Fasi suggested, many times in the years we’ve lived here, that he could boat me across to Gulunhara Island, commonly known as West Woody. For a picnic or a days peace to read, but I always declined. I couldnt imagine what it would be like, maybe hot sand and no shade? He offered again last Saturday and because the weather is mild this time of year I agreed to give it a try.
That night I cooked spiced banana loaf and boiled some eggs. Easy food to take. I packed my basket with journals and Vanessa Berry’s new book, “Gentle and Fierce”, phone charger and sunscreen, unaccountably (after so many years of refusing) looking forward to the short trip and a day to myself.
Awake at 5am we hooked up our dinghy to the old white land cruiser, packed water and other essentials (and non-essentials) and were at the boat ramp by 6. The early mornings fading full moon glimmered across the water as the men launched the boat. The scene was the palest pink monochrome, almost a wordless poem.
After twenty minutes of a smooth boat ride Fasi anchored in shallow clear water off the islands beach. The sand was covered in corals and pink and grey tiny cowrie shells. Plenty to collect for my friend in Queensland as I’d promised. The island is small, if it wasn’t for it’s rocky edges it would take less than half an hour to walk around.
Fasi and Nurul left to go fishing nearby. I found a white sandy area near large round rocks that invited shelter and solitude and set out a chair and my basket. To the sound of gentle waves and barely visible honeyeaters chirping in the bushes behind me. A whole day of bliss, like a dream. A day of turquoise-water dreaming.
I read and wrote and ate and paddled in the cool water. I filled a plastic black plant pot, washed up on the beach, with the pinkest shells I’ve ever seen. It was a delightful day. Sundays will never be the same. And, to think, I’d refused the gift of it for six years.
Do you enjoy fragments? I do. A glimpse of a strangers face, a remembered line of an old song, a whispered conversation on a bus, a delicious aroma teasing from someone else’s house, the middle of a movie you haven’t got time to watch till the end, a dream that vanishes on waking, a phrase you just have to copy down…
They arouse my curiosity and imagination more than any completed experience.
Australian writer Elizabeth Jolley, wrote fragments on scraps of paper for years before she was first published in her fifties. She was too busy raising a family and working at an assortment of jobs to have enough time to write at length and at leisure. I was one of her many correspondents whom she encouraged to write short notes about the weather, landscape, overheard conversations, because I too had a full life with little time. She was quoted in 1986 as saying: “If anybody had asked to see a work in progress it would have been lots of bits of paper with scribbles on.”
A fragment is defined as “an isolated or incomplete part”. But, although incomplete, it is at the same time complete in itself because it contains the potential of what it may become…a story, poem, song, healing memory, nourishing meal, something understood, a puzzle solved.
Fragments allow mystery into our lives and curiosity leads us on….
When I left Aurukun and began working for a nursing agency it was certainly a new chapter in my life. I’d worked for Queensland Health for around 20 years. I enjoyed the certainty and security of permanent work and, while I listened in awe to the stories of agency nurses I’d worked with, I was too afraid to follow them into the wide world of choices and possibilities.
In late 2010 I began work on my first agency contract on Badu island in the Torres Straits off the top of North Queensland. Prior to arriving I knew hardly anything about the islands, but the flight from Cairns to Horn island and then on a smaller plane to Badu whet my curiosity. I had never imagined any kind of life off the tip of Cape York. There had been a time in my adult life were I’d never been further north than Bundaberg, and even that felt like I was about to drive off the edge of Australia.
Flying over the Torres I stared down through a smudged plane window at a blend of ocean blues and greens and tiny uninhabited islands and knew I wanted to stay awhile to get to know this place.
So much has been written and said about new beginnings, basically the fact that the past needs to be let go of to embrace the new. I let go of the need for certainty and security and whole-heartedly embraced a sense of adventure which opened a fascinating chapter of island life and culture.
I can’t drag myself away from the topic of creativity it seems to me to hold much that is hopeful and playful and worthwhile. I’ll share another quote from Eric Maisel’s “The Creativity Book” in which he invites the reader to think about creativity in a broader life sense than merely a narrow “artistic” view.
“Creativity is linked in our minds with poets, artists, inventors, and people of that sort. We think of the Edisons, Einsteins, Picassos and Beethovens of the world as creative. But any job can be done more creatively and life can be lived more creatively. What’s required are certain changes: that you begin to think of yourself as creative, that you use your imagination and your mind more, that you become freer but also more disciplined, that you approach the world with greater passion and curiosity.”
Even the dullest job, the most tedious task and the most unpromising day can hold possibilities if we approach them with curiosity and imagination. I found nursing like that…curiosity as to what was coming next, what my patients would be like, what could they teach me, what stories could I hear? and so on. Curiosity keeps us alive and growing.
Pictured here is an Indigenous weaver from the central Desert visiting Aurukun Art Centre to share her techniques with her Queensland sisters.
“I was curious, that’s why I came. The Director of Nursing at the clinic told me to read all the bad stuff about Aurukun and get back to her. I did and I couldn’t believe that any place in Australia could be as desperate as the internet described it.”
Hi, my name’s Sharon and welcome to my blog and my first post. The above are the opening lines of a memoir I’m writing about the past five years of my life as a remote area nurse in Indigenous communities in Australia.
It was curiosity that led me from being a Paediatric nurse in a Base Hospital to my first job in Aurukun on the west coast of Cape York at the top of north Queensland. It wasn’t a cold, detached or clinical curiosity. It was warm, caring and almost passionate. I wanted to see the hidden places in my country. I wanted to experience and understand Indigenous culture. I think I also wanted to learn what it meant to be a real Australian! That was the preoccupation of my high school English classes where we perpetually searched and questioned Australian literature in the quest for our national identity. But I always had the feeling that the reality of the identity wouldn’t be found in books, plays and poems but in traveling the country and knowing it and its people intimately.
It’s been an amazing five years and my passion to understand it all has led me back to books…to reading, writing and photography. And curiosity still won’t let me go. I’m about to embark on a new journey. I’ve enrolled in university next year to study creative writing and photography.
My blog is about change, curiosity and following your passion. Come with me on a virtual journey and glimpse the hidden Australia and maybe you’ll be inspired to take the first steps toward what’s beckoning you. As the Sufi poet, Rumi, wrote “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”