I was 5 years old when my mother's friend took us from our minute rural village: sandstone cottages in a bush clearing near the Cudgegong River on the far side of the Great Dividing Range, for a holiday in the megalopolis of Sydney, She took us to Taronga Park Zoo for the day: such excitement, such astonishment, such thrilling views of the exotic, outlandish, bizarre and beautiful only before known through stories. We gawped.
The evening train back to her home in Killara was a puzzle. We had to stand, crowded and shoved. On our morning trip the train had been relaxed and empty. What had changed?
"It's pink owl," she bent down to answer my question.
Pink Owl! What did this mysterious, arcane term mean? "Why is it called that?" I asked.
"Because that's what it is," she said a little crossly, no doubt tired, impatient and regretting her timing.
I was astonished. I knew the adult world to be prosaic and mundane: yet, here was a poetic, magical name for a rather unpleasing phenomena. Pink Owl: the evening hour, when people rushed for home.
Our minds, or mine certainly, try to impose meaning, or patterns onto the incomprehensible, the mysterious, the unknown. And, on the whole, I'm happy with that.
Later in the holiday, I awoke one night in the double bed I shared with my two sisters. I pondered as to whether the bed had side rails or not. I could not remember, so I decided to roll over towards the edge to find out - (one might have thought that the youngest should have been in the middle, or, that I might have had
more common sense...but, ...). As became obvious, there were no side rails, I landed on the floor, and for some time had a scar down the length of my nose. I can't remember that it hurt: my memory is of everyone else being concerned while I was not.
Forty five years later, when my husband died quite suddenly, this scar immediately resurrected and jagged down my nose again. Although I had long forgotten it, I recognised it's path precisely. It was a reminder that the body has its own history, its own dynamic, its own life, memory and agenda.
And it has been little nudges like that that have reminded me of how little I know, or will ever know, and how much I may misunderstand, and how my mind ( which feels like myself, ) does its best to understand to comprehend and find paths through this complex, complicated, glorious, extraordinary, difficult existence that we find ourselves in. Pink owl.
And, on the whole I'm happy with that.