Tag Archives: Love

‘chicks bloody well can surf’

puberty blues

I watched the movie, Puberty Blues, the other night. I didn’t mean to, just found it as I was scrolling through for a movie to watch. It’s an Australian, coming-of-age movie made in 1981 about teenage life in the 70s on the coast — the beach, surf, sex and drugs. Not sure much has changed! It resonates with my teenage years and is one I watched many times over. That’s saying something for someone who doesn’t like to watch a movie for a second time, let alone a third or fourth.

The movie had already begun but a beach scene hooked me immediately, no doubt because of my love of the beach and water. However, what struck me about the movie was its ending. It finished on the ideal high that many storytellers strive for, that thought provoking scene that’s interpreted through book, song, movie, music or any other creative means. It’s that hook that catches you inside, pulls you to kind of do a double take.

The movie’s ending shows the two girls, Debbie and Sue, buying their own surfboard and carrying it together down to the beach where their ‘friends’ tell them that girls don’t surf. The scene is brilliantly set up to evoke the idea that the surf board is too heavy for one girl to carry, and requires two. Defiant, Debbie takes to the surf to catcalls and scoffs. The scene unfold with the two girls soon laughing as they swim out and surf the waves laying on their bellies. Their friends watch on in deriding disdain.

Until Debbie stands on the board, that is. Suddenly, Sue’s boyfriend is smiling as Debbie rides the waves as a professional, which actor Nell Schofield does so well as a former teen surfing champion. The friends with Sue’s boyfriend, both boys and girls, are gobsmacked and watch in awe. You can almost see the penny drop in the girls that the impossible of girls not being able to surf, is possible. What’s more, the boys see it too. It’s such an empowering scene, for the female and the male, set up so beautifully by director Bruce Beresford and cinematographer Don McAlpine: Debbie in her skimpy yellow bikini showing the boys how it’s done, defying the unthinkable.

It encapsulates a spirited rebellion that rises and leads to freedom, a liberation of the stereotypical of men and women in the 1970s. Baby steps, of course.

Around the time I was watching the movie, I had just spoken to my cousin in Austria. The tremble in her voice was something I didn’t usually hear in her. She was exhausted and in bed early with a headache that night. The limitations and isolation imposed because of the corona virus were getting to her, symptomatic of what’s happening all over the world.

It highlighted to me, that we’re all in this together. The whole big, wide world.

We’ve become one. While vast lands may be separated by distance and water, we are one community facing a virus which threatens us. One united community. And together, we’re doing what we can to minimise its impact on us. We’re carrying our surfboard together, no matter how rich or poor or what colour our skin or religion we may follow. We’re sharing that load. Sure there are some that don’t. There are always going to be those that don’t, those that live on the fringes of any community, for numerous reasons. That seems to be human nature.

It’s so heartening to see and experience the world uniting though, the kindness that’s been extended by so many, and the genuine care and help for one another.

It’s humbling. It’s courteous and modest, sending us back to basics. While we’ve grown into a human race that is rich in materialism, we’ve been thrown back to basics where food, medicine and water are all that matter. And it’s happening to all of us.

We’ve been forced to return to our homes and families, our friends who are our families, whether in physicality, online or over the phone. We’re thinking about elderly people and looking after them. And for those that have them, we’re spending time with our children.

Sitting outside in the glorious sunshine with two of my sons last week, we wondered how some parents and children who don’t often spend time together may be coping with this new togetherness. The eternal optimist in me believes the intrinsic fibres between parent and child have no option but to reconnect, to strengthen relationships and homes. The problem will be, in the homes and relationships that are broken. Time will tell on that.

It fills me with such warmth when I sit in my spring blossom and peacock chair in the sunroom at dawn and feel the quiet and peace outside, with the French doors open to my Chinese Elm and birds chirping good morning. Only an occasional car drives by compared with the many that normally stream past on their way to work. Dawn in peace is a grounding gift.

My sons had commented on the lack of traffic in our street too, as they tuned into the stillness outside. This calm that shrouds us, us as in the world where we humans have been forced to stop. Our busyness has subsided and work isn’t as important as it used to be. It’s as if the world is on pause for a chance to catch its breath. It’s been so wacky busy, it needed to catch its breath. Yet as each day passes, it pants more slowly and less so.

Many are anxious about where we now find ourselves. I like to see it as being in another stage of life that’s in a constant state of flux. Life is full of those, cycles of change, of difficultly and ease, challenge and triumph, and joy and sadness. Change is one of the few reliable constants in life. The key with any flux, flow or ebb in life, is to ride it out for it will shift. Take the action necessary to make the change, to come through it and be patient to believe that things will improve. I see many who are patient and accepting of this.

Some panic in change and adversity. But that’s the polarity of life, of the spectrum of experience and people — positive and negative, pure and filth, disgust and captivating. Even that needs acceptance, of life’s adversity and polarity that is building now as a collective adversity, a world adversity.

In any polarity, change and adversity, life continues. It’s a short life that we have and making the most of it and any situation we’re faced with is all we can do. Love. Kiss. Confront. Forgive and move on. And laugh, don’t forget to laugh, even in times like we’re in now, and especially in times like we’re in now.

Babies are born, people die. Love blooms, relationships end. Some are still at work while many have lost their means to earn an income. People are stressed, some are panicked, others are unperturbed.

And yet in all that, has come one of the greatest revelations: that of kindness and compassion extended to those in need, and to those that aren’t earning an income. Such fortitude emblazons. They won’t be beaten.

It really sends my heart gooey when I think of the compassion around us right now. Yes, there are some desperate and hoarding and only thinking of themselves. But the giving out number them and in reality, compassion can only be extended to those in such panic for they’re in fear.

Fear can be so consuming and at the moment, it’s consuming millions. Eckhart Tolle describes fear as thoughts where people project themselves into some future moment.

