Wilderness — A Meditation

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Women's Travel — Montague, Kingsley, Bird, Murphy, Davidson, Salak — Four Centuries of Memoir

Clarity comes from within; epiphany is not visible in the external.

By weaving themselves in and out of cultures, Lady Mary Wortley Montague (1762), Mary Kingsley (1897), Isabella Bird (1873), Dervla Murphy (1994), Robyn Davidson (1996), and Kira Salak (2001) explore their own identities and influence readers and future women travel writers who follow in their footsteps.

Patrick Holland in Tourists with Typewriters: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Travel Writing suggests that 'it is true that physical vulnerability affects the way women move through the world' (112). Sonia Melchett in her introduction to Passionate Quests: Five Modern Women Travellers adds, 'travel stretches women's imagination and power of physical endurance . . . By risking hardship, sickness, boredom and even death, and then by surviving' (3) these women validate life, 'not just escaping from a humdrum existence, but. . . reaching for a kind of liberty' (3).

Some women travel memoirists find themselves 'free of the constraints of contemporary society, realising their potential once outside the boundaries of a restrictive social order', according to Peter Hulme in The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing (234). 'Travel for some women, it seems, may have offered a means of redefining themselves, assuming a different persona and becoming someone who did not exist at home' (Hulme 234).

Holland contends that in the 21st century women travel writers have been more apt to engage in 'confessional narratives' (114) than their predecessors. However, the evidence offered by Montagu, Bird, and Kingsley proves that these confessions have existed for longer than he would have us believe.

Between Montague and Salak, travel writing has metamorphosed from the writing of letters to a subjective form, an 'impressionistic style with the interest focused as much on the traveller's responses or consciousness as on their travels' (Hulme 74).

Montagu's emphasis on relationships formed and opinions changed as a result of coming into contact with cultures through whose eyes the world takes on different emphasis reminds us that the journey of all women engaged in travel writing 'leads to greater self-awareness and takes the reader simultaneously on that [same] journey' (Hulme 237).

Upon my return from what had been a difficult trip, I discovered an unexpected self-empowerment. I had found the power to will my own life, and for a young woman who had not previously known about nor understood the notion of personal power, it was a profound teaching indeed (Salak ix).

It is precisely this sense of new possibilities that is the most common element in Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea. In her lack of certainty, Kira Salak, author of 2001 travel memoir, has a connection with her predecessors. Salak chooses a less travelled road, one at the end of which she finds partnership with her own sense of power. However, she remains in Papua New Guinea long enough to make a final admission. 'I was supposed to return as someone entirely new, with an almost superhuman strength and confidence, or I wasn't supposed to return at all' (Salak 311).

In 1894 Mary Kingsley, who also travelled rain forests, those of western Africa, expresses a similar understanding near the top of Mt. Cameroon (Kingsley 354). Often in Travels in West Africa, when Kingsley is most self-deprecating in her humour, she is reflecting on what is also most fearful. Instead of admitting to fears in her memoir, Kingsley holds tight reins on her emotions. She is far more apt to share anger than fear:

Unfortunately, I must needs go in for acrobatic performances on the top of one of the highest, rockiest hillocks. Poising myself on one leg I take a rapid slide sideways, ending in a very showy leap backwards which lands me on the top of the lantern I am carrying today, among miscellaneous rocks. There being fifteen feet or so of jungle grass above me, all the dash and beauty of my performance are as much thrown away as I am, for my boys are too busy on their own accounts in the mist to miss me. After resting some little time as I fell, and making and unmaking the idea in my mind that I am killed, I get up (Kingsley 356).

A hundred years later, Salak describes a trek in the rain forests of the Central Range of Papua New Guinea with an indigenous woman as guide:

We reach our first mountain. It doesn't gradually rise but shoots skyward at nearly 90 degrees . . . and now we're not hiking anymore. We use tree roots and branches to pull ourselves up the mountainside. I reach blindly among the jungle plants in search of handholds, sometimes grabbing onto the spiny stems of plants, other times reaching into swarms of red ants. I don't even allow myself to think about snakes, though a couple have slithered away before my sloppy approach. I'm slithering myself, chin in the mud, body sliding up the side of the mountain. When I need to rest, I wrap my arm around a tree root or branch and shove my knees into the muddy slope. Four thousand, perhaps five thousand feet of this to get over–I don’t' even want to think about it. (199).

