Thursday, December 23, 2004

Swing your pretty stick

It's one of the nicest things about Australia, and I'd forgotten it: the amiable toleration of others' eccentricities. In DC I often feel that I'm being frowned upon for what my friend Matthew calls "the crime of being joyful in public." You'd be amazed, the mean reactions and hostility I've gotten for random cartwheels or pirouettes in the spring sun or uninhibited laughter, like, how dare I be happy if you're in a bad mood? But in Australia such behavior is appreciated in the same way that you'd appreciate an unusual flower or a poodle with a silly haircut.

I was walking from the art gallery to the mall to do some Christmas shopping yesterday and I spotted a wonderful stick on the ground. It was long and very smooth and gracefully curved like the flick of somebody's calligraphy brush, and somehow I just knew that it was waiting for me.

There are so many uses for a good stick when you're going for a walk. You can behead your imaginary enemies or dandelion puffs, you can twirl it around, you can scrape a pattern in the sand behind you as you walk, you can try to balance it standing up in your palm, and when you're crossing a bridge, you can drag it across the rails, making a xylophone sound that varies depending on the kind of metal in the rails. Everyone I passed gave me a grin or tipped their hat, and one man called out "The old stick on the fence! That's my favorite!"

Heartened by this societal approval (a rather unfamiliar feeling for me), I took the stick into the mall and absent-mindedly twirled it as I was considering my purchases. In "Sportsgirl," a shop assistant rushed up to me. "What's that you're holding? Is it a stick?"

"Yes," I said, wondering whether the store had a "No Sticks" policy and I was about to be tossed out.


"I saw it on the ground and I wanted it."

She whooped, "That's awesome!" and gave me a hug.

Ah, Australia. If you play, everybody else wants to play too.


Blogger John Holt said...

You know, this is one the first things I noticed about you, and one of my favorite (of many) characteristics I absolutely adore about you, My Dear. I have felt a bit out of place too in DC at time, as though my particular brand of Kaelan-ishness just isn't kosher. The more I hang out with you, the more I am grateful to have a friend who bellows her happiness from the rooftops and gardens of America.

Much love,


11:01 AM  

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