your fingers found the seam
where I once came apart
so I surrendered
to the new yearning
to be whole again
and without scars.
a dawn bird
In response to Word of the Day Challenge: yearning
We are mid-way into autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. There’s a chill in the air in the evenings and early mornings. There’s a need to seek warmth in another or in memories. It made me reflect on my life journey, this time, my professional journey.
I have worked with people of all ages. There is a certain joy that comes from working with little children and promoting joy in parenting and development. I have worked with troubled teens with behaviours at the pointy end of the pointy end. Challenging as it was being on 24 hour roster, I worked with the program for six years. I now work mostly with children and families and as a consultant to my teams. But, the yearning to work with older adults is always there.
I once worked in a hospital setting where the patients were mostly elderly. It was confronting work. There by the grace of God, go I, crossed my mind frequently. I would see people who worked hard all their life and then struck down with debilitating illness and regret they did not seize the day before this. The job came about in the most extraordinary circumstances and it was my first foray into a medical setting. I firmly believe that job changed my perspective on life. The job was a gift I needed at that time. Once exposed to the reality of other people’s regret, I did not want to waste a moment of my life anymore.
In Bunbury I woke early and would head to Big Swamp. I fell in love with the wetlands. I could no longer go to work without spending just a few minutes here. I’d head to beaches and bush land every single day. I started to view the world and my circumstances in a different way. I started to view myself as a grounded optimist. All because I found the best healing in nature and where I do my reflections.
Everything just fell away when I would walk silently in the bush or by shore. The question I would ask myself is, if I knew it was the last five minutes of my life, what would I do? I found I would have no regrets. I have loved and have been loved. I have children that I yearned for since early childhood who are young adults I am so proud of. I have been able to provide for my family. Who could ask for more?
So this morning I work up happy. The chill in the air reminded me, autumn is a time of change, a time for slowing down, a time when nature reminds us that while youth is crisp and forward thinking, age has its advantages, too. The ‘wrinkles’ of the yesterdays are a comfortable, soft place to land. The vibrancy of ‘the now’ has the power to make one’s eyes glisten and also glow. There is freedom in making tomorrow whatever we want it to be, as one steps out lightly on ‘happy feet’.
For me, in this month of birthday, there is also comfort in the knowledge, although a time of profound change, from now on, as I settle deeper into my nut brown skin, I know, I am in a wonderful place, I am in the space of forever autumn. A space of change. A space of growth. A space of acceptance. And, there’s no other space I’d rather be.
May you, too, find your happy space today and arrive on happy feet.
Until next time
In response to RDP Monday: Foray
I stood in rain and asked,
when the key would not unlock the door
I turned my back to retrace my steps
when I saw the calligraphy
in the tracery, of my cathedral
that framed the stained window
it was delicate, the hand worked it steady
the art withstood the fiercest storms
it was deliberate, you could see
the lines spoke so
it was there before my eyes
had I not been locked out,
I would not have seen it,
Alone, I took it in, selfishly
I read the message
and before the end
the child in me smiled
her soft voice rose above the storm
as she asked the question
and without entitlement,
a dawn bird
Far from home,
the air was warm
the clouds ominous
from within, I looked out
as rivulets poured
into a stream of consciousness
I ignored the thunder
the flash of light
I ignored shelter, mindfully
I sniffed the petrichor
wafting from the ground
it anchored me
at one with earth
I watched the rain
I’m not sure for how long
it may have been a minute
or an hour,
when the rain faded silently into memory
and that flash of light, now a beam
on the book of life
titled Carpe diem
a dawn bird
This post comes with a disclaimer and warning. If you have experienced trauma, it is probably best you don’t read the post. If you choose to read it and feel distressed, please talk to someone who can support you. (This is also a very long post).
This is a reflection on something that happened years ago.
I was taken aback by my feelings about the Me Too movement. I went through periods of anger, hopelessness and even unnecessary bravado until I talked to someone who helped me join the dots.
