Monday, July 16, 2012


It was the whimsy, so endearing
I said to myself later at home
that turned my gaze northward
toward the unlikely sound
of a voice, rising with beauty
above the crash of the ocean
against the colossal granite
at the end of the wall

Amongst the rotting flesh and
discarded tackle of her peers,
dressed in grey trackies
faded flannel shirt and scuffed sneakers
her unruly curls defied the constraint of her beanie
as I became captive to her face,
aged, lovely, a classic Renoir,
and her unselfconscious melody

With hands masterful and deft
she baited her rod
paused to let the dolphins pass,
looked back, and cast long
a practised throw, plonk
one solitary fisherwoman,
with a song in her heart
How beguiling!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A meeting with a monk

I see him initially at the Hong Kong Ladies Market, a garish evening bazaar, bursting with acres of vulgar plastic junk destined for land-fill in a year's time, imitation-designer handbags and t-shirts, faux jade buddhas and beads.  He's tall for an Asian, wears a wide and rather sinister-looking smile, crew-cut, a floor length grey tunic and mala. Walking the narrow aisle, meeting the eyes of the tourists who dare meet his, he extends his alms bowl cupped in both hands.  Something inside warns suss, but I suppress it. Way too irreverent Catherine.  We look each other in the eye, he proffers his bowl, and I move on.   I’m not giving!  I feel petty and pathetic for harbouring such unholy thoughts about a holy man, but it’s my temperament.  I like my monks earnest!

Three days later, 9 pm, the heat intense, I’m on my second and last excursion back to the bazaar.  Getting there and back in a hurry is my main objective.  I’m just about to cross the street at the traffic lights when I notice the monk from the bazaar on the other side of the road. My reaction is not altogether pleasant, but I make a decision to practise the art of generosity this time and as the lights change, I move across the road, fishing for my wallet.  As I reach him I place my hands together in prayer and place $5 (80c) in his bowl. Simultaneously, from the folds of his tunic he extracts a small red plastic sheath, embossed with Chinese inscriptions, something firm and flat inside, and hands it to me.  I’m taken aback. Instinctively I look down at my wallet, and remove another $20.  Looking up at him he looks into my wallet, points to the $100 bill, shakes his head at my offering, and says ‘one hundred’.  You've got to be bloody joking, I think!  I look down at my wallet again, back at him, try and process my horror, place the $20 in his alms bowl, and turn and flee.

For days afterwards I suffer a terrible disquiet.  Should I have given more? Was his gift valuable? Should I have returned it? Why did I run, not challenge him?  Who was he?  Why me? Should I track him down? Was he a fake?  Stashing some extra cash away for smokes? The reflections and neurotic questions were endless, and disconcerting. 

“Why do you have to make things so complicated!” my sister replied when I returned home and told her the story.

Then I did a google search, 'Monks, Hong Kong'

Time I learnt to trust my intuition methinks.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hong Kong and the Muse

This is Hong Kong from Peak Tower, the island’s highest point.   It’s spectacular in a concrete and commercial kind of way,  and represents every reason I don’t live in a city.

We're 14 (8 clients, 6 support staff) from a disability support organization in Lismore, and it's our last night of the holiday so we've splashed out on the night habour cruise.   Sitting on the back deck of the Shining Star, in a plastic chair, drinking complimentary Nescafe, and wishing it was red wine, I’m taking in dramatic fields of laser beams, neon lights, flashing billboards. You'll just have to imagine it.  As if in empathic overwhelm, my camera died! Giant video screens perched atop monolithic high-rise advertise, well, you name it, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, Hong Kong Bank and the rest of the qian (money) whose hands are low in the pockets  of Hong Kong Tourism.  I feel six parts assaulted, four parts numb.

Every few minutes I look back at Eve (not her real name).  She’s sitting on a cushioned bench seat away from the rest of us because she’s afraid of heights, the boat, the water. In her cosy corner, as is her wont, she’s jabbering away to herself, and gazing out at the world with absent interest.  She’s 55 and has Down’s Syndrome, which means she’s already outlived most of her contemporaries.   I’m here to provide for her needs, pop her meds out of the webster pack, help her in and out of the bath, wipe her bottom, cajole and bribe her into cleaning her teeth,  document her trip with her camera at the same time documenting my own trip with my own camera, guide her choice of meals, gifts and activities, and change her money into local currency.   I’ve pushed her wheelchair, rubbed cream into her necrotizing lower legs and feet, eased on her pressure stockings, soothed her anxieties and countless times, at her behest, felt the pacemaker under her skin. She’s worth it. When she looks at me and smiles it feels authentic in a way I’m unused to, unaffected by layers of cynical judgment.  She calls me sister, and has a wicked sense of humor that rings all my perverse bells.  Given my father’s constant infidelities, she could be onto something!

