Rambles

I write & shoot (photographs) occasionally

Month: June, 2015

the white shirt

stories from cambodia: a thank you to mai for your recount that stayed with me

drowsy mornings with half-opened eyes; reaching my hand into the dark closet and grabbing the first white, structured form i see. they’re lined up beside each other: identical white blouses i wear on weekday mornings, neatly pressed and almost pristine. in some conversations we exchange complaints of too-early mornings, but in truth i never feel anything- there is no hardship in routine; routine doesn’t occupy a second thought. fingers race down buttons with practised speed, smooth out creases, pin on the badge aimlessly- i don’t think.

i wonder how different they feel when they put on the white shirt; are their skins awash with renewed gratitude each time? a friend told me how the children there are only admitted into school if they have a white shirt to wear to class; how a single white shirt circulates among siblings for their seat in the classroom, for education to reach some of them on good days.

on some days it is difficult for me to see this shirt as anything but a shackle; confusing me, frightening me, binding me to something i repeatedly do but don’t fully understand. yet this thin fabric is their train ticket to a better life- an object so small and simple, of cloth and thread, is their hope out of this perpetuating cycle of poverty. we could have a hundred white shirts if we wanted to, but they wouldn’t even need one to understand the privilege.

why are you so frightened? how is it that you have no faith?

space

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squint for the rainbow

squint for the rainbow

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a bottle of scattered sand from perth

bus rides, inevitably long, winding roads that knew no end, black flanked by green and yellow for miles and miles that never gave my eyes a break. sheep and cows that quite often passed us by, alpacas once, black and white spots of colour in unbelievable emerald fields. craning my neck to catch a glimpse of the sunset/ sunrise through foggy windscreens and shaded windows (we were in the bus too long to catch much of the sky’s beauty outdoors). getting out of hours’ long rides just for a pee break; even then, finding beautiful gas stations or random stores in the middle of nowhere, with pastel blue blocky mountains rising in the distance, the faint smell of agriculture and wet gravel under our feet, kangaroos nestling in tall grasses a distance away. Alan our bus driver patiently telling us about Perth in low tones, interspersed with bouts of sarcasm.

being afire in that one moment, heart pounding, chasing the CAT bus and pink skies, electrified and alive, shouting and running across the road (“don’t ruin the moment by getting knocked down by a car”) in utter disbelief and wonder at our luck. looking suspicious standing around street corners, surreptitiously counting people and cars while the rest of the world moved around us.

chinese restaurants so many times in australia, drawing mad laughter each time at memories of consecutive vegetable dishes being served before the first meat dish finally graced our eyes. porcelain crashing on the floor, light-headed uncontrollable laughter and highness to the point of being worrying; it irritated me but at the same time was so hard not to lose myself completely in it.

at the jetty, sun casting a shiny veil over blue waves, walking around by myself watching seagulls flock together on the sand. complete darkness in the lake cave, not being able to see my own hand, droplets plinking loudly in hushed silence as the activity in the cave commenced with all of us enclosed within its walls. drops falling onto our bodies and cameras, trying to make out limestone structures the way we do clouds (a kangaroo sitting across two men watching them), hopefully absorbing this unaltered majesty (but in retrospect perhaps not completely when we tried to freeze the moments). almost banging my head on the narrow cave openings, wondering how the earliest cavers felt when their flame first illuminated these structures and how they dared to enter this consuming darkness with a rope and candle, not knowing what lived here.

being as tall as karri trees in the valley of giants, shaky bridge scaring friends and blurring pictures, looking under my feet to see how high above we were (40m at maximum height). the incredibly long climb to the blowhole which wasn’t really active, actually panting, the sound of the waves and the blowhole which sounded like thunder. wondrous exclamations at the beauty of the sunset trailing behind everyone, trying to capture every transition, pale orange and pink breaking over rocky hills and just being before the sea and sky- possibly my favourite place.

slumped on the sofa in pyjamas watching american cartoons, feet warmed by an electric flame, laughter that flowed so freely between our bodies, a brimming energy. ridiculous plots and rainbows and flying cars and everything being completely absurd while we laughed without restraint in homely feeling. taiti with fizzy pink drinks from the supermarket, we replicated champagne with sophisticated tall glasses we found in the kitchen cabinets-cheers. holding hands in a circle playing murderer, always remembering how suspicious we looked to people if they might call upon our doors.

