Clear water –
Memories of another life
I took these photos a couple of weeks ago. I had been planning to arrive for a sunset shoot but I ended up being slightly late and missed it. The dusk was still beautiful though and I think the photos turned out well anyway as the light was so interesting.
It was a bit of a strange photowalk for me as this part of Pinny Beach actually adjoins Caves Beach, the suburb in Lake Macquarie where my mother and I stayed with my grandparents after we had to leave Sydney following my father’s suicide attempt.
It was actually almost exactly five years to the day that we left Sydney when I took these photos and going back was a bit surreal. Caves Beach is a beautiful, peaceful place but it was not a happy time and I still see echoes of our experiences there when I walk around, particularly of our early days there and my grandparents’ dementia.
In retrospect I probably should have picked a different day and week to go but I’m glad these photos came out of it at least. Photography has been one thing that has really helped me to process and heal during these last five years… it’s very cathartic and I’m glad that I could capture the beauty there that day. Five years ago I probably wouldn’t have been able to recognise it and I guess that shows how far I’ve come.
If you’re wondering what inspired this poem, I wanted to write something different than I had written before. I have been feeling unwell recently and I wanted to write an honest examination of life, with all of its ups and downs.
It’s about me, an exploration of who I am as a person, but it’s also about everyone. I wanted it to feel personal but also to mean something different to everyone who reads it.
I hope you enjoyed the poem and that it means something unique to you, as it does to me.
I have been following the scenes coming out of Gaza closely during the last five days. Like most people I have been stunned by how the situation has deteriorated so quickly… this period has been the bloodiest I can remember. I had hoped that a brief ceasefire might be reached to allow humanitarian aid through but that now seems to have been rejected. So far the air strikes have killed more than 390 Palestinians (60 civilians) and injured more than 1900, while more than than 250 rockets and mortar rounds have been fired into Israeli territory, killing 4 people and wounding dozens. The devastation has also overwhelmed hospitals and more supplies are desperately needed.
To be honest it’s happened so quickly that I’m not sure what to make of it all. I support Israel’s need to defend itself but I was caught off-guard by the sheer ferocity of the air strikes; in an area as densely populated as Gaza I would have thought Israel could have shown more restraint. Then again, no country in the world would allow its citizens to come under daily rocket attack and I’d expect a strong response from Israel, particularly when the rockets can reach as far as schools and kindergartens as we saw today. I just wish there was more of a humanitarian effort as well. And now the rocket attacks are penetrating farther than ever before. The whole situation is just chaotic and I feel sorry for the civilians caught in the middle on both sides.
Right now it seems that the best hope for a ceasefire lies with the UN and the European Union, while the US tries to bring pressure to bear on both sides for a more lasting agreement. I hope some kind of agreement can be reached but, with this ceasefire rejected, I doubt it will be for several days… and right now it only seems to be escalating. In the meantime I’ve signed a petition with Avaaz calling on both sides to stop the violence; reading about the destruction, watching the scenes, I just felt like I had to do something, and though it’s only a small thing I hope in some way it makes a difference.
The Economy: The Big Story of 2008
Watching what’s happening in Gaza at the moment has made me realise just how quickly 2008 went by. It’s hard to believe it’s already 2009, isn’t it? This time last year Benazir Bhutto’s assassination had triggered a deadly wave of violence in Pakistan. Can that really have been only a year ago? So much has happened since then that it feels like so much longer. But we’ve had the fireworks and music, so it really must be 2009.
Most years I find that events tend to blur together as the year passes and the memories aren’t as fresh for me by the end but despite 2008 being a busy year, it’s still vivid in my mind. It’s been a sad year in many ways; there have been moments of hope but I think looking back the overwhelming memories I have of 2008 are of pain and sorrow. I think they shall linger for some time
Of course the biggest story of 2008 was the economic crisis. Watching the scenes from the US as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other institutions started to go under was chilling; not only did it have implications for the global economy but these were ordinary people losing their money and jobs. And then of course the proverbial shit really hit the fan; the global stockmarkets crashed, thousands of jobs were cut, overseas banks were being nationalised or filing for bankruptcy, suddenly we were all talking about the R world, “recession” – and then there was the bailout which caused all kinds of consternation. And that was just in September.
It’s been a remarkable period and has been terrible for the people directly affected but I think it serves as something of a warning to the rest of us as well; we are extremely lucky to enjoy our lifestyle in the West but with that comes the danger of excess and perhaps this is a wakeup call for all of us. 2009 will be a difficult year with the rise in unemployment and living costs but if we learn the lessons from this crisis then perhaps some good can still come from it as well. There are more important things in life, after all.
