The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Monday, 29 October 2012

A Smell Of Violets

This is not a spooky post. Or maybe it is. It is certainly inspired by Suze who writes at Subliminal Coffee. Some of her latest forays into the supernatural (or rather into the world which we cannot experience with our five senses) have had me thinking, re-thinking and wondering about the ‘other’ dimension. The one which we cannot touch, feel or see. Or, at least, the one which the majority of us cannot touch, feel or see. I do believe in an after-life. I do believe that there is more to death than we can ever even begin to imagine. But before I continue, here is a little story that I want to share.
I was very close to my maternal grandmother, my Nanna Rose. My parents and I lived with her for the first 2 years of my life, while my parents’ house was being built after they returned from a 3-year stay in Canada and the US. My dad was studying at NDSU at the time and, due to some issues with Visas, he and my mum returned to Malta just two months before I was born. My Nanna was a constant figure in my early life and I spent many days at her home whenever my parents had errands to run or just to spend time with her. She had a tiny garden that I loved to play in, making mud pies and chasing butterfles. At one corner of the garden grew an old, gnarled orange tree that produced some of the sweetest oranges that I have ever tasted. Beneath the orange tree, in a shady spot, was a patch of violets. I would sometimes cut the delicate flowers and put them in a little vase in my room. On her bathroom shelf, my Nanna kept a bottle of very sweet-smelling, violet-scented perfume. She was the only one I knew who used that scent – except for a similar bottle which I kept in my room when I was a little girl. In 2000, my Nanna passed on.

I missed her. We all did. But life has to go on. In February 2006 my son was born. After the initial sleepless nights and hectic days, we settled into a comfortable pattern. There were days when I fervently wished that my nanna could see my little one but I stopped at that - just a wish that I made in my heart. One morning, as I walked through the foyer at the top of our stairs, the subtle but unmistakable smell of violets filled the air around me. And shivers went up my spine. No one had used that scent since Nanna passed. Except for my son, I was alone at home. There was nothing in my house that could have given off that scent. I just did not use it. So what had I smelt?
                               Source: Uploaded by user via Lorna on Pinterest

To this day, I don’t know. My rational brain tells me that the scent probably wafted in from outside. But violets have a very particular smell and, apart from the fact that there are no violets around our house, I would definitely not mistake the smell of any other flower for violets. My heart wants me to believe that my Nanna came to see my little one and that the scent was for me to know that she had. I am sure that my mother (who is not prone to flights of fantasy like I am) will tell me that there is probably a reasonable scientific explanation to this. And maybe there is. Someone else may tell me that I imagined it. And maybe I did. What is the real explanation? What do I want to believe? I think that that is the crux of the matter.

As Suze rightly pointed out in Houdini’s Wife, there are some things that are deliberately veiled from us. A few of us are able to penetrate the veil a little more than others. But none of us can see all the way through. I do not believe that there is a scientific explanation for all the strange events that happen in the world. Somewhere between logic and imagination lies another realm and, sometimes, on very rare occasions, we are allowed, in the words of Jim Morrison, to ‘break on through to the other side’.
For those of you that celebrate it, Happy Halloween.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

A Cricket’s Lullaby

Last night I fell asleep to the chirping song of a lone cricket and the booming sound of distant thunder. The first is a reminder that summer is over. The other is a harbinger of a season yet to come. It is still warm enough to sleep with an open window, the melancholic lullaby of the cricket lulling me to sleep.
During those strange few moments between wakefulness and oblivion, thoughts race unbidden through my head. Most are nonsensical; some, just mundane. What shall I cook tomorrow? Is it finally cool enough to wear socks? Have all the other crickets died? I wonder if it will actually storm. Are there only male angels? It sounds like the chirping is getting fainter … What size shoes did Cinderella wear? Do all roads really lead to Rome? Are rhinos the inspiration behind unicorns? That sounds crazy. Perhaps it’s time to sleep. Good night cricket. You’re one of the things that I will miss most about summer. Hope to hear you next  year.

Image via TLC

Monday, 22 October 2012

Of Houses And Homes

The sunrise was beautiful this morning. The sky was all but cloudless and the crimson sun rose majestically - a glowing orb in the sky. The sky in the east was a lovely shade of ochre and purple, which gradually faded to shades of gold and powder blue. A fleeting mist hung lightly around the churches and homes. It was a pretty picture and I wish I had a camera to capture it but I was on my way to work.

