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Thanks for being part of my Sunday Girl journey. X
Thanks for being part of my Sunday Girl journey. X
I will dream of you,
You’ll dream of me too.
Your arms come ’round my waist,
There will be no better place.
These lines are from a current favourite song of mine, a song that swoops me up and makes me feel something in return for listening. I love those songs. Somehow, in some way, the arrangement of music, instruments and words just works and I’m hooked. The lyrics on their own are not brilliant poetry – but throw in the haunting tune that accompanies them and the bar is most-definitely raised.
And so I’ve been thinking – why does this happen? What tweaks the soul-string, what makes us feel? We humans really are complicated and wonderful beasts. We create, all the time – music, words, art, buildings, gardens…things. We create every day. And those who are really good at it create things of beauty, of art, masterpieces, things we love, things that move us. Amazing.
I have a clear memory of the first time I experienced this mystery. I was young, with my parents and visiting a travelling impressionist exhibition at an art gallery. I saw my first Monet – water lilies, Monet’s garden. I remember looking at this extraordinary thing created by another human being, this thing of beauty, and having the overwhelming urge to cry. I sat down in the gallery with small tears running down my face, wondering why. A stranger stopped in front of me and said “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Then they smiled and said, quite matter-of-factly, “this is what happens”.
The scientist in me wants to know how, why and what enables people to create things, to artistically express themselves in a way that touches other people’s emotions. My partner, an artist, said that he felt inspired after we visited a local art exhibition. The featured artist was creating her work in the middle of a gallery space exhibiting other completed ones. All her works were either a series of hand-drawn lines or dots (never both). They were so simple and on a large-scale, impressive. I found them interesting but my partner was intrigued and saw something…more. I guess appreciation of any creative art form is ultimately subjective and inherently personal.
This is never more apparent to me than in my love for Philip Larkin poems. This one in particular is my favourite:
What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.
Now – I just love this poem. I love the wit, the thoughtfulness, the imagery, the ‘feeling’ of the prose. I’ve shared my love of this poem with others and, well, let’s just say the response was less than enthusiastic. That’s OK because it doesn’t change how these words make me feel, or the fact they always make me smile.
I’ve thought hard about the songs that move me. The music is layered, tuneful and appealing. And when I read the lyrics they’re usually relatable, they mean something to me. Each element on its own is still creatively interesting, but it’s the combination that makes the magic. I still don’t fully understand how I can see a painting or hear a piece of music and think it’s so beautiful that there’s an emotional shifting of gears, I just don’t. But I’m extremely grateful that it can.
Despite all these thoughts, I’m still wondering why (as was said to me) “this is what happens”. In the absence of a solid explanation, I’m going to go with a quote by the famous American acting teacher Stella Adler: “life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one”.
And so – I’ll end with this. Something I created myself, for me. I’m not sure where some of it came from – it just did. I’m not saying it’s well written or even special, but its something I felt compelled to write. I wonder if it will move anyone else?
Thing of Beauty
Those eyes that pierce and glitter,
The see and see and see
My thoughts. The pitch and plough of life.
I keenly feel you leave.
When up is down, joy means loss;
The irony is death.
To win the war and have the love
means nothing will be left, yet
I cannot stop, I cannot stop, I cannot stop.
The waking hours tease.
The night is full of soft reprieve,
And words are not enough.
Lately the news has been breaking my heart, my female heart.
It started with the rape and murder of Somebody’s Daughter in Melbourne. She worked for the ABC, so it received even more coverage than most; a good thing, as at the time, the perpetrator was still at large. The story was shocking and elicited widespread workplace and café conversations. So sad, Somebody’s Daughter out relaxing with friends, having a drink, going home to her husband, and then – nothing. Nothing, because she was stalked, targeted and preyed upon, murdered, hidden, lost. So sad.
Yet the conversations I heard were often about Somebody’s Daughter being out on her own, walking home on her own, how “silly she was”, how “she might have been drunk”. Wait, wait – what? Many musings only barely stopped short of saying she was asking for it. Listening to these conversations I could have, and could still, scream.
