Category Archives: Blog

Articles on various topics.

Taking on sin

Here in Australia during the past week we have been shocked or perhaps gladdened that Cardinal Pell, prominent in the Vatican, has been remanded for trial over historical sexual accusations. As I watched the news screen, I saw him being hassled out of the court with crowds pushing around him. I was reminded of the many paintings of Christ being similarly hassled by crowds as He walked carrying His cross. He was said to be taking on the sins of the world.

In a recent book, “Sinning Across Spain”, Ailsa Piper writes of her strange mission that she took on as she walked the Camino de Santiago trail. She advertised for people weighed down with a sin, to pay her (for a charity) to carry their sins on this trail. The St James Shell is a symbol of the route. Historically, it has been designated as a pilgrimage walk to atone for sins:

In the registers of the Inquisition at Carcassone…we find the four following places noted as being the centres of the greater pilgrimages to be imposed as penances for the graver crimes: the tomb of the Apostles at Rome, the shrine of St. James at Compostella [sic], St. Thomas’ body at Canterbury, and the relics of the Three Kings at Cologne. (Wikipedia)

The length of the trail depends on the starting point – possibly over 600 kms.

I wondered how many kilometres Cardinal Pell would need to walk to take on the sins of the many clergy who abused children around the globe. He would need to circumnavigate the whole world many, many times. How many times would be enough to help save the souls of the perpetrators? And how many for the souls of those that did nothing to stop them?

But then, what good would this do? Nothing for the children. There can be no adequate compensation for the breach of trust, for the fear, for the pain, for the shame, for the ruin of relationships and lives. Money is not a compensation. But it can be a symbol – of guilt and of acknowledgement. It can be a tangible end to many lifetimes of questions and no adequate answers. At the very least it can provide a moment or two of physical comfort. Do not deny these wronged people this minimal response.

Beauty in age, and resilience

via The Oldest Cherry Blossom Tree in Japan – Jindai-zakura

The beauty of cherry trees in bloom is breath-taking. This is a photo of one from my visit  to Japan. I love visiting at cherry-festival time in Japan because the people gather with almost religious fervor. Spaces in the parks are booked ahead, and everyone turns up early laden, with special food and drink. It’s a great social and cultural event. Best of all, you can never predict exactly which week will be the peak – one event where nature isn’t yet tamed by modern life.

The Treeographer tells the story about the history of the tree and its struggle to survive over close to 2,000 years. I just realized that the cherry tree can be also a symbol of personal resilience, marvelous blooming from stricken-looking  branches. It reminds me of my favorite motto: Make an opportunity out of a problem. (Just don’t turn it around to the opposite!😀)

#MeToo, Pervasive

I found myself smiling. They’ve caught him! About time. A man has been arrested at the end of the train line after spending the morning leaping on and off trains, exposing himself to schoolgirls.

Of course, it’s decades since I’d been that schoolgirl. Pretty innocent then, but realizing after a minute that something wasn’t right. My friend sitting next to me knew it was odd. Her family were more open about nudity. Perhaps it was the funny expression on her face that tipped me off. I had thought he was playing with ‘a pink peg’ in his lap behind the newspaper.

Suddenly we both jumped up and collapsed into a nearby seat, laughing hysterically with … fear? Shock?

He was at the door and gone at the next stop. I’ve no idea what makes a man think that his penis should be shown to kids, but as I think about it, I realize that flashers have been pervasive – in my life, and I guess most other females.

Let me count the other times:

The fat man in the raincoat. That’s a handy prop. It can be opened and closed in a ‘flash’. That one didn’t wear clothes below the waist. In the right circumstance he could walk past quite a few schoolgirls with his coat swinging open. At a brisk walk he could cover a lot of ground in the right circumstances. He didn’t look proud. Perhaps actually rather frightened.

The tall skinny grinning man in the railway tunnel frequented by schoolgirls: Sacred Heart kids going one way, Ladies College girls going the other. A good post I expect – busy at set times of the day. I can’t remember what he wore or carried to hide his special exhibit from passing adults.

No harm done? I guess if you’re in a small group of girls you can have a bit of giggle, feeling safe – “weirdo”. What about the little one, alone, late for class? Everything is bigger. Especially looming right over you. Your little legs too paralyzed to run.

