Monday, December 26, 2011

RUDOLPH & CO ON HOLIDAYS

Figure after all that charging around the globe on Christmas Eve, Santa’s sleigh pullers were hanging out for a few days off in a warmer climate. Dancer or Prancer or one of the bunch have been in my front yard. How can I tell? Well, they have rather distinctive poo, very easy to distinguish who’s paid a visit in the middle of the night.

Then as I came around the corner into the village after midnight following my Boxing Day family get together I caught another couple of them in my headlights as they sprinted across the street and headed for the safety of the bush. They must’ve worked out they could pretty much blend in with the locals and go undetected until it was time to go home.

That was about sixty seconds after almost mowing down three decent sized wallabies who decided to be reckless and cut me off as I headed up the mountain. Guess they’d had a little too much festive fare and were egging each other on to play chicken. Wonder what they’ll get up to on New Year’s Eve.

Mild summer nights in Tasmania can become something of an obstacle course as the resident wildlife decides to venture out of the bush, graze by the roadside or find what roadkill has turned up during the day on which to have a midnight feast before some other creature decides to get in on the act. Possums are the most common wanderers, almost a slalom course in places, but unfortunately the Tassie Devil we used to see frequently is now a rare sight.

Daytime sightings in the past couple of days have been equally entertaining. The biggest hare I have ever seen, and I’m talking back legs as long as Elle McPherson’s, wandered leisurely up the middle of the road out front yesterday, quite unperturbed. He has us sussed out I think, knows there are no cats around and all the dogs are in their yards so he has the run of the place.

Then there’s the magpie with the deformed leg and tufts of feathers at the sides of his face who’s been hanging around for a couple of weeks. Looks like one of the penguins from Happy Feet, and as he spends most of his time squatting on the ground he actually looks like a fat little relative of his Antarctic brothers. Took pity on him and thought I’d give him some food and water whereupon he flew off, so he doesn’t have any trouble in that area. Seems that survival of the fittest hasn’t disadvantaged him any.

Monday, December 12, 2011

YOU WANT A WHAT?...A BROOM?





Joseph headed on boldly down the main street of the village, with Mary somewhat more tentative, slowing down for contractions in their quest to find a room for the night, not alone mind you, but with angels, shepherds, kings and suitably robed local riff raff in tow as well as visitors who had dropped in during the afternoon for Poatina’s first Christmas market.

Their first attempt was thwarted by the deaf innkeeper who kept offering them a broom instead of a room, and responded to their request for somewhere to stay with an offer of hay. Amid constant miscommunication and much hilarity from onlookers, he directed them across the road to the motel, so the weary travellers headed off with a glimmer of hope.

Paying more attention to the constantly ringing phone than their plight, the motel manager was justifiably booed and jeered by the crowd as he turned Mary and Joseph away and sent them packing to the stable on the village green. With more puffing and panting from Mary, they finally arrived at their destination and miraculously produced a baby in the fastest labour ever witnessed under trying circumstances. Not exactly much privacy in an open stable.

With the resident sheep bleating in all the right places, the angels and shepherds did their bit, the kings came bearing gifts of coffee, Avon perfume and Old Spice, and the happy family courtesy of Luke & Ali & little Aimee beamed happily throughout.

Traditions are something we consider as having been around for generations, sometimes centuries, events and rituals instigated to serve us as we attempt to express our personal beliefs as well as our communal life together.

They have the power to define us, to help us express who we are as people and communities and nations. Unfortunately, they can also confine us, constricting us into rigid systems of behaviour which over time feel alien to who we are and how we want to be seen. At such times we often find ourselves prevailing against these traditions, rejecting them, but at the same time feeling unable to replace them with something more meaningful.

Somewhere along the way a tradition has a starting point, and for this little village in the heart of Tasmania our annual Advent Pageant, complete with Aussie barbecue and market and loads of humour as the Christmas story is narrated and re-enacted, is one of the year’s highlights. It has become part of Poatina’s “story,” an event which places Christ at the heart of village life, a tradition which actually liberates people to cast off their daily persona, dress up, laugh and enjoy the company of others while hearing once again of the birth of Jesus.

As Christmas Day approaches and the machinery of getting everything done in time goes into overdrive, I find it helpful to reflect on the experience of Mary and Joseph’s epic journey and struggle to bring their child into the world in far from ideal circumstances. We can make Christmas so complicated, where really it should be so simple. Recognising Christ’s birth for what it is…God’s gift to us.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

ZANDAR THE WHIRLING DERVISH







It was supposed to be Bella’s day, and for her 6th birthday she certainly did celebrate both with her school friends at a Hungry Jacks lunch, then with the extended family later in the day. Grandson Zandar had other ideas though, so to join in the celebratory mood and get in on the act, borrowed his big sister’s dress ups and was adamant he was a princess.

With music playing, off he whirled into pink dizziness, living the moment, oblivious to the constraints of gender stereotyping. Wore the dress for the rest of the day, wasn’t a simple job extracting him from it to get him into his PJs.

Bella played mum to her new little twin cousins, relishing the cuddles and being very responsible with them. Zandar on the other hand didn’t want to give Brodie back after his cuddle, he’s definitely not into sharing at the moment, and had to be extricated from the baby as well, much to his indignation.

Amidst all the new presents and girlie paraphernalia, the 1960s dress up wig brought by her Uncle Kris went on everyone but Bella, there was no way she was putting that on, I mean, really, it wasn’t pink, just what was Kris thinking.

I’m continually fascinated watching my grandchildren as they grow and develop, seeing bewilderment become triumph as they achieve significant milestones, be it socially, physically, emotionally or academically. Seeing their personalities emerge and wondering how they become who they are is always an intriguing process.

Time passes all too soon, and one of the greatest gifts we can offer our children is permission to be a child. As adults we can see only too readily in retrospect how our own spontaneity and sense of wonder goes missing as we supposedly ‘grow up’ and assume more important responsibilities. Little wonder we crave moments of respite from the daily grind to rejuvenate our spirits, and pursue creative outlets to fulfill our need for self expression.

