Merry Christmas from Melbourne

“Home is where one hails from…but is also the places one has camped, sojourned and lived during the course of one’s own lifetime.

Home is a relationship lived between us…a sense of ‘being at home in the world’ – even as we go our separate ways.”

~ Michael Jackson, anthropologist
At Home in the World

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Frog GWQ

Thanks to everyone who has travelled with me this year – you mean more than you know. Have a wonderful Christmas. See you in 2014!

Where will you be this Christmas?

Humble Pie

1984. Tasmania. Nelson Mandela’s fight for freedom had hit the music charts, and was likely blasting on the radio of the ‘Big Bus’ – the first of a three-bus-long journey to school.

At the age of seven, I wouldn’t have known what ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ meant. But I understood the principles of terror.

Early in the morning, we’d be trudging through a kilometre of frost to encounter the two frosty sisters from the dairy farm next door.

Possibly they were going to slice the fingers from my fingerless gloves, or drown me in the lake with the kittens. I don’t remember the specific threat, just that I was afraid. Very afraid.

And that was before Mr Sim’s coach thundered up, and I had to face the Big Kids at the back of the bus.

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“Whadda you lookin’ at?” they’d sneer, and tell me to piss off down the front, or else…

I could tell my two older siblings were also scared, or at least, they were too busy trying to fit in to come to my defence.

Until then, I’d always thought the big kids were supposed to protect the little ones.

It was a wide awakening…me, at night, trying to think of a solution to my woe.

Finally, I consulted Mum for advice. She, in turn, consulted the repository of all wisdom – Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories.

The next day I was sent to the bus stop with a brown paper bag full of blackberry pies.

As the sneering sisters turned on me, I held up my white flag.

“It’s for you…(Mum made them),” I mumbled, not daring to meet their gaze. I could feel my siblings’ mortified stupor cowering somewhere behind me.

The sisters took the offering, and inspected it for poison.

The moment their eyes grew wide, I knew it was a winner.

“But, why?” they breathed. I shrugged. “Thank you. That’s so nice…”

Pie

In my mind, they got on the bus and bragged to their friends about the pie they scored. But I’m not sure that really happened.

What I do know is we all knew that they knew they didn’t deserve it. And from that moment on, peace reigned at the bus stop.

When I think back on that memory now, it seems kind of quaint and embarrassingly naïve.  If that same thing happened today, would the bullies back down. Or would they kick you in the guts for trying to placate them?

I’m scared of the world we live in.

A world where leaders pay lip service to the greatness of a man who understood human rights as more than just a dusty document.

A world where leaders think that inventing the term ‘illegal refugee’ justifies the persecution of people fleeing from tyranny.

A world where freedom and democracy are rights of the first world to deny.

We preach the principles of ‘turn the other cheek’ – as long as it’s not ours.

But Mandela knew better. He didn’t turn the other cheek. He stood his ground. Held his enemies in a firm embrace.

Shamed them, with pure decency, and took a nation with him while he did.

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It takes a giant to do that.

My actions in 1984 were not noble, loving or even forgiving. It was self-preservation. Had they actually caused me harm, I’d have been blubbering behind a tree or quietly plotting their revenge. Not giving pie.

But the principle is the same. In both cases, peace was won because the people in the wrong had the graciousness to know when to back down.

Bob Geldof, in his tribute to Mandela, writes:

“…who could have imagined the humility, the dignity and forgiveness that Mandela displayed to his oppressors upon his final total success?

In private he pitied them. He knew precisely what he was doing. One visitor said: ‘Mr President you have given great dignity to the black people.’ Madiba replied instantly (and you can hear the inimitable cadence in his reply): ‘No, young man, you are wrong. I have given dignity to the white man. There is no dignity in the oppressor.’”

As a globe, do we have what it takes to honour his memory? Can we empathise with ‘the other’ enough to open our arms to their pain? Are we brave enough to eat the humble pie?

Zero Gravity

It’s not cheap to see a film these days. The last time I saw a movie was on Mother’s Day, when my second mum inexplicably demanded to see Star Trek.

As we sat there watching our money disappear Into Darkness, I think we were all mentally calculating how many seasons of Dexter that movie could have bought us…

Which is probably why we didn’t make it back. Until Gravity.