If we try and pause with the world, sit in this quiet time to plant our feet on the ground and not get caught in the madness, we may become less fearful. Accept that this time now, is a pause in life. Plan for the future but it’s not possible to think too far ahead as these are new times unfolding in ways we’ve not experienced before. It’s new for everyone. Deal with each day as it appears. Plan for the future but live in the day that exits. More easily said than done for some, I know. Compassion and patience is called for those struggling with fear and panic.

Compassion and patience is giving, as the driver coming out of his truck to share his toilet paper with the elderly lady weeping when she couldn’t buy toilet paper, and in the tray of mince and bread left on an elderly woman’s fence and toilet paper left on a door step. It’s in the man asking people that had congregated after playing soccer at the local sports oval to move on and disperse, and those people doing so. And in the phone calls and facetimes, messages on every app possible, of people checking in on friends, family and neighbours, on those alone and isolated. It’s in the support groups and services established to help people unable to go out and buy food or medicine or simply can’t move from their home for anything at all. Organisations are making extra funding available to help people who have lost their income. Even businesses and banks are showing compassion, providing extra services without cost and deferring mortgages for those who have lost work. Business partners are supporting one another, offering jobs to those working for partners who have lost theirs.

People are helping people. If you ever thought human kindness had left the planet, look around for it’s galloping in right now. Even my niece offered to help me. I giggled at first, then that gooey heart got going again. Such care. And love.

The fragility of life has been waved before us. But flapping madly in front of that is the human spirit. It’s strong, alive and kicking, just as it was when Debbie and Sue surfed those waves at Bondi. We are a singular community bound in belonging by a virus threatening us, bound by a humanity that comes with humility. It’s a humanity emerging within humanity.

I’ll finish my rambling in the spirit of humanity loving to laugh, with Lulu taking the piss out of Corona

 

The captivating soul

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‘Frau mit blauen Augen’, Kees van Dongen, 1955

Tall or short, thin or round. Blue-eyed, brown-eyed, maybe even one of each for a touch of the unique. Blonde hair, brunette, curly or shaved head, egg-shell or olive complexion, toned or not, big or small, great and immensely tremendous.

No, there’s got to be more, much more than the pink-iced façade studded in silver beads of sugar and laced in a string of fancy frosting.

Brash and brazen, shy and bashful … an observer, a chatterbox, a listener, a really good listener for sure. Now we’re getting somewhere. Accomplished in the art of listening is a necessity.

But more, there’s got to be more, something beyond the veneer of superficial.

A listener and conversationalist, the epitome of a good communicator who can express thoughts and ideas. And feelings. Justly and rationally, and with reason and a sense of justice and fairness. And with an ability to think on the philosophy of life and way up its nuances. Thoughtfully.

Someone that reads and can read to me and I to them. Head resting on lap, fingers twirling and swirling through hair. Sharing is caring after all.

Birds call, outside breezes through dreamy aqua sheers as a gentle confirmation.

Confident and self-assured, but positively not cocky. Not wanky or manky or any kind of minx … no thanks, that’s just not for me.

One who is considerate and gentle, understanding of others and shows compassion for their needs. It comes with a kindness, generous and selflessness spirit, a giving without expectation. That’s true nobility, in the giving. Now we’re forming a picture.

The ability to be vulnerable too, with the capacity to manage that vulnerability as that shows full disclosure. Honesty. It’s an imperative that goes to the top. Honesty is the sexy. But so is the glint of cheeky grin and sharp wit.

The fun, there’s got to be fun and joy and laughter, and a sharing in that. Time at the beach, for walking, swimming and lazing. Kayaking and snorkelling, sailing and wind surfing, the adventure in trying the new, seeing the new through eyes of awe.

A crack of thunder, a hint of coming rain wafts through the window.

Travelling, discovering new places, exploring cultures and all that makes up our world environment, the extremes of heat and ice cold, and those damn elusive Northern Lights! Riding through snow in little visibility, or motor cycling winding mountain roads lined in green terraces of water and rice and humidity. The chance for real breath, savouring it all until it seeps in and becomes part of you, forms you as an ever evolving you.

Art and music, good food and drinks. Dancing, theatre, the chance for creativity to infuse any part of life and thinking you so desire, even in the simplest of things. Gardening and weeding, especially of the inherent and intrinsic. We all need it in our own way, as an appreciation of what is, and without the gluttony of the selfish.

And in the experiencing of all that together.

But, there’s more. There’s the sharing of the emotional that’s so vital. An emotional intellect. A sharing and understanding of the highs and lows, the distresses and successes. The bolstering and support. Mustn’t forget that, especially on those solo quests.

Rain washes in to define a picture more rounded.

And an appreciation and encouragement of independence. Independence to think and do, be the individual with an identity. And an independence to be found in the sharing as well. There’s such freedom in that, as the outstretched wings of the Pegasus. Wings unclipped.

It’s the kiss though, that’s the real cherry on top of the icing studded in silver beads of sugar and laced in a string of fancy frosting. The kiss that can tell all, express a feeling that can’t be defined. And the embrace that can hold the weight of the world.

That’s the gold gilding the cherry in a picture that’s simple really, of a most captivating soul.

 

Intimacy.

An-Invitation-To-The-Intimate, Paul Bond

An Invitation To The Intimate, Paul Bond

The wipe of lipstick from the man you’ve just kissed, or who refuses the wipe to publicly parade his delight in the dalliance,

The time graced between two siblings to sit on a sunny afternoon and chat without boundary or brass and be in the deity of the day,

And the late-night message from a colleague you adore working with, giving you a last crumb of information that’s vital to your work …

Acts of intimacy are more than those shared between two people indulging in sex, no matter how sensual, passionate or lustful. It isn’t only within the tantalising kiss and touch in pulsing pep and pizzazz, teetering on the tips of goose bumps upon goose bumps. While wonderful and glorious and erogenously insatiable, intimacy is more than that. Much more.

