No 1 Public Nuisance
Somehow, unexpectedly my heart has apparently blasted open …
Think it all started happening a few years ago, as gazing through the lounge window, me as usual grizzling away mentally about how awful the weather was, how where I lived wasn’t any good, about how unlucky I was, how I’d be better somewhere else, and on and on. “Robyn,” I said very loudly and sternly to myself, “Robyn, shut the fuck up and start getting grateful!” I said, said I.
Immediately that meant no more watching/listening to the news, no more having opinions on politics or speaking unkindly about pretty much any thing … yep built a funny little bubble ‘nd preceded blithely or is that blindly to do nothing. I just literally sat the little unit, did prayers for the benefit of all sentient beings and waited in for things to unfold.
Took bout six or so weeks, when ‘knock, knock, knock’ came the sound upon the door …
“Did I want to be in a movie?”
Me: “Right now, I’d be in a blue movie, just lead on.”
That led to being an extra (think: bout 10 seconds) in Kalani Gacon’s film, ‘Soles’ with Katoomba High School’s students, which led to meeting a most interesting woman, Barbara Lepani, which led to being involved in the Blue Mountains Creative Arts Network.
Then suddenly, ‘Ring, ring, ring,’ came the call. …
Them: “We are from Mangrove Media in Brisbane. Can we come and interview yo?.”
Me: “You mean you want me to talk about me … oh how wonderful, come immediately if not sooner.”
Which led to six lovely blokes turning up with cameras, lights and action. Me being shamelessly charming amongst them … oh and me talking about all those years in the 1970-80’s as a pro fisherman in the Gulf of Carpentaria, with the possibility that the resultant doco (not all about me, no, about those back then in the Gulf country) being exhibited at all Doco Expos across the world…
All of the above included continuous daily conversations with self:
- thank you rain for soaking my shoes but giving my veggie patch a drink,
- thank you bloody nasty wind which is chilling me to the bone but is tidying up tree bark, branches nd bringing energy
- thank you everything good and bad in my pathway,
- thank you little dead bird for showing me the cycles of life,
- little flower for blossoming anyway…
- thank you broken down car
- thank you Mum and Dad, nd friends nd enemies nd nd nd……….
And also:…. She’d just come from Woollies, was on the phone, and about to take the escalator down to the car park. Me, on t’other side, on the way up. Her smile so warm and open, I went straight to her. “Thank you for that lovely smile good woman. It lit me and others up.” She, tallish, mid fortyish, pale ‘nd drawn, a little grey under the eyes, she turned fully toward me. “That is the nicest, kindest thing anyone has said to me in a very long time.” My arms opened wide and her immediately stepping in, her head upon my shoulder, crying. Holding her with firm tenderness, “Cry my friend, let it out, please let it go,” I crooned tenderly, hearing her soft groans-true relief mix, holding her close, sending true love from my heart.
“I think,” in a little hiccup-cum-murmur, her still upon my shoulder, “think we’re blocking the escalator”. “Don’t stop, please don’t stop, just step this way,” I murmured and backed back a little. “Let it out, let it all out, cry precious woman, cry.” She did, beautifully, allowing all that was caught inside to dissolve into tears and come up and out.
Me carrying the groceries, her one leg limping, walking to her car telling a story of raising littlies without help, friends gone to live elsewhere, parents no longer alive, no one near to her heart, going for a job the next day, me pretend-laying a spell upon the success of that, and talking about her innate beauty, that life would become easier, for her to be kinder to herself. For an unknowable time, we held each other again…gladly feeling the love flow, a kiss on her cheek, in the car and she was off.
Such an unexpected encounter, me so honoured.
In a busy supermarket, spying a little wee girl, she, who had clearly dressed herself that morning. There, outstandingly unmatchingly put together, her in the black ‘nd white chequered cap, the madly floral shirt and the stripped orangey pink long pants. “Oh,” fully captured, I to her Mum, “Can I please share with your little one?” Her Mum, “Of course.” The little one, tittering around Mum’s legs. Me, on my knees, “You look so fabulous. Did you dress yourself?” Her shyly nodding, smiling, us chatting, me “please don’t ever stop wearing clothes you love,” us dancing around each other gently, exchanging names, a kiss on her cheek…then them and I off in different directions.