The nifty bloke in the car. He must have been pretty clever, or lucky, to catch the five-year old daughter on her one-block trip to the shop. Somehow he was waiting, primed, ready to spray his ‘white stuff’ into the air as he called the daughter over to look. Lucky we’d talked enough. I hadn’t gone into the white stuff detail, but she knew enough to get home quick.

And a few years later, down at the park with some neighborhood kids, she knew enough to round them up and march them away, telling a passing woman about the man on the seat next to the swings. Go, girl! He’d up and was round the corner by then. His sort of bully behavior only works on innocence.

I wonder what other times I’ve forgotten? But I also wonder if I’m being tough on these pathetic men. Are they inadequate and weak, only being able to act on the young? Or perhaps mentally ill, some twist of their minds I don’t understand?

But whatever the reason, the situation is the same as for any man who touches, pinches, grabs, pokes, kisses, mauls, thrusts, rams or sprays, without regard for the impact on the other: power exploiting a situation, an innocent, a weaker being. Greed and entitlement hand in hand with animal drive and ego. All of them believing they have something special to offer.

But all of them lesser, the bottom of the ladder, the depths of the swamp, thugs.



With another opportunity on Amazon for readers to grab “Choose: Snakes or Ladders” – FREE, I started to think again about where this story came from.

It’s particular themes are topical: a strong female character facing the 1950’s male superiority that stands in the way of her rightful ambition; where male sexuality is the norm and nice women don’t have desire.

The ups and downs of young, naïve Mitty’s struggling against her own inner demons, but also with her fears and delight in discovering a colorful world of opportunity very different to her strict moralistic upbringing, makes easy reading.

I didn’t start out to write this novel, it started as a one-page exercise in writing that grew. Very quickly the character, Mitty, stood up from the page and wouldn’t let go until I’d told her story. It’s not my story, but I know it rings true for many people.

I realized at the end that the personal truth in it for me is complex: the fear of the world’s secrets that others know and I don’t; the dangers lurking behind the next dark bush; and an ingrained training of self-deprecation.

A more significant truth is that even today women are still missing out because of ignorance and fear.

Enjoy this book as a good story, and let the message stay with you.

#MeToo, too

Here in Australia, we get a huge supply of news from around the world, particularly from The United States, as well as all the happening news in our own country.

The issue of men in positions of power exploiting those with lesser status and dependent in their careers on their managers, has had a huge response. Once again an incident that happened decades ago, and with significant ramifications for another, suddenly kept reappearing in my mind.

After several disturbed nights I wrote the anecdote down as a story – true for me too.

Not just Me (Too) Is a Victim.

His face a benign smile, white whiskers making a Snow White frame, his arms stretched out towards me. I back away. Nothing about him attracts me, but he radiates his wonderful offering – his body.

He is shorter than me. Thank heaven his face lands more at my neck than on my face. I strain away to the side. It’s a classic motion of disdain. I feel disdain, and more.

“I’m not consenting to this Professor. I’m not consenting.”

The other students around become a still-life background, no sound comes from them. They are holding their breath. They are as rigid as I am. Even my boyfriend, my clever study mate, my hero, makes no move, no exclamation. No one distracts, no one steps in. Everyone waits. How long will they hold their breaths?

The Professor is not distracted. His short arms pull me into him. His belly, a bulbous herald of his presence, always repellent, is now pressing into me. His breathing is faster and blowing harder and hot onto the skin of my neck. His arms tighten, one moving down to my bottom. I am being crushed, bent over and under his firm round front.

I’m distracted for a second. Thank heaven for his belly, otherwise whatever lies beneath would be able to press more, against, into me. I take courage from this failure. My voice rises, louder, firmer, but not a cry.

“I’m not consenting, Professor.”

He doesn’t or can’t hear. He nuzzles his face against my skin, reaching up to plant unimaginable greasy lips on mine.

I move. Whatever courtesy or respect or disbelief that was holding me flies away. I shove him back. He almost falls. His smile hardens. It is triumphant. He got something – whatever sexual buzz or power hit he felt was his to take.

The still life broke into movement. It felt a long time, or was it a second? A social hug and nothing more?

Nothing, no more, by anyone, was said. Except…

At year’s end we all passed his subject, except my boyfriend. He had to endure that professor and his repellent presence for a repeat year. Power, driven by jealousy and ego, knows no bounds.