Intimacy is in the sharing of toast in the tranquil of sunshine reflecting off aquamarine seas, and the chasing after your lunch partner’s napkin that’s blown onto the floor.

It’s in that ultimate kiss where the son smacks purposeful lips on his mother’s forehead, a symbol of protection and guardianship, and in her flicking through his shine and tangle of mess and curls for no reason other than him being close by. Because she can.

It’s in the exchange of clasped hands where skin on skin is silky soft as polished surfaces sliding surreptitiously, smoothed from any tiny ridges and valley patterns that may beetle from fingers and palms.

Intimacy is the powerful exchange between friends over late night text after a long, long day, in the knowing that they have your back. Always. It’s in the familiarity and friendship, affinity and affection.

Intimacy is at its most striking when a parent must carry a sick adult-son whose death is imminent, and the son giving in to his need for dependent care.

That deep intimacy when stripped bare, exposes vulnerability, as a heart skinned to its core. It’s in the unconditional exchange that comes on the tail of desire to give, to protect beyond every conceivable boundary.

But that poses a risk and to some, it’s a huge peril they can’t overcome or see as the waiting monster ready to latch onto their feet and drag them well down into the depths of despair. Opening up and being vulnerable to the intimacy unlocks a siphoning window to being hurt, undoubtedly, because it’s allowing a freedom to feel and connect with others.

As with most things, stepping back to see what’s what, smelling the roses if you like or watching the severed tops of an old olive tree hacked back with a chainsaw to a few thick limbs coming off the smooth, grey trunk, stark of olives and foliage, watching it bask in the autumn sun as if reaching for nourishment of its new growth. Taking that pause to reflect … it’s one of the graces we’re gifted with that we sometimes forget we have.  

Appreciation. Introspection, being honest and grateful for days so full of everything, even if the everything is clogged in feelings of despair or memories that bleed from shattered hearts as rain blanketing in thundering storms. Intimacy if it’s permitted, allows for a debauchery of vulnerability that can ripple into forever as the most glorious, fabulous and wonderful,

As the most intricate spider’s web laced in early morning dew,

And the first flush of begonias hanging as fleshy flowers like little chandeliers, in all shades of the artist’s palette.

The key is to be open to it, allow the intimacy to stream in. Accept the risk, for the rewards are immeasurable.

 

            Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Love truly.

            Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.

                                                                                    ~Mark Twain.

The Nannu kiss

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There’s this kiss that’s the purest of kisses. I’m not sure whether I can describe it or do justice to its nuance of power. It’s greater than any other kiss I’ve known, the epitome of all kisses: moreish without being delicious, deeper than lust and desire crocheted in the intricacy of passion, leather and lace.

I was lucky to have one smack-banged on me recently from a most beautiful soul, a compassionate man who personifies gorgeous that oozes from his insides out.

I’ve only had a few in the past 20 years, since my grandfather died. I can count them on one hand. My grandfather was a strict man, an ex-army troop sergeant in World War 2 for the British Army Royal Engineers, although he was Maltese. He saw a thing or two with Malta being the most bombed allied country during the War. Forty years on and he would bark orders as though he was still in the army. Us grandchildren, 16 of us, would smirk when we heard them as they were directed at anyone but particularly at our parents and as children, we revelled in our parents being told off! We’d receive his orders occasionally, like if we were washing up incorrectly or cleaning up after a meal in a way that he thought he wasn’t right. He’d direct us to do it his way in his sergeant tone.

But his orders to us were different, they didn’t contain the serious undertones so distinct in his orders to others and even when they did, we knew we could disobey them. When we did, he’d have a little grumble then quickly break into a little laugh and invariably, end in one of his kisses. I call them the Nannu kiss and Nannu would kiss us in this way anytime, not just when we disobeyed his orders. It was his signature kiss.

The few I’ve received since his death have come from a gentle giant of a man who I consider an older brother. I’m the eldest of my siblings and so to have this older brother figure is comforting. His kiss normally comes with a hello or how are you. It could be that he kisses me in this way simply because he is almost a foot taller than me and the practicality of giving the kiss is because of his height.

But I don’t think that’s the case, not when I feel such care and a sense of protection in the Nannu kiss. It’s a strange feeling, that of protection, because it’s not as if I’m in any danger. The kiss though, conveys such kindness and respect, and that everything is okay, no matter what. It’s a reassurance that I’m safe, that someone ‘has my back’ and I can rely on them.

Timing is everything and the Nannu kiss I received from my gorgeous man this week came at the most perfect time, if ever there is such a thing as the perfect. It came with lashings of care, compassion and grace and allowed me the humility to lean into his grounding and know that no matter what, he’s there and I’m okay. It came with the reassurance that he’ll be beside me in the patience of the most enlightened of monks and while he may not be able to stick any broken pieces together for me, he’ll help search for every shard that may have ricocheted into the ethers and catch them if they fall while I glue them together. His nurturing strength is deeply rooted in solid poise, so that anything can be achieved. The Nannu kiss is unwavering.

I hope you get to experience the Nannu kiss in your lifetime and when you do, be sure to draw in all the tenderness that it’s given with. Feel that kiss when it’s coddled, caked or caressed onto your forehead, suck in every minuscule of its giving and feel it spread from the top of your head into every part of your body. Breathe in that cherish of the exchange for it will give you the strength to accomplish even the most difficult of despairs.