An hour, or so later. Me, strolling up one side of Katoomba Street, hearing a distant call, “Hullo Robyn.” Looking up and following the call, from the other side of the busy street, there she was, the dynamic little one on her Mum’s shoulders, smiling, waving, calling to me.
Into a cafe for coffee. There at a big round table, a large family of father, mother, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, little kids, maybe 15 or so, all eating, sharing, being, to me all shining. Straight up to them: “Excuse me you people, can you please stop enjoying yourself so much.” That lovely quiet moment, and then just fabulous laughter spilling over us all, that sharing of the true fun of life and of being together in the moment. Us rejoicing in the universal language, the tinkle of laughter, as it washed over our souls. Me: “Thank you for the joy,” and moving on.
“What will we buy?” Cheekily bouncing up beside whoever it was standing looking at the postings in the Real Estate window. He, an older one, worried, a pained, truly sad expression coming at me. “My sister died two weeks ago, she was my best friend and now I must sell up and move elsewhere. I miss her badly.” We came together naturally, he resting on my shoulder and for a short while, crying quietly. “Oh,” he sighed and straightened, “I just needed that. Thank you so much,” and went on his way.
And, and and:
Her, mid thirtiesish, in work overalls, entwined in the cutting back of vines in the hospital grounds. Me, thanking her for doing what she was doing. Her, saying no one had thanked her for such a long time. Me, requesting that every day, for a moment, for 5 minutes, for however long, for her to promise to run her mind down to her heart chakra, and just sit there, to recognise her own beauty, that it was true and she was extraordinary. With son problems, and everydayness being hard, her dropping the cutters, holding me, crying, saying “You have made my day”. Sighing, letting go, us resting together, being at one in that moment.
Since I live next door to the hospital, most afternoons I circumabulate it, quite often discovering a nurse, an orderly, ambulance attenderer, a worried one visiting a family member taking a break. Most often they’ll be tucked in the dark, in the back corners of the car park or sitting edgily away from the public pathway having a closeted cigarette, hiding their habit from the judgemental society around them. Me, immediately: “Oh, I’d love to have a fag. Don’t any more but d’luv one.” Their faces break out in relief, their bodies relax. We chat a little, I thank them for what they are doing at the hospital, in life.
Before departing their company, wagging my finger insistently, I make them promise this: That each time they inhale smoke, not to internally remind themselves that it’s a bad habit that they must give up. I, wagging my finger, request they thank Mother Medicine Tobacco for the healing it gives them, for the relief from worry, the settling of nerves, for the pleasure of it … explaining that way their lungs will be glad, will not tighten up and become ill, and that they will give up smoking when the time is right but not to harass themselves about it. The tenseness in them drops away immediately, a broad smile appears easily, they agree and we share a good moment together, a simple true heart connection.
And the tender her, in a coffee shop, the physically disabled young woman, a bright tartanish scarf slung across her neck. The carer giving me permission to compliment the lovely one: “Thank you for your smile, thank you for wearing such a wonder scarf, thank you for the sparkling in your eye”, me stealing a kiss on top of her head, and the three of us chatting briefly, celebrating with delight in the moment. Them: Leaving. Her: Legs all gangly ‘nd jumbly, at the shop door looking back, askew arm waving ‘nd smiling. Me thinking: Thank you precious one for showing me how fortunate I am.
Or those dedicated men and women on their knees, packing the refrigerated shelves at supermarkets, in awful black uniforms, netted hair, doing their tedious, unglamorous jobs, or in the rain digging a drain on the side of a building, or driving a truck or the school bus … “Thank you goodest ones for being here, doing this when you’d rather be with friends/in your jammies sipping coffee/swimming in a creek/etc.” Them, a beaut sparkle in the eye, agreeing. Me: “And when you get home tonight there’ll be an envelope in your letter box. It will be a ticket for two, all expenses paid, to go for a month to Argentina to learn the tango.” We chortle and shake our true smilingness, for a moment both lavishingly wallowing in the “what if it were true”, believing, loving the idea, then go our own ways feeling tickled by the encounter. Or: “You can have the next month off double pay,” and us both being delighted by the thought.
Sometimes…”Excuse me I’m from the Police Department, the Earrings Section and I’m afraid your earrings are so fabulous I’m going to have to take them away,” or to a young woman or man “Your bright pink hair is just brilliant, don’t you dare ever stop.”
