Monika Schott

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A life of 'oh wells' are greater than a life of 'what ifs'. I write to express life in all its glory, to spark thinking … I love to swim outside, practise hot yoga and hit the boxing studio. I'm currently undertaking a PhD research to capture the social history of the community that lived on Melbourne's first sewerage farm. I've had several short stories published, my latest being 'The Teacher' in 'These winter months'. I was short-listed in the Ada Cambridge Prize, won the inaugural Wyndham Rotary Arts Small Business Award and have a Masters of Communication where I looked at boys and reading and what it is they like to read.

Let me take you on a run

 

 

The same bitumen road greets my warm up walk to the roundabout with the double-storey house on the corner - my cue to start running. My feet and hips are clumsy at first, a swagger to an out of tune country and western song. My right arch begins to burn and I wish my foot would settle into these runners that aren’t new anymore. Under power lines swaying with little sparrows I stomp, past sleeping homes with gardens of fan palms and cacti tinged in an early morning dew and native trees filled with birds squawking and chirping in chatter. Nothing else stirs, not a single car travelling between home and work or school, not during this Christmas break.

My jarring knees feel the stress of my weight and remind me of the few kilos I’ve gained since I stopped running two and a half years ago because of lower back niggles. Back then, running up to 15 kilometres at a time was the norm. Then one morning a couple of months ago in the midst of Spring and after being cooped up swimming and practising yoga indoors, I laced up my runners without thought or plan and took off. That exhilaration of freedom was addictive and I've been running ever since.

Across a road I stride and down a small street lined in old red brick and modern homes with backyards of parrots devouring apricots and peaches, around the corner from where my ‘second mother’ once lived. The term ‘in-law’ does no justice to her love or that of the family that accepted me as theirs many years ago. I missed her this Christmas. She sat on my deck last year, eating Christmas lunch beside Mum and the family. I almost destroyed the Poinsettia she gave me for the table. I’ve never been very good with pot plants and thankfully after rushing out to buy a top strength fertiliser, the plant is shooting nourishing new growth, a sign of things to come I hope.

A heavy breath to release, although I’m not sure what’s being released. Something is shedding. I feel lighter. My breath relaxes into a steady pace as I cross into another street, not gasping at all, just steady and in rhythm to my feet.

The hum of a car behind alerts me to my surrounds, the first for the morning. It passes from behind me on the other side of the road. I always run to oncoming traffic to be sure of what’s coming at me, particularly because I don’t wear my spectacles when out running. Speaking of which, I double back as I miss the street sign that takes me along the top of the river bank.

Doves coo, wattle birds shriek to screeching galas. Green all around me now – grass and eucalypts, wattles too, and tiny plants surrounded by plastic rabbit protectors. Eucalyptus on a fresh morning always smell good, like an invigorating, lemony cough drop. In summer though, that green dries to spindles of ideal fuel, as we’ve just seen in the Christmas Day bushfires down the coast. Over 100 homes lost and the fires are still burning. Wye River down there has always been a favourite of mine. I’ll live there some day.

Running cleanses me, even when I catch a whiff of red sauce cooking in someone’s kitchen and I imagine a grandmother in her dressing gown preparing pasta for lunch for her grandchildren, as my mother does. Running clears my head, blows the cobwebs of thoughts from deep crevices and clears blockages. Insights can be amazing.

I turn a corner and swerve into the middle of the road to pass the blue-hulled boat in its trailer hitched to the back of the grey four-wheel drive. Three fishing rods stretch up high from holders strapped inside of the boat. It’s always there, parked on the road side, sometimes in a cloud of sea and salt. A dog inside the house barking a string of ‘don’t come in here’ from behind the window is always there too.

My breath quickens, yet it’s still at a comfortable tempo without first run gasps and the dread of collapse from not being able to run any further. Around another corner and a vacant block of land lined by the stark pale grey of a new concrete path, inviting me to run on it - no chance, not with these knees!

This could be my last run for the year, unless I’m lucky enough to squeeze in one more on New Year’s Eve. It’s been a year, one that allowed me the chance to work with great people, two in particular who are warm, strong, caring and astute with a thinking of challenge and understanding, one of which is acting for me and my writing. Two great wins this year, akin to finding two needles in a haystack!

Two cars pass by. This part of the world is waking. Up an incline and my breath turns to panting. Sweat dribbles into my eyes and blurs my vision - as if I can’t see already! An open hand wipe clears away gathering pools of wet.