I was in my twenties. I had a job. I had my own place. I was in love with Dr T. Life was sweet. My unit was a short 10 minute walk to the main street to catch my bus to work. I would walk past a small building site where young tradies would be loud, jostle each other and vie for attention. On a summer’s day and around 7 am, people were out in their garden watering plants, no different than any other day when I heard a jogger behind me.
I moved to the side to let him go by when he hit me from behind. The force sent me flying sideways into the lane way between homes. Out of sight from others we tussled and somehow I whacked him under his nose. He flew to his feet in pain, I got to my feet, and dusted myself off, absolutely furious. I thought he was being dared by his mates and warned him, “I know where you work, I’m going to report you”. He backed off and said, “I know where you live” and then proceeded to tell me his intent. I didn’t process his threat. I was angry at the indignity of what had just happened. On reflection, shock made me process things differently. I went through the lesser priorities of the moment. He had torn my blouse and left a zig zag tear. “He ruined my top!”, “I need to go home and change my clothes”, “Damn! I’ve missed my bus”. He jogged off. A neighbour came to my aid. I waited at home for the police. No fear, still fuming. The police interviewed the tradies and no one could recall seeing the man. I have no memory for the rest of the day.
Later that night I waited for Dr T to arrive for dinner. My unit’s big glass sliding door opened on to the front lawn. The entrance door was at the back of the building. I saw a tall man lean over my mailbox. Dr T! I opened the sliding door. The figure straightened up and walked towards me. The walk was unfamiliar. In an instance I remembered the threat made earlier that day. Fear nearly paralysed me. I stepped back into the unit, locked the door and switched off the lights. I had the advantage of darkness. I heard him check the bedroom window, the two bathroom windows, the front door, then the kitchen window. Then back to the front door and tried to jimmy the lock. I dragged the landline to the door. In panic I dialled random numbers. I knew he was listening. I pretended to talk to the police as if they were down the street, waiting for him. When I stopped talking, there was silence. I knew he was gone. Dr T came over. I moved out of the unit that night.
Four years later the police arrested him. He had attacked 13 women around the city, four laid charges. He was not one of the workmen at the building site but was working across the road from my unit. He had seen me leave that morning. He told his workmates he was going to the toilet, stepped out of his overalls when he jogged up behind me. Then calmly came back and got dressed in his overalls. No one remembered the clothing I described.
He got a $100 fine for each of the four charges.
Life went on. I did not give the incident any thought.
I lived a life like most others. Love, marriage, children, divorce, career. On the surface it would suggest the incident did not have any impact on me. My professional self has been safe and clear thinking. I am trained to deal with the unexpected and I have encountered it more times than I care to remember. I worked in high risk environments before I started my own practice. I travel alone on lonely country roads most of the time for my work. I enjoy a solitary walk in the bush where I am warier of encountering a snake, than a human being. Every time I hear a tragic incident of someone being attacked, I consider myself lucky. After all, I wasn’t harmed.
Or so I thought.
On a personal level this impacted me on a fundamental level. I was trapped in my own home, my safe place. I have lived with triggers without knowing this until I had a light bulb moment in a small town. Maybe I was overly tired to react the way I did and I’m glad I was.
It was a Sunday. The sesh was on at the pub when I saw two men get thrown out. They pushed and shoved as the altercation spilled on to the street, a few feet from me. There was swearing and laughter from observers. I crossed over the road but then abandoned my walk and returned to the car. I was trembling. I went back to the hotel and lay in bed, reflected on why I felt the way I did. I phoned a friend and in talking we realised I was triggered by the loud laughter. I also realised why I am so careful about giving out my home address. (“I know where you live”). Both these triggers were scorched into memory just before and after the incident.
