Five Years

About two months ago, in mid-May, WordPress sent me an automated note to congratulate me on becoming a blogger five years ago.

I found my first blog post and read the date it was published – 20 May 2012.

It was my first solitary winter in Wellington.

I wrote few more posts since.

Some, arguably, better than the others, but all written to pierce small holes in silence left behind after my daughter left home. Which in our case simply meant living in the same house.

Where I can come into her room in the morning and inhale scent of my sleeping child.

In five years, I have not learned how not to long for it.

I fear I never will.

As I haven’t learned in more than forty how not to long for a shabby little house with an old-fashion wood burner in the kitchen corner and frost flowers on the window panes in winters.

I am a slow learner.

It took me a long time to learn how to string a few words together. By which to remember.

And by remembering hope to understand.

What happened to me.

All of which makes me somewhat of a writer but none of a blogger.

It is for that reason that light of the lantern is dimming.

On some nights, when winds are merciless, I stroke its old-fashioned, fragile glass gently and lower the feeble flame close to oblivion.  

In the everlasting darkness, we are both at peace.

Still mornings arrive;

Some are bouncy with urgency of getting to work, and

Some are those of Sundays,

A friend comes for a coffee bringing biscuits and pineapple in case I am sick, or

We go for a long drives along deserted winter beaches where even seagulls are too freighted to loiter while we eat greasy fish and chips in the overheated car balancing scalding parcels on our laps.

Few days later, in a small café above the central city’s only library where I am usually joined by the fine assortment of homeless, pensioners, students, refugees and parents with bored children, I would order a black coffee and try to recall those scenes to write them down.

But then I would get distracted …

By the two men sitting next to me who speak French and might be lovers, (story prompt – one of them is hiding a terrible secret from the other and is looking for a way out …)

A young woman with purple coloured hair and clownish looking stockings as she opens her book up-side-down and pretends to read, (story prompt – she escaped from an institution where she has been held against her will which dictates that she follows her calling as a street performer …)

While I (‘somewhat of a writer’) pretend to write.

 

And so, it goes.

Five years has passed in this fashion.

No ‘grand’ novel. Or even a ‘tiny’ one.

Only a story here and there.

Handful of poems.

Mostly about love and pain and loss,

In the time-honoured female tradition.

 

While winter storm is raging outside and

I imagine a lonely cabin standing in a deep southern snow.

 

Signs under the lantern.

 

Makeover!

After 183 posts and 44 months of blogging – Lantern Post has well and truly deserved a makeover!

And so one has been duly administered to ensure the old girl remains, if not exactly in the vogue, at least not completely dishevelled either -:)!

Makover

New, more up-to-date garments have been obtained and matron squeezed into them with rather much less ceremony than it was the case in her youth!

Sleepy streets of old Zagreb she nestled against in the background for almost four years, have been replaced by Wellington’s sunset.

It is, after all, what we see every day … sun setting over the harbour, shaded lamps casting glows over benches in Botanic Garden.

Where we sit and smile sentimentally to the images of a city we once knew, gliding across our inner vision, briefly; like a snow-flakes drifting across frozen glass-pane in the winter morning.

Then we walk to the ‘Room with a Balcony’ thinking nothing at all.

Just the two of us;

The Lantern and

The Keeper.

In a new City.

Gravatars

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‘librarian-ish’ look

Few days ago a very good friend of mine commented how the black and white photograph I used for my original Gravatar looks rather dull.

A little bit too ‘librarian-ish’ and not enough like the ‘real Daniela.’ I instantly thought; ‘Hmm, I would like to meet this ‘real Daniela’ so to finally discover who she is and where was she hiding all these years!’

Jokes aside, I honestly believe we are all made of numerous parts; some obvious to many, some only to few and some that remain a little bit of a mystery to even our own selves … or it might even be the case of mustering the necessary courage to become aware of and embrace those parts.

Since I do take note of my friends’ views, and in any case am rather prone to ‘thinking things over’ at even the slightest nudge, it was only a matter of time before I started experimenting with my Gravatar. For better or worse the outcome is rather obvious!

Daniela
‘new and improved’ look

Let me know what you think; was the old, ‘librarian-ish’ Gravatar better than the current one or not? Would the Lantern Post be the same or even better blog without the face of its keeper? How important, if at all, is to see the person behind the blog?

gravatars

When I first started blogging, I struggled with those and similar questions.

My early attempts at creating a blog neither featured my picture, nor did I create my profile. In those days I was convinced that the blog ought to speak for itself and therefore the author’s profile is irrelevant. After all many people blog anonymously.  However, it was not long until I changed those views.

The change occurred while reading other blogs and noticing how much I like seeing the person behind the blog. Writing and sending your words into the vast and unknown cyber space requires some courage; making yourself visible alongside your words even more so. It is to stand behind your words and all they convey, to claim them in your own name and image. While, like most of us I probably lack many desirable qualities; whoever was in charge, was rather generous when it came to dishing out the courage:)! So I decided to claim my words in my name and image, come what may!

