That kid

Mopping my floors is a time consuming, mundane job when most of what we walk on in our home is polished wooden boards. No one’s home on this particular mopping day and so it’s just me and my damp mop, one of those Enjo-Sabco types that when wiping over the floors requires more muscle means the cloth pad of the mop is drying out and needs water. This requires either sliding the mop pad off and rinsing it under a tap or pouring water onto it from a cup that moves with me from table to bench top. It’s even dull writing about it, but stick with me.

Mopping around the heater vent in the front entry, I chuckle out loud. The spike of autumn shoots through the flyscreen door and I glance into the street for anyone walking by that might catch me laughing at nothing. People are always walking past our home, more so during the Corona lockdown.

It was a few days earlier that I first glimpsed a round container full of white, thick goo on the floor by this heater vent I just mopped around. At first, I wondered whether I’d put my sour dough starter there, only to quickly realise that my starter was growing in a jar and not in a plastic container. I laugh again, remembering the container, and keep mopping. That kid, always inventing or exploring something science and engineering. I kept meaning to ask him what he was doing with the container but he’d been flitting between work and online Uni classes and I couldn’t catch him long enough to ask. I didn’t dare open the lid, didn’t want to discover anything disgusting growing or brewing with the heat. I laugh out loud again, this time so hard that I had to stop mopping. That kid.

The same morning of finding the container by the heater vent, I was in the sunroom on the phone to friend when I heard music. I followed it into the lounge room where my son’s phone lay on the floor, beside a blanket. It was his alarm sounding to wake him for work. I thought it odd as he always takes his phone with him into his bedroom. He must’ve fallen asleep on the couch and dropped the phone and blanket on the floor as he got up to go to bed. I took his phone into him and asked him why it was in the lounge room. He didn’t know. Making breakfast 20 minutes later, I asked him whether he’d fallen asleep on the couch. He replied again that he didn’t know. I smiled, thinking he was probably still half asleep. He’d been working long hours over the past week.

Later in the evening after finishing work, my son walked through the backdoor.

‘Hey sweet, how was work?’

‘Good,’ he says, smirking. ‘I don’t know what happened last night, but I think I was sleep walking.’

I laugh and stop clearing the kitchen bench from the onion skins. ‘Why, what makes you say that?’

‘I don’t know,’ he says, sounding unsure. ‘I don’t know how my phone got onto the lounge room floor but I think I remember getting up after going to bed, to watch TV.’

‘You used to sleep walk when you were little, but you haven’t done that in years.’

‘Yeah, I sort of remember that,’ he says.

‘I used to lock the doors at night because I would find you in some strange places and I was worried you’d one day walk out of the house.’

‘That’s a bit dangerous, deadlocking the doors when we’re sleeping. What if we had a fire, and couldn’t get out quick enough.’

‘I know, but I was more worried about you sleep walking into the street and being hit by a car. One time I found you in the dining room,’ I laugh. ‘Do you remember that?’

‘Yeah, I was asleep on the floor.’

‘Asleep under the bloody chair, exactly where the dogs lay when we have dinner!’

‘I remember,’ he chuckles.

‘You must’ve been four or five at the time. Honestly. Sometimes I’d wake for no obvious reason to see you standing in the hallway, trying to work out where you were. I’m not sure what would wake me but one time, I woke to hear you call me and I found you standing in the dark in the laundry, not doing anything. Just standing there, calling me.’

‘I know I did it, but I don’t remember doing it.’

‘You sleep walked for a few years, maybe from when you were about three until about eight years old I think. And then it just stopped. Until the other night!’

After two days of looking at this science experiment container on the floor, I’m in the kitchen making a pot of tea. As the kettle heats the water, I draw open the curtain in the lounge room and notice the container in the front entry had disappeared. That kid, he must’ve done something with his experiment after I went to bed last night.

My son wakes soon after and almost prances into the kitchen. ‘I know what that container was.’

I look at him, thinking yes, great, the experiment’s finished. I know that.

‘It was the houmous.’

‘What?’ I begin smiling.

‘It was the houmous. I went looking for some in the fridge last night, for a snack, and couldn’t find it. Then I walked past the container near the heater vent and thought, that must be the houmous.’

I laugh out loud. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I think when I was sleep walking the other night, I must’ve eaten some houmous and then went to put it away in the fridge but for some reason, thought putting it near the heater vent was putting it in the fridge.’

We both break into raucous laughter.

‘Are you nuts!’ I say. ‘How can the heater vent be the fridge!’

‘I don’t know. I was sleep walking.’

I can’t say whether he was laughing as hard as me that morning, as I couldn’t see through the tears I was laughing.

That kid.

