Wednesday, 30 April 2014

I found my sticky tape in Kyoto

Having generalised anxiety disorder sometimes means feeling anxious.

Yeah! Fun times...

Not really. It can feel quite awful. Maybe awful is the wrong word. I try not to judge my feelings as often that makes it far more unpleasant. Unpleasant is one way to put it. Uncomfortable? Well, it's not fun is what I'm trying to say.

Lately I've noticed my anxiety has moved a bit. It's set up camp in another part of me. Not sure what that means it's just something I've noticed. Usually it sits in a certain place physically in my body. Now it sits somewhere else. Like it's moved house, or something.

Anyway I was chatting to a dear friend of mine the other day during an anxious moment. I was about to head off to Kyoto and something in me said, "Nooooo! We've just gotten comfortable in Tokyo and you wanna go someplace else?! We don't like change! Remember! Be scared and staaaaay put we like comfort zones Mary."

No! And then I stamped my foot.

I'm so contrary I have to push past all this stuff to prove to myself it won't kill me. That fear and anxiety is something my body just does because I am "me", and I don't want to let it stop me doing wonderful fun incredible things. Like travelling. Or anything else outside my comfort zone really.

So, we go to Kyoto!

And by "we" I mean me and my anxiety.

Anywhooo. My lovely friend suggested I get myself some sticky tape. You know, just incase. I loved the idea because I'm a visual person - but I thought "yeah I'll get some metaphoric sticky tape, that'll do just fine."

And it probably would have, except I decided to buy some super cute Japanese sticky tape. Just coz I'm in Japan, and everything here is super cute.

By the time I actually got to Kyoto there was no need for sticky tape, but I did it anyway, you know, just incase. And now I have this incredibly kawaii roll of sticky tape with a girl riding her bike through foreign cities like Amsterdam (this is on the sticky tape) and London - which seemed to fit because I like riding a bike - and it's super handy to carry with me just incase I, you know, feel a bit broken or falling apart or something.

Just incase.

Kyoto was incredible.

It was easier than I had imagined and there was so much amazing stuff to see there. I wished I'd gone sooner so I had more time to spend there.

I rode a bike all around to visit a castle and a couple of shrines. I ate and wandered around. I visited the International Manga Museum and changed my mind about not buying a single physical souvenir in Japan. I bought a book of the exhibition and an Astro Boy mug so every time I drink my tea I remember how lovely Kyoto was.

I didn't hang out with any other tourists in Kyoto, I barely said more than 2 words to anyone the whole 3 days I was there...it was just me and my sticky tape.

And it was marvellous.

[Yells at anxiety even though I shouldn't yell at her] See?! We had fun didn't we?!

[Giggle.]

P.S. If you ever want somewhere amazing to stay in Kyoto - Hana Hostel is absolutely incredible. I cannot recommend it highly enough.









This was the top "bunk" at the hostel. More like a cubby - so cute - and look at all that space up there! Only Y2,800 per night for a female dorm. The facilities were amazing.



Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Is it the adventure? Or the best gyoza in town?

I've been pondering why travel is so much fun...so interesting...so good (I hate that word but it fits).

And I don't have the answer to that question but I do know it has something to do with absolutely everything being com-p-lete-ly different.

For me the fun part isn't the sightseeing necessarily. Seeing cool stuff is cool, but that's not "it".

It's more about the process. Having absolutely no reference point, it's almost necessary to teach yourself how to function in another country. Especially if it's not a country similar to the one you live in.

It's the adventure of it all!

[I'm grinning right now.]

Trying to figure out the train system. At home there's not a lot of fun in that (unless something new and interesting happens) but somewhere foreign (like Japan for example, where I am right now) it's an accomplishment. A small one perhaps but for me that feeling is fun.



Want something to eat? Abandon everything you know about feeding yourself and try to firstly identify what you want to eat without really knowing what this food is exactly and without having a clue how to ask for it. Then use money you're not familiar with to pay for it during an exchange with a stranger with whom you have a very limited ability to communicate with.

