After MH370 went missing I joined in the crowd-search for wreckage using the Tomnod satellite.
Rightly or wrongly, I had, from early on, an apprehension that after saying ‘Goodnight Malaysia’, the sad-eyed captain with the lop-sided smile, had piloted a ghost aircraft through the midnight hours until dawn broke gloriously orange, purple, green and pink over the silvery southern Indian Ocean.
Was his goal to ditch and sink the aircraft into one of the deep fissures that are closer to hell than heaven in that vast, cold, abyssal plain? It was agreed by experts that fuel would be exhausted around daybreak in Australia. So, the green clouds on this blog are the actual clouds I captured using the Tomnod sat at dawn over the aircraft’s presumed watery grave in March 2014.
The Green Clouds enchanted me and they became an imagined point of departure for me, and for others like those 239 souls on board.
Green is also my favourite colour.
And because, In Fargo, Malvo says to Grimly: “Did you know a human eye can see more shades of green than any other color?”
Malvo repeats himself: “My question for you is, ‘Why?’”
The people on board MH370 know why: Because of predators.
As someone who uses portable oxygen to fly, I have, in the wee small hours, terrorized myself with imaginings of what it must have been like for those wretched passengers to be suffocated, before a hand on the controls made a series of turns that cleverly minimized radar detection. Then there is the telling final farewell flight over the Island of Penang. Did Captain Zaharie Shah, as fellow Boeing 777 Captain Simon Hardy believes, make a last emotional fly over the island where he was born?
Living with serious lung disease, I am no stranger to hypoxia. One can indeed go gently into that good night. But had I been on board flight MH370 with my O2, would I have survived depressurization? Would I have noticed the turn back over land? Would I have seen with growing horror that the gibbous moon was on the wrong side of the plane? The stuff of nightmares.
The finding of the wing flap from the missing Malaysian plane tells us part of the story. I hope I can live to find out how it ends. But death might interrupt me, as it did the 239 passengers and crew.
Being in the Departure Lounge, mercifully, I can skip endless articles like, ‘Have You Got Enough Superannuation?’ As I said to a friend, I don’t even buy green bananas these days!
Blessedly, much falls away when you don’t presume to live a long time.
How am I?
One blonde joke I liked has the woman telling her doctor that no matter where she presses on her body, she could feel pain. I know exactly how she feels—but I don’t have a broken finger!
Truth is, I have wanted to push the boat out a couple of times this past winter. The cold has challenged me like never before; I’ve felt I’ve had have had to drag each breath out of the air.
I had pulled up the drawbridge to keep out the worst of the flu and colds but pneumonia snuck over the battlements. My liver gave me a good kicking for the first time in my life, an odd experience for a teetotaller of some years. And spitting blood reminds me daily that bronchial valves aren’t for everybody, but hey, can’t take ‘em out, so, Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammocycllin!
Perhaps it’s apt that the year in which we commemorate (not celebrate, please) the centenary of Gallipoli—that theatre of senseless slaughter of the young ANZACs—that a long shadow has cast itself across this great southern land. Can a wealthy nation really cut $11 billion in foreign aid and sleep easy at night? Nope, it can not. Our meanness is diminishing us.
Getting all out for 60 in The Ashes is the least of Australia’s humiliations. Our Prime Minister believes three things: ‘Climate change is crap’. ‘Coal is good for humanity’. ‘Isis is coming to get us’. Yes, it’s our Downunder Dubbya Moment, folks. The guy jumped the shark the day he bit into a raw onion, skin and all.
It is a harsh winter by our usually mild standards. But I am not stateless, or homeless. I am not chilled to the bone. I am not alone. Nor am I hungry.
The last thing that testy old wartime leader Winston Churchill said of life before he died was, ‘I am bored of this’. I am not bored, not a bit of it. I just got to see Pluto, a lifelong dream for an amateur astronomer and student of astrology.
As the dwarf planet turned a heavenly heart-shaped face towards us, SETI offered a million bucks to the person who could write the best message in the event of us earthlings finding intelligent alien life. Twitter might solve this, although words will have their limits. As they do. We might go back to pictographs, or sounds.
I wonder about this.
Flights are always leaving and landing: A man whose mind I admire lies dying and believes he’s in a TS Eliot poem; a close friend deals cheerfully with a diagnosis of Melanoma and buys a salted caramel ice-cream. While having a cuppa, my 94 year-old aunt dies this year, as does a young UK writer who streaked like a comet across the blogosphere with her sublimely written Oblamov’s Sofa, as raved about by Clive James, no less.
Until death do us part . . .
I hope to wed my partner of 22 years but our parliament is in no hurry to catch up with the rest of the world in allowing same sex marriage. Apparently we are to be kept out of the club for a while longer. Australia, as writer Bob Ellis quipped, is waiting to see what happens in Uganda.
I mention the loveable larrikin and Labor lion, Bob Ellis, because his writings are much admired and enjoyed by me. While Bob receives treatment for terminal cancer, his wife Annie, has released ‘Interruption’, an unpublished book, for subscribers to Bob’s famous Table Talk blog.
“What does interruption mean?” Bob writes. “It means you are in one world, and you are pitched, suddenly and rudely, into another.
“The ground rules have changed. You are now somewhere, and someone, else.”
Bob was speaking not of death, but of all the little and big things in life that John Lennon said ‘is what happens while you’re busy making other plans’.
But death is the ultimate and last of the plague of interruptions.
That’s the thing about dying; you’ll never know what happens! How the story ends. I have questions that time may or may not answer, but in the end we, all of us and our questions, will be as a layer of icing in a geological cake: The Anthropocene is our layer. Although, as attested to by to the zillions of plastic balls that wash up on our beaches and choke our marine life, I think we should be known as The Plasticene.
I’ve looked at clouds, from both sides now. Joni Mitchell: