Long ago, when I was a child, I was an avid reader of stories from other cultures, whether they were ancient history, mythology, or ethnic. I learned a lot about people and life through those stories, and one element that impressed me a lot was a native american tale about a young boy and his father.
I can’t tell you much more about it because I hardly remember the story at all, apart from that element, but it changed my life.
The piece of the story that I do remember was when the father was teaching the boy about hunting. As the boy walked through the forest, he stood firmly in every step and kept breaking twigs, crunching fallen leaves, and dislodging small rocks. The resulting noise from his walking made it difficult to be quiet enough that the prey could not hear them coming. So the father taught him the method of ‘silent walking‘ and of walking in a way that blessed the mother earth with every step.
I was born with flat feet that had no arches. It meant that my feet were sore a lot of the time, but it didn’t really hold me back. The doctors at the time told my mother that I should go barefoot as much as possible, in the hope that I would develop what was called ‘false arches.’ But I was a fairly clumsy child, very gung ho in my actions, and so I was always having accidents.
I liked to play on nearby vacant lots that had old house planks stacked on them from demolitions, and the house planks still had rusty nails in them. I’d walk along the planks as if they were tightropes, checking my balance, and almost always stepped on a nail. And later, what happened was an infection from the nail and a rush to the doctor for help and tetanus needles.
The Amerindian story changed all that for me. After reading it, I never walked on the earth the same way again. I never placed a foot without looking at the ground I placed it on. And I followed the advice of the father to his son, to ‘silent walk‘ by placing the ball of the foot (the toe end) on the ground first and rolling it back to the heel, instead of jamming the heel into the ground and slapping the toes down thereafter.
My new way of walking meant I was far more able to creep up on people. It also meant that I stopped accidentally stepping on things that wanted to go on living, like snails.
An interesting side effect at first was that my shoes all developed severe wear and tear along the sides, because I was rolling my feet to the sides as I did this new step. It was so bad that my mother got advice from a foot doctor, who said I needed orthotics for my shoes. Luckily, she really didn’t have the money for that at the time, and I didn’t realize that it was my new way of walking that was causing the problem. No one else ever seemed to notice that I placed my feet differently to the way they placed theirs when walking.
Over time, I learned to adjust the way my feet moved so that I didn’t walk on their sides as much, but still walked in what I presumed was the way of the Amerindians.
I noticed how so many others walked jarringly on their heels, thudding across floors, making noises on footpaths, and always alerting the villains to where they were in the movies I watched because they couldn’t keep their footfall quiet. I took pride in my unique walk.
I thoroughly recommend my ‘silent walk‘ that kisses mother earth with every step for anyone who has back problems – far less jarring of the spine from jamming your heels into the ground.
It was also very helpful with my sprinting style when I did athletics in my teens, because you actually run on the ball of your toes, not your heels. So you can move faster. And if you are trying to carry a book on your head, like you do in deportment classes, my style of walking means you move the lower body more smoothly, so the book doesn’t fall off. It seems to give strength to the calf muscles, too.
What seems like small things like the change in my walk can have a chain reaction effect in life.
The care with which I placed my feet and observed the ground beneath then followed on to a greater observation of the world around me, in general, and I noticed things that I hadn’t seen in such detail before. That led to a life filled with wonder and a deep sense of happiness from what I observed, that buoyed me up through many painful moments and even later tragedies.
Many years ago, I was shopping with my daughter in an outdoor mall when I suddenly needed to go to the toilet. The closest facility was in a public bar, so we headed through the lounge to a small back hallway. Luckily, it was late morning on a weekday, so not too many people around, because the washroom only had two cubicles.
I remember the washroom very well. It had dark navy blue painted walls and no windows, and it had only one small white ceramic washbasin.
My daughter and I entered the cubicles to do what we needed to do but I finished first. After washing my hands, I decided to wait in the small hallway outside the washroom door, because the space inside the washroom was barely enough to stand and wash your hands. I was cognizant that if someone else entered the room, they would find it hard to move past me to the cubicle.
The small hallway outside the washroom was a plain affair – simply a passageway disguising the washroom door from the lounge, and with an opening at either end. I placed my back against its blank wall to wait for my daughter, and could easily see what was going on at either end with just a small turn of my head.
So it was with some very great surprise that, as I stood there, an elegant older woman with a shock of styled white hair, dressed in a narrow belted cream linen frock and high heels, walked out of the same washroom door I had just exited from.
In the short time that I had stood in the hallway, no one else had entered it. No one else had gone into the washroom. And I knew that the washroom only had two toilet cubicles.
The woman walked past me, almost brushing me as she went, but we didn’t touch. I watched as she exited the small hallway into the bar lounge and then, with curiosity getting the better of me, I poked my head back through the washroom door, just to make sure it was exactly as I remembered it. And it was. Two cubicles, no windows, no cupboards, and no other doors other than the cubicle door I had only recently exited. Where had that old lady come from?How did she get past me into the washroom and even if somehow I blinked and missed it, how did she do what she needed to do in the very small amount of time since I had exited?
It struck me that if aliens did walk amongst us, or travelers from the future, what better place for the end of their traveling wormhole to appear than an empty washroom cubicle? Who would even blink twice if they emerged from one (I did, of course, since the circumstances were extremely odd…)
When my daughter finally emerged, I told her of my experience. She smiled and didn’t say much, even though I pointed out the lack of entry to the washroom, other than the door in the small hallway where we were standing. I don’t know if she believed me or not. Maybe slotted it in the ‘too hard’ basket, as others often do. Maybe thought her mother was having an ‘episode’ (I’m known for some zany ideas, after all) or was reading too much into the situation than was there.
Even my husband didn’t pay too much attention to the story of my experience, later, since he likes to question all my odd experiences and begins examination from a point of implied coincidence unless I can provide concrete proof – which I couldn’t.
I still thought about this incident for a while afterwards. Did the traveler know I was there and didn’t care because I was one of those people they could trust with that knowledge, or didn’t that matter because other people wouldn’t believe me even if the evidence clearly showed I had reason to question what was going on? (I was the only one who saw that woman, after all, and she wasn’t in the bar lounge when we exited the hallway).
This small event became just a passing experience and a story, easily forgotten in the passage of time, as such things often do unless other people join in the conversation.
I wondered how many others have experiences like that and so easily slip back into the mores of their mundane lives, which are far easier to deal with than to address such small incidents with any real depth?
While others may have fobbed me off when I related this story, I know what I saw and have never forgotten the details because I was so surprised and examined the logicality of it at the time.
I wished that somehow the woman actually had brushed against me, so that I could confirm she was real – though in all visual sense, she certainly was – but at the time I was doing my best to be polite and to keep my back as much against the wall as possible so she could get past without interference.
The experience was a first for me and I have not had one like it, since, though I do have a very observant eye on the world. Nor could I say that she was a spirit entity, because she just did not have that prickling sense you can get when around one, and was just so visually sharp and real. (Although I do remain open to that option, my feelings about the experience say otherwise).
In later years, a television documentary showed just how much people can miss, going through their days. It showed that a lot can be going on that the mind does not see, even though the brain records it.
When people were shown videos of odd things happening around them while they sat at their desks or plied their tasks, that they missed and did not register, nor remarked on when previously asked to detail what had been going on during those specific time frames, they were surprised to see the odd things happening around them in those recordings.
