Sunday, March 18, 2012

Whose Freedom?

Looking at this picture, who had the most freedom? The three gliding pelicans; unconcerned to our human life of worries; or the three teenagers, now past-students - having completed senior studies at high school, and awaiting their school results so university can begin?

Meet my son and his two best friends.

They are putting out little "tinny" out for the day, blatting around the beautiful Noosaville waterways, enjoying their new-found lives and freedom from books, studying, Latin verbs, math 2, physics and biology, school ties ad-nauseum.

Do kids these days still have "best friends" when they also have 250 "contacts" on msn, all of whom they dit and chat to on a nightly basis?

Sure they do.

These 250 contacts aren't friends...well...most of them aren't, anyway. They are people you keep in touch with, so they don't spam you, knock you down, harass you on the net and generally make your life a misery.


But these two young men, and they are now; young men, are his best mates.

I have seen them grow from eager fresh-faced Year 8's, to the thoughtful and considerate, (not to mention, highly intelligent) young blokes you see before you.

My son has excellent taste in friends. And vice versa.

Freedom. It' not the birds gliding past; it's the kids; oblivious to their future calling - their wives/lives/unborn children and careers ahead of them.

For them, for now, it is simply mucking about in boats, with their mates on the water.
Life is sweet and free.

Me and Bobby McGee

Did you ever think that the clear, solid notes coming from a trumpet would be golden?

This is me and Bobby McGee, except I am behind the camera, taking the photograph.

His name really is Bobby McGee, just like the song, but not after the song.

Bobby was born in Scotland, and travelled to New York as a 12 year old to play trumpet professionally with his older sister. Now just read that bit again. Left Scotland when he was 12; travelled to New York; to play professionally.

I have to blow through my teeth to comprehend the circumstances.

Bobby has earnt his living for the past 60 years playing trumpet, all over the world. At one stage he was based in Israel, performing “The Sound of Music” in Hebrew!

Now he is with my sister, and they are ‘an item’.

This photo was taken at our New Years Eve party, and when I downloaded the digital pics, I thought I was either too drunk to work the camera, or the battery is flat. As it later turns out, the flash synchronisation was on slow, and the blurring lights are my cherished ‘icicle lights’ to decorate the veranda for summer!

But I love how it captures Bobby McGee playing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ on his trumpet, his trusty, around-the-world trumpet, playing for friends and family, for his love, my sister, playing for his living.
Golden notes, who would have thought! But a camera never lies, eh?

Me and Bobby McGee.

Beyong the gate

It looks charming, and it is. A simple wooden gate, painted white, the typical "picket fence" attracts the eye, but looking around, the scent of the frangipanni flowers also attracts the senses.

This is the gate that leads to my father’s room... beyond this gate, my father lies dying.

It's part of a beautiful Nursing Home in Rockhampton, and I grow to both love, and eventually dread, this gate.

The frangipanni tree offers me large clumps of flowers - their heads bowed in respect. The path is swept on a daily basis, so that any flowers that may fall are fresh and clean, unbruised, unlike my heavy heart.
Will he remember me today? Will he still be there, in his mind, in his body?

I pick a frangipanni and place it behind my right ear, so it shines out happily when he sees me.

They have always been my favourite flower, in their pureness and simplicity, the heady, giddy perfume enclosing me within a safe world of childhood memories, of hanging upside down in a huge old tree, marvelling at the hugeness of the world in my front garden.

Wonderful memories of reading books and eating apples, running around the frangipanni tree kicking up the leaves in autumn...waiting patiently for the first sings of new growth, the dark green tips sprouting from each barren stem, holding the promise of another summer, more glorious flowers, more hanging upside down to compare if my world had expanded during the winter.

This gate, this white, simple gate leads to where my father lies dying.

I took this photo as a precaution to a hazy memory, I wanted to savour every detail about my dad before stress and loss dimmed my memory.

Now I look at it, and although I am smiling with my love of the tree with its daily offerings of fresh perfumed flowers for me to enjoy, I am reminded of a softer, sadder time, where breathing becomes a chore, where time not only stands still, but runs backwards, as we the children become the adults and vise versa.

I push the gate open, and stoop to collect my flower...

Tahiti training

Each afternoon they come like clockwork, 5.10pm. You hear them first, the grunting, the shouting across the calm, glassy waters of Tahiti's Morea Island.

Soon, their black bodies, hardened with honest work and gleaming with perspiration, glide into view, their arms pumping the paddles on their sleek outrigger canoes.

Legend has it Tahitians would race across the Pacific Ocean to the nearby island of Bora Bora.
It tires me to even think of it, as we had just crossed the same passage a few days before in our chartered catamaran, and believe me, the waves and swell are huge out there, beyond the reef. The ocean currents run for thousands of kilometres before hitting land, so the waves have time to build and grow in size.

Our crew for this magical sailing holiday on the 12metre cat are our teenage sons, who soon prove their worth and find their sea legs quickly. Sails are hoisted, anchors set and retrieved with minimum fuss. The only trouble we have is attempting to pick up a buoy outside the famous ‘Bloody Mary’s Restaurant’ in Bora Bora. As we motor around for the third time, we find our Skipper still distracted by the sight of a nearby naked Swiss woman, swimming off her yachts stern.

After sailing for 7 days, now we are landlubbers, relaxing in the arms of luxury in our gorgeous palm-fronded cabin. We can swim right outside our front door, and often do, searching the coral for Nemo and his fishy friends. The sight of the outrigger crews is our unexpected bonus, our afternoon entertainment.

The crews come each evening, straight from work, and train for an hour in the lagoon. We pour cold drinks and watch them from our over-the-water-veranda; it soon becomes my favourite habit, much to my husband’s amusement!

The coach for both crews calls out and encourages each man, to do his best, to stroke! Paddle! Pull! Endure! Beyond the lagoon break, there are shells, growing where the waves strike and fall upon the reef; there are huge swells, and whales, passing on their way to warmer waters. The crews paddle beyond the break, beyond the breaking, crashing waves, beyond the roar of white water and leave the safety of the lagoon’s mirrored waters.

Massive outriggers holding over 200 men would paddle from Tahiti to New Zealand, and return, navigating by the stars, pinpointing these tiny specks of islands with their volcanic peaks reaching upwards, to the Gods.

The lagoons have formed as each island sinks under the weight of their own volcanic mountains, forming a safety zone for fish and corals and shells and people and lush foliage. To enter the lagoon after being at sea, is to enrobe oneself in a mantel of peace and tranquillity.

Safe at last! Drop anchor! The sea is a harsh mistress, at times.

We had planned our Tahiti holiday with as much precision and latitude as possible, allowing for no delays, but plenty of surprises, and this was an unexpected bonus, these outrigger training crews, and their bulging arms, amazing energy and their calls and shouts of encouragement.

Gotta love being on holidays. Cheers!

Other submissions by this author:   Me and Bobby McGee :: Whose Freedom