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Not a gnome, but a garden ornament, nonetheless

Not a gnome, but a garden ornament, nonetheless

When I do lawn ornaments, I don’t mess around. Gnomes or bunnies or Santa and his reindeer have no place in my garden … although I could do a plastic flamingo or two if anyone wants to send me a set.

No, for me if it’s not the size of a dinosaur and purple … ack! Shades of Barney! That’s too scary, even for me, Barney being far too reminiscent of a bad acid trip that would put anyone off psychedelic drugs and children’s programming forever … I won’t provide display space.

Okay, regular readers know that there’s a reason I have a piece of earth-moving equipment festooning my acre of paradise, but I have to admit to loving the illusion that it’s just here because it looks good and adds to the ambiance of tropical island living.

Shit! If I could afford it, I’d now be ordering a John Deere … although customized beyond the boring green they always come in … to complement, and a 737 to adorn the bottom of the garden.

But I do have Magnar to thank for the festoonishment … and how do I do that?

I almost bloody kill him, that’s how.

We took him out to dinner at Antonio’s (actually, Maria’s Rock Café) last night in appreciation for the Sunday he sacrificed on behalf of my road, then had him up for a beer afterwards. Being Magnar, he was annoyed by the fact that the light on my stairs was nonfunctional due to a broken off bit of bulb that was stuck in the thing, so he grabbed tools and proceeded to do the necessary repair.

“Is the switch off?” he asked.

Being trained to ALWAYS do what he tells me to do, I checked carefully, and, yes, indeed, it was OFF.

“Can you please double check that it’s off?”

Yep, and yep.

In the kitchen prising the tops off two Seybrews, I suddenly heard a loud pop, a yell and a tumble, so ran out to find my Magnar shaking and stunned and in pain.

I’d completely forgotten, you see, that said fixture has another switch to it under the house, so he’d just stuck a metal tool into a live socket while standing on a chair at the top of a flight of stairs.

After hugging him with all I have to hug with and assuring myself that he was as alright as he could be under the circumstance, I ran upstairs and burst into tears … a turn of events that had him right amused. (I have my entertainment value, as well, you see.)

There are many people in this world who I would not be the least bothered by the lack of, but Magnar is so far from that category that the thought that I could have been the reason for an early check-out just about killed me.

He continues to comfort me by insisting that dying from such a stupid blunder is “95% impossible because you always fall, so let go”, for which I am thankful.

Less pleasant, however, is his determination to take the piss out of me until I can laugh about it.

That’s going to take a while …

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Kids are with their dad now, so smelling kid-free time like night-blooming jasmine wafting through the usual mac & cheese and Ovaltine-tainted miasma, I prettied up and let Magnar drag me to a party last night. A real party, with fascinating grownups drinking and dancing and generally carrying on to the tune of interesting conversation backed by the beat of shared and diverse experiences.

Home around 4am, we didn’t get up until 2:30 this afternoon, when, in typical island fashion shit started happening …

A JCB showed up to level my road, a job that’s been waiting for months now. Apparently, Magnar’s plan to show up with an excavator tomorrow (a photo op with hysterical undertones I’ll share when it’s happened) prompted a pissing contest between men with big machines, and our very own Irish builder (Not O’Reilly, but a Rogan) deciding that he’d better get here first … said something about me chewing up his balls … and getting the job under way. Goodie!

Some fiasco broke out at the top of my road between men, a water pipe was broken, the earth moved (or at least a good amount of dirt), and Magnar was called in to smooth things over … road, feelings, whatever needed smoothing … while I stayed well out of it and let it be a guy thing.

During the course of all, I found out why I can’t get a gardener. Seems there’s a ghost living on my road, so no one will come down here. Hmmmmm.

Island life! Gotta luv it

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I write often about my friends … they are, after all, a huge part of my life, and island life in general for most expats … and lately Magnar has been showing up a lot in this blog because he’s huge in my life.

He is adorable, so of course I do adore him, and he takes very good care of me. Sometimes that means showing up at my house with some huge piece of construction equipment and a guy with a jackhammer. Other times he’s teaching the kids to ride horses or not to forget their manners.

