Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Skeletal Fingers

It is the classic coming of age motif, that moment when you finally see your family as a looming wardrobe with the spidery, skeletal hands of your relatives’ past wriggling the door open, scaring you witless. In my arrogance and anger when I got home, I ripped that door open and looked straight into the empty eye sockets of the hatreds and loves that drive the adults in my family. There are truly impressive currents that run below the smooth waters of anyone’s life, currents set by grandparents, swum against by parents and now reaching my cousins and I as we finally see that our ups and downs are not entirely our own, but amplified by the ripples from cruel rocks thrown many generations before.

My uncles and aunts now talk to me as a fully-fledged adult, and the more they reveal about my parents and my two families (long intertwined before my parents met and married), the more I see myself as if in one of those carnival mirrors, endlessly repeated in the same form, but in different degrees of separation from the original. As each past and personality takes shape for me, I see that each one of my faults run in the grooves etched into my makeup by genetics and influence. As this new knowledge of the adults in my life washes over me with it’s residue of sadness and pain, I see my mother and my grandmothers before me, with their lives in these two families lining their face, and I know I must leave again soon. I love them with the fierceness of blood and obligation, but I cannot allow myself to be sucked into that vicious cycle of silence and grudges, I cannot allow those already disturbingly deep grooves to become the tracks of my life.

Before I go though, there are some vitally important channels of communication that must be opened so that the cycle of looking respectable, but being anything but respectable can be broken. There is an urgent need for the truth and a bone-deep care for parents or siblings to become the currency of my family, not denial and self preservation. There is no better way to rebuild than from the violently scattered rubble of a destructive year, and in the last four months the six of us have each been reduced, in some part of our lives, to piles of emotional rubble. I am hoping that in the rebuilding, more open values will become the foundation of our adult relationships.

Originally posted on Exiled Britophile, a blog I updated for about twelve months when I returned home from London. Due to it's frank discussion of how horrid I found Perth, these pieces had only been read by my London readers until 2011.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I don't miss the Tube ...

… but I miss feeling like I am a moving part of the structure of the city I am in. The Tube Map was as familiar as my own limbs; I knew the limits and the arcs of the joints and muscles that propelled me along the bones of the transport system (within reason of course, goddamn delays). I particularly enjoyed absorbing the intersections between all the parts of the city, separating the layers of settlement in my mind so I could envisage the melding of the peripheral market towns into suburbs and leaving them mere tube stops and mainline stations to remember their former independent glory.

Perth is a created city, not an organic one. Only five or six suburbs around the Central Business District can boast the natural feel of an area grown instead of an area planned. And even these suburbs are village-like only for those on the sidewalk, because in this city of cars, you only see your surroundings in the frame of the windscreen.

As I got behind the wheel of my old car for the first time in two years and went for a day of driving, I began to feel confident again, because the Perth of buses and trains was not the Perth I knew. The Perth I knew was framed by the windscreen, registered from three angles as you changed lanes and ignored to the feel of the oven-hot wind from the open window and the sound of the radio, providing a soundtrack for the tarmac.

I was never a traveller in my home town until my return, and now that I am seeing it from the familiar stand point of a driver’s seat, it is not exotic for me any more. The transport system in this town is geared around school kids and people who didn’t have their car for the day, creating an almost one way system of suburb-to-city lines with no intersecting lines as it merely moves people to work and school, not to social events or other people’s houses. Unwieldy as it was, I enjoyed seeing the city from the bus, I saw areas I had never registered as a driver, usually because I was too busy finding a parking space.

As the old driving habits come back; the shortcuts taken without thinking, the hill-starts taken with no hands on the wheel, the racing gear changes out of traffic lights, it is a surprisingly lonely time for me because I miss having 40 other people to contemplate while I make a journey. There is precious little stopping on Perth roads, they are wide and straight and race over a flat land, and I find that my mind has little to concentrate on besides keeping to the speed limit. Thus the white lines on black become the frames of thoughts prompted by familiar landmarks or favourite songs, and I travel alone.

Originally posted on Exiled Britophile, a blog I updated for about twelve months when I returned home from London. Due to it's frank discussion of how horrid I found Perth, these pieces had only been read by my London readers until 2011.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Slice of Heaven

My God I am glad to be back on Yallingup beach. Yallingup’s importance to me is almost inexplicable. I could spend pages explaining the habits formed over my lifetime of family holidays in Yallingup that shaped how I view holidays, my relationship with my siblings and to some extent the very way I relax and think. That stretch of beach, that headland, those waters are a core part of my ability to be happy in life, and at no time have I felt that fact like Friday night, when I stood on that beach again after two years missing it every day.

I didn’t KNOW there was a weight on my heart until I stood on the ice-cold black of the sand, in the roar of the midnight surf, saw the constellations of my childhood trying to outshine the full moon laying down a silver pathway to the horizon and I was truly happy. I hadn’t REALISED there was a curb to my imagination until I stood in the freezing cold afternoon sea, squinting into the waves frosted white gold with the setting sun, diving under the wash to lie on the sand while the white water boiled above me and I was finally enjoying the completely unfettered run of thoughts in my head.

Lying on the sand and getting so close to it you could see it is pristine white only because each grain is a different colour of the rainbow. Watching the bay change from clear to green to blue to silver and then grey to black with the depth of water, the angle of the sun and the movement of the tides. Sitting in the shade at midday with the cicada song thrumming through you, the heat making your muscles feel alive as you simultaneously strain towards the warmth and recoil from the harshness. Going to sleep with the boom of the waves and waking to the cries of magpies and honeyeaters. Standing on the reef in the swells, challenging each wave to knock you over, and mostly losing.

The house, the garden, the bookshelves, the beds, the smell, the next door neighbours and the path to the beach have not changed in my living memory. I was home; washed up on the beach, sand in my bathers and so happy a smile was inadequate.