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historical documents, photographs and other memorabilia of the family.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.

Peaceful, my eye.

Just this morning, like a woman possessed, I drove across town to buy a kilo of pipis, otherwise known as clams, which I could not find
anywhere locally, when I shopped yesterday. My husband plans to prepare a Spanish dish, Salpicon de mariscos, for our christmas day lunch
Half an hour’s drive from home, I stood with several other people in an orderly queue on Nicolson Street in Carlton.  The people at Canals, the fish mongers, are clever. 
They have crowd control in the form of a woman who stands at the door
with a clipboard and list of orders to be collected.  She fills out a slip for each of those who arrive to collect their order and ushers in the others, like me, who come to order off the
cuff, one at a time.  
And so I managed to buy my pipis, which put me in mind of the days before we were aware of environmental sustainability, when we fished for clams in the sand off Venus Bay and collected buckets full
of these tiny hard shelled morsels to make dishes fit for royalty.  
These days seafood is not cheap, but it was
worth the effort.  Even as I felt so much
a part of the privileged mainstream lining up for seafood on a Christmas Eve morning.  
We have just now passed our summer
solstice, that time of the year when day and night are equally divided and
after which things begin to head in the opposite direction.  From here the downward trend to winter. 
It’s hard to think of winter when
it’s so humid and hot here, not as hot as it will get, but my thoughts turn to
winter.  
My youngest daughter will soon
head out into the cold of Europe.  She
plans to spend six months studying at the University of Edinburgh. 
Take note, my good friend, Jim.  One of mine is coming over to your part of
the world. 
I’m a little unsettled at the
thought – not simply of my daughter on the other side of the world – but the distance between. 
And then there’s the usual build up
to Christmas, the pressure to get things done before the day which some of us
celebrate, while others do not.  
I am so much more sensitive these days to variations in practices, those
who celebrate Christmas and those who celebrate other events.  All of them equally important to the celebrant.  
There are buckets of conflictual happenings in my part of the world.  A siege in Martin Place in Sydney where three people, the perpetrator and two of his
many victims, lost their lives.  Two
people in the wrong place at the wrong time and elsewhere in Australia, in Cairns,
a mother killed seven of her children and one of her nieces in what could have been an Ice-driven attack or some other madness.  
However does a woman manage to kill
eight children, aged between fourteen and two, except under some crazed influence.  These events have cast a pall over our otherwise generally peaceful world. 
Peaceful, my eye.  It’s just that most of the conflict goes on behind
the scenes, out of eyesight, out of the newsworthy range.  
And a lemon-scented myrtle in a
large pot glows in our living room. 
Don’t be mistaken by the celebratory birds, they are not as one daughter
suggested ‘dead pigeons’.  They are papier mache birds with silver sprinkles
on their backs and black beads for eyes.  
A sign of peace.