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Kindness Nouveau: Week 16: Blogging for survival.

I fought my way out of sleep this morning. Quite relieved to bring consciousness to bear on the hell of my dream world. It was some epic horror story. I was alone. The last person in the world. I refused to give up. So whatever or whomever was in charge of this universe had left me to it. So it was just me really. And my high moral ground.

I considered the meaning of this. Literally and metaphorically. It’s not like I’m going to wake up tomorrow and hear the eerie silence of no one at home. Then walk to the shop and find the door to the Coke fridge wide open, the cash register blinking and an untouched pile of Sunday Times. Then check my phone and find I’m the only person active on Facebook and no one in the world has tweeted for 12 hours. That is not actually going to happen. Sorry Hollywood. Metaphorically however, I could say, I’ve just been told.

Truth, Versions of the Truth and what I know to be true create a vortex that could flatten towns and leave small animals cowering under rubble. The theatre of life is all well and good. I’m happy to watch you all improvise and interpret. Stepping in and out of character, reediting past story lines, deconstructing narrative forms, creating new family trees and erasing current love interests. Just don’t mess with my bit of the story.

I’m rethinking my strategy for the 100 year war. I have made it to the halfway point. And held the line. However I’ve spotted a few advance scouts recently. Casting a curious eye over what is mine. Some of them have maps. Which they roll out. They look at the empty, unclaimed space and they mark an x on it. That’s ours for the taking they say. No one lives here.

Some of them just wander in. Accidently. Drifters. They pick some fruit and water their horses. They rest awhile. Some clean away their leavings. Some inscribe their names on the living walls of the space. And some take mementos. Others were abandoned here. And sought refuge. Making little spaces in the warm earth into which they curl themselves. Round and small.

I wait in silence for them all to leave.

The cat that isn’t mine, and the baby who can say my name, insistently pull at the ragged edges of my storyline. Reshaping the silence. And the metaphor becomes a living, breathing present. Redraw your territory, open your borders, cede your tyranny or have a baby and a cat take you prisoner.

Someone lives here. And she says ‘welcome’.



Never trust an elephant: Week 13: Blogging for survival

I’m on my last elephant ride. The realisation that I will never do this again comes with the  certainty of the sunrise. Staying present in the moment. With a shame that comes from the imperialism of being human. Of killing, eating, enslaving and humiliating animals. She walks with care and deliberation. Each step takes me closer to my pathetic regret.

Elephants have a similar life expectancy to humans. And like humans they can live full and happy lives. Under the right conditions. Lakshmi Kahli is 35 years old. 9 am in Chitwan, Nepal and she is on her second run already. There has been a slight delay because we asked them not to overload her. Serious discussion ensues. Each of these elephants is expected to carry 5 people at a time.    

We are the last to ride. Hoards of animated, excited, overweight people jump, scratch and scramble their way on to the elephants. As each person boards, the elephant adjusts slightly to manage the load.

My first elephant ride was at the Melbourne Zoo. I was 5. In all the years that have followed I have also jumped, scratched and scrambled my way onto the backs of elephants around the world. Loving the view from up high, the gentle rhythm and the mystery of the elephant spirit. On top of an elephant is on top of the world.

I have been told about the vengeful nature of elephants. How they will remember a hurt done to them and wait for an opportunity to retaliate. In Laos, the guide at the elephant camp tells a story of a tourist who teased an elephant by offering bananas repeatedly and pulling them away just as the elephant was reaching for them. After a few minutes of this, the elephant whacked him to the ground. ‘So’, he says, ‘never trust an elephant’.

At 35 years old I was working 3 jobs. Harnessed. And at times I felt like a brute animal, with little value other than the weight of the load I could carry. I retaliated at acts of senseless cruelty. I also retaliated for much less.  There were times when people would say. ‘You can never trust a Lisa’.

These days I choose who, and what, I will carry. I do not carry entitlement, or cruelty, and I brushed rudeness and humiliation off on a low hanging branch some time ago. About the time I developed a deep fondness for bananas. And kindness. This is what it means to be free.