Grow up we must, but nurturing all of who we are is not always a simple undertaking. The spirit of childhood shouldn’t be left behind as we grow beyond those early years, and re-experiencing it through our own children and grandchildren is not only a lasting investment in our relationships with them, but a blessing for us as we dare to seek out new adventures for ourselves.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

BROKEN SLEEP

Just how many times can you wake up through the night before your patience starts to wear a bit thin? Fell asleep in the armchair around 9.30 last night so by the time I dragged myself off to bed it was still much earlier than I usually hit the hay. Woke up a couple of hours later which is pretty normal for me, went to the loo, visit to the fridge for a drink and a piece of chocolate to make my furry mouth taste better, back to sleep.

Heavy rain in the early hours woke me again, repeated the process, then at 5am the rumble of thunder in the distance probably woke more than me. Disappointed it didn’t work itself up into a decent storm, it passed in about fifteen minutes, I do like a good storm.

Then as if that wasn’t enough, a little chirper decided to start up just after 6am right outside my bedroom window. It is rare that I am not fond of all creatures great and small, but the incessant cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep at full throttle with no variation in pitch or volume was the last straw. Tapping on the window and telling him to rack off made no difference, so had to resort to opening the window and shaking a branch of the tea tree to send him packing so he could inspire someone else with his dawn chorus.

No chance of nodding off after that, gave up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RECYCLING AN ANCHOR

Never being one to turn up my nose at someone else’s cast offs, and an advocate of recycling long before it was deemed fashionable or ecologically friendly or simply necessary in order for the planet to survive, I’ve trawled markets, fetes, garage sales, roadside cleanups and second hand shops finding most of what I need over the years.

Right now I am relishing the loan of a computer monitor to replace mine which has been glaring pink at me on and off for quite some time, more on than off to the extent I’ve had very little interaction with the ‘pooter lately. Emails have gone unanswered, no internet browsing, only the bare essentials attempted, so my workmate’s fortune in now having a laptop means I have inherited his 15” monitor until I can resurrect mine.

Mind you, I did have to crawl on my hands and knees and drag the thing from the front door to the study on the front door mat, there was no way I was going to be able to pick up what was definitely big and heavy enough to be used as a boat anchor. I did manage to get it from the floor to the desk though, just, and as is obvious I am back clacking mindlessly away on the keyboard.

Doesn’t take much to keep me happy. I’ve managed to prolong the life of one little monitor and save it from being added to the heap of discarded paraphernalia in the computer graveyard. So much of what we manufacture and consume becomes obsolete almost as fast as it comes off the end of the assembly line, I guess that’s what keeps the economy ticking along and the advertising agencies in business.

Anyway, for this little camper I’m happy with my boat anchor, and if I need to write something important when I’m not actually in front of the computer, well, then I’ll just have to find a piece of paper, the laptop can wait.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

TIME TO SEE THE VIEW

A stuffed radiator in my car caused me to rethink how I was going to get to Hobart and back for Jack Jumper treatment No 2. Opted for the bus, a mode of transport I haven’t used in many a year, but in the end the two and a half hour journey proved to be something of a blessing.

When you’re whizzing along the highway you do notice things along the way, but they’re somewhat in the periphery due to the necessity of concentrating on the job of driving. From the elevated perch in the bus though, and seeing as someone else was doing the driving, I was treated to being able to leisurely take in the passing scenery in more detail.

A maintenance truck coming towards us on the train line, they do look weird when they do that, gorse spreading like a cancer wherever it could take hold, the Poms have a lot to answer for besides importing rabbits when they decided to bring in that pest of a thing. Towering Hawthorn hedges in bloom in pink and white, or bloomin’ hawthorn hedges for those who don’t like them because they block the view. Canola, GM or otherwise, growing prolifically by the side of the highway having escaped the confines of their paddocks.

All along the way Tasmania’s convict and cultural heritage was evident, an abundance of historic homes, some humble, others more stately, both privately owned as well as providing tourists with many choices for where to stay the night. The popularity of historic towns Ross and Oatlands was evident by the number of tables occupied outside cafes as people enjoyed their morning coffee in the sunshine.

Roadside sculptures, black swans on the Derwent River at Bridgewater, including the mother swan and her five cygnets I’d spotted last week, bright pink and red pigface cascading down the grassy banks on the approach to Hobart, memorials of flowers attached to trees and telegraph poles marking the place where loved ones had lost their lives. To top it all off, gazing out of the café window during the afternoon on busy Liverpool St, several seagulls were taking the risk of retrieving the remains of someone’s dropped lunch from the middle of the road as all manner of vehicles sped past. Quite comical, they weren’t satisfied until they had it all, no matter how many times they had to weave in and out of the traffic.

It does you good sometimes to stop and have a decent look at what’s going on around you. We can miss so much as we hurtle along, often with blinkers on so we’re not distracted from the seemingly oh so important things we’re doing. I know it did me good to be a passenger for a change, not to be in the driver’s seat, so I could delight in the little details.

Monday, October 31, 2011

JAB JAB JAB JAB......

There are some parts of my life where I have been left behind in the Dark Ages. My little Mazda is still the proud owner of a cassette player, so for my trip to Hobart yesterday I decided to get out my recent 50c bargain from the op shop, Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. Hadn’t heard it for years, so to be lulled by Richard Burton’s rich voice was a treat as I headed south over the twists and turns of the Great Western Tiers. 50c definitely well spent.

The journey down, and an exhilarating walk on Blackman’s Bay beach with a bracing wind off the water, was the pleasant prelude to my real reason for visiting Hobart. Suffering an anaphylactic reaction a few months ago to a Jack Jumper ant sting, a darling species of the ant world which has lethal capabilities, today was Day 1 of my treatment in the Jack Jumper Allergy program. The purpose? To get desensitised so the rotten little blighters don't kill me.

What I thought was going to be a rather uncomfortable day turned out to be something of an anti climax. 2 blood tests, one at the beginning and one at the end, not simple seeing as a search party has to be sent out to find a decent vein any time I have a blood test, and seven injections of venom later, I proved to be a model patient with no bad reactions during the day. Felt like a bit of a fraud, though the staff reassured me they’d rather that than a drama any day.

