All I can do is write and walk and to be honest I’m not great at either

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Life, it’s a funny thing.

If I believed that God was a person (which I don’t) I would be thinking that he laughed when he made me.

Made it my life’s mission to master the art of being patient,

To embody persistence.

See the things I love are also things I’m technically not that good at.

Walking.

I love it, I’m strong – built like a mountain goat and with as much mental strength and stubbornness.

But I fall over a lot. I slip, trip, slide and stumble.  This is mostly due to my inability to do two things at once – pay attention to both of my feet AND the wonderful surrounds.

Whenever I walk with other people I notice that my own faults become exaggerated to me, that I slip three times to their none. That while I’m quick I’m sometimes dangerous.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get me down at times.

Writing.

And then there’s the writing.  I love it, love the flow of consciousness style that I write with, it feels like I’m becoming more real and more formed with each word that spills out of me. But I can’t spell well – have no ‘feel’ for it and have a limited capacity to build on what I’ve done before and as such tend to make the same mistake again and again and again and again. When it comes to grammar I forget those rules too. Forget or never knew, I’m not sure and is sentence structure a grammar thing because I have an unconventional way with that too.  In any case I get marked down, over-looked, criticised and mocked because of it.  Nobody ever encouraged me to be a writer. Well, actually one person did one day but only because they were trying to talk me out of being what I already was (a chemist) and was equally passionate about. Cold comfort that.

So that’s me.

I love walking but I fall.

I love writing but technically I fail.

But I do both anyway, with passion, enthusiasm and an underlying faith in the fact that this is me and this is what I should do for no other reason than that I love it.

Why can’t the chicken cross the road?

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I happened to hear a little thing on the radio today that disturbed me.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know this fact before, more that today the gravity of the situation really hit home.

I’m not a vegetarian.

The guy in the radio interview had been granted permission and free-reign to explore two egg producing barn environments – one free range and one caged.

The caged egg layers – let’s call them CHICKENS because that’s what they are – were healthy looking with no missing feathers. The chickens inhabiting and laying in the barn were less so with the occasional peck mark, bold patch and sad eyes (I assume). Apparently pecking each other to death is a thing. I say apparently as if that’s news to me too but it isn’t. I’ve seen free-range happy-as-you-like chickens gang up on each other. If they don’t like you, you won’t live.  Chicken justice. Still, it isn’t nice to watch.

But it wasn’t the reality of the barn environment that got to me today.

No.

Today it was the fact that the chickens in the cages, the happy (well, they looked happy – can chickens act?) fully feathered, non peck marked chickens in the cages could not walk.

The chickens can’t cross the road because their legs don’t work.

Their legs don’t work because they don’t walk anywhere.

Their leg muscles have not had a chance to develop.

The reporter and the chicken farmer agreed on the need to produce cheap eggs and that caged chickens were the best way to achieve that thus brushing off, making light of the fact that the chickens can’t walk.

I have one question and one question only following this and it is as follows:

How fucked up are we to live in a world where we accept and require chickens to be put in cages that don’t allow them to move or develop properly because people can’t actually afford eggs produced without cruelty?

Ok I lied I have two questions.

What is wrong with our economy to make that level of cruel in-humanity non-remarkable and necessary?

I know there are lots of things to be worried about with the world right now but seriously, let’s start with the little things and stop doing this.

Because chickens should at least be allowed the dignity to be able to cross the road.

And in a world where obesity is the fastest growing disease surely everybody should be able to afford to eat.

What a cruel world.

 

Walking Meditation: Perspective

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As I sat there posing on the log I was joined by two beautifully graceful and playful fairy wrens. Striking little blue birds that they are, reminding me not to spend too long absorbed in and reflecting about myself that I become blind to the beauty and power that surrounds me.

log-woman

Pictures taken around Blue Gum Swamp, Winmalee, Blue Mountains.

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Rebellious Daughters – Am I one?

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Having just finished reading this (great book BTW) I reflect on my own experience.

