Friday, May 30, 2008

GO, JUST GO

Camping - what's it all about? Read this slowly, in a whisper.

Silence. The open sky above you that lets all the stresses and noise of life evaporate and blow away.

A camp fire. Finding all the bits to cook a simple meal takes a surprising amount of time. This means you can fossick around and look at the sticks, stones, plants, insects etc as you collect firewood. Lighting a fire is also a slow process and sometimes beginners fail. A flame starts and the sticks catch and everything then is focused on the simple act of preparing food and looking after the fire. So pure.....in the morning, being the first one up and getting the fire going again. In the morning chill, the breaking up of the sticks sends a crack through the air. Warming your hands near the flames. Heating water in a beaten old billy with a long camping history, for a hot drink. People emerging from sleeping bags. Getting breakfast and tidying up.

The early morning light rising up the hills or streaming down a valley, softly at first. Sometimes a river mist floating. Here, kangaroos hop nearby and often emus appear, doing what they do every morning. Sounds are all sharper and carry a long way. Birds call across the distance to each other. You are now in their world.

Maybe there is water - a creek, river, lake, the sea. Maybe it is still. Maybe there is the constant tinkle of its movement over the stones and between the reeds. Fish or frogs may jump. Reflections of all the life above the water can be seen, in full colour, on the surface of the water. Harmony. You can be a part of it if you let yourself. Simple harmony is very powerful and unforgettable.

Ordinary things from home become less important and even forgotten completely. Close your eyes and feel the air with your face. Time doesn't matter. Just be.

Pattie, go, just go. Don't worry. Get there fast and take it slow, really slow. And stay a while. No music, no electronics. Just you and a minimum of stuff. Maybe a book, maybe not.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

SONGS

There are some songs that are ridiculously emotionally overpowering for me. And there are others that make me laugh or sing or whatever. Here I am going to make an ongoing list, complete with the video clip of the version I know best.

Eric Clapton
A very special song
Wonderful Tonight

Most of Neil Diamond's songs:
Be
If you know what I mean
I am, I said
etc
Most of Elton John's songs:
Blue eyes
Sad songs
Don't let the sun go down on me
Crocodile rock
Tiny dancer
I guess that's why they call it the blues
Don't go breaking my heart
etc
Beccy Cole
Poster Girl
and most of hers

Missy Higgins
Scar

Mambo #5

Always Trust Your cape

John Denver
Perhaps Love
Eagles and Horses
Seasons of the Heart
Ponies
In the chorus of this I always change 'ponies' to 'Katie' (that's me) ; you work out why...
"And he says ponies, now ponies, don't you worry
I have not come to steal your fire away
I want to fly with you across the sunrise
Discover what begins each shining day"
Annie's Song
All this Joy
There are so many more of his..it's hard to find good clips.....and I can't find "Home-grown Tomatoes" yet

Eva Cassidy
Fields of Gold

Rupert Holmes
The Pina Colada Song

E-Type Jazz - mellow jazz with magic vocals. Local Adelaide group.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

TO ALIGN OR NOT TO ALIGN, THAT IS THE QUESTION

Just a moment ago I was in the kitchen having a cup of tea with son Alex who is home from Sydney for a few days, on other Google business. We cut through all the crap pretty quickly in my family and soon we were discussing our views on life, the universe and everything. It is so nice when your children become adults and it was interesting to hear Alex say, "You and I both have a similar outlook, Mum, - we align with the left wing." I protested somewhat, saying that I didn't know that left-wing was how I would describe myself. Rather, I care about things other than economics - does that make me left-wing? Alex doesn't beat around the bush, and replied "I describe myself that way and generally people know what that means and therefore understand what my views will be."

Of course, he is no doubt right - he nearly always is - but it doesn't sit comfortably with me to align myself with a political stream of any sort. I don't think, for example, that my love of nature and wild things has anything to do with politics at all, although I do usually vote for 'The Greens' because of the leader, Bob Brown's stance on wilderness and non-logging of old-growth forests in Tasmania etc etc. I don't like taking sides in a general sense and would prefer to see my views as independent of anyone else's. Life has somehow taught me that, once confined to a set of rules - any rules - the first thing I want to do is break them because sometimes I need to change my opinion and I want to be free to do so. I am nothing if not open to other points of view.

When your children become adults you can stand back a bit and see what you have created, or at least had a hand in moulding into shape. This is much more evident when you only see them once in a while. What then can happen is that you, the adult, become influenced by them. In the same way that you start wearing their cast-off clothes which they leave behind when they move out, you begin to feel a great sense of connection to their generation through them and want to understand and sometimes absorb their adult outlook into yours. Someone recently and innocently said to me, when I was answering a question about Alex from them, "It sounds like you take after him." We both laughed and laughed but it certainly has a ring of truth to it.

