Riding to obscurity
I have a painting on my bedroom wall called Going for the Afternoon Swim. It depicts a young adolescent girl riding her bike up a hill in an outback desolate landscape — the desired swimming hole and relief from the scorching heat, presumedly just over the hill in front. The artist signed the work N Hagan whom I know nothing more about; except that there is a very famous Australian artist, writer and film maker, named Robert Hagan, who was born in Murwillumbah in 1947 and who could be related.
I purchased this piece for our bedroom some 35 years ago while visiting a Brisbane City gallery, It awakened a strong sentiment for me, of what Dorothy, my wife, would have been like in her late primary years before we met. It was capturing an imagined vision from the past and still does — that beautiful young woman off on an adventure.
But what does this image mean to me now?
Unfortunately Dorothy is now in a nursing home riding a princess wheelchair towards her eventual resting place — the hidden pool. There is no turning back with her mysterious brain disease. Forces beyond her control will lead to the final plunge — death by dementia. All her life, magnificent as it has been, has led her to undertake this final pedal up the hill to what will eventually end in oblivion.
As death through prostate cancer is creeping up on me too, the painting can be seen as representing a final journey for my body and mind as well. I can’t believe life was ever meant to end in heavenly joy. The pool is all just physics and chemistry, and I am content with that. Both Dorothy and I have had our time. Time for other biology to disintegrate and for nature to replace us — including others to die prematurely with no pedalling option in their final years. Still a century or so on, obscurity awaits us all but a few celebrities whose name lives on in history’s chronicles.