Heath Ledger’s death is also something that still lingers in my mind. As I said at the time Heath was someone I had grown up watching; I saw him in Sweat, his first major role, and most of his films after that. We were only a few years apart in age, so his death at only 28 had a strong impact on me. I thought his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight was mesmerising, and sadly tragic, but it’s his performances in Brokeback Mountain and Monster’s Ball that I’ll remember best. His loss is a profound one for our film industry, one I feel we still have yet to fully recover from nearly a year on.
By far the worst news of the year for me was the devastation in Burma and China. The destruction Cyclone Nargis caused was particularly overwhelming, killing more than 150,000 people (and by some estimates almost a million). I’ll never forget the Burmese authorities claiming that they “weren’t ready to accept” foreign aid workers into the country even while Burma had clearly suffered a monumental humanitarian disaster. And then only days later an earthquake flattened schools and villages in China, killing 87,000 people (19,000 children). The scenes in China were some of the most heartbreaking I have ever seen, with entire schools destroyed and parents weeping.
Like everyone else I was stunned and saddened by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai as well. To see a metropolis of 12 million people brought to its knees for three days, particularly a city with such heritage and prestige as Mumbai, was troubling, as was the sheer scale of the attacks; a series of ten coordinated attacks leaving 178 dead and 308 injured. Then to see the peace that had started to form between Pakistan and India beginning to unravel was even more troubling… it is something the world cannot allow to happen.
2008 brought with it some interesting stories and moments as well. For Australians one moment was in February when the Federal government finally apologised to Indigenous Australians for the Stolen Generations. The apology was long overdue and while it’s only one step toward reconciliation, it is a moment I’ll never forget. Then in September we started to hear more about the Large Hadron Collider beneath the Franco-Swiss border, a particle accelerator which we were told could create an artificial black hole… and might destroy the world! Well, it didn’t (obviously); problem was, it didn’t work either – it sprung a leak and they’re going to try again in June. Great.
Also in July Thomas Beatie, the “Pregnant Man”, was rushed to hospital and delivered a healthy baby girl amidst a storm of controversy. Beatie was born a woman but kept his female reproductive organs after undergoing hormone treatments ten years earlier to become a man and conceived his daughter through artificial insemination. I actually found the process interesting and didn’t quite get what all the fuss was about; but then I like weird science. For those who are interested, Beatie is now pregnant with his second child.
But of course the reason most of us will remember 2008 is because of Barack Obama. To achieve what he has achieved is an incredible thing; to have an African American President is something many people did not think was possible and to see the tears on so many faces still moves me even now. It’s a moment in history for America and the world and I think no matter what your political persuasion is, that is something to be proud of. Of course one moment changes nothing; there is still racism and always will be, and we don’t know what kind of president Obama will be yet. But that doesn’t change the fact that November 4 was an historic moment, one I and I’m sure millions of people will always remember.
There were other stories as well. Paul Newman and Sydney Pollack both passed away, as did Arthur C. Clarke. Russia’s incursion into Georgia resulted in more than 500 civilian deaths. The Beijing Olympics were held in August; Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt ruled the world, while the Games themselves were overshadowed by issues far greater than sport. And Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer fought the greatest Wimbledon final ever, a match that lasted over 4 1/2 hours and ended in darkness; Nadal was a deserved winner.
Personally 2008 was a difficult year for me as well. I was ill for most of the year, which was frustrating; my work suffered and I’ve not been able to write at my normal speed for some time now. My grandmother nearly died and required an amputation and I also lost a friendship which meant a great deal to me; both events made me think about what was really important in my life. After a serious fire and several things with my family as well, it has been an exhausting year. So I’m quite happy to say goodbye to 2008.
I think the problems I have had through this year, though, have actually helped me overall. They’ve helped me to find strength in places that I didn’t know I had and I know I can rely on myself more than I believed I could before. I feel like I’ve turned a few negatives into positives and grown as a person, which is more than I could have hoped for from this last year all told.
So that was 2008 from my point of view. A busy year and a sad year, but also one with its moments of hope. As far as 2009 goes I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions but I do have some hopes to stay true to. I’d like to be in good health and happiness; to trust in myself and my abilities; to not take bullshit from anyone; to be good to others and to help where I can; to find someone to love. I do have one very big ambition for 2009 and that is to write something I can send away to an agent; I feel like I’m finally ready and after developing an idea for several years, I want to tackle my first novel.
