Saturday, April 29, 2006

The look-out on a holiday Saturday

Mt. Cooth-tha Kiosk

I treat myself to lunch while Graham goes to boy afternoon with Jacko. As I drive through the huge city park, indecision about whether to walk or eat and write first culminates with eating (always wins)! Good coffee - hot and tasty.

Star sapphire shimmers in my coffee spoon as the Queensland sun reflects near midday.
Maybe salad means I can enjoy dessert? Always thinking of sweets.
Spicy taste warms the roof of my mouth - bye bye bacteria.

Baby blue skies slip into air pollution over Mt. Gravatt
Puffs - more lenticular but low - cast a few shadows over Fig Tree Pocket. They're probably watering again in violation of restrictions. "That suburb has the highest water usage in the city despite pleas for conservation," says she who waters her front garden every morning before seven, unless, of course, she awakens after seven, and then she clandestinely waters after seven.

Everything is so public in Oz

Only AWB (Australian Wheat Board scandal) is a secret. Way too much power is at stake. How do those guys keep a straight face under public pressure? Maybe all politicians are good liars.

Something sits on West End side of St. Lucia reach of the River like a barge or dredge, even though they no longer dredge. Ah there it goes, maybe just the ferry or the RiverCat at the West End station.

Europeans in front of me light up . Ugh! Germans, in this case or that is my guess. That's the language they are speaking.

Air smells like it looks over Mt. Gravatt.

A table opens up to the left - lovely view now - no more smoke.

I notice off to the right - Archer field, the low swamp of heat with dried grass - no watering - no rain - surrounded with a necklace of flat topped white light industrial buildings.

To the left - CBD (central business district) - framed by two nut palms - healthy palm frond margins between varied high-rise roofs and the light moisture filled sky.

Morton Island sand traps create a perspective, depth to the horizon.

Suncorp stadium - flat topped- screaming red highlights beside the XXXX brewery of yellow brick bring my attention to the fig tree wilderness of Paddington just slightly in the foreground.

Toowong's Blue Glass Tower in its own shadow is dark - almost black - in the noon vista.

German to the right - Slavic English to the left and girlish Aussie laughter mixed with Italian behind. Maybe tourists - maybe European Australians.

The tall blonds fore and aft in mid calf baggy shorts and sports shoes ground the scene - keeping it attached to the Australian terra firma.

No more Kookaburras - Wires have been run along the eves of the red tiled roof of the restaurant. Those skilled hunters will have to perch elsewhere as they watch for easy pickings.

And why am I here? To be with people. To be part of Queensland. To no longer hermit myself. To push my limits slightly. To pay attention to detail. To notice tourists posing before the semi circular black iron fence to have memories of their trip to Brissy captured.

South a bit east is the long ridgeline of the New South Wales border - Lamington, Girraween parks. Sub tropical rain forests, highland gum tree forests, roo land, paddymelon grazing heaven - Monday's destination.

Time to go walk in my won gum tree paradise - Kolgun - I am on my way!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

whose truth?

Opinion is a flitting thing, / But truth, outlasts the Sun — / If then we cannot own them both — / Possess the oldest one —
— Emily Dickinson

Sunday, April 23, 2006

leeches

Australians who travel to Papua New Guinea, the huge island just north of Queensland in Australia, make it is clear that the only way to survive in that equatorial rain forest is NOT to go alone. The communal give and take of New Guinea called 'one tok', so at odds with western capitalism, provides the highland peoples and their Australian tourists the only possibility of survival in the jungle wilderness. However, unlike the indigenous communal world of PNG, chance and luck may be the forces that push Australians and other westerners to share their spaces and commercial goods at home. Perhaps our sharing has more to do with our intentions, the strength of which tends to manifest others to help us create our world.

In my case, for instance, it is Lorraine whom I intended to meet. Now, don't misunderstand. I didn't mean to meet Lorraine specifically. I enrolled in a graduate program at The University of Queensland with the intention of meeting folks who love what I love, whose perception of the world has some similarities to my own. Like Sarah Turnbull in Almost French, my main friends here in Oz, my first friends, are ex pats. However, in most cases, I make the choices. Not so in the case of Lorraine. She is the outgoing person who choses to walk out of class with fellow students like me; it is she who strikes up conversations. I remember the warm winter evening when first we met in the early darkness at the adjournment of class.

