I love to read stories about our people (in Papua New Guinea) continuing to preserve their culture. I am especially proud because the Siassi is in my province and I have family there. Thank you Brendon Zebedee and Scott Waide for bringing us this cultural heritage story.
ABC News reports mourning across Australia of one of their great storytellers, Peter Temple. Temple died at 71. Temple was known for his unique narrative voice, that carried strength and precision, particularly when Australian dialogues.
The South African born author won the Miles Franklin book award in 2010 for his crime fiction novel – Truth which was about police corruption, murder and politics. Together Temple and TV Producer Ian Collie produced a series for ABC television called Jack Irish, starring Guy Pearce.
“The uniqueness of Peter’s writing was this incredible beauty and taut sparseness of his prose,” crime fiction author Michael Robotham said.
Death toll reaches 75 and still counting. Major earthquake in Papua New Guinea (measuring 7.5) over a week ago with two major aftershocks leaves devastation throughout remote parts of Hela and Southern Highlands Province. There is uncertainty on the amount of damage and casualties without access, however, large areas of food gardens have been destroyed and this will cause food shortage in the coming weeks. PNG journalist Scott Waide has this update.
A Blue-Tongue Lizard and Then…Short Story
It was a very pleasant Thursday, ending with an evening conversation with both my sons who are away. I sent a picture of the blue-tongue lizard to Nathan and Chris about 8:30pm. The reptile was staring at me this morning about 9am when I went to let the hen out in Bellbowrie, Queensland. Its brown carpet patterned scales and raised head had stopped me in my tracks. I thought it was a carpet snake at first.
I had seen a carpet snake, this size and only a teenager, in November near the hen pen. The lizard’s arms and legs quickly gave it away.
My older son Nathan texted me back to say it was cool to have a blue-tongue lizard in our yard. It was common for the family to share our discoveries of creatures that lived on our property and the local bushland. There are many beautiful small creatures such as this lizard and water dragons, possums, koalas and other animals and birds of many kinds in Queensland.
I didn’t hear back from Chris, (my younger son), about the blue-tongue lizard. I thought maybe he had gone to bed, because he had started work at 5am.
Nathan texted me again to say an owl threw itself into his car as he drove home tonight. I thought it was strange and I gave Nathan my various symbolic meanings of why an owl would cross his path. It was mostly to do with deception and revealing truth, but when I thought about other meanings, death was one of them. I didn’t want to tell my son that. We talked a little more before he stopped texting back.
At that moment when the owl discussion came to an end, I heard cars speeding, tyre squeals and a loud bang! It was coming from the junction, 100 metres from our house. Suddenly it was eerie and the night was very quiet.
Nathan didn’t text again. I checked my phone twice.
“I think there is an accident”, I texted him again probing for a response.
From the direction of the accident, I could hear a high pitch horn of one car continuing, even after the crash quietened down. I was in our lounge where the sounds coming from the junction were the loudest. When the crash happened, I had been in my office. I moved here because it made me feel better somehow.
There have been many crashes on this junction – Moggill, Lather and Sugars roads in Bellbowrie. A few years ago a 65-year-old motor-bike rider was crushed by an unknown vehicle. Later, the man died in hospital. It took police a while to find the other driver.
I had this urge tonight to run 100 metres up the road to the crash, but part of me felt weird and uncomfortable. There were sounds outside my house; voices, branches breaking as if someone or people came into the property through the bush, and then more voices came from the roadside. I could hear other cars drive and stop at the scene. Two minutes later, I heard an ambulance. I felt relief. Some of the birds near our house made noises – echoing the high sirens. The accident must have woken the birds.
Then, a police siren started in the distance and then got really loud before it stopped at the junction. There were more voices, but no-one screamed or shouted. I heard louder vehicles come and then whinges, metal on gravel and then car doors shutting. I could not see the road; the huge gum trees blocked the accident scene. The sounds were very clear.
I kept thinking I should go and see it, but something stopped me. It was a fair walk in pitch black.
