Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Girl In The Picture.

Every now and then something comes up that makes you realize how easy it is to look without really seeing. For years I saw this picture flip past in our old family albums, and the most striking thing about it was the presentation - that lush Hollywood style of pose & lighting that was so popular at the time & made everyone look like they were stars of their own private movie. Actually this was Townsville, north Queensland in 1960. Elvis & The Drifters were sharing chart space with Rolf Harris, Menzies was Prime Minister & television was still a treat often shared with neighbours. When the girl in the picture had this shot taken at a local studio she was 18 years old. It was my sister who saw it's most important aspect - the missing smile. The Rosslyn Mathiesen that we knew was one whose enjoyment of life was obvious, and that infectious joie de vivre was always writ large in pictures of her. Striking the dreamy moviestar pose didn't seem her style at all. So what was going on? I'm still surprised how little I was seeing. In 1960 Rosslyn's mother Gladys had died, still in her early 40's. This photo was taken very soon after. The session had been booked in advance & forgotten. They called to remind her, and despite the circumstances, she went in. She said that day she didn't feel like smiling. Before she was 25, Ros and her sister Wilma had lost their brother, mother and father. When I look at this picture now I see someone who understood the uncertainty and brevity of life from very early on. I also feel sure it fired her enthusiasm to live with passion - to use that limited time well. She became a nurse, a wife & a mother, loved art, nature, music, food, books, friends.. ideas. Had a low tolerance for bullshit. Could absolutely take a mango apart, right down til the seed was white. Loved to float around in salt water or get covered in dirt in the garden. Just to get stuck in. People trusted her & many depended on her. And she was always very encouraging of the art I made, & keen to help out when things went wrong. As well as being my mother, she was a great friend.

The girl in the picture, Rosslyn Anne Murray (nee Mathiesen), died in April this year of complications from ovarian cancer. She is very much missed.

For donations to cancer research & awareness, please visit That's the Cancer Council, who do great work.