Thursday, 31 May 2007

On second thought......

I just woke up. It has been over 24 hours after my glittering performance at tuesday's boot camp, and I have discovered.....I have triceps.

Well, I always knew they were there... in theory anyway. Now, for the first time ummm ever, I can feel them. Ouch, I just scratched my head....typing hurts. Thankfully there are just a few isolated muscles that KILL, unlike the first time I ever played squash.

When Ashely and I played our first game of squash, neither of us were any good, but we got so into it that we played enthusiastically for over an hour. I could hardly move the following day; every possible bone in my body felt as if it was encased in thick steel springs like those used to make professional trampolines. I remember having to go to work the following day (and the rest of the days in that week) after our squash game; I was working as a baker at the time. I had to continually crouch down to get things and lift heavy trays...I had never felt such all over pain in my life - pain that I knew to be beneficial rather than one born out of injury...although I sure moved like an invalid, at the time.

Anyway, my triceps feel like that today...what a big wuss I am. I feel even moreso after reading Tracey's most recent entry! You really are amazing Trace.

The Golden Compass

I just stumbled upon a trailer for the up-coming movie "The Golden Compass". It looks bloody fantastic. I can't wait to see it, even if it does only comes out in December.

If you are not familiar with this story, I have included the synopsis quoted on Rotten Tomatoes the movie review website:

Based on author Philip Pullman's bestselling and award-winning novel, The Golden Compass tells the first story in Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. The Golden Compass is an exciting fantasy adventure, set in an alternative world where people's souls manifest themselves as animals, talking bears fight wars, and Gyptians and witches co-exist. At the center of the story is Lyra (played by newcomer Dakota Blue Richards), a 12-year-old girl who starts out trying to rescue a friend who's been kidnapped by a mysterious organization known as the Gobblers - and winds up on an epic quest to save not only her world, but ours as well.
--© New Line Cinema

Poetry Thursday - Bird

This is my contribution for this weeks Poetry Thursday. I chose not to do the optional prompt task, which was "River". I had so many thoughts, ideas and memories about The river that flowed through my area, and rivers in general, that I found I could not properly harness my thoughts, but I did garner a number of ideas for regular blog posts instead, which I will get around to writing one of these days, and you never know, having gotten those stories out of my system, I might even come up with a river poem at some stage. Rather than contribute nothing, I thought I would share this poem, which I wrote a few months back after a quiet, reflective walk along the dikes near my home.

Eternal, rejuvenating flower.
Tight as a bud.
She blooms.
Wings outstretched;
Feathered petals,
Fanned and reaching.
A dance with natures breath,
Gliding, darting, diving;
Carried upon the wind,
Like spores of a thistle.
She swoops down,
Landing with grace.
Tight as a bud,
Once again.

© Strauss
19th January 2007

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Boot camp

Last night I showed up for Nordic Walking and got a bit of a surprise - no I wasn't wearing these shoes. The Run Inn, the crowd that co-ordinates all the marathon training clinics, for which the Nordic Walking group is a spin off, were putting on a "boot camp" session, and the Nordic Walkers were invited to join - we aren't usually, so this was why I was surprised.....NO WONDER so few people showed up last night.

Most of the people in my group moaned and groaned about the boot camp; grumbling that this was NOT what they had signed up for. I was open minded about the whole thing and happily joined in enthusiastically - how often does one get a free personal training session?

It was a warm night last night and the instructors worked us hard. First we had to run to the destination of our training, then the instructors had a bunch of "stations" set out and grouped us into our "speed level", and placing one group at each station to start. First we had to run as fast as we could while a partner pulled us back with a band - that was my favourite one. Next we had to do "t-push ups" for a minute, then sprints. The next station saw us jumping over low hurdles, then jumping onto a box with both feet up at the same time, then jumping in and out of tires placed on the ground. The next station we had to jump over and back over a rope for a minute, as hard as we could go, then do side push ups (which nearly killed me), then sprints toward an obstacle of cones with an abrupt stop at each cone. Then we had to jump in and out of the rungs of a ladder laying flat on the ground then....we had to do it all over again. After we went through the course twice, we all got together and did more sprints then slow jogged or Nordic walked back to the Run Inn.

I was completely exhausted by the end of it. I haven't sweated so much in my life - it was GREAT!!!! I wouldn't mind doing that type of workout once a week, if possible. Apparently there is such a session on Monday nights, which would fit in with my schedule. The boot camp goes for 6 weeks, but has already started, so I am not sure if I can still join in - we'll see.

Oh, and I am pretty sore today, but it is a good kind of sore, the kind that tells me that I did good work last night. Does anyone know it there are any running clinics in Adelaide, like the one I mentioned above. I believe there is a "Run Inn" in Queensland, but what about good ole SA?

Tuesday, 29 May 2007


This past weekend the fair came to town, as it does each final weekend of May. This particular fair consists largely of exorbitantly priced amusements, aging carnival rides and of course, the usual carnival fare; greasy chips, hot dogs, popped caramel corn, hot sugar donuts and candy floss…. among other things; so-called food stuffs that smell good in theory, but in hindsight always leaves one wishing there were such places as food confessionals, where one could simply reveal thy food sins, offer up ten Hail Mary’s and miraculously be absolved of all cholesterol, calories, rotten teeth, future cellulite and spare tires.

