Lift up Mine Eyes

Running into streaming wind,

urging crafts to clip

a piece of sky to tumble in,

to toss and shake and dip.

Bright surprise pulled on the string

shone into light-laced eyes,

our gaze outgrew our effort

and lay upon the highest skies.

may you have courage to lift up your eyes today



One night standing at a counter in Cotton On, in downtown Singapore, buying my daughter some jean shorts I was surprised by this appeal taped to a donation box.

My home - clean, green, wealthy, beautiful nation of peace was receiving aid from other nations, some far less fortunate.

I am used to seeing requests for help like that growing up in Africa, but to see NZ in light of crisis, like Haiti or Pakistan was disconcerting.

You are being thought of, those of you affected by the quake.

At retail counters in Asia, in shops crowded with young people and pulsating rock music, you are talked about and considered with compassion. That tub had a healthy amount only a few days after the earthquake.

Yes Little New Zealand. The world is watching.


And 3 slips through...

I am
in love sea.

Feet not touching the floor
of an ocean
that both floats and drags me,

beyond shores where I know the time,
or have an idea of which way is north.
All I am is tossed
in this endlessness
of being a mother to 3.

And with this last one,
I try to cup her babyhood in mortal hands
but not unlike the river that is life
it streams through knuckles,
unrepentant of my sentiment.

Both terrified and delighted I watch it flow.

It is going so fast.

Happy 3rd Birthday my sweet child,
one inquired of by prayer

I love you.
I love you.
I love you.

MKH, you are a chatty wee lady, big questions. What is God Daddy?
Your favourite colour is blue, like the sky you say.
Your favourite animal you told me today is a giraffe. Yesterday I think it might have been a pig.
To eat, you are very particular: yoghurt with no bits, original rice crackers, flavoured milk. Nutella sandwiches with the 'skins' cut off, watermelon with no seeds, pasta with no sauce, broccoli by the bucket (you steal everyone else's), baby carrots, pumpkin soup, egg whites.
You do not eat fruit. Nor honey, egg yolk or soft cheese.
You still love to go out for a fluffy (called a babychino in Singapore) at a cafe and know which one is Starbucks.
Your legs are getting long.
You show zero signs of being interested in potty training.
You can draw all sorts of things and know all your colours, including grey, purple and gold.
You like to bake. Especially when it comes to the mixing part. You tell me you are a 'good helper'.
You are 3 and wear size 6 clothes.
You are left handed and can use scissors extremely well. I bought you little lefty ones which I see you have managed to work with your right hand.
You know all the shapes, oval included.
You like stickers very much. And puzzles. You make shapes of people out of blocks, instead of building towers.
You have a voracious appetite for watching kids tv.
Your ear for music is becoming even more apparent, you can hum a tune after hearing it once. You enjoy your big sister's songs, loving to listen to their ipods and request certain cd tracks when we are in the car. You want to play a sitar when you grow up, you tell me.
You insist on listening to Baby Mozart music for dreaming every single night when we tuck you in. Of course, Bubba and Piglet are still right there, one under each arm and your orange sippy cup of milo, every night the same ritual.
You want to be a mummy when you grow up, and marry your daddy, he is your hero.
You run and hide under your bedclothes every time he comes home from work, and when your sisters come home from school too.
You say 'bup-rise!' instead of surprise.
And 'muz-gik' for music.
I now automatically say buprise and muzgik too.

You are content, patient, steady and cheerful. Having you as a little buddy has been such a priviledge. You are off to preschool for the first time next month, and as much as I will enjoy watching you learn and grow, I will be bereft. You are a delight my sweetie.


Uncomfortable Satisfaction

The genetic ability to do sports skipped me.

This was not a problem until my senior school years at boarding school, where there was no escaping compulsory physical education. I hit upon brillance though, and asked to do horse riding. This ticked the semi-normal box of activity and meant I didn't have to run around a cross country field being chased by a wiry teacher with a long stick.

I have fond memories of the rickety blue pickup that a few of us lurched off to riding in, singing together crowded on wooden benches in the back of the truck, while dust and exhaust fumes poured in the grates on the sides. I loved it. Everything about it. And a few years on, when school academics called louder than fun, I hung up my jodhpurs and veldskoens in favour of Shakespeare.

Until last week.

A new friend and I signed up for a Back in the Saddle 8 week course at this place. Got joddies and boots from a tiny shop tucked into the back of nowhere. And grey riding gloves. My friend's domestic helper looked after Mishie for me and off we went for our first lesson bright and early.

My horse was called Winning Glory. Ha.

