Category Archives: Mother Nature

What to expect when you’re expecting (for Dads)

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I was initially excited.  We had been planning and trying to conceive for some time, so this was excellent news.

I still remember her telling me… I had just come home from work, and she was in our bedroom.  She called me in and we sat on the bed together.  She told me she was pregnant and I was so happy… I even made my first “Dad” joke.

I had told her I was about to make a joke, so don’t be concerned…. I asked her if she was sure it was mine.  I thought that this was hilarious… she smiled yet I am sure she didn’t think it was very funny.

After the initial excitement, the time progressed relatively quickly.  Yet, it was still a game of waiting… nine months can be a long time.  While my wife grew more connected to the small life growing inside her, I became more distant.

It was difficult for me to conceptualise the fact that there really was a little person inside her.  I didn’t feel the sensations that she was feeling.  Sure, I had seen images of something on the Ultrasound machine (they told me which parts were the head, the arms and legs… it wasn’t easy to make it out), yes, I had heard the baby’s heart beat on visits to the Obstetrician.

Yet, despite these signs, I felt no real connection.  Sometimes I even doubted that it was real, that perhaps people were making up a story and I could see through it.

Months passed, and my wife’s body now showed the signs that she was pregnant, yet I still found it hard to believe.  I could feel the baby’s kicks through her stomach, I could see in the Ultrasounds that there was a vaguely human shape inside, and we made plans for the day of arrival.  Still, deep inside, I doubted it was really happening.  I could create life?  No, that couldn’t be true.

The day of arrival dawned, and my wife and I were at the hospital.  I said goodbye as she was taken to the surgery for the birth, and I waited till I was called when things were ready.

I felt disconnected, like it was not real.

Eventually I was called in, and I stood at my wife’s shoulder to hold her hand and wait for the delivery.

Now, the situation was beginning to fully dawn on me.

I could be about to become a father… although I weirdly expected the doctor to announce that it was a phantom pregnancy.  After a couple of minutes the baby was free and displayed to my wife and I.

The next few minutes were a dizzy haze.

I was told to watch the baby while they ran some tests on him, checking for any abnormalities.  My wife gave me strict instructions to not let the baby out of my sight, so I quickly followed the new arrival to the processing room.  The nurse directed me to help her to measure him, weigh him, wrap him, etc.  She showed me how to do a nappy and told me how to hold him.

I suddenly realised… I was holding my son.  He was real… I was a dad.  I softly talked to him as I waited for my wife to be brought up.  I told him who I was, and how happy I was to meet him.

A few hours later, while my wife, my son and I were in the recovery room… he soiled his first nappy.  A small group of nurses assembled and chuckled as I stood before my boy.  I looked at the nappy, the mess within, and briefly considered my life.

What choices had I made that brought me to this point… where I was about to change my first nappy, my son’s first nappy.  I realised that this was the first real test, and I would not fail.  I bravely rolled my sleaves up and set about changing my first child’s nappy.

We have had several other children since that first, and I have never felt the same amount of remoteness as I felt at the first time.

I have learned what to expect, when expecting.

Name withheld by request.

Hide and Seek

I like to pick my granddaughter up from school each Wednesday afternoon.  I mix with the young mothers and other Nannas and Pops who are on duty to ensure that their little one is safely in their care.  

I am often amused by the other children who are smaller and must wait with their parent for an older brother or sister.  This week a little boy, still in nappies and with a pacifier, which was more an ornament than a necessity, was watching some other children as they ducked and dived into a bush which is in the garden just outside the kindergarten window.  

There was a hollow arch in the bush and it was a great source of fun for some little boys and girls who played hide and seek among the branches and leaves.  The small boy I had been watching, bent to look in the hole that had been made in the bush, he tentatively stood in the natural doorway and peeped in.

It was then that he discovered perhaps for the first time what a wonderful place it was to play hide and seek in.  As I watched him I was taken back to my own childhood in country Tasmania.  I was a railway child and the railway line was my playground.  

We had a very large back yard of course, but there was always a sense of adventure one had when playing away from home.  Along the side of the railway on one side was a hedge of hawthorn bushes.  As children we discovered very early what a wonderful play area it was, we played mothers and fathers maybe even doctors and nurses amongst the thorny bushes as the trains whistled and grunted along the railway line beside us.  