Over the past months, there were times when I simply could not face my empty bed and he graciously provided his warm body as cuddly company, allowing me to actually sleep through nights without waking every few minutes in total panic and abject loneliness. (He, too, had been unceremoniously dumped by his spouse at almost the same time Mark left me, so I like to think that I helped him, as well, and being a man who needs to be needed, my neediness was actually a bonus.)

He allows me to dote on him and never complains when the meal I put in front of him once more consists of beans on toast. He fixes what’s broken … including to a great extent my heart … and prevents meltdowns when my computer dies.

He has also been my muse.

I hadn’t written a word in months … a condition that concerned him rightly and revealed the depths of my despair … so he took to prodding — not gentle at all, but more like the sort used on cattle when needing encouragement to advance willingly toward imminent death. He’d feed me a line, then demand that I crank out a story for him based upon that and only that.

Here’s a result:

The Rise of The Broken Man (This is the line he gave me.)

The statue of Magnar the Mild had been erected to guard the small alcove dedicated to a minor deity, a Horse Goddess, who was worshipped only occasionally by a handful who found favor in infidelity and hoped her power would shield them from consequences arising from faithlessness and betrayal.

It was surprising, then, that the only work of art destroyed in the break-in … one that appeared to be conducted by professionals, but had so little point to it that authorities were stumped as to motive … was this particular marble representation of the human figure, lovely in its form and maleness, but created by mortals whose fame never followed, and imperfect — cracked in some places, chipped in others — and so lacking in offensiveness that the thought of taking the time to do such damage to such an undemanding piece of art would have been shocking, had any of the investigators been thinking further than the direct collection of evidence.

The crime, itself, had taken hours and made such a mess of the citadel that a week’s scrubbing was required before all the chips had been found and the dust removed from the many nooks, crannies, folds, and embellishments that made up the more elaborate monuments and effigies.

The image had been not only hammered, chiseled, decapitated and had his marble manhood chipped away, the perpetrators had then collected the pieces and dropped a 170 kilo weight from a great height, not an easy feat considering the lack of block and tackle, upon the pile of his rubble that reduced the entire mass to little more than widely scattered and unrecognizable fragments.

The inscription, “Magnar the Mild”, on the base, being cemented to the floor and therefore possibly not considered vital to the destruction or just too much bloody work, had been filed down to nothing and the only bits in reasonable tact were the feet attached to it he had been standing on for at least a thousand years.

Curators, at a loss as to what to do with the remnants once the investigation was complete … that took all of about an hour with the evidence so obvious … were reticent to simply chuck the dust and clumps in a bin. He was, after all, still and occasionally an admired ancient work even if now a pulverized ancient work, so they swept up what could be swept and gathered what could be gathered into a velvet sack and placed it, along with the nameless base on which the almost perfect feet remained, in a cedar-lined cupboard near the niche honoring the power of tears shed in love.

The years passed, the curators died, replaced regularly by new devotees, and the story of the irrational destruction of Magnar the Mild passed with them. The cupboard and contents went unexamined for decades.

************

Seeking solace and a hint of peace to assuage the pain of dying love far too slow in the healing, a sculptor of medium skill but great heart found both in the shallow recess the citadel had so long set aside for those in search of some source of strength in daily bouts of crying and other physical manifestations of deep pain. The space itself was comforting as a loving hug, and although sad compensation for the muscle, bone, blood and flesh that no longer reached for her, the laments she allowed herself to release in that tiny grotto replenished her stores and allowed her to make her way home day after day, and to face new ones as they came.

Setting aside an hour or so out of every twenty-four for a visit to the citadel and its welcoming nook for the tearful, it was weeks before she spent even a minute there clear-eyed. As time went on, however, those minutes increased and she took to examining more closely the minutia that made up this small corner of this huge building.