Being a sucker for space and (guiltily) for Sandra Bullock, I found it impossible to resist. And Wow.

Finally, a film that is NOT so wrapped up in the joys of 3D technology that it forgot to have a plot. No, this is an adult film, a universe apart from Star Trek and Miss Congeniality.

It begins with Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) and Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) free floating in space, as a nauseous Dr Stone works on some undefined space communications problem.

Kowalsky plays up to Clooney’s larrikin reputation, spending all his time distracting Dr Stone with irrelevant chatter. My favourite moment is when he asks her what she likes most about this place. Her answer?

Gravity

Much to my irritation, the moment was lost on the popcorn munching, iPhone twittering audience, but they were drowned out soon enough as we were taken on a terrifying ride through the sadly grave reality of space junk.

I won’t reveal any more secrets, except to say, if you suffer from claustrophobia, don’t see this film.

What I will say is this.

Gravity is the grown up answer to Star Trek’s endless journey of exploration far from the consequences of what we leave behind. It is the much more difficult journey home.

Earlier this year, I had a kind of inter-galactic collision that took me so far off course I almost couldn’t recognise myself. Lost hold of my tether and was doing somersaults in space.

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It’s tempting, in those situations, to switch off the oxygen, pull the plug and drift into oblivion – free to any black hole that will have us.

But we have a job to do, beings who need us and a story no one else can tell.

This film is about that gravitational pull, and the need we all have to be needed. It’s about loss and, in some sense, dealing with the excuses we make for the moments that we fail.

There’s no room in space for excuses or regrets. Just a chain reaction of events to which we inevitably have to respond.

Well, I’ve been there. Done that. And I have no idea what’s going to happen next.

But my feet are firmly back on ground. There’s a smile on my face. I’m home again. At last.

Happy Thanksgiving, astronauts! What’s making you smile today?

Reunion

It’s been a month of important dates – birthdays and anniversaries, culminating in a family reunion. With my mother and her twin turning 70, and my brother turning 40, our families got together for the first time in a decade. In ten years, we lost one and gained nine, bringing our number up to 25.

After two nights eating, sleeping, cooking, laughing, crying and reminiscing under one roof, we all dispersed back to our busy lives. Months of planning and, suddenly, there’s nothing left but a sensory impression of what was…

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There is something non-linear about reunion.

Once removed

As if all the parts, once removed, don’t reassemble how they were.

Your place

You’re home and yet, you don’t quite know your place.

Bending reality

There’s a bending of reality.

Girl pointing

A girl pointing the finger.

Start

Where do we start?

Many a slip

There’s many a slip in our perception

What once was

Of What Once Was versus What Is.

Site shift

Site shift.

Family

Family.

Memories

Memories playing tricks.

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What we thought was locked in the museum

Museum

Reappears.

Passage secret

Is there a passage secret to

Diminish and ascend

The way that we diminish and ascend?

Fetch

We fetch the ghosts of our past

Washed up

But find ourselves washed up

East of the mulberry tree

East of the mulberry tree.

Plastic world

Plastic people, in a plastic world.

Shared weight

We laugh and, under a shared weight, ask

Horizon

For more information about the images, click here.

She is Infinity

Twelve years ago, give or take some days, two women introduced themselves over the call centre partition that separated their desks.

We both worked ingloriously in the personal loans department of a finance company, and the office had decided to move floors. We’d never met, until that day.

I might have passed her off for your average wedding band toting Indian woman. Except she dressed wrongly. And spoke the Queen’s English too loudly. And exhibited the kind of dark humour that instantly recognised my own.

She might have passed me off for your standard snooty white girl. Except for the book lying on my desk, boldly announcing my current ethical dilemma, The Battle with Beef.

“What’s the book you’re reading?” She asked, and so began a lengthy conversation about my studies, and anthropology, and the general state of the universe.

Then she asked to read one of my essays.

From that day forward, she read every single word I put to paper. And in the course of time, reminded me what it was I once dreamed of becoming. She still does – and a whole lot more besides.

I wouldn’t say her twelve years of belief in me have been well spent. There’s only one thing scarier than having no one who believes. And that’s finding someone who does.

