Wednesday, 30 July 2008

I'm Sorry, Michael

I'm sorry Michael Pollan, but I am not going to read your book.

I read the first ten pages and decided that it's not for me.

I say: This is not the kind of book I need to read. We are very conscious eaters in this household and although of course I still have a lot to learn, I don't think I could endure an entire book about things I already know instinctually.

Pollan says: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

I say: I really like Michael Pollan. I think his books and teachings are essential in this day and age when we, the so-called civilised and evolved, are honouring ourselves with ailments such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and several kinds of cancer. 

Pollan says: "The UN recently announced that the number of people in the world suffering from the problems of 'overnutrition' has for the first time exceeded the number suffering from undernutrition."

I say: When I wrote about the film King Corn a month ago, I neglected to mention that Michael Pollan stars in it and is even credited as being an inspiration for the film. 

You are an inspiration to me too, Mr Pollan. I just don't feel I need to read your book.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Brrrm Brrrm

It took us several attempts at listing it on eBay, but we finally sold our Peugeot.

As part of our plan to reduce our cash and carbon expenditures, we decided that despite the inconvenience of being a one car family, having a second car was an indulgence we could no longer justify.

It's true we could plant 20 trees a year, or whatever the number is supposed to be, but to us, it's not about offsetting, but decreasing.

It was dark by the time the couple who saw it on eBay arrived last night. PJ took them for a drive into town so they could look under the bonnet under a street light. I had my knitting group over and we all oohed and ahhed when they told us they needed a bigger car because they were having a baby.

The car had become anathema to us and was beginning to represent the epitome of unnecessary waste, but even more so, what we are envisioning the world will be like when petrol hits $8 a litre and the majority of vehicles are rendered useless.

The couple drove up from Melbourne after work, stayed an hour, then left. I sat and knitted with my posse while PJ filled out forms and exchanged money for keys and papers.

It was such a relief to see the car's taillights head up the hill and out of sight, and to know that the car was going to a good home, brimming with new life to come.

Monday, 28 July 2008

The Inside, Out

Like most 6 year-old boys, Z loves getting dirty. On weekends, it's not unusual for him to need more than a few baths each day. Sometimes he loves baths, sometimes he doesn't. What he always loves though, is when PJ or I sit in the bathroom with him to chat or play or read to him.

Yesterday afternoon I wrote out a few pages of words he doesn't yet know how to read, then we went around to his cousins' house to use their laminator to waterproof the sheets in plastic, so he can have them to practice with in the bath.

As we were leaving, my brother-in-law gave Z their broken baby monitor. Here is Z at our kitchen table, where he stood, engrossed for a couple of hours.

Sunday, 27 July 2008


PJ worked on our chook house yesterday afternoon while I went for a long bushwalk. It felt so great to be back in the forest; with the green and the waters gushing.

Then we stayed in and watched Bullshit, the film about Vandana Shiva, the Indian nuclear physicist and environmental activist.

It's not the best made doco I've ever seen, but it's a great portrait of Shiva, as we follow her around over a two year period, as she tries to hold back the forces of globalisation, with her sharp mind and her joyous outlook.

It is this joyous outlook that inspired me the most. In the face of globalisation, corporatism, gene patenting, bio-piracy and genetic engineering, Shiva not only uses her money and reputation to fight the good fight against Goliaths such as Monsanto, but she doesn't let the injustices she has devoted her life to campaigning against, get her down.

PJ and I feel alive and a sense of self-sovereignty by doing such things as walking through the bush, sharing seeds and vegies with others and building chicken coops that bring us one step closer to self-sufficiency. We take it personally when we read that governments will do everything they can to feed their dirty oil habits. 

This film is a welcome reminder that all is not lost. She shows us how to fight the bastards. With grace and humility.

Some trivia: I'm not sure why, but Bullshit is the only major film I've ever seen that doesn't appear on IMDB.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

The Sit In

Yesterday I wrote about having my own personal body double, as I was having a hard day.

