Someone had, not unkindly, likened her to a reptile. No doubt about it there was something lizardlike in her deliberate searching out of sunny, sheltered spots, preferably away from the inquisitive eyes and intruding conversations of others. On this particular day, after a couple of hours reading in the garden, sunblushed was, she thought, a a more apt description!
Archive for the ‘food for thought’ Category
One after another they posted, one selfie after the next. Facebook and twitter went wild, this was what going viral really meant, she thought.
It had started simply enough, a reaction to the flawless faces, groomed bodies, affluent costumes of the rich and famous on the night of the oscars. Would they dare to show themselves in public,as they really were, devoid of the trappings of applied beauty, she mused. Would she?
Almost without thinking she took a photo of herself, as she was at that very moment, and tweeted and posted the selfie, daring all in her sphere of influence to do likewise. Friend after friend, woman after woman, picked up the challenge: a grassroots act of rebellion against the need to put on a face was born.
The movement gained momentum. Suddenly, inexplicably, surprisingly, it shifted gear and changed direction. Women globally, at least from the richer western nations, began linking their small ‘just as I am’ act of rebellion to #nomakeupselfie, raising funds for Cancer Research and other charities. Still more joined, the cry picked up by men and boys too, de-gunking, leaving off the gel and other products. Groups of friends, coworkers, even entire management teams jumped in, and donations to good causes shot through the roof. A day to remember.
Without exception, albeit with a collective sigh, hands reached for the products once more. Shunned for one selfie, or at best one day, the petrochemical industry was firmly back in charge.
They sat in a room, in silence, not totally comfortable in themselves, or with each other, but in silence nonetheless, as a discipline,a deliberate act. They’d heard earlier of how the nuns in this convent observed silence during all meal times except one, the great feast on Easter Day. She for whom sharing life around the table was so vitally important, wondered what it would mean if all meals we’re taken in silence. Would that be confining or freeing? For sure more attention would be paid to unspoken gestures, to glances across the table and to the appearance of the food itself. Sound too would not go unnoticed, the signs, the clatter of cutlery the sighs, and the incessant bird song outside. Even the sense of smell would be heightened; an unpleasant whiff breaking through the lovely aroma of roast beef, or lemon tart.
But what was the point of the silence, the deliberate, intentional withholding of this particular form of communication, this way of sharing life?
One of the tasks for the day, their mission should they chose to accept it, was to draw up or revise a way of life. Would silent meals be part of the order of things, she wondered. What would be the pros or cons of doing so? What would that silence look like for her friend who lived alone? Or for herself for that matter. She, who all too often ate alone, because actually there was no real rhythm of eating together in her household, what gift would silence bring?
Silence did not come naturally to this small group of people, but nonetheless it gifted them with opportunity to sit, to stop and reflect, and to remember. What intrigued her most, towards the end of this day of silence, was how attenuated she herself had become to every sound. The quiet closing of a door in a room beyond theirs, and in the room they were in, the rustle of papers, pages being turned, spectacle cases being opened and closed, and fidgeting bodies struggling to enter the spirit of silence to which they had voluntarily submitted for these few hours. And the constant tap,tap,tap of the text messages being read and scrolled through.
It rained for forty days and forty nights. Power lines fell and rivers burst their banks. Never, since Noah, had the water levels risen day after day, for days in succession. Roads, once the main arteries into and between communities, were cut off, navigable only by canoe. And then the storm came. Gale force winds, felling trees, uprooting saplings and well established bushes. In the towns wheelie bins took on a life of their own and relocated. And still the rain came.
In the game of marbles the idea is to win marbles from another person by strategic play. You do this by dislodging your opponents marble(s). Prioritising is like that – dislodging one marble to make space for another.
You have only a limited number of marbles, which makes the idiom ‘losing your marbles’ so much more meaningful doesn’t it?
There are no end of things you could, should, ought to or would like to be doing, but still the same limited number of marbles (time and resources). It’s a time-old conundrum. With finite time and limited energy what should be given the lion’s share? One way to prioritise, she found, was to weigh up whether the task worth a marble or two or not. It made sense (in her head anyway)
They’d been friends for years, more like sisters really. A shared journey in the past, present and into the future. Time alters things, goalposts are moved, perspectives changed but love wins.
