Sparks will fly #14 #redcarpet

Waiting on the edge of a red carpet at Government House to take steps towards the Governor to receive a honour determined not by politics, or winning a popularity contest, or a vote, I seriously wondered what I was doing there. Then the Secretary read out the citation and an explainer and how the narrative was put together on a lifetime’s work in a few minutes. I thought he was the person to get next time a pitch needed to be prepared!

We really do need storylines to get to where we want to go and sometimes to reinterpret where we have been. These past few years have been horrible in many more ways than most readers will know or I am willing to share in this space. And equally I have had some of the most amazing moments and opportunities. That is the paradox of life, I met, this week, on the red carpet.

I had a revelation in that moment on the carpet. The depth of the pain and betrayal, being met by high honours and acclamation. The private world out bid by the public world. There are new buses to get on, a friend of mine says. I can’t get on those buses without new narratives and songs to sing that will transform, heal and hold onto in moments when under threat or taking a hit. Getting out of my own way to hear the tune and to step onto that carpet is an invitation. A genuine moment of grace. The badge an external reminder of who you are, where you have been and a hint at what awaits you.

The carpet made red, the most valuable of all dyes, from the scale of an insect, that lives on cacti. I love the provenance of the red carpet. Just as an aside however there is an alternative narrative to this tale as well (see below the photo for this tale as told by Wikipedia).

A classic revelation of one idea being used to fix another, and then another. Yet the idea of the red carpet prevails, a place worthy of royalty walking. We are all worthy of walking down red carpets to allow our past to meet our future. I am thinking there should be more red carpet moments to pass through the threshold, to bridge between private and public worlds, to be ready to stride into the space that is made in your shape, ready to receive you. The Governor takes pride to say a few private words to you and enjoys letting you know he knows something personal about you. For me, he mentioned my children and my recent trip to New York – thereby bringing into the room at that very moment some of the people central to this story who were missing on the day. It was angelic to hear his softly spoken Vietnamese voice, his suitcase full of dreams as he describes, lilting to my ear, connections of my story … on the red carpet … all worthy of being there.

I am deeply honoured to receive this Australian award and for the women who toiled away in secret and didn’t tell me what they had done by nominating me, it was a wonderful surprise of love and friendship and recognition. I now honour them in how I go forward. To go forward with the colour of red in my mind. A colour that is truly of flesh and toil, of sacredness and the sun. A colour that calls out courage and invokes power. It is not a colour I wear very often, and I don’t have a red carpet to roll out for special occasions … but maybe I will get one.

In my darkest moments I forget what contributions I have made, I can’t hear the tune and I have no idea of the steps I have taken that might have even helped get me here. But there I was at the end of a red carpet so even if I can’t see it, others can and I bring myself to attention, literally attention, so I can be present to the moment, and all that it recognises and in doing so recognise myself being played back to me by the Master of Ceremonies. I take a sip of air and drink in the moment when Australia says thank you to me and I take a bow in gratitude … on the red carpet.
Red is the colour of sparks. Sparks.Will.Fly.

ps if you are a hardcore fan and want to see the ceremony it is here. I am introduced at 13.00 mark.


Photo by: J. C. Carton/Bruce Coleman Inc.

Did you know? Opuntia species, known commonly as prickly pears, were first brought to Australia in an attempt to start a cochineal dye industry in 1788. Captain Arthur Phillip collected a number of cochineal-infested plants from Brazil on his way to establish the first European settlement at Botany Bay, part of which is now Sydney, New South Wales. At that time, Spain and Portugal had a worldwide cochineal dye monopoly via their New World colonial sources, and the British desired a source under their own control, as the dye was important to their clothing and garment industries; it was used to colour the British soldiers’ red coats, for example.The attempt was a failure in two ways: the Brazilian cochineal insects soon died off, but the cactus thrived, eventually overrunning about 100,000 sq mi (259,000 km2) of eastern Australia. The cacti were eventually brought under control in the 1920s by the deliberate introduction of a South American moth, Cactoblastis cactorum, the larvae of which feed on the cactus. Extract from Wikipedia

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