Saturday, February 06, 2016

A Dog's act!

Can't sleep!

Haunted by the image of an old woman I once met.

I met her in a jail (they called it an alternative place of detention). The man I was there to see needed help, he was explaining to me that he thought he could manage his wheelchair with flat tyres but he desperately needed a new wheel, the broken spokes on this one were cutting into his hands and the wheel was warped and becoming impossible to turn.

I looked across the room and met the eyes of a frail elderly woman, she was nursing a doll, which another visitor had brought in to comfort her. She had suffered so much and was missing contact with children, maybe she'd lost a grandchild... maybe she just longed to hold a child, to feel it's youth and promise... to hope. Before my visit ended I watched the guard prise the doll from the old woman's hands and give it back to the visitor. "You can't leave that here! You'll have to take it to property or take it home". The old lady was crying... The doll was a gift, suggested by a psychologist to help her with her grief. In this place no good deed may go unpunished or kindness without ridicule. 

I stopped visiting soon after that, others keep going, maybe they're stronger than me? They manage to go week after week and sit with the forgotten souls who have been imprisoned by our protectors. The  Department who issues it's agents with black uniforms. The barest mention of it's name would guarantee a lifetime of metadata retention of any would be whistle-blowing blogger. The visitors and detainees wait their chance to sit in a tiny prison visitor room, in a mosquito pit 40 km out of town, surrounded by razor-wire, under the watchful eye of poorly trained keepers. Men, women, children, elderly and damaged, wounded by wars and conflict and hate in their own land. They survived many dangers to get here, where they thought they'd be safe and now they languish in a heartless country, tortured and tormented by bullies with uniforms and badges and chips on their shoulder! Managed for their own good.

I couldn't go any longer, yes I had family commitments which made visiting difficult, yes the changes to visiting hours and the lack of available space in the centre had an impact, but these were not the main reason. I stopped going because I couldn't bear to sit with people whose lives I had seen deteriorating to the point of psychological ruin and tell them I was doing all I could to help them, knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do to make anything right at all! I stopped visiting because I was ashamed.

Image from ABC Online (Link HERE)

I thought I'd nearly forgotten the experience of seeing the old woman, until I read this article on the ABC website... Then I knew, I'd never forget! I remember her face, I remember her tears, I remember her need to care and to hold something precious.... a child. She showed me her baby as she sung to it and she held it out for me to touch and to kiss, her eyes beamed. This was not a living child but it held the place of one she was missing, she clung to it, and she stroked it and she rocked and sung to it with such love that felt sure it had life! And they snatched it from her arms. And they broke her heart, again. 
That is what I know about Australia's immigration prisons! That was just one glimpse, one half hour visit, the brutality and indifference goes on night and day, indefinitely and without exception until they all go mad! This is the hell our country has created and our citizens endorse. 

As I sit with one or two others holding up a banner which reads 'Kids Don't Belong in Detention' I see the disgust in people's eyes and wonder if they have any idea who they are hating. Sometimes I feel angry and tempted to fight the tough guys who snarl vicious comments as they pass by... 
"Fuck-em... Send em all over there", I've heard that too many times. Sometimes I have to hold my tongue, sometimes I smile and pray silently to the God who knows this shit well... Sometimes I attempt to speak to them and fail. So many thoughts and fears pass through me. The ugliness.... The horror of who we are!

I remember that old lady. Maybe the lady in this article... maybe another. It's hard to know when people are moved about arbitrarily.
They may soon take this lady away, in the dead of night, along with 266 others. All human beings, all who ask only the most basic of rights and the dignity to conduct their lives as nature and God intended for any living thing. 

They do not want to go to a place that will harm them, I do not want my country to send them. Surely we would all obey the most fundamental commandment, the instinct for survival and self preservation? 'Life's longing for itself' brought them to our shores and we would stamp out that precious jewel! We deny and curse the very spirit that sustains them, we can't understand why our efforts don't break them. Can anybody see the crimes we've committed?

Who will be the ones to escort them to the bus? Who will put them on the plane? Who will drug and shackle these brave Men, women and children?

What award do we present to such individuals?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Waist line expansion

About a guy who settled...
I ate the salted caramel cheesecake, set free the belching groaning despair of aching.
Shut off the rattling in my guts of unfulfilled desire, frustration and boredom.
I laid back in the satisfied saturation of confectionery bliss.
The temporary high delivered by a single slice, delicious flavours, sugar and fat.
More! It’s never enough!
Youth fleeting, gut extended, tooth rot, knees knock and buckle when crossed, fire kindled, regrets mingled, in the company of chances not taken, now lost.
Hope’s drive sated by the spoon or the fork. Something better can get back in it’s box. Cheese cake is gone and the spirit is beaten. Sleep it off!

On this day we live!

Monday, January 04, 2016

Dibbling dabbler

The dilettante...

I.... am a dabler
without the drive to dibble
In the field my seeds lay barren
on the page my words are drivel!

