Giving thanks, being hopeful, loving…. and not letting the Sun set on regret

I wrote this piece in March 2015. At the time I was inspired to put my metaphorical pen to paper following a simple conversation.

During that conversation I was asked a profound question about the matriarch of a family I know,  a woman I had grown to love, respect and adore as a strong, nurturing and resilient woman.

I was asked what it was that allowed me to form such a special bond with her.  To this day I really don’t know and really it doesn’t matter.

Almost in her 97th year, that woman’s heart has now stopped beating but memories of her, her love and influence will live on. Vale Vida.

These are my original words.

Do you ever doubt your choices or feel regret about a decision?  I am not afraid to admit that I do and I’d challenge anyone who claimed that they always, unreservedly, made the right choice.

For some reason my sense of vulnerability is heightened at the moment. It’s partly about my environment, both physical and emotional; and partly about my choices. From an environmental perspective I can’t ignore the course mankind is taking.  Our leaders, in my opinion, are not making the right decisions about the key elements which sustain life as we know it; air, water and food.  I do live in hope though.

Emotionally, it’s more about my evolution as a woman and challenging myself in ways I have never considered in the past.

My choices are more measured than ever before.  Whilst family is pivotal in many of my decisions, I am giving myself permission to make choices which, whilst not selfish in the true sense of the word, are about me and importantly my wellbeing.  In terms of my vulnerability, I can’t pinpoint why I sometimes feel vulnerable but I do know it’s a feeling which will pass and I take some comfort in that.

Positively, my intuition is the strongest it’s ever been.  Like a muscle, with use it is becoming more robust, sculpted and healthy.   My honed intuition has enabled me to be more in-sync, in-tune if you like, with others around me.

I do understand and appreciate how fragile life is.  One only has to listen to a news broadcast to ponder the many pressing issues which are facing us, issues which are often a direct result of a choice or decision, informed or otherwise.

So, as I age, I comprehend more readily how the decisions and choices I make will affect me and importantly others in my circle of influence.

I was asked a profound question recently about the matriarch of a family I know, a woman who I’ve grown to love, respect and adore as a strong, nurturing and resilient woman.

I was asked what it was that allowed me to form such a special bond with her.  To this day I really don’t know and really it doesn’t matter.

The remarkable woman I’m referring to was born in the 1920’s.  She was born a twin.  She and her sister were so tiny at birth, less than 2 pounds each (about 900 grams, less than 1 kilo), and they were literally sent home by the doctor to die.

They did not die. They fought the harshest of odds and survived.  This woman survived not just her infant years through untold adversity but continues to survive to this day. This woman exudes resilience and strength beyond compare.

She worked hard from a very young age.  It was physically demanding work.  When she married, her life was not made easier by the union but rather her role expanded to that of mother, carer, farm-hand and so much more.  A compliant, faithful and nurturing woman, her family was and still is her world.

I wonder what might have been if this woman were to be born today.   

With medical advancements in our country, it would have meant that her mother would have received exceptional antenatal care.  She may not have been delivered at term but likely very close to; and would have been of a healthy birth weight.  Vaccinations would have been a blessing; her only brother was crippled by Polio.

Her early childhood through to her late teens would have been very different too.  There would have been access to an education system which would have shaped her in a very different way. 

The social norms of today would have enabled/empowered her to make choices about her lifestyle, a career (her career) and taken her on a pathway which can only be imagined.

You cannot have regrets if you don’t know what you don’t know.  Nor can you have missed opportunities if they don’t present themselves.  You can however reflect on the passage of time and wonder what might have been and then look forward in such a way to positively shape the years which follow. 

For me, I wonder what might have been if I’d studied harder and listened to advice which, at the time, seemed to be uninformed.  I also wonder what might have been if I’d had been more accepting and patient.  In essence, if I had made very different choices.

I know that the remarkable woman I speak of reflects quietly on what might have been.  I believe that she does think deeply about what path she may have trodden if different opportunities presented themselves. 

