Its a puzzlement!

Four ten a.m. and I am awake and itchy! Its not an outside itch! Its an inside itch that is running rampant from the top of my brain to the bottom of my belly. Its almost as if I have been taken over by some stirring up of nerves and sensitivities and it’s doing my head in!

Trying to be rational, I rationalise. It started with the hottest summer on record. It got its wind with the silly season of December. It took off with the horror, terror, helplessness of the bush fires. The fires became town fires too close to turning into city fires. The breath was sucked out of me by the smoke when the whole world turned orange! Sights and smells coupled with generosity and courage that we have never seen before!

Always there was the good old Aussie Spirit.

The Leader of the country let me and all of us down for too long. Jingoism is his strong suit. Rain came, as rain does when Nature has decided enough is enough. Out went the fires and on came the floods! Soaking rain. Humidity. Mosquitoes and all the while, in the background references to a bug in China!

Holden went up shit creek and our Holden shat itself and we were without it for nearly four weeks!

Husband went to hospital. Into isolation! It’s not the bug from China but no more than two visitors at a time. Wash your hands, put on mask and gown. His kidneys played up in reaction to the antibiotics given to blanket bomb the infection in a place that remains undetermined!

Talk of the virus from China went up a notch. Hand sanitisers get lots of attention in the hospital waiting room. People frown at coughers and sneezers. We start to make a mental note of things we might need to do. A trip to the doctor and a blood test. I am assured that my blood is worth bottling . White and red blood cells are ready to “fight off any virus that might be heading your way”. I think how lovely!

We’re safe! She’ll right mate! Its not going to happen here! We’re in a much better situation than anywhere else in the world because we are Aussies! Aussie Spirit will get us through!

WOOFTA! Left hook, right jab and we are in it up to our necks.

Suddenly I am old. Suddenly I am among the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. Young people will get the virus but it won’t knock out their respiratory systems. We don’t have enough intensive care beds to deal with the high point in “the curve”. We have to get ahead of “the curve”! If the virus gets you, its triage for those over the age of – I’m not sure but I think I am much closer to it than I am to 50! If you’ve got a heart condition, diabetes, lung problems get ready to be triaged! If you’re on blood thinners, here comes triage! If you are obese, here comes triage!

Don’t go out. Stay home. Wash your hands. Social Distance. Self Isolation. Don’t shake hands. Don’t touch your face. Sneeze and cough into your elbow. Enjoy the extra money the government is giving you to spend to boost the economy which is going down the toilet quicker than you can say toilet paper!

TOILET PAPER! Good LORD! Has there ever been such on outbreak of sheer madness in relation to toilet paper? Clubs offer packs of it as prizes in the Friday raffle. People come to blows over it. Reefing if from trollies, hurling abuse, getting arrested and the Leader says “we’ll get through this by being Australians….. the wartime spirit will return and bring us together” … bullshit, bullshit, bullshit!

Its madness! This too shall pass of course. I am hoping I am not going to “pass” , the acceptable euphemism for death, with it! There’s not much more for me to do with my life of course. Had a career, banged my head on the glass ceiling enough to nearly, but not quite, break through. I became a parent, a matriarch. Had nearly fifty years of marriage. I really can’t complain should the virus take me out! But I would like to make it as a writer and story teller and live long enough for each of my grandchildren to have his or her own story memory of me to tell to their grandchildren. That’s eternity to me!

And I’d like to go without the worry of the two remaining generations of my family having to worry about toilet paper, or getting to the shops without have to battle through the aisles, or being fearful about what to do with their kids if the schools close but they still have to work, or how to live without a wage for two months of unpaid leave!

I’d like the media to take some responsibility for the fact that its influence is enormous and ensure that it is not adding to the havoc! That’ll be the day!

First world problems I know. Its the world we have created, selfishly. Australia and the good old Aussie Spirit are being tested. So much of the “legend” is proving to be myth!

Wrapped in sadness.

For the last few days I have been thinking that “ the world” or perhaps “my world” needs to just pause. How long? Five minutes, ten minutes? I’m not sure. Just a pause. The world seems to have gone mad and I don’t recognise it!

So many messages! Drought, flood, fire, virus and this latest tragedy of the slaughter of innocence in Brisbane!

Today I attended the funeral of my cardiologist. She was 45, loved wife, beloved mother, brilliant clinician, daughter and sister. Before the funeral I received a photo from my niece. A tiny baby wrapped beside her Dad on the day she was born. I was astounded by the resemblance between Paul, my brother, aged in his 40s and my own son now about the same age. It took my breath away a bit. Motor- neurone disease took him away in 2016 after living with it for nearly 20 years. The same bastard of a disease took Angela away in less than five months.