There were no gods nor goddesses provided, as it was clear that any force to be found there was to come from within, not without, and that dedications or supplications made to others had no chance to accomplish anything other than vague hopes of retribution or distractions from regrets. Regrets, however, as it was written in the single pew through someone’s efforts with a pen knife, had to be addressed to keep future regrets from being instigated through the following of old patterns. Floor-to-ceiling panels of warm, flesh-colored marble were adorned with images difficult to ascertain, but emitting a palpable benevolence that encouraged restorative energy to resound somewhere near the heart and spread, eventually to the point that small amounts of excess flowed from fingertips, toes and even the ends of her hair, all of which she hoped to trap and keep for use later.

It was in a search for an appropriate container for the magnificent light she was beginning to produce that she found the velvet sack containing the remnants of Magnar the Mild. The deepest, smoothest and most vibrant of blues, the ages had taken no toll on the fabric, and as it had seen neither sunlight nor moonlight in its ages of waiting, the pouch was as pristine as the day the curators had stored it away.

Days passed in admiration of the cloth before she thought to open the parcel, and then did so slowly, leading with the sense she trusted more than any at the time … her sense of smell. Pulling back one tiny section of a corner, she pressed her face against the opening and drew one heady breath after another. Stone and ancient and hard and male on one hand; damaged, ravaged, despairing on the other, the contents were evocative, and soon she found herself boldly working the opening larger and larger.

It was the feet she first laid eyes upon amongst the dust and debris of abused marble, and in the sight she knew the foundation upon which the ruins had once stood.

“This man must be raised,” she announced softly to the particles around her as she felt, for the first time in months, a motivation for movement beyond the tiny centimeters forward her bleeding heart had allowed until now.

A consultation with the citadel’s antiquarian eventually revealed the name and nature of the original form, and with a blessing of hope for renewal of “Magnar the Mild” resonating within, she was allowed to carry the velvet sack and its contents to the small studio in which she lived, ate and cried, and had once worked.

The state of her tools needed tending before she could even think of beginning the process she’d chosen to bring the man back to a solid form … marble being too much of his past, she had decided this version would be in bronze … and she used the time needed to arrange and rearrange the implements and materials she would need to allow an image to form. It grew as she slept, as well, and within a few weeks she knew him from toe to head.

The feet she cast exactly, as they were not only the only remaining true representation but also her first sense of the beauty and strength of the figure. From there, the rest of the form fashioned himself, her hands being no more than the implements needed to remake the man in wax. Into the hollow space she created where a heart would beat in a man of flesh, she placed the velvet sack, creating the only imperfection the final sculpture would exhibit … a slight bulge at the chest as though the god of Adam had refused the request for the rib needed for the Eve who would bring him to grief.

In wax, she studied him, making small adjustments, adding bits here, tapering others there, and indulging in one self-indulgence by building a bit more manhood than seemed in scale and making herself smile in the process.

“After all he’s been through, he deserves the extra to impress observers through the ages, and there’s no doubt it will make him an even more popular image for women to worship and through which to find consolation.”

She, herself, was so moved by the man who formed under her hands that it almost broke her heart to begin the necessary process of turning this beauty in wax into the shapeless clay pot he must become before emerging in tact in bronze.

Week after week, she coated him in liquid silicone sand, patiently waiting for each layer to dry, then applying the next until there was nothing left to admire but more than a six foot bulk of what for all intents and purposes looked like something you would stick a plant into. Nothing, that is, but the very top of the head left bare.

The fact that she could no longer see his face made it much easier for her to place him in the kiln and watch as he was consumed by fire hotter than melted glass. The burying of the figure in sand felt right at that point, as well, and as the workers she had hired to help with the heavy and dangerous process of casting lifted the crucible and began pouring the molten metal carefully into the hole left for the purpose in his head, she had almost forgotten the man inside the pot, so passed the cooling time in peace.

Much can go wrong in the process of working in bronze, so it was with no little trepidation that she grabbed a hammer and began smashing away at the ceramic casing that held what she hoped would be Magnar. Pieces flew in all directions, and she cared nothing for the mess that would result as she whacked away. Exhaustion took her by the arm and wrestled the tools of destruction of the carapace from her grip more than once, but so anxious was she to see the product of her work and his inspiration that she rested only occasionally, searching for signs of what lay below as she did.