Somehow, despite my flair for self sabotage, she still has faith.

In all the years we’ve known each other, I’ve never been able to put into words what it is she means to me. I’d say it’s past time, wouldn’t you?

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Gustav Klimt – Water Snakes II

Seems like a lifetime ago, yesterday
Our names were introduced.
What’s in a name?

It’s a cataclysm
A beginning and an end
A whole new looking glass.

You gave me, me.
You gave me, you.
You gave me, infinity.

Who knew that worlds apart
Together
We would find a home?

Sometimes I think I ruined you
And even as I do
Your eternal hope meets my eternal gloom…

Never too late, you say.
Take my hand, and shed another skin
Of new tomorrows.

Secret lives and
Sacred lies and
Finally we come into the light.

Sometimes I wish time stood still
So we could be who we were yesterday
Today.

Everyday I wish that I could be
The woman you make me want to be
Tomorrow.

The one who turns to You
And says
It’s all going to be alright.

This is not the end.
This is the beginning
Of the Age of Us.

Twelve years to infinity
And not a moment left to lose
Except with you.

Thank you, Aneeta. My Heroine. My Goddess. My Infinity. ;)

If you had to thank someone for the person you are today, who would it be?

Plastics PostScript

“A thing’s greatest weakness
is also its greatest strength.”

~ Horrorshow (reworked)

So I freaked myself out with last week’s post. I had a dream where I visited the future.

Took a drive and found myself airborne over Seattle. We flew higher and higher and I was feeling greener and greener…

I cast a glance over my shoulder through the rear windscreen. There, in the process of construction, snaked a giant coastal fortress made entirely of rubbish.

“Holy crap,” I thought, “we’re living in Wall-E!!”

Wall E

It’s almost the sequel to a dream I had 18 years ago.

My family were shipwrecked at sea. The lone survivor, I was washed up in the year 2020 where everything moved at warp speed – even the garbage collection, which was taken up by little men in green spacesuits, running around with industrial sized wheelie bins!

It’s frightening living in my brain. I promise after this I’ll stop talking rubbish ;)

But a couple of things were brought to my attention this week that I had to share.

First, the ugly beautiful.

Chris Jordan, the filmmaker of the shocking albatross story, is also an artist. He’s created an amazing series of images that put into perspective the  “increasingly enormous, incomprehensible and overwhelming” reality of our collective existence. Check it out – it’ll blow your mind! Thanks Sean Bidd for the share :)

Second, the plastic fantastic.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? Valerie Davies pointed me to a man in Japan who has invented a “plastic-to-oil-fantastic” solution to all the non-recyclable plastics we consume. Just check out this video (thanks, Valerie!):

“The home is the oil field of the future.”

~ Akinori Ito

With incredible simplicity, this man has put a solution within reach of all us little people. Together with Boyan Slat’s ocean hoover, and our own efforts to reduce plastic usage, change suddenly seems infinitely more achievable.

I think I’m on the verge of doing something drastic. Like selling the car to buy one of these oil making machines (as of last update, the cost was $12,700 US).

We already have the answers to all the world’s problems. As some of you pointed out, what’s missing is the awareness and, quite possibly, the will. But maybe with one, comes the other – and when that happens…

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Butterfly Nebula – image source NASA

…shine, shine, dead star shine.

~ Horrorshow

Think I’ve done my dash with horror stories for this month! I’m changing my fortnightly schedule to continue from this week, as I’ll be caught up with family commitments on the off weekends.

So, until next time, have a Happy Halloween!

Message in a Bottle

“Why move through the oceans
if the oceans can move through you?”

~ Boyan Slat

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‘Manta Ray Cleaning Station’ courtesy NOAA’s National Ocean Service

A few months ago I clicked on a YouTube link that said “this film should be seen by the entire world!”

Yeah, right. I thought. Which twerk is it this time?

But, for once, the claim was true. If you haven’t already, please watch it. I don’t care if it gives you nightmares, because WE ALL DID THIS.

The images from that video have been burned in my brain, suffocating me (and no doubt the million other viewers) with despair because I can’t do a thing about it.

