It’s always darkest before the dawn, right?
Maybe it’s equally true that it’s always craziest in the days before hockey classes start again, to provide order and release?
Because, believe me, these are strange times, my friends. Oh, what strange times we live in that blue jelly balls can fall as hail from the English sky, and a Lego man can be sent clear into space by a couple of teenage nerds or, while we’re on Lego, that shit, a giant Lego man can wash ashore in Florida and the local police don’t have any better ideas than to arrest him.
What strange times are these that an NHL star can wear a Superman cape and Clark Kent glasses on the ice, or that the bass player for The Stone Roses can try to withdraw cash to buy milk from an autobank and find two million pounds he wasn’t expecting in the account balance?
Is it any wonder that last Thursday, having decided to spend the Australia Day holiday working on my new novel (Hereby known as “Let It Slide” – thanks for the working title, Mack), I wrote exactly 155 words before realising strange flashes of light were still in my peripheral vision, as they had been the night before. Five hours later, at the Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital, a doctor and I were discussing when I had last eaten, because he was planning an emergency operation, if theatre was set up on the public holiday, and a surgeon was in the house. We discussed the likelihood of my losing the sight in my right eye if the retina fully tore away. As it was, a small retina tear was corralled by “lasers” (Dr Evil air-quote marks there) on the spot and I was sent back into the day, reeling, but allegedly ok.
But not totally ok. It means I am still seeing the world through what looks like a dirty car windscreen and it forced an exercise-free weekend – no running, no boxing last night – when I really needed to bust some stress. It should also mean no hockey tomorrow night but, hey, I’m a hockey player and with some of the stuff that’s been going on in my life, I really need to go play hockey.
It’s a strange world when you can be bodysurfing at Lorne at 3.30 pm, then ice skating (gently, protecting eye) at the Icehouse by 6 pm. And even stranger when you can sit with your parents, making important decisions about whether they will leave your spiritual home or not, and the decision starts to lean to ‘not’, and you start to breathe again and you look out the window and right then, at that exact moment, no less than five yellow-tailed black cockatoos, your totem bird, do a fly-by, all but winking as they pass, a few metres away. And yet a few hours later, in the remorseless heat of a Melbourne summer night that forgets to cool down, and in the wake of the parts of life that are difficult to understand and after an airport run to collect your teenage son who has wild stories of elephants and being the first westerner in a village for four years, meaning the littlest kids had never seen a white person, you find you cannot sleep because of the way everything is swirling and sneaking up on your brain and conspiring to stop you sleeping. And yet you can’t open your eyes because the flashes are there, hinting that your retina may yet blow a fuse and release your secret fear of blindness, not to mention ending your hockey career right there.
So you lie sweating in the pre-dawn, idly listing all the things you need two eyes to achieve, and trying not to think about much better reasons to be sweaty in the pre-dawn and how far away the prospect of exploring that ever again feels, and whether Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk will star in the NHL All-Star game later that day (they did pretty well) and eventually you surf Facebook and smile at how stir-crazy the hockey group’s posts are becoming as we all wait for action, sweet action, and you spend the dawn trading emails with a friend just in from skiing in the French Alps, rugged up in a beanie and gloves and scarf as the heat smashes you in your bed.
A strange world in need of another friend, a magician, who is wise beyond his years and sips his cider 12 hours later as a cool breeze finally blows through your town and tells you: “I’ve learned that what people say doesn’t mean what they said and even what people do doesn’t mean that’s what they did.” Or something like that. It doesn’t make sense to me either, now, but magic is about misdirection, I suppose, or maybe I was distracted, as I always am at the Black Cat, by the giant framed tarantulas on the wall, hammered into a wooden vertical map of my suburb; wondering if the people on the corner of Gore and Napier streets realize an arachnid bigger than two houses is right there, hovering over them?
A strange, uncertain world but starting to right itself, if I let it. If I remain open to the fact that the future is full of possibility and adventures, if danger and sadness. But then, isn’t that always the case? Yet again, I repeat the mantra of a wise woman I met, who told me that when heaviness weighed down her world, she reminds herself: “Levity, punk!”
Lightness. As any hockey player knows, all you can do is put one skate in front of the other and try to skate to where the puck will be, not where the puck is. One more sleep, heat permitting, until I don my shoulder armour, my padded shorts, my knee guards, elbow guards and gloves, pull my Australian-first Grand Rapids Griffins jersey over my bulky armour and lace up my gorgeous Reeboks. I’ll buckle my helmet (full visor to protect my eye), grab my Crosby stick, watch the Zamboni finish its run, banter with my fellow rookies, feel my heartbeat start to race and finally make my way onto the smooth Icehouse ice.
Let the new term begin. I think you can believe me when I say I can honestly hardly wait.