Saturday, December 16, 2017

King Lake National Park

I think the best thing I ever got to do when I was in school was Work Experience with the park rangers at the Kinglake National Park, north of Melbourne. I'd always wanted to be in the bush and found it difficult living in the urban and city environment. Somehow when I was in year eight I managed to score the opportunity to live and work for two consecutive weeks in Kinglake National Park! I think I may have received some extra help in scoring this opportunity based on my borderline delinquent status...

This was such a great opportunity, my previous work experience had me getting up at 5:30 every day for two weeks in the middle of winter to catch a train and bus to a skylight factory where I was stuck inside all day folding sheet metal and cutting perspex. At Kinglake I got to live in a small cabin in the forest just up the track from Mason's falls.

My work consisted mainly of digging trenches, track maintenance, cleaning toilets and painting signs. Most of it was pretty mundane but I just loved being there, occasionally there were opportunities to go on patrol with the rangers and visit some of the lesser known corners of the park. My favorite time was at dawn before the park opened, lyrebirds and wallabies would break cover from the ground ferns, they'd browse and forage in the scrub right next to my cabin, nobody else saw that!

I really wanted to be a ranger but was advised that if I didn't have straight A's at school and didn't have a combination of multiple degrees and highly specialized skills like mountain climbing or various other extreme sport activities up my sleeve, I might as well quit my fantasy of becoming a ranger. There were no positions for amateurs! (The previous work experience kid was a high achiever from a private school!) So I enjoyed my two weeks in paradise and returned to my destiny as a Pleb. (I was failing dismally at school, I'd never been given any impression that I'd ever be able to attend university) All evidence pointed to me becoming either a sheet metal worker in a factory or a second rate criminal residing in the  "Bluestone College" at Coburg. 

 Kinglake National Park was a place I'd visited several times in my Youth, it was the nearest 'mountain range' (mountain by Australian standards) and only place of that type that I was familiar with. I loved it there but by the time I got my license and became truly mobile I became used to venturing a lot further afield. I possibly only went back to Mason's falls three or four times after I left school.

The Lyrebird was a very commonly seen resident before the fires, I hope my kids can see one here some day

In 2009 After three days of temperatures of over 40 degrees C the tinder dry bushland ignited. On the 7th February 2009 multiple fires spread across the region and the hills burned! This was the day known as Black Saturday. The destruction was extreme, according to the statistics on the National Museum of Australia website 450,000 hectares was burned and 173 people died, 100's of houses were destroyed and thousands of animals perished. Impact on the environment was massive. Non fire resistant riparian vegetation and rain forest was lost.The tree ferns disappeared the earth was left bare and all that could be seen from the grasslands below were the eerie skeletons of 1,000s of dead trees rising above the bare hills.

I had been living in Darwin for several years at the time of the fire and didn't venture into the hills again for a couple of years after. Even several years later Driving through Flowerdale on my way to Bonnie Doon was a devastating experience! I couldn't recognize the landscape! What had once been a thickly wooded shady valley dripping with mountain dew was now a barren hillside covered with the grey and black corpses of dead trees. No foliage. As we turned toward Alexandra my eyes welled up and I began to cry. What has happened here was apocalyptic! It felt like The End! I couldn't stand it!

Yesterday nearly 9 years after the fires had passed, I finally felt OK about visiting the National park at Kinglake. On the way I was shocked to see how much development has spread along Plenty Road. People everywhere, cars, flash houses, the lot! All plonked on top of a land which had it's own spirit. The new comers oblivious to the space they now inhabit, will they ever appreciate the place that lies beneath their roads and streets of houses?

As we approached the park it was confronting to see how the vegetation has changed. The mature forest was gone. There had been quite a bit of re-growth but this was not the same forest. It's taken so many years, nearly a decade, for plant life to begin to restore, but at least it is happening, God knows if it will ever become the wet forest it used to be.

At the park itself I could see that a lot of the tall trees remained, but most of the shrubs and ground cover had been replaced with eucalypt saplings and acacias. The riparian zone appeared to be in reasonable condition, there were actually still a few tree ferns very close to the water and the stream flowed clear. We didn't get to see any Lyrebirds but I have heard there are some around. 

Tree ferns still exist  but there are much less than there used to be

A lot of tall trees were felled after the fires

This is a park which attracts a lot of city visitors, it has always had a fairly heavy impact. The attitude of visitors was particularly obvious to me this time around. After the bushland here had suffered so much through the fires it was very saddening to find that every tree trunk in the visitors area had been defaced. Some fools saw the blackened trunks of these great survivors as nothing more than a canvas for their self indulgent need to leave their mark. Every visible tree trunk had people's names and various other messages and vulgarities scratched like graffiti in the charred bark of the remaining trees! Although this has relatively low impact on the health of the trees, it reflects a general contempt for the majesty of these beautiful trees and a lack of appreciation for just how precious this place is. As I walked the Lyrebird path with my children and my mother I saw other artifacts of spray painted graffiti and wondered who would perish first, the forest or the destructive culture that has altered the climate to the point that such a fire is likely to happen again. 

