Categories
Life

The Value of Kindness

It was all I had ever wanted. A horse. Majestic and lovely, the only dream my little girl heart desired. Every week the library door would slide open and out we’d whistle, me and Mum, our bags heavy with books we could only hope would be as good as their covers. I’d spend a lot of my browsing time at the fiction shelves: love stories, fantasy sagas—anything I connected with in the first paragraph, in the bag it went.

And then there were the horse books. How to look after a horse. How to ride one, love one, train one. Whatever you needed to know about horses, there was a book for it. And I wanted to read it.

 In the bag it went.

What was it that enchanted me so about horses? I had no idea. I was a city girl and had been my whole life. It was only recently we’d moved to a place I considered to be the country—eucalyptus trees, grassy paddocks a plenty— but even that place had too many asphalt roads to really be considered rural.

The only thing I knew about these wonderful creatures was that, however little sense it made to my city girl sensibilities, the very thought of them thrilled me. For whatever reason, I had gravitated toward these kind animals, and I needed to satisfy that pull in some way.

So, I took horse riding lessons. Gone were the books. Now I stood up close to the real thing; scratching the flat of a fuzzy forehead, closing my eyes to the sweet, earthy smell of horse. What if…gosh. Just what if I could own one of these magnificent beasts.

The challenge was set. With superpowers that would melt even the hardest of hearts—or perhaps it was the big blue eyes and gentle head tilt, that did it— I convinced my parents a horse was the perfect pet for me. I would love my horse so dearly, I’d said to them, that any chance of me neglecting the thing would be a non-issue. And if anything, I’d love it too much and they’d never see their beloved daughter again.

After the triumphant ‘yes’ vote, life for me changed dramatically. I felt it the moment she rolled on in: true love, her dapple-grey bottom booming out the back of the float, the first part of her to come into my life…the last part of her to leave it. But I’ll get to that bit a little later. For now, the beautiful dream continues.

It really was love between me and her. She loved me for the potato chips I’d be munching on most days, during my after-school visit. Those greedy wobbling lips of hers, that whiskery chin. The flared nostrils and the wide eyes. All angling for my afternoon snack. Whoever would have thought it: horses and crisps! But yes. It’s true. It’s a thing.

And me…well. I just loved her. So often, I’d be taken by the very odd feeling that, somehow, those big, almond eyes of hers could see into my soul. To me, despite her youth, her eyes told the story of a horse who’d lived a thousand life times. An old soul, if you will.

When winter came, I brushed her thick coat and bundled her into her pretty winter rug. When the need arose I scratched the dry mud off her legs, picked the caked mud out of her hooves—I did everything a responsible horse owner should do and I was proud of it.

Of course, it was when the rains came that the water trough needed cleaning and refiling. The hose didn’t reach; I’d have to use buckets to refill. Bloody hell. As I clomped from tap to trough and back again, rain falling heavily on my driza-bone, I spotted Mum peeking out from behind the curtains, my baby brother snug on her hip. Was that a smile on her distant face? Was this the moment I’d finally risen above my title of pampered princess of the family? Yes. It was. And right there in the pouring rain I celebrated, feeling every bit the accomplished graduate.

Enter the intruders.

The odd little man who owned my baby’s paddock—the very same man who taught me it was possible for one to ‘bleed like nobody’s business’—agisted two more horses on the property. This would change everything.

A fourteen-year-old girl and her Mum would come and look after these horses, ride them, feed them, yell at them…hit them. I was twelve, by then, and very impressionable, as it turned out. Was this the way to treat a horse when they misbehaved? I tried it their way. When my horse misbehaved, I growled at her, just like they did. I did not hit her—that awfulness will never hold a place within me. But more times than I care to remember, I was unkind. Many years later, as an adult, I would remember these moments of unkindness and cringe. George Saunders was spot on when he said, ‘What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.’

This was my failure of kindness. And yes, I regret it, deeply.

My failure of kindness is the broken heart of this story; the one regret that lives on from those precious days with my beautiful girl. She’d always been a little bit naughty but she did not deserve the vicious words my reckless teenage self, delivered her. If only adult me had been there to tap her on the shoulder. To lead her back to those wise almond eyes and show them kindness. Teenage me would never live to regret kindness.