Almost a year later, here we are in the midst of writing, both of us sitting at our own computer on a sunny Australian autumn afternoon in Ipswich, a bush suburb of Brisbane, in the midst of a library garden with perfect air conditioning as we quietly attempt to share our recent journey, to conjure a mood, an interest, in you, dear reader.





But let me explain the relationship between my meeting with Lorraine and the topic of this essay about leeches, the least inviting critters on the planet, more horrifying than roaches, white ants, poisonous spiders, or marsupial marauders. Yes, let us begin with leeches, who frequently occur in travel memoirs about the bush or the 'outback'. The bloodsuckers of the world are the poster children of adventure literature, movies, novels, and horror dramas. You may well wonder if Lorraine brought leeches to class.

No, my first encounter with the spineless critters came as I walked the highlands of Lamington National Park in southern Queensland with the Aussie who is now my partner, but then is simply my Australian friend. We had walked about six kilometres from the lodge at Bina Burra, where we were celebrating New Years, on a sunny summers day. For most of our journey I had been sweating. However, by this time we reach an altitude in the rain forests on the border between New South Wales and Queensland where the cloud cover brings cooling breezes. The view from a sawed in half log bench built into the hillside of the trail is so lovely that I have to stop. I sit down to enjoy, lean back against the hillside and take in the vista. I'm not tired, just wallowing in the strange loveliness of this new place.

From this bench one can see across the rolling grey-green gum tree ridgelines to the Pacific just south of the metropolis of The Gold Coast. All the high rises of that modern conclave are not within my purview. The scene is framed by amazing blues: sky softening through low lying coastal cloud cover meets the blues of the Tasman sea softly front lit by the afternoon sun off to the west behind the rain forest canopy.

Graham, who is a few meters in front of me, realizes I am not behind him and turns to see if I have once again slipped in the mud. I'm not using walking sticks yet and having just two points on often leaves me slipping and sliding on the slick rain forest paths. The absence of cartilage in my right knee from an accident in the Sierras of California years earlier weakens my strength in my right leg and therefore leaves me somewhat off balance.

He turns, glances at me sitting, and insists, 'Stand up," in his unremarkable Aussie twang. Looking in his direction, I do as I am told, unaware of why he would want me on my feet, a bit perplexed.

He strides back to me, turns me around, and plucks two black pencil lead wiggling fellows off my shoulders. Overhanging the lovely bench had been fronds of rain forest palms. And dangling from the greenery were several black devils, two of which were just waiting for some unsuspecting tourist to stop. Dinner for a month.

They don't have to eat very often, these wiggling black beasts. They may be only three centimetres long as they begin their attack, but they have the ability to attach and grow to nine centimetres becoming full on human blood syringes. Their only redeeming grace is that they not only insert an anticoagulant in one's blood stream but also an anaesthesia to keep one from feeling their attachment.

Ugh! Thanks Graham for rescuing me from the wiggles.

We walk on. Every muscle winces for the rest of the afternoon. I find myself less impressed with the scenery across the ridgelines and far more involved in checking out who is dangling from which plants near the track. Stay-a-while vines that previously had been an attraction turn into possible homes for wiggling interlopers looking for a hitch hike on my forearms. Low lying ground clover becomes a hiding place for tiny Draculas.

Watching carefully, we manage to surprise a venomous Red-bellied Black Snake resting in the mottled sunshine of the trail covered with low growing vines. Obviously, not very many people had trod this track in a while or so I think. Graham assures me that one really can't tell. The rain forest has the ability to quickly recover from whatever human interference comes to it. We wait patiently as the black fellow with a red belly continues his morning nap. Finally, from a safe distance we toss a few rocks just past his spot on the trail to alert him to our presence. Eventually he slithers on to another spot to sun in the autumn afternoon.

Now there was even more for me to see. Poisonous snakes, daughters of Dracula, my imagination creates anxiety levels reaching the point where it is impossible to notice much of anything. My heart is beating so fast; my breath is so short that just moving forward becomes an issue of concentration.

