My running has turned to half-assed striding, but am still thinking about Kevin, while noticing details in this familiar Sydney coastline I hadn’t paid attention to before. It’s uphill from Clovelly beach to the pretty sandstone brick box that is Clovelly Bowling Club, perched on the cliffs, the benches facing the bowling green empty at this hour. There are no memorial plaques on the benches. It’s probably not necessary, given the wealth of memorial opportunities at the top of the hill.
Waverley Cemetery is a striking place. Angels overlooking cliffs. Elaborate and elegant constructions to commemorate Irish uprisings. Hundreds of white headstones face east to create a line of energy out to sea.
Here are the poets – Dorothea McKellar, Henry Kendall, Henry Lawson and John Sands the greeting card stationer. Edmund Reschs the beer brewer is also buried here, a fact I never appreciated until I tasted a Reschs beer at Clovelly Bowling club – reputed to be the best tasting Reschs in Sydney. Edmund opened his first brewery in Waverley in 1900, – the sweet, moist smell of yeast and hops wafting over the eastern suburbs mixed with the heady race days of Randwick racecourse must have been really something.
The website for Waverly Cemetery has a section called ‘Be part of history’ – an enticement to “be buried alongside the most important men and women who helped shaped Australia to ensure your place in history”. That takes the pressure off.
I usually immediately turn around and run back from here. But today I stop and look, it’s a beautiful morning – you can see all the way up to Bondi and the ocean is vast.
If time worked backwards then while I was here I’d remember the future – a beautiful moment that happened in two hours.
Its 8.15 and I’m waiting at Eastern suburbs crematorium for Siobhan’s funeral after accidently getting there way too early. It’s really hot and gardeners are working quietly in the rose gardens, the ones with the plaques and the ashes. I can smell the roses. There’s no one here yet, but beautiful music is coming out of the south chapel, which I imagined was being played by a baroque Alfred Hitchcock type figure but in fact was being operated remotely through speakers by Sue at the admin desk. As I sat and waited outside in the Vietnam Veterans shelter, a white station wagon suddenly appeared from up the hill and rolled magnificently down the driveway and stopped under the pale yellow entrance to the art deco chapel. 4 ladies got out of the car, all dressed in identical white suits, black wide brim hats and white nurses shoes, and busily went about some business , opening the back door of the car. Inside was a white coffin, with dozens of red roses on top. This was the heart wrenching moment of truth – that is Siobhan and Siobhan is dead. And then I was very glad I’d accidently come so early – that I was here to meet Siobhan and have a moment to and say goodbye. There is no six degrees of separation when someone has died – there is just separation.
Siobhan died in a room on her own – depression, antidepressants, alcohol, all got the better of her one terrible night before Christmas. She’d just moved to my area and I’d text her a few times but hadn’t heard back, and hadn’t followed it up, thought I must have a wrong number. I didn’t even know Siobhan had depression. She was only 43, a wonderful nurse, mother, and funny lady. Depression is a terrible thing. So I’m standing there thinking of Siobhan while I’m up there on the cliffs. I’m also thinking of my friend Paul who died in a car accident a few months ago, and Ash in November of a brain tumour and Roger earlier in the year of a heart condition.
2012 was a big year for dying that’s for sure.
It suddenly occurred to me that it’s not really enough to fiddle about with my phone for comfort and think I’m connected to everyone. That’s what I used to think when I thought about Kevin. There’s a lot more to being connected than meets the eye.
When someone you know dies, all you see around you is death. Old aunty Greta, the drowned policeman, the Raymond Carver character, the poets –all suddenly inhabit the symbolic juncture of mind and geography. They were always there, symbols waiting to be revealed – they want to tell you something but you have to be ready to listen. The grief of separation can send you crazy. All I can recommend is to walk it out, walk your familiar terrain and look for the signs – and breathe…
So that’s when I resolved to do something. I decided to be the person who seeks out the world, to search for the signs, to look people in the eye instead of fending them off with technology. I’m going to be the person who comes knocking at the door with a failed banana cake to welcome you to my neighborhood. And I’m not going to leave in a hurry.
It’s time to turn around now and go back over old territory with this new awareness. A friendly dog comes over to sniff my shoes and I try out my new connectedness on him first, patting him fiercely on the head, behind his ears , on his back and saying ‘good dog, what a good dog’ over and over til he runs away to hide behind his owner, who is talking on his hands free and won’t look me in the eye.
After the run, I go home and get changed for a quick swim at Coogee – I’ve still got time – and I’m diving into the cool cool ocean on the morning of the hottest day since the 1960’s, – the moment with Siobhan hasn’t happened yet, or the long, hot emotional day, there’s just now, and the sun and the water on my skin as I float about and look at the infinite line between the ocean and the sky – and think of Kevin.
What is pyschogeography? What is this blog about? To find out – visit ‘What is Continental Drift’ page – here…or look at the home page and check out how much time I’ve been wasting trying to work out all those flash features… : )