From an entirely different perspective but an equally devastating one, in 1996 Robyn Davidson's Desert Places, tells of the local Bhopavand women stopping by for tea:

They began going through my things, grabbing at them, and when I tried to stop them I realized that any action on my part would only increase the frenzy. I stood in front of the tent, arms folded and stared resolutely at the horizon. I wasn't frightened, not exactly, but it was deeply unsettling to be confronted with crowd hysteria in the face of which I was entirely powerless . . . When you are so tired, frustrated and filthy that you would like to cry but cannot because people are watching you; when your period has come and you are in pain but you must not display it; when you do not know what is going on because you cannot understand the language but you sense the atmosphere is not right; when you are operating on twenty levels at once and not sure if you are correct in any of them, when you have entered a place where the people are suspicious of you, or frightened of you, or hate you because you represent something evil to them; when you cannot make your intentions understood; when there are children, hundreds of them, pressing against you, shouting, pulling at your hair and clothes, or pelting you with rocks; when you are so fed up with humanness that you would like to shoot everyone you see, including yourself; when the village dogs race towards you howling and slavering; and when finally, you make it back to the tent to have a cup of tea, the only luxury you have, you find that the milk has turned to yogurt ( Davidson 101- 103).

Salak echoes Davidson. 'It was due in large part to an increasing lack of confidence in myself, a feeling that anything that came out of my mouth was worthless and unimportant; there was nothing I could say or do that would impress anyone' (Salak 38).

Reference to difficulties with communication, one of the most frequent topics about which all of these women write, can be found in Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's travel letters in 1774. She must learn Arabic in order to understand the wit of her hostesses in the Ottoman Empire.

Mary Kingsley objects to forever being referred to as 'Sir'. In Dervla Murphy's memoir of her 1997 cycle through South Africa, North From the Limpopo, she writes of the frustration created by her inability to understand the language of the Boers and of several Zulu dialects.

The most frequently discussed topics in Salak's Four Corners echo those issues raised by other women. Salak's sense of independence is countered by her need to be rescued. Her admission that she travels to promote resilience and healing is countered by fear, conquered myriad times in her trek. And finally, all of her sharing, like that of Isabella Bird in her 19th century memoir, A Lady's Ride Through the Rockies, has as a backdrop her descriptions of the extraordinary setting in which she finds herself.

At the beginning of her adventure Salak writes, 'I always try to rely on myself, find it amazingly hard to ask someone for help, but today my ignorance and helplessness feels overwhelming' (122). She adds, 'I wish there were some way to keep this moment in the present, fresh and unadulterated by the imperfections of memory . . . I feel, for the first time in my life, absolutely superhuman. I feel what it means to live' (135). These could be the words of Montagu, Murphy, Kingsley, Davidson, or Bird.

Salak reflects on her emotional needs to a greater degree than any of the women except Davidson. 'Here is when the idea of travelling by myself seems like insanity, like masochism at its worse; when I most need someone to hold and comfort me, there is no one. Just the furious warring of my own thoughts. And the fear' (Salak 164). Her admission moves the narrative forward and affirms that there is personal growth in meeting fear and moving beyond it:

I'm surprised at how suddenly it occurs–not in days, months, or years, as one might think, but in a single moment. Suddenly, now, it happens: I unwittingly grow up. My innocence abandons me, and I'm left only with a fear of the world that I know to be irrevocable (12).

Kingsley admits to a similar awareness as she is solo climbing the last pitch to the top of Mt. Cameroon in West Africa. Perhaps travel in tropical rain forests with very little horizon on which climbers can depend affects the two similarly. It is difficult to see where one is going when the canopy never really opens up or if it does, as when Kingsley finds herself finally at the top of Mt. Cameroon, the forces of nature conspire and fill the environment with clouds that allow her to see only a few feet in any direction. (Kingsley 355) Clarity comes from within; an epiphany is not visible in the external.

Salak comments on the last page of her memoir: 'but if I fear anything now, it's what I might be missing by not taking any chances and limiting the experiences of my life' (319). She realizes 'That I'm secretly terrified of nearly everything, but most of all, my inability to change' (Salak 266).