Today I would like to introduce you to James L. Harris, a guy I just read about, who is accused of stealing public buses in Miami.

According to police, Harris took the buses from several bus depots and drove them on their routes, picking up and dropping off passengers along the way. He then returned the buses at the end of the day.

Police said Harris didn't raise any suspicion because he was dressed in the uniform of the bus company. And because he didn't steal any of the fares.

Friday, 25 July 2008

The Stand In

It was a beautiful winter's day today, though I stayed indoors for most of it. It is hard to remain hidden when you have bright red hair, so I used the excuse of having a lot of work to do, which I do, and stayed inside to do it.

Everybody needs to not be found or seen some days and today I had a day like that. I feel like I'm cocooning and will emerge from this headspace afresh, though into what has not yet been revealed to me.

A few weeks ago, PJ read a chapter from his new book at Collected Works. The reading was for the launch of a website that features some of his work. He is sometimes a nervous public speaker and on this particular night, decided to include his nervousness into his performance. He asked for a member of the audience to join him. J-Dog, my sister E's boyfriend, who is an actor, volunteered.

He was asked to stand in front of everyone and read silently to himself a chapter from PJ's book. Taking the spotlight off himself, PJ sat amongst the audience and confidently read the same chapter aloud.

I wish I could have done that today. 

When I ventured outside to get a coffee this morning, I walked down a series of stairs and I remember thinking to myself, if I were a stuntwoman, I would throw myself down stairs all the time in public, and then pick myself up at the end and carry on as usual, just for the fun of it.

Wouldn't that be great? Though thinking about it now, perhaps my little fantasy reveals more about my wish for a stand in, than for my desire to live recklessly.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

The Treehouse

Inspired by the quote on the front of the last book I just read, I asked my well-read brother-in-law if he had any books by Naomi Klein. He said he had. I went over and picked it up, though it wasn't until I was home that I noticed it wasn't a Naomi Klein book, but a Naomi Wolf - The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom from My Father on How to Live, Love, and See.

One of the great aspects of spending two hours a day on a commuter train is all that glorious reading time.

I say: I really enjoyed this book. After all the books I have read of late, even though I relished them, it was nice to read a more feminine, maternal book. 

As Naomi's father, Leonard, helps her build a treehouse, he hands on to her all the lessons he has taught his students during his many years as a teacher, including: "Your Only Wage Will Be Joy," "Do Nothing Without Passion," "Mistakes Are Part of the Draft."

Soppy in parts and profound in others, this book is for anyone artistic whose creativity needs a defibrillation.

Wolf says: "I believe my father’s insistence on creative freedom may be the secret to happiness. He believes that the creative act is the secret of joy and, in spite of his occasional fits of pro forma testiness, he is the happiest man I have ever known."

I say: This book was exactly what I needed. The fact that it came to me by accident seemed to add to the power of Wolf's words and her dad's lessons. I didn't find them on the page, more like they found me.

The Treehouse is a rich personal history, a meditation on fathers and daughters, a how-to guide for honoring the creative impulse, and a unique instruction in the art of happy living.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


I love what these guys do. For their latest undertaking, they created a human mirror on a NYC subway carriage using 16 pairs of identical twins.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Full Stops

Today at 12.30, several of my now ex-colleagues and I went out for dumplings to mark the end of my six-week contract. I have worked for organisations for a number of years that have been easier to walk away from.

As we departed, they to return to the office, me to catch a tram, I got to thinking about farewells.

I respect it, although it sometimes hurts, the way kids don't concern themselves with sentimental goodbyes. They don't look back - are ever-ready to throw themselves at the next adventure.

On the other hand, when I have travelled overseas, I have often felt jibbed of a good farewell. Most of the people I met exchanged email addresses instead of bona fide finalities.

I'm not talking about trimming the fat and neatening the edges, and what you might call closure. I don't think it's that that I am after. I think it's more a cross between closing one door so another one opens, and honouring each shared experience for what it was.

