Thursday 30 June 2011

Optimism: A Story in Six Words

Young patient: one eyed. Flirting wildly.

Recently, Paulo Coelho challenged his blog readers to write a story in six words - uma historia em 6 palavras - in the spirit of Hemingway, who once wrote: 
'For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.'  
Hemingway called it his best work. Within 35 minutes of the challenge, Coelho had over 350 six word stories. I found it quite difficult! Do you?
But today, at the eye clinic, I saw a young man with his pretty beloved; he was clearly fresh from an accident or some other trauma, bursting with confidence and the ability to flirt passionately with his amour! It was sweet and real, and very inspiring. 

(There was another story - a patient so thrilled with his own existentialism and spiralling darkness of thought, that he found my smiles positively loathsome! And the more he thunder clouded, the more I radiated joie de vivre and bonhomie. Oh dear. Poor man. When I could not endure the rant any longer, I told him to read Thich Nhat Hanh and Victor E. Frankl and scuttled off.)

It was a long day, and I want to thank you for your lovely words of support, encouragement and advice. Optimism is the way - even if the sheep farmer from Hertfordshire may never agree...

Image: Madeleine Calaido Weber 'Flower in Love'

Wednesday 29 June 2011

In Search of the Laughing Buddha

Some days,
when the spirit
of the laughing Buddha

is still,
the clouds gather ominously
and we shelter each other.

I am waiting
for light to pour through me.

I am always turning away
and towards prayer;
Will faith ever hold me

One single terrifying moment
of divinity
is all;

The days are sand and sea
and we know nothing.

- Shaista Tayabali, 2011

I am having a funny old time with my eyes lately. I am meeting with my Ophthalmology Consultant in the morning. How do you cope with fear? (That is not a rhetorical question - I really do want to know!!) Does your faith hold you still? 

Painting:  The Protector, Elspeth Young

Thursday 23 June 2011

The Taste of Rain

Sleep eludes me
on nights as these -
in a moon lit heat

And a longing for rain
that runs so deep -
My monsoon memories
taste bitter sweet.

Friday 17 June 2011

Every Dog Has Its Day

The little baba is away in Portugal, so I have been a lonely soul, washed up on the shores of auntydom. I nearly posted a poem about being in love with his lit soul, but wasn't sure you could handle any more gooey shmaltz. So, instead, a post about dogs. I went to an art lecture today, tracing the incredibly diverse presence of dogs in art through the middle ages (depicted as healers of the plague, jousters, carved into marble tombs to accompany humans into afterlife), in heraldry, and on towards Reynolds, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Turner and Stubbs. Even Freud, Bacon and Warhol were flung in for good measure.

George Stubbs' White Poodle in a Punt (doesn't he look worried, poor little chap?) and Edwin Landseer's Dignity and Impudence melded beautifully with the more tortured Dawn After the Wreck by William Turner.

I listened to the speaker in awe, wishing I could be her! It must be wonderful to have an easy fluency with a certain subject, be historically accurate, and hold your audience captivated in the globe of your hand.
I learnt one interesting thing. I always thought dogs were associated with men, as faithful companions, but in fact, dogs are more usually portrayed with women, beside their tombs, to depict the fidelity and loyalty of women. Or in their arms, in family portraits, to assure the viewer of a stable and content home life. At weddings, they brought good fortune. My parents were married with Mum's dachshund Hansel, curled comfortably on their feet. Even when prodded, he would not budge. A sure sign of good things to come!
Landseer, Windsor Castle in Modern Times

Sunday 12 June 2011

Do You Know How To Draw Camels?

The most significant step you can take to turn your life around is to learn how to draw camels.
- Phil, and Clyde the Camel

Finally, after weeks of waiting and watching, the skies have opened, and the rain is tumbling down. Sitting on the ledge beside the conservatory, I let the rain soak in. Outside, the birch and cherry are dancing and carousing, like Rafael yesterday, little arms and legs busting moves to hip hop beats and lullabies alike... chuckling, gurgling, squirming in the happy wet of bath time.