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In order to rebel one has to have something to rebel against.

Rebellion:

The action or process of resisting authority, control, or convention.

In my childhood that thing wasn’t so much my family as society.

And yes, society and I had our problems from time to time.

My family was conventionally un-conventional.  By the time I reached the biological age that facilitated easy rebellion (mid-to-late teenager hood) it was clear to me that my mother was doing more than enough for the both of us and by the time I was 17 divorce was in progress and I basically just had to get on with my ‘growing up’ plan to give me the tools and resources to make my own way in life.  It all worked out well and to be honest that time of crazy upside-down family dynamics probably benefited me more than it stung.

My rebellion with society started early and has persisted in one form or another to this day.  I guess many would have called me spirited or wilful or even obstinate at times while growing up, although my good manners and shyness saved me from tipping over into socially unacceptable often enough thank goodness!

I remember feeling angry about many things as a child – from why I had to wear tights and a skirt to wanting ONLY to wear a skirt because people thought I was a boy if I wore trousers and that bothered me (short, blonde hair and a few facial bruises from my tangles with the pavement) .

Why can’t society accept a girl in anything other than a skirt?

Why can’t a girl be rough and tough and a little bruised around the edges?

I was angry at having to go to bed at a time not of my choosing and that I had to wait for an adult to get up before I could eat breakfast .

Why don’t adults wake up at 5am?

Why can’t kids have more say over their lives. Am I not an individual?

I was angry at how in the early readers book section Jane was so pathetic and it was Peter who did all the cool stuff?

Why does society hate girls so much?

Later I was annoyed at the school rule that said we couldn’t climb up and over the wall that divided the two playgrounds. I did it anyway, quickly, nimbly when I thought nobody was looking and then pretended I knew nothing about it when the teacher on duty questioned me……

Why must schools be so risk-averse and have such fun-squashing rules?

And before long I was annoyed about politics.

I remember being particularly annoyed that, in our last year of primary school the school (and presumably other schools too) had become rather pre-occupied by which newspaper our families read, what TV stations we watched, what occupation our parents had and what we did in our spare time.  I never felt that my answers were the ‘right’ ones and I was annoyed by that as I could see they were using this exercise to fit us into boxes and I wasn’t sure I liked the box I was being fit into.

Why must society try to put people in a box?  

Then there was a conversation I had with my dad about consumerism, a conversation I had on more than one occasion that angered me beyond belief and still does to this day if I’m honest.  I didn’t know I was angry at neoliberalism but on reflection I was.  My dad would tell me proudly that he had done better than his parents (financially) and they better than theirs and that I would do better than him.  I disputed this, not because I didn’t think I could do better – of course I knew I could – but because I didn’t feel this was sustainable ad-infinitum.  I just didn’t have the exposure to other like-minded people with which to better shape my argument and as such spent a good deal of time feeling like ‘she who rages pointlessly against the machine’.

Why do we HAVE to keep on wanting MORE like Oliver with his begging bowl? Who exactly are we begging to and how come they got that job?

And so it went on, me getting angry and the world staying sane. Well, sane? I’m not so sure about that. In any case, whichever way I look at it I seem to have come out a rebel and I’ve no plans to change that.

Well, hang on a minute….

No plans to change that?

So I have a choice about my rebellious nature do I?

I Choose to rebel?

I guess so, yes. At least when it comes to my choice to act.

I’m not so sure where the feelings that stir the choice to rebel come from though being as though they have been simmering up in me for as long as I can possibly remember, maybe even before birth – I was 2 weeks late, how much more rebellious can a fully formed baby get?

My relationship with my rebellious mind is, at times tense but is becoming increasingly easy. I have, to a large degree accepted that I do have an ‘interesting’ way of seeing and interpreting the world. I say interesting because I’m not quite sure what else to call it but I do know it is never dull.  Some days I wish I could be one of those people who can live for the day, to gain immense pleasure from a new outfit without even stopping to think about the factory that turned that cotton into thread.  To enjoy both that ‘I’m getting drunk’ feeling and the lazy, hazy morning after.  Wish I could just accept what people tell me without analysing it for motive or deeper meaning. But that wouldn’t be me.

