In one of his books Terry Pratchett says a curse for your enemies is ‘May you live in interesting times’. I’m currently away from my beloved bookcase (and my computer) so I can’t tell you which book right now, but we are certainly living in interesting times right now.
In the words of another amazing author, Douglas Adams, DON’T PANIC.
Right now, panic is our enemy and common sense and compassion are our friends. In Australia right now fear and panic buying has put everyone in a more tenuous position. Panic, not Covid-19, will be our undoing.
Here are three things that I’m trying to keep top of mind in these ‘interesting times’. Perhaps they can be of use to you.
This is not unprecedented. Within my lifetime there has been zika, swine flu and bird flu. In history there has been Spanish flu and, yes, bubonic plague. We are a long way off painting red Xs on our doors.
Compassion and generousity will not only help others, it will make you feel better. At this stage those in the know are saying that it is the elderly and immune-compromised people who are most at risk. The rest of us may get ill, but we’ll most likely be fine. With that in mind, as you scour the near empty shelves for dinner, remember your elderly neighbour or your friend who’s child has astmah or the homeless person on the corner, and ask if there is anything you can get them, so they can avoid going out and meeting with risk.
You are in control. Of how you think, what you say and how you behave. Fear can make us do and say things we otherwise wouldn’t but while fear may be a reason, it’s not an excuse. Treat those around you, your fellow shoppers, the busy checkout person, the harried medical staff, with care and respect.
I’ve been doing some research on grey whales for a picture book I’m working on. In the book the Little Grey Whale is separated from her pod and ultimately has to find a new family. I don’t know heaps about whales, and even less about grey whales so Google was (as always) my go to.
One of the things I learnt is that, like many whales, grey whales faced extinction due to commercial hunting. However, once they were protected their numbers recovered and are now considered stable. Which shows that we can take action and effect positive change.
There is hope for our world, if we take the actions necessary. They may be small changes in our own lives, or they may be changes put in place by governments and corporations. As long as there are things we can do, it’s not too late to improve our world.
Just look at the grey whale.
If you’re interested in more information, here’s a link:
It’s a wonderful thing when you think you have all of your favourite author’s books and then, just by chance, you find one that you’ve never seen before on a second-hand book stall. It’s pretty close to being one of the best things EVER in the whole world.
When I found a collection of Terry Pratchett’s short stories, A Blink of the Screen, this was me:
They ran all the way from his very early work to Disc World short stories featuring characters from his novels. Fair to say, nothing else got done and the children were completely neglected until I’d read it. I may even have to read it again very soon 😊.
How old were you when you first watched Jurassic Park? The first one, the one that started it all? I’m asking because B2 (who is turning eight this year) is desperate to watch it, but I don’t think he’s old enough. I mean, I know things have moved on a lot, but those raptors are still scary, right?
The movie came out in 1993, so I must have been nine and I don’t believe my parents would have let me watch it at that age. My younger brother would have been seven and is often the case with siblings who are close in age, what’s good for one has to be good for the other, so even if Mum and Dad thought nine was an OK age to watch rampaging dinosaurs (which they didn’t) they certainly wouldn’t have thought it was OK for a seven-year-old.
But what is the right age? I don’t know. When I was teenager our video store was very lax about checking if we were old enough to watch M, MA or even R-rated movies. My friends and I would head down there before a sleep over with the money our parents had given us, rent two or three movies and watch them all night while the parental units slept.
But we don’t have video stores now so what are my kids going to do?
Anyway, as I said B2 is only seven (almost eight, Mum) so right now he is completely at my mercy when it comes to his viewing. And that means a steady diet of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks for the foreseeable future.
Have I mentioned that I’m not into exercise? Or sports? Of any kind? Well, I’m not. But just to show how you can be raised in the exact same family and turn out completely different to your siblings, my older sister is. She is AMAZING.
Last weekend she and her husband did the Cadel Evans ride in Geelong. I think they rode 65km, which makes me feel sick just thinking about it. We saw them both over the finish line. They were wet (it was raining), sweaty and tired but so euphoric. It was almost enough to encourage me to don lycra and take up the sport.
But not quite. 😊
Which is not to say that I don’t like cycling. I do. It reminds me of the freedom of been a kid, coasting down the hills with the breeze in your face, going slower than you can in a car but feeling like you’re going faster. But to do that in a competitive way, even if the competition is with yourself and your own personal best, doesn’t do it for me. I like to keep my head up and survey the scenery, not my bum up and survey the back wheel of the bike in front of me.
I wonder if it’s the endorphins that keep people going back. Or the camaraderie.
All I know is, when she came over the line smiling ear-to-ear she looked beautiful and happy. And isn’t that how you want the people you love most to be?
