Recklessness and Water

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The morning arrives so softly that most people never see it coming. It steals in, low lighted, unsaturated tones of grey on grey. The heron flies low across the mudflats, taking his time, mapping his territory. I’m here on the seat by the estuary. Silently watching, a voyeur of the emerging day. She is so beautiful.  I feel like an interloper on a secret thing. A privileged visitor. I wonder why all the human race seems unaware of this morning magic. Why they sleep until the later light bleeds through their eyelids, stumbling into a day already partly gone.

All of nature seems to join the morning chorus; I hear the buzz of bees and the low of the cattle up on the hills, cicadas, the pop and fizz of the mudflat creatures, mangrove dwellers and tiny sparrow calls. A fish flops across the mirrored surface of water, further out where tide has failed to drain the deep.  And in the distance, the sleeping layers of greys, stretching out into the peninsula. The sky is bleached this morning; when I first came out here, the moon shone thinly through the misted clouds. We’ve had a full moon. It is imperceptible now, milk white in the white lit sky.

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Last night, we came down here for a night swim, watching with the wonder of children as our hands passed through the phosphorescent water. Like tiny galaxies swirling under our fingertips, whirling away into universes too minute for our comprehension. Starbursts of white and blue glowing and fading in the black water. Millions of tiny microorganisms stirred into a momentary spiral bloom of aqua fire.  It felt special, these bodies of ours, warm against each other in the glassy dark, stars above, stars below.  Salty splashes across our contours of skin. I will remember it. Like the feeling of bare feet in the sand at night. The quiet wonder of raw freedom under the wide sky.

Recklessness and water.

Mary, my mother-in-law, passed away this week, and tomorrow we will have her funeral. I think about how she loved to walk down by this estuary, about how she and my girl would pick flowers along the walk to Lover’s Rock, nattering away about this and that. Eventually her husband and loved ones will find a new rhythm of days without her here.  We will become accustomed to coming here and not seeing her. But we will always feel her presence. Down by this water, along the edge of Mangrove flats, out across Mercury Bay and in the wonder of all this beauty.

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Once, many years ago, my younger self crept out the back window of the old house with my guy. We ran down to the water’s edge in our pyjamas and I jumped on the old rope swing in the Macaracapa Tree. It swung out over the early tide and we laughed when I got stuck out over the water. Mary watched us from her bedroom window, and laughed to me later that she’d seen us sneaking out, early in the morning. Into the new day.

I wonder if she sees me here, writing by the curve of water behind her house. I wonder if she feels the peace that I feel, the quiet beginning of something new.

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Vale Mary.  If heaven exists I am quite sure it contains all the beauty of this place you loved so much, and all the love of your family, especially those gone before, waiting there to hold you in their arms again.

And Mary,  if you see my Mumma, tell her I miss her. I’m sure she’ll make you a cuppa. Look into her eyes and know that she’s been away from me all these years, and yet the love carries on. It will be like that for you and your boys. The love remains.

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The melody from the song Nightswimming spirals through my thoughts.  The lines startle me with how closely they echo my feelings.  I smile to think that there are indeed now, two. My two mothers, side by side in orbit around the fairest sun.

 

Politics :: Please Explain

Across my facebook feed in the past week, friends and relations have been identifying their partisan colours. I am all at once, surprised and dismayed, buoyed and comforted. It’s confusing.  I love all of these people, how can it be that all of my friends see politics so differently? American politics, like American television, has seeped into our culture, even all the way down here at the bottom of the world.

The rains have come today, if only it would wash all the acrimony away.

We are an unassuming little country, our population is small but we box above our weight in some things. Our home is peaceful …when we’re not being shaken to the core by tectonic trouble; there is a lot we take for granted here. Last night, watching the footage of helicopter evacuations from the earthquake zone, I saw a bloke who’d been helping the people of Kaikoura. He was exhausted. Understating things in true kiwi style,  he just wiped his arm across his forehead and said “might be time for a beer”.  Even in the wake of seismic shifts, we take for granted the basic benefits of our life here. It goes on. We get up. Roads and buildings are repaired.  Bad things happen.

I think we are lucky. It’s easier to stomach disasters when they are visited on us by mother nature than by human, political choices.

Self harm is so much more destructive to the soul.  It affects everyone close to you. America got the razor out. Our hearts are in our mouths as we listen at the door, fearful of what may come. We couldn’t stop you, but we wished so often we could. Like a sibling standing outside, listening to the tears and the cutting and the distress, we rattle the doorknob but your mindset is fixed. You won’t let us in.

