Thursday, 11 October 2018

Tell me how they Lived

Last week was the anniversary of a friend's death and next month will be one year since I lost another dear friend, both to cancer.

I get a lot of Facebook memes and emails asking us all to remember those who have died of cancer, but I'd much rather remember how they lived. I'm not saying we don't need to help fund cancer research and stay fighting, but it feels to me as if  this starts to turn the people I knew into statistics. Yes, I have friends and family who all died due to cancer, but I would much rather remember them for how they LIVED than how they died.

They are more than statistics on a graph calculating types of cancer. Same goes for those people we lose to accidents, wars and other illnesses. Every one of us has lost someone we love, one way or another.

So next time you get one of those Facebook memes or email things asking you to share because this is they way your loved one died... 
please don't tell me how your loved one died, tell me how they LIVED. 

Tell me what their favourite colour was or how they made you laugh. Tell me what they stood for, their greatest achievements and even their moments of failure. Because the way to keep your loved ones alive in your heart is to rejoice in the LIVING you shared together - not in holding on to their dying. 

Monday, 8 October 2018

Musical Monday ~ Hunger

An awesome one this week. Listen to the lyrics and you'll know what I mean. Video is superb as well.

Florence and The Machine - Hunger

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Letting go of Anger

I saw this recently and thought it worth sharing.

This is something our world needs to find other ways to deal with. We turn our grief into anger to give us energy to fight our way out of grief or fear, but in doing so... we then turn the anger on others who we hurt (or make fear us) and thus the cycle continues. 

Same with individuals... same with nations.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Work for Peace

It's a month before Blog for Peace, so I'm setting the mood with an old song that has been haunting me lately.

"Work For Peace" by Gil Scott-Heron

Americans no longer fight to keep their shores safe,
Just to keep the jobs going in the arms-making workplace.
Then they pretend to be gripped by some sort of political reflex,
But all they're doing is paying dues to the Military Industrial Complex.

The Military and the Monetary,
get together whenever they think its necessary,

They turn our brothers and sisters into mercenaries, 
they are turning the planet into a cemetery.
The Military and the Monetary, 
use the media as intermediaries,
they are determined to keep the citizens secondary, 
they make so many decisions that are arbitrary.

The only thing wrong with Peace,
is that you can't make no money from it.

The Military and the Monetary,
they get together whenever they think its necessary,
they've turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries,
they are turning the planet, into a cemetery.

Got to work for Peace,
Peace ain't coming this way.

We should not allow ourselves to be mislead,
by talk of entering a time of Peace,
Peace is not the absence of war,
it is the absence of the rules of war and the threats of war and the preparation for war.

So this is a song about tomorrow and about how tomorrow can be better. 
If we all,
"Each one reach one, Each one try to teach one".

Nobody can do everything,
but everybody can do something,
everyone must play a part,
everyone got to go to work, Work for Peace.

Spirit Say Work, Work for Peace

Monday, 1 October 2018

Musical Monday ~ High Five

I've decided to start brightening up Mondays with music. We all need that on a Monday!

Here's my first: High Five by Sigrid

Friday, 28 September 2018

The Ultimate Radical

World politics has turned into a TV Soap the last few years, on all continents based on what I hear from friends and family abroad. No surprise that this in turn has led to some pretty heated "debates" on my Facebook wall and in my emails. I'm not one for sitting quiet if I think something is wrong or if I think something else is a great move forward.

What has surprised is how many people have leapt to the assumption that I'm "Left" which is amusing in a way since a few firmly Left friends have nagged me for NOT being Left. I'm also constantly told I'm New Age which is equally confusing. I am a Pantheist; they've been around for a very long time. 

Am I Left? I will admit that a lot of the Left parties have policies I agree with, but then again... there's a lot they stand for that I don't agree with. I've never voted for the classic Left party of Britain: Labour. I doubt I ever would. But I most certainly would NEVER vote Tory Right either.

So what are the things I'm saying and/or standing up for that have led so many of my friends (and even some family) to think of me as being a Lefty? I had to stop and think about that this morning, since it's been bothering me for weeks.

This is what I've figured out...

I support the rights of others very different from me (races/religions/sexual orientation) - This is due to what I learnt from reading about Jesus as a child. He said to love thy neighbour and then pointed out that the radically different person is our neighbour.
Matthew 22:36-40 King James Version (KJV)

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I support feminism and women's equality - Also due to Jesus. He was the first feminist I ever met. He called women "Daughters of Abraham" which was extremely radical. There is no such title. Jewish MEN were called Songs of Abraham, but women were just... nothing. Jesus changed that and gave them equal dignity and respect. He also allowed women to touch him, which was also radical back then. In fact... everything he did related to women was radical.