Or so I thought.

Luckily, someone much cleverer than I am is working on a solution Right Now.

Watch this TEDx talk and tell me you’re not blown away by the simplicity of an idea that began with one small admission:

“It will be very hard to convince everyone in the world to handle their plastics responsibly, but what we humans are very good at, is inventing technical solutions to our problems.”

What that reads to me is:

Let’s just admit we’re not going to change (this century), and find another way until we do…

Bottle

‘Why’ courtesy Andrea Zanivan

Inside the shell of memory
I hear
The squalling of the ocean
And the sound of
Hope on our horizon
Washing out to sea.

What’s the message
In the bottle
She would send to me?

She giveth and
She taketh away
And somewhere
Out of sight and mind
There lies an answer
Buried in the bellies
Of our shame.

Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
And everything returns
From whence it came.

Deliverance.

Follow the current
And we find
The sirens’ call is not
The journey’s end.

What price – Hope?
What cost – Dreams?

Surrender.

Not to what we should be
But to what it is we are.
Nine tenths of reality.
Could change be
As simple as
The turning of the tide
Of what we see?

Sure, there are the critics out there who say this just won’t work. But the best ideas always sound far fetched – until they do. Does that mean we shouldn’t even ask ‘What if’?

“We created this mess. Heck, we even invented this new material [plastic] before we made this mess! So please. Don’t tell me we can’t clean this up. Together.”

~ Boyan Slat
19 yo Aerospace Engineering Student

Tell me, what do you hear? Naivety? Arrogance? Or possibility?

Road Map

Since my last post, when I discovered no one else wants to go to Mars, I’ve been pondering the source of this ever present need for escape.

You’d think a wholesome upbringing in the country, with home grown vegies and hand made saw mills, might have set me straight.

But maybe I forgot to mention the part where my family was less garden-variety-hippie and more monogamous-Juniper-Creek-meets-Nostradamus freaky.

Growing up, the future my father had mapped out for me was one that would assuredly end.

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1833 meteorite shower – A Great Disappointment

The Truth, according to Dad, was that the world should have imploded back in 1844 (or was it 1833?) after the sky fell in somewhere over North America. So now we were literally on borrowed time. A fact, I felt strongly, that he resented on account of having hungry mouths to feed.

As for Y2K. Pfft. We’d be long gone by then.

In eighth grade, we moved interstate. My new English teacher set us an assignment. We had to draw a timeline of the future.

Mine went something like this.

Someone clever would invent an electronic device that would replace our windscreens. So when we drove around, we’d be looking at dots on a moving map, instead of cars on a road.

Road Map to Future

Then, sometime before the Year 2000, the world would end. And we’d all go to heaven and watch the evil undead burn for a thousand years before we made it back to earth for a fresh start.

After I handed in the graphically illustrated project, my teacher came up to me, “Do you really believe all that?”

“Yes.” I said, without a blink. I didn’t understand then why she walked away looking mentally disturbed.

After that, she kept offering to take me on her family outings. I think she was trying to get me away from my parents. But alas, we moved states again and that was that. I never did get my assignment back.

Year 2000 came and went.

With it, this feeling, like you’re standing in a silent, unfamiliar universe, wondering what comes next.

You wouldn’t think so, but there’s something freeing about that space.

Dreams don’t always work out. It’s not the end of the world (unless that was your dream, and then yeah, that kinda sucks).

But moving on to the more positive spin. It’s a chance to start over. Again.

HeavenWTF

On those days when I feel like my life’s an epic failure, I think about the Year 2000.

Next to an apocalypse, somehow it doesn’t really seem to matter quite so much. What matters is what’s left – and that is You.

No road map. No future. Just You at the end of the earth.

You could do nothing. But, then again, you could do anything, as well. It could be heaven, if you wanted it to be. What have you got to lose?

Where’s your road map taking you? Does it have a reset button?

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Credit for images is as follows:

‘Flaming gold’ by Paloetic
‘Earth horizon’ by DonkeyHotey

Fast Forward to the Fifties

So it’s official. Australia is returning to the 1950’s freakin’ dark ages.

Remember this guy from my post a few weeks back?

