Archive for the ‘Reflections – with Images’ Category

Wellington to Prague via Sydney and Abu Dhabi

Wednesday 22 August

Here we are in Abu Dhabi Airport.

NEVER, NEVER EVER transit through Abu Dhabi. Approaching Abu Dhabi, I see pretty white domed buildings that turn out to be the terminals. Not only are they pretty on the outside but inside the rounded ceilings are covered in beautifully coloured mosaics.

And that’s where the good stuff ends.

The shape makes for a cacophany of sound, and an inefficient layout with too little seating and people wandering around everywhere. We need boarding passes for the next flight but instead of simply scanning our information, everything must be entered by hand. There are phone calls when something goes wrong, though what that is, we don’t know because the staff at the counter are unhelpful and unfriendly. Other staff wander arbitrarily through the growing queues writing on tickets and waving confused people away without any explanations. Technology is primitive and the going so slow that we wait over half an hour for several staff members to process us, taking turns to pick up and put down our information.

I’d hoped to be able to walk for half an hour or so and raise my feet to reduce the swelling. But the man who met me at the plane with a wheelchair keeps me in it. I try to explain that I want to walk but he says I will get too tired. I stand up and walk for a little but he soon has me back in the chair. I watch the people around me. It’s fascinating seeing such diversity, and especially to see how the young Muslim women add beautiful embroidery to their clothing. Even those in full burka have elegantly embroidered patterns on the edges of their robes.  Some young women, of whom you can see only their eyes and hands, have perfectly manicured and painted finger nails.

It takes over half an hour to give us boarding passes, then it’s down to the gate. Can I climb stairs? Yes, I can. Again and again I’m asked this. It turns out that there is no air bridge! 

We arrive at security and the man pushing my wheelchair takes us past the queue to be processed. The man in charge yells at him and tells him to take us to the back of the queue. Our man ignores him and throws our bags over the rope and onto the conveyor belt. There are no boxes for neatly keeping your things together. Baggage goes through higgledy piggledy. I set the alarm off, of course. I always do. A woman takes me to another room to pat me down.  I guess a woman cannot be seen being touched by a stranger in public.

We wait … And wait. Passengers have to be driven on a bus to another terminal (?!) to board the plane. We wait some more. The plane should have left by now. We are waiting for someone to unlock the door to the outside! Every now and then someone rattles the doors, but no, they are still locked.

A bus is waiting. There are more people than seats, so another bus is needed. Nobody had thought about how seats would be needed!

Finally, we’re on the bus on the way to the plane. When we arrive, despite having agreed that I would climb the steps up to it, a man wants me to enter on a fork lift. No, I want to climb the steps. He insists. I insist. He insists. I insist. I win. 

I climb the steps and we’re on our way to Prague!


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I was inspired and uplifted when I heard someone special to me say (I paraphrase) how wonderful it is for someone to see you as you really are, yet love you anyway.

I have been looking for some way of expressing this:

I had arrived at this after experimenting with:

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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes” – Marcel Proust

This post is dedicated to my daughter who “got” Proust before she was twenty. I couldn’t get much further than the first sentence of “Swann’s Way” the first of seven volumes of “In Search Of Lost Time” (although, in my defence, the sentence was three pages long.)

I didn’t manage to read Proust’s novel(s) in English, let alone French, but with the help of my daughter I am better able than otherwise to enjoy and appreciate his (and her) reflections. As some wit remarked “they would rather visit demented relatives than read Proust”. I understand the sentiment and I am very lucky to have had some of his themes explained to me and discussed in contexts I understand.

Although memory, especially involuntary memory, is the main theme of Proust’s work, it is the idea that if we understand our life experiences and know how they affect us and change us, and we can use those changes to transform ourselves, that has me punching the air saying “yes!”

Now, I didn’t explain that very well, so I was really pleased to find this quote from Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”.

I can apply that to so many of my experiences, from the traumatic to the seemingly trivial. And i think I can see how Proust spoke to my daughter. She was four when I damaged my spinal cord, and she adapted her life around whatever I could offer her. (As did my sons, and they too would probably “get” Proust if they ever decided to read his work.)