And if you’re lucky enough to witness a Nannu kiss being planted on someone’s forehead, observe the lowering of the giver’s eyes, the warmth in their smile before they pucker their lips to kiss the forehead of the lucky receiver, whose head is almost bowed in anticipation of the gift. Watch the receiver tuck into the chest of the giver, their body giving into the comfort of the steady foundation. Appreciate the vulnerability in the kiss being received, and the humility with which it’s given.

The Nannu kiss is the embodiment of love stripped bare. It can empower to achieve and accomplish anything, even the perceived insurmountable. Christmas or not, Nannu kiss or not, the gift of unconditional reassurance and boundless strength is something we’re all worthy of receiving. And giving.

 

You know

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RobinLK Studios, Creative by Discovery

Some things you just know, without understanding or reasoning. They just are.

From that first breath we’re privileged with, the gasp that comes from the longest silence, you know there is something greater than any understanding can reveal.

It’s a look. A smell. A touch that melts a hundred hardened hearts and can prompt the unfurling of the first delicate petal from the centre of a tightly bound rose. It unleashes an unimaginable, a vast infinite beyond comprehension.

It’s when time is nothing and growth is everything, when nothing can morph into everything and everything can become entirety. That first breath tells all. Is all. The first step, the first word spoken. It’s when a teenager admires a parent’s bravery, and that other teenager rises to speak her mind in forthright candour and with a strength you wish all people had.

In that, is a knowing that can’t be explained. It’s something that stirs deep within the youngest of people and oldest of souls, and prompts action when no action may be wanted. It comes on impulse voicing care and concern, as a surprise savvy loaded in activism that inspires and binds to accomplish more.

As the croon of tyre on bitumen can hum into daydreams of what was yesterday and what’s to come tomorrow, mumbles onto foreign lands can feel so familiar. To start over or return, it can be the same and one, as is the knowing and not knowing and catching a whiff to follow your nose when there is no scent.

It knows. As sure as the sun rises each morning and sets each night, even when it hovers in a haze of pink and orange to dance on a horizon and never really set or rise, you know. Deep in your centre, it calls. Even when a kick in the gut strikes in the dim of dark to seethe in swells and spits of molten lava, or the broken of heartache that has no end, in all its fragmented fracture, it knows what to do. It understands what is.

When a touch can send quivers into a rabid fever, when luminous and incandescent eyes of blue, green or brown pine unwavering into you, whether human, canine, feline or other living creature, you know. No matter where you are, what you’re doing or for how long.

It’s there in the last breath in a long line of breaths, bellying out as a knowing in one’s core of all that is. That knowing of instinct, you know it, even when you don’t know it.

And yet the simplest action for all of us is to listen. Hear that call, hear that knowing of instinct. It can flutter in the flap of a butterfly wing, or a bam-shazam punch of tungsten tough.

Stop. Breathe. Listen in silence.

What it is that we know, is in the pits of no end. Hone in on that knowing for in its centre, is the sound of love. Touch it. Stroke it. Gaze upon it. Taste it and smell it. Devour it. That’s all we need to know.

The magic mirror

love

My kitchen window is the portal into another time and place. I’ve been looking through it and writing about what I see for years. Even when I don’t see any physical activity apart from the day that is – a gluttonous sky thundering over the Chinese Elm, the first blossoms on the apricot tree or chooks basking in the dusty hole they’ve dug to bathe in sunshine – I see so much.

The three little boys that once jumped in and out of a portable swimming pool in summers of years gone, white in a heavy layering of sunscreen and laughing with each butt print made on the hot concrete path. They’d ride scooters and bikes from the back gate onto a track in the grass, have parties with friends and chip golf balls on a make-shift putting green. They’d hang washing on the clothes line while I washed dishes over my window, throwing the ball for Teddi and hitting it out with a cricket bat when they got tired of throwing. They’d bring washing in, all folded and ready to sort. They still do.

Today through my kitchen window is one of them with his love pulling weeds together by that clothes line, cute in their occasional smiles and exchanges. He’s older and wiser now, although sometimes when a shopping trolley full of garden stakes and an azalea bush plucked from an anonymous front yard appears after a night out with friends, I do wonder.

Our house, it has a crowd

There’s always something happening

And it’s usually quite loud … Our house, in the middle of our street

Madness sings over the radio, reminding me of how time moves at a snail’s pace, and yet ever moving as the rotating Earth. This magic window of mine shows glimpses only I can see. Memories of little boys that are now as men, a second 21st birthday in weeks.

Waves in the unseen pulse through, hurts from deep love and happiness scar of a life meandering as a unique Jackson Pollock drip painting. Sharp pains clash in red and blue lines highlighted with ochres, the clash of words that gnaw at the heart.

It’s a fine line between pleasure and pain

You’ve done it once you can do it again

It’s the Divinyls now as the gentle reminder, prodding the longings, whether known or not, for him or her, that thing in the corner. To be by the beach; to be home. A longing for peace without turmoil, peace even when the ocean roars its endless rhythm of now and what’s to come. Longing frees the honesty within the heart, to smile even when not smiling. Perhaps that’s a contentment, even with emotions brimming and wanting to spill.

Whether I’m looking through my kitchen window at those boys of yesterday and today, or for the rabid clucks of chooks being chased by Teddi and Schnooze, all in good jest of course, it’s always wide open and full of reflection. I can be cooking butterflied lamb that’s been marinating for 36 hours for dinner and whizzing past the window from bench to stove, stopping at the kitchen sink to wash hands of sticky garlic oils, and still, all manner of stark brutality can flood in to choke. A gulp of rosé from the antique crystal glass can smooth it away, spritely and clear compared to the robust of swallow of the same wine from my brown short glass last week. Senses swirl in the heady grilling, aromas fill nostrils to where I can smell no more.

This evening it’s simple burgers browning in a pan with bacon and pineapple and it’s not until one of those boys walks in from work that I realise I’m immersed in the Monika-world.