Other side of it all of course is how others perceive us. Because regardless of the type of message or idea we intend on communicating, those who come across it will inevitably form their own views and sometimes maybe arrive at the meaning we never intended.

The same I guess applies to our image; how we see ourselves versus how other people see us. Even after many years, I still clearly remember that day I was on the receiving end of commentary about my looks, including my height. The first thing I did was to find the closest mirror in which to examine myself trying to see what they saw … and not seeing it. But that might be a story for another day!

‘To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.’ (Thich Nhat Hanh)

The Letter

Recently, and much to my surprise, I have been invited by a famous blogger Le Clown to write a post for one of my favourite blogs; Black Box Warnings, (BBW).

Black Box Warnings  is described as ‘a collective of bloggers who share their personal stories about mental and physical health, parenting, daily tribulations, and life’s little moments. An on-line community built around support, respect, and compassion.

There have been many occasions when reading posts published on Black Box Warnings moved me to tears.

I have huge respect for Le Clown, his blogs, his unique brand of humour, and above all humanity he weaves through it all … thank you very much dear Le Clown for the invitation and the opportunity to write for Black Box Warnings. It is an honour.

In the interest of truth, I have to say that the post I wrote for BBW was not the one I originally intended to write. The post I planned on writing was to be an informative, research and facts based piece on challenges and complexities of mental illness in contemporary world. The post I actually wrote is below. It arrived unexpectedly and fought its way out with bitter determination. At the end I just typed. There is nothing more I can say about it.

 

Letter to my Father

Dear Father,

I know you are dead.

This is why I am writing to you. From a house you have never seen. Nestled inside a city you have never seen. Both hidden on an island you have never seen. My outer landscape.

In a language you do not know. My inner landscape.

Both unknown to you.

You said I ran far away. You were right. I did.

I measured the distance between us by one measure only; immeasurability. That which cannot be measured, cannot be traversed. No distance ever forgets its origin.

When my daughter was born, your only granddaughter, I did not teach her to speak the only language you could understand. You said it was my choice. You were right. It was.

I chose her language by one criteria only; inability to keep secrets. To tell family histories. To pass on pain. She is a new person with a new language. I learned it with her.  I learned it from her.

We are two new people now. In a new land. We have no past. Here, nobody knows her mother as your daughter.

A girl who cried for hours over an old photograph of you as a young man standing all alone in the middle of a frozen birch forest looking lost. Birch forests are the saddest in winter. Their long, pale limbs stretched as far as eye can see. Translucent with frost. And you could not have been more than 15 or 16 on that photograph. In an old army coat tightened across with a thick black belt. Your hands lost inside the sleeves. Only your shorn head bobbing in the sharp air.

You took the photograph from me and ripped it into shreds. You said I was a stupid girl for crying over it. There is nothing there to see, just an old, silly photograph, can’t even remember when it was taken. Or why it was taken.

It was all long time ago you said; the war, the mass graves hidden inside the birch forests, the shootings. And nobody could really tell if this is where your mother was shot. I must not listened people’s idle talk.

And now you are dead.

Your step-daughter, the one from your third marriage, sent me an email; your father died in the hospital earlier today, it said. They are going to notify your fourth wife and your son.

I never knew you had a fourth wife.

But I did know I have a brother. A half-brother. I tried to work out how old he might be now. He was born not long after you divorced my mother. I remember neighbours gossiping about it. Saying how happy you were with your second wife and son. You introduced me to him only once or twice, when he was already at school. I could tell something was wrong with him even then. When I asked you about him, you would get angry.

Soon you never spoke about him. We lost touch after his mother and I divorced, you would say. But I knew you were embarrassed. His mind did not work properly. He could not finish school, or hold a job. You did not want a son like that.

Or a daughter who asks questions you had no answers for.

When you married your third wife, I was already at University. You proudly declared how much you love her daughter. She was learning a useful trade and already knew how to cook and keep house clean. She also knew how to tell you things you liked hearing.  All you ever wanted from a woman. I should try to be more like her, you said. And not waste time on useless dreams. No man would marry me.

You were wrong on both counts; I learned how to cook and keep house spotless. Some men wanted to marry me. Even to love me. But they never had a chance. Not on a long run. Not against the abyss you left. Poor bastards.

And now I am staring into this email for a long time. Waiting.

For tears to come. Daughters cry when their fathers die. And I am your only daughter.

But they did not come for a long time. Days turned into string of grey pebbles. Indistinguishable from others lying on the beach.

While my mind contracted with memories of you.

Cloud of dust your shiny car would raise on our shingle road when you came to visit. Sometimes you did. Always wearing nice clothes. They would fetch me to come and see my father. Be nice to him, they would say. He might give you some money.

You had a job and an apartment in the city. When you took me there I spent hours playing with your telephone. It was a first time I touched one. Nobody on our street had one. Or a colour TV. But I did not like watching TV with you. You would make me sit close to you and hold my hand tight. I felt sick. I wanted to go home.

