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Final Part Three of my short story ‘Earth’ (500 words)

boneAndsilverBlog_Kakadu6

I love the bush so much #Australia #Kakadu #wild

Weekend reading? Part One and Part Two just a click away (500 words each).

And here’s the third and final, based in Kakadu after my recent incredible off-track bush adventure:

Their palms scraped skin across branches and boulders as they launched into the dark ravine. Down, down, down they slithered, heaving their bags ahead of them, legs protesting at the speed and brutality of the descent. A spiky pandanus drew blood across Kelly’s cheek, and Sam’s ankle twisted hard in the scrabbling, but at last they burst through the scrub to touch the smooth rock edges of the river again.

Kelly’s whole body trembled as she stripped naked and jumped into the creek, gulping mouthfuls of water as she cooled down and almost cried with relief.

‘This is better than any Christmas ever, even as a kid,’ she yelled.

Sam paused, then went on ahead to check the way forward, barely stopping to refill her bottle and guzzle.

She returned with heavy steps.

‘I don’t wanna say this, but there’s another overhang coming up, so we can’t continue. We can either go back up and across, or…’

‘No. Not a chance. I’d rather camp here on these hot rocks for a week than go back up to that stony hell!’

Sam grinned.

‘I thought you’d say that. But you’re not going to like our only other option: to inflate a sleeping mat, unpack both bags, then float everything to the other side and start again over there. Can you handle it?’

The words hung in the air like smoke from the grass fires they’d driven through earlier. They both sighed, as if seeking strength from their bone marrow. Sam watched the other woman, who pulled herself from the stream, water sliding down her battered legs, standing like a witchetty grub against the grey granite. It felt as though the earth was waiting for Kelly’s answer as well. Grass trees leaned in, while Rainbow Bee-eaters swooped and dove for insects, tail streamers reflected in the pristine waters.

‘Let’s do it,’ she said. ‘You swim, I’ll load and unload.’

The eucalypts, rocks, and native shrubs stood sentinel while the women toiled back and forth. They felt the sting go out of the sun as their bodies cooled and shivered. They repacked, gobbled sticky dried bananas, then dragged themselves round the next river bend.

And there they saw it: silver gum trees fringing a white sand beach, gently sloping to a clear blue pool, sheltered by cream sandstone walls, with a natural campsite marked out by flat sitting rocks. Scratched rock paintings showed fat kangaroos and fish. Palm prints outlined in splattered ochre dotted the caves, as if protecting the site. In exhausted silence, they stood before the art, and held hands for a moment. Then they sparked a fire and made billy tea. They took turns adding wood, slumped side by side, staring into the flames, or over at the sharp cliffs they’d just battled.

It had been a close call. They both knew it.

Kelly looked up at the sacred paintings, imagining the ceremonies that had taken place for millennia right where they sat. The land waited again for her to speak. Grass trees leaned in, while Rainbow Bee-eaters swooped and dove for insects.

She slipped to one knee on the dirt, and reached for Sam’s hand.

‘Will you marry me?’ she whispered, ‘Now that we’re allowed at last. Can you handle it?’

Grass trees leaned in. And Country waited once more.

 

THE END (C) GG 2019

 

So what did you think? Kinda cute hey? Obviously the end isn’t real, but everything else  is pretty much exact!

I’d love to get your comments, and thank you so much if you clicked on all 3 parts.

In gratitude for Readers, G x0

Here’s Part Two of shortlisted story ‘Earth’

But did you miss Part One?? Don’t do that! It’s HERE

Part Two:

… Then Sam stopped, hands on hips, and squinted into the distance.

‘Shit, I don’t think we can get through along here after all. Let me look at the map and compass again.’

She frowned at the contour lines on the creased page, telling her a story of steep cliffs and gullies, without revealing the safest route.

‘Sorry honey, but the only way we’ll get past that massive overhang is to tackle the stone country along the top of the ridge. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle up there, which you can never solve. Brace yourself.’

