Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Posted in Mixed Nuts on February 2nd, 2011 by MadDog
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I seem to be plodding through life at a very uncertain pace. I can see that I’ve made progress, so I’m not alarmed, or rather I’m not as alarmed as I once was. The eighth of February will mark five months since Eunie left me. I wonder if I’ll ever stop counting the months and years. I suppose not. I’ve heard many friends on many occasions recall such momentous occasions with chronological accuracy. I formerly had trouble remembering how old I am. It didn’t seem to matter. There’s nothing I can do about it.

I am astounded by what I’ve accomplished in these five months. When I use the personal pronoun I take far too much credit. Going back to the time early in 2010 when Eunie first became ill and following the events up to this day I can see that my creator’s hand has been busy at every turn.  To some this may seem nonsense. Nevertheless, I believe it and find strength in that belief. After each hammer blow I could review the event and the outcome and see that it could so very easily have been much, much worse. After each small step toward my recovery I have asked myself how I could have done it; why was it so much less traumatic than I thought it would be.

There is also the matter of helping hands reaching out to me at every turn. Friends and strangers alike have assisted me continuously and without complaint. It would have been impossible for me to do some things for myself in the first couple of months. I am now shocked by my incompetency and insane thoughts during that period.

This week or next week, according to how much of Cairns, Australia survives the cyclone bearing down on as I write this, the last of the medical bills will have been settled. Some of my friends cautioned me that dealings with a health event of this magnitude could go on for a year. Without my friend, Trevor Hattersley, I would still be hopelessly mired in paperwork. He is a genius. I sold a house, a car and a motorcycle. The house and the car were half-way around the world. I would have said that this was not possible, but an old friend assisted me in ways which seemed inspired to me. Acting on my behalf with my Power of Attorney, he had the house sold in just over one month. I have settled a life insurance claim and numerous other matters arising from Eunie’s death. Needless to say, I would much rather not have had to do any of these things and I was often in despair. My prayers were pretty much reduced to asking for strength and wits to get me through the next day. Each time the clouds parted and some kind soul would step forward to help or mysterious circumstances would arise to allow what seemed not to be allowed.

Now that Eunie’s headstone for her grave has arrived I hope to have the pedestal completed so that a small group of friends can accompany me to Kranket Island  to put her ashes in the ground in the place where she wanted to rest. It is going to be a hard day, but I need the relief of knowing that I have fulfilled my promise to her.

My next tasks are to do all of the things necessary to give myself a more or less graceful and uneventful exit from Madang for a much needed period of rest and rebuilding. I plan to leave Madang on the ninth of March and will not return until at least the 15th of June. I have been around the world at least a dozen times. However, I have never planned the trip. I know that sounds ridiculous. I have been very nervous about doing all of the things which Eunie did to get us from place to place so effortlessly and without me doing anything but stuffing my essentials in my back pack. Millions of people do these things every day. I had to get all flustered about it. I went to Air Niugini today and bought my tickets to get me to Brisbane. I’ve decided to buy tickets for the other legs of my travel as I need them, because of my uncertainty about when I want to go where.

I know that someone is going to say that I should have blurred the details on my electronic ticket. Believe me, terrorism is way down on my list of potential problems. I don’t think I’m a likely target.

This modest fisherman’s tackle box contains Eunie’s lifetime accumulation of jewellery. There is nothing in this box which is worth very much in terms of money. Eunie had exquisite taste, but never wanted expensive things. I was horrified this afternoon to realise that I have misplaced her wedding ring. All of this is going to my granddaughters. I especially wanted to make sure that they received the ring. I have no idea where it went. I remember having it when I returned from Australia. I spent the afternoon frantically searching for it, shaking and breaking out in a cold sweat. I have now gotten to the point at which I am ready to accept that I will either find it eventually or I will not. There is nothing more I can do now.

I remember with great happiness watching Eunie each morning as she prepared for work. She would choose her clothes first and then go the the bathroom to select her perfume and fix her hair. She would then return to the bedroom smelling wonderful and select the jewellery which matched her attire. I don’t know why this scene always calmed me. Some things are inexplicable.

I am glad that many wonderful memories are now returning to me through the gloom.

So, as I continue to calm myself, I’ll show you the latest dazzling display sprouting from my Fishtail Palm. Both of them have now produced fruit several times. This does not bode well for them. My understanding is that they do not last long after fruiting several times. Each event is accompanied by the sound of hundreds of buzzing bees:

This shot is better for viewing the bees:

On the right you can see some of the red fruit which takes several months to form after the flowers disappear.