Fear connects all of these women. Their decision to allow change in their lives is balanced with their fear of the indefinite future in which they cannot be confident that change will be allowed. Kingsley deals with her fear by making jokes at her own expense. Bird deals with fear by moving beyond it. Montagu is fearful of returning to London to coffee spoons and ladies' luncheons, to a life that seems meaningless after her travels. (Montagu 192) Montagu also records fears in the same manner as Kingsley with a good deal of understatement and a bit of humour:

We passed by moonshine the frightful precipices that divide Bohemia from Saxony, at the bottom of which runs the river Elbe; but I can not say that I had reason to fear drowning in it, being perfectly convinced that, in case of a tumble, it was utterly impossible to come alive to the bottom. In many places the road is so narrow, that I could not discern an inch of space between the wheels and the precipice. Yet I was so good a wife not to wake Mr. Wortley, who was fast asleep by my side, to make him share in my fears, since the danger was unavoidable, till I perceived, by the bright light of the moon, our postilions nodding on horseback, while the horses were on a full gallop, and I thought it very convenient to call out to desire them to look where they were going. My calling waked Mr. Wortley, and he was much more surprised than myself at the situation we were in, and assured me that he had passed the Alps five times in different places, without ever having gone a road so dangerous. I have been told since it is common to find the bodies of travellers in the Elbe; but, thank God, that was not our destiny; and we came safe to Dresden, so much tired with fear and fatigue, it was not possible for me to compose myself to write (Montague 80).

Murphy fears not so much for herself, although she frequently is confronted by nature in the guise of hail and rainstorms and unrelenting sun. She does fear exposed heights and makes no secret of her need for support in the midst of climbing perilous cliff faces. She describes her attempt to inconspicuously and illegally cross the border between Mozambique and Zimbabwe on her second entry into South Africa:

As the vehicle disappeared I stood still, allowing my eyes to become accustomed to starlight . . .

dawn came: a quiet pastel dawn, light slowly seeping through the surrounding dense tangles of dwarf acacia and euphorbia. From afar, through binoculars, this had looked like a fairly direct path across a wide valley. But it was no such thing. For a variety of topographical reasons it wandered to and fro, up and down, this way and that, often meeting other paths. Twice I near-panicked: I have no sense of direction and a wrong turning might expose me to the full fury of the Zimbabwean and/or Mozambican immigration officers (Murphy 272).

On another occasion in May 1994 while waiting for the newly elected Nelson Mandela to arrive in a parade after his inauguration, Murphy describes an epiphany about the connection between fear and joy:

Worry? I wasn't worried, my guts were twisted with terror as time and again the surge behind us pressed on my buttocks and I strained harder to pull the wire towards us and push on the metal bar. This was grotesque, to be so frightened during the happiest event I have ever attended–frightened as rarely before in a long lifetime of travel (Murphy 257).

Davidson fears the crowd as well, the masses of India who find her a curiosity. After a long hike up the 'first of the nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine steps leading to the summit and the ultimate temple Ambadji' (Davidson 168) she simply needs to be alone:

I walked around the town looking for a den to crawl into. I was followed by men who hissed and giggled. I found a stone and sat on it. A crowd gathered. I put my head down into my hands and absented myself mentally. A few moments later I looked up and there, not a foot from my face, was a row of men's crotches. Above the crotches was a row of eyes looking at me in that dead way. A chocking sensation filled my throat, burst behind my eyes. I began hurrying through the streets thinking I hate India, I hate India, I hate India. . . they were looking at me. And their eyes were peeling my flesh away (174).

Finally, Salak is able to explain the fear inherent in all travel outside of one's culture:

I walk around with an out-of-body feeling, only the shudder of my steps telling me I'm occupying a body. I don't know what it means exactly . . . A certain kind of momentum consumes me now, pressing me on regardless of risk. So am I actually going through with this? But I must. Stopping would mean failure, giving up on myself, succumbing to a fear of the future, the unknown (92).

Their unwillingness to succumb to extraordinary circumstances as well as their willingness to share their experiences is a gift given by six women who travel to those of us who read of their travels. Whether on interior journeys or into hitherto unknown territories of the globe, each reader carries within a memory of the adventurer's example.

* * *


Bird, Isabella L. A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains. Denver, Colorado: The Long Riders' Guild Press, 2001.

Davidson, Robyn. Desert Places. Victoria, Australia: Penuin Books Australia Ltd, 1996.