As Lakshmi Kahli stands steady for me to scramble my way off her back I think of all the elephants that have carried people, little and big, safely around the world and through time. Of their huge bulk kneeling to accept a small child and their gentle trunks touching the upturned palms of generations. And I smile.

You can never trust an elephant.



The Alchemy of Goodbye: Week 12: Blogging for Survival.

It is early morning. I hear magpies. Calling the day into consciousness. Singing up the souls of the dead. Heralding yet another goodbye.

There is choreography to the pain. The busyness of packing luggage into the car, shuffling cases around, numerous trips into the house for forgotten dolls and shoes. Lengthening the moments, making small talk. There is a conversation about the planned route home and the likelihood of inclement weather, where we will stop for lunch and what time we might arrive. Then, we the children are delivered into the nauseating clutches of the family car, being told not to fight and to put our seatbelts on. Vainly attempting to draw our eyes away from our Mother. And her sadness.

The goodbyes of my childhood are infused with pathos. My Poppa, unable to find words, would cry each time he and my mother parted. My father, lying sobbing, on the body of our Labrador, dead from snake bite.  Jacky Utley. My childhood friend. Waving to me from her Dads’ station wagon. Heading to Canberra. Never to be seen again.  Myself at 15, leaving for a year abroad, with the youthful expectation of being able to return, in time, and pick up where I left off. And my first love. Each one, indelibly changing the structure of my memory.  

Today I’m on my way to the airport. My son is driving. And talking. A deeply understated human being, he uses words like semi precious stones. With care. I catch them. I hoard them. Greedily. My lucky charm for the days ahead. Future proofing my memory. With the chemical compound for goodbye.

In the lead up to my departure I listen for the words that signify the start of the sequence. They come. They are cast toward my retreating self. An amalgam of End Game statements and opening gambits. You are leaving again. This makes me feel alone.  You are leaving again. This makes me feel anxious.  You are leaving again. This makes me feel excited.  You are leaving again. This makes me feel your absence. 

The alchemy of all these goodbyes has distilled the raw elements into a powerful elixir. One that frames the present, capturing the beauty of those I love, urging me to love them more, in this moment, than ever before. The baby learns to say my name and the cat that isn’t mine decides to sleep on my bed. These little faces are unbearably soulful. And maybe they always are. It’s just today I am saying goodbye. Again.

The awareness of how much it all matters makes me wonder if I am the subject of a bad chemistry experiment by fourth grade extra terrestrials. There is an entire living planet in the throes of death and rebirth. Hellos and goodbyes. Now and forevers. For all that, I might as well be a brand new species. From the unbearable pathos genus. With no collective noun. Because it consists of only me. Racing toward extinction anytime soon.

To each goodbye I say, ‘that hurts’. ‘Damn that hurts’.

 And so, like the experiment I am, I yield at the thought of a scientific breakthrough. For if I discover the formula for unbearable pathos, I will market it to airports to put alongside the Chanel and Dior. ‘Unbearable pathos – Enhancing your preflight emotional overload with flashbacks to your childhood. Bonus scenes of you crying in a range of exotic locations’.     

In honour of the Alchemists of old, I board my plane.

I’m heading towards goodbye.




Courting the curfew: Week 11: Blogging for survival.

It’s mid week and I’m out late. I know it will get messy.  I throw caution to the wind.  Calling home would be a thoughtful thing to do. I’m often thoughtful. About that sort of thing. I decide to have a different thought. I’m walking in someone else’s shoes tonight.  Size 12 Converse.   

The evening proceeds without event. An average movie with predictable sex scenes and some gratuitous violence. Spiced up with a string of unconscionable acts all committed without regret. Why? He was hypnotised.  By a woman. Of course. No one will trip on the implausibility of a professional hypnotherapist hooking up with her client, him becoming obsessed with her and trying to kill her, her rewiring his murderous brain through hypnosis and then getting him to steal a 26 million dollar painting for her. Just because. Yeah that story line really vibrates with authenticity. Women do that kind of thing. All the time.

After the movie it’s a meal and then coffee. Happy Birthday old friend. Hope life is good for you. We had some fun times didn’t we. Yes, I think of you on occasion. Mostly though I try to have a different thought.  And tonight it’s about rewiring my brain and creating new pathways. For my dreams. And those size 12 feet.

