Saturday, February 15, 2014

those holes are spaces for light

It took just ten seconds for him to die, for the fluid to enter his veins, for the drug to hit his heart, and there was just enough time for him to lick his lips, one two three times, just enough time for me to say, "Oh. Good boy. Good boy" as he left, and then he was gone.

Which was surreal, because one second he was still there, still warm and moving slightly under my hands, and then he wasn't.

And it hit me then that it was over, and hit me again and again, as we wrapped him in a blanket,
as people spoke softly about things and moved about the room;
it hit me in waves—until I felt nauseous, and I had to go outside and drink water by the car as they carried him out—that he was gone.

And I wanted to step back in time, to please sit a second more with the breathing him, but that's how it was now and I couldn't change it, and all I could do was keep on living while he didn't.

And now it's been two days and I keep crying.
I miss my dog, and I know people lose dogs all the time, but I can't stop how it hurts. And it has opened up all these holes I thought I'd filled as best I could. I miss my grandmother and I miss my namesake aunt and I think of my father and my friend from high school who died and I think of my mum's best friends and I miss Jennifer.

I miss the space my dog took up on the tiles. I think of the space the living take and how after they leave they're still there, but you can't talk to them and you can't hold them and you can't hear their breathing or their laugh or their voice. You can't read their new words or watch their tail wag as you come up to them for a good scratch and you can't talk to them on the phone.

Their spaces are empty and full at the same time, like the air has rearranged itself in their shape.

And I think of how much space the loved take up.

It's real, because there on those tiles, precisely, is where he lay,

and there in that chair of my memory is my grandmother saying, "Hello! Hello!" as I enter the room,

and there in that hospital bed is my aunt calling out as I leave, "And I love you too, so much!"

and there in that photograph is my dad flying a kite, his hair curling in the wind

and there in her words, is Jennifer always. Noticing, marvelling, guiding me to beauty.

And it is so beautiful when you see what they have left you.

It can take your breath away. Leave you weeping and smiling at once.

Those holes you thought you had to fill just so you could keep moving…
those are the spaces they made and they're not supposed to disappear.

You're not supposed to fill them. Those holes are spaces for light.

I think of my dog and how in his final weeks he lay right in the kitchen by the cupboard so you had to step over him to enter or leave.

On his last day, every time I went near him, he lifted his head and followed me with his eyes

as if to say

I'm here.

I'm here.

Remember me.

And on his last day, before I knew it was his last, I sat with him and brushed his old fur. And he and I looked at each other for long seconds until I put my forehead on his, and after a while he lay back down.

And when it's over you get to keep those moments

forehead to forehead

that you had

and the space they made.

And they follow you as if to say,

"I'm here.

I'm here.

Now you get to remember me."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Tale of a (Long Ago) Grand Adventure and a Wee Epiphany

[Almost five months ago, my little family and I set off on a Grand Adventure… to a tiny town up North to attend a week long circus training camp and festival, where my son was going to perform with his troupe and have One Excellent Week of training. In the meantime, the rest of us planned to frolic, explore the nearby towns, swim in the river, watch shows, and REST. 

Well, things didn't go exactly to plan, and what ended up happening was one of the most challenging not-quite-holidays of our lives. But at some point during the whole crazy mess, I made a discovery that left me feeling invigorated, truly alive, and most of all, grateful.

This is the tale of that discovery and the path that led me to it, told entirely in Facebook status updates! I never wrote about it here, on this blog, and that feels strange… because even though I'm hardly ever here at the moment, this is still my little Scrapbook Space. This is where I get to place the parts that make up the puzzle of me, and my family, and my very own precious life. And I want to paste those long ago words here… so I can find them always, and remember, and be glad.

So here goes!  

*with bonus photos at the end—never before seen footage and so on—of some really Good bits in between (and after) the Bad.] 

The Tale of A Long Ago Grand Adventure (and a Wee Epiphany)

September 26, 2013

This is a nice lake… I'm really glad we are camping next to it :) On our way to Mullum Circus and many beautiful adventures! Thanks to our dear pet sitter, all is well at home too—the cats aren't even fighting (yet)! Which makes this a great holiday already.