Every tree in this area had been defaced

Getting back to my original hopes to become a park ranger, I did eventually study to become a ranger in the NT, where there were actually ample opportunities to work in the field and in some very remote and beautiful places. I chose not to pursue that career due mostly to the fact that a large portion of the job involved managing the people who want to use these places for quite destructive recreational pursuits. NT parks, particularly those close to Darwin tend to be used as places to congregate in the bush with a ton of booze and loud music. 
I've chosen for my relationship with the environment to be a more personal affair.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Tubeless Tyres

Just a quick note.

In September I went to Singapore.
There were lots of interesting things but what caught my eye in particular was the fact that tubeless bicycle tyres are already in common use!

Based on the media I've seen about them I thought they were a concept that was being developed. It turns out that Western media sources are way behind the 8 ball.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Water beckons depths call

Rough edge of rock to steady the foot
Water beckons when the tide is full
Distant lights comfort, impossible hope
Focus diminished where dreams only go
What's real is not as it seems from this shore
Fall at your peril and come here no more!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Forsaken goats and Heretics

Blooms wrestle catastrophe at dawn
Control lost, disorder,
heretical chaos shines

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Flamingo garden ornaments! 

WTF! I do not like Flamingos. 

Flamingo - jammed into branches of a bush at Emerald Springs Roadside Inn
I don't know exactly why I don't like them but I am quite sure I do not like them.
I do not like their backwards facing knees and their long legs. I do not like their long bendy necks. I do not like their bizarre scum filtering bills and I do not like they all walk around in a big group with their heads bobbing up and down like a team of synchronized swimmers stuck in a wading pool! 

Flamingos are very odd and kind of stupid looking birds! I know this sounds so cruel and uncharitable, I cringe at my own belligerent prejudice. I can appreciate they are a highly evolved animal that is capable of surviving in a very harsh environment. And I can also see them as Gods creatures that I have no business despising, but when I look at a flamingo all I see is a dumb creature that sucks hot putrid scum through its repulsive deformed looking beak. 

I noticed this attitude quite a while ago while watching a nature documentary and then fairly soon after watching a David Attenborough special… 
I realized I have a repulsion to these graceful pink birds. Then I thought about the bizarre practice some people have of keeping statues of them on their lawns and in their gardens! Where did this fetish come from? Why do people do it? 
More than the actual birds, which have a God given right to exist in their own right, I hate lawn Flamingos! I think it might be the peculiar cognitive connection people seem to have which links this brine swilling wasteland bird with sublime tropical paradise lifestyle. The fantasy does not match reality! I think above all else this self delusional association is what truly bugs me about the FLAMINGO!

Now I am feeling an overwhelming compulsion to take photos and document all the flamingo effigies I see. It’s such a weird obsession, I've resisted it for a couple of years but now I have decided, I want to document flamingos.

Is this some weird fetish? An intense ambivalence? Drawn to obsess for this object I detest! Am I losing my mind? Is this normal?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ride to work Day 2017

So apparently yesterday was Ride to Work Day.

Not sure how influential this special day designed to encourage workers to ride their bikes has been but I reckon whatever efforts are made to encourage people to get out on their bikes can’t be a bad idea. So for me it was just another day but I did take the scenic rout to work. 

Here’s some photos. 

At the mouth of Rapid Creek
My trusty Shogun Katana still up to the job

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Crazy Pills!

Crazy Pills? 
You know what I mean right? Somewhere deep in the core of you, you've had those moments where it seems everyone is going along with something that makes absolutely no sense to you but they're all acting like it's perfectly normal... 

Well to me this that’s the catch phrase for this current epoch. It may have been used elsewhere but I take it from the movie 'Zoolander'. Will Ferrell’s character ‘Mugatu’ is confounded by the fan hysteria around the latest ‘look’ or facial expression of a brainless male model by the name of Derek Zoolander. For context I quote:
"SHUT UP! Enough already, Ballstein! Who cares about Derek Zoolander anyway? The man has only one look, for Christ's sake! Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigra? They're the same face! Doesn't anybody notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"


Why am I talking about Crazy Pills? Well because I was recently criticized for using the term ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ in a fb discussion. Apparently I shouldn’t assume that people know what that means and therefore shouldn’t use the term. 
In my opinion this is utter crap! How else are we supposed to explore ideas if we can’t use the terms given to us which best express a concept. It reminded me of an expression I’d heard in a movie which uses much simpler words, so I thought I'd write about it here rather than get embroiled in a pointless joust in other social media arenas. 

Experiencing ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ is just like ‘Feeling like I’ve been taking Crazy Pills!’
The thing is that we live in a world where we are often lead to believe nonsensical illogical explanations of what we would otherwise perceive very differently. Basically lies, spin and gammon BS currently trump truth, research and good old fassioned gut instinct. Yet in order to ‘get along’ the most comfortable option is to accept the illogical explanations we are given for absurdly obvious errors in perception and fact. 