‘Mmm, that smells nice,’ he says. ‘I can smell it from the back gate.’ His hello kiss brings me back to today with bonds to yesterday. Another sip of rosé.

That magic mirror can show possibilities of what’s to come, of more little children running through the yard or by the beach in their little Hawaiian shirts, more dogs and chooks and golf all fusing as that next part of a growing life. My magic mirror keeps me wide open to possibilities, many I cannot imagine.

There’s always a kiss of tomorrow, the kiss from far away that should have been, could be. Kisses maketh thy life.

Here comes the rain again

Falling on my head like a memory

Falling on my head like a new emotion

I want to walk in the open wind

I want to talk like lovers do

I want to dive into your ocean

Is it raining with you        ~ Eurythmics

Heart or brain

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If creator asked me, however creation occurs, would I like to be a heart or a brain, without hesitation my answer would be a heart. It’s not that I have anything against a brain, it’s just that hearts have more fun, more of a wild life-ride.

My cousin married on the weekend while her father lay dying in his bed. That cements my heart choice.

Weddings and watching someone you love die can be highly emotional. Weddings for the glorious euphoria where it can feel as though you’re in some kind of mooshy bubble soaked in joy on steroids. Everyone revels inside the protective sac, shielded from harsh realities, whether you’re the bride, groom or guest. You can forget at a wedding, leave everything outside to be in the deity of the day.

Watching someone die, which is very different to death, takes you to a whole other extreme where torment exceeds pain to induce an excruciating helplessness. Being out in cyclonic seas that regurgitate scrambled eggs in one dip would be far simpler than riding the tumult of emotion in dying. Watching those you love, watch their dearest fade away adds a whole other layer in the scuttle to catch breaking hearts that drip through your fingers.

The two together, a wedding and dying, become a whammy of intensities. Extremes escalate as the bubble suddenly hosts the world’s scariest roller coaster to flip revellers over and over, manoeuvring double corkscrews and cobra rolls in the dark while dodging shooting, zephyring sparks that ricochet inside the bubble. Sudden moves exaggerate and juxtapose happiness and hurt and confrontations can bite in as the antithesis of pleasure and heartache.

And yet being in that bubble holds the nurture and care to get through, to nourish the ache that transcend all other aches and comes from a bed of barren more mangled than a thousand, old gnarled trunks entwining as taught rope, all pulling as tourniquets on everything within scent and sight.

Of course, a heart must be stripped bare to feel, to attune to the spiralling emotions and slivers of tenderness, to accept without question and give an ease of friendship and support while taking care of one’s own needs … it’s the essence of giving without any expectation.

An open heart delights in the greatest sprouting, boundless and enriching. It comes with sacrifice and compromise, of hidden tears and no judgement.

It comes with patience. And genuine kindness.

It allows the whole gamut of everything to flow free, with no boundaries or barriers. Pain easily enters and you’re exposed to the bottomless swirl of eruptions without restraint, fighting uncontrollable and unreasonable as the ones you care about or love the most are the ones that will make you cry. It’s a pain that can’t be touched or pinpointed.

An open heart can grip without warning and lock in as a monolithic stronghold rooted from sky to earth. And yet it’s that grounding that sanctions an experiencing of vastness and to take risks, to be caught in a safety net when falling.

Sometimes you might wonder whether life would be easier by simply closing one’s heart, boarding it up to protect from all and everything. And yet the energy it takes to be closed can far exceed the energy for uncovering, to be oneself without hiding. Sometimes the fear of being hurt is more painful than being hurt.

The alternative of living with a closed heart, afraid to chance, to live in a lingering starkness where loneliness can reverberate in a wallowing chortle of superficial fluff, desolate, confused in the staccato of dark, fatigued and impervious to feel all that life is … no, that’s not for me. That’s not life.

I’d prefer to wear the silky lingerie that catches on jagged cliff faces, confident of the buoyancy from those around me as we bounce in and out of our bubble.

Opening up is an endorphic lift that sucks in the bubble bliss and pitted sadness and digests it, processes it into a deep understanding of the polarity of life and an ultimate gratitude for it. An open heart accentuates the happiness and knows empathy, especially for the closed hearts.

It’s a nunu kiss of true, deep and honouring love that shines past the deepest and darkest. It’s the kind of kiss a grandparent plants on the forehead of a grandchild where nothing else matters but the kiss.

What would you prefer if the offer was presented to you, to be a heart or a brain?

Hands of lifetimes

holding hands kara braithwaite

Breaking through any veneer takes time. Prodding and poking, gentle rounds of pounding and soon enough, a fine fracture appears. Time and patience, compassion to allow sees the shellac of mask crack and eventually shatter.

And yet, it’s not always so, not when years of layering in plutonium and gold, wedged in between toughened steel and encrusted in diamond particles for added strength, teeters in brittle balance to become a complexity seemingly inconceivable to penetrate.

Trying mustn’t stop, pushing with the gentlest of might to pry into the tiniest of miniscule fractures that clam shut to protect its pearl. The harder the push, the tighter the molecules bind. These walls of lifetimes unite as secret societies with the most stringent passwords and handshakes of multiple dexterity. Breaking through takes time and is more laborious than sharpened chisels rasping day and night at the rock of hardened lava and the spiked-up engraver etching in more profoundly with each scratch. A labour of love that can take forever. Or never.

Digging too deep though can strike a fissure that turns suddenly south. The cleft snaps to a chasmic abyss, where erratic fireworks clash with shooting debris, all while caving in on itself.

Inside and out collide and draw into a coiling twist, a vortex sucking up every me, me, me. I’m here, he’s there, the divide is great … I can’t but you can, she has more and I have none. He cares, she cares most definitely … you know, they all know the truth.

Until there’s a discrete tickle that comes from these walls of lifetimes, prompting an instinctual recognition. Yet it retreats as quickly as it appears. Or does it?

