Monthly Archives: July 2022

Invisibility and visibility 2022 #31

The first time I heard Archie Roach was in 1990, on his first CD, Charcoal Lane. I had known about his song Took the Children Away but I hadn’t listened to it until it came out on CD. He had performed it for the first time a couple of years earlier. The album was on high rotation, and we all got to learn the songs, and along with Paul Kelly, it was one of the soundtracks to the 90s in our home.

Archie was a truth teller – he was talking about the Stolen Generation, domestic violence, suicide in communities long before many others. He had his own demons and trauma. His music helped heal others and shone a light for others to find their way.

I must have seen him in concert a dozen times on small and big stages. His final Womadelaide appearance was very special, we all knew were saying good bye to each other. None of us wanted the moment to end. We let the final notes and the echo of the applause hang in the air.

His death on the weekend of Garma Festival has its own kind of symmetry. I remember years ago, him calling on Tony Abbott the then Prime Minister, to end the Northern Territory intervention. This weekend Anthony Albanese, our current Prime Minister added his voice to the death of this legend, in a tweet saying, Our country has lost a brilliant talent, a powerful and prolific national truth teller. Telling the truth is at the heart of this moment in our journey as a nation.

We have a big year ahead as we make visible the truth of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. We can rise to the occasion and as a nation pass a referendum not just to right wrongs, but to go to the next level as a nation.  I am optimistic it will be a referendum that everyone will be able to embrace, and passing it will be a moment of national healing, hope, pride and promise.

Archie made visible the pain and ache of the Stolen Generations and translated the personal experience which opened our hearts and taught those of us who had no idea about this awful practice.  When the Bringing them Home Human Rights Commission report was released in 1997, his famous song was already nearly a decade old. That report still has recommendations that are yet to be implemented and going back even further the Deaths in Custody Royal commission in 1987 has more recommendations not acted on, than actioned. Invisible recommendations waiting to be made visible.

There is so much unfinished business, so many gaps to close.

We are in a season of truth-telling and listening to Archie’s songs will help hold us through this season.  

Voice Treaty Truth

Vale Archie Roach

Rest in power

Sunset concert Womadelaide 2021

Invisibility and Visibility 2022 #30

I got an attack of the giggles over dinner with friends this week over the mispronunciation of a meal that had entertained me from childhood. The simplicity of a memory in another place, a completely different set of circumstances gave me great heart. The hidden  and invisible stories we all hold that sneak out in such moments are such a gift and invitation to discover or in this case, re-discover a lost joy.

Memories are powerful tools and weapons to hold us in place and take us to new horizons. The trick I find at play is to not get caught into sentimentality or melancholy. So the gooey warmth of a forgotten cheery moment holds a lot of comfort.

I am currently running for a public office and reconnecting with parts of my past lives in the process. One of the activities I am doing is a weekly photo on a social media platform entitling it #ThrowbackThursday.  I am getting more interest and commentary on these pictures than almost any other thing I am doing. People seem to be enjoying discovering something they didn’t know about me, or getting a glimpse into another part of my story.  There is a mixture of intrigue and intimacy in the responses. 

I have also enjoyed campaigning. I love the focussed project nature of it and the clarity of the result – someone will win and everyone else will lose. I try to reframe this competitive perspective – I feel like I have already won, by getting up and having a go. I am also coming off a strong base and deep roots decades in the making and long before a couple of my opponents were even born. I am not being ageist and I am supporting young candidates, but I do have the years on them, and it is a-kind-of, unfair advantage.  The invisibility of my story peeking out through old photographs, is just one way in which herstory can come through bringing a version of what’s gone before. As the curator I get to choose which pictures go with what weeks.  

As I have written previously, so many of the photos I have been sorting through don’t have me anywhere to be seen, as I am behind the camera. I am learning how to take reasonable ‘selfies’ now which is going someway to rectify the problem going forward. The looking out into the eyes of others versus looking into your own eyes and seeing yourself I am beginning to appreciate as a portal to introspection. The ‘selfie’ also has endless capacity to eek out  a giggle. Selfies are also in the business of making memories.  A lovely combination for the invisible and visible worlds to collide through giggles and digital mirrors.

Being in front of the camera, certainly makes for a different perspective.

Selfie taken in my bathroom before I headed off to a friends 60th birthday.

Invisibility and Visibility 2022 #29

The signal on the outside are bells ringing in the foyer, on the inside the lights go down and we know something extraordinary is about to happen.  What has been invisible is about to become visible. We know to get ready; our preparedness will be rewarded with the strike of a chord and our senses are called to attention the relationship between the performers and the audience has been consummated. 