While checking the possibilities for my flight from Brisbane to Honolulu I got help from William Butler to see if my Qantas frequent flyer points would be of any use. It turns out that I had enough points to save about US$500. That made me very happy. I have never used any of the frequent flyer miles. Pushing my luck, I decided to seen if I could use Eunie’s frequent flyer points. I reckoned that she must have about a million. After finding her card and guessing correctly her PIN for the account I was disappointed to see that she had ZERO points. I have no idea how they disappeared. First the ring, now the points.

That’s two steps back. Never mind. I’ll just keep walking.

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Your Thursday Morning Dog’s Breakfast

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometimes befuddlement settles deep into my cranium and all I can manage is a little walk around the yard and a scrounge through old images to find a scattering of thoughts and images to exercise my chosen writer’s discipline and fill some space. Each day I leave something here and take something away. The beauty of it is what I need please only me. The down-side is that if I find my own efforts unpleasing, I have nothing to show for my efforts but dissatisfaction. So, I muddle through.

But first, a sunrise:

My creative writing professor at uni was a hard taskmistress. We had to write 1,000 words every day in a jornal. It didn’t matter what it was about and it wasn’t graded. However we had to turn it in for checking each week and then we got it back to continue on. Most weeks I would review what I had written and a familiar phrase would pop into my mind, “What a dog’s breakfast!”

An unappealing mixture of many things… a hodgepodge… a disorganised mess… but probably still usable (or consumable in the case of food.) From the idea that a dog will eat anything and feeding it a mixture of whatever is on hand. (Unappealing because only the dog finds its breakfast appealing… if you see or smell the dog food in the morning, as you’re feeding the dog, it may well turn your stomach.)

“Those contractors didn’t do very good work and they made a real dog’s breakfast of that job.”

Not that I insinuate that my readers are canine. No. I simply mean that there are good days and bad.

So, off we go into visual pandemonium.

Let’s add a canoe to the sunrise:

This was a very mediocre shot right out of the camera. I had to jazz it up a bit. I decided to make it nearly monochrome and take advantage of the brilliant red-orange tugboats across the harbour to complement the colours of the sunrise.

It looks as if warm colours are going to be the theme today. Here is a nice red hibiscus right outside our front door:

The brown mass to the left is the trunk of one of our Fishtail Palm trees.

Speaking of which, they are fruiting continuously now. In this shot I am standing directly underneath the oldest inflorescence, pointing my G11 straight up. You are looking into the bottom of it from about six metres away:

I am amazed how long it takes for the fruit to ripen. This inflorescence developed in October of 2008. You can find an image of it here.

Over the last three months, fruit has been dropping from this inflorescence. They are bright red to maroon in colour and average about five or six centimetres in diameter:Our haus meri, Juli, tells me that they are “not for humans” but some birds eat them. Of course, I had to try one. They are intensely sweet and fig-like. I tried only a small amount. After a few seconds you get a chili-like burning sensation on the tongue wherever the fruit was in contact. The strong sweetness lingers, but I take the burning as a warning. I decided that I had experimented enough. The seeds are one or two shiny black kernels which are so hard that you have to crack them with a hammer. Inside the thick shell is a nut-like core which is also very sweet.

In the garden this morning I found a spider who was willing to pose for a while. I got one very nice shot of it:

If you click the image to enlarge it you will see a water drop attached to its abdomen.

I felt like saying, “Shake it off, dude.”

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Little Fishies

Posted in Under the Sea on June 2nd, 2010 by MadDog
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It looked pretty scary outside this morning at about 06:00. I thought the world had caught fire for a moment. Never mind. It was just a big black cloud. It’s Wednesday here – middle of the week day. Ho-hum day. It’s too early in the week to be tired. It’s too late in the week to start any big projects. It’s not close enough to the weekend to begin to slack off. It’s just a work day. I had it in mind to be very productive today. I had nothing on my schedule to take me away from my office and I was determined to see how many of the little nagging projects that I’ve put off I could pummeled into submission before the day ended. I suppose you can imagine how that is going.

However, I did just finish my lunch while I was working on something else (I must vacuum my keyboard crumbs soon) and I’m going to celebrate the successful commencement of digestion by showing you The Big Black Cloud:

There. Isn’t that scary?

The title of this post is Little Fishies.  Here they are:

You know when I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of creating an underwater image? Well, I’ll tell you when. It’s when you look at one of my images and think to yourself, “He faked that! He took that shot through the glass of somebody’s perfectly maintained aquarium.” Yeah, when you get suspicious, I get all puffed up and start bragging about what a great photographer I am. I’m such a glory hound.

