Monika Schott

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A life of 'oh wells' are greater than a life of 'what ifs'. I write to express life in all its glory, to spark thinking … I love to swim outside, practise hot yoga and hit the boxing studio. I'm currently undertaking a PhD research to capture the social history of the community that lived on Melbourne's first sewerage farm. I've had several short stories published, my latest being 'The Teacher' in 'These winter months'. I was short-listed in the Ada Cambridge Prize, won the inaugural Wyndham Rotary Arts Small Business Award and have a Masters of Communication where I looked at boys and reading and what it is they like to read.

This place

Three strikes of the brass bell. Each strike rattles the frame that holds the bell, sending vibrations into the soles of my boots. Although my feet tingle, they steady and relax into the stone floor. Then comes the ding, as the little brother or sister trying to impress. Only one. It's 3.15. I give myself half an hour in the Temple of Minerva.

Built in the first century BC as a Roman temple to worship Mars, it was converted in the 16th century to what is today the St Maria Sopraminerva Church.

But you don't have to be religious to appreciate this place. Sitting in the musty silence, the energy is breathtaking. Grounding and still, with an undeniable strength and dignity that permeates the space. The few wooden pews for 20 or so people are dwarfed by statues gilded in gold leaf of saints, cupids and angels, and columns that support a basic, sarcophagus shaped altar. Colourful frescos adorn the ceiling and pink and orange gerberas sit at the foot of the altar, both adding to the temple's heart.

Thankful and appreciative to be alone, l shut my eyes and succumb to the wooden seat that supports me. I breathe deep the air of chalk and stone and prepare to soak in every miniscule of everything I can. 

Light humming creeps into my ears. My body relaxes, limbs become heavy and soon, l don’t feel them. Another deep breath and a comfort begins to sweep in, triggering an insatiable desire for more.

Although l don't feel my legs, my left achilles starts to ache, probably from the last four weeks of walking over old cobble stones. My right foot follows in sympathy with a tenderness at the base of my big toe, possibly bruised from climbing the many hills and worn stairs.

But for all the aches, there has been much fun and laughter, crazy falls over slippery and unsuspecting ice, and reminiscing and reconnecting with family. Much food and wine too, way too much.

Another deep breath, a sense of calm washes over and my whole body feels as if it is hovering.

Hes, shes and theys weave in and out, become liquid thoughts of laughter with family and new friends. So much warmth, even in freezing temperatures of snowmobiling under a polar sun and late night scouting for the dancing night lights of the polar north. 

My body becomes weightless, I'm unable to feel it. Thoughts are random and mixed, come and fade to nothing, become as fluid as the snowfalls of little balls as we walked up mountains, and as the streams of tears of goodbye. 

Three more strikes of the brass bell and rattle of the frame, and two dings.

Thoughts move in and out, linger in a space of infinity and drift.

Here, in this tiny town of goodness and grace, everything is different. The water is crisp, fresh and untainted, lunch earlier of short cannelloni filled with veal and ricotta tossed in a pumpkin and truffle sauce, the Chianti ... the flavours are distinct and clean, as gentle and pure as the people in this town and the monks and nuns walking the streets. Calmness and cleansing exude as profusely as the black and white scenes of snow-laden Alps viewed from the train a week earlier.

It’s a purity that can't be described. It's more to be savoured as the most sought after wine or chocolate, or softness of the most pristine mountain water.

It’s a calmness in the air, as if the place has its own cone placed over the top to exist in it’s own ecosystem, even with a blustering wind over the Rocca Maggiore on the hill top, a fortified feudal castle from the 1100s AD. The climb today to the top will test my legs in the morning.

This place is like stepping back in time. Not for its life, material value or amenity, more in the goodness and giving of people. In a world full of materialism and self adoration, this place is a haven for old fashioned good.

Another three strikes of the brass bell and rattle of the frame, followed by three dings.

I ease my eyes open, taste my mouth as if just waking. I'm surprised by where l am and realise I must have drifted to somewhere else. A scan around me reveals no one.

It may be time to get back to my travelling buddies but l will return.

Assisi, you have my heart.

