Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The spirit in things




In my experience, often when people lose very close loved ones they turn to religion or spirituality for succour. A mad dash to the pulpit is not for me but, amidst the platitudes and pleasantries that I have found myself doling out over recent weeks, some weird powers have been at sway, dumping religion, God even, into my lap.

During the wake for Mrs U one of the delectable catering staff we hired turned out to be a book editor for a major publishing house (in the children and young adult arena I believe). Using the W.C at the rear of the house – the one that I only arghhh today remembered has a big poster of a girl having beer splashed all over her breasts (a gift to Mr U from one of his pals during their more boisterous days) – the editor found herself reading a piece I wrote a thousand years ago called Stealing Jesus. It’s about a boy who secreted a host (the piece of unleavened bread that represents the body of Christ for the heathens out there) whilst serving as an alter boy. Man I had not thought about that story, about that period or about that church for a long, long time and yet she really liked the story and seemed struck by it.

On Monday I interviewed a wonderful young NZ woman who has been working in Cambodia teaching girls whose families had sold them into prostitution (for reasons too complicated and tragic to enter into here) to make jewellery as part of their recovery and rehabilitation period. This 29-year-old is about to throw in her life as a teacher in NZ and return to that country and volunteer her services for two whole years. At that age I shudder to think what I was doing. I believe it was throwing back Moet and complaining about my workload on the Melbourne Fashion Festival account and trying desperately to sneak a weekend away in or dinner with the girls. Hmmmm.

The really interesting thing about my interviewee though was how she came to even find out about the group in Cambodia she is now working so diligently for. She qualified me very carefully before she told me and asked a few times, “This won’t freak you out too much will it?” before going on to explain:“I said to God, if you give me a contact in Cambodia and at least around $800 worth of jewellery supplies to get things started I will do the rest.” The next day her sister called, said she’d met a woman running an NGO in Cambodia who’d just had a whole heap of jewellery supplies donated to her, didn’t know how to use them and was desperate for someone to come and teach her girls skills in this area that they could then trade on. Spooky no?

Finally, last night, while tossing and turning at 2.30am as per usual a fabulous idea for a story came into my head involving a haunting by a recently deceased family member. Of course I am reading Hilary Mantel’s fabulous book, Beyond Black, which deals with spirit mediums but I did think, imagine if – amongst all the other gifts and kindness my mother in law has given us – she gives me the elusive idea I’ve been looking for for a book. Drawing a long bow I know and jumping the gun and imagining I can write the bloody thing but, hey, if I did, the press release would write itself.

Say a little prayer hey?