Donald Trump was elected president, and our world shifted.  Literally.

“If you are not American, stay out of our politics” said one internet apologist.
“You don’t understand why we vote like we do”. And it is true, we don’t. We are not there. We have only the American media to show us what went on. But ohhhhh… the view from over here is not pretty. I’m not the only one who is shocked by the narcissistic buffoon that has been voted in.  It’s like a bad reality TV show. Like all of the shallow, hideous aspects of American culture have finally overtaken all the loveliness.  It makes me sad for my American friends, and sad for our world.

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I think of all the American Aid in Africa that man intends to de-fund. Of all the environmental protections he intends to cease. Of my friends in the LGBTQI communities, of the people marginalised by his policies. He didn’t even pretend to care about any of those things on the campaign trail. He was clear about it. So how he intends to be a good president for all Americans now, bemuses me. I was talking to a guy recently about the challenges of growing up a woman in the church culture. He looked at me curiously, like I was speaking a foreign language. Shrugged, and dismissed what I said. And it occurred to me, very few men can see beyond their experience of being a male; for the majority of men, their perspective on life is limited to the lens of their privilege.

I can see how Donald Trump doesn’t offend them, his words to them have not been red flags, his behaviour, to them, does not seem appalling, but to many, it is horrifying.  We are not horrified by the ‘image’ of the man, but by his own words. Very public, documented, words.

Dear friends across the world who think Trump in power is a good thing, can you please explain it to me? If you are a caring human being, how can you expect Donald Trump to represent you? If you are a professing Christian, what part of your values finds a home with his rhetoric?  I honestly want to understand.  Down here, the earth still shakes today. And so does my head. I just don’t get it.

The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs

a book review

 

image of The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs book cover

 

When I was seventeen, there was a Guggenheim exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. I went there with my art class, and returned, time and again. It was a window into the world of my art text books. Here they were. I stood as close as I could to Brancusi’s, Calder’s, Dali’s, Moore’s and Mondrian’s. I breathed the air next to them like I might catch some ions of genius leaking from the very spirit of each work. I stood back and squinted at them, turned my head and observed them in their minutae. It seemed to me, a spotty gangly teenager in a distant antipodean gallery, that these foreign artists were the master race; their works a gift from the greatest muse of creative expression. The soul of life itself.

The Joyce Girl is Annabel Abbs’ inspired story of an Irish girl in the 1930’s. She lives in Paris, right in the midst of the bohemian art world of my Guggenheim heroes. A dancer, dreamer and artist, Lucia lives in a straightjacket world of obligation and overwhelm. She is the daughter of James Joyce, celebrated writer.  She is known historically as integral to the production of Joyce’s lengthy work, Finnegan’s Wake. She is caught in the undertow of her father’s work, sublimated by her roles as dependent daughter and co-dependent muse. Her own genius, obscured first by the narcissism of her father, despised by her mother and brother and later destroyed by the inept machinations of mental asylums, is explored first hand. She is finally given voice by the author Annabel Abbs in this novel. Heavily based in the facts of Lucia Joyce’s life, we see first hand the struggles of a troubled girl trying to make sense of herself.

“An ephemeral arch of colour, swaying and dissolving. Flashes of imprisoned light. Trembling loops of movement. A wind washed rainbow, my bands of colour shivering and melting. I crouched and twisted. Needles of rain, spiked and hard. I stretched and spread my fingers, soft rays of warm sunlight. I was a swathe of luminous colour. I was the gold-skinned weaver of the wind. Sun-spangled sovereign of the cosmos”  -Annabel Abbs ‘The Joyce Girl’

I loved many things about this book. But, oh, Abbs’ descriptive passages of dancing! She is expert in describing this artform with a keen sense of the visceral experience of dance. I realised that my legs and feet were flexing and moving as I read, and I do love a book that transcends the brain barrier.  I enjoyed Abbs’ turn of phrase; sometimes, I felt she was touched by a Joyce-ian way with words which added depth and relevance to the experience of reading this book. It was immersive.