Only ended up with a significant local reaction on one arm, making me feel like I could give someone a decent right hook, as it is red, hot and swollen from my elbow to my armpit and uncharacteristically “beefy”!

On the bright side, the atmosphere in the Hobart Hospital unit where everyone receives their treatment is a bit of a hoot, and for a while was a bit like Bourke Street with people playing musical chairs and beds just to find a spot to park themselves. With around 350 in the State on the program, and about 20 in and out during the day, Dr Christine Chuter and nurses Rachel and Anna kept track of us all, amidst much friendly banter as the lolly jar did the rounds to keep everyone happy

So, one day down, 5 years to go!!! Back next week for more of the same. Oh dear, what have I signed up for.

Friday, October 28, 2011

IT WASN'T THAT FUNNY

From the safety of the top of the telegraph pole, the pair of territorial kookaburras must have thought my morning walk in the rain somewhat hilarious, and not what someone should be doing on their patch at this early hour. At least they were courteous enough to shut up while I walked past, then proceeded to have a light hearted snicker once my back was turned.

On the second lap of the village they took off from the fence and returned to their vantage point to have another chuckle, so I politely enquired as I passed what was so funny, reassuring them I had no intention of invading their space. Obviously not what they were expecting, for they took off to a safer distance where they had a right royal guffaw at my expense.

Didn’t think I’d do a third lap and suffer more humiliation. Wonder if they have chats with their mates over lunch up some tree somewhere, comparing notes on who they’ve picked on today.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A CHAIR FULL OF SURPRISES

Not only did my favourite armchair offer up my lost engagement ring today, but several hours later I got up at what was obviously a very opportune moment after watching Doc Martin, arguably the best thing on the box at the moment. Came back with some munchies to find a huntsman spider trekking up the back of the chair and stopping right where my head had been just moments before.

With uncharacteristic bravery, and to make sure he also wasn’t go to find a hidey hole in the chair, I grabbed the nearest cloth, dumped it on him, scrunched him up in it and deposited him at the bottom of the back steps in a shriveled heap, where I was pleased to see he didn’t uncurl to his former glory. Fortunately he wasn’t full grown, probably a teenage huntsman, and like most teenagers getting walloped with a teatowel was probably an appropriate means of discipline.

Not to be outdone, on the way to bed I spotted a suspicious character lurking on the ceiling in the passage. Fished him down with the broom, gave him a thorough inspection as he was decent enough to sit still, only to discover my first white tail spider of the season. He ended up squooshed on the laundry floor. They’re nasty little fellas, have no compunction in disposing of them.

Which reminded me of the incident the other day when I picked up my track pants which had ended up in the bath where I’d left them after my last morning walk. The plan was to head out again, when something caught my eye. Gingerly opening the waist of the pants there in all its innocence was a house spider, not a monster but big enough to cause trouble. Must admit I was kinder to him and shook him free outside, as I wasn’t go to be held responsible for what the neighbours may have seen if I’d got halfway round the block and felt something crawling up my leg. Could’ve been an interesting sight over the morning coffee.

Please, oh please don’t let all of this mean I’m going to have another summer of confrontations with our eight legged fellow creatures. The summer of two years ago is still fresh in my memory, adding to my long history of not quite arachnophobia but arachna…something, and I’m trusting today’s incidents are not the instigation of the insect kingdom’s revival of its hit list out on me.

I guess all I can do is live in hope, and arm myself with surface spray.

LOST AND FOUND

I wasn’t in mourning yet, but by this morning was wondering if the object of my search would ever be found. After 41 years, my engagement ring which I have never lost sight of, was missing. Well, not technically never lost sight of, as I do take it off every day to give myself a daily grease and oil change with moisturiser otherwise nothing on my body feels right. But, and therein lies the mystery, it has its designated spot where it sits quite happily whenever it’s not on my finger, and it can often sit there for several days in a row as I don’t always wear it every day.

Come Thursday morning, I went to put it on as I was heading to town, for I feel only half dressed with just my wedding ring on, and lo and behold ‘twasn’t there. Hmm. Went to the one other spot in the house I sometimes put it when piling on hand cream after doing the dishes. Not there either.

So, since then I had turned the house upside down, the car inside out, emptied my desk at work, looked in every likely place as well as countless unlikely places, gone through every bag, every pocket of anything worn in the last week or so, even if it’s been through the washing machine, the washing machine itself, pulled out the bed, moved furniture, pulled furniture apart, you name it I’d done it. Had even returned to the same places again...and again, in the vain hope it would suddenly appear where before it eluded me.

Even went through the kitchen scraps for the neighbour’s chooks, that was no pretty task, amazed how quickly things can grow fur when they’re not in the fridge. Next step was going to be the vacuum cleaner, which I’d empty, then vacuum the place thoroughly in the hope I’d hear a little clunk going up the tube. I knew it had to be in the house somewhere, so in the end decided not to stress about it but pray it would present itself and surprise me when I least expected it.

Fast forward 5 hours……..

Have been out all morning gardening in our village green with a bunch of friends, beating back the weeds which are determined to take over, beautifying the place a little. Have just come home, had a long cold drink and plonked myself down in my armchair to see if there was anything on the idiot box worth whiling away a couple of hours so I could put my feet up and recoup my energy.

And what happened? You guessed it. I simply put my hand down and there, tucked into the padding of the seat of the armchair which I had pulled apart yesterday looking for the thing, was my prize. Never have I been so thankful and relieved to retrieve what I thought I might never see again. Do I have any recollection of putting it there? Absolutely not.

Ah, God is good, for I reckon he cares about the little stuff which for me was kind of big. Even though Bob passed away more than eight years ago, my rings are just as precious as when I received them, but I think I had to come to the point where I let it go before I could be led to it at the right time.

