My experiences during my year of turning 50 settled even more firmly in me a sense of connection to this land and the realisation that wherever we came from and however we got here, we’re all bound together now by its ancient and powerful colours and rhythms. That it’s layered over with all we have brought to create a complex, gritty, exquisite landscape that enfolds us gently and sometimes frightens us with its intensity.
This harsh, sparkling place
of vast blue and red
of lush green and impenetrable bush
of sheer escarpments and gentle harbours
of gorges breaking open at the centre and cliffs edging wild seas.
And of all its people and our connections with it, beginning and continuing with Indigenous people who carry the heart of it in their ancestry and have known its songs for tens of thousands of years. Through then to all of us whether we live in country or city, enjoy hardcore music or classical, love sport or opera or all of the above and anything and everything in between and beyond.
Doing what I did brought childhood memories percolating to the surface. There was pleasure and anguish in equal part.
Looking at the photographs from my childhood I wondered where that curly headed kid with the big grin is in the person I am today. Maybe it’s that i’m like a place too, layered over with all that’s happened to me..not at all exquisite but complex and gritty and possessed of my own colours and rhythms.
I could see too, the scattered seeds of childhood still bearing fruit more than four decades on, in lighthouses and galleries, theatre and walks by water. I was reminded, that whatever came later, they were the gift of a happy childhood in which I felt loved and valued and was given wonderful experiences.
From the perspective of here and now, I could see how example and inheritance have tracked under my life like runners, sending up bright new shoots and forming tangled branches.
For I am the granddaughter of Pearlie. I’ll never possess her capacity for care and her unfailing kindness but they can inspire me to do better and to be better. I didn’t inherit my paternal grandfathers blue eyes but I can carry on his legacy of letter writing and strive to act with the kind of integrity and courage he showed. I’ve even been reliably informed that when pushed too far my usually open and I hope, friendly brown eyes narrow with a glint of steel. Perhaps more of my maternal grandfather resides in me than I would care to admit.
Who made me expect the education that had been denied to her by her father.
Who drove us from the suburbs to the city each week so we could be taught piano by the fabulous Mrs Fomenko. Who took us to see Warren Mitchell play King Lear and read me to sleep with tales of Hobbits and worlds through wardrobes and gumnuts and Banksia men and Aboriginal children encountering the spirits of the bush.
Who, though we didn’t have much money set out silver serviette rings engraved with our names for everyday use. Who settled me into crisp clean sheets when I was sick and gave me the Wedgwood blue bell to ring.
A woman who took us with her on visits to Sheila who was in hospital for decades with Huntington’s disease. Who gathered up untethered people and brought them into our family life.
At the time of the accident my mother was running a centre to support mothers and children. Just months before, she’d been showing Princess Ann around it. A media throng gathered, people clambered onto roofs for a rare glimpse of royalty and a politician soon to be jailed for corruption strutted the street in pursuit of reflected glory.
None of us know what’s coming.
None of us can imagine that a lifetime can be suspended in a moment.
The experiences I had during my year of doing 50 new things for turning 50 reminded me that the best I can do is to
honour the past and take what strength I can from it
persevere in the present with humour and finding pleasures both sought out and stumbled upon..and
be grateful for a future
whatever it brings.