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Sam’s Corner July 2017

My father died. I was with him and it was like watching someone birth in reverse. He laboured hard, in a world of his own, each breath letting out more of him until, like a freight train that had travelled 91 years without stopping, he came to a grinding halt.

As I lay beside him, on a mattress, I assured him when he moaned that I was there, that he was safe. At 3 am I couldn’t stay awake any longer and fell into a dream. In it I was flying in my painting “Passover” (an image depicting Byron Bay’s breathtaking beach called The Pass which is skirted in coastal rainforest and has a vista that stretches to Mount Warning, the mountain I see from my bedroom window). On Dad’s first trip to Australia (from the UK in 1991), he walked that beach and told me “I’ve been here before. I’ve re-visted this place many times”.

The painting is about harmony, Australians living a natural life in the absence of disparity. People, in tandem with the Arakwal male and female totems soar with sea eagles and surf waves with dolphins. It is about passing over the land the way nature intended.

In my dream I was flying over the trees looking towards the distant sun when I became conscious of flying in my painting. I woke with a bit of a jolt to see my father take his last breath. I got up and stood beside him and cried and I said ‘dad, you did so well, that was such an effort. Thanks for being my dad and the best grandad to my boys.’ I kissed his still warm forehead.

This recent time has been an awakening on so many levels for me. Emotional honesty has become my litmus. I am resolved in my surrender to its will. It isn’t so much a time of reason. I am simply doing what is required to return to self. The time we have here is too valuable to not treasure it with absolute integrity. In the uncomfortable is where the magic lives. This shift has shocked and surprised; boundaries have emerged in an ocean of clarity. It’s making me look at myself, my choices. It is bringing out the best in everyone I love. Spontaneity has become the new order.

I came home and spent a week recovering. Then I packed my car with ladders and paints bound for Tenterfield, a three-hour drive from home, to paint a mural for the Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School.

Driving over the Great Dividing Range and into unfamiliar territory was a blessing and it was painful. I found comfort in the bosom of a wonderful community. Waking on frosty mornings, my window was de-iced by a kind and fun woman at the motel, teachers, many living on the land, would bring in apples from their trees or cook up pumpkin soup to share. It was exactly what I needed. I used the time like a strange retreat. In the darkness of my simple dwelling I stayed off social media and any stimulants so I could sit in my puddle of uncomfortable and find some magic.

And every day I went to school and painted a mural about the life of a tree and the four seasons it re-visits in it’s cycle of being.

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