I drive home in monastic silence. Moving in the darkness between my old thoughts and the new. Apparently it takes 600 repetitions of the same new thought for it to get a permanent foothold in the brain. And yet I wonder. This moment, right now, feels unforgettable. And it will only happen once.

The owner of the size 12’s meets me at the back door. “Where have you been?”, “I’ve been worried about you”, “why didn’t you call?” The tone is in turns accusing and apologetic. “So you’re OK?”, “Alright I’d better ring Nanna back to tell her you’re not dead”. I’m a little surprised, but more intrigued. And I pull something from the permanent foothold in my memory. “Aw, you know, I was having such a good time I forgot to call and then when I did think about calling, my phone was dead. I didn’t think it would matter anyway.” He boils with anxiety and frustration. “It’s not really good enough, I was worried, and you could have just called to let me know you would be home late.” He stalks off. Unhappy fails woefully to describe what he must be feeling.

I can describe it. In excruciating detail. 600 repetitions fails woefully to estimate the number of times I drowned in that feeling. Size 12 is the youngest of my three offspring. And the unlucky recipient of my newest incarnation. Mother turned child. I have stopped picking up after myself and started talking with my mouth full. I go barefoot outside and talk to strangers. I have been loudly slurping the last bit of my drink with my straw and I have been running away from home. A lot.

I allow myself to succumb to an ancient sadness. Grieving for what must come to fruition and what must fade away.  Without the poignancy of this grief I would forever remain on an endless theme park ride of responsible parent and forgiving lover. Never able to alight to a more liberating and less predictable vista.  

And oh, sweet child of mine, these are not unconscionable acts, committed without regret, under the influence of hypnosis. These acts are the culmination of everything I know to be true. Of a lifetime of thinking. And of the kind of love that demands that life be given ones fully conscious attention.

And you know what? I already have my 26 million dollar booty. No need to steal someone else’s.

Finding Ida: Week 7: Blogging for survival.

She is looking for an answer.

Picking up her teacup she artfully swirls the last of the leaves. And waits. When they settle she will know. If it will be blue skies or grey. If fate is drawing near. If tomorrow is something to fear. Either way, she will know.

Today I’m ignited. On a genetic trajectory. Born in the tea leaves and burned in the unforgiving Australian outback. Like the trains that once ran regularly to the outposts, to the folks who were determined to imprint an alternative story on the Australian landscape, the route is no longer serviced. No one in my family has tread this path for 60 years.

I’m a wary explorer.

Armchair anthropologist at best. Taking the richness of the mythology and stuffing into my cushions. So I can sit more comfortably while I ingest. While I make it mine. While I read a chapter and dog ear a page. You know. To come back to later. When I’m up to it. Maybe skipping the end completely. Absolutely.

Skipping the ending, it never happened.  Another book I didn’t finish. A historical re authoring maybe. An alternative version of her life. The version where the future me is a thought that keeps her from the darkness. The version she didn’t read in the tea leaves.

They said she was a dancer. I didn’t inherit that skill. They said she was born for the stage. Or that one either. They said she loved to wear costumes. That would be a negative on all counts.

Today I have my trusty guide. My Muse. Three generations on and I’m staring into the face of another myth maker. Long legged and theatrical, drawing out the story with her probing curiosity. Unafraid of the unchartered territory ahead. And purposefully guiding the way with her handy GPS oracle.

We make good time. Only 6 or 7 hours until we have arrived. At the middle of nowhere, at the heart of everywhere and near the end of the unfinished book. We have handwritten instructions. In archaic Victorian cursive. They are specific. Buried between the Catholics and the Anglicans but not with the paupers or the Aborigines. No head stone. Just a number.

Ida is a number.

Is that the number of the days she has lain alone between the Catholics and the Anglicans? Or the number of drops of rain that have fallen on the red gravel that covers her? Or is it the number of steps that led her to her dusty death? Or the number of times her name has passed between the lips of those who remember her? Partially, sadly, incompletely.  It’s just a number.

