Tag Archives: God

Midnight With “The Secret Wife”.

If you go digging through my archives, you’ll notice that despite being a self-confessed book addict, I rarely write book reviews. That’s because I’m unfortunately more of a book collector than a voracious book reader. Of course, I have good intentions, and get carried away on the wings of fancy, but all too often the rubber doesn’t hit the road.

Anyway, today I’m breaking with tradition because I’ve just finished reading Mark Lamprell’s: The Secret Wife, and I’m too excited to keep it to myself. I absolutely loved it, and thought you might love it too. I rarely read non-fiction, and despite my best intentions, have often failed to finish even novels I love. So, the fact I was sticking matchsticks in my eyes to stay awake and finish this book, is a very strong endorsement. Indeed, to quote Australian music legend Molly Meldrum: “Do yourself a favour”, and read this book.

So, what was so good about it?

For me personally, I’m Australian and I enjoy stories from my own backyard, as well as reading foreign literature. Indeed, I suspect each of us likes to see our own world reflected back to us through the arts, as much as we also appreciate a more cosmopolitan diet. Yet, at the same time, it wasn’t consciously Australian and would easily translate elsewhere.

Secondly, I really appreciated the highly developed characterisation with his profound understanding of human nature. The storyline hinges on the friendship of two very different women, Edith and Frankie, their husbands and children and is mostly set in the 1960’s. Naturally, as characters in a novel, they go through many ups and downs, dramas, catastrophes and successes. Lacking in self-confidence myself too often, I related very strongly to Edith even though I’m a born extrovert and would’ve loved to be Frankie in my dreams.

I also really appreciated how Lamprell handled the interaction of this wily cast with the finely-tuned precision of a symphony conductor, yet with casual realism. There were times the characters became people I know, but I also felt Mark knew me like the back of his hand. I’m sure I got goose bumps more than once.

Another point I greatly appreciated about the book was Mark’s dynamic and complex vocabulary. Not all writers appreciate words, but I love words with a passion and am quick to take my hat off to those who make the effort (or even flourish). My kids have told me off for writing in books, but I always read books with a pen in hand, and my pen was very busy throughout (which is a great sign, btw.) I even jotted a few words in the back.

It is also worth noting that The Secret Wife is a historical novel. I was touched and impressed by Lamprell’s eye for detail and accuracy. It’s so easy to Google these things now, that there’s no excuse for getting them wrong. There is just enough detail to add flavour and authenticity, but not too much to bog you down.

All of that makes me sound intensely critical and punctilious (to steal a word from Mark). However, what we’re all looking for is a gripping story. A tale which draws us in and keeps throwing us bait until we’re caught hook, line and sinker. Where we can’t put the book down, yet we don’t want the book to end either. That is certainly true of The Secret Wife. The plot is also refreshingly unpredictable. He leads us up one path, and then we are taken somewhere else entirely, although not left alone lost in the dark either.

I know I’m saying a lot without saying much at all about this book. That’s because I know how much I hate spoilers. I just want a “yay” or a “nay”, and something to back it up. Yet, I’m busting to talk to someone about it.

However, I’m also into biography. So, once I like a book, or fancy an author, I want to delve into their head, their heart, their past, present…the works. (Indeed, I’ve been doing just that with author Ethel Turner over at my other blog Tea With Ethel Turner.) So this leaves me asking: “Who is Mark Lamprell?” and I suppose you might be wondering the same thing, and why I read: The Secret Wife, especially when I could’ve been reading your blog posts and works of fiction instead…

Mark Lamprell – Photo Ian Erick

Well, the official answer is: “Mark Lamprell is an (Australian) writer of novels and children’s books published in sixteen countries and twelve languages, including the novels The Full Ridiculous and A Lover’s Guide to Rome. He also works internationally as a writer and director in film, with movie credits including Babe Pig in the City, My Mother Frank, Goddess, A Few Less Men and Never Too Late.

