Wonder and awe take over from exhaustion no

Everything is oppressive at the moment! The agony and horror of the fires and the extraordinary heat. The frustration of watching our country’s leader remind us that “that’s what Dad’s do” as explanation for not returning to the country after the tragedy in New Zealand and the destruction and carnage of the bushfires. Its hot. Its hard to breathe. Every news bulletin reminds us, several times, that the weather is going to get worse, the wind is going to continue to come from the west, but they remain unpredictable and we are in for it! And there is no rain in sight! Which brings me to the drought.

Dust bowls. Dry dams. No shelter. Towns dying. Walking off their land. Losing their livelihoods. Its too terrible!

And in my own little world of nothing particularly important, we are preparing for Christmas by doing the big clean up! The skip takes up the driveway. The lockable paper recycling bin is just about three quarters full. When I wash my hands  the water actually changes colour because my hands are covered with the dust of accumulated rubbish. Nothing compared to what must come off when volunteer fire fighters come home for a break and a shower!

Things that I thought were indispensable are being propelled into the skip via the bedroom window. I suppose we are just saving the children from having to do the big clean up when we go down the river in a basket – if there is a river anywhere to be found!

I am exhausted!

BUT in my exhaustion I have stopped to consider what I have found. So many things that I have searched for. Things I have written. At least 20 journals – begun. Each one usually with only one or two entries before I have abandoned it, put it down somewhere and bought a new one.

I found my original journal begun in 1980. I have been searching for it to find the recorded dates when each of my four unknown, beloved daughters died in utero. This year I found out that I am able to have a plaque for each of them in the Garden of the Innocence  in our local cemetery. I have no offical record of their births or their deaths because none of them had reached a “viable” stage in the pregnancies.

Exhausted as I am, I can do something about that now!

I have been looking for a music book. Peter Kearney, an Australian songwriter is someone whose words and music inspired me. In one of his albums “The Year of God’s Favour?”, written to mark the bicentenary in 1988, he quoted from a letter my brother Peter wrote. I found it today! My brother Peter died in 2014. I loved him and I miss him but today, he was with me, in what is again becoming my music room surrounded by memory and love.

Here are his words:

”Out of my window I can see Lake Macquarie; the Pacific Ocean is five minutes walk away. Two hundred years ago this strip of land provided an abundance of food and a place where there were to be stories told, songs to be sung, ceremonies to be celebrated, lives to be lived within a society of complex, subtle relationships. 

One hundred and ninety eight years ago, Governor Philip, who’d been on this continent a few minutes, read a proclamation which, in effect, dispossessed these people. That flagpole on Botany Bay, and then later Sydney Cove, punctured and poisoned the earth… The Awabakal speaking people here, between the lake and the ocean, took a generation before finding out that it was someone else’s land. How could they sing the Spirit’s song in a foreign land? They stayed long enough for  a missionary to learn something of their language, and to translate into that language the Gospel of St Luke. Meanwhile some died of disease. Some were killed. Some fled. They have gone. Their language is gone.

But are there ghosts, who sing or wail in the night? Do they call out to the people-of-the-Spirit (the artists, the mystics, the prophets, those who have the land in their blood ) calling out for justice, perhaps, or for recognition, or decent burial rites? There is a book at the University, in which you can read, in Awabakal, the words: “Father, forgive them, They do no know what they are doing.” Do these syllables still sound in the night? I believe they do. 

It seems to me a particularly bitter irony that the Spirit- people European decent (again the artists, the mystics, the prophets…) should take so very long to recognise, believe and to begin to interpret the voices in the night.  Until the event of 1788 is seen and named, the Spirit will groan within the earth. And the groaning will drive some mad. 

They will build thicker concrete-and-glass towers and breath artificial air, keeping their soles from the soil. They will fly jumbo jet to Bali and Hong Kong and Singapore and to the Sacred Sites of Europe, rather than risk Uluru at sunset. And they will try to stuff the emptiness of their soul with Packer cricket, Bond yacht racing or Fosters Melbourne cup, trying vainly to appease the Spirit that cries out to them to know and love the land into which they were born. Safer, they think, to whistle the advertisers’ jingles, than sing the Land’s songs. Fireworks, they decide rather than ceremonies. Flags and slogans, rather than learning some syllables of the original local language – in case one hears those voices, yet again, in the night.”