People are selective about what they focus on and what they choose to take notice of. It makes you realize that a lot can be happening around you that just doesn’t register.
So I think that if aliens or time travelers are smart enough to get here, then they are most likely smart enough to have figured out these behavioral flaws in the human race, and they are smart enough to capitalize on that.
If you are still looking for alien greys or little green men, adjust your mindset. Because the people you are looking for are just like you and me. Or, better than that, they are people you would not think at all could be aliens, people you stand aside to allow room for (like the elegant older woman I saw), or appear in such a way that you silently give them respect or consideration without even attempting to touch or engage.
The first time I ever went on a ferris wheel was when I was very young.
In those days, ferris wheels did not have gondolas enclosed in cages as they do now, nor windows or doors of any kind.
When my mother, sister and I climbed onto the gondola platform, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a picnic bench with a canopy, suspended from a hanging arm.
Everything was open to the elements. You could even see through the floorboards, and between the boards on the seat. This was not so bad when you were at the bottom but, once the gondola got way high on the wheel, seeing through those boards was scary.
This particular ferris wheel had been described as the largest in the southern hemisphere at the time. As it climbed to breezy heights, the only safety precaution was a thin metal bar closing the ‘gate.’ If you saw that contraption today, safety issues would come to mind. A child could easily fall through the space under the bar. It was a visual barrier, only.
Otherwise, the only warning we were given was to ‘remain seated’ and ‘don’t rock the gondola.’
Tell that to my mother and sister, who thought that ‘rocking the gondola’ was the most exciting fun to be had.
Way up high over our city, with breezy views for miles, and sitting on a picnic bench in the air, my mother and sister blew loud gales of laughter as they swung our gondola about as much as they possibly could.
My knuckles were absolutely white from hanging on, and if I hadn’t been so young at the time I’m sure my stiffened muscles would have been aching by the time I got off.
I really thought I was going to die. I thought I was going to fall off that flimsy bit of wood and splat to the ground.
I must have been completely ashen, but my mother and sister thought that my reactions were so funny they kept going the whole time we were on the thing – and we spent a very long time on the thing, way at the top of the wheel, (while the operator was obviously having a cup of tea in his safe cubicle on the ground…)
By the time I got off the ferris wheel, you could never get me back on one of them again. (I thought).
I refused every offer thereafter, year after year. By that time, I was also extremely afraid of heights. (Not to wonder, really).
When my own children grew old enough to attend the city shows, it was my husband who took them on the ferris wheel. I would proclaim that someone had to stay on the ground to look after the picnic bag, and I even took a small fold up stool to sit on while I waited through the event.
For them, going on the ferris wheel was a regular part of going to the city show. By the time they were going on the ferris wheel, though, the gondolas had been fully enclosed in cages. But I still could not bring myself to ride in one.
My children grew up and ferris wheels are no longer seen just at city shows or fairgrounds. Now they are sight seeing attractions and we have one installed beside the river in our city.
My daughter thought to surprise me with a treat for my birthday one year and bought the whole family tickets to ride.
How could I say no ? She had already bought the tickets !
So for the first time since I was a little girl, I got into a gondola on a ferris wheel . (The things you do for family…)
This one was fully enclosed in glass – a vestibule with airconditioning and cushy vinyl leather seats. But as soon as it swung away from the ground my heart started zooming and I felt the blood drain from my face.
I struggled to keep my eyes open, but I just couldn’t. They kept shutting their lids and I really had little control over them.
I prided myself on self-discipline, but no matter how many times I tried to open my lids to please my daughter by taking in the view, the dizzying height just got to me and they shut down.
I did get to see the city, in glimpses – but it was nothing like ‘taking in the view.’
The rest of my family laughed off the experience. They had a wonderful time, laughing and joking while I visibly ‘slept.’ But as the guest of honor for the trip it was obvious that I did not do the event justice. The length of time I was affected showed clearly how distressed I was, and that left a bad aftertaste by the time they all got off.
My daughter was the most affected. She was very upset that I wasted her gift by keeping my eyes shut almost every second of the trip. No explanation was enough.
I had never really told my children about my childhood experience with the ferris wheel, or how it had affected me, because I didn’t want my fears to rub off on them. I wanted them to have the same fun going on ferris wheels that my mother and sister had had – though I did always tell them not to rock the gondola.
So my daughter really didn’t know that there was anything wrong with her gift. All she had memories of was how much pleasure I got from seeing them going on the ferris wheel each year at the city show. She didn’t know that my pleasure was in knowing that my children were braver than I was, and that they were able to experience things I felt unable to experience.
No matter how close we get to others, we don’t always know their full stories. There are many reasons why people keep certain events secret from others.
And not all experiences can be therapised and got over. Sometimes, scars remain that will always be a sharp reminder of fear and terror, and less salubrious moments.
Talking about such bad experiences is not always good if you can’t find a way to manage them. Sometimes the best option is to just put them away and hope the dark shelf they sit on will never be found.
Such things can be like grief. Even years after you thought you had learned to cope without the people or things you lost, a tiny memory can trigger the grief of their loss, as if it was yesterday. All you can do with such feelings is move with them and through them.
You can face such feelings as often as you like, but they will never be completely numbed. When they come up again, the emotions attached are as powerful as if the events are ‘now’.
Bad experiences are really a form of grief, too. What remains is a sense of loss.
When I got on the ferris wheel as a child, I lost my sense of security. I lost my trust in the people who were close to me to really care for me and keep me safe. I felt that the only person I could fully trust with my life was myself, thereafter. And that, too, was a loss, because it caused a disconnect in the core of my relationships. No matter how close I got to people, they could always sense a part of me that was held back.
I have conquered my fear of heights enough to fly in an airplane, now – to stand at a mountain outlook to take in the view, and to cross a footbridge over a freeway – but I still cannot bring myself to enter a ferris wheel gondola again.
I did my best for that now past birthday event, but never again… I know my limits. And that is one of them.
No, I’m not Dr. Dolittle. No, the animals don’t talk back – not like humans expect a conversation, anyway. But I do talk to animals as if they understand me, and I believe they do.
I also talk to plants, trees, or the sky, occasionally… Perhaps that’s because I am pagan in my spiritual orientation, but I think it runs deeper than that. I think it’s because I believe we are all One.
Years ago, I was a regular visitor to a pixelated realm called Second Life. Being in that virtual reality world helped remind me that we are all just players in this life, the ‘real‘ world our bodies live in. It showed me quite clearly that the roleplays, duties, levels of status and position, age and physical appearance are all veneers.
In Second Life, I could choose to be anyone I wanted to be, young or old, male or female, animal or human. It gave me a new perspective.
While I have always talked to my pets, having been one of them for a while in my journeys through Second Life, I started to relate to them as if they were the same as me – but wearing the body of a pet and confined by the movements, behavioral traits, and voice of the pet.
That’s how it is in Second Life. Although there you can also chat and send text messages, that reveal your true inner nature inside the avatar pet body.
Animals in ‘real‘ life can’t talk to us like that. But I don’t believe that doesn’t mean they can’t talk at all. For me, they just talk differently, and communicate in other ways than what we humans classify as being conversation.
During my sojourn in Second Life, there was a personal revelation as well. In real life, I was mature, overweight, and overburdened by my roles.
The freedom of expression I had as a virtual avatar showed me that, while my outer body and roles might have changed, my inner self was the same as it had always been.