I hope I never have to be present at the funeral of any of my children. I watched her Mum and Dad. When he arrived at the church, he patted the coffin like a Dad patting a small child , a sort of “ there, there, you’ll be alright” gesture of Dad love. Her Mum was Angela fast forward into grand parenthood! She walked like her, stood like her, gesticulated like her. She greeted her family with bear hugs. And she stood at the head of the coffin, placed her hands on either side , bent over and kissed it twice. Strength. Dignity. Endurance in the midst of what must still be mind shattering disbelief! And then in a gesture of “ you’ve done well” she gave it a double tap and turned into the arms of family.

Angela’s husband and children stoic and shell shocked shattered. Dignified. Her husband spoke truth that hundreds of others would be unable to speak. Raw and honest agony. The “ why” that has no answer. And then he told their story and there was laughter, sage nodding of heads and comforting calm. Her sister, her little sister, spoke acknowledgement of the custodians of Country . Something not included in the traditional Christian rubric. I felt wholeness. Tenderness and gratitude , the admiration of a “ little” sister for her beloved “big sister”!

Her professional medical colleagues told of her incredible ability within the context of her compassion, sensitivity, determination, organisation, grace and balance.

“ Grief is the price we pay for love” from the presider. A message from her Majesty’s Christmas message no less. I wondered if Angela’s reaction to this may have been similar to her reaction to my “Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington! I suppose you get that all the time.” “Yes” she said, but not usually from someone YOUR age!’ I never mentioned it again.

My beautiful niece, Sophia , Paul’s daughter, wrote of a conversation with her three year old daughter Tilly

“Although my daughter and Dad will never meet in this life, I have a strong belief they ‘know’ each other…..

This is what she said to me ‘ Grandpa Paul was with me today’

Taken aback I asked ‘ Really? What were you doing?’

‘Drawing together. He was drawing in his wheel barrow’

‘Oh! Do you mean his wheel chair?’

‘Yes. The wheel chair . We were drawing in it. Why was he in a wheelchair?’

‘Because his arms and legs didn’t work.’

‘Why?’

‘Because he had an illness.’

‘Why’

‘We don’t know , darling.’

‘Mmmmm… maybe he ate something.’

‘Maybe.’

‘He’s not sick anymore. He’s fine now’

‘That’s right baby’

‘I want to see him’

‘Me too. He’s not alive anymore darling. But Mummy has him in her heart.’

‘He’s in my heart too. A circle. I miss him’

Sophie writes ‘I don’t want to give the simplistic and abstract narrative of heaven. But I do want her to follow her intuition and know about our energies and essence.

I want her to know the ordinariness and finality of death but not to feel overwhelmed or scared”

Sophia is “living” Paul ! It’s not about heaven for me. It’s about story and presence and listening and telling and awe filled silences and joy filled cacophony. . Spirit and essence – they remain.

Today in sadness and gratitude I paused and in so doing I was once more astounded by the power of lives well lived and well loved and the absolute certainty that those lives never end.

The teaching myth.

I worked as a teacher for more than forty years. I loved my work. I had a good career with hard won opportunity. Our family was financially secure thanks to my salary and each of our children received opportunities to grow academically, emotionally and spiritually. Each of them is an adult making positive contributions to their communities.

It wasn’t all beer and skittles however!

” Those who can do. Those who can’t teach” was and sometimes still is an oft expressed opinion by shock jocks, politicians, and other social commentators. The myth of “back to basics, “It was good enough for me so it’s good enough for them ” was and sometimes still is, a much flaunted criticism when unions might have suggested that conditions needed improvement or rates of pay needed revamping. And then there was the myth of ” all those holidays”!

I retired 2016. My daughter is teacher. It irks me every year to watch her and listen to the amount of extra work, demanded extra commitment, unfair and ignorant criticism and judgement that she as a teacher, endures. She works in Catholic Education, as I did but I know too, that societal expectations in relation to the vocation of teaching being the great panacea for every social challenge in the western world, applies across the general teaching of children spectrum!

In addition to her classroom management she is part of the school’s creative team. This, in is fledgling state when she began at her school, was a school based only CAPA night.  It has now grown into a local town annual juggernaut, involving all schools in her area. There is a team of teachers at the school and her roles include costume making, choreography and one of the choirs. This thrills me no end because I was a music teacher and she resisted singing or belonging to a choir all her life.  Now I get to watch her conduct!