With the exception of the names of the sponsors, not much has changed! How good is that? Bloody hell, not good at all!

 

Where the Meadows and the Mountains Meet

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On November 10th, 2018 the Chapel at St Joseph’s Lochinvar was terribly damaged by smoke after a long smouldering fire, which started in the carpet, spread to some of the pews. No major structural damage, just incredible smoke damage to walls, magnificent musical instruments -the Bechstein Grand Piano and the invaluable pipe organ. The unbelievable had to be believed! The unfathomable had to be fathomed!

On December 10th 2019, the temperature at Lochinvar reached   42 degrees! The smoke haze that had been lingering over the city in which I live was almost edible and the Chapel was back! The stained glass windows refracted the light reflecting from the  marble surrounds into rainbows.

48406469_10215307245948558_3897872547005333504_n.jpg  I believe this could be a photo of my first trip to Lochinvar. Perhaps it is the first time I could walk  while visiting Lochinvar! It is the only picture I have with my God Parents Ruth and Roger on the occasion of Ruth’s profession as a sister of St Joseph.  Lochinvar has been part of my entire life journey! I love the place although there were times when  I loathed it! Particularly on February day when my only sister entered the parlour in her exquisite blue and white “frock” with electrically pleated skirt and blue patent leather stilettos, left us to return in the habit of a postulant. When I arrived home that day, Mum asked me to hang the frock up and I could smell my sister’s Tweed perfume. I was inconsolable but in private! Days as a border were bitter sweet days in which my music education came to the fore and sent me off into my post school career.

As a teacher in a Josephite school I accompanied hundreds of students to a Lochinvar Heritage day where they met and were enchanted by the Sisters, by the stories, by the visit to the Parish Church and graveyard, many of them astounded by the peace and beauty of the beautiful resting place of the Sisters and my ancestors.  My daughter was married in the chapel in 2012. Having watched “Brides of Christ” walk down that aisle, to see my exquisite daughter accompanied by her Father in that place, in the presence of my Mother, to be married by my Brother was indescribable joy to me.   After my brother’s death and the indescribable agony of what he had endured and what my family continues to endure my beloved friend, his beloved friend and I organised a concert in the Chapel which was like bathing in  “A Balm in Gilead” about which he had sung. I read his words, his choirs sang in tribute to him. We lifted the Roof to the heights of the “Holy City”. My sister sounded her tribute and love son that magnificent instrument in the choir loft! Ecstasy wrapped in agony for so many!

I was invited to the recommissioning of the Chapel by the Congregational Leader. She has been a mentor in education for me for many years and is a trusted, loved  and supportive friend.

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During the ceremony, two candles were lit and received by the current Assistant Principal of St Joseph’s College and my friend. The light of the past, reignited, the light of the present and the future received. A simple but powerful gesture. The candles were placed at either end of the newly dressed and rededicated Altar. Candles flickered as they do and one of them went out! The Sisters behind me noticed. So did I!

I am a great believer in signals sent from that which is beyond our understanding. I recognise and value logic although one of my underlying philosophies when trying to understand conundrums of politics, or hierarchy, or institutions,  is “never presume and logic never applies. However, sometimes I will hear a Kookaburra or the magpie family that takes up residence each year, pinches the lining from our hanging baskets to add to its nest in the tree across the road and I am  reminded  that the Spirits of my Dad and my Mum remain and will remain in my children and theirs. That’s eternity to me.

Can you guess which candle had to be relit?

Like all new life it is fledgling! Like all new life, survival is not guaranteed even with the astounding intervention of medicine and science!

The candle was relit from the flame that had not flickered!  It did not go out again.

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My World in Orange!

My best friend suffers from and lives with CRPS , Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.  An energetic, intelligent, force of nature herself, she is frequently and for extended periods of time, forced to a screaming halt by pain that comes from nowhere, inexplicable and incapacitating. At its height she cannot stand being touched where ever the pain is flaring. For her, a wife, mother, grand mother and very young (she is 30 days younger than me) great grandmother, it is agonising!

In a world of having a colour awareness ribbon for everything – red ribbon day, white ribbon day, blue ribbon day, pink ribbon day, rainbow ribbon day, teal ribbon day, orange is the colour that is chosen to raise awareness for CRPS.