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Quiet strength

She sobs, walks in a wallowing of bowed head. Her pace is steady. Purposeful.

She forces him to walk in front of her, so he’s walking backwards while gripping her elbows, trying to stop her.

She lifts her head and screams at him. I can’t make out her scrambling shrieks, or his faint replies. But I’m ready, with phone in hand, to call the police. Who knows what he’s about to do to her.

She strides on, pushing against his force. Then suddenly drops to her knees. She screams at him to get away, to leave her alone. But he’s not listening, he’s on his own mission.

My finger swipes my phone on. I scrutinise his every move, watch him block her path. That’s a form of violence, surely. To use force to stop her from freely acting as she wants and needs. I’m about the call 000. She drops to her knees again, screams at him to leave her alone. Then sobs into her hands.

This is society in lockdown, families under considerable strain as people are forced together. They can’t separate or escape from any dire that might exist, building more frustration in the bind to unhappy homes. It’s well noted that when families spend more time together, family violence increases. Restricting our movements to help stop the spread of COVID-19 is causing violence in homes to be more frequent, more severe and more dangerous.

Family violence organisations are reporting a surge in demand for services, and governments have increased spending on crisis accommodation and for those experiencing family violence during lockdown. Some perpetrators are threatening to take their children outside and expose them to the virus, or themselves, so they can carry the virus into to the family.

While the spike in family violence is being reported, it is also to some degree, being endured silently.

Family violence is what I’m witnessing from my sunroom window before the sun has risen. It’s the kind of dawning day for this woman and man that few will know or hear about.

And it’s only one of many scenarios that isn’t being heard or fully understood. There are few who aren’t experiencing their own struggle right now. Many are grieving the loss of freedom, have no work and can’t pay their mortgages or rent or buy food. Millions have locked themselves up in extremes of paranoia, not daring to leave the confines of their homes for weeks. How difficult it may be for some to leave their homes when we're able to move freely once again.

Many can’t be with loved ones at their last breaths and at final farewells, can’t grieve together and instead, the pain festers in deep loss and heartache. Those battling mental and emotional demons daily, fighting to stay afloat, are battling harder than ever in a state of confusion and uncertainty. They’re trying to manage their imbalance in a much more complex environment. Even those locked up at home with time to focus on home and self, are battling and digging for an inner strength.

The yearning for social contact has its own level of audibility, exposing egos that are craving attention, more than they ever have. And in a world of polarity, these amplified voices are drowning out those battling silently. The ongoing joke in my extended family is to be prepared to be tackled to the ground for hugs when we can be together again.

Quiet strength is being drawn upon everywhere. In the many helping quietly and unassumingly in our communities, the organisations and people assisting the elderly and vulnerable. Many act without recognition or a need to make a noise, they pick up food and medications and deliver to those in lock down. Children deliver groceries to their elderly parents and have a cup of tea with them from back door steps or through windows in apartment blocks, parents school children at home while also working from the kitchen bench, and others work from phones and laptops to great effect in a nook in a back corner of the home, continuing to serve their community and society at large.

It’s apparent in my street outside and in the vast number of relationships that were fragile and held together by the thinnest of threads before COVID-19 struck, now pushed to limits in confined homes. The suffocation, frustration and heightened irritation, the growing resentment, and deep digging for that inner strength.

These hotpots of emotion stew away in cauldrons spiked in poison … and one of those hotpots is exploding outside my window. It’s 6.30am and I can only just make out the two solitary figures, the male towers over the small female frame. They’ve only walked the length of two residential houses. He hasn’t done anything to physically hurt her. He’s not been violent, but he is threatening, attempting to control her. She’s obviously fearful, is besieged on her knees, unable to move.

I’m careful to stay behind the curtain. If he’s a violent man, he could retaliate if he knows I’ve called the police.

He moves away, his hands in his head. She jumps up, but he’s on the ball. And then as I predicted, a punch is swung.

But it’s from her. She’s thrown a punch at him to move him from her path. He grabs her, tries to cradle her. She shakes free and screams at him to leave her alone. She darts past him, her backpack firm on her shoulder.

He tells her to get in the car so they can go home. She screams no. He runs ahead and tries to block her again. She sobs, screams. She’s going to swing at him again, I need to call the police.

Then I hear her very clearly. ‘Leave me alone. I need a drink. I have to buy a drink.’

My heart sinks in sympathy with the man's slumping shoulders. He stands limp, watches her march towards the shop. She needs a drink. And he’s powerless to stop her.

He’s not giving up though. He dashes to his car parked a few houses down the street and drives alongside her. Their conversation becomes inaudible as they move away from my house, but his determination is resolute and he crawls beside her in his car up the street, towards the liquor shop.