This incident shaped the way I lived without me knowing it. I was fearful in my home for decades but felt safer in the community by day. The incongruity of my functioning puzzled Dr T. When he went to a meeting at night, I went to bed with the children and lay awake in the dark until he came home. On his return, I’d hear him say in irritation, “Why are the bloody lights off!”. I had no answer because I didn’t know why. It drove him nuts!
When divorced I was studying late at night on New Year’s Eve. Our home was within a short walk to the local pub. I could hear revellers and music. I felt safe. The children were asleep. I typed on. Then I heard the neighbour’s dog bark, the gate behind my window creaked. I immediately went to the laundry where the children’s bedrooms were and watched in darkness as a young man walked across the path, the other side of the glass door. I called the police. They checked the property and he was gone. I wasn’t afraid, my maternal instinct sharp. Life continued on.
Four years ago I moved into my current home. The real estate agent stuffed up the whole process and left me in a monumental mess. The first night I sat on the sofa and wept. I had bought the house as an investment but hadn’t thought this through. In a large, dark home I felt vulnerable. I slept on the sofa for the next year with unpacked boxes strewn about. The renovations started, more mess of course and now most of the major work has been done. When I moved in I was comfortable (read safe) but not happy living in mess. The home was ‘booby trapped’ with stuff in corridors. It gave me a sense of safety. It impacted me in other ways, too. I did not wear bright coloured clothing until my son mentioned this a few years ago, commenting I dressed like I want to be invisible. How perceptive of him!
There are some positives to this. I always lock my home and windows by day and night. I do the same in hotels. This has kept me safe on more than one occasion and I’ve written about it in a previous post. I’m more empathic towards those who have suffered trauma. From feedback I’ve received I know I have been able to help them on their journey to healing. I’ve come to realise, one can live a full life, but triggers can be very subjective. The benign can be terrifying for the person who experienced trauma, and dormant, this can surface unexpectedly. I never drink when I’m on my own. Nor do I take medications. I’ve reframed hypervigilance to mindful living. I listen to small sounds and label them accurately. I know the feeling of fear is one from the distant past. This, too, will pass. This is now. I am safe. This process of thinking integrates me.
The old saying, knowledge is power, is true. Meditation and counselling alone did not fix fears. Understanding the triggers and confronting them, has. Who would have thought, despite my work history and my solitary bush walks, I could be reduced to a state of utter panic in a main street, middle of the day and with people around me. I also realised when my children lived at home, I was their fearless protector. When I’m alone, I feel vulnerable.
There is still some lasting impact of that brief encounter. I am still wary giving out my home address and experience irritation when people ask for this. I can’t sleep upstairs if I’m alone at home. I’m uncomfortable with the feeling of being trapped, not claustrophobia, but feeling trapped. (Like I was in my unit with him outside). I dislike underground car parks, preferring the roof, even in intensely hot days.
Once the pieces fell into place I started working towards regaining what I had lost. I live life. I experience life. I help others experience it. I wear bright colours! I often have to return home from trips later at night when all is quiet and dark in the neighbourhood.
I am well on the road to full recovery but this post took over a year to write. I wasn’t sure whether my narrative would raise understanding and awareness of the experience of trauma, but I thought I’d share, just in case it does.
I finished this post at an airport. My flight was delayed. I was sitting in the middle of a sea of loud miners who were drinking and happy to be going home. I was calm as a monk.
I boarded the flight and got to my seat. In a row of three the middle was empty. The man at the window was deep into his screen device. I glanced at it. He was watching a documentary on Ted Bundy. True!
I returned home later that night. The taxi drove away. I was unafraid. I was home. My smile lit up the dark house. I knew I would post this one day.
