February 2012

The Water, Part One.

by Lori Dwyer on February 29, 2012 · 17 comments

Years and years ago, when I was about sixteen, my cousin nearly drowned in our aunt’s backyard pool. I was in the pool with her, just a few feet away.

My cousin was only very young, maybe five or six years old. It was hot and, along with various family members of different degrees if separation, we were enjoying the cool, slightly salty water. I was the oldest amongst ‘the kids’ and kept to myself, floating and daydreaming at the deeper end of the pool while the younger ones splashed in the shallows. The shallow end of the pool was deceptive– rather than sloping down in a gentle gradient, there was a large step about four foot across that served as a knee high wading pool, before it dropped very sharply into water that was more than five foot deep.

I don’t remember how it happened. I’m not sure if I even saw the moment she stepped or slipped out of her depth. All I know is that suddenly, just four feet away across the sparkling blue water, the only thing clearly visible was my cousin’s hat, floating on the surface, calmly and peacefully… not at all betraying the fact that my cousin was now thirty centimeters under the water beneath it, struggling furiously to break herself back up, clawing in the direction of oxygen.

I froze. Dumbstruck. So horrified and shocked by what was in front of me that I could not move to save her.

I don’t know who screamed her name– “Bianca!!!”– but I’m almost sure it wasn’t me. Her mum ‘left’ the closed in patio area, maybe three meters away… I don’t know the right word to use there. It’s not ‘ran’ or ‘sprinted’, even ‘flew’ isn’t quite accurate enough. There isn’t an adjective for it, and there needs to be– the parental act of moving faster than you thought possible, of instinct producing springing steps that cover meters at a time. When you’re not even aware that you’ve reacted until you’ve done so.

Bianca’s mum dove, a long straight line in denim and white that I can still see shooting through sunlight and past the poolside greenery. She grabbed her daughter, pulled her from the pool and hit her square across the back; her hair and clothes dripping, her eyes wide with a steely panic.

My cousin’s tiny body curled into itself and flung open again. She gagged and vomited liters of water out onto the clay tiles, where it dried almost instantly in the bake of the sun.

She was fine– scared and shaking, but none the worse for what happened. There was an occasional nervous, relieved laughter amongst the adults; the kind of laughter that is almost eerie because it’s so very close to the hysterical screaming that would have echoed around that patio should Bianca’s mum had not been so damn quick.

For years afterwards I felt the kind of shame that makes you blush pink when you think of the event, even when you’re all alone and you’re the only one who knows about it. I was only metres away and could have helped her, literally within the space of a second. I know now it’s not an entirely uncommon thing to happen, but even discovering that fact wasn’t enough to silence the voice in my mind.

Because what would happen one day when I had children of my own..? Would I even been quick enough to do what Bianca’s mum had done, to jump in fully clothed and grab my child? Or would I hesitate at the edge of cold water for just that second too long?

To be continued…

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And Then You Die.

by Lori Dwyer on February 28, 2012 · 19 comments

“Haven’t I been brave?” asks that scared, tired five year old girl in my mind, her eyes huge and blue and so clear you can see right through to her soul’ holding a flannel blanket that smells vaguely of my mother and still holds some of her warmth’ “Haven’t I been so very, very brave? Don’t I deserve a gold star now? Don’t I get someone to hold my hand?”


The short answer is- no.

Life is unfair. And bad things happen to good people, all the time.

Being brave doesn’t guarantee you’ll be rewarded in any way. It just means you feel better about yourself. You can say, ‘I’ve been brave’. ‘I’ve been strong.’ And that is the coldest, most horrible blessed relief.

Life is patently unfair. Babies die, husbands die, whole families starve. And, as they say, even worse things happen at sea.

Life sucks.And then you die too.

Sometimes I wonder what happens here, to this blog. Everyone else moves on from this much faster than I do. How much can you write about grief? How may times can I say “It hurts, it hurts, it hurts!” before the world world is sick of hearing it? No one likes self indulgence.
But this is my heart, my soul… the only thing that provides me with any kind of self esteem. What would I do without it?
“Surely” I ask my mate Bunny, “surely, knowing what I’ve been through, he wouldn’t deliberately hurt me?”
Bunny thinks about this, weighs culture and age and gender against the simple principles of humanity, and divides them by the argument that is unfurling around me.

“I doubt it. You wouldn’t think so. Most blokes have more balls than that.”
As it turns out, we were wrong.
Life sucks.
And then you die.

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by Lori Dwyer on February 27, 2012 · 10 comments

On the days when my kids are driving me absolutely nuts, I escape to my garden.

You know how kids are… There are some days when you’d rather stab yourself in the eye than hear ‘Muuuuuuuuum!’ one more time. Days when your two year old screams at you from the moment she wakes up until lunchtime, for no particular discernible reason except that she can. Days when the sound of them fighting, again, just the second you walk out of the room, literally gives you a tight knot in your diaphragm and you wonder how you will ever do another few years of this.

And that’s when my garden calls, with it’s lush coolness. There is always something to be done out here, and it moves at its own pace– weeds to be pulled, potted plants that must be moved. My entire veggie garden had been attacked by my chickens and I have big plans for an extension and a chicken proof fence. I managed to yield a crop of exactly one ear of corn this summer.

The single cob of corn I grew.. but isn’t it lovely?

But Ethel and Lucy are two happy, brazen chooks. Who now follow me around the yard hoping for cuddles or food scraps. One of them is having some serious hormonal issues and laying massive eggs which, as Twitter predicted, are all double yolkers.

Happy lucky double yolk egg

Yesterday was one of those days, spent in my garden while my children yelled at each other, themselves, at least unfortunate cat, and me. An hour past bedtime and the Bump is screaming again. For no other reason than she can.

The only drawback is I can’t work in my garden at night.


As well as Tony’s bonsai, my Man and I owned a scatter of other potted plants– among them, a fire spear that has doubled in size in the five years since we bought it; two fig trees, skinny but as tall as me, cloned from his bonsai but allowed to grow full size; and a frangipani in a pot he bought me on the anniversary of our first year as a couple.

They’ve been dragged with us from Paradise and back again, surviving an up-mountain haul in a truck, the salty cold of the coastal winner and the wettest summer Sydney has seen in 50 years. And all more by good luck than good management– apart from watering them and hitting them with a dose of worm wee from the worm farm every now and then, I’ve ignored them.

Yesterday I repotted the two figs– I have plans for those, and I’ll keep you posted– and the fire spear, which currently has not only a spear but seed pods as well. All three were badly root bound, their nervous system squashed so much there was very little soil left- just massive balls of snarled roots like fibrous tendons, worms crawling between them.

Within loving care I break up the root balls, cut them back, soak them in worm tea filled with nutrients. I plant them in fresh, damp soil and water them liberally. I say a tiny prayer to the god of small things and smile at my husband in the sky.

I don’t know why I care so much about these stupid plants, whether they survive or not… it’s not as if he’ll ever be back to check on them. But they feel fragile and delicate and seemed to sigh with relief as I removed them from their plastic cells.

It’s that need to nurture, to grow, to make something healthy… again, trying to save things now, where I couldn’t Before.

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