Internet outage

Between going to bed and waking, my internet decided not to work. I don’t use a smart phone. My old phone is prepaid and doesn’t internet. So I am accessing my neighbour’s wifi with permission, while sitting in the gentle rain. Just letting you know that I won’t be around much until it’s fixed. Don’t anyone hold your breath.

I’ve reported it to the provider via email. Ha. Their website doesn’t offer online chat or the ability to report without enduring some sort of Ethernet cable olympics that I can neither print nor participate in from here. Have received a robot reply – yay!

I’m ok. I have everything I need except internet. I grew up just fine without it, so have some alternatives up my sleeve and in the cupboards. And I’ll sit here again from time to time.

Waving, feeling amused. Take good care of yourselves.

Like a dick pic that runs out of the room

How’s that for click bait (or aversion therapy)? Read on, or not. I understand. Obvious CW apply.

My mate and I were sharing sexual awakening stories, as ya do. Well, I don’t, usually, and I felt vaguely horrified and mentally exposed. I kept saying, but do you want to hear the most disgusting part? Knowing full well that he is germ phobic these days, despite (or perhaps because of) all the revolting things he got up to as a lad. I kept looking over at his screwed up face and laughing, then telling him more, and feeling exactly the way his face looked.

Finally I couldn’t take it any more, and we changed the subject. Relief all round. Talked about food instead. And that bloomin’ virus, as ya do.

The first penis I saw was at a neighbour’s house, when my now-deceased friend jumped out of the wardrobe, dropped the towel from his waist and waved everything at me, before running away. We were around nine years old and I had never experienced such a bewildering performance before. I couldn’t grasp his motivation, let alone what he expected of me. But I was there to play, so I found someone else to play with and we never spoke of it.

When I heard of his death, this was the first thing I remembered, and I didn’t tell a soul. It was him to a T, but I tried to come up with something more dignified to share in the memory book. There was the time we crawled around together on the lawn, pretending to be cows, grazing the grass. The time he told me my house had burned down in the bushfires, during lunch break at school (it hadn’t). Beyond that I had nothing, so said nothing, while the memory of his penis exposure played on a loop, like a dick pic that runs out of the room.

That’s not what I was telling my mate about though. Oh no. Those stories are not being told again. And I don’t want to give him more ideas for ways to make me laugh during tv commercial breaks. But I took your mind off current events for a minute or two, hey? Distraction’s a useful tool. As was my now-deceased friend, it has to be said. RIP, you ratbag.

Insects and other garden pals

I’ve just spent a contented half hour watching insects in my tiny garden. It’s a very warm autumn day. The sun still has bite and I’ve not checked today’s UV level, so I carefully balanced my need for Vitamin D with my need to keep the insect-watching brief.

First there was a pair of larger orange-brown butterflies feeding on buddleia flowers – Australian Painted Ladies, perhaps. I watched them sip, then fly a lap of the yard before returning to the same flowers. One would move, then the other move to join it. Do butterflies always travel in pairs? I realised I don’t know much about these things. A small blue-grey butterfly danced around the geraniums and paper daisies without stopping.

Honeybees were everywhere, man. In the lemon verbena, the marjoram, the catnip, lavender, and almost anything else with flowers (not the geraniums). I stood and listened to their hum for a while, then checked that none had been taken by resident spiders or praying mantis. Not yet. The mantis that hunts on the letterbox was absent, and I watched a tiny fly with a metallic blue abdomen there instead. Couldn’t work out what it was doing – perhaps tasting something on the paintwork?

Now I’m getting lost in my need to identify species. I’m not getting much satisfaction either, having mislaid my favourite ID book and useful websites. I want to know the names of all the flies, the native bees, the damselflies, butterflies, and spiders. I am astonished by both the abundance and diversity of small creatures in my garden today. Are they there every day, or only when it’s clear and sunny? And if the “as above, so below” adage is correct, I wonder about the soil life.

Standing out there in the sun, I recalled the graphite drawings I did for my organic horticulture course, back in 1997. Hooly dooly, that seems so long ago now. I still have the records somewhere. I refused to kill and stick pins in anything, so spent a lot of time looking for dead things and perusing illustrated reference books. The act of drawing made me pay more attention, anyway. In my landscape design studies I focussed on wildlife-attracting species, which often emphasised indigenous plants for obvious reasons. That info is also here, somewhere. I used to be more organised than this, dagnabbit. I need to keep better records and plant more of what works.

