Holy Flamin’ Mandarins Batman! Ain’t That The Truth!

Sometimes, have you ever noticed, our personal truths are so odd, so out there, that we hold them tight in our hands in an odd mix of wonder and fear. Sometimes our truths are hard to talk about. Even though we know them to be true we know that they fall so far outside people’s expectation that we’re afraid we won’t be believed. So we don’t talk. We hold them tightly to our chests and gently hope them soon buried.

Here is a truth from my life, one that is so strange I found it exceedingly hard to believe: when we were in the Canadian Rockies last October we drove past a truck full of mandarins that had caught fire.

Yes. The truth. I know. Weird, isn;t it? For one thing, when has anybody ever seen a flaming mandarin truck, and for another thing, what on earth was a truck full of mandarins doing driving in the Canadian Rockies?

But it’s the truth.

I have the photos to prove it. Sure, they’re not the best–we were driving past this thing at 80 miles an hour–but still:Mandarins in the Canadian Rockies

We talked about this a lot amongst ourselves, but after a while we stopped. We didn’t share it, even though it was the truth, and no amount of wondering why such a strange occurrence could happen would answer our questions. Sometimes you need to learn to live with contradictions.

The other day my aunt and uncle came to visit. I hadn’t seen them for a long time, and we got to talking about our trip, and showing them photos of the things we did and the places we saw. And lo and behold, up on the computer came the photo of the smouldering mandarins, and we told our story and expressed our incredulity at this our odd and incomprehensible truth.

“Oh yes”, my auntie said, not at all perturbed by such a strange sight. “The oil in mandarin skins is highly flammable. My mum used to keep them and dry them and use them to light the fire.”

We stared, open-mouthed, at her for a minute. Our strange truth was believed, and, not only that, it had a reason. What we couldn’t comprehend was comprehensible to someone.

I’ve thought a lot about that mandarin truck again since that day, and allowed the truth to seep deep down into my story, allowed the strangeness to become normal. In that process I’ve been reminded of other truths I’ve held close to my chest, things that have been too personal and too odd for me to ever talk about, and how other people’s stories have helped me recognise the truth of my own, have validated them, justified them. I remember movies I’ve seen, books I’ve read, that express uncomfortable truths I thought were known only to me, and how those books, those movies, have made me feel less alone.

So this, my friends, is the story of my mandarin truck, and my reminder to you, and to myself, of why it’s always important to tell, to read, and to listen to, stories.

 

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Oh, Canada! Part two: the Rockies

So this morning I get up, and this is what I see:

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Pretty much all I can think to say is WOW. What else is there?
Funny thing. Whenever I get back to Hobart from Melbourne I have the same thought: ‘Ohhh, so little, and it calls itself a city!’ And ‘Ohhh, so cute! And it calls itself a highway.’ Heck. Now I’ll be all ‘Ohhh, it’s so cute! And it call itself a mountain!’
Hmmmm.

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Gotta go. There’s a cloud coming. I think I have to walk in it!

P. S. Sonnie! I miss you. How quick can you get here???

Oh, Canada! Part1: Vancouver

We’re in Vancouver.

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People have been saying to me for a long time now that Canada is beautiful, that I’ll love it, that the scenery is spectacular, and that it’s like Hobart…Hobart, Tasmania, that is. I can’t comment on Hobart, Indianapolis.

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And guess what I’m going to tell you: it’s spectacularly beautiful, I love it, and yes, it’s like Hobart.
Actually, it’s like Hobart on steroids. Powerful steroids. Everything we love about Hobart is here, but there’s more of it! Bigger river, more quaint little streets, more shops, bigger mountains. High rises. High everything. Much, MUCH bigger mountains.

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Today we drove to Stanley Park (no don’t get confused. This is no park-down-the-road-with-a-swing-set, this is a massive multi-acre nature reserve, complete with Aquarium and nature trails. And totem poles. And beaches, where my kids paddled in the water and watched some even more enthusiastic tourists get their gear off and swim! (In their bathers). Tomorrow we’ll go back, and possibly the next day, and maybe the day after that as well.
Truth is, I think we could spend a month here and still not see everything Vancouver has to offer. That’s the trouble with it really. That’s the trouble with Canada really. It makes you fall in love with it, then gives you far too much to even know where to start. We’ve got four more days.