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term that describes the level of discomfort we feel at the inconsistency of the narrative… Our minds need to resolve the agitation, so we can either seek truth, recognize the lies and reject them out of hand, putting us at odds with society, or we can accept the BS, drink the cool aid and fall into a state pretty well described by George Orwell in '1984' as ‘Doublethink’. 
As I write this longwinded, unqualified exploration I am beginning to realize, that I have been drawn into arguments with people who are fully engaged in the art of Doublethink, by challenging them I have introduced a state of Cognitive Dissonance that needs to be resolved. So therefore with ‘peace of mind’ as their objective the solution is to silence the agitator, restore the narrative, rationalize with more illogical and irrelevant explanations and excuses and move as quickly as possible back to the state of bliss that only the deliberately ignorant can know. 

Of course there’s another Pill metaphor from a popular movie that relates very clearly with the theme of Cognitive Dissonance:

Image © 1999 Warner Bros., The Matrix
This train of thought was spurred by a conversation with Midnight Oil fans who went to see the band in concert recently. I found the idea of watching Peter Garret singing those old songs absolutely abhorrent yet others appeared to experience no internal conflict around the obviously glaring conflict between his onstage performances and his real life betrayal of the ideas he sings about.  Peter Garret was a member of the Australian Government for a short time during which he made decisions which appeared to be in complete contrast to the values many of us believed he had. 

I'd really like to explore this idea further, as it has so many implications and applies to so many situations but will probably  leave it at this... just a musing I had to spew forth. ;) 

So It's back to the wheel we go.

Blogging my escape from social media

I started writing in my blog back in 2006, the year that facebook was unleashed on the world!

Of course it took some time for the social media blitz to really get a grip, and for someone just getting the hang of navigating the online world, there seemed to be an abundance of interesting blogs and basic amateur websites to explore. 

Memes probably existed but most of my online communication was far more engaged and interactive. 

Exploring blogs related to specific topics or general themes put me in touch with networks of people I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to communicate with. When I found blogs of interest I could follow them in Google Reader and shape my reading preferences entirely according to what my favorite bloggers were writing about, I could choose easily which ones I wanted to look at regularly and those I just wanted to check in on from time to time.Then Google removed it's Reader... (Why?)

Back then the nature of the online space made it easy to engage in conversations with like minded people while feeling as though I was involved in a ‘real’ community. It was exciting, inspiring and inviting to those who wanted to share experiences and information in a more intimate and focused way.

Most of the blogs I subscribed to back then have been shut down as people either couldn’t keep up the writing or most likely moved their efforts across to the facebook, twitter, snapchat, Instagram universe. One by one the bloggers vacated the scene and very few enlisted to take their place. Now it seems blogs are the domain of professional writers, people wishing to promote some kind of product or hopeless diehards like me who can’t let go of the idea that there should be a place for self expression (online) outside of the plethora of re-shared meme’s and selfies managed by the algorithms of a master program and ‘pushed’ onto the reading space of all of our ‘friends’. FRIENDS! Are they frigging kidding me? I have attempted to relate to people on fb in a manner fitting of the title ‘friend’, it seems the courtesy’s and graces we used to afford to people under that title no longer apply. Although there remain a few great blogs I continue to read…

So I realized lately after a dissatisfying exchange of words on facebook, that regardless of lack of exposure to an audience on my blog, this is the place where I can continue to express my views regardless of whether I have an audience or not. If I’ve got something to say it would serve me best to put together a more thoughtful argument than facebook has time for and post it here, for the sake of my own sanity.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

And It's Only October

Have you ever hated somewhere so much as I hate you now! Darwin you Bastard! There's nothing sweet about you I hate yer stinking guts and I want to leave! 

In our small but comfortable housing commission house we have no aircon, definitely not complaining about that, we prefer it that way. The louver windows allow reasonable airflow, ceiling fans will do but are poorly placed and barely cut it in the heat. 

The problem is that our house is like a noise magnet! We hear everything from Dogs barking all night at drunks who won’t go home, kids who roam the street, the Pokemon Go freaks or sometimes at nothing at all. Our neighborhood is cluttered with the sound of angry and miserable households with nothing nice to say. I still can’t get used to the sound of violent Chinese soap operas at 4am! 
Fear of being robbed leads one neighbor to leave a floodlight on in their backyard all night! It shines right through our bedroom window! 

And the children! 
The kids in our street are a living confirmation that the zombie apocalypse is just around the corner. They appear to have lost the ability for verbal communication and seem only capable of screaming, grunting or swearing… nothing in between. The 'C' word is flung around with gay abandon regardless of who is present! For sport they tremble with delight at the prospect of tormenting some unsuspecting weaker victim. Younger children, or the single mother who lives across the road seem to be their current targets. Throwing stones at baby birds and snapping the branches off trees are a standard recreation till something more exciting comes along. 

The constant rank screaming and abuse of neighbors on all sides, hateful and vulgar as the racist misogynistic gangsta rap that blasts through our cyclone mesh fence! The vernacular here is a form of hateful profanity which has replaced human conversation, the Morlocks now rule! 

Surely this place is proof that the Zombie apocalypse has arrived and I must face it without rest because the dog next door didn't stop barking till two hours before dawn! Buildup mornings are always the same! Sleep deprived and in a lather of coffee scented sweat, with a pounding head I prepare to face the day!

