three men two rods and a packet of pilchards

It is dark night time dark

the sheen on the waves rushing to embrace the beach emits  a silvery glow.  frothy  bubbles collapse on the shore offer  a mere glimmer in which to see.

three men two rods and a packet of pilchards.

this is the second night in a row that John finds himself on Cuttagee Beach ready to go home but our two Sri Lankan friends  not .

they did not know fishing back home . It is a job  there done by professional fishermen not a recreational sport nor something that develops as part and parcel of family life.

Indeed they tell us that during times of conflict the people  are not allowed to go anywhere near the coast.

Why is that?

They shrug, this they  cannot explain to us. Their English is not yet sufficient for details nuances and shadings.

what we do know is that despite assurances from the government of Sri Lanka  that the war ended in 2009, it didn’t for the Tamils.

what we do  know is that there still exists a very real climate of fear  manifesting in rapes beatings and killings ,that their homes villages and agricultural land is still occupied by the army who allege they are there “to keep the peace’ but are intent on reprisals.

Those that do not leave the island live in makeshift camps. it is a marginal existence and families are casting their children out into the four directions in the vain hope that they may find a safe refuge in which to  thrive and grow in happiness.

these young men  spend a lot of  time skyping family that have settled in many other countries. India , Belgium Yemen France and so on… technology and social media serves to hold these families together  in time and space.

it is a new world.

and here in this country they are making new families and it is into this offering we have jumped.

in the first week it was  straight into  the deep end , John took them rock fishing.

He  showed them the ABC of  catching bait getting it on the hook rigging sinkers tying knots casting  reeling and

it was Dunstan who caught the big one ,a most beautiful silver drummer.

What he doesn’t teach them is the wonder. this they feel their eyes light up Raj sings a happy song.

they come alive  standing in their own power on the edge of enormity, an enormity they know well from their journey across the Indian ocean but on this cliff on this day  it is not tinged with fear but  a deep joy that bursts from them and flings the rod out over the sea again and again.

a week later later after the rain and storms have passed John introduces  them to beach fishing. He calls  me after dark after I have eaten my dinner and with a laugh tells me  they won’t leave.

The bait has long  gone, the guts had been grabbed by Dunstan and blow me down with a feather but he caught a salmon with them.

I kid you not.

the only way John gets them to come home with the two fish caught by Dunstan a  tailor and a salmon is by promising them another go  the next night.

Cuttagee Beach  deja vu the fish are caught the bait is long gone . finally Raj has caught two although  he still doesn’t get  the difference between a wave pulling  on his  line and the tentative bite  of a fish.

John has taken a chair this night and a thermos of tea for which he is grateful. only his feet are wet and cold.

let’s go eh? he says

the reply yes yes one more ok  one more .

ready to go now ?

one more  one more ok.

the moon puts in a brief appearance before being swallowed by clouds.

It reminds us of Kingston and his two one mores.

they return around midnight eat a bowl of chili beans I had left on Stanley and go to bed.

again they take a fish over to Carole  and we eat well for many days.

the routine of life here is simple and they mould themselves seamlessly into it.

the garden is enlarged  and renovated. this work pleases them  and they want to finish it  before they leave.

they  plant beans and  talk of coming back and we hope they do.

sad, says Dunstan two days out from leaving.

21 hours we go he says .

this is getting hard now.

friday morning Central Hotel 6.50am Monica and Mark along with their two Jarred and Vaneesh meet us .

there are hugs all round and hand shakes and see you soons .

they climb on the coach  and with a wave  disappear down the highway.

we are left stunned saddened by departure and full of feeling ……..

full of respect most definitely, full of hope for their future absolutely,

full of  wonder for the gift given and the gift received.

we swap phone numbers and get their address. we are welcome anytime says Raj  24 hour any time .

we are kin now part and parcel of their lives.

what I have learnt is that they like sugar on their bread and butter  and sugar in their black tea

that their teeth are perfectly white and strong and their smiles light up the room.

what I have learnt is our greatest asset in times of darkness is the gift of ourselves and that  no government policy can defeat us on this journey.

what I have learnt is that it is possible to extend the hand of friendship and  receive a million blessings in return.

what we also know is that we will do it again.

one more ok

one more.

he doesn’t miss a beat, he is too busy playing hard


the little king came to stay

he is three now

a big boy.

a force of nature to be reckoned with

a chaotic random event occurring

a tornado whirling and twirling thru kitchen verandah shed bedroom and garden.

installations pop up everywhere

a nest of skewers balancing on top of a plastic container finely tuned with potato masher,  peeler and meat cleaver

perhaps a fast sports car parked within.

brightly coloured balls packed into a sieve and topped with tea cosy and ice tray.

there are no limits except the ones we vainly try to apply as we  gingerly pick our way thru the pandemonium known as Kingston John.

there are wood off cuts wheelbarrow boxes  nails and hammers packed haphazardly on the verandah and cascading down the steps.

there are saucepans full of trains in the lounge room and ladders blocking doorways.

there are slippers  shoes ,hats and jumpers a trail of temperatures and whims.

