Unexpected grief

February 21, 2010

Watch out for STUG     Anticipating and the After Effects of Anniversaries    10/2/2010

These reflections show the wide variety of responses surrounding anniversaries of traumatic events. For those of us living in Victoria, it is the first anniversary of Black Saturday and the media bombardment is continuous. This adds to the personal memories, and the thought processes, such as increased anxiety and worry or its contrast, the relief it is all past; difficulty making decisions; body symptoms including rashes, headaches digestive upsets; and changed behaviour.

This is an attempt at managing the event that is an emotion-laden time with such a wide range of reactions, grief, fear, anxiety, stress, frustration, anger, avoidance, irritation, and blame. It can include physical symptoms, ulcers, colds, depression, restlessness, and accident proneness.

The affects spread through the wider community reminding them of their vulnerability and activating memories of past situations. Now I know why I was buying food at midnight for possible evacuees, sweeping leaves as autumn descended on the city in summer, holding my breath as TV footage aired a year ago, threats activated from 26 years ago as though it was now. That’s what can happen, but not predictably, not always.

This is referred to as Anniversary Reactions, a way of revisiting to increase mastery and understanding and protection through re experiencing the past in some way. It both protects by increasing awareness to threats and gives another chance to visit and share events with others.

Anniversaries have a possibility of deliberate choice, (I will be there) or it can sneak up, (I don’t want to be reminded.) They also allow for a resettling and often assist the event to move to the past.

Sneaking up has a phrase for those times, cruising happily along, and someone says ‘How are you? It’s so terrible’ Bang, you’re STUGED or it’s one of those slow, going wrong days, and nobody says ‘hello.’ STUGED again.

What’s STUG? Subsequent Temporary Upsurge Of Grief.

It has reminders of being stuck, stunned, staggered, silly, (as in ‘get over it’ I’m being silly’) surprised, and sat on. (by the elephant in the room; – what’s not said or what can’t be spoken). Other triggers can be weather, sight, sounds, and smells. The body can remember when the mind has ‘forgotten.’ It is exhausting.

The anticipation of an event has two areas, the positive, being with others sharing stories and acknowledging what happened in the past, joining in, thanking the community. The negative is anxiety about what happened, the feelings that might arise, the differing opinions, worry about arrangements, and clashes with other commitments. It can be hard to predict which might arise. The anticipation is worse than the event.

This first anniversary is past. Take a moment now, and next year so you are not ‘stuged’ from behind when you are ‘over it.’ Others might think is right and proper to recover, it might relieving their distress but not yours. There is no right way in loss rather many different paths.


The Rock Cave

February 21, 2010

An article in The Age today by Louisa Deasey put into words the double life I lead.  Part of the week I am an ordinary person going out for coffee, doing the washing, attending sustainability events, involved in my own world. The other part of the week, I am involved with people whose lives have been changed, blown apart by fire. I want to say something much more ferocious and strong, to give honour to how the people I know and met are continuing to breathe, to  get up, walk, to attend meetings to help make sense of the loss in the community, grieving what has gone, lovers, family, friends, animals, possessions and more – the sense of security, of the natural order of life, the ongoingness now shaken to the core.

I am writing this today because I visited a sculpture park and saw an unnatural order of stones. If I could draw here I would ( it is not on google). Built  into the side of a small hill was a dry stone wall with a cave in the centre.  There was a solid reddish round rock  inside. The cave entrance was smaller than the cave interior, not uncommon, but the rock inside was bigger than than the opening.

The solidness of the rock and the delicateness of the stone linning of the cave created a contrast, but my unease came from seeing the rock trapped inside. It could not be rolled away. It is trapped. There was an intensity about the wall, the cave.  No one could be saved.   A little further on we came to a an oval spiral shape freestanding made of thin slabs and slices of rock thin at the base widening out and then narrowing at the top. I think of it as a pine cone or egg and just lay eagle stretched out feeling the warmth, a secure feeling.   I found this shape in many places around the world when I googled the artist – you tube Rivers and Tides the artist Andy Goldsworthy specialises in the natural and the transitory.


“Love of Life” from U.K.Le Guin

February 21, 2010

I am a Tai Chi student learning basic form and Sword. I followed the Te Ching using yarrow sticks and coins in the past, so imagine my delight on sorting one of my boxes of books recently and  discovering a new copy of LAO TZU Tao Te Ching  A book about the Way and the Power of the Way  A New English Version by Ursula K Le Guin, one of my all time favourite writers.  I quote from p.65.

” ‘Love of life’

To look for life

is to find death.

The thirteen organs of our living

are the thirteen organs of our dying.

Why are the organs of our life

where death enters us?

Because we hold too hard to living.

So I’ve heard

if you live in the right way,

when you cross country

you needn’t fear to meet a mad bull or a tiger;

when you are in battle

you needn’t fear the weapons.

The bull would find nowhere to jab its horns,

the tiger nowhere to stick its claws,

the sword nowhere for its point to go.

