Category: family

To catch up on this story, read Part 1 first.

 

The last (and actually, only) time I ever saw Red Kangaroos, they were doing this:

 

 

Naturally, the one I hit with my car was not acting so casual. But it was nonetheless just as beautiful, magnificent, in the wild and quite oblivious to me.

While I gather my thoughts on how best to honour and present what the experience has delivered me, I thought it’d be cool to show you – in pictures and few words – the journey I had already been on.

See, Kangaroo is very much to do with “balance in the mob/with Mother Nature”. It’s not lost on me that I had just been learning about my mob and putting things together more in my mind. Accepting my forebears even more, appreciating what I have now in my present life, realising the excesses in my life (both material and emotional)…

So please come on this visual tour with me for now and I will post the rest of the story – the journey’s end, really – this week. Promise.

 

When you stand on the front porch, this is what you see. Everything you see in the following photos is from farmland now run by the family. It’s mind blowing on many levels. It is also a brilliant way to allow a sense of deep significance… and insignificance. All at once.

 

Time for a quick prayer, anyone?

The last 3 surviving pieces of my great grandmother's tea set – so fine you daren't breathe near it – once used daily and cherished by people all now long gone. Makes my possessions feel so unimportant.

I even love the carpet, well worn and tired as it is. Note the old iron doorstop. LOVE.

The family's first home on this land, where my great uncle was raised

 

And his bedroom was this tin addition

Abandoned, superseded farm equipment

They parked the cart one day and… just never used it again, I guess?

Ok, then it began to get creepy… Going into an underground cellar in an abandoned old ruin = not my best idea of fun.

We were stunned into humble, respectful silence looking around these former homes

Personal effects in a bedroom. A lady's shoe, a side table, a bottle of port (surely not also the lady's…?).

The shearers' quarters

Five shearers, two weeks = 9,000 head of sheep shorn.

Another day, another beautiful ruin

The "front yard"

And there goes the driveway. Puts a whole new meaning to the phrase "just putting the bins out"….

The only lived-in homestead on the property. And she's a beauty.

 

Part 3 is now here.

Roo country if ever I saw it

As far as “messages” go, this story takes the cake. Never before in my decade-long journey to discovering and unpacking the “way the unseen world of energy works” have I been dealt more clearly an action-taking impact. I need to share it with you, but slowly, for otherwise the message will be hopelessly lost. So over two posts, it must be. I will publish the next as soon as it is written this week. I do hope you’ll come back and read it too.

I’m afraid an animal was harmed in the making of this series of posts. And a car. Oh, and a passenger or two, come to think of it. But that is exactly why, when these things happen, I am one to pay careful attention to the subtle energetic complexities of every aspect made available to me. These events don’t simply happen, for mine. In my quest to fully live, the past 10 years have taught me to be unafraid to hit pause and look at every angle of an altering event, to seek the meaning in it not just for the purpose of my existence but for all of Life’s sake. I guess that’s what makes me hard work for some, who would prefer to “set and forget”. And, as Red Kangaroo has recently taught me, so be it.

So. BE It.

 

For the past fortnight I had been pondering whether to still take the trip or not. My cousin and I had spent a few months planning this as a way to begin electronically documenting the several hundred years’ worth of family history in case of the proverbial “going up in smoke” that, however unlikely, still has the potential to happen given that it’s all stored in the one remote family property. As it is so remote from… well, anywhere, let alone any of us… this is not a drop-in visit kind of place. You have to plan everything, right down to your food. It had to be a trip with focus and purpose, lest we squandered our precious short time there.

Then, a little over a week before we were due to set off, Steve got retrenched. He was now due to start working for the take-over company the morning after my scheduled return. They had given him a leave pass of just two months by way of a contract that would see us through Christmas but then after that, it was unknown what he would do for work. When he announced he’d lost his job, and that it was unlikely they would need another manager in an already tight and efficiently structured organisation, my heart was suddenly not in this road trip.

But he told me there was no reason I shouldn’t go – it wouldn’t change anything – and besides, he had a sense it would be good for me to go. And so set in motion a chain of events that did exactly the opposite; the trip would end up changing everything.