Kelly clenched her jaw for a second.

‘I never knew off-track walking was quite this tough,’ she admitted. ‘Especially for old ladies like us.’

Sam smiled at the familiar joke, but her forehead worried, as they tightened waist straps and headed away from the water without looking back.

Within thirty minutes, thighs screamed with lactic acid as they scrambled over boulders and fallen tree branches, spearing through chest-high spinifex grass. Previous hypothetical worries about snakes were replaced by very real battles with swarming green ants, dropping from their leaf-woven nests to nip at soft skin. The heat lay heavy, while they fought the relentless gravity of their packs on tender hip bones. Squeezing between granite crevasses, trying to keep up with Sam, Kelly soon realized both water bottles were nearly empty, and cursed herself for not re-filling them.

Suddenly she wobbled from one loose rock to another, feeling the weight on her back pitching her sideways; as she fell to her knees with a rush of adrenalin, a newspaper headline staccatoed through her brain:

‘Two women in their fifties died of heat exhaustion bushwalking in Kakadu, within 300 metres of fresh water.’

No! That was not going to happen, she thought, feeling panic surge through her body.

‘Sam, help me up please. I’m scared we’re getting too far from the river. Can we go back down?’

‘No, we’ve no choice. I know this is fucking hard work, but we just have to find a way round…’

Another hour passed, as they crashed, pushed, and flailed against the stone country. The sun blasted them from both sky and rock, while vines tangled their feet, knee flesh was bloodied and scratched, and their cotton shirts grew wet.

‘I almost want to vomit. I need a rest. But we haven’t got any water. This is so stupid Sam!’ Kelly’s voice choked.

Sam licked her lips and wiped sweat from her red face.

‘I’m sorry. But we’re gonna make it. Let’s throw our packs down this ledge, swing off that tree branch, and hope that gully is manageable…’ Her confident voice quietened as they contemplated their fading options.

‘It seems like the bush doesn’t want us here; as if the ancestors are hating our invasion, and we’re being punished. I feel like such a dumb white-fella.’ Kelly began to cry.

‘It’s OK. This is just the first big challenge. We can do it darlin’.’ Sam squeezed her hand, and just for a moment the hum and throb of the tough landscape settled. ‘We are welcome here Kel; we’ve paid our respects, we are treading lightly on the earth, and we’re good people. The spirits don’t want us dead. Now come on: pass me your pack, and let’s get back to that water.’

TO BE CONTINUED…

Part Three to follow soon.

In gratitude for Kakadu, and the wildness within us all, G xO

My story got shortlisted! Here’s Part One

Writing in Australia as an over 50s blogger is fun

My fav place to write is NOT at my desk or table

Wait, I’m not going to launch straight into the story; I want to say Hi first, and set the scene. Remember that 4-day off-track bushwalk in Kakadu I survived? While there, I was struck with inspiration to write about the adventure, and scribbled sentences into my tiny notebook one dreadful evening while being attacked by mosquitos (the only time we were hassled).

I sat down 2 months later to draft 500 words at least, for a short story competition with looming deadline (I can only work under pressure it seems). Again I was grabbed by the muse, and spent all day pouring 1500+ words around the competition theme ‘Earth’ onto my computer (such a good feeling).

Edit, edit, exaggerate, edit etc, and voila: ready just in time. Weeks passed with no word, so I assumed I’d slipped into the discard pile… then last week got an email to say I was shortlisted (another really good feeling).

Pristine waterways in Kakadu

Alas, I heard on the weekend that I didn’t win, but I don’t really care. I don’t care because I already won just by finishing it; I knew myself it was good; and I re-connected with my short story writing muscles (which are definitely different to blogging muscles).

So here it is for you, dear Readers, in 3 parts; please let me know what you think.

