Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Brain That Changes Itself

In chapter 9, Turning our Ghosts into Ancestors; Psychoanalysis as a Neuroplastic Therapy Norman Doidge M.D. in The Brain that Changes Itself attempts to explain why 'talking psychology' seems to work. The research he describes uses snails; yep, I must admit to having felt rather slow and spongy more times than I wish were true.

I am sufficiently impressed with Doidge's commentary to have invested in some brain games one of his researchers has devised to help my 'noun losing' brain from deteriorating at its usual rapid pace. I'll let you know if they make any difference in my ability to remember or recall.

However, the following passage also caught my attention because I think it may explain anxiety surrounding certain health related events occurring in the life of a young friend who had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when he was five. One of the aspects of the disease that caused more agony than the disease itself was the frequent requirement to check the salicylate levels in his blood stream since the treatment for the disease was aspirin therapy.

I retype the passage here for your perusal.

"If [the researcher] repeated shocks in a short period, the snails became 'sensitized,' so that they developed 'learned fear' and a tendency to over react even to more benign stimuli, as do humans who develop anxiety disorders. When the snails developed 'learned fear', the presynaptic neurons released more of the chemical messenger into the synapse giving off a more powerful signal. Then [the researcher] showed that the snails could be taught to recognize a stimulus as harmless. When the snail's siphon was touched gently over and over and not followed with a shock, the synapses leading to the withdrawal reflex weakened, and the snail eventually ignored the touch. Finally the research was able to show that snails can also learn to associate two different events and that their nervous systems change in the process. When [the researcher] gave the snail a benign stimulus, followed immediately by a shock to the tail, the snail's sensory neuron soon responded to the benign stimulus as though it were dangerous, giving off very strong signals – even if not followed by the shock."

Could the early experience of the youngster who feared the needles have led to anxiety concerning health related issues later in life?

One wonders.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ten Years!

I arrived for the first time in Australia on 27 December ten years ago. As I was just sitting on the back veranda, comfy on the teak lounge watching the birds flit from branch to branch, watching the summer breeze act like a marionette master moving the tendrils of ten story high fig wilderness, I remembered my arrival here in this historical, hysterical household to spend ten days of Christmas.

What a wonderment. This Victorian house on stilts has become my home; my haven, my mysterious castle; the place where I have learned what it means to be an ex-pat, where I have learned what it means to be married to an Aussie bloke, what it means to be a citizen of the world.

Perhaps a glass of Chandon tonight to celebrate! Only the goddess knows what life has in store for us. Certainly we do not. Certainly the adventure is worth the risk.

May your New Year's celebration be as blessed as ours.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day

Australia's Boxing Day is the second lovliest day of the year - holidays reign supreme in Oz and this one, much like Christmas Day, is designed for relaxation and family pursuits.

Good on ya, Austalia, for devoting two days in a row to the mid-summer holiday.

So as not to offend we here at Bass Street join you in allowing the day to simmer on a low flame.

Happy Christmas to all those Norte Americanos whom we love and cherish. We miss you, but not your weather. We send blasts of warmth in your directions.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas to all and to all a g'day!

Christmas dawned very still with blue skies surrounded by crocheted scallops of puffy whites.

I glowed; first coffee woke us both as we checked out world conditions on our individual computers; Democratic Christmas cyber-greetings were sent and we munched Christmas porridge on the back veranda. The cloud cover increased, the breeze picked up,the crows cawed, the lorikeets squeeked; we pronounced it a fine day!

May it be for you, also!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Review - Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Finishing Barbara Kingsolver's Lacuna, her last and most daunting novel, leaves me wondering if Kingsolver intended to employ 'magic realism.' Was she kidnapped by the genre in her attempt to organize a complex tale in which 'a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe' as she 'matter-of-factly incorporates fantastic and mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction?' Was she seduced by the environment in which she did her Mexican research?
http://www.themodernword.com/gabo/gabo_mr.html

After I turned the last page, disquietude reigned. Kingsolver posed many unanswered questions. As an American who lived through the years covered by the narrative although too young to take part in the national debate, I lay in bed bombarded with questions about how I might have reacted had I been an adult at that time. Would I have taken issue with my government?

I am certain this was her intent – to render the reader confused about his/her own conscience in the midst of the politics of the time, of the politics of today.

