In Civic with that antler girl

The American tourists at The Bus Interchange said that Canberra City, our funny old funny new Civic, was a bit quiet. Well, maybe. Why do I even begin this post with them? We so often want the outside observer to validate us. I wish them well and that they find something special here, and I know they will. They already found something pretty special when they bumped into the The Walking Tour with a Difference yesterday.

The walking tour continues past McMuck and The Bus Interchange, led by the antler girl on stilts

Walking past McMuck at The Bus Interchange. We all remember waiting here and missing buses and lots more!

I’ve thought about this seeming quietness of Civic often. I’ve also thought about the seeming quietness of Newtown and Kings Cross in Sydney, on the first days when I came back from India. Where are all the people, I thought? Is it after all just about contrasts, our perception of the character of a place.

The top hatted guide is drumming up the next stories from passersby and the walking tour mob. The mimes are ready. BOOM.

The antler girl, bird people, the mimes, and the top hatted guide on the patchwork of life, just outside Centrepoint.

What of the ever present rumble of stories here, their burble and surprise? They are never quiet, wherever we are, even on the moon. There are stories in this peace, this quietness, this loneliness and community, this everyday, the fragments we shape to place us, and that then make a place for us, and the stories we tell each other and to strangers when we are asked or have a chance.

The mimes and the antler girl and our top hatted guide at the end of the walking tour, back where we began at the Canberra Times Fountain

At the end of the walking tour, phew we’re thirsty, and you can see an antler girl in the background too

We looped Civic, starting at the Canberra Times Fountain. (Whoops, I didn’t even know that was its name until yesterday. It’s just that fountain kids jump in when it’s too hot, where we decide to meet, that sprays us on windy days as we walk past with our shopping, that we missed when it was turned off in the drought.) Civic of African dances and nightclubs and fundraising, sprawling sheep and protests, riding the elephant on the carousel, ravaged art and watching drug exchanges, ice-rinks, stolen poems, gelato, remainder bookstores and Gus’ – double shot espresso.

Antler girl's dress is blowing up in the wind, the saxophone player and mimes help tether it

Shadows and breezes, outside Gus’s gathering stories

What do we say? What do we know and remember? For me it was the terror of those art bastards The Doug Anthony Allstars, and hiding behind a pillar so to hear their last gig. I stumbled across them while finishing the Christmas shopping and listened to their golden choir voices – I heard it through the grapevine! Sprinting across town to get to the SECOND movie – to The Blair Witch Project! Chasing a runaway toddler, screaming his name as he careened towards the road. My Civic is chaotic, loud and physical. Schmoozing at Spiegeltent Empire and following the banana pulp volley, chewed and spat and caught from mouth to mouth (then trying it), watching a child’s first experience of characters on a stage and the stillness of his deep response. We all had stories. These are some of mine. There were plenty of others, from the participants of the Walking Tour with a Difference and from passersby. I hope to go on a Walking Tour with a Difference again soon.

Public places are also our private places, our quiet city, our secrets, our stories here. Thanks Changing Places and antler girl.

Spiegeltent Empire! Canberra!

Bubbles

Bubbles

In the Spiegeltent we greeted, kissed, hugged, breathed, stretched, jiggled, wondered, watched, gasped, laughed, screamed, whooped, clapped, stamped, whistled, heard, whispered, listened, whispered, shouted, laughed, screamed, balanced, spun.

Feat to feat

Feat to feat

Love is in the Spiegeltent, surprise, song, mood on mood, romance, friendship, skill, training, we perform ourselves, ourselves lost and found in mirrors.

Roller skates

Roller skates

Our bodies all so close, in the Spiegeltent. We all laugh about Fuuu – uucking! Oh! Fu…u…u..cking … In the Spiegeltent we are strong and together.

Crazy anime circle spin

Crazy anime circle spin

(All the links to ‘Spiegeltent’ are different in this post,leading to different pieces of information. It is a stunning tradition, check it out.) Newcastle – you’re next!

Equal and angles, writing from an Equinox

A road in an island of green in the Pu'u Loa lava fields, The Big Island, Hawaii

A road in an island of green in the Pu’u Loa lava fields, The Big Island, Hawaii

Artists respond. It is their joy, their craft, their life, and for writers in particular, an eternal riddle. And remember, we are all makers and storytellers. How happy that makes me.

Thank you so much writers Melissa, Deborah and Vita for accepting my Invitation to Write. I asked you to write freely in response to the word Equal and the word Angles, for five minutes each.

So readers, now read with the knowledge that this is new, like the slow lava flow of Pu’u Loa, rising up, beginning the processes of layering and creation. It’s raw, it’s hot, it’s wondrous, it is potential and essence all in one.