I so loved the characterisations of some of the artists I had studied as a teenager. That world of Bohemian Paris, where artists came for freedom and connection, was painted with a vivid hand. I felt like I had stepped inside my Guggenheim exhibition. That I could walk alongside Alexander Calder and listen to him expound on shape, form and movement. It was transporting.  And when the time came to explore the deeper psyche of Lucia, Abb’s sensitive writing captured the child Lucia with care. It was emotionally difficult to read, but a necessary and bittersweet journey with Lucia through the dark travails of her mind.

Most of all, I loved that Abbs gave Lucia’s story an audience. I doubt that before reading this novel, I would have read Carol Loeb Schloss’ biography of Lucia Joyce’s life, To Dance in the Wake. But now, I will. Lucia is a woman of history, of art, of feminism, whose story should be told. Abbs’ story of Lucia; childhood trauma, repressed memory, subjugation, dysfunctional family relationships, unrequited love, unfulfilled ambition and incarceration… I am certain is an echo of the many women whose independence and freedom were stolen during times when mental institutions were dangerous places and Psychology a fledgling discipline.

My own Great Grandmother was institutionalised when her children were very small. Now we assume she had undiagnosed postnatal depression. But I wonder who she really was, and now there is no way of knowing. These stories should be told. These voices should be heard.

I recommend The Joyce Girl. Thank you Annabel Abbs for writing this important novel.  I will take it with me on my own metaphorical dance of independence and freedom.

 

Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Lucia_Joyce_dancing_at_Bullier_Ball_-_Paris%2C_May_1929.jpg
Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Lucia_Joyce_dancing_at_Bullier_Ball_-_Paris%2C_May_1929.jpg

 

Sitting Out Swimming Sports

I stood at the checkout with my son’s warm hand in mine. I could see, over at the next checkout, another mother from our school. Her son was with her, too. We didn’t talk, but there was a wry grin exhanged between us.  We both knew why our boys weren’t at school.

Today is the Swimming Sports Carnival.

I phoned in his absence this morning, mumbling something about his ears. I took him to the doctor soon after, she looked in each of his ears, hmmming and adjusting the ottoscope before confirming what I already know. His ears are fine.

I remember one of these days a few years ago. My mildly dyspraxic girl, still grappling with learning to swim, was standing terrified beside a six foot deep pool. It was competition day. She was crying and begging to be let off. The teachers responded with grim determination. The bank of stopwatch officials waited with barely disguised impatience. The whole swimming complex seemed to sigh with frustration. I was not allowed to go to her, poolside, to help calm her down. The whole school waited until she eventually got in the pool. An older girl was already in the water with a pool noodle, waiting to tow her the length of the lane. What is the purpose of this kind of showy display of ‘you WILL do it, even though you can’t do it?’ Who does it serve?  Near the finish line, myself and some of the sympathetic parents around, erupted into applause. And my beautiful daughter emerged from the water, dripping with shame.  She smiled a wobbly smile at me and slunk back to join her class on the bleachers. I went out behind the swimming pool complex and cried for her. It was an awful experience.

This picture is from last year, when she was delightfully astonished to place first in her heat.  One day, I might see a similar smile on my son’s face, when he swims well enough to enjoy competing. But this year, he and his perfectly fine ears are sitting out the indignity of race day.

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It has always baffled me why P.E teachers are so hot on participation. Why joining a competition even if you are not competitive is such a religion to them. My kids are both involved in sports, both are involved in their schools’ wider culture. I entirely endorse the idea of being there to support your classmates, your school house, your peers. And this is why it bothers me so much.  I have spent too much wasted time on the phone talking to the PE staff at school about this. Going around in circles. Banging my head against a brick wall.

The compulsory nature of Swimming and Athletic sports days (and the dreaded Cross Country) means that you are effectively forced to stay away if you are not going to participate. Or lie about an injury or illness that prevents you from swimming or running. It’s madness. To me, that is teaching kids something far worse than not racing. It’s saying that if you are not like those people who enjoy competition, you should hide, you should make excuses.  It’s saying that you should suffer for a day because you are not like them. Suffer in competition, or suffer in silence at home. It’s saying that your voice of encouragement and cheering from the sidelines is only valuable if you have also competed. It’s bollocks.

We are not all the same. I would never dream of asking my kids to compete in showjumping horses until they are competent in the saddle. I would never expect a dyslexic child to enter a spelling bee, or drop someone with agoraphobia in the middle of the desert. I think there is a cruelty to the one-size-fits-all environment of our Education System in relation to PE. And I think it needs to change.