The other consistent feature of fairs such as ours, are those humorless nomads, otherwise known as carnival employees. Each ride or amusement tends to be manned by these atypical characters; faces lined and leathery from over-exposure to the elements; hands and clothing oiled and greasy from rigging together their equipment; fingers swollen and nicotine stained, knuckles gnarled from physical labor; and while the ability to chuff upon a cancer stick seems to be a requirement of the job, “jolliness” and “must be good with people”, certainly didn't seem to have been a mandatory component of the job criteria.

Most of the carnival characters sat begrudgingly on the crude stools, glaring grimly and sullenly into a vacant abyss, occasionally rising to intimidate some over eager, sugar hyped kid and/or their impatient parents, like some kind of boorish nightclub bouncer. I am sure they have a lot to deal with, particularly those who have to deal with smart-arses and alcohol inflicted teens, but I have noticed that the carnival really does attract a certain type of individual into its employ - the positively miserable, and they remain so, standing in stark contrast to those enjoying the thrill and vibe of the carnival.

Having said all this, my children were very excited to learn that the fair would be taking place over the weekend, and were eager to hurry along to it. Friday night was opening night for the fair, and the carnival rides were all half price. Mister happened upon at least half his pre-school class there, which was an added bonus, as far as he was concerned.

I arrived with a limited amount of cash, determined that this meager amount would be our budget for the evening, but I was soon shocked and dismayed at how quickly the cash supply ran dry; frittered away into thin air it seemed, for we certainly had nothing significant to show for it. Nevertheless, we did enjoy three rides (my young ones being very easily pleased) and managed to escape with that mandatory bag of candy floss that is said to be “for the kids”.

Saturday and Sunday are the serious carnival days. Everything is full price and there are more exhibits, craft sellers, and a petting zoo. Sunday caps off the carnival with a parade, which mainly consisted of local business people and politicians, and also fancy cars owners who had been summonsed to chauffeur some posing old codgers, whose identities I hadn’t the foggiest about, but the parade is really an illustration of town spirit, and with that in mind, it was indeed, a great success.

Today in the aftermath, I took Missy Mopps to her ballet class, which takes place in a hall alongside the carnival grounds. Since parents are not invited to witness classes for that age group (parents are seen as a distraction – and rightfully so, from what I have witnessed), I decided to venture out and gather a glimpse of the carnival clean up effort, but much to my disbelief, there was nothing left.

At some stage through the course of the past night, those diligent rough bastards of the carnival had packed up the entire show and hit the road, and what remained was our humble town park; a pristine picture of how it stands on any other given day. If one was to venture into town for the first time, one would never have known that this land had only yesterday, been teeming with people, colour and noise. And as I stood there taking in that still and unspectacular scene, I thought I might allow myself to delve into the deeper layers of what I was witnessing, so I took myself for a wander around the park, and allowed myself to feel.

It is an interesting thing to do; to return to the site of particular and recent activity. If one allows oneself, one can feel the flurry of activity still churning in the atmosphere like a disturbed river bed, whereby the water is left muddied and unclear. As I walked, I noticed the faint outline of a square. A shallow pool had been resting there the day before; my son had paddled a little boat in it; he had stood upon that very spot, feet bare and waiting in line for his turn. I walked around a playground perimeter fence; we had stood there Friday evening in a long impatient line up, consisting of overly excited children, surly teens and tired parents, all waiting for the tardy ticket collectors to open up their booths.

I meandered over to where a large stage had been set up the day before; a band had been playing there. The stage was now gone, but the green tiered bench we had sat upon while eating hot dogs, remained, and I imagined us sitting there, munching away to the tune of a howling child who had just spilled the entire contents of his lemonade onto the grass below. I could still feel us there.

I then moved over to a square patch of earth that had temporarily housed the petting zoo. Remnants of straw were scattered upon the hoof trampled grass. It amazed me to think that this small fragment of land was completely surrounded by people, just yesterday - 5 or 6 people deep in some places, and a dozen rabbits hopping behind the fence; dodging a brood of fluffy chicks. A piglet and lamb scurried in another pen, while a tiny pony nibbled at tufts of grass alongside a calf; a solitary llama stood alone in the remaining pen, peering our from behind the hairy fringe hanging over his eyes. Children clung to the fence in the hope of being asked if they might like to hold one of the smaller animals. My son was patient and was finally rewarded which the chance to hold a chick, which he said was warm and soft in his gentle hand. We each crouched down to stoke the chick held loosely in his grip, which seemed surprisingly calm and happy to oblige, despite the excitement surrounding its temporary environment.

On my way back to the ballet hall, I passed a concrete picnic table, such as the type commonly found in parks everywhere. I noticed six extinguished cigarette buts lying discarded in the well trodden grass surrounding the table. These buts were fresh; their filters still white, appearing not to have endured much time on the ground. I concluded that they must have been smoked yesterday. Two buts had been thrown to the ground when the smokers were done with them; embers of ignited tobacco left to wane, dulling and transforming to grey ashen conclusion. The other buts were crushed on one end, snuffed out by a rubber soled toe; an action that had left a sooty smear on the ground.