In gratitude for the Muse, G xO

 

 ‘EARTH’                                                                               (c) GG 2019

The escarpment snaked beside the 4WD on the remote highway, arching its back as though to strike. Bush fire scent smudged the air, while skinny gum trees and sand palms looked more vulnerable without the usual messy groundcover of grasses and fallen leaves.

‘The turn’s coming up soon on your phone map,’ Kelly said, frowning at the blue pulsing dot. ‘Actually, right now!’

The car shuddered as Sam swung it hard onto a narrow red road, disturbing birds of prey. More blackened eucalypts scattered along both edges of the track, with pops of green grass tufting through the ashes.

‘Look at those kites, Kel, circling for food,’ she said, lowering the electric windows. ‘We can probably hear them whistling… yes… such a Darwin sound, and now you’re hearing it at last, at the ripe old age of fifty-three. Better late to the Top End than never hey?’

They both smiled, then Sam shifted into low gear, as waves of corrugations began to shake every nut, bolt, tent peg and trail snack they had.

Two hours later, bouncing in the passenger seat, Kelly asked, ‘Isn’t there an optimum speed to cross these ruts on? Didn’t I read it somewhere?’

‘Look it up honey, while I just navigate them.’

‘Very funny. You know there’s no more reception, only the emergency beacon if we need it, and we’d better not need…’

Kelly snatched back the rest of her words, as they mounted a dirt rise, swung down the peak like foolhardy surfers, churned through a creek as high as the door bottoms, and bounced out the other side of the trough with water streaming off the car panels as fast as the fine red dust could powder them again.

‘We’re here,’ Sam said, skidding to a halt beside the tenth crocodile warning sign they’d seen. The adjacent Welcome to Country sign announced that they were on Larrakia Land. ‘I want to be hiking in thirty minutes, so let’s cram breakfast as quick as we can; it’s already nearly ten, and that sun’s only getting hotter.’

By noon, with twelve-kilo packs each of camping supplies, toiletries, spare clothes, and dehydrated food, both women were sweating and quiet. Birds complained about their intrusion, darting among shrubs as if warning the earth to brace herself for unfamiliar feet. The river along which the pair travelled was flowing fast through the gorge, as centuries of natural energy carved a path of least resistance.

Then Sam stopped, hands on hips, and squinted into the distance.

‘Shit, I don’t think we can get through along here after all. Let me look at the map and compass again…’

… TO BE CONTINUED

 

Grappling with the spaciousness of uncertainty, by Yoda herself (Part 3)

Glasses, books and meditating are good for me now that I'm over 50

Always trying to learn and improve my wellbeing

Having finished our first 30 minute meditation from Part 2, and admitted any latecomers we’d locked out in a boundary-setting exercise in Part 1, the lesson began.

Uncertainty is one of the 3 main characteristics of human existence,’ Yoda Carol said, sitting her 70+ self on a floor cushion like the rest of us. ‘It’s difficult to endure, so we all cling to certainty. Yet clinging creates further suffering, doesn’t it?’

Well I know I’m clinging to my meditation aspirations as a way to calm anxiety, channel greater creativity, and nurture more peaceful personal relationships, that’s for sure. Is it not going to work?

‘We always want to make the “right decision”, weighing pros and cons, grasping for certainty. But we are just creating more attachment, and more eventual suffering.’

Damn. I thought my pros/cons list-making was a fabulous strategy.

‘There is more ease and wellbeing in letting go, so that we can focus on our actual needs in the situation as it unfolds in real time…’

Would that work for astronauts? Or brain surgeons? What about students in an exam?

‘If we practice our meditation and acceptance of uncertainty, we can create internal resilience for dealing with unpredictable circumstances, like environmental disasters such as bushfires, or divorce.’

Hmm, OK, she could have a point there.

Meditation bowls make the practice easier

I brought this back from my trek in Nepal- it makes the loveliest hum

‘Buddhist Dharma practice is about respecting a process that is larger and longer than ourselves; we just gather & share wisdom along the way; we NEED each other; we can reduce our stress through community.’