Having overridden the conditioning and the expectations, both from others and of those I set for myself, I found lightness, brightness, laughter, and joy again. And sexuality.
There are some damn good programs for sexuality in Second Life (or SL, as the players like to call it), and while it may seem odd to watch yourself in pixel form going through the very non-contact motions with another pixel form, the realization was new inspiration and renewal of sexual energy in ‘real life’.
(FYI, my hubby was the other pixel form).
For me, sexual energy is also Kundalini energy or creation energy, which can be directed to sex but can also be directed to any activity where you want something to manifest. It is life force energy, (some call that Chi), and by revitalizing it in that pixel realm I realized how much it had been suppressed in my ‘real‘ life at the time. (Older bodies and different life roles have a habit of smothering past passions).
So my experiences in SL brought about revitalization, reaffirmation, renewal of my self-awareness and self-love, and a recentering in my physical realm with a greater ability to split the ‘me‘ from the ‘reality‘ – not via escapism, but by recognizing my natural truths even as I invested myself in playing the ‘game’. By being the ‘Player’ who could opt out any time, and is always aware of their self as a separate entity from the ‘game’.
My SL experiences also brought about an intensification in awareness that the connections between we humans are very strong, even where there is no physical contact going on.
In SL, relationships are quickly formed, and not just mental but deep emotional connections are regularly made. Boundaries are easily set aside as the instant depth soars the spirit into a ‘high‘ and people feel they have found ‘soul mates,’ even though only mere days or weeks have passed.
Hearts are broken there. Friendships and marriages are created and gone in a matter of moments. Some translate to ‘real life‘ and do go on. Some break up marriages in ‘real life‘. But the element that struck me was that without the physical forms, and the status and roleplays to guide us, visually, people connect very easily in spirit.
So I believe that spirit is the key to all relationships. I believe spirit expresses as both emotional and mental. I think it is the core element of our being that enables both life and passion. And that when it is engaged, powerful things can happen.
My revelations from my experiences were these. I am not my body. I am not my roleplay. I am not my place in the world. For me, those are modes and functions that enable me to journey through my ‘physical life‘ to forge a ‘destiny‘ or reach a ‘destination‘, or to ‘play the game.’
In my mind, I am spirit. I am both a player in and an observer of the world I inhabit.
In my belief system, I am one cell in a great body that I call the Divine, and am never truly apart from any other cell.
As spirit, I enter a body that is used as an avatar or carrier so that I can experience the relationships between all the cells of the Divine, whether animal, plant, mineral, or cosmic. Yet my body, itself, is also made up of cells, each inhabited by the spirit of the Divine.
Together, all these cells and individual avatars, on so many different levels, and in so many layers, form the ‘reality‘ that shapes the roleplay of my physical life.
So, thinking and believing as I do, it is not a great step to talk to animals, or to any other cell in the universe I inhabit.
In viewing my world less as a finite shape and more as a place where pixels can be adjusted by Divine Will, I am less bound by conventions.
My reward for interacting with what I call a ‘greater awareness‘ is that the furries (animals) and other animal, bird, and insect entities in my world seem to be more aware of me, and I feel they have shown me this, regularly.
Now, I am no Buddha, either. While I love all life and respect it, I do acknowledge that I inhabit a physical realm that needs to be kept somewhat under control if I am to manage the space I live in, rather than be overruled by it. So I do kill cockroaches, poisonous spiders, threatening snakes, etc. I played mass war on the termites that infested my house, and keep guard over it to prevent their return.
I do not conform, however, to a belief system that says I will feel the mark of being a murderer on my soul forever because I committed those beings to ‘death’, because I do not believe they are dead. In my estimation, I just zapped their physical avatars and recycled their ‘game play‘ to a new level of ‘reality‘. And therefore every time I squish a cockroach, I still bless it but say ‘next life.‘
Despite being a pragmatic killer in that way, the cockroaches (I live in the sub-tropics, where you can really never get rid of them) still play games with me, coming to say ‘hello‘ when I cut food on my bench. Some are lucky to get away to live another life. Many get squished. And I say, ‘you risked that play badly.’
(You can see that my whole view of ‘reality’ changed after my sojourn in the pixel realm of Second Life…)
Spiders also walk across my lounge room floor while I’m watching television, in full view (again, it is the sub-tropics, and you can’t get away from life just because you live in a house, here). They never learn. But they do get a chance to be put out into the garden, where they may live another day, if I can catch them. If I can’t, they will be sprayed. That’s just life… and death. Recycling.
I am never lonely, because I am persistently surrounded by vibrant, connecting life. If I am sitting in one spot long enough, my cats and dogs are all over me, warming me up on even a hot day. If I am outside in my garden, the birds always come to sing to me, or butterflies flit past.
I have regular visits from families of possums to my garden, because I feed them kitchen scraps in a bowl screwed onto my fence, and they still come despite the fact that many of them have died under the claws of my cats. (I use pieces of one of their skulls on my altar, to honor the animal realm).
At night time, my home is regularly filled with the ‘click, click, click‘ communications of geckos (who eat cockroaches, so they are always welcome), and I can see them play on the fly screen over my lounge room window while I sit and watch television at night – big fat geckos who I know are watching me and my family inside as much as we are watching them.
You may think that’s an assumption, but there are always the same family of geckos (you get to know their shapes), feeding in the same place, within a two foot radius, and if it was just the light from our lamps they wanted, they have a wall of windows to choose from… They selected the one where they can see us sitting on the couch.
You might think this is a stretch, to believe that we are being observed like that, or to feel that the animal realm is in strong communication with us, but it goes beyond the fact that my pets do ‘talk‘ to me.
If you heard my pets doing their ‘Scooby Doo’ throat chortles in an attempt to ‘speak like a human’, you’d know they were communicating.
But animals also communicate through body language. And I will never understand the scientists who say that animals don’t have expressions – because they are just missing the subtleties. Expressions are more than a wide smile or a raise of the eyebrow. My animals have tried to smile (looks like a grimace), raised their eyebrows (twitching hair above the eye), shown disapproval (turned their head away), and shown sadness (bowed head to ground).
As well, having an adult disabled son with speech difficulties, who has told me after listening to his recorded voice that he didn’t sound like that to himself, I tend to believe that animals just have speech difficulties, too, and don’t sound the way we hear them to themselves. They think they are talking our language, and probably get frustrated like we do when people get the wrong message, despite their best efforts.
Still need convincing? I woke one morning, years ago, to an absolute cacophony of birdsong outside my bedroom window. I looked down into the garden to see what the ruckus was all about, and was astounded by a mass of birds, large and small, flying around and sitting near the corner fence of my backyard.
These were birds that normally don’t hang around together. Some were predators of the others, yet there they all were, making a ruckus as if there was something they needed to band together to fight. Of course, it intrigued me. I went down there to find out what was happening.
Normally, wild birds will fly away when a human being is clearly seen and coming toward them. But this mass of birds stayed where they were as I approached. They just went quiet and watched me. Only when I got close enough to see what it was they had massed around, did the smaller birds fly away. The Australian crows, (actually the largest ravens in the world), still sat and watched me – four of them.
In the cordyline plant growing in the corner of my yard, a large diamond python had coiled itself. This was the great enemy that the birds had gathered to warn me about.
