Thursday, 27 March 2008

Photograph Challenge March 2008 – Destruction

Crystal/ChocMintGirl has a great entry for the photograph challenge run by Graham of One Man's Travel Blog. The guidelines for the March challenge are:

1. Take a photograph that in some way, manner or form represents "Destruction".
2. Include a brief explanation of how the photograph relates to the subject.
3. When you have posted your challenge, be sure to send Graham a link so that he can include it on his "March Challenge Entry" post at the end of the month. :-)

Inspired by the idea (and the fact I had just photographed my "destruction" this morning!) here is my entry. :-)

How the photo relates to the subject? The sheep came back today... ba-aah-ck today? This time those pesky perambulating floor-mops-on-hooves chewed up my potted plants as well as nibbling the lawn. Here's the photo of them from last week, seeming so innocent...

BUT I will have the ultimate revenge. Tonight we're having roast lamb for dinner.

* evil laughter fading into the ba-aah-ckground *


Last night they went too far - they started eating the garden furniture. :-O My dad was the witness to our wooden garden seat having the varnish gnawed off the back. He chased them... they came back. I chased them... they came back. Hubby chased them... they left and we went to bed in peace, but at 4:00 am my mom and dad were woken up by banging noises. Turned out to be the sheep trying to soften up the back conrete path. At 5:00 am my mom checked again and counted 21 sheep lying down sleeping all over the front lawn.

Later this morning they were all back in their field nibbling grass like innocent lambs. Today I checked the garden - we have "lost" a few small plants and several bushes have had radical "haircuts", but it has been entertaining! :-D

... ...

Monday, 24 March 2008

The Dance Revisited...

I was going to repost my first blog post on my first year anniversary, 5th April, but since we will be moving house on that day I’m going to repost now. I’m picking today for three reasons. Because:
1. Today is Easter Monday and my first post was about my personal spiritual journey,
2. Last week I posted about the Really Terrible Orchestra (here under SMILES),
3. I just read Cliff's excellent reposting on his own blog about his brother Ricky and his love of singing hymns.

These three things feel perfectly inter-connected.

Too often in life we are told we aren’t good enough, or not acceptable as ourselves. I believe that we are exactly who we are meant to be and that God always finds joy in our being true to ourselves. So this anniversary I’m renewing my vow to the Dance of Life, but this time I’m adding music from the Really Terrible Orchestra… and singing by the choir of angels and Ricky.

The Dance (revisited)...

Last year I watched a TV documentary series called "Extraordinary People". The episode I enjoyed the most followed the life of a blind brain-damaged young man who is a musical savant. He has the intelligence level of a four year old and yet he plays jazz like a genius. At one stage he was given the chance to listen to an entire orchestra. He then "translated" the entire performance into a piano solo. Awesome!

He flew from the UK to Las Vegas (with his toy beanbag elephant for company) to do a concert to raise money for disabled kids. There he met a boy with autism who is also blind and plays classical music. They then both met two other gifted musical kids: a blind girl on a violin and another autistic boy who plays the keyboard. Together they had a jam session that rocked the roof off.

They were brilliant.

The one psychiatrist studying them said that they are now thinking that music is the "Universal code" that drives us at a deeper level than language or any other sense-related ability.

Three years ago I popped on some soothing music to try to meditate. I've always liked the idea of meditating, but it just doesn't work for me. My mind does not understand the concept of emptiness. It is a cage full of budgies all wanting to scream their latest learnt word the loudest. But this one time I actually got it right, one of those rare perfect moments when things just click together. Maybe it was because I didn't try so hard? Maybe it was because I was desperate for an answer that my conscious mind couldn't provide.

I was desperate for an answer to a crossroad I'd reached in my life regarding my religious/spiritual beliefs.

I was born into a family that, counting both my mother and father's sides, span almost every variation of Christianity out there. As a result my parents had a more laid-back attitude to church attendance than many. Being a church-goer was never viewed as the only route to Heaven. I grew up with the unspoken message that all religions lead to God and therefore were of equal value.

It was only when I went out into the world that I began realising not everyone was as open-minded. I was warned I was "in danger of being a Pantheist" by a school teacher when I was about ten. I had to go look it up in a dictionary at the time. It it did sound a lot like me. It was the first time I felt I belonged somewhere, but I also remember feeling a vague guilt/unease
. So I was a Pantheist... why was that a dangerous thing?

