I Can't Go Home.

Vi Jones, whose life changed when her father died on Christmas Eve so many years ago, writes about not being able to go home.

I can't go home again
cause when I do
those I used to know
won't be the same any more.
As I've moved on
so have they.
As I have changed
so have they.

As surely as the mountains
wear down into hills,
as surely as the sea
reclaims the shore,
as surely as the geese
fly south, and north again,
within their season,
I can't go home again.

I can visit, but I can't go home.
New friends have come,
my place is taken,
new songs are sung,
new dances danced,
and though welcome,
hugs are reserved …
as if they're not meant for me any more.

I've stood on foreign soil
and know how strange
that even the familiar can be.
A chasm has been created
by my absence and,
you know,
it won't be the same
when I go home, cause home just isn't home any more.

Vi ©November 11, 2003

Botany Bay Disease

Botany Bay disease was a reference, by historian M.H. Ellis, to the prevalence of insanity in the colonial society of early Australia. In his biography of John Macarthur, Ellis suggested that 'retreat to the world of mental malady...seemed to be a product of the age. Dr Redfern, poor Throsby, Gregory Blaxland - completely forgotten by the country of which he had helped to open the Western Gates.... each suffered from so called Botany Bay Disease. According to Ellis the Botany Bay disease of the brain was no respecter of persons.
from Round the Same Bend - Max Harris

If you are feeling out of step with the world at this time of the year and it is making you behave erratically, tell yourself that you have "a good dose of Botany Bay disease", retreat into your own world for awhile, make lots of pots of tea and take plenty of rest. You will recover by around Boxing Day.

As a matter of interest, a substitute tea made in and around Sydney in early convict times, from the leaves o fteh Correa plant, became known as 'Botany Bay Tea'. Mary Bryant, a convict escapee from New South Wales gave some of the 'tea' to James Boswell, the biographer who was interested in obtaining a pardon for her. In 1930 this small packet of 'tea' was discovered among the Boswell papers at Malahide Estate in Ireland.

Perhaps Botany Bay Disease was derived from drinking too much Botany Bay Tea so maybe you should stick to a reliable brew. To avoid the harried pace of December I suggest brewing up a big pot of my favourite, soothing oolong tea.

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Baskets of Memories

image courtesy of Trendle Ellwood

December can be an especially difficult time for people who have lost loved ones during the year. Swells of grief and mourning can fester and become crippling.

Exiles, cast from their motherland, Australia's earliest convicts and settlers, suffered a severe sense of loss and recreated old traditions in this harsh, ancient land, a land that bore so little resemblance to England.

On a more personal level I know that Christmas has never seemed quite the same since my father death and the family stopped going to my parents home on Christmas Day. During December Dad took particular care of his garden, eagerly awaiting the harvest of potatoes, carrots, peas and beans that would be served with our very traditional meal. Tucked amid the vegetables were special jewels, bright gladioli's, a flower that is now synonymous with Christmas for me.

This year ill-health will prevent us from joining a group on the cliffs of Narooma in January. Camping is simply not practical any longer and we will miss the regular company.

Loneliness is a devastating disease! There is no condition so acute or so universal. Everyone at some stage is subject to its ravages. Loneliness can spring from what we create for ourselves, result from circumstances beyond our control or simply be a part of daily living, common to everyone.

However, whatever the source, loneliness can be overcome.

Recently I was rummaging in a recycled shop with a good friend and happened upon an old collection of stories about the art of living. From these I gleaned treasure including a story about Victor Hugo who, a century ago found himself in exile, ill, persecuted by his beloved France.

Every evening he climbed a cliff overlooking a harbour and gave himself up to profound meditation. At the end of his reverie he would rise, select a pebble of varying size and cast the stone into the water beneath.

One night a child asked, "Monsieur Hugo, why do you come here to throw these stones?"

The writer was silent; then smiled gravely. "Not stones, my child. I am throwing self-pity into the sea."

This symbolic act provides a powerful lesson at a this time of the year. When we relinquish self pity we can, like Hugo, find a new focus and move on. After all, out of the dark aloneness of blindness John Milton brought Paradise Lost. From the solitude of prison cells came John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.

While preparing this calendar a friend, whose circumstances meant that she has experienced significant loss, shared this story which confirms that while loved ones may be gone the world is full of needs to meet, needs which can quell loneliness.

Since I was in my early twenties I was the one who had the family for Christmas. When I was nursing I always decorated the care facilities where I worked. I loved December in those days.

All that has passed me by. Now I am a small, but I think important, contributor to others who I spend Christmas with.

My friend Angela has a most beautiful Christmas tree growing in the centre of her front garden. It is some 12ft high and 8 ft wide At this time of year it is at its best.

Six large boxes of decorations, gathered from around the world are hung We take it in turns to climb the ladder. It takes us 4 to 6 hours to get it just right. I love doing this. Angela's tree is admired by all who pass by. Families bring their children from the neighboring streets to look in awe.

There is no happier tree in Port Melbourne in December. It does not need lights as it sparkles and glows with all that adorns it. II think it is more important than decorating indoors , because it can be shared by all who pass by.

Lois Port Melbourne Muse 11/11/03.

Simple cures for December blues

1. Usefully occupy your hands. You can paint, write, garden, raise pets, learn a craft or simply start a collection.

2. Practice developing a great mental storehouse of pleasant memories, ideas, experiences. When alone draw them one by one into the centre of consciousness and live them over or meditate upon their rich meaning. If you do this effectively you will never be at a loss for good company.

3. Remember that " seldom can a heart be lonely if it seeks one lonelier still."

4. An enriching way to pass a hot Kimberley afternoon is to sit beneath a shady mango tree and weave baskets from coloured wool and dried grass, or knot dilly bags from string. All the while there's a continuous stream of conversation keeping things ticking over. And cackles of laughter frequently erupt. Sit, watch, listen and learn...

Fill baskets with memories! Form an industrious circle and watch in wonder as loneliess evaporates.

5. Learn about The Dreaming and read about the Art of Dreaming. Adapt some of the rituals discussed here to keep yourself occupied.

Associated Links

Holidays Without Cheer
Dispelling Inner Loneliness
December Depression