Yesterday people had stood right there and smoked those cigarettes, and in a way they were still there, with me standing like a future ghost in their circle, or perhaps traces of these yesterday smokers were now encircling me while I stood pondering, and it struck me that much of the weekend’s energy was still present in the park as I walked. The faint smell of hot cinnamon donuts wafted in the air as black birds pecked feverishly at minute food particles that had been scattered over the lawn. The energy stirred and it hummed. It hung in the trees like dark bats and swirled along the ground like tumble weed carousing across a dusty plain, and I wondered if that energy might still be there next week, when I returned for my daughter’s next ballet class.

There are ghosts everywhere and in everything, you know. If you don’t believe in ghosts, you are just not looking hard enough.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

It never fails....

Whenever I use the bathroom, it never fails that either one or both of my children will cause incident during the brief time I am in there. They will follow me and sit, stand or lay next to the door, and either quietly tap the door, thump it violently or yell at me through it, until I come out.

Should I manage the miraculous task of creeping away unseen, it never fails that one or both children will start screaming for me to "come here" and much to my urgings, they will not divulge the reasoning behind my immediate and urgent summonsing.

On the even rarer occurrence where I have managed to venture to the bathroom alone, without being followed; they knowing exactly where I am going, but are too engrossed in whatever it is they are playing to care, it never fails that some freakish mishap or bizarre turn of events should befall upon one or both children in my absence, causing one or both children to scream at blood curdling decibels, which leaves me panicked and helpless in my efforts to speed things along so I can attend to the broken limbs, broken teeth, gauged eyes and split open heads I am imagining I will find upon scrambling out of the bathroom...which, for your information, is never the case, despite the stuck pig-like squealing and squawking going on, or the terrorised tone of the non-injured party who is frantic for me to emerge "quiiiiiiiick"and call 911.

Why oh why oh WHY, can't I use the bathroom in peace...just once?

Monday, 21 May 2007

Scotia Bank 5km....walk

Well, I have bitten the bullet (so to speak), and entered myself into the Scotia Bank 5km fun run/walk, which takes place on Sunday, June 24th, in Stanley Park, Vancouver.

I heard about this walk from a friend who is registered to do the half-marathon. Coyly, I asked if the event had a 10km walk, but she didn't know. So while they didn't have a 10 km walk, I am happy to start out with a 5km walk. If that goes well I will see about others, and the Terry Fox 10km in September, which I mentioned in an earlier post.

So there you go, I have had enough of my all talk no action, and have finally made a commitment. I disappointed myself by dilly dallying about the Vancouver Sun Run, which I missed in the end. It would have been a good experience. So procrastinate no more - lets get moving.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

naive enthusiasm

I was feeling a bit cocky the other morning; a bit over confident, let me explain.

I had a particularly good session at the Nordic Walking group earlier in the week. I had practically run the course; leaving the rest of my group in my dust. At one point I looked back to ensure I was still heading the right way, and they appeared to me as mere dots in the distance, trailing behind me. For all I knew they were screaming for me to "turn left" or "come back, we are going THIS way", they were too far for me to hear a word they might have been saying.

Walking doesn't really puff me out. Sure, my shins are feeling like they are on fire and my face has turned a colour to match the soles of my inflamed feet. Oh and there is all that sweat pouring from my face; enough to fill a small lake, but otherwise you wouldn't know I had exercised; I have plenty of breath to spare.

So I was starting to think.... perhaps I should step it up a notch. Perhaps I should have a bit of a go at the ole that I am super fit and all (HA HA HA HA).

So anyway, I got up Friday morning with the realistic notion of parking near Curves, so I could run back to the car after I was done.

I parked in a park nearby and walked the rest of the way, I was surprised how close that park actually was in the end, but reasoned that I would ace the run back and the ease of that experience would boost my confidence in a way that would encourage me to park further away next time, or even run ALL the way from my house.

So I did my usual work out, and after grabbing my keys from the basket on the front desk, I bounded out the door and sprang into an impressive gallop.

I think I was perhaps 45 seconds into the run when I began to dread the whole awful idea, and I remembered, all of a sudden, why I joined the Nordic Walk group and not any of the running options "the clinic" had to offer.

I think I made it back to the car in just over two minutes; heaving, nearly dying and vowing never to contemplate such a stupid idea EVER AGAIN.

Conclusion: I am terrible at running and.... quite hate it really.

Future research: Still considering a 10 km walk, weighing the options and assessing which might be right for me - will keep you posted.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Glass Castle

I just started reading The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls. It is quite an astonishing read. I am a bit hooked on it right now, with wild horses practically having to drag me away from it.

I must say, I was desperately trying to find something to read. I had started several books; The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, which I had been meaning to read for many years after a couple of recommendations. I was quite taken by the first part, it was very interesting to read about the women of biblical times and their experience with child bearing, but since it is written in the voice of Jacob's only daughter, Dinah, it lost me a bit when the focus moved on to Dinah's early childhood. When I am in the mood I will pick it up again and see where it goes from there.

