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Archive for January, 2012

I am exploring the power of visual poetry.

My friend and I were sharing our thoughts on the meaning of “character”. Our thoughts can be summed up as
Watch your thoughts, they become your words,
watch your words, they become your actions,
watch your actions, they become your habits
watch your habits, they become your character
watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

This was a “light bulb” moment for me, and I immediately saw how powerfully this message could be conveyed using visuals, and turning this into visual poetry – a calligram, or calligrams.

Take two extremes of people whose thoughts, words and actions changed the world:

Calligram – Hitler’s Destiny

Hitler was a destructive tornado, a cold dangerous wind that blew through Europe. The power of his words swept ordinary people into acts of bigotry, hatred and cruelty. The character and destinies of millions were changed.

Calligram – Gandhi’s Destiny

Gandhi was committed to non-violence, human freedom, equality and justice. His ideals of truth and non-violence led to acts of passive resistance. His words and actions sent ripples of change around the world. Ripples that continue to remind us of alternatives to war and military action.

Words can inspire, but combined with typography or calligraphy, colours and shapes, transformed to visual poetry, become powerful and provocative.

Other poetry – calligram posts:
Calligrams – Visual Poetry
Blood Diamonds
A Christmas Calligram
Poetry – Calligrams

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More calligrams!
A `calligram` is a poem, phrase, or word in which the typeface, calligraphy or handwriting is arranged in a way that creates a visual image. The image created by the words expresses visually what the word, or words, say.

Since I found out about calligrams and poetry I have played around with the idea of calligrams, letting it cook for a while in my sub-conscious, taking it out every now and then, and now I’ve come out with a few images that I like.
First was the Christmas calligram, then a Blood Diamond.

I have a few phrases that resonate with my soul, and inspired more calligrams

“Something that makes my heart sing” This can be music, or a painting, or sculpture that moves me to tears or laughter, or something I’ve read or heard about that inspires me or gives me something to aspire to. Or it might simply be a memory. Or feeling proud of my children and their achievements.

“Reaching for the stars” I love the image of a star as being something to reach for, dream about and that inspires goals. There’s something about the infinity of the night sky broken by pin pricks of light that makes me want to reach out past the world I know and search for more – needing to know more, do more, be more.


“Blowing your own trumpet” We’re not supposed to do this. But sometimes I’m so darn happy that I’ve been finally able to move a muscle or make a movement that shouldn’t be possible after damaging my spinal cord all those years ago, that I just have to let the joy out!


I love watching people blowing bubbles. Well, I love watching both the person and the bubbles. I recently blew coloured bubbles onto canvas, and it was fun. There is something amazing about a bubble. That it can exist, even for a few moments, is incredible. And each one contains a small rainbow, floating and shining.

Watch this space for more …

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A while ago I posted “A Diamond is Merely a Lump of Coal That Did Well Under Pressure” At the time I was reflecting on the power of this imagery, how it encapsulates so many ideas about strength, inner beauty, hard work and so on.
But take a look at the blood diamond calligram “Not All Diamonds Are The Same”

The literary and visual image of a diamond as a thing of beauty and desirability has been tarnished by their use to fund corrupt governments and military activities in parts of Africa. However, the Kimberly Process sought to keep these Blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds from being traded. The governments of participating countries are required to certify where the diamonds have come from and to guarantee that the diamonds being traded are conflict free. The diamond industry and various NGOs such as Global Witness, as well as other member states, are official observers who can check that the certification process is genuine. It has been successful in helping some countries reduce the flow of conflict diamonds and to increase official stocks but Zimbabwe is a notable exception.
So it seems incredible that the Kimberley Process has authorised exports by two companies operating in Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields. Members of the military are known to have tortured and killed workers in the mines, and used the money from the diamonds to fund illegal government activity. Global Witness has suggested that members of Zimbabwe’s ruling party may use revenue from the area to fund the intimidation of voters ahead of elections.
As a result of the decision to authorise the Mirange diamonds Global Witness has withdrawn from the Kimberly Process, an organisation it helped set up.
Previously, The EU and the US had blocked any move to lift the ban, but late last year said that Zimbabwe has made considerable gains in addressing areas of non-compliance. It’s hard to see how, especially as the military is still involved in running the mines.
Lifting the ban undermines any credibility that the Kimberly Process may have had, and raises the question why, the US and EU have suddenly changed their positions.
Consumers can no longer be reasonably sure that a diamond certified by the Kimberly Process is not a blood diamond. The only thing a responsible person can do is insist on seeing the provenance of the stone being purchased. Some retailers, such as Michael Hill, already do this.

