Sunday, 16 September 2012

Timber, Wood: Or Hard Rubbish Day in Brunswick.

We recently moved up north, a long and much awaited move closer to our spiritual home of the Northern Rivers. Melbourne is my home town, yet I have spent most of my life either dreaming of, or actually getting away from it. Before I left I had a brief whirlwind of creative energy, enough to pull me right out of there. Luckily had a pen with me this one particular day. Listening to Xavier Rudd on the walk home through Brunswick, it was Hard Rubbish day. Thing is, it had been for a couple of weeks. It was beginning to really piss me off that people had clearly missed the pick up day but thought they'd just chuck some more crap out on the street in case a passer-by wanted a vom stained mattress, or TV from 1983.
I whipped out my pen and wrote this. I missed road tripping. A few weeks later we roadtripped up here for good. Seeing Xavier in Byron two weeks ago reminded me of the power of music to inspire.

Garbage tornadoes

Sidewalk sofas

Concrete plinths for


Installation art

Urban Hard waste art

Public shame this art

Music in my ears

Spine tingles

Remember we got

Tears in our eyes

Watching Xavier

At Bluesfest?

I miss our van

And Missy

Sleeping in the back

Now stench


burn my nose

But I’m listening

To Xavier, remember

Driving up the coast?

Through Mullum?

Stopped and wished we

Didn’t have to go.

Now I walk and

Whole body vibrates at the

Sound of the

Didj and I can

Hear more colours

See more sounds

Listening to

Timber and Wood


I’m dodging piles of it


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Forgetting the Anger

Some of you may remember my previous posts about my grandmother, Rosa. She was a strong, independent, couragious, caring, cutting, lethal woman. Her wisdom always carried questionable intentions, I valued and rejected it as I saw fit. One pearl which always stayed with me was:


   "It never pays to be too honest"


She used to live by this dictum like a knight would to their sword. Never give people too much, or they'll take advantage of you was her general point. No, my grandmother was not some sweet old lady with a jar of boiled lollies and an endless supply of embroidered pillowcases for your birthday. But goddamn I would dig her back up today just to get another plate of her lasagne.


She was at times a harsh, unforgiving woman, but in her final months that all changed. I recall a couples of years before she died hearing her cuss one of her long suffering sisters out over the phone- I'm sure it was well deserved- and telling her to never call her again. Her sister had been calling to wish her a happy birthday, but she was soon to regret that! A lot of their conversations went this way. When I saw my grandmother on one of my final visits to her, of which there were many when I was living overseas as I wanted to spend enough time with her before she left me, I was surprised by what I heard one morning. The same sister, never one to give up, had called for a chat and asked if she could visit. We all knew at that stage that the crossing over to immortality and into the afterworld was imminent for Rosa, so we were all trying to get on her good side lest we be haunted forever more.        
     "Sure, come over any time, it would make me happy" was Rosa's reply.


See, Rosa had begun to lose her grip on reality in those last months, and moreover, she had forgotten she was angry at everyone. That was not all she was forgetting. A few months earlier there was a fire still flickering somewhere in there, as she showed the signs of aging nobody wants to acknowledge; dementia. Accusations of incorrect pill dosages, anger at sisters about conversations that actually never happened. In my own stubbornness I refused to see it as dementia at first. I saw the bull headed old matriarch refusing to calm down in her old age, unable to let go of the reins, even now. But she never mentioned the cancer again after the first night. By the next time I saw her in December, it seemed she had forgotten altogether.
 "Someone gets hurt at some point"
I found my grandmother weaker, thinner, frailer. I also found her more delusional yet also very placid. No more fighting with family, she had let her long suffering siblings back into her life. I was relieved, as I felt a lingering sense of regret would fill the space between here and the ever after if my grandmother could not heal the tainted relationships around her. She was also convinced that there were workers on the roof repairing the broken tiles. It seemed she could hear them. Realising that telling her otherwise would be unnecessarily confusing, we would go along with it. 
    “They do a beautiful job on the roof”, she would say proudly.
    “Yeah, it's going to look nice...” I'd reply. She also was completely unaware that she had cancer. Nature's way of taking the anxiety away from the dying? I hoped so. She did, however, know instinctively her time here was running out.
    “Don' be long for me now in this world I think”, she said to me one afternoon as she looked at her skinny arms in wonderment, curious at how they had changed and her skin sagged and aged. When somebody shows signs of dementia, those around them can also begin to confuse what is real and what isn't. One day a friend had called, but I wasn't expecting it and as I was out, my grandmother answered. When I got home she told me who had called and I should call him back. Thinking she was confused and referring to a similar episode about 2 days earlier, I dismissed it. It turns out she was right, and my saying I had already called him yesterday probably only served to really confuse her! There comes a time, however, when the confused mumblings of a senile person cross that already blurry line between truth and imagination. Someone gets hurt at some point. For me it happened when my grandmother looked at me with a slightly faraway gaze and said:
     “You know, I don't know if you are my granddaughter or my nipote...”
In Italian nipote can mean granddaughter or niece, depending on context and although I knew this statement was just as noteworthy as any other random comment made by a fading old lady, it still bothered me for some time.
    “It's the same thing!” hollered Mum, and we forgot it all. However I tried justifying it in my rational brain though, I felt in my emotional mind like I was the one she had chosen to forget first. We all know better than to pay attention to these moments but we are, after all, irrational creatures who bleed when wounded. I never let on how heartbroken I was; let’s face it, it never pays to be too honest…  