I am still on and off with the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal is a hard slog, what more can I say, and I have been reading more of Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung, as previously mentioned, and what a crazy bastard that guy was! Yeah, yeah Carl, we all know you were a genius and whatnot, but geez! It is yet another book I will have to read more of when I am in the mood. It is an extremely interesting read about the inner workings of a famous mind, who studied minds, motivations and behaviour, but I am not in the mood for it right now....another time Carl mate.... I promise.

I also started the The Resurrectionists by Michael Collins, but quite frankly, it did nothing for me. I didn't get far into it, and I am probably doing it an injustice by not seeing it through to the end, as I have read that the beginning is the weakest, but I did not find the dialogue between Frank and Honey overly convincing, and besides, I was really looking for something that gripped me from the first line and reverberated throughout the day (not too much to ask is it?).

Well, apparently not, because The Glass Castle managed to do just that. This is the opening sentence of the book and first chapter entitled "Woman on the Street":

"I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster".

The next couple of pages goes on to describe this well-to-do woman's homeless mother; the feelings she has about sighting her and her thwarted attempts to "help". The next chapter simply entitled "Desert" describes a truly remarkable and stunningly dysfunctional childhood.

I think the fact that this "woman on the street" was called Mom by the author, was what really shock me, freezing me in the moment, in such a way that I had to consider why, but so often, the homeless are the nameless, peripheral characters in a story. They are never someones Mom, and yet, in reality, many of them are mothers or fathers, or Grandparents.

There was a book a friend once lent me, about a homeless shelter in Calgary. I can't remember the name of it, but the book paid tribute to some of the homeless people who had spent time in that particular shelter, providing a background of information about these people and revealing the road that lead them to become homeless, as told in their own words. it was incredibly interesting and certainly provided a voice for many a homeless person.

Getting back to The Glass Castle...this book is a memoir of author Jeannette Wall's life. I haven't actually finished the book and therefore, should not be recommending a book that I have not yet finished, but I am going to anyway, because I am finding myself totally mesmerised by this story, so if you see it around, check it out.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Not enough hours...

Where have I been all week? I don't really know. I have been so busy that I have hardly had the time to think, let alone write, which is a bit of a shame really. It seems there really aren't quite enough hours in the day at present.

This exercise thing has really given me an injection of something. I don't really know what, but I am feeling soOOoo much better. I almost feel like I have been in a cocoon for the last little while, and now I am breaking out. I have even had the nutty inclination to undertake a Nordic Walk, or even a regular walk, if that is not possible, in a more official capacity....say like a 10km walk or half marathon! Even saying that out loud seems a bit far fetched and ridiculous, but why not? The Terry Fox Run is coming up in September, maybe I should aim to do the walk in that. Or maybe I could actually take a serious look and see that there is a run/walk opportunity every weekend - yikes! No, I am not that keen, but it would be good to have something to aim for and train for. I haven't had goals for a long while, setting some out, is definitely well over due, and since I have finally set foot upon the fitness road, that seems to be a good place to start.

So what else has been going on? Well we are currently attempting to co-ordinate our return to Australia. I have contacted a realtor to sell the house; gotten a quote for an international removalist; started the ball rolling with the quarantine requirements for the dogs; looked into flights back; researched schools for Mister when we return, not to mention housing. There is so much to do, and yet nothing much to do, as it is too early; everything is in the research phase right now, but on top of all that, I still have the everyday stuff to contend with, and now the sun is out, the garden is growing wild. I am relieved about that. the garden wasn't looking too good, not so long ago.

While I am really busy right now, I have to say - I love it. I tend to get depressed when I can't find anything to do. I am not really one for sitting around, which is a statement that actually flies in its own face, because lately, I have been doing a fair amount of sitting around, much to my own disgust. Oh, and I did manage to take that swim I alluded to last week. I went on Sunday morning, and this time I managed to swim for 30 minutes...without passing out. Gee, I must be getting fitter.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Poetry Thursday - The Ramdomiser

Poetry Thursday has a new tool- The Ramdomiser, which brings up a new word prompt when the PT page is refreshed. Our task was to use our random word in a poem. I got "unfurl". What a magical word; poetic in its own right.

Creeping vine
T'ward heavens, curl
Entwining branch
In tangled whorl
While newborn ferns
Reach and unfurl
Midst shafting forest light

© Strauss
9th May 2007

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Yay me!

I had my first reality check (my phrase not theirs), this morning at Curves. I knew I was feeling so much better for going. I also believed that I was beginning to feel more toned, and my clothes weren't as tight, so I wasn't all that fussed about whether or not I had lost weight, even though I was aware of how terribly unfit I was, but as Tracey gently reminded me, "muscle weighs more than fat", so with that important mantra ringing in my ears, I walked into Curves this morning, with my head held high, for I knew I hadn't missed a yet.