Ditch WitchThe guy who happily stood in front of the “Ditch the Witch…Bob Brown’s Bitch” banner, and then said Julia Gillard was being “too precious”?

Yep. It obviously struck a chord with my fellow country-folk, because he’s our new Prime Minister as of last weekend!

With Tony Abbott at the helm, this is what we have to look forward to:

Foreign AidNo more charity (but better roads)

Courtesy of our mining boom, we weathered the global financial crisis better than any country on the globe. Now we’re apparently too rich to help out anyone in need.

Stop Boats

No more refugees

We’re so rich we can now afford to buy up all of Indonesia’s leaky boats before the people smugglers get to them. Innovative new plan to →

No more climate change

Climate Tax

Since Abbot believes climate change is just a load of “crap”, there’s no more need for any kind of forward environmental planning.

More ironing for housewives

In the world according to Abbot, women have less physiological aptitude for leadership, and abortion is just ‘the easy way out’. So we can soon expect a return to this…

Laundry

Yay……………………………………….

Help.

Anyone?

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to get back to the…

Future

1.  Volunteer for Mars.

If my head hadn’t been buried in the video project that will never end, maybe I would have heard about it before the applications closed.

2.  Become a refugee.

The other day my hairdresser told me about a backpacker who overstayed her Visa.  She escaped on an Indonesian boat and is now happily posting Facebook updates from Nepal! I’m all up with the squatting toilet now, so this is sounding good. One small problem: They’re stopping all the boats!

3.  Become a hippie.

The same hairdresser asked me if I want to join her setting up a commune. All I need is $100,000. Sigh. Apparently it costs money to drop out of society, these days.

4.  Wash it all down with Martini and write this blog.

The 50′s were good for something, at least.

Martini

”Cause we’re all doomed, even if we’re livin’ on the moon…’

~ Brett Amaker  & the Rodeo

If someone offered you a ticket, would you move to Mars?

The Bittersweet Escape

Ever had a gut feeling that you shouldn’t do something, but did it anyway?

I’m blaming it on cabin fever, because the forecast really wasn’t any good for a day trip.

It was Sunday morning, and I was doing my little “need to get me outta this joint” routine, so before long, Ms and I were sailing away to greener pastures…

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Meet Noojee. An Aboriginal word that means ‘place of rest’ or ‘contentment’.

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Just say it. Noo-jee.

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Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy?

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The stares we got when we reached our destination were less than warm and fuzzy, just like the bartender’s polite suggestion that we dine down at the bistro.

But I wasn’t in the mood for subtle messages that day, so I put my cider down and prepared to soak up the atmosphere.

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The table next to us was having a conversation.

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“Saw these poofters down the street the other day. They were all over each other – holdin’ hands an’ everythin’!!”

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“For real?! Aw, I wouldn’t come here if I were them…”

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It slowly dawned on me that the bartender’s gentle suggestion was probably for our own protection…

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Too late. Our meals arrived.

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The place is noted for its Chicken Parma’s (Aussie speak for chicken schnitzel with tomato sauce and cheese, usually served with chips, vegies and beer).

The food really was as good as all the hype. Even the Veggie Parma was delicious.

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We rolled out of there a few hours later, perfectly contented in the belly, and took a look around the sights.

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By the end of the day, we could hear the wind between our ears and agreed that we got just what we came for.

Driving back, I had zoned out to a bit of Aussie trance music

…when I spotted a policeman pointing from the window of his parked car.

“Was he pointing at us?” I wondered, barely registering that the 2.5 buildings we just drove past were probably meant to be a town.

Sure enough, the lights came flashing behind us. I pulled over and was informed I’d been driving 79 km/h in a 60 zone.

“There goes my overtime,” says Ms.

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All $289 worth of it.

We re-traced our steps through the ‘drop-in-the-dirt town’, as Ms likes to call them. Found the 100m stretch of 60 zone I’d overlooked. And drove on home, subdued.

I learned many things that day. Well, a few.

  • Don’t listen to trance music on a Sunday drive in the country.
  • Do listen to the forecast your gut instinct.
  • The price of contentment is, sometimes, staying home where you belong.

When was the last time you ignored your gut instinct? Was there a lesson to be learned?