The shifting between one and the other, and then both, the betrayal in a pool of liquid whispers. Leaded boots hook into a mirrored room kissed by Judas, reflecting as a brilliant cut diamond. Any glimpse of sight is too stark, any grasp is of liquid mercury.

The tickle takes a form, a shadow in those walls of lifetimes. The energy is undeniable, as the breath of life passed to Adam by the lightest of touch in Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ fresco in the Sistine Chapel. Those boots begin to unhinge from their crimped claws.

Churned pitting begins to ease and the idea that some things must be, falls as a veil of solace. A hand of being takes mine, grounding in more might than any wall of lifetimes, even against the wet fallen from a blanket of darkest grey where the sky and road ahead merge as one mantle of colourless drab.

Hands weave to help wash away caustic tears. They build an intangible strength impervious to the demands of everything. Unusual in structure and more intricate than a brain brimming in full seismic thought dancing with a heart flushed in erogenous fervour.

Look closely. The hand is there, tucked into the rock facade hiding a thousand stories. They’re there, laced in tenderness and sprinkled in kindness and with a depth that can reach any heart’s core. Those hands come from near and far, at any most unexpected time, and can illuminate as pure gold from those walls of lifetimes.

It’s the only way to warmth yet unknown, to feel the lightness of hands of lifetimes.

 

Farm Reflections: Beryl

MurtcaimShe cups her hands under my jaw, drawing me close. Her touch is soft, a stark contrast to the arduous work she began at 10 years old. She kisses my cheek, skimming the corner of my lips. It’s the kind of exchange that exudes the nurture of a mother’s kiss, of appreciation and protection. Those few seconds are tattooed inside of me, such is the power of her touch.

‘Thanks,’ I say. ‘For giving me so much of your time today.’ I had tried to leave hours earlier through concern of taking up too much of her time, before a plate of pointed egg, and ham and cheese sandwiches appeared.

She smiles. ‘Thanks for coming, dear. It was lovely meeting you.’ Her smile is unfaltering, more spirited and permanent than the Mona Lisa.

I pull out the red capsicums from the box and bunch of rhubarb bound by an elastic band with leaves browning at their sliced tops, and toss the Spanish onions and tomatoes into the bowl in the pantry. SBS Chill plays smooth over the radio, although the tunes seem to hinge in a haunting of melancholy. Shuffling, stomps in boots on floorboards with no time to kick them off or wipe away the lipstick from the day, from one cupboard to the next, doors opening and banging with bongo beats of intermingling that flee to the other side of the world.

‘Here, have you seen this?’ he asks, handing me a bluing photo of footballers wearing Geelong AFL jumpers.

More football, but it seems to be what people are passionate about. It played a big part in the community over the years, with many attending weekend games and dances that followed in the Farm hall.

‘She played on the MCG you know.’

I look up over my spectacles, unsure of truth or jovial yarn.

‘She did! I’m not telling any tales.’

Beryl smiles broadly from her arm chair. ‘Yeah, it’s true,’ she nods.

I look closely at the photo. These footballers are women, having played in 1952. ‘We’ve got photos of women playing football in 1950, ‘51 and now ‘52!’ Women took to the field to the upturned noses of some and admiration of others back more than 67 years ago. The hype of women’s football today was built on the strength and foresight of those women and men.

‘I played in the ’51 and ’52 games. Bob Davis was our coach in 1952.’ The sun streaming through the dining room window casts elongated shadows that autumn is known for, lighting Beryl from behind. ‘Sunny Stewart and Linda Tetsil would fake a fight every game.’

I laugh. ‘I thought fake fighting only happened in wrestling!’

A sip of rosé, the green stem of the wine glass reminding me of faraway. Back to the pantry I prance for that onion already packed away. Peeling and chopping, grating in mechanical auto pilot … a slip of the knuckle on my thumb. Onion juice soon seeps into the graze. It stings but I don’t stop. Blood begins to streak, forcing me to search for a band aid. When the boys were little, band aids always disappeared into that black hole of socks. My grating of fingers is all too common in our household and at the suggestion of one of those boys who is now a man, band aids today live in the kitchen. I wonder how many times Beryl grated her fingers in her day, or worse still, gained splinters and cuts from the logs she chopped.

‘I was Dad’s helper up until he died when I was nine,’ she says.

‘That’s young,’ I say, in jarring knowing of loss as a child.

‘Because I was the second eldest in the family, I took on the outside chores when Dad died. My older sister helped Mum inside. I’d have to chop wood for the wood stove and to heat up the copper for washing clothes.’

‘For bathing too,’ says Don. ‘Don’t forget the bathing. You were a hard worker, love.’

Beryl nods. ‘I’d feed the pigs and milk the cows, and churn the cream and butter.’

‘You’ve got to understand that era,’ says Don. He reminds me of my grandfather, trying to teach me of the “old life”. ‘You had no choice. They had no father, no electricity because they weren’t in the town. Beryl had to do those things with no father.’

‘And you milked the cows twice a day?’

Beryl nods. ‘About five or five thirty at each end of the day.’

‘She’d do that before and after school and when she went on to work, and she’d have a five or six-mile ride on her push bike to and from Werribee to get to work.’ Don’s gloating is of that other admiration, one of deep and lifelong love between two people.

‘And before Beryl and her family got to the 40 Road and the house in Clover’s Yard where they stored fencing posts and concrete pipes and those sorts of things, before her father died, they lived out at Murtcaim near us. In a stable.’

Beryl giggles. ‘The horse would stick its head through the kitchen window.’

‘Why?’ I asked. ‘How could a family live in a stable when every other worker and their family had a house?’

