“Mummy, why do Charlie and I look the same on the outside, but are so different on the inside? You said we’re identical twins?!”
The twins were chalk and cheese. Charlotte was always staring out the window at goodness knows what…birds, the clouds, maybe she could even see something in the seemingly invisible air. Captivated by the old oil lamps, she found meaning in their flickering flames. Bridget loved to run. Charlotte’s side of the bedroom was pink with her books neatly filed in rainbow order. Bridget’s was a cyclone.
Sophie couldn’t offer any explanation and simply said: “Ask God.”
Malcolm wasn’t going to let being broke and homeless come between him and his daily brew. Oozing charisma and charm, albeit in rugged, unshaven way, Malcolm flirted outrageously with Roberto the Barista at Mecca Cafe for free coffee, while shagging Angel over at Nicko’s Pizzeria. After all, a man has to eat. Playing a game of pass-the-parcel, Malcolm also couch-surfed through the rank and file of St Thomas’s Anglican Church. While they were hell-bent on saving his soul, he was happy praying along and raiding the fridge. Anything to survive. Everyone was only too happy to help the homeless.
Breastfeeding their first-born son in a derelict squat, Maria thought of Our Lady giving birth to baby Jesus in a stable. Things were grim, but not without hope. If love was enough, baby Thomas could soar to the moon and back. Be invincible.
Then, the crucifying doubts set in.
“Who am I kiddin’? If I can’t save meself, what hope does me baby have?”
She wrapped him up in her only blanket, and kissed him goodbye.
“There’s no greater love, than heart-wrenching sacrifice,” they said.
Yesterday afternoon, I stumbled upon Irish author, Michael Harding, while I was browsing through a bookshop in Midleton, Ireland. While you’d obviously expect to find a book in a bookshop, the remarkable thing is that I was there. After all, I was visiting Midleton Bookshop via Google Earth from the comfort of my loungeroom in Umina Beach – just North of Sydney, Australia.
Being a compulsive bibliophile, of course, I had to check out their web site to better appreciate what might be displayed in their front window. The funny thing was, it was like they already knew I was coming. Their home page features a fabulous quote from Katrina Meyer: “A book is a magical thing that lets you travel to far-away places without ever leaving your chair.” As it turns out, it’s not only books. It is also Google Earth.
How typical of me to go all the way to Ireland (even virtually) and find a bookshop?!! Not only that. I managed to find a book I really, really wanted too! The book in question is Michael Harding’s The Cloud Where the Birds Rise, with illustrations by Jacob Stack.
I don’t know how well you know me. Of course, most of you have never been to my house and seen the overcrowded bookshelves, and book piles breeding faster than proverbial rabbits beside my lounge chair (where I currently write), my bed and on my desk overlooking the back garden. If you had been here, you’d probably be screaming at me: “NOOOO Roweeenah! Not another book! You haven’t even read the books you’ve got, and you have more on the way. Have you no self-control?” (Said, of course, as though self-control is the pinnacle of human development, and expanding your mind is a bad thing). You might even say something truly dreadful along the lines of me being crushed to death and buried alive once my teetering book pile finally topples over. Of course, I’ve brought all this disaster on myself. All because I couldn’t say “no!”
However, in my defence, I haven’t ordered the book yet, but who am I kidding? You and I both know the sun’s not going to set today, without me clicking on that irresistible “Buy Now” button.
Meanwhile, during this rather pregnant pause between spotting the book and placing my order, I did make a brief attempt at self-control and tried to see inside the book online. That didn’t work, but I did find a podcast where Alan Keane interviewed Michael Harding on The Artists’ Well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrRYg1hvCh0 Now, I was really hooked, and after enjoying this interview so much, I headed off to absorb Michael Harding’s podcasts (@hardingmichael) and I’ll be lucky to find my way out the front door for the next six months. I’m riveted.