In high school and college more devoted Christian friends tried to convert me to their “way”. Although they meant well they left me feeling less acceptable and worthy. Sometimes depressing, sometimes annoying. Why do some people think they know what is best for you better than you do? It's like they see you happily being a square peg in a perfectly geometric world of your own and simply cannot stop themselves from trying to squash you repeatedly into a round hole. Or, worse still, they whip out all these abrasive words in a desperate attempt to file the corners off your square soul. Words that imply you are "wrong", or "bad", for simply being true to yourself. Ultimately there are only two people who know you - yourself and God. Other people have a right to their opinions, but that's all they can ever be... opinions.

That was why I found myself trying to meditate three years ago. To try to find the "me" I had lost along the long journey through so many other people's opinions. As a child and in my teens I'd known who I was and been happy. In my twenties I'd faced confrontation on who I was and fought back, the way you do when you are young and rather full of self-righteousness. In my thirties I'd expanded my friendships to include a wonderful range of equally wonderful people from a variety of different belief systems. Neo-Pagan, Wiccan, Buddhist and Native American Shamanism. My thirties were a time of tremendous personal expansion, but it was also a time where I started to wobble like a spinning top that had hit the edge too many times. By my fortieth birthday it was clear I had wobbled so far off the path that I didn't know how to find my way back.

A friend suggested meditation to clear my mind and see the way home. I tried... nothing. Or to be exact too much! I'd sit there and my mind would gabble and chatter about everyday life until I either fell asleep or got bored and gave up.

Then one day I was pottering around the internet and read a woman asking similar questions. She was a Catholic considering becoming a Neo-Pagan. She was standing at the edge of everything she had been taught to believe was "good" and "evil". She had left a message asking for help and someone had replied "Pray for guidance - then listen."

Seemed fairly sensible advice. I decided to try it. For once and for all I needed to know if being ME was okay with whoever/whatever was "Up There". I said a small prayer to that extent and sat down to wait and listen... and for the first time EVER all those manic budgies in my brain finally shut up.


Real silence

Cellular level peace and quiet

Was this meditating?

I closed my eyes and let the silence take over...

I found myself standing at the edge of a lake at sunset. Someone was walking across the water towards me. A bearded guy in a long robe.




I dismissed the thought as stupid, but as he walked up the shore to me I could see the holes in his hands and feet. I didn't know what to do. So I was honest and I said, "You're the last person I was expecting to see."

He burst out laughing and it was such a joy-filled infectious laughter that we both fell about laughing for a while. Then he took my hands and we walked out onto the water together and we danced. With stars above us, and reflected in the dark water below, we danced... and as we danced he "exploded" into the stars and became the Universe itself...

...and then I found myself back on the shore.

I'm not sure how long I stood there before he appeared, walking back across the water to me once again. Only this time he was carrying something. A crow. He said "this is for you" and the crow hopped from his arm to my shoulder.

I opened my eyes and I was back in the same room in the same house.

I had a Native American friend who had sent me an internet link to totem animals a year before. I went and looked up crow. I saved some of the bits I found there. Can't give credit to the author as I lost the links a few years back so apologies for that.

 "Human law is not the same as Sacred Law. More so than any other medicine, Crow sees that the physical world and even the spiritual world, as humanity interprets them, are an illusion. There are billions of worlds. There are an infinitude of creatures. Great Spirit is within all."

"Crow is the totem of the Great Spirit and must be respected as such."

The bringer of the Holy Spirit had brought me the symbol of another culture's Great Spirit.

Now I keep thinking about those supposedly "disabled" kids and how they've tapped into creativity and Creation at a level we can only daydream about.

Music and Creation. Music and life itself. Dancing on water and amongst the stars. Ancient peoples using dancing and singing to connect to the Source...

Is faith merely (re)learning how to dance on water?

Was the world created in seven days.. or seven notes?

I think I really like that idea!

Holy and Great, Human and Sacred exploding together in a universe of infinite possibilities. Different music, different steps, but always the same Dance.

I have found my way back to the Dance...
I hope you all have found yours.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

NEWS FLASH for March

With credit to Jeff for inventing NEWS FLASH. Jeff, I changed SPORT to SMILES. I just cannot think of anything related to Sport to talk about.