He spent time teaching Mary and reprimanded Martha for thinking chores should come first before spiritual studies. AND he treated her as a disciple, not merely as a woman he was talking to. This is shown in the fact Luke says she sat at his feet, which is symbolic and meaningful. Disciples being taught would sit at the feet of their teacher.
Luke 10:39

39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His Word.
Which leads me to saying I am fairly radical, same as Jesus. :) Like him, I think we have to let go of out-dated laws or ideas that no longer suit us. Like him I believe change is inevitable and to be embraced. He even promised that spirituality would change from people needing a religious leader/teacher to each person claiming their own sacred autonomy of having God's Holy Spirit within them to lead them. I fully support that as well!

I am pro choice. I think women deserve to have power over their own bodies, including pregnancy. These are my personal feelings, but they are backed up by the Bible. It strikes me as VERY odd that many Christians are against this as they are actually not aware of what the Bible says. The Old Testament states that it is the breath that is the moment of life. A foetus is not seen as living until it draws breath. This is why the crime of forcing a woman to miscarry was punished with a fine (Exodus 21:22) whilst murder of any type is punished by death.

I support the rights of children - that every child should have a peaceful, loving, healthy environment, good health care and a decent education.  That no one should ever abuse or harm ANY child. You certainly can blame this one on Jesus. He's famous for his outspoken love and protection of children.

I am not 100% pacifist, but I do try to look for better ways than war, hate and violence. I support sensible gun control, more diplomacy in politics and less frantic armament of our nations. This is in part due to common sense and having experienced war/terrorism growing up, but also due to Jesus. He proposed a very tough commandment to be better than those who harm you. To rise above it and not react blindly in hate, rage or fear. To show others respect in order to teach them respect.

Luke 6:27-31
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
I am "Green". I support alternative energy, less cruelty in how we deal with animals (wild and domestic), more recycling and better protection of vital natural resources. No, not coal and oil. I mean trees and water. We can live without coal and oil; we cannot survive without oxygen and drinking water.  This is mostly due to common sense. I will live a day or so without water - I could endure a lifetime without coal or oil. I can live without new gadgets, but I can't live very long without clear air to breathe. Can't say that's obviously Christian, but it did strike me as sad that God told Adam and Eve all of this planet was his gift to humans and then we trashed it. Sort of shameful, like we're spoilt brats.

 I believe in the power of Love to make the world a better place. I'm completely bemused as why some think this makes me New Age as I learnt this straight from Jesus. There are so many Bible quotes on this that I had a hard time picking one. I went with John, as he's my favourite. :)

John 13:34-35

34 A new commandment I give unto you: that ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.


And finally, I know that I'm doing all the right things, because it's actually Jesus who told me so. I'm me, with his blessing.

Matthew 5:3-10

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Hold On

Pueblo Indian Prayer

Hold on to what is good,
Even if it's a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
Even if it's a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
Even if it's a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
Even if it's easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
Even if someday I'll be gone away from you. 

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Tunnel Vision

I'm bringing back an idea I had years ago of something thought-provoking for "thoughtful thursday". Feel free to join in, but let me know so I can read your blog post, please.

It's hard to read my emails lately and not end up feeling either depressed or frustrated. It can be summed up by a poster an American friend sent me. Just change the "it's good for.." country's name to Australia, Great Britain or Canada (yep, even Canada now has people in employment having to use food banks due to rising prices and low wages).

And be aware that by "farmers" most countries do not mean your local small farms, but more your "big business" mass-producing farms.

I'm still constantly taken aback by this short-sightedness of extreme greed. Too many politicians  think the top three on this list bring in money and the base group do not...

But it is the much larger base group who use the banks and buy the farmers produce. Without a stable middle class, everything falls apart.

It's obvious, it doesn't take much of a brain to figure it out, and yet way too many world governments are so thick they can't realise it. A healthy, well-fed and homed society ADDS to productivity and the national economy. More poor makes the whole country more poor. A small top layer of super wealthy cannot keep an entire country's economy afloat.

And they keep making this same mistake over and over... even though the shops and factories are closing, the houses are being taken back by banks who then cannot sell them and the amount of homeless keeps growing.

If I were to add a prayer here, it would be to ask our world leaders to realise how stupid they are being.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Green Chickens of Mars

A long time ago, in a living room far far away... I discovered the awesome powers of the Green Chickens of Mars.

It began one average day. I was talking to a family member (you know who you are! :P ) and had a hunch that they weren't actually listening to me. I'd say something... they'd go "mmm?" or "mmm..."

A strange, mad power enveloped me... I opened my mouth and said, "They've discovered green chickens on Mars."
My non-listener replied, "mmmm..."