It seems to me that our country is sending us messages we do not want to hear. Messages that are painful for most and agonising for many. We watch, stupefied by the immenseness of the bushfires and drought crises .  In Canberra our Leader and government fiddle and fly out for Christmas while homes are lost, livelihoods are lost, wild life is lost, in some cases to the point of extinction and lives are lost.  It is heartbreaking.

Fiddling while the world is burning or dying of thirst annihilates spirits. It crushes hopes. It denies our young the certainty of a future that I was able to imagine in my youth. Sure, that future was not guaranteed. I remember the fear of the “yellow peril” as a primary school child, imagining in my play, with my siblings, how I would raid the pots and pans to inflict deadly harm on anyone who dared turn up at MY house in a communist Chinese uniform! But I never imagined that the Barrier Reef might die! My adult grand daughter, who is studying marine biology, shares her fear of this with me now. I never imagined a Sunday drive in the country to the Hunter Valley in my dotage would no longer have the views that stirred my Grandmother. She occupied “Grandma’s seat” in the car, before seat belts, as we visited Aberdeen,  the site of the Police station where she gave birth to my mother in 1916. A trip now is  punctuated by great gouging scars of open cut mining. There is no way in the world it ever occurred to me that Merriwa and Muswellbrook would run out of water on our drives to Glenbawn Damn.

I could go on!

We have lived with bushfires in the country for as long as white people have lived here. First Nation People have lived with bushfire for thousands of years before that. How I wish, how I hope, how I long for the day when the toffs in Canberra will get off their adjectival high horses  and humbly sit with those who cherish being  custodians, not owners of the land, because the land is their Mother!

The pictures I have added are my own pictures . Some I took myself, some sent to me by my older daughter and my younger son. They are pictures from suburbia. Our street, our park, my daughter’s place of work and the view from my lounge room window. The colour Orange is SCREAMING OUT the pain of the land. It is memorialising the lives of those who have died. It is sounding a requiem for species of wildlife now gone. It snatches our breath and fills our lungs, scorching our air even though we may be miles away from the flames!

And what have we become? News bulletins! The dedicated professionals and volunteers facing the fray being joined by reporters with microphones, hanging around for a chance to shove one in the face of one of them for a comment. Dodging wild flames. Risking their own lives and the lives of the fire fighters. It seems to me that back in the studios,  the land of “live crosses”, producers and editors are already working out which shots, which live crosses, will get Logi nominations and which ones will win. Scavengers drooling over a decaying carcass!

The obscenity of footage of our Prime Minister, comforting an 85 year old farmer who would not leave his property because he wanted to save his work dogs. He had sold all his cattle as a result of the drought but could not leave his dogs. There was the evangelical Leader of the Nation listening to him at a community centre as through tears and sobs he said “I’ve lost my cows  but I still have my dogs” to which “Scomo” replied, arm draped over the work weary, traumatised shoulders of this dignified man “Its all good mate. Its all good”!

ITS BLOODY WELL NOT ALL GOOD! WHERE THE BLOODY HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE SCOMO?

I long for the brightness of a crystal, clear day. I long for a breeze that does not herald unnatural heat. I long for a heat I recognise. One with humidity that could herald an afternoon storm from clouds that are not made entirely of dust! I long to be able to smell my frangipani flowers lying like a carpet on my pavers rather than the acrid fragrance of burning bush!

I long to see the colour orange and remind myself of the blessing that I do not have to endure what my friend endures every day. I am not without pain. I too have pain everyday but it is predictable and I know where it comes from and why it is happening and I can deal with it!

What we are doing, have done and continue to do in the name of commerce, politics, progress is destroying our world. Mother Nature continues to remind us how small are and how little we know!

 

 

WALKING OUT AFTER 48 YEARS!

It had been a pretty big couple of weeks. 12 days of anticipation, one day of travel leading to, I thought one day of Sabbath! Pacing myself was going to be the answer.

These couple of weeks had been preceded by a couple of months of uncertainty, anxiety, health scares for Triple L – heart attack, pancreatic scare, hospital visits accompanied by the now permanent state of pain in the joints I celebrated receiving nearly three years ago and the recalcitrant pacemaker that wanders during the night.

