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Archive for the category “gods”

Never smile at a crocodile

It’s Boxing Day. I’ve worn a groove in the floor of the kitchen moving in and out of the endless stream of chopping, dicing, simmering, sautéing, garnishing, mixing, gathering, hunting, blessing and cursing. My eyes are on the groove and they are not smiling.

 We always go to the movies on Boxing Day. It’s a ritual. Satisfying and certain. A small constellation of moments when we overlap with each other without regret or expectation.  Just once a year, together and present. Today I’m getting anxious. Trying to lasso all the necessary ingredients together for the ritual and get them to work. I’m off my game.   

I look up and see my youngest son. About to speak. Beckoning. I can’t get to him. Only my eyes move. And I watch as he collides with his own version of himself, shattering painfully on impact.

We call the ambulance. In the waiting I have time to see him stop breathing, go grey and choke on his broken teeth. I also have time to look closely at the groove in the floor. I sit in it. I lay in it. I wear it further down.

When they ask him if he knows what day it was yesterday he can’t remember. ‘It was a special day’, they cajole. Impatient, they are busy, preoccupied, beating a path back out the door. He has had a seizure they confirm. And yeah, he will need to see a dentist. ‘But you’re OK, aren’t you?’ And they are already rolling off their gloves and tipping their hats. They leave. I notice they have worn the groove down even more.

In the hours and days that follow everything shatters. And I keep wearing in the groove, ignoring the splinters and not looking at the blood. Broken is a temporary state, isn’t it? No matter how fearful the wreckage, you just stick the pieces back together. Fixed, usable, formed, again.

To overcome their prey, crocodiles take to the water and spin. Using their strength to outlast their captives in the thrash and agitation of the swirling dance, the spinning is a ballet of fearsome power. Popular culture has an insatiable appetite for this type of offering and I have watched this scene enough times to recoil in horror before the inevitable ending.  I’ve never wanted to meet that power.  

The brokenness persists. I’ve lost the groove. And I’m spinning. I’m in the murky depths with the fearsome reptile. And I can’t recoil before the inevitable ending.  

Then I remember Akhilandeshvari, the never-not-broken Goddess. Riding her crocodile mount, spinning, constantly breaking apart and reforming. And smiling. She has a secret. And now she beckons. About to speak. And I gather all the broken pieces into another shape.And I move closer to hear her above the push of the water.  

Her crocodile rolls his eyes, ready to take her into the spin, and she steadies herself, atop of her fear, and turns. Eyes alive.

Learn to break, Lisa.

And she smiles. At her crocodile.  

 

   

 

 

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That old devil called the past: Week 21: Blogging for Survival

Today I did a survey. It took about 12 minutes. It tried to measure how much I worry in relation to how much I believe in a god. And yet in the eons that have made up my lifetime I have never previously made that connection.

And yes there is definitely a connection. I worry about God a lot.

I remember listening to babies cry in church. Becoming fussy in the arms of their silent, anxious parents. Once their noise hit the appropriate level of nuisance they were banished, along with their carer to the ‘Mothers room’ out the back. A room that smelt of stale farts and moulding draperies. A room where the Sunday sermon was piped in through a crackling old speaker salvaged from the wreck of the Hesperus. A room that made babies cry even louder.

There were the Deacons. A group of men who held the church congregation to ransom and whose role was as mysterious as the Knights Templar but with less costuming. Holding secret meetings, counselling wayward boys and judging women who didn’t behave. They were fun.

And the array of prohibitions that seemed as interminable as the wives of Solomon. There were the boundary disputes: Who could go to heaven, who might go to heaven, who, I’m sorry, just didn’t make the grade. The generosity police; who could give, who could receive, who could love, who could forgive. And the exercise limitations; When you could have sex, dance, gamble and drink. Or not.

Communion was also a terrible ordeal. Those beautiful little glasses clinking in the tray, topped up with the most delicious looking red cordial and the neat squares of crustless white bread, fit for an angels tea party. But no, not for the experimentalists. I tried some anyway. Hanging back after everyone started to file out and guzzling the dregs from the discarded glasses. And it’s funny now, thinking back, because that is actually a skill I have maintained. You know. Trying things I’m not supposed to. And drinking other peoples booze.

Oh yeah. The animal sacrifice. The ritual slaughter of the roast chicken. Put on to cook by the minister’s wife, on low, in a covered frypan at 8.30 on a Sunday morning. By the time it was consumed at 12.30, that animal had really suffered.

And Mrs Haig’s singing. Lifting her voice in exultation. It really scarred me.

And it’s not that I think this has any connection to God.

And that’s why I worry.

This train is bound for glory: Week 14: Blogging for survival

Overnight train from Varanasi to Agra. Going to sleep with the memory of the haunting ghats and waking to the anticipation of the Taj Mahal. Our little band of travelers quivers with excitement. We have been advised to bring our own food onto the train. The journey will be long. The food inconsistent and of dubious quality. We ask the hotel. They make us good food to go.

