Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Going out and about

I'm just loving going out and about with Indi these days in this amazing Autumn weather, cold yet not too cold, and so full of colour. I pop her in the Ergo, a wonderful carrier lent to me by a friend (thanks Sif!), and off we go on another mum and bub adventure. It's the kind of adventure that, if you're Indigo, you can fall asleep during! She's rocked about rhythmically as I walk, with her head leaning against her mumma's chest, tummy to tummy, warm as toast. It's so nice having her pressed against me, so close. I often wonder what it feels like for her - it looks like it would feel really lovely.
So some days we walk the local streets, with me admiring all the front yards and houses that we pass. This is something I truly love to do - I love the way a front yard just says so much about a household, about the people living there. I love observing the different plants people have collected, how they are arranged, cared for, how much effort has gone into it (or not, in many cases). I love my front yard, and spend a lot of time there, not just gardening but sitting out on our front porch on one of the two lovely big overstuffed chairs donated to us by our next door neighbour. Indigo and I spend a lot of time there, everyday. So I love it when I come across a front yard with furniture like a chair or a bench - it's amazing how it can transform a garden from a sterile place with a few plants to an inhabited outdoor 'room'. Just today I passed a row of pretty terrace houses, with tiny front yards, each with a small front verandah, and one of them had an orange retro looking upholstered chair, just a single seat, placed at an angle looking out on the street, and immediately I knew that whoever lived there just loved sitting there. I could feel that it was a spot where much enjoyment had taken place. It kind of hummed with it. It felt good. I think that's kind of what feng shui is about.
So yes she sleeps and gets her late morning nap while I walk and walk and walk - I have lost a bit of weight and am getting a really good idea of the terrain of our neighbourhood, getting a real sense of where we live. I like this. I used to wish we had a dog so I would be forced to walk more, but really there is nothing to stop me just stepping out for a little jaunt now and then. And all the better if I can do it while my lovely daughter sleeps soundly against my tummy (although my hips have been complaining a little as she gets heavier, I will have to get her used to the pram soon. I'm not really looking forward to it, she'll be so far away!)
Other days we go to the market, or the local shops, where she is more likely to be peering out from her comfy and safe perch, watching with wide eyes as the enormous and colourful and chattering world goes on around us. I love watching her in this mode, you can just tell she's taking so much in, processing so much, learning so much, just by observing, just by being there. And of course there are the countless people smiling with joy just at the sight of her, peering down at her and speaking baby talk to her. I used to kind of wish they would not get in her face so much but lately she is really lapping it up - she has been smiling back at them more and more often and winning them over completely!
It's actually quite amazing how much power she has. She opens people's hearts and brings people together just by being there. I always lose count of the number of people I end up chatting too as a result of wearing her around, and they are always the sweetest little encounters, tiny moments of shared joy as we all smile and share and love her, just for existing, just for being so goddamn cute!
I'm really loving it actually. I'm loving the sense of community that being a parent has brought to me. It's like a club, a huge, really huge club that exists, with free and automatic membership to each and every person who has ever been a parent. Mat and I noticed it right away. We are both fairly marginal people who have always dwelled on the fringes of society, never really fitting into the mainstream, or even many subgroups. Kind of a lonely place sometimes. But as soon as Indi was born, we instantly became members of this great club! We'd get smiles and nods everywhere we went, and still do. People give you more time to cross the street, are more likely to stop for you in the first place, if you are walking with your child, and they smile knowingly as you nod in thanks. It's a club that is totally unknown to you if you are childless - you can see all the people out there with kids, the sea of prams out on every shopping strip and cafe and playground, you can see them there, but you have no idea that they are all so connected, bound together by the invisible force of shared experience. And what an experience! The paradox of brutal difficulty combined with the sweetest of joys is completely unique and unmatchable by anything else.
There is a deepening in the eyes of these parents who I suddenly feel so connected to - you can see it as that knowing smile hits you. With that one look you can see that this person has already gone through what you are going through now. Even if the person is old and grey, you can see that they have not forgotten. You can see that they are kind of walking with you on this amazing journey, that the terrain is familiar to them, and that they know things about the road ahead of you that you don't know yet.
So we continue to walk, sometimes just the two of us, sometimes as a family when Mat joins us, and with each step we move forward on our amazing adventure together.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Cat Eats Cake