It was later revealed in the media that the stalker, her attacker, was well-known to Police, had been charged many times with brutal assault and was out on parole when he raped and killed Somebody’s Daughter. He was a large, broad-shouldered, physically strong hunter of women with a known violent streak. Because of this, her husband now fights for more transparency and stronger controls around parole conditions for known offenders. The loss of Somebody’s Daughter will hopefully yield a meaningful legacy, a positive change.
But not soon enough for Somebody’s Mother who was killed in April this year. She was bashed to death with a cricket bat by a man who was on parole for violent rape. He had almost 100 prior convictions and has since pleaded guilty, and been charged with, murder. Unfortunately this doesn’t help the woman’s 4-year-old son, who found her body. As a mother of a 4-year-old myself, I find it overwhelmingly sad to contemplate what effect that will have on that little boy as he grows up.
In July, another young Somebody’s Daughter was walking home after celebrating the birth of her then-two month old child. She had been in the city with friends and after being approached by, and refusing the attention of a lone man walking the same street, she was dragged into a laneway, punched, kicked and raped. It was a particularly brutal attack; one of the gashes on her face was so deep it required plastic surgery. She would likely be dead if not for neighbours running out of their homes upon hearing her desperate screams.
Then there was the kidnapping, ongoing assault, rape and brutalisation of three Somebody’s Daughters by a man, a school bus driver, over a period of years. These (now) women deserve a bloody medal, as does the (literal) man-on-the-street who “did something” upon hearing a plea for help from inside the man’s house. I have watched subsequent courtroom vision and listened in shock to the man’s denial of guilt, his words on a badly done by youth and an addict-like urge to harm, disrespect and demoralise. Whether real or play-acted self-delusion, it was a slap in the face to hear this soulless man attempt transferral of blame.
I thought about another man, the father of a daughter he kept as prisoner in his cellar for 24 years, who he sexually abused and who bore him seven children. With forethought and careful planning, he kept his Daughter and three of their children in the cellar for their entire lives whilst raising another three ‘upstairs’ in the house, as he and his wife’s own family. The seventh child had died shortly after birth and the man disposed of the body himself by burning it in a boiler. He hurt not just his Daughter, but his own children who now have an extraordinary challenge adjusting to life in the light of day.
And finally, this: in Delhi last December, Somebody’s Daughter, 23, and her male friend boarded a bus. Not long after they had sat down a group of 6 men started harassing the pair, asking the friend what he was going to do to Somebody’s Daughter when he got home. The friend protested and the 6 other men hit him on the head with an iron rod. To try to save her friend, Somebody’s Daughter challenged the men. In response, the men gang-raped the girl and beat her with the same iron rod for 45 minutes. Then they threw Somebody’s Daughter and her friend out of the bus. In hospital they discovered the true extent of Somebody’s Daughter’s injuries; besides being raped and bashed, the iron rod had been inserted into Somebody’s Daughter and removed with such force it dragged her intestines with it.
On this last story – perhaps I should have warned you what you were going to read. It’s horrifying and beyond belief except that it actually DID happen to Somebody’s Daughter, on a bus, with her friend, at only 9pm at night. I’m getting upset again. It breaks my female heart.
And so I ask this: what is happening? When did all the Somebody’s Daughters become so targeted, so expendable, so devalued and worthless? And how did such violent, predatory, brutal behaviour become an almost-everyday news item? And why are we not making a bigger fuss about it all? There are pockets of action, stories of ill-feeling and a mood of sadness – but what are we actually doing? I’m no better than anyone else really, for here I am, only writing and lamenting. It is not enough.
There is a terrible and tragic thing happening, bigger than anything else and worse because its far-reaching consequences go beyond the violent and murderous madness of the stories above. It is about humanity. Within our own species, in our own kind, our own families – the stronger preying on the weaker, with intent to harm. I’m not an expert biologist, but truly – does any other species exhibit such destructive behaviour? And even if there was – why would we want to emulate it? Aren’t we supposed to be a higher-order, more aware, more morally conscious, more ethically driven species than any other? Aren’t we?