I finally had proof!

Since then, for well over two decades, I have used the Green Chickens of Mars whenever I'm in doubt that people are listening to me. It works brilliantly and instantly picks out who was utterly not listening... 

Me: "The Green Chickens of Mars are invading this summer."
Them: "mmm..."

from those who were half listening, but need to be refocused...

Me: "The Green Chickens of Mars have invented trans-dimensional time travel."
Them: "Uh... WHAT did you say? Chickens of WHERE?"

to the odd few who were actually listening...

Me: "The Green Chickens of Mars are famous for their minty freshness."
Them: "How does this relate to what we are talking about?"

 Whichever reaction I end up with, it's always fun. I love those Green Chickens!

Comic book cover thanks to Pulp-o-mizer.

Go check out the rest of Bradley's art. His Celtic shop is equally awesome.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Half Filled

The old saying about pessimists seeing the glass half empty and optimists seeing it half full has been on my mind this morning. Some friends were talking about a news item about young man who joined a hate-cult and went on a rampage, killing innocent people. They were wondering why someone seemingly normal would join a group that did such terrible things and it got me thinking...

What if it's about how we fill that glass?

I once knew a person who had belonged to a cult. What struck me today was not how a cult holds onto a person with various forms of brain-washing, but why someone is drawn to a cult in the first place. People naturally want and need their glass to be filled. By "filled" I don't mean the obvious things like money, love, fame and success. Those things are important, but what we all hunger most desperately for is PURPOSE.

Such a bland word, but without a sense of purpose we are nothing. It is more important than money or power or fame. I was about to add "or love" when I realised that purpose IS about love. Having a sense of purpose gives us self-respect, which is vitally important and strongly connected to self love.

Some people find their purpose in a career or a creative art form; many find it in religion. But it all boils down to the same thing... that worst emptiness in our glass of life is a lack of love. That emptiness might be that we were never loved as children or never taught how to love ourselves. We might be empty due to mental or even physical illness. Or perhaps we became empty when life broke us in some manner; through abuse, neglect, poverty or war. 

An empty person searching to be filled is the dream target of every group, because he/she will do anything and try anything to fill that emptiness. Empty people are willing to spend more money. And empty people aren't only more willing to buy fake products they don't actually need... they're also more open to buying into fake news, fake political agendas and fake religions.

And once they're filled with poison and lies, they are completely ready to buy into being told that their emptiness was due to THIS group or THAT group taking what was rightfully theirs. So easy  to create a scapegoat that the cult member is willing to kill.... so easy to change the word "cult" for any other type of hate group.

The only way I can see of stopping that is by teaching every child and person how to love themselves. Sounds trite, but you're not likely to be brain-washed if you trust your own judgement and you're not likely to turn on others in mindless rage if you are completely happy in your own skin.

Time to fill the glasses...

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Wonder Full

Stunning water sculptures by Malgorzata Chodakowska. You can see the entire collection HERE.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

No More

Something struck me this morning as I was reading my Facebook wall; people all over the world are sensing the changes many of us have been predicting for decades. The tide is turning.

All over the world I'm seeing more and more people saying "This isn't good enough" in one way or another. We're not willing to be mushrooms any longer? Or perhaps the planet itself is reaching crone status?

Feels like Mother Earth is becoming Crone Earth ready to shout, "NO MORE!"

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Monty Puthon and the Holy Quest of YO

I was text/chatting a friend (Kim) today. We both tend to be typo queens and we share the same kind of silly humour, hence the title of this blog post. 

We were talking about life in general. We've been friends a long time and in that time we've both gone through a lot, good and bad. I was commenting on how people talk about life as being a plod up a mountain, but that's not quite true. 

I said, "No one tells you that ascending the mountain is done on a yoyo bungie cord."

Because that's how life feels, doesn't it? Today you're feeling epic, like you're striding up the mountain and then suddenly you fall ten feet as some unexpected problem hits you only to go  *SPROING* upwards as you find a way to bounce back. 

Kim agreed and added, "and with the frequent head whack on the side of the mountain."

That's when I saw us; a clear vision in my mind. We weren't spiders, we were Knights from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, valiantly questing through life's ups and downs with irreverence, mild insanity and a complete lack of co-ordination, 

...but when I tried to tell Kim my epic vision I typed "Monty Puthon" and we both ended up laughing. It was downhill into silliness after that.

Goodness knows, we all need more humour lately! The world seems to be winding itself up on seriousness.  I've also noticed way more touchiness around the internet. I've been unfriended twice on Facebook for my "offensive" life choices and once for my political views. Considering the fact I'm politically Green, tolerant of all religions and not interested in anyone's sex life... that's quite a feat! The three people I've offended come from completely different political views and religions, so Kim pointed out that at least I'm "an equally-offending opportunity partner". LOL

But it's not just others who have been more touchy this year. I've had  my moments of losing my temper as well. Some arguments have been equally matched with irritation both sides.

