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.)