Holland, Patrick, and Graham Huggan, ed. Tourists with Typewriters: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Travel Writing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

Hulme, Peter, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Kingsley, Mary. Travels in West Africa. London: Macmillan, 1897.

Masse, Mark H. "Creative Nonfiction: Where Journalism and Storytelling Meet." The Writer 108.10 (1995): 13-18.

Melchett, Sonia. Passionate Quests: Five Modern Women Travellers. London: Faber and Faber, 1991.

Montagu, Mary Wortley, Lady. Letters of the Right Honourable Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Written During Her Travels in Europe, Asia and Africa. London: Theophilus Barrois, 1906.

Murphy, Dervla. South from the Limpopo: Travels through South Africa. Woodstock, New York: Peter Mayber Publishers, Inc, 1997.

Salak, Kira. Four Corners: One Woman's Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea. Columbus, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2004.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Obstinacy - A Gift?

A Gift

~ Denise Levertov ~

(Sands of the Well)

Just when you seem to yourself

nothing but a flimsy web

of questions, you are given

the questions of others to hold

in the emptiness of your hands,

songbird eggs that can still hatch

if you keep them warm,

butterflies opening and closing themselves

in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure

their scintillant fur, their dust.

You are given the questions of others

as if they were answers

to all you ask. Yes, perhaps

this gift is your answer.

My response:

I am in one of those states of mind — If you say, 'let's go left," I will assuredly head to the right. If you say TomAto, I'll say toMMato — Resistant to the end..

I've never had an idea or question that seemed 'flimsy' and I've certainly never been a web of questions. More often I'm full of answers - egotistical - No wonder folks find me a tad obstinate or just down right oppositional.

One of the serious criticisms of Das Book is that the protagonist is too strong, not vulnerable enough, that there is no room for her to grow.

I have to admit, I don't much wonder about that criticism. Like many others, I've always been the one to take care, co-dependent to the core. That co-dependence means that I don't much need anyone to take care of me - well - not til the Aussie walked into my space. I love that his ego is stronger than mine and that he will take the lead, that he expects to take the lead, that I can let go and let the bloke — my new AA metaphor for 'higher power'.

That's not entirely true, you know. I argue endlessly with him about all matter of decisions and issues in our lives and the lives of others on the planet. But in the end, it's certainly a debate among equals.

And when there is no resolution, the response from me is "Ok, that's enough. Let's not talk about that anymore today."

Or he says, "Well, I guess there are just some topics we cannot discuss."

But that's not true. There is no topic that we cannot discuss. There are many topics on which we will never agree. Should one drink chamomile tea when one's colon is no longer working properly? Should one continue to use the Dr's prescriptive medicine when the body responds by becoming less healthy than it was before one took that medication?

Levertov's poem is perfect for one who works with teens. I would have resonated to it ten years ago. Today, I have to deal with the teen inside my own head and she is totally unwilling to admit to the vulnerability that Levertov suggests exists in all of us.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Red Dog

If you love dogs, you'll love this little Aussie movie - a wonderment that took me to tears and provoked me to unseemly loud laughter several times.

The Pilbura (where the film is set) isn't much to look at, but the characters who inhabit this desolation are purely Australian even though they represent most every culture on the planet.

It's a great movie. Click on the title to today's blog entry to go to a review - the kind of film that Australia ought to produce more often. Irreverent, charming, full of mateship, beer, desert, unwashed male bodies and a strange perception of what precisely makes a gentleman.

It ranks with The Castle and Cosi von Tutti, as well as Bran Nu Dae a - movies that could only be produced in this hilarious, life affirming culture.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eight Ways to Stimulate Your Brain

From Facebook this morning — 'Oldies!' Take note.

1. Practice your peripheral vision

2. Memorize a song

3. Learn to play a new instrument

4. Practice throwing/catching a ball

5. Learn to use your non-dominant hand

6. Walk on bumpy surfaces

7. Finish jig saw puzzles

8. Become a child again.

There were ten suggestions. I've already forgotten two of them. 'Oh well ', as my Becca friend would say.

These are such easy assignments. Do you think learn a new language was on the list? It should be. I'm actively involved in doing that. Just the other day I was practicing listening to Dr. Islam speak Pakistani English. I fear I offended him when the royal ME stopped him mid track and asked, 'Please repeat that last sentence. I didn't understand you.'