There’s a more complex answer here, where Booktopia asked him Ten Terrifying Questions: https://www.booktopia.com.au/blog/2022/04/21/ten-terrifying-questions-with-mark-lamprell/?fbclid=IwAR10IScuXeqzO3eEluwWUtZb9ICn93sRAXkHBCS8JUqbAwLBQxZpsZ6Kwwk

However, for me, Mark Lamprell was also my uncle’s school friend. My dad was one of seven, and being the eldest grandchild, I was only ten and eleven years younger than my youngest uncles. So, it wasn’t unusual for me to be down at the house when their friends were around. Moreover, their house was a sprawling Californian bungalow. None of the doors were ever locked, and people simply came and went. Oftentimes, we’d be gathered around the kitchen table philosophising. One would be having breakfast, another lunch and someone else having a snack. It was definitely laissez-faire, although there were still non-negotiables like my grandfather wanting my uncle to get his hair cut.

My grandmother in a professional capacity. This was for the BBC around 1938.

Yet, as I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother was Eunice Gardiner, an international concert pianist, music critic and later professor piano at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. In the loungeroom, there was her Bechstein grand piano, and after my grandfather passed away, it was joined by a large concert-sized Steinway grand, which she’d brought out from England. Having two large grand pianos in your lounge room, certainly makes a statement.

My Great Grandmother, Ruby Gardiner (McNamara) was in some ways Edith to my grandmother’s Frankie. Both of them stood their ground at times, and were still their own people. I look at this photo now with Ruby looking across and even deferring to her daughter as though she’s not expecting to be in the shot. Hadn’t picked up on that before.

So, the house had this sort of dichotomy, and that fits in very well with Frankie’s world in The Secret Wife. Moreover, like Frankie, there was so much we didn’t know about my grandmother’s career, and who she was. Indeed, I venture to suggest that everyone probably has their secrets. Things even our nearest and dearest know nothing about.

While The Secret Wife and I were obviously a very good fit, I ended up reading it because the publisher sent me a copy to review. I was attending a novel writing workshop with Graeme Simsion (author of The Rosie Project who I’ve reviewed before). I mentioned that I’d attended a similar workshop with Mark Lamprell at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, and the publicist said she’d send me a copy of his new book. I was delighted, and mentioned he was a family friend. The book duly arrived, and I thought I’d better read it tout de suite to honour the deal. No forgetting to read this book. By this time, I picked up an extra 38 “friends” at the Pearl Beach Book Sale. So, it wasn’t that The Secret Wife was without competition. I clearly needed to get reading.

Family Press Photo 1960 around the time of the TV interview.

However, reading The Secret Wife now was mind-blowing timing. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by historian, Ann Curthoys, who let me know that back in 1960 my grandmother had appeared on an ABC TV panel interviewing Paul Robeson, an African-American singer, actor and civil rights activist and soon of a former slave when he toured Australia in November 1960. The interview covered racism, equality and freedom and was recorded on the 5th November, 1960. Three days later, JF Kennedy defeated Nixon in the US presidential election, and it was broadcast on the 13th November, 1960. It was just under three years before Dr Martin Luther King’s famous  “I Have a Dream” speech, which followed a march by over 200,000 people on Washington on the 28th August, 1963. I was able to order a copy of the interview, and have been working on a transcript. I am gobsmacked.

A media shot – my grandmother with the eldest boys at the piano around 1942.

So, reading: The Secret Wife which is set in this similar social context, was an incredible fusion. However, my grandmother was leading a different life to anyone really what with her prodigious talent and being married with seven children and still pursuing her career. But I think she just had this trajectory in her mind and it just kept going. She probably knew nothing else.

As for my grandfather, there was a miniature grand piano on their wedding cake. So, I doubt he had any illusions. My grandmother, her piano and her career were a package deal. There was never any suggestion she was going to stop.

Wow! There’s been so much to think about, and more to come. For now, I’m going to let the book settle. I really want to talk it over, and share it with someone (something I obviously can’t do in a review.) Maybe, I’ll start talking to myself.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

PS One thing I didn’t mention was that my grandfather was the consummate book collector and my grandparents’ house was overflowing out the back and under the house with boxes, and boxes of books. Indeed, when my grandparents first got married, my grandfather’s mother sent over his books to their new home, and they apparently arrived even before the furniture.

Don’t you just love family stories?!!

Featured image: Geoff Newton. Thank you Zac the dog for posing for the camera. Since he spends much of his life sleeping underneath my keyboard and while I was reading the book, it seemed appropriate for him to appear in the photo.

Meandering Through Midleton, Ireland: the Bookshop and Author Michael Harding.

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.

Me in my element

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.

Temptation Overdrive

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.

