I’m still in a weird, stream of consciousness mood from the steroids and antibiotics. While trying not to get sucked into the rabbit hole of the internet (too much negativity, click bait, comparing and crazy stuff going on that I can’t do anything about), I decided to finish posting my Kakadu photos.
On our last day in Kakadu, there was a knock on the door of our tent and we were informed that someone had cancelled their fishing trip and we could take the slot if we wanted. Finn was so thrilled because he had been told that the fishing boat was fully booked for the whole week. He changed in two seconds, and ran out of the door with me following behind. Then I heard a big thud – he had tripped off the raised wooden deck outside of our room and was shrieking from the mud below. He wasn’t hurt much, just some scrapes, bruises and tears.
This sounds terrible, but my first instinct was actually to feel irritated at him. It was the third time that day that he had fallen or tripped over something and my eardrums were just about to give out. I just snapped at his wailing face, “Finn, stop it! I have had enough of you being clumsy!”. And then I realised I sounded just like my mum. I remember my mother yelling at me throughout my whole childhood for being uncoordinated, clumsy, awkward as well, and I felt really rotten for something that he hadn’t intended at all. Amazing thing, the conditioning we pass down through the generations if we’re not careful.
I took a deep breath and pulled him into the shower, still wailing away, and washed all the mud off. I heard Mark calling the front desk to cancel the fishing trip, and yelled from the shower to hold on. I asked Finn if he still wanted to go fishing. Finn inhaled sharply, looked at me with his big, brimming eyes and nodded. So I squirted some antiseptic on his cuts and off we went.
It was coming up to sunset and the light reflecting off the water everywhere was enchanting. We were lure fishing so we had to cast and reel in continuously. There’s something to be said for repetitive activities. In this modern world, automation has removed the need for us to actually use our hands to do anything over and over again, with the exception of typing.
I found the repeated casting and winding the reel, feeling the sensuous pull of the line against the heavy water, so meditative and peaceful. Losing yourself and your mind in it. Unwinding the frustration and anger of the day.
We didn’t catch anything. Not a single nibble, although the barramundi were jumping all around us, and there were plenty of crocs eyeing us smarmily from across the river banks. And that was okay. Finn is very zen in his approach to fishing. We’ve been out fishing about 9 times and only caught things a third of the time.
I think it’s really healthy for kids to learn about frustration just being a normal thing, just part and parcel of the fabric of life. It’s good to balance out that instant gratification culture we live in where any game you can think of can be downloaded from the app store in an instant and just about anything procured from a google search.
It was also great for me to have that time to think about my own pent-up anger and how most of it was created by my own expectations of how things ‘should’ be, feeling disconnected when my life doesn’t live up to my standards, instead of accepting it as it really is, scrapes, bumps, insect bites, quarrelling, tears, randomness and other ordinary things. Sometimes things just suck and that’s ok too, even if no one on Facebook is posting about it.
The quiet times in the afternoon were my favourite parts of the trip. Watching Dylan drawing outside the tent at sundown, her little cheeks flushed satin-pink from the day’s activities.
Watching Finn play football (I refuse to call it “soccer” like the Aussies / Americans) in the fading light with the other kids, weaving around the massive termite mounds which are everywhere in Kakadu. It’s cute and touching, how easily kids form these transient friendships when they’re on holiday.
Full disclosure – the Irishman did arrange for us to go out in Darwin on a proper fishing boat the next week and we ended up catching 9 fish between us – golden snapper, salmon, batfish, flathead, cod… Finn was thrilled.
The best thing about Darwin was the magnificent agate red sunsets and the dinners we had on the deck at Hanuman, a casual Indian / Thai restaurant. Otherwise the town was curiously devoid of charm and people. It reminded me of the heartlands in Singapore, monotonous concrete slab buildings, bland urban sprawl, soulless malls.
As you may have gathered, it wasn’t the best holiday ever – I was too itchy from being bitten by insects and not sleeping well at night in the un-airconditioned tent, and the kids were really scrappy for most of the trip. I ended up yelling and losing my temper a lot more than I’m happy to admit. The Irishman was on business phone calls half the time, stomping about on 3 hour conference calls even when we were in the middle of nowhere, looking most incongruous talking about financing and balance sheets in the middle of the outback while the birds cackled in the background. As in Dylan’s favourite book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, sometimes it’s just like that. Even in Australia.
So I was so happy to get home to the farmhouse this week. Even though it’s chilly here, my bed has got exquisite, soft linens on it and a heating pad underneath. The fresh brisk eucalyptus air is insect-free and I don’t wake up with kamikaze mosquitoes going ‘WheeeEEE!” in my ear. I’ve got a library of fascinating books to read and cookbooks to work through and an abundance of friends to have tea with. I love my adventures and all, but my favourite place in the world is always the ordinary miracle I call home.