Damn you Darwin! Damn your shopping malls and your wide streets full of impatient drivers, Damn your false sense of security ‘cameras’ and your V8 utes, Damn your ‘sporting fishermen’ your pig hunting yobbos and your endless piles of goon filled coke bottles! To hell with your FIFO workers in bright orange shirts! Damn your drunken fornicating fuckwits destitute and lying in their own waste! Damn the stink! 
I have never felt a love so dear as how I hate you today. 

Oh and this little gem from Andrew McMillan pretty much sums it up re: the heat!

A Postcard from Hell in October > poem Andrew McMillan > video by Annaliese Ciel Walker from slam tv on Vimeo.

(Edited 12/10/17)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Holding Hands

Nice title eh? Holding Hands. 
Not something that ever truly appealed to me as a youth, I think it always seemed a bit clingy, childish and (Not to put it in the same basket as childish) too feminine! But today I have a completely new respect for hand holding. 

Having listened to Hootie and the Blowfish singing Hold My Hand multiple times over the past couple of days and meditating on the violence in the way we deny each other in a thousand ways every single day, I think it's all coming together for me. Contemplating the brutality we commit on each other as a matter of course and the twisted lack of wholeness which is engulfing society generally and people specifically I think it's time for a revolution in compassion and why not start where we're at?

Cause I've got a hand for You!  
What better response when I see someone as broken as I am than to say "I've got a hand for you". It's brilliant!

When my grandfather was dying in hospital and I didn't know what to say to him, I held his hand. We'd never talked all that much, there was a world of things I would have liked him to share with me but it was too late and he wasn't ever really inclined to talk much about his life anyway. But, while he lay in that hospital bed knowing that the fight was nearly over he grasped my hand and through his pain looked me in the eye.

As a young man I was able to travel to Indonesia, where I realized that people do things quite differently. In the early 90s it was very common to see young men holding hands with other men, of course girls did the same but that wasn't nearly as confronting, after all, hand holding was a 'feminine' gesture. It took me a while to get used to seeing it, but I lived in abject fear of a man ever reaching out to hold my hand!

Back at home in Ausie land, as my wife will attest, I have not been a good hand holder. It always seemed impractical to me but now in hindsight I can see my attitude has been immature. I'm always wanting to rush ahead and scope the terrain, never 'with' the ones I'm with.

Hand holding took on a whole new meaning for me while I assisted in the birth of my two children. Luckily my hands recovered from the vice like compression they received during that magical moment.

Then as the kids grew and began to walk I found myself naturally putting out my hand for them to hold, from there on holding hands became a completely natural and integral part of my life. Not a road was crossed for the next 10 years that didn't require the holding of at least one hand. 

Besides the assurance of personal safety it provides, holding hands transmits something far deeper. A bond which the act of two hands enfolded around each other is only the surface transmitter of. People can see the physical connection, an emotional connection is assumed but the alignment of spirits is rarely comprehended, although in a way we all perceive that in the coupling of hands, two in some ways become one.

When I started working with Yolngu people again I was confronted with cultural practices very similar to what I experienced in Asia (far and wide actually). The practice might be far less than it used to be but it still happens that men will hold hands. In a lot of cultures it is inappropriate for there to be physical contact between men and women in public. 
In my first month of work I had to take one of our older men to the chemist at the local shopping centre, as we were walking he took my hand and walked with me for a couple of hundred meters that way. I have to admit it was something I was not quite prepared for. I had to put 30 years of overtly non physically intimate masculinization aside and just go with the flow. It was a peculiar experience but one which left me totally questioning the brutish and emotionally vacant nature of western culture. 

Two years ago after a kind of serious accident which left me lying in a hospital bed for an eternity (just 4 days) at my whit's end I was desperate for the touch of another human being. When someone eventually held my hand as I lay there with a fractured vertebrae and a face full of gravel, tears of joy and relief came to my eyes.

Today I see holding hands in a very different way to how it seemed in my youth. I can't help thinking that if I'd never left my home town or Victoria even, I'd still be stuck in the same mentality that impoverishes the emotional landscape of millions of men throughout the western world. Now in my 40s I am only beginning to see just how indoctrinated I was into the world retarded emotional development.

Now, (as in just this year.) I am seeing the extreme significance of holding people's hand, what's more there are people who drift through my life whom I feel an overwhelming desire to just reach out and grab their hand, or put my hand on their shoulder. I have no idea how this will be received but I know I must begin to act on the impulse and try to find my way to being more physically empathetically connected to my fellow human beings or risk dyeing an empty soulless shell.

Blowfish love

Recently I synced a bunch of music to my phone, among it was the album ‘Cracked Rear View’ by Hootie & the Blowfish. I think I got the CD about 10 years ago from an Opp Shop or marked down at a discount music store or something. Basically I bought it because I really liked the song ‘Let her Cry’, I knew ‘Hold my Hand’ vaguely but didn’t really have much time for the rest of the album. I rarely listened to it. It seemed overly sentimental to my taste at the time.