‘Tis now on the finger, right where it should be, and all’s well with the world. Well, my little world anyway.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

He discovered in that remote little schoolyard in Combienbar several species of native ground orchids, not the flashy “look at me” sort which people go to great pains to put on show, but the humble bush variety. He’d never noticed them before, and for most of us we can easily go our whole lives without spotting them, for they blend into their surrounding ecosystems on which they depend in such a way as to go unnoticed.

I have memories of trudging up a rainforest mountain on our honeymoon in search of some rare species, countless bushwalks where Bob would point out these hidden delights on the forest floor, only to be left wondering what he was looking at. You have to train your eyes to see them, and once you do, you suddenly get it. Here are these amazing little plants, some of which don’t even get any further than ground level, with the most intricate flowers in all manner of engaging shapes, hence such descriptive names as spider, donkey, bird, mosquito, lizard and tiger orchids, greenhoods, pink fairies, red beards and the list goes on and on.

So, now that spring is here, ‘tis orchid season again and for the first time in a while I escaped from the office for a couple of hours and headed bush with some friends to see what we could find. The Poatina bush has just the right conditions for these little beauties to thrive, and with each species flowering at a different time over the next few months we managed to locate quite a number of nodding greenhoods and an abundance of bird orchids.

It wasn’t until I transferred the photos on to the computer though, that I spotted the insect on the greenhood. I hadn’t seen it at all when I took the shot, so I was really chuffed to make the discovery.

It felt like God’s gift to me that day, a reminder not only to take time out to appreciate the natural beauty around me, but a reminder that sometimes we need a different perspective to see what’s really there. There are times when we need to take a step back, not so we can retreat, but in order to be still, refocus and see things more clearly.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

CHANNEL SURFING

Had the luxury of digital TV last night after getting my grandchildren to bed. Thought I’d settle in for an evening’s viewing I’m usually denied as my own idiot box is still the 4 channel variety, but what did I discover? I had about three times the choice, and I went back and forth several times, but there was still nothing worth watching. Surprise surprise! With just over a year to go until the government demands I drag myself out of my antiquated system, I think I’ll wait until then for the privilege of having the choice of more crap to watch than I already have.

Instead, of late I’ve been working through the BBC series From Lark Rise to Candleford, which still hasn’t arrived on Australian screens. An absolutely delightful portrayal of English rural life in the mid 1800s as these working class and middle class communities come to terms with the inroads of progress on their rhythms of life just outside of Oxford. Character development, script and direction are so well done, the Poms have such a good track record in this genre.

Oh well, until the ABC screens the next series of Downton Abbey, 4th series of Lark Rise here I come.

Friday, September 30, 2011

CONTAGION, A CAR CRASH, A CONSTITUTION, AND CONFERENCE

Early Spring is known for its turbulent weather here in Tassie. This time last year we were without an entire section of roof on the motel in our village following probably the biggest storm we had experienced in the sixteen years I’ve lived here. This year though the winds have been a little kinder, but dramas of another kind marked this first month of spring.

My granddaughter Bella is a devotee of all things pink, but scarlet does not fit in that category. Looked like she was coming down with the flu right at the start of her recent school holidays, until a rash appeared, so off to the doc, whose quick diagnosis of scarlet fever courtesy of the coated bright pink tongue meant a trip to the hospital was also on the agenda.

Armed with an arsenal of antibiotics and rehydration supplies they managed to avoid a hospital stay and any procedures Bella definitely didn’t want, and she eventually recovered from an illness I had associated with such times as the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution when people used to drop like flies due to lack of medical treatment.

Not to be outdone my son Kris chose the first day of Fusion’s annual conference to miss a sharp turn on a narrow country road in the dark in the rain, and came a cropper through the fence over the ditch and into the bank on the other side (the dirt variety, not the sort with money). His first accident in almost twenty years of driving, his greatest concern was for their dog who went from the back seat to the front in rather rude fashion, but apart from some nasty bruising from the seat belt, he was none the worse for wear, albeit somewhat shaken and stirred.

Poor old Stirling, the car that is, has definitely seen its last ride, and was duly driven into the sunset the next day on the back of a trailer.

Which brings me to the conference itself, a time when the wider family of the community organisation I have worked with for many years get together to share what has happened over the past year and look forward to what is next on the agenda. This year was somewhat different. It was obvious that in the past couple of years while we have had two different leadership structures, we have also needed to reexamine the roles and expectations of our leadership, not only to make life more manageable for the people in those roles, but to see our work flourish as we go about the business of working for transformation in local communities.

It was an interesting exercise to say the least, and one not taken lightly, as we really had to go back to grass roots and wrestle with who we are as a movement, what are we about, and how do we work into the future in such a way that we all get there in one piece, and none are left behind. It was great to see resolution come over a period of days as a new constitution was brought into being and a new Board of Trustees elected.

Maintaining a sustainable lifestyle is not a simple thing in this complex world we find ourselves, and when those we love are sick, injured or hurting the tendency when we have so much on our own plate can sometimes be to distance ourselves from the problem rather than lending a hand. Fortunately, and I do mean fortunately, challenges staring us right in the face are much better dealt with than avoided. Caring for those who need us, and sharing the burden instead of expecting someone else to do it all brings its own rewards.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

LOST IN TRANSLATION

It’s a rare occasion that finds me perched in front of the idiot box before 5 o’clock in the morning, but since I’d been awake since 2am and my innards were telling me it had been a long time since dinner, figured I might as well get up and obey.

Armed with a piece of toast and lemon and ginger herbal tea, turned on the telly only to be greeted with the choice of a never ending Zumba infomercial on one channel (who coined that annoying word?), a never ending handyman tools infomercial on another, Rage, and the SBS worldwide weather report. Without the luxury of digital TV my choices are limited, so stuck around until 5am when what was on offer broadened to Power Rangers, more Rage, an American charismatic preacher at full volume, and the Polish News broadcast.

Hmm, what to choose? Opted for the Polish News, which at first I thought might have been Russian News seeing as I’m not exactly a linguist and hadn’t looked at the TV guide, until the cameras focused on a hospital in Warsaw following a motorcycle crash, so at least I knew what country we were in.