We wonder aloud. We ask questions of the earth that holds her. We find her number incomprehensible. And we ask her to answer. To claw back the time between us and add body to the bones. To finish what was started. To make the mythology corporeal.

Here lies Ida Lavinia Craig. Not lost. Still looking for an answer.

My Favourite Mr.Genre: Week 6: Blogging for survival.

The missive started out harmless enough.

‘Dear Lisa, based on your past purchases we are offering you a selection of this months new releases in your favourite genre’. Well OK. I wasn’t aware that I had a favourite Mr. Genre, as my son says. However I’m mildly curious to see how you have played this, I reply. Speaking conversationally to the screen.

I scroll down.

I read the first four suggestions with a growing uneasiness. Like last night’s risotto just decided not to digest.

Crystal Cove – One woman who has been cursed never to find love and one man without a soul who wants her more than life itself. They meet in a small town in the Pacific Northwest where magic is in the air and fate is a force to powerful to defy….
Beauty Awakened – Combining passion, humour and pulse-pounding action and just plain fun. A tormented warrior is brought to his knees by the most delicate of humans….
Lord of Darkness – He lives in the shadows. As the mysterious masked avenger known as the Ghost of St Giles and his only goal is to protect the innocent of London. Until the night he confronts a fearless young lady pointing a pistol at his head…..
Never Too Far – He had held a secret that destroyed her world. Everything she had known was no longer true. What do you do when the one person you can never trust again is the one you need to trust so desperately?

Hold me back!

I’m about to make a ‘never-in-my-life’ proclamation. To a donotreply address. When you have something important to say, make sure you tell it to the thin air. With passion.
I believe Mr. and Mrs. Bookseller have recommended romance novels. How the hell can this have happened? My last purchase was Season 1-4 of the Walking Dead. And before that, Origami for Ghouls. I can feel my arteries hardening. With feminist rage and too many gin and tonics. With midnight blogging and abandoned love letters. No. This is not possible. Never in my life have I purchased a romance novel. Never. Ever. Never.

So I address Romance directly. I have spoken to Romance before. At length once or twice. It wasn’t a conversation. It was a narrative. A monologue really. Romance did all the talking. It went something like… You don’t believe in me do you? You know what they say about little girls who don’t believe? They grow into women who don’t believe. And women who don’t believe don’t get to go to the ball. Or find the shoe that fits. Or have a nuclear family. Or put those stickers on the back of their car that say ‘Mums taxi’ and ‘The Goddess is alive’. They don’t get to dream the dreams of Venice in a gondola or champagne in the honeymoon suite. No, no, no. You will end your days alone, blogging at midnight with only a cat for company.

Umm Romance. Haven’t you heard of the creative commons? Are you going to let a few more people contribute to the development of this story? Who made you Boss of the world? Where do you think the energy to keep you alive comes from? From little girls. From little boys. From old women. From old men. From queer folk. From gay folk. From round folk. From straight folk. From unicorns. From the hearts of people. You are not all there is to say on the matter. So you take your seductive nevers and your soothing, pre med administering voice and you can have your turn in the room of mirrors. I hope they have fluorescent lighting.

I feel like I’ve squared that one away. I’m not Genre confused.

And I’m walking. Purposefully. Businesslike as can be. On my way to a meeting. To do important grown up professional woman type talking. Well, it’s a week day. Work is happening. That’s what people are doing. Right?

It’s early morning city. People are out. Spilling into the life of the day. Some with briefcases. But many carrying business of a different kind. Today. The day of Valentines. I adjust my eyes to the new colour of the day, I smell it. It is a vintage fragrance. Timeless. Poetic. Heart bendingly beautiful. Roses in boxes on trolleys, in bunches in buckets, in arms of suitors, on lapels of lovers. Love walks in every shape and every genre on this day. Today it is everything Romance promised it would be. And more. So much more.

Later, I take a reflective journey home on the train. Wondering just which cross I need to get off. Or on. There is a grisly looking biker sitting across from me. All facial hair and leathers. And roses. I’m staring at those roses, breathing them in. Long, long stems, slightly unfurled buds, deepest red. Cradled gently.

He catches me staring and smiles. ‘For my Mum’ he says.

Happy Valentines Day.

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