Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The fires in Victoria February2009

I went to Melbourne on Saturday, hoping to go to the sufm beach mission reunion and then catch up with all my boys. It didn't happen. The temperature soared to 47C in Melbourne and I sat and sweltered in Geoff's little flat in St Kilda until late afternoon when things went from bad to grim. brenden rang me to tell me Taggerty was in the line of fire and Marysville was burning. Before it got to the news, I knew.Then I had a call saying the rail line to Warrnambool had been cut by fire and I might not get home the next day.

Then the phone calls began. Bewildered or upset or just plain, in denia,l calls and I started watching the computer screen like an addict and making calls to people I had not spoken to for a long time. For the past three days I have been crying and crying or calling people or consoling people or crying some more. We came home by bus on Sunday night but not without me fighting myself because I felt I needed to stay there to do, I don't know what. I listend to story after story of vicitims and heroes on the radio streaming through my computer and I accessed all the official sites and on Sunday none of us could find our mother. We may not speak to her, she may have disowned us but none of us wanted her dead and she could not be found. Then the horrific pictures on the Media...ariel shots of Kinglake and Marysville. Well that was like a sledgehammer to my gut. I could not recognise the place. I could not work out what I was looking at. Now three days later the pictures of victims are in the media. Every time I see a face or a name that is familiar to me, my heart lurches and my gut churns.
I grew up in the Acheron valley in Taggerty. It isn't the yarra valley but they are conneted by the Maroondah hwy. I went to Taggerty primary school and Alexandra high school. I got my licence in Marysville at the police station. I worked in every one of the historical guest houses in Marysville starting as a kitchen hand and working up to chef and in the Rex Cafe I made chips and potatoe cakes from scratch and cafe meals for tourists and learned to convert from imperial to metric measurements in that shop in the main street.I worked as the cook in the Narbethong and Buxton hotels for four different publicans and I worked in the Taggerty Pioneer education centre and throughout Eildon and Alexandra. I picked raspberries in summer in Molesworth and the rivalry between Yea and Alexandra high schools was the local long standing teen 'thing' because the towns were separated by hills, rivers and 20km which put them in different shires. I swam in the Acheron river and the 'meeting of the waters' in Buxton where three rivers merge. I climbed the Cathderal mountain and skinny dipped in the Eildon weir. My step father is buried in Marysville along with other loved ones and his family were all from Marysville. Generations of my family came from Healesville, Marysville, Chum creek, Warburton and Kinglake.I learned assertive driving on the Black spur and boxes cutting into Healesville and all out pet kangaroos went to the sanctuary, eventually. On of my sisters has lost two friends in Kinglake, One brother found his friend with no soles on his shoes. Another sister rang her friend in Narbethong who could not get out in his car because his wheels were melted so he ran out and his shoes melted and then he kept going and his feet burnt but he is alive. One of my brothers had his house survive two onslaughts as the wind changed. My nephew sent his young wife and children out of the fire zone only to have her held up with the closure of the Hume Highway. That brother and another one and my nephew stayed to fight the fires. My mother had to smash her car through burning trees to get out of her property and then she was trapped in Alexandra where she still is, in a state of shock and disbelief. All my childhood mememtoes were in her house. Photos, paintings, a piano I won in a competition, school reports and certificates and the lock of hair belonging to my step dad.
I have watched the CFA, DSE and ABC websites like glue since late Saturday when I had first notification of the fires from my firstborn son. That is his home too although he now lives in the city he spent his early years and some of his teens in that part of the country and regularly visits all his family and friends there, riding his motorbike over the spur and through reefton. I was living in Stawell when the Grampians fires went through. I attended funerals and helped out in all the fundraising for the vicitms of that horrible disaster but it was nothing compared to this. The wimmera was never my home like Murrindindi and the Acheron valley are deep in my heart. My father and his wife and one of my sisters live at the base of mount William in the Grampians and they lost absolutely everything. This time my mother has lost everything and I sit here safe in Warrnambool grieving for so many people I have connections with. One sister had a house at Chum creek, one had a property at Buxton and her children used to go to Buxton ps. Many of my young Christian friends, the ones I fed for most of summer on beach missions in Queenscliff and Warrnambool were in Marysville when the fires came through. They were evacuated to Alexandra and trapped there overnight because the Hume was cut off. They are all safe now but they are all badly shaken from the close encounters with the fires...something they never thought to experience in their lifetimes and my heart aches for them. Everyone I know has had some connection to the valley or kinglake. They went there for holidays as kids or have family there or lived there a while. They call to share their links with me because we all need support in this nightmare time. I left St Kilda on Sunday in the middle of teh St Kilda festival and found the experience surreal. I walked in shock through crowds of gaily clad, laughing festival goers and wanted to grab them and shake them and yell in their faces "stop laughing...stop laughing, don't you know people are burning?" but I said nothing and walked as fast as I could through the crowds. Leave them to their joy, too soon they will feel this shock I feel.
My step dad was a fire spotter for the forest commision long before it became DSE. Every summer I would climb the tower on mt Gordon with him and watch the eagles fly close to the platform and gaze out into the far horizons. It was a magnificent experience. When he died, his funeral was in a tiny church in Marysville and hundreds of people were there. He was such a kind and caring man and so many people knew him. I sang that day and organised people because I do that kind of thing...organise people. Now I am just sitting crying and feeling so helpless and traumatising my poor little children as they watch me go into meltdown over places I attached all my memories to. Trees will grow again but they wont be the same trees. Gone are the giant tree trunks we all sat on in the park. Those old guesthouses are only memories in photos now and the photos are simply ash indistinguishable from all the other ash.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

