The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey won Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, the Miles Franklin Award, (2021). The award was well-deserved. It’s one of the best books I’ve read for a long time. The Labyrinth tells the story of loss and grief experienced by a middle-aged woman, as well as her path to recovery. Beautifully written, the novel is haunting, poetic and deeply moving.
Lohrey’s seventh novel also sent me on a journey to discover more about labyrinths.
Goal-setting – a skill I learned well in my twenties – usually stands me in good stead when I want to get things done. Finish a doctoral degree, declutter a house, learn a new crochet stitch? Set a goal. Job done!
Although 2020 brought many problems as COVID-19 spread around the world, I managed to maintain my usual goal-setting skills. A couple of lockdowns hardly fazed me. Instead, I enjoyed the peace and not having to go out.
Living in Western Australia, still able to move, work and play freely, reminds me how lucky we are. No restrictions, no masks. Only hard borders to the outside world and the other states tells us of the pandemic. Oh, and the media! Another story altogether.
This year brought a set of problems, different from COVID-19 to my family. We were rocked to our core by the tragic death of my younger daughter, Anne, on 27 December 2020. Loss, grief and mourning take their toll. They demand commitment and hard work. For months, I felt old and frail. My gait and fitness slowed. My coping skills took a hard knock.
Cubby study sanctuary, my place to retreat and enjoy. The tiny space off the living room in our apartment grabbed my attention. Used for storage of unfolded laundry by the tenants-in-residence, its potential thrilled.
‘It’s called a study-nook on the plan,’ the real estate agent said.
A short story cycle can also be described as ‘linked short stories’ or ‘a novel in short stories’. Whatever we choose to call it, the genre consists of a number of stories linked in a variety of ways. Each story stands alone with its own structure and plot. However, when published together they make a satisfying reading experience, comparable to a longer work of fiction.
Illustrated Nature Poetry: An Anthology captured my attention the minute I saw the attractive cover. Sadly, my photography skills didn’t quite capture the glossiness or quality of the book. Always on the lookout for things to share with my great-grandchildren, this book seemed to fit the bill.
Goodbye, soggy July 2021! Surprisingly for a committed winter lover, I’m glad to see the back of the month just gone. July 2021 was the second wettest July on record. That’s pretty wet. I know people who talk happily about ‘dry July’. Not us.
The month reminded me of winters when I was a child in the 1940s. Heavy rain often drenched us on the short walk from the tram stop in Beaufort Street, Highgate to the school gate.
In those days, parents didn’t think to drive kids to school. We made our own way. If that meant catching trams or busses, walking and sitting all day in damp clothes and shoes, so be it! The horrid smell of wet wool in the classroom stays with me after all these years
Metal Fish, Falling Snow, Cath Moore’s poignant, beautifully-written debut novel, touched me deeply. This so-called ‘young adult’ novel kept me, an old woman, reading avidly from start to finish. Not only that, several times I went back to reread a particularly moving passage or to savour the language.
The novel was awarded the 2021 Victorian Premier’s YA Literary Award. It was listed for the 2021 Stella Prize.
Masking-up in Western Australia has been with us on and off for months. After a year of freedom from this practice, at first we found it hard. And it continues to be a difficult duty we perform for our own good and that of others. However, older women seem to have a more difficult time than most.
For the first year of the pandemic, we relied on lockdowns, social distancing, washing our hands red raw and cleaning ad nauseum. We stayed home when sick and got tested for the disease. Bemused, we watched the citizens of other, less lucky, countries. They wore masks everywhere.
Practising kindness really can improve our wellbeing. We all know that eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting enough sleep are essential for our health. So, too, are not smoking or drinking too much alcohol. And, as scientists have recently discovered, getting up and moving rather than sitting too long provides benefits. So does improving how fast we walk, especially as we age.
Now we can add being kind to the list of life-enhancing habits we can cultivate.
Reset time in my calendar usually takes place at the beginning of January. This year, however, did not go according to plan. The tragic death of my daughter, Anne, on 27 December 2020 threw any plans I may have had for 2021 into disarray.
Grief and mourning take their toll. Unrelenting, they extort enormous energy from those who suffer loss. Disbelief and denial, anger, bargaining, questioning and depression follow each other in rapid succession. They repeat themselves over and over as a person tries to come to terms with a major loss. They leave exhaustion and lethargy in their wake.