I knew straight away that they were protecting my yard, my grandchildren who played there, and even my pets (though the cats were known killers). Any of these members of my family could have been hurt by such a large python – swallowed whole, in the case of my small pets.
Obviously, the python had availed itself of the food potential presented by my possum feeding bowl, which the birds always pick over the next day. (The possums feed at night). It must have got quite a fright, to have slithered to the precarious position of the cordyline, which has a very open foliage of narrow sword shaped leaves, and got itself barricaded there by an air battalion of angry birds.
When my husband appeared beside me with a rake, the crows (ravens) watched him carefully, obviously seeing what he would do. They only flew away when he finally slipped the python out of the plant and over the back fence into the scrubland beyond, so it could go on its merry way. Only then did the crows fly away, and we never saw that particular python again. I’m sure it learnt it’s lesson. Our yard is protected by a bevy of birds.
After that, my own awareness of how the outside world watches us was greatly increased. We can go through life blindly, only seeing what we want to see and only acknowledging what we want to acknowledge – but when we open ourselves to greater possibilities, the universe becomes a very interesting place.
A different python visited our home a couple of years later. Well, I think it was a different one, but I can’t be completely sure. (If it was the same one, it had done a heck of a lot of growing…)
My husband and I were relaxing under the shade of a vine covered pergola, deep in conversation as a gentle breeze flowed over our bodies one warm spring day. During the conversation, I heard the leaves on the vines rustle, but just thought it was the breeze moving them. When I happened to look up, an absolutely massive python had stretched its body right along about ten feet of the pergola trellis, under the vines, and was silently watching us. I had the distinct impression it was very interested in our conversation.
Of course, a large python like that just cannot be in our yard. We have pets and children to protect. So off my husband went to fetch the rake again, while I watched the python to make sure it didn’t go anywhere else.
It lifted its head up out of the foliage and stared back at me, silently. And it was an absolutely beautiful being.
So I talked to it, out loud. I said, ‘You know you can’t stay here. We have little dogs and cats and children playing in this yard, and we don’t want you to swallow them. You have to go.’
It didn’t move. Just kept staring at me. But I did not feel any menace. I did, however, feel a real sense of connection, of curiosity, and of being visited.
My husband seemed to be taking ages, so I took one brief moment to turn and yell through the back door, asking where he was. In that brief moment of turning away, that huge snake, that had taken so long and slow time to move though the vines on our pergola, completely disappeared.
My husband and I thoroughly checked everywhere, poking and prodding the vines, and searching the surrounding garden, just to make sure it was gone. That snake must have really put out speed. But it obviously took my message. We never saw it again.
I don’t know how anyone can ever feel alone in a world so full of life communicating.
Even in my most ‘solitary‘ moments, there is always something going on around me.
P.S. After reading my post, my friend told me that she also talks to animals, especially to birds. And that reminded me of another real story of my life – years ago, whenever I was feeling down or depressed, I used to go sit alone on my bedroom balcony and sing my way through an old book of ballads. It lifted my spirit, and I really belted them out. (Not sure what the neighbors thought, but it helped me a lot). And while I sang, birds would always come roosting in the trees in my garden, and just sat there, listening. They would cock their heads this way and that, but didn’t make a sound until I finished. Only then, they’d fly away. So I can tell you for certain, we are listened to by the natural world around us !
In the 1960s, like other children around the world, I spent long late hours on school nights sitting in front of the television, joined by the rest of my family.
Sometimes, I would be up all night and too tired to attend school the next day, but I was not alone.
A lot of children stayed home from school to watch television, then, and teachers said it was perfectly okay.
Why? Well, the unusual and unique events that allowed my daily (or nightly) life to be so disrupted were that N.A.S.A. astronauts were walking on the Moon.
The televisions in those days only had black and white broadcasts in Australia, where I live, and the images were grainy and vague but there was a great sense of the universe opening up as the ‘tinny’ astronaut voices beamed in from outer space and, punctuated by radio pips, filled the room.
Life was different, then. There were no limitations on how much funding should go into the exploration of space, on earth or anywhere else.
In school, children were taught that life was a great adventure and that there were no frontiers inaccessible to those who had courage and a spirit for adventure.
Other television programs on air in those days included the ‘Lost in Space’ series, and movies about ‘Robbie the Robot’.
(Such was the effect on both my husband and myself of ‘Lost in Space’ that my daughter was later named after Will Robinson’s kind and intrepid sister, Penny – though with a slightly different spelling).
I adored ‘Robbie the Robot’ and the ‘Robot’ from ‘Lost in Space’. Who didn’t want a loyal, brave, kind, understanding friend like that?
I’m certain that the scientific work on robotics got a great spur of inspiration from those stories, on television, in the movies, and in sci-fi novels which were also rife, back then.
The years that followed produced more and more sci-fi adventure, including another television delight, ‘My Favorite Martian.’
By the time the ‘Star Trek’ series aired, I was an avid sci-fi fan (and partly fell in love with my husband because he had much of the nature of Mr. Spock. Thanks and blessings to the late Leonard Nimoy, who brought that character to life).
Even when I was a very little girl, my mother would sit with my sister and me on the back porch of my Nanna’s home and point out constellations in the starry night sky.
Humans have always been fascinated by the stars, the sun and moon, and the studies of astrology and astronomy have been embedded in most cultures for thousands of years.
Going into outer space was thus the culmination of a long progression of interest, stemming from ancient times.
I do feel lucky to have grown up with all that well-embedded star-gazing.
Looking at the great expanse of space was like hanging off the edge of your bed upside down as a child, and noticing that the ceiling was a vast space with not much in it, when it became the ‘floor.’
It seemed less cluttered, more easily navigable, unlike my actual bedroom floor.
I suppose crossing the oceans was like that for ancient mariners, and crossing deserts was like that for earthbound explorers. Outer space was just a new field of vastness without so much clutter (or so we thought, then).
Because of that yearning for something different, something simpler yet also magnificent, and something inspirational, my eyes were often on the stars as I grew up, scanning the skies for movement.
My head was filled with notions of aliens, of super education given by celestial beings from other planets, and of adventure into the great unknown.
Despite the ‘airy fairy’ sound of that, it was the sense of limitless expansion and adventure encouraged by those marvelous days of not only fantastic stories but real life accomplishments that has left a mark on my generation for the rest of our lives.
Many of the concepts mooted in those sci-fi stories have been worked on by mature scientests bred from the children I grew up with, to bring us devices such as computers and mobile phones.
So the children of today have a lot to be thankful for, that man once walked on the moon – and my childhood has a lot to be thankful for, in the original storytellers like Isaac Asimov, C.S. Lewis, etc., who wrote the sci-fi that inspired the space race and all that grew from it.
It’s no wonder that even at a time when funds are curtailed for the real life outer space adventures of our astronaut heroes, people still find the universe beyond, and all it contains (or may contain), absolutely fascinating
Watching the astronauts walking on the moon was a never to be forgotten experience for all those able to be present around the television, then.
Who could ever forget Neil Armstrong’s famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind !”
The first time I ever sprained an ankle was when I jumped off the roof of the tin shed in our back yard as a teenager.
I and my friends loved to climb up onto the shed roof and survey the yard from ‘on high,’ as if ten feet off the ground gave us an ‘eagle’s point of view’.
We were also ‘superman‘ fans, hence came the idea of jumping off the roof onto the spongy green grass, below.