Instantly changed our relationship forever. A bit later there was his response. "Americans, they just want instant results.'

I kept my mouth shut. Is there any other kind of result? What's wrong with him?

So, now we have this hasty, cold shouldered doctor/patient relationship. I contend, 'I don't want to take steroids to correct my indisposition.'

He stops, looks directly at me for only the second time in our little office visit and says. 'Take this prescription then. It won't work as well.'

And he up and walked me out of his office. He may be a good doctor. I am certainly a lousy patient. American to the core.

Friday, August 19, 2011

— — — — — The Tea Party — — — —

Bachman, Perry, Palin — a godless trio whose actions belie their words — represent points of view that are diametrically opposed to everything I believe.

Sociopaths on parade,

Egotists whose persona is used by the media to sell tissues and toilet paper.

They embarrass me; why don't they embarrass you?

Do they represent your personal goals and hopes for America?

Wouldn't it be better to just ignore their nonsense, their non-rational rantings?

Why not simply turn off the tele when the news media turn the focus on them?

It's a simple act and assured to garner the attention of those who put adverts around the news programs that cover these idealogs with no moral agenda.

Corporations — individual people — will abandon them if the rest of us abandon them. Corporations are accustomed to success. When those they support are seen to be failures, the big money will be out the door - yesterday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Movie Day

Worked hard yesterday - for me, I did. Trimmed the front garden back to reasonable levels - that would be below the fence line. The shrubs had overgrown as a result of all the rain during the flood season that the Aussie and I missed. Now, the real task is to pick up the palm nuts that litter the garden walks beneath and among those shrubs. Big job.

So, I deserve a break today. ;) Like my whole life isn't a 'break' from normal — one of the joys of being an expat is that every time I travel, my days change routine, present new challenges, as well as myriad ways in which to celebrate life. No exception this trip.

Here in Brisbane, the old army barracks have been renovated into an entertainment district. The used brick buildings have been littered with stainless and aluminum trim, the standard issue military walk ways have been skewed into flowing passages between emporiums of gelato and gourmet pizza shops and a six auditorium movie theatre crowns the whole complex up the stairs to the second and third floors. It's an Amerikan film about which we will be making judgments later on — Tree of Life.

And then there is the two kilometre walk home past SunCorp stadium, idle for the moment, a tad tense as it awaits the 25000 folks who will watch Darren Lockyr celebrate his final rugby victory this spring. The ghost of celebrations past sits quietly at the moment, a behemoth reminding one of the fireworks displays to come on many a Saturday night. Aussies do like their sporting competitions.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dear Australian

You are

The tall Prince of my love;

Strength surrounding vulnerability;

Beautiful mind clothed in flexible musculature;

Grey eyes, the seers of detail;

Kind entity arriving with small perfect gifts;

He who sees what I refuse to admit;

Who reads my body with a passionate gift of pleasure;

Who feeds me breakfast and a reason to rise each morn;

You are he who manifests the Butcher Bird, the Possum,

the fat assed wombat and the Golden Orb Spider

To clothe my imagination in the wilderness of Australia

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ursula, I Love You

Below you will find another exemplary commentary by my favourite American 'children's book' author and purveyor of great truths in The Left Hand of Darkness. It was sent to me this morning by a dear friend in North Dakota, a woman who understands the value of 'a word'. Hope you enjoy as much as I have.

* * * * * * * * *

I keep reading books and seeing movies where nobody can fucking say anything except fuck, unless they say shit. I mean they don’t seem to have any adjective to describe fucking except fucking even when they’re fucking fucking. And shit is what they say when they’re fucked. When shit happens, they say shit, or oh shit, or oh shit we’re fucked. The imagination involved is staggering. I mean, literally.

There was one novel I read where the novelist didn’t only make all the fucking characters say fuck and shit all the time but she got into the fucking act herself for shit sake. So it was full of deeply moving shit like, “The sunset was just too fucking beautiful to fucking believe.”

I guess what’s happened is that what used to be a shockword has become a noise that’s supposed to intensify the emotion in what you’re saying. Or maybe it occurs just to bridge the gap between words, so that actual words become the shit that happens in between saying fucking?