Michael Harding – Image unashamedly swiped from his podcast

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.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

Anything For Love…Friday Fictioneers.

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.

Anything for love.

…….

Rowena Curtin 100 words. PHOTO PROMPT © Bill Reynolds

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.

RIP Meatloaf

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.

Rosie (left) and Zac when they were younger.
Lady with the kids a few years ago.

Anyway, I hope you’re all well and having a good week.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Responding To Tasmania’s Jumping Castle Tragedy.

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.

Map of Tasmania. Devonport is on the North Coast roughly in the middle.

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.

Our two rogue children on our son’s last day in Year 6. The photos went downhill from here.

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.

At the end of their last day at school, the school children form a tunnel through the playground and the Year six’s run through, and I took this close-up of their hands.

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.

This was awhile ago now, but it’s one of my favourite dance photos of her.

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.”

They are in my prayers.

Rest in peace dear sweethearts,

Love,

Rowena

Back to Earth…Friday Fictioneers 29th October, 2021.

Willow couldn’t understand how her precious Forest with the mop of blond curls running naked through the bush, had become the devil, creating this monstrous, subterranean machine fueled by coal seam gas. Where had she gone wrong? She’d raised her kids off the grid in Nimbin’s hippy heartland. Now, he was calling himself “Steele” – the antithesis of all she held dear. She could barely look at his photo, dwarfed by those massive machines without a blade of grass in sight. Yet, she wasn’t giving up. She clutched the amazonite crystal in her palms, and knew he’d be back.

……

99 words. PHOTO PROMPT © Douglas M. MacIlroy

Map from Byron Bay to Nimbin

Bringing up children is a wonderful thing is so many ways, but it also has it’s challenges. If most of us are honest, we would like our kids to have similar values and beliefs to our own, and are disappointed, feel rejected when they turn the other way in an equally zealous way. I thought about how people’s love or nature or technology/Science can become a religion, and with decision-making around the covid vaccine, these clashes are confronting many families and groups of friends at the moment, and it’s quite divisive.

For those of you wondering about amazonite:

Amazonite helps to harmonize apparently different motivations and interests by bringing the truth to light without emotionality, and allowing one to see another point of view. It facilitates this process both between people, and within an individual psyche. Therefore it is good for meditation and inner work to clarify inner conflicts and confusion and integrate the self.” https://beadage.net/gemstones/amazonite/

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields https://rochellewisoff.com/ PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wishoff Every week we write up to 100 words to a photo prompt, and we’d love you to join us.

Best wihes,

Rowena

Our Spiritual Journey…

It’s not very often that I even touch on the spiritual side of my life…my beliefs, my faith or Christian community. That’s not because they aren’t an important. Rather, it’s just that I often see too many shades of grey, and wrestle with so many aspects of my own faith, that  it’s not easy to package it up and present it to anyone else in a vaguely coherent state.

I guess that’s what happens when you’re “beyond the flow”. You’re not usually the sort of person who walks into a place and immediately feels comfortable in that empty seat. Indeed, you bring your own. Ask questions. Wriggle. Don’t quite feel comfortable and look around at all the people who belong and ask: “What about me? Where’s my place? Will I ever belong?”

Above: Barney’s back in my day before it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt. Although I really struggled within myself while I was there, I was very happy there too if that makes sense. Found my place for awhile.

When I was in my twenties, I moved from the small Lutheran Church where I’d grown up and didn’t have many people my own age, and started going to St Barnabas Broadway. “Barney’s” was the Anglican Church aligned with Sydney University, where I’d literally swung from the chandeliers as an undergraduate, loving and being fully immersed in virtually all aspects of campus life. Barney’s was jam-packed with hundreds of young people, and I thought I’d hit the jackpot. That was until I struggled to run into the same people week after week and missed the intimacy of my home Church. Yet, I persevered and went to home groups and formed a really tight group of friends who were also mostly on the fringe of things to some extent. For example, the women among us weren’t real good at wearing floral dresses, which were a kind of uniform at the time. Over time, we came to see ourselves as the “black sheep”.   Indeed, a friend of mine and I wrote this incredibly sad, cynical story of sheep drowning in their own tears abandoned by the shepherd. This wasn’t so much a comment on Barney’s, but more a sense of the individual getting lost and overlooked. Of course, that’s nothing new, but when you feel yourself drowning in sorrow, it can feel like you’re the only one who has ever been there. However, with the exception of mental illness, it is often something everyone experiences from time to time. Moreover, your teens and twenties can be particularly turbulent as you try to launch yourself out into the so-called real world and search for love. It is difficult for most people to respond to drowning souls. However, if you know anything about life saving, you’ll know that you’re not meant to drown yourself saving someone else. Rather, they recommend using props like a broom, which enable you to save a life and not go down in the process.