I landed like a cat on my feet most times I jumped, but it only took once to sprain my ankle. My mother was a good nurse and treated the swelling with a hot and cold compress, as you did in those days.
Firstly, she laid on hot towels, then ice-blocks, wrapped in towels – repeating the cycle until the swelling reduced. Then, she wrapped the ankle in an elastic bandage.
I got over that first sprained ankle fairly well, though I could not wear a shoe on one foot for a while.
Life went on, and I did my usual activities, including school athletics. The ankle seemed fine.
Later on in life, I sprained my ankle again, and treated it as my mother had taught me, and got through that time, too, or so I thought.
Little did I know that each time my ankle was damaged, it was leaving a mark of much longer duration.
It was when I slipped on a varnished stage floor during rehearsals for an amateur theater production that it really hit home that sprains are not always so easy to repair.
That one took six months before it fully healed, and after that I only had to twist my ankle slightly before I could feel the threat of damage, again, or suffered it. I knew my ankle had become weaker.
It didn’t stop me using it. I still took long walks, still didn’t protect it as well as I should have.
When we bought a new house, I helped carry large old railway sleepers to their position in the garden we established, and dropped one end on the same foot.
Again, the foot was damaged, but recovered in time. But the recovery was fragile. Since then, every time I did too much with that foot, pain and inflammation set in – along with numb spots, which were later diagnosed as neuropathy.
It took a lot of time – years of activity and injury – to get to that point, and many years of ignoring the fragility of my foot and ankle by not protecting it effectively.
When you want to be healthy and to live a healthy life, you can force yourself through situations where you really should be more careful, because you want to believe that all will be well so long as you persevere.
The fact is, though, that today I have arthritis and neuropathy in a foot that has been injured in the same areas too many times and, even with massage and care, that foot is never going to be the same.
There are days when I get out of bed and just hobble. It is what it is. For me, there’s no point dwelling on it. I just deal with it as best I can. It’s too late to change the results, now.
In life, a similar process happens when spirit gets hurt.
When we are young, we may have a sort of resilience that enables us to ‘bounce back‘ from the things that hurt us.
Part of that ‘bounce back‘ is often asserted in a youthful cockiness that stands up to assaults and bears them down.
When we discover that resilience, we can be somewhat abrupt about what we can do and how we can behave.
We can end up making assumptions, speaking out of turn, or putting other people’s ‘noses out of joint‘ all in a day’s work. But with a youthful face and time on our side, we can usually act out such erroneous behavior and get away with it, in the main.
Yes, there may be punishments to suffer, but those punishments are often only temporary, and feel better to deal with than the hurts that initiated our reactions.
We move on, but we don’t always learn the lessons we should.
With an attitude of having ‘stuck up for ourselves‘ we may not see the pain and disruption we have caused to others too clearly – others who did not hurt us on the same level as our original assailants did – but our focus, by then, is on our own hurt and pain, which we keep protecting ourselves from.
Often, we’ll commit the same acts over and over again, despite the consequences, because we believe we are ‘defending our rights‘ – and while we may suffer backlashes, we remain assured because we ‘alwaysbounce back‘.
However, if this sort of reactive and self-centered behavior continues as we get older, others become less inclined to be so forgiving. We are no longer ‘spring chickens‘, no longer ‘dewy in our skin‘, and should have ‘learned something better‘ by then.
We could say that these are just the phases of ‘growing up‘ and that some people take longer to do that than others – but one day, if we’re still ‘falling into the same traps‘, the ‘tide turns‘ and there can suddenly be no redemption.
Others begin to reject us outright.
There are no more ‘willing ears‘ to listen to pleas for mercy based on hurts from long ago, that are nothing really to do with them.
So the inherent limitations in life are eventually faced, even if we have held against them for an extremely long time.
Just like with my bad foot, there are not always ‘second chances‘ forthcoming.
This is especially bad if we have hurt others who are close to us – those in our intimate circles who we thought could put up with our worst bad habits.
When those people turn away and never come back, the lesson comes all too late in sorrow and grief that is extremely difficult to deal with.
The resulting damage to our spirit from the mental and emotional pain of rejection can be beyond repair, simply because there are no solutions to be had by then.
Life goes on, nevertheless, for better or worse – but the scars can be permanent.
Then, it can be hard to not end up living a life that is dogged by misery, regret, or a sense of hopelessness.
Of course, that only magnifies the original assaults that caused the pain that set us on the long path of defensiveness and self-protection in the first place.
While examining the root causes of this position can be helpful, along with mechanisms for redirecting the pain, that pain will always rear its head again whenever a hurt assails us until we can completely detach ourselves from our feelings about it.
That is easier said than done.
Another recourse is to be like Chiron, the wounded healer from ancient Greek mythology.
Chiron was a centaur (half man, half horse) who acquired a wound that could never heal. He was immortal, so the wound was a constant and eternal source of pain. Yet because of this wound he had a marvelous empathy and compassion for others who were in pain and needed healing.
Whenever we use our own pain or wounds as a source of understanding for others who are suffering, we can still find a reason for living though all else seems lost.
By directing our focus toward helping others, we also detach ourselves from the personal aspect of our pain.
We may not be able to cure ourselves but, by knowing the reasons for our pain and all its whys and wherefores, we can foster and support the health and harmony of others.
That can be a far better redemption than acceptance in the end.
(NOTE: While this essay includes some personal history with regard to sprains, the latter half is not based purely on personal history. The essay is constructed from personal observations and trains of thought in which I have been examining the details of life in general, and especially in the society I live in. It is just an opinion and is offered as an idea, not as a tenet. Feel free to add comments if you wish to expand on this opinion with your own ideas).
I love eating mushrooms. Cooked or raw, mushrooms are a staple in our home.
This stems back to my childhood, when my mother took us mushrooming. Whenever we visited relatives living on farms in the countryside, we took buckets to gather mushrooms. Often, the best ones grew in fields near cow pats. They were big brown ones with huge caps.
( Thinking of cow pats reminds me of the car song I made up for my kids to sing when they were little – ” Ten cow pats sitting in the field, ten cow pats sitting in the field, step in a pat it will stick to your heel, there’ll be nine cow pats sitting in the field… and – When you have all ten, you are knee deep in @#$! )
When we went mushrooming, I thought my mum knew a lot about them. She certainly gathered with vigor, but when the evening news had a story of people eating poisonous mushrooms that looked like the ones we gathered, only they gave off a yellow stain when cooked, we stopped going mushrooming so often. It was only then that I realized Mum didn’t know enough to really tell the good ones from the bad.
Today, if I see mushrooms growing in a paddock or on the verge beside the road, I get a bit wistful but won’t touch them. I, too, just don’t know enough to tell the difference and don’t want to get sick or die.
My adoptive Dad told us plenty of stories of how poisonous mushrooms work. ( He was always good at regaling us with horrific details ). Apparently, you can enjoy a good meal of poisonous mushrooms and not realize there is anything wrong at all, but a couple of weeks later your organs begin shutting down and there is no antidote to fix that.
So I stick with the mushrooms I figure have been sorted, that I can buy from the supermarket, the green grocer, or the open air markets. There’s certainly a variety to choose from these days!
A friend of ours used to work in a mushroom factory. It was in dark tunnels underground, and had rows of racks full of soft logs stuffed with special soil and moss. The mushrooms would sprout until the logs were fully covered. He took home a box of mushrooms to his family each week, as an employee bonus. His wife ended up hating mushrooms.