Around another bend and I’m almost at St Thomas’ and three quarters done. Marriage equality was hot this year, and so it should - love is love after all. Australia, you’re falling behind.

My knees ache. It’s such an oxymoron at this point – tiredness thumping in, yet a mind still cleansing, purging. Keep going. Not long to go. Need to be fit for travelling next year. It’s good for my health too. Helps to recover from any unexpected illness, like my skin cancer this year. That was three months of recovery and no activity and feeling like a caged lion, and dealing with the mental anguish of that ‘C’ word. Panting. Keep going. Just like the Syrians and so many others fleeing their homes. They kept going. Such determination and fortitude, such contrast to the gluttonous talk of greed and ego and futility of mass shootings. My pace quickens without effort.

Two utes turn from the next corner, on their way to work with tools and a wheel burrow stacked in the back. I’m almost home, where another driver has recently entered the household, just when two young men distressingly left theirs after a tragic car collision. Two others in the car are in hospital, one in a coma and the other, with a broken leg and back. Such loss of young life, such grief of families makes the reality too real, life too fragile, especially when my young men are friends of these young men.

Heat sets in and I’m beginning to roast. Keep going. Not long to go. I’m conscious of my head and shoulders falling forward and the sweat pouring from my head and face, down my neck and onto my chest and back. Straighten up. This planet is roasting too and thankfully, the summit in Paris on climate change has seen countries come together to address it. Whether you believe in climate change or not, it’s a positive to be looking after our planet. Poor Paris, it has had its own enduring year.

On the home stretch now, my street’s in sight. Keep going. Be fit. A slight gasp. Two more driveways ... and home, just as the sun rises over a terracotta tiled roof. Gasp and gasp, hands on hips to hold me up.

An enduring run after the excess of Christmas, after the year that’s been. The next one will be better. They generally are. Best wishes for your 2016 year.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
What's so remarkable about this is how it puts everything in perspective. It's as though the picture, or kaleidoscope of images, f... Read More
Wednesday, 30 December 2015 15:33
Monika Schott
Hi Rosy and thanks. It's the wonder of running, time to just be and process. Happy new year to you. May dreams come true in 2016... Read More
Thursday, 31 December 2015 22:08
Former Member
Good for you! I wish running would feel like an accomplishment to me. Instead, it feels like the torture. Have a great new year.... Read More
Friday, 01 January 2016 00:49
1669 Hits
4 Comments

Lovebirds

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A desire births, unfurls as heady jasmine lusting on a balmy evening.

 

Tender in touch, it grips into my core as a hand of spirit extending from a mist into my plume of orange and green and snatches my heart. A flick of a twist and it locks in. The stronghold is immovable, a monolith rooted from sky to earth.

 

A piquant potion drip feeds to nourish a bed of barren. It grows to a lush rainforest of moss and thick bonding roots where compassion and honour oozes in a soothing stream of silver, shaded under flourishing, pooling umbrellas of shelter.

 

Yet a starkness lingers, a tugging at my strings. Perched among the flock where loneliness reverberates, I wallow and flutter and chortle and fluff … a forest of fertility, a savanna of vast, harsh dry, I’m desolate and confused in the staccato of dark and light. Fatigued.

 

In rickety poise, I fight against the strain of damning knots and whirring winds until I succumb to an orchestral string of sweet magnetic harmonies balanced between the poles, serene … yet jarring in the shadows.

 

It opens. And snaps shuts. It draws near. Then runs. The cries begin as a rain shower and gather to a downpour of screeching squawks.

 

There’s no consoling. Equilibrium is lost.

 

Only a crescendo that ebbs and peaks as a million African lovebirds startled in a frenzy chaos of flight … erratic and manic.

 

To dance into your shoulder among the forests and savannas, to snuggle and preen under dappled light of sprinkling sprays.

 

To frolic free, to cosy in our cavities of trees and cacti, as the lovebirds we are.

On every bough the birds heard I sing,
With voice of angels in their harmony;
Some busied themselves birds forth to bring;
The little coneys to here play did hie. ~
‘The Parliament of Fowls’, Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1343-1400)

 

Recent Comments
Former Member
Nice use of words, interesting imagery (in the words). I'd like to have the painting on my wall. Is one bird glaring, angrily sus... Read More
Tuesday, 10 November 2015 23:46
Monika Schott
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on Lovebirds, Charles. Perhaps one bird is angry and the other may be embarrassed o... Read More
Wednesday, 11 November 2015 01:15
Former Member
Sometimes serene, sometimes stormy?
Wednesday, 11 November 2015 01:27
4579 Hits
8 Comments

Cocoon

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Spinning and weaving … encasing to insulate, to conceal and protect from all that does not matter, all that is unnecessary.