Melissa

Equal

Is my love equal to yours? I mean the volume of my feelings, do you have the same volume? Calculating mathematically, apart from , I think a cone might be the right formula, with the big end pointing towards you. 1/3 × pi × r2 × h. The tip of the end is somewhere inside me, maybe at the beginning of the universe, or, more likely, connected to a fragment of mitochondria inside me x 1/3. I think you love me 1.7% more than I love you. But on other days, I love you more. Maybe osmosis has something to do with it.

Deborah

Equal

Equal music. Equal time. Equal score.
 Equal – that line where still water meets calm sky. Blue reflecting blue. Where distance means nothing. Above the same as below. A part of the other. All life and death in the same realm, part of the same story, mirroring the other. A small boat appears on the line far away, slowing making its way across the invisible separation. Which side is it on? The top or the bottom? The water a mirror. Which is the sky? Which is the water? For if I stood on my head and looked again from upside down, the image won’t have changed. Blue on blue, and a little boat, coming or going?

Angles

Ok then, I’ll meet you at the corner. The right angle. All things sharp, acute, rigid. We’ll have to then decide which way to go – to turn at 90 deg down the side-street, or keep on going straight up at 180 deg. This is the pointy end of things, where things come to the peak, the way you like it. Just decide and do it is the way you operate, go this way or that, and then it’s done. We will either go together, or you go one way and I go the other. Then we just do it. Logical and practical. All rulers and set squares.
My approach to things is more roundabouts and sweeping roads. Curvy lines. Gentle arcs and slow reveals of what’s ahead. Don’t force me in a direction until I’m ready. Driving around and around until I’ve decided which street to veer off on. Indecisive. The pencil in the compass. Drawing circles. Pirouette. We just operate at different speeds.

Vita

Angles

Eighties shoulder pads taking over my body like an alien invasion but mum says shoulders need to balance hips always. Prefer curves to angles because that’s what I’ve got in abundance. Angles are strict and overbearing like an angular nose yet somehow superior so I bow down to them … keeping something to myself…a silly putty of resentment moulded into an arrow (oh no angles so hard to avoid) to fire it like David against the angles with Goliath stature. Rise beautiful circles.

Equal

When something equals something it’s a good thing. A feelllinggg of mindless satisfaction and control. Like watching reality TV. But man and woman doesn’t equal child and that’s a bad feeling down inside that untouchable place. It is a lie then. And you don’t discover it is until you want it to really, really badly. Like when rain plus plant didn’t equal life and there I was in the dark waiting for rebirth and when I came out the sun was shining and maroon middles had shrunk into yellow flowers petals which dropped down dead. My three-year-old nephew said one plus three equals four and I said bravo. In time he’ll learn disappointment.

The flow continues

So much has been given in this writing. What gifts spring from five minute! So much contained and opened up. I’ve thought so much about love while reading these fragments. Lovers, children, parents, friends, families. And I see the beginnings of stories, poems, other forms of art in these small pieces. But they can also just be. Whatever the writer wishes.

Melissa, Deborah and Vita, when you read this writing what do you find you like, on an intuitive level, what do you respond to, what phrase or thought or sound?
It might even be something about the experience of writing it, rather than what is there. Think about this for your own pieces and each other’s.

It would be great if you put this in the replies to this post. Let’s see what happens. Think about my response as well, which I included in An Invitation to Write – an Update. I don’t want to miss out! Thank you. Merci beaucoup.

(The aerial image above was taken by Dylan Jones. All other images in this blog so far were taken by me.) If you want a nature photography fix you should check out Mt Majura and beyond …

An invitation to write update

By hand

By hand

 

Thanks for the posts I’ve received so far. (At the last Equinox in ‘An invitation to write’I suggested we write in response to the words Equal and Angle.) l will leave your wonderful responses in the wings (ready to be approved comments in WordPress) a little bit longer.

You beautiful writers! You surprise me every time not with your abilities ( because I know you’ve got those) but with your generosity. You  always push me way out there to some new space with  your words. We are so often in awe of each other.

Those of you who know me a little through social media or otherwise may have guessed I’m not physically where I usually am. ( What a strange shape that sentence has, but I quite like its oddness.) I’ve suddenly found extemporising or playing with the words Equal and Angle to be a bit difficult, something I would normally find easy. I have  actually been scared of doing it. Good lesson, Sarah. The simple can become difficult, and the difficult simple. Remember that second one, don’t dwell on the first.