I must admit though, I did actually have my fingers crossed that my body fat percentage might go down. I scored in the "poor" range at my sign up measurement; a reality that brought back humiliating high school memories of being forced to stand in line to be submitted to the dreadful "skinfold pinch test" by some insensitive physical education teacher, who then boisterously insinuated that one was a bit on the lardy side - shudder. Truly, that practice should be outlawed, it was not like anything more was done about it; the chubby ones weren't immediately told to drop and give them 20, nor were we sidelined and given a pep talk about diet and exercise, nor enrolled in a special hard slog fatties program, rather we were only given a brow beating and a tsk tsk'ed as we shuffled away with our tails between our legs.

Well, horror stories aside, I was given a reprieve this month, because I lost 4 pounds (2kgs), 5 inches (dunno the conversion) and reduced my body fat percentage by 2.1% - whoo hoo, go me! The body fat reduction saw me receive a Curves t-shirt as a reward. It was a pretty cool feeling, and other Curves devotees were congratulating me on my effort. What a great start to the day; kind of makes me regret eating those 6 chocolate chip cookies yesterday - oops.

The result encourages me to keep going, and to even see about doing a bit more. Maybe I can take a leaf out of Tracey's book and add a swim once a week for something different...although I do have some ghastly memories of when I attempted that form of exercise last time LOL. I guess I am a bit fitter this time around and not as idealistic, we'll see.

Realistically speaking, I think I should probably reap more benefits if I do take a more concerted effort with the ole diet. I don't think 6 chocolate chip cookies is good for anyone really. Do you?

Tuesday, 8 May 2007


We have a bird house hanging in the lofty cedar that basks in the sunshine, out the back door.

I really missed the parrots that flitted in and out of our yard in Australia. Their noise and colour, brought such life to our yard, and I used to encourage their return by hanging bird munchies in the Stringy Bark growing at the edge of the lawn. These munchies were bought from the store in a block, which was basically a make up of seeds, dried apple and syrupy water to hold it together - the birds loved them. Here though, the rats congregate if I put seed out and they are certainly NOT welcome.

Last year I placed the bird house in the tree and hoped it would become tenanted. I believe we were outside playing one late spring day, when a sparrow stumbled upon the bird house, inspected it inside and out, and called for an entire afternoon, to all the birds in the district, to let them know her intention of claiming this seemingly vacant abode, for herself. No one challenged her, so she made it her home.

In the summer, we started doing up our backyard, and perhaps it was the commotion coming from outside her front door, I am not really sure, but she up and left one day and never returned.

This year, as I undertook my morning ritual of gazing out the bathroom window after I shower, (I do this so I can feel the cool breeze on my hot face) I was delighted to see that the birdhouse was inhabited once more. This sparrow, lived in the house for some weeks before she determined to make a cozier nest, and I watched her one morning journeying to an fro with old twigs and brush, and forcing them through the tiny round opening at the front of her house.

Now I believe she has some chicks. From the open bathroom window, I can hear tiny peeps and the mother bird flits out in search of food and returns, perches on the edge of her house's opening; her head in and tail out, presumably feeding her young. One day I hope to bear witness to her brood taking flight.

This morning however, I observed mother bird preening herself on a thin branch nearby. She seemed relaxed and content while attending to her personal needs. Then she flew away.

Her activities lead me to ponder the themes of duty and purpose. I thought about birds and animals and wondered if they ever questioned their existence, or do they accept that this IS their purpose, and once their babies are grown and are strong enough to leave the did she feel? Was she relieved to be free of her children's demands? Was she sad that she was now alone in the world? Did she worry what would become of her many children? Did she ever long to see them again, and if she did, did they recognise her and greet her with affection? Or did she then become immediately concerned with preparations for surviving the coming winter, and come next spring, would she be filled with the insatiable desire to fulfil the destiny of mother to a brood of birds once more?

In that moment, I favoured the notion that this little sparrow knows and is quite certain of her purpose in the world, and I found myself envying her, just a little.

gobbledy goop

A few months ago I wrote this. I now believe I understand what that was all about, although perhaps these lurkings of the mind may be something of the more sinister kind. I don't mean to be mysterious, it is probably just me being overly wouldn't be the first time. I promise I will let you know the details if and when they come to pass...but don't hold your breath.

Life really can change in a day, and I know, most of us can't really predict the exact details of the future, but even still, I find myself sitting in the present moment feeling quite uneasy.

A wise person would probably let go of this feeling of great anticipation and dread, for what will be, will inevitably be, and nothing can be done about it, but I really do hate surprises. I like to be prepared, although I am also very aware that it is that which we are ill prepared for; those surprising moments, that are brought to us as gifts of change. These are our evolutionary moments..... at this sudden thought, I find my metaphorical tail suddenly wags, even if it is only ever so slightly.

I "stumbled upon" this today...makes you think.

Picture: "Fate Plays a Hand" by Gerry Charm

Sunday, 6 May 2007

The sea urchin's test

I grew up on a farm in a dry husk, set in the middle of nowhere. In those young heady days of mine, the sea was an entity of dreams; a seldom experienced sensory delight, and a memory, since the cresting waves, expansive ocean and the beach were not readily accessible. Due to this geographical glitch, the sea became something of a wonder lust to me; something that even today, makes me truly believe that I could not live without being within a short driving distance from the sea, or at least, a good sized body of water.

