Roadside Chat’s (19) 5/12/15
Its nine months since I moved ‘up the Valley.’ Five years since the quakes.
Today I begin meditation 219.’ It’s like fingering a rosary. Saying by saying I trace the circle.
I’m reworking the meditations. This morning I jump far ahead. I’ve just learnt I’ve been accepted as a workshop presenter at the Evolve festival in Nelson.
They’ll be young people there. Travellers. Locals. Young hearts open to the winds of change. That’s why I’m jumping ahead. That’s why I’ve chosen 219.
I turn it over in my mind; ‘A small Seeger boat.’ I love Pete Seeger.1 I love his spirit. He’s 94 and keeps on protesting. Yes, I’m aware he died last year. But I also know something else; he’s still protesting.
I like it that it’s a small boat. Pete liked small. He liked small people playing small parts. Lot’s & lots of small people; lots and lots of small parts: that’s how the impossible is achieved; that’s what Pete would say.
It’s a small boat with a large crew
Big enough for me and you
It’s a sail set in a prophet’s dream
Crests the wave where light is seen
It’s a small boat in an aching heart
It’s the compass point of the human art
So jump on board… with Pete and me
& all the small… of the great company
Let’s do our bit… let love be strong
Let’s play our part… let’s right the wrong
I pause my writing. It’s two hours before the Top of the North writers meeting.
Driving towards Nelson I think about the nature of the Self. How it’s both, a uniqueness & a togetherness. I’ve spent years unfolding the uniqueness. Now I start on the togetherness.
The sayings tell me the Self is the essence of every living thing: 2 every blade of grass; every tree, every bird, every animal, every human; everything. And that changes me.
If the sayings right, it follows it was me taking the bullets in the Bataclan nightclub in Paris. It was also me pulling the trigger. And that changes me.
I’m new to this. I’m not yet sure what this ‘togetherness’ means: only that it changes me.
After the writers meeting I share a cup of tea with Alan & Kath. They’re bright. They’ve got a social conscience. I really like them. I hope they stay up the Waka.
After our cuppa I purchase a diary from the Warehouse Stationary in Bridge Street.
It starts as I head back towards the car. As always, I don’t see it coming.
He’s an older guy with long white sideboards. He looks lost. A bit confused.
He asks where the nearest lotto shop is. I haven’t a clue. I only know four streets.
He’s from Oz. A Vet. A conscript. It was either Nam or jail.
It only takes a moment for his story to become a torrent. There’s sex, violence and betrayal. There’s Vietnam; red ants; bayonets; children, mortars, aboriginal trackers and poisoned bamboo.
It’s as bad as I’ve heard. He doesn’t know I worked as a trauma counsellor. He doesn’t know I worked for the police and fire service. He doesn’t know I worked in the emergency centres.
He has trauma written all over him.
I ask him his name. It’s Kevin.
Something whirs off in the back of my brain. I make connections. We’re both Kevin’s. We’re both Kevin.
He tells me he’s ‘looking for cover.’
I imagine him and his digger mates edging down a trail in Nam. I imagine the snipers. Cover’s important; Cover’s life or death.
I go with the flow; trust the synchronicity. It’ll be six hours before I head back up the Waka.
I connect him to a clinical psychologist. I take him to the RSA. I take him to a lotto shop. I return him to his flat.
He keeps apologising.
Over and over he says; ‘you don’t have to do this.’
I make lots of jokes. I tell him to shut up… that I only do one good deed a year… that today’s his lucky day… that I’m helping him to make myself feel good.
He thanks me for; ‘lifting the pain off my heart.’
He calls me a good cobber.
The good cobber bit is important. He asks if I know what a good cobber is.
He tells me very slowly; a good cobber is ‘a real good friend.’
It’s seven thirty before we shake hands and I head towards the Wakamarina.
As I drive I think of Kevin.
His may not be an easy road. Part of him may remain forever at Phuoc Tuy.3 The Viet Cong may linger as an ongoing threat.
I was pretty straight up with him. Well mostly. There was one place I bit my lip.
It was when he told me about the vets returning home. How there was no welcoming parade. How anti war protesters gave him the fingers in the street.
That’s when I stayed quiet. Real quiet. I gave him the cover he needed.
I never talked about Auckland in the 70’s; about Resistance Bookshop; about the anti-war protests; about my attitude towards the vets.
I think about it now.
1 Pete Seeger; veteran folk singer and protester. Pete’s songs include; ‘Where have all the flowers gone; Turn, turn, turn; We shall overcome
2 ‘The Self is the essence of every living thing;’ Saying 162
3 Phuoc Tuy; Australian Army Base; South Vietnam