So I’ve been riding around a bit and somehow my song randomizing shuffle function on the music player must have been knocked out of whack and the machine cycled through the whole album twice! An album I had passed off as not quite all that suddenly sounded differently to me, the songs started, well… singing in my ears and I  heard the pain and the beauty contained in the lyrics and whatever I was thinking about at the time just completely vanished, I was transfixed on the voice , on ‘the person’ behind the voice and the people behind the story behind the voice. I heard the songs completely for the first time. Pretty soon I could feel my heart pounding and a lump in my throat and I was thinking of people in my world who I have felt an overwhelming compulsion to express these things to and to reach out my hand to reassure them as a comfort, to love them. Cracked Rear View is beautiful, compassionate and alive with the spirit of a closeness and love that despite the suffering the pain will be there to catch you! Like a reassurance that no matter how messed up you might be, I've got your back! The songs are brave and unguarded; the artists expose themselves and invite us to relax our defenses, (well at least that’s the effect it had on me at the time). 

The song Hold My Hand is absolutely profoundly beautiful! LOL you may think I'm tripping but honestly if we don't make this kind of psychic change soon it'll be too late for us all.
Check the lyrics HERE

Considering my new appreciation for the romantic nature of this music I feel a sense that something has recently changed within me. Lately I’ve given a lot of thought to gender roles and the nature of manhood. I’ve considered the stereotypes, character traits and criticisms that follow. I do believe there are feminine and masculine character traits and that each of us lives somewhere within a spectrum of associated behaviour and feelings. I believe that these are not fixed or stagnant but can evolve with the consciousness of the individual. The less guarded I am about protecting my male identity the more open I am to feminine forms of expression. The less fear I have of what this means to me as a man the easier it is to flow between modes of being. I have no interest in losing my maleness, in fact I can see more easily how the process of surrendering my male power has lead to self-imposed emasculation. Likewise I should not feel at all diminished if I am accused of performing any functions in what might be considered a feminine way. I am seeing that it is important to explore and develop a greater appreciation of both aspects of my own personality and not fear any expression of either which occurs naturally. Like when I used to smoke and my mates would say "Hey what's with him? He holds that cigarette like a girl!"
It is possible that granting myself permission to simply be and move in accord with ‘the spirit’ rather than ego defense has expanded my perception in some way. Of course society already has heaps of stereotypes to classify this particular experience, isn't that what they used to call 'Metrosexual' or some shit back in the 90s? I am not particularly interested in knowing anything about that crap, I don't care if the experience or the phenomenon has been well documented, studied or described. What I’m talking about is my own authentic experience of life as it is happening. 
And the deep and sincere hope that it is!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Marriage the Abomination

Dear friends,
Please do not be offended when I say Do not approach me with your campaigning on this matter of ‘same sex marriage’! I’ve had a gut-full of the protestations about the dirty tricks from the ‘other side’ of this non-debate. Over the past months I have seen and heard quite enough outrageous BS from people who I have considered friends. Wild accusations and belittling those who hold a different opinion on this matter will do nothing to persuade anyone to consider your opinions. Name calling only creates a stronger divide! 

It seems to me the people of this country have been subdued into a state of intellectual subservience to reactionary rhetoric! 

Basically we are not capable of having a thoughtful caring or intelligent conversation about this matter, isn’t that frightening? We have lost our ability to see reason or engage in respectful discussion. So why continue to add insult to injury by stirring each other up! The more I hear about campaigning or either group attempting to persuade people of the righteousness of their perspective the more hopeless the situation becomes, and the sadder I feel. 

I am angry that the Government has presented us with this divisive survey. It is a cruel and expensive distraction from matters which truly do deserve our attention!  

Strange days! 

When marriages are failing wholesale across the western world, where domestic violence and abuse is the hallmark of many an unhappy union. When children are raised in fear and neglect and fathers are emotionally and physically absent. When society perpetuates the myth of what is ‘normal’ and ignores the repulsive realities. When men never learn what it is to be a man and grow not knowing love. When immature caricatures of manhood are accepted as normal and women are diminished as chattel. When so called ‘traditional marriage’ is an ABOMINATION and we seek to enshrine it as an unalterable pillar! As a man I have thought long and hard about what constitutes a family and as a father I know what values I would like my children to inherit. On this topic I have only been persuaded by the simplest idea. Where is the Love? How will we nurture each other and the generations to come? How will we build our society from the soulless husk it is well on the way to becoming? When you speak hate you are not for love and you lose me. 
noun: marriage;
the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship (historically and in some jurisdictions specifically a union between a man and a woman).

"a happy marriage"

synonyms:wedding, wedding ceremony, marriage ceremony, nuptials, union; "

(from the net)

If people feel called to commit and live by the higher virtues attributed to the institution of marriage; If they choose to enter into that union knowing what it asks with all the restrictions and reassurances that come with it, and they do it with love, how could that possibly be a greater threat to the values of our society than the bullshit that currently goes on in the name of marriage?

I have already posted my reply to the survey and my answer was a well-considered YES!

So Please do not humbug me or try and convince me of how you think I should 'vote', this is not an election or even a voting situation, it is a decoy!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

R U really OK?

Reflecting on ‘R U OK Day.’

I’ve got mixed feelings about this ‘R U OK Day’. Sometimes big campaigns like this only seem to compound the feelings of isolation, but generally it seems like a better idea than some I’ve seen.
Unfortunately the video they've produced leaves quite a few blanks... I don't meant to be hyper critical but prompting a depressed person into unspecified 'action'  seems a bit of a bizarre objective. What kind of action? If a person is hovering over the precipice of deciding whether to end it all or go on living, the 'action' which makes the most sense to them might not be what you were hoping for.

