Candle of Hope
Ways of Seeing - A Journal

May 21 2003

Today I packed my bags and went to school. Work is a distraction! Being with adolescents helps to divert me. My Year 12 class know that they have to fend for themselves for the next few weeks but they know that I am only an email away and that they can show me their work in their virtual workbooks.

All year we have been working with metaphors, trying to find visual images that will help them to understand the concepts that we are studying. We have drawn footprints, traced our hands and used our fingers to identify the main arguments. All of us think that it is pretty amazing that we are currently studying "a lesson before dying" by Ernest J. Gaines. All of us agree that the lesson of "a lesson before dying" is really about living, but we are all overwhelmed by the fact that as I explore key sections I am facing the reality that my soul mate might die.

"We are all organisms! We are all going to die!" I say.

No! We cannot spend these days before Darryl's operation talking this bluntly. I had to find a different way to approach my situation and the book. So today, instead of talking we sat in the art room making Dame Edna Everidge style glasses.

We raided all the supplies in the storeroom and decorated our glasses with glitter and feathers. Then we put them on and set off around the school to see if things looked any different through these flamboyant glasses.

They did! Everyone came back knowing that nothing would ever be the same again. A couple of students wanted to take big cans of paint and splash bright paint over the walls. Everyone noticed that no-one else appeared to be having fun and that they could not see the funny side of what we were doing. Everyone knew that they had stepped over the line, broken the rules of engagement and could not step back.

As yet another class made glasses to alter their view of the world I picked up old National Geographics and flicked through them, searching, hoping I would find a metaphor that would enable me to start writing again, that would help melt the shard of ice that had pierced my throat and stopped the flow of words. I happened upon the Clown of the Desert, the road runner who was immortalized in film. The road runner seemed to be telling me something.

I picked up my pen and began to write

The mercury hovers above 100F in this western Texas desert as I run, wearing thick trousers, boots and field jacket. I run, scurrying through the brush pursuing the legendary roadrunner who so many people believe only exists in the cartoon.

The road runner is superbly adapted to the desert and fearlessly goes where no other will go. Perhaps if I locate a road runners roost I can watch and mimic their behavior. Perhaps I will be quick and fearless and repeatedly strike the fear that fills my upper intestine, the fear that this time the cancer which has occupied Darryl's bowel might kill him.

Because of its lightening quickness, the Roadrunner is one of the few animals that preys upon rattlesnakes. Using its wings like a matador's cape, it snaps up a coiled rattlesnake by the tail, cracks it like a whip and repeatedly slams its head against the ground till dead.

I run within reach of the rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas and black widow spiders who everyone usually keeps their distance from. I run directly towards them, determined to find them, look them in the eye and in doing so face my fear.

Like the roadrunner I deftly flap my wings and avoid injury by leaping up and spreading my feathers. I know this will outwit my enemy. I have run this road before. I am familiar with how cancer masks itself, how it lies silently waiting for the call to unmask.

Well it has unmasked now. Darryl's bowel has narrowed again and the surgery takes place on May 28th. Perhaps we should draw a roadrunner on Darryl stomach so that the surgeon is reminded to act with the speed and defiance of the clown of the desert, the sharp witted little roadrunner who is known and loved all around the world.