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being human

I know of nowhere else in the world where complete strangers can come to the door and be welcomed in and offered hospitality.

Friday morning on our way into the Gobi, we met a nomad couple and their grandson. A neighbour was there too as they watched a Nadaam being televised from Inner Mongolia. They have been on this site for two weeks and will move again when the sheep, goats and cattle need fresh grass.

On the stove was “a meat dish” which was subsequently identified as sheep testicles. It looked like a favourite snack of the men as they chomped into them.

We took a photo of the grandson and produced a tiny print via Polaroid’s phone app. We asked if they would like a group photo. Yes was the enthusiastic answer as they dived for their traditional clothes to wear for the shot. We left them with the photos and a tin of biscuits. They left us a lasting impression.

Two Australians walk into a bar after 8.00 pm on a Tuesday. Everything else within proximity of their hotel seems to be closed, but this one has a flashing OPEN sign and seems to indicate it’s a dining and drinking establishment.

The four customers at the bar, enjoying cigarettes and their own bottles of sake which the bar retains for them, turn their heads simultaneously. This is not a usual occurrence in this side street of Izukogen.

Still, the barman calls his wife who emerges from the kitchen with the Japanese word for welcome. The two are seated at one of the two tables. It is explained to them by one of the bar patrons that this is mainly a bar, and only a set meal is served. “That’s okay”, the visitors say as they order one set each and a beer for the non-driver.

It is busy in the kitchen if the emergent sounds are anything to go by.  The drinks arrive and soon, an egg salad appears. The food keeps coming. Yakitori next, followed by more beef than these two have seen for the past 4 weeks in Japan. Fried rice accompanies the feast.

In between courses, the host runs through some cities in Australia she knows. When they zero in on Brisbane, she mentions jacaranda trees and the time of year they flower.

Someone is diving into her Japanese notes to keep the conversation flowing. A dessert of watermelon and orange pieces finishes the meal, followed by a “presento” of non-alcoholic beer for the driver.

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The couple is us, and we were made to feel most welcome. This was no set meal that our host prepared. This was Japanese hospitality. We left with bows and hugs and a photograph of another memorable night in this country.

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Dining Bar, Mitsuko. Izukogen, Japan.

Emil Cioran (1911-1995) was a Philosophy graduate from the University of Bucharest in Romania. Were it not for a visit to Portugal’s Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, I would never have known of him or this small piece of his. Cioran lived in Paris from 1937 and wrote his work in the Romanian and French languages.

Jose Thomas Brum is a Brazilian who translated Cioran’s work into Portuguese. Consequently, this English translation of an excerpt from Cioran’s O Livro das Illusoes (The Book of Delusion) feels a little clunky and yet this transcription, on the wall of the Museum accompanied by the photograph below, struck a chord.

To detach yourself elegantly from the world; to give contour and grace to sadness; a solitude in style; a walk that gives cadence to memories; stepping towards the intangible; with the breath in the trembling margins of things; the past reborn in the overflow of fragrances; the smell, through which we conquer time; the contour of the invisible things; the forms of the immaterial; to deepen yourself in the intangible; to touch the world airborne by smell; aerial dialogue and gliding dissolution; to breath in your own reflecting fragmentation.

Emil Cioran - O Livro das Ilusoes

A friend sent me this quotation today. It speaks to me of the human spirit and the impacts that the actions we take today, right now, have on our future.

Thank you Cheryl. ❤

ripples - iStockphoto

ripples – iStockphoto

To Be Hopeful – Howard Zinn
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasise in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory.

cakesTen days ago we were heading back from Stradbroke Island with the knowledge that I was more than likely going to receive a diagnosis of breast cancer on the following day.  I don’t imagine that the topic of my health is going to feature highly on this blog over coming months. However, the occasional poem may emerge midst all of the ‘usual’ fare.

Here’s my attempt to make sense of the last fortnight. With gratitude to Patti Digh for the last line.

figs and sugar plums

Totem

FLUID

a soak in the bath

liquid surrounds

random self-examination

an anomaly

that’s what we’ll call it for now

a rescheduled appointment

a confirmation

the anomaly has a new label

the biopsies

the waiting

two days on the island

beach camping

nature offers welcome distractions

wind, rain, birds, sea, sand

the GP visit

another confirmation

sleeping tablets suggested

red wine substitutes

liquid sleeping draft

the alcohol free zone can start tomorrow

calls made

commitments cancelled

the surgeon

a date

admission forms

gratitude for insurance

the airport

the family rallying

afternoon tea cakes

totem selfies

shopping for sleepwear

fresh vegetables and fruit for juicing

liquid green

a photo walk to the point on dusk

the hospital

gift packs, flowers

a cushion for afterwards

compression stockings

information pack overload

making blue people from surgical gloves

the glare of theatre lights

an anaesthetist with a Scottish accent

indecipherable

liquid sleep

nothing

eyes open

clock on the wall

rating the pain

liquid comfort

ice chips

sandwiches and rice pudding for dinner

half-hourly observations

normal sleep position unattainable

late night television

black and white reruns

a hungry plea before the breakfast run

honey toast and coffee delivered

liquid sweetness

morning shower

surveying the battle ground scattered with blue dye

more of a skirmish really

two incision scars, new shapes to learn

physiotherapist

social groups on offer

introvert wants to run for the hills at the very suggestion

new phrases join the soon-to-be common lexicon

home

well wishes from all quarters

temporary restrictions dawning

new routines necessary

the vegetable garden is getting an extension

as loved ones focus on the ordinary

maintain a piece of the normal

the waiting

in between the surgery and tomorrow’s conversation

and now, just today

liquid salt

hello moment, I’m here

Lynn Buckler Walsh

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