Gold Dust

The rain trickled down the car window in shiny rivers, blurring the outside world into a grey, muffled cocoon.  My brother drove silently; my two sisters slept, and I, in the back seat, also kept the silence, lost in my own thoughts after a long and tiring day.

I leaned my head back against the seat and watched the smudged cars and blinking city lights whirl past in the melting twilight. A music album I didn’t know was playing in the background, and I half-listened to the unfamiliar tunes, my ears slurring the words in my tired state. But despite the peace of the quiet car and the soft music, it seemed that my mood was being coloured by the day outside, and my thoughts gradually became more and more grey.

The droplets drummed on the roof, the wheels swished through the rain, and the tears began to pool as I shivered, suddenly cold, suddenly caught in a flurry of hurried and hurting thoughts. Then one phrase throbbed heavily into my heart, as I gazed out at the crying landscape:

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“I am not worth keeping.”

The thought was as unexpected as it was painful, and in seconds my mind had flown back over buried memories – memories I had thought were hidden for good. Memories of friendships lost, of trust broken, of painful misunderstandings… all gathered to accuse me with the nagging thought, the frightening feeling that I was too easily cropped out of others’ pictures.

I staggered emotionally through the haze of flashbacks and fears. Could all this hurt still dwell in me? Could all this pain still cut so deep?

The tears poured hot and silent down my cheeks. The rain poured frigid and dark in a cloudy grey fog. The words poured sharp and cruel through my heart, slicing me with their dissonant mantra:

“I am not worth keeping.”

Part of me held fast, defiant and angry that these words would try to bruise me so. But part of me had already given in to despair, wrapping my heart in the cold cloak of sorrow, slowly crumpling beneath the harsh discouragement.

The tears fell, the rain fell, the words fell.

“I am not worth keeping.”

At that moment, as I swayed on the edge of raw grief and pain, the music track changed. The next song began to play; still part of this unknown album, still completely foreign and unfamiliar to me.

wpid-20131231_200307.jpgBut with the opening piano arpeggios and the low hum of the deep bass chords, a vivid image suddenly blazed into my mind. I stared wide-eyed out the rain-washed window, seeing nothing that was before me. Seeing only a glowing, growing picture in my mind…

A man stood on a stage, relaxed, ready to sing. A microphone stood before him on its base, and he lifted a hand to free it and hold it firmly, his graceful movement illuminated in the soft blue spotlight.

The wings and backstage were in darkness. The seating area before him was also in hushed darkness. There was no audience, no orchestra, no director.

Just this man, alone, centre stage.

He wore dark grey pants, a silvery-blue shirt, and black polished shoes. His dark blonde hair was stylishly cut, short on the sides and swept over on top in the style of many pop artists.

I caught my breath, as I suddenly realised that his eyes – a strong grey blue – were looking straight at me from my viewpoint on stage right. He held me in his gaze, and I could do nothing but stare back. We looked at the other, not speaking, not moving, waiting as the song preliminaries softly built around him. And I suddenly knew two things.

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One: this man, this pop star, was Jesus.
Two: whatever this song was, whatever I was about to hear, he was going to sing it for me.

The chills swept up my spine, the air was thick with anticipation, his and mine. The grey words from before still hovered in the background, but I barely saw them. Somehow I knew that when he began to sing, they would disappear completely out of the picture.

My heart thumped wildy as Jesus, handsome and poised, confident and kind, lifted the microphone to his lips and took a breath. My skin tingled, my ears gasped… and the music suddenly spilled over me  like a gentle beam of light. My entire being was smothered in wonder and beauty as he sang, and I soaked in the splendour of the performance.

He sang with such raw depth and feeling that I was completely swallowed up in the sound. His passion ebbed in every note, his love painted each word, and I realised that he was not only singing, but singing desperately. He sang with every fibre of his being poured into every word. He sang, desperate that I hear this song, desperate that I would know it was him singing, desperate that I would understand, unshakeably and unfathomably, the simple truth of this song. That this song was to me. This song was for me.

And he sang.13035643_1037207126333844_849740763_o

“You’re like Gold Dust
It rains over me
A foreign sun that I thought I’d never see

You’re like Gold Dust

Oh don’t change
Ever
No don’t change
There’s a
Hollow in this house whenever you go

You’re like Gold Dust
It rains over me
A foreign sun that I thought I’d never see
You’re like Gold Dust

Keep
Coming
Down that street
There’s a
Hollow in this house whenever you go

You’re like Gold Dust…”

The last shadows of self-doubt flickered and died. The broken pieces of my soul lifted gracefully to listen in fresh, golden hope.