I’m not averse to watching an SBS movie with subtitles, but watching the news in a foreign language without subtitles is quite strange. Knowing what’s going on is obviously out of the question, watching what I assume are politicians strutting about doing the sort of thing politicians do the world over, sports reports featuring local heroes I’ve never seen before, redevelopment of places I’ve never heard of, human interest stories, your usual news broadcast fare. Making up my own commentary, trying to piece the stories together from what little clues I could pick up was an interesting exercise. Finally dragged myself back to bed for another couple of hours sleep.

I have a great poster on the wall next to my desk at work.

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but, I am not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant.

Not a bad excuse for those times when maybe my level of communication isn’t that clear. We don’t have to be watching the news in a foreign language to misunderstand what’s going on. Without any trouble at all we can hear without listening, look without seeing, speak without conveying what we mean. It’s one thing to deal with the nuts and bolts of what may be taking place in any given moment, in a conversation, argument, discussion, or whatever, but to recognize the underlying process that is taking place at the same time can be a whole other kettle of fish.

We see the world through our own filters, and they colour how we receive data and process it. Reading the signals as well as taking in the information can tell us whether or not we are accepted, trusted, respected, disliked, being manipulated or a myriad other things. Many a misunderstanding has been based on our perception of the intention of the other person, rather than their actual intention, so listening, really listening, and reading the signals correctly, that’s the challenge.

Friday, August 26, 2011

JUNKY TO FUNKY





Where else could you jump on the bus to head to work, only to find someone break out into an operatic aria on the journey. You might wonder at the individual’s sanity, even feel a little uncomfortable at this deviation from the norm, but when seen in its context you can simply relax, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Have never been wildly creative myself, but I love seeing people engage with artists and their works when art is brought to the streets during events like the Junction Arts Festival, currently on in Launceston. Covering a broad range of artistic pursuits, music, dance, drama, literature, media, visual and installation art at venues all around town, not only do the artists have a great forum for their passion, but onlookers get the opportunity to participate instead of merely observe.

Relaxing with a coffee at the Wild Willow Café, where all the furniture is made from willow by local artists, you can have a crack at making something yourself while being entertained by the ruckus in The Hub next door. Visited the ABC Open PhotoBooth and recorded an online photo message. ABC Open has interactive projects where people from regional areas in the country can connect and share their stories. Today’s photo messages reflected “something my parents told me.” Go to abc.net.au/open to see all their other projects. Well worth it.

The Junky to Funky Arts Trail has 21 art installations around Launceston, all created from recycled materials. Checked out a few, really liked Re-Record, a vast display of old LPs saved from landfill and transformed from their former life of audio art to their present visual form. Also Spring Cheer, a garden within the garden at the front of Pilgrim Hall, The Giving Tree, a very festive interwoven conglomeration of old bikes, assorted paraphernalia and wrapped boxes.

From established artists to local school kids, from the sublime to the ridiculous, events and displays bring art out into the streets, bringing life to the city and a smile to the face.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

PICKING UP THE PIECES

Watching the snowball effect of the UK riots became a nightly episode of disbelief, as suburb after suburb, city after city, came under attack. Besides the level of violence, destruction of property, and complete disregard for anyone’s safety, one moment I found disturbing was a radio interview on the streets with some teenage girls who thought the whole thing was great fun. Their forays into the night were netting them some free booze which they seemed to think they were entitled to, no matter whose it was or where it came from.

For them it seemed to be something of a Robin Hood paradigm, robbing the rich to give to the poor, except in their case they saw themselves as the worthy recipients, while blaming the government for the whole mess and distancing themselves from their own culpability.

Talking with friends in London they are the first to admit the chasm between the social classes in Britain is vast, with a growing underclass viewing a bleak future where they believe they will never have the chance to crawl out from under and live any other sort of life than what they know. So, given the right circumstances, it’s not difficult to see how a situation where some seized the opportunity to “redistribute some wealth” quickly escalated into a free for all mob mentality.

The ‘have nots’ are not necessarily dreaming of a life rolling in money and instant pleasure, but one where they have some sort of worth in the society in which they live, even if they’re unemployed. Taking some responsibility towards achieving that isn’t always simple, especially if you come from a dysfunctional family or one that may be second or third generation social security dependent. Many see education as the ticket out, but not everyone has the ability to see it through, so the possibilities shrink more and more as life grinds on relentlessly with no change in sight.

Hope is lost, despair sets in, and inevitably that despair will manifest itself in anger and violence as someone is found to blame for their misfortune. Whether those who become the victims have anything to do with their plight can be irrelevant, as the UK riots clearly showed.

What did encourage me though, were my friends reporting that more have come out of the woodwork to help with the clean up than came out for the riots. Using the same social media networks that spurred on the rioters from one region to the next, those of good will identified the areas which needed help and also came out en masse to show their support and start picking up the pieces.

How does a nation learn from such an event? How do those in high places with power and influence work to create a more just, inclusive and equitable society? I guess if we had the answers there’d be a lot less strife around the planet. The powers that be can formulate policy to stimulate employment and economic growth, better social cohesion and all manner of things, but I think it comes down to individuals and neighbourhoods to bring about real social change.

The authorities may bring things under control, but it will only be as we take the risk of getting to know our neighbours, participating in community events, believing we have a role to play in creating a sense of social cohesion where those who feel on the outer can be included, that individuals will feel hope rise. To be encouraged to dream, to reach your potential, to be affirmed as you achieve things and care for others, will all go a long way to uplifting someone’s self esteem, no matter how fragile.

A friend had this Johann von Goethe quote on his blog this week which I’m borrowing as it felt appropriate.

When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.

Friday, August 12, 2011

GREAT WEATHER FOR DUCKS



Find it fascinating that in a week where my neck of the woods in Tassie has had only about 15ml of rain in the past week, flood prone areas have once more succumbed to a thorough drowning as heavy rain in other regions has caused river systems to swell and work their way downstream. Farmers are lamenting the damage as fences just replaced after the last flood a few months ago are gone again, crops just sown are washed away, and people’s movements are at the mercy of the flooded roads and bridges.