It's. All. Different.

And I love it. I don't at first, of course, it scares me quite a bit. But then when I finally manage to pull it off somehow and get over that part it's so incredibly rewarding.

Example? The first time I was in Japan, it took me three separate trips to Starbucks to figure out how to order a standard latte. And when I finally got that latte (instead of the other strange coffee beverages I had ended up with the two previous days)...wow it was just so cool.

Who knew ordering coffee could be so interesting.

[I'm grinning again.]

And then last night we used something called a ramen map to find the best ramen in the area I was staying.



It was, indeed, the best ramen I've tasted, and I thought I disliked ramen. The lovely Japanese fellow who ran the place also offered us gyoza. I love gyoza, and this gyoza was incredible.


Another example? Today I completely (very pleasantly) surprised myself by actually making it to my hostel in Kyoto. All on my own. Google may have helped somewhat...and I say somewhat because her instructions are often unhelpful, "head west" she says...

--- can I interject here - I am incredulous every time my Google machine says that..."I still don't know which direction west is!". Why can't someone invent a software update for Google so it's friendly to those of us who don't have internal compasses? The instructions for compass-less people like me could be "look up, you should be able to see a tall building, a road, and a 7-eleven...turn and face the tall building, then turn to your right and walk straight...this way is west" and yes it would be SO EASY for Google to know when someone is compass-less. Because they walk 10 paces in one direction. Then pivot on the heel and walk 10 paces back in the direction they'd just come. Then they take 2 steps to the right, and then 4 to the left, trying to work out which way that stupid little blue dot is going. Anyway rant over. Nope, still going...OR we could just have a compass built into Google maps perhaps! Sorry, now the rant is over. ---

...anyway when I eventually have a sense of direction Google is rather helpful again.

But honestly, I didn't have significant help from a person for any part of the process of getting here. And I don't mean in no sense, of course there was the lady at Tokyo station who told me me to go to platform 18, domo arigato. And the man at platform 18 telling me to go to carriage 3, domo arigato. Then there was the train driver, thank you. Etc etc.


What I mean is, all those people were doing their thing, and I had to do my thing, on my own, to get here. No one did any of it for me, or showed me how. I had to work it out. And, for me...that! That, is the fun part.

So why is something so simple so exciting?

Easy.

[My eyes are beaming right now.]

There was a time I didn't think I'd be able to do this on my own.

More than that, there was a time I didn't think I'd be able to do this, period.

There was a time I wasn't certain I'd ever leave the house again, let alone with a smile on my face. And even after I was able to leave my house I wasn't certain I'd be able to leave my comfort zone. Or at least I'd not be able to go very far out of it.

And, yet, here I am.

It's just me. And all of me, too, even the weird bent-out-of-shape and banged-up and totally-freaked-out bits...gradually breaking down my comfort zone walls to make way for new and exciting things...

...and currently thoroughly enjoying the cuteness of this place. Everything here has a magnified cute-ness!


Saturday, 26 April 2014

I need to learn the kanji for "special massage place"

There's a funny story in here but first for context.

I'm in Japan. (Catch up!) Tokyo at the moment. Soon I'm off to Kyoto.

I'm an awkward traveller. It doesn't really come naturally to me. Does it for anyone? For a start I get lost...a lot. Which I'm oddly okay with, but it does mean I end up with sore legs and feet (trying to find 'west' wherever that is). I also tend to do that ridiculous homesick thing quite a bit too. Something to do with being fostered as a child. Boooo. Although the homesickness usually passes after a week (so, I'm right on schedule).

Sometimes when I travel I wake up in the morning and think oh I so cannot be bothered sight seeing today maybe I'll just get bored and see what happens. This happened yesterday when the stranger on the bunk bed below me answered her telephone at 3am and had a whole conversation and, no, I am not kidding.