I guess I must also be talking about facing my own death, because isn't that what our mortality makes us do - become accomplished at not turning away from The Ends?

Monday, 21 July 2008

On The High Wire

I first heard about Philippe Petit, the high wire walker, when I read Paul Auster's The Red Notebook, in which is reprinted Auster's preface to Petit's 1997 book Traité du funambulisme.

I must have read The Red Notebook half a dozen times in my 20s. I haven't opened it for years, though I did just now to reread the Petit preface, from which comes this:
Each time we see a man walk on the wire, a part of us is up there with him. Unlike performances in the other arts, the experience of the high wire is direct, unmediated, simple, and it requires no explanation whatsoever. The art is the thing itself, a life in its most naked delineation. And if there is beauty in this, it is because of the beauty we feel inside ourselves.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Brave Waves

Porter's Paint makes a whole range of chalkboard paints, one of which we used on the wall in the hallway (pictured), and for a wall in Z's room. They call this colour Brave Waves.

On Z's, he draws and learns to write, and on the other, we draw, encourage visitors to draw, and write messages, reminders and grocery lists (which we photograph with our phones when we're going to do the shopping).

Saturday, 19 July 2008

34 and a Half

Yesterday I turned 34 and a half - not a milestone I celebrated publicly, though still an anniversary I was conscious of.

And as I tend to do around my yearly birthdays, I am finding myself doing a kind of stocktake of how I am going.

There was a full moon last night and yesterday I officially finished the contract for the work I've been doing. My replacement laptop arrived and I spent the afternoon today setting it up, and on the phone to Apple when I got stuck. Z has just finished his first week at his new school and is like another kid. He is more relaxed and playful and regained. PJ's book is back from the printer. My head feels clear, though my legs are aching to get back into the bush after being desk-bound too long. I recently bought a leek for the first time and made a really delicious soup.

Things feel whole and reclaimed. Curtains are closing. Broken things are replaced. I'm still not sleeping as well as I'd like. Hours feel magnified. Curtains are opening. My head feels clear and unbolted. Dotted lines are cut along. Couches are snuggled on. Land of Meg inhabitants are exactly on time.

Friday, 18 July 2008


A few weeks ago, one of my colleagues had her purse stolen from her desk at work, when the receptionist was out to lunch. It was later found, sans cash, in the stairwell.

This afternoon, a whole group of us gathered around someone's computer to watch the CCTV footage from the building foyer from the day the purse was taken.

We didn't see the thief, but oh the squeals of joy and self-consciousness when we saw ourselves on screen.

I read recently that life is the art of encounters. It was this maxim that I was thinking about this afternoon.

My encounters with the world: strangers on a crowded train into Melbourne, seeing an ex-boyfriend, asking the barista behind the machine for a coffee, handing over some money, the change placed gently on my palm.

And my encounters with encountering: standing among my co-workers watching myself on a monitor in the building's empty foyer - doing a private little dance as I waited for the elevator to arrive.

Them watching me. Them watching me. Them watching them. Me watching them. Me watching me.

In private, in public, the fleeting now lasting - my moment to moment is framed.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Compost Co-op

A few months ago we sat, as we like to do, by the fire at our favourite local café having our morning coffees.

And, as we also like to do, we steered the conversation with the lovely café owner around to the rich and glorious topic of compost.

When we left, we headed down the hill to the hardware, where we bought a small bucket that now lives in the café kitchen, for the food scraps and coffee grounds. When it's full, it gets tipped into this black bin that we collect, empty into our compost at home then bring back, in return for vegies.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

1 + 1 + 1

Happy anniversary, PJ! And happy anniversary, Z!

The biggest, strongest tree I ever saw is inside of you, PJ.

And you, Z, you are the daylight.

I love dreaming with you both, but best of all, I love being awake.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

We Ate the Letters

I have never met Em or Josh. They are friends of my sister, A, who I spent the day with yesterday. They are friends of hers from San Francisco and are getting married soon. We ate the letters, but she'll send them the pic.