And chocolate. Contrary to the panicky statements made by my cat loving friends that it is "bad for them!". "It's bad for you too," I say, "stop being such a finger wagging hypocrite." I don't give him much, he doesn't want much anyway. But I give him some. It seems mean to sit there eating delicious chocolate, with him sniffing around clearly interested, and not offer it. He is my friend after all. If you were sitting there with your best friend on the couch in front of the heater on a winter's night, enjoying each other's company, snuggling even depending on how close you and this friend were, and then you brought out a yummy stash of the finest organic chocolate laced with orange essence (or peppermint, both favourites in this house) and began eating it with relish, would you not offer your friend some? Would you continue eating your chocolate despite the pleading looks and suggestive motions of your friend? I think not. It would be rude. Well I think cats, and all our animal companions (I refuse to call them pets, that is so demeaning) deserve to be treated with the same respect one would give to a cherished human. Away with the double standard, I say! Even calling them "animal companions" is a bit daft, considering that I am also an animal, and therefore Mat could legitimately call me his animal companion. But then Peter Singer's coining of the term "non-human", although factually impeccable, is a bit humanocentric, despite it's attempts not to be. And "fluffy friend", although kinda nice, always makes people laugh at me, which doesn't quite work either. I don't know that there is an easy way out of this. So bear all of this in mind when I use the term "animal companion", please.
Anyway, back to the story of what my cat, Dr chops, eats. He eats chocolate, as I mentioned, but he also enjoys bits of cheese, and ham, and sliced turkey. Like all good food lovers he enjoys his deli goods. He also likes cream - he will tolerate milk if there is nothing else but only really the organic unhomogenised stuff, he won't touch regular milk. He likes KFC. When we are having an eggy fry up for breakfast he loves to have some runny egg yolk - I used to fry him up his own egg coz runny egg yolk is a favourite with everyone in this house. And tonight I discovered he likes coconut cake - a particularly yummy concoction I concocted up off the top of my head this afternoon (why it took me so long to combine the joys of coconut and vanilla I shall never know). He was licking the crumbs off the plate so I asked Mat to cut a thin slice for Dr Chops and crumble it for him. It's all gone now.
So my aim here is not really to showcase the gastronomic adventures of my wonderful spirit cat. I am actually making a point. A point about our animal companions. Humans have so successfully separated themselves from nature that we have decided that when we live with an animal they are our playthings, and that certain kinds of animals living in an urban setting must all be owned (such as cats, dogs, guinea pigs, miniature pot-belly pigs, or any kind of pig really), and that any cat, for example, that is living a free life that doesn't involve humans is a "stray", which must be captured and subdued, have it's genitals forcibly removed under sedation (!!) , and either given an "owner" so it can live in a house, or killed! I mean really, how shocking is this?!?! We buy and sell these beings without a second thought. We breed them, and then separate children from mothers at will, preventing almost every one of these poor creatures from ever spending more than 6-8 weeks with their mums. Those poor mums! I think this is so sad! It's actually really quite insane. We are all so conditioned to see this state of affairs as being quite normal, and even right, that chances are you are thinking that I am a bit loopy right now, and clearly "one of those people". But think about it. Our human systems of interaction are not set in stone. They were not handed down by some mystical deity. We made them up. And we can unmake them. Unfortunately for the non-humans we have opposable thumbs, more complicated brains and are often stronger (than the urban creatures anyway), so in this case might wins. But is this right?
I have a beautiful book that I bought from a lovely second hand bookstore in Warrandyte on one of my lovely random drives into the countryside that I used to enjoy once upon a time before I had my beloved daughter. It is called Cats of the Greek Islands, or some such thing, and is filled with the most beautiful pictures of these most fortunate of the world's feline creatures, living amongst the people of the Islands, never as pets, but as true citizens. They loll about in groups and clans. They wander. They have babies. They look after their babies, and stay by their side, until mother and child naturally feel the inclination to be more independent. They sleep curled amongst each other, and they play cheekily, as cats will do. They eat fish at the wharves when the fishing boats bring in their catch, and are loved by the residents, who also give them tasty tidbits from time to time. And most importantly they are free. They are truly free.
In my next life I'd like to be a well-fed and happy cat living on one of these islands. In the meantime, while I am a human in my current form, I take it upon myself to make the life of my beautiful feline companions, Dr Chops and The Mysterious Crunch, as comfortable and autonomous as possible. And I think I am doing a good job - they are two very happy cats. And very well fed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Onions and Garlic

