Friday, March 6, 2009

Finis ...

... which refers to not just an end but completion, the attainment of a goal. Very few of us will ever win, finally and for all time, the goals we seek: perfect happiness, enlightenment, the discovery of an authentic self or true love can only ever be momentary; but we try. This blog has been part of my trying, and though I'll never quite find the balance I want, I have written out myself to a point of calm and understanding. Finis.

I want to channel my words, my thoughts, my creativity elsewhere. I want to close some doors and open some windows, and lose and gain on other swings and roundabouts.

Thank you for reading and talking to my blog self.



Last weekend we were up in the area, bumbling around when a man limped by and stopped to chat, wanting to know what the space was. And he said, "what a pity no one uses it".

In the past five years we have walked the dogs, watched sunsets, made plans, picked blackberries, collected kindling and sticks for my bean teepees. I have watched my kids learn to climb rocks and trees, to swing, to run down hills and climb back up them. We have eaten plums, picked flowers and jumped back and forth across the tiny creek. We have had picnics. We have played endless hours of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. This is where I have noticed my babies growing into children.

I know what 'use' is code for, and I don't like it. I wonder how a dozen big houses sitting in ashphalt, with small backyards and big garages, could possibly prove a richer use of this space. To wipe out the mysterious, the possibility of adventures, in favour of sitting on a couch or mopping the tiles in the family room shows a lack of imagination and a misunderstanding of what space can mean for children and their families. I very much hope that guy is not sitting on the local council.

I pointed out that we were, in fact using it. (That families do in fact, exist.) And he had the grace to look a little discomforted. He tried to make things right by saying, the place could at least be tidied up a bit. I let it lie. Because if a person prefers concrete paths and banks of azaleas, there'll be no changing their mind.

It's like a switch has been flicked: it's now cold in the morning, so cold I walk into town wishing for gloves; three weeks ago it was hot.

Yesterday I smelled the first wood fires that keep people warm in my suburb. In the past few years that smell has come to conjure both the peak of dry and dangerous summers and their end. It can't be the scent of comfort and home that it once was.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I can't hear myself think. The clamour of work and now, for the past week, as Al travels for his job the girls' constant demands, have muffled my more intriguing words. my mind of words. I feel the desperation rising.

And then Al returns, with presents for the girls in the time honoured tradition. And a present for me: West Germany pottery from the 1960s. And something more valuable: space and time and quiet. He takes the girls for an adventure around the block and I wander the garden, checking the seedlings, plucking and pulling the green. Then I sit on a rock in the sun and eat four blood plums that have, for the first season since wwe've been here, escaped the birds.

There is a world of joy in four red plums.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tellingly ...

Lucy and I are playing with her dollhouse, with Lucy scripting as usual:

Well, now that we've finished the biscuits, let's have a conversation.
So, what shall we buy next week?

I fear we have not opted out of the consumerist society quite as much as we think we have.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bringing up baby

I sit on the couch and watch it, alone, with Al in Hobart for work. I am frozen with horror at the 1950s approach. It doesn't ring true, this pitting of baby against parents in a battle for control, and it seems very cruel to me.

But more distressing is the mother of twins, weeping at putting her newborns out in the cold for hours, to 'blow the cobwebs off them', weeping because it seems so wrong and being told by partner and nurse to do as she's told. When both my kids were born, my self was disassembled, my confidence gone. But there was no-one standing by to tell me I was foolish, that I needed to back off, shut up, and let go of any last shreds of belief in myself and my knowledge. I was surrounded by people who trusted me.

It was painful to watch that woman so firmly put in her place.

Potato lead recovery

Last night I went to hear Henry Reynolds, Peter Cundall and Buck Emberg talk about survival in a recession. They were charming - Reynolds is truly all that a public intellectual should be; even his hair is exactly right - and sometimes thoughtful (except for H.R. who is always thoughtful, never anything but).

Pete's main point: plant potatoes. And build more community gardens to foster connections between people and counter racism. Gardening can save the world. You'd expect nothing else from the classic materialist. I was at peace with my decision to grow more flowers but after listening to the praises for potatoes, my inner peasant has emerged and I'm wondering if a bed of purple sprouting broccoli would do a better job at recession-proofing our household than roses ever could.