Some of my real voyages of discovery:

One of the most important lessons I have ever learned was after I lost my mobility – don’t let the things you can’t do stop you from doing the things you can do.

When my twin sons were babies I learnt that housework doesn’t matter. It will always be there, but your babies will grow up. (Or I needed to sleep more than I needed to vacuum.)

I learned that if I walked at the same pace as my toddlers we could all see the caterpillar in the grass.

Teenagers are extraordinarily receptive to exploring all sorts of ideas, from politics to ethics to science … They like to share their discoveries, and I learned to listen.

I learned that dreams come true, but my dream of walking has required determination, persistence and commitment. And creative thinking, by me or by others.

I have lots of art projects on the go all the time. I have learned that this is a good thing because something I read or hear or see adds to my experience and even the most subtle change can enlighten or inspire me to bring something more or different to what I am working on.

Writing focuses and clarifies my thinking, and often helps me look at issues from new perspectives.

I find myself wondering more and more how many opportunities I miss to learn about myself and others. This is not a bad thing. My mind is opening.

By expressing myself in art, no matter how skilled I am, I am translating to another medium an aspect of who I am and what I see. Art makes it easier to have new eyes.

I’ve also learned that those few words defining a real voyage of discovery have provoked me to think carefully about what “having new eyes” really means.

The Real Voyage of Discovery

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I was looking at our living room this morning and my heart sank. I’ve been having a lot of fun messing around with art and drawing apps for my iPad, as well as designing some wedding stationary for my daughter and her fiancee, and I’ve been scattering bits of paper and “stuff” all over the floor. And the room intended for all this wonderful creative work is even messier. What to do? Where to start?

One step at a time.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of a task, or unsure where to start. Sometimes the whole picture seems too big to know where to begin to look. Sometimes it seems easier just not to start.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” – Lao-Tzu

Nearly nineteen years ago I began a journey that literally began with one step. I was about to be discharged from the Spinal Injuries Unit in a wheelchair, unable to even stand. I had a little movement in my right leg but not enough to use functionally. I was unable to even pull myself to standing. Yet one afternoon in the gym, challenged by the other patients, I did just that. The physios didn’t think it possible, but said if I could stand they would place me between the parallel bars with a callipur on my left leg and help me walk. And I did. I pulled myself to standing for a few seconds before collapsing. True to their word, the physios put my left leg in a full length callipur and placed me beteween the bars. The callipur kept my left leg rigid, my arms took the rest of my weight and I lifted my right leg to take my very first step.

Some say that Lao-Tzu’s words are best translated as beginning your journey with the ground under your feet. That’s pretty much what I did, and still do. I focus on the step that I am taking now. I’m not thinking about whether I’m improving or whether I’ll be able to throw one or both crutches away. I’m thinking about the best possible quality of step that I can take now.

Action begins this very moment. Procrastination is the enemy. Pick up the messy papers and sort into folders. Do the exercises and stretches that keep me mobile. Go to the gym and focus on my body alignment. Enjoy creating the current artwork. And live in each moment that is part of every journey.

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In my last post “I Am What I Think and Do” I wrote:

Dreaming is easy. Processing and focussing your thoughts, then taking action requires effort and hard work. Your goals and how you achieve them help define who you are and who you can become. So although the progression to self development and self awareness through dreams, thought and action might be linear, it isn’t simple. It requires some effort to sort the tangled messages.

The next step is to wrap it up with a big bow and colour it in rainbow colours because life is a gift and it’s up to us who we become.

Well here is the image gift wrapped with the message in the colours of the rainbow

Life is a gift, and it’s up to us what we do with it.

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“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world”

Recently I have come across a lot of bucket lists. I am inspired not by the lists, but by the people who are sharing their accomplishments as they achieve their goals. The young man who is cycling from Canada to Mexico, the woman who has published her fifty thousand word novel … These people are focussed. They have thought about what they want to do, made a plan, then acted on it. They may not be changing the world in the way that Mother Theresa did, or Gandhi, but they’ve changed their world and the worlds of people they’ve encountered.

