Tag Archives: stories

The Cartographer

The cartographer
saw the vastness of landscape
and rendered it knowable.
Transformed terrain
to elevations, angles,
contour line etchings
and watercourse filigree.

The cartographer
used his raptor vision
to view conflict as landscape,
charting paths through
political quicksand,
over bureaucratic dunes
to the ocean of truth.

The cartographer,
now guided not guiding,
his acute compass
dizzied by Alzheimer’s.
Piercing the fog,
he cedes, all pauses and sighs,
“I’ve lost the path”.

Sparking joy, turning back time

Living in Tokyo for a week taught me that you can live comfortably with a lot less stuff.  In Australia, for example, our living room is the epicentre of activity throughout daylight hours but redundant once we trudge off to our bedrooms. In Tokyo, once the day was cleared away, we rolled out our futons. The living room became the bedroom.

This spacial awareness was renewed by a New York Times article on Marie Kondo. Ms Kondo is a declutterer who recommends you look at each of your possessions and ask, “does it spark joy?” If the answer is no, you get rid of the item.

In a burst of enthusiasm over summer I began throwing stuff away with a ruthlessness that would have been inconceivable without the ‘spark joy’ philosophy. As an author who stores scraps and detritus that might one day inspire a story, Ms Kondo’s guidance that paper never sparks joy was truly liberating.

As I shredded, I found a bag of cards from my 21st birthday. I paused the paper cull to flick through them. Then sat cross-legged on the floor and began reading them properly.

This personal time capsule contained friends, family and acquaintances from a decade long gone. There was an ex-girlfriend and a couple of unrequited crushes who all still own a piece of my heart.

There were names I didn’t remember. Not even a little bit. That felt wrong.

There were friendships that have endured all manner of change and challenge – and flourished – and those that have fallen by the wayside.

There were assessments of my young character and prayers for my future conduct. I hope I’ve lived up to at least some of them.

There was the name of a family member who died tragically the following year, leaving a wound that may never heal.

Best of all, there were faces I’d not so much forgotten but hadn’t considered for a long time. It’s International Women’s Day today and the perfect time to remember one of those faces, the amazing Ivy.

Ivy was a widow who lived on a sheep farm run by her son and his family. She hired me to tackle jobs she didn’t want to burden her busy son with — mainly mowing, pruning and splitting wood.

This fiercely independent, funny woman  particularly wanted me to prune a cyprus hedge that ran along her driveway for several hundred metres. When I arrived on the designated morning, Ivy was nowhere to be seen but I could hear the snapping of pruning shears.

Following the sound through her cottage garden I discovered 80-something Ivy wedged between a wire fence and the corner of the hedge, pruning with gusto. When I asked her why she hadn’t waited for me, she replied that there was a thorny japonica in that corner and she didn’t want me getting scratched.

It took me several days to prune the hedge and Ivy would insist on me stopping for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. Her cinnamon teacake and strong cuppa combos remain unsurpassed.

I always felt bad stopping work to eat cake but came to realise Ivy was paying me for companionship as much as gardening grunt-work. Looking back, I wish I’d sat and listened to more of her stories, rather than rushing back out to earn a few extra dollars.

We lost contact as my university studies became more demanding and I found full-time work. I learned Ivy had passed away and didn’t attend her funeral but, every time I pass her driveway (and that hedge,) it puts a smile on my face.

Her 21st birthday card is signed, ‘kind thoughts from friend Ivy’.

On International Women’s Day, in the freshly minted Year of the Ram,  I salute Ivy who befriended a boy 60 years her junior, made him laugh, protected him from thorns and made pots of tea full of smiles and stories. Thank you.


New love 2

Every relationship has a story. How did the folk in the relationship meet? Who made the first approach? Who was dominant initially? Who has the power now? Has the pairing been symbiotic, lop-sided or mutually destructive? How have the participants in the relationship evolved?

Which brings me back to Kyle and Ash, who declared their ardour at Spencer Street Station.

Maybe I’ve been too hard on Kyle. Perhaps he’s the loyal, reliable type. The kind that jumps in to try to rescue a friend, with little or no thought for personal risk. Maybe he’s that guy, the watcher, the one who’s always at the periphery of the group, never the ringleader.

What if Ash was hanging with the wrong posse, shop-lifting, chroming, sleeping rough, being used by Trip, the leader of their pack. Maybe Kyle has had a thing for her for months but never said anything, barely raised his eyes to meet hers.

He’s watched as Trip had his way with Ash and then rejected her, repeatedly, for being too needy – or a slut if she as much as spoke to any of his fellow wolves.

The night they all got wasted and went down the embankment to throw stones at trains, maybe that was the night things changed. Ash stumbled over the rails and lay motionless on the ballast and Trip just laughed. Told the others to leave the stupid cow where she fell and she’d come running when she wanted something. Because she always did.

And Kyle hung back. Waited behind a tangle of razor-wire blackberry canes until the posse moved on down the line. Lifted Ash off the rails as a train approached and took her to a bungalow at his uncle’s place. Cleaned her up and had a Milo ready when she woke.

And when her mobile squawked, with Trip’s avatar on the screen, he looked her in the eyes for the first time. Mumbled one sentence, “You don’t need him”. Then watched, again, as she removed the sim card and scorched it with her lighter.

Maybe that’s how it began. If it did (your beginning is equally valid), then there’s no way Kyle would snog anyone else on New Year’s Eve. And so another ending is required.

New love

Train at Spencer Street Station. It will always be Spencer Street to me, not Southern Cross. Even with the rippling marquee roof.

Doors exhale open. There’s a lull as a smattering of passengers enter or egress.

On the platform, facing me, is a cinema poster for The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. My eyes are drawn not to Angelina’s eyes or lips but the graffiti written in permanent marker over her cheekbone. I’m going from memory here so apologies if I misquote.

‘Kyle M (heart)s Ash A’

Underneath is a brief commentary, fuelled by the festive season, passion or bourbon and coke. Possibly d) all of the above.

‘I (heart) Ash.’

‘To Kyle, thank you for (heart)ing me.

I didn’t know what love was til you showed me.’

As the doors gasp shut, I’m left wondering how old Kyle and Ash are. What relationship experience they’ve had before this, presumably, young love.

Will Kyle find himself snogging someone else on New Year’s Eve, after one drink too many?

How many times has Ash crushed on a boy, only to have her heart trampled? Can they make it through summer, let alone beyond?

Will their ardour outlast their public declarations, which the station worker ants will soon wipe away?