Globally I hope 2009 is a more peaceful year than 2008 was. At some stage there will be a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas; it’s just a matter of time and, unfortunately, lives, and we just have to hope that it is sooner rather than later. Hopefully the economy will begin to stabilise and peoples’ lives can find some kind of normalcy again. I also hope that Obama’s transition to the presidency will be smooth and he can start bringing people together after so much division. I’m also looking forward to the release of the new Star Trek film (Spock!) and can’t wait for Wimbledon. Hope it’s as good as last year.
So Happy New Year everyone! Thank you for being a part of my 2008 and I hope you all have a peaceful and safe 2009. 😉
I almost can’t believe it has been seven years since 9/11. It’s gone so quickly; the memories and emotions are still so raw. And yet so much has happened in the seven years. It feels like a different world now; less innocent and sure of itself. That one moment changed so much.
I still remember it so clearly. My parents told me there had been an explosion at the World Trade Center; I came through to watch just as the second plane struck. For hours we just sat there, feeling helpless and numb. My thoughts went to my friends in America and while they were okay, it seemed like everyone knew someone who had been affected by the attacks.
What I remember most about 9/11 is actually the following day, September 12. As it happened during our night there wasn’t much information available until the 12th our time. All during that day, wherever you went, people were stunned. That an attack like 9/11 might happen somewhere had always been a grim possibility but the extent was beyond anyone’s worst fears.
As time passed we heard about the signs people missed but I try not to think about them too much. I don’t think anything could have stopped 9/11; contained the damage, perhaps, but not stopped it. While knowing where the agencies and bureaucracy went wrong is important, it’s easy to focus on that so much that we forget the human impact as well.
Almost 3000 people died on 9/11 but it means so much more than that… the husbands and wives who never went home, the fire fighters and police officers who gave their lives. I can’t imagine what it must be like, to live with the grief the families must still feel… to watch your child grow up without their mother or father. It must be heart-breaking.
I started to write this poem for last year’s anniversary but it was never quite what I wanted it to be. I’m happier with it now; I decided to post it on the 12th instead as it’s about the day after the attacks and learning to live with the grief. I hope it is a respectful tribute to the people who died and their families. May we never forget them.
In my dreams I see a distant land
Surrounded by a vast ocean and shadows
On the sands of that desolate place
Lies the wreck of an old galleon
Tall and shattered, all that remains
Is its weathered and half-buried frame
A relic from an ancient past
That no one remembers
What brought it here I do not know
Nor what became of its prized cargo
Of gold, sandalwood and cinnamon,
And slaves taken far from their homes
It seems a sad fate; but if you listen carefully
Sometimes you can still hear its stories
Whispered on the wind
Whilst it stands sentry over the night
Far in the distance a small cemetery
Marks the last resting place of the dead,
A wooden cross beside each grave
Watching over their nameless remains
How many survived and for how long
Is something only the sands can know;
I can only imagine how it must have felt
To be destined to die alone
Have you ever thought about the music in your life? We all have our favourite songs and albums but then there’s the music that we remember because of what it meant to us at certain times in our lives, the soundtrack to our lives.
I wrote a post a while ago about the soundtrack to my life but I thought afterward that it felt incomplete; it was a list of songs I remembered playing during my life but they weren’t all my favourite songs, the ones that really mean something to me.
So I thought I’d do a second list. These are the 10 songs I think best reflect my life, who I am up until now. It was harder to do than I thought but it was a lot of fun too. I wonder what your list would be? 😉
Fall At Your Feet
Crowded House The finger of blame has turned upon itself
And I’m more than willing to offer myself
Do you want my presence or need my help?
Coldplay Running in circles, coming up tails Heads on the science apart
Big Yellow Taxi
Joni Mitchell Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
Queen & David Bowie And love dares you to change our way
Of caring about ourselves
Alphaville Praising our leaders, we’re getting in tune
The music’s played by the madmen
Indio Bound down and flew away the hours
Of her garden and her sun
Sarah Blasko You say that our love can’t be a pattern in your palm
You say that our love, you say that our love, is only mapped
Fleetwood Mac If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well the landslide will bring it down
Waiting On The World To Change
John Mayer We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it
Where The Streets Have No Name
U2 I’ll show you a place
High on a desert plain
Where the streets have no name
Does anyone else have a problem remembering dates? I always used to have a good memory but for some reason recently I’ve just been going blank. I forgot a couple of birthdays last year, was late for several appointments I shouldn’t have forgotten, and the last few weeks have got into the bad habit of using the wrong date when I sign my signature.