September 27, 2013

Road trips are never boring with this guy…

September 28, 2013

Our Mullum Circus adventure begins tomorrow…can't wait :)

September 29, 2013

We have entered Sugarcane Land. As far as the eye can see, cane waving...and little houses squatting stolidly inside the fields...and a boy digging with a stick in a bare field, looking carelessly for snakes? And then mountains like pointy hats rising.... Green is all around.

September 30, 2013


Just another day at the circus… :)

Writing with my girl...under fig trees big as churches...watching people take to the air on great red ribbons…bliss.

[And then… this]

October 2, 2013

Well the circus adventure hasn't gone quite to plan...our circus boy got sick! Four days and nights of coughing relentlessly, long nights of sleeping (not sleeping) upright in the car, asthma bad enough we had to find the circus doctor in the night, plus flu and fever. We have ended up in a local hotel just so my boy can rest and sleep, and he has missed almost all of his beautiful training camp. Such a shame! We are looking for the positives as best we can, and hoping things turn around soon. It is so beautiful here; silver linings are all around, I'm sure.

October 3, 2013

Thanks everyone for your lovely and kind comments on my last update! We are (I think and hope!) on the mend. My boy is (VERY gently) participating in his first training session in 3 days after being really sick, and I actually just saw a smile! I'm so thankful that the hours of tending have led to the beginning of wellness, so thankful that I have my endlessly beautiful family, so thankful that we've ridden this out together. Yesterday we sat over dinner and visualised this great, open positive energy flowing out, a whole lot of goodness and wellness beginning from that exact more feeling sorrowful, disappointed and sick. And now we get to live that lovely picture out. Lucky us :)

[And then…after days of heat and dust and coughing and doctor visits and sleepless nights and worry and feeling oh-so-far-from-home and trying to make the best of things and feeling sometimes overwhelmed and weepy,

I had a wee epiphany, 

which is actually the point of this whole blog post :) ]

October 4, 2013

What happens when you realise your life is yours? 

When you suddenly discover it's yours for the making, that it's entirely up to you how things are going to go? 

You can't always pick the direction... sometimes you find yourself walking a path you believe you'd never choose... in fact, maybe you hardly ever get to choose the path. But I find (and keep finding) that it's what you DO with the path you're on that matters. It matters hard; it matters big like a mountain. 

What you choose to do with what you're given... that's where the joy begins.

Last night at camp as wind rattled the tent and the night dipped into cold, my boy got his asthma back. He ended up coughing and weeping and totally overwhelmed. He was near panic, needing us to take good care, lift him out of the struggle, fix everything. As we hustled him out of the tent and into the shelter of the car, I felt all snarly and enraged, felt like shaking my fist at the world and saying, 'What did we ever do to you???!' And there was talk of leaving, finally bailing, accepting defeat. But it was close to midnight, so we settled my boy into the car with his sleeping bag and pillow, my husband beside him, and we grimly hunkered down 'til morning.

In the middle of the night I had to pee. I trudged across that long, cold field in the gusty wind, muttering and huddled in my jacket, wishing everything was different. But as I walked I suddenly thought, 'Hey. Hey. Why fight so hard? Why feel so lost? Look up!' 

So I did.
And saw a sky wild with stars. A sky bright and fiery, just gloriously alight. After the expected 'Wow!' I thought, 'Hey, Self. What if you just accepted all of this...What if you just kept on? What if?'

And somewhere in the remaining trudge across that ginormous field, in the peeing, in the turning matters over in my mind, my view flipped. that crazy wind and the nose-nipping cold, I felt exhilarated...the 'Bring It On!' kind. The kind where a tramp across a field to the loo at 3am becomes a triumphant stride back under a blazing sky. The kind where you suddenly feel wholly alive, almost in awe of the adventure you're on. What will happen next? Bring it On! Bring it ON.

And we slept so well, my little family and I. My girl and I like beans in our sleeping bags, snuggled close. My husband and boy in the quiet warmth of the car. All of us... we rested well and slept deeply. No more coughing, no drama, just real rest. What a surprise.
As for today? Well, the sun has done its thing again and risen. We're awake, well fed, alive. So, Bring It, world. Show me what you've got.

October 7, 2013

And in the end…
There was so much joy. :)

Bonus pics
as promised

As our boy languished in the hotel, so sick and sad,
my husband and I took turns taking our girl out for adventures…

which included kayaking on an insanely beautiful river
(pic taken by the kayak rental owner person)

here we were at the dinner where we Visualised Good Things

here my boy got to have a one-on-one training session with a beautiful juggler
who heard he'd been sick and missed all of the training week…
and who came to find him and work with him for an hour.
No words for how that felt.