I texted my sons again about the accident. My older son did not respond. I thought he went to sleep. I called his brother Chris.
“What do you want me to do?” Chris asked me when I told him about the accident.
“Nothing – I’m just afraid, so I texted you,” I responded.
“I’m going to sleep”, he said. Chris was travelling for work in the Sunshine Coast.
“Goodnight son, I love you,” I said and hung up.
By the sound of the siren, a second ambulance arrived. It could have been the same one leaving. I wasn’t sure.
More voices came through the trees. I WhatsApp my cousin in Papua New Guinea – and he agreed, I should stay home. If help was already there, no need to go and I can find out more tomorrow. He is a cop.
My aunt called on WhatsApp and I told her there was an accident and that I felt scared. Over the phone, she said she was scared too.
“I think someone is hurt, the horn didn’t stop honking for a long time,” I said.
“Don’t go there”, my aunt said.
She diverted the conversation and soon, behind the night bird calls, the normal traffic sound returned. I shut all the doors and windows.
Two hours later, my son Nathan responded: “Oh shit! I hope everyone is okay… can you see any cars? ..if you can, do you recognise them?”
“No Nat. I was scared to go and see. The ambulance and police came straight away which was good – but the accident sounded bad.”
I said goodnight to my son and told him I loved him.
“I love you too mum”.
I hope no-one was badly hurt or killed. I will know soon.
Friday – 19/1/2018 – Update
To those that read this story – as it turned out, a friend drove by the accident last night between two cars. He said no one was seriously hurt, even though there was a lot of damage to the vehicles. I saw the remnants of the accident this morning, but I’m glad to hear that it wasn’t as serious as I thought.
I am away from the blog again, but I want to wish all my followers, readers, family and friends a very Merry Christmas (and if you don’t celebrate Christmas) happy end of 2017. I wish you all a wonderful, spiritual and joyful 2018. Here is one of my favourite musicians, Sona Jobartha with a joyful tune. See you all in 2018. Joycelin
Saved by His Feathers – J.K. Leahy short story
His large pinkish feet were now pale scaly claws clasped in two tight fists at the end of the stiff body. All that was left of his proud behind was a featherless grey butt. It could have been a packed frozen turkey from Coles Supermarket, if we didn’t own a large rooster. Nothing was left of the tall proud white-streaked black feathers that lined and neatly covered his tail. The rooster loved to shake this tail and flap his wings before it tried to mount every hen we had in the pen.
Looking at what looked to be a corpse in front of me last Monday, I thought of the soft warm fuzzy black chick that had just hatched. My son Chris bought him and the hen at our local produce store near Brisbane five years ago. We thought we were raising layers until the black chick started acting weird, bullying the other chickens and making funny sounds that sounded like crows. It didn’t take him long to fine tune the crow and go for the hens.
The late afternoon sun caught his morbid shape on the garden mound. I searched for movement. The dogs were barking madly. Stretched out, eyes shut and one battered wing hugging crudely to a large concrete brick as if hanging on to what was left of his life, my only thought was death. I turned him over. Lifeless.
I let out a cry and swung my piece of house timber at the two barking boxers as I tried to get them off the other chickens. The dogs, belonging to a neighbour, one black and the other white, had brought the rooster down so quickly and went for the others before I reached them from the house. There were wet feathers on the lilies, the wisteria and succulents, intertwined in the tall green grass, and the chicken coop wire. My obscenities, threats and timber swinging finally chased the dogs into the bushes behind the house and out towards the main road.
I picked up the rooster. He was cold and lifeless. Being the middle of winter, I tucked him quickly into my warm hoodie and cried while I called out for the hen who was still missing. The other two roosters seemed shaken but unscathed. Knowing that sometimes when dogs kill for fun, they could drag the carcase of their kill somewhere and leave them. I wasn’t sure of the hen’s fate, but at that moment, my son Chris arrived from work.
As I was calling for the hen, I could feel the rooster moving under my arm. I asked Chris to bring a towel to wrap the rooster and sent him after the dogs to find out whose dogs they were. I raced upstairs to clean the rooster’s wounds and stop the bleeding. I took the antiseptics and thoroughly brought out the bloody mess and noticed the bleeding punctures on the rooster’s back in three places.
