Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I go to my wardrobe and extricate my Asics with the expensive orthotic inserts that re-align my feet to the approved bio-metric stance for optimum performance and health. I tie the laces perfunctorily not really noticing as already, my mind is in escape mode...musing on the possibilities it will heretofore cogitate on during the journey I am about to commence.

I go to the drawer and take out the pedometer and open its face and check the time and reset the step counter. I look at the ipod and consider if I desire music for this walk. My mind says "No!" it wants to muse. I leave the ipod in the drawer and it seems to be pleading with me, casting a sort of emotional blackmail pall - of some significance - as it peers up at me with its blank square eye. I am strong. I ignore the ipods plea for attention and close the drawer. "Maybe next time" I promise valiantly, knowing full well that my mind is stronger and its need for the drug of fantasy more persistent.

I decide on the weather and the appropriate apparel. This is always the most difficult decision to make before a walk. Is the weather going to play tricksy with me, appearing to be calm and mild, only to have me sweating and overheated after an hours walking? Will the weather seem quite warm, only to have a blisteringly cold southerly whip up across what water there is left in the river to chill my skin and raise the hairs on my body so I appear to be wearing the lumped skin of a plucked chicken? Layers are usually the answer. A light jacket I can remove with arms long enough to tie around my waist if needs be.

I snib the front door behind me as I leave. My daughter has commandeered the laptop and is on Myspace uploading photos, chatting in MSN and listening to endless repetitions of "Black and Gold", she doesn't hear me when I yell down the passage,"Would you do the dishes and feed Sevvie while I'm gone!" I know that when I come home, the kitten will still be unfed and the kitchen still in disarray. I never learn this about my daughter. She never understands my frustration about the house being "tidy".

I step out of the front door and close it quickly behind me before the kitten has a chance to experience the wide open spaces beyond the home she has been growing to know these past four weeks. I have decided that this cat will be a permanently indoor cat. It's my token gesture to being environmentally friendly to the delightful and colourful native bird population that visit my back yard.

I walk the few steps to the edge of the cement portico and then down the single step to the driveway of our home. I walk to the white letterbox with its flip top lid and check inside for mail. There are letters. I return up the driveway, cursing that I really should have checked the mail earlier in my day instead of now when my mind is eager to indulge the blissful fantasies and possibilities of the Unreal. I shove the mail under the front door mat so I don't forget to notice it when I arrive back home, turn on my heel and re-establish my direction.

My feet know this route now, they tread it purposefully and decisively. My mind eagerly grinds its gears into position for thought. It takes time for my mind to work itself into the grooves of fantastical thought. When my feet walk through the suburban streets it feels as if I am in "neutral", in a purgatory-like space entitled 'Between'.

Once I cross the road that follows the river, now drying again to its sandy floor, my mind begins to slowly form the thoughts it wishes to muse upon for the duration of my walk.

Today my thoughts lead me into the realms of my current unemployment. Career! My mind wishes to muse upon career. What do I want to work in? Where do I want to work? Bring me the work that is right for me! My mind stretches its formidable power of concentration over this topic.

And in that moment I am split in two. The half of me that sees everything I pass by on this walk. I hear and smell, touch, taste, notice, understand, grieve, find pleasure in the physical construct of the natural world on my right and the man-made constructed world on my left. At exactly the same time as I note the angle of branches, the synchronous ducking of pelicans in the remaining river shallows, the smooth cruise of brown ducks leaving little wakes in the deeper waters behind them - at the same time I notice the path, I am musing on the possibilities and fantasies of Career.

I traverse the road with the red soil that bends and twists alongside the bend in the river. The water is slightly deeper here, the river narrower and the other side less distant. I notice the regular landmarks of the journey - the large chopped tree stump that stands precariously on poles of its own roots, like a filigree series of little stilts that seem to defy gravity. Sometimes buried under water, sometimes exposed and accessible on foot the stump is like a mysterious harbinger of a Fantasy Story waiting to be told. I promise myself to bring the digicam next time and take photo's of this naturally occurring thing with no context or description that can do it justice.

I choose to either walk the road or the foot/bike track that is directly alongside the west edge of the river. The road is not sealed. It is a either a white Koliche-like clay material, or orange and softly yielding like margarine or a burnt red and very dry. The road changes at every step. It's wide enough but it is preferred you take it slow. Water makes the different soils all soggy and slippery and the wheel ruts of vehicles melt into the surface to dry there and remain long after evidence of water from the sky is remembered. The track along the river is narrow and highlighted white or pale grey. It bends and twists and wiggles along the side of the river bank and is the preferred route for cycler's who whir their wheels along it at a furious - and potentially injurious - pace. It is best to walk the track with no music in your ears for you may not hear the cyclist behind you coming at the speed of light. I am grateful I left the ipod at home this day.