It’s at this point that I finally realize I’ve left my virtual self paused in suspended animation outside Midleton Bookshop. Goodness knows what the proprietors think of having this stranger permanently glued to their front window. Indeed, they’ve probably already had me carted away in the paddy wagon. If I’m lucky, I might just find myself incarcerated down the road from Midleton Workhouse where my 4 x Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan, ended up during the Great Hunger. She in effect won her golden ticket out of there when she was plucked out of this sea of starving, feverish unfortunates and despatched to Sydney on board the John Knox as one of the Irish Famine Orphan Girls under the Earl Grey Scheme. Indeed, she was even given a trunk of clothing, Bible and necessities to make a decent life for herself on the other side. Chasing Bridget was why I went to Midleton today. I wanted to see where she was from, and walk in her shoes for a bit.
So, I guess this leaves us in suspended animation. Are you familiar with the works (or should I say words and ideas) of Michael Harding? Have you been to Midleton, County Cork, Ireland? Or, perhaps you have some connection to the Irish Famine Orphans who were sent out to Australia? Alternatively, you might just want to say hello and that’s fine too. I’d love to hear from you. Indeed, it would be wonderful to have a cup of tea with you in person, but such is life particularly given the current state of play with covid.
Bill drove up the back paddock, and parked his ute. The cancer was raging, and the Doc was barely keeping up. There wasn’t much of him, and the end was coming faster than a speeding locomotive. Now, it was only a question of when, and on whose terms.
Of course, Bill knew God wasn’t the only player involved. Those doctors could do a better job of extending his lot than the power of prayer – even if the priest disagreed.
However, just as Bill was about to cast his vote, the dog jumped up on his lap.
My response to this week’s prompt was fueled by various conversations I’ve had with people close to me about the end of life. One friend dreads having a stroke and ending up incapacitated, and vows he’s going to head into the bush and take matters into his own hands first. a couple of friends and relatives have had dashed his melanoma and other cancers where bits keep getting cut off to the point where they feel they’re barely being held together, or have anything left. Some people reach this point and will do anything to preserve life, while others pull the pin. They might not take drastic action. It might be as simple as refusing further treatment and issuing a “nil resus” order. I’ve had a few close calls and I resolved to do whatever it took to stay alive. My kids were young and needed two parents at least in an ideal world. Meatloaf’s epic song “Anything For Love” became my song. I would do anything for love, but I did wonder where my limits would be. I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that. Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out. I recovered and got back on my feet.
For those of you who know me, you’ll also appreciate that I had to add a dog to the picture. We have three dogs at home: Lady Border Collie x Cavalier, and Zac and Rosie who are brother and sister border collie x kelpies. You often see a working dog out there with a ute.
Anyway, I hope you’re all well and having a good week.
Wandering round the blogging traps lately, the last two years have taken their toll and there’s no real confidence that things are going to be any better in the New Year. We’re on a journey of uncertainty, and looking into more of a snow globe scenario than into a crystal ball. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all hopeless. Or, that the last two years have been all bad, and covid hasn’t been a blessing – as well as a curse. That there hasn’t been joy. Indeed, as pollution cut back, our natural world even improved .
However, so many are cut off from those we love, and that is truly hard. So many of our young people, have had the rug pulled out from beneath them. My kids are caught up in that, and their friends.
It’s important to acknowledge these struggles. Not just keep going without allowing ourselves to grieve, withdraw, rethink. It’s perhaps a harder route, but we’ll be stronger and wiser for it – and a much better friend.
Anyway, these songs start off with a bit of a good riddance to 2021, and bring some hope and encouragement for the New Year.
So, here goes, and please let me know if you have any suggestions:
1) Let It Go – Frozen
2) I’m Still Standing Elton John
3) Standing With You – Guy Sebastian
4) The Prayer By Andrea Bocelli performed by Guy Sebastian and Bella Taylor-Smith
5) You Raise Me Up
6) The Beatles – With A Little Help From My Friends
7) Bruno Mars – You Can Count On Me
8) Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
9) Louis Armstrong – When You Wish Upon A Star.
10) Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World
So, as we continue to grapple with the puzzle that’s life on Earth, I’ll not only wish you and yours the conventional “New Year”. I’ll also pray that God’s richest blessings will be with you, and if your hearts are hurting, weary or confused (which is certainly where I put myself right now), that you will experience His peace which surpasses our understanding, and has the power to renew even when all seems lost.
Last year, our Christmas shrank from thirty to six, and this year it was down to four humans, and the three dogs were very much appreciated, even if they were plotting a grand ham heist as I carved it up on the bench.