So we packed up the car and took off as planned. It took us 15 hours (if we barely stopped) to get there and we had a brilliant, whirlwind time of it.

I have always adored South Australia. There is something about the stone architecture, the colour of them and even the hues of the land itself are different. Familiar. And so rich. Throw in a 33,000 acre family property that’s yours to explore – willing second cousin and old farm ute permitting – and you’ve got yourself the makings of a very unique Australian country holiday. The cameras clicked wildly as we visited four of the estimated fifty abandoned ruins that dot their property; one-time farming homes in this harsh and remote environment that were walked off by desperate and destitute families during the course of the difficult drought years, mostly, and all of them dating back anywhere from the mid-1800′s to the turn of the 20th century.

We went, saw and documented literally from dawn to dark for three days and then made an early start on the long road home.

“Watch out for the roos,” our cousin reminded us as we climbed in to my trusty new Suzuki, a car I’ve had for a little over a year but that has been the best I’ve ever owned. It wasn’t even nearing retirement…

“Got it!” I tipped my invisible cap. Of course I’d watch out for roos, especially at this time of morning. Heck, on the way here we’d seen dozens of them (none over the road, granted) and I’d also had to be wary of no less than three roadside emus – you think kangaroos are hard to spot, try looking out for an animal whose body and neck looks like a shrub with a fence post behind it in a landscape where the only bloody thing around you are low saltbushes and fence posts! So, yeah. Not terribly easy. Still, we hadn’t hit so much as a sunbaking goanna and I’d been very relieved and proud of it.

We set off and during the course of the next 2.5 hours I navigated some of the most magnificent birds in the wild I’d ever laid eyes on – eagles with wingspans wider than the car swooping low and playing with the wind gusts are easy to spot but difficult to slow down for – and again, missed them all. A few kangaroos out for a spot of breakfast hopped wildly down the centre of the road (why do they DO that, the dills?) as we rounded a bend once, but aside from that the road was again mercifully free.

And then came the scene that has played countless times in my mind ever since.

 

Stay tuned, this will have to be a two-parter because if I rush it, the message of Red Kangaroo will be lost. But here: enjoy some pretty scenes from our trip before you click away!

Part 2 is now here.

Storm brewing. Ironically, over a rusted water tank.

Storm front. Check out the blend of old and new technology in the foreground… Can you see the solar panels?

One of the working windmills

One of their many wheat pastures. That looks like hours and days of work to me.

Sunrise over the "front yard"….

The lone thirsty ex-tree/old fence post

The light's on but there's definitely nobody home.

 

 

So this one time? Back in the 17th century? Some dude got together with a hottie and made babies. I come from them. Totes.  (Late edit: it wasn’t 16thC, for those astute readers who picked up the difference in network feed previews! I get my centuries mixed up, it was the late 1600′s which made it the 17thC…)

It’s not really the stuff of legend, is it, when you put it in modern speak? Still, that is exactly what happened, more or less. A man named George and a woman called Rebecca got married. They had a boy called Richard. Hats off to them. Seeing as that’s as far back as that side goes so far, you could safely say everyone since has literally been…. by George. And let’s not deny Rebecca!

I’ve written previously about some of our family weddings since. I love writing about my ancestors. I’ve done it here several times before. Each time, it helps me become clearer about my own life today. Like this time when I connected with a 4x great-grandfather. Wowzers.

It’s little wonder, faced with a tree that so far has over 3,300 people on it, my cousin and I have decided to focus first on one of our maternal great-grandmothers to begin mapping not just names, birth dates, causes of death and places of residence, but more in-depth “what were they like?” analysis of our heritage. It feels a little more manageable to start with someone who’s just outside of living memory of those left in the family.

So we’re on a bit of a reconnaissance mission, my cousin and I. In its 70+ years in the family, the oldest permanent family residence still owned by someone in our family has seen just about every family member pass through it since the early ’60s (if not stay a while or live there for a time). It’s quite humbling to see photos of the same verandah and do a head count of people in the photo who were there and then gaze around you and realise that not only have they been dead some 40 years but the place hasn’t changed since they visited. Furniture in the same positions, mantel pieces with the same ornaments. The whole home is like a time capsule. And lots and lots of correspondence, photos dating a couple of hundred years, documents, books and many other things owned and passed down to the “girl of the family”.