She definitely has a point there.

‘Relationships and connection are so powerful, when we truly show up, and be ourselves- we become transparent, and feel supported.’

Now I’m getting teary: she’s so right. Yet I spent almost 50 years running away and trying to do the opposite…

‘People can dare to rest in Uncertainty when they are in solidarity with one another; we need to lean into relationships, because they cultivate support, even when they’re not easy.’

How did she get so smart?? Almost 40 years of living on a Buddhist community, meditating daily, and sharing group dinner 5 nights a week, that’s how. Plus lots and lots of reading. I’ll never catch up with her, I know, but I can certainly follow her lead.

Or uncertainly, if that’s going to be better for my evolution 🙂

What do you think? Do her wisdoms resonate for you? Are you feeling inspired to meditate more? Readers have told me about different apps available, or even just trying to do it twice a week rather than daily. [Another reader started sidetracking me with tales of slightly-intoxicating brownies, but that’s a whole other post!]

In gratitude for the portal of spacious uncertainty, as named by Yoda Carol, G xO

Can meditation help you set clearer boundaries? Perhaps (Part 2)

“Yes, this is good, let’s begin. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat,” I say to myself. [Where am I? In a yurt on a Sunday with 20 other women, practicing setting boundaries and the discomfort of that in Part 1]

Meditation bowls make the practice easier

I brought this back from my trek in Nepal- it makes the loveliest hum

I sit cross-legged on my cushion at my Women’s Dharma Meditation circle, while Yoda Carol guards the door and taps the bowl to begin the session.

“I love meditating so much, I’m damn lucky to be here. I wonder how I’ll go today? Hopefully I’ll go deep… breathe in, breathe out. Repeat. Ooh, it feels so good already, how great to do it with so many other women… did any of them bring dessert for lunch, or just lots of salad? I’m glad I made my brownies, such a cool recipe, remember that week I made them 3 times for those birthday parties that was fun perhaps I’ll go to that party next weekend… WAIT!

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Welcome back Brain. Shit, it’s easy to stray isn’t it? I wonder how everyone else is going? Some of them have been coming for the whole 10 years, so they’d have to be… WAIT!

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Settle down. Sit quietly. Focus. Thank god for the cushion, it’s pretty comfy, or else my back would ache. Maybe I’ll lie down for the next…

WAIT!

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

I bet Yoda Carol doesn’t wander like this. She’s such a legend. Imagine if I could be more like her? I could travel the world giving talks and leading meditation circles, that would be cool, apart from all the airplane flights which are so bad for the environment but maybe… WAIT!

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Except clearly I have no will power, or rather, brain power. Perhaps too much brain power?? That’s why it won’t shut up. I need to be more disciplined with it don’t I? Well yes, that’s why I’m meditating…

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Oh man: brain boundaries suck. This is HARD. It must be nearly time to stop? My legs are aching. Do I need to cough? That would be b-a-d. Very disruptive. Like that time in yoga when I tipped over and knocked the person beside me, who knocked the person beside them, remember that, when we lived in Sydney all those years ago, when was it actually, 1995? ’96? Time is flying isn’t it? Can’t believe it’s… WAIT!

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

I am really bad at this.

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Ooh, was that the bell?”

In gratitude for determination and prayer bowls, G xO

Does setting boundaries make you uncomfortable? Good: you’re doing it right (Part 1)

Meditation bowls make the practice easier

I brought this back from my trek in Nepal- it makes the loveliest hum

Sunday was my Women’s Buddhist Meditation Day, and the group’s facilitator Yoda Carol began by shutting the door on any latecomers.

‘If you arrive late next time ladies, you will have to wait outside for 45 minutes while we finish our introductions and first Meditation circle,’ she cautioned.

The group of 20 women shifted on their cushions, and glanced round the room, calculating who may be missing.

‘Oh, have I made you uncomfortable? It’s simply too disruptive to admit latecomers; we must each just plan to arrive on time.’