Initially as part of the CAPA team her particular focus, which is also the area of her strength as a teacher, were the “challenging boys” group. Kids who we now recognise as being the spectrum. Kids who cannot deal with changes in routine, changes in teaching styles. We all know at least one of them! Beautiful kids. Kids whose parents love them and are looking for support. Parents whose lives are filled with anxiety about what’s ahead. Yes, like every other parent worth his or her salt, but with so much more to contend with because we live in a world of judgement and societal expectation that  interprets all challenging behaviour as bad behaviour from bad kid because of bad parents. When her group of boys won their dance section in  the local Eisteddfod, heads were turned!

Three days before her scheduled return to work after the Christmas holidays, this year, I had three missed calls from her. We played tag and missed each other all day. Two  days later I connected with her. She had been in hospital on our tag playing day, She had fallen on rocks in the river at the front of her home and had smashed her knee. Relieved that a scan and  x-ray had shown no breakages she was in great pain from severe bruising. Leg wrapped and on crutches, she sounded tired and miserable. I live about 3 hours away from her.

What she dropped into the conversation next made my blood boil.  It took me back to hours, days, weeks of time I spent in addition to face to face teaching for 40 years- from my very first year of teaching as a 22 year old in 1973. She had spent 5 hours on Saturday in her classroom, with her co-worker, a teacher, mother, wife too, setting up the classroom for the new year.

Every time I have been into her classroom, an open learning space for about 60 kids under the care of a teaching team of three and support staff, it is like being smacked over the head with colour, creativity, happiness, organisation and wonder. Desks are work stations. There’s a reading corner. Among  memories, etched into my agony file for the rest of my life , as a member of  the executive team of the school I worked in, is the violent objection from staff when the suggestion was made that the introduction of Dadirri Time be introduced into the daily program . Ten minutes, every day, when all activity stopped and the opportunity was provided for stillness and awareness. I could write  book about that!  Its called Mindfulness now!

There’s a  creative space. When I was teaching in my early years and indeed until much later, if the desks were in a straight row, the teacher’s desk was tidy, the class roll was readily available for checking and chalk dust was all over the ledge during the day (proof of teaching “industry”) and the ledge was spotless at the start of the morning (proof of due diligence!) I got a tick for classroom organisation! I remember the reaction bordering on riotous, when a suggestion was made that we investigate “ new desks” to set up learning hubs when technology had arrived at kids with their own laptops in class.

Kids had books, for which they were individually responsible. Now a days, they have portfolios! Kids had their own lunch or a lunch order neither of which had anything to do with me! Now their lunchboxes are checked. They have fruit breaks. They have water bottles. All great initiatives in the name of self sufficiency and good health but extra on top of extra work, organisation, responsibility for the teachers who get belted around the head (metaphorically) for not sticking to the three Rs!

I have moved into the billabong of retirement. That silted up at both ends of life, literally and metaphorically, where one’s experience, gifts, talents, opinion can be comfortably dismissed, without objection from the keepers of power with one word. “Boomer”. I don’t miss the classroom. But I do miss the interaction with young people. I did not ever cope well with being challenged in the classroom until my own children became old enough and I guess felt safe enough to challenge me. Now I stand back in awe as I watch three of them as parents. My teacher daughter is the mother of three. My son is the father on one. My younger daughter is the mother of two. When I hear them tell me of the challenges they meet as their own children go through school I sometimes feel great angst!

Not every teacher is like my daughter and her friend. At the age of forty eight, she is convinced she has missed her chance for promotion. It is my firm belief, based only on observations and without any empirical evidence, that teaching is no longer seen as a profession, a calling, a vocation. It is rather, a guarantee of great holidays, working 9 to 3, five days a week, getting reasonable pay and something that after a few years gives you the chance to teach overseas, or grab a promotion that gets you out of the classroom.

When young people with stars in their eyes find it’s not quite like that, they walk away.

Of course, there are many magnificent, gifted, talented teachers who, in these days celebrity notoriety are out there and everyone knows them! Thats great! . But be assured for every one of them there are many. many more just like them. My daughter is one of them.

I firmly believe that the greatest calling in life is the call to be a Parent. Equally firmly I believe that after that calling, the next greatest calling is the call to teach.

THINKING ABOUT MY CHILDREN

72627075_10217440152189881_8664122829119160320_nIn an attempt to distract myself from the Prime Minister, I have been doing some personal historical reflection. I found 30 or more of my journals in a recent clean up and sorting out of bookshelves. One in particular, my first, I had been searching for since attending the ceremony at the Garden of Innocents in November. What follows are my words from the 1980s. My hopes for our first three children ( now 48, 47 and 42)  and the anticipation of my fourth child and what followed.