So today, we are sitting out the Swimming Sports in silent protest.  I feel resolute. I know I am not the only mama out there feeling this way today. I sit here in solidarity with all of them. With you, if you have ever felt the frustration I feel.

Here’s to the others. The non-competitors, the slower starters, the ones who always bring up the rear, to the ones whose genius is not defined by physical test of speed; whose gentle souls are built for fairer things.  They are not failures for not being sporty, they should not feel ashamed. Sporting prowess is simply one kind of genius. Take it away Mister Einstein.

fishtree

 

 

 

Sunshine

The winter sun seeps thin and white through the cloud cover.  The rains have been sporadic, like the tears of grief when not one year, but two have passed. When the irrefutable fact of her passing has seeped into your bones, and you know, there is no going back.  The rain connects across the Tasman in great arcing fronts. Every year on this date, stretching between countries, across time, back to Kellie’s death, and to her friends and family. Reminding me that time is passing, but the grief doesn’t.  It just changes, like the weather. Shifting the pressure and moving the isobars.  Hail today, rain tomorrow. Some snow among the chilly grey.

rememberingthis beautiful ray of sunshine

I think of beautiful Kellie.  Of how short her life was yet how much of a life force she was.  I imagine her directing the weather like a Greek Goddess, goblet in hand, laughing at the storms.  Revelling in the thunder and sending out lightning from her fingertips; her anger and joy all rolled into one vibrant and terrifyingly beautiful heavenly creature.  Making her presence felt in the skies.

I think of her family with my own mother heart. It’s so unfair that they have to do life without her. I hope they are okay, two years into their marathon. I hope they are finding their own ways to keep her close, to remember and celebrate her astonishing vibrancy. I stand with her friends and family, across the ether, raising a glass in acknowledgement.  That Goddess woman. Gone but never forgotten.

She was sunshine. Straight up, sunshine.

Here’s to you Kellie. X

(I like this version)

 

 

Horse Heaven

Yesterday, a pony died. A special pony… the ‘best friend’ of Bee’s pony.  It was septicaemia that got her. She was sick, she was taking medicine. Then she was gone.

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Trina was a darling pony. A grey, like Lulu.  Trina was the pony I loved the most when Bee started at her riding school. I would watch Trina with awe as she sped around the jumps in the arena, flying over each hurdle with gusto.  She liked to go fast.  In horse years, she was a young lady.  Old enough to know a bit about the world. Young enough to still flirt with speed and enjoy the challenges of competition.  I would watch her and dream that one day, Bee might have a pony like her.

When Lulu came to be Bee’s pony, she joined the main herd. There are two groups out where the horses live. The ‘top paddock’ sport horses, and the general herd, which is made up of owned ponies and school horses.  It’s a sizeable herd and Lulu took a while to find her place in it. When she lived on the property previously, she was a top paddock mare.  I think she remembered that and didn’t much enjoy the comedown.  Horses are herd animals and develop strong bonds. They need each other. And breaking into a herd you don’t know must be akin to moving to a new city.  Lulu was sad, and drifted around on her own, or waited at the gate, for a few weeks. Then, after a while, we began to notice that Trina had become Lulu’s special friend. They ate together, drank from the bore together, and could always be found near each other when they had to be caught.

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When Trina got sick, Lulu lay down beside her in sympathy.

And now Trina has died, Lulu must surely wonder what has happened to her dear companion. Do you think she knows? I hope she does. I hope she understands that Trina isn’t feeling sick anymore. I hope there is a horsey kind of statute of limitations on grief and that Lulu won’t suffer this loss for too long. And I hope she will find another special friend soon.  It must have been so lonely out there last night. Her horsey heart must be sore.

My eyes keep leaking, because this pony business has made me even more of a sook than I was before.  I can’t bear the thought that one day, Lulu too will cross the rainbow bridge.  I don’t know how horse owners can cope with that sort of grief.

Rest in peace beautiful Trina.  You will be missed by so many. I really wish you could have stayed in the paddock with your girl, Lulu. I bet she does too.  Because there is nothing that makes the heart feel more secure than being able to hang out with your best friend.  I know that when it is her time to go, she’ll be welcomed into horsey heaven by you. Because that is the kind of friend you are, until then Trina, remember our girl Lulu, she loved you very much. X

Shipwrecked

There is a specific kind of guilt that can plague survivors who got through something life threatening and come out the other side. Maybe it was an accident, trauma, war, hostage situation, cancer, domestic violence, child abuse, hurt. The guilt swoops in once they realise that they survived but others did not. So the question ‘why me?’  ghosts through their minds, shining spotlights onto every part of them that is not worthy of the gift of survival.