So, what exactly are my views and where is that square when I need it to refer to?? I do not see the human race as superior to any other species and I feel no need to go out and develop medical science to a point where humans can be cured and healed of illness simply because they are people. I would prefer it were the opposite - we go all out to save the earth and in the process make a world where the human race, not individuals, can exist in harmony with everything else. The big picture needs help, while we spend too much time choosing the colours of paint to use!

Is that left-wing? I have no idea and I don't care because until it is mainstream we are all stuffed anyway and we might as well start believing in a god for all the good it will do us. Today was one of the best days I have had for ages, in a funny and unremarkable kind of way, and it illustrates what is meaningful and what is window dressing. Again we weeded and extended Sally's vegetable garden. It is the first time this year that my toes have been cold in my gardening boots = winter is finally arriving; Sally's soil is now rich and beautiful and ready for production; we had a great talk together about some meaningful things; I spent the rest of the day in my garden, alone and deep in thought, until Alex arrived home; I got some lovely emails that made me feel appreciated by people I have never met and I have a husband coming home tonight who I love and trust. I didn't buy anything or go very far from home or need entertainment. I listened to the birds, ran my hands over the soft fennel fronds, saw the light changing on the hill, sowed some special seeds from Glenys and stood for a moment in a little spot in my vegetable garden from which I can see the sea. Is that left-wing?

My views on biodiversity, food production systems, water usage and a whole lot of things have been developed primarily because I don't like what I see happening to the earth and I want to find better ways to do things which will rebalance inputs and outputs to an even zero impact. Why others think differently is a little bewildering to me but I respect people's rights to have an opinion, never the less, and very much would like to dig deep into the minds of other humans more often than I have the opportunity to. Alex and I have this in common, I know, and find it frustrating when people won't voice their opinions. For me this is partly because I don't know anything about the square - like I was born in a different world - and have no preconceived ideas of what the hell anyone thinks about anything.

Alex may well use left-wing as a means to describe his views but I will continue not to align myself with anyone and shrug off constraints at every turn in the quest to improve the life of the earth that we inevitably rely on to provide us with everything, including the air we breathe and the food we eat, every day. Life is not to be wasted on oneself....(I have just - 1 day later -realised how hypocritical this is because I am writing this on a blog I set up entirely about me!)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

MOTH OR BUTTERFLY?

The last few days have been another of those defining moments, perhaps - I will only really know later. It it time to metamorphose from the caterpillar - to finally grow up into something, but what to turn into is the question. There are 2 opposing schools of thought here and both were brought home to me within minutes of each other, a couple of days ago. There are so many people in my life just now that it is good when a phone call makes it all seem so clear; only to have the opposite seem so much more sensible, by another phone call only a second later. Both these people, from our seedsavers group, may read this and may or may not realise the effects they have on me.

Slowly, like a snail creeping towards its leafy dinner, have I become firmly and single-mindedly attracted to food-growing and seedsaving and all they mean to life - from the beginnings of flowering plants on earth to the future life of the planet. All of it. All that deep and meaningful stuff I think about and write about all the time plus a whole lot I haven't even become aware of yet.

At the same time, other people have begun to want to reach out and push forward these same ideals; as threats of climate change and its turmoil just begin to become visible and agri-business takes over the very roots of our existence, in direct conflict with all that I see as paramount to basic survival. Various of these other people seem to think that I would be a useful person to have as part of their teams to make a truly international influence in the food-growing scene, from poor, struggling villagers left starving because of agri-business interference to the affluent, city-dwellers of the western world.

One night there is the phone call, out of the blue, from Jude at Byron Bay Seedsavers Central - the people who wrote that great seedsaving book and who started Seedsavers Australia 20 or so years ago. I am very excited about that call. A couple of nights later there is the phone call from the USA, asking me to be part of what could be a great group of people world wide doing what I want to do. Another whole hour spent chatting and discussing and luring me out of my safe place. Then there are comments and encouragements/discouragements on the blog and emails from people who, I feel, have become some of my best friends, in such a short time.

Just when I need an answer comes the first phone call from someone who is very wise and seems to be able to see right through me. We talk about lots of things, as always, and she manages to make me feel so worth-while and kind of special but in a very down-to-earth way, despite my protests. She says that although I say I am not all that keen on being with most people, obviously I have found people with whom I have a lot of things in common. She says it is time for change in my life and she puts me on a pedestal that I don't deserve.

