Something good will happen

The first day of winter and I emptied the food scraps after they’d reached tipping point into the compost bin in our back garden.

It’s a tedious task but on my trudge across the back garden I sense the excitement of what I will find when I lift the lid.

Even in the cold of winter the worms scramble for cover as soon as the light shines on them, their pink ridges rippling, as they fall down from what to them must be a great height.

There are all these tiny black beetles too. They line the lip of the compost bun. Some fall off and into the decaying food below while others, like a few of the stalwart worms, cling on.

I’ve been composting myself of late, up there inside my head, a sense of not much happening beyond the regular day to day and at the same time the hope that soon enough something new will emerge. 

We have another grandchild on the way and that’s new and big.

Every day I think about this baby and the awe of my family history or at least of some aspect of that history, including the timing of my own birth. 

The daughter who carries this baby is more or less the same age now as I was when I carried her, more or less the same age as my mother when she carried me. 

My mother already had four babies by the time I came along, four live babies and one dead one. And, I had already two babies living by the time this daughter who now carries her first.

The immensity of it all.

We’ve had a cold snap of late. The coldest May day in 17 years.

What’s the point of statistics like this other than to comfort us into thinking it’s not just in our imaginations that we’re colder than usual and also in some crazy way to stave off fears of climate change and the earth warming?

My husband tells me it’s going to grow more temperate soon enough and we’re in for a dry, not so cold, winter beyond these few freezing days. As if anyone, even the bureau of meteorology, can predict the future to that extent. 

I’m wary of statistics but have no doubt about climate change. Only the optimist inside tells me something good will happen. 

This is my crazy internal mantra. Whenever anything bad happens I tell myself something good will happen. Something to offset the sadness or madness or badness of recent events, like when I cop another writing rejection, or when I find myself troubled by the recent election result and a hint of despair creeps in, not for me so much as for those asylum seekers held in detention year after year. 

I can’t shake off the thought as I put a sad face to the likes section of Facebook, when yet another horror story emerges.

Over thirty people in detention have tried to kill themselves since the election. 

An expression of sorrow or anger is not enough. 

And my mind pitches back into the past before I was born when news of what was happening to the Jewish people in Europe during the early 1940s must have trickled through the limited media of the day.

And people closed their minds to the atrocity, to the unthinkable, just as we are doing today. 

Because we feel helpless or don’t want to know. Life is hard enough without having to add the extra burden of those in trouble. And these days we have so much exposure. 

I think of what’s happening in America. The banning of abortions in Alabama and Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Talerears its head. An unthinkable future in a world that is Taliban dominated or a world in which the extreme right-wing conservative elements that breed racism and misogyny dominate in face of the fears of change. 

‘Let’s try to turn the clock back,’ these largely middle aged and old while males, say, for fear of losing their entrenched privilege. Let’s keep women back in the position of servants and let’s not let those other people whose skin is not white have too much of a say in the running of our countries. 

Let’s keep the other out. The other is a threat to the status quo. Let’s not think too much about the need to adjust to a changing world in terms of climate change because a changed world is one to which we need adjust and it’s hard enough growing old. 

It’s hard enough having to adjust to the rapid rate of technological change. The things the young people can do with their computers and gadgets that leave us far behind.

Let’s do our best to keep things as they were in the good old days. 

Of course, that doesn’t work. Change is our one great certainty. 

The worms wriggle off the walls in the compost pin whenever I pitch in an extra load and soon enough the bin will be full and I will need to let it sit a while longer till it composts and then we’ll tip it over the garden and it will enrich the soil to make way for new growth like this new baby who will soon enough enter our midst. 

The disappeared

The other day I found myself thinking about Karmein Chan, a thirteen year old girl who went missing from her home in Templestowe in 1991 and was never seen again.

‘Went missing’ is hardly the way to describe a situation where a man in a balaclava broke into Karmein’s house where she was looking after her younger sisters and took Karmein away after he left the younger two locked inside a cupboard. 

It happened in the evening while the parents were working at their restaurant, something they did regularly while Karmein stayed at home as the older sister the responsible one.

Around the same time, a young girl who had been staying in Australia from England and living in Canterbury, Nicola Lyons, disappeared from her home, again as I recall while her parents were out. She turned up a few days later, in the streets dazed, ‘molested’ but otherwise unharmed, apart from what such a traumatic event must do to any young person.

Another young girl disappeared around that time, too, but she also turned up alive as well. 

These events devastated the community and young children everywhere, especially young girls feared for their lives.

A similar thing happened in Perth though this time with older women, the so called Claremont killings of the mid 1990s. And years earlier the so-called Nedlands monster preyed on people, in a Perth suburb, mostly young women. 

Eric Cooke 1931, the Nedlands monster

A similar horror when the three Beaumont children disappeared off a Glenelg Beach in South Australia in 1966

Every state has its disappeared children and the myth of the child lost in the bush flourishes in Australia such that people panic whenever a child disappears. 

And yet we all know the worst of these disappearances happen at home.

 Another woman, 33 years of age, found yesterday dead in her garage, presumably murdered by her 49-year-old husband.

Every week another one.

I can hardly believe it except that it happens, and this online group called Destroy the Joint, a feminist organisation, keep a tally.

We’re up to 16 so far this year. A total of 69 last year.  

Every week, another woman murdered by her partner, in what was once described as domestic abuse.

Murder and violence almost sanctified by the state into this lesser word ‘domestic’.

Isn’t that the term we use to describe our pets, domesticated? 

Rather than getting into a rant about domestic violence, I shall follow the trail of my memories into  Karmein Chan’s disappearance and how much in 1991 I hoped the police would fine her alive and well. They never did.

The police still speak of a suspect called Mr Cruel. A creepy name for a person capable of horrors. 

If I had more of an imagination, I might dig into my internal images of such a man, big, scarred, shifty eyes, clichés abound. Or he might be small bespectacled and tight framed, like an administrative officer from some lowly public service department, hidden behind mountains of files.

At home he might have a wife and children but at various times he can’t stop his impulse to go out there and disappear another woman or child presumably through some sexual pleasure he gets out of such control. 

Something of the pleasure a flasher might derive when he exposes himself to some hapless woman or child passing by and gets a thrill out of the look of horror, of shock and fear in their eyes. 

Look how big I am, how strong and potent. I can knock you over with just one look at my erect genital and you need do nothing other than register a strong emotion that enables me to feel aroused to the point of climax. I don’t have to engage with you or talk to you or share any of my vulnerability with you. 

My vulnerability is hidden from everyone, including from me, because vulnerability is dangerous. If you let it be seen, others will hurt you.

No doubt as our flasher was once hurt as a child when he might have felt helpless to protect himself from some other person’s predations. 

It doesn’t always work like this.

Not everyone who grows into a abuser was abused but something must have gone wrong with the empathic wiring to turn them this way.

Not that I’m condoning any of it.

When Karmein Chan disappeared I felt much as I did when my father paraded the house naked, a mix of rage and fear. 

Rage that someone could behave like this and fear at what he might do next. 

They found Karmein’s decomposed body years after her disappearance, buried in some makeshift grave.

Her mother must be older now, maybe only as old as me. 

I doubt that she, her sisters and Karmein’s father, will ever get over it.