The day the fire actually came

 
 I ponder on the wise of it
 As trees around me bow
 Before the gusting hot north wind
 Before which they bend so cowed
  
 I give the thought deep consideration
 As the darkening sky forebodes
 I check, the heat is forty four
 As wind and weather goads
  
 There’s much to lose either way
 Deciding to stay or go
 Give up the home to fiery tempest
 Risk the life you know
  
 There’s a plan to pack the things I need
 Water blanket items precious
 There’s alternative routes to avoid the flames
 Where the flames may be ferocious
  
 But then there’s plans to stay and fight
 Buckets mop hose and mask 
 Hit each ember where it lands
 But am I really up to the task?
  
 This day’s been declared catastrophic red
 I waited to see how it would turn
 Now I’m stuck as the catastrophe looms
 All around wilts then starts to burn
  
 The air is burning in my throat
 Radiant heat scorches all around me
 The sky rains burning leaves and hot grey ash
 The smoke so thick I can’t breathe or see
  
 I dare not move can’t find the house
 I touch hot metal seek shelter in the car 
 Pull the woollen blanket over my head 
 And lie below the glass to cower
  
 Explosions start as eucalyptus oil 
 In nearby trees ignites
 The car is rocked by more of them 
 as fuel detonates in light so bright

 The fear is terrible 
 I’m paralysed hope my only gift
 I so wish I’d gone before the fire
 packed my stuff and left

Avenel: Tarcombe Rd – Upton Rd Cycling Loop

Bump & Grind

Mode: Gravel Grinder

Start / Finish location: Jubilee Park, Avenel

Route Map

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 39km

Elevation: 150 – 480m

Topography: Flats through to steep gradients

Surfaces: 25km bitumen / 14km gravel

Description & Features: Quiet roads. Beautiful scenery. Vistas to grazing pasture, rolling hills, cherry orchards, vineyards, forested waterways and granite outcrops. • A steady gravel climb to views across to Mt Wombat from Upton Hill • A winding bitumen return downhill • Avenel Maze is passed on the return leg

Riding conditions: It can be very cold in winter and very hot in summer. Check local weather conditions before leaving.

Options: Choose clockwise or anti clockwise, the 14km of gravel is at the eastern end of Tarcombe Rd

Amenities (Avenel): Car parking BBQ Fuel Shops Seating Parkland Playground Picnic tables Public toilets Potable water Accommodation Historic features Sports Reserves Swimming Pool Railway station

Cautions: Steep climbs Soft shoulders Slippery surfaces Subject to flooding Road surfaces vary Snakes may be active Mobile reception may be unreliable Carry food, water, First Aid, be SunSmart Be equipped for self-reliant riding

Anticlockwise Cues:  Start Jubilee Park car park  Right Ewings Rd  Right Livingstone St  Left Mitchell St  Right Jones St  Cross Hume Fwy  Straight on Tarcome Rd  Left Upton Rd  Right Tarcombe Rd  Cross Hume Fwy  Straight Jones St  Left Mitchell St  Right Anderson St  Left Ewings Rd

The art of sitting

Choose a place to still your body and a restless mind. Sit. Start by observing all that is going on around you. Hear the background noises. Examine the occupants, textures and colours of the physical surroundings. Feel the movement and temperature of the air. Take your time. Acknowledge and appreciate these things. Once you have paid them their due. Let them go.

Look into your mind. Question the constant restlessness of your thinking. How important is it for this moment? Work your way through your thoughts, shedding all that are not essential to your being here and now. Settle any disturbing waves of turbulence to a calm pool within.

Breathe, slow and deep. Find your own rhythm.

Place yourself exclusively in this moment and space. Stay for as much time as you need. Peacefully, refresh and reset.

