March 2015 archive

Sensitivity, skin deep

Yesterday, I was trying to find out what
was wrong with the vacuum cleaner, one of those whizz bang Dyson things that’s
meant to pick up pet hair, and somehow in the process, the suction peeled off
skin from my finger.
It seemed a minor injury.  It was a minor injury but the pain I felt
through this injury is nothing less than ten out ten, whenever the skinned part comes
in contact with water or anything other than fresh air. 
And twenty-four hours later it
still weeps.

I told my husband it felt like a burn.  I’m familiar with them.  I’ve burned myself often enough over the stove
while cooking, but this is a new one. 
I think of St Bartholomew, the
apostle allegedly skinned alive for spreading his faith.
The nerve endings in our skin must
be vast, or maybe not on our skin, so much as directly under our skin. 
Just below the epidermis lies a
land of sensitivity that’s enough to make your heart and body break.  It’s only a small wound, as I say, and I’m
sure in time it’ll be fine.  but under this
morning’s shower…
 For now it has stopped hurting because I hold
my finger gently above the other fingers, give it air, and freedom from further
abrasion. 
Speaking of which, there have been
a few of late, abrasions that is.  More
the familial kind.  We are having a
battle in my family of origin about the nature of our family archive. 
To me an archive is a collection
box for memories of the past, but my older brother wants it to have a more
formal ring.  He wants it to include only
historical documents, photographs and other memorabilia of the family. 
This brother does not consider memoir
written by contemporary, still living, people sufficient to include in the
archive. 
My various siblings and I battle
over this.  Though many refuse to participate
and are silent, the other half are drawn in and argue over the rights and wrongs
of this. 
Why not have two boxes in the
archive, my husband reckons?  One for the
official stuff that clearly warrants a place in the archive, though once upon a
time some of this would have been contestable, too – my mother’s memoir for
instance.  There are enough of her
siblings who reckon my mother got things wrong. 
Not that memoir can ever be about absolute facts and truthfulness,
though there are some who demand it. 
In any case, my husband suggests we
have one box for the archival of the clearly-past and another box that can act as a sort
of clearinghouse. Things like people’s stories of their lives, their
recollections, can go into the clearing house, to be corrected as necessary,
and in time after some people die, be moved over to the official archive. 
One of my other brothers put up his
chronicles and it has upset some people, both for its inaccuracies and in
places for its insensitivities.
At times, he writes about things that are
somewhat at a distance from him, despite popping up in his diary.  Events that perhaps others should be free to
write about when they feel ready, or not at all, but not have this brother
display it as a family event on the page for all to see without analysis or
relevance or context.
That said, this brother, in my
view, has every right to put up his stories – not stories more a diarising of events
over part of his life time – even if others disagree.
 The old archival footage is non-contestable, almost
– there’s no one alive involved who could protest – but the other stuff, the
stuff that pertains to those of us who are still alive, is like trying to hold a
boiling saucepan with no handle. 
How do we pick it up without
getting scalded, or skinned?
And then next week, we escape from
it all, with a sojourn to Scotland.
As my husband said to me over
dinner last night, ‘Who would have dreamed that we would ever go to Scotland?’
It seems so far out of our familiar orbit: the Dutch, the German, the Irish,
the English. 
But our youngest daughter decided
that Edinburgh University was calling and that’s where she is living for a few
more months now and that’s where we will follow, for a couple of weeks. 
Only a short time to swallow all
that difference and distance, but enough perhaps to get a taste. 
While we are in Glasgow, we will
meet with one of my best blogging friends, Jim Murdoch, and his wife Carrie, and
the virtual world that is the blogosphere will for an hour or so – and in some
ways forevermore – become real.    
Our son-in-law’s parents, who will
travel from Germany to visit him and his small family, will stay in our house
and care for our dog and cats, while we traipse though the Highlands for
adventure. 
Children force you on adventures
you might otherwise not venture into.  It
takes that much to get me away from the comfort and ostensible certainty of my life at
home – notwithstanding the unexpected wounds.  
But that’s a whole other story,
why it is that, unlike so many people I know, I prefer not to travel further afield
than Victoria. 
Burned by the grief of my mother’s
immigration to Australia over fifty years ago, and her heart overladen with
a grief too heavy for her to carry, I shared it with her, that grief, even though I was born here. 
I know from my mother, what it’s
like to be forced away from your home.  Hence my compassion for all those
who come here from other lands, for whatever reasons.  
They lose touch with their idea of home.

Angry owls

During construction work at the
Camberwell market someone had dug a hole and left the dirt piled high in one
corner.  I noticed it as I bought my
fruit and vegetables; in between the grit and grains of dirt there were tiny
pieces of porcelain, buried for years that people could now reclaim. 
I found a small cat, blue and white, a girl, like the pudding dolls from Christmas
time, and a cracked donkey in grey china, each miniature a treasure.
 I dug them out and put them aside on a shelf,
beside the florist. 
My husband distracted me.  He was on his own adventure nearby.  An archaeologist had planted a sword, not
unlike my father’s army dress sword, in the bottom of another deep hole next to
the market.  
The archeologist planned to cover the
sword in soil to establish the rate of metal degradation over
time.  My husband was fascinated.  I was not. 
When I returned to my treasure pile I found it had gone.  Someone must have
moved it.   
I searched all over the market until out on the street I came upon a
truck, whose driver had lifted the last shovel from my beautiful pile of
dirt, poured it into the back of his truck and then drove off. 
I was furious.  Filled with a childish rage of
helplessness.  How could they do this and
not only to me?  There were others who had started their own collections of
porcelain bits.  Others left
disappointed.
I woke from this dream still angry
and my mind travelled back to my grandson the day before when he and I had explored
the Melbourne museum.
They keep a few Australian native
birds and fish in a mock forested environment in an outer enclosure there.   A ramp enables visitors to walk to eye height with the top of the trees.
There on a lone gum tree we saw a young tawny frogmouth.  He was asleep at first but then looked up and
around in our direction.   
‘Why is he angry?’ my grandson
asked.
‘He’s not angry.  He’s just curious,’ a nearby museum assistant said.  
Owls have a way of looking angry all the time, those deep set eyes, that high brow.  
This owl was not angry but after my dream I was as angry as
any three-year old tricked into thinking her pile of treasure is safe only
to discover someone has taken it away, without even asking. 

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