Anyway, as it turned out, my sense of drowning in my own tears, wasn’t far off the mark. While I was turning to spiritual and psychological sources of help, I was actually battling the effects of undiagnosed hydrocephalus (or fluid on the brain) where the cerebral spinal fluid (CFS) was building up inside my head and squashing my brain. I didn’t have trouble with headaches, but I was clumsy right through high school  and with the pressure on my frontal lobe, wasn’t just extroverted. Stress was also quite disabling. After all, my brain was already under the pump.

When I was 25, I moved to Western Australia thinking a more relaxed lifestyle would be better. However, I was diagnosed with the hydrocephalus a few months later when I couldn’t touch my nose in a basic medical check up. Six months later, after a serious and sharp decline, I had brain surgery in 1996 where they inserted a VP Shunt from my brain under the skin through to my peritoneum. I moved back to Sydney to recover. The shunt blocked and it was decided I had to stay put and I moved back home with mum and Dad and did six months rehab to get back on my feet. I was off work for six-twelve months and went from being a Marketing Manager in a serious relationship to moving back in with my parents with my life squeezed into my bedroom cupboards. While I was grateful for their support, becoming a dependent child again was devastating. It wasn’t part of my plan, ambition and contradicted every little aspect of how I saw myself as a intelligent,  independent career woman.

Then, the shunt blocked, and my bad luck appeared terminal. Not in a life and death sense, but in terms of my morale. I remember talking to a friend and thinking I’d never get married and have kids. That I “couldn’t even take care of a goldfish”. These were gruelingly difficult days, extending into months which kept crawling along. 

Clearly, I’ve come a long way sense then. I met my husband Geoff on NYE 1998, while I was still in the recovery phase from that surgery. He took me on when I was still pretty much a rough diamond, and loved me regardless. Was part of the ongoing journey which saw me continue to recover and extend myself even to the present day. Thanks to what we are still finding out about neuroplasticity, I started rising back up and getting back into the land of living, even if I wasn’t quite back in the fast lane.

Anyway, I’ve taken you on a massive detour from where I intended to take you today.

DSC_3084

Praying for our son after the baptism.

The reason I’m touching on the spiritual, is that our fifteen year old son, who is known as on Beyond the Flow as the inimitable “Mister”, got baptised yesterday. When I asked him why he got baptised yesterday, he told me today that the baptisms were on so he might as well do it. However, his face told a different story yesterday when he was bursting with excitement, glowing and clearly being touched and immersed not only in the water, but also in the Holy Spirit and God’s love. Please don’t ask me for an explanation. This was clearly supernatural. I live with this character and experience the ups and downs, highs and lows and the clean versus messy bedroom. I know he’s not a saint, and yet he is. Somehow, so am I. Yet, I feel incredibly ordinary even if I’m no longer that lost, black sheep drowning in my own tears.

I am incredibly proud of our son for choosing to get baptised now. He turned 15 on Friday, and clearly this is an age group renowned for making other choices. Fantastic!

family zoom

Our family after the baptism

The other thing I was really stoked about, was that despite the last minute notice, we had a good contingent of family there. That even included Geoff’s sister and her boyfriend from Queensland, who just happened to be down. It was actually a very rare situation where Geoff’s family outnumbered my side. With my Dad being one of seven, that doesn’t happen often. Mister also had a few of his friends along and our Church (Hope Unlimited Church) also has a strong youth group and they were there literally cheering him along. Indeed, four of the youth were baptised yesterday.

Haebich Bible crop

 

Lastly, although it spent the service out in the car, the family Bible made it inside afterwards and I managed to share it with a few people. It was published in 1872/74 in Philadelphia and originally belonged to my grandfather’s grandfather, Heinrich August Haebich who was a blacksmith in Hahndorf, South Australia. His wife’s family included the Hartmann’s and Paech’s who were among the first German immigrants to come to South Australia. They migrated to under Pastor Kavel, because they didn’t believe in changes to the liturgy back home.  On one hand, you could say they were very devout and fought to defend their faith (which for Pastor Kavel included going to prison at the time). On the other hand, you could describe them as stubborn and resistant to change.