I do not deserve this. Everyone does. So why did it happen for me and not for them? How can I make sense of it? What hierarchy of soul assets could ever possibly qualify me to deserve reprieve when others get none?  None of what I have within myself is superior to any other human. Is it all pure chance? Luck? Universal benefaction? Godly miracle? Alignment of planetary bodies? Karma?

 

picture of an oil painting by John William Waterhouse (1916) of a redheaded girl looking out to sea at a chip being wrecked on the rocks.
Oil Painting by John William Waterhouse 1916 “Miranda -The Tempest”

Why me?

Why not me..? Answers back. That small audacious whisper. I hush it back into it’s corner. How dare it speak up? The mirror in which I examine my value magnifies my insecurities.

It was easier to wonder why not me when I was sick. Worthier. It was easier to push, using all the survival drive my physiology could muster. Why not me? I tried and sought and searched and strived. I wanted to survive. And now that I am thriving?  I wonder if it is a monumental case of mistaken identity, was it meant for me?  I fear that I cannot do it justice. I exhaust myself with my desperate need to never take anything for granted; gripping on to the epiphanies of illness.  I prostrate myself into works of compensation, trying to redress the balance that tipped things into despair and took so much from the people I love. I burn the energy that has been gifted to me on the backlog of yearnings. The things I missed. The things I couldn’t be. The person I think I could be but maybe, will not.

I just want you to know, you who continue to suffer, I want you to know that I have not simply sailed off into the sunset. I struggle to write for you because I feel like my remission has given me something you don’t have, and that feels unfair, like a betrayal. I wonder if you find my words aggravating, or boastful, a reminder of all that you cannot do. Those among you that are close to me have assured me that my story brings you hope, but I worry that it also brings you pain. Because, see? There I go again. Doing the things you can’t do, living the life that eludes you. And I do want to live that life, because it is mine.  I even want to go sunset sailing, sometimes, though I have no sea faring vessel. I want to run away; I want to stay.

One of my favourite poems is by Christina Rosetti. There is a line that expresses the way this feels

“When I half turn to go… yet turning, stay.” 

I have never been a goodbye girl. I won’t do it. So I remain here, caught on the cusp of sick and well. My hand reaching out across the divide between our experiences, the distance between our hands growing every day.  I think I have that hated thing called ‘ableism’. Because I do believe, with all my heart, that there is a massive difference between being well and being disabled through illness. And I think it is better to be well.  I think most of you with Dysautonomias think that way too, but dwelling on that is too painful. When ‘well’ is out of reach, people make do, we find joy, we build meaning where we are. It is a triumph of psychology. By far, the hardest thing I have ever done, was staying afloat through all those years. I was not always successful. When I sank under, you lifted me.

And here I am, washed ashore; not drowned. Dry, standing at the edge of continental opportunity. I have caught my breath. But I stare back out to sea wondering if you are treading water in shark infested waters. Willing you to keep your heads above water, to find the flank of our ship wreck; to hang on. My soul flies across the deep but the winds and tides can’t hear me. I am impotent to ease your suffering. And I am sorry.

So sorry.

The Poet

The first time I fell in love, it was in the library. I was in Year 7 and he was in Year 12 (oh the scandal!) so hanging out around everyone else always drew unwanted attention. None of the narks and gossips went to the library at lunch time, so that is where we could meet without scrutiny. I liked to think that the librarian understood our impossible situation and had a soft spot for young love. It seemed all very Romeo and Juliet to me, star crossed lovers, forbidden by family to be together.  His skin was golden brown and his eyes flecked with gray and gold. But it wasn’t his skin or his eyes that made me fall so hard. It was the poetry. That day, he asked me to hold out my hand and close my eyes. He placed two things in my palm. A folded piece of paper, and a tiny heart carved from chalk with the point of a compass. The heart, he told me, had taken all of a double maths period. The poem he’d written last night, lying in bed, thinking of me.

I was moved.  My heart was his. He wrote poetry for me!

