Connection and respite for an inner-city dweller

Connection and respite for an inner-city dweller

My ten-year-old Jack Russell, Bonnie, has no idea what’s going on. She takes shelter in the car as my husband and I finish putting up our tent in the now pouring rain.

The downpour caught us unawares. It seemingly came out of nowhere and drenched us in warm, flat raindrops for fifteen minutes solid, and then was gone as quickly as it came. Sun shining once more, the ground began croaking with Lesueur’s Tree Frogs (Litoria lesueuri).

Then, completely saturated, we realise the fly is on inside out.

I begin to laugh hysterically.

Bonnie curls into a ball on the driver’s seat and looks away. I’m pretty sure she’s wondering why on Earth we would load up our car with stuff, drive three hours, stop on a patch of grass at a country campground and put on this show. And then sleep in it. For two nights.

She’s a city dog, and we are city people.

We live in Melbourne’s central business district, amongst the constant hum and buzz of sirens howling, evacuation alarms whoop-whoop-whoop-ing, and trams rattling down streets, dinging their bells at risk-taking pedestrians. Motorbikes weave and hammer down roads, people swarm, and the construction of high-rises is ceaseless.

This heaving urban jungle, this synapse, this cell, this landscape, is our home, and despite being so connected, there remained a disconnect, until I started looking…

There’s a tree in Flagstaff Gardens, to which all the Rainbow Lorikeets flock. It amuses me no end to approach this tree, stand under it, and listen and stare at the absolute chaos going on within its branches. What is it about this tree, and not the others like it, surrounding it, that attracts these birds to this one in particular?

The Gardens are also home to a community of brushtail possums who can be found in the hollows of the elm trees, or sometimes, in the public recycling bins, staring out, wide-eyed. And springtime brings swooping Magpie-larks to the Gardens, relegating us, and all the other dog-walkers to the safety of the north-west corner for at least the next two months.

The months of spring also bring on the budding of the plane trees. Planted on many city streets in Australia and around the world for their pollution-resistance and deciduous form, these trees are a nightmare for allergy sufferers. The jury is out, however, on whether it’s their pollen, their trichomes, or other allergens, which cause the eye-watering, sneezing and runny noses.

Either way, springtime in the city is the time for me to stock up on antihistamines so I can keep exploring and discovering, and recently, I’ve found that a there’s a family of sparrows in my neighbourhood who have been progressively stealing pieces of our brush-mat fence in order to build their nest.

I’ve watched them on-and-off for several weeks now, and our fence is getting thinner and thinner. I don’t know where they’re building this nest; I just know that it must be robust, and I do hope, comfortable.

There’s a buzz that comes with visiting the city, but when you live amidst this buzz, and work in it as well, it becomes a source of exhaustion that I need to escape from regularly.

I seldom see a horizon, and I crave the sounds familiar to my upbringing: wind in trees, waves crashing on shorelines, cicadas chirping, owls hooting, and twigs snapping underfoot.

And whilst I like my escapes to be weekend-long, to places I can access via our freeway network of human wildlife corridors, sometimes respite must be closer to home.

Fortunately, here in Melbourne, I am surrounded by beautiful urban parks which provide me with a taste of this escape I crave. Royal Park, just north of the city, is one of my favourites. The big grassland circle is a snippet of the previous landscape, now fragmented by development.

Here, Bonnie and I walk a lap of the circle, then lie in the grass and wonder what it was like, right here in this spot, 500 years ago…

 

First published in Wild Melbourne, June 12, 2018: http://wildmelbourne.org/articles/connection-and-respite-for-an-inner-city-dweller

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Entitled and lazy

Entitled and lazy

I’m not sure at what point I started feeling entitled as far as my career went but I do remember the point at which I realised it. It was after what I believed to be a set back, when I found I was comparing myself to Charlotte York, in an early episode of Sex and The City, asking myself,  ‘I’ve been working above my pay grade for 6 years, I’m exhausted, where’s my recognition?’

When Carrie wisely states, ‘Charlotte, honey, did you ever think that maybe we’re the White Knights, and we’re the ones that have to save ourselves?’ my penny dropped.

I had been acting entitled, like I should have been noticed by now. Like someone should have hand-picked me for something by now. Like someone should have just intuitively known about my skills, knowledge, and experience.

But what have I done to make these things known? What have I done to educate myself further, to gain new skills, to share my successes? And when did I develop the belief that my workplace had the responsibility to plan my career for me, and then take all the steps to ensure that this worked out for me?

As an adamant atheist on the dogma of 5 Year Plans (John Krumboltz’s Happenstance Learning Theory is more my thing) I have spent the last few years winging my way through my career waiting for a ‘White Knight’.  And I’m not sure why, as I’m a leader who doesn’t like to follow so chances are I wouldn’t blindly grab onto a White Knight if one happened to show up anyway. (Jon Snow maybe but not a White Knight.)