It wasn’t sad, or disappointing. It was just the sensible thing to do. Moreover, our teenagers have been out and about a lot lately so it was good to spend time with them and have a family meal. There could well be a time round the corner where it could just be down to Geoff and myself home alone for Christmas once the kids move out. Yet, I couldn’t see that happening. I’d be opening up our home.
Our Church cancelled all services this year. They were only having Christmas Eve services anyway, and with covid going through the roof around here, they cancelled Christmas Eve as well and didn’t have a plan B. The call was made afternoon. However, we had dinner with some friends from Church and communion. I ended up doing a bit of a Church hop on Christmas Eve st5arting out at St Mary’s Cathedral (Catholic) to St Andrew’s (Anglican) both in Sydney and then hopping over to Westminster Abbey. None of these services were “me” but they were meaningful and quite beautiful. Indeed, those voices of the young boys sound quite ethereal and potentially rather reminiscent of our heavenly hosts. I don’t know. Perhaps, they could be more of a baritone.
Meanwhile, I headed out with our daughter after dinner driving round to check out the local Christmas lights. You have to love people who make over the top look lacklustre in whatever it is they undertake. We found this house that looked like a one stop carnival. It wasn’t a big house, but there were so many little nooks and crannies packed with dazzling Christmas scenes, a model train layout and even a snow machine. I felt like a born again five year old standing there taking it all it and it really energized my spirits on what was shaping up as a lacklustre Christmas (especially at this point our kitchen table was piled sky-high in Christmas cards, wrapping paper and everyone’s laziness.)
What most of you would probably notice about our Christmas, however, was the scorching heat. It was 30 degrees celsius by lunchtime and I’m sure you could’ve fried an egg out there. A few friends are looking a bit red and fried in photos today. We didn’t get to the beach, even though it’s just down the road. I was too busy with cleaning up the house, cooking and cleaning up and just wanted to fall into a chair and relax. Ditto for today. My dad’s always been one to lock the doors and bar the windows on Boxing Day.
Have you ever considered how much time, effort and money goes into Christmas? As parents, it can feel rather overwhelmed not to mention crippling especially when the kids are younger and you’re having to provide two sets of presents. Have you even wondered why? After all, Jesus was born in a very humble manger in Bethlehem and anything but Westminster Abbey. Scrooge gets a bit of bad press about being all bah humbug about Christmas, but have we one too much the other way spending buckets of money, especially when so many don’t even believe in the reason for the season?
However, quite aside from honouring Christ’s birth, Christmas Day provides that day once a year for families to draw together and reconnect- especially those big extended families of aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and multiple generations. That’s our usual Christmas and I love it. Would never trade it in, but at the same time, I am grateful that we’ve had a few Christmases at home with the kids. It would never have happened without covid. It also made me much more appreciative of all the work my aunt and family do each year as hosts.
What did you get up to for Christmas? I’d love to hear from you.
Many of you would have heard about the freakish, tragic accident in Devonport, Tasmania where so far six children died when a jumping castle was swept 10 metres into the air by a fierce, rogue gust of wind.
Although we live on the Australian “mainland” (as Tasmanians call it), for us it’s still quite personal. My husband is Tasmanian, and in particular, from Northern Tasmania. While Geoff was born and raised in Scottsdale on the North-East, his dad came from Penguin which is just over 30 kilometres away from Devonport and Geoff has families spread right throughout these parts. Indeed, numerous branches of his family arrived in Tasmania in the 1830s, and let’s just say there was no TV back then. Many of his ancestors had massive familes, and there was one guy in particular who really clocked the numbers up. He had 24 kids with two wives. So, you can appreciate how his family tree has been very prolific and spread something like a weed. I stir him about being related to anyone with old time family ties in Northern Tasmania, and I’m yet to be proven wrong, although it’s only been a small sample size.
So, like everyone else we were shocked and heartbroken by this freakish tragedy, but we had the added concern of whether we had family involved and it took awhile for them to release the names of the children. So, while we were one of the families pulling up at the school not knowing whether our child was affected or not, we were connected. Indeed, so many people are. Moreover, quite a number of my friends have kids making the transition from year 6 which is the end of our primary school system here, and into year 7 next year, which is the start of high school. So they’re really feeling it too.