Recent Comments
Former Member
Beautiful blog, Monika. I felt like I was there with you, and I can certainly relate to your drop into solitude and awareness. A... Read More
Sunday, 22 January 2017 20:36
Monika Schott
Thanks, Mary. Assisi is wonderful!
Monday, 23 January 2017 19:09
Katherine Gregor
I have fond memories of Assisi. I haven't seen the cathedral since it was rebuilt after the earthquake, though. Do tell where al... Read More
Monday, 23 January 2017 14:34
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8 Comments

‘… and never regret anything that makes you smile.’

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'The Kiss' (full size) by Burke Heffner

 

‘… and never regret anything that makes you smile.’ I emailed that to a lovely man who spoke of the back pain he experiences from degenerative discs and the time he’s had away from work to manage that pain. DB’s cute description of ‘anything from picking up a pair of socks to coughing will see it chuck a wobbly’ made me smile and I hoped he’d had an opportunity to smile that day given his suffering.

That was in the morning.

In the evening, I discovered an old friend’s sister who I’d grown up with, had made another attempt at taking her life. This time she’d succeeded, whether she meant to or not, and her children had to make the decision to turn off their mother’s life support. Gut wrenching. It made me think of the rest of Mark Twain’s quote –

‘Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Laugh truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.’

I wondered about my old friend's sister and whether she had a life that was full and meaningful to her. I believed she did. While I was sad that she was gone and for the family and their loss, my sadness was for the anguish my old friend's sister must have endured through her life. Or had she? Her life was what she knew and who was I to judge it as one of enduring.

Mental ill health is growing by the minute. I see it in people around me and what I consider ‘extreme’ actions they can take. But to them, those actions aren’t extreme. It’s a way of coping with the daily torment they live with. It’s their reality. Their life. It may not be one of torment that I understand torment to be.

Some take ‘extreme’ actions that make perfect sense to them. I’ve seen what I consider most irrational actions being taken where the person taking the action believes it to be perfectly rational – the shaving of eyebrows because it looks good, talking to Lucifer and the dodging of cameras in every corner of their own home and in the streets, following their every move. The spying that occurs from being followed, to the point where holding up a 711 store at knife-point to distract those spies from following the family, to protect them, is the only answer, and the swallowing of pills, because that’s the only way.

Years have taught me to not inflict my biases onto those actions and the reasons behind them, to accept them as actions relevant to the person. I don’t have their experiences so how can I know. Truly know. It’s not easy or straight forward for anyone experiencing mental ill health to understand the effects of their thoughts and actions on others. The illness is all consuming, and a reality onto its own.

Someone said to me yesterday that if the friend's sister could see the hurt she’s caused, she wouldn’t have taken her life. While that may be a ‘Christian’ view, it’s not one I hold.

There is almost always commentary about the selfish act that suicide is. But what of the person experiencing the pain to the point of having no alternative but to take that action? I’m not sure they could see past their torment to understand the impact of their action. To me, there’s a selfishness in those that hold such beliefs that those experiencing such torment should act in ways that are appropriate, as appropriate in their eyes. I’m trying to be kind here!

Every day is a reminder to live life in a way that matters to me - Mark Twain ensures that, with his quote sitting on my desk for me to read each morning. He’s done that all year.

‘Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Laugh truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.’

While I work hard and may not take on each of those elements every second of every day of my life, I do aspire to them and make a solid attempt at achieving them. I can’t have everything all of the time and can’t always fit everything into a day that I might want. Life’s too short too for regrets and each mistake is a learning from a new fork taken in my road.

I found myself commenting to one of my boys last night on something similar: don’t do things because you feel you should. Do them because you want to. Go out with that friend because you will enjoy it and not because you feel it would make them happy. There’s a level of deceit in that to them and you. It’s a balance of self-respect versus being selfless. Be happy to do that something for someone else.

Standing beside DB the day after we emailed, wearing what my mother calls my grandmother’s bright pink floral, flowing dress, his grimace was all pain. He commented that his back probably threw its current wobbly because he’d been busy balancing work and finishing off his study for the year. I replied to his asking of how I was with being good and sometimes not knowing what day it was. What I wanted to say was sometimes I leave the house and am driving to work or University and I look down at my legs to make sure I’m not still wearing my pyjamas as I rush around trying to do so much in the morning that I don’t remember changing! (But I didn’t want to embarrass myself saying that in public so I’ll say it here instead.) He acknowledged the need for slowing down and taking it easy. Perhaps I should have sent him the whole quote.

I’ve been called many things over the years – queen of clash, being too gung-ho or aloof, asking too many questions or never doing anything ‘normal’. It's probably all true but I'm pleased I have a true appreciation and understanding that life is short.

