Tag: writing

Markings

Something I wrote a while ago, that I’d love to finish. If you have a weak belly, here is the warning. WARNING. There you go.

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I killed her on a Tuesday night. It was quiet and the air stank of rising damp and mangrove roots.

Mariella could not understand why I had to take her.

As the knife glided across her throat, blood spilled onto the rocks by the edge of the river. By the time midnight had come, the river was running red.

She wanted to know so many things, which at the time, I could tell her. Peeling away the layers of my black heart, there are no sharp answers; only a fog of what seemed right at the time. Mariella had become an informant, putting our family in jeopardy. She had retreated to a house by the river, interstate. She knew she wasn’t free, but maybe she realised that sometimes the best place to live, is the best place to die.

When she begged for her life and screamed for her mother, my spine turned to mush. I could see the little girl she had once been, and Nikko stared through me with his dead eyes, just as I had looked at him with mine. We both knew he wouldn’t do it; that he couldn’t do it.

Mariella cried for so many things. She cried out for her mother and her baby daughter. She cried out for her best friend, but I could not answer. If I had an answer, it is one I cannot remember. Perhaps it will come to me as I tell you my story.

It all seemed so simple. I loved her, but it was not enough.

All I remember is the code. It had been burned into my head – into all of our heads and it had been branded onto my chest with ink and hot irons where my arms and face told a story of how I had risen through the ranks. I do not remember if I was conscripted or whether I enlisted. Small details like that escape me and are not easily remembered, but they bubble and surface when you’re thinking about something entirely different. Like flowers or how moths fly toward the light.

One of my brothers spread out his tool kit, snapping her teeth with pliers one by one until she could no longer speak. The noises that escaped her mouth, along with the sprays of blood, came from a place I never thought I would hear or see. Not a groan. More like a guttural scream.

Where I came to be was touted as a gang. But in the end, it was my family. I had brothers, sisters, and a father. I was given tasks, orders, instructions, and I followed the code. I still felt the sting from where three tears had been tattooed on my cheek. I didn’t feel the sting when the needles hit my face, but I was a different person then. Pain was my friend; an odd ally. Heroin would numb me, and speed would pump me. But when the high waned, I was alone again with my thoughts, certain that what I was doing was wrong.

I was told I had a good face for killing. My eyes were kind. ‘People will trust you’, my father would say. When I was first recruited, my face didn’t have any of the sharpness it now had. My cheeks were soft and plump, ideal for cushioning the black ink of homeland markings, but within the course of three years, my lips had shrivelled and my nose was cracked from beatings and the sun.

It took a long time for my brain to stand to reason; to realise what I was doing was wrong.

I had been beaten, burnt, stabbed and shot, but it had never been clear to me that what I was doing – and what I had been ordered to do – was not right. I ask myself every day, if you live it, do you become it? My brothers and sisters would grab fistfuls of leaves; clutching at them like money, as heavy as the earth.

I knew I was home when I could no longer smell the river.

The turning of tides

I can feel the ground beneath my feet opening up to greet me; as though it is ready for me to step in and entangle me with its roots.

I am a very different woman than who I was the last time I was out here in central Queensland. Five years ago I was broken from a damaging relationship. After my spirit been chipped away, there was only one place I could think of that could even remotely begin to heal me, and that was my dear friend Meagan’s parents cattle station out in central Queensland. I needed to get out of the city and out of my head, because there’s only so much introspection you can do. And I didn’t want to talk. To anyone. My problem, my issue, my silence, my choice.

So this is what I did next – I hopped on a train and made my way out west. I was still mired in shock that the cancer surgery I’d had the previous November had come so close to claiming my life, I was afraid of life and death, and I was writing a book about the death of a child in a car crash. Reading coroners reports and interviewing first responders as well as the family of the child wasn’t conducive to healing, but I needed something to keep my head above the waterline that kept lapping at my throat until it reached my nostrils. I managed to keep the water from lapping at my neck.