Friday, January 01, 2016

Suffer the swine

The upstairs bedroom in a village homestay right next to the temple. So pretty so quiet, watch the women weaving bamboo for the temple, young girls practising the elaborate dance they'll perform the next day.
Sun sets in pastel, incense burning, gamalan filling the gaps between forest and houses and hills and people, dogs wander lazily through narrow gangs, old men gather with prized cocks released from dome cages out the back.

It was some time before dawn... actually hours before dawn. I heard the pigs screaming. 
Before the ceremony they must kill the pigs! It has to be done this way, timing is crucial, it's for the ceremony. They kill the pigs right there, behind the temple, below the place I slept.

When you stay in the village you forfeit some of the immunity to street life, the big hotels will shelter you from all that if you prefer, most do. The illusion of an unaffected paradise is lost when you depart from the sanctioned hotel rout. When your ass hits the ground you smell the earth, frangipani baths are not included. Sacrifices must be made, rice cut, crops planted, tools sharpened, wood gathered, pigs killed. 

They kill the pigs. Too slowly for my naive Bule senses. I hear pig screams for hours, calling out for help... I anguish over their suffering... Please just make it quick! So much blood! They butcher the meat right there as the final crimson drops are collected in a tub, nothing wasted! Flesh is bathed in flames the way it's always been. 

Blessed offerings, prepared on site in small portions as prescribed. Presented on silver, bamboo with rice and fruit, elaborate and glorious constructions, not for human consumption. Held high on the heads of immaculate women, beauty beyond my reckoning. Girls and boys transformed through dance and costume and tradition become heralds of the Gods moving to ancient tones...
The offering is carried in the highest reverence and grace to the inner chambers of the temple, devotees and offerings blessed with holy water by aged priests of Brahma, clad in white and singular in their devotion. All is laid out as the tempo increases, energy spiking as though the journey through village and field has brought the congregation to a mountain top and God will once again appear, none doubt the presence of greatness. 

There they sit, low and respectful, a bounty laid before them, all the wealth of their toil and labour, a gift for the universally benevolent and powerful, the giver and the taker. All presented, the people, their offerings, their ritual. Given up to the lord of the Temple, scales of justice. The great balancing, deity of order and peace, death and life... if you are true. All can be seen, all are known, nowhere to hide. All is touched by the holy water, all accepted.

The procession is long, the pigs screamed for a night, the people not indifferent to the suffering. They remember their frailty. They give up their greed, killing it with the blade that slowly releases the animal from this world and so is revealed and released their own sin, offered back to one who will redistribute the fat and give them their share. Peace, Enough.


(consideration for a new year)

A tooth for a tooth, or a ticket for the bus,
The clock ticks, as it meters time
Potential by fractions is lost to indecision
Jim Morison said...
Well that's not the point
20 years today, since a precious reprieve...
I have lived... I Live! Something must always die
The second 'law' of thermodynamics is not always implied but inertia demands a  cost
Loss is not negotiable, death inevitable, debts - ultimately - payable

Life change must claim a fee a token, or ticket... Yesterday I gave a tooth
Skillfully Wrenched from my aching jaw, in three pieces.
On this auspicious anniversary, and end to an end and a tooth only to pay
Lightning doesn't always strike no matter what you pray
Was the price higher than I thought?
An old champion, my hero, tripped along the way before he'd reached his final goal

In our original glory, was there ever anything so precious as a good set of teeth?
I concede this bad tooth a toll
I trade another crevice a space in my jaw for, one more chapter in patched up shoes 
Thoughts skip to friends who never made it, They departed with all their mouths in tact,
Their future was set they couldn't change it, life's sweet breath squandered and wasted
Let the tooth burn! As fuel for this change in direction
Leave the ashes to the wind

When fate looks in this mouth full of empty spaces, It will find there within
Enough teeth remain to chew and bite and grin
Till my last jagged peg and I've breath left to shout
The marrow will be sucked before I am out!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Monsoon ride around Darwin Harbour

In Darwin, at some time in December or January the monsoon arrives from the north bringing on the true rainy season.
While we were in Bali, two weeks ago, the monsoon arrived in Northern Australia. It's been raining fairly consistently since then.

Cycling through a monsoonal downpour might not sound like the ideal way to spend your time during the Christmas break but to me it's about the best time of year to get out on my bike. Here in Darwin the sun can really wear you down. It's hot most of the time and if you're on the road for hours dehydration is a serious problem. The other issue, particularly during the dry season is wind. Cycling against the wind can seriously inhibit progress and uses up heaps more energy.

Cycling at night (when the moon is bright) or during monsoonal weather, when the sun is obscured by clouds, the air temperature is several degrees lower than usual and there's plenty of water around, are my favourite times to cycle the Cox Peninsula Rd.