Regret is too heavy a word in this instance.  Because of her nature she would never ever perceive her life with having regrets. 

From her very being a lineage continues to grow, a piece of her character, living on in so many for perpetuity. Her morals, her beliefs, her standards and her poise are reflected in her progeny and their progeny.  It may not be evident immediately but if you scratch the surface of each who carries a piece of her DNA then a piece of her lives there.

What if she were to be born in this century? I envisage a woman who would be heavily involved in the education of others or maybe the humanities. I see a woman who would captivate and inspire on a far greater scale because of the technology which is available to us today.  I see a woman who would lead but also know when to walk beside others when called for.

In her twilight years we can learn much from her and others of her ilk.  It’s never too late to ask those pressing questions of our families’ treasured elder men and women.  It’s never too late to just sit and listen, over a cup of sweet tea poured into a fine bone china cup and learn about their life, their thoughts and what might have been. 

Voltaire said, “The one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.”

We all live with hope and some of us with regrets….don’t we?

Perhaps this is an opportunity to learn? Talk, listen, learn and above all love…..those conversations may well steer you down a road less travelled and maybe even prevent you from having one less regret.  

The Jigsaw

Picture, if you will, a delicately engraved box; the sort that the matriarch of your family may have tucked away in a drawer containing treasures.

The box is not too big, not too small nor deep in its size.  It has a distinctive look, feel and bouquet.  It looks old and it feels velvety and its smell is that of age but it is not unpleasant but rather it’s familiar and comforting.

As these words spill across my screen, in this instance and in this moment, the box is a metaphorical one.

From time to time the box has been carefully removed from its place of safe keeping to have items added and some removed.  The items removed are never removed permanently but are taken out to be cherished, contemplated and some to be studied in a discerning way. Once reflected upon all are returned to their resting place with unconditional care.

The place of safe keeping is my heart and my soul and that box contains a jigsaw puzzle. 

The puzzle is that of my life.  The puzzle of my life is like a colourful mosaic which is yet to be completed. The artist started with a blank canvas and every day of every year, pieces are added to give life to both a picture and a narrative.   

There are pieces of my life’s jigsaw that fit together flawlessly.  Those perfect pieces include my children.  Their lives are coloured with light and shade and filled with hope and love.  Other fragments which sit naturally within me and are part of that puzzle are my memories. 

Most are pleasant to recall and some distressing but all form essential pieces of the mosaic that makes me whole.  Every day I create new memories and each finds its resting place in that box. 

The pieces of the puzzle which are missing, or rather yet to be shaped and encouraged into place, are the parts which will add to my story and one day upon my death, will complete it.  

I am not sure how the pieces will fit into my ever changing puzzle or what pieces of the existing puzzle may need to be reshaped to enable them to fit.  I do know though, that there are pieces I’d like to remove but in doing so would, like a house of cards, make the mosaic of my life crumble and become unrecognisable.

So rather than forcibly remove those pieces, I am going to let nature takes its course.  I am happy to ride what seems to be a predetermined path for now.  Slowly and methodically though, I will change course and navigate to a place I want to be rather than a place I need to be.

I accept that there are things that I cannot change but those things I can influence, I will.  If I see a piece of my puzzle within reach and can see it fitting into my mosaic perfectly and naturally, I will gently bring it to rest in its rightful place.  In doing so, that piece along with all the others will add colour and light to my life’s beautiful puzzle.

The Gift

First Published 4th January 2015

They sit comfortably as a sea breeze funnels along the verandah and touches their skin.  Chilled glasses of sparkling wine are held delicately in manicured hands.  Three like-minded women are deep in conversation.  The conversation, spontaneous in its evolution, is centred on how fortunate they are to live their mostly contented lives in Australia. 

In their circle of family and friends their children have never had to worry about from where their next meal was to come; or if their water was safe to drink; or if they had shelter from the elements.