Until next time
a dawn bird
The tide arrived at night
It swirled around my head
It found the vault, where memories are kept
As the tide reached that sacrosanct shore
Bringing storms, spinning truth, distorting reality
What was once mine, was no longer mine to keep
So I opened the vault, and threw away the key
Swept off my feet, the tide carried me last night
Leaving only sea prints in the sand
I woke this morning, free, adrift, whole
the sea, my healer, found a tide
that brought me home, to love again.
a dawn bird
It is difficult to comprehend it is over a year since my holiday in the north to a remote outback cattle station in the East Kimberley region. The thought of a very ‘rustic’ environment where crocodiles, lizards and snakes are prolific was easily overcome because I know the landscape. It is awe inspiring. I joined a group of writers. All strangers. I hadn’t written and shared my work face to face with an audience for over 17 years, following the loss of my writing buddy. So I didn’t expect to write anything. Why would I, I reasoned. The anonymity of blogging was satisfying a deeper need in me. But I looked forward to the experience of the East Kimberley. And, I, who flinches at the sight of a tiny gecko, wanted to test my mettle in this harsh environment.
One night I lay in the ‘rustic’ cabin listening to the sounds of the outback. Something in me came alive. I allowed the previous days of writing with strangers, now intimate strangers, to flood my senses. I wrote this after sleeping in a tent in a very remote area, on the banks of the King River, where the eyes of a crocodile glowed at dusk. The brolgas called in the distance. I knew they danced under the stars. My heart heard their music. The feeling of oneness with strangers in a stranger environment was complete for the city me. I opened up.
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.
Until next time
a dawn bird
Winter had hit Esperance it seemed. It was windy, cold and wet when I arrived. Having caught a throat bug on the flight, I headed straight to the supermarket and bought a sachet of chicken soup (ugh!). Wet cement, would have been more palatable. Why chicken soup? For me, it is synonymous with nurturing. Before I was married I rented a room in a large home that belonged to a Polish widow who spoiled me thoroughly! A mere cough would galvanize her into action. I learnt to make chicken soup from her. Chicken frames, beef bones, root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, turnips), celery including leaves, brown onions with skin, bay leaf and whole peppercorns, all placed in a large pot of cold water and then brought up to the boil. Simmer, skimming the top, for several hours. Strain, season, leave in the fridge, skim any residue fat, add freshly chopped carrots and celery, broken up angel hair pasta and bring to the boil again. You’ve got a delicious, clear broth with vegetables and noodles. The young adults call it “Mum’s witches brew”. I swear by it. It cures everything, for me. I could hardly wait to get home and get the cauldron out.
The three days in Esperance were torturous. I struggled into work for a few hours and then returned to bed, my energy deplete. The boss, concerned at the way I looked, booked me in to see his doctor. Country folks have big hearts! Yes, I was too sick to work but not sick enough to crave being outside with my camera. So it was torture and I was feeling stir crazy. On the day of my return flight, I headed out to Woody Lake, new camera in hand.
I watched dawn break and fretted about the clouds. The small plane would have to punch through these, the thought making me feel sicker than I had been.As the sun broke through, I saw a line of birds above.On one side were the Cape Barren Geese, large, ungainly birds on ground, but graceful in flight.Dozens on ibis, untidy in formation, also headed somewhere else. (I obviously need more practice with my new camera!).Far across the Lake, on my right, was a flotilla of pelicans, dozens of them. On my left, a solitary white heron, posture perfect, even when alone.Thinking that was my quota for the day, I started to drive out of the reserve slowly when I saw it, sitting all plumped up, large as a hen, a common bronze wing pigeon.Preening, pretty as a peacock, in an unguarded moment, challenging the notion of “common”.Near my car, a silver eye feeding. Usually they swarm in small groups but this one was alone.Eye to eye. For a moment, it was heaven, right here on earth.
I’ve always found it difficult to explain my faith to my children. I was raised to follow it, not question it. I raised my children differently. I have raised them to question authority. So when they ask questions, I really don’t know the answers, other than having a faith base, works for me.
But I’ve been reflecting on the concept of heaven and hell. What if I was taught incorrectly. What if the message was, this was heaven. If we recognize it as such, it can be. Be it suburbia, city or outdoors. I’ve found it just takes a moment of stillness, a moment of peace to achieve this. A moment I found heals me, no matter what life throws my way.
