Thursday, August 15, 2013

We sit in the back of the 4WD talking about emu. Good hunting, them ones. Turkey, too, and kangaroo, but emu are the best.

We are bringing back a patient from the remote clinic into town, driving through rough savannah. She can just see out the window if she stretches up tall. Her mother shows me the places along the highway:

That side, we camp. Big river, down there. We stay in tent. Big tent. Big mob people. Drive back, whole mob, big truck. Go back community.

That other place, down there, name […], that good hunting place. Big mob emu there.

A little way along, I see a windsock and a small shed. We are still a long way out from town, way before the next station, with no other buildings in sight. I’ve driven this road a few times and don’t know of a community here, so I ask:

What’s this place? Is there a station here?

Mum says, here? Plane come.

I try again: What’s the name, the name of this place?

Receive a look of scornful bemusement:


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Ebb & flow

I've not lived somewhere where everyone is conscious of the moon before.

It's partly because of Staircase, partly tidal, partly just living in a small community where everyone goes fishing. And perhaps just a willingness to pay attention, to engage with the world.

The moon is a bit of an ogre in medical circles. Working in ED, a full moon is always commented on - "it's going to be a busy one" - an excuse for lunacy and mayhem. There's even been studies, but no correlation proven.

Without causality, though, there's still a tidal nature to work up here.

An empty ward, and a quiet afternoon.
A call to resus.
A chance to catch up on paperwork.
An emergency transfer on the day my colleagues finish up.
A wander in the market.
An angry teenager and a dying child.
A teaching session.
The call from dinner to delivery suite.
Sunset with feet in the Indian Ocean.

Frantic, and then quiet. The tides rushes in and then slips away. The full moon hovers, and wanes. Lunacy and mayhem, then stillness and reflection.

We are at the mercy of the tides.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 11

So once again I turn to the web for catharsis. It's been a long week - an emergency Saturday night flight, several political run-ins, and worse - on the back of an intense start to the month. I'm exhausted, and I've only been back for three weeks. How can I contemplate keeping on doing this?

But tonight, as once again I left work in the dark, I turned left instead of right. Took the six minute drive to the beach, the residual twilight glow leading me on. In my work dress and high heels, stepped out onto the sandy tarmac and meandered towards the dunes.

It was surprisingly cold. I can't seem to remember that I need warmer clothes up here, or carry them with me in preparation. So I hugged myself as I walked out onto the cool sand, the beach a runway of dark before the reflection on the ocean. The wide tidal stretch is firm under my feet, and it takes many more steps than I think before I register the boom of the waves.

As I stand with my feet in the water, a new star appears. A steady tone grows under the wave wash; the star resolves into two. I stand in the dark at the brink of the Indian Ocean and watch as a jet forms, dives, swoops over me to land at the airport behind.

The Milky Way streams as I turn, warmer than before.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Firstly, a drive to the beach to witness the blue. Then the post office, my unloved mail from December crammed in, waiting.

And the new place.

Oh good, a clock radio. Too many coat hangers, not enough shelves. No hooks – will have to fix that. So many cleaning products – helpful, but limited cupboard space. Really – three tubes of alfoil?

Stereo better than the last place, TV smaller (good). A couple of leftover novels, the Kimberley Tide Guide. And – intriguingly – Singing in the Rain.

Rearrange the glasses, wipe down that bench. Where to put the cereal? Oh, there’s no pantry.

Off to the supermarket – soap, stick-on hooks, mustard and hand towels. The daily unobserved objects that smooth out our lives. I can settle in – now I own tissues.

Lamp can go in that corner, my books between the speakers. Melbourne keys in suitcase pocket in anticipation of panic a month hence. Designated miscellaneous drawer for chargers, hard drive, extraneous car key rings. Yoghurt and milk and earl grey tea; chocolate I brought with me.

So, home for half this year officially adopted. Co-opted. Explored and rearranged. Transitioned from generic to somewhere of my own.

But what to do with the 3-foot pearl lugger?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Things I might have missed

The sneaky smile on the girl's face as she reaches across the tram aisle, lemon tart in hand, to feed her boyfriend squashed into the doorway.

The slight tilt of the businessman's hips as, intent on his phone, he waits for the lift. The light spilling across the domed expanse of the reading room, his unconscious pose perfectly framed.

The phrasing of a friend in the flight of her revelation: a journey of great messiness.

The challenge whispered across the blank page of the year:

Be present.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

This is the trick to creative work: it requires a slip-state of being, not unlike love. A state in which you are both most yourself and most alive and yet least sure of your own boundaries, and therefore open to everything and everyone outside of you.

...the fragile constructions of grey breath and thought that were his theories for changing the world without setting foot in it. 

My boundaries weave in & out - broken away by a night in the air, holding onto a small foot through a perspex cot. Back as I discuss discharging patients we can't find, reporting to child protection. Blown away again as the toddler with head lice reaches for the pearl hanging around my neck.

Medicine is creation, at times: the art of sifting for the treasure, the piece that completes the puzzle. The shared building of future hope, the push to trust in another. This point of connection teeters out beyond the edges of comfort, requires a willingness to set foot in the world, to be bruised by it and, at times, to be swept away.

A slip-state of being.

With thanks to Anna Funder, whose words I have cherry picked for my own ends.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I define myself by what I do.

I've known this for a while. Ever since my year 12 biology teacher suggested that, in fact, he did think I could do medicine, it's been me. Ok, so I've been other things too - a bookshop sales assistant, a friend, a public speaker, a daughter, a foreigner - all of which have been more or less terrifying at times - but it comes back to this.

I want to be good at it. Others can be better, but I want to live up to my own expectations. And sometimes, I don't.

Does that make my expectations unreasonable? Sometimes they are. I talk through them with others and occasionally have to be reminded that that's ok. As long as the outcome is good, or not bad, then the process can be acceptable rather than perfect. I'm just as human as the people I treat, and must remain grounded in that.

The last few weeks have shaken my confidence - or at least, made me re-evaluate my expectations. The kids involved are fine - and my involvement with them helped them towards that outcome. But my idea of my own responses, my own level of practice and perhaps even my sense of who I am, has taken a hit.

Is it the settling in crash that did not yet happen? Perhaps.
Is it the new consultant imposter syndrome, that would be inevitable wherever I practice? Perhaps.
Is it being tired, in an unfamiliar place in the middle of the night? Quite possibly.
Is it that I push beyond my comfort zone? I should not then balk at feeling uncomfortable.

Is this where I am supposed to be?
I think so.

Is it who I am?
It's a big part of it.

Can I do better?

So I look back, look for areas to strengthen.
And keep looking forward.