Wilderness — A Meditation

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Jamaica Kincaid writes Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalaya

Check this out:

Jamaica Kincaid, the woman born in Antigua, a Carribean Island, writes about Nepal!

I found the book fascinating. Here we have this amazing woman who has written for The New Yorker, who loves gardening..but where? In Vermont? writing about a seed collecting twenty day tour of the Himalayas. What IS she doing there?

I know, I know...there is no rhyme nor reason for the choices we made in terms of where we go and what we do with our lives when a challenge is issued, especially if that challenge involves some aspect of our lives that we hold dear.

That is the case with this little book. Simply written and at the same time full, jam packed full, of those epiphanies that can only come when we leave our comfort zone and stretch our psyches to do the impossible, when we decide that an adventure is just what the doctor ordered..not that Kincaid had a doctor suggest that she needed to stretch. Her own internal psyche seems to have urged her forward.

And with whom besides Nepalese does she come in contact? You guessed it. The Maoist guerillas of Nepal not only manage to squeeze some extra cash out of the small party of 'seed collectors' with whom Kincaid is travelling, but later they set up an all day 'class' conducted in Nepali for these intrepid travellers.

It's a good read if you love women's stories about the wilderness; a better read if you enjoy reading about mature women stretching their muscles as well as their courage in search of growth..not just the botanical sorts of growth, but also the interior epiphanies that make maturity the best part of life.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

no worries

In my uni class there is an on line discussion board on which a fellow student has recently posted a topic that has been nagging me all day. I read the post and the subsequent responses rather early this morning and ever since the material has popped up at unexpected moments.

As I am off to bed in a few minutes; I thought I would disentangle myself from this nagging by responding here.

In a most fetching way the young man, my fellow student, wrote about clichés...and their import or lack thereof.

I wanted to comment on the discussion board but my American self shied away from joining in the repartee.

As I remember, most of the cliché's he used were as American as they were Australian, a fact that I found unusual. There are so many strong, native clichés present in the Aussie patois.

"Since I was slow off the mark on the other forums (tired cliche!), I figured I would jump the gun (another!) and make my mark (going for a record) on this virgin landscape (four in one sentence).

Birds of a feather (a fifth) as they say, flock together. So let's all be peas in a pod (gasp) and see where the road may take us (please stop)."

I am reminded that Australians have a few well-worn clichés that I hear every day. A total stranger will ask, "How are ya"? before any and every conversation, for instance. They actually wait a second or two for a response unlike northern hemisphere users of the question. Or, upon closing a phone conversation, 'bye love' is the frequent rejoinder as one is about to hang up the phone.

They really do eat 'bangers and mash' and they 'take a whiz'. They would never 'root' for the home team, but they love that Americans do. And most of all, no matter how small the favor or how large the effort on my behalf, when I earnestly say thank you, they respond, 'no worries' as though they truly mean it.

I have repeatedly tried to remember to respond with the same cliché when I am thanked, but somehow 'yer welcome' just slides out of my mouth before I can catch the phrase and replace it with its Aussie alternative.

I might add that 'ta' means thank you, 'cuppa' is something you drink, a' hotel' is a bar, 'arvo' is the afternoon, and 'togs' are swimming suits. I'm not sure if any of these fall into the category of cliche` or not..but they sure confused me when I first arrived.

Goanna toenails

Goannas are Australia's largest lizards. They have tough, loose skin protected by an armour of small, bead-like scales. The limbs are powerful and equipped with large curved claws. They have long necks, narrow heads and very sharp recurved teeth. The claws and teeth, along with the muscular tail, combine as formidable defensive weapons.

Goannas are predators abd scavengers. They consume carrion and hunt lizards, birds and mammals, raid birds'nests and excavate the eggs of turtles. Goannas walk with a characteristic unhurried swaying gait. Their long, slender, deeply forked tongues are protruded constantly as they explore burrows and hollows. Australia is the stronghold of goannas, the 25 species here represent about 3/4 of the total number worldwide. Two species occur in the Greater Brisbane Region.
(Wildlife of Greater Brisbane, 1995, p 179)

Well, folks, at lunch yesterday at the kiosk on Mt. Coot-tha, while I was munching my Vietnamese salad along with my flat white coffee, folks were jumping out of their seats, moving aside for the one man parade of goanna!