I am fortunate to have time every day to do what I choose to do. But how am I choosing to use that time? I am busy. I go to the gym, I read, I draw, I design graphics, I write a little and I think a lot.

I believe we are defined by our actions, but without purpose our actions are just a means of passing time. By changing the way we think and act we change who we are … we change who we are, we change the way we think. But it’s not a closed loop, or even the infinite figure eight. It’s a linear progression:

I have realised a dream. I have always wanted to express myself creatively in images but have lacked the skills and medium to do this. Now I can combine my love of letters and words and images with the satisfaction I get from exploring ideas and concepts. Creating a calligram allows me to take something intangible and turn it into an image with a message that conveys far more than any number of words I might use. It may provide entertainment or pleasure or a challenge to others, even inspire or change their thinking. An image is powerful. It can have immediate impact, or it can be subtle, or require time to think about, and lead to other ideas.

Dreaming is easy. Processing and focussing your thoughts, then taking action requires effort and hard work. your goals and how you achieve them help define who you are and who you can become. So although the progression to self development and self awareness through dreams, thought and action might be linear, it isn’t simple. It requires some effort to sort the tangled messages:

The next step is to wrap it up with a big bow and colour it in rainbow colours because life is a gift and it’s up to us who we become.

Creating a calligram challenges me and expands my thinking. While I am creating, my mind free wheels and other related or unrelated ideas take shape. While thinking through all these ideas it occurs to me, that although I have no bucket list, I have three things I am desperate to achieve. First, for thirty years I have loved having time with my children and I intend to continue investing everything I can in them. Second, for nearly twenty years I have been determined to walk and I will continue to do everything needed to improve and maintain my mobility. Third, I will do everything I can to return to Tuscany with my husband while I am still mobile, he is able to carry all my bags, and we can plan and explore its art and history together.

So I can either pass the time while I’m doodling and playing with words and shapes, or I can use it as an opportunity to think … to plan my day, reflect on my ambitions, or explore something inspirational that I’ve heard or read and think about how I might apply it to my life.

Enough. A time to write, a time to draw and a time to progress my plans.

Otherwise it’s only dreams:

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A friend remarked, as he picked up an iPod, that his grandmother would refuse to believe that a thing so tiny could possibly hold thousands of songs.

It started me thinking how extraordinary the playing of recorded music has become. It’s the stuff of Science Fiction, except no Science Fiction writer predicted the storage of vast tracks of music in such a portable device, and that the quality of the music would be superb.

It isn’t long ago that we were astounded by the amount of music stored on a CD, and that a CD player could be carried so easily, although there was the problem of jumping tracks as a portable player moved. I still have a CD player in my car.
The CD superseded the Walkman, and that was less than ten years ago!

I don’t have an iPod because I doubt I could walk well with my crutches if I was listening to music through ear plugs. Also, I hate having things in my ears. ( Now, if someone could come up with a way to listen to music through the bone behind the ear …)

When I’m at home, which is quite a lot of the time, I listen to music through iTunes. Fantastic! A quality sound through a home theatre system (bought for listening to music, not watching movies) that enables me listen to anything from Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto to the Rolling Stones “Angie”.

And that’s when I get “lost in the music”. With thousands of pieces of music to choose from, I vacillate instead of just clicking the mouse and letting the music seep out, spill out, rock out, or boom out I get lost in the playlist … Do I feel like listening to Cat Stevens, Johnny Cash, Mick Jagger, Joan Baez, Mozart, Beethoven, Mussorgsky … Do I want to listen to protest music from the sixties, or do I want to listen to country music, or classical. The library is organised into categories, but sometimes the mix in the categories doesn’t suit. Then more questions …Do I want to buy music from the Internet, or own a CD?

I’m lost in all the possibilities.

But, once I’ve found the music for the moment, then I’m reminded of the true meaning of “lost in the music”. There is no sense of time or space, just the emotional response to something primal. Music moves me. It moves me to joy, sadness, wonder. Music fills me up. Music speaks to my soul.I’m lost in the music …

Lost In The Music

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