My mind is happy to muse on black thoughts. My mood and emotions reflect the purposeful striving of my thinking. My thinking responds and reacts to my moods and emotions. There is an interwoven tangle of logic and emotion, fantasy and the struggle to identify with Truth and Reality in the NOW that if drawn would appear to be like the river gums that stand as sentinels along the rivers edge. Their branches are twisted and knotted together in perverse structural sculptures only nature could have devised. There is no Celtic order or perfection to the surreal tangle of branches overhead, it is merely a conglomeration of branch, each one defying another, each one interweaving, delaying, supporting, avoiding, reaching toward another - just like my emotions and thoughts do inside my corporeal self.

The slopes of the river banks on either side become steeper. The river is at its deepest here. The water takes on the hue of the river I remember when I was much younger. The water is a muddied khaki-green, grey. It is like a camouflage suit. It is not a bright, pretty little river - never was - never will be. This river flows inland towards the heart of the country. It is dying. I can hear its death moan each time I walk beside it. It is not going out with a bang or a roar, it can barely mumble now and in its feeble hold on existence it still keeps trying to give to the land as if somehow it believes it can fulfill that purpose beyond its very life. I yearn to own such a resilient purpose.

I follow the track and note the photographs that I "could" take if I were able. I promise myself to bring the camera one more time as I stand and observe the classical white-grey of a dead eucalypt on the other side of the river bank. It lives on in death as a statue of stone, its branches stretching and weaving into the sky like the stiffened snakes on Medusa's crown. It is beautiful beyond belief - even in death.

My mind calls me back to its established purpose. I need a job! Not just "any" job. A job that has meaning, that I am good at, that I have natural affinity for. I pray for a career that is right for me with all my talents, abilities, skills, needs, goals and desires appended. It is a fantasy ask. I want to believe "my" job is there waiting for me but the cynical critique that wars endlessly with my good intentions has determined that no such thing can exist in my town and it enumerates the reasons.

The bench chair set in concrete overlooking a particularly lovely part of the river comes into view. I immediately walk to the chair and sit and I imagine my friend sitting alongside of me acting as a kind of anchor to my thinking. They play devils advocate and give voice to the parts of me that refuse to accept possibilities as being...possible! I want so much to believe in the stuff that could be possible but the seed of doubt is a trickster seed and feeds me with illusion rather than truth.

The seat has a label, a brass plate engraved with love and cherished memories. "In memory of Barry Petrie. At one with nature" and it is signed by a dear friend I know in this town. I remember Barry although I never knew him personally. He used to write natural science stories in our local paper. He was a naturalist and a raconteur. He had passion for nature and was intensely interested in protecting the river. It would break his heart to see it now. It is like the river died along with him nearly 12 years ago. I love this seat. I love this spot in front of the big river gum with its mass of tangled branch reaching out over what is left of the water. The ducks are peacefully at home here. A small black bush wallaby hops along the opposite bank and I am surprised to see it so close to town. Water is a magnet for the thirsty...body soul and spirit.

I disentangle my thoughts and get up. My legs feel stiff from sitting for this past half an hour talking with my imaginary half and trying to get clarity and coherence in this now time of life. I always find it so difficult to be in the now. My head prefers the known of past and the potential of then - it rarely perceives and identifies the now. I know I need practice in accepting Now.

I re-engage my steps homeward. I decide to take the wider road further out. It still follows the river but my concentration won't be assaulted by the forms of the river. My imaginary friend walks beside me for as far as the gravel is white, orange and when it hits red...they fade and are no more but a memory.

My mind spins convoluted hopes and dreams on top of abject despair and disappointments. I struggle to KNOW what is ahead for me. I want so much...I fear I do not deserve any of it. I am replete with thought and imagination, sensory appreciation and fantasy. I am distraught and unsettled that I cannot compose a concrete plan for my future that gives me security and is a foundation I can build on.

My steps waft back towards home arbitrarily. The light of the sun is waning and the sky is becoming a pale grey, the light diffusing into unshaded sameness. I wander across the road, turning my back against the wide part of the river that is almost waterless except for out in the middle where the pelicans roost on the central island. I feel my mind shutting down slowly. The act of walking along the footpaths of my suburban street dulls imagination and fantasy and I am left feeling like the wheels of my mind are slowing, steadily, to Stop.

I turn into the driveway at my white letterbox. I can feel the pull of exertion in my upper thighs. They've been walking, they are tired now but satisfied. I pick up the mail I left under the mat and I open the door. The cat has not been fed and the kitchen is in disarray, the same as how I left it one and half hours before. I smile. I expected this. What I expect to go "wrong" usually does occur.

What I hope to go right, I need to forget so it can surprise me... maybe.

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