I needed to heal from the outside in.

This year has been one of great change, both personally and professionally. I’ve ended friendships that no longer served me and focused on my ‘real’ friendships. I took an indefinite hiatus from social media – namely Facebook, and by doing that, it came to light who my true friends are. I surmised that if someone wants to be in my life, they’ll make the effort, just as I make the effort to be in theirs.

Life deviates. Our sails adjust. We change course.

Had someone told me last year that I’d be studying human services, I would have questioned their state of mind, but in order to pursue my dream of studying palliative care at Flinders University in Adelaide, I’m preparing by studying a graduate certificate in human services – effectively ensconced in the field of community services, specifically health.

Life deviates. Our sails adjust. We change course.

You think you have your life in order. I thought I had my career as a writer carved into the skin of an elephant, but everything changed when I discovered Karuna – a hospice for the dying. I knew I’d found my purpose. It’s a slow process, and over the past few of years, I’ve completed levels one and two of ‘Spiritual Care with the Dying’ through Karuna and next  there’s an intensive family volunteer program I want to do so I can finally start working with the dying and their families. I liken it to being a death midwife. It’s just as important to die a good death as it is to live a good life.

Karuna was a life-altering experience. As I walked into the grounds, I came home. I had found my place in the world and my passion – palliative care. I walked into Karuna’s beautiful homestead a very frightened woman. Ever since I’d missed death by a hairs breadth in 2007, I had never been more afraid of death and dying. But I left Karuna feeling liberated, empowered and fearless.

The plan? I don’t know yet. My passion for palliative care has of late, taken a sharp turn into the welfare of Indigenous people and the gaping chasm of palliative care in rural areas, but again …

Life deviates. Our sails adjust. We change course.

In February, I did a Vipassana – a ten-day silent meditation ‘retreat’. It was one of the most trying things I’ve ever done spiritually, but I left Dhamma Rasmi liberated from my past and far more mindful of the present. I walked out of there a free woman.

I acknowledge that I am at the beginning of this journey. I acknowledge that I am a novice when it comes to medical palliative care. I’ve been accumulating and reading an ever-growing stack of material about the massive chasm in Indigenous palliative care, and I’m well aware that I’m very much at the beginning of what I know will be a life changing journey.

You calculate the risks in your head and your heart, and this makes you a passion hunter. FIND your deeper purpose. Deviate your life, adjust your sails and change course. Close the door on things and people who don’t serve or support your passions, hopes and desires, but be mindful to practice kindness and compassion. If I had to choose a religion, I would choose kindness and compassion. Kindness is my religion. I’m blessed to know where my passions lie and how to go about chasing them and bringing them to the forefront of my life.

My relationship with my family – especially my sister – has evolved to a level where we are closer than ever. My sister and I support both our individual and shared passions; encouraging each other to jump, or in her case – sprint – out of our comfort zones and just go for it. I couldn’t be more proud of her and what she has achieved throughout this year. She’s deviated her life, adjusted her sails and changed course. We both have.

I’m now in a place where my writing plays a far different role in my life. I will always write. Words are like cordite in my blood. That nitroglycerin and cellulose-nitrate never stops steaming; it’s just that novels don’t seem to be as important as my studies and the direction they’re taking me.

Deviate your life. Adjust your sails. Change course. Dig your feet in. Be fearless and claim your passion.

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EXTRA-ordinary

So yesterday was an ordinary day. Except that it was amazing. I was up at sparrows, caught up with a couple of girlfriends where I had chocolate fudge cake for breakfast (thank you, Larissa – baking champion!), I finished packing up the car for my trip down to the farm so I can head to the Byron Bay writers festival today and over the weekend; had a heavenly morning tea and brain storming session with my beautiful sister, then I hotfooted it over to a dear friends place to meet his and his fiancés baby boy.