While the sea was too far for me to enjoy on a regular basis, my Grandparents lived on Kangaroo Island, which was many miles away. My brother and I, if we were lucky, usually visited them once a year.

My Grandparents had an expansive rural property, consisting largely of cereal crops and Suffolk sheep. Their old homestead stood atop a crest along the dusty road that hugged the island's northern coastline. In the summer, the coastal hills were carpeted in golden wheat fields that swayed in the nautical breeze, while large ships and tankers inched silently along the horizon; setting my imagination to wonder about the countries those boats were heading. What was the cargo they hauled? What did the crew do aboard the ship? Did they ever get sea sick? Were the crew leaving home with heavy hearts, or drifting toward their homelands with joyous smiles upon their faces and a special glint in their eyes?

During my time on the island, the sight of ships comforted me, as there was a slight feeling of disconnection with the rest of the world, which was in some ways a relief and in other ways disconcerting. Consequently, I could often be found sitting quietly on Gran's shady veranda wall, sending my whimsical thoughts toward the horizon and my daydreams out to sea.

My cousins lived within arms reach of my Grandparents, so whenever we visited, we would always have the opportunity to play with our cousins.

My cousins were all younger than I. The eldest of them was perhaps three years younger. I always felt that their lives were so idyllic - imagine living permanently beside the sea.

Whenever possible, I would steal away through the wheat fields to the secluded rocky bay that lay hidden at the front of my Gran's property, and wander in the company of my own self and the ocean song.

There were always mounds of seaweed strewn across the beach, but the large rocks that had collected there, made the bay dangerous and unswimmable. I enjoyed returning to that spot, regardless, as there were all kinds of sea treasures to be found in the rock pools, tangled in the seaweed, and stuck between the rocks themselves.

Collecting shells was a favourite past time of mine when visiting my Grandparents. The shells were not only beautiful and various in their uniqueness, but they also provided me with a sea connection during my absence; the salty aroma of my sea treasures bringing images of the sea; the island, and the gentle ocean lullaby, flooding right into my home in the dry husk, set in the middle of nowhere.

Finding a perfect, unscathed large shell lying within the questionable shelters of the rocky bay was always a delight, and somewhat of a miracle. The shell's survival was considered by me, to be a testament to its fate in my collecting it and looking after it, since manoeuvring its way through those unforgiving waters, without dashing itself upon the rocks seemed quite an achievement.

I remember one day, Gran took my brother and I for a walk to the rocky bay, along with our two oldest cousins, Bethany and Nicole. Bethany and Nicole didn't go down to the rocky bay all that often, as far as I was aware. They were too young to go there on their own and besides, the ocean was always there; its accessibility and permanence was taken for granted, and as far as I knew, none of my cousins collected shells.

It goes without saying, I arrived at the rocky bay with basket in hand and eyes cast down scanning the rocky coastline for shells. Bethany and Nicole, chased each other, giggling and jumping along the rocks. My brother searched in the seaweed to see what the tide had carried in for discovery. There was always plenty of old netting and floats, tin cans, old shoes and pieces of driftwood. I can't remember him ever finding anything overly exciting.

On this particular day, as my cousins ran amok, Bethany chanced upon a huge, perfectly formed and exquisitely detailed sea urchin's test. I was green with envy. In my opinion, she could have cared less about it - I was the avid shell collector, so it should have been MINE!

Gran went on about how "lucky" Bethany was to have found such a rare jewel in the rocky bay, and warned her to take care with it. Gran offered to look after it for her, but Bethany, so concerned that her sister might steal it from her, chose to hold the sea egg herself.

Bethany continued to scramble over the rocks, taunting her younger sister with the sea egg which bobbed and bounced in her hand. Nicole could not even get a close look at it before Bethany whisked it from her sight and stormed away giggling. Out of frustration Nicole threw a large piece of slippery seaweed at Bethany, and I remember watching it flip and flop through the air. Bethany turned just in time to see the slimy missile careening toward her and ducked out of the way, but the bay does not easily excuse those who are careless with its gems. While steadying herself, Bethany unfortunately trod unsteadily on a slick rock, slipping and letting go of the precious sea egg. I watched, seemingly in slow motion, as the sea egg dashed against the rocks, before being crushed by the full force of Bethany's collapsing body.

It broke my heart to think that the sea egg, which had somehow conquered the great ocean and survived the dangerous coastline before coming to rest in the rocky bay, was not ten minutes in human hands, before it was destroyed.

Bethany was not hurt by her fall, but when she saw her shattered treasure, a great wail sprang from the depths of her heart and echoed around the rocky bay, for she could see what she had done, and understood what she had lost. Bethany sobbed for the remainder of our walk in the bay, and frantically searched for a sea egg to replace the one that was no more, but her search was fruitless, and the five of us walked back through the golden wheat fields to the homestead, in silence.

