Spring 2010 #9
On school mornings my limited contribution to getting our fifth daughter out the door culminates in a wonderful moment when Bugger and I roll down the driveway, hot on the trail of my Favourite Wife in her cute little car. Cassie has just turned ten. She loves school, but she also loves every smallest alternative to school that presents itself between 5.45am when we rise and 8.00am when we start the car. Her head-strong creativity is exasperating and, it must be said, sometimes nigh-on intolerable! Just as they start down the road I pull alongside, chair set to its fastest speed, and in the thirty or so feet it takes for the car to accelerate away Cassie and I exchange our top-secret “Blue Team” handshake through the passenger’s window (the Red Team, by the way, is made up of my Favourite Wife and our puppy. They always loose, Blue always wins! Life is so simple at ten). Then they are away, little one leaning most inappropriately out the window waving frantically and cupping her hands to yell, “I love you Dad”, over and over as they disappear. I head back home (wondering what the neighbors make of this routine ruckus), and round about then the sun will crown the steep green hillside, its first excited rays striking towering gums and searching out a few stray ‘Roos that have briefly paused in their breakfast grazing to consider the spectacle playing out on the road below. I catch myself laughing out loud now and then (which must aggrieve the neighbors yet more); it is a moment of sheer, pure, exultant joy. And it comes around most days!
And just a fortnight ago I was scooting along a stone breakwater on the New South Wales north coast, my grandson buckled firmly on my lap, his mum and dad trailing behind us with their newest one in a stroller. Shrieks and giggles as we dodged the spray and splash of ocean waves crashing against the rocks below us. We looked for crabs, we tried to keep warm and failed to keep dry!
And four nights ago my son, our daughter in law, two more daughters and a boyfriend joined me around a Wagga Wagga pub table for a great night together on the evening of an out-of-town medical appointment (about which I shall not speak!).
And yesterday I trained up to the south coast to be with my fourth daughter and her husband of only six weeks. My girl and I spent a couple of blissful afternoon hours exploring the rainforest trails along the spectacular escarpment on which they live. Rough gravel, mud holes and gradients very nearly too steep for Bugger to go down – let alone back up! But there was a distant waterfall that she just had to show me; and we would be rescued … somehow. How much fun; bouncing and slipping around, overheating motors cutting out, and my little girl valiantly pushing us back uphill to the point of near exhaustion. It’s been too long since we’ve gone adventuring together; or caught frogs, or thrown stones in ponds, or since we laughed quite so much together!
And this morning the whole world, it seems, is celebrating last night’s announcement of my third daughter’s engagement to the young man I like so much who was last week merely a boyfriend. We should have been at church but there were messages, phone calls, emails, facebook, people! It’s too much fun!
And now, before I head off for the home-bound train, we are sitting down to a gourmet meal of grilled venison: hunted, dressed, marinated and cooked right here on the mountain during my stay. We heard the rifle’s crack in yesterday’s early hours; a sharp report echoing through cliff and timber, scattering flocks of birds into the air.
And in a couple more days we will all be back around a table somewhere in Wagga, celebrating my daughter’s twentieth – under strict orders not to celebrate the engagement. There will be another party for that!
And these are high points, mountain tops, glory days.
And, of course, there is just as much that could be written about the valleys in between. The days I spend alone at home without the buzz of trains or busses or cafes or friends to draw my eye up can be a challenge, indeed.
And sometimes I fall to wondering: for how long can the good times roll? Is there a turning point in the track, a fork in the road beyond which the joy of experience cannot be sustained? Is the exhilaration of life only for a time; or does the landscape of mountain and valley continue through each and every season? I do not know the answer to my question.
And sometimes I am fearful, chilled by what the answer might contain.
And sometimes I realise that it would take faith to live well, no matter down which path my question finds its truth.
And I read, “Do not be afraid, little flock, because it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom”.