NEWS FLASH is basically news or thoughts that may be changing over time - an update or an evolution of thought that covers a multiple of topics. It is what makes a blogger tick and it is the reason why we read. So, with that in mind, I came up with NEWS FLASH as an acronym that stands for what is going on in life:

News (or current events)
Entertainment (movies, TV, celebrity, etc.)
Work (thoughts on the job or employer)
Spirit (thoughts on God and/or the supernatural)
Family (or friends)
Anxiety (a rant or a trouble)
Smiles (something that made you smile or will make your reader's smile), and
Home (house, yard, or even another family type of thought).

NEWS - we're moving at last!
The biggest news for us is that we have found a new house to rent. Hooray! :-) We move on the 3rd of April so I might be off the blogs a while before and after. Last time it took them two weeks to set up our internet connection. Let's hope this time we can get back faster.

There's been very little of this lately. Between packing and searching for a house and health woes we haven't had one weekend drive or even visited family since the Christmas holidays. The most entertaining thing that has happened this month is... sheep. :-)

Last week I'm in the kitchen making tea when my mom yells "come look!" ...our garden is full of sheep! I phoned a neighbour who tells me to phone the local laird, who owns and rents out several farms in this area. I got him on the phone first try and he was very nice about it. He apologised and said he'd come get them out personally. I was out in the garden when he arrived and I helped him herd them out the yard. He was just as I'd been told by the locals - a complete eccentric. He looks like a tramp, talks like an "uppercrust" and drives a 4 x 4 that looks like it's been used in several wars. I didn't get a photo of the Laird, but my mom did get pictures of the sheep...

WORK - a Dull Month.
The biggest slog the last few months has been looking for a house to rent. Beyond that there hasn't been much I can think of to write about except to add that Hubby is working over Easter to make some extra money, because moving means added expenses.

SPIRIT - Learning to Trust.
The hardest part of having any kind of psychic abilities is learning to trust that you're not crazy or imagining things. If you are a sane sensible person your first instinct will always be to query and double-check, but cynicism or lack of trust is always bad for a relationship, especially in connecting to God or your spiritual self.

Recently I had a small victory in trusting myself. Sometimes passed (deceased) people come to me. Before last year the only people I ever had contact with were my own passed family. I don't normally get messages from people I don't know, but that has been changing the last year or two. Last month I received a message from a recently deceased person. I never knew this person and I only vaguely know one of his family. I was reading about the death online and started feeling so sad and... there the person was.

It took me a while to trust and listen. I didn't want the burden of responsibility for passing on messages. I tried to pretend the person wasn't there, but I couldn't keep it up. The person was so nice and just wanted the chance to tell their family a last goodbye. How could I refuse to help? So I trusted and wrote down their message. Some things in the message were basic, but one part of the message startled me. The message included a sentence about "being with a parent". As far as I knew this parent was still alive! It contradicted what (I thought) I knew about the family. Had I imagined it? Was I wrong? Should I leave that out? I figured all I could do was TRUST... I sent the message exactly as I'd had it given to me.

I got an email the next morning from the relative. In it they explained that the parent was indeed deceased as well. Something I didn't know because I don't really know the family. If I hadn't trusted I'd have messed up badly by leaving out that info, or by putting my own interpretation on it.

It feels fantastic to be able to connect people who love each other. Oh, I may mess up and get it wrong in the future, I'm only human, but for now I feel amazingly good. I've started to realise that love and emotions are the connection, the "telephone wire" you could say. The moment I connect emotionally to another person - they can then connect to me. I'm learning that love knows no boundaries... and that feels amazingly good to know as well. :-)

FAMILY - connections.
What is "family"? Is it the connection of blood and genetics or love and sharing?

The more I think about this topic the more blurry the definition seems. I have four adopted friends who rate blood connections very low in the family definition list. I have friends who feel more like family than relatives and relatives who are such good friends that calling them just "family" seems to lessen how important they are to me. I have no birth sisters, but online I have several sisters I'd be lost without having in my life. I have cousins, in-laws, and parents, who should be classified as good friends as well as family. :-) ...and I have a few "family" I would probably list under enemies if it wasn't for the fact they were related to me! ;-)

I think the connection of love is all that matters. The people I am connected to by my heart are my family. Who are your "family"?

