copper leaf & cherry pie

There is so much more to winter than being cold.

I chime this frequently, especially while scrolling through spring Northern Hemisphere blogs juicy with sunhats and strawberries.

+++++++++++++++++

Of course, then I have to go hunting for evidence to fully convince myself of this fact.

Exploring until there is a glimpse of something wondrous,

The optimist in me waggles a tongue in the mirror at pessimism,

And we push behind the fur coats of the shutter,

Both of me, the artist and the realist.

Holding hands, we walk through the back of the wardrobe,

Emerging into the stunning dragon-breath of a morning,May 2010 129

Which ripens to an afternoon of Autumn sky,

Disney blue,

With half an icy orb, out early to play games with the sun.

May 2010 175

And we can’t take our eyes off these fuzzy rainbows.

May 2010 208 May 2010 223

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Nor can we stop stroking the new swathe of cherry wool wound around us.

It matches our nail-polish,

An unintended outcome that brings ridiculous satisfaction.

(As does wearing boots, today the first time in WEEKS)

May 2010 213

We watch this Leaf Sprite from the Winter Garden love-seat,

The artist and I,

Arms linked and feet swinging in easiness,

Underneath the walnut tree.

May 2010 068 May 2010 066

She larks about the copper crispness,

May 2010 109

With pieces of the sky caught in her eyes,

And we are smitten, in this breathtaking dazzle of light.

May 2010 101

Such festive energy these sturdy legs contain,

such relentless delight,

May 2010 033

that while we admire the bare bark fingers of lacy shadow-play upon the fence,

May 2010 219 May 2010 122

the Sprite begins to spice things up,

climbs a miniature lemon tree

and pretends to be a Super-Hero.

She doesn’t realise she will never need to act.

She is one of three already.

May 2010 088 May 2010 092

Finally we brush the leaf crumbs from our hair,

Stamp the gold-dust from our soles,

Push back to where the lens lies blind

To place another log upon the open fire

and pour a cup of Kenya tea.

May 2010 165

Aaaaahhhh, Winter.

So it is true.

There is much more than more,

For there is love to see.

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tuesdays unwrapped at cats

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Is Legacy extinct?

My concentration has returned in part and I have been reading in between bouts of feeling grumpy. This was the new release that I picked up.

rebel hands

Below are some of the words that pinned me to my pillow.

“It must have been midnight when I woke again. The windows were squares of transparent blue light set in a black background; the moonlight beamed through the rooms. And old mango tree overhung the rondavel, engulfing the kitchen in a great black shadow and submerging the back door and the grassy yard in an ink-pool. The cold black leaves were etched in sharp serrations, their shiny surfaces reflection the moonlight. The haze of brilliance silvered the rows of orange trees dotting the slopes of the hill below us in tidy rows, towards the main road, a kilometer away.”

“The silhouettes of men, dim grey in the moon, moved past the windows on both sides. Flashes of reflected light glanced off their fixed bayonets. Feathers hung from hats, or stood up in the rims of caps, rags hung in strips from their arms; harsh whispers passed back and forth between them. There was the rattle and clink of rows of bullets, strapped across their chests, knocking against each other, and as they moved they crouched forward slightly, like cats stalking their prey.”

“I thought, Is this how we are going to die? Will there be no time even to prepare ourselves? Is this all? The moon shone benignly down, as if it were laughing. It seemed as if its very rays transformed themselves into a freezing fear, spreading through our bones, burning like dry ice. Our heads tingled. They were just going to shoot us in our backs.”

“We emerged from the msasa forest, a sea of pewter lace created by the late afternoon sun as it penetrated the tree’s canopy. A breathtaking sight awaited us. Far below us lay a vast valley surrounded by hill after hill of forest. From where we stood it looked like steel wool that had been teased apart. Grateful for a few moments rest we waited at the crest of the ridge for the rearguard to catch up.”

You might think the book could be an interesting read. Well, yes. It certainly is. For an outsider.

For me?

For me, it blasted the concept of interesting into blood-thumping oblivion.

It was like plugging myself into a time machine and whirling back to the moment that devastated my childhood, and to an extent, defines a part of who I am today.

This non-fiction book is written by one of the group that were abducted with my parents, in 1987 in Mozambique. I was eleven, and left behind.

