As I left home at 6 to take Jack for his shift at work the sky was white like the matte finish of photo paper. An ominous grey cloud stretched its head over the beach, a massive silhouette, growling in my direction.
“There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!” Proverbs 26:13
This scripture turned in my head, which still felt full of the haunting dreams of last night and the magnificent film Sarah’s Key that I had been down to the cinema to see. I had woken half way through the night, suddenly seeing the images of the cupboard – the part the film director was wise not to show us – because we saw it anyway, in the crevices of our own imaginations.
I lay staring at the ceiling in my half hearted attempt to get back to sleep. Really I just wanted to make sense of the feelings running around in my brain and all those questions. Oh the questions! Do you really ever get over trauma? Was life for Sarah ever really meant to go on after concentration camp, the brutality of war and her desperation to save her brother? Do any of us who have confronted death ever really get over it – even if we escaped?
The images developed as they always do in a dark room. Those images that are lifted out of the water in a photo lab, swished with tweezers and clipped up before us, hung there to dry. And I started to cry.
Images surround us don’t they? Even when we are not looking, when our eyes are closed and we are meant to be sleeping. The images of what we fear, disjointed frames that don’t connect. Our lives, the lives of others, fictional lives from the pages of a book. They roll around in our dreams. We wake to the stifled sounds of sobbing behind closed doors. Theses sounds are silent on waking, it was just a dream and I tell myself it’s okay, ‘the monster’s gone’ but the images remain in the silence of the bedroom. I see it all again. The downward glances of nurses, who walk the corridors watching their shoes because there has been bad news. I remember the sound, the squeak of navy hush puppies on the stained linoleum that’s been sterilized but still doesn’t shine.
I think about this, staring at the time on my iPhone and tell myself I should sleep – no time for this. But the film is still turning and there is so much to see and so much I want to do and people I want to rescue…
I see it again, those mothers in the movie forcefully knocking back the soldiers to be with their children and then I picture the women in the papers whose children drowned in the flood and I feel so incredibly sad and helpless and afraid. Does it get to you too?
I throw back the covers; make my way into the lounge room. I silently creep into each of the children’s rooms. They stir when I enter but go on sleeping as I stand in the doorway just to watch them breathing. I feel so grateful for their lives. My three beautiful children!
I was speaking to a stranger the other day, trying to sort out medical bills, trying to catch up still on the ones we neglected to pay, trying to explain that it was so big that the bills were the last thing on our minds and how in the piles some just slipped through unnoticed, got shoved in a drawer – like they didn’t exist anymore. (I love it when my thoughts rhyme)
While I was explaining about my daughter she said it was terrible and asked if she were our only child? When she discovered we had to others, she said that at least if we had lost her we would have had them.
How do you respond?
How does a child ever make up for the loss of another?
Does this woman have a heart? I better not start!
I was still awake when Jack made his way into the shower. “I’ll take him,” I say to Reid who doesn’t hear me anyway. I grab my journal, my Bible and throw on something respectable enough for the café. I don’t honestly care what I wear but I want to be decent.
“I’ll be in the car.”
As I drive no words pass between us. I order my coffee.
From the pages of my journal the Annie Leibovitz programme falls on the table. I shove it back into the covers then realize these are more images…what am I meant to be seeing? I sigh!
I really loved this exhibition.
Reid and I took a whole day in the city and I was as excited as a kid in a candy shop. We had a proper lunch at a café in The Rocks and I recalled the annual trip there with my mum and my sister when we were children. I told Reid how we had a routine. First the candle shop, then we watched the man blowing glass into dainty ornaments and then we would buy some “Newcastle Rock” because that reminded my mum of her childhood trips to the sea back home in the north of England.
It’s precious to remember traditions of our childhood. Sometimes memories are all we have. They are embedded all the way through the inner part of our existence and no matter how life cuts you they remain the same, like the words in the Newcastle Rock.
I squeezed Reid’s hand going up the stairs to the exhibition. “Thank you,” I said.
For years we couldn’t afford to go into the exhibition or go for lunch in a café. For years we ate lunch on the grass outside the MCA, ‘cop-a-squating’ like Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, then passing our time looking at the books in the foyer, reading about what was going on upstairs for those who had money to see.
We strolled through the exhibit, standing like experts in front of each frame. I read every plaque, soaking in the stories of this life. Magnificent photography, outstanding images – I loved the ones of Demi Moore and Keira Knightly but most of all I loved the ones of Annie’s family. I loved reading what she wrote about her mother, in her bathing costume and how she always wanted the children to smile for photos. I cried, real sobs (yes me – what has happened to me lately?) when her friend Susan died because cancer came back – a type of Leukaemia!
I tucked the programme into my journal and opened the pages of my bible. I bought a new bible last Saturday, it’s an NIV (I finally decided that the Amplified has too many words!) and I am doing the ‘Suggested Bible Reading Track’ in the back. I discover I am up to The Beatitudes. Matthew 5: 3 and 4 goes like this:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
I realize I have been thinking for a long time. I look up and the sky is blue. The scent of coffee drifts through the bi-fold windows of my local café and the guy next to me is madly writing his thoughts in an A4 exercise book.
“It helps me get it out,” he tells me. I nod, smiling in acquiescence. This is the language of the morning and dopamine releases in my brain, like a sudden rush of happiness.
The lion of the morning was not my enemy. He is my dearest friend, my great redeemer, my Aslan.
How do you deal with the things you fear?