Finally, the form began to present itself, although so coated in residue that he looked rough and dirty, covered in grit and the detritus of the remaking, nowhere smooth as the marble he had once been or inspiring any soft strokes.

Scraping followed, and the digging out of all that wasn’t meant to remain, with eyes and the male member taking the most time and attention. The chasing took more than a week, and she barely slept for that time, so anxious was she to free him from all fragments of his rising and see him stand tall and whole again.

Polishing was tedious, but rewarding, as he gleamed a bright yellow gold like an Egyptian God newly discovered after three thousand years in an airless tomb.

It took a full six months for his patina to bloom, and during that time she spent many hours in conversation with her still companion. Although seeming to some one-sided, his company was healing.

Soon after the final polishing, she presented him to the citadel where he stands today at the gate, a a challenge to those who doubt, a comfort to those who fear, a presence for those who suffer loss; not hers in any way, but simply himself in all his glory for the ages.

The base he stand on reads “Magnar the Magnificent”, and although the story of his rise from broken man to everlasting monument to hope is rarely told in its entirety, everyone who beholds him knows a touch of optimism in their hearts.

Sandra Hanks Benoiton
1 September 2008
Inspired by her muse

That was the first fiction I’d written in I don’t know how long, and it kick-started me in directions I’d not seen illuminated before. So much so, that the National Novel Writing Month challenge sounded like a bloody good idea … especially after my former editor and friend, Lisa, wrote me declaring I was the only other writer she knew that wasn’t too big a pussy to give it a shot.

So, now I’m writing a novel again, but with my life in such a state of business, catching up, kid raising, dog training … all between the brackets of two 2-hour drives M-F … I’ve not been cranking out what I should be.

Magnar has noticed … he doesn’t miss one single thing, EVER! … and has taken up the cattle prod again and is using it with relish and abandon.

I had 3 hours sleep last night, and shortly after I arrived home from my trek to town getting the kids to school this morning, I got this SMS from him:

no sleep until 2000 words, right?
no party until 2000 words, right?
No wine or fags until 2000 words, right? Nahhhh that wouldn’t work … but hammer them words!
Time is after 2000! (20:00) (That’s party time.)

My Norwegian nag! And sometimes even in Norwegian … which I completely ignore, so he tends to stick with harping on in English. (He also steals every cigarette and lighter he can lay his hands on, then laughs and does a victory dance. Very funny … ummmmmm.)

Friendship and love are wonderful, and even more so when they come cutting no slack … although don’t tell him I admitted that, please. The thought of him ramping up the carping is a wee bit scary. I might be forced to take on more challenges than I can stand.

Nahhhhhh. I can take it … from Magnar.

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Magnar and me

Magnar and me

This morning’s post is bound to ramble, as I’m foggier than San Francisco in a November due to a spontaneous Magnar-induced party that invaded my veranda at about 10 last night, then left him here … three sheets to the wind, maybe four … and wanting to show me photos of his dad’s sheep and read to me in Norwegian after the six people he brought along (Who were those guys?) moved on to their next venue.

I never complain about Magnar, and never will, as he kept me going through months of sheer torture and terror, and because there’s actually nothing to complain about … he is truly Mr. Wonderful in every way … plus I LOVE to hear the world news in his native language. (Stan fell asleep in a chair … but that was no problem. His snoring … he saws logs, while I simply purr when I sleep … was great background music.)

But … I was just getting ready to hit the sack, being well worn out from a full day in town, and all the happy dancing I did all day to the tune of President Elect Barak Obama, when he and a gaggle of Brits arrived equipped with wine and beers and great conversation. (One even bought a copy of my book, so it was an evening of fun AND profit.)

The kids were well asleep, and once they’re out, they’re out, so undisturbed by the hilarity created when perfect strangers meet and find they get on like a house afire.

One thing in the long list of things I love about island life is the tendency people develop here to not let personal connections pass without notice and appreciation for kindred souls casually encountered.

Mark has the kids this weekend, and now we have a party to attend tomorrow night … and that’s how the social calendar fills so very fast in such a small place.