I enjoyed the read in varying degrees. Parts of the book fascinate. Kingsolver's use of magic realism mingled 'the mundane with the fantastic.' Essentially Lacuna was 'realistic but was simultaneously possessed of a strange or dreamlike quality.'
http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofEnglish/imperial/india/Magic.htm

It was precisely this dreamlike aspect that forced me into moments of reverie from which it was sometimes difficult to escape.

Kingsolver created a virginal protagonist. Some reviewers find him uninteresting; however, the drabness of Shepard is offset by the colour and chutzpah of the Mexican females who surround him. They provide a backdrop around which the protagonist interacts with what he perceives to be the more interesting aspects of life: food, revolution, and writing.

Last night I wandered around my thoughts and finally realized that the title The Lacuna, the gap, the tunnel, the part you don't know is not what you don't know about Harrison Shepard, the main figure in the book, but what you don't know about yourself.

Constantly, Kingsolver throws the reader back into reverie about whether each of us has a responsibility to formulate and act on a moral position. What would I have done?

This disquietude encouraged my enjoyment of Kingsolver's version of magical realism. She 'aims to seize the paradox of the union of opposites characterized by two conflicting perspectives, one based on a rational view of reality and the other on the acceptance of the supernatural as prosaic reality.'
http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/MagicalRealism.html

The supernatural is subtle in the art of Kingsolver. No blatant wings on the back of an old man, but a thousand year old Aztec statue, a lost journal, the magic of words written down, surrealist art all function in this quintessential novel of the Americas to point out the 'reality of revolution, and continual political upheaval in certain parts of the world. Specifically, South America is characterized by the endless struggle for a political ideal.'
http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/MagicalRealism.html

I have eschewed an appreciation of that aspect of Latin American literature for many years. The only magical realism I have found satisfying is Gabriel Garcia Marquez' A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.

However, Kingsolver's circular repetition of events hovers around the protagonist, each time eliciting a stronger reaction. The story begins with a mysterious narrator who eventually is identified as the third mother figure for Shepard. Metaphorical magical howling in a strange rural setting sets the reader up for a journey into and around several labyrinths until the final circle closes within a hidden notebook describing waking in the midst of that howling. Each mother figure protects Shepard and encourages his talent.

My final commentary on the novel is that the book engaged me on my journey – a journey from very liberal (although appearing conservative) North Dakota to the far more labour oriented social scene in my current home, Brisbane, Australia. Perhaps it was my own circular travels across the Pacific that made me aware of Kingsolver's circular path through the 1930s and 40s in the Americas.

Thanks, Ms Kingsolver, you have been a grand travelling partner.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The United States and Canada

The 4 a.m. Breakthrough
Write a fragment of fiction about high school sweethearts who live in two towns close by but separated by the U.S. - Canadian border.


This one is a tad long: I tried to shorten it, but it refused my efforts! Enjoy.


The middle-aged couple sat outside the square towered clapboard church waiting for other members of the congregation to arrive. Early winter roads slowed their journey making their short drive longer than usual. Black ice covered much of the paved highway. Although most of their journey had been on dirt roads, well maintained but still slick with the moisture from the last storm, Leonard had driven precisely in their big ole Chrysler Ram minus the back bumper, which he had removed years ago. Still, they had arrived early, quite a bit early, for the Wednesday night service.

Agnes asked, ‘could we turn the motor back on? I'm kinda cold.’

‘Sure. Ya know, this church could use a coat of paint.' Here they had been married forty years ago. 'Maybe in July after spring planting,' suggested Leonard.

‘We'll have to organize a work party. Will we have to trim those trees? I've always liked the trees here in Flaxton.'

Even in winter the skeletons of huge trees lining the streets shadowed the church and kept the persistent northwesterly winds at bay.

‘Yep.’

Agnes' hands, folded in her lap, played with grey gloves; she tugged at the fingers and then pulled the palm back up towards her wrist. 'Do you remember that first December? I was sitting beside my parents when your and your folks bundled into the pews on the other side of the aisle.

'I could tell, even back then, that you drove fast,' she murmured as they sat side by side in the cab of the Canadian pickup. My sister whispered to me that you had been in on that prank with the combine over at Northgate the week before. I was pretty sure you wouldn't have done anything like that. That Wednesday night you seemed pretty serious. Do you remember your electric hair when you took off your cap?' She smiled. 'You Canadians worked up more pranks than any of the boys in Flaxton ever thought of.'