Last year I planted native and exotic daisy species, with all my gardening pals in mind. Daisies are so diverse! The bold colours satisfied my human neighbours, and daisies attract all kinds of beneficial insects. I just watched a hoverfly move clockwise around the centre of one flower, feeding, for instance. I count on hoverflies to keep aphids under control. I sow mustard seed to attract clouds of them each spring. I planted tansy near the apple trees, and regret placing one beside the path, because their scent is anything but attractive. Not as off-putting as carob flowers, but bad enough. The yarrow is doing well, further out in the sunlight. Both yarrow and tansy are also great compost additives.

And now I’m just rambling, needing lunch. I have photos. Will I get myself organised enough to share them? Perhaps another day. I hope so. Sharing such things makes me happy. Paying attention to gardening coworkers and making them happy has delightful ripple effects.

Today’s dust bunnies

My newly discovered comfort zone has become a springboard. It reminds me of attachment theory – a stable centre from which to venture.

Each day a new, moderately scary event with moderately predictable rewards. Each day a flurry of words and insight. Delight. Followed, predictably, by a slurry of self doubt and residual pleasure.

Today, more pleasure than self-doubt. Even the confusion is colourful, sun-kissed. Hopeful.

This sounds more like haiku than prose, more puzzle than even poetry presents to me. Perhaps I have exceeded my daily word allocation and these are the reclaimed. I should eat. I write differently when fed.

Cricket chorus outside the window. Cat curled beside my knee. Life is warm and loud and good.

Happy Vegemites Outside

I stripped one apple tree of its squat green produce after a rat munched one fruit. It’s the best crop I’ve had from this tree in ten years. Thinned the Pink Lady’s crop next, as I’d neglected to earlier. Another couple of months and they’ll be sweet.

The peaches are all for the fruit bats this year – my payment for the pleasure I derive in their very existence. The cat and I watch from the front door or the other side of the living room glass. I sit in silence, in the dark, waiting for the flap, flap, flap, crash. The squabbling. Their silhouettes.

The other day I told a friend that Summer had remained Praying Mantis free, a sad state of affairs. Then barely 30 minutes later I encountered one inside, striding in slow motion across an art portfolio. I approached slowly, not wanting to frighten, and gently relocated it to a shrub of the same green hue beside the letterbox. There it immediately, meticulously cleaned each leg and its face, as if to say that removing my beastly human smell was top priority. Still cleaning when I returned with the camera.

And today my companion and I walked to the river. I was drawn by the rich scent of hemlock, fennel and eucalyptus, heavy in the humid air. As we navigated the winding path, my pal made a startled noise and pointed to a blue tongue lizard, motionless in the grass. We squatted to take a closer look. I’d only ever seen dead ones in this area, and live snakes, so I was thrilled. And then a few steps further was a pregnant lizard. Her colouring was more brown than the steely grey of her friend. We couldn’t recall whether they laid eggs or gave birth to live young, so made a mental note to look it up later. (Live young.)

Icing on the proverbial was finding a tiny mushroom of a species that’s on the Fungimap list. Day. Complete.

Bushfires (I’m safe)

I’ve chosen a water picture to counteract the effects of horrifying bushfire imagery.

It’s probably human nature to relate news to your own situation, your own history. That’s what I tell myself when I catch myself remembering Black Saturday (2009) while watching the news. And when I have any experiences related to towns mentioned, I think about those.

I’m safe. I keep telling myself that as I hyperventilate in this smoky air. I’m not prone to asthma. I am not in the path of any fire. I’m simply breathing the smoke and panicking for no reason. Hence the headphones playing slow music, the mug of calming herbal tea, and the words on this screen. I’m safe.

I can’t comprehend the size of these fires. They’re beyond anything I’ve ever seen before. My mind keeps going blank whenever I sit to write. Horrified by the loss of human and wildlife habitats, and the loss of life. Empathising with the terror.

I want to be useful. Authorities have stated that the most useful donations at this time are cash, rather than food or clothing. They no longer have staff available to organise warehouses of goods. It diverts people from actively fighting the fires. Money on the other hand is easier to manage. It also makes it possible for people to support local businesses.

So here are links to some fundraising organisations. There are many others.

Humans:

Australian Red Cross Disaster Recovery and Relief

NSW Rural Fire Service

Victorian Bushfire Appeal

Pets and wildlife:

RSPCA Victoria – again, donations of money, not goods, are needed.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital

WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service)

Click here to see what else you can do to help animals.