Why?   Because there’s nowhere in you

for death to enter.”


An Icon for Redesdale

February 18, 2010

Full photo of Our Lady of Recovery -Click on image for enlargement.


Reflections on Our Lady Of Recovery

February 12, 2010

Reflections with our Lady of Recovery

Our Lady of Recovery  – Redesdale

Exceptional people do exceptional works and here is an art work imbued with so much love and care that I want to share it with the wider community.  Ivan Morozoff  created an Icon for the Redesdale and surrounding communities affected by the fire on 7th in 2009.

Our Lady of Recovery was presented to the Redesdale Community on Febuary 7th 2010 at the 5pm Anniversary Service at St Laurences Church in Redesdale.

It was standing room only, by the time all manner of people, children and pets crowded in, to witness the blessing, listen to the children sing, and afterwards talk and eat in the Redesdale Hall.

My photo was taken in haste, amidst crowds, and do not do the art work justice.   It does include the church and people, as though they are becoming part of the art, as the children’s painting are part of the whole.   The children each did a drawing and they surround the main picture, adding piquancy  and optimism.

I have a card with the Icon at home and each time I see it I want to share it and let others know of this work .

” When you look upon this Icon give thanks for our Community and its people :

Give thanks for the children who are its future.

Remember to pray for all those recovering from the Feb. 7th fires:

Remember with love all people and help when you can.”

Reference for text – 2 Corinthians 1 :3-4 “Written by Ivan Morozoff (the artist) with the thanksiving tokens by the primary school children of Redesdale, Mia Mai and Barfold .”

The anniversary gift of thanksgiving honours the Fire brigade members of Redesdale and other places and also the volunteers and helpers of our Community who assissted during the fires of Feb 7th 2009.


Redesdale Fire Tile Memorial

February 8, 2010

my tile contribution representing the evacuation  and   the  beginning of the tile wall and behind it more of the tiles click to see it


A Fireproof Gingerbread House

February 6, 2010

I am interested in tiny things that flash through our minds, hundreds every moment.  Sometimes registering as interesting, it takes a change to become a thought and an emotional drive to become action.  What has been on my mind is a flash at Christmas.

This flash actually stopped me in the job of  the constructing of the Christmas Gingerbread house in December.  The tree has to lean against  the house to be upright! Danger. Burning leaves. Bushfire !! I stared in disbelief at this biscuit tree as my mind went into bushfire preparation mode.   The gingerbread tree was unable to stand up by its self, instead it rested against the house.  Prepare the house for eminent danger.  Make it safe.  Cut the lolly snake into strips to make a hose hose. Scramble thro the wrapped presents for the grand children and find the doll’s house stuff with the miniature water can and rake.   The rake  is bamboo, how useless will that be against ember attack.  Lucky the watering can is metal and appropriate scale.

I am serious  now.  The ginger bread house will be a fun fire education christmas eating experiment.   This kit has a mom, two children, a dog, plus the offending tree.  At least it is an evergreen, a rare sort, not identifiable.   There are icing circles for fence and half a dozen coloured small circles of icing to stick on the roof which I see illustrated as shingles but they could be reinterpreted as Slate for safety reasons.  I analyse the drawing on the packaging. The white icing is snow, but it is summer here.    Do I change the entire structure and create a new sort of Australian safe ginger bread house?    The woman in her long sleeves, scarf around her head, could be wool, could be wet,  is deemed sensible. The children are sensibly dressed too. Extreme heat and extreme cold requires similar layers of protection.  The problem with this house conversion plan is, there is no room for all these extras around the house.  The cute children go inside, unseen.  I mix up quantities of white icing to stabilise the walls that are moving out from their alloted slots in the base.  I don’t want overhanging  eaves that might allow trapped embers to catch alight or fly inside the roof cavity and smolder into fire.

Constructing a ginger bread house is a work of infinite patience, and balance for the non crafty, non pastry chef, clumsy fingured sort of cook.  The phone goes.  The friend says I sound stressed. No, she’s never made a ginger bread house, they look far too complicated.   Her reaction on hearing of my dilemma with fire safety caused me to abandon my plans.  I suspect she thinks I’ve become a fanatic, possibly adding to stress to the family.  I compromised.  I removed all the fire fighting equipment, the hose, the watering can, the empty pot plants ( potential water containers), moved the two child figurines nearer to the door. The mom stayed on watch.  I beat up more icing and placed the tree as far from the house as possible, standing in it’s own block of icing.  No matter what the wind speed  it was unmovable. Never would it blow against the house.  The dusted icing sugar reminded me of ash, so the ‘snow’ turned green with dye from strategically placed lollies.

Beautifully wrapped in cellophane, the star on the roof shinning through, the house was admired by my family, given to another who could not eat it, and so passed on again.  No one knows the story of this house but I like to believe those who admired, and ate this safe house  will incorporate the fire safe principles, a bit like the 100th monkey story.