More rustling and looking.

‘We all have families, partners, children, pets, or jobs that may make us run late to Meditation, but that’s not the point. We close the door at 9.30am sharp, and that’s the boundary. I’m setting it, and happy to. If you’re uncomfortable with that, sit with it. Boundaries are not always easy, to set or receive, and especially for women. We are so trained to be ‘nice’, to be ‘good’, to not make a fuss or upset anyone… But boundaries are healthy, so accept the discomfort.’

She grinned her 70+ years grin, and so did I.

I must have missed the memo about boundary-related unease, or perhaps it’s my feisty French socialisation as a child? Whatever I owe it to, I’m incredibly grateful, and by now at the ripe old age of 53, I have no problem in expressing my personal preferred guidelines.

Which includes prompt time-keeping, thank you Yoda Carol.

I’d driven myself home early from the previous night’s party, had resisted any intoxications or even too much sugar, and was primed to dive into our first group meditation: bring it on.

The ring of the Buddhist bowl signalled the start of the session, and my brain began to sink into itself as I focussed on my breath, leaving the chattering of my thoughts behind… for at least 5 seconds anyway.

It’s hard, this meditating business. I want to get better at it, but it’s hard.

So the least we can do is start on time.

Have you ever meditated? Would you like to try? Part 2 follows soon.

In gratitude for sitting cushions and punctuality, G xO

Bushwalking off-track in Kakadu? I needed a snorkel (Part 3)

Selfies in sunnies are essential in Kakadu

I love the bush so much #Australia #Kakadu #wild

Where am I/what am I doing? PART 1 HERE & PART 2 HERE

With over 20,000 square kilometres of bush in Kakadu National Park, we chose to stay as close as possible to waterways; the thrill of simply filling my bottle from the fresh creek did not wane.

When we did have to ascend to the escarpment to get past an overhang, I noticed how instantly relieved I was when we came back to the river’s edge. Imagine those first white explorers, setting out from Sydney to see what they could find… the bush both delights and terrifies me, and water is an essential comfort.

As you can see, the views were stunning, and these are all unedited, with no filters, just snapped on my smartphone.

But I haven’t told you about the Big River Crossing Fiasco have I?

*sighs

So ‘off-track walking’ means there’s no path; you have to meander/explore/experiment to get ahead. Luckily my companion had lots of energy and enthusiasm for both map-reading and ‘I’ll-just-leave-my-pack-here-and-see-if-we-can-get-through’ reconnaissance missions.

The Australian landscape can be tough

I love the bush so much #Australia #Kakadu #wild

You can see it’s not an easy landscape at times.

And then the moment arrived when we decided we had to cross the river, as the walking looked gentler on the other side.

boneAndsilverBlog_Kakadu_creek

Nothing like a Pano of a creek #Australia #kakadu

‘Let me go first,’ I said. ‘It’s about time I did some leading,’ I said. ‘I’ll roll my trousers up to my knees, hold aloft my boots & precious phone, and just wade across… it looks quite shallow here,’ I said.

Famous last words.

‘Ooh, the sandy bottom’s a bit soft, I’m sinking! No, wait, it’s OK, it’s just up to my knees, it’s fine… well, it’s halfway up my thighs, but that’s cool…’

‘It’s reaching my hips now, shit, my backpack’s going to get a bit damp on the bottom, but I’m halfway across…

‘Damn, up to my waist now, surely it can’t get any deeper; I’ll be damned if I’m turning back…’

‘No, I will NOT stop, so quit yelling at me… OK, it’s up over my chest, but I’m within 2 metres of the edge… and my boots and phone are fine…’

‘Made it! Hello? I made it, where are you? What do you mean “going back and the long way round”, you wimp. Fine, I’ll wait here and wring everything out, including my bra…’

boneAndsilverBlog_Kakadu5

I love the bush so much #Australia #Kakadu #wild

Then after 2 mins walk, we realised we had to go back to the original side after all… and yes, we both went the long way round this time.