I cradle my carefully packed falafel and fruit salad during the tuk tuk ride to the station and guard it from harm as we push through the throngs on the platform. As we wait for our train I nurse a feeling of ‘I’m just so pleased with myself right now’. Having negotiated the physical and emotional territory of India during my journey I feel that really, I can rest smugly on my resilience and probably spend the long train journey writing a blog about how I have ‘found’ myself in India.

Our group is a source of curiosity. A little theatre within the larger drama of public transport. People watch us. We watch our bags. The gods watch the trains. And I watch my falafel. One of my travel companions has been valiantly attempting to get a mental foothold on the family tree of the Hindu gods. All 3 million. I wonder which one is present today.

We all turn towards each other, forming a loose boundary. Staking our little bit of personal space. Space that we have no claim to. In India. Space that we surrended when we chose. To travel. To ‘meet the local people’. ‘To see the real India’. Space that we each cling to. In our own way. Mine is in the shape of my falafel. Everything could go to hell in a handbag, but it’s OK. I have my supplies.

One brave soul makes a border crossing. Standing next to me in a green sari asking for something. Quietly and insistently. I feign indifference. And deafness. I avert my eyes. The epic horror of giving money to one needy person in India and being trampled to death on a train station flashes before me. She continues to ask. Only me. I continue to look away. And then she takes my hand. Gently. It’s the law of love. Compelling you to turn to those that touch you. She is beautiful. But her hands are a disaster. Burned and clawed. She isn’t asking for money. She needs food.

The falafel moves seamlessly from my hand to hers. She makes a small sound of pleasure. There is no stampede. One million starving kids don’t run me down looking for falafels. Life moves on.

Later we board the train. Indians are excellent travelers. They can make themselves into whatever shape is required. Compacting life into a cameo. And yet we struggle with our bags, ipads, travel blankets and sanitisers. We create impasses wherever we stand. Desperately seeking space and not finding it. Seizing it from others and not meaning too. Trying to share and not knowing how.

The night passes. Along with the many vendors. Bearing tray after tray of aromatic and exotic delights. Masala tea and enticing snacks. Offerings from the 3 million gods. Who are surprisingly alive and well. Riding the trains of India. And blessing the food. And the people. Even the silly ones. Who bring their own falafels.

Waiting for what gods know.Week 2:Blogging for survival.

Today I’m waiting.

Every day has a little bit of waiting. It’s the density of the time that matters. Today it’s like mud cake. Leaden, dark, eaten with regret. It sticks in my throat and I need a drink of water before I can form words again. Mud cake waiting.

Last week while I waited, I read a delicious Murakami novel, the quality of my poise heightened by a chain smoking Japanese detective looking for a star marked sheep with tendencies towards world domination. This week, in my haste to wait, I choose a novel set in the dusty Australian outback. All dry, with laconic men and women who don’t brush their hair. I start to sweat. I could be here all day.

My synapses snap. Biting back against the bondage of this book and this place. And yet I must wait. Monkey mind turns inward to the memories of feeling. To the locus of the waiting stories. To add another layer of sedimentary evidence to the fossil record. Of how I have lived with waiting.

I think of when waiting has nearly undone me with pleasure. As a child before Christmas, for my turn on the swing with my father pushing me into the sky, for dessert, for a sleepover, for Sunday when I could wear my new shoes with the big bows on them, for my baby brother to be born and for my own room.

As an adolescent I waited with anticipation for permission to do the things my older sister did, to get my ears pierced, to spend my pocket money on records, and stay up late. I didn’t wait for a boyfriend but when he came, I waited for him to go away. I waited an agonisingly long half moment for popularity and was surprised by the joy of beloved and singular friendship instead.

In my adulthood waiting comes to call with a litany of specters. I have waited for word from a lover lost in freewheeling adventure, and for my child to tell me he is safe, for a Doctor to say ‘it’s nothing serious’ and for the figs to ripen on the branch. For summer to end and then for winter to end. For a heartbreak to heal and a cake to rise. And for what gods know.

It is not uncommon in my part of the world for people to ask themselves a rhetorical question: “And what was I waiting for? God knows!” or to say “God knows what I was waiting for”. Elongating the knows and emphasising it with heavy Australian drawl. As I sit here today, in my mud cake waiting, I ponder. Does God know? This is not a theological rumination on my part. This is a reflection on the quality of my waiting. While my fossil record will clearly show an egregious placement of artifacts sifted from sadness and pleasure, it will never show that I waited for God knows what.

Waiting is a bitingly human conundrum. And while we might wait until the weather clears or the rain falls or the world turns, we are waiting so we can do our next bit of being human. Eating, sleeping, working, driving, performing, harvesting, droving, mining, filming, gardening, kissing, camping, playing the ukulele, skydiving, investing in the stock market, whatever. The gods don’t bother that much with finding out what the heck I’m waiting for and the feeling is pretty mutual.

Something always happens to end waiting. Always. Even if it is a long wait, a lifetime maybe. And that’s what we wait for. The end of waiting.

And perhaps that is what gods know.

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