Time, time, time was has become of you ........

When you do things regularly you start to use them as markers of time, and when you begin to look closely you see how many different scales of time can be marked. Hours and minutes, days and weeks, months and years. You could use shorter scales or longer ones if you wished, but it doesn’t really matter. All scales have a now and a before, a now and an after. Each tracks time's arrow - the only linear event in a cyclic universe. Each scale ticks over time, and shows something different. The monthly tick of the seasons, the weekly tick of the weather, the daily tick of night and day all measure change in different ways. Even the fortnightly tick (more or less!) of these posts measures something, although I will let you be the judge of what that actually is. (And as irrelevant as it is I think that “fortnightly” is a marker as well - as English as wet summers, traffic jams, polite, silent queues in shops and routine sporting disasters).

The Year.

A year ago - almost to the day - I finally pulled myself out from under the anvil of stress and fear that had driven me into the ground. An anvil built from ambition, failure, over-expectation and a comprehensive inability to see the damage that was occurring. I would lie in bed and fear the coming of the sun, but when it arrived I would pull on the stiff upper lip (yet another marker) and go to work, for the fear of failure (which had long since become a reality, even if I didn't know it) was greater than the fear of fear itself . And I did this day after day, week after week, year upon year, until doing it made no sense, but doing it was all I had. In the end, inevitably, but still apparently surprising to some people, I broke - I had to stop, I could no longer go on. One last straw, one last disappointment, one last kick by those who were not able to achieve what they delegated to me. So, this tick of the clock, this marker of time, this real new year is significant, in many, many ways.

Thankfully, the world turns. You can’t can’t keep failing to notice, and even if you do, your body will. And in the end, when the break point comes, it feels as much a relief as a collapse. One year later it seems that clouds still come and go - that’s only natural - but I think the Black Dog is no longer walking, misbehaving, at heel. It has moved on. But will I ever forget that once, for more days than I care to count, a Black Dog owned me more completely than any master has ever owned a pet? I hope so, but it may pay not to forget.

When I started doing this, this blog, I thought it would only be about the external environment, the outside. But can you really see the outside if the inside is sick? As the inside has healed, the outside has lit up. It’s not surprising really, but it still comes as a shock to find myself smiling at the sun, the greenness of the leaves, the shape of a shadow.

So the clock has ticked through one year and I am back in The Grampians. Same house, same car, but is it the same place? I thought it had rained last winter, but this one was even better. Old fashioned rain. Rain that came in sheets from the sky and spread in sheets over the land. Flooding rain. Rain that pooled in low places and made the rivers flow. The Murray will reach the sea this year, which may seem normal, but it’s not, not any more anyway.

It was cold, a winter to buy a coat for the train wait at the start of the day. But day length ticks over, the tilt of the Earth brings its reward and the restless clock of spring does chime. There are less flowers than last year, pushed back a few weeks by the cold and the wet. The flowers are less in number, but they are not scarce. Last year we were surrounded by flowers, hugged by them, but not this year. And just as a child holding on to a single finger can be a more complete experience than the hug from a person you would rather not see, a single flower can be more arresting than the sight of many. A single flower may not be perfection, and the life spent seeking it may not be wasted, but if they punctuate rather than dominate a landscape they are still worth seeking, perfect or not.

The walk to the quarry takes 10 minutes this year, the first time it took half a day. We find more the 20 species of flower and the two children with us seem so much more than a year older than they were a year ago. The cold that held back the plants seems to have no effect on the kids, growing like weeds even when the weeds are struggling. Blue stars, purple stars, white stars, yellow rosettes, hoods of green, spider forms and fragile leopard spotted petals, trumpets of yellow and white. Flowers in the same place as last year, flowers in surprising places. Different and the same.

Behind the house, where this year we toasted marshmallows, baked potatoes and drew with last night’s charcoal, the path leads to Clematis Falls - or Calamitous Falls as it came to be called for no other reason than we could and that it was funny. Follow the path to the hairpin left and head slowly up towards Chautauqua Peak, with views down the valley and over the hillside. Views back into the flat lands from which the Grampians spring, and if you look at the amount of water you can see a view back into winter. The peak is slim and airy, a blunt edged knife that flanks Halls Gap. It requires more than just walking - you have to put your hands on rock, you have to look where you are going, you have to scramble up short rock steps. The looks of surprise caused by the presence of a five year old redhead and her eight year old brother in such places is worth the walk alone.

