Order and disorder

The first time I saw a Twenty-eight, an Australian ring neck parrot, I asked Roland to stop the car. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, by the side of the highway this brilliant emerald green bird pecking at grass seeds. Of course I had seen brightly coloured birds before but nothing like this. The Latin name is Barnadius zonarius. The bird is quite large. When I have found corpses of these birds, victims of road-kill, I’ve been surprised at how big they are.

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This morning I was listening to the plaintive call these beautiful birds make. I’ve heard from someone who knows, that it isn’t really “twenty-eight, twenty-eight” but rather “vingt-huit, vingt-huit”. There are a few families of Twenty-eights in our area and they are widespread throughout Western Australia. I’ve heard that when it is about to rain the birds hang upside down on the power lines and washing lines and call, “vingt-huit, vingt-huit”. I have seen them hanging upside down on my washing line but not associated this with rain.

Now I’ve got that out of the way I’ll get on with what I was planning on writing about, which is the state of disorder in my writing practice. I have a number of notebooks, journals, and other places where I write. Most of what I write begins life written in cursive in one of these notebooks. I fully intend to have some form of order: reflections in this notebook; travel notes in my Moleskine; poetry here, fiction there … and so it goes. Go it certainly does because invariably whichever notebook I pick up is the one in which I will write. I prefer unlined because lines limit me. I prefer to write with a 2B (or softer) pencil because the feel of the graphite running smoothly over the paper gives me a frisson of joy.

Blogging is the only place I am interested in publishing my writing these days. Does this make me a dilettante? A dabbler? If it does, do I care? No.

 

 

 

 

Order and disorder

Writing and Research

Thinking about what to write in this week’s blog, I mull over the events at the Lessons with Persephone Retreat at the weekend. In the quiet of the Retreat, writing came easily. At the moment, this blog is going nowhere.

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When we were talking about if, and when, we had been published, I mentioned that I had only published in a couple of academic journals and one chapter in a book. This chapter was a shared enterprise with my PhD Supervisor, Prof. Jenny de Reuck, and a colleague who was also one of Jenny’s Post Grads, Sharifa Ahjum. The title of the chapter is “The Remembrance of Things Past”: Memory and Migration as Tropes in the Construction of Postgraduate Subjectivities. (You can see we didn’t resile from long and involved titles). When I reread it now, I am struck by the clarity of the writing and the sense of community we shared.

The book is Bartlett, A & Mercer G (Eds) (2001) Postgraduate Research Supervision: Transforming (R)Elations. New York. Peter Lang. pp 233-245.

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The paragraphs that I want to bring to this blog are my own.

In the beginning my doctoral research was to follow my own background – about the women who went to Africa, not from England. That was the intention. In the event, I didn’t follow that research – a common enough story for any PhD Candidate.

In this essay, I moved to writing about Jenny, Sharifa and I – our positionality and affective ethnicity. This is what I wrote: “Where do I stand to Jenny? Where do I stand to Sharifa? How are we so inclusive of each other? It is our coming out of Africa that is our ‘affective ethnicity’. Our form of ethnicity is beyond blood and colour. We draw our connection from our African origins, shared memories of experiences from a country we have left. ‘Affective ethnicity’; meta-ethnicity! Affective pedagogy!” I drew on the work of Moshe Shokeid (‘An Anthropologist’s Work between Moving Genres’ in Ethnos. Vol 57, 1 – 4, 233- 44, 1992.)

Following this I bemoan the fact that I have such difficulty in understanding some of the texts such as Foucault and Bhabha. Sharifa can read and understand these but I battle to make sense of such abstract concepts. Here, again, I quote myself, “Is it my age that stands between me and truly understanding these readings? Has my mind closed the doors—atrophied in the cells? Am I trapped in ignorance? Sometimes I bang my fists against these closed doors, “Open up! Open up!” I call, then, “Think Woman! Think!” Who is the teacher who can lead me to comprehension? Where is the insight that I deny myself? Self-proscribed knowledge, self-proscribed wisdom.