On the up side, a constant stream of cars has been heading up the road to Launceston’s Cataract Gorge where locals and tourists alike have been treated to yet another watery spectacle. I missed the peak yesterday so the water level had receded somewhat, but it was still worthy of a few shots. Somewhere under all that is a swimming pool and picnic area, but not exactly much happening in the playground today, the only ones in their element were the ducks.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

FILTERING THE TRUTH

I have long been familiar with the phrase We don’t see the world as it is, but as we are.

In any given situation, be it an argument, a car accident, the witnessing of a crime or whatever, those present will all report their observations from their point of view, resulting in a diverse presentation of events, what happened when, who did what and who was to blame. Piecing together the various components to arrive at a clear picture of actual events is often a complicated process, something which keeps our legal and justice systems thriving, and even then not necessarily arriving at the truth.

We can be convinced that what we see or believe is the truth, and find it difficult that what someone else sees or believes could also be true. Admitting to that puts us in the vulnerable position of having to accede that there may be more to the picture than our own perception of the truth. That can be pretty threatening for some, resulting in family, workplace, racial, and religious tensions just to name a few.

So is it even possible to see in such a way that we can recognise we are looking at the world through the filters of our upbringing, our home life whether it be nurturing or dysfunctional, our education or lack of it, our job fulfillment or lack of skills and employment opportunities, our ethnic background, our economic status, our moral or faith basis or lack of spiritual nourishment, our concern for the world beyond ourselves or the assumption that we the individual are of prime importance.

Have just finished Tracey Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, a fictionalised account of the creation of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting of the same name. From a Protestant family, Griet, the subject of the painting, feels uncomfortable in her new position as maid in the Vermeer household in the town’s Catholic sector. The visible signs of Catholic life unnerve her, as do religious paintings, but as her relationship with the artist grows she feels bold enough to ask him about the ‘Catholic’ paintings in churches and his response is not one she was expecting.

It’s not the painting that is Catholic or Protestant, but the people who look at it, and what they expect to see. A painting in a church is like a candle in a dark room – we use it to see better. It is the bridge between ourselves and God. But it is not a Protestant candle or a Catholic candle. It is simply a candle.

I can sit on the edge of the village here looking down into the valley below, watching the valley floor gradually reveal itself as the morning fog lifts, while the person beside me concentrates on the reflection of the sun on snow covered Ben Lomond in the distance, another notices the amount of dead branches and stripped bark littering the area after the recent storm, and another wishes we could remove a few scruffy wattles to improve the view.

We will always see things a little differently, and giving each other the space to do that without judgment will go a long way towards acceptance. The truth is out there, but there just may be more than one way to illuminate the path to get there.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

WAY TO GO CADEL


Man, what an extraordinary effort Cadel Evans pulled out of the bag to wrest the yellow jersey from Andy Schleck when victory was just within Andy’s grasp. What a fantastic result, for the strategies and tactics of the past three weeks to build to such a point where the ultimate prize was to come down to man against man in one last ditch effort for overall honours.

Without the companionship of team mates on the road who pull each other along and pace them, it was up to each man to dig deep from whatever reservoir of energy he had left after the punishing 3293km of constant pedaling. Brothers Andy and Frank Schleck are masters at staying near the front of the peloton, sticking with the pack, pacing themselves until the right opportunity comes along to make the move which will bring everyone else undone.

Well, Andy almost made it, but he didn’t count on one determined little Aussie battler with a big heart who dug deeper than his rivals to take the yellow jersey on the most important day, the one which would assure his arrival in Paris as the victor. To see Cadel’s usual intense face break into that broad grin, and see him fighting back the tears as he hugged his team mates was kinda nice.

To invest that much over such a long time and live with disappointment year after year while you chase your dream, is something I find hard to imagine. To keep pursuing the dream in the face of disappointment, that takes courage. For most of us, the give up line comes all too soon, preventing us from achieving all manner of things we might have seen as part of our future. There’s a lot to be said for having mates on the road with you, encouraging you when the going gets tough, challenging you when you start to slack off, helping you stay focused

There can only be one winner in the Tour de France, but Cadel would be the first to admit he wouldn’t have made it to the winner’s podium without his team mates. Their job was to see he had every opportunity to perform to the best of his ability, sacrificing their own dreams of success in the process. What an amazing role to have, knowing your main purpose is to help another succeed. The funny thing is, it ultimately doesn’t come as a detriment to the one making the sacrifice, for the joy that comes from a shared victory is often sweeter than one achieved alone.

We could do well to take a leaf out of Cadel’s training manual. Maybe we need to sometimes put our own dreams on hold, and instead help others to reach their full potential. You never know, in the process we may just find a greater purpose.

Friday, July 22, 2011

NEARLY TOURED OUT

Only two nights to go before I can have a decent sleep again. Have travelled the length and breadth of France over the past three weeks courtesy of SBS as Le Tour sucked me in yet again, following those intrepid guys as their legs propelled them up hill and down dale, through breathtaking scenery and exquisite historic towns, up excruciatingly steep mountain roads and down the other side at death defying speeds.

Laid on the floor in front of the fire last night after the Alpe d’Huez stage started, only to go out like a light and wake up at midnight just as they were about to top the brutal Col du Galibier. Contador had made his move to the front, the Schleck boys were motoring along, but where was Cadel? Missed all the drama with his bike mishaps so was rapt to see him work his way back to those wily Luxembourg brothers.

There’s really only one night to go in terms of the overall result though, as the final day is pretty much a leisurely ride into Paris to set up the sprinters for one last roll of the dice for glory on the Champs-Elysees. So the big question is, can Cadel Evans pull out the time trial of his life tonight and pull back 57 seconds from Andy Schleck to steal the yellow jersey from him in this final battle for top spot on the podium.

After all the effort he’s put in over the past two days in the Alps that’s a pretty big ask, and he could well find himself in the runner’s up position for the third time in his career. For his sake I’d love to see him do it and reap the reward of years of hard work and dedication, but everyone else vying for that coveted maillot jaune has worked just as hard and is equally deserving.