A and I spent an easy breezy afternoon walking and talking and baking.

I will miss you when you go back, A.

Here is the recipe for these cookies, as well as the ones in my masthead:

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 8 minutes
Ingredients: 2 cups (300g) plain flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
90g butter
1/2 cup (80g) brown sugar
1/3 cup (125g) golden syrup
5cm biscuit cutter (cookie cutter)

Method: Sift flour, soda and ginger into a bowl. Place butter, sugar and golden syrup into a saucepan. Cook over low heat, until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool. Pour the syrup into the flour mixture, and combine. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead until smooth. Cover with plastic and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 5mm thick. Cut out shapes and carefully place onto trays. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool biscuits on trays for 5 minutes, then onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Bring on the Apocalypse

I have just finished reading this fantastic book by UK investigative journalist and gardener, George Monbiot. 

I say: Don't read this book! Don't read it if you are happy living your life in a bubble of abstraction. Don't read this book if you don't want your dearly held beliefs turned inside out.

Monbiot says: "The central mystery of the modern state is this. The necessary resources, both economic and political, will always be found for the purpose of terminating life. The project of preserving it will always struggle. When did you last see a soldier shaking a tin for a new rifle? Or a sponsored marathon raising money for nuclear weapons? But we must beg and cajole each other for funds whenever a hospital wants a new dialysis machine. If the money and determination expended on waging war with Iraq had been used to tackle climate change, our carbon emissions would already be in freefall. If as much money were spent on foreign aid as on fighter planes, no one would ever go hungry.

When the state was run by warrior kings, this was comprehensible: they owed their existence to overwhelming force. Now weapons budgets and foreign wars are, if anything, an electoral liability. But the pattern has never been broken."

I say: I often found myself wondering how Monbiot continues to be published when he takes no prisoners, exposing corruption and inequality in organisations ranging from local to national government, to armies, to corporatised scientists, to the church. 

Why aren't more journalists writing commentaries as hard hitting? Why am I even describing it as 'hard hitting', when he's just writing the facts? Where are our writers? What are they busy doing? Why does it feel as though the public conscience of our civilisation rests on the shoulders of a handful of people such as Monbiot?

Monbiot says: "The claim that homosexuality is “unnatural” is more interesting. This could mean one of two things. Perhaps the Pope is suggesting that it lies beyond the scope of “normal” human behaviour. If so, this has uncomfortable implications for an association of old men who wear dresses and hear voices."

Hats off too to our talented friends at We Made This, for the book cover design.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Nooks and Crannies

I used to shop at garage sales and op shops and markets.

I still do. But where I used to do these things to save money (I had a travel addiction I was always saving to fund), I now do more as a way of living.

I choose to live in a small community where there are no chain-stores or billboards. Not just because I am anti-consumerist, but because I am not a fan of the visual intrusion.

I have just had my contract extended another week. I am thankful to have more time to work on the project and to work with my team.

Although I knew what I was getting myself in for when I took on the role, working in Melbourne is hard. Getting up early to catch the 6.30 bus and getting home 13 hours later is exhausting. And is something I will have to do every day next week as my home computer is still broken (though Apple is sending me a replacement).

A month ago when I was thinking about how I'd go working full-time, I wrote: "I don't want quality time or me time," which I now see was just naive.

When I lived in the city I was good at this - filling my time to the brim. But I am a country girl now who still loves shopping at garage sales, but needs a lot more quiet to live in.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Considering Consideration

Just over a month ago, I wondered how I would go working full-time. Last night on the train home from Melbourne, I was thinking about all the experiences I have had during this time. All the people I have met, all the hours I have spent travelling between home and work and back again, all the things I have learned.

Every day at 10.30, the people in my office have morning tea, provided by one of the staff members. Yesterday we had cake and muffins made by N, who's a vegan.

In each carriage of the trains I catch, there are several seats arranged facing each-other. These are the seats I avoid as they are usually occupied by people with irritating idiosyncrasies.