I am a rebellious daughter.

It’s in my genes.

And if this book is anything to go by a rebellious daughter is bad.

Very bad.

Well stuff society.

As Emmeline Pankhurst once said:

‘I’d rather be a rebel than a slave’

Amanda x

Blue Mountains: What is our unique lifestyle anyway?

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I hear this said a lot lately.  Especially in circles objecting to the Western Sydney Airport, a cause that has absorbed a huge chunk of the last 12 months of my life.  The shout is that we must ‘protect our unique lifestyle’.  Playing devils advocate I want to say ‘and what is that exactly?’

Lifestyle: The way in which a person lives.

How do we live up here?

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I have my own thing going on as I’m sure you do too, a ‘thing’ that isn’t always mirrored by my local friends and neighbours – people who have gravitated up here for what seems to me to be a myriad of reasons.  I personally came up here because I loved it from the time I first visited as a backpacker in the 1990’s. By the time we emigrated the mountains offered us somewhere that was still close enough to family but far enough from the city to give us the ready access to mountain bike trails, big gardens and walks we desired. We really did come here for fun! My relationship with the mountain has deepened and matured somewhat over the last 13 years.

I observe that some of my friends have come from what I call the ‘flatlands’ of Riverstone, St Mary’s, Penrith and Emu Plains.   I know that for some of these it was the bigger lot size of houses and gardens paired with affordable price-tags, the family friendly atmosphere, good schools and safe community feel that attracted them.  For others who have come from the city it was the lure of fresh air, bush walks and a slower pace of life – somewhere to bring up the kids!  Others have been sort-of pushed up here (and most are OK with that) after suburb after suburb became either more and more expensive or less and less desirable. The Blue Mountains have often seemed like a drive-too-far for most suburban Sydneysider’s, too close to flammable bushland, snake-infested and lacking in Westfield shopping centres to boot until now.  Now  we have the Greater Sydney Commission ramming down our throats a mantra of ‘high density housing, shopping centres and gardens replaced by green open community spaces for all’. Everything we are not, thank you. As a consequence, we are now starting to attract more people looking for that sort of thing, the airport proposal even seems to be encouraging it. Also, we are no longer seeming so far, far away, the city and more than that, that city mentality,  is coming to us.

That makes me feel uneasy on many fronts.

But why?

I’ll ask again, what is this lifestyle we talk about?

What is MY lifestyle?

Why did I feel physically sick when I saw the way a block of new low-rise apartments was being advertised in my local paper,  apartments in an area of Springwood town centre that I’m actually OK with being developed in this way.  It wasn’t the development I convulsed against, it was the language used to pitch them.  The values being projected, values that just don’t resonate with me.

It was while I was out bushwalking this morning that it came to me.  I bush walk as often as I can, it’s my oxygen, my sanity.  I need the smells as much as the sights, the sound as much as the crispness of the air I taste.  I am it and it is me.

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The connection I felt with the mountains today epitomised what my lifestyle is – a great respect and a maternal love for this place, a place at the centre of all I do and am. I don’t want to use the word ‘environment’ to describe the mountains here even though that clearly and technically is what it is because I feel that word has become tainted with politics and what I feel is beyond political stripes, beyond the ‘it’ and ‘me’.

The Blue Mountains pulls people like me (I think) because of this powerful longing for connection, for family, for one-ness.  Again, conscious of becoming too ‘hippy trippy’ (although I feel there is nothing inherently wrong with that)  it’s as if we have come home and just like when we are in our worldly homes we have our responsibilities and duty of care. We must remain vigilant and care for this place, we can’t just switch off or brazenly try to capitalise off it in a one-way transactional relationship. It would feel like selling our mother!