there are cups of milk tea, glasses of water, half chewed oranges, pots of hommous licked clean, crusts of marmalade toast and dregs of muesli in bowls loitering on various tables and shelves.

all activities accompanied by a never ending prattling sing songy story.

thursday last he travelled down  with his mum, a day when the air turned to snow and the  land lay under fine white drifts between Cooma and  Brown Mountain,

dawn on the Friday he jumps into our  bed   pressing his ever so sweet face  up close to mine twiddling my hair around his fingers chanting ‘tory  ‘tory ‘ tory and so it goes…

’ once upon a time  there was a little boy and his name was Kingston John… and off we sail on  adventures with Wallaby eating wild cherries and going down Wombat tunnels.

flying on the backs of Eagles to meet Whale  in Bermagui and hang out playing ball with the Seals  on Baranguba Island.

down at the dam he and wa wa meet the Dragon that lives far below the surface  and carries them off  to magical places .

he  has picnics with bandicoots and tortoise and echidna…

and THEN he says  ‘working thing  ‘tory about working thing’

what do you mean working thing ? I say .

working thing he says ‘tory my hair knotting  round and round his fingers.

you mean a machine story ?

yes .

wowsers  must be time to get up and have  tea and toast.

a phone on the mantelpiece rings,

a woman is about to birth in Canberra.

Jess eats her porridge kisses her son goodbye  and leaves.

he doesn’t miss a beat,

he is too busy  playing hard.

the opportunity to hang out with the men on a semi dry verandah and renovate the old bird-cage for a magpie that Sooti and Kat  found in the paddocks.

a young one badly injured.

this involves sawing and staples and wire and drills and screwdrivers

it is Kingston heaven and all the time it is raining hard.

Elsie is resting on the day bed after her second treatment with Shelli

every so often the little fella has to run in and clamour over her.

are you alright aunty?

holding her hand tenderly as she makes her way outside to check on the goings on.

I love you aunty he says.

I love you too she replies.

into this mix enters  the asylum seekers.

thru the local Bega Valley Rural Australians for Refugee group John has organized  six  Sri Lankan young men to come to Bega for two weeks and be hosted with various families.

this is hopefully one of many possible answers to offset our governments cruel reaction to those that flee persecution and seek asylum in our country.

they arrive on the Friday night immediately warming to the fun and games of a three year old instantly bonding .

at times the English is challenging and we speak in broken sentences, wave our arms around a lot . they smile and agree a lot.

gradually as the days roll on it gets easier and we become family. we are invited to a wedding in India in 2015 if fingers crossed this young man gets a working visa and can travel to meet his arranged bride.

stories are shared of an  eighteen day  boat journey from Madras to Christmas Island with 120 people on board .

scary yes.

they have been in detention in Darwin in Curtin in Melbourne and now live in Dandenong on a six month bridging visa.

what strikes me is their awesome capacity to be present in a way not often seen by similar aged young men in our culture.

it is not just their willingness to be involved in whatever is happening but their ability to anticipate and rise to the occasion  to offer to do to assist.

many years ago I was given  the meaning of community .

when a person sees a gap , sees something that needs to  be done and steps in  and does it, that is Community .

it is something that these young Sri Lankan men have in bucket fulls.

This is my  wish  for the little king , that he too may grow fully present ,not only to himself but to the  whole community around him.


maybe tony and kevin aren’t such a big deal afterall

election day 2013

I am not the only one here in this forest that doesn’t vote.

John has jumped on his BMW to take his turn at the ‘green’ table outside the cobargo school of arts hall. some time during the day he will go inside  and  make his mark on the paper of the insane.

I will remain here checking on the eastern spinebill that banged into our bedroom window while John was eating toast .He picked it up and cradled it against his beating heart .  ‘two crashed into the window’ he said before  placing it ever so softly on a branch in the rhododendron. Last I looked it was still sitting there .

out  in the world that is not  forest there will be a zillion computer systems running stats predicting trends while analysts demonstrate graphs and outcomes .

Already the media has told us who the winner will be.

Will it make a difference?

if you say so but the losers will remain losers.

rivers oceans forests food-producing land creatures birds and people

all losers in this current game of life.

air water earth fire spirit

the elements of life compromised.

but your vote can make a difference they tell us.


come on,

are we living in the truth or merely bystanders numb and glum with the tidy baubles of lies fed to us every morning along with our breakfast?

Is it Tony that is concerned about the continued consumption of our forests that reduces the probability of us  taking a breath?

Is  Kevin at all in touch with the deadly effects of fracking on our reservoirs of water held deep within this continent?

are we so in thrall that we would for one second think that their way is anything other than  anti life?

I see you waving a greens banner.

wave it.

I agree they seem a sane voice holding a note of compassion and respect for our beloved Earth, even an understanding perhaps of the road we are travelling on, the dangerous shoals we are already not negotiating and the tip over the edge coming up soon just around another bend in the stagnant river.

I turn to my relations in this forest and seek their feelings on the matter.

walking  out the kitchen door I catch the  powerful black satin wing beats of the raven lifting off from near the house with something in its mouth.

aah-aah-aah-aaaah    aah-aah-aaah-aaaah

ah busy multi tasking  I see.