Leonard and his family had driven from their farmstead fifteen miles north and east across the Canadian border in East Northgate. They had been attending the Presbyterian church in Estevan, forty miles northwest when his father decided that in winter it would be much more comfortable to attend the Lutheran congregation in Flaxton, only ten miles south. The condition of winter roads forced many decisions otherwise unlikely forty years ago. They made the difference today as well.

This Wednesday night they had come to the service early in order attend a committee meeting to help decide how best to communicate with the folks of the other Lutheran church in town. That congregation had winnowed away to such a small number that they no longer wished to heat the church in town for weekly worship services. It would be financially wiser to combine with the Bowbells church to worship twice a week in the next town only thirteen miles away.

The differences in church philosophy between the two congregations were far greater than the differences between the Canadians and the Americans who joined together to worship here in Flaxton. The physical building may have needed paint, but the warmth that existed between like-minded worshipers inside the church was palpable. They did enjoy one another's family, one another's children, one another's lifestyle. No nonsense, no music, no dancing. They loved their God, feared his wrath, and lived lives to inspire spiritual support.

Agnes and Leonard, hard working farm folks, had met in this church hall; had lived their lives since they were fifteen in the companionship of one another with the support of each other's families.

Agnes had moved to the Canadian farmstead after they were married, filed their marriage license in Saskatchewan, and eventually applied for Canadian citizenship three years later. She never considered herself Canadian nor American. She was a prairie dweller; a farmwife, one who cooked and planted, fed chickens and cattle, one who darned old work clothes, and made new from Sears catalogue materials. She drove the farm vehicles including the huge grain trucks carrying their product to the elevators at the railroad tracks either in Estevan, Bowbells, or Northgate.

These days if one or the other of them needed medical attention they sought the doctor in Estevan because Canada paid the bill. Certainly they purchased their pharmaceuticals in Canada at a much lower price than the same medicines were available in America. But, if the wait seemed too long for attention to Leonard’s back in Estevan, the two would drive to Bowbells to see Shelly, the nurse practioner for the area who would provide a referral to the North Dakota doctors. It might cost more, but the treatment was quicker.

Still, both wondered at the attitude of Americans about health. Leonard and Agnes took it for granted that their community would support their lifestyle just as their American church supported them in issues of religion. There was never a question. They both understood precisely where they stood with their God. If they took care of themselves and of their fellow church members, God would do the rest. Didn't matter if they were Canadian or American.

It was obvious that their good health and above average income came from a God who approved of their rigid doctrine of hard work. He looked after them just as they looked after themselves.

Soon after moving across the border, Agnes' support of the local hockey team moved from North Dakota to Saskatchewan. Along with Leonard she was an ardent fan willing to travel the two hours to Regina on a regular basis to support the Regina Pats as well as the local junior hockey team in Estevan.

Agnes regularly participated in the woman's curling league during the winter months. Some outsiders thought that the prairie slowed down in winter. Not so. Curling and Hockey provided lots of social and physical contact.

Other issues set both Agnes and Leonard apart from some of their American friends. The couple approved of Canada’s refusal to be part of Bush's Iraq invasion. They had no argument with Muslims. They didn’t know any.

What they did know was that their God would take care of the situation in the end. The Canadian government certainly didn’t need to intervene. They paid a higher tax bill on their Canadian harvest than they did on their American harvest, but that bothered them very little. One offset the other. Being a prairie dweller was far more important than being a Canadian or an American. What differences were there anyway?

The Americans ran scared these days, it was true, but not the Americans they met weekly in church. Those folks put their trust in God. Where else ought one to look? The fortune invested by the American government at the border crossing at Portal seemed extravagant, but from the Canadian point of view, extravagant was often the American solution to problems.

The Canadians had no intention of following suit on their side of the border, a line that didn't used to make much difference to anyone. However, after Wednesday night meetings in Flaxton, they would drive an additional twenty-five miles home because the border crossing at Northgate closed at five p.m. They would have to cross at Portal and then retrace the ten miles between border crossings on the Canadian side. They had grown used to this additional distance and usually listened to whatever hockey game was broadcast on the radio during their drive.


Like the Canadian Mounted Police, Leonard and Agnes were above reproach and fiercely loyal to the home team. Their integrity followed them through their daily lives. Actually, they didn't give it much thought. They were honest, hard working prairie folks just like their neighbors to the south.

They worked hard; they saved, they spent only what they made; they canned, and froze meat, vegetables, and fruit for winter. There was no reason to assume that someone else would take care of the family.