However, for the next few hours we encounter only whip bird songs and brush turkey meanderings. I begin to relax. We reached the Southern Ramparts, a high spot on the Lamington Track where we can look south over the caldera of Mt. Warning across the state border into New South Wales. After the last volcanic eruption of a mountain higher at one time than Everest, all that is left is a plug, albeit, a plug seen by Captain Cook when he sailed the east coast of Australia in 17….. The valley surrounding the plug is an amazing array of farmlands, sugar cane plantations, and gum tree forests through which the Clarence and Tweed Rivers wend their way. Rosella, King Parrots, lauralkeets and a variety of other daytime high flyers distract me from any discomfort I may feel from our 10-kilometer trek to the Border Track.

I am hungry as is Graham, who from his pack digs out plastic food containers prepared by the Binna Burra Lodge that morning. We sip on cardboard/aluminium drink containers through those tiny little plastic straws and munch dried fruits and nuts, fruit bread, a bun, ham, cheese, and left overs from the previous nights roast. As I am particularly enjoying my chocolate candies and gelatine worms, the real thing catches my eye. Up my white socks, a brigade of three centimetre long black pencil leads wiggle towards my calves. Not one, not two, but four of the little black devils are on the attack. Yikes. Stamp, stamp, stamp to no avail. These guys have their hooks in my wick dry wool socks and are somersaulting up my ankle towards my calf. They, too, are in search of dessert.

Graham stands there and laughs as I try to intercede in the journey of the critters. I stop for a second to see if there are others attacking his boots. No. He has slathered Deet on his boot tops to dissuade the marchers from entering sacred territory.

I had chosen to avoid the poisonous stuff. No more. As I entreat him to find the bottle of Deet in his daypack, he once more digs into the bottom of the pack, brings out the precious Deet and promptly sprays the interlopers. They shrivel: I laugh. You betcha, American to the core, I delight in their death throes. Die you little bloodsuckers. None of my blood for you today.

Eating loses its interest. I pack up my daypack, sling it on my back after carefully checking to see if it has any free loaders attached and start back down the trail. I really don't know where I am going. I only know I am leaving leech heaven to the leeches. I am heading back to my home away from home, my room at the lodge where there will be a shower and a mirror in which I can investigate every inch of my body to be sure there are no more native critters hitching a ride.

Graham just smiles, finishes his lunch, packs up his goods, and with his long Australian striding legs catches up with me in no time. He chuckles out loud as he catches up with me walking forward but looking down at my boots screaming expletives at the tiny leeches trying to crawl up the back last of my boots headed for my calves. He asks me to stop while he sprays Deet along the tops of the back of my boots and socks. You know, I will never go to the rain forest with socks folded down again. From now on knee socks, thick heavy-duty knee socks, are the attire of the day. Actually, only in autumn do the moist showers of late summer grow black pencil leads along the stems of all the lovely deep green growth of Lamington National Park.

As for working together as a community, sharing all we own with each other. I didn't offer my chocolate candies to the man who saved me from the leeches, but only because I had already stuffed myself full before I realized I was under attack. Next time, I will offer to share. After all, whom else do you know who will pinch a tick out of your shoulder and wash your socks after leeches burrow through the eyeholes in your boots to attack the top of your foot. The hungry little bloodsuckers were squashed to death by the tight laces as they engorge themselves and grew too large for the space they invaded. What's mine is his, especially on the track in a rain forest.

And Lorraine, yes, what's mine is hers. She is the one who gives me the time, the support, and the reason to share these journeys. She is the editor, friend, fellow traveller with whom I feel comfortable sharing these tales of a northern hemisphere dweller in southern hemisphere wilderness. It is she for whom I write. It is our relationship, our friendship that encourages my art.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

fear

Fear is one of those overwhelming experiences beyond our ability to control sometimes. No, fear can be controlled by some of us some of the time. I am aware that my own fear these days is reduced to an encompassing sense of anxiety that emanates from my body as muscle contractions in my chest, tears, and a need for deep penetrating screams. Most often fear in my life these days results in a phone call, a panting, breathy "I hate you, I hate you because you make me feel this way". My fear is invested with an absolute desire not to take responsibility for how I feel.

The Buddhists tell us that it is not what happens to us but how we choose to react to that happenstance that makes the difference in our lives. And fear, fear of loss, fear of being made a fool, fear of having to share affection, attention and relationship existing between me and my partner sends me into paroxysms of deeply felt anger, fear!

The only good thing about my fear these days is that I don't keep it inside. I don't punish myself with a hidden garden variety growing deep within my soul. Rather, I savage the world with my feelings, pretending only for a moment that what I m experiencing is anger. I admit far more quickly than at any other time in my life that it is not anger, but deeply felt, overwhelming fear that has inveigled it's way into my psyche and is destroying my equanimity.