For awhile there, we didn’t know the names of the children who had passed away. So, far they’re not familiar. However, but one grandfather looked familiar and would’ve fitted in well at Geoff’s sister’s place for Christmas. Moreover, there’s definitely a sense of Geoff and his family genetically belonging to this community. There’s a noticeable “look”. Being an island, Tassie is a close-knit community, but it’s also had its internal divides too. There’s traditionally been a very strong divide between North and South, and to a lesser extent the West Coast as well. Like most island communities, Tasmania is isolated and they refer to the refer of Australia as “the mainland”. One of Tasmania’s other claims to fame is that it often gets left off the map, although during covid having a moat was rather advantageous and I think some politician down there talked about having a moat and a drawbridge, and not being afraid to use it back in the early days of covid.
So, for this to happen in a place like Devonport, it’s monumental. With an estimated population of 25,747 in the 2020, it’s not a village. However, with a web of established families and networks, it’s a particularly close community – especially now.
Sharing a bit about Devonport with you isn’t going to help any of these families, but it helps me feel closer. It helps us feel closer to a community where we have indeterminate connections. A close friend of ours, who is married to Geoff’s best man, is a school counsellor at a nearby school, and was at Hillcrest School on Friday providing counselling for families and children – such a tough job but she’s put years into her training and really strives to develop strategies for connecting with children, and in particular children who are doing it tough for a whole swag of reasons. I’m not her mum, but I am proud of her and so grateful she was there. However, as we move into school holidays and Christmas, there needs to be a changing of the guard as school staff go on holidays. They will need support for the long haul.
Meanwhile, tonight we did what we do at the close of every year. We went to my daughter’s end of year dance concert. With all the stunning and thought-provoking dancing, it always makes me reflective, and when I see the younger ones dance, I also remember our daughter’s progression through all the grades to where she is now about to embark into the senior teens. I wasn’t being morbid. I wasn’t teary or sad. However, it certainly hammered home what it would mean if it happened here, and a sense of what the families at Hillcrest School are going through, and the students. Six of their precious friends are gone and for some it’s going to be very lonely going back to school next year. You hope they were all someone’s bestie, and know there are now six huge, and very painful holes in the playground, as well as at home. Holes they will never be filled, but I pray there will be some kind of healing. That maybe being in this together, they can help each other muddle through, and as the Beatles said “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
Last Thursday, Geoff and I celebrated our 20th Wedding Anniversary. Well, being in lockdown, “celebrated” might be exaggerating just a tad, especially as Geoff kept getting called into work. However, we had dinner with the kids, zoomed my Mum and Dad and then had a zoom with some friends. These were current friends who weren’t there on the big day, and we’re still to get in touch with our Chief Bridesmaid and Best Man. I don’t know what happened to the weekend. Oh yes I do. Geoff was working.
Anyway, I decided to share a letter I wrote which was printed up in our Order of Service. It turned out to be a good idea, as I was half an hour late.
Geoff and I would like to thank you for attending our wedding and being part of our special day! I decided include this letter in the order of service to personalise the service and to share our thoughts, feelings and wedding experience with you. We also wanted to have a solid reminder of our priorities when we first entered into marriage to keep us on track for the future.
Geoff and I met on New Year’s Eve, 1998 when our mutual friend, Emma Longstaff, invited us to watch the fireworks over Sydney Harbour. Meeting Geoff was one of those frozen moments in time. Not because I thought I’d met my future husband but rather he is one of those few people you meet in life that somehow calms the storm within. Geoff gave me some very sound advice that night – look for friendship and stop trying to find a relationship. It lasted a few days, however, some New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken! After an all night conversation in my parents’ driveway, exchanging a few emails and a trip to the zoo, the rest as they say, is history.
The last couple of months have been hectic as we have bought our first home, started a business and have been planning the wedding. It could have been very easy to get wrapped up in all the preparations and smothered by the trimmings: finding the dress, arranging the engagement party, designing the wedding invitations, choosing the florist, the flowers, the reception, the cake… With all these details to sort out, the preparations for the service almost became the wedding itself and it was a battle to remain focused on what really mattered – our love and commitment to each other and how we were going to spend eternity together.