Swearwords and shockwords used to mostly come out of religion. Damn, damn it, hell, God, God-damned, God damn it to hell, Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ Almighty, etc. etc. A few of them appeared, rarely, in nineteenth-century novels, usually as “——” or more bravely as “By G—!” or “d—n!” (Archaic or dialect oaths such as swounds, egad, gorblimey were printed out in full.) With the twentieth century the religious-blasphemy oaths began to creep, and then swarm, into print. Censorship of words perceived as “sexually explicit” was active far longer. Lewis Gannett, the book reviewer for the old NY Tribune, had a top-secret list of words the publisher had had to eliminate from The Grapes of Wrath before they could print it; after dinner one night Lewis read the list out loud to his family and mine with great relish. It couldn’t have shocked me much, because I recall only a boring litany of boring words, mostly spoken by the Joads no doubt, on the general shock level of “titty.”

I remember my brothers coming home on leave in the second world war and never once swearing in front of us homebodies: a remarkable achievement. Only later, when I was helping my brother Karl clean out the spring, in which a dead skunk had languished all winter, did I learn my first real cusswords, seven or eight of them in one magnificent, unforgettable lesson. Soldiers and sailors have always cursed, what else can they do? But Norman Mailer in The Naked and the Dead was forced to use the euphemistic invention “fugging,” giving Dorothy Parker the chance, which naturally she didn’t miss, of cooing at him, “Oh, are you the young man who doesn’t know how to spell ‘fuck?’”

And then came the Sixties, when a whole lot of people started saying shit, even if they hadn’t had lessons from their brother. And before long all the shits and fucks were bounding forth in print. And finally we began to hear them from the lips of the stars of Hollywood. So now the only place to get away from them is movies before 1990 or books before 1970 or way, way out in the wilderness. But make sure there aren’t any hunters out in the wilderness about to come up to your bleeding body and say Aw, shit, man, I thought you was a fucking moose.

I remember when swearing, though tame by modern standards, was quite varied and often highly characteristic. There were people who swore as an art form – performing a dazzling juncture of the inordinate and the unexpected. It seems weird to me that only two words are now used as cusswords, and by many people used so constantly that they can’t talk or even write without them.

Of our two swearwords, one has to do with elimination, the other (apparently) with sex. Both are sanctioned domains, areas like religion where there are rigid limits and things may be absolutely off-limits except at certain specific times or places.

So little kids shout caca and doo-doo, and big ones shout shit. Put the feces where they don’t belong!

This principle, getting it out of place, off limits, the basic principle of swearing, I understand and approve. And though I really would like to stop saying Oh shit when annoyed, having got on fine without it till I was 35 or so, I’m not yet having much success in regressing to Oh hell or Damn it. There is something about the shh beginning, and the explosive t! ending, and that quick little ih sound in between….

But fuck and fucking? I don’t know. Oh, they sound good as curses, too. It’s really hard to make the word fuck sound pleasant or kindly. But what is it saying?

I don’t think there are meaningless swearwords; they wouldn’t work if they were meaningless. Does fuck have to do with sex primarily? Or sex as male aggression? Or just aggression?

Until maybe 25 or 30 years ago, as far as I know, fucking only meant one kind of sex: what the man does to the woman, with or without consent. Now, both men and women use it to mean coitus, and it’s become (as it were) ungendered, so that a woman can talk about fucking her boyfriend. So the strong connotations of penetration and of rape should have fallen away from it. But they haven’t. Not to my ear, anyhow. Fuck is an aggressive word, a domineering word. When the guy in the Porsche shouts Fuck you, asshole! he isn’t inviting you to an evening at his flat. When people say Oh shit, we’re fucked! they don’t mean they’re having a consensual good time. The word has huge overtones of dominance, of abuse, of contempt, of hatred.

So God is dead, at least as a swearword; but hate and feces keep going strong. Le roi est mort, vive le fucking roi.

Ursula K. Le Guin
Her most recent book is Out Here: Poems and Images from Steens Mountain Country,

Friday, August 12, 2011

Home Is Where the Heart Is

And where is that? I once thought I knew. Not very long ago, I was sailing round the world absolutely certain about my return to a homeport.

How quickly certainty changes. Reminds me of a most important lesson - today counts because tomorrow may eventuate as an entirely different phenomenon - unlike the present moment as dinosaurs are from humans.

The world my mind concocts is full of conspiracy, the kind that supports my view of myself in the real world. Why must I always play victim in that conspiracy? How come I can’t be the heroine just once in a while?