I hang up the phone and immediately it rings again and it is someone else whose opinion I respect and seek out. We also talk about lots of things and she sees me quite differently and maybe more realistically, maybe not. She reminds me that I am always telling her I don't really like being with people that much and that I enjoy solitude and should, perhaps, stick to the peace and quiet of my garden and not get all fired up about things so much on the blog. I have a cocoon, in other words, and I am comfortable in it. They are both right.

I am just a woman with a passion for the earth, basically, who grows stuff and writes stuff on a little blog in Australia. Of all the 6 billion people in the world how the hell did I get here? And should I just stay put and turn into a moth, with my wings out flat to shield me from predators? Or should I stand tall like a butterfly and use my colourful wings to attract attention in the hope that, in the process, I may join others and together begin to lead people down from the precipice we are on now to a safer, happier, sustainable place, one vegetable garden at a time?

Until I get this off my chest I am finding it difficult to put my mind to writing anything useful at all! There is a lot more to it, as there always is, than this sketchy outline but it is not worth spending much time on so this will have to do. Hopefully putting it down in words like this may get it off my mind because really, I am a butterfly ready to fly off that precipice and see where the wind takes me. Are you coming with me?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

10 DEFINING MOMENTS

I was thinking about the post I wrote on the seedsavers blog about the trip to Tasmania all those years ago and the fact that I wouldn't be the same person now if I hadn't done that walk. It started me thinking about defining moments in our lives and also crossroads where we took a definite change of direction. Sometimes they are obvious but more often you can see them in retrospect, I think. Here are mine so far:

1. The day I decided I wasn't going to study to be a vet because it would have meant going to live a long way away and I wasn't ready (because there weren't any vet courses in my state universities). I gave up my desire to be a vet for African wildlife that day. So, I went the way of Japanese, French and the study of language, in general.

2. The day I told my year 12 maths teacher I was not going to her lessons because she was such a bad teacher and then, that same day, being voted class captain by my classmates (for standing up to her) and since she was the class teacher too she then knew that they were all behind me. I had been a nobody at school until then. That day I learned to have the confidence to stand up for what I believed in and that, once I did, others would stand up behind me but I would always be the one to act first and take responsibility for it.

3. One day I came home from uni and said I wanted to grow vegetables. I was 17 or 18 and I have no idea why I felt that way, but start I did, over 30 years ago. and never stopped.

4. The day I met Roger at a friend's 21st birthday; I was 18 he was 20. Also over 30 years ago! I knew that night that we were made for each other but it took me 6 years to convince him! I always get my way eventually.

5. Here slots in that walk in the Tasmanian wilderness, followed by many more wilderness trips.

6. Getting married - the proudest day of my life.

7. Being pregnant and having a baby. No words to describe how that defines you forever!

8. Then not much time for defining moments for about 20 years!...next one 2006 and the start of the Hills and Plains Seedsavers group and that first meeting at Fern Ave Community Garden.

9. Making the blog for the group. This has been the greatest change in my life since having children. Connections, writing, growing food for other purposes than just eating it, developing ideas and plans and looking at the 'why' in everything.

10. Deciding that this whole earth-care thing is what I want to do and realising that I am really happy with where it is taking me. Creating my motto:

"Life is Good. Get there fast and then take it slow."

Where to now? My idea for Australia's 2020 vision. Making it happen.

TAGGED

The idea is that someone tags you and you have to type out the next 3 lines after line 5 of page 123 of the book you are currently reading. Cwm Goch Chronicles in Perth tagged me for this.

This is a novel called "Twenty Chickens for a Saddle" about growing up in Africa....These lines are about the (small plane) flying abilities of the father....I am skipping down a couple more lines to start:

..."several horrible thuds and bounces followed, then the plane clung to the ground with a soft, screeching sound as we skidded to a jolting stop at the far end of the runway. Magazines, papers and old shopping receipts flew past us towards the front. "Astronauts have a word for that, chaps" grinned Granpa "It's called re-entry."

Is that it? Maybe we could then have a discussion about these lines or what people read or something? Or is that just me being obtuse??

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

BONGIORNO

Mi chiamo Kate e sono australiana, di Adelaide. Il mio compleanno è luglio trenta. Lavoro a casa. Il mio numero cellulare è zero quattro due due quattro sei nove tre zero otto.Parlo japanese e parlo francese un po' anche studio l'italiano da 12 settimane.Non practico uno sport ora ma faccio la vela, la pesca, lo yoga e cammino. In tempo libero preferisco giardinaggio, cucinare e studiare l'italiano. Preferisco cucina greca e turca, il vino rosato, il tè al latte e preferisco il caffelatte.

Ho una borsa nera. In il mio borsa è una penna nera, una matita marrone, una gomma bianca e un cellulare rosso. Ho bisogna un vocabolario italiano ma ho un vocabolario japanese e un vocabolario francese.