Do you know the story of Pandora’s Box? Pandora is given a gift by Zeus and told not to open it, but she does. In that moment all the ills of the world come flying out. The only thing left in the box is hope.
Often the thing we focus on most is the evils that were released. When we warn someone about opening Pandora’s Box we’re warning them about not starting something that could blow up in their face. But let’s focus on the last thing in the box for a moment. Hope.
For me, hope is a light in the darkness. Emily Dickinson described it as “…the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul/And sings the tune without words/And never stops – at all…” Hope is what drives us as human beings to go further, to make changes, to create and explore.
Hope can have its dark side, no doubt. Hope isn’t always enough. Hope can build us up before the fall. Hope can be enough to make people do the unthinkable.
But, for the most part, hope is a joyous thing.
This year let’s focus on hope. Hope that things can get better. Better for ourselves, our species, and the environment we’re custodians of.
Hope is a theme I’m going to return to again and again this year.
Today is exactly one month before Christmas. As always at
this time of year I’m taking a break from Pieces of String but I will return in
2020 and, if you follow me on Instagram, I’m sure I’ll still be adding things
there (probably in the sporadic way I do now).
I want to take this time to wish you a safe and love-filled
end to the year, whatever your faith and wherever you are in the world. So many
wonderful things have happened during 2019, but I also feel it’s been a year of
conflict, many of them conflicts about how people feel we should act now, for
the future of our world and species. I’m hoping that next year we are all able
to find more common ground, peace and co-operation.
I hope Pieces of String has helped in some small way to
encourage you with your writing. An art like ours truly helps people make sense
of the crazy world we live in, as well as giving us a voice, and it’s worth pursuing
even if it’s only for our own wellbeing.
If you are Christian, I wish you a very happy and safe Christmas. If not, I wish you a very happy and safe end to your year. Thank you to everyone who has joined me here at Pieces of String. There will be a couple more posts this week but otherwise, see you in 2020.
I’m a big fan of flash fiction. I love writing the stories for Two-Sentence Tuesday (if you’d like to contribute your own two-sentence story, contact me) and I recently took part in the NYC Midnight flash fiction challenge. I had never done a writing challenge before, but I saw an ad for the NYC challenge on Instagram and thought, “Why not give it a go?”
The NYC challenge is broken into four rounds, with each
entrant guaranteed to participate in the first two. Entrants are divided into
groups and at a specified time (midnight US time) and date you’re sent a genre,
location and object that you must include in your 1000-word story, then you
have 48 hours to write and submit that story. The top fifteen stories in each
group are awarded points – 15 points for first, 1 point for fifteenth. After
the first two rounds, the top five entrants for each group move on to round
three, while the others are finished for the competition.
I didn’t move on to round three but I did make it into the
top fifteen for my group in both rounds, which I was so excited about (and genuinely
not expecting). The real prize from participating was the detailed feedback on
my writing from three different judges. Although it’s unlikely that I would
return to those stories, they highlighted strengths and weaknesses that I see
time and again in my longer work.
I don’t know a lot about NYC Midnight, but they seem to
offer a variety of competitions throughout the year. I would definitely give it
another go, and if you’ve been thinking about entering more competitions, I
would recommend looking out for one of theirs.
After all, there’s nothing like a tight deadline to get
those creative juices flowing.
I’ve been feeling low lately. Really low. Being low the way I feel at the moment is different to how I feel when my anti-depressants need altering. It’s a low based on real things, real events and fears and sadness, as opposed to the chemicals in my brain being out of kilter which can be completely unaffected by external things. It’s not great but I know it will pass.
The other difference between, I guess, situational lowness (not a word, but stay with me) and chemical lowness (I know, I’m asking a lot here but I can’t think of another way to describe it) is that external things can give you a real lift. One of those happened to me this morning.
I was heading back to my car at the supermarket and I had to wait for a lady to close her door. I noticed she had a little doll attached to her purse and complemented her on it. Turns out it was based on Japanese anime and she had lived in Japan for ten years. I told her we were visiting Japan next year and she gave me her card in case I wanted to ask any questions.
That sort of generosity and kindness can change your day. She didn’t have to do that. In fact, she didn’t have to say anything. She could have just said, “thanks” and gone on her way. But she went out of her way to be kind.
Oo, the Christmas countdown has begun. In my part of the word the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, the days are heating up and it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas (of course, depending on who you are it could also be feeling a lot like Hanukkah).
Christmas is, without doubt, my favourite time of year. Everything is prettier, the sun shines brighter and the kids are off school for six whole weeks! Everyone and everything feels just that little bit happier around Christmas time and, right now, that’s a feeling that I grabbing with both hands.