I hate the fact that I am more frightened now than ever before. I am Somebody’s Daughter with my own gorgeous girl, who I want to have all the experiences life can bring without fear of being stalked, preyed upon or attacked because she went out with friends, or walked home, or rode a bus. There are no boundaries for this fear; it consumes me when I watch the news, when I’m walking alone in a dark car park, when I watch my daughter at a playground. I feel less empowered than ever before, less able to make something change and I’m sure this is part of it, this overwhelming fear. I’m ashamed to feel this way because I’m pretty sure it’s what predators and stalkers would want, my inaction, my horrifying and crippling fear.
So today, no answers, only these thoughts:
I quietly hope that talking about my fear for all the Somebody’s Daughters will affect a small change somewhere in the big, wide internet world. I wonder about the over-arching themes in these stories of predation and violence of men against women. Perhaps this is where we can start, with teaching our children respect for themselves and for others – because all those horrific acts described above have also been carried out by Somebody’s Sons.
I can’t think of anywhere else better to start than that.
In my house there are unswept floors, unvacuumed carpets and untidy piles of unread magazines. I go to work early and promise myself I’ll leave at 4, then 5, then 6 o’clock. I plan to shop for groceries during lunch, after work, after I have collected my daughter. Late home, I face the spectre of cooking and serving an overdue evening meal to unbathed children while yesterday’s towels bunch wetly in the bathroom. There are dog-nose prints on glass sliding doors, finger-prints on the stairwell and a headful of unwritten blogposts. There are unmade phone calls, unmade beds, unrealised promises. I can’t stop thinking about things I should be doing and things I haven’t done. I want more time, more time, more time.
Lately it has been quite a struggle. And so I haven’t written for a while.
Today, with some precious writing time, I don’t want to dwell on the issues of madness and mess – suffice to say they exist and are unresolved. Instead I want to talk about something that’s saving my sanity and whose images are crowding my camera memory cards. It’s close and unexpected. It’s Newcastle, Newie, my home.
Most weekends I manage an hour or so to go walking. Originally unplanned and now pleasant habit, I head to the breakwall in town near Nobbys Beach, always an hour or so before dusk. It’s a beautiful time of day, my favourite time of day. It’s when sidewalks are being swept clean of daylight-muck and preparing for night. It’s when shadows lengthen, stark skies become shaded-colour and people pack up and head home. There’s a sense of completion and a touch of anticipation at dusk. It’s day’s end, the sunset winking in night’s welcome.
And the reason I’m walking here and not somewhere else is the landscape. I could walk anywhere; my gorgeous local park, my street, the bike track, anywhere. But I find myself driving into town, parking the car and treading the coastal breakwall with it’s beachy-backdrop, to its end and back again.
While I walk I listen to music. It soothes me more than the crash of waves, the cry of seagulls or the chatter of fellow-walkers. You might question why I don’t let the rush of water-on-sand be my soundtrack. I think it’s because I see these walks as a bit of an escape, a chance to clear my head of The Crazy, and so I like to set the tone for this time myself. It’s one of the few times I get to listen to my choice of music, that I want to hear, that I like.
Unexpectedly, these walks have changed my life. The solitary nature of them is soothing, and the exercise warranted, but it’s the stage show that’s taken my breath away. Incredibly, I’d forgotten about the power of it and how much better I am for it.
The air is fresh, salty, bracing. The ocean can be angry grey-green, mildly turquoise or glassy, crystalline blue, rolling gently or spraying thunder against man-made rocks. Recently there have been dolphin pods, breaching whales, quick and cheeky seals. There are try-hard tugs ushering in overloaded ships, their cumbersome bulk swaying ponderously into the harbour. To the side, over-excited dogs populate Horseshoe Beach, fetching sticks amongst the off-shore foam. People, everywhere, all sorts – families, kids, tourists, surfers, cyclists, walkers, lovers, strangers, even robed monks. There is sand, salt, marshy smells and flowering plants. There are bleached timber keepsakes, pock-marked rocks and swooping kites.