In macchina ho un ombrello arancione e la patente di guida. Non ho una tessera.
Ho voglia di vigiare in Italia, France, England e Austria.

Ciao!



Maintenant, je l'écrirera en français parce-que .....l'année prochaîne je voyagera à Europe et donc il est necessaire de le practiquer chaque jour.

Monday, May 19, 2008

HARMONY

I just used that word in a comment on someone's blog and I like it more than peace or tranquility etc because it emphasises co-operation. Why is it so difficult to achieve? There is so much discord everywhere; co-operation seems to have disappeared in favour of competition. People don't seem to be in search of harmony any more; they seek success and this has dollar signs flashing in their eyes. To me harmony is the ultimate success and, although I am not very good at achieving it, it is what I desire more than anything else. It does not have be an either/ or thing, you can be comfortably off and in harmony. I never can feel comfortable with people who strut about, preening, and acting like the cock of the roost. My mother-in-law has a great saying for such people - "cock of the roost one day, feather duster the next"! To me, such people are simply demonstrating their insecurity.

Spouses of a couple of my friends give off that 'smell' of success - putting other people, like me, down to make themselves appear superior. Little do they know that, if I was as rude as them, I could cut them off at the knees with my comments, faster than a speeding bullet. Acid can leap off my tongue if provoked far enough but I try to make peace and leave them to self-destruct as I don't want to offend my friends. You cannot have harmony with such people.

Nature has evolved to be in harmony. This does not mean it is at peace, as each creature must compete with others, but there is a greater harmony that pervades the whole structure and only humans are stupid enough to think they can live outside its force. Humans are but a speck in evolutionary time; nature is forever, and that is a long, long time. It would be a good idea to be on nature's side, therefore, but there are few of us who are. It would be easy for me not to participate in this whole communication thing and go back to my solitary garden, with nature. Garden, nature and me. Lately I have considered it again, but that would be giving in and I am not going to let those like my friend's husband win.

Respect goes together with harmony and respect is a fading virtue. I love people to have a view and share it but so often these days it becomes disrespectful and a personal attack, rather than a discussion of opinions. Somehow, I cannot go that far, although I dearly want to point it out, respectfully! Without respect for one another we can never find harmony, even here in blog-land. It will be interesting to get together in person with other bloggers, where you cannot delete a stream of invective before you click publish! You cannot leave a comment unsaid and just walk away when the person is right in front of you! At least people will know what I think beforehand as it is all there in 650 or so posts; everything, from the heart. If nothing else I hope my posts convey harmony with nature and a respect for other views and people's rights to have them and express them and my right to disagree, without malice.

Thinking outside that stupid, nebulous and elusive square is fraught with danger like sticking your head up out of the trenches of war. Expressing yourself well and, at the same time, maintaining a web of harmony and respect requires constant gymnastics, vigil and restraint. None of these 3 traits are my natural strengths and I hope they don't stifle what I want to say, and say with a passion about living in harmony.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

COMMUNICATION

You know that Elvis song, 'Multiplication', well here is my version:

..."Communication; that's the name of the game.
It's between lots of nations; and the rules aren't the same"...

Theoretically, on these English-speaking blogs we all understand and use the same language. The facts, however, are very different and I never cease to be amazed at the range of interpretations there are for things said.

By writing on the seedsavers blog I want to do 2 things only - make people think about what they are doing and make people want to grow some of their own food. That's it. This is easy when I just talk about my garden. If I have some gardening ideas to express I usually try to be very clear that these are just my views and others may or may not agree with them or find them useful. It is when I go outside the square and explore deeper ideas and issues that it becomes obvious that all English isn't the same.

Maybe my thoughts are not well enough formulated to come across with the same meaning to everyone. Usually I am writing as I am collecting the thoughts in my head, with only the topic being pre-meditated. I find that writing stimulates ideas more than anything else. I will often spend an hour or even 2 writing one post and getting it all sounding how I think it will be best understood. Rarely do I stop mid-stream and once finished I often have it on my mind all day and come back to it a few times to change a word here and little bits there. If you are the first person to read it once I click publish, you would find that 12 hours later it may have changed and had things added to make it clearer.

Despite all this effort, some comments indicate to me that communication between the nations has caused some misunderstandings that I cannot easily fix. This is very disappointing. Maybe people don't spend enough time thinking about what I am trying to say before they comment or maybe they skim through it, thinking they know what I am saying, without actually reading it properly. I wish I could sit down over a coffee and chat to people at such times and I am very, very sure that we could then better understand each other.