Laughing today about the up-and-downs of life, I realised that I need to get the YO back in my yoyo. That mojo of magical madness, irreverent Heyoka humour and silly walks. Life is too short for taking seriously.
It's much easier to climb the mountain if you lighten your load. ;)

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Movie Cuts

A while back, someone I knew told me how they had managed to miss the ending of Ben Hur three times thanks to freaky bad luck. I had something similar with South Pacific. It was on TV during a thunderstorm and about 15 minutes before the end... bzzzt... nothing.

But my most annoying, frustrating and yet also most funny cut-off moment wasn't due to a power cut. It was... well, let me tell you the story! It all started in a movie theatre, on a planet in a galaxy far far away...
It was some time in my teenage years and the movie was the long-awaited sequel to the first original Star Wars.

I'd been waiting an eternity to find out what happened next. Now finally, there I was sitting with all the other excited Star Wars fans waiting to watch the sequel. The movie started and the magic began. Luke Skywalker came bounding back into our reality, riding a wonderfully weird alien critter on a planet of snow. I was hooked, once again.

Luke, seemingly lost in the snow, sees a vision beginning to form before him. The ghostly figure of Obi-Wan Kenobi appears. Luke stares... shocked.

The entire audience held their breath as Obi-Wan lifted a hand and, with a deeply serious look on his face, he pointed at Luke and said... (in a very loud, unknown voice)

"Will Johnny Smith please call at the front desk.
 Your mother wants to talk to you."


What kind of insensitive idiot breaks in with a message at the critical moment of a movie?

Now, you have to remember I was a teen and my finances did not run to seeing a movie a second time purely to hear one or two sentences. And this was long LONG before video tapes or DVDs. I had to wait ten years to finally rent the movie out from a video shop and find out what Obi-Wan said.

And you know what's really funny? I can't remember what he actually said! I'll forever remember him humiliating Johnny Smith, and probably bringing about the break up of his relationship with his mother, in front of an entire jam-packed Saturday audience.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Time to Listen to Your Self

A friend recently quoted Machiavelli to comment on the lack of hope in the world, how history seems doomed to repeat itself. It was a very valid point. When I watch world news, I see only tragedy and failure across the entire planet. I think we can agree that many of our world leaders (big business and politics) are seriously lacking in common sense and true commitment to the people they started off promising to serve.

I think this problem is because it is often the most sociopathic layer of humanity that is drawn to positions of power whilst the decent folk head for medicine, science, charitable services, etc, etc. I've often thought that if we made politics a vocation or career that paid very little, similar to teaching, we'd see a vastly better world. 

The men and women we set up on pedestals are often those that show the worst traits. Humans are too trusting, which perhaps lies in the fact that humans are not encouraged to look, listen and discern for themselves. Right from the first day of school they are told to sit down, shut up and take orders. Is it then any surprise that humanity is so clueless in who they admire and trust? 

Humanity mistakes recklessness for courage, vanity for power and overblown ego for assertiveness. And worst of all ... we seem to never learn from history, but I think it's more that our leaders don't want us to learn. The game works for them. The top layer stays rich, regardless of whether they are Left or Right in the political spectrum. 

The only way we'll ever change that, in my opinion, is by moving away from trusting leaders and becoming our own leaders. Ironic thing is that Jesus preached this message in a way, before the churches squashed his predictions of human spiritual evolution like a bug.
Bear with me here, this may seem like a digression, but politics and religions are often very much alike. In the case of Christianity, Jesus took a scary warrior God (Yahweh was the Canaanite god of war) and made him a "daddy" (The actual word he used in the Lord's prayer is daddy, not father). Then Jesus took it a step further and said the Holy Spirit would take over. Complete human autonomy - you now are your own temple. You have the higher conscience (holy spirit) to make your own decisions. You are responsible for your self.... but that was no use to early Church leaders who wanted control, so they took Hel and Hades from the pagans and create fear in order to keep everyone in line...
FEAR, don't think. HATE, don't think. TRUST US, we are the only salvation and know what is best;  OBEY US, we know what is best for you... we'll think for you. And above all... DO NOT THINK FOR YOURSELF, because we will frown upon you, laugh at you, call you a heretic and ultimately punish you. 
So easy to make people do the most insane or appalling things if you use that cocktail of commands on them. Politicians and dictators use the exact same tactics.