Anyway I don't care that I'm awkward and get lost and sore feet and freak out a bit when I travel. Because I love seeing new things. New places. I love meeting interesting people. Sometimes not so interesting people, but that is often worth while too. I love eating cool new food (like chicken gizzards, true story) and speaking new languages.

I love feeling the wind in my hair. (No helmets in Japan!)

I love pushing myself outside my comfort zone a bit (in manageable ways). It's always so rewarding.

For instance, did you know in Japan you can purchase a soft or hard boiled egg at a convenience store that has the salt already on the inside of the egg? How do they do that?

It blows my mind every time.

Not necessarily the eggs. That's probably something ridiculously simple.

It's more the stuff you discover when you travel. And there's only one way that discovery can happen and that is...to travel. For me, the awkwardness is just part of it. I do it anyway.

Worth it. You get my point.

Anyway in a bid to relax my tired, awkward, and sore body - I like to have a relaxing massage.

Told you there was a funny story.

This isn't my first time in Japan and so I'm familiar enough with the massage market here...or so I thought.

Yesterday on my way back to my hostel I wandered around trying to find a place to get a massage. I was wandering for an awfully long time too, perhaps an hour? I tried my Google machine but no joy.

I had some brief success and found a place but the lady told me to come back in an hour. By then I was too tired to wait that long. I considered just heading home (hostel) for a shower when I spotted a sign nearby. It was in kanji but they all are here - and it had pictures of massage on it.

Perfect. In I went.

The lady greeted me with a slightly confused look on her face. First clue in retrospect. But at the time I thought nothing of it. I have limited Japanese and she had limited English. Not unusual! Anyway she offered me a seat and then the massage menu. My second clue was the prices were a little steep. Usually a massage is around the Y6000 mark. This one said Y10000. I thought it was a little odd but nodded my assent anyway. Keen for a massage.

Still seeming confused she asked me to wait. She went to get someone else. They came in with a telephone and did a Google translate. "We're very busy can you wait 20 minutes" it said.

I nodded, so after some whispering they showed me to a room and told me I could lie down if I wanted. Third clue? Massage mat on the ground. No biggy they do that in Thailand right?

But a little while later my fourth and fifth clues came.

'Why can I hear someone having a shower...?' By now my face had a little frown on it. Maybe it's next door...

And then...'okay that sounds like quite a relaxing massage'.

Wait. I put my glasses back on and carefully looked around the room. There were some shelves with towels and some bottles of things and what are those things...?

Yep. Okay. Oh. Right. What do I do now? Just quietly leave. Okay bag, got it. Shoes, zip zip zip zip. (My shoes have zips, not laces). Coat. On. Curtain, aside. Lady comes out of the room next door (and I dearly wished she hadn't...mainly because I felt a bit silly but also because I didn't particularly want the visual) and I sort of stutter out "ano sumemasen, totes forgot I have to meet someone in 10 minutes, very sorry! Okay-see-you-bye-bye".

The lady looked even more confused (poor love) and asked me if I wanted to come back tomorrow.

"Iie, it's okay. Domo arigato!" a cheery wave and I was on my way.

And actually I'm not 100% certain my suspicions were founded. But either way, I was content to just chill out back at my hostel. 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Tokyo, take two: near disaster travel story



If you prefer to skip my philosophical musings, scroll down to "**The Story" below.....

I don't think there is anything nicer than the sound of rain on a roof. Happily for me it's raining here and I'm sitting with my head very close to a roof. A slanted roof made of wooden slats that don't quite fit together so you can see through to the insulation.

But I love it. It's friendly and warm and cozy and homely.

I'm on a top bunk bed so it feels like I'm sort of camping (a love of mine), and all the bunks have canvass curtains for privacy - adding to the cozy camping-ness feeling. This nook will be my home for another 4 nights and it's so lovely I will be a bit sad to leave.