In cutting and pasting, I have lost the shape of my texts – but as I have always believed its not size or shape that matter, its content!

My hopes for…..

Patricia 

I look at you, and see a miracle.

In spite of me, you’re wonderful

and I love you.

My hopes for you my child

are that you remain

gentle,

trusting,

loving

and

independent.

I thank God for you.

I thank your father for loving me

and giving me you

and I thank you because

you are you.

………. Kenneth

My boy! My son! My life!

You stand so straight and tall

and yet you are so fail and breakable.

Stay happy son.

Keep your faith – for it your special gift

Believe in yourself

and love yourself.

You bring me joy and love and hope,

you give me reason for living.

………Megan Elizabeth

My little love.

You’re the lucky one!

You can learn so much.

Look to your sister and learn about

Art and music

Determination and strength

Fairness and compassion.

From your brother seek

Creativity and faith

Generosity and strength

Optimism and love.

I love you so. You have brought me joy.

You are with me and yet not mine.

As you grow, I hope I can remember

How special you are to me now. 

19-2-80

O little Child

O little child who isn’t yet

How I am longing for you to be

I want to know that you’re

within me growing and becoming.

The gift of life is so precious.

its our ticket to eternity.

I want to pass this gift on to you

to give you life, through me.

To carry another being within you

bring indescribable joy.

Nothing is greater or more rewarding

or frightening or humbling.

So my child who isn’t yet,

be assured your life is coming!

I’m waiting for you, longing for you

and ready to make you mine!

Children

love and cuddles

gurgles burps and giggles

powder and freshness,

Love!

Children

hurt and tears

screams, shouts and laughter

disinfectant and immunisations!

Children

frightened and dependent

questions, ideas, advice

cigarettes and booze?

Love?

Children

rebellion and independence

demands, protests and ridicule

joints and speed

Love??

Children

ideals and faith

hope for the future.

They deserve our

Love.

3-3-81

 

O little child who isn’t

O little child who isn’t ,

you have been and I

never knew you.

O the ache I feel inside.

The emptiness where there was once life.

Joseph, Rebecca – who were you?

I felt you move – just once

but I knew you were.

I loved you without knowing you.

Why did you die?

Were you not right or me?

I suppose you never knew I love you.

But then all you knew in your

short “before life out here” time

was warmth and security.

You never had to shed tears or know pain.

I still long to hold you.

I’m still ready to make you mine

If I could stop loving

a life I never knew but which

is as much a part of me as my

heart.

O little child I know you are.

We gave you life, a soul

and you live in bliss and love.

Reach down to me, somehow, help me

and reassure my faith.

Make me strong again.

2/4/81

I lost my much loved, unknown baby on Wednesday March 18, 1981

On January 28th 1982 I lost another much loved, much longed for unknown baby.

January 12th 1983, another beloved child.

March 28th 1984 – our 7th child. Our 6th daughter.

And as I reflect on this I think about the word “lost”. My four beloved daughters were not and are not lost. They died. I don’t know why. There were no medical reasons determined.

Our eighth child – the “Joseph” I was longing for in 1981 is now our Joe! More loved than words can expressed. Clever, resourceful, creative, dreamer.

 

 

 

 

“On the Ninth Day of Christmas” 2020

I am beginning this without being able to come up with a suitable title! On December 20th I wrote about the fire north of my home. My fears for my daughter and her family. The awfulness/awefilled-ness of my world which had turned orange and air that was acrid with the smell of burning bush! My daughter and her family are safe but the threat continues.

My son and his family travelled from their home down south, in another state, to be with us for Christmas. It was marvellous. They ventured north to be with my daughter and had lovely days filled with the joy of watching their children laugh and play and connect. They do not see each other often. My younger daughter and her family were with us for Christmas. The “babies” of the grandchildren gaggle. My youngest grand daughter, a ball of energy and inquisitiveness, stilled in her Uncle’s arms, listening intently for  such a long time, while I played my piano. I haven’t been able to play for some time. Rare days.Blessed days. Days that will live on in the telling across the generations!

Its the second day of the new decade. I remember the first time I wrote in the margin of my exercise book, pondering with all the trepidation I could muster as an almost 9 year old, “1960”. My life was changing even then. My older brother had left home in 1958 and my next brother was about to leave home. I remember thinking that if it was already 1960, how old must Mum and Dad be?