Don’t forget your physical surroundings and habits when asking yourself to be creative. The comfy dozy bed and notebook and pencil, the favourite cafe, the piece of paper on the kitchen table, the trusty computer screen, can all be triggers to making it easier.
They can be big props and reminders that you have written in the past and will in the future and maybe even be able to write now. Also try not to be hard on yourself. So self talk here ) stop it Sarah, it’s ok. It’s OK. You don’t have your usual things to remind you that you can write. Remember those students who have hidden that they can’t do this free association thing on call, but then did it later? It is OK. We learn together and we learn from each other. So here goes.

Equal

equal equal the qwa in my mouth a purse a birdcall I’ve been stuck on equality that difficult concept it’s aspiration it’s holy truth so I return to the sound and remember that this is a different word for a while just a sound I’m talking you round equal equal quill quill sugar free coffee but chemical sweet inside and outside night and day a place where they are equal a time where they are equal give me equal time equal respect equal pay equal work equal space in this place let us all have this don’t look down on me with ice eyes let your thoughts be heard don’t do this to me alone so no one sees and no one believes I remember again oh how could I forget I’m not equal because you can hurt me and you will because you like it and how did this come to be. stop. equal equal your hand clamps my arm and my blood stops pumping because love and hate are equal the same no equal not equal? Should be peaceful and this is not husbands or lovers or children but … people, I don’t know how those that  hurt try to hurt them more because?

Sorry guys. That was what was there.

Angle
Oh a funny one a bit off centre where am I looking I wish I hadn’t started this this way angle angle angels mis spellings spelling tests wanting a full score a right angle a triangulation it’s the canny way to triangulate to obfuscate to strategic ate my elbow my arse anglearium. I wanna atrium. Angle in my brain brain coral. Why do angle eyes appear Mary Queen of Scots.

This was all darker than expected, and I can assure you I’m in a good place at the moment.

And I look back and I think mmmm maybe I could write a story about an Anglearium that needs an atrium, main character – a designer or someone who is just brought in to think about what is possible a developer of sorts – it could be about equality in so many aspects – sounding sci fi – I’m feeling attracted to sci fi at the moment – but never really written it – just a tiny bit – oh I’ve got myself in a mess of trouble how can I possibly write this. Well – I’ll start and guess what? I have already.

 

An invitation to write

An invitation to write
Today at 6.44 am it was the Spring Equinox in the Southern hemisphere. Today night and day are about as even as they can get. And from now each day will continue to get a little longer until the Summer Solstice. I had forgotten that our seasons are made by ‘the tilt of the earth’s axis’, that they all depend on how close we are to The Sun in our journey around her.

I’ve facilitated creative writing in the community and at uni for many years now and I even got a guernsey from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council in 2011 just for doing what I love, so I feel pretty lucky. To honour the support I received from them I planned to try and facilitate creative writing in another way, that is through my blog. And today’s the day, a day of evenness and equalities but also of angles. The perfect day to begin this project.

I’m relatively new to the blogosphere so this is a bit of an experiment. Let’s just see how it develops.

So, I am inviting you to write. What I propose is that every Equinox and Solstice I’ll suggest a prompt or an exercise or a game for you to write with. Think of my suggestions as you will, I develop them intuitively but purposefully. If they lead elsewhere that is fine. The point is to get words on the page. To me that is gold. You’ve started something. So …

EQUAL. Hold this word in your mind for a moment and then play with it in words. Extemporise. Improvise. Don’t stop writing. If nothing comes just write about that eg I don’t know what to write even even even not even unfair etc until more words come. Write for five minutes.

Then do the same thing with ANGLES.

Write for five minutes. Read it over. You might not like all of what what you’ve written, but there will be something, some small thing of interest, something a little special you could develop and work with.

Just write without thinking too much and let one thing lead to another. You can use a keyboard and bash away or be ‘old school’ and use a pen or pencil and paper (I like pencil myself). Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation or even making that much sense. If you’ve written it by hand then type it up. Don’t be tempted to fix it up too much. Then post it in the comments.

I’ll update this post in a couple of days with my response to EQUAL and ANGLES. But don’t be influenced by what I write. Just put down what comes into your mind. I’ll approve the responses which you’ve posted in the comments and they will go public in about three weeks. And I’ll check in with you about it so don’t worry. And we can discuss our raw little pieces of writing and their potential. I’m hoping to get a story out of this exercise, and I’ll write it on-line in later posts so those interested can see its development. (I’m intending to experiment with Carmel Bird’s Dear Writer Revisited in relation to this as well). I’ll leave the post up so anyone can join in at anytime. I’ll sometimes comment and even make suggestions about where the pieces and fragments might go, and you can too. I’m hoping it will be lots of fun.