He was dry-coated, a condition that sometimes affects post-racehorses who have lost the ability to sweat. This meant he was extremely reluctant to move anywhere very fast. While the instructor stood and called for rising trot, Winning Glory was busy imaging he was fast asleep back in his stall. The pressure mounted. TROT ON! Other horses were needing to overtake me. I felt a flush of annoyance - for goodness sake - just a trot WG, c'mon! My instructor yelled at me to have some attitude and kick the daylights out of him.

I kicked. Most ineffectively, with legs that are used to standing in the kitchen and joggling babies on my knees, not being perched on saddle leather. I felt like a crow, flapping uselessly on the back of a donkey. My thighs laughed at me.

Indignation and humiliation sat one on each shoulder and I forced the animal to move faster. It turns out his trot style was famous for being bouncy. I tried to hold myself in tightly, keeping my legs still and reins the right length, heels down.

But that burst of energy had exhausted my trusty steed. He flopped back to a walk and the more desperate my efforts became, the more he flicked his ears back and chewed with chagrin on his bit. A short struggle of wills ensued. He jerked into a hoppy half trot and my feet came down unevenly on the stirrups. My right stirrup leather snapped where it was worn on the buckle line. And I fell off faster than you could blink, as my other foot had lost it's stirrup too. I did a semi-somersault and landed heavily on the small of my back.

The pain was as close to unbearable as I could imagine, and I've had major surgery this year so I think that's saying something. I lay like a sack of potatoes on my side, unmoving. Saying to myself through hot tears and sand, breathe amy, just breathe. But it was hard to remember how to get air in and out. My head voice took over, talking clearly so as to be heard over my back. you have a spinal injury, do not move. keep breathing. in-out. if you were paralysed, it might not be as painful... But my legs felt like wooden logs. The instructor leaned over me, said Breathe Amy. Can you wiggle your toes?

From my sideways view, face on the dirt, I could see the treeline going vertically up into the blue sky. I stared at the trees between the tears that kept streaming. Kept trying to breathe through the blinding jangle of pain that set every fiber on screaming edge.

After ten minutes I was advised to get up, and gritting my teeth to hold the noise in, I got onto my knees and then feet. That pain did not go. It felt like Winning Glory was standing on my lower back. My legs shuffled awkwardly. I felt like throwing up. There was sand plastered to my cheeks.

What made the entire situation worse was being told by the instructor that it was my own fault for uneven weight bearing and breaking the stirrup leather. It was the final straw. I choked back a childish and teary outburst which went something along the lines of being the client, and the values of tack maintenance. And went into a faraway place in my head.

My friend, who is a nurse, took me immediately to the nearest hospital where several narcotic injections did not alleviate the pain. It was the kind of situation where I didn't care who saw what, or how loud I sobbed when I had to climb on the x-ray table, and have my boots and jodhpurs taken off.

After 4 hours in the A&E it was recommended I be admitted to the ward for further investigation, as my x-rays were clean but inconclusive and they were advising that the next step would be a CT and MRI.

But we opted for the more budget friendly option, and I was wheel-chaired to the Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon's consulting rooms for assessment. After another hour, he injected me with anti-inflammatory medication which at last brought my first break in the level of pain.

We again declined ward admittance and Greg brought me home, where our nearly 9 year old had arrived from school and had to fend for herself for ten minutes. She was brave but emotional from the fright of receiving a call on her cell phone to say we had been held up but would be home soon. It is so distressing to be so new in a place that there are no people who can step into the gap and care for your family at a moment's notice. But my girls are learning to be self-sufficient and of that, I am so proud.

So, the current situation is this. After a follow up to the Surgeon, he says I am fortunate to have only a bone bruise to my sacroiliac joint which after phsyio and more cortisone shots will eventually heal. No more horse riding for a while.

Fine by me Doc.

After all, it was about practicing stepping out of comfort zones. And has reminded me that its okay to step out and fall.

I will hurt but eventually I will heal.

I guess I missed that lesson when I skipped the team sports at school.

Do I regret leaping out and doing something a tiny bit crazy?

Nah, not really.

Because my new personal challenge is not being afraid of getting wet.

And I am so BLESSED to have such a minor injury when I know how much worse it could have been.


Fountain Fairy

Whim-surfing means that we let the heat addle us into a parental stupor.

We blink at each other slowly over the children eating fast food yet again,
being out late at night and playing in public fountains in their pretty frocks.

Because it's about jumping in. And not being afraid to get wet.

And I suck at it.

Not so great at shirking being
At letting loose and allowing things to be
At being cool with my world being
messed up.

For example, last week I JUMPED.
Onto a horse for the first time in 20 years.

It was not pretty.

Tune in next time for graphic proof.