Yesterday I did my solo ride around Darwin Harbour again. The road around Darwin harbour is basically a big jagged circle, lately I've  preferred to travel counter clockwise, this gets the remote part of the ride (about 50km without any services or phone reception) out of the way at the beginning when my water and food supplies are full and I've got enough energy to make it to the half way mark, and civilization.

I had intended to catch the first ferry at 05:45 but arrived at the jetty about 3 minutes after the ferry left! Had to wait till the next boat at 6:30... a slight delay.

It was a beautiful morning, the moon was high and peeking through gaps in the clouds. I love it when the moon is with me on a ride, even at the dawn, once I've seen her in the sky I know she'll be with me, somewhere up there for most of the day. I pray the burning rays of brutal sun are obscured and diffused by this precious monsoonal shield. 

I was surprised to discover that I had fallen desperately out of condition while lulling about in Bali eating food fortified with gula (sugar) and palm oil! A week at home on the couch eating fruit mince pies and watching all three seasons of 'Please Like Me' on iview didn't help much either. I wondered if I would actually make the 140km distance this time.

The ferry ride is always a treat, Darwin shrinks into the distance as the sturdy twin hulled vessel crosses the harbour. A fifteen minute ride delivers passengers to a considerably more remote and wild Cox Peninsular. (It's a whole other culture over there, freedom seekers get the best of both worlds!)

Legs were already a bit heavy and stiff before I'd even reached Belyuen community, just 12 km from the Mandorah jetty! No rain, and the sun was beginning to rise! I was slightly worried about the wisdom of doing this ride.

If you've ridden Cox Peninsula road during the dry season you will be very aware how little shade there is. If you think it's an ugly ride I urge you to try it during the wet season... preferably during monsoonal weather. It's like riding through an ancient forest of cycads and sand palms, all the larger trees are lush with brilliant green foliage, lilies and other wetland flowers spread across saturated lowlands. You would find yourself in a very different environment to what you'd expect, it's like a beautiful tropical garden! I startled a flock of Northern Rosella's and Red-winged parrots, the flew to a tree top not far ahead and waited for me to pass.

As my weak muscles struggled with the distance I shifted my focus from the road ahead to the beauty around me, set my music player to random and lowered the pace so that I continued moving forward, without care for speed. Stopped a couple of times for water but generally pressed on. At the back of my mind was the Blackmore river, about half way round, it's my regular rest stop. 

After about 40km, there had been no rain, I had a pain in my groin which was making it hard to peddle, I was seriously worried I wouldn't even make it half way around! Finally about 7km from the Blackmore River I felt the rush of cold air! Soon I could feel a precious mist of cool gentle rain, before long it was pelting down and the drains and creeks started flowing. Exhausted I sat in the rain and ate a Vegemite roll. Bliss!

Maybe I had overestimated my ability to cycle this kind of distance? My physical condition is pitiful, I've done no riding in about a month! I headed for the refuge of Tumbling Waters holiday park. Fully expecting to leave my bike there and call home for a mercy evacuation! Ride Over! Having made a decision, my spirits lifted considerably. I rolled down toward the camp feeling glad that I wouldn't have to go any further today! When I arrived at the gate there was a sign.


"WOW" What to do? "OK, No problem, I'll just ride a few more k's to Berry Springs and leave the bike somewhere there".

Still committed to quitting I had another sandwich and watched the Blackmore river, swelling and swirling from the heavy rain that had set in, I watched water flow off the land around me and join the river, muddy water mixing with clear, pushing eddies into the bridge and the banks... So much energy! Instead of riding back to the  road, I walked about 300 meters. Stood contentedly beside the bridge in the rain for a while, then tentatively got back on the bike for a few last kilometres. Oddly, the 15 or 20 minutes I spent off the bike and possibly the walking left me feeling much better. The rain now was pelting down, the hair on my arms collecting droplets, my skin felt clean and cool, sweat had been washed away, it was like I was starting the ride fresh! 

The rest of the ride was a breeze! I just took my time, relished the cool air and water on my skin. No dramas along Stuart Highway, The Howard Springs cycle path is glorious in the wet! Easy riding the rest of the way home! I'd made it! Did the whole thing.... didn't quit! Many thanks to the rain and my companion the moon.

(Couple of interesting points to the ride.... Much of this ride is along a remote road with a 110 km speed limit. Although most drivers are quite considerate, there is still a serious likelihood that over the course of 7 hours over 140 km of NT roads you will come across several idiots who enjoy scaring or threatening cyclists. On about 5 occasions I was passed quite closely by speeding drivers, the rain and  dangerous conditions only seem to excite them more. If you do this ride you must find a way to steady your nerves and ignore the idiots. Water splashing up from the wheels of a speeding car is not pleasant but thankfully not lethal. 
The Cox Peninsula Rd and Stuart Highway are strewn with the rotting carcasses of 1,000s of dead cane toads that have been hit by cars repeatedly, they form a slippery pulp on the roadside.... sometimes it stinks.... sometimes when cars pass closely in the rain they flick the pulp up into your face.... Don't eat it!)