But this has to beat all of them. My blog turned one a few days ago – and I completely forgot! I see the date every time I look at my profile but I couldn’t remember. Maybe I should start doing more crosswords or sudoku or something. My poor blog deserves better.
The only reason I remembered at all was because I’ve had a bit of a mystery to solve over the last few days. I’ve been seeing a notification that my domain mapping is about to expire as it’s been a year and I went to purchase the credits for the upgrade again… only there were already 10 credits in my account. For a moment I thought I’d forgotten buying them but I know I didn’t; I went back through my PayPal receipts and the last time I bought anything on WordPress was in November and that was for another domain.
So where did the credits come from? I’m still not sure. I thought it might have been a gift but wouldn’t I get an email about it? Or perhaps it was a glitch and some of my old credits reappeared? That could happen but to cover the exact amount for the domain mapping? The only thing I can think of is that perhaps staff did it, but that doesn’t make much sense either… anyone else have any ideas? There might be something simple I’m missing.
Anyway, the mystery made me realise it’s been a year since I started this blog, so Happy Blogday! We need music. Where’s Madonna’s Holiday? I know it’s on my iPod somewhere… 😉 It really doesn’t feel like a year; the community around WP is wonderful and the time’s gone so quickly. If anyone’s interested in the stats, so far the blog’s had 10,854 views, with 145 posts, 401 comments and 3,333 spam. My most viewed post is this one; this is my favourite.
The blog’s changed a lot since it started; originally it was a mix of a portfolio and a column, but now it’s really a window to my thoughts on life and society… there’s more of myself in it now and I never imagined receiving such wonderful feedback, meeting so many interesting people. So here’s to the next year! Let’s hope it’s even better than the first. 🙂
So it’s 7AM and the celebrations have just finished around Sydney Harbour, ringing in the new year. The fireworks were dazzling, and loud as usual; I’m about forty minutes outside of the CBD and could still hear them going off. Normally I don’t get carried away with the fireworks but they were impressive this year, although I’m still not sure what the graphic in the middle of the bridge was supposed to be… I thought it turned into Bart Simpson for a moment!
I still can’t believe it’s 2008 already. 2007’s gone so fast, much faster than I remember with previous years. For some reason I don’t feel like I’ve achieved as much this past year. Strange because I’ve probably achieved more than I have in other years. But I feel like I have more to be thankful for as well – family, friends -, so I’m quite happy with that.
I was thinking earlier about everything that’s happened in 2007… usually events seem to blur together as the year goes on, but there are a few things that stick out. The blood-red eclipse we had back in August was spectacular and something I’ll never forget; it was clear and you could see the whole sphere of the moon against the night. Seeing players like Warne, Langer and McGrath retire at the SCG and Roger Federer continuing to dominate tennis is something I doubt I’ll see again in my lifetime. One of my favourite words, w00t, was crowned word of the year by Merriam-Webster. And there was a funny story about Stephen King making a visit to Australia and stopping off in a bookshop to sign copies of his books – only to be mistaken for a vandal.
What I’ll remember more than anything, though, were the scenes out of Burma as the monks and students protested. The violence that followed was appalling; I’ll never forget the blood on the streets, the chaos as the police attacked with batons and bullets and tear gas. It seems to have been forgotten or pushed aside now, but I’ll never forget it. Matchbox Twenty’s How Far We’ve Come came out right at that time; whenever I hear that song, I think of Yangon.
As far as 2008 goes, I don’t have many resolutions, just some thoughts about myself to stay true to. I want to be more thankful for the things I have; to not regret my mistakes but learn from them; to not wonder what people think of me but be content with who I am; to accept when something isn’t in my control and trust it; and to write, damn it, write!
I haven’t written as much as I’d have liked over the last six months and I want to get back into the flow again, to tell stories. But one thing I’ve found is that this blog has helped to fill the void while I haven’t been writing. I’m exploring similar ideas in a different way and it’s a wonderful outlet, much more so than I realised at the beginning. A big part of that is knowing I have readers, and I’m grateful to everyone for your support and the discussions we share around the community.
So Happy New Year! May 2008 be a bright and peaceful year for you, and here’s to the journey ahead. 🙂
I’ve had a couple of strange experiences this week. Nothing that would make you wonder if it’s a full moon or something, but strange enough that they’ve stood out. They’re actually related and that’s part of what I find strange.