And to be perfectly honest, that same fear has not risen much of late and when it has, the sensation has been short lived. No screaming, no contorted muscularity, no hair pulling and voice box constricture.

These days I am beginning to trust and that trust is the antagonist to the fear. If I trust, if my world feels safe, if I have a place to discuss my fear before it overwhelms me, I am able to have some control over it. I can move on, understand what the loss is that sends me into this fear.

The best example I can offer you of this sensation would be a Thanksgiving bout with that massive contortion that overwhelmed me. Here I was in Australia for my first Thanksgiving..and my last! I really fantasized that it could in some way be the experience I have had for years with my own family. It wasn't; it couldn't be. It was far too great an ask of these Aussies, these independent, lackadaisical holidaymakers. It wasn't even a holiday for them. What is a Thursday in Oz? Just another work/school day, certainly not the holiday of the year when all the emotional baggage of families comes together to create an emotional intensity that only the tryptophan in the turkey could possibly deflate.

There were two turkeys that Thanksgiving. The first one at a cost of some $49 we inadvertently left under the black plastic cover in the spring sunshine as we unloaded the groceries from the Ute. A day later when we discovered our lapse, because as you might imagine, there was a stench reaching round the neighborhood. The turkey went into the trash. The second bird at the same price did make it to the refrigerator along with the whole pumpkin and the English 'bangers' instead of my Jimmy Dean sausage for stuffing.

I had never made pumpkin pie from scratch. It worked quite well. I have to admit that I didn't make the crust. Shortbread crust frozen from the supermarket served me well.

The turkey wasn't too dry; the mashed potatoes were tasty if lumpy. The stuffing was gross, missing the texture and spicy taste of American ready-made sausage. The pumpkin pie was a winner, and the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes garnered only a few brilliant laughs. Certainly they were left on the side of the plate, not eaten. The sweet potato mash was ok with my diners, though.

So where was the fear? It came earlier in the day when my partner inquired if I had to remain home to watch the turkey. I admitted that I did. It needed to be basted about every twenty minutes. He then changed clothes, put on his best shorts and cotton shirt in order to go out to see some of the production fellows from whom he purchased goods for his work.

I realized I was being left alone. On Thanksgiving, I was being left alone. The one day when family were always about, when the day started with Eggs Benedict and champagne and ended with pumpkin pie and whipped cream and a good movie on TV, a day when football games, parades, and twenty-four hours of Twilight Zone backgrounded, here I was in the huge Queenslander alone, basting my turkey.

What was my fear? That I had made a huge mistake, that I could never be part of this society, that these Aussies could never understand or honour my needs for ritual, that I was a dupe, that no one really wanted me here, that once again I was being rejected for simply being who I am. Yup, all the old morass of misunderstandings overwhelmed me. I couldn't tell my Australian family. I was sure they wouldn't understand.

I'm not sure I have ever told them about that experience, at least not the way I have just written it down. It wasn't the first nor the last bout with fear that I have experienced in the four years of travel to and from Australia, but it is a good example of the depths to which I can go when fear of being misunderstood, of feeling the fool, of feeling inadequate, of feeling rejection can take me.

One might think that by the time a human being reaches 65, this sense of fallibility would have been overcome. Not so, my dear reader, not so.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

muscles and names

What to do with grandmothers over the age of 65 who refuse to act as though they are grandmothers? I suppose that if I were to really check I would find that I act precisely like most American grandmothers do.
And yet, I feel a whole lot more like Marcy, the Sierra and Rockies peak bagger than I do like Paula Anderson, the lover of cats and grandchildren.

It took me all of 45 seconds to recall Paula's name, not an unusual state of affairs for my mind. If one is so confused as to not be able to remember names of folks one has known and appreciated for forty years, how does one travel in foreign countries? What kind of strange altered state of consciousness evolves to allow one to find one's way? Not that I have ever been very good at finding my way. Rather, I am almost always lost; one of the reasons I am so enthralled with the tall Aussie dude who always knows his way except, of course, when he is lost which does happen every now and again.

Mostly he is right on. He knows his way around the physical world. He not only knows where to walk; he knows how to wave a magical saw or plumbers tape to lure the physical world to respond to his wishes. He knows all the technical crap that I just don't have the time nor the inclination to learn.