Old City, New City

Anemone Stone, detail from a building in The Rocks, Sydney, taken at about shin height

Anemone Stone, detail from a building in The Rocks, Sydney, taken at about shin height

Cities are such stimulating places to be. I have lived in old cities like Mumbai (then called Bombay) and Ahmedabad. I’ve toured Old Delhi and New Delhi a number of times (old and new co-existing) and visited the magnificent ‘City of Victory’ Fatepur Sikri, which has only an ‘ephemeral existence.’ And I’m very fond of the old parts of Sydney, as you can see from my photo that begins this post. I grew up in Sydney.

I live in Canberra now. I came here in 1987, and experienced the initial shock of living in a relatively new and designed city, and I’m still here and I love it. I’m smiling as I remember (back around 1983) standing in Connaught Place in New Delhi and feeling transported back to Australia for a moment as I looked around the arches and pilllars and dark corners which so reminded me of Canberra’s Melbourne and Sydney buildings. The only difference in the frame of my view were the red paan stains splattered on the white walls.

I’m looking forward to the coming exhibition Shaping Canberra: the lived experience of a changing landscape, at the School of Art Gallery, 17 September – 19 October 2013, and especially Jenni Kemarre Martiniello and Lea Collins and Mary Hutchinson’s works. Cities are always stimulating, being in them, thinking about them and interpreting them. I’m looking forward to the associated conference too and especially Cathy Hope,       Bethaney Turner and Sandra Burr’s papers on The Interface Between the Urban and the Rural.  I’ll be tweeting about the exhibition and conference @SSTVW.

I want to share a piece of writing on the subject of cities that has been published on-line before, but is now archived. Old City was first published on the ABC’s Pool under one of my pseudonyms – Hebe. It was part of a project called City Nights. I remember my need to be part of this project and the sense of accomplishment I felt as I uploaded my story.  I took the image for this post in The Rocks, which is part of the old city of Sydney, and the story was inspired by that beautiful old suburb, Glebe.

Old City

You stand at the stop light on the corner of St John’s Rd. It’s here you caught twenty dollars with your foot, stamping it down as the bitumen bit your bare sole. You can see it. You ate your luck; calamari and bread, pistachio and lemon gelato, and then drank it with verdicchio from a fish shaped bottle. The lights change and you cross the road. A man opens his coat, his grey cock pokes out. A baby pukes on its mother’s shoulder.

The old city is just the same. Thieves scatter their syringes in the night soil lanes. Keys enter locks on screen doors, on windows, and cars. Deadlocks shoot home. A woman does not let a lover enter her. He only touches her skin, she holds him outside. Barred windows. But some houses are open with parties that flow for years from weekend to weekend, friends and strangers in the front yard, and on the street. A man asks every woman at a party for a screw, figures he’s got a chance. Jesus opens his robe, his heart encased by thorns, in the picture in the hall.

You see yourself catching the bus at night, and walking home in the middle of the road in the street light. A young guy recognised you and offered you a “charge,” bottle outstretched, shifting his cardboard blanket. Bags heavy with old books, you wore second hand clothes, and slept in the front room. At night trucks sped down Bridge Road. You woke to the sweeping feet of the street sleepers, moving on, only a wall between you and them. Tree roots cracked footpaths. Tired gardens were heavy with blooms. You had gravestone sex, brushed away broken glass, the inscription pressed into your back. Pissing burnt as you squatted in the gutter. A poetry reading continued in the background, its best rhythm the clean click of billiards from a back room. You followed storytellers from cafe to cafe, and drank cheap bottomless cups.

Today you stand at the window of a shop that sells the mysticisms of the world, a woman with more than twenty dollars to spend by chance. As you lean against the cool glass of your reflection, the eyes of the girl who wandered the old city, watch you.

 

The Birds

image1-e1377432916384

I saw Hitchcock’s ‘The  Birds’  last weekend at the Electric Palace as part of their Vintage Electric season. It was great to see a Hitchcock classic screened; there is nothing like the full cinema experience, that dark communion with a cinema audience. I glanced across at the uplifted faces aglow with film light, laughed with them in some of the wrong places (sorry Alfred), and relished the frisson of collective terror.

This time around I particularly noticed the soundscape, the caws and flaps overlaying the urban environment in the opening sequence and the birdy mise-en-scene. The optical effects stood up quite well. I was damn scared of those birds. I was terrified. Again. I always wonder how that can be, when I know a film quite well, that the tension and fear and excitement still rise so surely.