From a distance I watch as a Chinese woman of about the same age arrives on the couch near her and attempts to make conversation.  I’m humoured, uneasy. Should I go over and explain, intervene?  Eve’s oblivious. For ten days now I’ve wondered what she’s saying.  This soft but audible chatter wakes me at night,  loud enough to disturb my sleep but not loud enough to make out what she’s saying, save for a word of two.  Tonight though, I think I have it.  I think she’s got a visual (photographic) memory, and is repeating the text she reads everyday in ‘A Thousand Scientific Facts’, a book she bought on the trip. Occasionally I read over her shoulder, so taken am I by her interests. Why don’t snakes have legs; How do bees produce honey; Why do some trees live for hundreds of years; Why is ear wax yellow.

I want to be in her head! Nature, such comforting innocence!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Meet Mahko

Name:                             Mahko
Gender:                          Gentleman
Location:                         Brunswick Heads NSW
Date of Birth:                  Some time during 1620
Relationship Status:       Single
Smoking:                        Not near me you won’t!
Personality:                    Attention-seeking
Nationality:                     Cross-cultural
Employment:                  Wallflower
Diet:                                Healthy admiration
Religion:                         What?
Dress Sense:                  Ostentatious
Interests:                         Hot babes
Children:                         Only if they look like me!

Facts and Footnotes:

Mahko is one of three period costume pieces I designed and constructed during studies for a  Diploma of Theatre Costume Manufacturing 1998/9.

Mahko is for sale (or hire/contract)

Ensemble:                   Doublet (jacket)
                                    Trunkhose (trousers)
                                    Detachable codpiece
                                    Lace Ruff
                                    Suede Beret
                                    Lamé stockings 
                                    (7 items) 

Medium:                      Ostrich skin, antique nylon
                                    quilting, skin print tapestry,
                                    silk Indian sari, lamé,
                                    suede, gold braid, cotton,
                                    lace, metal
Viewing/enquiries:       Phone: 0431 600 138
                                    POA, negotiable

Stand by in coming weeks for introductions to Mahko's eclectic family, Hadisha and Lush.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Case for Ageing

‘In another time and plaee, the lines on a woman’s face would be revered as her life map’.  So said Helen Garner.  That place and time sounds rather friendly, uncomplicated, noble. In that cultural heaven , I’m a wise old crone, with a wise old story.  In the cultural wasteland that’s Australia, I’m 58 going on 70, past my use-by date, and invisible. 

But me, I’m not bothered, secure in the knowledge that my ageing body’s a temple, or so says  Crystal down the road.  Every week I can look forward to a brand new discovery, a brand new me.  Some new protrudance, a  couple of extra liver spots, a plump new mid-range tyre or two, a novel patch of previously unnoticed weathered epidermis, a sag here and a sag there.  Delightful, never-ending.  Age throws you a surprise a minute. The sub-text of this phenomenon - Practising for Death! Normal, perfectly normal.  Not your experience? You wait!

Some of my changing fortunes then?  Those things beginning to bulge on either side of my lower face for example.  What are they – well, jowls of course.  When and why did they decide to take refuge on my jaw when they could have applied for bed and breakfast in my cheeks, give my face a bit of  pup? As a matter of fact they resolved to land there because inner guidance informed them of my fascination for the triangular, three’s a very potent spiritual number, the holy trinity ‘n all, and therefore, as a fan of threesomes, my jowls are just being considerate.  Any day now I’m going to be blessed with three chins, that’s a pair of jowls and a chin.  Terrific, I’ll be able to wear my holiness on my face!

Then there’s my eyelids, well, the left one really.  I’ve noticed it’s become a bit lazy and droopy lately.   I’m quite appreciative of this though because your poor eyes have to look at things all day, be hyper-alert to what’s going on, stare at the computer, be mindful of risks.  It’s protecting my eye, and I didn’t even have to ask!  My right eye, on the other hand is on constant holiday, up and cheerful. Damned party animal.  This type of duality is part of the natural law of the universe, so obviously I’m stoked things are on track in my body.  Pretty soon no doubt I’ll only have to invest in one lens. That’ll save me heaps!

And those small benign rough lumps that are popping out all over the place, you may know them as warts, they’re especially useful too. Since they belong to that furiously resilient family, the same one as the cockroach, they’re never going to die and that means part of me will live forever . Woohoo! From a creative perspective these lumps are priceless because I’ve come up with a plan, well, it was Crystal's idea actually. She reckons they’ll work perfectly as a central feature in some body tattooing we were discussing, and that the ones on my leg will look ace worked into a mandala. I’ll just have to add color.  It’s a goer!

