Memory lane

JAN RODDA is as Freo as you get; it’s been 50 years since she walked out the doors of John Curtin High School as a student for the last time, and in this week’s REFLECTIONS she ponders what that has meant for her life and what memories her classmates might share as they celebrate a big reunion this weekend.

So there we were at 1969’s end with a wonderful world waiting for us as late baby boomers.

October 2019 is truly a milestone for me and fellow students, 50 years on.

At our reunion we’ll celebrate our connections with one another, our trajectories, our life choices and privileges. We have every reason to.

Our parents and grandparents fought for us in WWI and II, and Korea, to keep us safe. No more war – so we thought.

Perched in class at my favourite window at JCSHS I watched the ships, ocean and islands and dreamed. We all did.

Little did I know that each day on my way to and from school I was passing Dingo Dreaming, a site of immense indigenous cultural importance on Cantonment Hill.

Like all song lines, this place links with natural elements close and afar.

In 1969 we had Woodstock – our musical signature. Also Abbey Road by the Beatles. Little did I know my daughter would be Abbey Rodda. I was yet to love David Bowie and Tracie Chapman. Up in the sky we had Comet Bennet and someone trod on the moon.

I’m grateful our geography teacher Barry McRobert let rip one day. Down behind the gym, near the slopey limestone, he turned on the lonely garden tap and let it gush as if there were no tomorrows.

We witnessed rivers forming, valleys old and young, river bends and oxbow lakes, erosion and some of the life cycles of H2O.

This experience has stayed with me as a profound appreciation of water and her cycles. Thank you Mr Mac. In fact, I enjoyed paddling the Avon Descent three times because of you.

In fourth year (now Year 11) Muriel Andrews blew in as our all-girl class’s form and English teacher.

Less formal than most teachers, radical even, she shared with us some of her life experiences. It opened me up to taking in lots of life experiences and not judging people by their profession – or at all. I have been a glutton for experiences ever since.

She inspired me to say “yes”, and follow things I believe in.

I have fumbled through these 50 years going sideways, downwards and spiralling down some more and sometimes maybe upwards, whatever that might mean.

Mrs Andrews died suddenly and three of us, Robyn, Christine and I in our school hats attended her funeral – our first. I am indebted to you Mrs Andrews.

Literature teacher Desmond Crock opened my eyes to passion, pride, loss, prejudice, rage, death and, of course, love. He fulfilled a deep yearning I hadn’t felt before, for informed and informing, for rich, exploratory discussion. Thank you.

Achieving the bronze Duke of Edinburgh award, with Miss Sippe and Mr Talenta to guide us, emboldened me with a lust for adventure, expeditions, community, animals and volunteering. These still shape my life.

Miss Critch sparked my curiosity and awe with the natural world during biology. I loved learning about the cycles of life: biological, chemical and systemic. Next years’ book was to be called ‘The Web of Life’ and was based on ecology… a newly coined word. This new discipline demonstrated our inarguable interconnectedness with the natural world.

Three degrees, but six of separation they say.

Three degrees, when 1.5 degrees celsius is the Paris Agreement target for life on earth as we know it.

We have reached a tipping point.

Are we separated or connected by six degrees from our true connections with nature and Mother Earth? This man-made ecological crises has occurred exponentially in the 50 years since we left school.

Our 50 years since graduation have given us enormous choice, growth, excess and destruction.

I wonder what message are we to convey to today’s students?

I’d love to look deeply into their eyes and say from a heartfelt place; “I am deeply sorry”.

Sorry for the disappearing bush and swamps; for the oceans with far less life for you to treasure, for our weakened and stressed forests.

I want to cry for the loss of our magnificent fauna and flora you could relate with and take pride in. The joyous bird song, colour and antics to uplift you are far less now.

Most of all, I want to say sorry for the lies and the myths of our time – especially “unlimited growth”.

I was 16 when I left school; Greta Thunberg’s age now. She speaks for me and many others to help bring some stability into you and your children’s world.

I would say to the JCCA students today:

“Listen to and respect the laws of nature, learn from indigenous cultures and science, and learn with your heart and soul.”

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