And I – staring out into the driving rain while the tears poured down my face – I knew the truth. The real truth that laughed in defiance at the forever-vanquished “I am not worthy…”. The solid truth that had flashed before my eyes in the form of a glowing vision.

I had felt it shiver up my spine. I had heard it flow forth in an unknown song. And now I knew it for myself.

Jesus was a pop star. His song was me.

And I was…

gold dust

gold

 

Gold Dust © Emma McGeorge 2016
Photos used with permission

Coffee Coffee Coffee

My mom has this song.

I guess it’s one of those “mom songs” that every family has, which is only ever known and sung by that family who have sworn to secrecy the very fact of its existence.

So my mom’s song is about coffee (actually, she has a song about tea as well – that one even has its own synchronized moves – but this is a blog post about coffee, so…)

Anyway, this song was born on one of those chilled Saturday winter mornings when the only thing lingering in the frosted air was an ABBA song (“Money, money, money” – so Christian, I know) and this one word that everyone gasped as they stumbled into the frigid kitchen with the sole purpose of ensuring that the black elixir of life was brewing.

“coffee??” *gasp* “coffee!!” *gasp* “where’s the coffee?” (all lower case, as voices cannot be fully employed at this early stage of the day)

We’re obviously not morning people. Well, with the exception of Mamma, who somehow smiles and sings and speaks above a whisper, all before the cups have even made it to the counter.

So urged on by her morning cheer, this ABBA song and this caffeinated word somehow found each other amidst the cups and spoons, and the result was this:

“Coffee coffee coffee – coffee coffee – in a mommy’s world,” sang my mother as she danced the milk bottle out of the fridge.

“Coffee coffee coffee – coffee coffee – it’s a mommy’s world,” my sister sleepily picked up the chorus.

And the song stuck.

But not only did it stick, it became a sort of prequel to the sacred plunger ritual. Soon, puffy morning faces were lighting up at the mere tune, before that pungent smell had even wafted into being. Or the real ABBA song would come on during the day, and people would absentmindedly reach for a mug. Or worse, a guest would arrive, the coffee would come out, and the family would forget where they were and break into enthusiastic strains of “Coffee coffee coffee – coffee coffee – in a mommy’s world… Ahaaaiii- aaaiii! All the things I could do – if I had a little coffee. It’s a mommy’s world…” and so on.

It’s not hard to see why this song did not remain anonymously in our family, and my friend, visiting for a week and settling into our routine, walked into our kitchen one morning loudly singing (you guessed it): “Coffee coffee coffee…” Wait – what?!

I should, at this point, insert a side note. I am not a coffee addict. In fact, I am barely a coffee drinker. I actually quite like coffee, and am not adverse to the odd cup here and there. But I savor it as a treat, rather than a panacea for the dilemma of mornings.

And because I can view the coffee situation as, I feel, an objective Medium-Cafe-Latte-Non-Addict, it leaves me somewhat worried about the effects on over-caffeinated sleep-deprived non-morning people. Some of whom I live with.

Take for example the sister who sips and sighs and croons in Celine Dion tremolo, “It’s all coming back, it’s all coming back to me now…”

Or the distressing sight of the work colleague, slumped over her desk begging the clock to strike 10:00am and thus signal the release of the coffee pot from its prison of “hang-in-there-until-10:00am-baby”.

Or the friend who is convinced that it’s coffee pulsing in his veins, rich and bitter and life-giving.

Or this overheard statement, which one would expect from a modern Shakespearean sonnet, but never from a half-asleep human who has suddenly scented coffee in the air and burst into half-sung prose:
“There’s this feeling of deep joy when I slowly press down the plunger, then pour the dark liquid into the cup and see the richness of the foam on top…”

Me? Worried? Just a little.

Am I the only one who literally hears the bags of coffee beans chuckling at their raw power over bags under tired eyes? Am I the only one who asks for tea in a coffee shop? Am I the only one who wakes up calmly and gently, rather than with a java kick in the backside? At least I know I’m not the only one who will never hear the opening music of that ABBA song quite the same way again…

So now I am looking for a counselor. One who will empathise with my uncertainty regarding caffeine-spiked karaoke. One who will walk me safely through this bean-mad world, clutching my porcelain tea cup. One who will give me a gentle debrief over a slowly-brewed coffee.

Hey, when in Rome… you may as well try a good Italian brew.

© Emma McGeorge 2015

The Taste of the Sunset

How does one begin to describe the taste of the sunset?