Both P.C. and B.E. were so individualist in their proposals to something that will alter whole communities. Plant potatoes, help each other, get rid of debt, live with less. Yep, yep, yep and yep: it all sounds very possible. But then I talk to a friend, a financial planner, ironing his shirt before he goes to sit behind a desk and tell people to invest in gold, and he mentions scenarios that make me feel cold inside, cold for the people who are waiting for the axe to fall, and for those who've already got the chop. (And all the while his kitten bats at the striped shirt).

And I think perhaps that for many people, planting potatoes is not going to be enough.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I am wrinkling, greying, thickening and losing my hearing; and I am okay with these changes.

But yesterday Al bought me a cord for my specs. And I accepted it. And my mortality loomed before me in a way it never has before. All those changes to my body are the marks of experience, but a cord for my glasses, well that just seems old.

Friday, February 20, 2009

There is a bee in my office

Normally, I leave such critters alone. I like bees: their roundedness, their boldness, their sound, the way they look against the purple of the backyard artichokes they are mining for pollen.

But one floor up, in an office that looks over cars and asphalt and has no real opening to the outside world, this bee is out of place and threatening.

I cannot gently hustle him out. I fear it is about to end badly for one of us.

And it has.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Strangely distracting, and beautiful

This is how Lucy described a painting she had finished.

Not 'a tree' or 'an ocean' but 'strangely distracting, and beautiful'.

Not 'strangely distracting, and oddly beautiful. Not 'strangely distracting, but beautiful'. I think she got it just right.

I love the elegance of my daughter's phrase.


Three days ago Nell told me a story of swimming in the ocean, fighting off a shark which had bitten her hand, and traveling to the doctor on the bus (we don't let the girls watch the news - they're both crazy for sharks and drama).

I love that two months ago Nell had only a very few words and now she uses them to invite me into a world that I will only ever see through a glass darkly.


I love that Al and I have offered the girls words and now those words are all their own.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Wychwood is, I think, a very good name for a garden at the end of a lane at the foot of the central plateau.

It is a good name for a place with a labyrinth and a creek at the bottom of the garden;
it is a good name for a place that is quiet and elegant and intriguing.

I have no garden, really, at the moment. The dry and lack of time means I've some islands of brave plants soldiering on in an expanse of dust and, in the better places, mulch.

Sometimes I feel gardening is about being humble in the face of my own failure; sometimes I think it is about being fatalistic about those failures (but then I walk past an old, old woman bending down to pull up dandelions from her driveway). Sometimes, though, it is inspiring and exciting when I walk through a place that is loved, where plants are valued and trusted to seed and spread, and I see a gardeners' grace in the time, cost and care taken to nurture a piece of land that, of course, can't belong to them forever.

The stories of old people planting trees, knowing they'll never see them grown, are lovely for their message of faith in a long future that can't be claimed. But equally beautiful is the thought of building something for the time being, knowing it may not last out the decade - or the year - or even, quite horribly, the week - and doing so anyway because what there is today matters as much as the possibility of the future.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A place for everything

In the glove box:

2 x parking permits
1 x sunscreen
1 x knife
1 x sea urchin

I think the car needs a clean out.

So does my in-box. My work is piling up, quite literally, into a tower that threatens to fall and crush me. I miss blogging. I miss the fun writing but seem unable to find space in my head and in my timetable to think about Things.

Life has become a matter of keeping on top of it all. I seem unable to balance my life with any grace or consistency.

And now, instead working the way I need to work, I keep reading about the fires and crying. My mind bounces back from what happened to people, to animals, to communities. I am truly thankful to be living where I live - I understand the hobbits.

Monday, February 2, 2009


I am uncool. It's true, and it's okay. I'm a thirty-six year old mother of two with a house in the suburbs and a generally harried air and (I'm almost sure) the wrong sneakers; I'm not aiming for cool. So I'm not embarrassed to say that I love to visit the Launceston Horticultural Society's flower shows at St Albie's Hall down the road from Brickfields. I love it in a non-ironic, really looking forward to it, I'd like a lamington and a cup of tea kind of a way.