The day before walking out, I made a trip to Sydney. For the entire week prior to that the country had been burning. Horrific bush fires everywhere. Port Macquarie surrounded. Anxiety about the family branch up there. Sydney surrounded, anxiety about the branch down there, Newcastle surrounded. Smoke haze that was blinding and throat catching. Heat – horrible, too soon heat. I had four fire areas on my phone, the three already mentioned and the Archery venue! The son who has just moved to the Dandenongs comforted me in his unique way by telling that what I was experiencing now in relation to worry about bush fires was a good preparation for February down south!

Trips up or down the highway at the weekend were iffy anyway but Saturday came and I was able to go to Sydney for the concert in which my grandson was a star and to see him post 7th birthday. The Port Macquarie connection came down for the great car race and arrangements were made for us all to meet on Monday, before they went home.

I had a lovely Saturday. A great trip down in spite of getting lost just before arriving at the venue. The concert was indescribable. “Dancing” – terrible! Music – too loud. “There’s a ramp over there Mum” so I volunteered to get the stroller down it but the incline was too steep and not being a mountain goat, I was terrified of going arse over turkey with all my replacement joints until a woman volunteered to take the stroller and I took the steps! The grandson was just wonderful. He is such a performer.Not sure I was particularly thrilled about him being cast as “The Bachelor” in one of his four stage appearances but he gave ME the rose and all was forgiven.

Seeing my grand daughter, who I have seen so rarely, was wonderful too. I was a bit concerned that she would be a bit reluctant to interact but I needn’t have worried. She is such a bright, happy little personality. Full of music and as I discovered in the lounge over a coffee “Oh yes, Mum, she jumps!” This was just after I had caught her leaping out of the lounge chair and into my arms!

I arrived home exhausted and within an hour I was in bed.

We – husband and I – had decided that Sunday would be a quiet day. His phone rang. It was 8.45am.

“Oh hello, how are you?……..

oh right. I thought you were going to the race…..oh it starts at 1.30.

Oh she isn’t out of bed yet? Oh well, they’ll all be on holiday time. Yeah, that’ll get her out of bed. No, we’re not doing anything ….sure come over whenever you’re ready. We’ll be here.”

WHAT!!!!!!

“Well, he (son in law) wants to leave early in the morning and they only have a couple of hours. The race starts at 1.30. They’re coming over sometime this morning. What was I supposed to say? Don’t come?”

Instantly I was aware of the great thumping in my chest and the strangulation happening around my vocal chords as I resisted (somehow) the urge to explode! The son had just woken up. I stormed off to the bathroom, almost frothing at the mouth, grabbing my bra off the towel rail – having anticipated not needing it for the day when I took it off the night before, grabbing my leopard print caftan exploding tin response to my poor half asleep son’s enquiry “Do you want some toast Mum?”  “I AM GOING FOR A DRIVE. I don’t know where I’m going but if I stay here I am going to kill your Father.” And I dressed and left – without shoes!

I went to the cemetery – visiting relatives who cannot answer back! I drove to a spot beside the river. Fortunately I found a disabled toilet that did not require me to walk over stones to use it. I listened to the roar of the engines of the bloody care race from the other side of the harbour. I had two missed calls ( which I didn’t really miss) from Long Lean and Loveable and one from my daughter who was at the race. My son sent me two messages “Darcy likes his birthday present” and some time later “they’ve just left”. I did respond to him – poor thing living in the midst of his father and me and finally I came home. I was MIA for about 3 hours.

As it turned out my anger extended to my son in law eventually. The bloody race did not begin till about 4.00pm. The need to change the arrangement from Monday to Sunday was to do with his desire to keep his wife, my daughter out of the shops. He had concocted a story that his father in law ( Long Lean and Loveable) had to be at archery at 1.30 – which she believed, which meant he could get back into town in time to do exactly what he wanted to do!

A day and a half later, conversation re-entered the “happy home” and my daughter contacted me. As usual I was ganged up on again when she said “Do you know what Dad said Mum? He said ‘ your mother had a very big day yesterday. I don’t know where she went to  but I know she will have some time to herself and then, when she is ready she will come home again. She will be alright.”!!!!!

I suppose you do get to know these things after 48 years!