I like that rather than putting the onus on the person suffering depression to reach out to others, they are encouraging friends and colleagues to reach out to people who they think might be at risk. I recall not so long ago there was some campaign or other which suggested that if we’re feeling depressed we should try to talk to someone. Well there’s a recipe for disaster! It’s bad enough to be feeling isolated and unwanted generally, but to expect someone who is already feeling rejected and alone to desert their own defenses and make themselves totally vulnerable to another person, who may respond in a negative way, is surely a recipe for disaster.
I have experienced times when I have been quite ‘Not OK’ and have attempted to find someone to talk to about it. In my experience, unless someone indicates that they genuinely want to know what you’re going through trust your gut! A lot of people Do NOT Want to KNOW! It can be crushing to think of someone as a trusted friend only to find out that the friendship was only superficial. When we are lonely or depressed it can be quite difficult to judge. It’s quite possible that a lot of people don’t actually care that much about you and will treat you differently once you share your situation with them.
I have lost too many friends to suicide. 11 friends have taken their lives. I don’t know where this horrendous tally sits in comparison to other people’s experience. Why would I even keep a tally? Well I guess one day it occurred to me that when it happens, we’re devastated and shocked but our lives go on and (unless it is a very close friend or family member… or we were unfortunate enough to have been present or seen the body) we put it behind us and return to our lives, such as they may be… But the numbers stack up and if I think back on the people I have known I can see that too many could not bear to go on! It is disturbing! I don’t have a lot of friends, 11 is a lot of people from my life! It’s a fucking epidemic! 

Sometimes I wonder how I have managed to remain on this earth myself! I cannot stand back and say 'Oh they were weak', or make comments about how tragic it is that someone has died without feeling some sense of responsibility. No we cannot hold ourselves responsible for the action of another person but, we can take responsibility for letting people know they have value in this world and are loved and wanted, to whatever degree we can say these things honestly. There are very few people I would want to see removed from this earth before their life has run it's natural course.
Do we actually appreciate just how wrong things have become? Is this like the frog in the saucepan scenario? We only deal with these things one at a time and rarely see the big picture. Lots of people are unhappy and are choosing the most drastic and permanent solution to what could have been a temporary problem.
It makes me angry and sad reflecting on how those people, some of them quite close to me had come to a place where they felt so totally alone that they’d rather not be here at all. I have been thinking of them a lot lately and wonder what I could possibly have done to make their lives on this earth a little more bearable. Could I have helped prevent any of those final desperate acts? 

I don’t know what else to say except if you know me, and you are feeling low, isolated and alone, if you need someone to talk to I will not brush you off!

Saturday, September 09, 2017

To the trees

Plenty River

Ancient Red Gum

Twice I managed to visit my favorite spot on the river. 

This time of year is spectacular. The country is so green, the wattles are blooming and the air is fresh! Everything is alive.

A favorite track

On this visit I discovered several wombat dens, interesting sightings included 2 Wombats and 4 Swamp wallabies.

 I was surprised by how silent the wombats were, I saw them but did not hear them.

Highly cropped picture featuring swamp wallaby - bottom left

The Wallabies made loud thumping sounds as they bound away through the bush. Swamp wallabies are quite shy so I couldn't get very close to them but can confirm 4 in a relatively small area.

I went in search of maiden hair fern which used to cover most of the south facing hillside but this habitat has been over taken by weeds. I was fortunate to find a very limited patch which still contained a few plants.

Maiden hair fern, 30 years ago these ferns covered the south facing hillside

Return to roots


At home in Darwin, I don't get much opportunity to walk... there are places I can walk but I never feel inclined and rarely have the time, also it's usually too hot!

While visiting family in Melbourne, it's a different story. I walk!

There are so many places I like to visit but this time I only had four days. 

On my first free day I caught the train out to Sandringham and walked the coast to Black Rock/Half Moon Bay. Then doubled back and walked from Brighton to St Kilda 

On the walk from Sandringham to the Black Rock yacht club there is a  picnic table with a view over Half Moon Bay, the Cerberus and the familiar red clay bluff that I love. It used to have an old leather briefcase with a pen and some paper for poets and writers who feel inspired, to share their work... It was gone, I suppose it would end up soaking wet at this time of year anyway. It didn't really matter, this is a personal thing anyway, I'd brought my own pencil and paper. 
Poets table

I sat and wrote a letter of appreciation to the Red Bluff and beach, to the Cerberus and the coast. As a youth this place was my shangri-la, it was my romantic bohemian retreat from Bogania. I wrote my inadequate and poorly written poem/letter, folded and stuffed it into a crack between the boards on the table top then sat for a while in contemplation. I looked across the bay and remembered the dreams I'd had, the excitement I felt escaping the constrictions of my unsatisfying life and considered how little I had changed. From lofty dreams and a wild heart I have progressed no further. OK I managed to evade death by misadventure and alcoholism... but essentially I have not progressed the man very far beyond the state of that fifteen year old boy who first ventured to this place.  

This is the place I will always return to measure my progress... It is my mirror, the hopeful spirit of that boy who dreamed is always here waiting to see what I have made of his life.