Not to mention that I also don't have the physical prowess to make the physical world kneel to my command. I often forget just how powerful muscles are and why they are essential to make the world work.
Sometimes it is more than a bottle I need opened. Sometimes it is a refrigerator I need moved or a mattress flipped over or even a plant dug up and moved in the front garden.

Who can do that? The Australian not only can; he actually does those tasks that I find difficult, and he does them with a suggestion that they are really just trifling nuisances rather than major impediments to the functioning of the world.

I remember the day that my computer needed a connection to the 'nether' world of the net. The Aussie bloke went into his magical storeroom, exited with blue cable, attached that cable to the lines in his computer room on the other side of the house and ran cable along the ceilings of the downstairs rooms, drilled a hole in my floor, asked me exactly where I thought I wanted my computer to sit, and hooked the whole thing up to my happy lil Mac.
Without his prowess, I would be sitting on the floor besides his desk typing away on my laptop.

Could that be why he moved with such alacrity to install the cables to my office? Does he prefer his privacy? No, not my Aussie bloke. Not much!!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Why travel?

Here I am in Brisbane on the Saturday before Easter, in the midst of the second full moon of 2006. Once more I am faced with the question of why I find myself so comfortably situated on this 80 year old couch in the lounge room of the 100 year old Queenslander.

If it had not been comfortable, would I have stayed? Would I have returned all those times from my trips back to North America to prove to Australian Immigration, DIMA herself (how could this department be anything but a woman, supervised by the fullest bodied woman in the Australian Parliament, Amanda Vanstone) that I really was/am only a visitor?

As one reads the journals and narratives of other women who travel the globe, it becomes obvious that in our travels, at least in the 21st century, most of us are searching for our identity.

Oh, I suspect we really know who we are. What we seek is what we have the potential to become. Parts of us have remained undeveloped in the culture of our origin where we have wisely chosen to 'tow the line' to become the person our families, our communities needed or expected us to be.

By travelling, each of us has found that there are other ways to be, other persons to become. Jean Houston is the first person I recall having used the term 'polyphrenic'. She explains it as the multiple personalities inherent in any being, each of which comes to the fore when needed to cope with the varied roles we must play in modern western society.

When I search carefully into who I have been and who I am since arriving in Australia, it is sometimes difficult to discover the nuances and subtleties of the change into my new self. I realize that I am too close. Reflection requires time. We may not see if we are too engrossed in the process of being right now.

I do realize that growing older creates a change. Maturity has its disadvantages as well as its opportunities to move beyond that soma to which we all grow accustomed, where we walk like one blindfolded, with ear muffs to keep out the scratchy noises of the old recordings, where we allow our bodies to dictate who we are. Some of us even forget how it feels to reach out and gather into our palms the soil of our gardens or taste Witchetty grubs who love their deep tunnels in undisturbed soil. We become so accustomed to the fragrance of Frangipani or the miraculous colours of Australian Wattle as it blooms ever so yellow in the dark shrubbery of the gum tree forest that we forget to take a few moments to savour what is offered.

I still shrilly whinge at the sharpness of the ancient Australian rocks in the quarry through which I walk on my daily sojourn on Mt. Cooth-tha, the wilderness park located in the middle of the western Brisbane suburbs. These are not my Sierra nor my San Gabriel foothill wild lands where I wandered for the previous forty years. I fail to acknowledge the joy of discovering the contrast of granite, marble, limestone and sandstone strewn before me in a lovely pattern down the hillside.

Why did I leave those places, those wonderful earthquake prone east-west ranging mountains of southern California? Do I feel negatively about my home of the last half of my life? No.

Rather, I am curious about how this new land gives me an opportunity to be another myself in its midst.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

sleepless in Brissy

I woke up at 3:11a.m. Actually I woke up at 1:09; you think I'm a numbers person? You have no idea.

Anyhow, there I lay with my right knee in spasms that a variety of bed positions failed to remedy. Up for an ibprophin to stem the tide of continued pain so I could go to sleep. By then I was more than wide-awake and lying in bed, my mind began its process.

Perhaps if I had a tape recorder I could talk my way through the thought process and return to slumber. You know as well as I do that wouldn't make any difference. The words spoken simply do not have the same effect as the words thought. They lose their magic in the maze of vocal chords. The journey is never satisfactorily completed. Like some fantasy journey, spoken reality simply doesn't do justice to imagination.