Should I care if this problem arises from time to time? That is the question.....After all, I can write what I like and am not trying to please anyone. No-one has to comment, it is their choice. I want people to have other opinions and I want to read them and I look forward to them. However, I don't want anyone to misunderstand me. That's a personal cut and is an uncomfortable feeling and it stays with me for days (and nights). It makes me want to stop writing down my thoughts and just stick to stories about my garden, like most other people do.

The fact that I can't fix the problem is irritating. The more I have said in the past the worse it gets. So, what then? I don't want to say sorry; its not my fault, I just wrote down my ideas as best I could. On the other hand I am very sorry the misunderstanding has happened. Very, very sorry and sad. It is darn hard to just drop it and move on. I sure as hell don't know the answer.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

AWESOME

Have you ever received a parcel from your son who, only a year or two before, thought you were mean, cranky and horrible and couldn't wait to leave home? And who couldn't stand your music or your rules or...anything....


Well, this arrived today. The parcel is addressed as in the photo: MY AWESOME MOTHER. I covered up the address - I don't want other people arriving on my doorstep thinking I might just be awesome for them too!
He is so pleased with me he wrote this on the front for all the world to see. Now THAT is awesome. I don't care what the mothers' day present inside is, because like a little child, I just love the wrapping! I want to frame it and hang it on the wall but I put it on here instead so I can look at it from time to time without embarrassing visitors!

Friday, May 9, 2008

NATURAL BALANCE

I saw a wonderful programme on TV just now which led me to think about other things and here we are. This is an Adelaide idea - I don't know if they do it elsewhere. The idea is for 'natural burials' where the body is lowered into the ground in a fabric cloth and allowed to rot away naturally (unlike currently where the body is in a plastic bag inside the coffin!Yuk!). Then native trees and shrubs are planted at the site so, as time goes by, the whole area becomes rehabilitated to nature. It brought more than a few tears to my eyes as I thought about this because it is an answer to a question I have always had. I hate the idea of being buried in a cemetery and cremation is so polluting and violent. This is perfect. No headstones, nothing but nature and other dead people who care in the same, quiet way. Just dissolving into nature.

Nature is a quiet thing - no traffic, no loud talking, no machinery. Totally in balance. That is the key. We cannot escape to somewhere totally peaceful because nature incorporates all aspects of life, but each keeps the others in balance. Human lives seem to have become unbalanced and tip wildly from one path to another, often toppling off and skidding along in a ditch. Some of us seem to have sided with nature and are able to keep balanced even amongst others who are not. To me it seems supreme idiocy to follow the tumultuous man-made roller-coaster called 'modern living' or 'keeping up with the times' and forego the simple euphoria of a life with nature as your guide. Euphoria is not too extreme a word and is something I am constantly surprised at feeling when doing the simplest of things. Today, feeling the soft fronds of the fennel and smelling their fragrance as I touched them with my hands was such a moment. When I stood up I felt like I had been in another place. I am sure that is often the feeling people seek when they take certain drugs; in fact it happened to me once when I had given birth to one of our children. I was given a double dose of pethidine, accidentally, and it was fabulous and euphoric and just the same feeling as I get now naturally.

There are crevasses as deep as canyons between myself and most other people and I often cannot be bothered trying to bridge them but every now and then a spark leaps across and connects a fine web between. Even then I usually ignore it and go my own way - the distance is just too far. But sometimes it sticks and this is what blogs can do - create tiny filaments that then strengthen slowly and firmly, seemingly effortlessly. This is a new kind of nature. There are no pressures to conform or even to converse. Natural feelings and expressions sent out into the air seem to have a natural attraction, sometimes to people far away. These webs are being woven quietly and naturally, far and wide, and each filament is keeping the others balanced.

Surely this is the ultimate in 'modern living'. Future generations will look back and see that this is when everything started to turn around and 'keeping up with the times' began to mean 'learning to live in balance' because blogs began to join people into webs of support where no-one can topple off. Natural becomes mainstream.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