That fine-lined crepe paper effect on my chicken flaps, that’s the floppy bit forming  the inside of your upper arm, well it’s sort of fetching too, and sure, I understand that for the benefit of husband-scanning I may have to reassess the advantages of sleeveless frocks but hey, I can volunteer as a super-model for Hallmark, the fine manufacturers of quality cards and wrapping paper!

I ask you, why would you resort to the knife when, at the altar of your very own personal place of worship, such constant and fulfilling astonishment is at play? 

Not convinced?

Then chin up girls!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


People sometimes ask me why I blog. How can I bear to put so much personal stuff out there.  Isn’t it embarrassing? The short answer is no, what’s there to be embarrassed about, I’m only being irritatingly honest. I’m my father’s daughter, and possibly at some gloomy visceral level I’m scared that if I wait till I’m 70, about the age he was when he began writing, there’ll be no words left.  Two parents with Alzheimer’s disease can be a terrifying thought. Wasn’t it Socrates who said ‘An unexamined life is not worth living’.  I guess you could say I’m choosing to examine my life, publicly.  

The long answer is more complicated.  Truthfully, I’m not really sure why I blog. Maybe it’s because there’s a medium that enables me, and seizing opportunities is one of my fortes, like seizing the tail of the big bloody water dragon that spent the night under my bed a couple of days ago, or seizing the alarm in the morning and giving it a good clout. Maybe it’s because I have family and friends in far-off places and I like to keep them in my loop. I’d like to read their blogs, if they’d only sit on their nice Perversi arses long enough to write one. I’m highly confident I’m unoriginal with my words and the way I use them, it’s all been said, countless of millions of times before, but that’s not good enough reason to stop.  I’m a bit obsessed with writing, it’s something I do, and when you live on your own and don’t have telly - mostly it’s a load of croc - you need something to entertain you.  Words simply pass through me, like a good bowel movement, on the way to the sea.  Because Mercury (planet of communication for the philistines!) is retrograde in my natal chart, I often feel inarticulate, the words that are manufactured upstairs seem all sloppy and scrambled eggish, so when I speak what comes out is often counterintuitive to what I want to say, or  mean. Writing helps me feel more eloquent! This may not be your experience of me, but believe me, it’s what goes on in my head. Apparently one in about six people are punished by Mercury in this way, but I recently noticed a pattern. I generally write just prior to, during, and after Mercury does its reversal dance, three times a year for about three weeks. If that’s the only time I should write, it sucks, so from time to time I like to break the monotonous mould and write outside these parameters. I shouldn’t, I suppose, because it’s at these times that you probably find my writing THE MOST EMBARRASSING!  Like now for example. Writing is cathartic, helps me unpack my neuroticism, and is damned well cheaper than therapy.

At the end of the day, to be perfectly blunt, I write a blog because I’m just plain bold!  I’d recommend it.

 Who, me? Bold?

Monday, March 5, 2012

On Forks and Futures

Yesterday’s emotional release hangs like a bleak dark cloud around me today.  There's a change in the air and I don't know how to read it.  A couple of days ago it was the anniversary of my mother's death. She was born in the Year of the Pig, a loyal, steadfast woman. She was also a woman of great faith, and I can't help feel some association. I remind myself to be patient. 

It’s not that I’m unhappy with my life, I have all I need and I recently realized when I was going through some old papers that I’ve marked virtually all my desires off my last wish-list.  I have a home by the beach, I’m exercising my writing muscle, I work for an organization that satisfies my desire for service, I’ve had my canines done and they now look more like teeth than broken tree stumps, and I’m relatively financially secure. There’s no bloke on the horizon, yet, but frankly, and this is where my belief system probably acts as a roadblock, they’re mostly hard work, and rather unevolved.  Oh dear, I’m sounding, ah, rather unevolved.  So, what’s missing. In effect, nothing. I’m just restless, insecure, and itching like crazy. Let’s call it my bimonthly spiritual crisis … my replacement menopausal hot flush!

This morning I walked miles up the beach, stripped and had a dip.  It was fricken cold and ultra fricken, mmm, reductive. It’s amazing how an icy bath can make it seem like the cellulite that was once your thighs has simply gone south for autumn! In my altogether I stood facing east, and called to the creator. I implored spirit to guide me, asked for my dreams to be prophetic. I asked that I be graced with the capacity to recognize the signs and symbols that are constantly present on the canvas of life. I promised to keep rehearsing tolerance, to  be kind and compassionate and not be too needy, hmm!

