The Flower Garden

I suppose our neighbourhood is like most others really. The only happenings from year to year are the changes of season which, unfortunately, seem to affect everyone. For some it is in a small way but for others, well, their whole lives are torn apart and they are uprooted from everything with which they are familiar and comfortable.

My dearest friend and next door neighbour is Daphne. Her family has lived on the same patch for generations. Two things about Daphne's family which I find really heart-warming are that the eldest girl is always named Daphne, and that the current generations wear the same beautiful fragrance that their mothers before them have worn. They are very traditional.

On my South side is old Mr Hydrangea. A fairly harmless old man most of the time but he can be moody. One is never quite sure which side of his personality one is going to be exposed to. Sometimes he can pop out all pink and rosy and be happy and positive and other times he can be dark and blue and quite depressing to be around.

Next to Daphne on the Northern side is Iris. Her family is certainly interesting. She has a Dutch uncle on her mother's side, a Spanish cousin, her father, a very nice man has a Japanese mother and his sister-in-law is bearded, poor thing, but she is one of the best dressers in our neighbourhood. The range of colours in her wardrobe is absolutely astounding and the way she mixes and matches colours is eye catching at the very least, one could even say traffic stopping. Iris even has a dwarf on her father's side, though what he lacks in height he makes up for, like the bearded sister-in-law, in style and colour.

Across the path is the daffodil family. They are such a bright, sunny bunch. Their faces are always happy and smiling and no-one in that family ever has a bad word to say about anyone. The littlest ones though are little show offs. They do love twirling their little hooped skirts in front of anyone who passes by.

Next to the daffodils is a garage and Ivy and her friend Virginia live around the corner on the Northern side. Ivy was a very friendly, outgoing person when she was little but these days she and Virginia tend to stick together preferring their own company. Ivy in particular has become quite withdrawn and terribly clingy. Another of their friends who is also rather dependent and often looking to friends around her for support, is Jasmine. She, however, is not quite as needy as Ivy and Virginia, sometimes making her way alone, but one cannot help but wonder what happened in their early lives to make them so lacking in independence. Perhaps they were never encouraged to be brave or to try new things? Who knows. Generally we just live and let live around here.

On the South side of the neighbourhood is one person who isn't a positive force and that is Mrs Weeping Willow. She is morose and very negative. She just sits all day next to the pond, staring into the water as if it holds all the answers to her problems, whatever they might be, and seems incapable of raising a smile for anyone. I don't know her background but it has certainly had a debilitating effect on her, leaving her constantly sad. We tend to let her be, but whether that is a good thing or not, I'm not sure.

Where Mrs weeping Willow is constantly sad, like all neighbourhoods we have our hot head who is permanently angry. Good old Red Hot Poker never disappoints. One expects him to be angry and he always is. It's sad really. Anger wastes so much energy and it must be exhausting, to say nothing of the damage to his health. But the entire family is the same. They stand all day in big groups and whinge about the state of the world and get into such a lather that their blood pressure rockets and before you know it their heads are bright red from all that anger with no release button. We give them a wide berth.

Another good friend is Violet who also lives on our Southern side. Violet is very shy and self-conscious and always overdresses, in green, her favourite colour, no matter what the weather, sadly covering her beautiful lilac and mauve dresses that she usually wears. Like Daphne she smells beautiful, though her fragrance is more subtle and she is such a winsome little thing. We don't see much of her but when she does emerge she is chatty and personable.

We have a couple of I-want-to-be-noticed types in our neighbourhood too. Tall Poppy stands head and shoulders over most of his neighbours and has a true lust for life. As he is no slouch, I think that anyone who holds himself up so straight and erect, no mean feat in Spring or Summer in the wind, deserves to be noticed and acknowledged. I just love his bright post-box-red hats. Cousins of his have beautiful colours but aren't as tall as him. The other I-want-to-be-noticed type and frightful flirt is little Miss Show Peony. Life is all about her. She doesn't like the wind. Who does? She complains because she doesn't have protection from it in Spring to prevent the wind doing permanent damage to her face. Then, she craves and demands rain in Summer. Can you believe it? Who doesn't want rain in Summer? But do we get it? No. Only our neighbours in the vegetable patch get that. But Showpeony goes on and on about it. She must have water or her beautiful face will be withered next Spring. She is terribly vain. But when we do have Summer rain, well she is something to behold. Her magnificent face glows.