If only the American agribusiness giants would keep their hands out of farmers' pockets, all would be well. Family farms made this prairie luxuriant. Huge holdings of commercial giants did not exist on either side of the border between North Dakota and Saskatchewan.

Shaken from her reverie, Agnes heard the crunch of tires on the gravel street outside the church. She looked up to see Judy arrive. That beautiful blond always had a smile. She didn’t always have a positive response, but even the negative filtered in through the smile in her eyes. She was the realist. Agnes grew up in the same town as Judy. The two had been friends for a very long time. What possible difference did it make that one of them chose to live in North Dakota and the other in Saskatchewan? None. Not really.

Leonard reached forward to turn off the engine of the car; opened the drivers door to their grey four wheel drive pick-up, leaving the keys in the ignition and stepped up to the church doorway held open by Judy. Behind him walked Agnes, pulling off her gloves, untying her scarf. She deposited her warm home made beanie in her pocketbook.

‘When will the others arrive, Judy?’

‘I think Herb has the flu. Won’t be here. We can still make arrangements for Sunday. I’ll notify him of our decisions. Wes will be here in a few moments. He had some work still to do on the stuff in the basement.’

‘So, how was the drive?’

‘No problems. Roads are mostly clear. Saw some elk over by the Peterson place. Heard there was a bull moose out there last week, but we didn’t see him.’

‘Weather isn’t too bad yet. They’ll have plenty of food for a while.’

‘You ready for coffee?’

‘Yep.‘ Leonard laid his jacket on the bench behind him and tugged gently on his suspenders as he reached for the warm brown beverage. He sipped thoughtfully.

‘Some woman was looking for you guys last Monday. She came in the post office with an address that didn’t make any sense. I told her you lived on the Canadian side of the border. That seemed to satisfy her. She didn’t have to check your details if you weren’t part of the American census. Strange huh, that they have you listed as American.’

‘Well, Agnes is. Don’t think I ever want to be though,’ Leonard laughed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Exercises - avoidance - two blogs for the price of one

Ok, I may as well confess or at the very least explain.

Transition, a two week process this time. We arrived back in Oz about a week ago. The Australian will have surgery on his right shoulder to repair a severed tendon next Wednesday. Brisbane is excessively warm, daylight hours make up about 18 of every 24. Friends are in the throes of change - change that calls for support, good listening, and availability, but change that creates a certain amount of leaky margin penetration. I can't listen without reflecting. At the same time I am NOT at liberty to share the topics of the listening nor of the reflecting.

So, rather than NOT write, I have turned to a book of writing exercises by Brian Kitely who teaches creative writing at the University of Denver. I'm rather sure that Kitely didn't mean for his exercise book to function as a release of transitional tension, but indeed it works particulary well in this role.

At the same time, I have always been and forever will be a person who refuses to follow directions - preferring to find my own. At the same time, the ambiance surrounding me right now includes two males who resolutely refuse to do life according to directions :) And, I don't want to be like them. Integrity requires that I act differently than those whom I tend to criticize. The fellow with the separated tendon is NOT one of the two.

So, with two blogs to fill - I do feel a strong affiliations with The Prairie School of the Arts and intend to resume the writing process in Flaxton when we return in June, I am alternating the publishing of my assignments between Kookaburra and Prairie School.

Furthermore, I am busily procrastinating about both. That means I am doing more than the usual number of soduku, reading Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver on my Kindle, reading 2009 American Best Essays, playing solitaire on the computer, and generally avoiding going out into the garden to gather palm nuts that litter the soil and the flagstones.

Assuming that all that is clear and since I have done the research required for exercise 3 in The 4 a.m. Breakthrough, I will attempt to write the passage required which will be published on the Prairie School blogsite.

Happy shopping, possums..

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The 4 a.m. Breakthrough -- exercise 2

Write five paragraphs of narrative about one individual who has decided to stop spending so much time with a gang of friends.


You'd think that by the time a woman reaches the age of 69 she would know what kind of friends to invite into her space and which ones to avoid. And yet, here I am, still angsting over whether it's ok to say, ' Really, I don't want to socialize with her. Every time I do, my feelings end up in the toilet.' I do know it is my own fault, that the issue is my very own self reacting to cultural differences, but I also know that to agree to share my work with her is tantamount to self inflicted torture. I am not going to accompany you to GOMA on Friday if Louise also agrees to join you. Regardless, the two of you will probably have a misunderstanding about the time to arrive and the spot in which to initially meet. You can be part of that mess. I'm not interested. I am unwilling to inflict upon myself that sort of attention getting behaviour again.