I think we need to become more responsible as individuals before we'll ever move forward and change our "rinse and repeat" history pattern of war and disasters. Jesus agreed, stating that he was leaving and the Holy Spirit would take over. For the atheists out there, I'd say this is that little voice some call conscience. Or even maybe... the voice of our True Selves? You know it, it's that small voice at the back of your mind that whispers, "this is wrong" or "There has to be another way."

I do believe we can do anything if we stop listening to bullies using fear and hate to control us and focus instead on hearing our true selves.

Personal Rant Moment

This started with several videos arguing the facts regarding the ongoing problem of the farm killings in South Africa. Some say there are still too many murders/tortures and some say the numbers have dropped. That's really not the point. The point is... all murders are wrong. it doesn't matter why you don't like the person or who they were... ALL murders are wrong.
And as for killing farmers? That is like shooting yourself because you feel angry. Farmers are the life of any country, they feed the nation. You kill your farmers - you starve your people.
But what has always had me bounce-off-the-walls angry about Africa is the hypocrisy of other countries. So many countries who want South Africa to hand over the farms are colonial countries that wouldn't dream of handing all their farms back to their own indigenous peoples. No one ever seems to point that out.
No one ever seems to point out the fact that it's pretty much only the colonial countries in Africa and Asia that have handed back the power of government as well. Australia may chew over handing some land back, but I've yet to see any European country demand that the government be handed back to the Aborigines. Same with South America, North America, Central America, New Zealand and many islands.
Only in Africa and Asia have people been decent enough to hand the lands back and yet it seems we still get thumped on the heads as "not good enough" and when I talk about this... people back off saying, "Oh but white South Africans are racists."
Yes, many Africans are racists. I've met black racists, Indian racists and white racists in Southern Africa. My coloured friends weren't racist, but they were liberal Islamic. Go figure! Non-racist Muslims. :P There's another rant dealt with. LOL
And living in Africa, I've also met, am related to, and have friends who are wonderful, non-racist people. :) I felt blessed to live in Africa as I grew up with all religions as friends of my family and all races, nations and sub-groups in my personal friends group. I think that is awesome.
So please... stop thinking all white Africans are racists. We're not! Most of us are simply concerned about the levels of violence and deaths of ALL people in Africa. I've lost friends of all races and all religions. I've lost family... and I still love Africa. It's an incredible continent full of wonderful people.
The only way we let go of violence is by letting go of hate and fear of each other.
Rant over.

Monday, 20 August 2018

If Books had Soundtracks

If books had soundtracks, this would make up mine for Wisdoms of the Light.

I wrote my book to these songs, often repeated over and over for certain chapters or scenes. I don't want to add spoilers, but I think those who've read the book will guess enough if I add a few hints. ;) 

First and foremost... this is Evelah's song. I found the theme for her existence the first time I watched this.

Large chunks of the story were written to this...

And this...

The dark city...

Evelah's music...

 Love in the city...

 Broken hearts...

... and misunderstandings...

 Fighting the darkness...

Idrith finds his power...

Revelations, energy waves and endings/beginnings...

Monday, 30 July 2018

Family Stories ~ Naming of Parts

Naming of Parts.

I am 14 years old and my mother's aunt and uncle are coming to visit. I've never met them. They are my mother's father's family - the Scottish Dutch side. My mother has cleaned the house for their visit and I've helped. We have swept and polished and dusted and now the house is beautiful and clean, but we are filthy. My mother is panicking because she wanted to wash and change into clean clothes and our guests have arrived early. She tells me to make tea and entertain them while she gets cleaned up.

I take as long as possible to make tea and hide in the kitchen, but I can't stay there forever. I take the tea through, and the tray with plates of little cakes and biscuits. They make me sit between them on the couch. My great uncle Laurence looks nice. He looks a bit like my grandfather, his older brother, but he's thinner and he smiles more. My great aunt Gertie looks okay. She has bright eyes like a bird and she's staring at me...
She says, "You have cousin Connie's ears. Do you see that Laurence? She has Connie's ears, but that nose… that nose is Doreen's."

Great Uncle Laurence smiles and eats a biscuit. He asks me some simple questions I don't remember any more.

Aunty Gertie is still watching me. She sips her tea and continues talking, "Your mother now. Your mother has the same eyes as great aunt Ida, but I think her face shape is more like uncle Len's. Not like your aunt. Now she is exactly like aunty Phyllis... although Phyllis has Margery's teeth and that's unfortunate."

As I sit there between them I feel myself disintegrating. I am floating away on a sea of unknown relatives who all have prior claim to my "bits". Who am I? I am a patchwork collection of family pieces. There is no "ME". There is only Connie's ears and Doreen's nose and Gaileen's smile. I always thought I was ME. Unique. Complete. But now I'm finding out that I'm simply a collection of family body parts. Nothing belongs to me. I feel lost and strangely taken apart, like a human jigsaw puzzle.