I'm in Tokyo again.

I came here last year for a month, to visit my then boyfriend and to see if I liked it enough to live here for a year or two. I did like it that much, but at precisely the same time some other things happened and I ended up doing quite a lot of grieving. For various and irrelevant reasons.

Despite the grieving, I loved Tokyo so much I didn't want to leave. But there was a sort of resigned sadness that stained many of those memories.

I couldn't have that. I dreamed of coming to Japan my whole life. I dreamed of living in Tokyo all through my 20s. I couldn't have my big Japan dream-of-a-lifetime visit stained by that kind of sadness.

So this is Tokyo, take two. And it's every bit as amazing but this time with a little less grieving and quite a lot more fun.

So far, anyway.

*grins

And, as I love hearing travel stories, especially the ones involving near-disaster, here's my first Tokyo take two near-disaster travel story.



**The Story

When I landed in Tokyo (well, Narita) it was 8pm and I had only 2 hours to get to my backpacker's. I packed super light so I could carry-on and run everywhere (lappie, a few clothes, a book). I flew through immigration and bolted for my train.

8.32pm.

Just under 90 minutes to make it to Asakusa by the cut-off time for check in. They said "please don't be late as we can't check you in after 10pm". I had emailed them from Australia, worried I'd not make it in 2 hours (the airport is in whoop whoop), but they had reassured me I would. They told me to ring if I got lost or was late.

I have a Japanese SIM card (long story, doesn't matter). So, thinking I'd have my Google machine, I intended to follow GPS. In Tokyo, Google gives you PT directions.

Golden.

Except I'd forgotten to unlock my new iPhone handset. I'd forgotten I even had a new handset since the last time I was overseas. SIM card is inserted but no joy, "please plug into iTunes to set up" it said. 

*slaps forehead

Right. No Google machine. Thank goodness for back up plan HostelWorld's written directions! 

Catch a train to Aoto station. Swtich to the train bound for Asakusa. Switch to Ginza line and get off at Tawaramachi. 

9.35pm

Squinting up at the map on the train roof I roughly calculated I'd not make it in time, or be cutting it very fine.

And, no Google machine = no phone to ring Backpacker's. 

I looked around. I hate asking strangers for favours, even though I'm often glad to help strangers when asked for one. It took me a while, but finally I asked a lady sitting near me. "Pardon me, can I borrow your phone?" in as much Japanese as I could muster (which isn't a lot, okay so I only knew how to say "pardon me", the rest was English and gesturing) and offered her some yen. 

I'm not certain she understood. I'm not certain the next 3 people I asked understood either. But they all hesitated then shook their heads. 

[pauses to laugh, wondering what they thought I was offering to pay them for]

I did the train switch thing. 

Foreigners! I went over to them. "Excuse me, do you speak English?" 

"A little."

"Do you have a telephone?" 

"No, sorry." 

"No worries, enjoy Japan, okay this is my stop". 

10.03pm 

Got off at my final train stop. Maybe they'll wait a few minutes and I could still make it. It's only a 7 minute walk from the station. I kept going.

Back to the written directions. 

And I quote: "Leave the station via exit number 3. Go straight for a while, and turn left at a 2nd traffic light ('Kokusaidori-Asakusa 1'). Go straight for 3 mins passing by 5 junctions. Then you will find us on your right, just before you meet a big street.

I swear I followed them. To the letter. I went straight, counted 2 sets of lights, turned left, then counted 5 streets - all very carefully. Nothing on the right that even resembled accommodation. 

Wait. What does 5 junctions mean? I counted side streets! Did they have to be cross junctions

Confused, I retraced my steps, then returned counting 5 cross junctions. 

Still nothing. 

10.15pm

It has to be around here somewhere. So I walked around a few blocks.  

10.30pm (ish)

Well past check in cut off time. I popped into a few hotels/guest houses to see if they had vacancies. Plan B.