Two dollars gets me an hour to wander between of row after row of colour and form, funny horticultural names, and stalls with seriously cheap perennials. I am always the youngest person in the room, and I win the love of every older person who fears the art and science of flower arranging and growing for exhibition are being lost: I am the future of their passion, and I think I wear that mantle with some grace (but no cool). And lately, I have learned to become a dahlia fancier.

I think dahlias must be one of the most uncool of flowers: all soldier rows and elderly men pre-occupied with size and rigidity. But, check it out:

They're like little manifestations of mathematical formulae. Plus, it's easy to tell a good story in a dahlia show: Devon Carnival, Devon Temptation, Devon Caress, Devon Seduction ... and then the sad ending to the tale: Devon Citation. (Who new Devon was such a hotspot for licentiousness?)

Oh, the youth of today with their hair gel and those night clubs - they don't know where to go for a good time. But I do.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's not you, it's me

In my job, I write almost every day, and every word and idea is subject to multiple reviews, criticisms, feedbacks, unsolicited and solicited advice. This is not an exaggeration - everything is read with an eye to finding weakness or fault. The majority of what I write is valued in terms of its impact: who reads it, where it is read, what people do with it. Of course, nothing dam(n)s thoughts and words faster than the feeling there are one hundred eyes looking over my shoulder, judging me harshly for using one word and not the other.

This blog is something of a blessed relief. It lets me write what I want and play with words without, really, any significant effect on my life and my standing; it is liberating. Except on those low days when I'm feeling fragile, and no-one comments, or the comments seem to miss the point I was trying to make, or I feel obliged to reciprocate the comments left and I don't - then, I feel kind of crappy.

I don't want to feel crappy about the blog, I want to feel good. I wish I was the kind of woman who writes, blithely assured of her own good points and general elegance of thought and phrase, with no need to look for affirmation from the numbers and content of comments at the bottom of the screen. And usually - sometimes - occasionally - once in a while - the last Tuesday of November - I am. But I want protection when I am not my most fabulous self, and so I switched the comments off.

I rather miss people's comments. I like reading others' thoughts, their perspectives and their experiences. I love it when someone loves what I've written - love it. But on balance, I like writing out into the void, so that I don't become fixated on writing for a specific - and in my mind, inevitably judgmental - audience.

So, to those who are looking for the comments button: it's not you, or your computer, it's me. But you can get me on an email address, which is listed in my profile. It's not my everyday address, but I do read it relatively often. I might not reply to your email in good time because I have been buried by an unexpected avalanche at work, brought on by some sad events that are themselves sapping my energy, and when I do correspond with people I like to have something to say, something worthwhile reading - but I do appreciate and welcome your ideas, and your making the effort to reach out, and I will respond, almost certainly when you have given up hope of my ever answering.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Orange rocks

This island is littered with the things ...

We spent Sunday up in a far away corner of the state. Mt William is deep in the backwoods: roadkill territory, spotted with old mining towns slowly, slowly emptying out. We had lunch under the trees by the beach, sheltered from the waves and the horizon, which terrify Lucy. She is afraid her parents will be swept out to sea, and afraid of that point where the two blues meet and people drop off the world.

It's a long drive from our place, and the journey was punctuated with the 'are we there yet?'s our own parents suffered. We did some mammoth drives when I was a kid: bundled into the Nissan Urvan before dawn, and driven from rural Victoria to Brisbane in one long, straight line, Dad driving through the night as we slept in the folded down seats in the back. The trips were in summer and I remember the blazing light and the heat in outback New South Wales, my parents stopping at small towns to buy us a can of fizzy drink. Oh, the delicious anticipation and the quandary: Passiona or green lime? The drinks came in a size that's long been phased out, much smaller than the standard 375 mls, and the cans were uncrushable.

