Stargazing

I was on my home way last night from a regular supermarket trip, when I glanced out of the taxi window. My stomach turned over. There was a beautifully low lit half moon in the sky. Why did my stomach flip?  The previous evening when leaving the office, I had remarked to a colleague that the moon looked as if it was almost full. Yes, she replied, it would be full on April 4. eclipse 2The moon is important here, and we keep note of lunar phases.  Most festivals are based on the lunar calendar and we are in the final days of run up into the biggest festival here – Thingyan, famously known as the Water Festival. I was puzzling about the status of the moon and its relation to Thingyan when I saw the almost full moon on Friday and in my mind I thought meant that it would probably be New Moon for Myanmar New Year which falls immediately after Thingyan.

So I was more than a little freaked by the sight of a half moon last night. Firstly, I questioned whether the moon had indeed been almost full when I had remarked on it the previous evening. The conversation with my colleague was fresh and clear in my mind. I knew the moon had looked full.  Seeing something dramatically unexpected about the moon rocks our foundations and most basic beliefs and truths. My thoughts then moved to Murakami’s IQ84 where the parallel world had two moons. I did not want to take that train of thought any further and vowed to Google this weirdness as soon as I got home.

When I got out of the taxi, a couple of neighbours were lingering, chatting in the lane as happens most evenings. One pointed to the moon and showed me that he was taking a photograph on his phone. He knows that I am wont to take pictures of the moon and I thought he was suggesting I photograph it. I obligingly (I would have been doing this anyway) took out my camera and captured a few images, while staring at the moon and pondering the mystery of its sudden regression or progression to half moon status.  It was so clear in the sky and I could see the shadow of the other half of the moon quite clearly when realisation hit.  This was not a half moon shadow, because the moon had a “bite” out of it!  This was a lunar eclipse!

I watched as the shadow passed across the moon, the orange glow faded and the full moon I had sought appeared gradually again. I remember seeing pictures of the solar eclipse recently, and delighted for friends who had seen their first eclipse, posting their awe on Facebook.  This was not visible in South East Asia, but I admit to being secretly envious.  There was a total eclipse on my birthday in 2008 but I could hardly see it because of cloud cover as I waited patiently on the rooftop of the apartment block I lived in at the time in Colombo, Sri Lanka,, taking photographs of cloud and trying to convince myself that I could see a shadow. And apart from the tail end of a solar eclipse in Myanmar in 2010 which I could not really see properly I have never truly seen either a solar or lunar eclipse.

I was quite delighted to have seen my surprise lunar eclipse.  There had been no anticipation and with the lack of planning and expectation there could only be satisfaction. If we put this in perspective, this has more meaning than just a fifty-something woman seeing her first clear eclipse.  If you look at my wish bucket it is pretty clear that I have a fascination with the night sky.  I want to see the rings on Saturn, and I would dearly love to witness the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. I was fascinated by the night sky as a child and still love to gaze upwards in innocent wonder.  That is very clear too, in the second of my three words of the year too – breathe, stargaze and realise. How apt that just after writing about breathing a couple of weeks ago, and with a vague plan to write about stargazing next, that the planets should align to gift me a lunar eclipse!

eclipse 1

Watching the shadow slowly move to reveal the full moon again

As I approach my next round of medical checks with some questions which I expect to be explored, and as life continues to throw challenges in my direction this is a timely and keen reminder that I need to strive to stargaze and stretch my creativity. Life is less about what happens to us, but how we deal with what happens to us. I must remember to breathe, to stargaze and to realise.

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A peek into my wish bucket

I have been nursing some unexpected foot pain the past few days and with great reluctance have skipped my early morning cycle and swim to ensure that whatever had caused the pain would be not be aggravated.  So I woke slowly on Friday morning, as the sun slowly seeped in through the bedroom window. I reached over for my iPod and had a quick check to see how the world had been faring overnight while I was resting.  I was immediately struck by two posts, from family in the far north east of Scotland, both of whom were in awe of a magical and spectacular display of the northern lights, (Aurora Borealis) or the “heavenly dancers” immortalised in song.

