Being there …

DSCN9517
Cattle Station, Wyndham, Kimberley region, Western Australia

I love this quote by Thomas Fuller – “Absence sharpens love, presence strengthens it”

A few years ago I went up north and spent a week at a cattle station in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.  I was tired of hotel rooms.  I wanted to go back to basics and rough it.  I was immediately drawn to the horses.  The first time our eyes met, I was mesmerised by the intelligence, sensitivity and awareness of these animals.  They had this undefinable presence and I was hooked.  I took scores of photographs but this one is a favourite.  In these beautiful brown eyes I connected with something deeper within me.  It was easy to go there. I was no longer alone.

Everything I saw and experienced was a healing moment in my journey.  The 4WD river crossings and climbing rocks, where I had to place my trust in strangers, saltwater crocodiles we saw that scared and delighted me, camping under the stars one night, the sounds of brolgas in the dark, the barramundi fishing, the open camp fire with billy tea for breakfast.  What an adventure!  And as the full moon shone bright, alone in my tent, something shifted in me.  The urge was irrepressible.  For the first time in 17 years I started to write and shared my work with others.  ‘My voice’ had returned.  I had returned.

Until then I felt I was alive but did not breathe.  Grief has its own subjective expression.  Although I was highly functional and successful in every other way, the core of me, my writing, ceased to exist.  Among strangers I found family.  No longer did I have to be brave and dry eyed.  It somehow felt okay to weep in words and, at last, grieve my profound loss.  It felt like those around me understood the unspoken.  They were respectful and sensitive in moments of silence when I fought for composure and at times, strangers cried with me.  My pain, theirs.

I’ve shared this poem elsewhere in my blog but tonight I feel like I want to share it again.  I wrote the poem as a tribute to those who were at the Station with me.  If I am at peace and accepting tonight, it is because of them.

Stars
As the moon brightened the night,
I walked along the celestial bitumen
I saw stars there, signposts for travellers lost
I saw stars in other places too, that only I could see
Have I been lost?
Did you leave them there for me?
As dawn unveiled the granite ridge
I saw a kapok tree, aglow,
with yellow flowers on bare, brown branches
And at my door, emu and wallaby
Child-like I spied on nature
clutching seedpods in my hand
held my breath watching blue dragonflies land
And, while passing travellers warned,
I experienced life at a billabong
I walked down a dusty path, visible to you, not me
to Mother Boab tree
and at my feet I found stars twinkling
where light and shadow meet
I have been on a silent journey
This time, the million steps became one
when I headed out in someone else’s footsteps
and returned in mine
My fellow travellers, you were not to know
long ago, yet, like yesterday
Grief silenced me
But in the barren night, alone,
not alone
I found something glowed in the Kimberley
It was the stars

The ones you left for me.

a dawn bird

In response to Word of the Day Challenge – Sensitive

When Dawn breaks …

DSCN0998.jpgThis year
your forever birthday is remembered again
So this morning I woke treading memories
Of where I’ve been
It’s been years
Yet sometimes it feels
I’ve moved on, a day

I wake most mornings alone
While others come and go
Where you once had been
Their warmth is now comforting,
It shouldn’t be, but it is
I’m learning to live guilt free

I recall wrestling with demons was exhausting
they came dressed in well meaning words from friends
in this journey,
life goes on, they said

I’ve found life is not a journey
just as well,
it would had ended long before now
but it didn’t,
somewhere my footsteps faltered
I’m glad they did

I found my home, a new home
to house my body and soul
It has no doors, no gates or windows
The breeze flows
I shut nothing out, nothing in
That’s where, each day, I begin

I reframed the journey,
that common metaphor, into a mirror
it had to be done for me to stand still, and face face
I seek joy in each day
Sometimes in moments like this
finding I now sit comfortably,
in that precarious place
side by side, with pain

And in that moment,
reality takes hold, with each passing day
Grief does not crush
to self, I am true
I am healed, open again
to be loved and to love deeply

Could I have been this brave
Had I not lost you?

a dawn bird

In response RDP – Monday – Daylight

Virtual reality

DSCN7152 2.JPGSunset, Back Beach, Bunbury, Western Australia

Letter to Steve

Grief torched my life in the years before I met you.  You helped me refocus.  You helped me find my voice, my creativity and a sense of purpose.  Five years later, I lost it all in one fell scoop.  The light you brought into my world was too bright.  The memory of your vibrancy made me flinch for years.  I averted my gaze whenever I drove alongside Back Beach.  I buried myself whole into work.  Last night I walked along where you once jogged.  It was magnificent at sunset as it often is.  As I walked I realised you were meant to come into my life for a reason.  I am where I am, because of you.  Today, this is my reality.

I looked for a relationship unsuccessfully with another academic in the years that followed.  It was a natural thing to do, after all, I had been married to one and then met you.  Life is either crazy or just plain contrary.  What followed was so not what I thought it would be.

It was 17 years after your death when I found photography.  It helped me see the world around me in new ways.  What was familiar was unfamiliar, and then familiar again.  I found shapes, patterns, colours and movements.  A rhythm. I started to write again.   I looked for clouds and rain, because, together, they meant rainbows and not a banal weather report that dictated my work schedule.

My work life is nothing you and I could ever have envisaged.  I don’t present papers around the world like you did but I do spend more time at an airport.  It has become an office.  I find a quiet spot in the lounge and get work done.  This is where life started to get strange.

Had it not been for my camera I would not have noticed the imperceptible glint in the gaze.  The casual look that is exchanged between strangers, and maintained for a fraction longer.  You did not know the logistically challenging rostered world of FIFO workers, if you did, you would have grinned and said, what followed was meant to be.  The gaze turned into a conversation and my dormant heart found a beat again.

He is no academic.  He barely finished high school and so proud of his TAFE achievement because he makes a good living from it.  His nails are not manicured.  His hands are rough and stained from hard work.  He barely reads the news headlines, let alone a book.  His views on politics are succinct, and expressed in the vernacular of the region, “Effing wankers, the lot of them!”  End of story.  There is no malice in his reference, “Miss Fancy Pants!” as he curls his finger around pearls.  He is sensitive and sensual for a man who works with earth on his hands.  Nor do I feel what I do is diminished by his inability to understand it when he says, “what is it that you actually do?”.  What you see is what you get with him.  He travels light.  His values can be endearingly old fashioned, at times.  We admit to nothing.  The unsaid, saying it all.  Things are just what they were, at first ignite.  Alive.  Unfinished.  Unended.  It makes pick up where we left off, easier.  I like what this gives me.  There are no tomorrows or happily ever afters.  I searched for those for far too long.  For me, they were an unfortunate myth.  I live in the moment now.  It’s a happy place to be.

He is no blinding light in my life, like you were.  He lights up my world for a moment, much like seeing a shooting star, and when we leave, the eternal hope, it will happen again.

Where ever you are, here’s to another morning … shine bright.  What was, and what is, is meant to be.

a dawn bird

In response to Word of the Day Challenge:  Virtual