 

Time is lost in all ideals of time, where the cocoon has toughened as tungsten steel.

Diamond tips tap to tunes of break free, seeking to escape to a place of new. They sometimes grow as clashing bangs that smash through a weakened fissure into sun shining onto fields of sunflowers waking in the heat of summer. The scent of new life intoxicates to an exhilarating trepidation.

Sometimes those taps are barely auditable whispering feathers and no amount of push can break free. Eventually, the trap secures. The trap becomes all that's known: the norm.

 

 

 

Recent Comments
Jitu C Rajgor
Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Laugh truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.’ Liked it.... Read More
Saturday, 05 November 2016 20:20
Monika Schott
Thanks, Jitu. ... Read More
Sunday, 06 November 2016 03:17
1905 Hits
2 Comments

Emerging

Can you hear the faint fraying of the old, of the ground trembling to the rumbling below and the sun’s warmth permeating the musty as the magnetic pull of growth?

The little ones are still and are now listening and waiting as bulging, succulent buds longing to burst into a forever of new. Having learnt some patience and to move with the nudges and spasmodic auto responses, their breath is shallow and sometimes paused in anticipation of their time.

The faraway call of the dove, the prismed reflection of iridescent yellow and red and the cleanest of green speckle as freckles through soil now pliable and loose. The colours shimmy as a rainbow in the sunshine where magpies and their babies warble to the doves' calls.

Tingles in toes, fingering quivers, breaths of thousands … and then the sigh that spreads as a virus across the land at the birth of the first emergence …

In a breeze of mingling mix, poppies of ruby red nudge hills of waving lush. The light is new. Crisp, yet stark, as though a new filter has been created and added to illuminate pixels never seen before.

But there’s more that I can’t yet see, more my heart knows and craves. More pheromones of free and lingering in a shouldering strength waiting on the other side of those hills. The barest of touch is there and yet it’s not quite a touch. Perhaps it’s more soul fibres connecting in touch.

The key is to be aware of it brewing in this dawn of light, to feel the enigmatic anticipation of tantalising desire running through one’s roots, a desire bordering addiction. Be ready for it.

The aesthetic grows, the patter of rain on a tin roof … more of the stanza to come.

 

 

 

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
Words fail me, though I can feel what you're saying.
Sunday, 18 September 2016 12:17
Monika Schott
Wonderful, Katherine. It's about feeling. ... Read More
Wednesday, 21 September 2016 11:53
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2 Comments

Ode to an angel

'Ode to an angel' rounds off a collection of more than 20 short stories in a new book called, 'These Winter Months: The Late Orphan Project Anthology'. The stories are written after the death of a parent and focus on the intricate and universal workings of family - regrets, learning, problem solving, daily life, and most definitely, love.

My 'Ode to an angel' and short story, 'The Teacher' are part of that collection. You can find the book at https://www.createspace.com/6021628  

 

Ode to an angel ~

Two baubles of hazel rimmed in brown, glimmer and follow my walk across the expanse.

They know.

They care.

They watch high and low, near and far, protecting as a long-time guardian.

Their ripples of warmth flow on wings of abundant love that nurture its young.

Tears well at the framed image of you above our table.

We know you’re here today, where we have gathered to celebrate.

The woman dressed in red knows too, within her own pale eyes of grey, sad and lonely and that pine for you.

They say more than anyone dares see.

You breathe into our home of joy, among the fluttering fuchsias and vacillating vines that once you tended, within the wine you brewed.

We know you’re here, where you watch over as a sentinel on lookout duty. Our keeper and custodian of this family.

We see you in the face of those sitting today, in their smiles and laughter and eyes too, in their weariness after this being together, grand day, dressed in an apron of yesterday.

You’re always with us, in the hues of our dreams and thoughts, in your knick-knacks within our homes and seedlings of our garden, in our every way.

We know an angel is here today.

 

 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Moni, you have captured in a quite spectacular way how we glimpse those we have loved, who've 'moved on', in the beloved still emb... Read More
Friday, 09 September 2016 12:13
Monika Schott
Thanks, Rosy.
Saturday, 10 September 2016 05:50
Former Member
Very moving and tender words Monika. Thank you. Mary
Saturday, 10 September 2016 22:16
1506 Hits
10 Comments

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