Papa's Retirement

My grandfather photographed at his retirement service.

My grandfather became a Lutheran Pastor. A shepherd in the very meaning of the word, he told stories of driving out through the mud to reach families and connect them with Church and salvation. He and my grandmother worked tirelessly in a ministry capacity, but also as what we’d today would view as social work. While serving in Wollongong in the 1950s, their congregation was mostly made up of European migrants known as “New Australians” who were struggling to adjust to a new country, language and culture and deal with having to start over again with perhaps little more than the shirt on your back. These legendary heroics of migrant Australia, didn’t come without a cost. My grandparents and their kids, lived in a tiny matchbox-sized manse next to the Church where their door was always open and they gave more than really was a good idea. My grandfather would marry a couple. My grandmother would be the bridesmaid and my mother or aunt would play the organ. At the larger weddings, the family would have to leave before the dancing could start. These were interesting time, so different to how I have grown up.

Walker_family_1945_after_release_from_internment_camp_small_cropped_379x277

The Walker Family after their release from the Japanese. 

This is just my Christian and spiritual legacy to our son. Meanwhile, Geoff grew up in a Seventh Day Adventist Family in Scottsdale, Tasmania. In his twenties, he moved to Sydney where the home group he attended broke away, becoming Dayspring Church. Going back in time, his family included a Methodist lay preacher and another branch of his family, the Walkers and Brookers were active in the early days of the Salvation Army. Indeed, his grandfather Herbert William Brooker played the cornet in the band which we’ve inherited. Actually, I just found out last night that Herbert William’s cousin, George Walker, was a Lieut.-Colonel in the Salvation Army and was interred by the Japanese during WWII while serving as a missionary in China.  Geoff’s Great Great Grandfather, Robert Sleightholm,  actually built much of the historic Church of the Good Shepherd at Hadspen in Tasmania. I know that’s different to pastoring a Church, but he was still a Church builder. Incidentally, that’s far better than being a Church seller and wrecker. The Anglican Church has put  the Good Shepherd up for sale. Read here. What did I say about the shepherds and the sheep?

While we are very proud of our strong Christian heritage, that is not to discourage people my kids refer to as first generation Christians. While it can be quite encouraging to come from a Christian family and there can be that internal cohesion, it can also be quite different if your Christian walk goes off on a tangent to your family. Christian communities have seemingly become more tolerant in recent years, there are tensions between different expressions and interpretations of faith. This legacy might not always leave you with a blank slate or room for your own faith to grow unimpeded and without perhaps being pruned too harshly. So, whatever your family situation might be, that’s okay. We are all God’s children and valued members of God’s family. Jesus loves us.

Funny I should write all of this, because I usually don’t speak up and it’s been really hard for me to feel an ongoing sense of belonging and commitment to Church. As you’re probably aware since my battle with the hydrocephalus, I was dealt another whammy when I became progressively immobile following the birth of our second child, Miss, and was diagnosed 18 months later with dermatomyositis. For awhile there, I felt like God didn’t love me any more and had channelled his wrath my direction and was zapping me with thunderbolts. I was really angry, hurt and just bereft that I had a second very rare, unpronouncible disease and I hadn’t even turned 40. Of course, I was mad. Mad with God. Mad with life, but mostly petrified of dying and leaving my then three and 18 month old children without their mum, especially when they were too young to even remember their mother or what it was like to have a mum.

My ongoing struggles with chronic health and disability also made it difficult to get to Church regularly and build those ongoing, continuing relationships where I could be a part of things. Me being me, I was also radically overthinking everything. Plus, I was fighting to stay alive, particularly after the dermatomyositis started causing fibrosis in my lungs. I developed bronchitis, pneumonia. I really should wear a mask out in public during fly season, but I am who I am and that isn’t me. I want to be with people, not behind a wall of any sort.