I tried to grow mushrooms in a box a couple of times. You know the ones you can find at the gardening center ? The trouble was that the instructions say to stow it away in a cool dark space, but once it was stowed away I promptly forgot about it, and mushrooms actually do need some water to grow…
My grand-daughter hates mushrooms, though she knows she has to eat them in our house. I tell her they are full of vitamin B12 and good for making brains work better when they need to concentrate, but it makes no difference. She still thinks that eating them is like eating a slug.
I thought I had her figured when I cut a whole lot of mushrooms up into the tiniest slivers to add to a meal, recently, thinking that if she couldn’t see the mushroom shape she wouldn’t know… but she still managed to find them and pick them out to lay on the side of her plate, and would not believe me when I said they were egg plant. She knew the taste!
There’s something fascinating about mushrooms and toadstools, puff balls and lichen, and fungi in general, though. Consider that the part you can see and eat is really only the flower of the plant, that contains the seeds. All the main part of the plant is hidden away, either in the soil, or in the wood of the plant it has taken up residence in.
Sometimes, where you can see bark pieces and leaf mulch on the ground, you can kick it away and uncover a gossamer network of white threads that reveal the actual body of a mushroom or toadstool. It reminds me of the neural network in a human body…
I knew kids who tried ‘magic mushrooms‘ when I was young. They never offered me any, so I can’t tell you what they were like, but I’m told you have hallucinations and really ‘trip out‘. I was glad I didn’t try any when I discovered later that they can ruin your kidneys and other organs, permanently. Why do people take things that can hurt them so badly? (Says she who scoffs chocolate regularly, despite knowing that it has theobromine in it that kills dogs and probably builds up in our body cells, too).
When we bought our first home, there were large pine trees growing in our backyard. At the foot of the pine trees were those red mushrooms with white spots on them, called Amanita Muscari (I only know that one because it is easily recognized…). They often had pieces picked out of them, that the birds had eaten, revealing the white flesh ( not the natural spots ) beneath the red surface. (Obviously, birds like a bit of ‘magic mushroom’, too).
I warned my kids not to touch them, but I didn’t get rid of them. There is something about those mushrooms that triggers special memories of fairies and the ‘otherworld’, especially when they grow in groups and rings. At the time, the blue ‘Smurf‘ doll craze was turning my children into collectors, and Smurfs lived in mushroom houses. I knew my kids would not be happy if I removed the Smurf houses…
When I was young, we lived in a Naval housing commission house for a while. The lawn was riddled with puff balls in spring ( and prickly bindis in summer…). My sister and I loved to jump on them and make them burst. Dust would spurt everywhere.
Stink balls were similar to puff balls, only longer, but you were game if you jumped on one of those. When they burst they smelt like rotten eggs and if you got that on your clothes, it lingered.
I remember watching ‘Lost in Space‘ on television after school one day and the young ‘Will Robinson‘ character found some giant puffballs on a planet they visited. When those balls exploded, they were deadly. It’s funny how such things embed themselves in your head. I didn’t jump on puff balls after that.
You know the saying, ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover‘? Well, mushrooms and fungi are like metaphors of that to me. Knowing that so much of the mushroom is hidden away and that only the frontispiece is on display is kind of creepy to some. Until I found that out, I thought that mushrooms and toadstools were beautiful just as they are – but then that simplicity was taken away because so much is actually secret. Not that being secret put me off. I’ve always been a person who likes finding hidden treasure…
In a way, people are like mushrooms. What we show to the world is only a fraction of who we really are inside, or away from the world. So much of us is never exposed to others. It remains secret and hidden – a grand neural network of ‘stuff going on behind the scenes‘.
Most others tend to see us in the same way that kids see mushrooms – just for the first impressions and for what we put on display. When they get a hint that there is a lot more hidden, that we have apparently kept secret from them, their first response is often to actually begin treating us with caution and wariness. It’s like we should put our whole self on display or we must have some hidden agenda, but the truth is that we most likely didn’t keep anything secret. They just never really looked or asked.
If you think of how delicate the ‘neural network‘ body of fungi is and use that as a metaphor for what we keep inside ourselves, it’s no wonder we don’t blithely share it around. Such states of being are fragile. We only want to let those who are tender and sympathetic have contact with our vulnerable inner selves. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s not bad or secretive. It’s just self-protection.
My favorite dish of mushrooms is extremely simple. I pull out the stems to make mushroom cups, fill them with grated tasty cheese and grill them in the oven. The cheese melts and the mushrooms soften and ooze with very tasty juice that drips down your chin when you bite into them. Yum!
I’m hoping that my grand-daughter grows up to like mushrooms. I hated brussels sprouts when I was young, and my mum made me eat them at dinner, too. Today, I love brussels sprouts. So, you just never know what the future holds… 😉
Summer is already sending heat into our house this year and on occasion we’ve been running air-conditioners to get some sleep. What did we ever do without air-conditioners?
When I was a kid, we never had one. My mother would put a bowl of ice in front of a rotating desk fan sitting on a chair and we would all try to find the ‘ sweet spot ‘ for the slightly cooler breeze it produced.
Later on, she purchased a water cooler, and despite warnings to the contrary, she would put ice blocks into the water reservoir. Again, we would fight for the ‘ sweet spot ‘ where the air was coolest.
Mostly, though, all these solutions did was to push around hot air and raise the humidity in the room.
In my Nanna’s day, ( before I was born ), they didn’t have refrigerators and relied on air cupboards with mesh doors, that they hung wet cloths over to keep food and meat cool on hot days by evaporation. (I don’t think they kept food too long, then ).
I don’t remember my Nanna ever owning a fan when I lived with her as a kid. On hot nights, we stayed up late, sitting on the front porch trying to catch a breeze. Nanna would fan herself with a folded newspaper and we kids would play ‘jump over the sprinkler‘ on the tiny city suburban lawn.
Water was pretty much the only coolant we had, then. If you were hot, you either ‘flaked‘ with exhaustion, or you diverted yourself doing something else.
Going to the beach was always a great diversion, ( after my mother moved us close to one ), but that really only happened on weekends and holidays. Plus, if the sand was hot enough to fry an egg on, it was an ordeal to run fast enough over it to get to the water in bare feet (and thongs/flip flops did nothing to really keep the scorching sand off your feet ).
There were other diversions for the hot days of summer. At night, (as pre-teens ), we spent hours playing in the street with the other local kids, long after it was dark. We made up great games and had a lot of fun.
Summer was the time when parents let you stay up late even if there was school the next day, because they knew they had a hope in hell of getting you off to sleep unless you were exhausted !
One of the nicer diversions was going black-berrying. That only happened on weekends, though.
I find it sad that you can’t really think of going black-berrying today, for fear that the wild canes have been sprayed by farmers who consider them a weed.
Going black-berrying was an adventure. My mother would always warn us not to step too deep into the bramble because red-bellied black snakes liked to hang out in the shade, there. We were also told to tread hard and regularly, so that the snakes did not get frightened and attack, but would instead slither off with the warning our solid footsteps gave them.
We would take lots of buckets and fill them all. The blackberries often grew along the roadside near where we lived, then, ( on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria ). There was a lot of farmland bordering the roads leading out of towns like Frankston, and the blackberries seemed to grow along the barbed wire fences of their borders.