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Oh yes. We saw our first moose. Sorry. Mousse. Close enough, eh?

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For anyone who doesn’t know, we’re doing the insane and slightly radical thing of packing up our family of five and chooffing round the US and Canada for eight weeks or so later on in the year. Needless to say, we’re very excited.

Just to recap, I’ve been dreaming of travelling like this for as long as I’ve known it was possible, that people do such things – since I was about five years old. I’m now quite a lot more than five years old. It’s been a long wait. My first ever overseas trip was November, where I discovered that Americans are, in fact, wonderful, and I didn’t get shot. Not even in Sacramento. Not even walking by myself in a forest in Sacramento. Nor did I see any dead bodies in said forest in Sacramento, which is terribly unusual for anyone who watches The Mentalist as much as I do.

I’ve also now (I’m sorry. True confession time) fallen hopelessly and completely in love with anyone with an American accent. Or a Canadian accent – and (oh aren’t I a clever clogs!) I’m learning to tell the difference.

So that’s the backstory. Most of you knew that…except the bit about me being hopelessly in love with anyone who talks to me in an American accent. By the way, TV doesn’t count. Not even if it’s Kevin Bacon. Not after Sleepers…

ANYWAY…

(This is, of course, why I haven’t blogged for a while. My brain is spitting out random sentences without any kind of art or design. AND I’m drinking tea, and it’s not helping.)

But here we go. Here’s the point of all the backstory (and the tea). My husband said to me the other day something along the lines of “we could have done this years ago, before we had children, but we didn’t know that we could“.

It made me ache with sadness.

I ached because for so many years I held that dream in my heart, the yearning to go, the desperate longing to see a world that was not mine and meet a people that were not like me, and everything in me rebelled against staying. I hated being here. I hated staying.

And then one day there was a day, a voice, a notion, a thought, a feeling. A sense. A word from God, and it was this: Bloom Where You’re Planted. Stay. Grow. Relax. Give it up.

I cried.

I said yes, because there’s nothing else to say really, but I gave the condition of only-if-I-can-go-to-the-mainland-at-least-once-a-year. I live on an island. Sometimes it feels like a prison colony still.

And that was that. I went to Melbourne pretty regularly, usually once or twice a year. Usually for work. I didn’t care why, or what I did there. I just wanted to go, and I did. And then I had kids, and the trips off the island got harder and more sporadic, and the need to go lessened, and then eventually I forgot the need at all, the need to see the world that was bigger than me.

I still don’t like to look at the ache.

We talked about it last night, my husband and I, about what he’d said and about what I felt, and we came to the conclusion that although physically it was true – we could have travelled years ago – mentally and psychologically it’s completely untrue. The walls that held us in were invisible but very, very real.

It was, in hindsight, good to learn how to be able to stay, to bloom, to grow, and to be happy.

Staying so long made walking out so much sweeter. The anticipation mixed with the ache and spiced with memories is, in fact, a delicious cocktail. I can’t say yet that I don’t regret not having gone earlier, but I’m sure one day in years to come I will.

But I never, ever thought I’d love Americans this much.

How about you? Have you ever had to give up a dream, only to have it given back to you? Do you understand the ache? Do you ever wonder if, with all the pain it causes, dreaming is still worth it?

I left my heart in yesterday

Want to know a secret? I think I can tell you now, that it’s all right, that even if everybody around us is secretly listening and blabs it all over the internet it’s still okay, but I wanted you to know. Really. You’ve been there for me through all the hard stuff, especially recently, and I wanted to share some good news with you too.

I’ve fallen in love.

It’s kind of weird admitting it, and saying it out loud has a strangeness about it, a kind of finality, that once you admit to it it has to be true, there’s no going back on such things, especially when people know. I know.

