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October 2016 – Update

The last time I shared anything on my WordPress blog was in August 2016. Scheduled art posts aside, I can’t believe it’s been that long. As I mentioned then, we were evicted from our house. I don’t know what the rental laws are like in other parts of the world – I’ve heard that parts of Europe tends to be a lot more protective of tenants’ rights – but here in Victoria, Australia, they’re pretty awful. It was only in the last couple of months that the Victorian Supreme Court made the decision that properties must be maintained in a liveable condition. That’s right, up until very recently, landlords were allowed to rent dangerous, derelict properties to tenants. It took a woman from a low socio-economic bracket and her Legal Aid lawyer (Legal Aid being a free legal service for poor people who need access to assistance) to fight the monster that is rental laws in our state, and I thank God for her willingness to take this fight to the highest levels. Someone had to.

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Australian Federal Election

The Australian Government has announced an early Federal election for the 2nd July 2016. I know, I know. It’s easy to fall back on the belief that it’s a crummy system, the two major parties can appear almost identical in their seeming incompetence, and we have had so many Prime Ministers in the last few years that it’s getting difficult to keep up (Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott, Turnbull… did I miss anyone?). So I get it, presented with those options it doesn’t seem awfully appealing to vote. However, in Australia we don’t get a choice, as such. Voting is mandatory for most Australian adults so if you’re over 18 years old this is an appeal to check if your enrolment details are correct.

As I’ve mentioned ad nauseum, my uni studies were in were in the fields of sociology, journalism and political science. For reasons that are still unfathomable to me, my extended family have largely interpreted that to mean that I’m a qualified as a social worker and / or psychologist. Firstly, I can’t think of worse torture than to have to deal with other people’s problems – I have more than enough of my own. Secondly, they are vastly different sets of qualifications. There is some overlap (people I knew studying social work when I did my sociology degree often had to take sociology units for their course, but the reverse was not true). But it seems to fall on deaf ears when I try to explain that the reason I talk a lot about politics, society, culture and social issues is because it’s very hard to not do that after taking two university degrees in those fields.

The point being that learning about politics personally made me realise that while it is unreasonable to ever expect an election or government to result in a utopian society, it is extremely valuable for the people to let their voice be collectively heard. When we consider that people in other parts of the world and through history have risked their lives for the freedom to elect their government, we in Australia are really in a privileged place. We have a collective voice that others could only dream of. Choose the lesser evil, if that’s how you need to frame voting for yourself. Even better, actually reflect on the policies of a few different parties to see which ones best align with your own reflexively examined value system. Cynicism and despair are understandable, but surely that just shows how important it is that you contribute? What if everyone who’s despairing could be, I don’t know, a potential Labor voter, say because you’re feeling frustrated at attempts to remove weekend rates from your wages? It could change the ultimate outcome of the election.

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Image Source: Australian Electoral Commission Facebook
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The Destruction of the Swamp

I am currently decluttering my RedBubble Portfolio, to make way for more recent art that best represents who I am now, as well as to make it easier for customers to navigate the available products for sale. As a result I will be sharing some of my old creative writings here on WordPress, as a way of preserving them. In several cases my mind, opinions, beliefs, values and overall understanding of life have changed since the time I wrote these pieces, but I still feel that they are personally valuable reminders of the various stages of my life journey thus far.

This piece of writing was first posted at my RedBubble Creative Writing Portfolio.

Date of original post: 29 October 2010

Total views, at 2 May 2016: 329

The Destruction of the Swamp

I grieved when the swamp trees were cut down. The trees razed to make way for cattle. In the marshy soil where nothing grew but snakes and thin straggly trees that turned red in autumn. Walking across the rich deep grass and sinking into the wet soil. Watching the ibis fly away at my presence. Alone and alive in the thick undergrowth.

Then the farmer arrived with his chainsaw and carved a swathe through the swamp. The trees, gone, to make way for a muddy sparse paddock of thin pasture. Heavy boned Friesian cattle struggling through the wet soil, their pregnant bellies swaying as they try to pick a path through the muddy ground.

I look out the window and feel deep sorrow. The trees, gone. The birds, gone. The cattle trying to graze where the trees once grew. There was not enough new pasture to make it worthwhile.

Ten years later: the trees have regrown. The swamp beings to reclaim the soil. The valley here is too wet to support the cattle.

 

Easter Sketching

It’s Easter Monday here in Australia, and after a lovely day yesterday driving along Victoria’s beautiful Great Ocean Road, we’re having a quiet day at home. I spent some time this morning enjoying a coffee (long black, made in a plunger – whenever my friends visit and try my coffee they politely refuse any refills and never manage to finish a whole cup, which suggests to me that my preference for dark and slightly bitter drinks isn’t universal – but it but it works for me!), and reading more of Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation (1961). I’m reading a 2007 edition by New Directions Books, New York, with an introduction by Sue Monk Kidd.

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27 March 2016. iPhone 5C snapshot taken out of the car window (from the passenger side, of course!) on the Great Ocean Road near Separation Creek and Wye River. The trees bear the marks of a bushfire that tore through the Otway Ranges in late December 2015 and early January 2016. The eucalyptus trees are terribly burnt and yet sprouting green leaves on their trunks (a survival mechanism they have in response to the fact they do tend to catch on fire). Behind the twisted and tortured looking trees here is the vast greenish-blue expanse of Bass Strait, and if you drew a line directly southwards from here you’d cross one island then end up in Antarctica.

Merton is one of those writers I simply cannot read in one sitting. A single paragraph from him can be so laden with rich meaning and depth that more often than not, I might make it through about three pages before I have to set it down and journal my thoughts as I read. I have a notebook set aside for taking notes and quotes from books – that’s a useful habit that I picked up in my university days. I know everyone learns differently, but for me I find that handwriting quotes and my own personal responses to a text enables me to delve more deeply and memorise pithy sayings. By writing it down I tend to remember it and be able to plug it into the neural networking system… I vaguely expect that at some point in my life I will have amassed enough information to categorise everything, ever. I can’t even talk to people these days without running a mental sub-routine that is trying to analyse the content of their speech and apply to them an ontological category: “Hmmm, this person is talking about coffee, but I suspect that they are a member of the … subculture, their religious self-label is … but I think they’re also heavily influenced by … philosophy…” Yeah, I don’t know. The things that amuse different people, I guess. (more…)