strange phenomenon


"You expect me to walk 45km to work!" I was fuming. This prick was supposed to be my loving supportive spouse. Yeah right! I slammed the car door and scowled blackly at the departing vehicle. Stomping along the road, trying to hitch a lift, my mind played with all the angry worst scenarios I could conjure. Car after car whizzed past me. They could probably see my scowl from three corners away.

"Shit, I am going to be late, I will never get there and I will get the sack." After the umpteenth car sped past I began to panic. What if's wreaked havoc with my emotions. "OK this is not getting me anywhere, I have to calm down and picture myself getting a lift." I talked myself into some semblance of calm. Taking a deep breath in through my nostrils, I let the anger slip away.

Lifting my shoulders and walking tall I strode with a lighter gait. Another kilometre slipped by. A car rapidly approached and passed me.

"It's ok, I just have to be patient, the universe provides…" the brake lights lit up on the car. They stopped and reversed.

"We don't usually pick up hitchhikers, but we had this feeling we had to pick you up. Hop in." The car smelled musty with that 'self sufficient we make our own goat milk yoghurt' smell.

"Thanks" that was the sum of our conversation. I gazed out the window as the car gathered speed. What the hell was that out in the paddock? I wiped the chid fingerprints from the glass, looked away and back again to make sure I wasn't hallucinating then stared until we turned a corner and I lost sight of it.

In the middle of the field stood a lone eucalyptus tree. Above it were two transparent, orange, completely still flames. At least flame is the closest word to describe what I was looking at. The one on the left was slightly smaller and they fitted together to form a shape like the flame on a candle. They started about a metre above the treetop and stood three and four metres high possibly a little larger.

I was glad for the silence in the car so I could gape in wonder at this phenomena. What was it? I feel like it was a ps to my request for a lift but who knows…..do you?

White rainbows... arc of light!

The fog was thick. My shoulders were burning with the strain of peering forward over the steering wheel trying to see something to guide the way I was going. My heart was pounding with fear as I manoeuvred the heavy car through the mud. These roads were treacherous in full daylight. It was only 8am so the sun was somewhere behind us. The roads became thick sticky orange mud the minute a drop of rain fell. All the warnings rang in my head "Don't let the engine revs drop or you're stuck there till spring". So here I was trying to drive the kids to town in a fog and the mud and no way to tell where we were and worse to come. The final stretch before the sealed road ran between two lakes. A narrow strip with the water lapping the edge and I had no way of seeing it. I couldn't stop or go back or turn, I just had to plough on through and hope for the best. I was nearly in tears and the children were scared, so I sang. The first squeaky nursery rhyme made the kids giggle and broke some of the tension. Then I saw it, an arc of light in the fog ahead of me. Pure white and glowing. Could there be such a thing as a white rainbow. I didn't have the headlights on and I figured the fog was too thick for the bow to have colours. I suddenly felt very peaceful and relaxed. The white arc stayed ahead of the car for a few moments then disappeared. I realised I was on the last part of the narrow strip between the lakes and as we approached the sealed road the sun broke through the fog.