Alas, nothing. 

It was quite cold and raining softly, but as I trotted along I spotted a "24-hour Starbucks".  Right. Plan C. Even with the uncertainty of the whole thing I was starting to feel excited again about being in Tokyo.  

10.45pm (ish)

I found a very kind English speaking tourist out front of a guest house. I asked her if it was still open. "I don't think there's any vacancies", she said. Tired from all the trotting (a sort of walk/jog), I sat down and chatted with the lady for a while. She asked what I was doing looking for accomm so late and I explained my predicament. She went and got the manager for the guest house. Lovely dude. He used his Google machine to find out where I needed to go, got me a paper map and drew a line from where I was to where I needed to be. 

Did I mention he was lovely

I should also mention that from the station I'd gone in the opposite direction (away my backpacker's). I still don't know how that happened. 

Anyway with time pressure now off, I hung out there for a few minutes out of the rain. We talked about Melbourne and I told them my plan C for the night. "It's not actually a 24 hour Starbucks", said the lovely English speaking lady, now with a worried look on her face. 

Oh. Right. Thanks-well-you've-both-been-great-I'd-better-get-going-then. 

They wished me well and I set off again in the rain, thankful I'd packed so light. 

Okay, quick, brain, think of a new plan C! Wishing furtively someone could let me in/sneak me in at the Backpacker's?  

Even though I was a little apprehensive (okay scared) about being homeless for the night I had a brief Frances Ha moment running/skipping along the sidewalk. Tokyyyooooo!

The paper map was brillo. I found the place. Easily. Thank you lovely dude (san).

11.25pm. 

Lights were on. I could hear friendly chatter. 

Then I saw this note taped to the outside of the door. 


I looked through the locked door at the other travellers inside, held up the note and said "I'm Mary". They let me in, and told me how to do wifi if I needed to tell peeps back home I'd arrived safe. I was flooded with relief they'd let me in. I opened the note and it had instructions on how to get in with a "pay us in the morning". 

Quite overwhelmed by the gesture of that note and all the friendliness in general, I sat down on a little chair and kind of babbled for a while, almost in tears, then frantically texted the peeps who'd left me "are you there yet" notes (at which point reading those I actually did cry). 

So nice to have people in my corner. 

Anyway all the other travellers were very kind and no one told me to shut up. And then we laughed at my inability to follow directions.

Tell you what. I was pretty happy to discover my comfy bed in this little nook after I'd settled down somewhat.

Oh Tokyo, it's good to be back. 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The adventures of Buzz and Woody, Part IV

Part IV


"Buzz, watch it! Your wing is poking into my back."

"Sorry Woody. It's a bit tight in here and they keep popping out."

[Buzz pushes his wing retract button.]

"Do you think it's safe to move yet, Buzz? I don't hear anyone talking anymore."

"I guess Woody, do you wanna risk it?"

[Woody nods and Buzz unzips the suitcase part way. Buzz jumps out and holds the flap open for Woody to climb out of.]

"Domo Buzz."

"Do-what?"

"It's Japanese. It means 'thanks'."

"Oh.....hang on what? Since when do you speak Japanese?"

[Woody shrugs.]

"There was a phrase book in the suitcase, Buzz."

"Ohhhh. Wait! Since when do you read, Woody?!"

[Woody blushes.]

"I used to watch Andy reading Buzz. Sometimes he even read to me. Good times."

[Woody looks wistful for a moment then surveys the scene below.]

"Right. Buzz. You ready?"

[Woody wriggles the latch on the inside of the baggage rack door and pushes it open just a little.]

"Coast seems clear Buzz, everyone's asleep."

[Woody looks down and his eyes widen slightly.]

"Umm, Buzz...it's a lonnnnnng way dooowwwwwn."

"Don't worry Woody, I'll fly us out of here."

"Buzz. We've had this conversation before. You can't fly."