I know a little of its taste, because I watched the sun breathe deep of the glowing clouds. I smelt the sweetness of the air trapped in its final rays, and heard the hush of twilight’s gentle feet, and felt the cool touch of the night sky…

How does one begin to describe the taste of Papua New Guinea?

I know a little of its taste, because I watched the land breathe deep of the culture engraved upon its lush, green face. I smelt the dust and the dirt, and heard the throb of voices and the pealing echo of birds, and felt the sting of the flies and the warm clasp of friendly hands…

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I have tasted the earth and the sky. And both have altered my taste in a profound and irrevocable way.

And now, I realise, I have been spoilt by the taste of the sunset; I have been spoilt by the taste of PNG.

I have been ruined of all future ignorance.

Because no longer can I see a sunset and not remember that soft, layered, unfathomable taste of the clouds. No longer can I think of PNG and not feel again that harsh, mysterious, beautiful heartbeat of the land and the people.

My smile is tainted by their sweet taste.

Yes, I tasted the sunset – I wish I could bring you a sip of its glimmering nectar.

Yes, I tasted Papua New Guinea – I wish I could bring you the feel of its shimmering drum.

But how does one describe the taste of the sunset? All I can bring you is the words that linger in the afterglow.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll taste the sunset too.

© Emma McGeorge 06 August 2014

PNG sky - Anton

(“PNG Sky” photo credit: Anton Lutz)

In Hindsight, I Should Have Worn a Wetsuit…

The walk had started out so well, too.

On holiday and staying with friends, I was happy to join them on a late afternoon stroll down the country roads. We meandered past grazing sheep, admired the luscious scenery, played on an old swing set, and breathed deeply of the crisp winter air.

Recent flooding meant that the roads and fields were patched with large areas of swampy puddles and mini lakes. These fresh, clear pools caught the reflection of the clouds scudding across the sky, and mirrored the trees that bowed over them in graceful strength.

It was into one of these pools that I was unceremoniously dumped when I tried to help my friend climb over a fence.

She made it over the fence. I made it into that mirror world where the trees grow upside down and the colours are softened in the low light.

*sigh*

I trudged home in wet, cold jeans, feeling the southerly breeze slowly numb my legs and stiffen my gait.

Back home, I threw my wet jeans into the dryer and pulled on a pair of blue silk pajama pants – the only other pants I had brought with me. I set my damp boots in front of the heater, slipped on my old white scuff shoes, and thanked God that I was now warm and dry.

I love trains. Always have.

This is relevant information, because this is the reason I found myself, two hours later, down the road at the historic railway station, watching excitedly as the 1909 steam train was readied for her night run.

The concrete platform was crowded with photographers, and I wandered among them, taking pictures, admiring the engine, and only realising when I went back to join my friend on the far end of the platform that I was still in my pajama pants.

Oh well. It was dark. And the train was claiming all the attention anyway.

We stayed until she made her final call and let out a blast of steam, then chuffed away into the night, taking the photographers and other lucky passengers with her.

Then I headed back to the house, following my friend as he made his way to the fence we had climbed over to get to the station quickly. He expertly maneuvered his way across the creek at the fence line.

I expertly failed to do the same.

It was then, standing knee deep in a creek in my pajamas, that I realised the absurdity of it all.

Twice in one day? Surely others have this problem? What happened to the little girl who dreamed of one day being a graceful ballerina?

*sigh*

For the second time that day, I showed up at my host’s home wet and cold and shaking my head in disbelief.

I pulled my now warm jeans out of the dryer and exchanged them with my pajama pants. The shoes came off, the slippers came on, and I settled down to enjoy the rest of the evening.

Because nothing like the two accidents of today could happen if I was safely indoors, right?

No water. No fences. No fuss.

So it was with great enthusiasm that I leapt up from my comfy position on the Lazi-boy to meet a group of visitors from Vanuatu who’d come to spend the evening at my friend’s home.

They came into the lounge, smiling. I went to greet them, smiling. The dog dashed under my feet, no doubt smiling.

*sigh*

It strikes me as rather cruel that, when I am face down on the floor and clearly on her eye-level, she still refuses to swallow me up…

© Emma McGeorge, June 2014

The Language of Love is Enough

FriendsOne is a foreigner living in a strange country. One is a native living in the strangeness of her poverty-stricken world.

One is a homeless wanderer who finds shelter downstairs in the kindness of a landlord. One is a temporary stayer who has chosen to live and serve in a dwelling that is not her own. Neither belongs, but both call the same place home.