I had the best time with Indi today! She is such a spritely soul, so full of joy and humour and good cheer. I like her a lot. I mean, clearly I LOVE HER to absolute bits and pieces, a force of love so powerful it leaves me breathless... but on top of that, I really LIKE her. She's my little buddy.
So what's with the root vegetables I hear you ask? Well, just as I was gathering the aforementioned edibles from my pantry, about to work up a magical soupy treat in my new pressure cooker, I turned to Indi who was being held by my beloved in the kitchen - they often hang out with me while I cook which I love - and showed her the items one by one. "Onion" I said as I held up the onion, and "Garlic" I said as I held up a clove of garlic, and much to my surprise and sheer delight, she burst out laughing! Now there is no sound on this planet that pleases me more than the laughter of my cherubic daughter, and no sight more look-worthy than her face full of glee and joy as she chortles away, it's just the best. So Mat and I burst out laughing right along with her. And, as I tend to do when I spring upon some action which pleases my daughter, like a court jester wanting to please my queen, I repeated the above actions - "Onion", "Garlic" - and this time there was even more laughter, she positively cacked herself! If she could have slapped her thighs she would have. So yes, for the next TEN MINUTES, I kid you not, I repeated "Onion" [chortle chortle], "Garlic" [squeal chortle giggle], with Mat and I laughing right along with her and both our hearts just bursting with love and joy. Now the interesting thing was, the garlic was much funnier than the onion for some reason. I experimented by replacing the garlic with a carrot, which also got a fair few giggles, but then when I brought the garlic back, well, it was clear, the garlic was HILARIOUS.
I'm laughing just writing about it.
Kids are so cool.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My spiritual journey