Reading it was like watching a plane crash into a high rise. You can’t NOT look even though your legs go weak and horror courses through you. I found myself caught in the sickening space of waiting for my far-away recollections to meet up with the reality of who I am today. My childhood, idyllic as it was in growing up barefoot on a farm in Africa, was fraught with monstrous terror. My little girl nightmares actually did come to pass. Some bad men came and took away my security and altered the course of my life forever.

I am very familiar with the sensation of bloodcurdling fear, and the accompanying metallic taste in my mouth. I know what it is like to have your heart crash so crazily in your chest for so long that begins to hurt. I know what it is to peep out of the windows checking for evil men with weapons, alert to every noise, each branch crack or dog bark. My favourite time of the day is still the dawn, even though the sunsets of the savannah are almost indescribably stunning. The culture of sundowners, sitting quietly at rest after a long day of hard work, talking softly and watching the African bush fold her wings for nightfall while sipping cold drinks before dinner is a gold-tinged memory. But always, fighting the serenity, was the looming dread of the dark that pounded on the deepest drum of my soul. Dawn brings a reprieve, a sigh of relief. Another night packed away safely.

Admittedly, my personal journey was unique, it was un-common to be victims of this sort of war crime in our circle of society. But although tragedy comes in different shapes and colours, it results in exquisitely similar sensations.

As I read this account of a journey so terrifying it is hard to imagine, written by a friend of my parents who knew them in this chapter of their lives, I shook. It is easier to unhinge myself from the reality and pretend I am reading someone else’s story.

Reading a re-run of the abduction reminded me how the arms of security erode, taking me back to the trembling, unearthly hour that we were told that my parents and sister had been kidnapped. Back to the exact minute we were told we were likely orphans, that grainy tear-soaked sorrow which cauterised an indelible independence below the surface of my pulse.

Using words to cast me out of my current atmosphere, to that globe-tilting event and then onwards, might help to thread my fragmented past into some sort of necklace of sense. Like lassoing the planets and moons and lacing them into a chain, a backwards facing identity marathon, looping trauma to final healing and knotting in the golden bits of sun that were orbiting there too. Knitting hidden galaxies of grief and delight into seamless skeins of words, takes the power out of trauma and casts light into the bleak midnight memories. Using the Holy Spirit as a guide through the vistas of human emotion, and anchoring my line to His heart, I sense the gravity of direction.

I know I am not alone. There are a couple of bruised generations in recent years that have been separated from some part of Africa. For many in Zimbabwe, it is an abrupt severing of a proud heritage that has now been humiliated and disbanded. Many fought for the strength and beauty of their land in vain, only to watch as it twisted into a crippled, bleeding beast. Thousands of people carry a brand of this trauma and the whip-marks of a fear so desperate that it barely claws itself into realm of sanity or definition. We do what we have to do, turn our backs on the past, ignore the legacy in favour of life. But millions are left there helpless, as starving victims and orphans caught in the ripple effect of greed and bloodshed.

I know too, that Africa is just a slice of a devastating global pie – billions more fight battles of famine, terrorism and hopelessness. Billions beyond the scope of my meagre words. And there are armies of others who live in first world economies who are experiencing their own agonies of pain, divorce, redundancy, rejection and sorrow.

And so I hesitate to begin to write, even to publish this post, in the shadow of the giant of real suffering, my own experience is wafer-thin.

I wonder if I would be able to remember enough? Would it not be nauseatingly pin-headingly self-absorbed?

Are my memories too pebbly a night-sky to tame?

Perhaps legacy has become a luxury?

Thoughts?

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April Wedding

A recent showery Autumn afternoon saw us join a small gathering to witness the unfolding of some tenderly sincere vows.

…………………………April 100

These two bring a refreshing sweetness to the concept of marriage,

and a more beautiful couple you would be hard-pressed to find.

In addition to being there on that delightful April day, we were also profoundly privileged to walk with them through their pre-marriage counselling.

They moved us to tears on several occasions and we were probably the ones who learned the most about love.

………………………

 

 April 061April 081April 083April 080April 101April 085   April 087  April 094April 105    April 124 April 119April 120April 125

   Congratulations E & D.

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Feeling the love...

Out of the blue yesterday, there was a knock at the door.

This sweet angel stood there.

With these...

...and this...


For hours afterwards, I marvelled at her stunning gesture of love in this basket of generous bounty. So unexpected! And so much fun to unpack and enjoy. Thank you so much my friend.

Later, someone else knocked and carried in a hot home-cooked meal.