While I had been sleeping, many parts of the UK had been privy to an unusually stunning performance, and with the benefits of modern technology a number of awe-inspiring images were being beamed across the cybersphere. Despite growing up in rural Perthshire in Scotland, I have no recollection of seeing the northern lights and have maintained a fascination and wish to see them.  So much so, that they have featured in my “wish bucket”.

Northern Lights - one of many images on Twitter

Northern Lights – Gullane in Scotland – one of many images on Twitter

My wish bucket is something I have created in the past few years, to capture those little and not so little wishes and dreams.  It is not a  bucket list, as there is not a pressure to tick these off before I kick it!  Nor is it a wish list which I similarly have to work through.  Rather it is an imaginary receptacle into which I carefully put those dreams and desires to turn into reality when the time and opportunity allows it. I particularly like the fact that I can take these delights from the bucket as often as I like.

Now is then, a very apt time to revisit what is in my wish bucket and perhaps spur me into action. These are the treasures in my wish bucket:

  • Meet a blogging friend in a new place (repeat as often as possible)
  • Buy a picture/piece of artwork at a gallery opening and watch them put the red sticker on it.
  • Book into the Oriental Bangkok for a weekend.  Or maybe a night.  Or maybe just have afternoon tea there given the price!
  • See a kangaroo in the wild.
  • Visit a country with the letter ‘Z’ in it.
  • See the Aurora Borealis (northern lights)
  • Get funky, colourful nail art on my finger and toenails just for fun, just for once.
  • See the rings on Saturn through an astronomy telescope
  • See some of my writing in print.  In a book, with real paper pages!
  • See an iceberg
  • See a starfish in the sea
  • Sail through the Norwegian Fiords

The first wish I plucked out of the bucket was the toenail art wish.  I put this off for a silly length of time before I decided to get some nail art on my toenails.  And when I did, I just loved it! I showed my toes off to anyone I met and delighted in the delicate design which was not only exquisite in my eyes, but also highly affordable at around $8! This was something I could take from the wish bucket time and time again.  And I do!  Happily the novelty has worn off to the extent that I no longer take photos of every single design I have had, though there are more photos than is sensible!

I have also realised a long held dream to buy a piece of artwork at an exhibition and am delighted with my acquisition.  Living here with a vibrant and emerging art scene has really made that possible, and I was delighted to watch the red sticker being put on my new piece of multi-media artwork, an innovative mix of photography, paint and collage.

The red sticker on my new piece of art

The red sticker on my new piece of art

I have spent time on the Oslo Fiord, although I still want to travel along the remoter western fiords in Norway, so that is another wish which I can take out of the wish bucket more than once. I have also managed to meet up with two blogging friends, Terri of A Fresh Chapter (in Hong Kong as she transited from Vietnam to India) and Audrey in Edinburgh and wish to meet many blogging friends who I have connected with on this very warm online breast cancer blogging community.

There are still many dreams in my wish bucket, and some easier to realise then others.  The northern lights remain there and it would be wonderful one day to see them.  I am delighted that so many in the UK were able to witness their magic and share their pictures though.  One day perhaps……….

There is another very special wish which I am hoping to see realised in the coming weeks but I do not want to speak of that until those plans are firmer.  In the meantime, I hold on tightly to the happiness which my wishes have gifted me and look forward to sharing more in good time.

northernlights metrouk

Norway and the wish bucket

I have long had a yen to sail along the Norwegian fjords, taking in the spectacular gorges and the vibrant colours.  I have never in fact visited Norway at all.  This fjordic longing featured some time back when I was thinking of things I dreamed of doing back in the chemo days when it felt as if things would never be the same again.

Now that I am in a different space, I have gathered a few strange desires and keep them in what I now call my “wish bucket” which is neither a wish list or a bucket list.  Or perhaps it is both!  I love the thought of a seaside-type pail rather like the one which I would collect treasures such as shells, pebbles and the occasional critter when I was little.  A bucket in which I can collect my wishes really appeals to me.  And the purpose of having a selection of things in my wish bucket is to realise them.