I had a realisation today about my evolving spirituality. I realised that I have travelled through and beyond a number of traditions and spiritual spheres, which have each served me at the time and have led to the next, and that each successive shift has happened naturally and in its own time, without me consciously thinking about it. This process has been taking place over the last twelve years or so. I started with yoga and hinduism, and spent a lot of time studying yoga philosophy as well as actually practicing meditation and physical yoga practice, and then moved on to Buddhism and Vipassana meditation, again with lots of study of buddhist philosophy and taking part in ten day silent retreats, then went all New Age with tarot and reiki and manifestation and the like.
So then I wondered - where I am now? It's hard to say.
I don't meditate or do yoga in the classical sense at all. I rarely do reiki, except with my cat Dr Chops, who is a reiki master and loves to receive it also. I don't agree with a lot of Buddhist philosophy these days as it is based on the cessation of suffering as the road to enlightenment, which I find ties in with my problems with the New Age movement and it's focus on rainbows and light and its tendency to shy away from the dark. This is the case with yoga also, there is a lot of repression of the darker parts of ourselves, and an insistence on feeling good. I think the dark parts of ourselves and of the universe are important. The dark is an essential element in a balanced system in my opinion, one half of the yin yang. Although Buddhism acknowledges the dark, it seeks to eliminate it, whereas I believe that dark times and difficulty are actually an intrinsic element of an evolving consciousness, and that the seeds of hardship bear the sweetest fruit in the end. Not that I go about looking for trouble, don't get me wrong, I think life tends to hand you your fair share of difficult trials quite naturally (in a karmic sort of way mostly, but not always) and it's our job to look for the lessons and to grow and evolve as a result of living through the hard times. Also, I definitely believe in natural cycles, in our own personal winters and springs and summers and autumns, and that you need to sit through the cold winter where it looks like not much is happening before you can get to the spring when your spirit blooms with a million flowers and then bears fruit in the summer which you can then harvest in the autumn.
What I do on a spiritual level is kind of hard to describe, very hard to describe actually, and also quite personal. I have learned over the years to keep sacred areas a bit secret. I used to go shouting from the rooftops whenever I had a spiritual breakthrough, I was always so excited, but it took me a surprisingly long time to figure out that I would always burst my precious bubbles of delight by making a big song and dance about things. These days my spiritual experiences barely get spoken about, they live in a private room in my heart, and it feels so much better that way.
But even if I wanted to go into detail about what I actually DO as a spiritual practice, I would be hard pressed to list anything, or describe an actual process. But my spirituality is a huge part of my life, and gives me untold joy and fulfillment. It is one of the best things in my life, alongside my relationship with my beautiful man and my amazing heartstoppingly gorgeous child. And my cats. And my sisters. Oh alright, my mum too. My spirituality enriches my life so much, it is where I grow, and get closer to the best me that I can be, the me I am working towards bringing into my daily life. I am so thankful that I have this cosmic space to loll about in.
That reminds me, gratitude is one of the biggest parts of my spirituality. Being grateful is one thing that I do do on a regular basis that I could comfortably call a solid element of my spiritual practice. I think it is an essential part of a happy and harmonious life, and paves the way for you to work in harmony with the universe. I'm not sure about the actual mechanism, but I do know that it works. Being grateful is a powerful force, and should be practiced regularly!
So I'm left with more questions than answers today - Where is my spirituality now? What does it involve? How do I speak about it? Do I speak about it?
There is a part of me that thinks some questions are better left unanswered, and some things better enjoyed than over-analysed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I'm very into them at the moment. They have such a strong life force. After months of neglect over summer once Indi was born, the only plants in my front yard to look chirpy and well were three geraniums by the driveway. A year or so ago I stuck three cuttings haphazardly into the ground, and then forgot about them, and now I have three lovely happy plants all bushy and covered with flowers blazing away. Any plant that can withstand drought conditions over summer without watering gets my praise and recognition, and as a result I have been on a bit of a rampage of late, procuring cuttings from here and there to bung into my yard. I have never come across a plant that strikes so easily from cuttings. You literally just have to pick a branch off any existing bush, trim almost all the leaves off, except for the little young ones near the tip, and poke it into the soil about an inch deep, or more if you can be bothered, but that's it. They barely need a glance after that. And with a new baby this suits me fine! They occasionally need for you to pick off the dying leaves and the dead flower heads, a bit of a prune now and again (or not). I just feel they are very good natured beings, and have decided to build up a bit of a collection. So there you have it, I like geraniums, they are good.

The Dark Side of Motherhood

It's funny how sometimes it's easier to speak of difficult times when they are in the past, rather than while they are happening. Now that I'm feeling like I've found my motherhood groove and am grounded and well, I want to explore the side of motherhood that for some reason is not explored much in the wider world. The times when it's not nice, and lovely, and wonderful. When it's actually so hard, and so huge, and so demanding, that it threatens to smother you and your life as you knew it. The times where you find yourself wondering if you've made a big mistake that you can't undo. The times that find you going through the motions but panicking inside, wondering whether you can really do this for years and years and years.

This side of motherhood isn't talked about much. Everyone's too busy telling you how it's the most amazing thing you can ever do. Maybe it's because everyone who has difficulties as a mother is reluctant to speak of her experiences for fear of being judged a failure by others who seem to have it all worked out, who seem so together. Or maybe we fear that people will think we don't love our children if we are struggling to be happy being their caretakers. Or maybe it's because, as the days and months and years go by, and our hearts swell with the love that grows along with our growing children, the difficult times pale into the distance and are not easily recalled. Who knows why it isn't talked about much, but the reality, or at least my reality, is that it was largely only when I spoke about my own difficulties, whether they be current or in the past, that others would open up and tell me that yes, they too had difficulties, and yes, it's a hard hard job, and yes, they had struggled with this same thing and that same thing... Don't get me wrong, it was definitely reassuring to hear that I wasn't the only one who had had a hard time with breastfeeding, getting out of the house, driving with my crying baby, the sheer unrelenting grind, it definitely helped to know that it was a common thing. But why was I only hearing these stories *after* I opened up? *After* I had gone through the torment of feeling like I alone wasn't coping.