This time it is not the views or the floating snow flurries of cockatoos that hold my attention. It’s the name of the peak that does. Chautauqua Peak. Chautauqua. It seems that the last year has been some form of chautauqua for me. A chautauqua was a meeting, a mobile discussion and opportunity to learn. Originating in the US in the 1800’s their aim was to educate and illuminate, and apparently similar meetings were once held below this peak. The first chautauqua I encountered was not a meeting, but a book. A book that did not relate to the great body of work on Zen and was not that accurate on motor-cycles either. The learning was personal, introspective, but the audience was public. This feels familiar, and I had not made the connection until I was sat on the top of Chautauqua Peak, with the past and the present laid out before me, and my family around me. The passing of a year without learning is just existence, passage and learning seems to be real life.

The Month.

I have been waiting for spring with this year with unfamiliar impatience. Each warm day greeted as an augury, each spell of sunshine the first day of spring. Waiting for spring is like waiting for your children to grow, one day they fit in a shoe box, the next they are at school. However, I am now prepared to call the bet for real - it is actually spring. The leaf burst on the birch trees on both sides of the house is well underway; other people are wearing shorts, the dragon flies are back. Daylight creeps in at the morning windows, and soon it will shine in perfect circles on the hall wall and stream onto my waking pillow for a few days. The evenings draw out, children resist daylight bed times and the chance to see evening possums before sleep passes for another year. The flies swarm, annoyingly, around the spurge, the magpies fight, the grass grows with almost audible vigour and eventually the football season comes to an end, and a different type of magpie stops fighting to cheer a cheer twenty years in the making and saints still weep tears, but nobody cites this as a miracle. A month ago none of these were really true, but today they are.

The Week.
Going away is a great way to see change, especially if the change is slow. The Grampians did not really look any different between day one and day seven, the changes too small to see. The home garden was a different story. Flowing down over thick wood pillars was a cascade of wisteria flowers. Pink and cool, a frozen river of winter cold, icy and beautiful. Snow flurry petals fall in the breeze, to be collected with infinite care by a girl in love with purple. Bees have found the flowers, and just down the road a swarm gathered in a path side tree that most people seemed not to notice. Street trees are clothed in green flowers rather than leaves, ash before oak this year - will it rain, will it soak?

The Day

The week draws on as the days pass with the relaxed pace that only a holiday can bring. Morning tea and an extended breakfast, a slow plan for the day, minutes pass and hours accumulate, the days take on a rhythm of their own. Change comes unexpectedly, with the rain gone and bright, clear skies. Nature responds. Lizards, hidden for the rest of the week, come out to bask - it would be a good day for snakes - flies buzz loudly and honeyeaters chase in the sparkling branches. In one day the land looks dry again, the roads kick up dust and winter seems far away. Rocks grow warm to the touch, cricket replaces football. Nature is taking it a day at a time.

The Hour.

The clouds rush past, and hurl rain at the window. The harsh clatter of rain on a tin roof, staccato and relaxing. And then it’s gone. Time for more speed than normal, to catch the hour before it passes. A short walk. A gentle stroll in rain cleaned air. A rainbow's arch, a roll of distant thunder. On days of heavy rain such an hour feels like a gift, given unbidden, received with an open heart. The hills become visible as the clouds pull away. This is a time for distant vision, quickly seen. A time to put aside plans and just do. Within the turning of an hour much can change, much can be resolved.

The Second.

Balloon burst, cork pop, lightning strike, the pen nib, ink dipped ears of a hare in the road side grass. An owl call. The flash of a hawk over the road. Cameras click, a passing laugh. And finally, at day’s end, that lingering second of warmth before sleep comes and the clock is reset for another day.

Sometimes in the fleeting instance when you crack open a stone you see laid before you the crystals that have grown through the long ages of the Earth and you know that years, months, weeks, day, hours and seconds all come together to form something so remarkable and so rare that you can't help but smile. A dog barks in the background, so you reach for the nearest hand or you chase the nearest child just for the joy of the movement. And time keeps going regardless.


Garry said…
Well done on the positive changes you've been able to make over the past year, Stewart. It's a good news story that I hope will be emulated by others close to me. Once again, your photos are superb.
Cheers, Garry
muzz said…
A long journey over a year Stewart - you have arrived at a better destination, or is it a station along the way??? Love the pics of the Grampians - it looks so much more recovered after the fires, and with the rain to refill it's streams and gullies it should have a great summer.

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