I was fascinated by the resemblance of Melanie to Mrs Brenner and the exploration of  mothering and female relationships. Can a guy really only love someone like his mum? Always double- edged (as with any Hitchcock film). If you haven’t seen it I don’t want to reveal who gets pecked to death ( oh my gosh would that happen) but I was interested (apart from the avenging Nature) how carefully and peacefully relationships and desires were worked through. Ex girlfriend of male love interest could talk with potential new girlfriend of male love interest quite frankly, in fact put her up for the night and maybe even lend her a toothbrush. Women vying for maternal roles work it out together albeit motivated by the potential end of human supremacy in their environment. Veronica Cartwright’s (iconic sci fi horror actress) performance as the young Cathy Brenner was spellbinding. (Her sister, Angela Cartwright, plays Brigitta in the Sound of Music, and Penny in the TV show, Lost in Space.)

An added bonus for this viewing was the brief conversation I had with the people behind me about the impending magpie swooping season in Canberra where the poor fellers with enlarged testicles just want to peck your head off. Clack. Clack. For those coming to Floriade from interstate you will understand why the denizens of the City of Circles wear spiky bike helmets and hats with eyes on them. You see groups of schoolchildren running outside of their schools – you’d swear they were in a scene from The Birds.

I also spied a family dressed in 1950s splendour. The man wore a green suit with green hat. (I hope he took his hat off in the cinema as we all know men’s hats should not be worn inside) and the woman wore a pill box hat and long silken jacket. The girl was berugged in a stylish poncho ( maybe not so 50s but still looked great) and I believe patent leather shoes.  I wonder if this family live their lives like this or if they dressed up for the movies?

Anyway, if you haven’t seen The Birds get it out or download it. Even better see if you can find it screening somewhere.

I’m so looking forward to Electric Palaces screening of Alien, my all time make me feel better movie. I just love watching Ripley’s professionalism and work ethic as those around her fail. For those in Canberra it is on at 3 pm on 15th September. In weeks to come they are showing Singin’ in the Rain, North by North West, Rear Window,  Gone with the Wind and Breakfast at Tiffany’ s. I’ll be getting out my long cigarette holder. (I wonder if they’ll let me smoke inside. 😉 Probably not.)

Through the barrier of time

The Travelator, beneath Sydney

The Travelator, beneath Sydney

Originally this blog was about time and was called ‘this five minutes’. I wanted to capture peak moments, moments of acute emotion and observation, and I wanted to enjoy and share them through words. I tethered them in time and place, tying them to numbers on a clock and names on a map, and to markers of realities.

But even five minutes can be too unruly (it really can) and the Blog shuddered and quaked and quickly slipped into a chrono-synclastic infundibulum.

I blame WordPress. They should have built stronger sites.

The Blog tells me she saw The Sky Whale in there. (The Sky Whale had advice, but Blog won’t tell me what it was.) I pulled Blog out of the chrono-synclastic infundibulum and calmed her down. So I settled for a less flighty Blog about reading, writing, place AND time. That’s okay. Time has stopped winging away in all directions and has a few more friends to talk to, I hope. We’ll see how they get on.

I’ve been rereading quite a bit lately. (Don’t you love words that begin with ‘re’)? It’s like travelling into the past. (Calm down Blog, calm down.) I hope to be sharing some reading experiences here very soon, and some writing experiences. Looking forward to it. In the meantime I hope you enjoy this credit sequence from It’s About Time. (I pinched a phrase from the song for the title of this post.)

Wretched. 11.24pm, 16 February, 2012.

Canberra Hospital

The slouching sack drips, drips and drips, quenching her shaken body.  Skilful livid puncture. Needle knife. Metal and vein. My eyes crave the sight of the wound again, but it is taped fast. Drip and drip. Re-hy-dr-ation. Stillness stiller here behind the curtain, after after after the heaving waiting room – Emergency  (too full too slow) – the weary night clinic (she’s not responding, we’ll write a letter) – Emergency at last reading us, running us down the hall. Drip and drip this sack of saline and us, waiting – the healing sleep, dry lips dark scooped eyes and time so urgent slowing on the clock face as the story of this night becomes a story (less terrifying)  in this moment.  I think of the glow of the lights on the edge of another town and her mother driving to us, still far away, but nearer – she and her sister will be here before morning.

Venus on Northbourne Avenue, 1.32 pm, 24 January, 2012.

A woman walking through the trees, her skin flashing naked, dappled. Was she in her swimming costume, I thought, and just walking to the pool the long way? I slowed in my car. No-one else on the road. No-one else walking. Her nudity was confirmed by the tucked line of her buttocks. She was either pregnant or big, filled with a child, or just full. She was a madwoman or Venus. Or maybe I am, seeing such things. She seemed happy, seemed to just be going for a walk, not wanting help, or distressed. I wished her a good journey and drove on.