Default: victim!

Feeling sorry for oneself is hardly a celebratory way to live life so why not give it up? Why not choose a different tune by which to dance across the oceans into the lives of some very special Aussies.

Could it happen? Sure, to someone else! How ever would I live my life if I were the heroine?

I’d start by climbing immense mountains, not by a single bound, but step by step up cliffs with plenty of exposure, sure footed as any mountain goat.

*** 2003 ***

What a difference eight years make. Happily, the victim has been hidden away under the bed and warned not to show her face except under the most dire circumstances. The heroine is out and about in 2011, enjoying those Aussies and all their mates.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Fav Facebook Post of the Day.. :)

Did you know "race car" spelled backwards spells "race car"? If you take the first letter of "eat" & move it to the last, spells its own past tense, "ate"? If you rearrange the letters in "Tea Party Republicans" & add a few more it spells: Shut the fuck up... you free-loading, progress-blocking, benefit-grabbing, resource-sucking, violent hypocrites and deal with the fact that you nearly wrecked the country under Bush and that our president is black...
posted by - Tina Shamah and Alan Colmes
Silenced Majority Portal on the title to today's blog entry to go to their page..

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

* * * * * * * Missing Person's Report * * *

Missing are
Delicious meals conjured from simple ingredients
Ginger drops oozing dark chocolate
Enticing tones of loving welcome
Soft intimate kisses
Warm hands to heat a libido
The wrestle of love making.

Missing is the center of her world..
Aussie is busy far away

Monday, August 08, 2011

What Kucinich Said - - - - -

Dennis suggests —

1. Close down both wars and bring the troops home.

2. Tax the rich at the same rate as we tax middle class Americans.

USA fiscal problem solved.

Why can one outspoken Congressman come up with a simple solution and all those other folks continue their dance around the Maypole of Fiscal Mismanagement?

Alice in Wonderland
politics abound in America. Maybe we ought to follow up Kucinich's solution by legalizing and taxing marijuana, cocaine, meth.

Oh no? Oh, yes!

Tobacco corporations would have to make their profits overseas. Oh, they already do that?

Arms manufacturers(Armalite, Browning, Colt,Magnum, Remington, Smith & Wesson, Springfield, Winchester to name a few), and War material suppliers (too many to mention) beware — You'll have to advertise more effectively in all those former colonial hot spots where the locals are playing adversarial games to win control of the profits from minerals in demand in '1st' world technology.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Believing in Perceived Power

Many of us have a penchant for avoiding being 'responsible'. I don't mean personally responsible for whatever we do or cause. I mean responsible for the lives, welfare, and success of those around us. Americans, in particular these days, have enough issues in their daily lives so that they choose NOT to participate in activities, whose success or failure will impact their neighbours, family or even strangers.

So what do we do instead? We give the power of decision making to somebody else, to a governmental stiff who may be a thoughtful, rational, compassionate individual or who may be a sociopath milking the system for all s/he can.

We let S&P decide how good our economic system is. We let Dems and Repubs decide which debts our govt can create and when those debts will be paid off. We let our President decide when/if we will begin a war or end one and where on the planet to send CIA operatives busily engaged in instigating WW3.

You know as well as I do that if a million of us were to act together, to take the personal responsibility to walk in a peaceful demonstration - to walk to the sea for salt, if you will - those to whom we have given our right to decide, would decide in favour of the position the million held.

We have become so engrossed in the process of building new stairs to the second floor or putting in a new bathroom or working three jobs to make sure the kiddies have shoes in which to go to school, or in paying for the TEVO, that we no longer even consider taking a week or a day to actually involve ourselves in a combined, concerted action to make sure that the basic needs of the country itself - a balanced budget, health care for children, a social security program that makes sure that every citizen has a roof over her/his head while sleeping tonight.

Instead we quietly and rather desperately ignore the young American men and women killed as they invaded a foreign country yesterday and pretend that someone else will make sure that the lights turn on when we flip the switch tonight.

There was a time when it was otherwise. Perhaps we need to return to to those days of activism.

'says she who flees the country whenever real strife overwhelms the American psyche'

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A Pause That Refreshes

Is that a Pepsi or a Coke ad?

Don't remember; but like all good adverts the line itself stuck.

I'm in the midst of cleaning my office. The windows were so dirty after my absence of a year (ergo - nobody cared much about looking out) that I couldn't see the fig tree wilderness in full bloom immediately outside.