It’s all still there. Untouched. Not looked at. Under-appreciated.

Very special.

With the third module – Grief And Loss – of our foster care training under my belt, I am anticipating even more this journey I’m about to make. As participants, this week we had it brought home (ha!) to us just how “off the grid” some of these kids are. Many don’t have photo albums, let alone own *a* photo of their immediate relatives or even themselves. We watched footage of a teen explaining how much this lack of knowledge of where he had come from had affected his life. It was deeply touching.

And here’s me with all this knowledge of the members of my family at my fingertips. It feels so disrespectful all over again not to acknowledge them by getting to know them a little better.

As I scour the family tree and trawl through scores of photos to put faces to names…

(like this one, of my grandfather Edward – he's the oldest – and his three siblings; the little girl was to become the owner of the home we're going to visit in the photo below)

…I’m thinking more and more about all these family members who have gone before each one of us. I don’t know about you, but I take them all for granted so often. I look and see photos of children who are holding dearly beloved soft toys – where have they gone? what will become of the LGBB’s dear Scraps in a few generations’ time?! – and it strikes me how very impermanent we all are. Really.

For the past week, I’ve been preparing for our upcoming trip back to the ancestral family home – in a location that’s somewhere on Tatooine you’d be forgiven for thinking, going by the isolation of it, check this out:

 

Last time I went, my passion for discovering more about ELB was front of mind.

This time, I am growing a sense of the woman who stood alongside him until her rather untimely death from heart failure in 1955. This great grandmother of mine, Alice Leonora Mary, who bore those four wee children (above), themselves all now gone. The wife of a Baptist minister, so far I know about her only as much as is described about her in a letter by that same minister (my great-grandfather Edward Leslie, or ELB) which he wrote after she died. And what he shared about the kindly woman just makes me yearn to have met her. I hesitate to say “know her”, for in some respects, I believe I do know her a little bit already.

Know what I mean? Is there someone in your family who you never met but feel like you know them?

If you’re drawn to your own family history, you might understand what I mean. It’s more than a passing interest; it becomes a drive to uncover who you really are. And every little bit of information helps, I say.

Wish us luck, good speed and no flat tyres for this Thursday please! If we drive on highways without stopping, we will get there in a little over eleven hours… It’s not somewhere you want to try and find in the dark. Have you seen Wolf Creek?

Gulp.

 

“Do not judge the bereaved mother. She comes in many forms. She is breathing, but she is dying. She may look young, but inside she has become ancient. She smiles, but her heart sobs. She walks, she talks, she cooks, she cleans, she works, she IS but she IS NOT, all at once.

She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity.”

~Author Unknown

 

Jumbled thoughts scramble to make coherent sense at 2am. No fewer than three subjects of blog posts emerging at the edges of my consciousness begin to form.

Five days on and my girl is still fighting off her middle ear infection and tonsillitis. I’m so spent after keeping vigil while she endures her fitful feverish sleep next to me and getting only grabs of twenty minutes’ shut-eye at a time myself all night, every night, that I go to talk now and it sounds like jibberish.

I think I’ll save talking for another day. But it is time to write.

This article has been on my mind since I read it yesterday. It’s all so familiar that to read it once more, to highlight and quote from, would feel like reliving it again. I don’t need to do that to myself, not today. Instead, I urge any of you reading this to bookmark it and go through it carefully. It’s as brilliantly written a piece on a mother’s grief as any I have ever read – or written (back in the day, I used to write and write and write on the subject myself and, ironically, still didn’t feel heard despite the acknowledgement of supportive comments).

I am staring down the barrel of my tenth year on this Earth without my baby daughter. She would be celebrating her double-figures birthday this coming January. I’d have a moody female on my hands by now! She would have endured untold numbers of heart operations too, even to this stage of her life. We were told she’d never be able to be active, there would have been restrictions on her that by now we would have surely adapted to.