Yeah, well, anyway, here’s a very uneven Linckia multifora  starfish. It’s been leg bitten several times:

You know why I keep taking pictures of these and showing them to you until you want to scream, “Stop, STOP! Enough with the starfish amputees!” Well, I’ll tell you why. It is because they make me think of the amazing powers of regeneration which humans possess. No, we can’t regrow limbs – yet. But we can regenerate our emotional, spiritual and intellectual aspects by simple acts of will accompanied by hard work and behavioural changes. I have regenerated so many parts of me that I hardly recognise myself. Most of these chopping offs and regrowings have been prompted by the “What a jerk!” response of people with whom I interact. It’s like getting a smart slap in the face and then saying, “Oh, thanks. I needed that.”

Well that’s enough of whatever that was. I love shapes. I think that I must be a very visual person. I know that I’m no longer an olfactory person. I still can’t smell anything, but at least the phatosmia is getting less obnoxious since I started snorting Nasonex. Eunie uses it and I thought, “What the . . . ” I’ll give it a shot – really – two up each nose-hole each day. The smell of smoke is fading.

Hmmm . . . I drifted off-point there – back to shapes:

The Sea Squirt (Didemnum molle)  on the left makes me think of a buffalo (American Bison, to be exact) which has rater gruesomely had it head chopped off. The one on the right evokes vaguely uneasy gurglings in my cerebellum, but doesn’t provide any words to go with them. All I’m getting is visual blub-a-lug-a-blug. There may be something obscene there, but it’s not registering.

Come to think of it, It could  be Carl Malden’s nose, but I can’t be sure.

Mystery Stuff – Possibly a Protopalythoa  species anemone? I think so:

There is are so many things down there to see that it makes me wish that I could live to be a hundred. I think of the line of Shakespeare when Hamlet says to Horatio “There are many things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that are not dreamt of in your philosophy”. Hamlet  (Act I Sc V)*

Both of our beautiful Fishtail Palms (Caryota gigas)  are fruiting again:

This concerns me a bit, because these trees usually die when they have given their all to reproduce.

That seems like such a shame to me. I’d have been dead since 1969.

* Quoting Shakespeare is like using semicolons. All it proves is that you’ve been to college. Pffffft! College is the new high-school. I’m left for dead in the dust again!

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Esmeralda – The Canoe Girl

Posted in Mixed Nuts on April 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have many amusing images from our two dives on Saturday, but I also have a few shots that I’ve left in the “unused” folder that are nagging me. So, I’ll dish them out today. I worked from 07:00 to 19:00 yesterday, Sunday, and never got a post out – too busy with other stuff. So, today I’m using my time machine to cheat. The post date says it was sent out on Sunday, but it lies, or rather I do. It’s now Monday morning here.

Now that that meaningless trivia is disposed of, let’s have a look at my next-door neighbor, Sisilia’s sweet daughter Esmeralda in her big canoe:I was out in the garden shooting anything that moved and much that doesn’t when Esperalda got into her canoe. I asked if she was going for a ride. She said she was going to visit her uncle. After a minute, she came back, saying that she’d forgotten something. That’s when I snapped this shot. She’s a lovely young lady. I think that her mom is very proud of her. We are very fortunate to live in a compound that is full of very nice people. We are the only “Europeans” there.

I haven’t said much about our Fishtail Palms lately, but they are growing splendidly. They have fruited several times. Here’s a shot of a half-mature and a brand-new . . . thinking of the word . . . inflorescence:

I think that the species is Caryota gigas,  but I’m not positive. There is another possibility. I’ve written before about our Fishtail Palms here, here, here, and here.

This is the first inflorescence, which I showed as it first came out way back in August of 2008. I’m amazed how long it takes for the fruit to mature:

The fruits eventually turns a deep purple, almost black and falls to the ground. They are about the size of a very small apricot. They taste like an extremely sweet hot chili. It is a very strange, but not unpleasant flavour. Local folk say they are “not for people”, but I tasted one anyway. I’ve never seen any birds eating them either, which surprises me.

Since I’m rambling today, I’ll show you the new hops for my wireless link to the Internet sattelite dish at our office:I discovered too late that the power to the security camera pole was not reliable (you’d think it would be – security and all). The power at the supermarket, however, is probably the most reliable source in town, since all that refrigeration equipment must be kept running. I haven’t had an interruption since we moved the links.

I’ll finish up with a couple of gratuitous flower shots. This one is some kind of Bird of Paradise plant. They are so prolific that we have to chop them back regularly:Honestly, they grow like weeds.

This one is here simply because I think it deserves the space:Anything which strives to be that pretty deserves a little attention.

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A Wecome Home Sunrise

Posted in Mixed Nuts on June 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I got up this morning and saw the golden light flooding in through the front windows of our house, I felt that I had finally returned home. I got my camera and went to the water’s edge just in time to catch this boat passing between me and the radiant sunrise:
A passing boat backlit by a beautiful sunriseAs I stood there admiring the sun’s handiwork, I shot a couple of panoramas:

Today's first panoramaIt only takes a couple of minutes for the scene to change. In the tropics, sunrises and sunsets occur alarmingly quickly:

And another sunrise panorama for today

As I was returning to the house I was amazed at the huge pile of flowers that has accumulated over the last few days from our blooming Fishtail Palm:

Huge pile of flowers from our Fishtail Palm
If you check here, you will see how the tree looked only a few days ago.