The water

 When Sissy 
went into the water
I followed.
Naturally.
Because I,
a younger brother,
had an older sister
I adored.
Well, what else is a sibling
water daughter for?
 I saw her wavering figure 
deep down ahead,
cutting through
crystalline
mountain water
like an arrow.
Streaming effervescence.
I saw her
touch the bottom
of washed sand,
of rounded stones
smoothed by years
of grinding,
with a pat of her hand.
Box ticked.
Camp task
number one
accomplished.
River mastered.
 She rose then.
A lithe silver nymph
spearing her way to the surface.
And I knew I was in trouble,
as I
continued down.
Caught by the current
like one of those
smooth stones,
tumbled and bumped,
grated and ground.
 I had no hardened surface 
to resist the battering,
no thick skin
to soften defeat,
no awareness
of up or down,
no ability
to swim or float,
not even the desire to flap about.
 I just froze,
one with the chilled water.
Not desperate,
not fearful.
That would come later.
I was
simply,
absolutely,
completely,
unable to comprehend
how I could find
myself here.
What did it mean
exactly?
 Incapacitated  
by lack of learning.
Paralysed
by ignorance.
Alone,
for the very first time
in my very short life,
the refracted sky
above was still blue,
the fluffy clouds
were still white,
the trees on the bank
were still green.
I,
however,
remained unseen.
 The water became 
my atmosphere,
thick,
tangible.
The known world
began to disappear.
The water
filled my ears.
Sound disappeared.
The water
filled my nose
and my mouth.
I couldn’t call out.
The weight
on my chest grew heavier.
I couldn’t breathe,
anything,
but water.

National Gallery of Victoria Triennial

If you couldn’t get into the NGV Triennial between lockdowns and all the other life stuff that interferes with what you really want to be doing, here is a small photographic essay of my experience. Being at the NGV again was such a treat. The visitors were well supported and everyone looked very cool and very relaxed. As usual, the curation was excellent. The artworks were impressive and engaging. It almost felt normal.

We started in the back garden where, as DJ, our daughter’s partner was doing a great job getting everyone into a chilled art space frame of mind. Seated under a shady Pin Oak was the perfect setting for the groove and the company. In fact, it was so chilled and relaxed I even risked my first light beer in a very, very long time. It was appropriately refreshing and I didn’t get my usual alcohol headache. Very pleasing.

Note: The photos are pretty grainy and may be a bit out of focus at times. I was using an old Nikon A300 point and shoot. It isn’t a very capable camera, but I had fun with it nonetheless.

Success

Be your own measure of success. Do not accept it being imposed upon you. Examine the reasons for your decision making with a view to determining where your decisions come from. Those arising from necessity must necessarily be actioned. However, those arising from other forms of external pressure may be either unnecessary, misdirected, inappropriate or appropriate. You should be the one to determine which. To understand the motives of everyone involved and how they influence you, take the time to ask yourself, “What is really happening here?”

Gardens relative to the natural world.

A garden does not represent the natural world. It is a construct.

Although I feel a closeness to nature in the place that I live, I recognise that I live in an anthropomorphic construct of the natural world. Our previously bare domestic garden is increasingly made up of intentional revegetation. However, this is composed of a significantly disproportionate mix of indigenous and non indigenous species, of naturally random, arbitrary and planned placement of plants and spaces. Our decision making always seems to find a way to more suit human than wildlife visitation.

The wider rural countryside is much the same. Despite being comprised of grasses, shrubs, trees, water and wildlife, this is a man made place. The dominant grasslands are introduced crops and pasture, extensive and controlled. Amongst the shrubs and trees exotics are commonplace whether in a garden or in the bush. The creeks support nothing like the biodiversity they once did and across the landscape quality indigenous habitat is scarce. Any natural world remnants are fragmented and disconnected, degraded and infiltrated. This place has been radically modified by the imposition of a consumption focussed cultural model, where everything must serve a human oriented purpose.

In the tiniest instance of natural world history, narrow human interest has either directly destroyed or undermined millennia after millennia of interdependent natural world systems development. Ironically, this continuing single mindedness may well be our own undoing. Regardless of how obvious this fact should be, it remains subject to debate because of human arrogance and our incapacity to respond to science, to recorded history, or learn from our mistakes.

