you have the same issue...

5. When is the last time you laughed?

When I found the L'Oreal joke graphic above. :-D

6. What can absolutely ruin your day?

A whole day? Nothing I can think of.
I tend to get intensely emotional (angry/sad/scared) and then get over it,
so nothing is likely to ruin an entire day for me
...but during the 'intense' times you are advised to run and hide.

7. What is the one thing that always brightens your day?

a hug. :-)

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Boy? Girl?

Hubby's new "friend", the baby wild crow, has been back several times since she first popped into our lives on the 1st of August. I put "she", because from the first meeting hubby has been convinced 'Corry' (short nickname form of Corvid) is a girl crow.

Girl? Boy?
Was there a way to tell?
Crows really don't give their gender away in feather colours or body shapes, like some bird species do.

So the other day I took time to really watch and observe, to decide for myself.

When hubby's in the garden Corry walks with him, talking constantly...

When he turned his back and pretended to ignore the constant chatting...

Corry became annoyed and tugged at his trousers!

Which leads me to think hubby is right - Corry is a girl.
Only a girl would become annoyed when a man stops listening to her. ;-)

The final proof for me that Corry is female is her reaction to me. Corry was nervous of me at first, so hubby gave me a kiss, to prove I was a friend.

Corry looked me up and down with distinct disapproval...

...before turning her back on me and walking away.

I think I have a rival. ;-)

Monday, 8 August 2011

Corvid Conviviality ;-)

Last Monday was a really strange day. I had to be at the hospital early, with my mom who had to stay there all day for her operation pre-assessment. and dad had to ALSO be at the hospital in the afternoon, to be booked in for surgery the next day.

So hubby played taxi service all day, including taking dad into town in the morning, to run some errands before he went in to hospital. Hubby had just returned home from dropping us off when he heard a crow "cawing" and talking to itself... from below?

He looked down... and there at his feet was a baby crow!

It decided hubby is the new "uncle".
It flew up onto the gate and started "chatting" to him...

then flew up onto his shoulder and started nibbling his glasses!
He took these photos with his mobile phone, including this one below, of Baby sitting on his shoulder.

Dad saw it all through the window. He went out and took this photo of hubby holding Baby Crow, who had been trying to eat a rubber stopper that had fallen off our lawnmower handle.

And here he is trying to remove freckles from Hubby's arm.
This "game" didn't last too long!

'Where did my freckly arm go?'

'Oh, There you are!'

By the time I got home with mom it was gone, but the next morning it came back and "chatted" to us both through the bedroom window. It tolerates me, but Hubby is definitely its favourite human.

This morning we found it sitting on the front step investigating a parcel the postman had left for me. Cheeky blighter! ;-)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Scenic Sunday

Last Sunday hubby and I took brother-in-law for a drive. It was cloudy, but it never rained. In fact, it was surprisingly warm and a really pleasant day. :-)

I was able to take some really nice photos at all the places we stopped along the way. We started off from Inverness, heading out along the Moray Firth towards Beauly, then on around to Drumnadrochit and Loch Ness before heading back home.

This first photo was taken from a parking lay by, looking back along the Beauly River. (for a much bigger view just click on the photo.

The flowers were such a wonderful colour...

Further along stopped at the edge of a field for a picnic lunch. I saw these "dots" up against the fence and went to look at them.

They were tiny white flowers!

On the way home we stopped at a plant nursery, up on the hills near Inverness, for a cup of tea. The view was just stunning!

Although these horses looked a bit bored by it all. :-)

I took four photos (in the front parking) to create a "panorama view. You'll need to click on this to open it to full size.

The nursery had a lovely shop full of gifts and goodies. Outside the old farm steading has been turned into a plant nursery. I saw these amazing metallic flowers there. They were so pretty. No idea what they are.

We all agreed that it really was a great day out and about. :-)