The first thing happened when I was finishing the last of my Christmas shopping a couple of days ago. I decided I’d get the bus back as it was late and I had a few things to carry. It was fairly busy and a mother and her baby sat in front of me. The baby seemed fascinated by my appearance. Maybe it’s the beard or maybe he thought I was particularly ugly but he just stared at me the whole time. Have you ever had a kid just stare at you? It’s freaky. I didn’t know where to look, so I looked out the window and every now and then glanced back. He didn’t move. I swear this kid could break someone in Guantánamo.
Anyway, after about ten minutes they started to get off, her balancing several bags and the kid in one arm and trying to pick up the stroller with her other hand. I got up and offered to carry the stroller down for her; she looked stunned that I’d offer. So I carried it down and she thanked me, but still seemed surprised that I’d want to help. I didn’t say anything but as I returned to my seat, I couldn’t help but wonder why she thought it strange that I’d help. Was it something about me that made her think I wasn’t the kind of person who’d notice she needed help? Or was she just surprised that anyone would help? I suppose I’ll never know, but no one else moved, not even the driver… I found that very strange. There were at least thirty other people on the bus and twenty near where she was sitting. Are we really so involved in our own worlds that we wouldn’t think to help a mother who obviously needed it? Or did they all think that someone else would do it? I don’t know which is worse.
The second thing happened a day later. I was out again and on my way to browse in a couple of bookshops to kill some time. A woman and I both reached the escalator at the same time; I had a little more room and probably could have gone first, but I stepped back and let her go. She looked at me with that same look on her face: half-bewilderment, half-smile, like I’d just done something very unexpected. Maybe I had but it’s actually something I do a lot, for men and women. It’s partly because I try to be polite but also because I don’t like getting bumped on the escalators; I’ve lost my balance several times when somebody’s brushed past me, so I find it easier just to let them go first.
It was only a small thing, but again it struck me as strange. Is it really so unusual that someone would do that? Are we so used to forming long queues and yelling at each other on the roads that when someone gives way, it feels unexpected?
Truthfully I wouldn’t have thought much of it, except that two similar things had happened in as many days and now it’s got inside my head. I don’t believe in coincidences and it’s made me wonder if courtesy is slowly dying. Well, not wonder; I know it is. There’s no doubt that people aren’t as polite to each other and when they are, it often feels fake. No doubt that people speak to each other more harshly and are always in a hurry; no doubt that we spend a lot of our time listening to music inside our heads, unaware of what’s going on around us… I just hadn’t realised that it had come so far as to seem strange when someone actually did a kind act. Shouldn’t it be the other way round?
What it’s made me think about as well is courage. I’ve said before that I think it’s much harder to do the right thing, to make a right decision, than it is to do the wrong thing or make a wrong decision. There are many different ways of approaching something; there might be many favourable outcomes, but I would say there are many more unfavourable ones because there are so many obstacles that can get in our way. Sometimes you need to back yourself and go ahead no matter what people say, or do something you know is right when everyone disagrees.
I’m not going to say that anything I did was courageous, but I think you need a bit of courage to perform a kind act. You need not to be afraid that you’ll make a fool out of yourself (always possible) and to believe that you can help. Sometimes you need to swallow your pride and do what has to be done. And sometimes you need to stand up for what you believe in even when it might seem better to stay quiet. How many disadvantaged people have been helped because someone took the time to listen? How many small acts of kindness have changed lives because someone had the courage to say “I want to help”? More than we’ll ever know.
Maybe I’m making a big deal out of two small experiences, but I find it very sad to think that common courtesy is becoming a thing of the past. This isn’t me lamenting the death of society or how inconsiderate people my age are; if anything I think the opposite. I just think that the way we deal with each other says so much for who we are, for who I am as a person. I can go round listening to my iPod quite comfortably and not notice anything outside of it; I bristle when someone says something harsh to me like anyone else, and I can just as easily say something harsh back. Sometimes that’s entirely appropriate. But the way I behave affects other people too; carrying a stroller or letting someone go first is such a small thing, but can make such a difference. Both those women were surprised but pleased; my doing one nice thing for them gave them a good feeling. It would have been easy for me to do neither, and it wouldn’t necessarily have been wrong, but I think the world would be a much colder and sadder place to live in without those small acts of kindness. So I help where I can.
With Christmas so near it’s simple to get caught up in the frenzy and forget about the impact we can have on other people, so I think it’s important that we make the effort to be polite and helpful if we can. It’s not easy with all the noise and music and people, but a kind word or gesture can make all the difference in someone’s day. So my resolution from now until Christmas (and beyond!) is to try and do something nice for someone each day. A stranger, a friend, whoever, I want to show that courtesy isn’t completely dead. Anyone want to join me? 😉