Telescope.

The room was quiet, everyone busy writing. My body began to sway gently from side to side without me consciously aware of it. I became aware of looking down at the part in my hair between the tightly woven plaits. Then the roof of the school and the town and and and. I was actually immobile yet everything sped past me faster and faster. The state, the country, the earth, planets and stars all travelling to an horizon point like watching everything through the wrong end of a telescope. Then everything came to an end and I became aware of a questioning and of being on the edge of everything. I knew if I took a step forward then I would know everything. I was terrified in the same instant of being back in my grade four desk. Too young for such a gift?

Waves

The pulsating waves were big and gentle. Rolling through my relaxed body. I felt warm and peaceful. My head lifted from the pillow and my body lifted too. If my head had been a pencil it would have drawn an arc from my pillow to the point at which I was perfectly upright. My body had not bent at all. I felt a calling and wanted to go but my foot got stuck in my foot. Fear gripped me and I was back in myself the same instant. Imagination, hallucination or just fear holding me back?

sensory deprivation and a monologue

Sensory deprivation….

The telephone booths coalesce giddily and I stumble toward what I hope is the real one. I can’t feel my feet and the blast still echoes so loud in my head I hear nothing else. Some other sense makes me swivel to one side and I see…GOD I see multiples of everything twisting grotesquely through my kaleidoscope eyes. I think I fall. The angle of the images changes. Grasping at straws in the maelstrom of my terror I try to find the telephone again. I feel nothing. I hear too much to hear anything. All my hands are in slow motion. Which is real? I need to find the number the nul the void I’m falling into. Zero zero zero I can’t hear my voice. Am I yelling? Am I whispering? Have they even connected with me? I can’t hear. Accident. Help. Can they hear me? Trace the call I think I say. Something shutters my eyes. Blessed relief from the shattered images brings it’s own terror. Now I am shrouded. I feel nothing, no sound, no sight, no, no, no, no, no, no, no….

Monologue in fifty words…oops 72

Okay then. I have to think of a di, no that’s wrong, di means between, it’s a mono logue. Mono that means one. Logue has something to do with language and lists as in catalogue, cato meaning in order or flat or whatever. It’s all Greek to me. I should take Latin lessons instead of just guessing. So where was I, that’s right a monologue. Might as well just talk to myself.

The chatters party

I struggled to find the address, peering from the window at the ill lit house numbers. Probably a mixture of nervousness and excitement at finally meeting the faces behind the online tags but mostly nervous. The house I wanted wasdark but one further down the street had a lot of activity. I thought I would try my luck. I was greeted at the wrong address by several women who grunted at me…yes grunted. I politely asked if this was the venue for the chat party and was hesitantly answered with 'yair who're you?' I was a bit worried the taxi had gone already. A girl came from the house frowning at me. I said my nick and she looked puzzled. I spelled the damn thing and connection was made. Her smile only went as far as her lips. She invited me in, pointed to the back yard and sat at her computer to chat. Hmmm. Well I decided I would introduce myself to everyone there. After all I made the trip just for this, might as well make the most of it. There was a lovely young woman moving interstate with whom I had a brief and interesting conversation but she was very popular and flitted from group to group. Her young man was there too and he was equally pleasant. Then came the ferals…OMG (Oh my god for laymen). They were scary, a mixture of the ‘Moe’ Murphy's cross bred with some wild boar. One of the neandertal knuckle draggers 'checked me out' and I decided then and there I was leaving as soon as I could find a phone. The feral kids were running amok up and down the street, screaming and belting each other with sticks, the parents were ‘blewing’ and everyone else was plastered. They were the desperate and dateless crowd and it wasn’t any wonder. It was 8.35pm. Just then two very handsome young men arrived, looking as though they had been dumped on another planet. After a brief conversation it turned out to be true. They were UBD dwellers who had never been to the suburbs especially not new housing estates like this one. The farthest either had ventured was Chapel or Lygon streets. This was culture shock for them. I gave them permission to escape and they took off faster than Schumaker at the Grand Prix. Pity I didn't think fast enough to ask for a lift. The shift at the monitor had changed as more and more chatter's reached for a link with their addiction. No wonder the alcohol was so freely flowing this was worse than Disney destroying my childhood fairy tales with an animation. The reality just did not link to the imagination. Face to face we were all wishing for a screen to hide from reality! Finally things seemed to be improving as I struck up a fairly decent conversation with a guy who had been born in the town I was now living in. He made it clear he wasn’t there for a pick up and so did I so we relaxed for a few minutes until…the predator attacked me. Actually shoving me aside the femme fatale pushed her acres of bosom as high as she could and screeched "This ones moine" and launched into a tirade at this poor man who happened to frequent the same chat room as she did. I sidled out the door and someone offered me a lift to the station. I had been looking forward to meeting some of the people I chat with regularly but sadly none of them were there. Next time I will try a public rather than private gathering and check for all the exits.

