Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hannah Jenner's point, on Sydney Bay

I was struck by Hannah Jenner (nine at the time) the first time I ever saw her, at Jenny's zoo "funshop" slide show, at the St. Louis unschooling conference three years ago. I was sitting in the front of the room, watching Jenny's slides, when I caught Hannah out of the corner of my eye. She was surrounded by other young girls her age who were all looking at her instead of at the slides. Hannah was staring at the slides, her beautiful face and blond hair glowing in the soft light. I remember thinking how confident she seemed and that I thought I knew what the other girls were seeing.

My kids went with Hannah, Hayden, their grandmother and Nicolas to the zoo and Diana and I met up with them later at St. Louis' City Museum. There, I remember watching Hannah crawl away from everyone up these tunnel mazes, completely unafraid of getting separated from the others. I remember thinking how brave she seemed. I was definitely right about that perception.

I have had a small allotment of Hannah's ashes for a while now, sitting on a special shelf, in the tiny, heart decorated plastic bag in which her mother placed them. I had thought that I would scatter her at the farm, to be with our vegetables. But I just couldn't do it.

Finally, four days ago, on our last day in Sydney, I released her into Sydney Bay. Naomi had pointed the spot out to me. I took this picture of it, earlier in the week, while on the ferry. It is called Cremonte Point. It is at the end of a long, hilly, twisting, bay side walk near my brother's home and it has a view of the Sydney Opera House and of the Harbour Bridge. Ferries and sea kayakers pass by regularly.

Several interesting things happened on Nicolas' and my walk to and from the point that morning. A woman was at the point, maybe in her sixties. After some brief hellos, she asked us how we'd come to be in Sydney. Nicolas told her about visiting my brother and his wife. She replied, "It's important to have our loved ones in beautiful places." That gave me confidence that we'd picked the right spot for Hannah. She told us that she was just starting to embark on a new adventure as a photo journalist student, her on-line classes begin next week. She said that she would take what she wanted from the course and not stress about doing everything that was asked. She was doing this for herself. An unschooler at heart.

We climbed down the rocks. I gave Hannah a prayer of thanks and let her go into the bay.

On the walk home, we had the amazing fortune to meet a legendary woman who has been gardening the long rocky slope near her home for decades. Here is more information about her (click on the picture to enlarge it):We had been visiting this beautiful garden on previous walks, Gillen naming different sections of it - "Fairy Garden", "Water Garden", "Rock Garden"... Her name is Ruby. She happened to be out on the path, mulching the top part of the garden as we passed by. We stopped and had a wonderful conversation with her. She is now 93 years old. She pointed to a beautiful large black butterfly that kept fluttering around her and said that she'd decided to call it "Mum" because it had showed up that morning and had continually settled on a plant that she and her husband had put in the garden years ago to honor his mother. Ruby has a wonderful smile. I could tell that she missed her husband terribly, and that she gets to be with him still in their garden.

There was a commemorative plaque at the point, put there to remember a 16 year old girl who'd died there twenty years ago.

We thought about courage and loss, about living brightly and briefly, and about surviving those we've lost. Thank you Diana, for sharing your daughter and your experiences with us.


Vicki said...

So beautiful. You always have the perfect words. I also still have some of Hannah's ashes. We found a beautiful spot high in the mountains with a waterfall & hanging lake, only to discover I left the ashes in my purse, in the car. We've been numerous nice places since then, but not just any place will do....Hannah Jenner's Point is wonderful. :)

Tamar Orvell said...

How deeply touching to read that in the midst of your joyous journey you remember one gone and her parents — survivors, as you say, of the loss. And loss, as do pain and heartbreak, teach us if we have the courage to learn. Thank you.

kelli said...

Beautiful Madeline. Hannah in Australia, that's wonderful. Thanks for sharing :)

Cami said...

I'm speechless... loving and beautiful post!

mindy said...

Your beautiful tribute brought tears to my eyes. How absolutely perfect!
Glad you're home safe and sound.

Jessica said...

Beautiful, beautiful.
Love, Jessica

Sara said...

That's a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing, and for sharing so much of your trip.