Thursday, December 29, 2011

Team Canada

For the past week the Onemilebridge guest wing has been occupied by a Canadian family, friends of ours who have stayed with us several times before.  Before they arrived, the youngest member requested a regional specialty that he remembered from his last visit: frog in the pond. This delicacy consists of a chocolate frog set in a bowl of green jelly (or as he calls it, jello). We, of course, obliged, and he informed us it was every bit as good as he remembered. Phew!

I guess that was a taste of things to come and their visit seems to have centred largely on food: sitting around the table, eating too much, talking and laughing. 

We have explored coffee shops,

and picked sour cherries. 

We spent a sticky afternoon pitting the cherries, which I then made into sour cherry jam. 

Readers of this blog may remember this is my all time favourite jam, with its sweet taste undercut by sour. Yum!

Christmas morning we exchanged small gifts.

Instead of a cloth I dressed the table with butchers paper, which the children decorated while the meal was cooking.

After lunch we drove to Alum Cliffs to admire Mother Nature's Christmas decorations. She didn't let us down.

One day we called in at Habitat Plants to have morning tea on our friends Herbert and Sally's new deck.

Mark found time to paint a little.

But the highlight probably has been a visit to our friends, Iris and James, to meet two wombats they are caring for. 

Bindi is only four months old, still on four feeds a day, still living inside the house. She was orphaned when her mother was run over and killed by a motorist.

Ben is a little over a year old now. he'll be coming to Onemilebridge at the end of the summer. As you can see he's getting to be quite a big boy.

Our guests are on their way down to Hobart now. They'll be back here next week for the last few days of their time in Tasmania.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Memories Are Made of This

My dad grew up on a farm in the wheat belt of Western Australia. A long time ago he moved east to Melbourne, and then gradually so did four of his five sisters. His four brothers stayed in the west.

Every summer of my childhood, my parents, my brothers and I flew across the continent to visit Dad’s family. I learnt to swim in Rockingham, a beach suburb just south of Perth, where the whole tribe went each year. Those holiday weeks are amongst my strongest memories: the heat of the sand under my tender city feet, the glittering scales of the fish that my uncles gutted and cleaned on the back porch, the sweetness of the corn that the aunts shucked and simmered in huge pots for lunch, the sound of the mandolin and the slap of cards in the evenings, the deck chairs of the open air cinema, the carnival that came alive at dusk with merry-go-round music and ornaments that I was desperate to win even though I knew they would turn into chalk before the summer was over.

After I married, the visits to WA stopped. We went once as a family for a reunion in Rockingham about 25 years ago, and then I didn’t go again. My uncles are all dead now.

Then this year Daughter Number One and her family took off on a caravan journey around Australia (she has an article about that trip in the current Green Magazine), and in early November she was turning 40. Farmdoc and I promised that wherever she and her family were on her birthday we’d be there to celebrate with them.

They weren’t sure where they would be. Perth looked like being the nearest airport so we booked flights there and, because wherever they were they’d be staying in a caravan park, we booked ourselves a small campervan. 

We flew into Perth, picked up our van and drove to meet them just a little north of the city. We spent two nights there, just long enough for a quick visit to Kings Park and an afternoon in Fremantle – mostly at a small brewery overlooking a giant sand pit and the harbour.

After that we followed Frankie Blue, their old caravan, down to Busselton, where we stayed for the rest of the week.

On Kate’s actual birthday I guest blogged across at Foxs Lane. That was fun. We celebrated the day with a pancake breakfast that Kate made herself, a fancy lunch, a walk along the famous Busselton jetty, and a homemade pizza dinner.

The rest of our time we explored the beaches, towns and vineyards of the Margaret River region. We didn’t do as much walking as we’d hoped because it rained, but we talked and laughed and hugged each other lots. And ate icecream.

Early every morning we were woken by knocking on the door of our van. ‘Who’s there?’ we called. ‘Who could it be?’ When we slid the door open there was four-year-old Pepper, smiling a big proud smile, ready for a snuggle in bed with us. Some mornings her big sisters joined us too.

Now we’re back on the farm and Kate and her family are still exploring the south west corner of Australia, the Nullabor Plain ahead of them on their journey home. The children are making their own memories that they’ll take out years and years from now, to recall the sun glistening off the waves, the fusty smell of a rainy day spent in a closed-up caravan, the sound of their dad’s ukelele and their mother’s rich laugh, the sight of turtles, dolphins, coral reefs and beaches encrusted with millions of shells, as well as the months and months of rituals – jokes repeated, words invented, and friendships made in one park and cemented in others.

