Day 181

Written 21September, 2020

She had a choice of the spare room where K sleeps,which i scurried around vacuuming,  or the cabin, reverberating with the lapping of high tide- but I didn’t vacuum it. She didn’t care about the dust- whoever did I think she would? She chose the cabin.She brought cakes, and over tea, the terror of a visitor condemning me for my poor housework, even a believed friend, left me. I was ashamed that knowing her well, I’d let my old fears overwhelm me. Goodness, crippled by the fear, i almost made her wait on the ferry while I scrubbed the bathtub! Thank goodness I didn’t allow myself to do that.

Her first bush walk, a track that slopes up gently between the last two houses, is flat and almost like a stroll for a while, with a tobacco tree forest on one side, and a forest of Grass Trees on the other. I grew up calling them Black Boys, I suppose because they could look like a figure holding a spear. But over the years, the name seemed racist. Their official name is Xanthorhoea, but when you live with them, they’re just Grass Trees.

Suddenly, the path comes to two gum trees close together like crossed fingers, and that’s the landmark to turn to the right and climb to the cliff, a steep slope where your only choice is to almost double up and throw your weight forward, up sheer rocks. But at the top, spring has brought out an orchard of pink wild flowers – eriostemon. I walk under their bowers.


I’m not panting! We sit in silence for almost an hour. Then I sneak away quietly and make sure i can find the way down. I want to have it all in hand. Why? I want her to be unafraid, to love this place. I’ve had too many friends who cannot see its beauty, and that’s so disappointing, not to be able to share it with them.


There’s a racket in a gum tree. Two magpies are frightening away a goanna, only a baby but as dangerous to magpie eggs as its parents.


They may be mates. Dy say you can tell the male because he has a moustache on either side of his beak. I’ll look closely next time.


Picture this: it’s night, we’re on the end of the jetty, watching the black waves rise and catch the moonlight before subsiding, and we’re listening to the odd night bird making jagged lines in the peace. In front of us looms nearby a headland of untamed National Park- you know that headland, it’s been in most of the pictures.  Withyour eye travelling left, after the nearby headland,  there’s a small space of open water, then an island, then, further back,  another headline, further forward, and to the right, another headland. We’ve been on the jetty for maybe an hour, wide-awake, our eyes out on sticks, our ears out on sticks, hardly speaking, held in a trance by the stillness and the lapping and the velvety tent-like blackness around us – and there comes a most unexpected sound from the nearer headland across the creek. We turn to each other, and say together, our voices strangely loud after such silence:

That was a goat.

We fall silent, listen, watch, wait again.

Another sound.

We say together:

That was a cow.

Later when we tell this to laughing neighbours, we all come up with two theories:

That it was a lyrebird, who, as you know, can imitate even a chain saw.

That many generations ago, a goat and a cow escaped from the farm that used to proper further upstream, a farm that was once a major supplier of Sydney’s oranges.

But tonight, we leave the jetty near midnight, me to the house and R to the cabin, so astounded by a goat and a cow in the wilderness, that we can barely speak.



3 Responses to Day 181

  1. Hi Sue, it’s been a long while since my last post! Sorry to hear you’ve been unwell, this year has been full of unfortunate curveballs, it seems.

    A lot has been happening here in Sydney, and in my life. As the pandemic continues, all of the staff here at the hospital have been asked to go outside our normal fields of work and expand our repertoires. This has meant many of us Physiotherapists (myself included!) have been truly on the front line: working in call centres to give people their tests results, working at the airport to screen people on incoming flights for symptoms, and – most nerve-racking of all – performing the swabs themselves, sometimes even on those arriving from international flights. Wasn’t really what I had in mind when I signed up to be a Physio!

    But it has never felt like a burden. More and more I find that with the right people around, difficult work isn’t just manageable, but, strangely enough, enjoyable. We have a great team at the hospital, full of people who really care and who really want to make a difference. And that kind of mentality is (more than any virus) truly infectious.

    Working in a hospital is a surreal experience. Almost every employee I’ve ever met feels the same tension that I do, the same push-and-pull, the same love-hate relationship with our jobs. There are things you see in our job that you can never unsee. There are daily tragedies, unimaginable pain, interminable suffering. Anyone who thinks death is the greatest tragedy has clearly never set foot in a hospital. For it’s here that you realise that there are many things far, far worse.

    It’s no secret that empathy is exhausting. And there’s no therapist I know who hasn’t, at least in some small part, taken on the pain of those they are treating. Life can be so cruel to some people, and as a health care worker there is only so much you can do to help. It’s hard not to feel, at times, like you’ve failed. It’s hard not to get, at times, jaded and cynical about it all. It’s hard not to feel run down, and exhausted, and unsympathetic.

    But then, inevitably, something happens. Something miraculous, magical, disbelieving. I remember helping a patient take her first steps after being bed-ridden with illness for over three months. She turned to me, bleary eyed (and exhausted from the effort!) and said: “I never thought I’d have hope again.” I remember so many of my patients, patients who have come back from the brink of death to make full recoveries, patients with awful, debillitating diseases who never let their spirits be broken.

    When health is compromised, everything else in our lives becomes superfluous. Doesn’t matter your income, your job title, your place in the hierachy in the external world. When you are brought into hospital you are made an equal, laid bare and armour-less. In a hospital people are at their most vulnerable, and it’s here that you see the full range of the human spirit – the depths of human despair and the heights of human strength. Working here is a fascinating look into the human psyche, and a daily reminder to be grateful for, and respectable of, my own working body.

    People often ask me: “isn’t it depressing to work in a hospital?” And the answer yes, absolutely, it can be. But that’s only one part of it. It’s also something significant, something uplifting, something hopeful. It’s a constant reminder to never take this life, or the lives and health of the people we love, for granted. So that love-hate relationship continues to rise and fall, continues to push and pull. But at the end of the day, when’s it’s all said and done, I know that there’s nowhere else I’d rather be

    • Welcome back, Beth. It’s always great, sobering, humbling to have the comments of someone right at the heart of things. And how uplifting – “I know that theres’ nowhere else I’d rather be”. Thank you.

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