Chris followed the dogs across our street and checked their tags and rang the neighbour to tell them about the incident. They lived directly opposite and across the road. Then, we drove to the Bellbowrie vet.
At the vet, the rooster’s breathing almost failed again. Chris reminded me to be prepared that he was old, and the vet may want to euthanize him to end his misery.
“I feel he will be okay”, I said to Chris.
Then the rooster made a lot of noise and trembled in my arms. There were three dogs barking from inside the vet kernel and two dogs waiting in the vet’s reception. I hid the rooster under my jumper again and kept in the corner, although I felt like leaving because I could sense, the dogs’ presence was too distressing for the old chicken. I wasn’t sure how to block his ears. Sensing the discomfort, the nurse called the vet and he ushered us inside and away from the dogs.
The vet pointed to the three deep punctures on the roosters back where most of the feathers were chewed off and blood was still coming out. I described the attack and the vet was shocked that the rooster was still fighting for its life then.
“Did he have large thick feathers?
“Yes, on his back, but not anymore”, I said.
“He is very lucky; his feathers saved him”, the vet said. The vet fully examined the rooster and gave him pain-killer and an antibiotic shot.
“He is very strong and he has a full gut. That is enough feed to keep him alive for a few days”, the vet said and smiled.
“How old is he – he is big?”
“Nearly five years old”.
“He is definitely a size 30” the vet said laughing.
A size 30 is a 3-kilogram bird, that I knew. I smiled.
“He is very healthy; I think your rooster is going to live – keep him warm and inside for a few days.”
I thanked the vet as he warned that the dogs could return, now that they have had a taste of blood.
“They think they’ve killed the rooster, but they know you have other chickens”, he said.
The rooster slept in our house last night, woke this morning and had some porridge and gave me a dirty look so I gave him some chicken food – top layer mesh. He has been good all day and his wounds are scabbing nicely. He cannot use his feet yet, but he tried to stand a few times and crowed twice very loudly before he fell over. He wouldn’t let the younger rooster crow while he was recovering.
“Baby steps mister”, I said, but the rooster just gave me one of his ‘looks’.
Watercolour image courtesy of haruki-murakami.com
You have not posted on this blog for ten days, (Oh my! Was it that long?) How time flies when you are pursuing reality; trying to get as much out of my mother for a memoir after 50 years or so of your life and finding that you still can’t get her to talk about EVERYTHING, applying for many jobs and getting no response and it is ok when it should not be (because you are worried about your mortgage and your bills and what your family is going to eat), trying to stay positive while the news about how your country (PNG) is going to waste away at the hands of politicians, university students being shot by police because they want to voice what is right, and another bright young student loses his life to Malaria when he could have been saved, receiving sad news that one of your heroes (Mohamed Ali) has died…and the list goes on.
Many writers are faced with reality versus fiction every day. Sometimes it can be hard to separate the two, and it makes you think hard on what is real and what is not. I also found it interesting that my perception of some important things I remembered when I was a child was different from what my mother told me today. Sometimes, in our recent discussions, I even realised it was not even the reality versus fiction, but a different or two conflicting points of view – hers and mine. Perhaps I found myself thinking too hard about this topic in the past few weeks that I needed to write something about it.
Anyway, I’m rambling, but glad to be writing here again and I have a piece here from my friend Teresa Buisman about 1Q84 written by Haruki Murakami which I think is relevant to what I am writing about. A few days ago, Teresa watched the documentary I posted on tribalmystic blog about Haruki Murakami and his work of fiction.
I was surprised to learn that Teresa had read 1Q84, a trilogy I bought for my son Nathan two Christmas’s ago, but he never read the book so I read it myself. The only complaint I have about this book is that, it really strained my finger muscles while reading it in bed, (it is of 1300 pages and heavy) and if you are into this kind of story, be prepared to lock yourself in a room where no-one can disturb you for five days. If you ask me if I slept at all – I probably didn’t, but I can’t remember anything else except the story. This piece on reality was written two years ago as Teresa was reading the book.
