Saturday, June 27, 2009

Go For It

My strip of foam stretches out beneath the table. My friend has found a massage table in the hall closet and by lowering the legs as far as they will go, makes her bed against the bookcase that sits perpendicular to my foam. We are visiting our friend, Barbara. We have only the two days together so to optimize our time together, we decided to bunk with her in her small apartment.

We met through our Rosen Method bodywork so we continue with the same kind of activities we began then. We talk about old friends, eat great meals and drink strong coffee. We consult our horoscopes and read Tarot cards. We laugh a lot and discuss our soul work and where we are in our lives. And we cavort in thrift shops.

This is the first time I have seen Barbara since she moved from her childhood home in this same town, with its extensive rose garden to this Leisure Home. Barbara is 90 and remarkably between such visits we manage to keep in touch by internet mostly. Barbara's email handle is Go For It. She says she didn't understand about email addresses when she settled on it--didn't know she would be saddled with it-- but we think it is incredibly appropriate. Her favorite admonisions to us are a) Listen to what the universe is telling you and b) Go For It. Usually in that order. At one of our Rosen workshops during a tour of the local thrift shops, we found a board game appropriately named Go For It and brought it home for her.

Our forays into thrift shops are mainly for the purpose of searching for synchronicity, in as much as one can not really look for synchronicity but stumble upon it. To do this we notice what in the thrift shop (read universe) attacts us and reflect on what lesson it holds.

As Barbara says these days, "When your reach for the glass, the glass comes towards you".

She is currently reading Chilton Peace's The Death of Religion and the Birth of Spirit, along with a large pile of similar books. Years ago he wrote The Crack in the Cosmic Egg and it seems Chilton-Peace has ventured even further afield since then.

On this trip up and down the aisles, my friends locate a picture on glass of an owl. To me it looks like a make-work project as the frame is damaged and will need to be removed to be fixed but they are thrilled with it.

"Owls, says Barbara, "are about wisdom and letting go."

The exquisite Sterling Silver brooch I find of a hare in chase, in the same thrift shop, shines up with a bit of rubbing and I realize I have a real find for am amazing $2.25.

"Rabbit," I note outloud, "better not mean fertility at my age."

"Maybe fertility of ideas," says Barbara, "and clarity of eye and transformation."

It is amazing what our serenidipity approach uncovers.

Barbara is adamant enroute home that we take the car through the car wash. Well, the car is a tad dirty after the drive down to Seattle. She acknowledges later in a light-hearted way, that it was important for her to go thru the car wash. For her, as well as for us, somehow washing all the dirt and grim off prepares us to shine, indeed to trail clouds of glory. It is wonderful and reassuring to be surrounded with such a perception of the world.

Later when I acquire the lovely children's storybook of Pele the Lamplighter, with its exquisite drawings and enchanting story, Barbara reflects how it is an invocation to continue to light lamps as we go. Nothing escapes her eagle eye. We are learning not only about going with the flow from Barbara but to Go For It !

Photos: Barbara with Go For It Game


Monday, June 08, 2009

Frontier Continues Work in IDP Camps

The health group I work with in Pakistan, Frontier Primary Health Care, is based out of Mardan, North West Frontier Territory. Right now they are in the epicenter of one of the most massive movements of internally displaced persons on the globe as the number of people fleeing from Swat, Bajaur, Lower Dir and Buner, just north of them moves past three million.

The executive director of FPHC, Dr. Emel Khan, came to Canada last year to present the keynote address to the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada in Halifax. He also visited the west coast to initiate links with UBC and Simon Frazer universities. We secured a small grant later in 2008 for his wife, Dr. Wagma, the deputy director of FPHC, to take courses in conflict resolution at the Justice Institute of BC.

As the disaster unfolded in May, FPHC was among the first to respond, providing emergency and maternal care at their 14 health units. This has continued. FPHC now has a formal agreement with UNICEF for provision of health and nutrition services in the camps. The provincial health department has provided an ambulance and driver for use. Local and international organizations wanting to assist are asked by the government to coordinate their services thru FPHC, including specialist physicians from the large government hospitals from outside the area such as Punjab.

They are providing round the clock coverage to the largest camp in Mardan, that near Sheikh Yasin town with a population of 12,000.

To continue this level of support FPHC have hired 90 temporary staff members including physicians, dispensers, lady health visitors (LHVs), assistant LHVs, EPI technicians and nutrition assistants. Until a formal agreement was in place, FPHC was providing care with their own staff who number only 120. In addition to emergencies staff provide general OPDcare, MCH care, immunization, TB control and diarrhoeal disease control.

FPHC have also established nutrition services in six IDP camps that are screening children and pregnant women, providing nutritional supplements and sharing information about preparing healthy balanced diets. Prior to establishing nutritional services, three staff members, including Dr. Wagma received seven days of training on UNICEF’s emergency approach to nutritional support.

The agreement with UNICEF does not include medical supplies so FPHC struggles to provide what they can. More about FPHC can be found here.

Photo: FPHC provide emergency care during Mardan floods.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Vintage Drapery

I was waiting for my friend at the ferry dock about 5:15pm. It was the computer ferry when hoards of hurrying workers from Vancouver scramble onto the dock and head for the car park.

