Sunday, 16 June 2013

...warm love

The swifts were spanning the blue skies today. that's something I like about the Netherlands, is the full spanning of skies. People often ask me why I live in Holland, and a big part of the answer is that you can see a full horizon of skies. The scenery in Scotland can be beautiful and mystic, but its also darker in hues, and where there are hills, it takes part of the skyline away. sometimes stunning beauty, sometimes oppressive, particularly if I want an open feel of outlook.  During Breda summers, I have a romantic notion that Breda has the best skies, and I state justly so, because they are only touched by colours of the sunset. Now that I live close to one of the most famous airports in the world, flight paths imprint mans etcha-sketched thumbprint onto something naturally beautiful.

Actual Breda sunset.

Where as in Holland, the swifts seemed to stretch their wings in the expanse. In Sicily the swifts showed phenomenal aerodynamics. I sat with an orange juice in early morning, before rush hour on the ground began, rush hour in the air saw swifts darting, turning, gliding between the buildings, swooping towards the depths of pavements, sharp turns through alleyways, and soaring back into the skies. it was amazing to see. and it was nice to see nature intertwine so eloquently with what man has created. Rush hour in Palermo is also something phenomenal to experience, in fact not just at rush hour! to say its a different mentality, the tempo is very different to what you experience in other countries, and yet there can be kindness found in it. Mum said at one point that she had to remember, that scooters sounding there horns, is not out of rudeness, or that they might be upset, but more that they let you know that they are coming - which is handy. Whereas cyclists in Holland are treated like sacred cows, in Palermo, its the pedestrians who are given ultimate respect, lanes of rushing traffic will stop, or at least plan to avoid you as you walk across the road. Here's an example of tempo, Palermo traffic style..

My sister has a variety of theories. She has a love of Palermo, and that nature is beginning to take over where man is failing. Its not that Sicilians are failing, if anything I like the priorities that they make in life. if you take, lets say an industrious viewpoint, then Sicily is financially lacking, due to debts from war, corruption, and the current crisis. but from a different view, the vibe and soul in Palermo is warm and glowing. Family, Food, Fashion, Coffee and Ice cream (current trend is an ice cream brioche!). 

The birth of my niece was really a time for family to connect. but this time the connection was slightly different, my sister, in recovery from pregnancy, lacked buzz and opinion. on other occasions, she would have action packed days planned so that we could fully get to know the city that she's made her home. But instead, each day, she gave my dad a destination that she would like me and my brother to see. It was nice to see my parents adapting to a different culture. new language, new pace, adapting in their 50's and 60's takes some doing. They should have seen it coming though. my mum is not really worried what the Jones's think. (except when my sister wore neon "anti cool" waterproofs to a family walk, that time is the only time mum thought best to leave by the back gate, instead of promenade up the street). And only one time of frustration from a conversation was re told.

"and she said... oh I just think its funny, that one sons married his high school sweetheart.. and both my daughters are marrying, and have mortgages.. all my children are so settled"

"..and what was I to say.." says mother.."..well my oldest is head over heals in love with a refugee, my second oldest is running around South America with a  philandering latino, and my youngest.. well he's bringing back samples of Perth night life.."

That was said with a lot of tongue in cheek. there is a lot of tongue in cheek within my family, and its fun. walking along the street with my brother, it fell half into enjoying company, and a small part remembering old ways. and so this time I thought I might try to carefully amend bad habits..

"you know Fiona in high school used to spit all the time... but then a boy told her if we all spat on the street at the same time... we'd all be swimming in it."

"that's probably true Nic. but if we all held hands at the same time, its a nice idea, but no one would get anywhere would they? we'd be stuck in a circle all day..... Shall we go for a coffee?"

It was good having my brother there, he really took attitude of holiday. I had some moments of being overwhelmed sensitive wise, but he set the tone of holiday, and after taking 5 minutes to work through the buzz and tears of "it feels like too much is going on today", I could get back into the holiday vibe. I've read a lot from the sensitives-forum, and I get the sense that they crumble, hide and take offence with challenges to their comfort. If I didn't ride the wave and do it anyway, I would have been sitting on one of the most beautiful 30's style beaches I've ever seen. Advice to HSP, whilst self-compassion is needed, I do think to work through the emotions and experience life is very important to try.

So Pip sat on the sofa, "I want you to go see Monreale"

"Monreale is like nothing you will have ever seen, if you're willing.." Dad said, as we turned up the hairpin bend.  We'd taken two buses already, the blessing about not really knowing where you are going is that you find small parts of coolness. we found a building with amazing courtyard, and to the side of the courtyard was an art exhibition ( I'm sure the "lostness" of it all was inspired by Van Gogh. Max once thought a guardian angel of hers was Marilyn Monroe, it seems I'm more guided by an erratic artist with passion for nature. the grass is always greener.)   So the gallery was celebrating the work of Mimmo Germana, who's work celebrated the strength and colour of the mediteranean, which was hugely evident looking around. He also was described to be fiercely influenced in portraying human relation to environment.

anyway back to the hairpin bend. it was the most challenging hairpin bend I have walked around, for the following reasons.

  • my brother took hold of the fence, shaking it.. "I think theres been an accident here.."
  • below the fence was the roof of a house embedded into the rock,
  • the height of the house spanned the gradient of the hairpin bend
  • As my brother shook the fence, a helicopter flew BELOW us in the valley.
  • I have never ever had vertigo in my life until then.

"lets just keep going" says I.

as we got halfway along the straight, my brother and dad started admitting to themselves that this was actually quite a mission. And as it was said, two elderly somethings ran past us on the steep slope. on return, Mum was upset that we did not see the mosaic work depicting different bible stories, whilst the big lights were on to highlight them. I was just happy we saw the place in daylight.