Life has been very cruel to the older woman. Life has not been easy for the younger woman.

Two women. Two backgrounds that couldn’t be more different; two hearts that couldn’t be closer.

playdoughEvery day, the downstairs resident makes her way carefully upstairs. The upstairs resident greets her with a smile and a warm hug. The women share coffee and treats, a laugh and a chat. One has little possessions, and one has nothing at all – but here they both have everything.

Sometimes, the adopted “Nana” plays play-dough with the children. Sometimes, her foreign “daughter” mends her faded clothes.

Oh – and one more thing you should know about these two precious women. Neither speaks the other’s language.

This is their story, simple and profound. This is their friendship, inconceivable and inspiring.

They are already separated by culture, age, background, status. And not even language can be the bond that unites them.

But sometimes, words are not the only road on which love can travel.

Sometimes it is when love is at its quietest that we hear it the loudest.

Sometimes the language of love is enough.

Hands

© Emma McGeorge

Special thanks to Jenny Wilkinson for sharing this story and her insight that “the language of love is enough”.
NB: The two women have not been named due to cultural sensitivities.

The Friend

The friend placed her hand gently in her own. It was a comfort and a surety, even as she felt the life draining from within her.

She knew her candle was flickering, and that soon the flame would be extinguished like the disappearing gold of the sunset. But her dearest friend was here, holding her, loving her.

Quiet peace stole over them both. Warmth and love flowed between them. A thousand memories passed between a simple squeeze of the hand, a silent tear rolling from the friend’s eye.

They did not need words or actions. A friendship that has spanned 70 years needs no more reassurance than the simple presence of being.

They had faced a war together, and lived. They had thrilled over soldiers’ stories, giggled at mutual pranks, shared fears and dreams and the joy of life. They had run and played and danced. They had laughed and cried and fought and made up and hugged away hurts as only true friends can.

When love took them in different directions, the friends parted with genuine sadness, but knowing that theirs was a friendship that would span time and distance equally. They did not know that 50 years would pass before they saw each other’s faces and felt each other’s embraces once again.

The years flew by. Children were born and grew. Grandchildren skipped along as well. Joys and sorrows swirled across both their paths, and all the while, gradually, quietly, age took its toll. Only their friendship stayed fresh and young at heart.

But now, her time had come. Her life was nearing the end of its long and vibrant journey, and her soul ached for rest. For weeks, her body had been painful and uncomfortable and slow. Her days were long, and though friends and family were nearby, loneliness and fear threatened to overwhelm her.

Once again, the friend proved that theirs was an unconquerable friendship, spending hours talking with her, sharing with her, and giving her the simple comfort of her presence. She brought her tea, bathed her, helped her dress – bringing tender care and allowing her to get through each difficult day with dignity and grace. There were tears and anguish; there was laughter and frustration. Above all, there was unconditional love.

Her heart ached with gratefulness and swelled with the knowledge that, even as she faded from this world, she was special and cared for and loved.

The friend held her hand. It was a comfort and a surety, even as she felt the life draining from within her.

The grip was gentle yet firm. The friend was sorrowful but strong for them both. Her heart ached with gratefulness and joy and the sadness that hung in the shadows. Yet it could not drown the love that charged the air, nor conquer a friendship that had lasted a lifetime.

For theirs had stood the test of time and distance and life’s relentless course, and won. Nothing could ever break such a bond, and even death could not rob the beauty and strength of a friendship that was constant and true.

These precious moments were relentless being drawn to a close, yet even now her friend was here. And she knew without a doubt – here was a true friend.

She felt herself drifting away, floating, remembering, dreaming.

“Piera – it’s Francesca.” That dear, unmistakable voice fluttered into her consciousness. She made an effort to open her eyes. “It’s Francesca. I’m here. I’m here for you.” The words fell gently into the air between them.

She dragged her eyes up to her friend’s warm gaze, where tears were trembling in a face that was wrinkled and worn and beaming with love. With all her remaining strength, she gently squeezed her friend’s hand in return.

She closed her eyes and smiled, her hand clasped in the palm of her friend, her soul wrapped in the embrace of their hearts. She sensed the unspoken love, heard the silent prayers.

The friend held her hand, and softly, sweetly, the peacefulness led her away…

How do I know that such a friendship existed? How do I know that a friend could mean so much?

Because the friend is my grandmother. This was her friend’s story. And it is her story. And thus mine.

Dedicated to mia cara Nonna, with love

© Emma McGeorge