And then there’s the show. The horizon, the sunset, the end-of-day/beginning-of-night spectacle that demands its shaded-eye salute. The business end of the harbour looks delicately pretty in silhouette. The pink-tinged horizon urges you forward, faster, to beat the night-fall. Overcast days provide a gentler final act, a slower drop of the shadowed grey-on-grey curtain. Other times the harbour is angry and the only nod to the passing of time is the steely-blue boiling of the clouds as they roll into Newie.
Every week this event reminds me that nature is fierce and wonderful. I feel lucky to witness it, to be in Newcastle where nature is so near that I can always, always find it closely, quickly. That I can feel better and happy because of it. That it can transform me from darkly overwhelmed to clear-headed and composed; there’s something about facing a sunset that makes you feel special, amazing and even beautiful.
The sun sets and I walk a little taller, smiling. I drive home, sad for the moment just ended but grateful – grateful for nature’s show, for reminding me what truly matters, grateful I know how easy it is to feel better, and how unimportant an unkempt house really is.
I go home, kick aside the widely-strewn toys and hug my daughter.
I’m enjoying Mothers Day…really, I am. I had a sleep-in, which I love, and was given the gift of noise-isolating headphones for my mp3 player (they’re actually fantastic but, oh, the irony!). My daughter has been hugging me all morning, wishing me ‘Happy Mothers Day’ whilst also asking me when it will be finished. She put on her thickly-tread gumboots to play outside after lunch and promptly walked through poo left on the deck by our geriatric dog who can’t quite make the lawn anymore. Wouldn’t be so bad except she had walked it all over the decking boards before I noticed the smell, having just sat down to read a magazine that I’ve scanned the same page of for the last 3 days. I burnt caramel in the saucepan and had to send out the troops for more condensed milk whilst I dealt with my teary ineptitude. I’m going away for work tomorrow and haven’t packed or organised anything related to meetings or the daycare run. All in all – a pretty typical day as me, and as a Mum.
In stark contrast to this – I’ve been reading a lot of facebook posts today about mothers, from friends to their Mum, grandmother or daughter. Lots of flowery well-wishes, chrysanthemum-kisses and pale pink-dusted memories. Some of the messages infer motherhood is one long cupcake baking session. Stark contrast to my day so far. Where’s the ‘thanks for wiping my bottom’ or ‘thanks for tolerating my belligerently toned teenage years’? It got me thinking about being a Mum, and the tremendous highs and lows that come with the experience – for all involved. There’s no denying that sometimes I look at my daughter, my gorgeous girl, and am overwhelmed with love to the point of weeping. Other times…well, I’m being honest – I’m sure she’s as unhappy with my behaviour as I am with hers.
Which brings me to today’s post. A little unrefined, but warranted. A more balanced view of a mother’s days, not just the May-dated one. For Belle. Enjoy.
You want it cold,
you want it hot,
you want it warm,
You want it ‘NOT’.
And whilst oft’ said,
it’s more than true;
You’ll never know
How much I do.
My last few blog-posts have been a little on the serious side, so today I’m ‘upping the fluff’ with talk of happiness and hearts, warm fuzzies, slow smiles and tingly anticipation. I’m talking about the power of a good kiss.
First, I must make an admission that goes to context. I love watching my dirty-little-secret show, ‘New Girl’. I say dirty-little-secret because, in general, I receive indulgent eyeball-rolls when I mention it. It’s a half hour ensemble comedy that people either love or hate, so I tend to keep my obsessive adoration of this show on the down-low.
‘New Girl’ recently featured one of the best on-screen kisses I’ve seen in a long time. The sort that makes you audibly sigh whilst watching it. Long-awaited, much-heralded and seriously hot. It was….very…..well, momentous. After witnessing both characters skirt around the emotional edge for an entire season, the guy finally grabbed the girl, pulled her close, wrapped her up in his masculinity and kissed the hell out of her. I can’t help it, I love it – and I’ve watched it more than a few times.
