A Moment of Peace Savouring the Retrospect

A Moment of Peace. It cannot be found; peace simply arrives when our minds are still

We don't experience very many moments of peace in our lives. Here is one of mine.

Perhaps you'd like to tell me and others of your own such moment.

From the Deck

Here the tally-band on my cap says, HMAS Kookaburra.  I joined Kookaburra after leaving HMAS Barcoo in 1956.
Here the tally-band on my cap says, HMAS Kookaburra. I joined Kookaburra after leaving HMAS Barcoo in 1956.
Something akin to my view "From the Deck." But this photo shows a later, refitted Barcoo, i.e. after her last refit in 1959
Something akin to my view "From the Deck." But this photo shows a later, refitted Barcoo, i.e. after her last refit in 1959

I was twenty and the whole of life lay ahead

My special place has gone now. She was broken up and made into “razor blades” in Japan many years ago. Yes, my favourite place was a ship. No, not so much the ship herself, but her location at that time – this became my special place. For that particular time was a summer day in Sydney Harbour when my old home, HMAS Barcoo, was lying alongside the Fitting Out Wharf at Garden Island, Sydney, in the summer of the year 1956. I was twenty...and the whole of life lay ahead.

Here's Barcoo as a 'ship of war' 1945

HMAS Barcoo, one of twelve River Class frigates belonging to the RAN, became a survey vessel after the war. She was built in 1944, and decommisioned for the final time in 1964.
HMAS Barcoo, one of twelve River Class frigates belonging to the RAN, became a survey vessel after the war. She was built in 1944, and decommisioned for the final time in 1964.

What was especial was the setting

What was especial was the setting. It must have been the setting, for the setting created the mood; that mood of pleasant reverie which was balanced between a soft melancholia, a yearning for my girl who lived far away in Melbourne, and the knowledge that I’d soon be getting two weeks leave and the opportunity to see her again. That was part of it. But not all of it. Most of it was a sense of future. So much lay ahead; so much adventure yet to come. I’d served three years in the navy and had three to go. Half way through. No worries. No responsibilities. Freedom to do whatever I liked within the confines of Naval rule and regulation. And all that was easy, for I loved the life.

The rattle of a train as it moved across Sydney's great bridge

All afternoon and into the evening, my time was my own. I was Duty Watch, but there was little to be done. The radio room with its twittering Morse was rendered silent. The ship’s engines were closed down. We were going into refit, going into dry-dock the following day. Half the crew were already on recreational leave. And when they came back it’d be my turn!

As I sat on what was called the ‘bandstand,’ close by our forward 4-inch gun, the sun blazing down on my body, nude but for a pair of shorts, I could feel myself relaxing more and more. Sounds became muted. I laid aside my book, the novel, The Cain Mutiny, and closed my eyes. And as I listened, the sounds became more distinguishable: the sharp triple-toot of a Manly Ferry backing away from Circular Quay, the throb-throb-throb of a motor launch making its way across to Man o’ War Steps, the rattle of a train as it moved across Sydney’s great Harbour Bridge.

 

I had not a care in the world

I stared at the great bridge, then allowed my gaze to be drawn to a black-hulled passenger liner as it made it way below that massive arch, outbound for territories far to Australia’s north. On the ship’s side -for at twenty, my vision was twenty-twenty - I could make out the name, MV Bulolo. –a Burns Philp ship. The sun was moving down the sky now, but it the day was still bright. I watched other vessels come and go: yachts, freighters, tugs towing lighters, and the incessant ferries of all shapes and sizes. Then I focused on the sleek, grey lines of the destroyer HMAS Tobruk as she road at anchor, head into the outgoing tide. I had not a care in the world.

Time passed, yet it did not pass. It stood still. The verbal chatter of incessant, compulsive thought and imagination which plagues us for so much of the time, gave way to longer and longer moments of Samadhi; stillness, peace, presence.   It was a moment of peace I will savour forever.

The lights of the city were coming on

Now, the sun had gone, descending in a glorious blaze of colour which spread fingers of fire across the high cirrus, stretching striands of fairy-floss far across the sky. The lights of the city were coming on. The first faint stars appeared. Building after building became a composite of lights interspersed with places of darkness, as their silhouettes began to fade out. The lights on the Harbour Bridge, blue, yellow, red, and the lights of the vehicular traffic, the buses, cars, trains. The rumble of these last seem to become clearer now as the earlier urban noises gave way to a great city’s sacred night. The ships’ navigational lamps were also on now. And up and down the harbour the beacons which lit up the various channels blinked on-off, on-off, on-off.

My special place

Still I sat, learning my back upon a steel bulkhead, but now I’d donned the work-shirt I taken off those many hours before. There was the slightest of chills. But I did not leave. I was captured by the moment, the never-ending moment of what was to be, as the next fifty odd years of my life unfolded, came to be remembered by me as ‘A Special Day” in a “Special Place” - Sydney Harbour from the deck of the ship which was at that time my home.

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