 

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A few years later, when time and circumstance had brought that ill-fated tryst to a close, I heard that poem on the radio. It was song lyrics, from a song written long before I ever met him. His declaration of love was a pilfered fake. That moment of perfect romance; plastered on the walls of my gallery of treasured memories, frayed and curled on the edges before dropping to the floor.  A new fissure cracked across the surface of my idealistic heart. It would underscore my opinion of men, along with all the other little and big betrayals. All the while, the books I had read, the movies I had watched, built my romantic hopes until there was no man that could reach them. And eventually, there I was at 23, divorced and bitter. My young husband had gotten our friend pregnant, he had left to live with her and raise their family.  It took a few years, but finally, I saw a counsellor.

“Why do you punish every man you meet for the behaviour of another person?” she asked.  It gave me pause. I realised that I couldn’t go on like that. Dropping all my disappointments at the feet of any man, as if he were solely responsible for the failings of all men.  My man-hating ways had to find some balance. I had to look at people as people, not with the prejudice I had toward their gender. Or be forever alone. At that time, being alone seemed like a fate worse than death.

I spent years looking for a person to spend my life with. Years for learning a great deal about the nature of men and of myself. About how being a ‘victim’ of relationship breakdown is a choice. Bitterness is counterproductive. When things go wrong, we are always equally responsible for how it will play out, no matter how preposterous that might seem. And that I am the only person who can be accountable for my own happiness. I grew up. Poetry isn’t always literary genius, sometimes, poetry is a two word text in the middle of the day: ‘Love you’.

Romance takes many forms, if you care to notice it. A cup of tea when you’re not expecting it. A shared glance about something over the heads of the kids. Or something like this…

 

'Enjoy the day my honey. Love you!'
‘Enjoy the day my honey. Love you!’

Today I have wrestled from our schedule a little bit of ‘me’ time. Time to write, to drink coffee and muse. It’s been a busy school holidays and the kids are off doing fun activities, both on the same day in a little bit of heavenly orchestration. I have loads of jobs to do, but I don’t mind a whit… because I can do them uninterrupted and listening to my own music! I can dance like a ninny around the house and tap out my words into the ether. The hubster knew how much I was looking forward to my day of solitude; he gets it. So when I got back to my quiet kitchen from dropping off the kids, I found his words scrawled across the splash back in the kitchen. They are not borrowed words, they are straight from the heart words, genuine words. Words to make my heart warm.

I am the luckiest of girls to have a guy like that in my life. He is a whiteboard-marker-wielding poet, even if I didn’t know it. 😉

Build me up, Buttercup.

Every year I imagine I can be prepared enough to slow down the Term 4 Tornado.
But I never can.  The calendar and the inbox cram themselves with things I can’t do justice to; my daughter’s graduation banquet, my son’s camp, athletics day, events. I start to get that panicky accelaration feeling you get when the roller coaster takes off.
I’m rattling down the track and the wheels start to wobble. I grasp around for an emergency brake, but this roller coaster doesn’t have one. I look ahead to 2016 and brace myself. I just need to make it to that shiny horizon. That beautiful, new, unsullied year. Then I can wrestle some peace out of the pace. I just need to make it there…

Things have been a bit crazy.

I was supposed to be graduating from my programme on Friday, but I am not. Some people can get over things quickly and move on.  I’m not one of those people. It takes time for me to feel alright again after I’ve been kicked. So I am staying away and I am sad that I won’t be with my cohort for their very special night. I’m sad all of the year’s work and thinking won’t be recognised for me. I am told this is my choice, but circumstances made it very difficult for me to make a different one.

And there has been the situation with the grandies, all the to and fro’ing. And an awful phone conversation this week where I was told all the meals I made and the efforts I made to help were not wanted. It felt like a sucker punch to the guts.  I guess I have been feeling sensitive anyway after the flak I copped for my blog. To cop flak for trying to be a good daughter in law was just too much, I held it in until he had hung up the phone.  Then the floodgates opened.

I went for a walk to the park at the end of our little street. I couldn’t stop crying; even big girls cry sometimes.  I stared up into the branches of a massive oak tree and tried to rationalise all of it, I looked around the park. Tried to find a clear headspace where I could step away from the noise and mess in my mind. And then I saw this. A small patch of weed infested grass. The sun, dappling across the tops of the grass. Tiny yellow buttercups holding up their little faces to the warmth.  Uncomplicated. Just, there. Just being them.

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I decided I need to do a bit more of that. Just letting the sun soak into my face. Just sitting in a field. Just looking at the flowers. Just being me.