"I'll gliiide us down Woody, calm down."

[Woody looks dubious but jumps on Buzz's back anyhow and grips him for dear life. Buzz presses his spread wing button jumps off the edge. Both toys fall heavily to the ground.]

[When Woody's body comes to a stop he glares at Buzz, stands up slowly and brushes off his jeans.]

[Buzz stares right back, slightly embarrassed.]

"Don't even say it Woody, I'm just out of practice."

"Right Buzz, c'mon. Let's do this before someone wakes up."

[The toys look down the long isle and then across to the other isle on their right. Woody's shoulders slump. It's going to take longer than they thought.]

"We'll split up Woody, it'll be fine. Just keep an eye on me and we'll go down the isles together. We don't need to bother with first class. She won't be in there, not with that backpack."

[Buzz runs under the chairs to the next isle and gives Woody a hand signal to move towards the back of the plane. He mouths to Woody, 'start at the rear'.]

[The toys both start to make their way down to the rear of the plane.]

[Buzz looks across at Woody to make sure he's in line but he can't see him. He steps back a few paces and spots Woody 5 metres from the rear of the plane, frozen in place. Woody flops to the ground. Buzz dashes back over to him. Before emerging into the isle he peers around a bag tucked underneath a chair.]

"Don't move Buzz, someone's coming out of the toilet." [Woody says very carefully without moving his mouth.]

[Buzz looks towards the toilet door and see's her coming out. She stops to ask a flight attendant something and Buzz leaps out from behind the bag to join Woody flopped on the ground.]

"Can you believe this coincidence, Woody?!"

"Shhh Buzz! What are you talking about?"

"It's her! Giger-poster-rainbow-lady. From the bedroom we've been in the past few years! I can't believe it's her, this is crazy!"

"What are you talking about Buzz?!"

"The bedroom we've been living in Woody, you know the lady you were scared would sacrifice us, she's here!"

"What, on this plane Buzz? Boy, that is a coincidence."

"Not just on this plane, Woody, she's the one with the fabulous vest and wickedly cool hair cut. She's the one with the backpack we're trying to find. Shh she's coming this way."

[Both toys fall silent as the lady walks down the isle. She sees them and stops mid pace, squints at the toys, shakes her head and continues on down the isle.]

"Buzz, I think she recognised us!"

"Of course she didn't Woody, you look exactly like all the other Woody's in the world."


...to be continued (again)
Continued from Parts I, II and III. Click below to catch up: 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

On metaphoric roads and hoping I never find the end of mine

I had a conversation with a friend recently. She said something and I misinterpreted the meaning. I relayed the wrong story.

I felt bad about it.

Happily for me she told me I was wrong and I had an opportunity to apologise. I'm apologising here too. I just love that woman to bits.

She said something interesting then, that she didn't think for her it was the end of the road. And it got me pondering.

Loads of big conversations this past month. Actually, truck loads of huge conversations these past few years. The biggest of my life. I love 'em all. Especially the one's I'm most scared of having.

At the end of all of it I recall something my therapist said to me once. That life is a series of letting go and moving forward and that that process never ends. At the time it really didn't sink in.

Maybe it was too obvious to get my head around, but today, it sank in.

I don't want my road to end. Ever. I want to keep walking on my road until well after I'm dead. I know there will be twists and forks at some points. I know it's hard staring down eight possible routes. I've stood still in that place before and it was so hard to choose.

I know myself now enough to know I no longer care if I choose the wrong one. Sometimes I pick the scariest looking one just for fun. Mistakes...happy endings...to me sometimes it's irrelevant.

If I always stay true and open and courageous, follow my heart if you like, I feel I can't go wrong.

Whatever happens it's gonna be amazing - is the current slogan in my household. Sometimes my housies and I say it to each other and just grin.

It feels right and it's not let me down so far.

Nothing wrong with standing still either.