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Spinal cord injuries (sci) are complex. No two injuries present in the same way. However, it can be helpful to compare symptoms and to try treatments that others have found useful. I believe that exercise and stretching are critical to successfully managing the nasty symptoms that I experience – pain and spasm. The older my injury (it’s been over eighteen years since I damaged my cord at T7/T8) the more fervent my belief in the power of exercise becomes.

And here’s why.

List of recommended Surgery:

Lengthen my Archilles tendon
Insert baclofen pump in my spine
Treat trigger thumb
Treat carpel tunnel syndrome

Actual treatment:
Instead of surgically lengthening my archilles tendon the surgeon injected botox into the gastroc and soleus muscles (muscles that make up the back of the calf). He did this four times over a year, providing a window during which time I could intensively stretch, exercise and stimulate these muscles, with the help of a physio, personal trainer and osteopath. These muscles had progressively shortened because of spasm and tone, and I could no longer put my heel on the ground – not good for the small amount of walking I can do and would quickly reduce my mobility. That was about two years ago and as long as I continue to stretch these muscles every day I’ll be fine. I also walk on a “stone board” every day to continue to stimulate the sensory nerves in my foot. Exercise 1, Surgery 0 (The surgery and after care in hospital would have cost ACC $70,000)

Instead of inserting a baclofen pump in my spine the same surgeon changed and added to my medication to manage spasm, and injected botox into my left quad, right hamstring, and both adductors. The injections in my hamstring and adductors were one offs, I have had three injections into my left quad and no more are planned. My spasticity is complex and extensive, but the botox and on-going medication allow me to stretch and exercise so that spastic muscles no longer pull my body out of alignment and mask and prevent any voluntary movement I have. I now walk using an Odstock rather than a dictus (a brace to lift my foot into a flexed positiuon). I walk for an hour on a treadmill every day, exercise at the gym to improve my posture and alignment, and frequently stretch shortened muscles every day. I religiously exercise and stretch every day. Exercise 2, Surgery 0

The surgeon in both these cases works in the Burwood spinal unit and I have found that people who work here take an holistic view to treatment and surgery is considered one of many tools. Not so other surgeons …

Instead of surgically lengthening the tendon in my thumb I independently embarked upon a programme of intense stretching and massaging my thumb. A physio later endorsed this. The trigger thumb was probably caused by my using crutches. Surgery would have meant that I would have lost my mobility for months, and that I would have needed help with personal care. This particular surgeon was adament that surgery was the only treatment if I wanted to straighten my thumb. Turns out he was wrong. (I subsequently spoke to two men whose surgery was unsuccessful and were having to have it repeated, one for the second time.) Exercise 3, Surgery -2

The same surgeon has recommended surgery for carpel tunnel in both my wrists. He says that without surgery the nerves to my hands and fingers will die. However, surgery will for months prevent me using crutches and I will require 24 hour care including someone doing all my personal care for me. Not if I can help it! An osteopath has given me exercises and stretches to help release constriction of nerves through the carpel tunnel; I have found web sites that show how to do other exercises; I have a dynaflex to exercise my wrists; the Odstock I use reduces the pressure I put through my wrists onto the crutches.

So, hopefully, Exercise 4, Surgery 0

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