I’m taking myself away with Flo this weekend. Away from the sad feelings I have about missing graduation. We’re going to have long breakfasty-lunches and stroll slowly along Oriental Parade. We’re going to chat and laugh and enjoy the easy company of each other and the joy of no responsiblities. It’s going to be a tonic.

What does your weekend hold?  I hope you get the chance to be like the buttercup. Even for a little bit. The new year is just around the corner …I am fairly confident in my prediction that there will be sunshine. 🙂

 

 

 

Spun Sugar Skyline

photo taken through aeroplane window of clouds, as I left Christchurch

Candy floss carpets the sky fields outside my window. The sun has ducked beneath the horizon and the last of it’s rays candy the tops of the clouds with stripes of toffee.  A spun sugar skyline. I’m flying home from an important weekend away. And it’s fitting that the sky displays such sweetness right before the darkness. It echoes the word that describes my time away: bittersweet. Because, this time, we’ve been in Christchurch.  A city close to the heart of my inner child.

The last time I was there was 32 years ago, and I feel so fortunate to have been back. Since then the city has endured a natural disaster none of us expected. It was sad to see the city crumbled; even five years after the earthquakes brought down the buildings, Christchurch is still in ruins. I saw new buildings, yes.  Some hotels and the theatre have been rebuilt. There is construction happening.  But far more compelling was the yawning chasm of the the cathedral ruin. The heart of the city, shredded and shaken. Taken.

photo of the ruined Cathedral in Christchurch

 

Street art adorns the abandoned buildings, an attempt to bring colour and vibrancy to the emptiness.photo of street art on the walls of abandoned buildings in the Christchurch city centre

Cordons and construction fences, traffic cones and danger signs. There are plans to garden the rubble. To build inner city orchards and green spaces. But I surveyed a scene so different from the Christchurch of my early memories… I felt disoriented. Standing there in Cathedral square, trying to retrace the skyline of my mind’s eye, I could not find my bearings. Time and tectonics have taken the town I knew and replaced it with something apocalyptically new. 70,000 homes have been demolished in the wake of the quake. All of that displacement. Can you imagine what that does to a community? My heart understood that for the first time as I stood there in the places of my childhood. Until this visit, the story of the quakes were just news headlines; bad news best forgotten.

Our speakers over the weekend were people working right in amongst the community, people with vision for a more connected, more responsive city. A place of togetherness and possibility. There was much talk about the opportunities created by the disaster.  About Christchurch becoming the most accessible city in the country. But among all the positivity, my mind kept turning to the people who have endured more than 20,000 aftershocks.  Every time the ground shudders, they’re taken back to the days when trauma shook their bones, broke their homes. Changed their geography and mapped new territories of terror.  I keep thinking about how hard the last five years must have been for them all. Five years of hard slog, trying to redress the damage, move on, make do, push forward. It’s so difficult living in the aftermath of all that. I salute them all; those resilient Cantabrians. I feel sorry that I didn’t understand until now.  It’s not over for them. It’s a generational trauma. Long after the papers have stopped reporting, after the sensationalism has ceased to make their stories headlines, it goes on. They must be beyond exhausted. Their grief must seep into the mortar of the rebuild. Into the future they create. How can it not?

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I visited my old street.  My old home. My old schools. I went across to Lyttleton, remembering the lazy Sunday drives through the tunnel for fish and chips on the wharf. I saw the southern skies, and felt the beating heart of that beaten city. Bruised, battered. Beautiful brave hearts.

A bittersweet collection of moments for me, a relentless march of time for them.

I gaze out the aeroplane window at the dark of night.  Below me, in inky anonymity, the long white clouds of my country carpet the way home. I am flying back to my harbour city, safe harbour, my home. My family will meet me and I will slip back into my role as wife, mum and aunty. It’s school holiday time. A breather in the usual routine. There will be pyjama days, horses and horsing around. Playdates and dvds, dry-cleaning and the small ordinary somethings of a simple life. Home. I will relish every minute of all of it. My life.

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Perched on the edge of the Pacific rim, our tiny country tucks itself into bed for the night. For most of us, there is a childlike faith in the stability of our island home. We like to forget what Christchurch tried to teach us. Tonight I will go home and be grateful for the temporal solidity of my life. For the present state of wellness. Of safety. I won’t take it for granted.  I will tuck my temerity in my pocket and use it wisely. We are all at any time, a moment away from our world being shaken into something we do not recognise.