My little family have been very helpful, and I have received beautiful cards, kind texts, phone calls, offers to clean and others have come and taken Mishal off for several mornings in a row. It has been quite incredible.
I am astounded at how much the body can heal in two short weeks. I have gone from wincing with each breath to being able to potter about quite comfortably and wear my jeans again (obviously not the silly tight ones). Fatigue and trembling after activity seems to be my next hurdle to overcome but then again, I do realise that it is early on in the piece.
I am fully my own worst enemy, preferring to clean the bath (carefully), bake (assembling ingredients while kneeling on the kitchen floor) or sew Royal Ball costumes (sitting on the carpet, using my hand to push the foot pedal) rather than rest but the pay off is better. Each busy day means a couple of quiet days have to follow, but being able to contribute occasionally and reassure my babies that life will get back to the normal they knew, is worth it.
Lest my mother and mother-in-law are tempted to disapprove, let me reassure you both that despite how it sounds, I promise I am being good. In between little jobs, I return to my spot on the couch where I recline and contemplate my next move ;)

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Unswaddled

I have been wrapped in crumpled cotton bedsheets for days; sipping soup, religiously taking my pain meds and watching the sky catch colours outside my window. My legs have been woollen and wooden in turn and night-stand lilies have sweetened the air on me.

Depite the still, my visual scanner has not switched off. While I have folded in the cocoon of healing, some part of my brain has been frolicking with the possibilities of light, and the intriguing less-is-more concept of this week's Photoplay. Sorry Claire, I know this entry is late, I nearly didn't bother but this morning I woke and felt a fraction more human and knew it was time to dip a toe into life again. Simply and perfectly unadorned.

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The Exchange


A week is a long time.
A week is no time at all.
Alot can happen in a week.

This time a week ago, I walked into a small private hospital and was admitted and prepped for surgery.

I woke up twisting in a cauldron of pain, scalding my insides like bright coals. I could hear Greg's voice and feel the unmistakable familiarity of his hands as he gripped mine. It was comforting but distracting to swing between the planets of agony and the soothing gravity of his love. I recall muttering about the pain, while squeezing his hand tighter, and gradually as they fiddled with the medications, the two worlds became less far apart and I was able to open my eyes a little at a time and see the outline of my husband as he bent at my side.

The days that passed were blurred with wincing. My arms blossomed bruises like poppy flowers from four drip sites. I was propped up on unforgiving pillows that slithered out of their slips like fat plastic tubes. The children came and sat with me each afternoon after school and after they had gone, I sank back into no-man's land and let the painkillers drag me off again. I tried to read, but each line bled away into nonsense and the book was so heavy I could not hold it off my stomach. I watched daytime television on a tiny, movable screen but the screeching motion of sound and colour tilted my brain until I felt like I was whirling on my bed. A large dressing covered my wound, which has healed well in a week, a closed lip reminder across my abdomen of what I have lost.
And of what I have gained.


In the dark arms of the nights, while pain and rest squabbled, my thoughts bubbled to the surface to grieve. Instead of crying about losing the ability to have more children, I was surprised to choke on an irrational lump of unattraction. While I marvelled at the small mindedness of this fear linking my beauty to my fertility, I gave myself permission to stare at the unfamiliar phenonmen none-the-less and allowed the tears to trickle down the pillows during this graveyard shift.
After a while, when my thoughts had experienced quite enough of the gloom parade, I felt to write.
Write? I questioned incredulously.
Write. The answer seemed firm.
I scrounged about in the drawer beside me for a notebook and pen. And in the dark, I KID YOU NOT, the pitch dark, I shut my eyes and began to take dictation.

And in that moment of such mental and physical turmoil, I knew triumph. It would have been a thousand times easier to ignore the prompt and lie frozen in my place of pain, and even in the blackest hours, I still had to choose. And in this profound unfolding, God gave me dignity.
Choice.

I have no idea if the words I scribbled are legible or make sense. I just know this: that in the times we feel most challenged for identity, who we are now or where we are at, there are promises that we can choose to place forefront in our feelings.

In the space where I lost my womb, God says He knew me in my mother's.

