Births, Deaths, and Other Synchronicities

One year ago, my Grandpa died on my birthday. After much deliberation over how to spend the day this year, Mum brought the family together at her property in South Gippsland. On the day of my birthday, Saturday, we had a birth/death gathering of sorts with a long lunch, wine and sweets. It sounds strange and in some ways morbid to see it written down like that, but for me, it was the most perfect, quiet and thoughtful way to spend the day.

At 3.30pm, the moment I was being born into the world 35 years ago, and the moment we held Gramps as he left us one year ago, we all wandered up to the top of the hill and looked out across the expanse before us: hills, sun, cows, trees, sky.

After Gramps died, I wanted to get something to hang on my wall to remind me of him. I hunted around for months through the depths of the internet, hunting for a big photo of the ocean, or the Prom, or the outdoors; a photo that symbolised something we both loved together which was the big wild world. I kept going back to a photo of a Great Egret that I stumbled across on instagram. After literally months of going to the website to look at this picture and finding out that Robert was a Gippsland based photographer, I emailed him. I was hoping the photo was taken somewhere in Gippsland, as Gramps lived on Phillip Island and we spent a lot of time together down there along the coast. I asked Robert where the photo was taken and instead of simply telling me the location, he wrote, I took the photo at Anderson’s Inlet, Inverloch, in South Gippsland. It was a peaceful late afternoon on a low tide, 19th May 2016. 

I couldn’t quite believe that after looking at what seemed liked thousands of coastal pictures, the one I had chosen was taken the evening before my birthday, the very evening before Gramps died, at a place we visited often together. The last time we were there we sat by the sea with the girls and ate fish and chips. I wrote back a rather emotive email, and ordered a large copy of the print.

Last week I was looking for an envelope for Bird’s lunch order. I was rifling through papers and in amongst a box of life-admin debris I found a water-colour birthday card painted by Gramps, pictured above,  which he had posted to me in 2004 when I was living in London. I stuck it on the wall in my bedroom after receiving it in the mail. On the back you can see old brown outlines of the sticky tape I used, around big letters which say: “LOL Gramps.” By LOL he always meant “lots of love”, however I can’t help but see the funny side of it in this context… rediscovering it the week before my birthday the year after he died.

We came home on Sunday and I did all my usual things: pottering, cooking, preparing for the week. I find myself wondering about death, about how life is possible and how someone can simply be gone, while others are still here. I overheard the girls talking the other day, the conversation went a little bit like this: I wouldn’t like to die, would you? / No way. Can we just stop talking about it? It is really a disgusting thing. / Yeah, it is disgusting. / Yeah, disgusting. I have been carrying around a sad sort of melancholy these past few days, but it has felt kind of warm and necessary. I’m moving forward into this next chapter attempting as light an attitude as I can muster, as he would have wanted. For, no matter my attempts, I will always be someone who thinks a lot. I’m convinced it isn’t always a bad thing.

comings and goings (+ a smoothie recipe)

I’ve been feeling pretty flat and unmotivated the last little while. It may be obvious to you when this happens as my posts slow down and I lose momentum. Part of the reason for my silence lately though has been because my grandpa was incredibly ill, and passed away towards the end of May, on my birthday. The weeks leading up to his death were intense for our family, with many hours spent by his bedside. We were all living in a little bubble, it seems strange now to be out in the light again.

A few hours after he died, my Mum and I left the hospice and we were driving to my Aunty’s place. The baby was screaming blue murder in the back seat and it was a Friday evening. We had to drive down Chapel Street, which those of you in Melbourne will know for its restaurants and good times. I’m from wayyyyy over the other side of the city so I don’t ever go there, but there we were, driving along, stricken with grief after having just watched someone we love breathe their final breaths, and there were lights, cars, traffic, people everywhere going out for dinner, smiling, laughing, and generally having a great time. It was so strange to see that life doesn’t stop for anyone or anything.

Since then life really has just pushed on. It’s the baby’s first birthday this Saturday, and we had the family over last weekend to kick off her birthday week. We were meant to have a picnic, but typical Melbourne rained all day so we had everyone at our place. We were pretty unprepared given we had planned to go to a local state forest, but we pulled it off. I made this cake and it was an absolute hit. I will be repeating it this Friday when I have my mother’s group over for a little birthday celebration. I’m going to try making it gluten free for Friday though as my beautiful friend A has just been diagnosed with coeliacs and I don’t want her to miss out! Hopefully it turns out ok.

In other news as usual I have washing coming out my ears, I can never seem to get on top of it, I refuse to spend my days doing nothing but washing, but maybe if I did, maybe then it would be done? Washing is such a mystery to me, I tell myself that everyone else has it under control but perhaps I am just deluded. I hate it! I told myself this morning that I was going to clean out the girls’ clothes today and throw everything out, figuring that then I would have less to wash and put away…? I think I might be onto something… then I got overwhelmed and looked the other way.

When I’m feeling like everything is just too much, I really try to pay attention to what I’m eating. It’s times like these that I want to reach for the sugar, the cake, the chocolate, and I have to practice a lot of willpower to stop myself from doing this. I’m by no means perfect! But I do try to make sure that I’m getting some bang for my buck when I choose what goes in my mouth. The picture above is today’s lunch for the three of us – me, the Pixie and the baby. It’s probably one of my favourite meals, basically just a bowl thrown together with a combination of things we have on hand with some nuts and seeds chucked on top. This bowl includes a mint, pea and couscous salad my mother in law made on the weekend, toasted nori, fermented cabbage, pickled onions, beetroot, spinach, sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, and some sprouts. The Pixie had half an avocado (she calls it an avocado bowl), some sweet potato, toasted nori (she calls that mermaid food), and a choc pop that Birdie and I made yesterday – basically a bliss ball coated in chocolate made from coconut oil, maple syrup and raw cacao. It does have a pretty strong taste so she wasn’t a huge fan of it, but I gave some to the baby (probably shouldn’t have given cacao is a stimulant, I’ll regret that tonight) and she devoured it! She also had some sweet potato.

The smoothie pictured is a version of the basic smoothie I make everyday using up leftover cooked oats from the girls’ breakky:

+ Almond milk

+ Coconut cream

+ Avocado (because I don’t like bananas unless they are in a cake!)

+ Chia seeds

+ Pepitas

+ Cacao

+ Left over oats

+ A few dates

I have a version of that every morning and there is usually some left over. Sometimes I freeze it and have it as nicecream. Yum!

Well that is all from me for now. I’ve got a baby tapping me on the leg and a Pixie wanting me to help with a puzzle so I had best stop this ramble here.

Hope you’re all having a wonderful start to the week!