I’d not realised how much I was wanting, and needing, to get away from the workplace to clear my thoughts a little. A trip back to Victoria to reconnect with family and nature seems to have been just what I needed to enable me to get some focus and perspective on what has been to date, a less than pleasurable work experience.
Since starting my new job, my morale has been in a downward spiral, the rapid descent only checked briefly in the closing week of March when I got to participate in some usability evaluations. At first I thought my misgivings about the job were a result of the department I was working for, the particular project I’m working on, or perhaps that I was struggling to get my head around the processes involved. Taking a week to disentangle myself from all that was weighing upon me gave me the space I needed to view it a little more objectively.
I traveled back home on Tuesday, and spent as much time as I could with my sister and her family before they departed for their Easter camping trip at Killarney, where we spent quite a number of summers from our own childhoods. I visited them for dinner the night before they left, and helped keep Maggie occupied whilst Kate attended to Bridie and Richard prepared dinner. Bridie has filled out in the cheeks and thankfully no longer looks like a miniature of her grandfather, and whilst Maggie has not grown noticeably, she’s continued to turn into a little person as her language skills develop. I’m no longer Uncle Min, and have now reverted to being Ben, just like everyone else calls me. She takes less time to warm to me now, which is good, as in previous visits it’s sometimes required days of effort to get her to revert to her unimpeded self.
In the course of keeping her occupied, she handed me the deodoriser from their dish washer, to which I asked “Are you trying to tell me something?”. I don’t know what she thought I was asking, but she responded with a simple “Yes”, giggled, and ran off into another room. Serves me right for asking I guess. Later in the evening she insisted I bring her little bottle of pre-sleep milk (her Dad wasn’t allowed to do it), and she wouldn’t give her Dad a hug goodnight until she’d given me one first. I’m guessing it was the novelty value. In all her life, I’ve only been an occasional visitor, departing the state the day she was born, and never really basing there for an extended period since then. Each time I see her, she has developed in a noticeable way, changing from an infant to a toddler, and now she’s even moving beyond that to become a child. Even Bridie has begun to twist about on the floor, and it will be only a matter of months before she’s crawling, and perhaps she’ll be walking by year’s end.
On Sunday, I went for a walk with my parents along the coast to the east of Warrnambool, well beyond the mouth of the Hopkins River. Mum had been under the impression there was an extensive walking track that would take us a long way down the coast, but the track from the carpark petered out after only a few hundred metres, and we ended up walking along the DNRE maintenance track. We could tell the department hadn’t really done much maintenance after a while, because even their track began to disappear into the coastal scrub, with wattles that must’ve been ten years old or more sprouting in the middle of the track, and in some places, the track disappeared altogether. We found an old cement block hut perched on the edge of a farm that backs onto the coastal park, and a large midden of empty beer bottles. No doubt quite a few fishing trips have been started here over the years. It was uncanny, but a novel I’ve been tinkering with for a few years now, which is set in this area, has just such a shack in it, though I didn’t know those old shacks existed prior to this walk. There was something foreboding about it, and I couldn’t help but think of Wolf Creek for the time the shack was in sight.
Beyond that, we found ourselves in the middle of a rocky plateau, taking lunch under the shade of a windswept cypress tree that was struggling to hold onto life in such a hostile environment. On the way back, we took some of the bush tracks to the coastline, where large rocky bluffs, coves and stone pillars rising from the ocean waited patiently to fall into the ocean. The coast here is almost as dramatic as the more famous spots, yet I had a strong sense that few people see it—locals included. To a degree, I guess that’s a good thing, though I found myself wanting more people to know about it, to see it, to remember it, to ensure there is a collective memory of these places before the elements claim them.
The events of the past six months have led me to a realisation that memory, or more importantly the recording of existence, is becoming much more important to me. My sister has ensured something of her continues after her, through the existence of her daughters. They will not relive her life, nor lead the life she has led, but they will carry her memory, and the proof she existed, beyond her passing. I guess eventually, my brother and Natalie will do likewise.
For me, I don’t know.