Their children are loved and rich with possessions. Their children have access to health care; education and the ability to one day earn a living regardless of gender or ethnic background. Their children are indeed fortunate, privileged really; and it is my hope that they and the generations to follow never have to fight for survival.

I am part of this conversation. 

The children we speak of include mine. 

In a perfect world no child or person would be exposed to, or have to endure suffering or hardship but our world is far from perfect.   At any given moment in time many people on our fragile planet are being exploited, persecuted or are experiencing hardship due to the extremes of our climate.  The exceptional circumstances they find themselves in are well outside of their control and influence and they fight to survive.   I can’t begin to imagine what that would be like. 

Whilst I don’t want my children to ever have to experience adversity to the levels we see and read about in news bulletins, I do want them to be exposed to some level of hardship in a way in which they can at least begin to understand and comprehend what adversity really is and genuinely appreciate what they do have.   And if the unimaginable happens and they are placed in a dire situation, I want them to have the ability to endeavour to survive. 

I want my children to have the confidence to reach out with care to another human being in need and not be afraid of what others might think but to reach out and offer solace because it is the right thing to do.

In life, I want them to be able to act instinctively as they contribute in a meaningful way to our society. 

For our children to be the best they can be they must have empathy and compassion.  They also need to be resilient and adaptable.  These are traits which may be intrinsic but mostly they are learned.  

Education is at the heart of this message. 

You don’t have to leave our shores to encounter hardship; there are many examples of need and destitution in our own backyard. Broadly, Australian’s believe they are resilient and adaptable to change but I do question if we really have had those traits tested in recent times. 

I believe the last three generations have been fortunate in life but has our resilience and adaptability really been put through its paces, that is beyond our adoption of technological toys?  

When all is said and done are we truly able to deal with significant social and environmental change?  Could we really cope with events of the magnitude we see all too often on our TV screens? 

Australians from many cultures and diverse backgrounds, including our first peoples, have fought alongside our allies in wars on foreign and home soil.  We endured conflicts we did not choose to engage in but were rather drawn into because of our allegiances.  

We have succumbed to hardship and will continue to encounter drought, fire and flooding rain, pestilence and plague. We have risen in the face of adversity to overcome stark odds. By no means trivial, such events in our short history since colonisation have reinforced our resolve and strengthened our character as a nation and as a people. 

How do we teach, model and impart the traits of resilience and respect to our children when their level of exposure to adversity, thankfully, is non-existent?  Leading by example is one way and certainly living our life in a way which embodies empathy and compassion is fine start. 

We may have grievances from time to time but in the scheme of things, from a global view, they are largely superficial.  The next time you believe you have been dealt a cruel hand, a heavy blow or things just aren’t going your way, step back and put the situation into perspective. 

If no-one has died or is seriously ill or has lost their home, then the matter is likely one which will soon settle in the archive of your memory, a place to learn from; and to grow from.  

By all means give your children material gifts because you can, but give them a gift which money cannot buy, give them every opportunity to grow emotionally and to be able to discern the emotions of others. 

With this most valuable gift they will be able to act with dignity, grace and self-respect and in-turn earn the respect of others.  

Dad – What would he think?

I first published this piece about 5 years ago – time to re-post it.

On September 14 this year it will be the 10th anniversary of his death.

“I miss my Dad!” There, I have said it.  Not a day passes without me wishing I could pick up the phone or sit quietly opposite him and talk.   

There are so many things I would share with him, knowing he would hold my declarations in an impermeable confidence. There is something subtle about the inextricable bond between a daughter and her father. Not every father-daughter relationship has it or holds it in such a sacred place.  That, I accept.  

My father was taken in his 74th year, a victim of prostate cancer.

Every year, around 18,700 Australian men are diagnosed and more than 3,000 die of the disease, making prostate cancer the second largest cause of male cancer deaths, after lung cancer. Almost one man in eleven will develop prostate cancer during his lifetime. 

