big sky dreaming

February 28, 2014

during some distinct formative years of mine i often lay on the ground in a far away paddock. i had gotten to this paddock after riding a fat, brown horse for some hours.  i had passed thru gates and over land that belonged to whom i knew not.  i couldn’t say where i was with coordinates.  i could say the route i had taken and several alternate routes i could take to see me home.  i could describe to you the lay of the land, the ups, downs, the slumps, the gullies, the rabbit tracks and sheep paths, the detour i took to avoid a brown snake, rocks, logs and trees.  i knew north.  i knew the wind and what weather it was bringing.

this paddock was not special.  nor were any of the others i would sometimes get down from my horse to lie supine in.  each generally had dry, hard grass that would crunch just enough to allow a degree of comfort but no movement, turning your head would likely just give you an impaled eye.

i lay flat on my back, my arms and legs straight, my chin up to afford a good view of the sky.  aside from rabbits, snakes, sheep or cows there were no sentient beings for a good number of kilometres, just the horse and i.  we none bothered each other.  the horse was tied to a tree or stump, or left to what grazing he could find.  it was immensely quiet.  not a quiet that was profound or deep or a total absence of sound.  it was a quiet in a space so large, so immense, that all noises could be kept within it without being heard.  the rustling noises of small things passing thru the stiff grass, the slow clomp of each hoof of the horse as he moved his body to follow his mouth and the sound of the wind.  the feel of the wind too, it was transportive.

with my head held by the dirt-smelling grass i looked straight up at the indescribable white-blue of the clear australian sky.  somewhere to the left and right, below my feet, encircling my head there were trees, but i could not see them.  all there was, was blue and air and space and infinity.  it was easy lieing there, the vast solidity of the earth beneath my prone limbs, to believe that i would never move again.  that i wouldn’t have to.  i could pass every day at this pinnacle, my body transformed and needing nothing, and watch the universe play out before me.  my eyes simply open forever more, the dance each person and planet undertakes spinning before me, but not for me.

the combination of solitude, space, air, sky, wind, light and silence, combined in only the way they can be under the australian sun, created in me a feeling and a presence that changed me each time i lay on the baked ground, building from the last time, immensity upon immensity.  it’s a feeling i can re-create wherever i may be… i tip my chin up, flutter my eyes down, smell the parched grass and the mineral dirt, feel my chest expand beyond the confines of my ribs and i sigh.  it is peace, it is light-headedness, it is energy sucked from the soil into my muscles, it is the inability to move, it is a consciousness of how my tiny body can still witness the never-ending space of the universe.

while i loved those times of air and light, it’s only since i can’t lie down on the ground in the back of beyond that i realise how magnificent it truly was.  the time afforded to me then should have been more precious.  it’s time i doubt my kids will ever get; what nowaday city kid can saddle up, real or metaphorically, and disappear from sight for an entire day?  what wandering and wondering can be done without solitude, space and time to do it in?  no, i didn’t solve or cure anything while i was out there.  beyond the rehashed good things of “fresh air and exercise” i didn’t do anything amazing.  oh, i did do one amazing thing.

with the words of dorothea mckellar, kelly jones and banjo paterson filling my veins i fell in love.  “i love a sunburnt country…”  well, so do i.  “i love her far horizons…” horizons that fell out of sight when my nose was pointed straight up.  to call those quiet minutes ‘day-dreaming’ isn’t to do it enough justice.  it expanded my soul, i felt the possibility of everything.  the wind scoured and the sun burnt out a space in me that couldn’t have happened any-where or -way else.  to feel again australian, to feel peace, possibility, to think bigger, to find a space and put it in a place that is perfect i just have to return to what i call…

big sky dreaming.

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global citizens

February 28, 2014

i wonder, does it take a personal connection, like having lived in a place, to make one care about other parts of the globe?  since our four month stint in ukraine i find myself very interested in that country’s affairs.  an interest easily helped over the past few weeks by the intriguing and involving play of politics there.  a month ago i was watching news stories on t.v showing protesters getting kicked by cops in independence square, making me recall when i peaceably walked there with my infant daughter.  last week seeing the same square in firey ruin was confronting.  yesterday i watched a tour thru the now-abandoned presidential palace complete with albino ostriches, gold to make you squint, art work and chandeliers the size of my house.  i searched the faces of the citizens that now pushed to see what ill gotten gains can get for the ruling elite.  i didn’t expect to see anyone i knew, yet the faces all seemed familiar to me.  there was definitely there the same faces that i saw sitting on the metro steps trying to sell a few scraps of mushrooms collected from the roadside near chernobyl, those gathered around the booze distributing tankers in the early morning, the one that climbed out our second floor window in just her socks and smock to ensure the glass was thoroughly cleaned in and out.  these people that have worked hard all their life, and will be required to continue to do so, sharing a tiny house with three generations of extended married families, now peered thru three storey high windows to plush drawing rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms that would never be crowded and smell like theirs did.