The garden hose

I hate my life. If they aren’t jamming a sprinkler into my mouth, they’re jamming a tap into my um…other end. Then the water. The darned water. Not so bad in spring but so flippin’ hot in summer I go all soft and I swear I could almost feel my pores opening wide enough to leak. And winter! It’s been dry hasn’t it so blow me down if the buggers don’t fore ice through me middle. Hot cold hot cold they leave me lying around in the middle of the yard. Cats pee on me and dogs chew me and the kid next door almost cut me in half with the mower. Boy was that scary. I could just feel those blades whirring around in the dark recesses deadly fast and sharp as well, those blades. If I could have shuddered I would have. Lucky he saw me hidden in that jungle and coiled me so neatly over the tap. It was good for a while but you know I am beginning to feel my age. A bit brittle and I leak a bit I am embarrassed to admit. Oh and I am not as long as I used to be since that kid down the road cut a length off me to syphon petrol. Never thought my offspring would be involved in criminal activity but there you go. Can’t predict. The other small bit went to make a bong. I was disgusted to hear that. One of mine into drugs and me a law abiding hose. I tell you I just don’t know what the world is coming to. Anyway I hear tell they’re going to connect me up with that new piece with the attractive patterns. Bit of alright she is. I’m quite looking forward to this summer.

the pendulum swings

Together we are more

He is the calm at the eye of my storm

He is the fragrant oils poured on my turgid waters

He is the peaceful moment in the midst of my turmoil

I don’t need him to pay my bills

I don’t need him to fix the car

I don’t need him for sex, although I like him there

I don’t need his advice on politics or finance, ‘though I value his opinion

And I hear him sigh and wonder why he is here at all

He is my quiet place

He is my haven

He is the well from which I draw the energy to face my life

Maybe that is not enough for him

Maybe he needs to be a hero

Maybe his ego demands he fix things

Maybe he is lost and needs to know where he belongs

I hear his cry of frustration and rage

And shine the light of my love as a beacon to guide him

And I hope it is enough for him to find me

So we are not alone

He is my strength

He is my motivation

He is my dream and my desire

I rest my head against him and I hear his heart beat slowly

I listen to his voice and I relax

I tingle with excitement when I know he’ll soon be near me

I feel a sense of safety that only he can give

I don’t need him for the everyday mundanities of life

I don’t need him to define me as a person

I don’t need his assistance with anything at all

I don’t need a single thing from him that I can’t do myself

I offer him no dangers to make him feel a man

In this new life he must find that which will define him

No rugged exploration or tough battles to protect me

I just want him to be with me, caress my cheek and hold my hand

filling in

Nothing more than a fill in

No lingering kisses or sweet romance

No soft conversations just a parting glance filled with guilt

No respect

Is it me is it him is it the social climate we live in

I am so confused no answers nothing pretty just sad sighs and

Romantic stuff makes me cry because I haven’t got any of it

It passed me by

Everyone is searching for that one other person who makes it all worthwhile

Bumping into all the other lonely souls along the way looking too far ahead to notice the ones too lonely and looking too far ahead to notice the ones under their noses in front of them and hoping to find someone along the way

We share our bodies but not our hearts empty sharing like an ice-cream cone with no ice-cream a husk a shell a fragile bubble dream ready to burst and reveal the empty place inside the place we try to hide from ourselves

Once just once I knew what it felt like to love someone closer than skin melding blending understanding at last what poets meant by two being one and being more than two and whole and complete

Just once

Holding pattern waiting listening watching the horizon and filling in time