Heartfelt thanks to firefighters and support crew and wildlife carers and truckies. Shout out to Ash Barty and Courtney Barnett and Celeste Barber and everyone else who has donated and fundraised and generally boosted morale.

Feel free to add other links in the comments.

On bees and gentrification

Prompted by a glowing review here on WordPress, I borrowed a YA book from the library. It was about queer Black characters and it had bees in it. Colour me intrigued. 

Turns out it was a love letter to Black women and to standing up for your right to exist. It mentioned systemic oppression a few times and spelled it out for those who may not have heard of it.

I wish more psychologists had heard of systemic oppression. Just saying. 

Now I want to write a love letter to the author, Candice Montgomery. Even as I critiqued her characters, the pacing, the sidebars, and other things I had no right critiquing, I was in awe of this book.

My grandfather kept bees. He loved them and I’m just sorry that he lost his brain to alcohol-related dementia before he was able to teach us about them. All I have are a few photographs and memories of us in the backyard with the hive, the smoker and the space suit.

During a 1990s conservation training course, a friend of the leader offered to take a friend and I into the hills to see how his hives worked. We had a great time. He wasn’t a great teacher and afterwards thought we weren’t even interested, but I often think about that day. I read up on bees and fantasise of my own hives. It hasn’t come to anything yet. It will, though, once I get over my own hesitations.

This book, though. Wow. For me it is almost two books. The romance and the politics. For the entire first half, I felt like my brain was being pinballed around the room by the protagonist’s chaotic thoughts. They were there (in a new location) but not there. They couldn’t wait to leave home, but their thoughts were constantly drawn back. They had a decision to make and not enough support or information to make it. Initially, at least.

This was the point at which I searched for the blog that had led me to this book. Don’t think I even found it again, but I did find multiple other bloggers who were in love with the book. I admired each post and moved on to the next, only stopping when I found someone else who hadn’t really felt the emotional connection between this main character and the bees. 

Apart from the youthful language and unfamiliar Black cultural references and the chaotic internal life, this was the crux of my confusion – the bees. I was reading in order to be stretched, so stretching I was, but remained confused about these bees. I wanted to feel it. I wanted to love and care for those bees right alongside him. 

Realising now that I’ve been using ‘they/them’ pronouns out of habit, right up until that ‘him’. So yeah, the main character is 18-year old Torrey, a gay Black guy from an LA neighbourhood he’s happy to leave. Or is it his home life that he wants to leave?

You know I’m white and Australian, so although popular media here in Australia is liberally doused with USA culture, I don’t really have the background knowledge to join the dots with a lot of this story. And that’s ok, because it’s not written for me. I have to work for it and I respect the author even more for not making these concessions.

Is this a weird thing for me to say? I don’t know. Despite consuming Indigenous Australian TV shows such as Redfern Now, and every Indigenous and ‘multicultural’ movie I can get my hands on, I still know pitifully little about current realities.

I’ve been forced out of other locations due to gentrification. And I’m all too aware of my current predominately white and gentrified-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness neighbourhood. I mean how many hairdressers, gift shops and cafes do we really need? Our only grocer is small and targeted at hipsters, which is a PITA for a poor and frugal agoraphobe who wants to support small businesses. When this book’s characters spoke of gentrification, all I could think of is how this used to be a working class neighbourhood with shops that provided life’s basic necessities. And that’s only recent history, since white invasion. I’ve no idea what it looked like prior to 1850 or so.

The story also got me reflecting on the role of protest and politics in my own life. About how much I used to learn from turning up to protests and listening to people, back before the internet. Apart from community radio and books and magazines, this was how I learned. Ok, I travelled around Australia and across the ditch, but mostly met other white people. Hmm. Apart from that one remote Aboriginal community in WA, and a few Marae, I’ve not felt ‘other’ in a racial sense. Gender, yes. Class, yes. Not race. I can listen to others, but don’t have that visceral knowledge.

So yeah, it got me thinking about all sorts. And I finally understood the significance of those bees in his life. But mostly I was in awe of Candice Montgomery’s writing and of her ability to weave multiple (bulky) threads into a YA novel. It could so easily have been enough material for at least two. And I still have so much to learn.

Oh, and the friendships! So much love in those friendships! Not to mention the boyfriend. 😉

Thank you to all who recommended BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY, by Candice Montgomery. Brilliant.