The hedge of hawthorn bordered a paddock where cattle and sheep grazed, they often came close and nosed into the bushes when they were disturbed by rustling and giggling, for they are inquisitive creatures and we were never frightened, the animals became part of our little bush house and we gathered long grass for them and hand fed them from the boughs of our cubby.

 The branches and leaves were so thick that down on the ground we were even kept dry when it rained, we never worried how we would get home, because our home was just over there, just across the railway line.  

Sometimes there were some old cattle carriages on a side rail that sat until someone claimed them and perhaps took them to Herrick or Scottsdale.  They smelt somewhat, but oh what fun we had clambering around inside, hiding underneath and always getting cattle dirt in our hair and clothing.

Another place on the railway line where we always liked to play hide and seek was a culvert under the railway line – it was so exciting to hide there – ostensibly from the train driver, and be excited by the sparks which flew off the railway line as the train wheels spun, there was also the smell of oils and burning which gave us a thrill, of course there was never any water in the culvert, and no one ever knew we were there.  

As children who had to make their own fun, hide and seek was played in many other places as well.  I remember quite clearly playing the game around the wood mill that was at the end of our street, after knock off time, when the saws were idle and the men had left after a hard days work, there were always great hidey holes to find amongst the piles of wood.   

We also played the game amongst the hay bales in the summer season when they were stacked under an iron roof with the sides open, what great fun and we never once considered that there were dangers in what we were doing.

It was a good thing that the little boy I saw peeped in first to see what awaited him inside the hidey hole in the school yard bush and his father kept a watchful eye from only a metre away.  

What careless parents we must have had in my day, they believed that as long as we were home before dark everything was fine.  The little boy probably went home in time to see Play School or Peppa Pig.

We got home in time for tea!

Janice Titmus.

Our Ocean (poem – one for the kids)

The Dolphins swim from side to side,

Leap from the water, they seem to glide.

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The Flying Fish, he does the same,

These lovely mammals are so tame.

The Porpoise bobs, then swims around,

They make a lot of funny sounds.

The old Whale just lays in the sun,

Watching over them while they have fun.

These lovely mammals in the sea,

Are very much like you and me.

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They cry and cry when they get hurt,

Like when you fall down in the dirt.

Please let them live, do them no harm,

The ocean is a big fish farm.

So use it carefully, don’t be mean,

It’s sparkling clear when it’s so clean.

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If we always help it look this way,

It won’t go brown, rot or decay.

The schools of fish all swim in vain,

They’re all part of the sea food chain.

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So catch a couple, make your day,

Then the rest of them can swim and play.

The Crabs and Urchins, Dugong too,

Are all a part of natures zoo.

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So care for them, do them no harm,

For they’re all a part of natures farm!

 By Waldo Bayley, Bush Poet from Humpty Doo

 

 

 

 

 

For Violet – The Huon River

The frost had settled hard on the grass.  It was a cold, clear night and the moonlight lay flat across the absolute calm of the river.  The woman lay still.

It had not always been like this.  Winds had blown across her face as she sat in the sidecar of a bike as a young woman at the edge of her life.  The woman had braved this trip once before to meet her future mother in law, now she was making it as a bride.

They lay together in the calm of the night; there was nothing to hear, nothing to connect them physically, or she to anything or anyone.

nla.pic-an23752677-vHuon River at Franklin

Many times she would travel the road close to the river.  When she first began these journeys to her new home, she was filled with both hope and sadness.  She was sad to leave her family, but she hoped for a good life for herself and unborn child.

She made many trips over the years.  In time a car replaced the sidecar, but she would not drive it.

“Women shouldn’t drive cars,” she would say. “They are too easily distracted.”

You might say she was her own worst enemy.  By the time her granddaughter tried to teach her to drive, she was too stiff with arthritic pain.  She wished she had never travelled here at all, she longed for her home and her youth.

The road changed over time, from gravel and dirt to bitumen.  The young woman grew to be an elderly person who took very little interest in the passing scenery as she rode along beside the river.

The woman and the river had a long acquaintance.  Two children were born and the trips to the city continued.  Initially the trips were for practical reasons.  Twice they took her back to her home and family in Victoria.  On these she took her children.  Once was to bury her mother.  She always returned to her husband.  It was both a trip down into the remote country, and to the more immediate pain of isolation

The woman was sad.  The years of toil had left her financially comfortable but feeling trapped.  Her marriage was not happy.  Her daughter left home at seventeen, making her own journey past the river in a frenzy of excitement as she attempted to find a better life.