And just in case you believe me to be less than charitable, I do realize that it is my own penchant for timeliness that makes me unwilling to submit to the tyranny of association with the ex-Luthern-Nebraskan-Canadian-American. Urgh. My unwillingness to submit, to subdue my own personality in order to compliment hers is a major part of the conflict between us. My American self does interrupt; my voice does grow louder when I am passionate about an issue under consideration. I do expect to be the queen in any given social situation. I am unaccustomed to give way to the 'beauty' of the group. However, I am complimentary of the work of others. I do go out of my way to accommodate the needs of those with whom I socialize and I refuse to give up my position as organizer, of woman in charge in order to soothe the conflict. I would rather argue the point. She would rather stare down her lovely narrow nose at my interruptions and raise her eyebrows. Why can't she just say, 'Sandy, you have interrupted again. I do want to hear what Lizzy has to offer. Please allow her space in which to do that.' A direct request would be met with my apology and willingness to accommodate the group. The schoolmarm stare down the nose, however, incites me to riotous behaviour.


There are others of her ilk with whom I also have determined to no longer associate. I have no problem with you meeting and greeting the caustic remarkable persons whom we have gathered together in this multi-lacquered Easter basket of brightly decorated rancid eggs, but I no longer wish to belabour my nose with the rotten fragrance of their personalities. A Baptist friend whose comments manage to keep me awake for several nights in a row is another whom I intend to avoid. Her penchant for finding fault is most often tinged with a holier than thou position. 'There's no accounting for taste, is there?' is enough to throw me off my otherwise relaxed state of mind for at least two days. Her inability to see herself as a raving narcissist at the same time she accuses me of the same is simply more than I am willing to tolerate. She has never appreciated my work and she makes a point of telling me so. She could do what the rest of us do and simply avoid the subject. Even her compliments on my blog, which attracts about a thousand readers a week become left handed darkness quips in which she makes sure to plasticise any naturally positive elements. Yes, there are enough folks on the planet so that I can avoid her in my social circle also.

Does this seem extreme? Well, it may be so. However, I am unwilling to budge on the issue. I have no intention of littering my social experiences with personalities who are totally unaware of their own penchant for critical, careless, mean spirited commentary in the midst of smirking sidewise glances. They can do that to someone else – I'm no longer interested.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Lacuna

On my trusty Kindle, a birthday present from the Aussie, I am currently reading Barbara Kingsolver's Lacuna. The first two chapters are confusing and since I know what the story is supposed to be all about, misleading. I love it. I have enjoyed Kingsolver since High Tide in Tucson.

I love reading without being able to really tell where she is taking me. I know Trotsky is in these pages somewhere, but of far more significance, the young narrator has captured my curiosity, the metaphors shadow the tale, the immorality draws me back time after time.

I lay on the bed with the fan breathing at the foot, chasing away midges who are thrilled at my return to Oz – alien blood whets their appetite. I am so engaged with the story that I forget to swat, silently hoping the fan drives the interlopers away, I read on.

I am reminded that my exercise book these days, The 4 A.M. Breakthrough – unconventional writing exercises that transform your fiction by Brian Kiteley, comments that:


'Writers ask questions. The best stories and novels are full of more questions than answers . . . George Bernard Shaw occasionally apologized to his correspondents for not having had time to write a shorter letter . . . In science, feeling confused is essential to progress. An unwillingness to feel lost, in fact, can stop creativity dead in its tracks . . . I am not one for plots . . . somebody . . .remarked that the word 'plot' itself gives off a whiff of burial dirt and I find the concept of 'cause and effect' to be tediously overrated.'

And finally why is it that of the fifty American agents to whom I have submitted book proposals, only one so far has taken kindly to the fact that my co-author and I agree with Kiteley on all three points?

Perchance good writers just understand these facts while good agents are mostly looking for the same ole, same ole.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

2009 Best American Essays

Let me affirm that I love essays – prefer them to other genres. Non-fiction piques my interest. Well-written, stylistic non-fiction delights.


Even the introduction and the foreword to 2009 Best American Essays caught my attention. A short history of the American essay begins with Washington Irving, whose work few read any more. But somewhere in the back of my memory is an essay on the Pennsylvania Dutch, those who lived in New York City in particular. Irving's delightful observations of a lifestyle completely at odds with the rest of the city create an indelible memory.