I suppose after talking about everyone else in my neighbourhood I should introduce myself. I have been here for years. Most around here call me Banksia. I've invested a lot of energy over the years establishing and securing a seed bank. I've created a stronghold for my seeds that no-one, and I mean no-one can get hold of. The only thing that can access my seeds is a fire. Not much chance of that happening. See you around the patch.

The Dreaded Virus

Winter has arrived, folks,
And with it comes the flu.
As I'm its latest victim
I'm perplexed at what to do.
The doctors think they have the answer
With a needle in the arm
But I am here to tell you
There is still cause for alarm!

My head is splitting fit to crack
My nose is dripping like a tap
And I'm just about ready for the grave!
But I'll settle for a 'Toddy'
Made with whisky if you please:
To ease the pain and suffering within.
But the sufferings without
Make you want to scream and shout
Has no one found a cure yet for this bane?

Now the answer to this problem,
In my opinion anyway,
ls to buy yourself some tissues
They helped me save the day.
I have tissues in the bedroom
And in the bathroom, too,
I have tissues in the lounge-room
And even in the Loo!
I put them up my nostrils
To help them stem the flow
But that didn't work; I should have known
The sneeze had nowhere else to go!

I paid a visit to the Doctor
And he was not impressed.
"My dear, your bronchial tubes are rattling
And there's whistling in your chest,
So I'll give you this 'ere mixture,
Some tablets and a spray.
I'm sure that they will help you
Live to fight another day."

I was shunned and isolated
When the virus took its toll.
No-one came to visit
Not a blooming soul.
So I tucked my box of tissues
Underneath my arm
Took the mixture and the tablets
Couldn't do me any harm? (Could they?)
My hottie' and my teddy
Were the only friends I had,
So with their help and comfort
I didn't feel so bad.

So now that I have warned you
At your peril take the risk,
Avoid those crowded places
Where those germs and bugs exist.
Unless you have your tissues
To cover up yow nose
I'm afraid the germs will get you
That's just the way life goes.

Waste, ain't it!

"Mum, Mum, wait till you see this!"

The girl was hard to see in the darkness: a vague silhouette, slithering over piles of rotting rubbish, fruit, vegetables and other unsold and out-of-date foodstuff. Behind the shopping centre a yard was enclosed by a brick wall, high, but not high enough to stop determined scavengers bunking up and over to look for anything which might fill an empty belly.

Lily was always hungry. There never seemed to be enough money for food. What did Mum do with it, she wondered. Smokes? Drink? Pokies? She could not be sure but they both did this nightly round of the grocery chuck-outs.

Her hands slipped over more rotten fruit: bananas oozing from split skins; apples, some still firm, most slimy and not worth a second touch, oranges covered in films of mould; mushy plums, apricots, grapes getting pongy, squashed tomatoes: a jumble of stale bread rolls, cream buns, tacky glazed icing, crumpets, doughy muffins, smashed cream cakes. Lily's fingers dipped in and out of her mouth: the taste was good but it was too dark to see what she was eating.

A rat scurried away.

Her hand fingered inside a fibre carton: packets of something unopened, several of them. She pulled one out in front of her face. "Hey Mum, come over," a loud but muffled whisper, "wait till you see what I got."

Her mother, a formless shadow slid around the jumbled garbage. "What is it then? What yer got?"

"Doughnuts, packets of 'em. They're in boxes like this. I seen 'em in the shop. Cor. I love doughnuts."

"OK, put 'em in the bag. We'd better be orf 'fore security comes round."

"I got a few rolls as well."

"OK, that'll do us dinner. Come on."