And thus settled, I then chose that He said He would be my hiding place. And in the sorrow and physical ache, He was. I let Him be.
I asked God in the process of this operation, this hysterectomy,
that He would exchange my loss for something greater.
Leading up to the surgery, I felt complete joy and peace. Not even butterflies in my tummy while I suffered fits of giggles while tugging on compression stockings and buttoned the shoulders of my hospital gown.
He exchanged fear for peace before I even made it to the O.R.
He exchanged sorrow for identity in the hours that followed,
and pain for grace.
And He is still in the process of exchanging,
because that's His business.
Beauty for ashes.
The oil of joy for mourning.
A garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
Will you choose to accept it, and place it higher than your own burden?
Will you take it, own it and make it your aligning purpose despite the circumstances that tell you otherwise?
Will you join me? I am doing this day by day, hour by hour.
Grace for this exchange only lasts for a day.
And then I tip again into trying to figure everything out.


Lovely to be back to blog-land my sweets.

Missed your stories and word-hugs.

Please excuse the photo quality, all taken on my iPhone.

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High Calling

Yesterday I crossed into delicious comfort over another family's threshold, into the home of one of my girlfriends. Toys were scattered under foot, fruit was being chopped on the kitchen bench and a glossy fat cat wound round my legs. There was a warm, friendly chaos that bubbled around me, as our preschoolers chased each other in welcome, and other friends arrived spilling laughter and hugs while the coffee machine burbled and hissed.


And then turning, I saw it.

At the end of the room, a linen covered table stood in a patch of morning sunlight. It was set with scalloped china tea cups and a bunch of ruffled rosebuds, plates of dainty treats, fruit and cheese. And a gift wrapped in silvery blue paper was propped against a teapot. All for me.

I stood still in quiet surprise.
This is the home of a girl who has just had, only days ago, her third baby. She now has three small sons and lives in a world of trains, Lego and plastic swords. She is the one who needs nurturing.
And yet, she called other special women in my life, opened up her home. Took out her grandmother's china and cut up home baking. In between newborn feeds and kindergarten drop offs, she set a table with feminine delight and created a space to honour me.


A part of me retreated to watch the scene unfold. Watched myself smile and be led over the toy field to the far end of the family room. Watched as I was seated in the puddle of sun and provided a cup of tea.

I registered that the faraway part of me had begun to feel emotional at this outpouring of love.

My outward shell remained alert and responded; I conversed, opened presents and sipped tea. All the while the inner me swam in deep shafts of liquid, kicking through sensations that were nearly overwhelming. The simple beauty of that autumn sunlight as it shone through the dancing leaves outside, and burst onto the table was reaching a crescendo in my artist brain. I was transfixed by the neat soldiers of biscotti and the sagging bloom of the brie. The grapes and pineapple glistened with fascinating juice and the teapot spouted mesmerising wreathes of steam. I struggled to stay coherent. To talk of girlie things when what I wanted, really wanted, was to break apart and somehow find a pathway to the delight I could see but not fully express. I wanted my camera, to snap and hold the light so that later, alone, I could re-live the colour of love and digest it.

The artist in me had to wait for expression and then, when we looked back together, the outside me and the inside me, we remembered again and agree on what we believe.

It is all one life, this twisted skein of self-thread. Our experiences knit and loop together, the fragile, the sorrow and the joy. When we live only skimming the surface of our reality, dividing our thoughts and tasks into layers of relevance, we can miss the undercurrent of meaning and connection. We drop stitches. We come undone.

How we view ourselves and others, and how we let the significance of ordinary actions carry the weight of foreverness can be powerful. My friend, in her uncomplicated way, extended the natural arms of true relationship. By doing so, in the meeting place between her role as a friend and that as a minister of love, I found myself dropped smack-bang into a sea of blessing.

Living simply myself as a mother and friend, I see no distinction between the depth of calling and the reigns of duty. The lines blur until there are none; until each word, each smoothed brow, each hug and gift and call is merely another drop in the flow of this thing we do called life. Love flows through relationship, and I believe it is the greatest conduit of the divine that there is.

I have joined an online community of similar minded people who say this: "We believe God cares about our daily work. That’s why HighCallingBlogs.com is a network of personal websites focused specifically on the intersection of faith and work."

It is where I will remember when I am tempted to be swamped by the common, that this unconscious act of breathing and heart-beating holds in each moment, each and every moment, a deeper meaning. And when I work with counselling others, we will pause to let the invisible become apparent and will grow together in the pursuit of freedom.

Tiny things can have a monumental effect on the destiny of other people as well as yourself. What happens at home behind closed doors, at work or at church, still carries the same exquisite value of importance. And importance does not tend to wear fancy clothing, travel first class or carry a microphone.
On the contrary, I find the most significant moments are often the tender ones we can overlook or take for granted.
May you each drink deep of love today.

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