And as I’ve been considering all this, I’ve felt quite confronted. I’ve been looking at myself critically, and what I see is someone lazy, with potential that hasn’t been realised, and energy that needs a focus…and suddenly this is starting to sound like a high school report card.

I’ve also been confronted with the thought that the mould I am trying to fit in to will never accommodate me, and that if I were to squeeze myself into it, that I would be uncomfortable, my hair would hurt, and I would then be looking for a different mould to pour myself into. And I guess that’s my next challenge.

(Unconditional) love

(Unconditional) love

When we are children, we receive love when we do something ‘right’ – when we clean our bedroom, when we share with our siblings, when we use our manners.

Fast-forward 20 years into adulthood, how does this lesson in love translate? At what point are we taught what unconditional love is?

For me, that point was thirty three; a period of complete upheaval, where I threw everything in the air and pressed ‘pause’.

And when I pressed ‘play’, I began catching the things I wanted, and let the rest fall away.

The first thing I caught was me. 

I realized that if I couldn’t love and accept myself, how could I possibly expect anyone else to? 

If I couldn’t stand for myself, and my values, how could I stand for anything, or anyone, else? 

And the first thing I let fall away, was fear. 

I realized that I was sick of hiding parts of me that I thought people wouldn’t like, or couldn’t handle. 

It made me question who it was that people say they love when they say they love me. They didn’t even know me. I didn’t know me. 

Unconditional love takes courage. It starts within, and it’s not an easy path. But it is a rewarding adventure, especially when you see that people love the parts of you that you were fearful of them ever seeing. 

Carrie Fisher: My solution to being overwhelmed

Carrie Fisher: My solution to being overwhelmed

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by choice, paralyzed by indecision, or helpless in the face of a problem bigger than I can comprehend*, I go into Readings.

For the uninitiated, Readings is a Melbourne bookstore, in business since 1969.

It has a comprehensive catalogue, which covers every genre, and an ambience which lends to complete immersion; where time seems to tick (or not) like a Dalí clock would (or would not).

Here, within the walls of this iconic bookstore, I wander the aisles, inhale the paper dust, and stare through the spines of old and new titles.

And at some point, and without fail, one of these titles will pop out at me – an answer to my being overwhelmed by them all.

Tonight’s answer was Carrie Fisher’s novel, Postcards from the Edge

These random (or not) book purchases offer me a type of proof: that in amongst all my feelings of being overwhelmed by the problems I see, answers are there, popping out at people all the time. As are mine.

So when I walk out the door, with Carrie in my bag, I head to the tram hopeful. Hopeful that others will buy a book too, and that the selection they make is a catalyst for an answer they need to solve part of a bigger problem they see.

And if everyone buys a book and gets their answers this may compound into knowledge that will nourish the collective consciousness beyond the spines of books.

 

*I just watched the film A Plastic Ocean. The enormity of the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans, and the rate at which it’s growing, really hit me hard. It can’t be unseen, and it can’t be ignored. 

Bingeing on Girls

Bingeing on Girls

I have almost finished watching Season 2 of Girls*.

On my iPhone. In my bed. With my headphones in.

So no, not that kind of bingeing. And not on real-life girls (though I think my mother believes otherwise given I’ve recently cut my hair short**, moved back in with my parents, and headed off to Midsumma last month).

My iPhone screen is shattered from an accident last weekend, and whilst this makes viewing slightly obstructed, the few bits of glass that chip off into in my bed and onto my hands are a cheaper price to pay than getting the screen replaced***.

There’s something going on with my speaker jack too. Every so often the sound crackles. It cuts in, and it cuts out. I have to twist the plug, and then pull on the cord, contort it in circles, until finally the sound returns to normal.

And when the sound does come back, it blasts into my ears because as I’ve been playing this battle-of-the-wills game with the cord, I’ve also been turning up the volume thinking that somehow this would help, despite knowing full well that the real issue is with the connection.

But I know what’s going on in Season 2 of Girls. I know who the main characters are. And I know what they’re getting up to. And I even have a favourite.

 

*Lena, if you’re reading, I’d love to collaborate. You’re a total genius, and I love you. And I have some material that I think you’d find useful

**My hairdresser blames himself entirely for the shift my life has taken since turning thirty three, as it all started when he cut my 30cm curls off.

***Apple, if you’re reading this, a replacement phone would be oh-so amazing, as would a one-on-one intensive on how the hell to use iTunes. In 7 years I haven’t been able to work this program out. And, if you’re feeling generous, the logicboard on my MacBook is dead and needs replacing…xo