Finally, back to the beginning.

The first entry in my PhD journal reads thus:

Some of the things I want to include:

The spiritual aspect.

The sense of self.

The sense of place.

Identity as a fragile, contextual thing … I worry about my rigidity.

Can I sustain the energy?

The essence is this, researching and writing a doctoral thesis is a lonely thing to do. It is atonement for curiosity; an exercise in humility; self-inflicted isolation. Nevertheless, this is my search for an identity in an alien space. I was never brought up to be an academic. I was never brought up to be an Australian. I catch a glimpse of myself and ask “Who are you?” or maybe, “Who do you think you are?” And then I continue—because what else is there to do?

So, I did continue and eventually, a couple of days before I turned 60, I was notified that I was through. I was now a bona fide doctor.

Writing and Research

On being a …

Friday and I haven’t fulfilled my commitment to write up my blog this week. I made some notes through the week and had some ideas. Now, most of those ideas seem weak and not worth the effort.

I thought about when I was mugged. I decided that it brought back too many uncomfortable memories so I ditched that idea.

I thought of writing about being a dotty old woman (which I undoubtably am) but my stories of thinking of something new to do everyday – one of which included getting out of bed head first (and nearly knocking myself out) may be true but may not be credible. So, I ditched that idea.

I thought of writing about earning a doctorate. That is plain boring. Ditched.

Then I thought of an amazingly wonderful trek I did in Zimbabwe some 20 years ago. Yes! Bingo! That would work, but I’m not going to do that because I can’t find the photos. It was New Year 1996/1997 and I was in the Honde Valley with my brother and sister-in-law. I will write about this, but not this week.

Watch this space

 

On being a …

After the horrendous tragedy in Manchester, United Kingdom, I find it difficult to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) for my weekly blog. The enormity of the crime brings me to tears and anything I write seems inconsequential.

I read that we are wired to focus on dangerous and fearful things. It is something about being human, about our survival instinct. According to research conducted by psychologists Marc Trussler and Stuart Soroka, at McGill University in Canada, “… it isn’t just schadenfreude, but that we’ve evolved to react quickly to potential threats. Bad news could be a signal that we need to change what we’re doing to avoid danger.”

Nevertheless, the Manchester atrocity is the stuff of nightmares and my heart goes out to all those affected. My admiration goes to the Mancunians who have stepped up to the mark to assist and strengthen the resolve of the people to rise above this act of terrorism. This is the Place is the stirring poem by Tony Walsh (aka Longfella) that he read at the vigil for the victims.

 

 

 

 

The Nullarbor Plain: the world’s largest limestone karst landscape

Preamble for this week’s blog: on a scale of one to ten I suggest that this blog sits at about 3.

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So, this instalment is about a road trip across the Nullabor Plain. The Eyre Highway stretches along the coast from Ceduna in South Australia and inland to Norseman in Western Australia. This road is the Eyre Highway. We made the crossing in the early 1980s. Our road trip actually began in Hobart, Tasmania, not counting the ferry across to Melbourne on mainland Australia. From Melbourne to Perth is 4,320kms.

The little blue Ford Laser was loaded to the gunnels and Kath was squashed into the back seat with not much room to move. Not far from Melbourne I wanted to stop in beautiful Ballarat – to live there. Fortunately Roland talked me out of that idea. We found out afterwards that it gets extremely cold and I’m a child of the tropics.

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not our Laser but ours was just like this

We navigated our way through Adelaide fairly easily, albeit with Roland cleverly reversing my directions. I get confused between left and right so when I said, “ turn left” he’d turn right and vice versa thereby finding the correct route. So, only another 2,790kms further to drive to Perth.

Crossing the Nullabor is an adventure any time. At this stage we did not know where we were and neither did anyone else. There are roadhouses but they are few and far between. Fuel was expensive and we were not really prepared for the distances. Yes, we had driven vast distances in Southern Africa but there was usually a dorp (village), town or even a city along the way. The vast and treeless plain of the Nullabor – the long, long stretches of straight road, and the huge road trains that rode up close behind us were something new and strange. Places marked on the map we were using (I’d found it in an old copy of The Australia Women’s Weekly) turned out to be water tanks.