Over the years that followed that incident, I often found unscathed sea eggs in the rocky bay, and I cherished each one as a reflection of the one once beheld and lost, but my finds were small and never as brilliant as the perfect giant that was Bethany's for those brief few moments. I have also wondered whether perhaps fate had intervened in that moment, not to punish Bethany for her carelessness, for she was but a child, but to demonstrate to our young minds that such things are precious, or perhaps it was something more...perhaps such things should never be taken from their natural habitat, for they are a part of the circle of life. So if turning into the pulp of the earth and grit of the ocean floor is part of that cycle, then Bethany merely hastened that process along.

For pictures of the area, check this out.

Submitted to Scribbit's May Write Away Contest.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

The edge of memory

I was having a think about my first memories last night, trying to see through the thick fog that has accumulated at the commencement of my life, to see if I were able to gather up any discernible shapes, dust them off and give them a good hard look at.

I have thought about early memories before, particularly while reading this book by Carl Jung. In it, he shares what he believes to be his earliest memory - he lying in his pram, enjoying the sun streaming through foliage as he is being pushed along.
I returned to the topic of first memories when viewing the writing challenges from Challenge #6 was called "pre-verbal", and offered these instructions: Take a pre-verbal infantile memory and set it to words. Now a few commenter's suggested that this could not in all reality, be done, and I have thought about it and, I must agree. I could offer an interpretation of the situation, but that is probably the limit of this exercise.

As far as infantile memories go, the fog thickens around the two - two and a half year mark.
I remember my 5th birthday party; being told by David Williams that I was "going to marry him. He would have a farm. I would be his wife and make his dinner". David was a nice enough boy. He was a friend. I was in no way infatuated by him, at any point in my young girlish life. I can't really detect a feeling that went only with his heartfelt demand. Perhaps I was a little shell shocked, like, "Wow, someone really wants to marry me...neat, but can make your own damn dinner!"
I remember wearing a chocolate coloured sun dress with little flowers on it, complete with GOD AWFUL frills around the straps. We had our playgroup graduation party straight after my birthday party, and so most of us went down to the school for a "Do" that the year four class was hosting. My mother didn't like David's family very much, and spent the entire party tearing us apart and steering me toward this older boy, who was the son of my Mum's friend. While we were dancing, this particular friend of the family kept lifting my arms up to peer down my dress...I didn't like it and spent the entire time trying to get clear of him, and then wrestling my arms down to the sides, in an effort to preserve my dignity.

Speaking of sundresses; I also remember one Christmas, my Aunt and Uncle giving me a grass green and white striped seersucker, floor length sundress with a frill at the bottom, and yes, it really was as ugly as it sounds. My parents made me put it on to show my Aunt and Uncle. I HATED it, and remember running away screaming and hiding behind a door. How embarrassing. I can only imagine how horrified my parents might have felt by that display. I was probably about three.

I also remember my third birthday party. The memory of my friend Vicki screaming in hysterics while my Mum was trying to take our picture, is helped along by the lasting photograph in the family album; her outstretched arms and tear streaked, traumatised face is frozen in that moment, for all eternity. I do remember her howling her head off, and wondering "what is wrong with you?"

I remember falling into my Grandparent's drain. It was a grassy trench, set at the back of their house, with a river of thick black sludge running along the bottom. I was probably a little over three years old. I don't remember the actual fall into the drain, but I do remember that I was promptly taken home in my Grandpa's ute, and being sat as far away from him as possible as we journeyed home, because I stunk. I also remember being scrubbed in a warm bath of water, smelling strongly of Dettol.
My brother and I are only 15 months apart in age. I remember this day. Not sure how old I am, perhaps three and a half. Mainly I remember cracking the absolute shits because the photographer insisted I hold the block, and I wanted the puppy. This grown man made just as big a deal, by insisting I hold the damn block, as I did, in wanting to hold the puppy. I was affronted that he should give me the insignificant inanimate-looking boring block. I wanted the cute little dog, "because ....because ....because I AM cute DAMN IT. Don't you GET IT! I am a living breathing person, not just another prop in your damn bastard." I was such a delightful child.....

I grew up on a farm in the sticks, which was surrounded by scrub. One of the summer hazards of such a location were the snakes. If you are not an Australian reading this, then you have probably heard the rumours about Australia and our venomous snakes...well those rumours are all pretty much true.

My Dad was so concerned that we would naively want to pat the "nice snakey" sunning itself somewhere, or chase one as it tried to slither away from us, that he put the fear of God into us concerning such creatures. I can not remember him warning us about snakes, but he has told me that he did, and from a very early age. It must have been a fairly grave and penetrating conversation, because I have always and continue to this day, to have a profound snake phobia. The mere slight of one slithering across the yard half a mile away, is enough to see me crumble into a screaming, panicked and terrified mess.

So befitting the theme of this post, the earliest memory that I can recall, is not from infantile days per say, but from a time when I had probably just begun my career as a steady confident walker- perhaps I was two.