Then I feel sometimes I spend too much time analysing. And I'm doing that now. Another thing to let go and move forward on perhaps. 

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Poetry for the courageous

I love it when people's thoughts, ideas, truths get stuck inside my head, 
Turning everything I thought I knew
Upside down,
And inside out.
Those people who are familiar,
Those I'll probably never meet,
It's irrelevant.
It's more the truth of what is said.
I love it when that just gets in there and completely messes everything up.
I embrace that mess.
Open armed and unafraid.
Those thoughts that are sown eventually grow
And blossom into my magical unicorn of learning,
Which leaps around so curious and magnificent.
And so I learn.
And so I, in turn, create a mess in other's minds.
This glorious thing called life.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

To this day the idea of amputation freaks me out

Preface: To be clear I am compassionate (perhaps too much so) for people who have had something amputated. It just freaks me out as a concept. Especially the whole phantom limb thing. Especially wondering what happens to the limb after it has been removed. Where does it go? Oddly I have no problem with limbs missing from birth. It's more the idea that once something part of someone is now gone, but they remain.

A most vivid memory of my sister happened when I was around 10. As a family outing, my parents and some other related family folk, took my little sister and me to Puffing Billy. A must see if you’re ever in Victoria.

Puffing Billy is an old steam train that, still being in working order, takes passengers from a station on the outskirts of Melbourne to a place called Emerald Lake, which is rich with fun times, happy families, and picnics.

My sister was 4 years old at the time. Little, though almost as big as me by then, with blond hair, big eyes and she full of innocence and naivety. I was feeling particularly protective of her on this day.

The old steam train has been altered a little to accommodate the “touries”. There are old bench seats on the insides of the carriages where upon the parents and the oldies sit. The windows have been removed and replaced with horizontal bars, and the sills widened, so that the children sit on the sills, dangle their legs and wave to the passers by from the train. It’s all very quaint and innocent and lovely. And so, of course, that is what we did.

My sister sat next to me on the window sill, her little legs dangling out next to mine, and her arms wrapped over the protective bars, nice and safe. Except to me she seemed so small compared to those bars (she would have fit through easily after all), and definitely far too young to realise the danger. And so I clung onto her to prevent disaster, to scared to ask to come down for feeling foolish. As the train chugged slowly along (chooka-chooka-chooka) my anxiety grew, and I was clutching my little sister for fear of loosing her altogether.

As our journey progressed, I began to feel a little more at ease, and determined to enjoy the ride of terror, though still holding onto my sister quite tightly. I had noticed something different about the girl sitting next to my immediate left, but had been far too distracted to look closely. After some time, when my anxiety had abated somewhat, I again noticed the strange and unfamiliar smoothness of her legs and the seamless transition of her lower legs the “shoes” at their end. A great gust of wind revealed an even more astonishing terror. Underneath her knee length skirt, her knees were empty sockets joining her upper legs to her lower legs by great big chunky bolts. Her shoes were nothing more than painted plastic.

Of course, for the remaining part of the journey I was as calm as ever. To this day I am petrified about the concept of amputation, to the great amusement of my friends, and the possibility (however remote) of my becoming an amputee.

This is one of but many memories I have of my little sister. When we were very young we played together. Then fought together. And now we talk and talk, share, drink tea and watch Seinfeld. We share big love. I’m still overwhelmed by feelings of protectiveness whenever she drops her ice-cream or anything else bad ever happens to her.

It’s my biggest fear that she falls under the train and looses her legs, or drops her ice-cream. Awful. 

Although, my irrational fear could also have something to do with my my Pa who, around the same time as the Puffing Billy incident, had to have several amputation procedures. He loved to freak my sister and I out - he drew a smiley face on his stump and used to wave goodbye to is with it. He was a champ but that'd freak anyone out at 10. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Who knew logs could be so handy...?

This story is about something one of my aunties told me. 'Bout logs.