10 THINGS

Pattie from Foodshed Planet once asked me to write 10 things that people reading the seedsavers blog wouldn't know about me. Feeling in a totally mellow and contemplative mood just now, I thought I would try to think of some ideas on how to answer this here.
  1. My favourite colour is yellow and I hate purple. (Not a very juicy start but I am just working up to it)
  2. I never wear makeup or dye my hair or anything like that. What you see is what you get.
  3. I have always loved historical fiction - that way I get to learn as I read.
  4. Husband Roger and sons Alex and Hugh, and me all share the same surname. We are a family, why wouldn't we? That is something I never understand about some other couples.
  5. Just now is the first time I have been dog-less, ever. As a child we always had 5 dogs at once. It was a squeeze in the car!
  6. I have 2 older brothers and a mother. My father died a few years ago. I have 4 nieces and 2 nephews and I am a great-aunt several times over!
  7. My mother's mother was from Scotland (Protestant) and her father was from Ireland (Catholic) - it was a fiery romance and they were disowned by the Irish side of the family and soon left on a ship for South Africa and then Australia. Maybe this has something to do with why I don't believe in any religion and love the song 'Imagine'.
  8. I am loyal, reliable, honest, quick-thinking, sometimes witty, deep and meaningful and love a good discussion but also totally left-field and fearlessly quirky.
  9. As much as I would love to be otherwise, I am messy and hate housework. I find it very hard to do things I don't want to do.
  10. (Already! This is not so hard!) I am not much into traditions preferring instead to always be doing something differently.

There you go Pattie. Nothing juicy to say that I could think of, after all. Now you (or anyone) can ask me anything you want and I will answer it here. Total indulgence.

Monday, May 5, 2008

PERSONAL BIOFUELS UNLEASHED!

Firstly I would like to thank the other product-testers for their endurance and for their naming of the product as a personal bio-fuel.

This is a new concept entirely, for powering even the most energy-hungry participant. It takes some months to prepare but once the fuel has been fully fermented, it provides enough energy to launch a personal rocket way into space. Currently it is in its 'beta' stage, having successfully passed its initialisation or 'alpha' phase. 'Beta' means that all safety mechanisms have not been fully refined but, on the whole, the product will perform at or above expectations. Sufficient quantities of the fuel are difficult to come by as yet, so some minor substitutions are sometimes allowed so as to fully test the lasting effects. These substitutions must contain as much or more of the raw product, or the test is rendered invalid and must be started again, from scratch.

On the weekend we were lucky enough to have been able to help test the fuel and to give it a score and fill in some missing details along with some other testers. Because there were four of us requiring the product, we each elected to substitute a mathematically approved percentage from a range of similar products, stored under lock and key in a private cupboard. The testing took place in our house on Saturday night and lasted well into the early hours of Sunday, such was the rigor of the scientific method. It was discovered early on that some people were more affected than others by the fuel but, due to the rules, we had to continue following the exact quotas, resulting in the documenting of some interesting side-effects, some predictable and some not.

By now you will be wondering what was the core ingredient that was being tested and how did we test it. The scientific name of the fuel is limoncello and its core ingredient was alcohol. Substituting other fuels, such as white wine, Bailey's irish Cream, Butterscotch Schnapps, and mulled red wine, amongst others, made the evening more ....lively than anticipated and most of the after-shocks were felt very soon after the completion of the experiment, when all intake of alcohol finished, as soon as the quotas and all bottles were completely empty - not a drop was allowed to be left in accordance with the experiment.

The testing followed a predictable pattern and required the drinkers to play an assortment of card games and another game called Yahtzee, which had been played by these same people during the testing of other bio-fuels, over the last 15 years (according to written records found on the Yahtzee score sheets.) I have no idea who won any games as I am not really into competition, as you will know, only wishing to experience the journey and its meanings. I don't think anyone else knows who won either, nor do we care. We discovered several vital facts that will be useful to the collators of the results, as they seek the perfect bio-fuel of the future, but no-one can remember them either.

At the 11th hour it was discovered that a piece of the experiment had not been recorded correctly, rendering the evening null and void and requiring us all to attend again before too long and go through the whole process correctly. Annoying as this is, we have decided that the potential for this type of hyper-action is so urgent and necessary to the survival of humanity that we are willing to forego other entertainment plans to take part, for the good of mankind. The only problem we encountered was that of the rule that all activities previously planned for the next day be forgotten and total and complete rest be enforced, to ensure side-effects such as headaches and the feeling that every cell of ones' body being rendered uncomfortable, to say the least, could pass in peace. Again we abided with the rules, even foregoing all connection with the blog.

Outcome of the aborted session: Life is good. Get there fast and then take it slow.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

WHAT SQUARE?

I didn't know anything about 'the square' or the thinking required to be inside or outside it, until not that long ago. In primary school I was always popular, top of the class, the one the teacher could rely on....a pretty perfect little girl. But even then I loved the freedom that came with running in the rain on the beach where we had a shack only 45 minutes away, but in another world. I loved the feel of the sand on my fingers as I built sand-castles. I loved our 5 dogs. I loved my canoe and paddling out at 6am to get a few fish from the small net we put out sometimes (before the crabs got the fish). My mother had a bell she would ring when she wanted me to come home. Other than that I was totally free there. We went there nearly every weekend.