Yes, I know it’s a television show and not real. But I don’t care.
Since watching the kiss (and picking myself up off the floor each time) my over-analytical brain has moved into over-analytical mode: “how do those actors walk away from that scene without carrying the moment over into their day-to-day lives?”, “I wonder how weird it would feel filming take after take of that kiss in front of all the crew?”, “what do the actor’s partners think about their day jobs?” and more pertinently – “why do I love that kiss?”
I guess I love the romantic inevitability. The writers of this show have done a sterling job of building emotional and sexual tension over the first season, and it’s worked a treat. Yes, both the characters are kind of emotionally damaged and/or relationship-underdogs, so you want them to find each other. Yes, it reminds you of a time when all that lowest-of-the-low loneliness and angst is balanced by the highest of romantic, youthful, emotional highs. And yes, when they finally kissed I could barely control my squeal and felt my toes curl.
I decided to consult Dr. Google and see what the phrase ‘power of a good kiss’ revealed. Interesting. A couple of (laughable) how-to websites, a “health” site with a 20-something gorgeous “doctor” who’s apparently had 40 years experience in the Chinese philosophy of kissing (??) and an American University study that suggested ‘affectionate mothers raise resilient adults’. So, no help there. My other option was to pursue the practical, biological reasons as to why kissing is lovely, which I decided not to do because it just IS…and I think a scientific explanation would rather spoil this.
It’s worth pointing out here that I think a lot of people (ahem…men….OK, I can FEEL the frowns) underestimate the power of a good kiss. Romantic overtures? Great stuff. Wining and dining? Of course, important. Thoughtful attention? Yes please. Sexy, sexy sex? Always. But a well-timed, unexpected, sensual, take-control kiss beats all the rest, hands down.
There’s not much more to say, except to quote a favourite line from a Bob Dylan song: “I would hold you for a million years, to make you feel my love”. Why quote this line? Because even though I adore the song, and despite being warmly romantic and perfectly divine in its intention, a hold-me-dearly hug might well take a million years to convince me of love – because it’s not a kiss. And you should NEVER underestimate the power of a good kiss.
This week the universe decided to remind me of what I have, and be bloody thankful for it. It was a week of surprising and sad developments, in large unpredictability. Here’s what I took away from life’s casualty room.
Death is a strange thing.
When a life ends, we grieve the loss ceremoniously. We gather with people who we might not ordinarily see, save for such ‘events’. We spend time talking with friends who we’ve not caught up with in a while. Death brings people and families together. Funny, then, that it also often creates the tensions that tear them apart. And there is something heart-breakingly sad about watching families deal with a loved one’s death.
Relationships are strange things.
They are the source of our greatest joy and our worst heartache. And whilst love is built on trust, shared desires, hopes, beliefs and understandings between two people – the fact of the matter is that people change. It’s the nature of things. Relationships that last are the ones that embrace growth and change together. It is overwhelmingly sad when a relationship ends because that didn’t happen.
Grief is a process.
It can be a death; it can be a relationship. Either way, the grief that follows is a process that can’t be avoided. It’s amazing to me that more time isn’t spent on arming people to deal with grief, as it’s inevitable that we all face it at sometime in our lives. Grief has recognisable stages, and learning this helped me greatly when I waded through its murk a few years ago. Sometimes long, sometime short, but always – hard.
Three year olds make everything better.
After a few days of watching friends worlds turn upside down, witnessing their pain and feeling quite helpless…there’s this: my daughter, lying on her tummy on the floor, singing her own songs, writing a letter to Santa because she wants to “make sure he knows I love him”. Her voice is melodic and tuneful, her feet swaying in the air, her letter a zig-zag of lines. She’s so happy. Watching her makes me happy too. I catch my partner’s eye and we share the moment with small smiles. Like everything in this life, she will change and grow, and it is my fondest wish to see it all and be part of it – just as I am right at that moment.
Suddenly I realise exactly what I have, how lucky I am to have it – and I am bloody thankful for it.