Innocence Lost

It has been one week since the Sydney siege.  I’m not entirely sure what it is that I want to say in this post.  But the best thing, I suspect, is just to begin writing and see where it ends up.

As I watched coverage of the horrific events unfolding in Martin Place it brought back many memories of my years working as a legal secretary in Sydney’s CBD.  The names being bandied around by the various media outlets were so familiar.  All part of what was literally my old stomping ground: walking — and, occasionally, running as fast as my (usually) high heels could carry me — to Martin Place Chambers in the Reserve Bank Building, to the Land and Environment Court opposite State Parliament on Macquarie Street, to so many other places.  The Supreme Court.  Frederick Jordan Chambers.  Even to Selbourne Chambers.

Katrina Dawson worked at Eight Selbourne.  She was the same age as me.  She was a mum, like me. One of the barristers on her floor was someone I knew when I was growing up.  He and I lived on opposite sides of the railway line in the same leafy north shore suburb, both played the violin, both got exactly the same TER in our HSC in the same year.  I can’t begin imagine what the past week has been like for him, losing a colleague — and, no doubt, a friend — in such unimaginably tragic circumstances.

I was at the gym when the identities of those who died in the Sydney siege were being released.  First Tori Johnson’s handsome face appeared on eight of the ten television screens in front of the treadmill I was running on, along with the information that the other victim was a lawyer and mother.  I averted my gaze from the TV in front of me, hoping that when the female victim’s identity was confirmed that it wouldn’t be someone that I knew, but the next screen over was continuing the media’s saturation coverage of the situation, and the screen after that too.  It was impossible to avoid, and as much as I wanted to, I found myself unable to look away.

I didn’t know any of the victims of the Sydney siege personally — not those who lost their lives, nor those who had their lives changed irrevocably over the course of seventeen awful hours.  But like most Sydneysiders, I feel a very Sydneyreal sense of grief, a sharp recognition of the traumatic nature of an ordeal that no one — no one — should have had to endure.

I don’t yet know how to make sense of how our city has changed, or how we will deal with our collective loss of innocence.  But I suspect that after the floral tributes have faded, after the messages chalked on footpaths have washed away, and after the hashtags stop trending, we will all need some time to reflect, to hold our loved ones closer, and to do our best to honour the memory of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson by doing the one thing they cannot do any more.

We must live.

As fully as we possibly can.

Fudge and the Foo Fighters

My nerves have been a little jangled lately.

Perhaps it’s the slightly manic time of year.  Marvel Girl and Miss Malaprop have been veering wildly — and not always simultaneously — from being whingey and tired to such dizzying heights of raucous excitement (provoked, no doubt, by the impending arrival of a certain Mr S Claus) that I have already instituted a household-wide ban on the consumption of candy canes.  The Bloke is trying to get it all done before the office shuts down over the holidays, all while contending with the whirl of Christmas parties that is now in full (and sometimes drunken) swing.  I’ve been making and revising endless lists and menus and timetables in preparation for hosting The Big Day for the second year running thanks to my brother’s late-running house renovations, and trying to recall exactly where I have stashed all those presents…

Or maybe it’s the weather.  The drooping humidity.  The cracking thunderstorms that have rolled through from the west every day or night for the past week, jarring me out of sweaty slumber into an electrified state of high alert: will the kids sleep through, despite the sky being filled with such incandescent light and percussive rage?  I suspect I greeted the southerly change that finally blew in so sweetly yesterday evening with more reverence than I’ve shown to just about anything else since the season of Advent began.

And then I realised that in the midst of all the atmospheric disarray and my attempts to wrangle organisation from impending chaos, to keep two children provided with proper nourishment and uninterrupted sleep, and to assist a husband who — with his business partner fighting cancer since February — has experienced one of the most challenging years of his career, that I had completely overlooked something that, for me, is really important: I had forgotten to write.

So here I am again.  Showing up on the page.

Making sure that today, I have gone back to my First Principles: words, music, food.  To pay homage to my own holy trinity of creative pursuits and their sustaining presence in my life.

I made chocolate walnut fudge while listening to the Foo Fighters’ fifth album, In Your Honour.  It seemed like an appropriate soundtrack to my seeking refuge in what Nigella Lawson calls “the solace of stirring”.  After all, making fudge is a calming, mellowing, meditative process — even if I did, perhaps perversely, choose to play the heavier of the album’s two CDs while the sugar slowly caramelised in the saucepan.  (Watching an episode of Sonic Highways recently I was startled to realise that after all these years The Bloke is still coming to terms with the fact that he married a girl whose musical tastes could be best described as disparate, and who genuinely likes it loud.)

Dave GrohlAnd so, this afternoon, my kitchen became my cathedral.  I stirred and sang along with Dave Grohl to “The Last Song” and sorted through my thoughts before sitting down here at the keyboard:

This is the sound
The here and the now
You got to talk the talk, the talk, the talk
To get it all out…

The jangling has gone, and I’m grateful.  Not just because I finally went back to how I roll.

I remembered to let it rock too.