Posted on December 8, 2017
“To get back up to the shining world from there
My guide and I went into that hidden tunnel,
And Following its path, we took no care
To rest, but climbed: he first, then I — so far,
through a round aperture I saw appear
Some of the beautiful things that Heaven bears,
Where we came forth, and once more saw the stars.”
― Dante Alighieri, from Inferno Canto XXXIV, Robert Pinsky translation (1995)
Before my husband and I married, he lived here in Melbourne, and I lived in Houston. We talked on the phone daily, usually during his mornings and my evenings, but that would vary, and the time of day we spoke would inevitably influence what was taking place in our surrounding environments. The first conversation we ever had about possums, which are nocturnal animals that frolic in the Melbourne suburbs come twilight, went something like this:
Him: “There’s a possum in my garden and I am watching it as I talk to you.”
Me: “Ugh. You should shoo it away. They are revolting. I am an animal lover, for the most part, but I find it hard to love feral rats and possums, and possums just look like gigantic rats to me, anyway. Besides, can’t they carry rabies?”
Me: “Oh. Well, that’s not fair. How come you haven’t got rabies? And, seriously, Australian possums are beautiful?”
The Tall Man: Death & Life on Palm Island by Chloe Hooper My rating: 4 of 5 stars The copy of this book that I have has the original blue cover with a red palm leaf on it and it is called The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island. I prefer that title to the other edition’s – which was called Tall Man: the Death of Doomadgee – because it broadened the scope, which I believe matters: the death of Cameron Doomadgee, tragic as it was, is also not an isolated case. There have been several such incidents of death in custody of an Aboriginal person since I have lived here in Australia. I think that the original title alluded to Palm…
Christmas Day this year marks the end of my eighth year in Australia. I arrived on this continent on 25 December 2003, having flown straight through and missed Christmas Eve, due to the time variation between here and home. I spent that first hot summer’s day with my future husband, Robin. We took a walk in Westerfolds Park, and enjoyed a swim in the Yarra River, under the protection of tangy-smelling eucalpyts, and squadrons of screaming sulphur-crested cockatoos. Christmas lunch with Robin’s family included abundant fresh seafood – shellfish, salmon, and king prawns – a variety of salads, beautiful Australian wines, a selection of traditional cakes (plus a delightful Pavlova), dessert tarts, and hand-made chocolates. This was an all together different realm from my usual Northern Hemisphere holiday experience. Everyone was in short sleeves and there wasn’t a turkey in sight!
My husband, Robin, and I have been celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary over the past week. The highlight was his booking a few nights for us at a cottage by the Gippsland coast, near a place called Morgan’s Beach. We set off from Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon and reached our destination about three hours later: a rambling farmhouse, in the middle of a pasture, at the end of a dirt road. Perfect.
Side note: I noticed when we were leaving on Friday that there was an old axe leaning on the woodpile stacked at one end of the front porch. My husband had been coming and going from that pile of wood for three days, as the fireplace was our only source of heat. I realised he had left the axe outside throughout our stay. Can you imagine? It’s like he’s never fantasised about our being attacked by an axe murderer in the middle of the night in a remote country house. Clearly, he has seen far fewer horror movies than I have. I felt compelled to explain, just in case this comes up on future holidays, that we really should have brought it inside. To his credit, once I mentioned it, he grasped how it might be seductive to roving psycho killers in the area. Also, we reasoned that, if the axe were inside with us, then we would be armed and ready for the demented bastard. (Before you label me an hysteric, remember that Australia is notorious for its serial killers).
But I digress …
I love a great adventure story. My fascination dates back to the sixth grade, when we began to learn about the basic themes in literature: man versus man; man versus nature; and man versus himself. Years later, as a therapist, I would spend a career exploring the themes “man versus man” and “man versus himself.” But I have never directly experienced “man versus nature” in any serious sense.