Okay so a few years ago I was going through a rough patch. I had a few really big life transitions and it was tough getting through it. I was completely stuck in my own head and incredibly anxious. It was a ridiculously huge year for me. If anyone has heard of the Holmes and Rahe stress scale I scored close to 400 that year - firmly within the "at risk" category.

My Mum, ever practical, whisked me off to the country after a particularly bad week, to my aunt and uncle's place in  NSW. They have this enormous piece of land, 90+ acres. They have a veggie patch and sheep. It was poddy season at the time and so I was given the job of checking on the Ewes every few hours to see if they were in labour or in distress.

Incidentally the first lamb was born 2 hours after we left (I was devo haha, isn't it always the way).

Anyway I think we stayed almost a week and it was a great one (even though at the time I was vulnerable). We took walks. We talked...a lot. We drank tea. I got my hands dirty in the garden and played with my cousin's new baby. Nothing like the country to keep you sane.

The thing from that week I'll never forget is my aunty taking me for a walk (/hike) one morning. We walked far down their property admiring the wild flowers and the scenery.

I was in total pity-party mode at the time and I asked my aunty why this was all happening to me. *shakes fist at the sky and wails 'whhhhhyyyy'.

My aunty is a lovely, wise lady. Deliberate and thoughtful. She considered her answer then delivered it beautifully. She pointed to the land and said:

"When we first bought this land it had been devastated my a huge flood. The flood had swept away most of the top soil. A lot of the plants and trees and shrubbery was completely swept away with that huge flood. So by the time we came along there wasn't a lot here."

(I was having trouble picturing it, coz of all the lovely plants see.)

Anyway she continued.

"We spoke to other farmers and in the end we had to get a bunch of logs and place them carefully around the land, in really strategic places. See, eventually a bit of soil here and there comes back and covers the land again, but without anything to hold it together as soon as the rain comes, it all gets swept away again.

"So we placed the logs where the soil would be caught. And then when the rains came again a lot of the soil was swept away again, but a little bit stayed behind this time, because it was caught by the logs. So the soil that remained, started to grow some moss, which was fantastic because when things grow in the soil the soil is held together by root systems.

"So then some of the soil with the moss remained behind, and the next year the birds flew over and pooped out seeds they'd eaten, and the seeds that landed on the soil with the moss sprouted with other little plants and started growing. Then when the rains came, the rain swept away a lot of the soil again. But this time even more remained behind, held together by the new root systems of the new plants and the moss.

"And then the following year when the birds flew over again and pooped out more seeds they had eaten, the seeds that landed on the larger patches of soil with the moss and the plants and sprouted and started to grow.

"And eventually after a few years shrubs started growing and the build up of top soil grew even bigger still. Until now when we look around there are trees, and shrubs, and plants, and wild flowers."

By this time you can imagine me staring at her, right? On the verge of a panic attack wondering why she was telling me how to rebuild land after a flood.

Anyway then she said, "Well, right now you've been devastated by some pretty big floods, Mary. But you've got logs, and lots of us. We'll catch the dirt till you've had a chance to regain your balance a bit, and eventually the birds will come over and poop on your head and the seeds they've eaten will grow in the dirt your logs are holding in place. And eventually you'll completely recover, just like this land did. And then you'll be more compassionate towards others in transition and you can help them with their logs too."

Okay she didn't say the pooping-on-your-head bit (I added that for fun) but you get my point.

And she was right.

It took time, lots of it. It took patience. I had so many logs holding my dirt in place while the birds did their thing and the rains came and would wash some of it away on occasion. But over time, I recovered.

And now I have moss and trees and flowers and birds pooping on my head putting in new seeds for new plants to grow.

And when my rains come it's not as devastating as it was then. Back then at times I felt you could have knocked me over with a feather. Not now, baby. Now it takes a sledgehammer to get this lady to fall over.

And I've got a few logs out there for people I care about too.

Who knew logs could be so handy, hey?

;)