On the election topic, my daughter, Jenn, forwarded an email this morning from one of her coworkers that offers a symmetry that deserves thought:

1. The modern conservative movement began with the crushing defeat of Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential race. The modern conservative movement ends with the crushing defeat of Arizona Sen. John McCain — who took Goldwater’s Senate seat upon his retirement — in the 2008 presidential race.

2. Modern liberalism began its implosion with riots in Chicago’sGrant Park at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Tonight, modern liberalism is reborn at Chicago’s Grant Park, where a black Chicago Democrat will celebrate winning the presidency.

Got out of my morning drive today thanks to another great friend. Andy was flying to Praslin today … another island about 15 minutes away by flying soapbox … and the timing worked out that dropping the kids at school was a favor he could provide. Yipee.

I was up at 5, as usual, but had only to walk Sam and Cj up the hill to catch their lift with him; then was back in bed by 6:30 and caught another couple of hours. What a treat!

I’m loving life these days, and so happy to be. Turns out, I’m a lucky bunny after all. Wow.

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Is it a part of the healing process when one suddenly decides to “be friends” with men all over the world and chat for hours? Ya got me, but that’s what I’m up to at the moment. I’ll admit it … I’m a FaceBook junkie all of a sudden, even though I’m still pretty clueless on most of the ins and outs of the site.

Am not completely a shut-in, though, as I did go to the movies last night. First time I’ve done that here in 8 years or so, but when Magnar the Magnificent insists he gets me out of the house, I go along willingly. Saw “Wanted” and totally enjoyed it and the whole evening.

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No, I’m not writing about empty places in my life that need filling, but rather a pair of strappy sandals with a three-and-a-half inch heel that was delivered on Friday.

One thing possibly not noticeable in the many photos posted of my husband and me together is the fact that I am 5’9″ and he is a touch over 5’7″. Not that that ever made any difference that I was aware of … although I suspect his new girlfriend, much shorter than he is, does add to how he now considers his stature … as I’d been married to a tall guy who made my life miserable, so a short, kind and loving man was fine by me.

Now that the “kind and loving” bits are hard to find, Mark’s smallness has become a feature I am more aware of, and the fact that I’ve spent the last 15 years in flats tweaks a tiny resentment.

Of course, living where I do, flip-flops are de rigeur. Thanks primarily to my mother I have quite the collection of fancy ones that fit most occasions, and I will continue to sport over-spangled, fancy beach shoes for years to come.

I have, however, missed the dressier, snazzier, sexier footwear that comes with extra inches. No more. This weekend, I strapped ’em on and went out.

I had forgotten how different the world looks from six-feet-plus up, and also the impression I make walking into a room at full height in full glory … dressed to the nines, makeup accentuating my positives and a head above the crowd.

Yep. Apparently, I still have something of myself left that catches eyes and compliments, and how much do I need that at this point in my life? One hell of a lot.

Little did I know how far those extra 6 inches (three per foot) would take my self-image, my confidence and self respect. It was quite a pump, and one I fully intend to take advantage of as often as possible.

Hooray for sexy shoes and the benefits of. They’ve taken me more than a few steps forward in the process of healing, and felt very good while doing so.

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There are topics arrayed before me like so many tubs of ice cream at a Ben & Jerry’s, some even looking as potentially tasty as Chunky Monkey, but I haven’t the energy to dip.

You see, I’ve already written almost 2000 bloggity blog words … 1,811 to be precise… on three blogs, and although I do this most days AND manage to plop something here since it’s NaBloPoMo, today it’s simply not in me to wax on again about the fact that today is Mark’s birthday or the very interesting “All Things Considered” piece on race in America or the new blather on Angelina Jolie’s adoption issues.

If you’re interested in what I’ve written, you can check out the News Blog, the Older Parent Blog, or the International Adoption Blog.

I’m going to go for a nice, long shower and get myself smelling sweet, brushed and tidy so I can welcome my Birthday Man home in an hour. Once clean and dressed, I’m going to sit down and read to my kids until Daddy’s truck pulls up and we all run to greet him with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts.

Oh, one thing …

This morning, Mark asked Sam if he had any presents for him. Sam answered, “Of course I do, but you don’t get anything until tonight!”

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