Looking through that piece, and the many comments in response to it, so much is familiar. But I have to ask myself, this far on, who really cares? I hate to tell any of you who are newer to the experience… but you get to a point where you feel a little trapped. You’ve had no choice but to walk on by now. So if you are here, still breathing, moving through your daily existence, and the years pile on… well, surely, you’ve reached your maximum limit of goodwill from friends and family.

Those who have stuck in there with me have changed, as much as I have, in these intervening years. People who had no children or young families ten years ago all, without exception, have offspring now of various ages and stages. Back then, my daughter’s short life and death were sprung on them just as shockingly as it was on me. Some got out of the task of supporting me early on, others remained and carried me through in varying degrees (as best they could). Others were on the periphery, throwing me lifelines every so often up until just a few years ago. But as their lives have changed (as has mine) and their commitments have grown and widened, the contact has waned. Who knows what will befall those families? I pray I never have to support any of them in the same manner they had the call to action I inadvertently gave them in 2004.

The lengthening of my grief began quickly at the hands of someone I thought would be a stalwart supporter. And it shocked me as much as it did rile me, in my burgeoning Anger Stage of grief. See, I was abandoned less than two years after my daughter died by a close relative who had always been the first to call me if she needed my support, including being there through her two newborn phases even while I was grappling with infertility and miscarriage, putting her needs first. That embittered reaction to my own grief response remains in place today, hurts of the other party allegedly greater than that which I was going through (and still carry today). But so be it. For that person’s pain to be so insurmountably great and heavy a burden that I had to be abandoned, it’s little wonder she couldn’t stick around to “cope with me”.

At first it seemed insurmountably hard to also grieve this loss to my life, so soon after trying to find my new normal. But the saddest part about this estrangement to me is the removal of the opportunity to learn and grow together. It simply was not this person’s destiny to walk alongside me, I accept that now. But it has taken years to reach this point.

In the remaining eight years, I’ve had minimal and varied levels of support from my ever-changing circle. It’s no accident that I have now a completely new set of friends. Firm friends, meaningful connections, easy relationships that are not costly on my energy. I can only assume, as these are friends by choice, that the same goes for them towards me.

The thing that strikes me is that over the course of a decade, everyone changes. My family makeup has changed, through deaths, births, estrangements, divorce and marriage. Where some members of my family have stepped away, other relatives have stepped forward and it has been one of the best and timely surprises (suffice to say, I LOVE and adore cousins – one of the unsung and overlooked connections and, to me, possibly more important than the sibling connection which can be so fraught with pain, belittlement and competition). And yet, I’ve still managed to enshroud myself with guilt that I am the one who’s caused all the problems because of the metamorphosis I underwent, beginning ten years ago. I have become this new person since the days before, so much so that they had to stop relying on me for a time. Because I changed the game plan, see. The person I was died in 2004 along with Ellanor.

In many ways, to this day, and because I feel I can never reclaim the dignity and sense of self I lost along with her, nor can I repay the listening-ears (for effective or not, they were still doing their best to hear me, a walking, talking, seemingly bottomless well of expression), I cannot overcome the feeling that I abandoned them. That in me, they lost a peppy, witty sister who was not prone to bouts of crippling depression, who could always say and do the right thing, who would take the knocks and the jibes with good humour and laugh them off.

Because I changed, because I don’t put myself second any more (for survival at first and then out of newfound respect for my core, original self – the one who emerged from those ashes), because I have worked so hard to constantly monitor and be responsible for what I do and say which is much easier said than done… I find myself on the outer of my family. I have no old history with my relatively new friends.

But am I worse off? I ask myself, in my state of being so tired that I am unable to mask my historical wounds. And the answer is an emphatic and, finally, truthful:

No.

 

Please hang in there with those who are journeying with you as best they can. Let them be there. You don’t have to accept what they say, you don’t have to be pragmatic and say they’re being abysmally ineffective with their words or deeds. But these things will happen, despite how well you try to protect yourself from them. So in the end, it’s not so much what to say/what not to say to a bereaved parent that is going to matter to you. It will depend on whether you can forgive yourself – your vital, natural, original self – for your actions and responses towards those who have hurt you deeply on your walk.