And occasionally, a total stranger will have a little dance with me, a swirl or two in the street, or cafe, or such.
And every time, when departing I say “Have a beautiful life, and always be a bit naughty.” Their eyes twinkle, we nod in agreement.
Even earlier this week in the supermarket, a loverly little older one with silver hair haloing her face, leaving … “Oh, you look like a fairy, ‘nd I think I saw Gandalph behind you.” She: “Why did you say that.” Me: “You are so radiant, so beautiful, I couldn’t help it.” Her, tears dwelling: “I’m 85, and not having a good day.” Us holding each other truly. A lovely young girl romping passed: “Are you two OK.” Us: “We’re just hugging each other, do you want to join in?” Her: “Yes please,” and all three of us being right there with tender presence.
Tis happening all the time, and every time, I am humbled and honoured by those who allow me into their instant moments.
- if we have a heart we can love instantly
- that we humans are extraordinary, and can have/express instant delight to each other without complications.
- that we have a duty to keep the street theatre alive
- if we have a voice we can sing, and if we have feet we can dance
- that our pets are healing us, not the other way around
- whatever art you do is excellent, however you express yourself artistically
is good – no matter what another might think
- that we are all dancing with the cosmos, so let’s dance on joyously.
Each morning: I have a toilet (thank you) and after going, i press a little button and water flushes every time! (thank you) I touch a little switch and the light goes on (thank you) and stays on every time! (thank you) And I turn a tap and not only does water come out (thank you) and shower down upon me every time, but its hot every time too! (thank you) and rains down upon me for as long as i want it too every time! (thank you) and there’s this plate which at the turn of a switch becomes hot for cooking (thank you) every time! (thank you) and a little fridge which keeps everything cold, all the time!!! (thank you). Thank you roof over my head, car with petrol in it, shops with everything in them, and thank you goodest people for sharing in the joy of it all.
Following a week’s radiation upon some little cancers (thank you little cancers for making me more present, for making me appreciate friends, for reminding me to thank everything), yes three months have passed, and since the outcome is already written, not in fear or worry, but joyfully three months have passed.
Then Tuesday of last week off for ‘the’ Petscan, that’s an hour long infusing of radioactive fluid into the loverly body, then the 15 minutes under a body long scanning, photograph taking x-ray tube. All the while thanking my profound teachers, my Rinpoches, all the while thanking those extraordinary ones surrounding me at the hospital, the nurses, the office staff, those in the back rooms, those at reception, all the while feeling blessed by their smiles, the sparkle in their eyes, their willingness to share a joke or two…all the while them healing me with their tender caring.
Then on the Friday morning, at dawn coming from within my dream to waking-up-ness, laughing joyously. Later in the day, returning to the Lifehouse hospital for the diagnosis, realising already the result was whatever it would be (good or bad) was already set so not worrying, just feeling the fortunateness of our extraordinary FREE health system.
The Professor, Chris Milross (I call him Sir Chris) at the office door, “Come in, take a seat.” Him beaming, “Robyn you should be delighted in yourself.” What wonderful terminology to deliver a diagnosis with I thought. “Thank you Sir Chris, for all that you do, the profoundness of your job, your dedication, thank you precious man.” He ‘nd I swapping our gladness of each other. After explaining several options, he: “You decide what happens next.” Me: “Let’s do a check up in six months time goodest man.” He: “Yep, good decision.”
A kiss on Sir Chris’s cheek ‘nd me gone, off to sip some champagne with dear friends.
Early sunup, tis skies of bluish grey, a blanket of cotton bud cloud, a misty stillness in the air, the silvery gums peeking in my lounge room window, them glad to be at peace momentarily, a maggie or two warbling the morning’s tune, a dapper chill upon the cheek. Suspect Gandolph, in his bent wizardy hat ‘nd turned up slippers, is padding around in the moist grass out there. Calling my name, a searingly hot very cheap, instant coffee spirals its aroma inwards, the extraordinary Billy Thorpe crooning the promise of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, both the lippy (red) and my eyebrows (reddish-brown) are on and the silver glowmesh earrings are a’dangle (or wait, maybe the silver cactus ones), the red curls in a tangle…the leopard print tights, the leopard print casuals, the black roll neck lavished with a few leopard print scarves – yep think that’ll do it …
Quick, turn out the lights, lock the doors, hide under the counter, look out fairy land, no I mean Katoomba, here comes the good looking No. 1 Witty Public Nuisance…
Robyn and Me
This is Barbara’s voice here. I met Robyn on the film set for Kalani’s film, ‘Soles’, which he made with a bunch of Katoomba High School students last year. We were both recruited as extras for a scene, shot at Korowal School, of a group of old people in the dining room of an old people’s home. I had dementia. Robyn, true to character was the uncontrollable, cheeky one. You can see us here in this blog post at the premiere. As Robyn would say about herself, I am the gorgeous one.