Windows and sills are now pleasantly clear - the scene without is worth the effort.

However, I have discovered that although there were no folks looking out, there were a plethora of critturs moving in. If you read this blog with any regularity, you may recall that my computer screen - one of those bigger than life full desk monitors - had not lain useless for the year of my absence.

Nope, the local ant population had moved in and converted it to 'ant farm'. I still haven't found the queen. Ant farms do have queens, don't they? Otherwise who would be laying all those little white eggs that covered the entire back of my monitor?

I still haven't found the queen, but in the process of moving furniture - you know, I'm one of those folks who must rearrange in order to believe I've really cleaned. A year's dust mites took a while to disembowel, but I've done pretty well, so far.

Today, I tackled the book cases. Some might think that book cases don't need to be cleaned. Once upon a time I might have been such a person. But never again. The paper wasps make good use of my precious books to which they attached bountiful numbers of mud nests in which their young I am sure came to fruition cause they are no longer there. The wasp nests crumbled to dust as I removed each book.

As well, the rest of the mother of all ant colonies had nested between the book covers and the interior walls of my book case. Every book with a dust cover made a special abode for a few hundred ant embryo along with their several attendants.

I needed a break after I took my dissertation out to the sunny aspect of the front garden so that the attendants could escape and even take the eggs with them if they had a mind. Do ants have a mind? I know they are supposed to have a collective unconscious only in their case I think it must be a collective conscious cause they sure do work well together to take advantage of any quit, dark, undisturbed space in the midst of flooded Brisbane. They did find a safe haven for their offspring - at least til I returned. And at last my dissertation on Women Travel Writers was useful to some entities. Good on em.

However, the giantess with the spray bottle full of vinegar and ammonia will not rest til they have all found another place to work their magic.

Just thought I'd let you know. It's good to make myself a cuppa and share the massacre I just let loose on the ant population who thought they were safe and comfy in my creative space. :(

Monday, August 01, 2011

Serial Monogamy

I have a middle-aged woman friend who has recently found the 'love of her life'. Well, at least for the moment, he is the love of her life. She and Her previous partner separated about a year ago. In the interim, she struggled to insinuate herself into the 'dating scene' via various Internet 'meet-up' sites. It has been a challenging circumstance for her as well as for other friends who have also recently split form partners of many years.

During this same period, a third middle-aged (well, 70ish) friend has also found a particularly salubrious circumstance with a partner she also met on a dating web site.

The three women live in different western cultures.

Since my husband and I met on an Internet dating site in 2000, I am particularly aware of the ritual that goes with this process. At the time we met, successful Internet sites were few and far between. The big money had not yet discovered the pot of gold at the end of a common electronic 'hook up'.

But all of this background is precisely that – background. The real issue of today's blog entry is serial monogamy, which seems to be an increasingly common practice in many cultures. There are data about the length of time men and women are spending in marriages or partnerships. A significant number of couples choose several long term partnerships in their lifetime and fewer couples are remaining monogamous with the same partner for their entire married life. I do not here discriminate between homosexual partnerships and heterosexual partnerships.

Both of the articles whose web addresses are included below treat 'serial monogamy'' as a negative process. Even as late as 2009 the prejudice against divorce or separation and remarriage or re-partnering seems to be seen as a negative influence in society.

It may be interesting to investigate further the positive and negative impact of serial monogamy on modern culture. To be sure the statistics suggest that western cultures once were more willing to embrace 'serial monogamy.' However, by 2009, Korea had the third highest rate of divorce or separation and serial monogamy as part of its social fabric. And China is not so very far behind.

I see the process as a positive aspect of cultures in which humans are living longer. Although one British article suggests that serial monogamy more often serves as a positive force for the mental health of males, it also suggests serial monogamy works to create a negative mental health pattern for females.

The more serial relationships a woman has, the more negative her mental health. There is in the article no indicator of what parameters of mental health are used to make such a finding. Men, according to the article are happiest after or in their third relationship as part of their participation in serial monogamy.

Thought provoking to say the least and not the topic on which I came to write today. Tomorrow, I'll get to the point with an article about my theory (not factual, of course) on why we choose particular partners with whom to practice serial monogamy.

(click on the title to today's blog entry to go to the first article. Here is the second.)