With gratitude for my stubborn streak, & the quick-drying Australian climate, G xO 

 

Bushwalking off-track in Kakadu? Don’t forget your key (Part 2)

Over 50 and still love to bushwalk

Over 50 & still love to hike in true wilderness #Australia #Kakadu #Nature

Where am I/what am I doing? PART 1 HERE

For 10 seconds, I ran the newspaper headline through my mind:

“53-yr old woman succumbs to heat exhaustion while bashing through the untamed Australian wilderness, within 100 metres of fresh water & a clearly-marked track.”

No.

That is absolutely NOT going to happen.

But shit: my water bottle IS empty; this backpack IS damn heavy; it IS over 30 degrees C (86F); & we are definitely NOT going the right way.

‘What are you doing G’ ask the readers of bone&silver again? Well PART 1 is here again.

When I was offered the chance for this adventure, I jumped.

Bushwalking and tourism management is important

True wilderness #Australia #Kakadu #Nature

Kakadu National Park is vast, and some locations even require a permit and key to a locked gate, as the Management team control the balance between tourism and protecting the diverse ecology and wildlife population.

But guess what? We had both permit and key.

So with 4WD vehicle hired, 12 meals faithfully dehydrated (incl a gourmet vegetarian gluten-free pasta dinner), and backpacks crammed (but with restraint this time, as I learnt a lot on that Tasmanian bushwalk, when 15-17kgs was definitely stupid waaaaay too much), off we set.

Two intrepid, fit, adventurous women, leaving their teenage sons behind to have lots of parties fend for themselves, stepping away from the grid to do a 4-day off-track bushwalk/hike, carrying everything we needed, including a map and compass.

This is going to be fantastic! The adventure of a lifetime indeed. Until reality sinks in, slowly but surely:

  • ‘This map is hard to read without my glasses. Where did I put my glasses?’
  • ‘No G, it’s too soon for morning tea, we’ve only been walking an hour. And you are peeing a lot as it is [I blame the goddamn waist strap].
  • ‘Well, we can’t swim in that first pool, there may be crocs.’
  • ‘We can’t get across, we have to climb up.’
  • ‘We can’t get across, we have to climb down.’
  • ‘Holy shit, that’s a long way down. Do we have a rope? We need a rope. Actually, we need to be 20 years younger, and related to Indiana Jones…’
  • ‘So you’re telling me we need to cross to the other side of the river, floating our backpack contents back & forth on one of our sleeping mats, while holding aloft our boots and mobile phones?’

*Generalised sighing, sweating, deep-breathing and mumbled complaints follow

Stunning wilderness as a reward for the hard bushwalking

True wilderness #Australia #Kakadu #Nature

But that view from our campsite on the river is the reward.

And all that was just the first day; Part Three to follow.

A woman over 50 is a good bushwalker

Day One of the offtrack bushwalk was a challenge #Australia #Kakadu #bushwalking

With eternal gratitude for my tough little legs, G xO

Bushwalking off-track in Kakadu? Pack a spare set of legs (Part 1)

I’m pretty fit, fabulous & fierce for Almost-53, though I say it myself. And last year I trekked in Nepal for a couple of weeks, so I certainly enjoy a challenge…

boneAndsilverBlog_planeLandscape

Seat with a view #Australia #plane #landscape

But my most recent adventure was HARDER, even a little scary to be honest, and I didn’t even have to leave Australia. I did fly to Darwin though, up in the Northern Territory, which is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, with an experienced bushwalking companion.

Where was I going? I was going ‘offtrack’.

From the red dirt to the fire-blackened eucalypt trees via fertile billabongs and wetlands, Kakadu National Park covers nearly 20,000 square kilometres, and is World Heritage listed. It’s full of incredible wildlife and plant diversity, plus crocodiles. Like, truly wild, roaming-around-the waterways-doing-their-own-thing crocodiles.