Many years passed and one day I found myself at Great Uncle Laurence's funeral in Johannesburg. After the service all the family gather at the old family home. They are all there, all my Scottish-Dutch cousins... blonde and built like Vikings, even the girls are over 6 foot tall. I am 5 foot 3 and dark. I feel like a pygmy. I wander around, squeezing between unknown people eating plates of food. I feel lost again. I go to sit on the floor by great aunty Gertie. She is smaller and thinner, but her eyes are still very bright. We sit in the corner and watch five generations of family talking, eating, remembering… An unknown relative asks who I am.

Who are you?
Who ARE you?
Who are YOU?

…and Aunty Gertie starts to talk, "This is your second cousin, Michelle. She is your grandfather's brother's daughter's daughter. Can't you see? She has your mother's ears, but when she smiles she's the image of your sister."

As she talks I feel myself being connected. Before I felt taken apart, but here at this funeral I am being woven into the family by my ears and my hair and the colour of my eyes. I start to see things. My cousin Al has his great uncle's jaw and his daughters  look like Aunty Gertie's daughter's daughter. And how come I never noticed before that we ALL have the family nose? It is a big nose, it's hard to miss. A long sharp Scottish nose. Cleopatra would have envied that nose!

I watch these unknown family moving and talking. Family groups laugh the same and their body language is the same too. I notice, to my embarrassment, that my own personal portion of family stand out like parrots in a flock of chickens. We may look like all the others, but we talk louder and we wave our hands around. My grandmother's Greek-Irish blood shows only in me physically, but all of us carry it in the way we talk. We are louder and more emotional. We are more fun… we are embarrassing. We are something I sometimes hate. We are something I cannot escape.

...and suddenly I understand. This is what family means. It isn't being torn apart - it's being created out of a hundred different people who are all unique and yet... we carry the same ears, the same noses, the same smiles. Wherever we go in the world we will take that with us. We will always have this "home" within us. It lies in our blood and our genetics. We cannot escape it - we are the sum of all those parts. We are family.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Family Stories ~ My Grandmother's House

I wrote several posts about my childhood in Rhodesia for (my friend) Prema's blog, Kombai. I have all of them on a page named FAMILY TALES, but have decided (family asked) to add them as posts here as well.

My Grandmother's House

All my childhood lies in my grandmother's house. No matter where I am, or what I remember, my mind takes me back to that house. It was the centre of the wheel for our entire family - aunts, uncles, cousins, friends... everyone met at my grandmother's house.
If I close my eyes now I am there at the gate, hot African sun scorching down on white picket fences and trellises heavy with honeysuckle, golden shower and coral creeper. A riot of creeping plants and flowers dripping bees. Below them, along the concrete path to the door, there will be sweet peas. Every summer there were sweet peas staked up against the freshly painted picket fence. It is cool under the canopy of green that leads to the door. There are two huge pine trees shading the back. They smell of resin.

Around the front there is a swimming pool my grandfather built himself, two aviaries of birds and the fruit trees. Down the side there is a dry sandy strip marked with little wooden crosses for all the many departed pets. Dogs, birds cats, rabbits and even a monkey have their sacred space in Granny's little garden. She pulls the weeds from around the crosses and drops a few tears and flowers on the "special" ones.

There are grape vines and a guava tree up where the pets are buried. Once my cousin and I stole an enormous guava and ate it together under the grape vines, hiding in the green shadows, taking alternate bites from the fruit gran had been admiring a few hours before. It tasted like sawdust to my guilty taste buds.

Inside the house, at any time of day, it is always shady and shadowy. All the trees and the deep covered front veranda keep the house from direct sunlight. In the scorching African summer this is a good thing, but I do always remember feeling a bit creepy going down the shadowy passage to the toilet. There are family photos along the walls in the passage and several generations of family watch me with shadowy eyes as I dash for the toilet. Great-grandma stands at the end of the passage, beautiful forever since she died so young. Her sad Irish eyes seem to know this photo will be the last memory held of her passing through this world. She watches me, the third generation of girl children she will never see grow up.

In my grandmother's bedroom everything smells of old perfume and floor polish. Mary stands on the window ledge, with her arms outstretched. She is wearing a pale blue cloak over her ivory plastic glow-in-the-dark body. I love her. I love the fact she glows in the dark. I used to have a glow-in-the-dark Jesus nailed to a wood and mother-of-pearl cross, but then my mom found out the "glow" came from toxic chemicals and threw him in the bin. Very weird memory that - a snapped up Jesus pulled off the cross and thrown into the dirt bin. I can remember going outside and lifting the lid to look at him lying there with his legs and arms scattered amongst the potato peels. My mom tells me Jesus will still watch over me and answer my prayers at night, but I do miss seeing his soft greeny glow over my bed. But in my grandmother's house Mary will not suffer the same indignity. Gran doesn't care that Mary is toxic - Mary will stay.