There had been moments when they’d been out of sync, when tears and anger and frustration had been more evident than not, and secrets held lightly for a moment, were unexpectedly, unthinkably, held on to for a moment too long, so that sharing them – breaking the silence – was so much harder. Those were the moments when love had to do its job.
Love had brought them to a place where, while there were still hurts and fears, sharing the journey was what mattered most. Trust and hope restored, because love wins.
The bear, sitting quite ceremoniously on top of the sweater, on top of the padded envelope, on top of the post office scales, looked bemused. So did the assistant for that matter. She watched as the women frowned, picked up the bear, and the sweater and the envelope, and then looked around for help.
“Excuse me” she asked “Can you help me?” She paused, reshuffling the items so the bear was held more tightly in her hand.”These items weigh 300g. It will cost £4.95 to post. I want to know how much more it could weigh at that price.” The assistant laughed, “You mean you want to know how to get your money’s worth! And I don’t blame you. Let’s see “… Together they peered – bear too – at the leaflet, and calculated the parcel had to be under 0.5kg, 500g.
“Mmm” she thought, “thanks”, stuffed bear (very carefully), sweater and padded envelope into her bag, and marched out of the post office doors.
The woman returned a few minutes later, walked back to the scale and weighed something small. Satisfied, she left.
Back home the fun began. Sitting the bear on the dining room table she began. First the sweater went into the zip lock plastic bag. So far so good. Then the surprise. That had to be double wrapped in case it leaked. Finally she picked up bear, smiled, and popped him or her, she wasn’t quite sure which, into a small zip lock bag, told him -or her she still wasn’t sure- to take a deep breath, and closed it tight. She placed all the items in the padded envelope, and stapled it closed.
Name and address on the trusty padded envelope, she headed back to the post office to post off the surprise.
The assistant smiled, . “You managed to sort it,I see. Good for you!” This parcel will make someone very happy. “Yes me” thought the woman and the bear simultaneously, and though hidden from view, the bear smiled from ear to ear. His – or her – next adventure had begun.
She’d arrived at the house bearing gifts, unsure of the custom. To the boy there was a book, to his mother bath salts, small gifts to show how much they were loved and appreciated. She hadn’t known anything about gift giving on this particular occasion, and later learned that bearing two mandarines would have been more in keeping with the culture and the tradition.
As they sat at the table, each of them received a red envelope; small and narrow. Traditionally it would have contained money – a good omen for the new year. In this house,however, two small chocolate eggs -to symbolise new life, new birth, new hope -had been carefully placed inside. There were no fortune cookies, instead a time of prayer – for blessing and favour, for health and the ability to follow Him to the ends of the earth, for family and friends, and then the feast begun.
Noodles and rice, chicken and salmon with two different sauces, sweet and sour stir fried vegetables -and giant prawn crackers made by hand and with love. Around the table the conversation flowed. Love and laughter around the table, the Chinese New Year – this year of the Horse -had begun.
She thought she knew where she stood. She thought she knew her place. She thought she knew the role expected of her –and attempted to step into it.
She hit a wall, invisible but solid.
She walked away to rethink, refocus and rediscover where the lines had been drawn.
The train sped towards its destination. Putting on a brave face, and breezily saying ‘goodbye’ to her friend had been hard –but so much easier than at an airport. Airport farewells, she mused, always had a taste of finality about them. Years ago, she’d said her final farewell to her father at a local airport, as she’d helped him board the plane that had taken him back to England, to die.
The black thoughts shifted as she started to look ahead. There was almost always something to look forward to; another trip, the work she loved doing, chance encounters even on this train. She’d made eye contact with a young woman, a student probably, who was working on a computer that sounded as if it had engine trouble. She’d sympathised. Her previous laptop had sounded like a jumbo coming into land, just before it had died.
This time she caught herself before the morbid thoughts of death- albeit of an inanimate object this time -caught hold. There was almost always something to look forward to. ‘Tomorrow’, she decided, would be brighter. Coffee with a friend, time at the swimming pool, and writing a paper that she was looking forward to.
The train picked up speed and began to leave the Welsh hills behind. The urban jungle was calling her name.