Happy birthday, dearest Kate. Thanks for looking after us so well. And for tomorrow, happy eleventh birthday Indigo.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On the move

Farmdoc and I are on the move. Well, not exactly yet, but the decision has been made. Onemilebridge is officially on the market. Note I didn't say, 'for sale,' but used the euphemism, 'on the market'. I guess that expresses my ambivalence about the whole thing.

We've been in Tasmania for about 20 years now, the last nine here in Onemilebridge. We've built up a whole life in Mole Creek - friends who feel like family, community, a landscape that has entrenched itself inside us. We built this house, established a vegetable garden and orchard, fenced paddocks, released wombats, raised generations of goats and sheep.

I've done the best writing of my life here. We've hosted house guests from Tasmania, the mainland and abroad. We've welcomed visitors in good times and in bad. This has been a home with all that implies.

Often when we've driven down the driveway and I've looked across at the majestic Great Western Tiers, I've found myself humming that song from Camelot, 'If ever I would leave you.' Each season we say to each other, 'Oh this is the best time of year here.' When I know I'm returning to the mainland for a length of time, I try hard to fix the beauty of the place in my mind, to keep it there while I'm gone. I'm not sure it really works.

Now I think to myself all the time, we'll never again live in such solitude, silence and beauty. And it's true. It's just a fact.

But the time has come. Farmdoc's cardiac disease has shaken us and now we are moving to live close to family. Very close. A twenty-acre block  that is across the road from Daughter Number One and a short drive (or a long walk) from Daughter Number Two. What we lose in privacy we will gain in closeness to our daughters and their families. We will be able to help them in their lives and be involved with our grandchildren. I will be a train ride from my father; and my brothers and Farmdoc's sister will be able to go for a Sunday drive and drop in for lunch. We have plans for volunteer work in the community and to continue farming on a miniature scale. We'll build a new house modelled on this one.

Onemilebridge now has her own web presence so she can strut her stuff for potential buyers.

It's an exciting time. Really it is. Really...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Museum of old and new

Last Wednesday, Farmdoc and I visited the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Hobart's controversial new art gallery designed by Nonda Katsalidis. I've been dying to go but this was our first visit to Hobart since the museum opened in January.

The whole visit is an experience, from having to walk across a tennis court to get to the entrance, and being greeted at the door and herded into a group to have the O thingies (more about those in a minute) explained and demonstrated.

The building is reputed to have cost over $100 million and is owned by David Walsh, who apparently earned his vast fortune from gambling. Well, better him than the casinos and their rapacious owners, I say.

From the entrance we headed down a staircase  that encircles a glass elevator and plunges down into sandstone cliff. At the bottom of the steps we were met by a bar and a long line of seating that looks like it belongs in someone's formal sitting room. Bewildering, to say the least.

The art. Where to start? There's so much, and it's arranged in apparently no order, all chosen and arranged by Walsh according to his taste and whim. There are also no signs on the walls, not even the names of the work or the artists. You press a button on the O - an mp3 player you are now wearing around your neck - and up come pictures of the art nearest you, complete with details. Pressing further buttons lets you read reviews or explanations of the piece and sometimes there's audio, which you play through head phones. This can be interviews with the artist or just a piece of music to look at the art by.

When I tried to decide what the highlights had been, it felt impossible - it's all highlights. Sydney Nolan's vast Snake; ancient Egyptian tombs; Chris Ofili's controversial The Holy Virgin Mary; work by Damien Hirst, Brett Whitely, Juan Davila, Marina AbrimovicHow do I remember all this? I don't. When I got home I received an email setting out all the works I'd seen, as recorded by my O, and a list of all that I'd missed.

Farmdoc and I spent four hours there, including 30 minutes for coffee and a vegie baguette in the cafe on the top (ground floor) level. It was a little disconcerting to eat the same food we'd seen fed to 'Cloaca' earlier.

'Cloaca' is a room-sized digestive machine by Dutch artist, Wim Delvoye. It turns food that is fed in at one end through a garbage disposal into faeces that are excreted at the other end via a series of large glass containers. I think it has to do with demonstrating the pointlessness of life. We watched the thing being 'fed' at 11.00 but we didn't return at 2.00 for the defecation. I've seen enough poo in my day. I think I'd be more impressed by a machine that can clean it up. Still it is a spectacle.