I remember too, the car lulling me into my inner world, the place where kids fantasize when there's nothing else to do. Bored, bored, boring: Lucy uses these words all the time, now, to get my goat. I used to worry about my kids being bored - am I not enriching their lives enough?; am I cheating them of necessary experiences? But after some fidgeting Nell picked up her Barbie and told stories to herself (a two year old with a Barbie and a feminist mother - yes, there's something to be written on that) and Lu pulled over some books and then drifted off in an un-focused stare. Both were heading places where I can't, I don't want to, follow.

We take our girls to some beautiful places. They won't remember the heart stopping blue of the water on this particular Sunday, but when we strap them in their car seats, I think we are giving them a chance to explore something more than this particular island.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The perfect hostess

Top four things to do for kids who visit my house for a play date:

* squash slugs;
* feed snails to chooks;
* be chased, screaming, by the Kris-witch until someone cries in fear;
* pick up the ever-present piles of dog poo on the back 'lawn'.

We also have one little guest who likes to vaccuum and wash walls when she's around.

I'm learning not to over-think the entertaining of children.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Gillian talks of being conspicuous. I understand, I understand: awkwardness exposed and magnified by my imagination. Misjudging a step down, turning one way when the person I'm with turns the other, my cardigan buttoned wrong - on raw days, I die a teeny tiny death of shame.

But here's conspicuous: being a learner bus driver, with a great big L on the front of the bus, turning a corner slowly, slowly, slowly, inching around, going wide and nudging a street sign on the corner; and then looking up to see a woman standing on the footpath, watching the progress.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gardening in the summer

I hate gardening in the summer. Down here it's dry and there's no lushness, no fecundity, and almost no growth. I'm just trying to keep a few things alive: the sad yellow basil, some sad yellow roses, a drooping tomato or two. Even the zucchinis, so overwhelmingly abundant in past years, are struggling to produce. This is a time of getting through, when stasis is a win. And I hate it. The things I love, the planning and planting of seeds, the tending of soil, don't happen as I spend my time watering and mulching and hoping for some rain.

But still, I dug around a dry bed of potato plants, put in when things were damp, and there, sitting just under the soil, were rosy Desirees, quietly waiting. Now, there's an allegory that's difficult to miss.

A good thing, too, as things here are at a tipping point. I have been smashed by a tsunami at work. I am the only one left standing as the senior team members are struck down by illness and bereavement. Not so long ago I was the junior person and now I am the senior, with all of the admin. and negotiations and constant emails and phone calls that entails. My boss has been divine in giving me actual, useful support and absolute flexibility in my working hours. But of course, as everyone in an office knows, each email, each phone call, takes a bite out of the time we use for something else. And I suspect I am like most of the working population, in that the something elses that are whittled away are the something elses that keep me half-way healthy and sane. Indeed, the something elses are what fill the well so that I can do my job.

I know this, I talk about this with every other mother I know. I know the magic list: yoga; walking in the morning; 8 hours sleep; no alcohol, sugar or junk food; something creative outside of work; some time with friends; some time by myself. But that list once again sits there unacknowledged and unchecked and I wonder why I'm doing this to myself yet again. I know the answer: socialisation, gender identity, organisational structures, psychological make-up; but my question is, why do I find myself asking the question when I know that answer? Theory alone won't bring about praxis.

So I am writing this down, for me, because when I put something in words it's real to me: I am doing my stuff first. Each morning I am playing with words, each evening I am pottering with the things that matter to me. Each day I am reminding myself that I am not a heart surgeon, nor a U.N. negotiator, nor a rescue worker; no one will die if I do things on my terms and at my pace.

This is an old, old song I am singing here, and I hope that one day, I'll remember the words and stay in tune.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sew sew

8am and it's a bad morning already. A bad night's sleep thanks to the new possum in the roof, gamboling in the space above our bed. (Or maybe it's a giant rat up there - oh, so much worse.) Girls up before sunrise, which in summer is awfully early. A plod with the dogs - no joy in the birds and the light, today. Al's in Hobart until tomorrow, so there's no-one to step in at 5.30 pm to take over the Inspector Gadget role play that is eating up my days and my soul. Bubbling anxiety over work. The girls at me, at me, atmeatmeatme from the moment I wake up, jostling over who stands next to me while I do a poo, eat a muffin, stare into space. All this culminating in my shrieking, shrieking at them as they fight over who gets to crawl under a particular but in no way distinguished dining chair. Shrieking 'Oh my god, would you just STOP, the two of you. Fighting before 7.30 in the morning: it's a disgrace. Stop'. Storming out (with my coffee - I wasn't so angry I forgot my coffee).