this desire to be alone will always come back to me, embedded in all chatter and activity I will free myself, find my way to the restaurant’s outdoor tables glowing with light and husked in intricate shadows, seeing an acquaintance outside and somehow wanting to join her. it’s a beautiful kind of peace, black swans and ducks calling and I pull up near the pond in a wicker chair wishing it was a rocking chair, stare out in tranquility and she is gone. Being joined by others, mimicking duck quacks and conversing with animals, sitting together and soon the photos commence.

shaking off relentless flies, being fascinated by green tattoos on the Aboriginal guide’s hands, he said that Aboriginal men could not enter the hippo’s yawn because it used to be where the women gave birth. scraping hands on rocks and straining my arm climbing the unlikely ridges to the back, thinking that the area looked like a desert (tundra?). scaling the sand dunes and thinking of the sound of music (the hills are alive) on sand rather than grass (musical references come to me strangely), convincing myself that I was the first to spot the rainbow from the bus. so many people standing on the peak of peaks of the dunes, wondering if we should climb up and asking what’s up there, feet sinking in sand and being engulfed and thinking there was no way up but a kind hand extended and we found the view.

at the pinnacles asking ‘should we run?’, feeling so free, sprinting across sand hands up flying, cold wind lifting us along, panting but feeling like it was the best random decision I ever made, feeling ‘on top of the world looking down on creation’ while balancing on ledges, I’m thinking now of how the land met the sea and the sky in layers, how wondrous it was.

one of the longest bus rides back to Perth, being unable to fall asleep and so upset, alighting at a gas station to get a raspberry white chocolate chip muffin, deciding to sit out in the cold instead of in the confines of the bus knowing I would be trapped there for at least the next two hours, wondering what people were thinking of the girl sitting outside the toilet alone eating her food. the relief of the city lights and their beauty so far off, floating gold lamps for tired traveller’s eyes falling upon completely dark roads for too long.

warm apple cinnamon muffin at the airport, so spaced out and exhausted half-heartedly using WiFi, the seat that couldn’t recline and the really funny air stewardess who tried to push it down with all her might, gritting her teeth and informing me ‘I’m sorry, this aircraft is new.’

memory

it is impossible to fit all this into me

tattoo the orange-brown gradients, curvature of the wave rock onto dark irises

capture the cold sun striking our bodies in gold-rimmed permanence

lace my lips with the ease of yesterday’s laughter

carve into fingertips the hollows that granite ingrains

freckle skins with the very stars transparent skies breathe

collect the unending seas, earth, heavens in the breadth of my embrace

already yesterday’s fireplace warmth is seeping from thickly cocooned bodies,

dissipating into thin threads of wintry air that form tangled snares,

carefully pocketed away

they catch us when we least expect to be,

drag us through the tunnel of flawed memory

road trip

peppermint grove road

preston beach

sun striking reedy trees,

shadows splayed across black roads roads roads for miles,

painting zebra crossings of light and shadows animating sparse vehicles flickering in and out of consciousness

music for imagination and adventure, calming non-existent nerves

tiny cows, sheep speckled in sprawling green fields while we fly by with the changing trees

forming tunnels, sunlight-dipped branches aching to touch over our heads

long bus rides and we are quietly together and alone

goodbyes

//goodbyes,

goodbyes brimming with promise

ocean-filled hearts shimmering with sun that

catches onto every piece of you

//goodbyes echoing empty

short-term places buzzing

with friends who will soon peter out into strangers

(and we know this)

tea bags brewed one too many times

eyes unable to meet,

voluntary like poles of a magnet

//goodbyes wavering, undecided,

laced in springs

wistful notes, hopeful

‘i’ll see you around?’s

between reining in and letting go

//goodbyes heavy and silent

white petals gently brushing

cool wood

tear-streaked, lip-pressed,

for real

//goodbyes that end and begin

*clearing late night thoughts at 12.45am and feeling the urge to write even if it’s no good. goodbye now.

internet

too susceptible to these

nicknames and pixel illusions

reflections skimming on the surface of water,

sun subdued by too many wisps of spun clouds

pretty soon that’s how the world comes to know

the flowers and fruits and not the

seed of you

the actor whose identity hinges on his

fictitious character in that one hit show

skins

it never quite goes away:

something I realised in a startling parallel as we

found ourselves side by side before the mirror,

fingers tracing bad skin,

unravelling strands of white hair

decades apart but sentiments colliding

too precisely and painfully in this moment