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The Waiting

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Currawongs Spinning me Home

When the branches of Eucalyptus botryoides fall, as they often do, they root again and continue to grow. The tree is its own ecosystem. Currawongs, sleek black birds with their flash of white at the tail, build their nests, made of sticks and lined with soft material, high up in trees like this.  Some months ago, I stood in shock as arborists began to cut this tree on the next block down, over two days of vicious chain-sawing and woodchipping. I filmed the screaming tree, as it shuddered, shook and then gave way, limbs falling with the ‘thunk’ of a human body.  The tree danced a ballet for its dying and the currawongs lost one of their homes. Many love the currawong for its song, a mix of honey, with a note of uplift, a soaring whip almost, mellifluous on the updraft, ringing from up high. It sounds like an entreaty, a lament and an invitation. The onomatopoeic word, currawong , depicts the sound of their call.  Decades ago, for me these birds were synonymous with NSW, and it was a st

Twisted Strands

It was October 2000, and I was in New York, contemplating working in Manhattan. I was sleeping on a couch bed while attorneys checked out my visa. 'Brian' said I could do website maintenance and client accounts for his Lexington Avenue finance company.  From the Staten Island Ferry, October 2000 I walked the streets, feeding myself on Coke and trips to galleries. In the evenings, we ate late, danced in gymnasiums, did group art projects and drank in bars. Deep Dish Cabaret, punching and drinking. The thing is, I was 35, not 25. I had just lost my job, and in shock, had taken this leap to New York City to recalibrate. Manhattan rents were high, and while the idea of finding an affordable cell-like room in a convent or sharing a floorspace with strangers had some appeal, I had a sense that my life might have already put down roots back home, and that transplanting myself could see me, well, come unstuck.  Back home in Northcote, there were nasturtiums tumbling across the garden b

Charting a Course

Inside the pages of the old school atlas, the small boy holds the pencil, angling it as he edges around Australia’s shores. My father’s hand has been here, tracing the coast, the grey lead pencil pushed down hard into the paper. My father’s atlas appeared in the family house pack-up after he died and somehow made it home with me. ‘Could I take it? Just to look at,’ I had asked my mum. I held it tight to get it home. Few of the family records had ever left my parents’ house, and this felt like contraband. Along with the atlas, I took some of dad’s tracing paper; a lined grid book; and a ledger notepad, pages torn out and numbers gone. Things which speak to me of finding a way. For some time I did not dare to open the atlas. His name alone, scrawled across the torn brown paper cover, was enough to suggest what I might find in its pages. A sort of journey. A charting of a life. A discovery. Now I’m tracing back, beyond my time, to see the boy of ten, a 3-D image arising from a 2-D format,

Penpals, write! From #Penpalooza to #Postcrossing and beyond.

I’m gazing into a postcard of the mountains of Massachusetts, a bookmark with an Emily Dickinson quote in my other hand: ‘It’s all I have to bring today…’ the quote says. But there’s more. Before me are four pages of a handwritten letter, from a stranger in Birmingham, Alabama. For privacy reasons, I won’t be sharing what my new penpal told me of her life, but I know I urgently need to write back to her. Letter writing has become a way for people to connect during lockdown. Penpaloooza was started by New Yorker writer and editor, Rachel Syme, with an Instagram call-out that has grown from an initial 100 participants, to more than 4000 people, writing letters, collecting stamps, sourcing small gifts and sharing words. There are writers in more than 30 countries, and people post their treasures at the hashtag #Penpalooza.  When my first piece of mail arrived, the excitement I felt was beyond reason. The pure thrill of a package, holding pieces of a person–a bookmark, a sticker and words

The Things we Call Essential

When I heard a woman remark ‘I’d rather die than not have my hair done,’ I wrote the words down, stunned. It's strange what has been deemed ‘essential’ in the time of Covid-19. Shopping for food, sure. Medical appointments, yes, if necessary. Exercise, OK. And until recently, a trip to the hairdresser. What? As a person who usually gets a haircut once every 12 months, it was beyond me. But soon enough, Melbourne’s stage four restrictions ripped this ‘essential’ service away, along with other things we had taken to be ordinary aspects of our lives: going out between 8pm and 5am; being outside for more than an hour; and going further than 5km from our homes. And then it came back to me: going to the hairdresser had been a sort of lifeline for me last year. Yes, me of ungroomed locks and untended knots. It seems a hairdo can offer people so much more than a tidy and trim.    Hannah McCann, Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne, notes that "in Western cultur

Shine a Light

On a recent sunny Sunday, I walk through the park on my way to get Nan’s lamp fixed. Families are having picnics on the grass. ‘Can we fix it? Can we fix it? Can we fix it?’ drums in my head as I crunch across the gravel towards the Repair Cafe , a little hub where volunteers work their magic on broken stuff.  In my bag, I’ve got a lamp that’s dodgy and a globe that works. My fear in bringing the lamp for repair is that when they plug it in, it will blow the powerboard up. My nerves sizzle. The world seems to be short-circuiting. Repair Cafe volunteers help repair things, from toasters, to cushion zips to stereos. They keep rubbish out of landfill; save consumers from buying new products; and cross-pollinate a community of people who tinker, rebuild, deconstruct and recreate objects.   Around the world, there are over 1500 Repair Cafe centres, working towards reducing waste, sharing knowledge, repairing items and fostering communities. The first cafe started in 2009, and The Repair