At the end of the passage there is a little iron and glass table on which stands the telephone and four brass ornaments - the sphinx, two pyramids and Buddha. Mary in the bedroom and Buddha by the phone… is there some hidden meaning there? Mary will hold you while you sleep, but Buddha is better for communication? Who knows! I only know I am allowed to play with Buddha and the sphinx because they are made of brass and indestructible. I will lie on my play rug with Buddha and the sphinx.

The sphinx was once a cigarette lighter and his head is hinged to open up the lighter. This will leave indelible scars on my understanding of ancient Egyptian history. For years to come I will think the sphinx's head comes off. The sphinx is okay, but I prefer Buddha. I smile back at Buddha while the grown ups sit at the table and talk. He's not as pretty as Mary, but he is more cheerful. Admittedly not as exciting, he doesn't glow, but gran says if I rub his tummy he will grant my wishes just as Jesus answers my prayers. I think to myself how clever God is. He has Jesus for prayers, Mary for comfort and Buddha for making wishes come true. It is a wonderful world with so many celestial beings to watch over your needs.

In my grandmother's house there may not be much sunlight, but there is always noise. There are birds in cages, radios and always people. People come and go in waves. Gran feeds them and makes them tea, but she never visits them. She is the hub and all spokes lead to her. The hub does not wander. It stays in the centre and keeps the wheel of life turning. That is gran - the hub of our wheel.

She is always in the kitchen, out in the garden or sitting in the dining room. I can't ever remember seeing her in the lounge watching TV. She is too busy for TV. She has plants to watch over, dogs, cats, tortoises, lots of birds… visitors constantly. Only the fish tank isn't her territory. Grandpa takes care of the fish. 

Grandpa has his small sections of territory staked and claimed - the fish tank, the outside room piled high with old junk and his own bedroom filled with fascinating things. If I am good he will take out the old tin boxes full of war photos. Then he fills his pipe and sits by the window, puffing soft smoke and telling me the stories behind the photos. I knew about Mussolini and the war in North Africa before I was eight. Grandpa has other photos too. Stationed in Egypt he went to every ancient monument and museum he could. Here there are photos of the real pyramids and sphinx. And if I get bored with desert stories there is a box of old toys at the top of the wardrobe. Paper dolls from the 1950s and marionette puppets. I love grandpa's room.

My aunt has the last bedroom. Here I can look, but not touch - except her big plastic bangles - I can play with those. They jangle on my arms, but I can't put my hands down or they'll all fall off. I walk around the house with my arms up to keep the bangles on. It's not as exciting as war stories or Buddha and the sphinx.. I go and put them back. For now I will sit with Buddha on the floor and be at peace. Here we will sit at the centre of the world and let it revolve around us. There will be dripping and tomato sandwiches for lunch and then later gran will let me feed the tortoises. Life is good.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

The Visionary in the Fiction ~ VFA

An article I wrote for the VISIONARY FICTION ALLIANCE went up on their blog today...

You can read the whole piece here: "The Visionary in the Fiction" by Michelle Frost.

I'm so  thrilled with the response and support of fellow authors. I really wasn't expecting so many kind replies. I'll be smiling for the rest of the week. :)

Many thanks to everyone at VFA, especially Saleena.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Midsummer Midnight

For years I've been telling people about the amazing midsummer nights here in northern Scotland. There's a Scottish word for it - "gloaming", the twilight time between sunset and complete darkness. Well... in mid summer there is no complete darkness up here, but I've never been able to photograph it as most times midsummer has been cloudy.

But this past week, we have had perfectly clear skies. :) Here's a patched together view of the Northern horizon from where we live. It's a bit blurry as I am taking a zoom shot.  The time was just after midnight and the date was the 22 of June. You'll need to click on the photo to enlarge. 

I'm Baaaack

It's been a while since I blogged here regularly. The last few years were chaotic, both good and bad. I'm not sure I want to talk about that. I think I want to look forward rather than back. That's why I have redone my banner and logo. The old one felt "not me" any more.

For over ten years my logo quote was "A journey of a thousand steps starts beneath one's feet" by Laozi. I've travelled so far along my road that the only way I can view that quote is by looking back. That told me it was time for something new. :) 

The new quote is my own words and the graphic is from my latest book cover: Elephant Songs.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Fluffy Like Concrete

Several years ago, an online acquaintance accused me of being "fluffy New Age." In his opinion my spiritual views were vastly inferior to his own. He saw my optimism, my belief in a generous and kind God, as... fluffy.