My Dad was a journalist so keeping up with the news was in my blood even then. Mr Menzies was the PM. Pattie was his wife. What an impressive bloke he was to a nearly nine year old. Hardly ever seen on tele. Often in the paper. His face like a carved image of authority. He looked like he was in charge and knew what he might have been on about! Royalist to his bone marrow as was most of the rest of Australia.

I remember hot summers. Burning footpaths. Melting tar. Perspiration running down the back of the legs in hot classrooms. “Heat waves “ brought into submission by “Southerly busters”! Sitting on the back steps in the afternoon and waiting for the approaching sound of the roar, a bit like the starting of the Electrolux vacuum cleaner on a Saturday morning. When the “Buster” arrived it sucked away humidity, flies, mosquitos and lethargy!

My brother was in Rome in the 1960s and sometimes we would make an audio tape to send to him in addition to the weekly aerograms. One Christmas my Mum, who was very self conscious about the sound of her voice was describing the festive table . Using her most posh enunciation she explained, “And it’s ninety nine in the dining room”. Sweltering day! On the return tape my brother told of the great glee expressed by his British and American friends on hearing what he referred to as “Mums flattened vowel sounds”, doing a slightly disrespectful rendition of them himself!

But that’s all gone. Times were frequently tough but they were not the first tough times generations of families had lived through. Yes, there were fires and floods and droughts. We knew when the seasons started and when we could expect them to end. I always loved the time of year when the westerly breeze in the morning morphed into and easterly heralding that Autumn was on the horizon. Wild winds in August! Freezing blasts that gave me the chance to experience chill blains for the first and only time in my life as a boarder in the Hunter Valley. Winds that cut mercilessly through layers of clothes  straight to bones, making teeth chatter on the way to Mass each morning at 7.00am.

It seems that too has just about gone. Where I live the leaves on my frangipani trees barely hit the ground before new leaves are shooting. My husband’s Grandmother used to describe those trees in their winter dress as “maiden’s nightmares”. I remember being scandalised by the description. I hardly have time to blush now because they are covering themselves up within days of shedding!

I am sick, in my heart and in my head ,by what I see now. 2020. Day two. Four thousand people taking shelter on a beach waiting for the Navy to rescue those who need to be rescued and bringing water because there is none. I think of images of refugee camps in countries torn by war.

People whose houses, livelihoods, irreplaceable possessions have melted! People whose family members have died. Mothers whose children are without Fathers. A young woman anticipating the birth of their child alone now that her husband is dead. Husband, wives, lovers, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who wait for their loved ones to return from volunteering as front line fire fighters. I ponder the fact that the tragedy of all of this is in no way unique to the majority of the rest of the world.

My son’s sister in law who taught English in Cambodia and is there at the moment, lost her home and all her possessions in the fire that decimated Club Terrace in Victoria. She will return to nothing! She will return to love.

Uncertainty. Fear. Hopelessness. Dismay. Powerlessness. Brokenness. Anger,

And the most puzzling thought that I have been pondering is about the rest of the “western world”. When there is a shooting in America, a bombing in London, a terrorist attack in Paris our news programs bombard us with information. All the details. Daily, sometimes hourly updates. I have seen only one reference on line to the fires in a London publication. Of course there may have been others.

Truth is, to the power brokers of the world we are small fry! We ARE expendable! The thinking nations of the rest of the world cannot understand our government’s climate change denial policy! Slogans, jingoism, the tools of the advertising industry are not good enough!”She’ll right, Mate” does not apply! “Thoughts and Prayers” are not love and compassion or practical help!

The power brokers of the world covet our coal and other natural resources. They purchase them  and our water and our farm land  assisted by our so called leaders in the name of the economy. “We” do not matter! Its true! I cringe at the thought of the latest offering from the Department of Tourism inviting the poor old POMs who are suffering Post Brexit Stress Disorder and who might arrive in Perth looking for Nirvana only  to find Hades. Catastrophic fire condition forecast there for tomorrow. Perhaps action needs to be taken there to turn back THOSE “boats”!

Our Leader went MIA. He’s back now but he may as well not be. Bombastic and patronising. The “Could have been Leader’ has been at least a bit more visible and realistic but always there is the waiting for the moment when it all gets back to “you didn’t win” “you only just won” argy bargy.

The saying I remember from days when I was even more cynical that I am now is “if you can’t dazzle the with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit!” Well there’s nothing dazzling or baffling going on really – just an awful lot of bullshit!

 

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

IMG_5449.jpg                                                                 
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!