I’ve often mentioned how lucky I am. How blessed and privileged, to be working in community houses and teaching people who want to write, and who love words as passionately as I do.
Today, with mid-winter cold and rain creating a day where staying in bed, or hugging the fireplace seemed a good move unless a better option arose, I cheerfully organised myself for work.
As a teacher, you are not supposed to have favourites, but my class on Wednesday morning is pure delight. Ages range from the early 30s to 87 years and each decade in-between.
Our cultural backgrounds and life experience encompass Armenia, Egypt, Israel, Scotland, Ireland, England and Australia.
Professions: nurse, teacher, event manager, administration, retail, hospitality, lollipop lady, cleaner, small business owner, musician, author, artist, police officer, disability speaker, estate agent, receptionist…
Life experience: mother, wife, widow, divorcee, never married, single. Some siblings, some knew parents, some brought up by grandparents, some have been in care…
There are travellers, happy-at-home, armchair travellers, ex-military, and those with a bucket list of places to see – exotic and mundane.
We have Post-grads, those whose education was cut short or limited, a Bachelor of Theology, Catholics, Protestants, atheists, agnostics, spiritualists, non-believers, secular Jews, Buddhists…
Wednesday mornings rich with stories, good writing, fun, and laughter. And today was no exception with one of the students, Donna reading a wonderful piece, “Hatitude My Life in Hats” – an earlier version available online.
With Donna’s permission, I’ve started taking photographs because she brightens up the class with her style, stories, and indeed always a fashionable hat!
Her story today eliciting spontaneous applause!
When I opened my curtains this morning, I smiled, despite the rain dancing on the driveway and street, adding that extra swish as cars raced past.
I smiled because my beautiful bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae)is healthy and blooming, I smiled because it is great to be alive.
And because like most mornings, Mr or Mrs Magpie visited to sing an aria or two. However, recently the magpies have been upstaged by an extremely vocal Noisy Miner.
So vocal, that my lovely daughter MJ has considered avicide.
I am more forgiving – and Tuesday evening being bin night, my sleep was already disturbed by the growling and clattering of the garbage truck at 6.00 am, so the off-beat duet didn’t cause me to frown.
Because we all share this small planet Earth, we have to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. That is not just a dream, but a necessity.
Dalai Lama, Tibetan spiritual leader.
And by the time I arrived at Godfrey Street, Bentleigh, via foot, train, bus, and foot (Bentleigh Station not due to reopen until the end of the month) the rain had stopped and I could enjoy the short walk through the garden and appreciate the love and care enveloping the house.
Number Nine Godfrey Street
Mairi Neil 2016
The garden a delight from someone’s green fingers
A profusion of pastel colours glistening
While sunshine smiles and fickle autumn spits rain.
I watch visitors stream inside the nondescript house
Their footsteps echoing on shaded verandah.
Walkers scrape and stroller wheels squeak.
A magpie trills in dinner-suited elegance,
Preening glossy feathers and strutting the footpath
As if ushering passersby to enter stage right ––
The Isadora scarf or Hitchcock cigar missing.
A young woman, nursing a toddler on her hip,
Grins a welcome to the elderly gent who
Clutches his chessboard and secret moves.
Their families farewelled to independence,
Seniors care for themselves in exercise classes.
Small talk in craft sessions produces big results.
Delightful aromas drift from the kitchen ––
Homemade pumpkin soup, sweet chocolate cookies,
Spicy curries –– recipes shared with curiosity and love
Sauced with tales from distant lands.
Oil paintings and pastel drawings, the fruit
Of nurtured local artists decorate the walls
This house celebrates learning, laughter, and leisure …
Friendships bubble and overflow to the neighbourhood
No need to cruise the retail choices of Centre Road,
Sup lonely cafe lattes amid chattering conversations
Or sit mesmerised by mobile screens
A house in Godfrey Street plants seeds
And grows friendships; welcomes newcomers,
Encourages indigenous and immigrant to bloom.
In the house singsong voices of children tinkle
While mellow murmurings of writers’ words
Capture imagination, life experience, and wisdom.
Pens scratch notepads as the sewing group
Across the hall coax machines to whirr into life,
Garments appear patterned by creativity
Wordsmiths spin sentences for pleasure
Every room thrums and hums as
People connect, care and communicate
Their commitment to lifelong learning
I accept the magpie’s invitation
Submit to being ‘led up the garden path’
To follow a thirty-year trail and discover
Like the vibrant blossoms in the garden
Community and harmony flourishes
At Number Nine Godfrey Street.