A fellow came up behind me, someone I didn’t know, and said, “ I like your outfit.”

I had on Capri pants and a short-sleeved top made out of vintage drapery material. The kind called barkcloth, which I have used to make cushion covers and futon covers. Brightly coloured, bold flowers and broad sweeping lines. You’d recognize it if you saw it.

“It’s like 50’s drapery material,” I replied, looking down on the large, lush hibiscus and lilies painted in vibrant colours while I continued to keep an eye out for my friend.

“My mom had one like it,” he said, grinning. His face was open and friendly with a squint in one eye making it slightly eschew. He too seemed to be waiting for someone.

It was a boiling hot day so I added, “Well, I am glad it is an Indonesian knock-off because that thick drapery material would be much too hot today.”

“My mom really liked hers. She died recently” he said, somewhat sadly. "She used to say, Scarlet!”, he exclaimed laughing, throwing one arm out at the side. “You probably know that skit.” He demonstrated again, throwing one arm out at right angles to his body, “Scarlet!”

I looked down at the material. Not much scarlet in it. I smiled at him and said thank you, not at all sure what he meant. But it is not that often that someone you don’t know comes up and tells you they like your outfit. Such happenings can make your day.

Just then my friend walked over with someone in tow and a request that we drive him home as well, so we engaged in making arrangements and introductions. My new friend had slipped away, probably spotting who he was waiting for and I didn’t think about the exchange until later that evening.

Still wearing the Capri pant outfit, I was explaining the interaction to a friend as a typical kind of connection created here on the Sunshine Coast.

She laughed, “He meant Scarlet O’Hara!”

Then she went on to explain, “When Scarlet was destitute and hungry and wanted to seduce Rhett Butler, she decided to go to him to plead for food but she had no dress to wear so she tore down the green satin curtains and made a dress out of them.”

Something stirred in the deeper recesses of my mind.

“Then”, my friend went on, “Carol Burnett used to do this funny skit when she pretended she was Scarlet O’Hara but had left the rod in the curtains so whenever she turned from side to side, she would hit people with the curtain rod. It was hilarious!”

For me it was a glimpse into someone else's very special family stories. We all have them. They are how we make meaning and embrace ritual in our lives. For my new acquaintance, a chance encounter with an outfit sewn from vintage drapery material invoked his mother and her enjoyment of her drapery outfit, as well as Scarlet's and Carol Burnett's take on it. He got me to thinking about my own family stories and the need to savour them.

Photos: vintage barkcloth drapery


Up the Ying Yang

Jerry Seinfeld might indeed be the originator of “Yada Yada”, but my brother coined the term “Up the Ying Yang”. Without the help of a TV program drawing millions of viewers or a stand up comic, my brother launched a descriptive, evocative phrase at the age of 5 that has since circled the globe!

Do you have family jokes, words and phrases that only your family enjoy? You might be sitting on something that can spruce up the rhetoric of the English language.

When my brother was young, I often read bedtime stories to him in his room in the basement. We had the Grimm’s Brothers Tales and Hans Christian Anderson’s folktales but I frequently read him books that I was interested in. When I was fifteen and he was five, we were reading Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth.

Supper times at our house were a time of conversation. Older kids would be asked about school and my brother, who was not yet in school, would be quizzed about the book being read to him. It was in retrospect excellent preparation for gathering and presenting one’s thoughts. My brother surprised me when he was asked, because he remembered the name of the book, that it was about China and even the trip the characters were making up the river.

“Where were they going?” my dad continued.

My brother struggled. “Yang, Ying, Yat” before he blurted out confidently , “They were going up the Ying Yang” . Then he looked around proudly, sure that he had got it right.

“Up the Ying Ying?” My father asked his eyebrows raised as the rest of us hooted with laughter.

“He’s close”, I opined. "It’s the Yangtze River.”

We laughed long and loud, so my brother, as kids will do, continued to use the phrase. If he couldn’t find a sock or tee shirt-- it was up the Ying Yang. When we were heading off for a car ride to visit my dad’s friend and none of us had ever been there, we were heading up the Ying Yang, accompanied by peals of laughter. Soon the whole family were using the phrase to mean the unknown, the lost or even someone who was confused for any reason.

I was at university when I noticed other people around me were using it. It has an onomatopoeic ring to it which connotates bewilderment and confusion. It is self explanatory, providing a verbal embellishment of a situation. I can’t ever recall anyone needing to ask me what it meant. It is also a very descriptive way of saying someone is off topic.

Later when I was teaching at university, I would occasionally use it and soon I noticed others were using it too.

Now it is out there and it has a life of its own. The other day I heard someone, whom I am sure that my family and I have never spoken to, using it on the radio.

If constitutes a wonderful personal story about something, but I am not sure what. Either it is that we are all connected in vocabulary terms by only six degrees of separation and our unique family joke has made it out to the world. Or it could be related to to the 100 monkeys truth, that when a new skill is learned by 100 monkeys on one isolated island it is not long before monkeys everywhere have acquired the same skill—a sort of collective transfer of consciousness for monkeys. It is also possible that a wonderfully evocative phrase began for similar reasons, about the same time in several widely separate locations around the same time. What do you think? Do you have such a family story?

Photos: Bro and his pumpkin crop, Bro painting in dad's shirt in the bath


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