My belief has shifted somewhat from my early childhood. I now believe, if we practice this awareness, whether you are a believer or not, heaven helps us all.
In a world of unrest, this Sunday, my prayer is one of peace.
Until next time
a dawn bird
When in Geraldton, in the Midwest of Western Australia, I often find myself grabbing a quick lunch at St Georges Beach while seated in my car. I angle myself comfortably, to watch the distinctive trees. In the still of the moment, they look like they are responding to a sea breeze. They are poised, but do not break.
During the last trip, the trees took me where I’ve wanted to be each time I visit this sea city. Just beyond the beige.
Is white a different shade of beige? I’m not sure but the difference is remarkable.
I zoomed in for a closer look, and saw so much more. In a cup of a shell, there were smaller, tinier shells.
Some fused with coral.
My first blue shell!
A sea sponge, as distinctive as a hairdo.
Thousands of broken and whole shells, pieces of coral too.
A translucent shell, agape.
I missed the details on the countless trips I’ve made.
Moving from the beige to beyond, I returned home and read up on shells. There is so much about them I do not know and have yet to learn.
What I did learn is, shells once belonged to living creatures. They are remnants of what was and become footprints in the sand.
Just like memories.
Until next time
a dawn bird
One of my favourite quotes by Harville Hendrix is framed and visible on my work desk, for all those who walk in to see. “We are born in relationship, we are wounded in relationship, and we can be healed in relationship.”
I was introduced to this type of thinking over twenty years ago. Times have changed. People have changed. Perceptions have changed. I have changed. This was brought home to me recently.
I was visiting someone who has dogs. For hours the rescue dog was outdoors and I watched him intermittently. Then, someone opened the door. He came in and went straight to my feet and settled himself. Ordinarily, I would be wary. I have been bitten by dogs on two occasions. Even though these events happened in the distant past, the anxiety around dogs remained. At a delicious lunch at a seaside cafe, my colleague mentioned casually. She observed I was no longer nervous around dogs. Usually, she is protective of me, but did not have to step in to redirect this time. I reflected on her observation.
A few years ago my daughter bought M. It took months before I could stay alone at home with M. As the days became weeks, her bond with me strengthened each day. She would give me a baleful, disapproving look each time she watched me pack my suitcase. She knew I didn’t like her jumping on me. Desperate to eat her dinner, she would whimper but sit outside the glass door until I allowed her in. She learned and obeyed my hand command for ‘stop’ almost like it was instinct in her. While working at home, the silences between the frenetic keystrokes would prompt her to tap, tap, tap her tail, to let me know she was still there. All communicated without a word, trust grew between us.
My daughter and her partner bought another dog, a companion, they thought for M. A purebred puppy. I was disapproving and wary. No, I tell a lie. I was scared. The words, “dominant”, “needs firm training”, “protective of family” did nothing to ease the anxiety. My daughter wanted him for protection, her partner being FIFO (fly in fly out worker). I knew he wasn’t the right breed for the family, especially as he was an aloof puppy when only a few weeks old. I was proved right. A few months later, his aggression nearly killed M. There was nothing the young adults could do, but return the puppy to the breeder. Then, they bought another puppy.
We all fell in love instantly. She smiles! All day! At anything! And, anyone! For her, everything is love at first sight. She shares the love with thousands. Her social media presence and following, is strong!
M was wary of Em from the very start. Walked away from her on approach. M’s memory of being attacked still fresh. She watched from a distance as Em became beloved and in turn, loved others. Em did not give up. She loved M and was never far from her. Soon M started to respond to Em when she brought toys to her, barking insistently for play time. M would sigh, a big old sigh of exasperation, climb off the sofa, and indulge Em for a while.
Em is now 11 months old and 45 kg. M and Em are inseparable.
Harville got it right.
Until next time
a dawn bird