And then my rehabilitation, in the eyes of the girls and myself, as I mend a Barbie dress (Barbies, yes, another story for another day). I've never valued my sewing skills, which are limited and always end in shoddy bits and pieces. But oh, the magic in the eyes of the girls. Statistical analysis impresses them not all; my working knowledge of half a dozen computer programs is irrelevant, save that it lets me find cool stuff for them to watch on youtube. Domestically, I leave them cold: I vacuum while they watch T.V. and I only ever cook food that is disgusting, stinky and yukky. But sewing up a a shiny yellow dress with blue thread - that is the work of a domestic goddess of the most glamorous kind.

A bad morning takes a turn for the better.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


A man is slowly renovating a small white house with peeling paint. I track the changes as I walk past in the mornings and the evenings. I trick myself into thinking I know The Guy a little from the outside: he is green (a no pulp mill sticker on the car); he cooks (veggies in the rocks, a lemon tree in the corner); he once Did Things Outdoors(kayaks stacked on the side fence, gathering spider webs). I construct a life for him from the bits and pieces that lie around his yard. What an odd and presumptuous thing to do, but I am a curtain-twitcher, a peerer over fences and through the cracks in curtains; I take an interest in the bits of life that are unwittingly available to me; I will grow into a very gossipy old woman.

This morning, I walked past the house half an hour later than usual, after a slow start from a bad night's sleep. The Guy stood at the kitchen window, washing a mug, with no shirt on. I saw his soft white belly. His things are ciphers, something to play with as I walk to the bus but the vulnerability of his flesh and his domesticity shot a shock of intimacy into my solar plexus. In a glimpse of the mundane I recognised The Guy as a person, and I saw that of course, of course, I did not know him at all.

How odd. I will remember that moment when I am 45, when I am 60, when I am 80 - I am sure of it. I will remember it for no good reason, and for some very good reason I will never put words to.

How odd, how odd, how odd.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Nelly belly

... it's just too delicious for words.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


There's a house not far from where I live, across the road from a landslip area where the most muscari can be found in the spring.

I think it might be a rental - it's not a house that's carefully tended, and its garden shrinks a little each week in the dry of the summer.

I walked past this morning with the dogs and saw, in the front garden, an old hydrangea with bright and sharp blue flowers, squatting next to a crayon pink geranium. It was unplanned, obvious and vulgar, and so lovely I stopped and stared and schemed for the same in my own front yard.

I think that particular blue and that particular pink are the colours of serendipity.

And now I must fly - there's an escalating dispute over a fallen lemon.

Monday, January 5, 2009

What I did on my holidays

We caught planes, trains and automobiles; we visited friends, families, zoos, art galleries; we read books; we ran around and we sat still; we got sick (and no more shall be said about that); we celebrated my 36th birthday (36 - so far, it's not so bad); we lived without email and the internet for five weeks (the liberation!) and we realised that east or west, home is best.

This past weekend was the last before we start two full time jobs (at least in the short term - we're pretty sure something's gotta give) and we went here:

I swam because I was at the beach and by golly, that's what I do at the beach. I swam without a wetsuit, and once the numbness set in, it was lovely. Before the numbness, I could feel the ice crystals forming on the bits below water.

But I think there are few places where I can swim with cows lowing and butterflies and swallows swooping above my head. There are few places where my kids can splash nudie in the shallows,

and few places this orange:

Al and I have resolved to enjoy what we have, rather than looking always to greener pastures. We're stopping the circular arguments of should we stay or should we go, we're stopping the plans for the future, and for the moment, we're nourishing the roots we have here. Thinking back to the weekend, this shouldn't be too hard.