We learned about debating in Primary School and I loved that - free to say what I thought, be witty and totally left-field. I was good at it and loved it until they asked me to be in a team. No, I said, don't make me be in a competition and have to do it for a prize. They pestered me for months, I remember, and then I started to hate debating and have never done it since. This was the beginning of that feeling of not being like everyone else. It happened with tennis too. When I was about 14 or so I started catching the 7.20 bus to school so I could play tennis until the bell went - on beautiful lawn courts, in bare feet, with a friend. It was peaceful, lovely and the ball would sound a wonderful 'crack' in the cool morning air. The PE teacher asked me to play in a competition - the school 'needed me' in the team, she said. I thought about it for a few seconds but it would have meant missing Saturday mornings at our shack, I wouldn't be playing in bare feet on the school courts, I would have to want to win, so I said thanks, but no thanks. Over and over - they just didn't understand.

In my last year at school we started playing squash at a local court. I had been playing it already, with my brother at a court near home, so, again, I was already pretty good. By this time I had wised up and when they asked me to play in a school competition - just between girls in my own school, in school hours I said yes. I knew all the contestants and they were all the top sports players and most 'popular' girls in the school and I knew I could beat them all. By now I was a complete nobody and thought I deserved to be noticed. I practised with my brother and the day drew closer. Suddenly the competition was cancelled - no reason given. Why? I never found out but it was pretty disappointing for me. This was when I started to have the confidence to see things as they often were and to make my own choices and read between the lines and delve a little deeper. The teachers began to get a bit of lip from me; I refused to go to maths lessons because the teacher was hopeless, I told other people what I thought of the whole school system but, because I was bright, I didn't get into too much trouble. Who could argue with my standards when I was top of the class?

It wasn't until I went to University that I saw some other types of people but still felt they conformed to a set of expectations - just different ones. That wasn't for me either but I loved it - so much more freedom to be yourself than at my lovely, safe girls' school, which I had also loved, most of the time. I found a club at uni called the Mountain Club. It was full of people who loved bush-walking and other outdoor things. They had a range of ideas, were all doing different courses and it was wonderful. Some of them could play musical instruments so we always had folk-dancing and music all weekend. We all ended up marrying each other and now these people are our best friends. Even if we don't see them for 10 years, when we get together it is like we just saw each other yesterday. When you spend a week bush-walking or cross-country skiing with people, in hard and demanding circumstances, you really get to know each other. I was the least unusual and most ordinary of them all then but now things have shuffled about a bit and I think some have mellowed and some have even gone a little way down the slippery-slide towards average!

Years later...
When your children are at school you want them to be happy. It soon became obvious that both our boys had inherited some thinking skills from Roger and I but, unlike us, they came on out with them right from day one! Luckily, as with me, they found that being clever kept the teachers at bay most of the time and so they never wavered in their path to say what needed to be said. It was an eye-opening experience and one we felt, on the one hand, proud of fostering but on the other, in trepidation of them going too far. They never did...well...not quite or not too often... Now they have their own lives and live them to the full, always leaders, always witty and quick as well as deep and broad.

I really only understood all this when, one day only a few months ago, I was standing in a queue at a smorgasbord with a group of acquaintances when I heard a man, not from my group, talking behind me. He said to his friend something like...."you've got to think outside the square, Fred...". He went on a bit and I turned around and said (god only knows why) "My problem is I don't know where the square is..." and he replied - looking at me with such intensity that I thought he thought I was mad "...you know what? Neither do I and I never have. What square?" Silence...connection. I wanted to leave my group and join his to talk about this more but the line shifted on, and we drifted back to our own squares. Until this moment I had never known there was a square either. 49 years of living not just outside but without the square that most people live within and I didn't even know. The jigsaw pieces became a picture.

Friday, May 2, 2008

BUSY-NESS AS A BADGE

This is what people do these days - they use busy-ness as a badge. Even people I respect (and yes, there are one or two) say to me "Have you been keeping busy?" It annoys me so much I reply "No, not if I can help it." Busy-ness itself has no worth at all. I could be busy raping and plundering the earth for my own gain, or outside in the garden spraying all my plants with insecticides or shopping for useless stuff made in a sweat-shop somewhere, but I could argue that yes, I have been busy.

Most people irritate me further by saying "You are so lucky to have time to....". Yes I am very lucky in lots of ways BUT I make time for what I consider important and I don't spend time shopping or doing whatever it is that makes other people wasteful of their time. I spent 20 years looking after my children and always had time for them and the things that we thought worthy of it. I still have time for them - anytime of the day or night they choose to visit and that is something I can be proud of and I know they now appreciate it a lot. They didn't have Play-Stations or X-boxes but they had me and my time, not to do everything for them but to help them grow up from two little boys into two fine men.