As I slipped further into the surly depths of teenager land, fate stepped in. We would be moving house, no horses allowed. Me and my beloved pony: we were breaking up. And although it pained me to admit it…maybe this was not such a bad thing, after all.

Our last days together were tender and filled with all the pleasures of an unbreakable friendship. It was as if she knew this was it for us, as if she knew that she’d been unkind to me too, and that this was her last chance to leave a warm and lasting impression.

As the float drifted that big, grey bottom away, there were none of the tears I’d expected of a broken heart. Instead, there was relief. No longer would I have the opportunity to hurt my very best friend, no more failures of kindness from me. Only heart smiles and memories of a wise, loving friend who taught me the profound value of kindness.

And the undeniable value of a good bag of chips.

 

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Categories
Life

When You Became the Sun

I promised this virtual space of mine that I’d sprinkle some heart into it, and so grows this poem: planted from a memory, watered with love.

I felt this introduction necessary because I am well aware that grief is an almighty thing, and although this poem is—quite literally— shining with comfort and hope; it also speaks of loss. For those of you whose grief runs deep and new: I give you my blessing to stop reading here.

This poem was inspired by my beautiful Grandmother—a ray of pure sunshine in my life, and in the lives of all those who knew her. She passed away a few years ago, and this story took place on the day of her funeral.

That day, I wanted to believe that she was there with us.

So I believed.

And, every time I see the sun…I still believe.

 

WHEN YOU BECAME THE SUN

 

The day you grew your angel wings,

The sun shone warm and true,

While others saw a shining sun,

I looked, and I saw you.

 

The way the sun fell on my back;

A cape to still the grief,

A ring of gold around the clouds—

it filled me with relief.

 

The tears were wet upon our cheeks,

We thought you’d gone for good,

‘Take heart,’ the sun whispered to me,

‘You’ve all misunderstood.’

 

‘I’ve given her my shine, today,

It’s why she feels so near,

She’s telling you the pain has gone;

She knows that you can hear.’

 

Now every time I see the sun,

I hear your sweet hello,

‘Hello,’ I sing right back to you,

‘I’m glad you didn’t go.’

 

 

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Categories
Books

Falling In Love By Lamplight

I can’t remember the moment I fell in love with books.

But I know it was by lamplight.

A warm orange flush against the wall.

The shadow of a Mum, and a girl, and a book, and a bed.

A memory for all the senses.

A craving for the comfort of night.

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Are you there with me?

Mum’s soft voice, her words scattering into the twilight.

Like fireflies.

Waves, fizzing onto custard sand.

Winged chairs, lifting into the setting sun.

I feel it like I feel yesterday, that love.

That magic.

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Little girl me sped through the days, just to meet the night again.

Just so the story could go on.

Nothing’s changed, not really.

Except maybe the shadows on the wall.

The little girl I used to be: somewhere along the line, her shadow twisted and popped.

And grew.

The lamp lit voice: it’s not Mum’s, anymore.

It’s mine.

Colouring in the hearts of my own babies.

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I can’t remember the moment I fell in love with books.

And maybe the when doesn’t matter.

Maybe the why doesn’t matter, either.

It’s the who and the what and the how that will never leave me.

The lamplight.

The two shadows, big and small.

It’s the truest story I know.

And it’s all about how I fell in love… for the very first time.

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Categories
Nerdy Party Writing

An Audience With My Writerly Self

Hello Writerly Me,

It’s good to see you! Thanks for coming, by the way. No one else will be attending the party, sadly. Some were too shy to come. The rest: burning the candle at both ends, they said. Too busy for a party, they said. So that leaves…you. And me.

But, hey, that’s okay! When I really think about it I’m thrilled no one else is coming. I’ve been meaning to talk to you. Now seems like the perfect time. (Wait, do I hear crickets?)

Oh, sorry! How rude of me, please: take a seat.

Now. Writerly Me. I’ll start with a little story about how the two of us met.

When I first began writing creatively— you were there, humming away under my skin; a cute little engine you were, pumping ideas through me and onto those frightening white pages. So, yes. I knew you were there.

But I didn’t really know you then, did I? I didn’t recognise you, or the role you played in my writing. Luckily, that didn’t matter because you knew me. And you knew I needed your help to write. So, you kept coming back. Thank goodness.

The more stories I wrote, the clearer your voice became. You spoke for me: all I had to do was turn up at the desk and write what you told me to. In fact, you insisted.