LOVE - weddings and anniversaries
In May some internet friends of ours are returning to Scotland for their anniversary. They were married here about four years ago and Hubby and I were their witnesses. :-) Later this year a blogger friend is getting married in Scotland as well...

BEST wishes to Bassman and Matchgirl!

ANXIETY - health.
The biggest anxiety was the fear we wouldn't find a place to rent and could face eviction. Beyond that my health has been a bother. Here I think Hubby and my parents are more anxious than I am. I'm just tired of waiting. I had surgery this time last year for an ovarian cyst. I had hoped I was on the mend, but last September I started having bad pain again and my stomache blew up. The doctors couldn't figure it out at first, but this January they finally realised - I have a hernia. Seems my stomach muscles have had enough after two surgeries and three laparoscopies. I've been swollen up (like ate a beach ball) since September and it's really depressing. I can't fit into any clothes except s-t-r-e-t-c-h pants and even they hurt after a few hours. So at home I wander around in my gown or caftan feeling like a frumpy slob. Plus I'm not allowed to strain or lift things so life is very boring with me not wanting to be seen in public and not able to do much to keep busy.

I'm due to see the surgeon in April and hopefully they can figure out how to fix this. Normally they'd just fix the hernia right away, but I have internal damage and problems related to my ovary that may need extensive serious surgery and they can't fix the hernia and then do the big surgery so they will need to do the ops in the right order or together. I'm actually so sick of being sick that I'm impatient to get this done now.

SMILES - the joy of being a failure.

This news clip may look long, but it is well worth reading! :-)

And the Band Played Badly...By ALEXANDER McCALL SMITH (Published: March 9, 2008)

WHY should real musicians - the ones who can actually play their instruments - have all the fun?

Some years ago, a group of frustrated people in Scotland decided that the pleasure of playing in an orchestra should not be limited to those who are good enough to do so, but should be available to the rankest of amateurs. So we founded the Really Terrible Orchestra, an inclusive orchestra for those who really want to play, but who cannot do so very well. Or cannot do so at all, in some cases.

My own playing set the standard. I play the bassoon, even if not quite the whole bassoon. I have never quite mastered C-sharp, and I am weak on the notes above the high D. In general, I leave these out if they crop up, and I find that the effect is not unpleasant. I am not entirely untutored, of course, having had a course of lessons in the instrument from a music student who looked quietly appalled while I played. Most of the players in the orchestra are rather like this; they have learned their instruments at some point in their lives, but have not learned them very well. Now such people have their second chance with the Really Terrible Orchestra.

The announcement of the orchestra's founding led to a great wave of applications to join. Our suspicion that there were many people yearning to play in an orchestra but who were too frightened or too ashamed to do anything about it, proved correct. There was no audition, of course, although we had toyed with the idea of a negative audition in which those who were too good would be excluded. This proved to be unnecessary. Nobody like that applied to join.

Some of the members were very marginal musicians, indeed. One of the clarinet players, now retired from the orchestra for a period of re-evaluation, stopped at the middle B-flat, before the instrument's natural break. He could go no higher, which was awkward, as that left him very few notes down below. Another, a cellist, was unfortunately very hard of hearing and was also hazy on the tuning of the strings. As an aide-mémoire, he had very sensibly written the names of the notes in pencil on the bridge. This did not appear to help.

At the outset, we employed a professional conductor, which is a must for anybody who is reading this and who is already planning to start a similar orchestra.

Find somebody who is tolerant and has a sense of humor. The conductor also has to be sufficiently confident to be associated with something called the Really Terrible Orchestra; after all, it does go on the résumé.

Our initial efforts were dire, but we were not discouraged. Once we had mastered a few pieces - if mastered is the word - we staged a public concert. We debated whether to charge for admission, but wisely decided against this. That would be going too far.
So should we go to the other extreme and pay people to come? There was some support for this, but we decided against it. Instead, we would give the audience several free glasses of wine before the concert. That, it transpired, helped a great deal.

We need not have worried. Our first concert was packed, and not just with friends and relations. People were intrigued by the sheer honesty of the orchestra's name and came to see who we were. They were delighted. Emboldened by the rapturous applause, we held more concerts, and our loyal audience grew. Nowadays, when we give our annual concert at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the hall is full to capacity with hundreds of music-lovers. Standing ovations are two-a-penny.

