Making Sense of the Past in the Uncomfortable Present

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

I thought that I would revisit this easter post, I originally wrote it in 2017. Does it feel like another world ago for you too? This easter we are all compelled to stay home and with only the people we are living with. There will be no large family gatherings, or celebration this year.

How strange it is to be even living through these times. I have been journaling my own experience of our lives, but as I am still finding my way through this one day at a time I am not yet ready to share.

I wonder if I look back at this day in 2023 what will be happening?

I still hold the many questions and thoughts that I had about Easter when I wrote this as I do today. Although I'm not sure it is a time for me to try and make sense of my past when being in my present is so uncomfortable. There are still questions about the ethical nature of chocolate, but while the shop shelves are emptied of essential items it's hard to think about that. Human trafficking and slave labour is viewed through the prism of covid19 and redefined here by Arundhati Roy for the Finacial Review. And in the light of George Pell being released from prison this week my questions about power/authority and the Catholic Church will remain as questions as I am too weary to even go there.

Our eldest son is in the hospital with double pneumonia, what a relief it was when we were told the results of all the test.

'Oh, it's just double pneumonia'.

Our next son lives in Victoria, 800km away, close enough in my mind to jump in the car and go and get him if things get worse. He is safe where he is at the moment. But he is there.

My brother is in Guangzhou just over 800km from Wuhan not really that far at all. The detention centre is in lockdown, so he is safe from the virus. But lockdown in detention means something entirely different. He has not left his cell in over 60 days.

My eldest daughter, the one I went quince picking with back in 2017, is staying with dear friends on the other side of the city. They are isolating together, which is nice, but it means she is not here. In the past weeks, we have prepared quince tarts, crumbles and lamb dishes with this year's bounty. But she is not here now, with me. I have my husband and my youngest daughter and today we have painted eggs and eaten hot cross buns. We have rearranged our bookshelves and settled the school guinea pigs in for the holidays.

The weariness and grief I feel can only be soothed by doing, by being present and messing about with quinces in the kitchen. On this day in 2017, I was apparently 'lounging in the Autumn sun' without a care in the world.

I'm not sure I would wish for those times again, and the idea of being unemployed today is filled with much more dread and fear. Queues at Centrelink offices, tears and frustration, uncertain tomorrows...

Revisiting the past gives us the fuel for reflection, how olden days were easier, times were different and times have changed.

How can we change our future? Do we want to?

Below is my Easter post from 2017, taking a wander into another time and place if just to revisit Isla, the Scottish girl, sometimes can soothe, sometimes its the only way to tell you are still alive.


I have quit my job, and I am enjoying having my weekends back. For the moment, I am enjoying being a part of the group of people that drink coffee whilst lounging in the Autumn sun. It feels luxurious to be able to ponder life and roll with the demands of living with teenagers and their part-time jobs. Amongst all the sun, coffee, and conversation I have been thinking about Easter, as I do every year, trying to work out what it means to me, and what part of this festival do I want to share with my children? Although they are older now and just in it for the chocolate, and chocolate is something any one of them could access themselves on any day of the year, a gift of chocolate from family on Easter is different.

A few experiences have inspired me to write this today the first being a YouTube clip of that Scottish girl and her dad pondering the big questions. If you have not fallen in love with her yet you should go and do it now, and then come back and keep reading.

The connection between chocolate and the death of Jesus is indeed a ponderous one for a child to understand. In adulthood, we become cynically aware of consumerism. Every year there are campaigns around which chocolate we should and should not buy. Last year the devastating effects of palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia were the campaigns that hit my inbox the most. Which suppliers support the plantations and which don’t? It makes choosing chocolate an ethical decision; which, of course, it must be if I am to live with myself and the scruples of my community.

This year, however, the fact that most mass-produced chocolate is fuelled by or is fuelling child trafficking and slavery is on my media feed. The plight of the Orangutans and the consumer choice of sustainable palm oil or not seems futile compared to the devastation of human lives. But for me, If I get bogged down with the choice and the ethics I become frozen with indecision. Frozen and emotionless, and that’s not what Easter means to me.