Science and recorded history tell us that just 250 years ago Australia hosted a richer natural world where waterways, landscapes and the sky were full of the noises and business of bush life. Today we consider a terraformed garden space that might just support a small range of wildlife part of this natural world. It is not, by its very nature it is a construct, better than other forms of obliterating built environment, but a construct nonetheless. Without a doubt, humans will choose to retain their gardens for productive use and against the uncontrolled threat of the wild

Gardens are necessary for function and pleasure. However, extensive rewilding is the only scalable answer to imminent ecosystems collapse. Unless we restore declining biodiversity, consequent collapsing food chains and the checks and balances of natural world systems interdependence, we will lose everything.

Natural world spaces

Natural world spaces beckon. A track, a trail, a waterway, a forest, a desert, a garden, a valley, a mountain, a park. They call on us to linger in place, to appreciate and contemplate. They feed our souls and refresh our minds. They represent and deliver the simplest pleasures of life, observing and feeling part of the interconnectivity of everything.

Thinking versus Things

How is it we can perceive acquisition of things as necessary to our wellbeing, but continue to feel deprived of a sense of wellbeing when we acquire things? Why does this disconnect exist? Where does it come from? What is it that we really need or want?

When is thinking more important than things? Other than when things are required to do good work, maybe all the time?

Ah, but what exactly is good work ….. ?

Rewilding: an urban beginning?

I recently read David Attenborough’s 2020 book, “A life on our planet: My witness statement and a vision for the future”. Ever since, I have been contemplating how on earth it will be possible to action the plans he outlines for preserving functional global climate systems, biodiversity, and saving ourselves from ourselves.

Rewilding is one solution Attenborough envisages. A small example may be when many urban neighbourhoods develop their own small forests and foster biolinks. The cumulative effect could be significant. Just as each relatively small piece of new built environment and mono cultural agribusiness diminishes our capacity to recover, each relatively small piece of new ecosytem and forest enhances it. See www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-56003562

Seasonal visits

Come and see me with autumn’s fall

We’ll share the light and colour

I‘ll always answer your call

Come and see me in winter time

When the wind blows cold

Makes our warmth sublime

Come and see me in joyful spring

When the world renews

Our time for loving

Come and see me in summer heat

When we can seek cool places

Where and whenever we meet

Or come and see me forever one day

And we’ll stay together

Forever always

Walking

As I head

toward the door

Questions

head my way

Where are you going?

Walking.

Where to?

It doesn’t matter, I say

Walking

a destination in its own right

Walking

the easiest way

we can fully engage

With the natural world

In walking

we place ourselves

at a new destination every minute

we escape ourselves

And we expose ourselves

to genuine experiences

of our surroundings

and the elements

on the human scale

What will you look for?

I smile

knowing whatever I look for

I will also find many things different

I don’t need to look

for anything in particular

because I will find

small parts of everything

Walking always takes me there

Bluebeard’s Egg – a review

In this book, Margaret Atwood shares with us a set of short stories. The principal characters are all women. The narrative revolves around their self perception. Each story represents an episode from a life. Many of these episodes are ongoing and without conclusion regardless of coming to the end. However, this doesn’t matter because the stories are more about getting an insight into what makes each principal tick, rather than the story itself. This is an intimate and rewarding approach to sharing the motivation for some women’s choices. In a way, this approach makes discussion of the stories themselves superfluous. So, I am going to consider the writing style used to communicate these internal dialogues instead.

I like Margaret Atwood’s style. It is direct and concise. Atwood’s sentences are short and often punchy. She is descriptive in a precise and succinct way. She fills out her characters in a purposeful, almost business like manner, but without sacrificing personality. Quite an achievement really. There’s something empirical in the way she speaks to the reader. She writes from an evidence base. There is an explanation for everything so that the content becomes believable and thus compelling.

Internal dialogues are an important tool for Atwood. She utilises self consciousness to tell the character’s story in such a way you develop an intimate perspective. It feels partly voyeuristic. On the other hand, there is a concurrent application of third party detachment. This balance allows you to proceed without feeling too guilty about listening to private thoughts and observing private actions. This approach works well for the reader. It invites you in. As a consequence, each encounter feels primarily like a unique sharing of a personal psychological profile. Each story becomes something of a secondary tale, just a vehicle for achieving the author’s primary goal.

Recommended as an interesting and informative approach to gender specific short story telling.