And that seems to be the point - spectacle. It's art as spectacle, like a rich kid's toy box - the excess leaves you dazzled and dazed. It's Australia's largest private museum and it's stuffed full.

We emerged into the daylight, dizzy with all we'd seen and felt. Amazed, entertained and spat out.

There's no committee that chooses the art - it's all David Walsh's taste - and I felt very aware of that. The individual pieces don't actually have much opportunity to shock or inform. There's too much.

Overall I think it's amazing. The gallery is set in the grounds of the Moorilla Winery on the bank of the Derwent, with lovely views across the river. You can stay there too: there are four quite stunning one- and two-bedroom pavilions. There's an upmarket restaurant and a wine bar as well as the cafe, and beanbags are spread out over a large lawn area, so you can relax with a glass of wine in the fresh air and recover  from your subterranean adventure.

Entry to MONA is free - at least for the moment. There's talk of charging in the future though.

For all my misgivings I'd definitely recommend a visit or three. Hobart's such a pretty city and you can  take a ferry to the gallery, enjoy a day there, and then eat at one of the many restaurants around town in the evening.

Farmdoc and I will be back in Hobart in a couple of months and I'll definitely be returning to MONA. You shouldn't miss it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Race

Brett Hoffmann's not very popular around here at the moment. Or rather he is with me but not with Farmdoc.

I just got hold of Brett's new book - his second thriller involving Australian Wall Street analysts, Stella Sartori and Jack Rogers - and I can't put it down.

'Are you ready?' 
'Did you hear what I said?'   
‘We’re running late.' 
'Can you put that book down for a minute!' 

Well, you get the picture.

About two years ago, when Brett's first book, The Contract, came out, I worried that I wouldn't like it and wouldn't know how to tell him. I was so relieved that I loved it. This time I didn't worry. I knew this novel would be at least as good as its predecessor. I think it's better. 

I was engaged from the first scene, lulled into a state of mellow enchantment by the prose. A postcard photographer is hovering in a helicopter above Nice. 'It wasn't a hot day but the sun had the freedom of the sky...' How lovely, I thought, and then wham! an explosion rocks both me and the book and I was hooked.

That explosion destroys a private jet carrying the heir to the Aretino empire, and in the aftermath of that and other disasters to befall the family and its businesses, the Aretino's bank calls on Stella and Jack to investigate why the family is losing money.

The Aretinos are an ancient Italian family with an ongoing link to the Order of St John and an involvement in Formula One racing.  This is a case that calls for skill and discretion, which makes it ideal for Jack and Stella’s new consultancy. But a series of murders shakes everybody, and Jack and Stella find themselves under surveillance, their own lives now at risk. There is obviously a dangerous conspiracy behind all these events, but they have no idea who’s responsible.

Jack and Stella’s fight to save themselves and discover the truth is told in spare prose, with just the right details chosen to set the scene and portray the characters. The settings and background are all obviously meticulously researched. We are whisked back in time to ancient Malta and then forward to the Grand Prix at Monza.  The book’s not called The Race for nothing!

The story is intricately plotted, with seemingly loose threads picked up and woven back into the story in ways that I for one didn’t see coming.

I could feel my heart thudding as I sped along narrow mountain roads or battled alongside Stella (not that she needed my help!). The ending was unpredictable enough to surprise me but at the same time it felt very satisfying. I was sorry when the book finished but now I’m left wondering about Jack and Stella’s relationship and what they'll get up to next. I know Brett's hard at work on the next novel in the series: The Cure.

The Race would make a great Father day gift. And if you buy it at Dymocks they have a buy The Race get The Contract free. How could you resist?

‘Ok, Farmdoc, what was it you wanted? Farmdoc? Farmdoc?...Oh bloody Brett Hoffmann and that infernal book! Can’t you read it later?’

Monday, August 1, 2011

No Sting in this Tale

I've been dying to make stinging nettle pesto ever since I came across it in, which is the blog of a photographer friend of Number One Daughter's.

To begin with I pulled on some gloves and strolled a little way up the drive, where I picked a colander full of nettles, trying for the youngest and tenderest looking.

Back in the kitchen, I boiled the nettles for a couple of minutes, just long enough to wilt them and get rid of their sting. Then I drained them (keeping the water for use in soup) and threw them, stems and all, into the food processor, together with a clove of garlic, a big handful of pine nuts, some grated parmesan, the juice and grated rind of half a lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Finally I trickled in enough olive oil to blend.