Source:  https://www.prostate.org.au/

While thoughtfully reminiscing about Dad, I decided to set out writing these words to offer respectful advice to men, all men.  

If you are a father, brother, uncle, nephew, grandfather or someone’s best mate and are aged over 50 or; are over 40 with a family history of Prostate Disease, you should make the time for a full health check-up with your GP.  I am not sure that I can add much more to that.  Suffice to say that we should all take responsibility for our own physical, mental an emotional health.

So many questions unanswered…

So I now set course on another tangent.  In today’s contemplations of Dad, I got to thinking about the wisdom and values of previous generations, Dad’s in particular.  What values will we impart on future generations? Every generation will have its challenges.  What can we learn from our forebears? What can our off-spring learn from us? 

There are many lessons Dad taught me.  Most of which are only now, as I am in my 4th decade (as at 1/9/19 my 5th), resonating with me. Dad had some unique ways to offer advice.  For example when I was very young and professed to be scared of the dark and of ghosts, he would tell me bluntly “You need not worry, it’s the ones which are alive you have to watch out for!” Touché!  

During troubled times and relationship woes he would always remind my sister and I that no matter what, the door would always be open and that we could come ‘home.’  We did. 

Dad didn’t attend school past the age of 13.  He left to help support his family.  But his wisdom, knowledge and insight into life and society were equal to any learned scholar. He worked hard and provided for us well.  

With a degree of doggedness he learned to love reading.   He took a keen interest in politics, the economy and environment.  Not in the sense that you might think but more of a healthy respect for each and an acceptance that his views may not be yours.  He believed in and practised integrity.  In his work he was firm but fair and for this disposition he earned respect.  He could be swayed in his opinions if he were to receive sound evidence which suggested his understanding of an issue was incomplete or flawed in some way.    

I can’t help but wonder what he would make of the current state of affairs, both locally and globally.  What would his commentary be? How would he discern the complexities of the many challenges we face?  If he were to read today’s papers and tune into the news services, what would his thoughts be? 

He would lament at what the future holds for his grandchildren, indeed all future generations.  He would despair at the inhumanity and poverty experienced on our shores and those beyond.  He would, however instil a sense of purpose in those around him by encouraging conversation and activism about things which matter. 

Thank you Dad, your advice, actions and opinions have allowed me to actively pursue change and I believe, to make a positive difference for my children.  They however, like me, possibly won’t accept or understand the advice I give them today or tomorrow for that matter.  My only wish is that they do come to understand that my guidance and importantly my actions to nurture, guide and curb when necessary, was in their best interest. 

At a conference in February last year I sat in a room with other likeminded rural women and we were all asked the same question. The question was “What did your mother’s mother do?”  Like most of the other women in the room, I struggled to succinctly answer that question, other than to state her name and country of birth.  For me that was yet another defining moment.  At that point, I knew I wanted my great grandchildren to know categorically, what it was “I did” and how I contributed.  

So, I continue ‘to do’. It has not been smooth sailing as I take small but calculated steps.  I, like many mothers’ today struggle with juggling work and life. I am sometimes conflicted in making sound personal choices, mostly because I put myself at the bottom rung of the ladder.  My struggle though, diminishes into insignificance compared to the challenges of so many others.   

Wouldn’t it be a fine thing, that our actions were to make a positive difference on our lives and the lives of others…just like Dad’s did?  

A Measure of Time

A year.

Twelve months.

365 days.

525,600 minutes.

42,048,000 beats of a heart.

What really is a measure of time?  Why is there so much importance placed on the ritual of closing out a calendar year and commencing a new?  

While it is necessary, in our society, to have the order that a measurement of time brings, be it an hour, a day, or a week; there are days that I ache for simplicity.

The simplicity of rising as the Sun throws light across the land, I do love mornings…and then, after a full day, gently allowing my body and mind to give itself to the night as it envelops me and my surrounds. 