Clock Tower @ StKilda

Brighton Baths

It was a cold grey and windy day, perfect for a long walk.
I'd only ever come this way by foot once and on that occasion I was in the familiar state of intoxication which used to demand I set my bare feet to walking. I can vaguely recall trudging without my shoes along the coast, through the sand and across the coastal rocks. Back then I was mesmerized in a romantic spell of myself and the city. My feet hurt but I just walked hoping that something wonderful would jump up and embrace me! 
I had blistered and bruised feet.

This time was different I was sober and a little less desperate. It was an odd experience to move from the familiar environment of the coastal reserve full of trees and shrubs along the coastal path which passed some of Melbourne's most wealthy homes facing the sea. It felt very strange, and overwhelming to see such wealth, I looked to the sea and saw the wind whipping up small waves, wild grey clouds tumbled over each other to spread rain across the coast. I began to feel quite emotional, a sense of dissonance between nature and the exploits of man, the altered coastline and the people. I was among them but not one of them.
The fruits of our endeavors will be consumed by the sea. Isn't it ironic to see these bricks from early Melbourne settlement used to hold back the inevitable.

Dispersed along the coastal path are plaques which describe the lives of the original people of this place and give some explanation of the effect colonization had on their society. I read plaques and looked at the mutated landscape around me. I was the observer and I was connected to the place but not the culture. I felt overcome with compassion for them all and and odd kind of love that just made me smile to myself and the people I passed. I loved them and held them in contempt equally and without conflict. 

It was all too beautiful and terrible at the same time. I still had a few kms to go. I had time to resolve my feelings before arriving at St Kilda. The experience was exquisite and painful full of longing and empty but somehow complete.

The Espy looking a bit worse for wear after decades of iconic service
 Arriving at St Kilda I continued straight to another romantic icon from my past. 'The Espy'. I remember the illusion and excitement, the pretense of rumbling up the gutter with half a dozen mates on our Harleys on a Saturday night. Chests out strutting around like leather clad peacocks trying hard to make an impression, me secretly hoping to blend in but feeling like a fraud. I remember the dark crowded rooms full of noisy and beautifully ostentatious inner city punks an exciting mix of guys and girls and barely a bogan to be seen. Some nights the bar was so full I have no idea how the barmaids managed to keep track of the orders, orders were yelled across the heads of jammed in patrons, a bizarre combination of English, profanity and sign language was used to convey what was wanted and somehow the drinks kept coming and the correct change was always given!
I loved riding my motorbike but part of me just wanted to sink into that old gaffa taped couch and become one of the decadent majority. 
The espy was a great place to visit, thankfully I never did transition from visitor to resident. By 1996 I stopped going to the Espy all together when my attention became more focused on the services of other establishment such as the Galiamble men's recovery centre just around the corner... but that's another walk.

Monday, September 04, 2017

What is A Man if not...

I don't know how many times I'd absolutely refused to watch Bicentennial Man with my kids. Finally in a moment of, couldn't be stuffed getting off the couch, weakness I relented.
Yes there's a lot of corny stuff in Bicentennial Man. Yes it's a cliche story about a computer/robot miraculously achieving what we consider an exclusively human phenomenon of 'self awareness'.  

As a member of the human race, who has experienced both the abundance; and absence of interpersonal sensual exchange, I found this description of physical love, 'sex' both gloriously wonderful and, for those of us who long for the experience, shatteringly sad. 
I have heard and read multiple arguments for the celibate life, I understand the theory and the aspirations of those who wish to
transcend human / animal instincts and the drives of our ‘lower nature’. I do not see such a life as virtuous or a particularly effective path toward anything like godliness! On this matter I stand entirely in the corner of the script writers who penned this wonderful description and played by the beautiful and brilliant actor Mr Robin Williams (RIP)


(If you just want to get to Robin Williams killer lines skip to 1:55, I recommend watching it all)

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Riding the August Moon - Angels

There are Angels…

Sometimes everything just glides into place! (sometimes)

Posing with bike beside termite mound at Pine Creek

Old Boiler
Soon after arriving at the Lazy Lizard camp ground, while I was resting on the grass and contemplating my next move a young woman approached me, she was curious about how far I'd ridden with the bike and trailer and wanted to know more about what it's like riding the Stuart Highway. I was groggy from the heat and  depleted of energy, but really enjoyed  being able to discuss the journey. It turned out she was interested in doing a long distance ride herself. Maybe that's how the seed is sown? I've had a few chats with touring cyclists and had often experienced a kind of envy hearing about their travel experience.

We chatted for a while about cycling; the road etc… then she offered me a bottle of coconut water. I've never tasted the stuff and always thought it was a bit of a rort but after one taste I was hooked, when I drank that stuff my whole body reacted! It was amazing! I must have been low on electrolytes, it seemed to deliver what I needed directly into the blood stream! After she left I sculled the remainder of the bottle in one hit!Magic happens!