There was also a lot of vacant land surrounding the Navy barracks at Crib Point, where we lived in the marriage quarters with other Naval families ( after my mother remarried ), and that also had a lot of blackberry brambles on it.
I liked those best, because you didn’t get cars swooshing past behind you as you picked, and sometimes you’d find a ‘secret place‘ in the bramble, where the canes had formed a ring around a bare patch of grass. When you went into those places, it was like being in another world…
We ate about a third of what we picked – my mother, my sister and I – and the rest we took home so that mum could make jam.
By the end of the day, clothes were usually torn somewhere, arms were full of scratches, and fingers had pricks or sometimes thorns that had to be removed with mum’s sewing needle ( burnt at the tip in a match flame before digging out the thorn, so that no germs got into the skin ). But we never remembered the heat of the day. All we remembered was the fun of going black-berrying.
Mum would then fill her big boiling pot early in the morning on jam making day ( though it didn’t really stop the house getting hotter on already hot days ), and would make enough jam to last for months and still have some to give away to the relatives at Christmas ( which falls during a hot summer, in Australia ).
The trouble with my mother’s blackberry jam, though, was that after making her first batch and deciding that straining the seeds out was too much effort, she left the seeds in after that. So when you ate her jam, you always had to pick seeds out of your teeth.
The jam was good, though, and kept hungry kids from starving at breakfast when slathered on toast, or after school in a snack sandwich.
Mum’s blackberry jam became as famous in our family as my Nanna’s apricot jam, ( but Mum’s jam didn’t have the kernels in it like Nanna’s did, which we discovered many years later had cyanide in them, so Nanna’s jam was infamous, as well ).
I can never have either blackberry or apricot jam today from the supermarket without thinking of these special jams from my youth. Nothing has ever compared to them… not even the home-made ones I have since bought from the stalls of others.
Sadly, I was never taught the recipes – not that I really have much time for jam-making, these days. ( My Nanna is now long gone, and my mother is no longer in my life, so these memories will be all I ever have, now ).
Instead, I do spend a lot of time investing myself in positive activities when my days get ‘ long and hot ‘, ( whether that is in weather or through events…)
When life is full of ‘ hot spots ‘ and you can’t ‘ get cool ‘, the best way to deal with them is diversion… Don’t let being in the ‘ heat ‘ sap you of whatever energy you have.
With diversion, you can spend enough positive energy and action so that the results can bring lasting boons… ( like a belly full of blackberries, and enough jam to last through winter…)
Every experience in life is a lesson, if you remember it clearly.
The first time I realized I could run was when I did sports at school. Before that, I did a lot of walking, and maybe ran around the backyard with my sister and cousins as we played ‘chasey‘ and ‘hide and seek‘, but it wasn’t until I got older and involved in school sports that I discovered the delight of a ‘real‘ run.
What I loved about running wasn’t that I was able to beat anyone else who ran with me in getting to the finish line first. It was the way the wind whistled in my ears, the way the coolness of it flowed over my face, the way the blood pumped so hard through my body, and the way my whole body exerted itself to the utmost to try to find its very top speed.
Most of all, I think I was fascinated by the way I could create the wind by running, that the whistle in my ears came from me moving at speed through space, rather than me standing still as air moved past me.
My mother was soon impressed by my running. She came to watch my races, and loved to brag about my wins. I did love getting ribbons but they weren’t my reason for running. I just loved the opportunity to do it. You couldn’t go running along the streets in those days like you can do, now, without people thinking you were ‘loony‘.
Not that I was ever that sort of runner, anyway. Once I started running, my mother regaled me with all sorts of stories about my relatives. Apparently, my biological father was quite a runner, especially in cross country events, though I never really knew him. My great-grandfather had also been a marathon runner who won a lot of races. (This only came out after I began to run).
I wasn’t a marathon runner, though. I wasn’t a long distance runner. Later on, after I joined an amateur athletics club, my coach tried to get me to do longer runs, like 400 and 800 meters, but I wasn’t so good at those. I was a sprinter. I ran 100 and 200 meter races.
Now, being a sprinter means that you have to go as fast as you can in a very short time, to cover that actually very short length. When I was in school, I used to stand at the starting line, and I ran in bare feet. I liked that sort of running. It agreed with me. I liked the contact with the earth that my bare feet had.
After I joined the amateur athletics club, my mother bought me ‘spikes‘. I loved the way the soft, thin leather hugged the shape of my foot, but the undersole of spikes was hard plastic, so you could screw the metal spikes into the embedded holes. They were actually hard to walk on, at least on floors or pavement.
It was a fascinating set up, and I loved the little tool that came with them, that allowed me to tighten the spikes up, or remove and replace them. Having a little tool of my own somehow made me feel important.
Spikes did help me run faster, especially on grass or gravel, or tarred lanes, but they weren’t the same as bare feet. There was no sensual contact with the earth. (Even though you tend to run on your toes and the touch is light at speed, it’s still there and registers in your mind when you run in bare feet).
The other tool used to help me run faster were starting blocks. Most athletes running races, then, used starting blocks. My coach insisted that using them was the only sensible and correct way to go. But then, she was trying to get our club to be the top club amongst those competing at the inter-club meets at Royal Park in Melbourne on the weekends.
Starting blocks, to me, were like braces on teeth, or even perhaps those metal gadgets dentists used to use to hold your mouth open so they could work on your teeth.
For me, they were clunky. I never really got the hang of them. While I could position myself well, put my body over my arms, raise my hands on their fingers, arch my bum into the air and look to the lane ahead in anticipation of the starting gun going off, when I jumped my body out of those blocks I was always the last to leave…
My coach tried to train me on exactly how to do it. Apparently, it all happened in the first three steps. If you couldn’t push those first three steps into the ground hard enough to break turf you were never going to be ahead of the crowd.
My Dad got a Navy friend to come give me extra pointers. He had trained recruits at the Naval depot my Dad also taught at, then. Naval recruits had to be very fit and did a lot of exercise. My Dad’s friend had some very good lessons to teach me, but it made no difference when I encountered the starting blocks. And with the ‘lost ground‘ from being last out of them each race, it was a miracle that I won any at all. It was only by sheer determination and from pumping my arms and legs as fast as I could make them go that saw me pass my competitors to actually win some races.
My coach shook her head, though. All she saw was how many more races I could win, if only I could learn to use the starting blocks effectively.
My time in amateur athletics brought me in contact with many great racers. In my own club at Frankston, the future Olympian, Debbie Flintoff King, was my peer, only a year or so younger than me. When I was there, I actually ran faster than she did.
I also met the Olympian, Raelene Boyle, when I went to the weekend meets. She belonged to the Brunswick club, which my cousin also belonged to (though she was a swimmer).
I used to wish I could win the Olympics. I think it was more of an attraction to Raelene, who cut a tall, willowy figure, just like her two afghan hounds that she paraded on a leash around the outskirts of the Royal Park oval. She seemed so self-assured as she stopped to talk to people. I was always a bit shy with people, then, so maybe I thought that being an Olympian meant you could smooth out and be more interactive.
Of course, I know better today. Olympians are as human as the rest of us. They get stressed and break down, too. Plus, the hard work of pushing their bodies so much to be top athletes in their youth often rebounds on them in old age, with arthritis and all sorts of health disorders.