These signs are everywhere; it’s an Australian cliché that all our native animals and reptiles are trying to kill us… but sometimes, it’s kinda true!

I emigrated to Australia when I was 20; the concept of crocodiles is somewhat foreign to me. But at literally every single creek crossing/waterway/riverbank viewing platform/low pools, I had the danger hammered into me.

And then this happened, down at the local billabong:

A submerged crocodile in a Kakadu waterway

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the real thing #Australia #kakadu #crocodile #authentic

The next day, while walking back along a sandy path beside a river, I turned to see a croc’s eyes and head staring straight at me; we locked eyes, then it sank slowly beneath the surface like a silent submarine.

No ripples.

I felt scared, but knew I was safe.

Kakadu National Park is World Heritage listed, and deserves it

I’ve waited 35 years to visit here #Australia #kakadu #authentic

Unlike a few days earlier, when climbing up a steep rocky gorge, trying to balance my 12kg backpack while thrashing through prickly scrub, sweating in the heat, realising we were getting a bit stuck, and acutely aware that although the river was only 100 metres away, my water bottle was empty, and I felt desperately thirsty…

But that’s another story- Part Two to follow.

 

Teenage Tuesday: ‘My son just turned 19. Guess what I did when I turned 19?’

boneAndsilver_birthdaybeach3

Happy Birthday gorgeous son #Australia #nature #grateful

He was born at home on the back verandah as planned, after a long, slow labor. I’d paced up and down the driveway for 2 days, wrapped in a quilt, asking the night sky to bring me my baby.

And finally, with dawn’s 5am light, he came.

Every year when he was little, we seemed to wake up around that time, and lie there together contemplating the celebration of it.

This year I was working almost 2000kms away, but still opened my eyes at exactly 5am; I admit I shed a few tears as I reflected on the passing of so much time, as he’s grown into such a tall, capable young man.

For his birthday, I’d bought him 3 tickets to an 80s/90s dress up disco dance party, the same as last year (a winning gift). I knew he’d have had a late night, but texted anyway:

“5am- Happy Birthday Moment, darling boy.”

boneAndsilver_birthdaybeach1

Happy Birthday gorgeous son #Australia #sunrise #nature #grateful

No reply, as expected. But I took myself for a sunrise beach walk, revelling in the gorgeous environment, and the knowledge that he was safe, happy, and healthy for another year, which is all any parent ever wants, right?

19 hey. One year into being old enough to vote, to drink (not in the US), and of course go to war.

Have you heard of the group Redgum? Yes, it’s a type of tree, but also a classic Aussie folk/rock band from the 80s, whose song about the Vietnam war “I was only 19” has basically haunted me since I first heard it, decades ago- it’s in the Top 30 Best Australian Songs Ever- I defy anyone to listen to that song without getting teary.

And now my son is that age. He could have been conscripted. He could have killed/been killed.

Unimaginable.

boneAndsilver_birthdaybeach2

Happy Birthday gorgeous son #Australia #sunrise #nature #grateful

So I walked on the beach, flooded by the sky, and gave thanks after thanks that my darling baby was not a soldier, or a refugee, or any other struggling young man anywhere in the world.

 

It’s mostly just luck isn’t it? 

 

 

At about 11am, he finally texted back:

Haha, thanks Mum. I went to bed at 5am 😉

I grinned and sighed to myself.

What did I do when I turned 19? Emigrated to Australia, and didn’t see my Mum again for 4 years, in the days before Skype or FaceTime. I used to write her once a month or so, if she was lucky…

He’s NOT ALLOWED to do that to me.

And I know he won’t.

What about you: what’s the longest time you didn’t see your Mum, and why? 

Happy Birthday beautiful ’19’; may you never know war, may you never know hunger or homelessness, and may you ALWAYS keep in contact with your mother!

In gratitude for dawns & birthday babies, G xO