Christchurch


The unbearable news broke on Friday, regarding the massacre by a white supremacist at mosques in Christchurch. It is crucial to squash racism and hate speech, wherever you find it. My daughter recently spent time with kids of every religion and race. They had an absolute ball together, taking photos and playing charades and UNO. They broke bread together over lunch, and shared jokes. We were onto our second week in this joyous atmosphere when a new mother joined us. We exchanged pleasantries, and all seemed calm, when suddenly,  bile dripped from her tongue. I won’t repeat what was said, but I am sure you can imagine, her gaze steadied on my daughter’s new friends and their mothers. I was horrified, and got up and moved away from her. She assumed that because I was Anglo-Saxon like her, that I would be bound to agree with her warped views.

 

Every time she approached, I moved away. I will not give hatred the time of day, nor listen to it’s uneducated ramblings. Racism is poison, infecting one’s soul. This woman watched as I hugged my Muslim friends and exchanged details when it was time to leave. I messaged these families on Friday, telling them that I loved them, and that I was so very sorry for what had transpired in NZ. They told me that I was loved in turn and that love will save us from all the hatred in this world.

I hope it will…

I know it will.

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ANZAC Day


The past week has been a whirlwind of epic proportions. My daughter and I went on the RSL Rural Commemorative Youth Choir camp, which was extraordinary, in and of itself. The choir was kindly hosted by Concord RSL, a friendly little club with a community emphasis. We pitched tents out the back and were supplied with a food van, BBQ, showers and the auditorium for practices. We were made to feel welcome from the moment we stepped over a pond housing gold and orange koi fish, and into the entrance.

The kids played barefoot bowls in between rehearsals and services. Speaking of services, last Friday the choir sang at the Anzac Field of Remembrance Service at St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney. Gwen Cherne spoke about her experience as a contemporary war widow, and there wasn’t a dry eye afterward. Real and lasting change is being brought about as a result of brave soldiers and widows/widowers speaking out. You can read her speech here.

The choir was also honoured to sing at an Anzac dawn service at the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway at Concord, organized by Concord Repatriation Hospital. 3000 crochet poppies were lovingly pinned on a giant cut-out of the word ANZAC. A grand lady of 94 and her daughters had knitted 900 poppies alone. I had the honour of meeting Albert, a 102 year old veteran with twinkling blue eyes. As we chatted, he talked of his teenage years in the employ of Farmers Department store in Sydney, and of the mischief he would get up to. He spoke of dances and hope. He made me promise to never lose my smile, as he believed that a part of humanity perishes with each down-turned mouth. If he can still smile radiantly at 102, I think I can manage to keep grinning!

I talked to another veteran about what ANZAC day meant to him. He replied that to him, it wasn’t about particular battles, but rather the spirit, which must be preserved. It is a holy essence containing mateship, dedication, freedom and the hope of peace for all humanity. Every veteran I have ever met has expressed the fervent wish that the past shall never be repeated. War is hell, of that they can assure you. My Canadian Grandfather was in the Army during WW2, and I have been surrounded by those in the armed forces. I have had the pleasure of loving friend’s children who serve as medics, peacekeepers and whom are there to help out in natural disasters. I was in that clinic at fourteen with veterans suffering what is now known to be PTSD. The conversations we had were among some of the most meaningful of my life.

This Anzac day, I am grateful to be a part of the RSL Commemorative Youth Choir. The kids are able to learn from and interview older people, which is a real privilege. They also step up to be leaders, gifted with many opportunities to speak up and speak out for causes they believe in. They are taught about fairness, discipline and mateship. The future of the Anzac spirit is in good hands, with unprecedented numbers of young people attending dawn services across Australia. The hard work of honouring the sacrifices of past generations has only just begun. At its core is a plea for peace, the spark of which is in all of us. We can start where we are, in our communities. ‘Lest we Forget.’

The week that was…


There was this story, which filled me with the hope that good people are listening to the plight of renters.

This poetry slam, which was extraordinarily powerful. It says it all, really.