"Its a really good idea if you go to Cefalu". It was the first time that week that mum came off duty to have an afternoon with us.  My sister had one appointment, so mum would leave after she came back.
So my dad, brother and I set towards the bus station.  Dad had conversation with his new friend, the bus ticket guy, who thought dads Italian was really improving.
We caught the bus which weaved in and out of the Palermo streets, and in one instant thought we should get off that bus. and when we did, he just stood, maybe to get his bearings... maybe not. that's the frustrating part, is that there's no communication until he's certainly fathomed his answer.  during that time, the child within feels her brain turn to marshmallow, and a desire to stick a finger in her eye and swirl that marshmallow around a bit.

"Dad. do. you. know where we are? how long is it to the station?"

"ohhhh ten minutes.." and after a second reaffirming glance. ".. or twenty.."

the lesson is that it takes time and patience to travel around Sicily, plan for one or two things a day, and enjoy the journey getting there. the second part of the lesson, is that it takes even more time and more patience to travel around Sicily with dad.

So we took a left, and found ourselves in a nice little square, and after a few discussions on the likelihood of  actually getting the 12.08  train, "..Well shall we just go for a coffee." and so we did.

"well.." says dad on leaving." that was a great coffee"

"yes," says I "..its wonderful for taking the edge off the frustration, out of actually getting somewhere!"

Dad chuckled dryly.

we found the station, dad went to buy tickets, my brother is diabetic, and needed to buy lunch. and so we sat waiting for dad. I left them sitting, tucking into lunch. to go find the ladies room. but glancing at the clock, and calculating time for my dad and brother to gather themselves, and to see the distance towards the train.. I "encouraged" them to get a move on! we had 5 minutes before the train left. we, or rather I rushed towards the front, less busy carriages of the train, dad and my brother following. and when the first door tried wouldn't open "IDIOTS" may have escaped my mouth.

We arrived in Cefalu station,  and as I was working out that dad would have to walk back up from the beach within the hour to pick mum up. BUT. Mum was already there waiting on the platform! she had left earlier, asked directions in Italian, and walked to the station within twenty minutes. as apposed to our rough hour and half..

she had been sitting in the carriage, had been sitting there for ten minutes already.  and saw me passing, waving on the others, dad marching past with bags flapping, and my brother casually sauntering past, checking himself out in the reflection.

this is my family, and its a conundrum of tempo's, all compromising, all adjusting, but all loving.

I look at the tempo's of the birds in the skies, how they all function with different types of grace, speed and mentality. Swifts who never rest, but glide onwards at full speed. pigeons who seem to be the most adaptive birds to their situation, and Aberdeen Seagull who will ruthlessly mug you for a bacon sarnie. They are products of the environments they live in, and so are we. but we are also products of the relations we bare on ourselves and each other. and that's what I find fascinating.

its how I adapt to my family's tempos', and vice versa. but also being quieter, how I remain strong in sense of my own tempo. its a beautiful tension that I am still trying to work out, and come to terms with. I am now quite strong in me, but they shape how I am, but its my own decision as to how far I allow it to shape me and in what way. and I guess that's part of learning to feel balanced.


On the way to the airport, we stopped at Seggesta. Seggesta amazed me. that the ground and stones that crunched under my feet had been walked upon, fought upon 300 years BC. having said that, we didn't go directly to the temple.. we had our lunch in the car park. and besides the car park was a path that we walked up, walking past a sign blown down by the wind, which had likely said, no entry. but to which no enquiry was made. so we saw the ampitheater from afar.. but for me more interesting was the settlement close by. perhaps it's included in the tour... we didn't find out. beside the settlement was a stack of cannonballs, BC-style. if we used those today, no one would be bothered to start wars.

As I left my parents in the airport, a white feather passed by my dads shoulder, and I thought maybe it was angelic help in good relations that week, for which I was grateful.
But as I got onto the plane, I had a very bad feeling about the flight, I went into quiet irrational panic, "We're all going to die... have I had a happy life? what do I most treasure?" these were all thoughts..

first announcement from the cabin crew suggested that since we were and hour from Maastricht, we may want to order extra drinks... a second comment told us that someone was very ill on the flight and we would be diverting to Pisa.  its quite unnerving to feel a plane fly so fast you see the engines shaking, kind of like taking my mums old car up the highway. at 90.. 

on a spiritual note, it hit me, that if white feathers signify something, I need to ask for angelic help in distinguishing different signs. white feathers will appear during moments where love is, but I know that it will begin to panic me if white feathers are associated too many times with someone passing, and so new prayer begins for heightened communication, more specific signs, and more specific discernment.

the ambulance took the old man, but it waited by the plane for an hour. me and the Spanish girl discussed possibilities of what might be happening, an air hostess then told us the man has died. its a very shocking and chilling atmosphere whilst people are stilled in contemplation. This old man had walked on with his wife, planning to go to a destination together... and now the wife is in Pisa, alone.  with my Grandad, his deteriorating health meant that as sad as it was, we knew..  but this situation in Pisa, was so sad for the wife. And it hit home hard that life is so so precious, and yet fragile and indefinite. and those moments that we take for granted.. we really shouldn't.

This is one of dads favourite songs from Van Morrison. Warm love.

On a separate, but interesting note, well for those who still have interest..Whilst I was experiencing Sicily, in different corners of the world,  David was experiencing Palestine on foot, raising money for the Hope Flowers school in Bethlehem. There are some interesting insights in his blog that may not touch us via western media - I know why the caged bird sings

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