I’m Better Than I Looked

Last weekend I travelled from Melbourne to Nowra for my sister’s wedding.
As the designated passenger I received a phone call. The news was my dad had fallen and was now in hospital. As I result my brother and sister in law altered course to see him. When we arrived Dad (in his eighties) looked like he had been fifteen rounds with Mike Tyson (and had won)! I was last to see him. And I asked how he was. His laconic reply, “Better than I look”. Then he said, “Andrew, I’ve been thinking about you and I’m worried (I recently lost my job). How are you?”. Yes better than he looked!

First Gig

It was a quick stop on the way from Melbourne to Sydney. We pulled off the highway near a small country pub.
We parked and left the car then entered the pub. Of course, after the long trip most of the party had things to do. Except me. I was transfixed.
At the back was a girl, her guitar and her song. And she was singing her heart out. Maybe it was her first gig. Who knows? But that didn’t matter. Then she finished. The whole pub clapped and cheered. And we all caught our breath and held it. Then very slowly the original singer/guitarist returned and started tuning up again. For some reason he couldn’t get started. He knew : what we knew.

Kokoda: Courage, Endurance, Mateship and Sacrifice

English: Kokoda Track Memorial Walk

Not as regularly as I should, I travel to and then walk Melbourne’s Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (1000 Steps) at Ferntree Gully at the foot of the Dandenong Ranges.

In the last few months, the track has been refurbished and renovated. Now at the entrance to the track is a memorial recording the Kokoda Track’s history covering the battles fought and the units involved. The last touch was four obelisks added on a platform.
Two weeks ago when I walked the track I paid them no attention. But last Saturday, I was with my brother David with whom I regularly walk the track. He has also walked the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea and has described his experience at length. He found that walk life-changing.
We walked to the entrance of the track and Dave saw the obelisks. On each of the obelisks is a word : CourageEndurance, Mateship and Sacrifice. He turned around and faced them. He was dumbstruck and clearly was struggling with his emotions. After a few minutes, he started to share his thoughts.
He said the same obelisks are at a memorial on the track itself. That memorial commemorated the battle of  Isurawa where the troops took the words CourageEndurance, Mateship and Sacrifice as watchwords to keep their morale. The battle was lost but in time the enemy was defeated.
He concluded: that’s what I said to myself CourageEndurance, Mateship   and Sacrifice as I walked along the track. That’s what got me through.


In The Company of Poets…Love and Devotion Exhibition (Melbourne)

Today I’m in Swanston Street Melbourne. And I’m surrounded by people, mainly men, mainly in racing colours. The Melbourne Grand Prix is in full swing.  Lots of energy, lots of machismo, etc, etc.

But I want some solitude from all of this. I’m headed for the State Library of Victoria to visit their exhibition of Persian poetry: Love and Devotion.

And why? One of my favourite writers, James Carse, has an uncanny habit of quoting Persian Sufi poets to illustrate his points. And one of those poems has affected me. So I am curious to find out more…

I enter the exhibition through the automatic sliding doors. And it is like entering a room where everyone has held their breath. Everyone is quiet, stopping and slowly examining the beautifully written and intricately illustrated manuscripts. I join them as well except I start to read each story that accompanies the manuscripts.

And slowly, I am taken into a new world. A world with stories like Romeo and Juliet (but a Persian version called Layla and Majnun), Omar Khayyam (of course) but stories that influenced Chaucer, Shakespeare and Goethe and even Eric Clapton (Layla).

What little I read speaks to me. I hear the voices of those poets and they echo even Donne and Keats whose poetry I still treasure. And occasionally, they whisper to me what I am trying to write for myself, albeit imperfectly.

And then I am reminded my copy of Joseph Campbell’s book, The Power of Myth, which says that all stories from all cultures have common themes. And today’s theme is the progress of the heart towards true love. And beyond that to the divine.

When I walk out, I catch my breath. And stop and recollect.

For just a short moment, I was in the company of my fellow travellers. A rare touch for me.