We discovered we were both long time student-practitioners of the wisdom knowledge tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, and had a number of friends in common, particularly Dr Julie Kidd who lives in Canberra. Robyn is the godmother of Julie’s son, Josh. It was Julie who alerted Robyn to the possibility of buying a unit at the retirement village when she needed to come back to Australia from the US, where she had been helping to run a Buddhist retreat centre led by Tsultrim Allione. Robyn had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She came back to die. But somehow, miraculously (or she would say by the grace of her Buddhist practice) and to the amazement of her doctors, that hasn’t happened. She’s still very much with us and active through her work with Radio Blue Mountains 89.1FM.
I have to confess that sometimes when I am out and about with Robyn, her practice of bowling up to everyone to engage them in conversations and flirting outrageously with them, embarrasses me and fills me with trepidation—how can you be so intrusive?
But at the same time, as I’ve increasingly contemplated what being a Buddhist means, particularly the tradition of Engaged Buddhism, I’ve realised that THIS is exactly what Robyn is doing. She is practising everyday Street Compassion that embraces one and all without bias and responding spontaneously through her open heart to what it around her. She is practising the profound practice of daily Gratitude/Appreciation that the Vietnamese Master, Thich Nhat Hanh advised as the cure of feeling things are getting you down. In a world where we too much focus on what we don’t have, what is wrong, we should instead turn our mind to everything we can appreciate, for example even it is only for the gentle breeze on your cheek on a hot day. Or as Robyn says, the miracle of water coming from a tap. For those of us who have lived in the so-called Third World, or as in Robyn’s case on a fishing trawler in the Gulf of Carpentaria, this is not something one can take for granted. And as we know fresh, clean drinking water is the elixir of life, yet so scarce for so many people.
And it is Thich Nhat Hanh, a survivor of the Vietnam War and all its horrors of Agent Orange, who brought Engaged Buddhism to the West.
I’ve always been impressed by the active aspect of Christianity which sees its followers stepping up to provide succour to the poor and outcast: the soup kitchens, the food exchanges, the refuges. I also see this being offered by the Sikhs and by the Muslims and I often wonder where the Buddhists are in this story—particularly we Western Buddhists who are invariably of the affluent professional middle class?
Yes, we follow the teachings, we work with our minds to overcome any tendencies for prejudice, jealousy and anger; we meditate and we seek to develop a compassionate attitude in our minds and hearts, and find strength in our inner wisdom nature. But I ask – where are we active out there in the world where there is so much suffering, anxiety and need on a very human and practical level? I ask myself of this also. What am I doing?
Somehow, in my old age I find myself running a community arts organisation, the Greater Blue Mountains Creative Arts Network, so I seek to make my contribution through this in various ways. In seems small fry. But I figure somehow we have to till the soil of wherever we find ourselves, and this, in my old age, has become the soil for me to till and nurture. And my particular focus these days is trying to help non-Indigenous Australians, particularly those of European cultural heritage like myself, understand that truly embracing our First Nations cultural heritage as the foundation of Australian cultural identity, is about understanding how different its knowledge system is, to the one we brought with us from Europe, particularly from Britain and imposed on this country through colonisation and all its assumptions about race, culture and ‘civilisation’.
Truth telling is not just about the frontier wars and denial of citizenship till 1967. Truth telling is facing up to the impact of the way in which the European knowledge system took total control and imposed itself, denying the validity of Indigenous knowledge systems. And the humility to recognise that this lies at the heart of colonial dispossession and racism, and the environmental destruction and climate change impacts that are upon us.
I am so grateful for having met Robyn. She is an inspiration. A reminder of the simplicity of fearless love and compassion.