I’m going back to the land where it’s still called Yesterday, the place where I left my heart. I’m going back to America.

Now before you all throw your arms in the air and say “Megan how could you!” and other wild accusations, let me explain. I’m bringing the family this time. Packing up the husband and the three kids and enough snacks, books and gadgetry to allow us to survive a 14 hour flight, and figuring out the logistics of how to pack enough stuff into suitcases small enough for the children to handle, yet having enough to get us through a mammoth 6-week USA and Canada road trip.

Yes. You heard me. I left my heart there. I’m going back to find it again. By the looks of things, probably this September. Never ever…EVER thought that’d happen. Good thing I believe in miracles, because there’s been a few of them turning up lately.

What about you? Ever found yourself pining for a place you used to swear you’d never go to? Ever fallen in love with the most unexpected thing?

350 Million Americans Can’t Be Wrong…

When I was a very, very little girl, so little that my mind was super-malleable and everything that I was told I believed, and so little that I still though that the half-hour break in TV programming between Sesame Street and Playschool was endlessly long, something happened to shape my thinking forever.

It wasn’t a bad thing, this isn’t some kind of true-confessional “this-happened-to-me” time, just…a thing. A thing that, because I was so little and my mind so malleable I can’t shake.

Some people came to visit.

I don’t remember their names, and as they’ve never visited since I don’t think I’ll bother dredging them up. There weren’t small children for me to play with so they didn’t interest me too greatly, and if there was a man he in my memory he’s dissolved into the background. There was a woman though, and because I remember looking at the photo in the family album for many years after their non-eventful visit I remember that she had black hair and a blue dress and glasses, and looked a little like a friend of ours, but she wasn’t.

But I remember the accent. Oh the accent! She spoke in a voice that was rich and beautiful, a voice I’d only ever heard on TV before, and because of that voice I wanted to sit on her knee and fall into her and listen to everything she said, because she was obviously famous and wonderful and exciting, and her sheer presence in my house made me, by default, famous, wonderful and exciting as well.

You’ve got to understand, you see, that I’d never heard people talk like that down here in Tasmania. Down here everybody used the same slightly nasally whine and flat, nasally vowels that I’d heard every day, the same stretched-out voice that I had. Not the Blue-dress lady though. She was beautiful. She was from the Television!

I was four. You have to forgive me when I say I was incredibly disappointed when my Mum told me that she wasn’t from the Television at all. She didn’t live on Sesame Street. Sesame Street wasn’t real. The Blue-dress lady was from Canada.

Not America. Canada.

Sesame Street Isn’t Real.

Ten years or more happened before I ever heard that accent again in real life, and by that time I’d got pretty solid on the truth: Sesame Street Isn’t Real. Not America. Canada.

Okay, here’s the true-confessions part. Please don’t laugh. Oh, okay, but laugh quietly, all right?

It was only a couple of years ago that I realized that America-Isn’t-Real-Not-Sesame-Street-Canada had taken root in my brain for more people than just the Blue-dress lady. I’d somehow started applying it to everyone I met with a TV accent. They couldn’t be American. TV isn’t real. I worked for a year with a lovely “Canadian” lady, and…ouch-this-hurts-to-admit…it wasn’t until I reconnected with her via Facebook and read her blog that I realized she wasn’t Canadian at all.

Nor were the nice people who came to the Wednesday night meetings. Nor are the lovely harpist girl and her family, or Susie Finkbeiner.

America IS real. I KNOW this. I am an intelligent woman. I read books. I study history. I watch documentaries, and I do know enough about the US of A to know that yes, it DOES exist. Except…

Except sometimes old thoughts are hard to break, especially when they happen when you’re very young, or particularly vulnerable.

I’m butting up against a few thoughts at the moment, more serious cases when I’ve believed something that someone’s said and then applied it to every area of my life. So here’s my thought of the day:

Not Everything You Believe Is Necessarily True. Sometimes you need other people to help you get some perspective. After all, 350 million Americans can’t all be wrong…

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