Now this was special, because I was bestowed the honour of being one of Nicholas’s ‘ninangs’ (godparent in Filipino), where with some very dear friends and my mum gathered to share the yummiest of lunches as we ogled young Nicholas. He’s a beauty! Here’s Bec (also scrumptious) and I with bub just before lunch was served. He’s so gorgeous we wanted to have him for dessert!

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After lunch, I jumped in my car and made the drive to my friends farm where I was greeted by two very excitable pups, a roaring fire, tea and hugs. And this is how I ended my night (cuppa and pups not in frame).

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So why was today so extraordinary? It was normal. I wasn’t plagued by pain or headaches, I had energy that I almost didn’t know what to do with, and I got to see some of my most favourite people in the world. I met a new human being, and as we looked into each others eyes, I knew we had met before. It was as though we had reconnected, but no time had passed.

Is this how people feel most days? Full of beans and not wanting to stop because you’re afraid that if you do you won’t get up again? Like John Denver sings – ‘some days are diamonds, some days are stone.’ Yesterday was one big, fat diamond.

Now it’s time to head into Byron to be a cafe dog with Hyperactive Harry – the dog who can (and does) chew through all manner of inedible stuff that he somehow finds delicious. Leather collars, computer chargers, kindles … you name it, he’s tried to chew through it. Then it’s off to the writers fest, which has a superb line up. Hooray for the ordinary!

The perils of writing a book that can (but doesn’t always) mess with your head

You know that you’re dedicated ready to be committed when you’re writing a book and the following things happen. Things that don’t seem to perturb you, even though they should.

– you conduct all business from bed. Phone calls, emails, conference calls, interviews, reading coroners reports and court transcripts, skype sex or any sex for that matter.

– you realise that strawberry breaka’s are your poor man’s smack.

– you fly into a panic when there is no caffeine in the house.

– you think to yourself that the tiny spots of mould on those crumpets really aren’t that bad. You will just excise them with a knife, surgical style, as one would a melanoma.

– you don’t know what the weather is doing until you go to the BOM website.

– when midnight is ‘turning in early’.

– you feel guilty for reading fiction.

– you hold off on having a shower. For two days.

– you start writing a short story titled ‘Fuck you, you fucking fuck’, and end it there, because you’re happy you wrote anything at all.

– you write haiku for yourself.

– you begin to believe in astrology a little too much.

– you haven’t eaten vegetables in a week and look like you have scurvy.

– you go to the supermarket in your Ugg boots. While wearing your pyjama pants that you try to pass off as ‘leisure wear’.

I’m happy to say that this behaviour was when I was stuck in the hell that was ‘Jet’s Lore’ and that times have changed (aside from the supermarket in pj’s thing, because really – who gives a fuck in West End, anyway?)

These days I’m more than likely in the kitchen being a Vitaminx and blending all manner of veggies, clay and super greens into smithereens, drinking pots of tea, having early nights and early mornings, not watching t.v, trying my best to not eat wheat, but sometimes baked goods just make their way into my hands, mouth and belly … and though there are some days where I can barely breathe because of what I’m remembering and writing, I get out and about and cry in cafes instead of at my desk.

Apologies to Pear cafe and Blackstar, who had me as their poet in residence for six months; Avid Reader, Specialty Cup and that one place in Toowoomba where I lost my shit over brekkie last July on my solo sojourn to the Garden City. Blessed be that I had the Review section of The Australian to stuff in front of my face which I pretended to read so my fellow diners didn’t have to see my squished up crying and ‘looking-like-a-hog’ face. I’m very selective about where I do my public crying. It doesn’t happen often, and nor does private crying – about sadness, anyway. I cry often about joy and miracles and love and kindness. I weep for the magic that happens every day, because I did too much crying as a kid to lose any more tears over things that are sorrowful. Bring on the magic, I say and as Dallas Green affirms – ‘Bring me your love’ ♥

two haiku

11.4.12

Contagious teeth –

spears in my mouth go to waste

suffer without colour .

 

12.4.12

Coloured letters stacked

between sacks of coffee

speak to me like little birds.