There was a lot of road kill all along the highway. Wedge-tail eagles live on the carrion and often become carrion themselves as they gorge to the point of not being able to take off when a vehicle approaches and runs them down. Much later, friends told us of a car towing a caravan that ran over a rotting kangaroo corpse. The caravan had to be abandoned because someone had left a window open and the inside was covered with stinking, rotten gunk.

At the border between South Australia and Western Australia is the Quarantine Station where we had to throw out all the fruit and vegetables we were carrying.

One day I’d like to do the trip again, albeit more consciously. I’d like to visit some of the spectacular coastal cliffs and the deep caverns. I wouldn’t like to do it again carrying most of our worldly goods in a small blue hatchback.

The Nullarbor Plain: the world’s largest limestone karst landscape

Focus versus Lackadaisical

Focus

The genesis for this blog entry comes from Facebook where a friend published this meme:

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So, I did that and found the following on page 117 of Writing Begins with the Breath by Laraine Herring. At first, I was wondering how this was going to ‘be my life’ in 2017. Read on …

 

“I have even picked her up and carried her away from the window, but her gaze never leaves the bird, and as soon as I release her, she’s back in the window, focused, taunting the object of her intention.”

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According to Laraine Herring, it is becoming more and more difficult for us to “… cultivate the mental discipline necessary to deepen our lives”. Having made the commitment to write in this blog once a week, I’m finding the truth in her words. She says we have to make a conscious effort to withdraw from the constant assault on our senses. The mind needs to be trained to focus. It is too easy for me to be lackadaisical, filling my day with inconsequential activities (Facebook, I’m looking at you) and generally lacking vitality and purpose. I find it too easy to blame the weather – it’s too hot, too windy, too cold and so forth. My latest excuse for not swimming at the beach is that there is too much weed and the ocean is too choppy and too murky. Actually there is a lot of weed, there are mountains of weed and it is not pleasant to step through it and then stub my toe on a rock.

However, morning asana practice is not not negotiable and neither is the gym, two or three days a week; yoga class on Thursday evenings is a priority. It seems that sitting down to write something brings out the lackadaisical in me. Part of the commitment I made at the Writing and Yoga Retreat at New Norcia last year was to begin and complete a short story. I’m sort of planning that now but … there’s always a but … when I start writing something it just seems so banal, so mundane.

Lackadaisical

/ˌlækəˈdeɪzɪkəl/
adjective

1.

lacking vitality and purpose
2.

lazy or idle, esp in a dreamy way
Derived Forms
lackadaisically, adverb
lackadaisicalness, noun
Word Origin

lackadaisical. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved January 12, 2017 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/lackadaisical

I find it so much easier to be lackadaisical and loll around dreaming and reading. Sometimes, a burst of energy and I water the garden.
Focus versus Lackadaisical

Hang, hanging, hanged and/or hung?

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I was thinking about this last night when I should have been asleep. Anyway, I checked Fowler this morning (proper book, not online or Kindle!) and now I’m more-or-less sure of the usage. Here is what Fowler has to say (direct quote)

hang (verb) Use hanged as pa.t. and pa.ppl of capital punishment and in imprecations; otherwise hung. The distinction goes back ultimately to the existence of two OE verbs … hung became established in literary English in the late 16c., with hanged largely restricted to the sense ‘kill by hanging’ and in the imprecations of the kind I’ll be hanged if I’ll do that. In practice, a wide range of writers use hung in descriptions of executions. this use is not erroneous but just less customary in standard English.

I hope that clears it up for you! I still like to use hanged instead of hung – it annoys some people but that’s OK!

The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage. Third edition (1996). Oxford

Blogging my recent holiday will happen soon.

Hang, hanging, hanged and/or hung?