At the time I was shocked. I had never thought of myself as New Age and I’d never thought of my spiritual beliefs as “fluffy.” I felt very insulted at first, but then I remembered something my husband once told me.

My husband had worked on a building site with a Welsh guy who was in charge of the concrete mixer. He'd admire the concrete and say, in his thick Welsh accent, “Nice and fluffeeee!”

I remembered that and it all clicked into place. I think spiritual faith should always be fluffy like concrete – soft, gentle, loving and compassionate, but built on a strong, personal foundation. Being gentle is not being weak. Standing in your own personal faith does not have to be done with aggression.

 It is possible for the meek to inherit the earth... if your heart is fluffy like concrete.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Set in Stone

I wrote this several years ago, but decided to post it again for friends and family.

What do New Orleans, Rhodesia and this very impressive stone building in Scotland have in common? Some things I never knew and someone I would NEVER have expected!

© Copyright Ann Harrison and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

This gorgeous neo-Gothic building is a school in the Morayshire town of Fochabers; we pass on our way to Aberdeen. I love it because it looks like a place Harry Potter might have gone to school. I decided to look up more about the place and what I found has led me on a most amazing (and very moving) journey through three continents and my childhood memories. I hope you enjoy this remarkable adventure as much as I have.

The school is the Milne Institute; it was built by a man named Alexander Milne who was born in Fochabers in 1742. He worked at Gordon Castle (on the edge of town) until he had a disagreement with the Duke of Gordon. It seems that the Duke wanted Alexander to tidy up his unruly red hair and Alexander, being a thrawn Scot, took such offense to this command that he quit his job... and sailed off to the Americas. Alexander made a fortune brick-making in New Orleans. When he died, he left instructions for lots of good works, including the "Milne Asylums" for orphaned boys and girls to be built in Milneburg, New Orleans... and the "Milne Institute"free school for all the children of his home town of Fochabers.

That might have been the end of this blog post, except in finding the story of Alexander Milne I stumbled onto a name I knew very well... Allan Wilson. Shangani memorial panel postcard

To most people that won't mean much, but to any Rhodesian it means a LOT. Allan Wilson's story was one I learnt about in school history, but I never knew he was born right on my "doorstep"  until I found him listed as a "famous Fochaberian" and read that he had been a student at the Milne's Institute school.

The Famous Fochaberians site says this:

Allan Wilson was educated at Milne's Institution, excelling in outdoor pursuits. In 1878 he emigrated to South Africa and joined the Cape Mounted Rifles, later being commissioned as a lieutenant in the Basuto Police. He was appointed Major in command during the Matabele Campaign in which he and many of his soldiers were killed.

He led his small band of soldiers across the Shangani River seeking to capture Lobenguela, the King of the Matabele. The King escaped them. On their retreat, Wilson and his men found the Shangani in flood … after a brave fight, they were all killed. Buried in the Matopo Hills near Cecil Rhodes' grave, Allan Wilson was long regarded as a national hero.

Reading that brought back so many memories, especially of childhood visits to the Shangani memorial, where Allan Wilson and his men now rest, in the absolutely stunning spot high high up on those giant granite Motopos hills that will always be home.

Some friends sent me photos of their own memories of the Wilson Memorial, to share. The first two are lovely family shots, courtesy of Bill Teague. He's the little guy pointing up in the bottom photo. :-)

This colour one if from my friend, Robb. It looks just as I remember it and gives a tiny glimpse of that glorious view that led Rhodes to demand that he be buried here.

And here's the song I can still sing -
the ballad to Allan Wilson and the Shangani Patrol.

I feel near tears writing this, as I did this past Mothering Sunday, when we took a drive out to another memorial site to Allan Wilson that I suspect very few Rhodesians know about. The people of Fochabers placed two standing stones in a memorial garden in 2002, to commemorate all the brave, remarkable people born in their town. So we went there to take a look...

The stone on the left has Alexander Milne's name first (and a William Marshall, which is the same as my grandfather's name! Would be nice to think we could be related.)

...and the stone on the right has Allan Wilson's name at the top.

We took photos, shed a few tears, and stood in awe that we'd come a full circle in such a story; so wonderfully complex, this journey of lives and deaths...

Another stone memorial, another stunning view.

It's a long walk up to that burial site on the Motopos hills. As a child I remember hating the walk in the searing African sun, but once you were up there... oh what a view! I'd turn in a circle and feel like an eagle, flying free.

Did Allan Wilson's spirit fly free and return to his own home on the River Spey?

Eagles fly here too...