And so here I sit at my computer abiding by the admonition of our speaker in class tonight. "Write daily, write regularly. Make it a process like a business. Commit a specific amount of time each day to the process." Yes, commit is the right word. I think someone ought to commit me! I just haven't found a favorite institution.

With that introduction, about what was my mind churning this morning? I'm not sure I remember where I started, but I know where I ended just before coming out here to light my candle to keep the mosquitoes and little black midges narcotised.

It was Stephen Jay Gould who was on my mind. And happy I was that I remembered his name. One of the reasons it was so easy to give up my teaching gig after forty years in the classroom was that I had reached the point where in the middle of a lecture I was unable to withdraw from the depths of my memory banks, kind of like river banks full of the mud of the spring thaw, the names of authors about whom I wanted to share information in class.

And so in the midst of my morning musing, there was the New Yorker, the editor of Natural History Magazine, along with his evolutionary biology appetite, having morning tea in New York City's Natural History Museum, you know, the museum cafeteria with a blue whale swimming just under the ceiling. He exists today only in his writings and in our memories. His creative non-fiction entertained and transfixed me for so many years. I subscribed to Natural History Magazine just so I could read his editorials and then bought the same bound in their own volumes over the years. If you asked me whose writing I most enjoyed in all of my life, Gould along with Lewis Thomas would be in the top three. I think of them on early mornings when the fruit bats are colliding as they happily munch the tidy, tiny figs from our mammoth fig tree and the palm nuts from the front garden Cocos palms.

Oops, another stream enters the mind. It is my duty when the sun rises this morning to rescue my new winter garden seedlings from the rain of palm nuts the bats miss in their munchings.

But, what of Stephen Jay Gould? His words, his complex sentences that wind around ideas as varied as baseball, his favorite American past time, and typewriter keyboards s well as the colour of flamingos, dance in my brain sometimes confusing me, always challenging my understanding as well as delighting my sense of how words work to convey associations between evolutionary biology, a figment of Gould's imagination, and the rest of reality.

Today in class, that would be Issues in Contemporary Publishing, I made my presentation on twenty-first century women travel writers. It is a subject about which I know practically nothing and a great deal all at the same time. It is interesting here to note that I am not the only one who was going to write on this subject. There were three of us who wanted to present on this topic. Australia one more time proves its claim to be the home of international citizenship, not withstanding the position of the current government on the topic. Australians travel to other continents with a degree of comfort that doesn't seem to exist for many other folks.

Qantas may have convinced Aussies that Australia is home, but the number of Australian ex pats suggests that Australia is only one of their homes.

It just doesn't occur to Aussies to be insular. They have no trouble showing up to parties thrown by the rest of the world. Nor do these left-handed, lateral thinkers have trouble with the practical. They mostly just do the job. They create vaccines for cervical cancer. They re establish the flight control center in the tower at Baghdad airport after the Americans bombed it out of commission. They quietly rebuild homes after hurricanes destroy them in Queensland.
They keep geckos behind picture frames, one of which is chattering away near the ceiling. Guess he is suggesting I head back to bed. Catch you das morgan.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

American in Oz: How far is far enough: the globe really is round

Friday, April 07, 2006

How far is far enough: the globe really is round

How far is far enough when one is running away?

All the way back home, I suppose, because no matter which way you run, even if you zig zag, eventually you end up pretty darn close to where you started your trek.

I have been running since I was in elementary school. Actually, I didn't start this tour of the globe, my parents did. When I was one, they farmed me out to a 'paid' mom, a wonderful surrogate grandmother by the name of Ada Petit. She was a little woman, a little woman with a big heart.

When the war was over and my almost baby sister was about to be born, I was allowed to return to my family, but not for long. I was in second semester kindergarten then.

By the time I was seven and in second grade, off I was sent again; this time to live with my aunt and uncle. I remember plotting against that move. My relatives were kind and generous, but I just couldn't quite deal with being 'sent away'.

It took a little work, but by the time I was eight, I was back with my parents

By the time I was seventeen and graduating from high school, I had a change of mind. Already I had been separated from my parents on a couple of other occasions and family travel included a diagonal move across the country from Michigan to Arizona, the romantic desert that wrapped it's Saguaro cactus arms around me, refusing to let me leave forever. I spent sixth and seventh grade there.