"Mum, how come all this food don't get sold in the shops?"

"Dunno luv. Waste, ain't it.

A Big Surprise

In 2003, I did a flight around the world. When I was in Beunos Aires I phoned my niece to let her know I would be arriving home on the following Friday. She asked what time and I said it would be about 8 pm. She then said, "Oh, that's bad luck. I'm flying out on Friday morning bound for Europe. I won't see you for a couple of months."

My flight was via Santiago, in Chile, where I was to have a 24 hour stop-over. When I arrived at Santiago airport, I made a sudden change of plans. Instead of staying overnight in Santiago, I changed my flight arrangements and was able to fly out that same day after a 10-hr wait at the airport. Everything went ok and I got into Hobart about 8 pm Thursday.

I immediately went to my niece's home. When I got to her front door I didn't knock but instead used my cellphone to call her. We chatted for a few minutes about missing each other and when we were likely to see each other again. Then I knocked on the door.

"Oh! There's a knock at the door," she said. "What a nuisance calling at this time of night."

"That's ok," I said, "I don't mind waiting. Go and see who's there. You never can tell who it might be. You might get a big surprise."

She opened the door and she got a big surprise.

A Leap of Faith

She should have done it years ago.She pictured in her mind the "Leap of Faith" it required to perform such a task. Was it really a task? It seemed like she would require a natural trust in nature as well as a leap to freedom. Could she do it? Remembering the times she had passed this particular spot - witnessing the activity, purpose, and uninhibited action. The laughter - and the urging on, when a newcomer faltered and in an instant changed his mind completely!She remembered watching the courageous ones, soaring and dipping in the skies. How wonderful it would be to feel the wind taking you gently along, dipping and changing direction. You could pretend you were a beautiful bird like an albatross, spoken about reverently, in the poem of The Ancient Mariner, though his end was disastrous! In her mind's eye, she could imagine the colour of the sky and the fluffy clouds. Below would be a wondrous sight - farms and valleys and the blue ocean in the distance.

What about the landing? That seemed worrisome to fathom. How do they come down so smoothly without breaking their legs? The trouble now, as she thought about it all, was the timing. The years had already slipped away so quickly. When she had really contemplated the attempt she was much younger. She should have shown some courage and done it then, when she had the ability to carry it out. There was a very brave grandmother parachuting from a plane not so long ago!

The fact had to be accepted that she was now a great-grandmother and hang-gliding off a slopey grassed area, high up on the Lamington Plateau, would now have to be just a dream. She would have to be content relaxing in her favourite chair - striving to write her memoirs, poems and stories, for her beautiful great-grandchildren.

Three things come not back -
time passed,
the spoken word,
the neglected opportunity.

Nativity

This child sleeping in the night

The scene is set, the stage is lit, the actors ready; the baby boy is real, quiet and still. The music plays, the angels sing, the cameras roll.

Do you see what I see?

Mary tries really hard not to drop her new baby. But he's getting heavy and he's quite big. Standing next to her, Joseph puts a strong arm around her shoulder. They smile at the little one. But Mary's arms are aching; she tightens her grip around him but she's not tried to cuddle a baby before. She's only twelve. Maybe she's not holding him quite right. Perhaps, if she'd been sitting down instead of standing . . .

The angels are still singing. How long will it be? She can't hold him much longer. It's no good. She leans forward and drops him down - hard - in the cradle. She bends her face close. Will he be all right? He's not crying. No, he's fine.

Enter wise and noble strangers from the East. They kneel with their gifts.

Do you know what I know? A child shivers in the cold.
Let us bring him silver and gold.

The angelic choir in beautiful harmony :

a song, a song high above the tree, with a voice as big as the sea.

The baby's asleep, at least he's not stirring, does not seem fazed by the bright lights and the cameras.

He will bring us goodness and light.

Shepherds kneeling, attentive, absorbed in the mystery.

Do you see what I see? Way up in the sky, little lamb. A star, dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite.

A triumphal conclusion, the music swells:

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light.

Nov 2012