"How these people presume to play in public is quite beyond me," wrote one critic in The Scotsman newspaper. And another one simply said "dire." Well, that may be so, but we never claimed to be anything other than what we are. And we know that we are dire; there's no need to state the obvious. How jejune these critics can be!

Even greater heights were scaled. We made a CD and to our astonishment people bought it. An established composer was commissioned to write a piece for us. We performed this and recorded it at a world premiere, conducted by the astonished composer himself. He closed his eyes. Perhaps he heard the music in his head, as it should have been. This would have made it easier for him.

There is now no stopping us. We have become no better, but we plow on regardless. This is music as therapy, and many of us feel the better for trying. We remain really terrible, but what fun it is. It does not matter, in our view, that we sound irretrievably out of tune. It does not matter that on more than one occasion members of the orchestra have actually been discovered to be playing different pieces of music, by different composers, at the same time. I, for one, am not ashamed of those difficulties with C-sharp. We persist. After all, we are the Really Terrible Orchestra, and we shall go on and on. Amateurs arise - make a noise.

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the forthcoming novel "The Miracle at Speedy Motors."

Hear them play:

HOME - Forgetting.

I realised yesterday that I have started to forget places and faces from Africa. When I first arrived here I'd see people on the streets who looked like people I knew "back home" in South Africa... and I'd feel instantly homesick. :-( Now, yesterday, I recognised (and greeted) four people I actually knew from here. I'm finally seeing here as HOME, rather than the other way around. Nothing can take away who I am or where I have come from, but it feels good to belong and be happy to be a part of my new HOME. :-)


Monday, 17 March 2008

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Crazy 8 Tag

Crystal/Chocmintgirl tagged me with this meme.

8 things I'm passionate about:
1. Writing - can't live without it.
2. My Spirituality and connection to God/Source.
3. My husband and the people I love - family and/or friends.
4. People - human beings are just so amazing.
5. Injustice - hate it so much!
6. Travelling and seeing new places.
7. Nature.
8. Listening to Music. :-)

8 things I want to do before I die:
1. To buy a home of our own.
2. To touch people with my writing.
3. To let go of being afraid (I have stress/anxiety problems).
4. To go back to Rosslyn Chapel. Most amazing place I've ever visited.
5. To make a positive difference.
6. To be useful to the World.
7. To get to meet some of my internet friends in real life. :-)
8. To see Motopos and baobabs one last time, before or after I die.

8 things I often say:
I really have no idea. I'm a "drift-off" talker. I day dream, forget what I was going to say, blank out. I leave big empty silent gaps... like my brain! :-D

Things I often say?

1 - 4 .... (nothing silent gap)

5 - 8 Ummm...


8 things I've recently read/currently reading:
Like Crystal it's blogs. I haven't read any books recently either. I used to be a bookworm. I could read a book in a day or weekend, but since I've taken to reading blogs and websites I must admit I actually prefer reading real people to fiction.

8 things I could listen to over and over:
Look at my play list at the base of this page. :-) You'll find at least 8 of my favourite tunes.

8 things that attract me to my best friends:
1. Sincerity - I hate fakes. Be grumpy or sweet, just always be yourself.
2. Shared sense of humor.
3. Warmth of spirit.
4. Tolerance - we can be different if we respect our differences.
5. like Crystal said "Sharing plus caring."
6. Shared interests and passions.
7. Very different interests/backgrounds that make me think and grow.
8. People who are interesting and/or interested in the world around them.

I'm not tagging anyone as I'm not sure who has been tagged already. If you like this idea - take it and let me know when you post your own crazy 8 list. :-)

Monday, 10 March 2008

Take my Hand


Photo copyright of Xenia -

I read a a great thought for the day on Amias' blog:

"The sun doesn’t stop rising because you can’t see it, and even behind dark clouds, there is light." - Amias

I realised something right there reading that. What has kept me from falling apart when I've been "in the dark" is holding hands with the people I love - family, friends, a whole load of internet friends. I'd call it a "chain of hands", but it kind of spreads out in all directions rather than just being a line. It’s a web of hands holding hands spreading out across the planet.

The point is that no matter how dark it is where "I" am standing there's always someone down the line/s who can see the sun and remind me to keep holding on until the sun reaches me once again. And there are always those hands to hold me steady when the storms pass by.

Feeling a little cloudy down your way? Here, take my hand and we’ll wait together for the sun to come out.