After college graduation in Michigan, Arizona was the location of my first teaching assignment!
And then came California.
Canada, England, Spain, Italy, Greece, Mexico, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile
And now, of course, there is Australia.

And from here, I do the ex pat dance for a while. No matter how hard I try to stay away, I return regularly to revel in the midst of 'too much'...too many possibilities are the bain of my existence.

Maturity allows us to come to some decisions about what is good and what is evil. I know evil these days when I see it.
Evil is that consumer temptation that one can find, for instance, in the toothpaste aisle of your local super market. All those brands!!..all those possibilities...oh yeah..until you check out the ingredients and discover that they are all the same!! Yup..that's the America I return to...I wallow in the corruption of spirit that comes from wandering my favorite 'super store'..
marveling at all these possibilities..

And when I can no longer deal with the stress of 'making up my mind', I flee..back to my world where there are actually only two shelves of toothpaste, each shelf only one meter long, in my local market..not very super...but very comfortable.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

quiet time

I have just completed Sarah MacDonald's chapter on ten days of silent meditation in her 2002 travel memoir, Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure. You may well wonder why I am reading the travel memoirs of a youthful Australian journo. You see, I am in the midst of researching 21st century women's travel memoirs and since I am in Australia, I thought it a brilliant idea to read a few Australian commentaries. Holy Cow is my first.

You might notice that earlier in these blogs I mentioned Jamaica Kincaid's Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalayas.

The two books have very little in common. Except for the moments of reflective meditation and near death experiences that move both authors to come to an understanding of precisely what is important in their lives, the stories are told from very different perspectives.

However, both books linger in my own imagination. As I trotted out to the front garden on this cloudy, relatively cool April morning to try and rescue a few of the plantings that survived my three month's absence while I was travelling, I found myself pulling that which I classify as weeds..the native green stuff that I didn't plant.

Somewhere in between trips to the burlap basket in the side garden where we store all our green waste awaiting a pick up truck once a month, I realized how relaxed, how apt to hum my favorite tune, I was.

I am sure my tendency to hum was a direct result of MacDonald's reference to all the oldies that filled her mind during her ten days of silence at the meditation center in northern India.

I am also sure that I would find it impossible to spend ten days in silence. But, I experience some of the same effect comes from spending a few morning hours tidying up my garden in relative silence. The Butcher Bird kept me company. A couple of Noisy Minors were having a convo on the powerlines down the street. Several lizards scooted from beneath shrubs and a few ants climbed my shin in search of whatever aphids they could find living there.

My mood, as it always is in the garden, was celebratory, quietly so. My sense of well being, of compassion, of being in themidst of a generative scene overtook me once again. Gardens are good for some of us..not walking in them, but tending them. Having garden soil underneath fingernails is good for the psyche. A bit of perspiration mingled with the tiny earth clods makes one feel as though a good deed has been done, for garden and for self.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

driver's license in Oz

It was dark when police were flagged down in Australia's Northern Territory earlier this week by a couple in a parked car who said they needed directions to Ayers Rock. (You must have seen photos of Ayers Rock; it's reddish monolith that rises 1,115 feet from the Outback and ranks right up there with the Sydney Opera House, the kangaroo, and the
koala as Australia's most famous symbols. It's so huge that the road around the perimeter is almost 6.5 miles long .) On the surface, the request wasn't particularly unusual, even though it came at night and after the peak summer tourist season.

After all, Ayers Rock is in a wilderness area almost 300 miles from the nearest city, and one doesn't want to become lost or stranded there. Still, the cops almost immediately became suspicious, and as a result the driver is due in court May 18. So why is he in trouble? Well, for one thing because at the time he was parked only 100 yards from the imposing mound and his headlights were shining on it. As you might guess, he failed a breathalyzer test. He also couldn't produce a driver's license.
30 March 2006 Christian Science Monitor on-line

What the Monitor reporter failed to acknowledge is that in Oz drivers do not have to carry their driver's licences. If stopped by police, the driver has 24 hours to show up to the local police station with license in hand. In other words, at no time in Oz do citizens have to carry their identification with them.

Sounds like an open society to me. There is trouble afoot in Oz though. Current govt. officials are trying to get legislation passed that would foce citizens to carry identity cards. Somehow, it seems to me that's not an idea Aussies will take in good humour.