As for Montaingne, who can deny his assertions that as an essayist 'I turn my gaze inward. I fix it there and keep it busy. . . I look inside. . . I have no business but with myself. . . I take stock of myself, I taste myself. Others always go elsewhere, . . .. they always go forward. . . As for me, I roll about in myself.' The ultimate narcissist, the essayist grants her/him self permission to investigate a personal view of the universe.

All blogs meet Montaingne's criteria of 'essay' to one degree or another.

The second day in the southern hemisphere dawned at 2:30 this morning with an online order for orange bathroom stink removal oil. Package arrived at 3:30 this afternoon. Pretty dammed fast, I'd say.

I did return to bed around 4:30 to awaken again at 6:30 to begin a day of careful jet lage negotiation enhanced by Richard Rodriquez's The God of the Desert.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Shower – does the drain really spin clockwise in the southern hemisphere?

Actually, she had no idea which way the drain emptied this morning. Until she sat down to jot this note, the coriolis effect of the two hemispheres was the last thought on her mind.

Instead, the angst of the previous morning infiltrated her shower meditations at 4:14 a.m. eastern Australian time – well, that's not accurate – more like Queensland time because Melbourne and Sydney both function on some kind of daylight savings during this period of the calendar – urgh. Ironically, she, who hated the thought of a clock determining the order of the day, actually demanded regularly to know the time.

One of the delights of travelling 10,000 miles or 13,000 kilometres was that she allowed her body to tell her what to do. So bedtime last night was when her eyes simply would not stay open any longer. Later she computed that to be about 7 p.m. in her corner of Oz and 4 a.m. in the prairie world from which she had travelled.

Her need for orderliness – not just any orderliness, but her own kinky manner of doing things - required that after four and a half months of being away the lamps must be returned to their rightful corners, the wall hangings re-arranged with the children at the centre of the universe.

Loaded with baggage, out of breath from climbing the back stairs, her first words upon entering the lounge and surveying the room, 'This simply will not do.'

Annie, the erstwhile and accommodating youngest child of the Australian, the one willing to change her work schedule in order to pick them up form their international flight, quickly retorted, 'It's not me. I didn't do it!'

There had been previous discussions about whether the children ought to be hanging in the middle of this old Queenslander in their larger than life photo taken when the eldest was thirteen and the youngest were ten and eleven. But the American loved the photo, loved the idea of the three children together at that time in their lives, rather liked the composition of young Australians and the natural environment where they pose together, but are oh so separate. They look directly at the camera. They are complete within themselves even then. And at the same time the relaxed state of their posture relates another tale that claims they are entirely comfortable with each other, with the sibling arrangement they have created.

She missed the metre square photo joining all the corners of the house into relationship.

Apparently the young blond who rented the space while she was establishing a new home in America – a home far too small to accommodate the Aussie trio – had felt a level of discomfort at the family photo and replaced it with a vermilion Buddha meditating beneath his banyan tree. Fine for the guest room – hardly appropriate for the centre of this house where the three young adults had come of age.

It took the weary traveller an hour to find the framed photo with its face leaning to the wall beside the bookcase in her office. Face to the wall? What message did that send? Enough!

Her American angst and promise of retribution muttered repeatedly within that first hour of arriving home gave her Aussie partner reason to invoke sarcasm, impatience and discomfort. Sigh.

All is well in the world now that the family is back on its appointed wall. Comfort levels may even return to normal since she has been able to control the environment, to recreate an atmosphere conducive to her own sense of propriety.

Just thought you might like to know what the important issues in the American's life are these days! 'Don't be messin with my wall hangings and we can, possibly, be friends.'

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Greetings from the Southern Hemisphere

6 a.m. in Kiwiland and all is well. As per usual, there is plenty of rain to greet us. Overcast skies being the default in these isles.

Our journey last night was pleasant - at least in the business class cabin. When we landed, folks were requested to remain in their seats until the paramedics had time to board and care for a person with a medical problem.

As I sit here typing, I can see the beautiful 747-400 sitting on the tamac with a paramedic van (lights flashing) parked beside. I wonder if the passenger in question has left the plane yet. The rest of us have, to be sure.

The twelve hour flight with low cabin pressure could be harrowing for an individual with any kind of heart condition - but that's just a guess.

The Aussie and I are alert, well fed, well slept, and ready for the next stage of our voyage home to Oz which commences in about two hours.

Hope your Monday is as celebratory as our Tuesday.