I love live music. I deeply appreciate the thousands of hours of effort to get into a place to be able to walk on stage, the hundreds of people involved to enable this feat to take place and the community of support required to make it happen. It is so instructional to me. The over night success twenty years in the making or the random gift of a proud Mum leaving a message on Instagram that enables a 15year old to take the stage. The generosity and grace of seasoned performers is always on show by the ones who really know and embrace the privilege.

It is not just on the stage though that we can see this phenomenon. Earlier in the day I had been at my grandson’s seventh birthday where hours and hours of effort into making treats and games and a complicated Dragon pinata were on display and fully embraced by the young guests. Setting the scene for each activity requiring clarity about what was about to happen, how to fully prepare, participate, and bring your own appreciation to the moment. Between the tuile of princesses and masks of Minecraft characters, there were sugar fuelled squeals of delight, not too different to the audience at Thebarton Theatre later in the evening. The human experience of gathering to celebrate, appreciate, play being universal and not bound by age. The concert’s theme was Child in Reverse and it seemed a fitting bookend to the day.

There are a lot of stops and starts going on with COVID interruptus at the moment. Things not quite landing, work arounds, re-scheduling, disappointing-not-quite-right-a-bit-annoying is what we are all experiencing. Being a lifelong improviser, I do not mind the challenge of living inside these beautiful constraints, yet I see my social media feed full of unhappy travellers stranded or not quite arriving the way they want too in the school holidays.

These moments are offering up the opportunity to just stop, pause and start again. I loved how the singing pair last night in the concert, did just that, a tiny error, a wayward word, was the cause. And then with good humour, professionalism and absolute precision, they picked up where they had left off. I appreciated the lesson in front of a packed half-masked up auditorium. 

We all have times when things do not go our way, it doesn’t mean we can’t adapt. It is an invitation, a big wide invitation, to see what we can make of the moment.  When the seven-year-olds were waiting in anticipation their turn in pass-the-parcel and the music didn’t quite stop when the rotating gift arrived to their expectant hands and lap, some lingered with their hold, others passed it like a hot potato to keep it moving while others wistfully watched it go past with longing in their eyes. 

Not all our expectations will be realised, is a lesson learnt early, and often.  We always have a choice to pick up where we left off and draw on our invisible experience and strength to keep the show going.  We are never alone, entire battalions of people have enabled all of us to get to that point, they maybe invisible to us in the moment, but they have been there and getting up again is a way of honouring all the effort that has gone before to enable us to be ready and available to accept the invitation when it arrives.

Thebarton Theatre 16 July 2022

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #28

You could make out the eyes closed on the surface, and the outline of the head, in the dark, that is all that was visible, but we could all tell that underneath was the body that belonged to that head, an ancient alligator. The zoo after dark was alive and crawling with plenty of human life in all shapes, sizes, and hues and many of the taller ones were holding onto to the hands of smaller ones to keep their micro community together and not lost among the crowds. There was one called Toby though that had taken his own journey and his grown up was yelling his name, a call into the night that was not yielding his appearance into her sight. All the while, the alligator did not bat an eyelid.

We tell ourselves all kinds of stories about where we are safe, where we hide, where we can be found, where we can hide. I have found that in crowds and in the dark holding onto someone’s hand is always a good idea.

I have held onto lots of little people’s hands over my lifetime and it still comforts me. I feel safer with this added responsibility. I feel braver. I feel protective. I do not remember the last time I held a grown-up’s hand and I notice how much I miss that experience, the simplicity of the touch. COVID has certainly been a barrier to that experience and of course my single status for nearly five years is the primary reason.

One hand I have had extended to me in this period, was at Kwartatuma Ormiston Gorge, Northern Territory, as I navigated the last of a long walk and had to cross a river and the water was above my waist and the rocks underneath slippery and not completely visible and a complete stranger offered his hand to steady me to take the steps I needed safely. He was very reluctant to offer his hand, but my vulnerability was indisputable, and he felt obliged to reach out. I still stumbled and fell. I was worried I was going to pull him in as well. He reached out again with more confidence, and I made it to the over side.

Holding hands is a signal to the crowd about who is connected to who and all that skin to skin contact and intertwining of fingers, making visible intimacy and possibility the power dynamics of the relationship. Close to roads my hand grips more tightly around the hand of my grandson. I watch others around me use their grip to confirm their ‘top dog’ status.