This past year, 42,048,000 beats of my heart, I have felt some of that simplicity in very different settings. 

I recall the captivation of waking to unfamiliar sounds of nature, deep in the Amazon Jungle.  A world away from the familiarity of my sanctuary at Moonta Bay, the warm, damp air filled my lungs. Filtered, golden light streamed through the canopy of gossamer-like netting enshrouding my bed. Magical.

No alarm. No prescribed list of matters to attend to, just the simplicity of being present in a moment in time and woken ever so gently by nature.

I love the simplicity of the change in seasons. One does not need to look at a calendar to know that autumnal stillness is near.  You feel it. The heat of summer leaves the earth in a way that you can almost hear the parched soil sigh.  The coolness of still, clear evenings under a brilliant southern sky are enough to re-calibrate your body and prepare it for shorter days and to feel enlivened as temperatures begin to tumble.

I love the simplicity of not measuring one’s age by time and a date but rather feeling each stage of life, truly feeling it.  Notwithstanding bodily aches and pains, the feeling of love, loss, giving birth, happiness, sorrow, pleasure and pain are by far a better measure of a life being lived than a number, or a date on the Gregorian Calendar.

I love the simplicity of feeling the need to fuel my body, its hunger at times insatiable but mostly understanding the nourishment and nurture it needs to serve its purpose, to allow me to live and to breathe.

I love the simplicity of an impromptu conversation, one that feels like five minutes, but lasts 4,800 beats of a heart (an hour) or more.  I love the simplicity of a kiss that may be fleeting, or one that may linger, each not needing to be measured by time but rather by the intensity and intent with which it is given and received.

I love the simplicity of the lines on a face, the scars on a body, the colour and wisdom in eyes, all perfect ways to measure time. 

This year, as I am compelled to start a new year, I will be thinking about the beats of my heart, the lines on my face and the wisdom in my eyes and I will allow those attributes to be my measure of time.

The Heart of the Owl

The Heart of the Owl

 I hung a photograph on a wall in my home recently.  Oddly enough it wasn’t a photograph that I had captured.  It was taken by a dear friend.

When I first laid eyes on the image some months ago it spoke to me.  The words were not clearly audible, but I knew that in a matter of time the message would be deciphered, and the words would resound.

The moment came in the early hours, late last year.  Words filled my head and my heart and moved my soul.   I heard the words with such clarity I knew action needed to be taken and I felt I was ready.

I made a bold choice to walk a different path and with a sense of calm and reason I uttered three words “I’ve had enough.”

Those words said, a mixture of emotions ran through me and actions unravelled, some clumsily and some with absolute precision.  Then it struck me, all but one action had been taken.  I needed to hang that photograph.

I had been waiting for the right signs to guide me to the moment, and to the place it I would install it.  It did take time, but it eventually made its way from the corner of my home office, facing inwards, to a wall of my choosing, facing anyone who may have the privilege to gaze upon it.

It was through salty tears that I realised where I would hang it and when.  I was sad because this moment was as much about loss as it was about new beginnings.  I was leaving behind aspects of a life I wore like a comfy cashmere wrap and other aspects which ripped out my heart and eroded my very being.  With that sadness also came a sense of liberation and at that moment my tears stopped and I smiled.

Years of care, commitment, duty and responsibility have etched lines on my face and left scars, some virtual and others very real on my body, as it enters its 50th year.

I am a nurturer.  I am known to be reliable and down-to-earth.  I am acutely aware of the feelings of others, often to the detriment of my own.  I am comforted by order and structure and will more likely avoid confrontation and conflict than invoke it. Being kind, loving and compassionate comes naturally as does acceptance.

Let me tell you about the image.  It speaks to me and of promises I have made.  They are promises I have made to myself and to others.  When I look at the photograph I don’t just see…. I hear, I feel, I taste, and a heady scent consumes me.