On Reality by Teresa Buisman
I’m reading a book called 1Q84 by Japanese author Haruki Murakami – I love his writing; it gives me food for thought. One of the things that he’s making me think about this time is the perception of reality. The book is set in an alternative 1984 and whilst some things are the same as “normal” other things are completely different.
For instance, there are two moons in the sky – one is the regular moon as we know it, the other is a smaller green moon that sits beside it. You would think that people would notice such a change in the night sky but it seems that the majority don’t. They keep living their normal lives, going to work, doing the shopping, moving through their days as they always have. Our heroes, however, are experiencing changes at the core of their reality. I don’t want to spoil the book for those of you who want to read it but it struck me that reality is perception just as much as perception is reality – does that make sense? What is real for some people is far-fetched and out of reach for others.
Look around you, there are examples everywhere. Take the lady on Hay Street this morning: a very chilly morning for Perth at around 2oC. She’s there on the street with her little sign asking for your spare change. The sign tells you she’s homeless, suffering with MS and has no money. She’s got a blanket over her knees, she’s shivering and dishevelled. Her eyes are dim pools of hopelessness, she’s given up. This is her reality. Does she ever see that there could be another reality for her?
As I pass I drop a few coins in her collection box, hoping that other people will also be kind and that she’ll find warmth and comfort to help her through the chilly days ahead. I don’t know what to say to her, she’s from a different world to me as I head off to my corporate job in a swish glass and marble building with warm drinks on tap and wonderful views down to the Swan River.
Do I feel guilty about the relative affluence of my reality? Perhaps I think I have worked hard and deserve my good fortune? Or perhaps I feel bad for only giving her enough coins to buy herself a coffee instead of slipping her a quick $50 that I probably wouldn’t even miss? Or maybe I just take it for granted and don’t think about it at all? But whichever way I look at it, the MS lady and I live in very different realities – in the same town – working in the same street.
Do we make our luck, our own reality, or is it fate – destiny? Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the affluence of the western world have the opportunity to make our own reality. But what about the MS lady? What’s her story? She’s from this same westernised affluent society isn’t she, so what makes her reality so different?
Reality is very subjective.
Let’s stop violence against women and girls world-wide.
Every small step counts.
“We are doing it for Allison” is the video produced by family and friends of Allison Baden Clay to call on Queensland people to support a rally this Friday in Brisbane.
Already, the media is expecting thousands of people in Brisbane to join the Allison Baden Clay rally to challenge last week’s court decision to down-grade the murder conviction of her husband, Gerard Baden Clay – to manslaughter.
All Brisbane residents who are against domestic and violence against women – are asked to meet at 12:15pm, King George Square on Friday, 18 December.
Some of my readers may remember the story of the mother-of-three I posted on this blog in August. Her body was found at Kholo Creek, Anstead on July 2012. This creek is less than five minutes drive from our house.
At that time, her husband had already told police he did not know of her whereabouts. Baden-Clay, 45, reported his wife missing in April 2012 and her body was found 10 days later. During the trial last year, he denied killing his wife. There is a lot of media coverage of Allison’s death and you can read the ABC timeline on the events of her death. Gerard Baden Clay was found guilty on July 15, 2014 and convicted for murder. He was serving that sentence until his appeal and the court’s decision last week to give him a lesser penalty.
Allison comes from Brookfield, one of several local communities in Western Suburbs and our family property was bought from Baden Clay’s real estate business over four years ago. Please share this post and if you can make it – see you at the rally.
Surrounding Beauty – JK. Leahy Poem
Life is surrounding beauty
Where crescent moon casts enough light
Your footsteps drum their own music
While walking gives life to your heart
Dead leaves dance in the breeze
Snail trail glistening in light’s reflections
Shadows creating their own art
An owl hoots and swoops low; you hear
A bat screeches that night is near
Before darkness swallows and hides you
Until new day seeks and finds you