‘Please,’ you said to me. ‘Just turn up. Write. Do nothing else.’ Remember that? You were pretty adamant about that part. (How’s your bum feeling, by the way? Sorry. These chairs are not okay.)

Anyway, you told me to stop thinking so much. Thinking does not belong in the world of pure imagination, you said. This was something I’d learnt the hard way. So much staring at the blank page; so much sifting through words, choosing only those that were pretty, or important, or…right.

Writerly Me, I think I finally get it. There is no right, is there? I will never know what kind of books Tom, or Jenny, or Joe Reader like. But I do know what kind of books I like. It’s quite simple, really. If the words that land on my page feel like warm chocolate milk to me, chances are those very words will feel like warm chocolate milk to someone else. (What? No, you can’t have a warm chocolate milk! This is still a party, you know.)

Trust that the magic will happen. You gave me those words, didn’t you? Yes. I thought so. You were spot on, there. Writing—creating anything, for that matter—is a kind of magic. So when I’m scared to face that blank page again, or when I wonder if all my previous stories were just one great big fluke, I think of you. I think of that magic wand of yours, how you flap it about and magic up a story, how you help me sprinkle that same magic all over the page.

Thank you, Writerly Self. No, really. Thank you. For coming to the party. For reminding me to trust in your magic. All writers are different, you taught me that. And although thinking and planning may belong at some other writer’s desk…they don’t belong at mine.

Magic belongs at mine.

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Categories
Life

The Gift of Bother

Last week I was car-less.

Imagine.

A young Mum with things to do. Places to go.

Objects to move from one place to another.

Small children to move from one place…

To another.

What a bother.

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And then it struck me.

These legs of mine, these feet—

What marvellous things they are.

This body: flushed with life; me and the pram

Powering up hills, and down. Getting places

No engine necessary.

What a gift.

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Finding my feet again gifted me other things, too.

Like time.

Time to feel the papery trunks of nature’s watchmen,

Time to see—spindly leaves, dancing about in the open blue. Time to be

Me.

Free.

What a gift.

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But the very best of life on two legs was this:

Extra time with my babies— one and four years old.

Not three minutes together, like the car ride to kinder.

But twenty. Precious. Minutes.

Every day for a week.

All of us wide-eyed, as natures sweetest creations passed us by.

What a gift.

The gift of bother.

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Categories
Writing

The Wonder of the Muse

It’s the cool rush of fire shooting down the limbs, filling up the head, the heart, the page.

The spirit.

The muse, some people call it.

But what’s in a name? said the muse, to the writer who sat his desk once upon a time,  dipping and scribbling, waiting for his words to fly.

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It’s bigger than a name, surely— this mysterious, creative force.

It’s a train that barrels through the writers imagination, often with no known destination.

It’s a one-sided phone call from the heavens, where no words are spoken, but millions are heard.

And written.

And felt.

Music. Books. We’ve all felt those.

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It’s a feeling like no other, this force that takes the creative folk of this world. Magic in a million whispers; an offer they’ll either drop or fly into the sunset with.

It’s a chest flooded with light and a dare to fill a blank page.

It’s an epiphany.

A promise.

A gift.

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A gift for writers and a gift for the readers of their words.

A gift for humanity, is what it is.

Mysterious and strange.

And overflowing with wonder.

 

Categories
Writing

The Power of Words

The word peach makes me feel like summer.

I love that.

Maybe it’s the colour: dappled orangey, yellowy, red—to me, that colour sings. Just like summer.

Summer sings.

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It could also be the many hundreds of peaches I’ve slurped down over my thirty-something summers that give the word peach that summer feeling. Sticky fingers and dribbles down the chin—loving every minute, hating every minute, too.

No wonder those classic summer fruits have chiseled a feeling into my bones.

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The word peach; the visual peach; the feeling…

Peach.

 Surely it’s not just me that feels it.

It’s the power of words, right?

Fascinating, isn’t it, that when we know a language so well we barely even think about the words that come tumbling out of us, and yet they paint our whole world.

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Lately I’ve been wondering: why do certain books make me feel down to the very core, whilst others just make me smile?

I think I know one reason.

Words.

And the magic they puff up, and around, and all over us.

Peach.

Cocktail by the pool, anyone?

Categories
Book Quotes

The Journey Begins

 

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

– Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

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