It was just after lunch, and I had run outside. My parents were still sitting at the table, probably drinking coffee or something. We had a broad veranda that ran around three sides of our federation-style stone homestead. I rounded the first corner at the front of the house, when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. When I got to end of the veranda I dared look back. Confronting me was a disturbed brown snake that had most likely been curled up asleep in the sun, prior to me running past it.

From my perspective, I was trapped. I could not run back to alarm my parents of the snake that was now slithering around in front of me. I didn't really have the vocabulary at that stage, to yell exact details pertaining to the emergency occurring outside, nor the ability to communicate feelings concerning the threat to my personal safety, and so I did what every other kid my age would likely do in such a situation, which was scream my head off in blood curdling decibels, in order to get my parents off their behinds and come out and see what the hell is up. I can only imagine the conversation from inside. It would have gone something like this......

"What the hell is wrong with her NOW?"
"Probably went arse over head or something"
"So.... do you want another cuppa?"
"yeah, sure".
silence...well, besides the wall trembling screaming in the distance.

"She is still howling her bloody head off out there".
"(resigned sigh) I'll go out and see what the problem is".

"HEY! You better get out here, there's a bloody snake!"

Apparently my Dad shot the snake. He is petrified of them too. I don't remember him shooting it, although I was aware that he shot other ones. Maybe my Mum took me inside at that point, but I do remember him heaving its lifeless body over the fence on the end of a garden fork; its body writhing on the end of the fork like it were made of rubber. My Dad would then bury it somewhere out in the scrub. I always had nightmares of snakes and falling into snake filled pits, after that. Shudder.

So there you go, just a little glimpse into the early memories of the The Brave's warped little brain. I still couldn't manage to put words to an early pre-verbal memory. I think really, the best one can do is paint the scene with words, rather than implying a running dialogue. It seems to be the feeling or emotion, and the sensory aspects of those early memories that stick in mind, rather than the running commentary. What do you think?

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Poetry Thursday - Its a Free Day

This is my contribution for Poetry Thursday for this week. There was no particular theme this week. Instead we were invited to share any poem we liked.
The sunlight strains through a dust stained window
Speckled in last spring’s dried raindrops
Bruised shadows fan the entirety of a compromised chamber
Not radiant, not luminous, not exactly dull, but – gentle and subdued
They flicker as the sunlight plays with the stirring foliage outside
Like shadow puppets behind a calico screen
I could cleanse the tainted glass;
Lift the burden from its smattered lens
The light would then flood blindingly, naturally, dazzlingly
But I have become accustomed to the bruised shadows,
And they trouble you not-
Those gentle bruised shadows that dance for me.

© Strauss
10th June 2006

Tuesday, 1 May 2007


I must apologise for the lack of postings just lately, but it appears my muse has up and left the building....seriously, I got nuthin'. Do you have days like that?

Of course I have been doing stuff, but my senses, for some reason, seem to have shut down to my experiences. I usually wallow in my interactions with people; allowing their energies to wash over me like a stream over river stones, and normally I also like to bask in the glory of the natural world that surrounds me; morphing into the landscape, drinking and soaking it all in, osmosis style, but over the past couple of weeks, it just seems that I have tuned out, and I am struggling to reclaim that same reflective mind space. I am not sure what it all means, really.

In an effort to gather inspiration, I went searching for writing prompts, online. If you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, I did find this site, but even having stumbled upon these numerous ideas, I still didn't feel the energy move me to scrawl feverishly inspired ramblings or recount fantastical musings from a former existence. HELP.

Over the past couple of weeks I did complete two numerology requests, and I rather fear that the numerology muse might just have given the creative writing muse the ole hip and shoulder and ousted her from these, the most humble of lodgings, they being my head space - obviously there ain't room enough for the two of them.

Anyway, with those tasks out of the way, I would rather like to welcome the writing muse back. Perhaps I could invite her over for cake and black tea served in my best china cups. She might divulge where she has been. She may have been on a trip somewhere, and will delight me with stories of far off lands, like Egypt and Peru or Siberia.

Perhaps she has been ill or had broken her leg, and spent the past couple of weeks feeling frustrated, unable to move, while stretched out on a soft bed strewn with plump, hand-sown cushions, a heavy, feather stuffed patchwork quilt spilling around her, while her plaster covered leg hung, hoisted in the air.....I must make some room for a wheelchair, should she be in such a state when she calls upon me again.... and some ramps, she might be trying to reach me now, as I type this out; that winding metaphorical staircase, I insisted upon during the construction of my humble abode, has proven time and time again, to be impractical and rather off-putting to some - darn it!

Or perhaps she has been taking care of another, and has spent these recent days sitting vigilant in a rocking chair beside a sun-lit picture window facing a tranquil garden. Her loved one resting fitfully in a bed nearby, moving in and out of fever inspired hallucinogenic sleep. She, blotting a hot, sweat beaded forehead with a cool damp cloth whenever the need arose and spooning thin soup into a weak, dry mouth . She could do nothing more, but daydream with a lavender crocheted rug hugging her knees as she rocked in her chair, and watched the birds play in the birdbath outside. She was dutiful in her care, but will tell me of her longing to return to her day job, as my muse... yeah right. Please come back, muse.