Might have to have an afternoon nap so I can go the distance. Go for it Cadel.

Monday, July 11, 2011

THE CENTRE OF WINTER



Rain, sleet, snow, black ice, mountainous seas, power cuts, biting gale force winds ready to rip the feet from under you, what a lashing our island State has had these past few days. Things have abated a little but it ain’t over yet, and this description of a Minnesota winter seemed quite appropriate at the moment.

All the seasons here in the north move toward their own end, except winter, which moves towards its centre and sits there to see how long you can take it. Spring twitches impatiently in its seat like a child wanting to go outside, straining toward summer, and summer, all lush and showy, tumbles headlong toward the decay of fall. Fall comes and goes so fast it takes the breath away, arriving in brocades of red and gold and whipping them off in only a few weeks, leaving a landscape ascetic, stunned with loss.

Marya Hornbacher - The Centre of Winter

There's something about winter though, wild as it may be, that makes you feel alive. The extremities might be suffering, nose dripping, my eyes might be watering from the gust of wind sneaking behind my glasses, but compared to some places on the planet we have no idea what cold really is. Venturing outside might not be at the top of the list when things look bleak, but the landscape takes on a beauty all its own under a coating of snow, and with the warmth of a cosy fire beckoning we know we can wait out the next months until the seasons turn and the cycle begins anew.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES

Man what a night. Was lucky if I managed 3 hours sleep, and it wasn’t because I was out raging all night. It was the gale force winds that were raging, coming straight off Antarctica and roaring down our mountain like a freight train with no mercy for anything in its path. Some slept through it, but they were certainly in the minority.

Power was off for four hours, I was amazed when it came on again, I hate to think what the linesmen had to do to make sure we could all have a cup of tea and toast for breakfast. There was a lull around 6.30am, thought it might’ve been finally blowing itself out, but it was short lived, just a prelude to starting up again and it’s been flat out all day, more on the way tonight and tomorrow and snow predicted down to 300 metres.

145kph winds were recorded off the Tassie south coast this morning, 7 metre waves, with 12 metre waves expected during the day. I could just see the surfers champing at the bit, strapping their boards to their cars and heading for the action, drawn to it like a magnet, but I wouldn’t like their chances on a day like this.

Pot of thick hearty vege soup has been simmering for a few hours. Staying in on a Saturday night in front of the fire sounds good to me.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

GOTTA WRITE A CLASSIC....

Not having bought anything new lately, I started running my finger along the spines in the bookcase looking for something crying out to be read, or read again. Decided to go back to what I was reading a few decades ago and delved into Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. Realised partway through the first chapter I hadn’t actually read it, Tess of the D’Urbervilles being the only Thomas Hardy I had under my belt and the favourite of many in much the same way as Pride and Prejudice is the favourite Jane Austen. It had been lurking there untouched all this time alongside Return of the Native and Jude the Obscure picked up in the last year and equally untouched.

What is it about “The Classics” that causes me to go running for the dictionary every few pages just to make out what the author is getting at? Silly question I guess, it’s obviously the language, otherwise I wouldn’t need the assistance. I realise much of what we regard as classic literature was written a century or so ago, and most of the time you get the gist of what the author is saying by the context, but once you immerse yourself into a story you don’t want it interrupted every half an hour.

Now I know it was published back in 1874, and set in England where those of a certain breed command a much more thorough use of the King’s English, but did Hardy really think we’d all know what a thesmothete was? It’s not in any of the dictionaries I have in the house, had to Google it to find only one definition meaning that which is established, a law, or in the context of this story, a legislator or lawgiver. Not sure whether it’s because Far from the Madding Crowd was one of Hardy’s earlier novels and he was still refining his art, for around halfway through, the weird words lessen and the story flows a lot more naturally. Then again, maybe people in literary circles at that time actually used words such as these in their general conversation.

Peregrinations – wanderings

Recusant – one who refuses submission or compliance

Inanition – emptiness, especially from want of nourishment

Apotheosis – canonization, deification

Supererogatory – doing more than duty requires

Anathematize – curse

Lanceolate – shaped like a spearhead

Tergiversation – making conflicting statements, change one’s party or priciples

Spoliation – pillaging, seizure of property by violence

Abjure – renounce an oath or opinion or claim

Incarnadined – dyed crimson

Pellucid – easily penetrated by light, sight, or the intellect

Interstices – gaps, crevices

Amaranthine – purple, kinds of plant with coloured foliage

I’m all for learning new words, and just rolling some of these round your tongue sounds great, but for me at least it’d be a lot easier in terms of the flow of the action if he could simply say what he meant, even if it takes a few more words to say it. The trouble in doing that I guess would detract from the “classic” language used and reduce it to a mere good story for us mere mortals.

In the process of trolling the dictionary I must admit to getting sidetracked and being fascinated by all sorts of words I never use. Maybe I should submit these to the Reader’s Digest and see if they end up in Word Power.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

STAYING GROUNDED


Aaah, the sky is falling! Just when it looked like the ash cloud from the Chilean volcano was not only hovering over Tassie but had actually descended to ground level, all we were experiencing here in our village was a good dose of what most of the State had been suffering for the last few days. Merely a decent dose of fog.

Our position part way up the mountain usually exempts us from such afflictions, as we sit in glorious sunshine looking down into the valley blanketed in a thick layer of the stuff which often sits there all day. Nice to look at when you’re above it, but chilling to the bone when you’re in it.

So, yesterday was our turn, don’t think we even made it to 5 degrees. And to add to everything being obscured all day we woke to a doozy of a frost, all the yards white and scrunchy underfoot. My timber walkway from the path to the front door turned into a skating rink, pools of water were frozen, and even contemplating hanging out the washing in bare hands was fraught with the danger of possible frostbite.

As if the discomfort and annoyance for those whose travel plans were thrown into disarray because of a volcano half way across the globe weren’t enough, just when it looked like things were on the improve, Tassie’s winter weather threw yet another obstacle into the mix to keep people grounded a little longer.