So to answer my own question I have come to the belief (at least for now) that the Blue Mountains lifestyle that I talk about (and I understand that not everyone will share the same view)  is centred on the philosophy of connection to land in a way that is deep and emotional.  I see this as a monoculture of sorts, one that, wherever we travelled from, whatever other worldly beliefs we hold pulls us together in our love and respect for the mountains and its role in our life.

And this isn’t just some romantic fling that we indulge ourselves in on high days and holidays. This is serious, this is us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

We are reminded of our environment every spring when the magpies come out and defend themselves from our bike culture.

Are alert to the bush-fire danger that each hot windy, dry day brings and yes, our houses do burn down and many of us have smelt the fear while hosing down our gutters.

Struggle to hear the radio over the clicking of cicada or the ribbit of frogs after a downfall.

Manage our wild, sloped and wooded blocks from wild winds, rain and termites.

Take care to shake out our shoes for Blue Mountains funnel-web.

Shoo lizards out of our lounge rooms

Watch water-butts for snakes

And stand in awe at each and every perfect sunrise and sunset over hectares and hectares of trees and bush and wilderness, longing for the next free weekend that we can get out there and camp.

But when I hear mention of ‘our unique lifestyle’ I want to say no, our lifestyle is not unique, Australia’s first people have been trying to model this way to us for as long as ‘we’ set foot in this country well, at least as far as I can gather not being an expert in these things.

However,  unique or not we are distinct. We are not like Penrith or St Mary’s or Blacktown or Castle Hill or Newtown or Marrickville or Glebe or Windsor.  These places have their own cultural identity, their own brand if you like!  Why try to mould us, make us something we are not?

People don’t just come here to live IN the Blue Mountains, they live here and BECOME the Blue Mountains and to let the Blue Mountains run through their veins. That feeling is contagious and is part of what draws in tourists from all over the world.  Tourists that take a bit of that connection and identity home with them in the art, music, photography and hand-made products they invest their dollars in.

To put it in neoliberal terms our lifestyle is valuable, has value and should be invested in, protected,  developed, marketed.  And it is but in a world obsessed by sound-bites and instant-gratification we simply cannot sell this enough.

So that’s the conclusion I’ve come to.

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Yes we do have a lifestyle.

Yes that lifestyle is unique in terms of the Sydney and surrounds suburbs.

But that lifestyle is rooted in a deep human calling of the wild.

What we feel up here is timeless.

Infinite.

And sadly that feeling is becoming quite rare.

And time is running out.

If A Tree Falls in the Forest & doesn’t end up on an accountants balance sheet as ‘timber’ was its life worth anything?

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Think about it.

That is how we account for nature.

There is nowhere on our current balance sheets to reflect the value of a living tree.

But would giving a living tree a value make it any more precious?

Or would we just fight over who owns it?

And then boast about how many trees we own?

Would we covet them to death?

Would they go in and out of fashion?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that I dream about a future where the trees can just be trees

and where people like me can breathe

Slowly

and

Deeply.

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And one by one the Republicans distance themselves from Trump…..

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Oh come on people

Don’t you see?

His brash credentiality

Was displayed nightly on TV

So where were you?

Don’t blame a lack of education for this stew!

 

So now you’re outraged

Running scared

‘Cause your constituents have heard

You put your hand up

Loved the fame

But now you’re not game?

Don’t want associations with Trump besides your name?

 

Well too late Mr.

You got stuck

And you’re running out of luck

So when that unemployment truck

Calls after you

You’ll have to stand up

‘cause there’s nothing left for you to do!

 

And so the moral of it all

Is principled action stops a fall

You might stand-alone but you’ll stand tall

And be glad you did

But you didn’t want to stand up

Did you kid?

 

So come on people

Can’t we see

This ‘ain’t reality TV

We can’t sit back and say ‘not me’

‘Cause that’s not true.

You want that unemployment truck coming for you?

 

We get the pollies we deserve

When citizens forget to serve

‘cause politics gets on our nerves

Not fun like TV

Would rather fiction than a harsh reality.

Is that you or me?

 

And back to the beginning…….