‘Again, it was the era. A single man would look after the horses and live in the stable with the them. It was an oversight to have a family in there. Mr Vincent was the Farm manager at the time and he didn’t know they were living in the stable. But as soon as he found out, he arranged for a house for them to move into.’

‘We moved in on Boxing Day 1939.’

‘Beryl’s Mum had trouble adjusting after the stable. She didn’t know how to use the electricity,’ says Don. ‘She wasn’t confident with it.’

Beryl giggles again. ‘I used to crank the handle for Mum on the car too.’

‘What do you mean?’ Surely her mother hadn’t been driving that far back?

‘Mum learnt to drive in a Whippet after Dad died and I’d have to crank the handle to start the car for her. She would’ve got her licence in 1949 or so.’

I feel her cupped hands at my jaw again before striding out to feed lettuce and cauliflower leaves, carrot tops and onion skins to the chooks.

‘Here chookies,’ I call, swishing through already building dew that sends droplets onto the points of my suede boots. They come scuttling from their foraging behind the bottle brush when they hear me. I think it’s more that they notice the blue container, an ever-reliable source of sustenance for them.

‘The Board had a policy of no women working on the Farm back then,’ says Don. ‘But they gave Beryl’s mum a job when her father died.’

‘Mum cleaned the offices so we could keep living on the Farm. You couldn’t stay in a Board house if you didn’t work there on the Farm.’ Beryl barely moves in her armchair. She doesn’t look unwell, with a healthy glow and one of the kindest smiles I’d seen, yet a walking frame on wheels sits by her.

‘Mum had five kids to look after and she was determined to keep her family together. She’d iron for some of the mangers on the Farm and clean for them too to earn enough money.’ Her quiet spoken words are edged in zeal, revealing a wider spectrum of strength. In her position of centre half back on the football field and as a woman that would tower over me even now, she would have flung me like a frisbee rather than tackle me to the ground if I had played against her.

Don wanders off into the bedroom, I’m hoping for photos of where he lived as a child on the Farm, in the Murtcaim area. I don’t yet know a lot about Murtcaim.

‘I’m not very well,’ says Beryl, almost whispering. ‘My heart’s not working properly and they can’t do anything more for me.’

‘What do you mean? Why can’t they do anything?’

‘I’m too far gone.’ Her look becomes one of pensive contemplation.

‘But you don’t look sick, Beryl.’

Don returns, clasping a few small photos. ‘Look, here she is. Beryl on her bike and on the fence post. Look at that smile.’

And there she was. Perched on the flat top of the fence post, holding her knees in close, looking so relaxed and content and with an air of cheery chipper, even with all the responsibilities of back then.

‘And look, my car,’ says Don. He throws me three photos. ‘It was that car that made Beryl go out with me to the movies. My black Austin A40 convertible with white wall tyres. How could Beryl resist!’

I bound back into the kitchen to a spicy Latin rhythm, perfect for the salsa … what’s next? I find myself almost shuffling a one, two, three, four around the kitchen … carrots and lettuce for the fridge, broccoli to squeeze into the vegie drawer, a hip to maracas, a thought of him, more of her and him. Zucchinis into the fridge and rhubarb shoved in half an hour earlier pulled out for stewing, although I’m not sure how to cook rhubarb. With lots of sugar I think I’d heard it said, to offset the rhubarb’s tart or sour or something. With apples too I recall.

One, two … Beryl and Don dancing at their wedding reception in the Farm hall, the band playing on stage behind the bridal table across the front of the hall. Guests eating and drinking into the night, joyful and jolly on three long tables adorned in flowers that stretch from the bridal table up the length of the hall … I reach for that wine glass again, celebrating a life, wistful of what’s to come with lands faraway.

‘They can’t do anything more for Beryl you know,’ says Don. ‘She’s had her cancer treatment and now this heart. They can’t help her. But that’s what I’m here for,’ says Don. ‘I’m a fulltime carer now, after all the looking after Beryl has done for me.’

My son walks in. I don’t want to talk about where I’ve been today, or Beryl, or any of those intermingling thoughts. Apple skins into the chook container … his eyes follow me.

‘Thanks again, Beryl,’ I say. ‘I’ll bring your photos back on a Monday when I’m in the area with my son at karate.’

‘Take your time,’ she says.

Don walks me out and levers the door open for me to walk through. I kiss the side of his face and hug him. He’s nervous with his embrace back, unsure of what to do with his arms. We walk to the mail box together.

‘My mum spoilt me,’ he says. ‘She did everything for me and my grandfather lived with us so he did a lot of the chores that Beryl had to do. And then Beryl spoilt me once we got married. I’ve been a lucky man. It’s my turn to look after Beryl now.’

Something catches in me. ‘Well you know how to spoil then because you’ve been so well looked after, your turn to spoil Beryl.’ The words fall from my mouth, my thoughts spoken before I have time to consider them.

Don gives an uneasy chuckle, appearing to be searching for a reply to my candid comment. He nods. ‘You’re right. I will.’

I drive home to the box of vegetables delivered earlier and waiting to be unpacked, thinking about the sensitivity of Beryl’s hold, her appreciation of time to reminisce. Perhaps that’s stronger when you reach an end of life you know is near.

Gratitude’s a very grounding thing. People sharing stories, sometimes deep and personal memories only they can recollect. It’s an honouring that grounds me, an appreciation and trust of memories in extremes of harsh reality and sublime pleasure, the challenging and enchanting, all collected in a tiny box locked in the life time of one’s heart.

As bearer of these recollections to record as a moment in time, milling over them, mining the jewels that lay among a reef more fertile of the most precious … there’s much satisfaction in holding that pause of time to reminiscence, of life on the Farm.