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Inspiration Anywhere

Inspiration comes at anytime, anyplace. This one hit me on the way home, listening to Xavier Rudd on the iPod. Luckily I had a pen handy so I jotted it down as I walked.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


There are times when inspiration comes from within, an internal spark whose origin is unknown. Others come in visual waves, verbal vignettes and the source of inspiration is the art of another. This time, the source was my own better half and mutual muse; the artist Cecile Knight.
"Drifters" was Cecile's homage to her childhood home of Coffs Harbour and the Bellinger River. Her artist statement reads:

 "Provoked by a memory, the town I grew up in, the river I played in as a child. I would like to acknowledge its history."  

Visiting these places so embedded in the history and emotional genetics of my partner has in turn inspired me. Not only this, but I have been able to take a glimpse into what makes this place so special and make meaning and in the rivers and headlands for myself. The summer just gone we roadtripped from Daylesford to Gold Coast, and this is what I took and not only what I left. This place of abundant water, of sea salt and mountain mist is truly inspiring. I understand why now.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Frida Kahlo: The Artist as Therapist

Journals, letters and so many self portraits; through Frida Kahlo’s art we see the trauma of her physical pain interwoven with sequences of dream-like navigation within her internal struggles. Other works show a nightmarish reality dealing with doomed love and babies lost.
One wonders what Frida Kahlo would have done with her time and where she might have focussed her deep need for expression, were it not for painting. During her extensive hospital stays with her bed-mounted easel, or painting her own body cast, she was processing her own grief and medicating herself with art. She was an unwitting Art Therapist; both client and therapist. Psychoanalyst of her own demons, she confronted them with the paintbrush. Unforgiving and raw as her wounds, she depicted in oils what lay beneath her skin; as though she has literally pulled back her flesh and let us in.

Moreover, Frida left behind a legacy with her hauntingly personal portraits, watercolour blood-stained journals and defiance in the face of adversity. Frida continues to teach us almost 60 years after her passing, that life may not heal, but art will try. She teaches us of beauty in the unlikeliest of places and faces, of the poetry in every scar and that no one, no one...knows you as you know yourself.

When we dialogue with the paint, the pen, the canvas, and dip into the madness, there we can know truth. There we can begin to heal. If art cannot heal, then let it at least capture the beauty of our madness!
For many Frida lovers, she inspires in us the ability to heal ourselves, to know oneself, to love blind and to speak our truth. How did Frida heal you? may not heal, but art will try.

Friday, 17 February 2012

The Genetics of Courage

Alright, I admit it. I watched The Help but didn’t read it. Literary buffoons, poo-poo me all you like but my To-Read-List is becoming a Grollo style eye sore and the soon to be Leaning Tower of unread books. I simply cannot bear to add any more to it.

This is not a review, not by a long shot. This is simply a musing on a line from the film which I have been replaying over and over in my head like a mantra. It demands my attention. It demands I write, as always. When the pen (or the keyboard) is your voice it must be allowed to sing. When the blog is your platform in absence of a real life soapbox upon which to recite, deliver and denounce, it’s got to do more than just tickle the intellectual fancies. It’s got to tug, tear and pull at hearts and minds. This is therapy. Humour me now, and heal me in the process.

“...Sometimes courage skips a generation...”

When I heard this, I pictured myself a colourful and well worn old chook, rocking out on my rocking chair, a gin ‘n’ tonic in my hand, wife by my side and litters of noisy children scattered across the front lawn, running and chasing one another. I wondered what I might have achieved that would make them proud. I wondered whether I would be the generation that courage had skipped. Ultimately I concluded that if we are to truly take courage by the horns and own it...really own it...might we then break the pattern?

My grandmother Rosa, well, if you’ve been here before you know a bit of her story. If you haven’t, take a minute to read the previous post, I would be ever so grateful. She had a degree of courage which took to her to places her own mother would never have dreamed of. Leaving the old country, then leaving a man and becoming single all over again. Not to mention giving Jehova’s Witnesses a run for their money and outright refusing to attend any funeral of anyone who had crossed her at any point in time. Family members not excluded. Then there’s hanging with the gays, but as I said, read the last post, s’il vous plait.

My mother, well, courage came and went over her life; married a non-Italian then divorced a non-Italian. But she is yet to fight the fight for her gay daughter. Perhaps that day has yet to come. Where do I fit in? For so many years I feared I would be the one looking back and wondering where the years had gone. But after Rosa let the horns we call Life go for good, I realised there was still a fight to be fought.

I will not be the generation skipped, and I will pass it on. I WILL pass it on...Will you?

Oh, and see The Help. You will be humbled by the greatness of spirit, the courage of a people who embodied the very meaning of courage in the face of ignorance, fear and hatred. That’s all folks!

It takes courage to run away from home on a trike. Took me years!