I grew up knowing that Jesus died on Friday and for some reason that meant we only ate fish. Oh, the questions I had! I was taught that when they rolled that big rock from the cave entrance on Sunday morning he was gone. Or as the Catholic school pictorial reader showed, he was a blue-eyed guy with a beard, if you want to know what he looked like, it's a similar watercolour image used in the Watch Tower magazines. In the book, I was given he floated out from that cave unseen by the guards. This meant he was reborn…and we got to celebrate that.

My questions around Easter had remained unanswered because I was never sure of how to phrase them. Besides the fact that I was too frightened by adults, especially ones that wore religious garb. In confession if the priest told me I had sinned, well then it was true, I had sinned. But I never knew how or what it was that I had done that would deserve not only, so many Hail Mary’s and so many more Our Father’s, but also, the weight of knowing I had done something wrong. I remember having to make up a sin to confess, sometimes I would say that I had told a lie, and sometimes, I would say I said that said a swear word. Both of them lies that I could confess the next Sunday. I never knew I had the right to question, the idea of having an original thought or idea that was not prescribed by my school and was beyond my cognition. Taking a step forward and asking a question was absolutely out of the question.

Today, Easter Saturday, and as I drive into a nearby township to collect my daughter from her part-time job, it is always such a joy to pick her up and hear about her day spent with like-minded souls treating her like the beautiful adult she will become. I try not to let my head be swayed by the arguments about why Cadbury’s has removed the word Easter from all their eggs; a massive ideological discussion about secularism and where it belongs in Australia, which while taking up a lot of my brain space at the moment, is too big for today’s blog. I was also thinking about a conversation I had with a Columbian Café owner who explained to me the damage that free trade products can do within a community by preventing a family’s access to work because we, the righteous consumers, have decided that children should be in school until they are 18, and not working on a farm.

In a desperate plea to myself to relax and enjoy Easter I decide to take the back roads, it is Saturday after all. I am not far down the road when I remember the wild quinces that should be ripening now. When my children were young and they believed in the magic of chocolate appearing in the garden, we would glean fruit from the side of the road. Figs, apples, and apricots if I managed to get lucky, and get to them before the birds, and quinces. The dirt roads that make me wonder if the suspension on my car can cope, take me back to a time when these roads were a part of me finding my life direction. These are the roads along which I drove, often with one too many wines, from my good friend Mikaela’s house, after spending the afternoon gleaning apples and quinces that otherwise would have fallen to the ground. I loved the excitement of harvesting a newly found tree or finding that my favourite quinces had, for another year remained a secret from other foragers, it made me giddy with love for Autumn and the fragrance that would fill my house for the coming weeks. Those apples and quinces provided many of our favourite meals together, who said sweet crumble was not a nutritious meal? The aroma fed my spirit as it filled our home and today it reminds me of what Easter in Autumn means to me.

My daughter and I stop to pick from my favourite tree, it feels like visiting an old friend. We must scuttle down a steep incline to reach the best ones. The ones at the top which have been warmed by the sun, they feel warm and precious in my hands as I bring each one to my nose and breathe deeply. This is what Easter could be for us, unlike the Catholic rituals that I could never quite grasp, I can feel and smell and taste this moment. I’m not foolish enough to believe that I could expect my family of teenagers to be as thrilled as I am about this ritual, I can’t imagine them coming along on a family gleaning spree each Easter. But today, in this moment whilst the sun is shining and my daughter is smiling I need not think about the politicisation of Easter or the secularisation of chocolate or whether free trade products cause more harm than good.

Now, as the sun sets on Easter Saturday, my house is filled with the aroma of wild quinces and it reminds me of all the things in this world I would like to protect my children from, and all the things in this world that I cannot protect them from. The back roads between Aldinga and Willunga are filled with treasures and memories and if I can remember to get back there every now and again, I’ll get through the ethical confusion Easter brings.

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