I think women should make a point of telling all mothers to be about all the hard times they had, so that when the new mothers find themselves in deep dark places that are lonely and scary, they know that others have stood there, that others have felt their pain, that it's not because they are failing and it's not because they are not cut out to be a mother after all, that it's just a part of the gig.

There is one person I know who did this, and it made a huge difference to me. She told me while I was pregnant that she cried every day for two months after giving birth to her beautiful child. She told me that she was scared she had ruined her life by having a child. She is now a happy and wonderful mother to a thriving two year old child. Knowing that she went through what she did helped me. It made me sad that she went through it, but it helped me to know about it. It made me feel OK.

So next time you see a pregnant woman about to have her first baby, rather than regale her with tales of bliss and happiness, which I'm sure she has been showered with, maybe the best thing you can do for her is to tell her about your three most difficult times as a new mum. Reassure her that if she struggles, which she will, she is not a failure. She is not doing it wrong. There is probably nothing wrong with her baby. It's normal, and it's OK to talk about, and it will pass.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I'm liking this mum thing

I feel like my heart has had to grow in capacity to accommodate the huge pulses of love that wash over me these days. It's like my skin just can't get enough of my baby little big girl, I find myself rubbing my arms and hands all over her and kissing her soft round almost heart breakingly smooth cheeks but I can never seem to get quite enough. I just love it when I'm holding her tight against my chest and she's flopped against me with her head on my shoulder - I can't help but squeeze her and drink her in. I had a big session of this on Mother's Day as we walked from my delightful cafe breakfast to the car, I just spent the whole walk in bliss squeezing and smiling and trying not to trip over. I somehow managed to make it to the car in amongst all the joy.

That was just one of the many lovely moments I had on my first ever Mother's Day, which was such a beautiful day, thanks to the efforts of my gorgeous partner-in-life Mat, and the simple presence of my angel-girl. I was genuinely surprised at how much Mother's Day actually meant to me. Mat has been telling me almost every day what an awesome mum I am, and how impressed he is with me, which is so nice, but there was something about this day when Mothers are universally recognised and valued and thanked that really touched me. I think after struggling with the whole new mother thing ever since the post-birth happy hormones wore off around week five, and really having to dig deep to stay afloat a lot of the time, it was just really really nice to get a special day of recognition. It actually makes the hard bits easier to handle when you know that your efforts are being appreciated and valued.

But the really nice thing is that the hard parts have actually become easier. For the last few weeks I have really settled into my new role as Mother. And I'm really loving it! There are still the really hard times, I mean, this is the hardest thing ever, really, but it's also just amazingly rewarding, like nothing ever before. I am loving my girl more and more as she grows and weaves herself deeper into my heart with each new day, each new smile, each new thing that she can do. It really does feel as though we are enmeshing , that each new day more and more tendrils of her being delve into my heart and mind and spirit and more and more of my tendrils enter and wrap around her shining being. She is becoming more and more interactive, more aware and responsive, and I'm really loving it!

And I think I just had to go through an adjustment, as most mothers do, and do a bit of grieving for all the lost freedoms that I so took for granted, and that I have had to let go like a silk scarf on a windy day. But I think I have mostly come to terms with it all and I feel really settled at the moment. Settled and well.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

She sleeps, I surf

One thing I really quite adore is to have my baby girl sleeping on me, against me, with me. Right now she's sleeping on her side on the breastfeeding cushion, pressed right up against my chest. I have to reach over her to type. She feeds in her sleep occasionally, then lets go. She stirs, wriggles. But she's with me, the whole time, our bodies warming each other. We're both safe in the absolute certainty of the presence and wellbeing of the other. When she needs me I am *right here*. I don't even need to wonder about whether she is sleeping OK, or whether she's crawled out of the covers, or whether she's still breathing (every new parent knows this feeling I'm sure). Coz she's *right here*. In fact she is right up against my heart.
These are special times. She won't be sleeping against me on a breastfeeding cushion all her life. Probably not for many more months, even. So I am drinking this wonderful rich warm experience in, relishing it, like a thick hot chocolate on a cold night.