And he actually got to perform with his troupe!

And on the last night, we got to watch a man flying through the air
while juggling three clubs.

Which means
there really is magic in the world.

Don't you think?

Friday, January 10, 2014

homeschool joy: when the learner becomes the teacher

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but

I love homeschooling.

I don't always love the specifics of it,

like, the day to day frustrations that can crop up ("Could someone please help clean the kitchen?" and "Ah, you forgot your music, and you're only telling me now we're here?" and  "Please stop niggling, just for a second so I can think" and "Don't throw the stuffed cat at your sister!")

or those wobbly fearful moments when you aren't sure you're doing it "right," or when you foolishly spend waaaay too long looking at Eduspeaky Websites that (very importantly and authoritatively) show you all the things you should be doing just because that's what everyone else is doing and that's the box you're supposed to tick (Breathe)

or… those times you'd really like a bit more time for yourself and (you feel) you simply can't have it (because home-edding can often feel like (and actually IS) a full-time job—even in those down moments when it seems like you're not busy at all. You're still, always, on call)


I still love the whole thing anyway.

I love the happiness homeschool brings

when you're totally able to drop everything (or not pick anything up to begin with) and spend real time playing, or learning, or chatting, or sharing, or creating.

And I love the satisfaction it brings

when your kids tell you about something they've learned or discovered — you either brought it to their attention and they loved it, or they found it completely on their own and have been immersed in it for hours, only surfacing with a grin to tell you all about it.

I love the peace homeschooling brings

when you realise this life fits you completely

because your kids are following their passions

and you find you do, in fact, have time to write your novel

and do art classes (with and without your kids)

and you ALL get to be in your Element, together.

That's amazing

and a gift

and a blessing.

And then.


You suddenly find something new has crept up while you weren't even looking.

There are now moments, many of them, coming over and over, more and more often,

where you realise

you've become the learner

and they the mentor.

Because look! —

they've learned some mad skills of their own

and want to teach you.

Last year, my son did a history course through Coursera, called "A Brief History of Humankind." It was 17 weeks long, and was taught through the University of Jerusalem.

Well, for 17 weeks (longer in fact, because the course has run a bit into overtime), we have been hearing about the cognitive revolution, the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, the rise of homo sapiens, capitalism, religion, the history of happiness and so on and so forth. Hours of information relayed to us by my 13 year old boy who has LOVED this course. Hours of discussion, hours of learning through my son, hours of knowledge relayed by him to me.

We are finishing up the course together. Just two more lectures, lying on the big bed with the cicadas chirruping outside, pausing to laugh at the lecturer's wry humour, or chat about the concepts he's raised. It's delicious, is what it is. Learning alongside my son. Learning through my son. So much joy.

My daughter has been animating and computer programming on Scratch now for a year, and has been producing hours and hours of projects on line. In the past six months, she has also been teaching her dad how to create games, working with her brother on creating silly animations, and just this past week, has begun teaching me to animate.

I can't believe I didn't start sooner! It's SO much fun.

I've had to let go of my adult (sort of impatient) self, who wants to have the skill now. I've stopped to listen to my girl as she has shown me each step and explained the purpose of commands that seemed to have no purpose, as she has encouraged me to take the reins with sometimes only a little guidance. It has been really hard to produce these few seconds of animation, but wow. It's been so rewarding.

In these small moments, that keep coming over and over,

I can see so clearly how incredibly satisfying it must be for my children, to be such independent learners.

It must feel pretty cool, to be encouraged (by me, my husband, their mentors, their friends) to find things that interest them, to explore them any time, practice them for hours, immerse themselves as deeply as they want until they are full.

I love that I can give that to my kids. I love that my children get to be full-time, all-day, any-time-they-want learners and then, and then! That they want to pass on their learning to the lucky people around them.

I love being their student.

I love that they are my mentors.

I love how much I've learned.

Here is my second ever animation. I am pleased as peaches about it. It makes me grin, every time I look at it.

When I win my Academy Award for it (in the not-too-distant future!) I'll say:

"Thank you. I couldn't have done this without my kids."