 

Finally, Rosie Batty has released a statement. She has done more than a team of thousands in the past four years, as documented here. Rest well, beautiful Rosie. xxx

Sanctuary


I was fortunate enough to find a few sanctuaries around Sydney in my tumultuous youth. I find that if I neglect my visitations, I can’t settle. The first time I discovered this place, I was fourteen years old. I had run from the institution of where I had found myself. It was summer, and I looked longingly through the gate, incredulous and transfixed by the fun and frivolity I saw. These people had not a care in the world as they reclined on the sun lounges and waded in the water overlooking Sydney Harbour. I was both enchanted and detached from the spectacle, a few minutes by foot from my own nightmarish existence. A bird in a gilt-edged cage, put outside to witness other birds flying free.

The place where I was living cared little for me, and I later discovered that they hadn’t even noticed I was missing, such was their lack of interest. The next time I wandered, I had managed to scrounge up the modest entry fee to the baths. I was safe here. No monsters laid in wait, just fish, weaving between the people. The salt water cleansed my body, as it did my mind. I floated, I waded and I reclined. I could plan a future here. I could dream big, and imagine living to sixteen. I could imagine I lived in one of the lovely homes nearby and had slipped out for a dip. I would cry as I left to go up the hill, back to my prison. The baths were sacred ground, untouched by evil.

My sanctuary never left my thoughts or heart, and when I had my daughter, I couldn’t wait to bring her here. I had a moment, when I first saw her as a toddler, playing in the sand, and swimming in the water. I survived, and had introduced my daughter to my paradise. As nonsense once again rained down on me, I took my daughter back to the baths.

We found shade under a grand old tree, and ate the most splendid chips. We swam with the great-grandchildren of the fishes I had once encountered, and experienced the reunification  only a sea breeze can offer. I was home.

Easter 2016


Firstly, I want to wish you a peaceful Easter. For me, it is a time of contemplation and restoration. I wrote the following for Siren Empire about the season, and what it means to me.

I took my daughter to the Royal Easter Show at Olympic Park yesterday. It was a glorious day; the sun was beaming down and we had to find shelter to coat ourselves in 50+ sunscreen. The Australian sun is unforgiving and you can burn quickly!

My daughter fell in love with these hermit crabs, which we simply had to adopt! The little shop ‘crab-sat’ them until we were ready to leave. They are amazing little critters, and can run fast when they want to!

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These pictures capture the mastery of the cakes that were on display. Aren’t they stunning?

  
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We had a tour of Sydney’s upcoming Metro Rail. It is spacious and well-designed, inspired by the system in Singapore.  I can’t wait to go on adventures on it!

 

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My daughter was entranced by the art on display.




We ate strawberries dipped in chocolate, talked to a myriad of fascinating people, and admired beautiful animals and fresh produce! The food on offer was too tempting, and I was as gleeful as a child when we reached the show bags! I now have enough toiletries, tea and snacks to last a year! Our Sydney Royal Easter Show has a proud history, and I love the feeling of connection you receive from being there. You meet people from all over Australia and the world. You can ask questions of authorities on anything from gardening to food security.

I love this city, and am proud to call it my home. It has at times, been a love/hate relationship. I lived in the city, though for the years I was a hermit, I didn’t engage readily with it. I was a hermit, in an(albeit colourful), shell, much like our hermit crabs. Sydney seemed cold and hard and unapproachable. Now it feels like home, and I feel like I have a place in it. At Easter, I tend to reflect on what has transpired; on the people whom I have loved and are no longer here. I think of survival, redemption and being rebuilt. I think of fresh starts and hope. I pray for peace. This Easter, may this peace descend on us all, and remain in place.

I am at Peace.


Today, I am at peace. Nothing in particular has happened to procure this feeling. Rather, it stems from the many smiles, hugs and kindnesses my beautiful friends have bestowed on me. I am humbled by their kindness. They ask after my husband, and I am delighted to say that he is not drinking, and is well. To those who  walked with me  the years in the wilderness, fearing my  husband would be lost not only to me, but to the world, I thank you. If I could write your names across the sky, I would. Texts and gifts, meals and lifts. Listening ears and open hearts. It has all meant so much. We still have a way to travel in our marriage and in ourselves, but your kindness has helped make the path easier under our feet.  xxx