On the long walk back to the surf club I got drenched.  And then, my answer. Someone, in the space it had taken me to walk up the beach and back, had created this astonishingly beautiful, and simple, sand Buddha.

Message received.
Keep your gaze fixed to the east. Have faith.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The good doctor

A good doctor is like an oasis when you’re lost and bewildered in an unfamiliar or forgotten landscape.  He quenches your thirst, raises your awareness, and, like a mirror, reflects your natural design back at you, revealing that which you are sometimes unable or unwilling to see for yourself, despite the looking.

I’ve been recalled following a routine procedure. I want to know whether my cholesterol still registers  high, thanks genes, and whether the Barambah organic full-cream milk I haven’t been able to resist recently is having an adverse effect on my insides. Clearly, the results aren’t favourable! 

At the surgery, a week ago, the doctor I saw was gruff and distracted.  Perhaps he was having a bad day, doctors are human too, but his bedside manner landed like a cold dead fish on my warm flesh. This morning, by a fateful stroke of genius, two doctors arrive simultaneously at reception, the bad guy and the unknown, and call my name. Automatically, I walk toward the unknown.

Kind doctors are hard to find. They have a way of drawing you out of yourself, of touching and exposing vulnerable inner places, those places that through practise and self-preservation I usually prefer to keep hidden.   Good doctors choose their words with sensitivity, understand the wisdom of turning their chair toward the patient, understand that it’s their presence you crave.  They have a way of intuiting the affectations of the patient’s heart, they ask the right questions, show empathy. In the space of ten minutes, I’ve disclosed more of my underlying self than in any conversation I’ve had in months.  His kind blue eyes have searched and found me.  His unwavering, unfidgetting presence gift me a truth and beauty I long for in those who are purported to care.  At the end of the consultation, I dare ask to be bulk-billed as my work in disability support has been reduced to two days per week.  With a genuineness I am immediately disarmed by, he nods and replies ‘Thanks for looking after the people’.  It’s these simple words, the acknowledgement of the work I do, which I neither ask for nor expect, and which is so often unheard in the language of the 21st century, that bring me undone.

The day is grey when I step outside onto the sodden grass. The rain is relentless, the soak terminal.  In the car, stripped of my defences and utterly unhinged, I am engulfed by tears. I had planned a quiet coffee, a scan of the newspapers, some socializing.  There’s bills to pay, library books and DVDs to return,  a work roster to check, phone calls to make.  All this must wait.  I need a horizontal space, some self-nurturing, and time.

Thank you good doctor.  Hello skim milk!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lives of others

When I mentioned the neighbourhood oddity to a girlfriend a week ago, with a laugh, she accused me of being a spy, or a stalker, probably both!

I noticed the car, and him, a couple of months ago, parked  in a residential street, under a giant fig, adjacent to the park and close to a community hall. At first I thought he must have been facilitating or participating in classes run at the hall, given I usually noticed his presence in the early evening on my regular walk to the beach. Then, during my days off, twice or three times a week, I began to notice the car parked in the usual place, during the day.  Sometimes he’d be sitting in it, sometimes on the grass, clothes draped over the hedge, his face in a book. Sometimes he was nowhere to be seen.   Occasionally I noticed him ambling back through the caravan park, a towel draped over his shoulder.  He’s worked out the code to the toilet block, I figured.  My suspicion and curiosity were aroused.  It’s the detective in me, a natural gift. It behoves employment, Your Honor!  Was he homeless, or waiting, waiting  terminally for something or someone?  One day, when I made certain he wasn’t in or near his car, not an old Kombie but a new and spunky wagon, I ventured to peek inside.  Every now and then I horrify myself with my gall!  It was crowded with life - books, soft furnishings, clothes. The front passenger seat was sprayed with a bouquet to nature, shells, feathers, botanical specimens, sand.  What caught my attention mostly though was the Buddhist artifacts, a mala, vajra, Buddha statue.

In my indefatigable way, I vowed  to say hello.  Yesterday, passing his car, I smiled.  He smiled back.  I approached.  We talked. Yes, homeless, after a 28 yr relationship, everything gone.  As I leaned on his passenger side window, a light rain falling, we spoke of identity, home, schooling, praise, children, food and comfort.  In the space of 15 minutes I detected not an ounce of bitterness, but a warm soft voice, an unfidgetting presence,  vulnerable brown eyes and unflinching openness.  Here was a man doing it tough in a seemingly blameless and courageous way.  I’ve been homeless, and when I look back into that time, I feel a profound mix of despair and liberation.

Like the detritus and scum washed down the river and into the sea following days of wild wild weather, how we manage the muddy waters of this life during the difficult times, I believe, maketh man.