This morning marked the passing of the last of my father's brothers. On such a day, to the sound of rain, grief melts quietly away. On such a day, with the sound of rain, words stumble on the page.

Like my father, Uncle Mustafa spent many years in Zanzibar, East Africa, and recalled in great detail, and with pleasure, the names of places for my brother's recent pilgrimage there. Marriage proposals aside, Rizwan's work in Africa continues apace. His ability to inspire, motivate and challenge fellow beings is evident in this blog called How To Draw Camels, the premise of which is to teach the world how to draw camels while showcasing and supporting social enterprises and entrepreneurs in West Africa. I am quite fascinated by this blog, not least because of the high regard the author holds my brother in :) Here is what he wrote:
Someone you should know: Rizwan Tayabali
It is because of him that this site exists. Not only did he provide motivation, he offered invaluable guidance in developing the site and the project. He did not ask for anything in return. Rizwan travels around the world offering pro bono consulting to social enterprises. It is stunning how much ground he has covered. Most recently, he has been in Southern Africa. Before that, it was Southeast Asia. I encourage you to check out his work and spread his vision. He has been incredibly inspiring to me personally and I think a lot of people would benefit from seeing how he spends his days.

Well. Oh well, if someone writes such glowing words about my brother...!! In Bamako, Mali, a trickle of water emerges into basins which are dry by afternoon. So much rain bucketing down around me, while women walk miles, pumps are needed, new water solutions... you all know this story. So let's learn how to draw camels together! Let's buy an organic Bactrian Camel T-shirt! Watching my younger brother and sister teach little Rafi how to do everything while learning so much about trust and faith and practical parenting solutions themselves, I really understand the simple creativity of this idea. You may start with just a squiggle, a tadpole of a face that looks nothing like anything recognisable, or with this:
and, then, with a little bit of practice, move niftily on to this...
Or from this (who looks more anxious? Grandfather or grandson?):
to this :)

Wednesday 8 June 2011

The Names of Things

Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes
gazes out at me
behind the window frame
Half content to be
in Billy Collins' world,
half wishing to be me -
Cross legged in the evening sun
drinking rose petal tea.

I can name the Yellow Rose,
the frilly Poppy, the Bee
longing for that same tea;
the half-eaten bruised cherries,
the guzzling, drunken, blackbird feast.

Deep in the shadows
lazy snakes of ivy curl
and the wind is a Tempest again -

I walk among the unnamed things
the secret, hidden lives,
I pronounce the names of Latinate things
and trip on the words
and smile -

Cerastium tomentosum,
snow in summer,
Galium odoratum,
stars in spring,
Lavandula angustifolia...
where the herb garden sings.

- Shaista, 2011
Poem participating in One Shot Poetry Wednesday.
My first line references the poem 'Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes', in the collection of poems by the same name. I do love the work of American Poet Laureate Billy Collins, and am so grateful to my American blogger poet friends for widening the horizons of my poetic readings. I read my poem aloud on radio today - with my brother Irfan present in the control room!

Sunday 5 June 2011

King Rafa

Waiting for the King
in rich embroidered cotton,
the sun begins to dim
to protect the royal skin;

the birds are humming
(just a quiet throaty thrill)
and wild roses fling
their perfect petal rings
to line the walkway in -

He is come!

- Shaista, 2011
Naturally the poem was done, when the King had come :) Later, when the Little Imperious Figure was ensconced in his temporary English kingdom, I learned that 'the King' is his universal nickname. At the moment though, he is, rather crossly, having to share the centre of the universe with his namesake, Rafael Nadal, the other Rafa... who looks as though he is about to be crowned again...
I have discovered I have a wealth of silly songs up my sleeve, mostly nonsense, that conversations do not require language necessarily, and that my brother and sister are the most charming parents in the world..

Biased? Moi??