You would get angry and drive me back to those losers and no hopers as you would say. Drunkards and vagabonds. Gypsies and story tellers.  No good would ever come of me living amongst them. It was the only place I ever felt safe. And loved.

Every time I shot out of your car like a wounded animal. Running as fast as I could. Towards the small fires on the edge of our lazy river. Choking on tears of ridicule, shame and hurt. Vowing never to go with you again.

But you would always come back.

And I would always go with you.

Until the day I ran away. To the distance immeasurable.

Eventually my tears did come. They rolled down my face large and hot.

As hot as anger I felt for you. As hot as love I felt for you.

I sat next to the ocean and let the pain rip my chest open.

Hoping it will swallow it all in its vastness.

But sometimes not even ocean is vast enough.

The Letter

First Year!

Today is exactly twelve months since I published my first ever blog postfirst

After some initial searches for the suitable platform and  identity, the Lantern Post was created on Zagreb’s virtual street, and ignited 137 times since, with posts written from my little ‘Writer’s Den’; nestled inside a leafy suburb of Wellington. A bridge between two distant worlds; half of my life left in each.

As every émigré knows; those halves do not feet into each other naturally, one must build a bridge between them. Otherwise they separate even further and split one apart. Never to be whole again.

If I could paint or draw, I would have painted them a bridge with delicate, exquisite ornaments, arched over the vast waters. But alas, I do not know how to paint or draw such a bridge. All I could do is to write them one. To bring them a bit closer. To bring me a bit closer. And to pierce the silence.

That was then.

Twelve months on, I am walking over the bridge utterly astonished and above all truly grateful. For each and every one of you who stopped to read, comment, like, nominate, and write emails. Ask questions, offer support, make suggestions … and much more. I thank you all. While the stats page tells me that more than 1000 people have decided to follow the Lantern and over 25,000 visitors passed under its soft glow … numbers are not what is counted on the Lantern. Footprints are.

Coming from every corner of this world, you helped me build a bridge. And pierce the silence, even when as thick as mist over the grave-yard.

I learned much about myself, writing and what does it mean to me.

I learned much about our common human conditions … we all have stories. We all need someone to hear them. To recognize our footprints.

And while much of it I still do not understand … in the words of Paulo Coelho; Love does not need to be understood. It needs only to be shown.’

                                                                        Thank You!

Word Press Family

There has been some time since I have written a post to honour an award. While receiving an award from fellow bloggers never fails to make the Lantern sparkle little bit more brightly and her keeper smile little bit broadly … it is nevertheless true that writing an award-honouring posts has potential to develop a life of its own, and consume a blog in a way not otherwise envisioned.

However, on this particular occasion, I have decided to write a post in honour of ‘The Word Press Family Award’. There are two very good reasons for that:

  1. The award was passed on to me by one of my favourite bloggers who always extends heart-felt support for my blog, and (in her own words) my ‘heart-wrenching stories’ … for that alone I thank you very much my dear. It is of course ‘Virginia Views’ from http://countryliving4beginners.wordpress.com/ Once again thank you very much! 
  2. Second reason is in the meaning of this award. ‘The Word Press Family Award is reserved for those folks in Cyberspace who are unceasingly kind, sympathetic, encouraging, and open to laughter, and who keep each other going by sharing, commenting, and making personal connections even though they may actually be virtual strangers.’ When I was reading these words for the first time, my whole blogging experience suddenly washed over me. In some 13 days it will be a year since the Lantern was first ignited … almost accidentally, but most certainly unaware of what lies ahead. While I will be writing a separate post for the Lantern’s first birthday, on this occasion I can only say that being thought of as ‘kind, sympathetic, encouraging, and open to laughter’ warms my heart to no end -:)! Because on the Lantern, just like in my daily life outside Cyberspace, those are some of the attributes I value most and strive to live by … humanity above all. If for anything, this is what the Lantern stands for. And for the sheer magic of a written word. 

Now back to award! As we all know well know, no award is worth its salt without rules!

 So here they are:

  1. Display the award logo on your blog.
  2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  3. Nominate 10 others you see as having an impact on your Word Press experience and family.
  4. Let your 10 Family members know you have awarded them. 

 I have to say that nominating 10 bloggers who have an impact on my Word Press experience and family has been a challenge.  Because there are so many more than 10 bloggers who have made my experience on the Word Press a wonderful one. And that does not mean that it has all been plain sailing … just like in the ‘real’ life; sometimes dark clouds gathered, but sun never failed to appear even if one has to gaze into clouds for some time!

But the rules are rules, so here are my 10 nominees:

http://julieisrael.wordpress.com/

http://sharechair.wordpress.com/

http://thenicethingaboutstrangers.com/

http://whoisbert.wordpress.com/

http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/

http://tchistorygal.wordpress.com/

http://essenceofdubrovnik.com/

http://maasaiboys.wordpress.com/

http://debreilly.wordpress.com/

http://chrisbkm.wordpress.com/

 

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 15,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.