Reflections on a Book Burning.

It is Palm Sunday. There is a full moon tonight. I live on Awabakal Land.

These three facts link me to my past, my present and my future.

I was raised within a loving, safe, traditional Catholic family. My ancestors came from Ireland. Two of my grandchildren belong to the First Nation Wiradjuri  People.

Tonight I burnt a book. My Father would have a fit! My Grandmother and my Mother if they were still alive and had read the book, would be out in the back yard with me, pumping up the bellows to make it burn more quickly.

My actions tonight were an acknowledgement of my Pagan ancestry, my Catholic heritage and the people whose land always was and always will be Aboriginal Land. I am blessed. 

The content of the book matters no more to me. It nearly annihilated me. Words inaccurate. Venom on the pages. Vendetta mentality under the guise of protecting the innocent, the wronged and abused. 

Innocence slaughtered. Like an infrequent surging tide ebbing and flowing over years. Half truths. Hypotheses based on the opinions of killer whales in the gold fish bowl of an inward looking “town” seeking the notoriety of a flash of fame with a byline!

I watched.

I watched as the slices of the pages began to smolder. I had torn the pages up with the help of my great friend and soul mate. I then cut each piece up with scissors over several months. Like Doctor Mannette in A tale of Two Cities each time a memory or a headline filtered its way to me, it set me off to destroy what I could of the memory of years of silence, the agony of watching my Mother’s grief, the rage of listening to my children’s pain and the guillotining of my connection with an institution within which I was raised, to which I contributed more than forty years of professional life and which cut me adrift.

First tiny little flashes of embryo flames. Innocent, almost enticing. The moon was rising. No wind. Every now and then the sound of a night bird, reassuring and familiar. Zephyr like movement of air. Beautiful. Finding its way through the ruins of the book, the flames began to grow wildly drowning the sound of the breeze. Heat extruded from the pot. I could feel my face flush, as it had so many times when his name was mentioned or spread over a headline. I wondered if like the lies, the fire would become out of control.

The smoke came towards me. I thought of smoking ceremonies I have attended. Cleansing, clearing, reverencing, making ready for what I was taught to call Liturgy. I inhaled. I felt safe and surrounded by all the traditions, the stories, the ceremonies that have made me, Louise!

So “Mote it be!” “Amen!” And in the words of the Wiradjuri Mob “murun-dhu” – I live, I breathe!

4 Comments

  1. I hope and pray that the burning was as therapeutic as your words describe. There are many inaccuracies – as you say rumour and innuendo – contained in that volume and it created a few ripples here in this city but I do doubt how big the impact was in other centres. Stay strong my friend and keep the fire burning.

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      1. I understand and Thank you for sharing Louise –

        i thought of you Sunday as I took my Brother & Sister in Law to Mass in Kingscliff for Palm Sunday….first time for awhile,
        I thought & prayed for some of the people that I felt had been crucified – you always come first, so after school holidays, as I have Grandmother duties, I’d love to catch up.
        I also am hopeful that the burning Ceremony helped as it used to help some of our students where we used that while on their Retreat & for some it was Cathartic….

        Shalom

        Julie

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