Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday morning in South Turramurra

I'm writing from my parent's house in South Turramurra. It's a long weekend in Canberra, so I thought I'd come up and take advantage of the house being empty.

I went to the shops to buy breakfast this morning. The walk is about 4 minutes in total, through bushland and across a field where growing up I spent hours kicking a football, imagining myself into any number of scenarios which involved me winning whatever game it was I was playing in my head with the final kick of the game. 

There was an old lady on her daily walk to get a coffee this morning. She moved slowly along the path in front of me, stopping at the foot of the steps of the asian bakery where I was getting breakfast, unable to go any further with her stick. She just stood there at the base of the steps, the very outer limit of the world her body now let her travel to, and thus, I suspect, the very outer limit of her world, and waited.  Dutifully, the shop assistant came out from behind the counter and walked down the steps to her.  Without saying anything, the old lady held open her purse. The shop assistant reached in and took out $3.60 and showed it to the woman as if to verify it was the correct amount. But the woman didn't look and the shop assistant disappeared back up the steps and behind the coffee machine. 

I watched the old lady as kids and dogs and parents bound in and out of the shop about her. They bought bread, and cheese and bacon rolls and milk and coffee scrolls and sweet smelling custard tea cakes with cinnamon icing. And the coffee machine whirred as the kids squealed with stories of netball and swimming lessons and the parents squealed with stories of driving to netball and watching swimming lessons. A small girl, about 5 years old, was scared of a dog and had to be coaxed by her grandmother to walk past it and into the shop, only for the dog to cower in the corner at all the attention and the owner to explain that in fact it was the dog that was scared of people. 

An old man dressed smartly in tailored shorts with his tshirt tucked in at the belt, his hair proudly combed the way old men's hair is and his face still glistening with water from the morning's fresh shave, stepped backwards from the counter, bumping into a small boy who was standing behind him. 'Sorry mate!' beamed the man, his face all kindness, as the boy cowered away into the safety of his mother's skirt. And as he moved to the back of the shop to wait for his order to be ready, I thought I saw a flicker of something alive in the old man's face. As if, at the very least, something in that honest interaction with the boy had made this morning's shave worthwhile. 

And in the midst of all this, or out of it, the old lady stood there, like a rock weathering the storm taking place around her. She was a rock, and yet at the same time, standing there, her right arm quivering as she balanced it on her stick, and dependent on the shop assistant even for so menial a task as counting out the money from her purse, she was also the most fragile thing there.

What does any of it mean? 

Buechner says that if God speaks, it is into and out of the thick of our lives. And when he speaks, he speaks incarnate words. Words made flesh through the lives of people. 

I'm not yet sure how I feel about the word God, but words made flesh is something I identify with. Not least because it seems possible to see those words in flesh if you listen for them. Sometimes I wish I could stop listening. But it is all so palpable. 

As I write this, I'm sitting in the backyard enjoying the sunshine. It's 29 degrees. The wind is rustling the leaves of the trees above me. Jacqueline Du Pres just started playing Elgar's cello concerto. The sounds of that cello. Gosh! What Elgar must have felt when he wrote that down!  I've been swooped by a magpie. Again. That makes twice. Time to retreat inside. 

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