I see wisdom and desire.  Not desire in the passionate sense, it is more profound than that.  If adoration, devotion, care and respect each had a sound, a note…. I would hear beautiful music. I do hear beautiful music.  Above all though, I feel.  I feel unconditional love, but it is of a love lost.  Each of those notes, if you will, now come together to create a striking sonata.

The image I have carefully fixed in place is that of an owl. A masked owl.  For me though, my mask has been ripped off, not peeled away but torn and discarded.

The Masquerade is over, my heart and soul are laid bare.

I am now writing the last few paragraphs of a chapter in my life which I knew had to draw to a close.

I have given, and I have received.  I have loved, and I have lost.  I am richer, stronger, at peace and above all, I am calm.

The owl has a downward pose.  It is respectful, as am I. Its eyes almost closed, yet open enough to acknowledge its surrounds and as if to pay tribute.  Its delicate plumage is so very intricate. A heart frames its features.  My heart forms a frame around memories I have created, and it beats for memories yet to be.  So many yet to be created.

There is no colour, there need not be, this moment is purely black and white. Ebony and ivory, a raven’s feathers falling on virgin snow, the plumage from a Pacific Gull washed onto a pristine beach.

It is black and white.

The heart of the owl.

This image  is subject to Copyright and is used with the permission of Annette Marner.

 

The Breakwater (first published February 2016)

Introduction: 

The Narungga people have always lived on Yorke Peninsula. Their country extends as far north as Port Broughton and east to the Hummock Ranges. Their neighbours were the Kaurna of the Adelaide Plains and the Nukunu to the North, with whom the Narungga would meet for trade and ceremony. Their expertise at fishing was admired by many of the early European settlers.

The first European settlers in this area were Joseph (Curley Joe) Simms and his wife Blanche who arrived in the early 1860’s.  The area known to the early Europeans as Glencoe was later, and still is, known as Simms Cove.

Curley Joe began fishing at the time copper was discovered on the Yorke Peninsula and in the families that arrived, Curley Joe had a ready market.  All seven of Joe’s sons became fishers (he and Blanche had 11 children).  Over the next many generations numerous Simms’ boats were commissioned and when not at work were anchored in Simms Cove.

For those of you reading this piece and have seen my photography captured in the place I refer to as ‘my sanctuary’ would be familiar with an iconic part of the Simms Cove-Moonta Bay landscape.  It is known as the breakwater.

This remnant timber has fascinated me for years so I set out to learn more.

I took the time to sit and listen to a remarkable local and extraordinary man, a descendent of Curley Joe, Ben Simms.

Ben is in his 84th year.  Ben has been many things in his life, a writer, a poet and a horse trainer but it is his affinity with the sea and fishing which is striking.

I was compelled to write these words after spending an afternoon in Ben’s company.  These words are my take on the ‘Sentinels’ at the bottom of the cliff at Simms Cove –  the remnant timber, the Breakwater.

These words are written from the perspective of a tree, a tree destined for life beyond its native forest, and are dedicated to Ben.

The Breakwater 

I grew from a seed and put down my roots in nutrient-rich heavy, clay soil.   I grew tall and straight and stood shoulder to shoulder in a forest of my kin.  My home, my sanctuary is on the eastern seaboard of Australia.

I am already 200 years old and I am the keeper of secrets.

It is spring and I’m adorned with a flourish of rich creamy flowers, native bees work busily in my canopy. I hear the crack of a stock whip in the distance as the cloven hooves of bullocks’ crash through the understory. The bullocky calmly encourages his team of beasts to ‘walk-on’ but not with a word but rather with nurturing actions.  A small band of sinewy, keen-eyed men mark my brethren for felling and I am targeted too.

I feel the bite of the saw rip deep into my bark and my flesh.  My scent, my blood, the smell of what they describe as turpentine is heavy on the ether as my leaves are crushed.  It is matter of some time until my remnants and broken spirit is heaved onto the flatbed dray and my journey begins.  “Walk-on”, the bullocky gestures.