For so many of those around us, our marriage seemed a foregone conclusion. The inevitable destiny of two people who are in love. Rather than rushing down the express lane, Geoff and I have taken our time in approaching a future together. There is a time for everything and this is our time…not a moment too soon and not a moment too late. This is the perfect wedding – knowing we are marrying the right person at the right time and knowing we have laid the groundwork for the journey ahead – not having the right flowers!
In the midst of planning the wedding, I have also been establishing our new garden. Establishing our garden provides a good analogy for our preparation for marriage. When we bought the house, there were only two trees and compared to the garden I’d grown up with in Pymble, the place looked pretty bare, lacking in warmth and imagination. Before we’d even moved in, we had bought packets of bulbs to establish our Garden of Eden only to discover we had sandy soil that wasn’t unsuitable. Not to be discouraged, I dug vast trenches through the grass, ploughing in cow manure, soil and compost to prepare the ground. I continued watering the dirt throughout the winter months, plucking out the weeds and bits of grass, wondering whether those bulbs would ever see the light of day! It didn’t help either when the local nurseries had daffodils in flower while mine were still lying dormant. Night after night, I checked the garden with my torch until finally, row by row, the bulbs started to shoot.
Meeting Geoff didn’t happen overnight either and it took time for us to get to know each other well enough to make this commitment. Unlike flowers, though, you can’t just put a relationship in a hot house pumped full of fertiliser to accelerate the process and expect it to survive long term. You need to do the groundwork. It is only by sowing the seeds, fertilising the soil, pruning the branches and pulling out the weeds that a marriage can last. And for that extra special garden – making sure there is always something in flower through every change of season and every type of weather! Geoff and I are committed, with God’s strength and your support, to have a bountiful and enduring relationship.
You will notice several pots of flowers here in the Church instead of the customary floral arrangements. These started out as a way of financing more plants for our garden, however, once I put more thought into it, they came to represent a number of things for us. I liked the idea that these plants would be flowering every year on our wedding day to remind us of our special day. I also appreciated the promise of hope that they offered. Just like the tall poppies, there are so many forces at work to cut down a marriage and Geoff and I are determined to grow together with our branches entwined yet nurturing separate root systems to establish a healthy relationship. I also felt like a flower cut down in its prime when I got sick a few years ago and am thankful for the personal growth I have experienced during my recovery.
There are some very special people with us here in spirit today. Geoff’s parents have passed away. Fortunately, I was able to get to know his mother, Margaret, and were able to spend Christmas together. Geoff’s mother embroidered the ring cushion. Geoff’s brother, Terry, has also passed away and we have received much love and support from his widow, Gaye. We would also like to remember my grandmother, Mama Haebich who passed away a year ago. Mama loved Geoff and we spent some special times with her and Papa and Anna. Mama always seemed to get teary in Church and I have one of her special lace hankies with me today. We have also included the 23rd Psalm in the service today in her memory. I would also like to remember my grandfather, Papa Curtin who would wholeheartedly approve of me joining a family of stirrers.
Just so you don’t think planning the wedding was all work and no play, we have enjoyed our engagement and preparing the wedding. One of the highlights was Geoff’s Valentine’s Day proposal. Instead of proposing straight away or giving me my intended gift, Geoff wrapped up an electric sander for his car and presented it to me as my Valentine’s present. The look on my face, he says, was priceless! Another magic moment was finding my engagement ring. It has white and yellow gold meeting from opposite directions twisting together around a beautiful, perfect diamond, symbolising our marriage. There was also trying on the wedding dresses with Mum and Lisa and seeing myself transformed into the glowing bride. The wedding has also been an excuse for catching up with family and friends. And not to forget the Father of the Bride. I think Dad was the only one who was surprised when we announced our engagement. Or was that denial? He enjoyed his medicine though…watching both versions of the film Father of the Bride. Given that Dad looks like Basil Faulty and anything was possible, the movies seemed like good insurance!
Once again, we thank you for sharing our special day!
In January my husband and I had to rush my Dad to emergency. We had to take a strange route to avoid traffic. We also had to keep him calm. He was ironically excited in his delirium from level 10 pain. We thought he would need to stay a few days but in reality the […]