It’s good to be home. I have chores to do. Today I have to put in a new ariconditioner in our bedroom and move the old one to Val’s room. Hers has given up the ghost. We need to get started setting up an office for our new company, J & E Enterprises Limited. The company name is loaded with irony. Over thirty years ago, when we were becomming fed up with the business world and planed our excape to Papua New Guinea, the name of our corporation was J & E Enterprises Incorporated.

We’ve now come full circle.

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Home Again

Posted in Mixed Nuts on June 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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I came in at about eight this morning to the office with the firm intention to leave before ten. It’s now 13:30. It’s amazing how going to the office cuts into one’s valuable leisure time. There ought to be a law. No, wait. We have too many rules already. Let’s just wing it.

This morning I was greeted home by a familiar sight:

A ship on Astrolabe Bay - departing MadangA ship out in Astrolabe Bay. She appears to be departing Madang. I hope not to have to do that for a while.

Another welcoming sight was a giant floral cluster just blooming on one of my Fishtail Palms:

Flowering cluster on one of my Fishtail Palms
I have written several times about Fishtail Palms. They fascinate me. You can review here, here, here, and here. You may be thinking, “Big deal.” Remember, however, that what you are looking at is a cluster of flowers nearly three metres long! That’s a lot of flowers!

At this stage of the development of the fruit, thousands of bees gather around to collect nectar and pollen. You can see many in this close up shot:

Bees feeding on the flowers of the Fishtail PalmNear the top of the image (click to enlarge) you can see one be flying past.

Did you ever notice that when you have been away too long, that it’s the simplest images, smells, textures and sounds that deliver that magical comfort of being home again.

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Our House

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 5th, 2008 by MadDog
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As I sit at my desk at home today with the morning sun’s blonde radiance streaming in through my bedroom window listening to Our House from the 1970 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Déjà Vu,  I’m overcome by weepy sentimentality.

Did you ever feel so completely contented with life that it was a little scary?

The world is wobbling drunkenly at the very edge of the abyss, and I’m sitting here salting my oatmeal breakfast with tears of ecstasy because I’m feeling so fine.

Oh, yeah. So very fine.

But, you must remember that I am (forever, it seems) a recovering bipolar. I used to get these irrational highs all the time, interspersed with near-suicidal depression.

Somehow, seemingly miraculously – because I had no real hope – I was delivered. The love of a good woman, some decent drugs, and the faith that something more important and powerful than the gooey mush in my skull cared about me all combined to extract me, kicking and screaming, from the pernicious cycle of euphoria and despair.

I don’t miss being in the dank, stony pit with the hyenas giggling nervously while tearing great bloody chunks from my soul.

But I do miss the periods of calm lucidity when Gloom and Doom were vacationing together in Vienna riding the Big Wheel at the Prater;  when the world felt safe, despite clear evidence to the contrary. I miss the respites from darkness when pewter clouds in my head parted and precious light flooded in with a profound sigh like the whisper of silvery smoke escaping from a toker’s lips.

Oh, yeah. I miss the highs.

Life is steadier now. My cage doesn’t rattle so much. That’s good.

But, contrary to the lukewarm complacency of life these days, this morning I’m blessed by a sweet flashback of irrational inner delight: unsought, undeserved, unexpected, and enigmatic.

What triggered this phenomenon?

As consciousness returned this morning, I drowsily retrieved my camera and stumbled into the garden. Eunie is very sick with tonsillitis. I’ve been caring for her. I worry. I fret. I needed a break.

As I turned and looked back at our house, this is what I saw. Maybe this had something to do with the enhancement of my mood:

Our House

Our house lit like a Sultan’s golden palace lent me cheer.

The delicious orange lilies were bathed in warmth:

Fervently orange lilies

The maturing fruit on one of our Fishtail Palms is soon to be joined by a sister (the tan coloured pod on the right):

The fruitful Fishtail Palm

When I returned to our house to find Eunie awake and feeling much better, I sat down to write.

As if in a dream I put on Our House,  and started watching the screen fill with thoughts that I can express only through my fingers on the keyboard. Is this what a musician feels as his soul pours out through the open window that is his instrument?

Anyway, I’ll pay homage to the lyrics by quoting the chorus:

Our house is a very, very, very fine house.
With two cats in the yard,
Life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy ’cause of you.

I dedicate this composition and these sentiments to my woman. Any goodness, love, and compassion that is in me . . .

I owe to her.

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