Thursday, January 26, 2017

Australia Day

A lot of hours over several months came to fruition on Poatina’s biggest day of the year as visitors came from every corner of the State and were welcomed to our annual Australia Day Festival. Despite the growing controversy over celebrating Australia’s national day on what this country’s indigenous people recognise as a day of invasion, and what history cannot deny as being the start of a systematic denial of human rights, this little village at least came together to celebrate the importance of community.

Discovering you don’t have to shell out a fortune to have a good time with the family, there was something for all ages, crazy parades, good food, great music, games and prizes, politicians, families and your average Joe Blow, all smiling while jostling for a spot in the shade on a perfect summer’s day.

Have been writing a Haiku poem each day for a while, a Japanese form of poetry, not exactly the usual thing you’d produce for today when bush poetry reigns supreme, but in the light of today’s festivities, this is the result.

Australia Day
community together
like the good old days

Raise the flags and sing
dignitaries do their thing
under burning sun

Welcome to country
recognise the ancestors
and dispossessed

Aussie flags and hats
sausages on the barbie
ladies gumboot toss

Egg and bacon rolls
lamingtons, hot dogs, ice creams
pies and sausage rolls

Some tea and damper
kids games, animal balloons
painted faces smile

Feast for the senses
music and art to enjoy
relax and unwind

Banjo Paterson
immortalised yet again
in bush poetry

Australia Day
celebration for some and
mourning for others

But here in this place
we welcome all, help each one
belong, find their place

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vacant Brain

There’s a what in my brain? A vacant spot? A black hole? 

I know I’ve started ambling down that winding road where words go into hiding mid sentence, and names escape you when someone you know you should know heads your way with open arms or outstretched hand. Then there are those shopping trips to town. No matter how much you think you know what is missing from the fridge, pantry, bathroom and laundry, if it’s not on the list, it simply doesn’t end up coming home. Then of course there are those times when the list that’s been added to religiously all week doesn’t even make it from the front of the fridge to your bag.

Headed to Hobart on the bus recently, gazing at the countryside when we passed a few acres of bright yellow crop. I thought to myself “What a beautiful crop of….” and there I stopped. For the life of me the word just wouldn’t come. I knew it began with ‘c’ and as we rolled into Hobart two hours later, the light bulb finally switched on and it came…canola! Why is that? Where do those words go?

Despite these ‘vacant’ moments that surreptitiously creep up on we of a certain age, that wasn’t what prompted the discovery of said black hole, a fitting description for where all lost words and names and memories have retreated. It was a persistent headache of quite some weeks duration, plus wonkiness. I say wonkiness as opposed to dizziness, because dizziness didn’t quite fit the description in my estimation, as walking along listing to starboard feeling sort of fine while thinking I might lose my footing, caused me to head to the all knowing Doc to unravel the mystery.

Could be this, could be that, a combination of this or that, or this and that, or something else entirely. So, to eliminate any particular nasties, off I go for an MRI of my noggin. Have had one before, nothing alarming, listen to middle of the road music on headphones while the big machine thunders and bangs overhead. Clang clang clang clang, ting ting ting ting, boom boom boom boom over and over and over until your brain has been looked at from every which way. 

All done, off I go on my merry way, only to be called on my mobile half an hour later while in the supermarket, saying they want me to come back. I look in my trolley, big decision, abandon it in the middle of the aisle or quickly buy this week’s essentials and hurry back. Being called to come back isn’t exactly what you want to hear after a brain MRI, and then to be told they can’t see you for another five days because they’re flat out is even more disconcerting. Do I really want to think about what might be lurking in the grey matter for another five days? Decide as they didn’t tell me to come straight back it can’t be that bad, so occupy myself with plenty to do so mind doesn’t stray to unnecessary grim thoughts.

Days pass, front up for MRI number two, and the radiologist informs me there was this dark patch, a sort of vacant spot he wanted to check. Vacant spot? Bit rude I thought but it did elicit a laugh, and would explain my diminishing erudition. So, bing bang boom bing bang ting bang bing bang boom while I listen to Neil Diamond and The Mamas and the Papas, I wonder if they choose different playlists depending on the age of their patients, jab some dye in my arm and keep going to make sure the veins and arteries are behaving and not about to explode, then off on my merry way once more.

Upshot of it all? I have a varicose vein in my brain, a very wriggly one, kind of matches the one on my leg I guess. So, nothing menacing, nothing to worry about, only it doesn’t explain the headaches and wonkiness. Have two weeks off work to rest, to minimise straining the neck and eyes with all that computer work and mindless paper shuffling, see if that helps. Concentrate instead on jigsaws, sudoku, crosswords, especially those tricky cryptic ones to stimulate the brain cells. All they seem to do is exacerbate the headache, so try gardening instead.

Despite the vacant brain, it’s reassuring to discover things are not necessarily lost forever and can actually be retrieved from the black hole. Like where I left my camera. Every nook and cranny of the house searched, the usual places I put it when I’m not using it, then all the other unlikely places it might happen to be. Look again, every room, in exactly the same places, expecting it to just pop up where it wasn’t five minutes ago. Give up, I know it has to be somewhere. And then, when you’re in the middle of something else entirely, the penny drops. It’s in the car, in the glove box where I hide it when I go to the supermarket in case some “what can I pinch from someone’s car” type person happens to be wandering round the carpark.

Retrieving those lost bits and pieces are a relief, affirming you haven’t lost the plot entirely, though it prompts me to think of other things in a myriad of circumstances I have lost along the way which may never be reclaimed. Courage, a sense of adventure, empathy, generosity, trust, and more importantly, relationships. Whether deliberate or not, the essence of who we are can be chipped away through apathy and neglect, and the things that matter most fall by the wayside. 

When the business of doing the work to sustain our very character seems all too hard, when we lose connection with the creator and with those around us, our spirits and souls diminish, little by little. We become shadows of what we could be. It’s easier to take the path of least resistance, decide what’s lost is lost and simply leave it behind and motor on regardless. On the other hand, believing that things can be different, wondering what might happen if you pick up the threads of discarded things and see where they lead, could open up a whole new realm of possibilities.

Well, at least that’s how it is for me.