Hello friends, I am looking for one more person to join the Have You Seen team. If you have administrative inclinations and one to two hours every three weeks to invest and bless the community, email me at [email protected] Bayta, Sarah, and I would love to have you join us! Amy
We are at the end of The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway, as we discuss the final two chapters. I have just finished reading and feel a solemn heaviness as the book ends with Jill leaving for her studies and life in America.
While her path to a life overseas was different than mine (and I’m sure, yours), I found myself reflecting on my own journey. But before we get to that, let’s back up to the beginning of today’s section, as Jill and her mom go on a year long voyage to England and parts of Europe. Through not getting the traineeship, Jill has to confront her beliefs that merit would override societal norms and beliefs—mainly in the arena of gender roles for herself and handicaps for aboriginals.
I understand the disconnect she felt as her head understood the unjustness, “yet try as I might, I couldn’t choke back a sense of grief for my lost self.” (194)
I like that phrase “my lost self.” Most of us at one time, or another, have experienced the loss of ourselves over what was not to be. A friend, whose 91 year old mother recently died, said the hardest part of the grief was having to grieve what was not. She had been a delight to her dad and a disappointment to her mom. Grief is often not only about what we have lost, it is also about what never was.
One of the recurring threads in this book was being raised in a colonial world. I can’t imagine wearing clothing that would have been more temperature appropriate for England; but that could be because I get very cranky if I’m wearing clothing that it too hot for a setting for no good (to me) reason. On this trip, “For each of us, in our separate ways, the journey involved the redefinition of our relationship to the past and reconfiguring our sense of geography. Just as we know ourselves in relation to others, so I know how beautiful Australia was only after encountering the real rather than the imagined landscape of England and Europe.” (201)
During this trip Jill also began to experience God via different cultural interactions (203). How has your understanding of God been broadened or challenged by living in another culture?
As Jill came to see England through a different lens, I thought of our own day. Many of us come from countries that benefit from the cheaper labor found in countries we live and serve in. “Now, on meeting its members [where their wool was sold], I saw not men of financial genius but comfortable bureaucrats who throve on borrowing money at one rate in the London financial markets and then lending it to gullible colonials at a three or four percent higher rate.”
Later, in the same section, “That was the problem with my attitudes to this beautiful and perplexing country. I love its medieval and early modern history and detested its imperial complacency. . . It was tiresome to have such contradictory reactions.” (208) We get you, Jill. It is!
Returning to Australia, Jill begins to sort out her place in the world. Would she be an academic? Would she return to Coorain? What were her responsibilities to her mother?
Watching her relationship with her mom throughout this book was heartbreaking—for both, but more so for Jill. When she finally was able to grieve for the death of her dad, I felt relieved that she was in a position to be able to tell the truth to herself about his death. “I was going to be different [from my parents and nourish hope]. I was going to be life-affirming from now on, grateful to have been born, not profligate in risking my life for the sake of the panache of it, not all-too-ready to embrace a hostile fate. . . Mine was going to be a law of affirming life regardless of past training.” (232)
I had to laugh when she said, “What would the hapless committee chairman do if I wrote the truth” about why I was interested in applying to Harvard. We can relate, can’t we? Even if we didn’t mean to, most of us didn’t tell the whole truth about why we were interested in serving overseas—in truth, we may not have even known all of our own motives.
While I was glad that she broke away from the dysfunctional living environment with her mom, I was saddened it had come to that.
So much to talk about in the comments!
P.S. Next week is Sabbath, so no post. In July we begin
July 11—Chapters 1-8
July 18—Chapters 9-17
July 25—Chapters 18-22
Hadassah recommended this book for us to read as a community (I love getting recommendations from you). “Inspired by a true story, and set against the backdrop of a country in transition, The Scavenger’s Daughters is a sweeping present day saga of triumph in the face of hardship, and the unbreakable bonds of family against all odds.” Placed in China, themes of gender and societal value, I have not read this yet and look forward to July.