Every day has 24 hours, no matter whose day it is! Roger works hard and sometimes long, but his non-working time is not filled with being busy, for the sake of it. Sure it would be nice if our house was all orderly and the leaves raked off the lawn and the driveway clear of gum leaves and we had new carpets and kitchen cupboards and lots of new stuff to play with all the time. But you know what? Who ever, on their death bed, said "Oh, why didn't I buy more stuff? Why didn't I stay focused on the shallow and meaningless?"

Please, if you want to ask me something, ask me to visit your garden, ask me to share ideas with you, DON'T ask me if I have been busy! Remove the clutter not from your house or shed or yard but from your time. Sift out the things that tie you to the treadmill and think, really think, today, now even, about how you feel about your life and how you can become unbusy. Change your badge from 'busy and important' to 'taking time to care'.

Life is good. Get there fast and then take it slow.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

....GETTING CAUGHT IN THE RAIN....

We have been waiting for rain for months and months. People had been getting quite depressed about it all being so hot and so dry for so long. Now we have moved into autumn, everything is softer and cooler and the rain and mist blow gently across the landscape. When the sun comes out the water droplets sparkle on the leaves and the air smells fresh and clean.

The clouds were black out on the horizon, as I approached the beach today, but I didn't think it would come to much - it rarely does at Henley beach, so I took my mother's dog for the usual walk and left my jacket in the car.Not a soul could be seen up and down the beach, for many miles - perfect - we had the place entirely to ourselves. To the north the sun shone briefly and blindingly on the Henley jetty and on a few old blokes out doing a bit of fishing off the end. To the south, black clouds gathered, and the sea took on a steel grey glint. There was no wind but the swell that had built up over the last few days rolled steadily in and broke erratically on the shore.

About 20 minutes into the walk I sat on the beach to watch the bird life which had gathered where a creek flows out into the sea. It has been a long time since this creek had flowed enough to reach the sea as more than a tiny trickle and there were gulls, terns, pelicans, pigeons and other small seabirds fossicking about in the moving fresh water, feeding, while others were having a hearty fresh-water wash. It was so peaceful and hard to believe that I was only 10 minutes drive from the city centre. A soft breeze floated by and carried with it some misty rain - a wonderful feeling on my face and arms. As I rallied my thoughts and began the walk back towards the car the rain came down a little stronger and I thought of that song about the bloke who discovers things about his wife that he never knew before, when he answers her ad in the paper....

"If you like Pina Colada, and getting caught in the rain.
If you're not into yoga, if you have half-a-brain.
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape.
I'm the lady you've looked for, write to me, and escape."

It's a great song and as I know it pretty much off by heart, and there was no-one around, I wanted to sing it out loud, walking there in the rain on the beach because it is quirky and fun and the rain felt wonderful. I am the world's worst singer, so I sang it inside my head where it always sounds much better! My sunglasses were all wet and my hair was dripping and, as I walked along in the water with my pants rolled up and my jumper tied around my waist, I honestly felt like a teenager.


Life is good. Get there fast and then take it slow. (Oh no, another song! I could go on and on...)



It's not always fine in the Whitsundays (Queensland 2005)! 40knot tail wind and going 8 knots with no main and only a tiny bit of jib up. See the smile? I was as wet as anything from the rain and the waves that kept hitting me in the face. The sunglasses are to keep the rain and sea water out of my eyes!

Escape
(Rupert Holmes)

I was tired of my lady, we'd been together too long.
Like a worn-out recording, of a favorite song.
So while she lay there sleeping, I read the paper in bed.
And in the personals column, there was this letter I read:

"If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.
If you're not into yoga, if you have half-a-brain.
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape.
I'm the lady you've looked for, write to me, and escape."

I didn't think about my lady, I know that sounds kind of mean.
But me and my old lady, had fallen into the same old dull routine.
So I wrote to the paper, took out a personal ad.
And though I'm nobody's poet, I thought it wasn't half-bad.

"Yes, I like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.
I'm not much into health food, I am into champagne.
I've got to meet you by tomorrow noon, and cut through all this red tape.
At a bar called O'Malley's, where we'll plan our escape."

So I waited with high hopes, then she walked in the place.
I knew her smile in an instant, I knew the curve of her face.
It was my own lovely lady, and she said, "Oh, it's you."
And we laughed for a moment, and I said, "I never knew"..

"That you liked Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.
And the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne.
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape.
You're the love that I've looked for, come with me, and escape."

"If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.
If you're not into yoga, if you have half-a-brain.
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape.
You're the love that I've looked for, come with me, and escape."