Being grounded is an interesting word, and depending on how it’s used can be seen either as a positive or a negative. The physical limitations of this week’s dilemma for travellers as they attempted to negotiate other means of getting from A to B were probably a negative experience for most, as well might be the stern words “you’re grounded” to a teenager who may have stepped over the line.

But when we refer to someone as being well grounded, I bring to mind people for whom I have a lot of respect and hold in high esteem. Those of sound character, those I can trust, who don't see themselves as the centre of the Universe, who display a degree of wisdom, warmth, patience, perseverance, self discipline, and responsibility.

Being grounded for me implies a solid foundation on which a stable framework and structure can be built. From whatever sphere, be it faith based or not, operating from a set of values gives you a focal point from which to start as well as measure your motives and performance. Without the groundwork, what grows from it will be all the more vulnerable and easily compromised when challenges arise.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A WEEK IS A LONG TIME IN FOOTBALL....TIPPING

It’s not every day when you’re in the midst of competing against others for a coveted prize, recognition of your ability or simply the personal satisfaction of achieving better than usual results, that you manage to move up 13,352 places in the space of one week.

With a perfect 8 out of 8 for my AFL footy tipping this past weekend, my monumental leap up the scoring ladder resulted in my being ensconced in position 79,314 overall, which might sound like a bit of a shocker, but seeing as there are 168,745 tipsters participating in the official AFL tipping competition, at least I’m in the top half.

Here we are, half way through the footy season, and I must regretfully confess to tipping against my beloved Doggies who seem to have lost their woof and inherited a definite whimper at the moment. My fortunes in tipping usually correspond to how well or how badly they are doing, for each week I peruse the fixture, say ‘Yeah, it’s possible,’ and bravely tick their box. Well, my jump up the ladder this week is courtesy of my shameful and disloyal behaviour, but that’s footy tipping for you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

WET, WILD AND WOOLLY

What was supposed to be a pleasant afternoon off after an appointment in Hobart this morning turned into an epic journey as our little island State was lashed with wild weather. Heading south yesterday afternoon the bad weather set in about half way there, then continued during the night. Teeming rain and gale force winds meant I cancelled plans for a leisurely lunch and stroll through the Salamanca galleries and shops, and headed straight home instead.

Took me three hours, way longer than usual as the road conditions were atrocious, even had to negotiate several sections of flooded road, so to pull up in the driveway in one piece was a great relief. Said a prayer of thanks as I imagine there may be others who very well might not make it home tonight.

As I write with the sun sinking behind the Western Tiers, not that it’s shown its face all day, there is a tiny patch of clear sky towards the northwest, but I somewhat doubt we’ve seen the end of this latest wintry blast. The wind is still raging and the front door rattling, so I think it will be another long night.

Funny how for most people talking about the weather is usually regarded as small talk, something to talk about when you run out of conversation, but we Tasmanians love our weather! Well, I do anyway. Good, bad or ugly, I watch with fascination as the mountain backdrop to our village changes its moods along with the elements. A friend told me the other day how she gets the SADs, not just a case of disliking the cold winter weather, but seasonal affective disorder, where prolonged grey skies, cold temperatures and dreary days really do affect your emotional well being.

I’m fortunate not to be afflicted in such a way, but I know even I welcome those first days of spring when the warmth returns and outside activities are once more on the agenda. So spare a thought for those who in these next months of being shut in are not shut off from the warmth and company of others who can dispel the grey clouds hovering overhead.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

GOODBYE AUTUMN...HELLO WINTER




On the first day of winter.…it tried to rain, but not very convincingly. In fact, autumn went out in rather spectacular fashion as three ripper frosts in a row gave us a foretaste of what is yet to come. Was sitting with a few friends at dinner tonight, pondering over whether the season in which you’re born has any bearing on the type of climate you prefer.

I was born in autumn and always feel most comfortable in a temperate climate, much easier to put another layer on than run out of layers to take off when you live in some icky sticky steamy hot and humid place. Not sure how I survived eight years in Queensland, but the climate is definitely one thing I do not miss.

Summer, yes that’s her name, was born in summer and loves the hot weather, hated her first winter here in Tassie last year, but is becoming acclimatised. There was one around the table who didn’t fit the theory, so who knows, could be an interesting study for someone who has nothing better to do.

So, with the delights of the changing colours and other engaging autumn discoveries behind us for another year, my hermit cave is all prepared to see out the long months of bitter cold. The wood heap is stacked, furry blanket on the couch, big pot of soup simmering, fire keeping the place warm, plenty of books to read, electric blanket on. I’m home and hosed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HUMAN RIGHTS CHALLENGE

With United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in the country at the moment, the Australian government is on notice that it could very well be in breach of the United Nations refugee convention if its proposed deal with Malaysia for processing asylum seekers goes ahead.

For her, it is not enough to hear verbal assurances that the key elements regarding the processing and treatment of refugees will be adhered to. She condemns people smuggling, but while our government spends so much time debating how to stop the people smugglers dumping their desperate cargo on our shores, she challenges us to work out how to accept these people once they're here rather than sending them somewhere else.

All member countries who have ratified the UN refugee convention are reviewed by their peers to monitor whether their policies and procedures adhere to its requirements. Australia was reviewed in 2009, and questions were asked back then about prolonged mandatory detention as well as the government's intervention in Northern Territory indigenous communities. Very little has changed since then, with the consequences being played out for all to see on the nightly news.

People become homeless for many reasons, most of which are not of their own making, but to lose your home, family, friends, employment, educational opportunities, community networks, cultural identity, country itself, is to lose your sense of place in the world. To be so displaced, to have nothing of your own, nothing familiar, only adds to the trauma from which you’ve fled. You lose your sense of identity, your individuality, you become yet another nameless face on yet another boat.

In The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy wrote of the disenfranchisement of indigenous cultures.

We’re prisoners of war…we belong nowhere. We sail unanchored on troubled seas. We may never be allowed ashore. Our sorrows will never be sad enough. Our joys never happy enough. Our dreams never big enough. Our lives never important enough….to matter.

What an indictment on our government, on us as a country, on us as individuals, if we care so little that those in dire need of a safe haven just don’t matter.