I looked beneath my chair at the clicking toenails on all four very strong feet of a Lace Monitor goanna, lifted my own feet and watched him saunter through our area.

Look him up on line here.
or here.

He is quite an impressive fellow! folks scurried out of his path, I decided the wiser choice was to simply sit there and let him walk under and beyond me since he was directly below me when I noticed his swaying gait. His tongue..ever so long...and the size of his body were impressive..He was obviously looking for some scraps from the outdoor cafe at which we were having lunch, but after traversing the marble floor and finding none, he moved into the bush near the edges of the outdoor dining area.

Suddenly, dozens of folks turned up with cameras ready. They had obviously stayed back afraid of encountering him too closely. Sorry..too late, he blended immediately into the undergrowth.

And I, I sat there and gazed out from the highest point in Brisbane to view the Brisbane River snaking through the suburbs off to the east and felt graced with the presence of such amazing, huge, and well toothed wild life.

This is the third rather large reptile I have seen since arriving in Brisbane five years ago. The first was a magnificent Bearded Dragon in the front garden.

See him here on line:

I mention these two critters in the same breath because they are about the same size, a yard long including tail, and both walk. I mean they dont' slither like some reptiles. They royally saunter across their territory in control of their environment. Wizards of Oz in the most positive sense.

It is a wonderment that they exist in the same world that I do. I am blessed by the reptile goddess or is it god?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

back to books

What a joy it is to go out and buy new bookcases in anticipation of an influx of titles!

Some folks would get the same rush from buying a whole new wardrobe or a week's worth of shoes, but not me!
Books make my heart sing. Well, not quite in tune as my friends know as some folks. My ability to stay on key is enough to send folks off looking for a que of frogs right after a rain storm. Their noisy squaking might be preferable. And yet, my new bookcases waiting for the thirty-five new titles I recently purchased new and used from Amazon and their used book sources will soon be arriving after their long journey across the big blue pond.

You may wonder why I purchase in the US instead of here in Oz. The entire population of Australia is less than the population of California. That means that mass production, er printings, simply do not happen here. In the 2003-2004 book year 80 million books were sold in all of Australia. In 2004-2005 the number of book sold in the USA was diminished by 44 million. (note the previous blog entry). So, you can see that each book is bound to cost more. More than twice as much actually. I pay $36 A for a paperback that would cost me $12USD in California. And so, even with the postage costs, my purchase of books from the USA are a considerable savings.

You may also wonder what titles I am purchasing for my future reading. I am currently engaged in research for a Master's thesis in Writing, Editing, and Publishing on 21st century women's travel memoirs. If you have any titles you want me to include in my research, be sure to let me know.

I am particularly interested in the process of epiphany or psycho-autobiography in these memoirs. In other words how do we come to know ourselves better if we travel? I'm sure we do discover all kinds of strengths, prejudices, and joys when in travel mode. You may wish to share a few of those here on the blog as well. It would be a wonderment to have a few folks share. These personal anecdotes do tend not only to entertain, but also to induce self reflection on the part of readers.

In the meantime, hope your midweek brings smiles and tiny paroxyms of joy..

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


May 24, 2005 the O'Reilly radar at

reported that "The Salt Lake Tribune reports 'According to a report issued by the Book Industry Study Group, the number of books sold dropped by nearly 44 million from 2003 to 2004, while the number of books published per year approaches 175,000. 'Higher prices enabled net revenues to increase 2.8 percent, to $28.6 billion, but also drove many readers, especially students, to buy used books...' After 2005, markets are expected to be flat with the exception of religious books." '

That means approximately 3365 books a week are published. I believe those figures are just for the United States because I have figures from other sources that indicate that in 2003 Great Britain alone published in excess of 125,000 books a year.

Nonetheless, don't those numbers just boggle the mind?