I have been going through the archives of this blog and realized that last year at this time I seemed to be posting more regularly. I am not sure why I am finding it harder to do so this year. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we have been painting our house. We started last June and we are still at it. No, our house is by no means enormous, but we took several weeks’ break between one room and another (blaming it on the heat) and we also had to decide on some colour options. You’d think it would be easy to choose a colour. But I am one of those people who has to have a particular shade of a colour – and it has to be just perfect. Then, of course, there is my husband, who has his own opinion about what colour a room should be, which makes the whole process difficult and unnecessarily tedious because we are just total opposites in this respect. Anyway, we are almost done, with only two small areas left.
I would post some before and after photos but I am not altogether comfortable with sharing photos of my home with the whole wide world. But I will share a few images of some items we have picked up for one of the bedrooms.This one room had the most work done to it as I decided it needed some extensive redecorating.
My husband and I managed to agree on the colour for a feature wall. We decided to use Moonlight  Bay by Crown Paints and it worked really well with the furniture we already had.I bought these two water colour paintings from Original Art Only on Etsy.
Three White Roses
Four White Roses
I think that they will complement another painting we bought a few years from a shop called The Saturday Store in Canton (MO). Sadly, the store closed down last year. The painting is by Missouri artist Kimberly Shinn. I apologise for the very poor quality of the photo. I am not sure what was going on but I could not get the real colours in the painting to be reproduced in the photo.
Redecorating (3)
My husband and I may not see completely eye to eye about colours but we do agree about one thing – and that is not to follow any specific decorating ‘rules’. Each room in our house is a free spirit. We don’t really follow themes but like to surround ourselves with the things we love and which, for one reason or another, have a sentimental value. So we enjoy bringing different elements into the mix, like this textured print that we picked up in  Paris. We loved the vibrant colours and the rather wacky angle that the artist chose to represent some of the most famous land-marks in the city.
Redecorating (8)
We also included some fun items like this mask I had bought from one of the stores at The Venetian in Las Vegas on my first trip ‘out West’ in 2002.
Redecorating (10)
I picked up this ironstone plate on EBay and it fits in well with the rest of the room.
Redecorating (9)
All in all it has been fun seeing this particular bedroom come together. It has taken quite a bit of time and effort to see my vision become reality (and I am still working on the fine details). I admit that I did search the web and some decorating books (especially Decorate: 1000 Design Ideas for Every Room in Your Home by Holly Becker & Joanna Copestick) for inspiration but I let my own instinct guide me, as opposed to letting others dictate what I should do. And it worked.
With that I come to the end of a rather long and unexpected post that started out with a sunrise and somehow ended up in our re-decorated bedroom.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

I Remember, I Remember

I’ve heard it said that everyone should write about the things they know and this tiny, sun-drenched, windswept island is what I know  best. Sometimes, when I am driving to or from work, and I have some time all to myself, I find my thoughts wandering to my childhood, to the early 70’s; to a different way of life …
I remember my great grand-mother, Maria, who, like all women of her generation, the ones born at the end of the 1800s, wore her dresses down to her ankles and had her long, grey hair coiled in a tight knot at the nape of her neck. She died when I was just five years old but, if I am very still and quiet, I can see her still – sitting in her favourite armchair, with her money bag tied to her waist.
I remember one woman in my home town who still wore the faldetta. She was of my great grand-ma’s generation - truly a throw-back to times long past.
I remember playing hide and seek and hopscotch out on the streets. We ran and hopped, skipped and jumped till the sun went down. Streets were safe, cars were few and no one had ever even heard of the word computer.
I remember the quaint tradition of taking the Sunday lunch to the baker, where all the different dishes would be cooked together in the wood-burning oven. People swore that the food  tasted better  since the mixture of aromas tickled the palate and enhanced the dining experience.
I remember sleeping at my great-aunt’s 500 year old house some winter evenings, covered with a pile of blankets, and wondering whether the voices I heard in the night were ghosts or whether my  great-uncle was snoring extra loudly that night. Or maybe, it was just the wind.
I remember the old man who owned a sweet shop, pushing his cart, full of sweets and peanuts, to the park every summer evening.
I remember Benedetta, who ran errands for the cloistered nuns in Mdina. She pushed her daily purchases in an old pram with big wheels and always smiled at us as we walked to school. Benedetta, who knew the secrets, or so we thought, of those mysterious women who shunned the world.
I remember finding the occasional glow worm in a nook or cranny of some rubble wall, shining like a little star and then going to sleep with the sweet knowledge that I had seen something special.
Oh, the golden days of childhood, when winters seemed colder and summers less hot; when there were fewer buildings and more open spaces; when the there were more butterflies and ladybirds and frogs and birds. Was everything really better back then or am I looking back at those years through rose-tinted glasses?

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Western Hills

I woke up this morning in the grey light of early dawn. The wind was howling through the half-open window and the dark shadows of clouds scudded and skidded across the sky. I tried to rub the last remnants of sleep from my eyes while tip-toing through the house like a disembodied spirit. Apart from the voice of the wind, the silence was almost eerie. I wanted to relish the moment, to stretch it out as long as I could in the hope that I would have this magical time to myself. With that uncanny clarity that comes to us during those first few moments of wakefulness, I realised that I’d had a restless night. Without a doubt, it was the wind that was to blame. Sometimes, it lulls me into a deep sleep. But  there are those other nights, when it whispers and it calls with a thousand ghostly voices.
Another October Sunset (3)
We live on the western hills. The back of our house faces the setting sun. Every evening, its ochre-coloured light paints our white-washed walls with the colour of life, before it dips beneath the hills and the world darkens. In ancient times these hills were used as burial sites by the Phoenicians and by the Romans after them. Our ancestors were laid to rest facing the dying sun. In those far-off times, these would have been sacred hills, places of rites of passage, of worship. When we die, we leave our earthly carcass behind, while our spirit soars and walks in the pathways of the stars. Another October Sunset (4)
But what of our humanity;  our close relationships with  our loved ones; our memories accumulated over a lifetime? Do they forever cease to exist? Something tells me that that part of us lingers on. Somewhere, in the world between the worlds, we never cease to exist.
Another October Sunset (5)
This morning, as the world was starting to awaken from its slumber and the cold golden light of dawn gently lit up the western hills, I wondered whose voices I’d heard on the breath of the wind during the night. With a silent prayer I closed the window and, as darkness fled, I turned to face the coming day.


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