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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

mangroves 1

Derby sand flats landscape from air 1Ten months ago, I started this blog not really knowing how it might take shape. It was a case of eyes closed and jump in with an anything-and-everything approach.

The initial intention was “whatever sparks my interest”. I worried that it might be a bit amorphous. Much of the content produced thus far could conceivably be syphoned off into categories for their own ‘special subject’ blog. It’s become a mix of poetry, photography, efforts at drawing, travelogue, writing, food and the occasional rant. It has developed a life of its own. It demands that I feed it often and regularly, much like a newborn.

It’s a great place for me to collect bits and pieces that spark some of that creativity which lives in all of us. Theoretically, the action of collecting thoughts online should mean a tidier desk, but some habits are hard to break.

So on this 200th scribble, here’s to the mish-mash of self-expression, sharing what it means to be human in a sometimes hostile world, and putting stuff out there to those who are kind enough to drop by.

Canadian Shane Koyczan is another spoken word artist I saw and heard last week in Georgia.

With his words, he stands up for those who are bullied and those who find their days difficult to navigate. He helps us understand what it’s like to feel different in a world that requires us to conform to a norm that negates the very thing that makes us human, our emotions.

He is doing important work in the world.

To This Day

From the TED blog re Instructions for a Bad Day

Koyczan got some help in sharing these “Instructions for a Bad Day” from a group of students at G.P. Vanier secondary school in British Columbia. They wrote the storyboard for the video, handled the cameras, did the acting and collected the props. The piece was created for Pink Shirt Day — a national day devoted to the discussion of bullying.

 

 

 

Courage doesn’t always roar – Mary Anne Radmacher

I have great admiration for people who quietly go about their business without fanfare, and with sustained impact.

When I was signing up for Create Sessions at camp, I had no hesitation in selecting Maya Stein’s Writing with Whimsy. I shared one of her poems here, in the early days of this blog.

Little did I know I’d encounter a tag team act (Maya and Amy Tingle) who, through their shared art and writing projects, are changing the world, one story at a time.

Little did I also know that I would have the pleasure of capturing their spirit in my photographs. And make a quiet and strong connection. Thank you two so much for noticing.

Here are links to some of the projects of Maya and Amy that have made, and are making, a real difference at the heart of things.

Brave Girls Art

Type Rider

and Food for the Soul Train where MAUDE (Mobile Art Unit Designed for Everyone) is the vehicle for bringing community and creativity together. This is what Maude the restored vintage caravan looks like on the inside. Maya and Amy brought MAUDE to camp with them on her maiden voyage.

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Maya Stein poetry in motion

When I’m living life, that’s when the poems come. – Glenis Redmond

Glenis Redmond writes what she calls poems of origin. She brings her whole self to her poetry performances. She helps others who need to tell their stories. She does not suppress ‘the shadow side’ of life and exhorts other writers to tell all of their story.

My usual pattern when I see and hear people whose work I admire is to hold back, to not want to intrude or be considered a fawning fan. Even when Glenis was sitting at my table after she spoke, I could not bring myself to say anything to her about my appreciation of the impact she makes with her work.

Fortunately, I found her and my courage later that afternoon as she was waiting for the lift/elevator. She was gracious and heard me. Then she said, “Stay in touch”.

Stay in touch. That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned on this amazing weekend. Stay in touch. With yourself and with others.

Glenis’ TEDx Greenville talk includes her signature poem, Mama’s Magic. Do yourself a favour and hear this.

Glenis Redmond 2 Glenis Redmond 1

If there had been no other guest but Andrea Gibson turn up at camp, I would still be glad to have made the journey.

She is a warrior in a world that’s difficult to live in. Ferociously fragile. Speaking out for the disenfranchised.

Listening to her was a visceral experience. She cuts through. No bullshit. Straight to the centre of your being. Straight to the truth.

I took a lot of photographs this weekend. These are my favourites.

Andrea Gibson 1

Andrea Gibson 3