A good mate of mine, in fact, he’s a beautiful man, he says that everything has no necessary reason and that nothing is contingent on anything. He says that when we understand that, we can see that the world is what it is, and we can transcend all the bullocks.

‘Seeing something simply in its being-thus—irreparable, but not for that reason necessary; thus, but not for that reason contingent—is love’ (The Coming Community, 2013, p. 105).

Some might call it unconditional love. Acceptance of the polarity of life, the whole spectrum of life: good, bad, joy and sadness. It’s all necessary.

I wonder what he would say about what was happening outside my window, about our isolation and being segregated. He has written a great about that too, people being segregated. Perhaps he’ll write about our isolating life now, in the months to come. I hope so. I’d love be able to ask him what he thinks but I’ve never met the guy, only know him through his words. His name is Giorgio Agamben, described as Italy’s leading philosopher and ‘one of the most delicate and probing writers’. He says a lot that make sense to me and sometimes I just smile in awe at what he reveals.

While I believe and accept that life is full of polarity, all is necessary for the balance of life, I do question why things happen the way they do. 

The thing is, we’re all here to learn the hard stuff, crack our shells to let our light shine brighter.

Hats off to all of us for the strength we must find to deal with our hard stuff. We all have it. But gold-lined top hats off to those steaming along in quiet strength, while making little noise.

 

Image: 'The fool', by Paul Klee, 1927

Copyright

© 'The fool' by Paul klee, 1927

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The Best Thing for Being Sad

“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”


― T.H. White, The Once and Future King

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Every Leaf In Springtime

It’s been the darkest winter I can remember, skies uniformly leaden, the earth deluged, the nation divided, and the world angst-ridden in the throes of a deadly virus that looks set to change our way of being for ever.

But the truth is, the future was never ours. We hope, we make plans, we strive and steer towards our goals, though, often, life imposes other designs and death may come as a thief in the night.

There is no future except what opens up from the present moments and how we approach the challenges and appreciate the blessings they afford. It’s about our best endeavours in plying with what is. Oughts and shoulds belong to the past.

Earning and deserving don’t enter the picture. Rain falls and sun shines on just and unjust alike. The life of the planet and the wellbeing of everything on it awaits our generous response. We can't do it alone. We need each other. And we need the mercy and grace of the Creator.

If death and destruction can steal a march on us, so can good fortune, just like the breathtaking revelation of spring...





“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” 

Martin Luther





“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”

Leo Tolstoy




“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”

Rainer Maria Rilke





“Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land, grew especially strong in spring.”

Vladimir Nabokov




“I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older.”

Virginia Woolf




“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.”

 Marty Rubin





“It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness, a longing that makes him stand motionless, looking at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to embrace he knows not what.”

John Galsworthy




“Spring drew on...and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily,
suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”


Charlotte Brontë




“A Robin said: The Spring will never come,
And I shall never care to build again.
A Rosebush said: These frosts are wearisome,
My sap will never stir for sun or rain.
The half Moon said: These nights are fogged and slow,
I neither care to wax nor care to wane.
The Ocean said: I thirst from long ago,
Because earth's rivers cannot fill the main. —
When Springtime came, red Robin built a nest,
And trilled a lover's song in sheer delight.
Grey hoarfrost vanished, and the Rose with might
Clothed her in leaves and buds of crimson core.
The dim Moon brightened. Ocean sunned his crest,
Dimpled his blue, yet thirsted evermore.”

Christina Rossetti





"Nature is bent on new beginning
and death has not a chance of winning..."

Rosy Cole





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the now

the now

walking alone ahead

uncalmed

shoved into

that darkened bag

of heavy space

thoughts squeezed nervous

by arrowed cruel command

impatient as a virus

hellbent

on what comes next

the tyranny of now

 

fickle existence

can flick nazi-like

through every soul 

sentenced to

noble and ignoble

versions of now

 

where have all the nows gone?

the awareness

the everything

the stone-hearted conqueror

that is now

 

how does now 

become now?

our memory

the museum of now but

But really what is 

NOW?

 

and how will the future

shape now?

 

P.S. The photo is one I took in 1973 of a solitary figure walking on Wilton Terrace by the Grand Canal near to where I spent my childhood in Dublin, Ireland.

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Latest Comments

Stephen Evans Quiet strength
25 May 2020
"Acceptance of the polarity of life" -a phrase rich in meaning.
Stephen Evans That kid
25 May 2020
So charming.
Monika Schott PhD That kid
19 May 2020
It's amazing how common sleepwalking is!
Chris That kid
18 May 2020
Great story! Can relate as our son did the same as a child. One night we heard the front door openi...
Susan That kid
17 May 2020
Oh my god i love it!!! Thars just too cute .