Which ones do you manage to read and when do you make time to read? If you turn off the tv set in your house or if you are one of those multi taskers who can watch Monday night foot-base-basketball and read at the same time, you might even be able to read a book a week. However, that would only be 52 books a year.

How do you choose? Whose recommendation do you trust? And to whom do you talk about the reading you are doing?

Right now, I find myself in the enviable position of working on a Masters degree, which means that I have REASON and PERMISSION to read. And I promise you, I take advantage of this opportunity to read to my heart's content any and all the time I choose.

Why do I express my reading habits in quite that way? Because, dear friends, I am one of those folks who have been punished for reading too much. As a kid, my mom used to hide books from me. Oh, all right. The one she hid was Forever Amber by Margaret Mitchell. Mom was sure that it was a filthy romantic novel that a 7th grader should not be reading.

You may be sure I found the hiding place. It took me almost three weeks to figure out where she put Amber, but I promise you, find it I did..and then because it was summer time in Michigan, I rose at 4:30 each morning to steal under the covers to read until my mom rose at 6 a.m. I read the rest of Amber in the next week.

Probably that title changed my life. You know, that isn't entirely true. There have been myriad titles that have changed my life. Ursula leGuinn with her Wizard of Earth Sea series, Zane Gray with his romantic westerns, Tolkein and Frodo, Coleman Barks' Essential Rumi, even the Psalms changed my life..and I'm a confirmed atheist.

What I don't understand is how people manage not to read? You might want to list your favorites here and maybe others will find them to be their favorites, too.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

write, write, write

The advice we who wish to write are given is always the same - write, write, write. Every day make a time to write.

This blog serves the purpose of providing me with a responsibility to write every day. And, so, I am able to follow the directions of those who write for a living. I have a place to publish on a regular basis.

Some wonder about blogging in terms of just how public one's writing becomes when published on line even if that publication reaches only a very few folks. I have been wondering about this public part of me, of late. I self describe as an 'introvert' on the Kiersey-Bates Personality sorter. I know for sure that I re-energize by myself, alone, in my private space and that I need to be in that private space a good portion of every day .

In order to have that space, I have managed to create with the help of my Australian partner, a graham of all trades, a lovely office in the back corner of our home, a space full of windows that looks out over a private fig tree wilderness, a space I share with fig birds, butcher birds, noisy minors, storm birds, kookaburras, and a tawny frogmouth or two. At night the bats and the possum take over, but in the daytime when I sit here typing I am surrounded by peaceful greenery and blue skies ..except, of course, on days like today, when the cloud cover allows no blue to leak through.

The grey and white clouds, however, simply enhance the depth of greenery surrounding my space.

And yet, in the midst of the perfect harmony of the natural world of our little corner of Queensland, I am full of anxiety.

I'm not sure if these feelings begin in my childhood of 60 years ago with my being abandoned by my parents or if this unease stems from a sense of homelessness. For sure, I know that home is in the heart and mind, not in the physical space that one fills in a physical sense.

When I am comfortable, satisfied with my life, home is where ever I happen to be at the moment. That may be in a movie theatre while I am engrossed in the pretend lives of film strs who are engrosed in being someone other than themselves.

That may be in the midst of a walk on Mt. Coot-tha, another green space that lifts my spirits. When I finally hit the top of the hill in my almost daily woalks, I am home! The kilometre + walk downhill and back to the parking lot is almost always a satisfied saunter during which I feel comfortable, at home, ready to face the challenges of the day.

But in the midst of my choosing to be alone, I can also manifest the most horrible anxiety about not having a place, about missing my country whose international and national policies I decry. It isn't the government I miss. It is the warmth of the smile from a friend, the comfort of being called by name, the joy of being recognized as a fellow citizen in a comfort zone.

I suppose the conclusion of this commentary circles around the fact that like the turtle, we carry our homes on our backs, in the back of our brain in some mass of grey matter where we feel complete and satisfied. And one would think that a person of my age and experience would have, by now, managed to manifest that sense of satisfaction no matter where my body rests. One would think that!