Hooded Parrot

Juliet's Shed

If you're sitting in the park across from the Lazy Lizard you're likely to notice an interesting looking house on the corner across the road. The house of Ms Juliet Mills. You can't miss it there hare hand painted signs all over the outside fence. Juliet is an artist and a poet,  she sells second hand books and is creating a garden that is becoming a story of it’s own. The garden is a work in progress, gradually growing and gathering artistic curiosities and messages for the inquisitive visitors. If she's in the mood she will invite you in for a yarn. If you're for it, or not, you may soon find yourself drawn into revelations and quizzical exploration, an adventure along a path between safe social convention and risky baiting, inquisitive conversationalists are bound to take the detours into something a little deeper.

At a stage in my journey where I was wondering what would be my next move, meeting Juliet was like stepping into the territory of The Cheshire Cat. At any other time I would have simply enjoyed the banter, but on this occasion it felt like there was a reason and a purpose to the meeting. We discussed books, (how to get them, what people read in what order they are organized on her shelves)  art and people, but for the whole time I felt a sense of something hovering above me reminding me to look around and ask myself… ‘why are you here?’

I wandered out of that yard feeling like I’d crossed an imaginary line! I had been considering taking the Greyhound to Katherine to meet up with some friends but as I crossed the road into the park at Pine Creek I knew immediately that my journey was complete. This is where I needed to be.

The whole next day was spent reading and exploring Pine Creek. Lucky I didn't need to go any further, dehydration or too much sun the day before had put the buz on my brain! Woke in the morning with some weird symptoms. I kept falling to the left as if I was paralytic drunk. It took half a day to fully get my balance.

The latest copy of local paper ‘Up The Creek’ had published one of Juliet's poems. I reckon it would have gone down beautifully if she’d read it at the recent Wild Words in Darwin, the theme this month was Erotica. 

If you’re ever in Pine Creek you should drop in for a chat… but make sure you read the sign to check when she’s is available. Be warned though, Juliet likes her privacy so choose your time carefully and don’t get annoyed if she’s not available, she’s not running a business just offering an opportunity for a unique opportunity to meet a special person who may tell you what you want or don’t want to hear, depending…

Oh yeah and don’t forget to bring a few books to donate and some gold coins for the tales. 
Something had happened to me over the past two days, I had begun to feel completely at home at Pine Creek. I had a good book, food and enough money for camping in town for a week if I chose to but the time had come to turn around and head back home where my family were patiently waiting. 

I had finally grown very comfortable with Pushmi-Pullyu, and dreaded having to dump her. Of course the whole rig was way to cumbersome for the Stuart Highway but in Pine Creek she was perfect for getting about town and along the dirt tracks. I didn’t want to just leave her lying around. I gave myself a day to find a solution and then went back to checking out ‘Up The Creek’. Too lazy to read I flicked through the pages and something caught my eye. It was an add toward the back with an image of a bicycle on it. Wow up…. I went back to the page and that’s where I found Shayne’s add.

Shayne works for the VictoriaDaly Night Patrol in Pine Creek. He’s running a bit of a bike fixing program with the local kids and placed an add in Up The Creek looking for donated bikes for the project. Brilliant! This was exactly what I was looking for. I gave Shayne a call and we met up at his place, a few minutes later (literally across the road from where Pine Creek isn’t a big town) 

We had a great chat and Shayne showed me some of his projects and inventions. I was really pleased to be leaving my bike with a guy who was so enthusiastic about working with young people, (And Bikes!) I really wanted to hang around and lend a hand but knew it was not to be, this time. On the day I left Shayne took me for a drive around some of the back roads, including the lookout, which I have to admit I had no intention of trying to ride up. The lookout could actually be one of the highest road in the NT. Meeting these people was the highlight of my trip, it filled me with a greater sense of purpose in what I was doing and connection to a place I haven’t really spent much time in before.
Since I got back to Darwin I’ve been thinking of ways to support Shayne and the kids at Pine Creek. Maybe collect a trailer load of bikes and take them down as a donation. 

There’s a lot more that I’d like to say and ideas I could explore but the inspiration to write is losing it’s momentum and I’m not sure I could convey exactly what it is that’s on my mind or stirring in my soul. 
This has been a solo journey (as all good ones should be) but on reflection it seems clear that being 'alone' can sometimes position us for special encounters. Opportunities can present rewarding and sometimes mystical experiences, and encounters with others. Angels appear through the dust, demons may also await unwary travelers. 

On this journey I was blessed. The spirit of the road succeeded in shifting something within, my thoughts have become much clearer and self-doubt confronted and sent packing! A direction for life, not so much in terms of what I should be doing but how I should approach it is revealing itself through the haze. 

The means that lead me to what my Yolngu friends call the dhukarr (The path, The way) the end remains a mystery. 
I am most grateful for - Fresh water, a little shade and the the kindness of  strangers 
(Amended 03/9/17)
PS - It's peculiar, my time at Pine Creek was most significant but I found it very difficult to write. I  can see my own laziness and frustrating lack of talent with words prevents me from conveying the message. When I read back over it I know I shouldn't have published. The shame of poor writing motivates me to go back and rewrite, where if it were only on paper I'd probably not bother. (I think this breaks some kind of rule of etiquette, it definitely ignores the need to entertain or show respect to the reader, I apologize for that, but for now will continue to write badly, amend and republish... I am sure my readership numbers will continue to reflect the results of such tardy practice.)