I am a tree – I am supposed to stand sentinel for the term of my life but I am now moving. I am being moved.  I am moved.

Days later I reach a harbour, it’s bustling.  Hemp lines hold a cargo vessel alongside a makeshift wharf. The loading begins.

I am manhandled into the hold and wedged between my kin – we are heading to South Australia.  The journey around the rugged coastline is uneventful.  Spring turns into summer.

The activity at this port of Wallaroo is lively and hurried.  Steamers and majestic sail boats sit high on the tide.  The construction of a wharf is underway and farther down the coast, the construction of a jetty. The year is 1872 and the port is Moonta Bay.

I am surplus to requirements…or am I?  Have I been hand-picked to provide a safe haven for a fishing fleet?  Is this my destiny?

My length has been reduced now and I’m rolled, hauled and then suspended over a cliff and painstakingly lowered to a sandy resting place below.  Fishers are now also lumberjacks and engineers, they start to design a haven, a breakwater.  They get to work.  I am to be the centre piece.  There are more than thirty pieces of my kin now implanted in a watery bed.  I listen to the fishers and workmen as they recount their embellished tales.

I am the keeper of secrets.  With every passing day I add more to my vast chapters of knowledge and understanding.

I have served my purpose well and I have now seen many seasons. The tides ebb and flow, the ferocious sou-westerly gales gnash at my very being but I remain steadfast.

On calm clear nights I bear witness to the intensity of the celestial landscape.  I see black velvet scattered with precious gemstones.  Diamonds, rubies and large magellanic cloud are suspended in the vastness of space.  The Southern Cross pointed out by alpha and beta Centauri hangs.  I wonder how many navigators have gazed upon the crux – a welcome escort to those seeking direction or comfort.

I have afforded shelter to the Challa, the Rum-Runner and many other vessels over the years.   From time to time cutters, anchored in the deeper cooler water off-shore renew their rigging and chain.  The heavy chain, now compromised by the elements of salt and water are brought to my watery forest.

I am wrapped in chain and for a moment in time I am connected to my fellow sentinels.  It is said this is to add strength to my purpose.  I disagree. The sea soon erodes the chain and it disperses into the sea, fragmented and broken.  I remain steadfast.

I have been a bystander as skippers and deckhands, their backs braking and muscles burning with the sheer weight of their bounty finally get their prized catch to the top of the cliff.  Their catch is destined for market and so the next part of the journey begins for fish and fisher.

I am the keeper of secrets – I dare not tell a soul.

Young lovers meet at dusk at the base of the cliffs when the tide is near high.  The lovers embrace and collide with passion, they are alone.  They believe there are no witnesses to their unbridled desire.

I am the keeper of secrets – I dare not tell a soul.

I am weary; my years now number more than I care to count.  I’m weathered, I’m windswept but my surface is smooth.  No splinters, no shards which might catch and rip at a cloth.  A pacific gull, not long past its juvenile years, extends its wings and stretches.  As it does, its talons dig into me so it can maintain a steady balance.

I feel no pain but I do feel pleasure.  I feel the connection with another living creature.  It is comforting and gives me comfort to know that the majestic seabird picked me to perch upon.

You may think I am dead remnant timber soon to be lost to a watery grave but I am alive.

I live in a sanctuary and I offer sanctuary. I am part of an irreplaceable history but importantly I am very much part of the future.

I am the keeper of secrets.

Yellow Roses – my thoughts on Estate Planning (first published August 2016)

My choice is roses. Yellow roses; many beautiful yellow roses, some in bud and some in full bloom; but all cast adrift on the sea by family and friends.

The timing is uncertain and so it should be; but the place is definite.  This celebration and commemoration must take place in my sanctuary and it must be at sunset.  I am writing about my explicit wishes for a farewell upon my death.

Do you have a valid Will?  If you do, when was it last updated?  Does it reflect your wishes and does your family know and understand and will they respect those wishes?