The simple act of hand holding makes visible love, fear, attachment, influence, control. Steering the direction of travel by the dominant hand holder might be a mutual decision of play or coercion. We all know what that feels like to pull towards and pull away from our intended course and allow ourselves to be led by the hand. It is sometimes a fine line between the squeals of delight and groans of reluctance by the person being led.

Then there are times we are like the invisible Toby, where we break away, go on our own adventure, and scare the daylights out of the one whose hand we were holding. Where we take off in a direction that no one else can see through the woods, or the crowd, or the density of feelings and fog. Where we set our own course and find ourselves perhaps out of our depth, looking for a hand to haul us out, or just find a place to hide in the shadows for a while not to be found and to have some respite from the crowd.

However we hold hands, the simplicity of this act helps us belong to each other. I will never tire from the comfort of holding the hand of a child, and all the more joy when that hand reaches out to me to be held, the visible invitation and trust offered in that gesture always, always warms my heart.

2018 Sellicks Hill

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #27

In my garden, there is a self-sewn tomato plant that is heavy with fruit, green tom thumbs highly unlikely to ripen red on the vine as it is the middle of winter. It doesn’t look out of sorts, it is healthy, strong, with plenty of flowers and leaves, and there are a range of pollinators who seem to still be visiting as well.

This plant, out of place, out of time, but not out of sight, is my teacher this week. The temperatures are cool and getting cooler so I don’t see the fruit going red any time soon, so I may pluck them from the vine and get them to ripen inside … but I am not sure about that yet. And green tomatoes can still be harvested and eaten in all kinds of ways. Tomato chutney might be beckoning, and I keep remembering scenes from that extraordinary movie starring Kathy Bates, Fried Green Tomatoes.  The green tomatoes remind me that every one of us has a place to bloom and fruit and it does not have to be in keeping with the seasons. Times are changing.

Brushing against the leaves to stake up this out of season climber, releases that aroma that makes me think it is summer and harvest time. I have hung onto this smell and am treating the plant as a reminder that it is harvest time in my life. I am in a season of bringing together all I know about community and public service, about entrepreneurship and innovation, about gender and racial justice, about measurement and meaning.

This season might be short compared to other seasons in my life like motherhood, or daughterhood, but it is definitely a season. This season, like all others has its own light, temperature and weather pattern.  There is an afternoon glow, not unlike a Hans Heysen painting or a set of Colin Thiele paragraphs from Sun on the Stubble. This glow is soft, golden, lingering and close to the ground. The temperature is cool, but not so cold, that fruit will stop appearing on the vine, and actually fruiting in clusters and making themselves visible amongst the leaves. The weather is a mixture of storms, squally rain and bursts of glorious sunshine with rays occasionally creating rainbow smudges in the sky. I am not under estimating the task of ripening that might need to take place by being cut away from the vine.

As my campaign starts to take shape, I had one elected member ask me how come everyone seemed to know me? I was thrilled with this feedback and felt like some old networks had kicked back in and were starting to be visible. Another elected member mansplained something to me and a few other potential councillors to demonstrate perhaps his prowess and what it means to him to be an elected councillor. Again, I took this as a compliment as he clearly felt the need to assert authority, mark his territory, in what was an un-conversation. 

An un-conversation, is my new way of describing people who have something to say so they can be hear themselves into speech for their own audiences. It is not a dialogue, it is more like a soliloquy, and I am unwilling to be in the audience. An un-conversation requires a response that is completely off topic and take into another realm. Perhaps you were hearing about dalmatians, when you took the conversation to another place and another time completely disconnected from dalmatians? 

Try a topic that builds into your agenda if nothing else you can at least practice talking about it! Just like the tomatoes they are doing their own thing and not taking any notice of what the universe might be saying is the season.

Whatever invisible natural power source that is enabling the tomato plant to thrive and bear fruit is surely not too far away from the drive and energy that I am experiencing as I stand firm, rooted in my own story, able to branch out, be fertile, attract collaborators to pollinate and help flowers turn into fruit and maybe transform into something quite tasty, unexpected and irresistible.  

What is hidden in the soil that enabled this plant to take shape, cannot be under estimated. As any grower and farmer knows, everything starts with the soil.

Good soil is full of nutrients, knows how to hold water and how to let the water flow and drain away. The soil is invisible and indispensable. What turns up above ground is visible and thriving.

Thank you to the chooks who pooped on the soil that must have had a tomato seed stored, ready to unleash on an unsuspecting garden and deliver something quite fresh and unseasonal.

I love my lessons from the garden.