I ask the teenagers going past wallaby one and two. svelte grey with hints of red ears swivel. dark eyes stare.  a lime leaf is chewed and another then another  breakfast on the hop bouncing over each other .

maybe tony and kevin aren’t such a  big deal afterall.

I approach the young diamond python that Kingston peed on at easter time .

It emerges from the guttering sunlight boldly accentuating the yellow and black markings, patiently on the hunt after a long winter nap it sets off  an avalanche of distress calls  in the mandarin tree.

well I guess they all have something else on their minds at the moment.

What about you angophora  elder tree?

creaking its old joints shedding  branches making way for the opening up of  more  apartments.

oh more development in the neighbourhood.

the clouds hovered with a promise of rain and the frogs have sang enough lately to make us believe

but not yet not yesterday but now

rain is spilling from the sky  loud drops crisp upon the roof

breezes bending trees

a pause in tempo followed by  a lull

dancing to a tune we cannot anticipate.

wherever I go they are all busy.

they are chittering and snoozing  scratching and preening

they are  foraging and building  nesting and loving.


buds are unfolding lilac and wisteria

seeds are shooting lettuce and rocket

roots are pushing deeper chasing moisture.

worms are composting  white ants are flying.

Elsies letterbox has been full of propaganda pamphlets

all  promising bigger better and stronger

hospitals schools roads economy.

more is what we are offered.

we need more as much as I need a bullet in my head right now.

better could be the forest allowed to do what it does best

manage  ongoing systems of life and growth  of oxygen and water.

better could be rivers that flow without sewerage and dioxins.

better could be teaching every child about the earth as home the universe as our address.

better could be the deepening of our love affair with the Mother

deepening our connection to spirit.

chief seattle said it and so have many others before and since

over and over and over again.

we are told that our vote will make a difference

don’t believe it .

it is a lie

your vote will do what it has always done, keep the big end of town in business the people enslaved and the earth being raped .

waving the green in my face again.

good wave it higher but do not rely on it to save our lives .

it may be that the ‘green’ will come to pass and the sacredness of existence will Be.

but in the meantime …

the day darkens and the wind picks up its voice

leaves fall in a flurry and rain drops patter lightly on the verandah.

the eastern spinebill  has flown away  and the water skink gliding along my window sill found no flies .

black snake  takes up residency on the rocks beside the pond

grey kangaroos mill around the lily dam

a growing mob safe on this side of the fence only.


I try one more time to gauge community attitude

kookaburras what say you?

sitting up like Jackie in a red gum they open their throats and chuckle

one flies down thrusts its beak into the hard dry ground and pulls up a tasty white  grub.

mmmmm they laugh again together.

an omen perhaps.

Bec rings and we snicker cackle hoot  and roar with laughter.

how preposterous we say

tony abbot what a joke!

kevin rudd you have got to be kidding!

it is obvious that the time is ripe for a grand sense of humour.

in the Forest it is business as usual

and amen to that.

I wish….

I wish I was immune to the gentle grace of the swamp wallaby, to all seven of them feeding around our house on dusk and all the  other relos that know this forest as home. I wish my heart didn’t lurch with tenderness to see the babies scramble out of the pouch turn a somersault and tumble back in  or the teenager that races up to pounce upon Dad and playfully box for a minute or two.

they are devouring all that I once held precious, all that I considered important and MINE . the chives attempt to return from their winter dreaming only to be snipped off as soon as they poke their heads up.

I wish I could be immune to the ballad sung by the magpie. I wish I thought they were common birds not worthy of attention, a bird lacking the vibrancy of others somewhat like those dreary old black and white movies that we no longer watch.    I wish the rise and fall of the piercing harmonies  the building melodies and the kooky caroling did not move me into awe .

perhaps then I would not be pulled out of my dream  at 5. 30 when only a pinch of light is offering. I would not be serenaded  in the middle of my yoga practice to drift off with the lyrics and soar .

the ground of this forest is splatted heavily with scats wallaby  possum kangaroo bandicoot bush rat python pigeons owls honeyeaters and swallows. these days the wombat deposits its business directly onto the compost heap.

I wish I could be safe from the huge well of love that blooms in my body when my grandson launches himself clasping torch turned on  into our  bed in the still darkish morning and our bodies melt into each other.

perhaps if I didn’t love this being so much I could escape the haunting story of  dwindling fresh water and rising carbon levels in our atmosphere.

I wish  I didn’t skip for joy to see the young whale breach out of the water just off the headland at Bermagui Beach its mother close by.

perhaps  then I wouldn’t  give a toss  about huge plastic islands and toxic nuclear spills contaminating their ocean home.

I wish I didn’t care about the neighbours shooting every creature that dares to trespass on their paddocks and I especially wish I didn’t care that our leaders   demonize asylum seekers and punish them for escaping to a safe harbour.


Love joy reverence wonder fills us and blows us out of our minds.

when we return we can see our wake and then the pain of loss and destruction whams us.

to care implies responsibility

to feel passionately without reserve intensifies  the pain.


and I wish that John and I could stop high fiving each other in absolute glee to be living in a house free ( ish ) of rats and flies.