Working productively from home on rainy days during the school holidays is difficult.

I love what I do. I love language and content management systems and getting a grip on challenging tasks.

I get stressed when I don't get enough sleep.

I love the solitary nature of being a writer, and a reader, but one of the things I have been reminded of again and again this last month, is how bearable anything is, when we are accompanied by good people.

As my friend J likes to say/spray: Never is consideration insensitive.

Thursday, 10 July 2008


PJ received a call about the caterers.

He is giving a paper next week at an international poetics conference at the State Library. The event is fully catered and on the forms he had to fill out, he was asked if he had any dietary requirements.

He wrote Slow Food - a term the organiser had never heard, and which had completely baffled the caterers. The caterers!

Think Fast Food, he told them, and it's the opposite.

Today's blog post was going to end here, with a nice wrap up about the fast food approach to everything that once was nourishing. I even thought about composing a victual verse.

But. My laptop died this morning (for the third time in its two year life). Lucky for me PJ is not working from home today and I am able to get a few things done on his computer. Though I am unable to get my work done as the software I need has gone too.

And so. I am forced to revert to the analogue. To take deep breaths and go about my offline business. To. Slow. Right. Down. And notice all the things that I haven't been noticing.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

It's Official

Thank you to the people who told me about the article, Blogging makes you happy - it's official in The Age's 'Green Guide', from where this comes:
Researchers in the US have concluded that blogging also makes bloggers better thinkers.

US neurologists Fernette and Brock Eide conducted a survey of the blogosphere and posted their results on their own site. The research began with the proposition that our mental activities actually cause changes in the structures of our brains - not only what we think, but how we think as well.

They decided to focus on blogging because it represents a significant new activity that might be changing the way people think, and concluded that blogging can be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive and associational thinking.

The sheer ease of being able to publish a blog online promotes spontaneous connections and fosters creativity. The neurologists also concluded that blogging promotes critical and analytical thinking because blogs, at their best, are rich in ideas and promote active exchange and critique.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Green Lights

When I stepped off the train in Melbourne last week, the first thing I saw was a big poster advertising the latest anti-gambling campaign. It should have made me happy - better anti-gambling than pro-gambling - but instead it made me furious.

You gave us the damn things in the first place, I thought.

But the government has to be seen as doing something. Though with state government revenue from poker machines and Kino nearly as much as $3 billion (in 2006-07), why would they do anything that could genuinely jeopardise this income?

And yet. Despite the 68,000 Victorians who are problem gamblers or at risk of becoming problem gamblers, and the families and communities that breakdown as a result, at least there is the logic of revenue.

But what of Melbourne's Grand Prix? With a loss of $40m per year, it just doesn't make sense. Not to mention the larger environmental implications.

For six years, my folks were involved in the Save Albert Park campaign (whose flag appears top left). At the time, I was younger and didn't understand what they were protesting against and what it all meant. But now I am a tax payer and awake to the injustices of governments, I am appalled that a decision such as the one to renew the Grand Prix's contract in Melbourne would even be considered, in this day and age.

$40m loss?? The irresponsible burning of all those fossil fuels? How could a government today even table such an event, let alone give it the green light?

Monday, 7 July 2008


We had a great day yesterday at my grandfather's 90th birthday party, though we were all disappointed that my grandmother was too unwell to make it, and conscious of her absence all afternoon.

My mum worked hard for weeks orchestrating all the details of the event. One of the most beautiful details were the vases of colourful flowers on every table. Not only were the flowers available for everybody to take home, but there was a florist on hand to wrap them, to secure their safety for the journey home.

Our journey home was a peaceful, exhausted one, with a snoring six year-old on the back seat, who today has one of his best friends over.

Here they are at our kitchen table creating a battlefield diorama, while our celebratory flowers keep the peace.

Saturday, 5 July 2008


Because I grew up with three sisters and now live with two males, I often find myself wanting of female company.

