Tag Archives: walking

Lost: huggalug and sense of equilibrium

I may have already said this, but Sparrow and day sleeps don’t go together. At all. He ends up sleeping on my back in the ergo, or during pram walks, or in the car. Last Thursday I tried for an hour to get him to sleep in his cot because I needed to breathe. Because I wanted to write, and drink a cup of tea, and stare out the window without a wriggly baby on my hip. When I had those I-must-be-alone-right-this-second feelings with Monkey I would assume it meant I was a bad mother. Despite years of therapy and a pretty decent amount of self awareness, my ability to descend (not descend, that almost sounds gentle – to plummet) into guilt, shame, and bad-motherness is extremely well developed.

The hour was interminable for both of us. I should have given up sooner. I turned off the music and the heater, lowered the cot side, and picked Sparrow up. And felt desperate and alone. And like a cliché. Woman in house alone with baby, going quietly mad. So I changed his nappy, rugged him up, and put him in the ergo on my back. At least that way he’s behind me, I thought, and I am facing outward. At least I can walk. Woman with baby walking has to be better.

While I walked I listened to the podcast that currently helps me to stay sane – a Buddhist psychologist named Tara Brach. On joy. It’s far braver and harder to live in joy I heard. Sparrow wriggled and grunted on my back. Joy is a complex thing, it is an expansive saying yes to this moment, here. Yes, I tried, my chest cracking with the weight of one deep breath. Sparrow grabbed for my scarf. Sleep, baby.

I felt behind me for his kicking legs, thinking that if I could still them he might settle. My left hand brushed icy skin. Sparrow has these things called huggalugs; essentially baby leg warmers. The left huggalug, and with its left sock, had fallen off along the way. No wonder he couldn’t sleep. By the time I discovered it we were a few kilometres from home. So I pulled the sleeve of my jumper over his foot and ankle, and warmed his toes in the palm of my hand. Five minutes later, he slept.

Tara spoke on and I let the idea of joy wash through me. I tried to see the creek, to look at the sky instead of the path. I turned towards home, Sparrow’s foot still in my hand, and scanned the path for the huggalug. I was ten minutes from home before I found it. Those green and blue stripes unmistakable on the side of the path.

20110801-013312.jpg

The movement of crouching to retrieve it made him stir, but not wake. Fifty more metres gave me his sock. I stopped a couple on the path and asked them to put the sock and huggalug on him. They said they had seen those, and wondered who they belonged to. I remembered that, before having babies; wondering why there seemed to be so many baby socks in the streets. Sparrow’s foot now warmed, I kept walking, and listening, and he stayed asleep long enough for me to get home and make a cup of tea. And to drink it, still hot, while staring out of my callistamon framed kitchen window. Joy.

Knocking at MWF’s door

Merri Creek World War 2 Northcote bunker creek...

Image via Wikipedia

The Melbourne Writer’s Festival is running a competition to select five bloggers who will be given free festival passes if they can attend and blog about ten sessions. So confession time: I’ve never been to a writer’s festival. It seems unconscionable, unforgivable even. But here’s the thing: it’s taken me until now (36 years old, two kids, phd student, two very small publications in the works) to call myself a writer and not cringe or expect to be shouted down by random passers by. And if you’re not a writer, how can you possibly go to a festival for writers? I entered the competition. MWF asked us to write 200-500 words on the theme ‘Stories Unbound’. I’m posting my entry below. And hoping that I’m selected. And wondering in a vague sort of way how to manage a seven month old at the MWF, but trusting that it’ll be ok.

Here’s my entry:

I am writing this in a car, on my phone. I have a notebook in the nappy bag, but I know it will be hard to find the time to type up longhand notes later, so I tap the touchscreen and keep an eye on the autocorrect – it keeps trying to corral me. Apostrophes appear where they shouldn’t be (it only understands possessives) and it’s determined to turn my eses into zeds.

My baby is asleep, for now. He is seven months old and thinks sunlight is a solid thing that he can catch, and eat, and hold. The car park we are sitting in is filling up around us and people are moving places. It’s almost a given that the only long day sleeps my baby will have are when I need to be somewhere. Otherwise he catnaps. He bursts from sleep exactly as my eyes droop. I struggle up from the drowse and keep going. And in amongst it (the loving and the shopping and the walking and the cleaning and the ache that is me being pulled in two) I write.

I write in snatches. I steal time. I remember the luxury of not writing, because there was always plenty of time to do it later. When I can’t write I speak into the voice recorder on my phone to catch at stories and snatches of poetry. Later when I transcribe my voice I will hear birds and wind and the grinding pump of the sewerage works underneath my words. We walk, my baby and me. It’s the best way for him to sleep in the day and I crave the outness of it. There are other women on the creek path pushing prams and running to catch up with helmeted children on bikes and we give each other rueful smiles.

Walking, stories rise up from cement to meet me. For five days there is a drowned and headless cat on the path, and I look and don’t look. It is black, and bloated, and sprawled. I try to imagine it being a loved thing but all I can see is the gaping rawness of its neck. I can’t bring myself to do anything about it. Then it’s gone. Then for a week it’s just me and the baby and an uneventful path (except for the three barking Pomeranians that wake him on Monday). On Tuesday I see a man in a tracksuit leading a woman along by her hand and he is holding that hand so tightly that when I look at her fingers I see they are purply white. And then on Wednesday, a pink pashmina hanging over a bare willow branch. Like a flag, like a streamer, like a story unbound.

This is where I find stories, at the edge of a wintery creek. I capture them carefully. I lay them down with respect. I walk. I speak. I write.