For the longest time, in the back of my head replayed the old tape, “You’re losing your babies because you’re not WORTHY enough. You’re not GOOD enough. You’re not COMPETENT enough. And you certainly aren’t LIKEABLE enough.”

Pretty horrible and destroying, huh?

What if I told you the voice was my mother’s?

It had already, to that point, taken quite some time with various therapists and techniques and well-earned DINK* dollars to get me to a point where I felt I could pass the day as a bona fide adult with anything to contribute to the world. To wash off the seemingly endless layers of external conditioning that had brought me to the point of needing – not wanting – to deconstruct my upbringing.

Imagine how interesting the game got when I then began to lose children. Harder still, when I have been faced with not one or two, but four family estrangements. Not to mention those that have gone in generations before me.

It’s taken everything I have in me to remain on an even keel with “knowing thyself”, not giving in to the darkness. Not allowing that voice (for by now it was not outside of myself but internalised and sounded like me and what I was saying to myself) to rise up and be brought into the light. To be given love. Because it was as simple as that, as it turns out. Infusing everything I did with love and understanding.

That is what ultimately uncoiled my wound-up, wounded Self.

Hey, I can still get all muddled up, still get it all wrong. It is far too easy for me – given my nature, my experiences, heck even my position in the family (3rd of 4 kids and doesn’t everybody, including me, like to have a dig at that needy middle-child and, even now in adulthood, roll their eyes and sigh at memories of siblings in times past; I hear it more often than I ought) – to fall on the sword. To blame myself and only myself for my part in these estrangements. Never instigated by me but long-suffered, all the same.

I go through the months and sometimes years of thrashing it out with that person in my head. “What the…” “What about all those times when…” “And I said NOTHING!!! So how come you get to come in and just….”

Throw it all away.

Throw. It all. Away. It is far too hard, I have decided, to live in angst about these lost loves from my life. I have lived and regenerated myself several times in this one lifetime. I must build and grow as I go.

Tomorrow, Lolly and I are meeting with an elderly friend. My walking buddy, who dutifully meets me at 6:30 every morning with his dog, and we have chatted and merged mornings for that brief thirty minutes for well over two years now. He is taking us on a tour of the theatre where he is a director. When I told Lolly, her eyes almost popped out of her starry-eyed head. It’s all I can do to convince her to leave her tap shoes at home. Because there won’t be an opportunity to get up and tap out a number on stage. Dear oh dear.

But the point is, I count this person as some sort of surrogate. Not father, not relative of any sort. But a conduit who, like so many of our friends since Ellanor who we have made, strengthens my resolve. That it wasn’t all me. That goodness is to be found in the world. That not everybody is going to hurt you.

It’s a very difficult thing, not to succumb to being gun-shy over relationships, when those you’ve had for decades seemingly find it easier to run away and not face their own darkness.

If you are in the middle of the mess of estrangement, all I can say to you is, remember that until you can meet in the middle with true equality and all the heat is taken out of what has passed between you, live your life. Remember you don’t know all you think you know about their side. And when you reckon you’re spot on, think again… and remember, again, that you don’t! Of course, the same applies to them as well: they don’t know your side/your version/your perfectly justified justifications… and that may well be what is contributing to what is chewing you up from the inside out…

Stop. Let them go. Let it all go and turn your thinking about them into thoughts towards them/your situation. Surround those thoughts with love and send them off into the air, wrapped in that bubble. If you don’t, you will constantly have them on your shoulder. And that can debilitate you to the point of physical illness.

Of course, if that manifests, it can also serve as a wonderful teacher.

Estrangement from family can be freeing. Try and see the benefits of being cut loose. Eventually, the good might just outweigh the bad. In my experience, it’s happened because there has been an inequality or an imbalance in the exchange of energy between you anyway. Possibly for quite some time, perhaps since the very beginning. So use this time to really see yourself.

Blessings, many blessing to be had from this estrangement business. Ultimately.

 

Okay, big Note To Self (shared out loud) over.

 

 

* Dual Income, No Kids


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