 

NOTES:

These reflections come from researching a community that grew soon after the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was founded in 1891 to treat Melbourne’s sewage at Werribee. As Melbourne grew, so did the work force to manage the treatment of the sewage, and a community of workers and their families that lived on site. The population peaked to over 500 in the 1950s. All but one family left the township in 1973; the last family moved off site in 1980. The plant continues to treat Melbourne’s sewage and is now known as Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant. The plant is about the size of the island of Santorini in Greece.

For more information on the project, please visit https://www.facebook.com/MMBWFarm

Geelong AFL is a team in the Australian Football League.

The MCG stands for the Melbourne Cricket Ground, an Australian sports stadium located in Melbourne.

The Farm is a colloquial term for Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant, currently treating nearly 60 percent of Melbourne’s sewage.

The Board stands for the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, the organisation first responsible for establishing and managing the sewage treatment plant. The Board became Melbourne Water in the 1990s.

Everyday Superheroes

 

Aboriginal man, Karl Schott 2016

Huge eyes bulge from their sockets in full Cocker Spaniel spiel, more cute than ugly and loaded in a love that oozes past the film of mucus that has turned those eyes from brown to grey, probably because of the recent marathon surgery and sedation. Little moans come in spasms of mooing coos. This poor girl has been through the trauma of her life, having two vets slice the length of her underside to remove a mammary gland chain. Cancer, whether in pets or humans, is a shit of a thing. Her surgery came at the pinnacle of a most gruelling week.

I sit here now from the summit, listening to my poor little girl’s moans. My son, who had the responsibility of bringing her home from the vet after her surgery, told me not to look at her wound as it would be too upsetting. He knows me well. Her cancer is terminal and although I can say it easily enough, I can’t think about it. Not when I see Schnooze splayed to her side, her nose snuggled into her sister. Teddi has moped about these past days, lost without Schnooze. The two have been inseparable for the past eight years, until this point.

I think of her as my little hero for what she’s endured. But that’s not quite the right word. In fact, I don’t like the word hero for it means a person who has performed some courageous act or is of a ‘noble character’. Yet everyone performs courageous acts all the time, acts that influence and affect others and contribute to this world. And mostly, quietly and unassumingly, without any fanfare and any need for recognition.

The dictionary also states that a hero is ‘a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal.’ This makes me gag! Special achievements. Really? It sounds more like an adoration developed in response to this modern world’s insatiable appetite for the need to be special and recognised, of people to be revered for being exceptional for any celebrity or voyeuristic reason.

Maybe that’s part of the problem with humanity right now, this need to be special when in fact, everyone has their own special abilities and qualities, their own level of achievement and success, however different it is from one person to the other. Maybe that’s why there is so much judgement in the world and so little acceptance and appreciation.

Those that read my words have heard me talk of my brother. While he’s unable to function in the way that mainstream life allows, he does function, and extremely well. His paranoia that can’t be ‘cured’ means he can’t enter a supermarket or walk in his own backyard for fear of people spying on him and his mind is in constant battle with demons that interweave with his schizophrenia. People that don’t him would judge him as the weird guy down the road, the crazy man. Yet he is one of those quiet, gentle giants with an eye to paint and draw that is extraordinary. His oils and charcoals grace the walls of so many and his patience to capture that tender essence of people in his paintings is little understood. Where’s his accolade for his accomplishments, his superb achievements relative to his measure of who he is?

No, the word hero isn’t right. People accomplish everywhere. For Schnooze to endure the surgery and now recovery, however cute she is when she crashes her Elizabethan collar into walls and is unable to reach that urging scratch behind her ear, and the gratitude when you can reach that scratch for her, she’s my little superwoman. And Ms R that I lunched with recently, her patience and determination in sourcing funds for scholarships for young people in disadvantaged areas so they can have a chance to an education and to pursue their dreams, is admirable. Without her and the organisation she works for, these young people would miss their opportunity to contribute to the world in the way they aspire to. Another superwoman, quiet and unassuming, yet so full of the will to give.

It’s times like this past week that I get to sit on the summit after the gruelling climb of the past seven days, to observe and reflect … on the 70-year-old woman who confessed to being molested by a boy when she was young, in the pool she adored swimming in, which she never returned to again. The remorse in the eyes of her sister at hearing that confession as she never knew of her torment. She’s the one to be revered for her exceptional strength for what she’s endured for so long. One could say, she should have spoken up. But we all have our limitations and they all differ. No judgement is required on that. Even on the woman who barraged abuse at my son, H, simply for being a by-stander in an act of rage on the road. I’m sure she accomplishes in her own world. And one day natural justice will appear when ‘bogan’ H, in long hair pulled back to conduct experiments, will have developed the next drug to cure her ailment in old age. A superman, even with only the aspiration to find the next drug.

We all succeed and triumph relative to our own lives. Take the depth of love that’s hidden from the world because of society’s taboo in loving two people, and the strength of those people to carry that love into their eighties. The giving spirit of the mentor to constantly push the student, to question and dig for answers, even when the question has never been asked before and is so abstract that understanding it seems impossible, let alone answering it.

Look into the eyes of one so young when tragedy strikes and the empathy that bleeds in all shades of the rainbow, or of people young and old who risk their lives to rescue others … they’re everywhere.

Try to understand the strength of the paramedic who becomes de-sensitised to so much yet can still flash a smile of warmth and share a few words of care that can soothe any ache of heart, or the tears that build in the young man with responsibility to collect his very frail dog from the vet … they’ve all accomplished, all have pushed themselves or been pushed to limits that have often been untested.

To be surrounded by people who accomplish so much, without the public and materialistic adoration that goes with the heroism of today’s material world, is a true privilege. The quiet heroes of this world are everywhere. They’re the true superheroes.

***

An unexpected call from the vet last night has revealed that they managed to capture all of Schnooze’s cancer, and just in time. Now that’s a trio of superwomen I wouldn’t want to mess with!

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