So, life is complicated and as frustrating and exhausting as it might be, I have to keep rising back to the surface and being not only part of community, but being something of a shepherd and caring for the flock from my seat somewhere out the back and not quite out the front. That’s my place. Meantime, Geoff can be found either up the front playing base, setting up and packing up chairs often with our son in tow. Our daughter went to her first meeting of Church dancers last week. That’s quite development compared to when my Mum was growing up.

Well, although this is the extended version of the baptism, it really is very much a fleeting overview of our spiritual journey and we’d love to hear from you. Moreover, if you have written any posts along these lines, please include links in the comments below. I’d love to read them.

Love & God Bless,

Rowena

Lt-Col George Walker Dies

Lieut.-Colonel ‘George Walker, commander of the Newcastle Division of the Salvation Army, died in Newcastle last night at the age of 61. Lieut.-Colonel Walker became an officer in the Salvation Army’s Burwood Corps 37 years ago, and then joined the China and India mission service. During the Second World War he was interned by the Japanese, and is remembered by many prisoners as welfare officer in a number of internment camps around Peking. After the war, he served as a travelling evangelist in New South Wales and Queensland, before taking up his Newcastle post a year ago. Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 – 1954), Wednesday 16 April 1952, page 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas – Weekend Coffee Share.

This is just a brief message to wish you and yours a Merry and Blessed Christmas and a Happy, healthy and Wonder-filled New Year.

As you may be aware, I live in Sydney, Australia where it’s looking like we’ll be having a scorchingly hot Christmas and Boxing Day. We’re heading out to Church tonight for Christmas Eve and will be heading to my aunt’s my parents and extended family for Christmas Day. We’ll be catching up with Geoff’s sister from Boxing Day.

I’ve written a few Christmas posts in the last week which may interest you:

Silent Night

A Stinking Hot Christmas (written 2015 for Solveig Warner’s Advent Calendar)

A Sydney Christmas

Christmas Door – David Jones

St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney

 

We would like to wish you and yours a Merry and Blessed Christmas. Happy Holidays isn’t a phrase we use here in Australia, but I understand it’s used a lot in USA and has its place.

Yet, at the same time, we understand that this time of year is very difficult for many for a variety of reasons and we would also like to acknowledge that. We hear you and I put my hand on your heart and stand alongside you. It’s not easy and while I’ve experienced the most amazing miracles myself, they haven’t come about like clockwork. I haven’t clicked my fingers and hey presto, pulled a rabbit out of my hat. I’ve also found there’s a lot I can do to both improve my lot and also completely shoot myself in the foot and make things worse.

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

-TS Eliot

Well, that’s a rather large dose of philosophy and reflection for what’s supposed to be a coffee share. However, so much is shared over a cup of tea or coffee in the real world. Why shouldn’t that be a part of our virtual coffees?

“Way too much coffee. But if it weren’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever.”

-David Letterman

Best wishes,

Rowena

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

PS The photo of me as the elf was taken in the Cancer Centre at Royal North Shore Hospital. I popped down there to pick up some resources for a friend. However, 6 years ago I had a round of chemo (cyclophosphamide) to treat my auto-immune disease, which had started attacking my lungs. Treatment began the week before Christmas with my second dose on Boxing Day, when there was plenty of parking for a change. The treatment worked and I’ve been in remission for 6 years. So, I have much to be thankful for and it’s a reminder not to take the seemingly hum drum and every day for granted.

A Stone In My Pocket – Friday Fictioneers.

This was it. I took a deep breath. The 23rd Psalm echoed in my head, and I recited the Lord’s Prayer. Not deeply religious and anything but devout, I still kept a toe in with the man upstairs just in case. However, as I stuffed the heavy stones down my shirt and stared into the lake, I wondered whether he’d accept I was repentant, even if I did commit the ultimate, unforgivable sin. However, it was a done deal. I’d left a note, blown my dosh. I closed my eyes….5,4,3,2,1…Geronimo.

Oops. Next time, I’ll find a deeper pond.

…..

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s photo prompt comes from  © Sandra Crook.

 

A Shimmer of Moonlight…Friday Fictioneers.

Engulfed by a grief which knew no bounds, Bernadette refused to light the candle for Jim. No point. Whether God was dead or asleep, he wasn’t there. Otherwise, he would’ve stepped in. Plucked her husband right off the road before the truck hit. He came to rest on the banks of a creek…too late for the kiss of life, let alone a goodbye. She could still feel his arms wrapped around her in an unbroken chain.