My ideas of being an Olympian were short-lived, however, once my asthma set in. It was undiagnosed at the time, but I got very frightened by the level of ‘no breath’ I had after each race, so in the end I chose to not go any more. Luckily, my future husband came along by the time I was sixteen, anyway, so I had plenty of diversion and didn’t really miss it.
Today, there are many life experiences that I can measure in terms of those starting blocks. At the time, I really thought that athletics was the path for me. It certainly ate up a lot of my energy and focus, then. But not being able to handle the starting blocks, and not being able to figure out how to use them effectively, made me doubt my ability to ever achieve the same levels as the heroes I dreamed of becoming. It got under my skin, that sense that I could not amount to ever fully being a winner because I could not master those starting blocks.
My life took quite a divergence after I met my future husband and not only my athletics but a lot of other things I had been invested in were set aside to follow him. For a long while, people shook their heads and thought I had given up too much, and wasted too many natural gifts.
What actually happened, though, was that I found new directions. The same creative energy and will to enjoy life to the fullest (which was what running actually was for me) just came out in other ways, later on.
I ended up achieving a heck of a lot with my life, after quite a hiatus of bringing up my family (well, it actually began while I was bringing up my family). I just did things my way, and waited till my time was right, though I didn’t know that was happening at the time.
For a while, I let my doubters and naysayers get under my skin, (the starting blocks were happening all over again), and I lost faith in myself and my life. But it didn’t take much to get me back on track, finding other things that were just as fun and fulfilling to do, and that also tested my skills to their limit.
What I learned was that I’m a slow starter. I don’t like forced beginnings. I am never going to be able to do three hard paces to the ground at the beginning of anything. I like to stand and feel the earth beneath my feet, get a sense of my surroundings, and then shoot off when my heart feels ready.
Once I get going, though, watch out! If you’re already on the track, I just may pass you by…
My motto? Never let a poor start stop you from winning, and if you can’t win, at least enjoy the race. It can be quite a breeze.
My son, Sean, is disabled. He was run over by a van at the age of thirteen, when he ran across a busy road near his school, after playing games with his brother when they were coming home one day,.
Sean spent eleven days in intensive care, fighting for his life, and ‘died ‘ thirteen times as his organs kept shutting down. My family spent every moment by his bedside during that time, and were shocked to see the awful green liquid the nurses regularly pumped from his stomach – the color of spirulina. Apparently, that’s what poison looks like in the body, and his body was being poisoned by the trauma of what happened to him.
Sean was in hospital for many months after he left intensive care (and spent years in rehabilitation ). During that time, he emerged from a vegetative coma state, to slowly learn to manage his body and mind again.
He had to learn to move himself, and was at first like a new born baby with a floppy head and limbs that he had no control over. He had to learn to not only eat, but also to swallow.
(He’d forgotten how to do that, and it was only then that we realized how much people learn as a baby. Babies often have trouble swallowing their first solid foods, making their limbs work, and forming their first words).
He had to learn to talk again, and even today finds that hard, sometimes, because his tongue is always partially paralyzed – but we made him signboards so all he had to do was point at letters and words to get his message across. He also got pretty good control over his thumb, and the ‘thumbs up‘ sign was often his response to people, as well as his smile.
When Sean smiled, his whole face lit up, along with his eyes. It was amazing to see. You’d think that what had happened to him would have set him back, or made him afraid of or angry at the world, but it didn’t Instead, the energy that came from him was positive and glowing. So, later on, we took to calling him our Ganesha.
Ganesha is a Vedic god who was the son of Shiva and Parvati. He had an elephant’s head on a human body, but it’s how he got his head that aligned his story to Sean’s.
Ganesha’s dad, Shiva, was the god of yoga and meditation, as well as being the creator and destroyer of worlds. Basically, he was/is among the highest hierarchy of the gods.
Shiva fell in love with Parvati (also called Uma) when he was already a very old man, so he was quite set in his ways by then. Even though they had a great love match, Shiva still liked to get away on his own and would spend months, and even years, apart from his beloved as he went on solo meditation retreats in the mountains.
During those times, Parvati became quite lonely, so one day she formed a little baby out of clay and breathed life into it. That baby was Ganesha.
Parvati and Ganesha had a great time together, and Ganesha did not meet his father until he was much older. By then, he and his mother had some daily rituals, such as Parvati taking herself off to bed for an afternoon nap, and Ganesha guarding her door whilst she slept so no one would disturb her.
It was during one of these siestas that Shiva finally came home. As usual, the first place he headed to was his wife’s boudoir for a bit of ‘meditation-breaking love-making ‘ – but when he got there, Ganesha was guarding the door.
Ganesha didn’t know who was being so aggressive about getting into the room and so he defended his mother’s door. Shiva got angry that he wasn’t being allowed to see his own wife ( and he didn’t know Ganesha was his son ), so a sword fight ensued, and during that fight Shiva cut off his son’s head with such force that it was flung into the cosmos and was never seen again.
Parvati was woken by all the hubbub, of course, and arrived just in time to see Shiva do the dastardly deed. She burst into tears, telling him that he had just killed their son.
Now, Shiva is not only the ‘Destroyer‘ but also the ‘Creator‘, so he could make Ganesha live again. What he couldn’t do was find his head to put it back on, so instead he went out into the world, declaring that he would bring back the head of the first baby born that he found. That baby happened to be an elephant.
( Let’s not get into the awful feeling the mother elephant must have had to see her new baby decapitated… or why an omnipotent god like Shiva couldn’t find his son’s own head… this is a story, after all).
So Ganesha had an elephant’s head after that, and all the family reunited in love and happiness.
We thought this story fit with our son, Sean, because Sean was also disabled in a terrible accident, and Sean was also a beautiful kid who loved his mum, and who still smiles and dances and spreads delight in the world. He once told me that it’s his mission to try to make everyone smile, so he bales even strangers up to smile at them, and if they smile back, he believes he has lightened their day.
I think that is a pretty good mission to have !
Like Ganesha, Sean is never going to not be visibly disabled, now – but he is still intelligent, perceptive, kind, charming, and extremely considerate and loving.
So, we have kept the god, Ganesha, close to us to remind us of our miracle, and our home is full of statues ( the picture at the top of this blog is of a statue only recently acquired by Sean ), hangings, and tapestries of this lovely Vedic god, who is known today for his intelligence, for writing the Vedic scriptures, and for his ability to remove all obstacles, and to bring blessings and good fortune.
(I actually believe that ‘gods’ can manifest in human form, and in multiple humans at the same time, so who knows if Sean could perhaps actually be manifesting a piece of Ganesha?)
Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how Ganesha has brought brightness to our lives, and how much his spirit lives in our son.
If you’d like to know more about Sean’s story, see some of his hospital photos, read the “God” poem he wrote about a year after his accident, and read the story “I Don’t Know” that he narrated to me as a six year old (I was the shadow writer), visit this link and click on the other links you find on the page as you explore.
Sean (nicknamed ‘Pumpkin’ as a child by me) did grow up to be a very fine man, and was once married long enough to have two beautiful daughters. When I look at them today, and see the wonderfully happy relationship they have with their loving father, I am reminded that Ganesha also had two consorts, Riddhi (prosperity) and Siddhi (spiritual power). Sean’s daughters also attract attention wherever they go, and I’m looking forward to seeing what their future holds…