i was particularly captured by the clean shaven, upright and malnourished-ly thin, oh-so-young military men in their precise uniforms.  i couldn’t understand how they walked the bespoke, beautiful, shining, parquet floors in their even more shining black boots, with a half strangled look of amazement on their faces and didn’t unleash their fury with a spray of bullets from those dull, deadly machine guns hung over their shoulders thru the flocked satin wallpaper.  maybe they didn’t feel furious.  perhaps after generations it’s too hard to match mamma’s broken, bleeding, red, swollen hands at home as the payment for this grand palace.  that the deadly black around their person, be it shiny boots or ominous guns is paid for by a government more interested in presentation than provisions?

these soldiers patrolled the palace and kept the gawkers moving along in an orderly fashion.  why? why? why?!

the corruption and inequality in ukraine is staggering.  in 2007 the average household monthly income in kiev was USD500, outside the city it was far less.  i don’t expect it’s changed much.  i can’t say i know all that much about the power plays over the years, i think i can say it’s done very little to improve the lot of the ordinary citizen.  in fact people have told me life was far better under the communists.

since living in canada i’ve followed the debate about developing the arctic with more interest.  of particular personal interest are the effects development, mining, climate change and money has on native arctic dwellers, the people and the animals.  i find vancouver’s mayor to be pretty kick-arse and toronto’s to be a sad parody of himself.  though i did hear a radio interview with him a few months back and i must say, if you knew nothing about him and just listened to his voice, not the words, just the sound, gosh he’s got a seductive voice.  and nothing else.

i’m still avidly interested in australia; her politics, her environment, her people, her future.  not so long from now i’ll be living there again.  it’s a very magnificent country.  (with a magnificently fucked up federal government.  but i’m not going to liberal party and supporters bash here.  that’s what facebook is for!)  i feel a visceral connection to oz.  it pulls at my guts, keeping me, giving to me, both of us needing to touch each other.

i actually haven’t been around to that much of the country, primarily the south east coast.  when opportunity arises, and i will ensure it does, i will travel into more of it.  i love to call australia ‘oz’.  it puts me in mind of the wizard of oz with all the magic, mysticism and possibility that i think of when i think that.  a few taps of some red heels and who’s to say what may change or happen?

are we all now born global citizens?  have the changes in technology and the instantaneousness of our world made us all citizens of the planet rather than an arbitrary geopolitical space/place?  or perhaps the vastness and complexity of each country, ecology, region and people make us less able to ‘be from’ the whole; we need boundaries to focus within, to keep our sanity.

i think the more we see and learn of our world the more we will care for it and all living on it.  and while for me, it has a huge impact to do that with my own feet, hands, ears and eyes, i don’t believe you need to live in a place, in a life, to care about it.  there are many horrid, suffering places and lives no-one wants to live in, these need our care the most.  perhaps i’m just growing up, expanding as one person, better able now to see my global citizenship, for i do think we all have the opportunity to be global citizens, if we want, as a linked part of my nationalism.

am sending the below letter to the local school board (the responsible authority for schools where we live.)   thinking i probably won’t change a thing.  but maybe there is someone else out there that hates the idea of foisting adult love and all it’s complications and responsibilities on children.  perhaps that person is on the board of trustees?  perhaps they’ll take up the cause and we can work to eradicate saint valentine’s day stupidity from at least primary schools together.

 

I wish to express my concern about what I strongly feel is the inappropriate support and encouragement given to marking and even celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day in our secular primary schools.

Saint Valentine has become over much time recognised as the patron saint of lovers and courtly love.  No child in primary school and much of high school should have anything to do with being in love, having a lover or be courting or engaged in courtly love.  They are far too young to understand what roles, responsibilities and consequences any of these activities entail.  It is irresponsible for schools to encourage children to celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day, and it is repugnant for secular schools to allow the marking of any religious observance.

Until approximately 50 years ago Saint Valentine’s Day was not celebrated.  Then, sadly, marketing and manufacturing companies saw the potential to make money from it and the gullibility of consumers.  Since then more and more time and money has been spent on cards, trinkets, lollies and frankly other crap, and pushing it onto younger and younger people.  My four year old son came home from school last week with Saint Valentine’s Day cards, including one from his teacher!

I would like to know what the York Region School Board will do to remove Saint Valentine’s Day activities from its schools?

If the 14th of February must be celebrated in some way, I suggest the focus be changed to celebrating Library Lovers Day, which also falls on February 14th.  I’m sure you can agree that loving our libraries and all the fantastic people and activities that support libraries and are offered through them, is far more palatable than encouraging four to fourteen-year-olds to exchange lovers tokens and perhaps parenting responsibilities?

Can you imagine if all the money wasted on Saint Valentine’s Day was directed towards libraries, reading programs and book ownership instead?  More resources and staff for libraries, more books and other borrowing items, higher literacy, less teeth cavities and teen pregnancies, more demand for publishing, more inspiration to read and write great stories, both fiction and non-fiction, and I’m positive many, many other good outcomes.

I think most parents would rather their child/ren get a library card or book than a recycling box full of ridiculous cards.

I look forward to your meaningful response and action.

Yours sincerely,