By this time her son had beaten his wife many times and she’d left him.  The woman had taken in her granddaughter but she resented her.  Her anger and bitterness had blinded her to anything positive in her life.

Her husband had a lover.  This had happened some thirty years after they married.  The woman lived with humiliation.  This added to her despair.

The trips to the city became fewer and in the end were only made to go to places like the hospital, or out of sheer necessity, for provisions or clothing.

The grandchild grew and became “too much” for the woman, or so she thought and it was decided that the girl should be placed in a home with the nuns.  The child was devastated. The woman’s desolation grew.

Her daughter would visit over the years with her growing family of three.  The woman would wait hungrily for these visits, waiting for letters.  All this activity passed by the river.

The river had been there a long time. It saw all these comings and goings in the woman’s life, such as changes from starting out to prosperity.

Perhaps the river should tell its version; it had seen the whole tragedy unfold.  The woman’s encounter with it was yet another variable in its existence.

As she lay in the stillness of the night, she felt no pain.  Her husband lay beside her.  No words were spoken. Nothing could be known of the windswept young bride or the tortured woman.

What could be known were their names and their respective dates of death on their combined head stone.

“For Violet: The Huon River,” a poignant story about her paternal grandmother,

by Janice Konstantinidis (Exter) was published in the National Museum of

Australia Exhibition “Inside Children’s Home: An Exhibition for Forgotten

Australians.” Janice was an inmate in Mount Saint Canice, Sandy Bar,

Tasmania, where she worked as an unpaid child laborer in the Good Shepherd

Sisters’ commercial laundry. Janice is a member of SLO NightWriters -The

Premiere Writing Organization on the Central Coast of California.

Unlikely Mates

When I was only 6 months old, my parents moved to a hippy commune near Elands in northern NSW.  Elands is an inland town south of Port Macquarie and is perhaps best known for the nearby Ellenborough Falls. At 200 metres, Ellenborough Falls is one of the longest single drop waterfalls in the Southern Hemisphere and a popular tourist attraction.

xvjftWe lived at the commune together until I was around 16 years old, and it was an interesting place to grow up, with many interesting people but there is one man who I remember best.

He was a local farmer named Preston. His farm was near the commune so he was fairly well known to everyone at the commune.

Preston was not a very good farmer. He lived there with his elderly parents and was incredibly lazy.

He was the crustiest old bachelor you could imagine. He didn’t spend any time tending to farm maintenance and over time, grass grew long and fences rot and fell down. When the cows escaped he would send his Mother out to collect them.

The house too began falling apart and Preston did nothing to maintain or repair. It was literally falling down around them. Preston was a confirmed bachelor, never having a girlfriend and very few friends.  Eventually both his parents passed away and Preston was left to run the farm on his own.

Preston didn’t drive a car. He had a tractor. Once a week he would ride his tractor along the highway into town. The tractor was loud and slow, and at the commune we could hear him coming along the road for hours. One day, he drove his tractor into town, it took him 2 hours to get there. He bought his beer in town and began drinking it as he drove back home. Not far from home, he realized he had drunk all his beer so turned the tractor around and drove back to town to buy more beer! Needless to say, we heard his tractor chugging at a snails pace along the highway all day long.

One day a Frenchman named Jacques arrived at the commune. He was a long way from home, looking for a new home. He told everyone he was a builder and had fought in the French Resistance during WW2 and I don’t think anyone doubted this was true. He told how his job was to lay ambush mines for Germans soldiers. This was towards the end of the war when the German army were recruiting the Hitler Youth. On this one day, he saw that the German soldiers he was targeting were all 13 or 14 years old and he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger.

Jacques found a piece of land he liked and camped there. He soon decided it was a good place to build a small house and began building around his tent. He did not know that he was living on Preston’s property.

Now, because Preston was such a lazy farmer, it took him six months to realize Jacques was squatting on his property. By this time, Jacques house was half built!

Preston’s reaction on discovering Jacques was not as you might expect. Preston could see that Jacques was a decent builder and had an idea. He invited Jacques up to his house and made him a proposition.

He would allow Jacques to live on his land, and to finish building his own house if Jacques repaired and maintained Preston’s house. A deal was struck. No solicitors, no contracts, just a verbal agreement.

And so it was. For many years the two men shared the land and became unlikely friends and constant companions. In fact they lived together for decades until Jacques was put into a retirement home by his daughter Veronique.

Preston and Jacques, unlikely and lifelong mates.

by Brad Lucas.

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