The candle stood as still as a statue, while an owl peered through the window, eyes glowing in the moonlight.

…..

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo prompt © Janet Webb. 

xx Rowena

Gyuto Monks of Tibet in Australia.

Yesterday, I shared my serendipitous encounter where I met a group of Gyuto Monks from Tibet at my local beach in sunny Australia, not far from Sydney.

Today, I wanted to share a few more photos and delve further into what the monks are about and why they’re in Australia.

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Photo: Rowena Curtin

After all, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably need to have the details pointed out to i.e these monks wear the the same robes as the esteemed Dalai Lama and “are masters of Tibetan Buddhist tantric ritual and their lives are dedicated to practicing tantric ideals. To be with them, to observe and be touched by their humanity, is to see kindness in action.”

That said, I have read and posted about The Pursuit of Happiness  by the Dalai Lama and Howard Carter in addition to yesterday’s post: Accidents, Blessings & Tibetan Monks at an Australian Beach.

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Much of this is beyond my understanding and experience but I strive to place love, compassion and empathy at the centre of my life…values which are lived and breathed by the Holy men.

surfer zoom

At one with the wave. Photo Rowena Newton at Wamberal, NSW.

I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of surfing as a spiritual activity before but it has to be. Obviously, surfing is intimately connected with the ocean, the waves and nature and being close to the ocean always makes me feeling closer to God, feeling his wonder, majesty and spirit all around me. It blows me away. After all, God occupies our entire universe and isn’t shut inside a building.

In an interview with Australian Surf Champion Nick Carroll,  broadcaster Caroline Jones asked: “Is there something about the moment when you’re absolutely concentrated there on what’s happening, that is, a feeling that as well as being frightening, a moment of great peace, or joy or something very extraordinary?

He replied: “Yes, surely.If you want to put it into a religious framework, Eastern religions deal with moments like that better than what we consider are usual forms of religion because they do deal with cathartic moments. The Zen Buddhists deal with them very well. You get moments where your whole body, soul and mind are just concentrated on doing something in the surf. When it’s very big and you catch a wave and take off there’s usually, on a big wave in Hawaii, several seconds during that wave where you really throw yourself over the brink, you really have to forget about everything, totally, to make it. You have to forget about trying to do something, you have to just get up, trust your instinct and just fall into the wave. It’s during seconds like that that you seem to just  totally disappear, you as a being don’t exist at that moment. It’ hard to express, you throw yourself into the moment that you’re actually inside everything that’s happening, you’re inside the wave, you’re inside your surfboard and what it’s doing. You’re inside all the landscape around you and the ocean as it’s surging, you get totally inside the moment and it’s so intense that time disappears, everything disappears. You disappear, you’re not thinking of you Nick Carroll or whoever. It’s way beyond that.

If you’re going to make a very big wave you have to be totally unified with everything that’s happeneing. You have to know absolutely everything the board’s doing, what’s happening with the wave, where the water is on the wave, how fast the water’s moving up the face of the wave, what’s happening with the wind, where there might be a couple of people in the way, and I don’t think you can know about that if you choose to take the form of thinking that we do in our everyday lives, where I’m very aware of me, Nick Carroll. Your brain just can’t handle it, it has to throw stuff away to fit it all in. And so a lot of what it throws away is the useless stuff, the ego, the “I’m Nick Carroll, I’ve got fears, worries, doubts etc”___all very useless stuff. To take all that information in about what’s happening, to get right inside it, you have to ignore a lot and discard it.2.”

I experience this myself through my writing, photography and also through playing the violin. I know that sense of merging and oneness and it’s incredible.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed riding the wave with the Tibetan Monks of Gyuta, even if it was only from the shore. Unfortunately, we left before they hit the waves…not in their robes but in the safety of board shorts and life vest.

To view TV coverage of the event and of the monks surfing: http://www.nbnnews.com.au/2016/10/05/surfing-monks-create-waves-in-umina/

Have you have any experiences with the Dalai Lama of the Tibetan Monks of Gyuta? I would love to hear your experiences and how you felt.

xx Rowena

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Hopefully some of his calm brushed off on me.

Sources

  1. About the Gyuto Monks of Tibet in Australia

2. Caroline Jones, The Search for Meaning, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1989 p. 56.