Hovering within a hum beneath a woven intricacy of intertwine that’s impervious to the glittering stars and gleaming sun, and firing slings and arrows. Every minute motion and echoing pin drop stirs a primeval instinct as that in the startled doe intent on protecting her fawn. An invisible crescendo of peaks of pain curbs all emotion, as if the air layered in the taut complexity of building pressure suspends every fragment within a vibrational pulse of extreme. Its strength sustains and supports; crumbling is not an option.

The moment is now and all focus is on being attentive without thinking or interference from influences that do not matter. The envelope of silk shields the buzz of a shifting world.

Time stops and has no meaning or measure, senses implode. An embrace sends a million receptors to revelry and the depth of need can break a whisper … a kiss of brushed cheeks … firecrackers of gasping breath. Yesterday lingers in the game of yesteryear where names are lost and words play hide and seek.

And yet time passes in a place of no time to allow an emergence to begin. A slow release at first to adjust to the stark bright, then a battle to ward off a humidity that feeds as a hungry hyena. The startled doe must stand her ground in the grumbles of aftershocks. Tentative steps, quivering …

Emotions of pressure barricaded within a shackled heart trickle as tears. New insights of pinks, blues and yellows, a wafting spritz of Sanpelligrino fizz. Birds and bees, buzzing and busy … multiplying and amplifying as a philharmonic orchestra tuning to perform a new symphony.

The importance of yesterday stays as was, perhaps as a non importance. Today is new, birthed as the chrysalis from its cocoon. Life sharpens as though viewed through the lens of a pristine Alpine lake, trimmed in an effervescence of ochre, magenta and indigo.

Time to ensconce is always, a space for morphing and transforming even without inclination to morph and transform, for quiet contemplation upon a reality of singular objective. To focus.

Accept it as a precious gift of strength where life can never be the same. Nor should it be.

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He's in his head

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He strides into the supermarket, his head and eyes fixed on the beige, lino floor in front of him, sometimes shuffling to avoid standing on a join that connects the laid sheets. His heart quickens. He glances up to read the aisle-end signs, searching for the confectionery. He walks the most direct route to aisle seven, turns in and heads down, appreciating the intricacies of the lino floor again. He looks up for the chocolate and standing there, is the sister. She smiles. He forces a smile back, more a painful grimace.

‘Hello,’ says the sister. ‘You’re shopping?’ she asks, a surprised inflection in her tone.

‘Yeah. For chocolates. For after our dinner tonight,’ he says, forcing a chuckle that sounds more like a grunt. ‘These ones.’ He snatches the box nearest to his hand. It shakes as the wild tremors of alcohol or drugs withdrawal.

‘Look at your hand,’ says the sister. Her own hand is spread open as if ready to catch the box that may fall from his unsteady. ‘Why’s it shaking so much?’

He nods, signalling an acknowledgement to an invisible someone. ‘They’re watching me. I didn’t want to come you know. Because they’ll get me,’ he says.

The sister smiles. ‘I know. But you came and no one’s watching you. Look around, there’s no one here.’

He scrutinises up and down the aisle in eyes of a rabbit startled by headlights on a dark, outback road. He doesn’t answer. His eyes are fixed on searching.

‘You know it’s all in your head. It’s not real,’ says the sister.

‘Mmm, that’s what Mum says.’ He draws in close to the sister. ‘Don’t you think they’re watching me?’ he asks. ‘I mean, really? They’ve got cameras everywhere, hidden.’

The sister smiles. ‘No. It’s in your head. It’s your reality but it’s not real. You’re a good person.’ The sister smiles. ‘You know I'll always look after you and I’d tell you if you were in any harm.’

He nods. ‘I know.’

She kisses his cheek. ‘Now go home before your hand shakes off.’

He giggles as a tickled child, revealing a glimmer of his old self. He pecks a kiss good-bye on the sister’s cheek and dashes to the checkout, paying without lifting his head from his wallet and almost skirting off without collecting his change. He marches to his car parked out of the way, with a string of frazzled peeks around him. He unlocks the car and bundles in, tossing his bag on the seat beside him to expose the box of chocolates.

He’s home in record time and once there, heads for his studio. He shuts the door behind him and draws the blinds closed. He sits alone and paints under artificial light, while the sun and all its rays dance outside.

*An excerpt from ‘Sadie’.

 

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