I aim for my wish bucket to have a selection of things which are not difficult to realise, and some which are even very easy to make happen. For example, getting funky nail art on my toenails!  This was very easy to achieve and in a “seize the day” moment I decided to enter the world of toenail art!  Despite a small challenge in that my toenails were apparently too small for many of the fantastic designs, I was finally able to settle on a Japanese-esque pastiche somewhat reminiscent of cherry blossom.  And I was delighted with the result!

And the great thing about the wish bucket is that there is nothing stopping you repeating the wishes! No law stopping you, that is, of course there may be other barriers such as cost and time!

So you can imagine my enthusiasm when I was asked if I would participate in a training which was planned to be held in Norway in June.  Norway!  A chance to do a training that I really wanted to, and in a place which I had always wanted to visit.  And the chance to pluck out one of my wish bucket dreams.  Perfect.

However, I have to say that this enthusiasm was tempered with a strange sensation.  There is a bit of a history to this particular training.  The very first one was held in Geneva in October 2009.  I had been extremely proud and excited to have been selected for that training, on a topic I am passionate about (Education in Emergency settings), with colleagues I had worked with in various settings previously, and a chance to be a member of a global team in a critical humanitarian area.

I had been looking forward to that training, when a few days beforehand the story changed.  I found the lump 12 days before the course was due to start.  It was soon clear that I would not be joining my colleagues in Geneva.  In fact as the course started in the Swiss morning of Monday 5 October, I was being wheeled into the operating theatre half a world away in Bangkok, clutching a tiny glimmer of hope that the strange shapes on the scans were not in fact sinister, despite knowing that they were “highly suspicious”.  As my colleagues in Geneva were resuming their afternoon sessions on that day, I was being revived and told that the masses had indeed been cancerous, and the whole breast had been removed along with sinister lymph nodes.

So there was indeed some trepidation at the prospect of finally participating in this course, along with the enthusiasm.  Is there such a feeling as poignant enthusiasm?  I think that is what I felt.

Trepidation in hand, I booked my travel to Oslo once I was in the UK, and had an idea of how my days were working out with the cross country dashes between Inverness, West Lothian, Glasgow and London.  As a way of taking some brief respite as well as attempting to lift my Norwegian fjord wish from the wish bucket, I booked my travel to arrive in Oslo a day before the training started.  With the very explicit wish of some fjordic exploring.

With the security of the travel and hotel booked, I then researched fjord options for a day of escapade

It soon became apparent, that the fjords in my mind were actually on the Western part of the country, and the Oslofjord, while a major system of waterways, was somewhat flatter than the fjords I had been expecting.  Still, there was a great deal to explore and that did not reduce my enthusiasm for my Norwegian trip.

My UK days flew past and before I knew it I was checking in for the Oslo flight. I landed in the afternoon which enabled a good chunk of time for exploring, particularly given the very long light days, and hardly dark nights during those midsummer days.  I was soon out and about, wandering through the city towards the harbour, and booking myself onto the last Oslofjord cruise of the day.

Oslo was wonderful and in fact, just what the doctor ordered!  In addition to my short pre-training escapade, the training itself was wonderful – on a topic which I am passionate about and have some experience in, with colleagues from around the world who brought a wealth of experience and expertise, and with trainers who had mostly been trained at that very first Geneva training.  Poignant enthusiasm indeed.  Even the setting, in the restful green Norwegian countryside, and the fresh, healthy foods were perfect. Just perfect.

This gallery below has the highlights, but even more images will be on my photo blog.

I still have a hankering to cruise the Norwegian fjords, over more days and more remotely.  That wish is in the increasingly crowded wish bucket, along with the “Aurora Borealis” dream which could be a nice wish twin.  But for now I am very happy and thankful to have been able to have this beautiful Norwegian interlude.