In the meantime I am off to soak pretty dresses in laundry liquid :)


Window View

Prompted, I took a look. Then opened my studio windows wide onto the late afternoon air, thick with humidity and leaned against the ledge.

Ochre tiled rooftops low against glass and concrete towers that rise into the hazy sky surround me. Black grey birds with yellow legs and beaks are jauntily stealing scraps from someone's kitchen wastebins. They pipe, chatter and screech. Someone is hammering. The air conditioners whir on the neighboring walls. I can hear children splashing in a nearby pool. Distant traffic. Construction poles tumbling. A motorbike idling. Kitchen clatterings from the homes behind ours.

I study the dying curls of a palm. The shades of green of the trees along the narrow street we live on.

And turn away - still seeing but not feeling. Hearing, but the sounds are unfamiliar and hold no memory.

Someone fills a bucket with rushing tap water. I close the windows as rain now dots the rooftops below me.

My cursor blinks at me. I blink back.

Where are we?


If loving is deliberate -

- then let me count the ways:

fragrant air, like breath on my neck

cool rain beyond open doors and windows

creamy orchids on the table

ceiling fans whirring

glasses full of ice and tea

nights that are starlit and balmy

palm leaf shadows

thunderstorm rumbles

sparkly sandals

chilled mango and papaya with yoghurt and muesli

candy striped icy pops

sweaty little brows and dusty toes

It is an unwilling seduction. For once I melt and give all my heart, how will I uproot again in such a short time? Poets and artists should never be relocated willy-nilly. Their window view is their canvas, their front door becomes a portal. Location becomes inspiration and roots of the soul stretch beyond the concrete of the walls. Smells, sights and textures are meshed into the fabric of practicality. They are not sensible people. They are feelers. The mere way the light enters a room can change their entire perspective.

I am beginning to take things in. It is Powerful wearing a blanket of Pretty. It is like being unbearably hot at the seaside, and dabbling in the shallows. Every fibre is pulling for the feel of wholeheartedly leaping into the coolness of the water. But, your straight-laced part reminds you that you have inappropriate apparel, or how it will look when you get out, with mascara tracks and straggling wet hair. You push/me/pull/you internally. Let's go into the water. No, stay dry and comfortable.

Eventually you leave dry with regret, or a wet mess with uncomfortable satisfaction.

I think I might want to jump in.


Me and My Dad


I think perhaps we never really grow up.

For me, life is like a story; new pages tell the next chapter. For us, it has revealed a version of the fairytale of family that none of us expected. We have been a stunned bunch gathered around the storybook in the last year and a bit. After all the other unexpected plots, this one really takes the cake. This is the one that we least anticipated, and we have covered some hair-raising chapters in the past.

The Little Me found it unthinkable, horrified at how the storyline could get so uncomfortable again, and how suddenly that safe and familiar unit I so loved, divided.

Loud objections to the Author have not erased the words. The pages of days just keep turning and even though I might want to go back and read that astonishing twist over and over, just to make sure I read it right, I have been confronted with the fact that I am merely a character as we all are, and have no say in where the story goes. I have a role in another book too, as we all do. The one where my own Little People curl up and read the story of their beginnings and their belonging.

Although I may object in principle to the way the new plot-line challenges my expectations as a reader, as a child, I am still in love with the people who walk the pages and have done for generations before I came along.

And you, Pip, are one of the stars.

I have never found a Father's Day card that says the right words.

None of them carry a mention about Night Night, Sleep Tight, Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite.

They don't thank you for taking me fishing untangling my line and baiting my hook.

For rides on your motorbike, perched in front of you on the hot fuel tank.

For camping trips to Mana Pools, a love of the ridiculous and, incredibly dear to me, that wicked slant of humour, always ready for a chuckle. For being Father Christmas, for teaching me to lay a fire and for accepting and loving my choice of husband.

For drawing us funny cartoons, making me laugh with the silly rhymes that come to your tongue so fluidly. For cups of tea in front of the cricket, for delicious meals and recipe sharing.

For steady problem solving, open arms and generosity.

For the years and years of sharing the gift of yourself with us and giving me grandparents who delighted my growing years with the kind of legacy that will trickle on and on.

For being a jolly grandad who tickles and laughs with his grandaughters.

And for the gift of a family that I am priviledged to be a part of.

It matters not to me what Life unfolds in the Story.

Although I am growing older on the outside, to the Little Me, you are the fanciful one who is perched on my art-table, exploring the space where my creativity and childhood meet.

Happy Father's Day Dad.

Photo taken of me and my Dad in 1978, just before he left on active duty in the Rhodesian Armed Forces.


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