A few months ago, PJ and I went round to visit our friend Mr O. His niece and a friend of hers were there dressed in grass skirts doing the hula. As soon as I saw the girls, I threw my shoes off and joined them, laughing and making up moves.

Which is how I came to be invited to teach a small group of 9 year-olds how to hula at a Hawaiian-themed birthday party this afternoon.

Of course these sorts of invitations come up everywhere, but they seem to happen more for me living in the country.

Although I declined payment, I left the party with several packages of organic soup, salad and cake, homemade by the birthday girl's father. 

I love living in a small community so much.

Friday, 4 July 2008

It's 6am

And I am up to catch the early bus, then train to Melbourne. I have been doing this once a week for work.

PJ doesn't have to get up when I do, but he does. He makes me breakfast then takes me up to the bus stop. 

Have you seen the Coen brothers' film Fargo? It was the first film PJ and I saw together. He had a couple of people over for dinner then we retired to the lounge room to watch it on DVD. We had all seen it before.

Every time Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) had to get up early for work, her husband, Norm (John Carroll Lynch) would get up and make her a good hearty breakfast.

Theirs is a relationship of tender domesticity, and my unconscious oohs and aahs in response to their scenes were what PJ said told him that I was the kind of woman he could love.

It's funny that my response to those early morning breakfast scenes were what helped form PJ's affection for me. And now his getting up early is what solidifies mine for him.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

The Brush Bitch

At night, whoever brushes their teeth first puts some toothpaste on the other's brush and places it in some kind of relationship to this doll.

This is a photo of PJ's toothbrush last night at 9.50.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Great Value

Today over the Bass Strait, one of my favourite bloggers, Farmdoc, has been musing about the value of things:
The true value of something is often out of proportion to its perceived everyday value. In other words, it’s often the little things that have the biggest impact.
I agree with him wholeheartedly. (And not just because he's my dad.)

I also wholeheartedly believe that we in the privileged West have no real understanding of what "perceived everyday value" really means. Myself included.

So removed are we from what's most important in our lives, that when we see the words Great Value, we immediately assume they are referring to a bargain.

As one of our household's heroes, George Monbiot wrote yesterday in The Guardian:
If the world is sliding into recession, it's partly because governments believed that they could choose between economy and ecology.
It's true PJ and I are on our way to becoming self-sustaining, but still we have been stressed lately about our personal finances in the face of rising interest rates, our council rates that are now the third highest in the state, water rates increasing by 25%, petrol prices, blah blah blah.

I say, bring on the crash, and let's start again.

Only after we have been forced to redefine the merit of our principles, will we be reminded of what's of real value in our lives and what's not.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

More Than the Show Itself

Nine years ago, PJ won a competition to create a sculpture that runs alongside our local library.

His Poemscape: A Physical Anthology comprises 18 hand-carved local Eucalyptus plinths, each with a brass plaque on top containing a poem. Beside each plinth, he planted an apple tree.

In summer we water the trees, in winter PJ prunes them and at the end of apple season we take all the fallen fruit home to compost. 

In autumn, I love riding my bike past the trees and picking an apple to munch on. In fact, one of my favourite things to do is to go biking around this hilly town, filling my basket with fruit gleaned from public trees to eat if they're ripe and stew if they're too much so.

Agnes Varda's gorgeous film, The Gleaners and I, is a political, moral, aesthetic and personal enquiry into the age old tradition of gleaning, which these days falls under the banner of freeganism.

I am thinking of PJ's Poemscape, Varda's film and Freeganism, because of a UK game show that I read about that is due to air online this month.

Ready Steady Skip is a game show where "needlessly wasted food is recovered from the bin and turned into delicious dishes before your very eyes!"

The Iron Chef meets Oscar the Grouch?

Like freegans, I'm not interested in being part of the conventional shopping economy, and I am very much interested in becoming a producer, not a consumer. It is this aspect - of self-sufficiency - that interests me about the show, more than the show itself.