This subject may be confronting for some but it need not be.  I’ve recently made the time to update a suite of important legal documents because my personal circumstances have changed.

I’ve updated my Will, my Enduring Power of Attorney and an Advance Care Directive.   There is another document I have completed and I will come to that.

Whilst this subject is very personal, I don’t have any reservations in sharing my thoughts.  Perhaps it’s because I am more comfortable and confident in my choices and decisions than I have ever been because I accept, with pragmatism, that from the day we are born we are on a trajectory towards death.

In the contest of life I have chosen to be proactive in so many ways.  It is cathartic on a spiritual and emotional level but it also makes sense on a practical level.

So what have I done? First and foremost I have sought and gained the trust of people I love and respect.  I’ve entrusted special people in my life with a very important responsibility.  I have asked them to act confidently on my behalf, in the event that I cannot.  I have legally appointed those chosen to act for me through the mechanism of an Enduring Power of Attorney.  I have also asked them to execute my Will following my death.  Importantly, they have accepted this responsibility without reservation.

I have also updated an existing advance care directive.  This has enabled me to determine what I want to happen in relation to certain personal areas of my life.  This relates to my health care, residential and accommodation arrangements, and other personal affairs.

In South Australia from 1 July 2014 the Advance Care Directives Act 2013 (SA) came into operation. This allows a person to:

  • set out values and wishes to guide decisions about their future healthcare and other personal matters
  • set out what, if any, particular healthcare they refuse and in what circumstances and
  • appoint one or more substitute decision-makers.

More here: http://www.lawhandbook.sa.gov.au/ch02s02.php

In terms of my Will – my instructions are also explicit.  In South Australia, it is important to note that if you die without a valid and up to date Will or without a Will altogether then you will have died ‘intestate’. This means that South Australian laws will determine how your estate will be distributed.

Just a few examples of what might happen are:

  • Any real estate you own may be sold instead of being left to a loved one.
  • Special personal items, such medals of service may not be given to the family member of your choice.
  • Your grandchildren may not receive the benefits of your estate.

The ‘other document’ I referenced and what I consider being the most delicate and personal decision I have made is that I have decided to be a body donor.

Put simply, in the event of my death and if my remains are deemed to be acceptable for donation, I have chosen to donate my body to the Adelaide Medical School Body Donation Program.

My reasons are many and each carefully considered.  This is not a decision I have taken lightly but it is my decision nonetheless. Importantly I have made this choice known to my family and they accept it (at least they are telling me that now).

In reviewing the information provided to me by the University of Adelaide, School of Medicine I read, “Donating your body to science is one of the greatest gifts one can give to make a lasting contribution to the education and training of our current & future health professionals and to advance science through research.”  I am pragmatic, I am a free-thinker and I agree.

More here: https://health.adelaide.edu.au/medicine/facilities/body-donation/

A recent conversation I listened to between Richard Fidler and Dr Walter Wood also informed my decision and I truly believe it is the right one.  If you are interested you can listen here:http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2016/04/14/4443060.htm

So, if you care about your death as much as you do your life; and you feel strongly about your wishes being respected and honoured, then plan now and let your wishes be known.  Make your wishes legal.  There are many law firms and legal practitioners well placed to provide sound and cost effective advice.  The cost to your family may be far greater if no plans are in place.

This blog does not constitute advice but rather I am sharing my personal opinion about the importance of estate planning.  I hope these words spark a conversation with your family or loved ones and that you consider seeking professional legal advice for your own peace of mind and that of your family.

In closing, if you have a preference to be cremated rather than buried or for a Beethoven, Mahler, Rachmaninov or Sibelius symphony to be played at your funeral service make that known too.  Your loved ones may just choose for you and my guess is that it may not reflect your very personal preference.

For me it is roses…lots of yellow roses….and for my cremated remains to be returned to nature and the sea with a beautiful symphony upon the ether, at sunset; and in my sanctuary.