It turned out the most amazing shade of green. It tasted wonderful too, very fresh and citrusy.

I thought it would be delicious on pasta but Farmdoc had baked a loaf of bread so we just spread it thickly on large slices of that and it went in a flash. Next time I'll try to save enough for pasta.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Celebration at Cradle

Well, the 12-week cardiac rehab period is officially over this weekend. Farmdoc now graduates back into his own life - or rather into the new life that has been granted to him by a team of doctors and the everyday miracles of modern medicine.

Physically, Farmdoc's almost back to normal, but emotionally...looks like that'll take a little longer.

We talk about it all the time but I'm not sure we're any closer to truly grasping what happened - how bad his heart disease was, how close to dying he was really, and what was done to him to repair it.

And then there's the whole idea of a fresh start. I wonder if we'll ever take that for granted.

Farmdoc the scientist is obsessed with the physical aspects of this new life. He's bought a pedometer which he wears all the time, and every day he walks for at least 30 minutes. Even today in the rain we strode out in rain gear, leaving behind a warm, cosy house. And he watches his diet obsessively.

I, on the other hand, am obsessed with what it means to have a second chance. I look at the long scar on Farmdoc's chest and it seems so strange. I don't associate it with operating theatres. It seems more symbolic to me somehow, a sign that something within has changed.

This week we took Daughter Number Four to stay at Cradle Mountain for a few days. The trip was a celebration and a thanksgiving, a time to immerse ourselves in Mother Nature's offerings at their most sacred and sublime.

It feels too soon to write properly about this experience and what it means, but I do know it feels to me that there's something holy about the responsibility of making a new life count. Cradle Mountain seemed the right place to set out on this undertaking.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Six and Six

Eight weeks down, four to go.

On the evening before Farmdoc's bypass surgery, the surgeon sat on the end of the hospital bed while he told us about the twelve-week recovery process.

During the first six weeks, progress would be measured week by week. There'd be bad days and slightly better days, but overall there'd be forward movement. Farmdoc should expect disturbances in every area of his life, including concentration and even taste and smell. At the end of this time, he'd be allowed to drive again.

In the second six weeks, progress should speed up and be measurable on a daily basis. And at the end of twelve weeks he should be able to do whatever he wanted.

This was when we could have made the piano joke. Do you know it? The patient asks the surgeon if he'll be able to play the piano after the operation. 'Of course you'll be able to play the piano!' says the surgeon. 'That's amazing,' the patient replies. 'I couldn't before.'

My guess is that the surgeon's heard that one plenty of times, so it's just as well we didn't bore him with it again. At this point we didn't understand what lay ahead, but we were grateful that he was so generous with his time. We would cling to his words through those difficult first six weeks ahead.

Most weeks it didn't feel that there was any progress at all. Farmdoc would drag himself up and down the corridor outside our apartment a couple of times and then fall into bed, exhausted. It was wet and cold, so we walked around and around the shopping complex at Melbourne Central. We joked that the security people must have wondered what we were up to, never entering any of the shops, but religiously circumnavigating every floor before taking the escalator to the next one.

Farmdoc couldn't read. His eyesight was blurry and he couldn't concentrate. He slept for hours. He was even fussier than normal about what he ate. His voice was husky, he had a persistent cough, he was often short of breath. It was impossible to imagine he'd ever be normal again - let alone play the piano, which he couldn't do before!

But then, after six weeks, we left Melbourne and returned to Onemilebridge, and sure enough, progress sped up. After two weeks here he's striding up hills as well as he ever did. He can sleep on his side without discomfort, and those scars that will forever tell the tale of his surgery are already fading.

The surgeon's advice was that if it hurts while he's doing something, then he should stop, but if it 's painless while he does it but hurts afterwards, then that's just a sign of his muscles being brought back into action, and he should continue. He's doing most normal farm chores, and in about a month he'll begin to see patients again. I think at the end of this six-week period he'll be as fit as he ever was.

When I was looking for an illustration for this post, all the photos I could find show a hollow-eyed and gaunt Farmdoc, looking like the survivor of some harrowing ordeal. I guess that's what he was, but I couldn't bear to look at those, so I have chosen a picture of the six of us, four weeks after the operation, celebrating Farmdoc's birthday - and his new life. May it be long and happy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Week In The Life Of

It's been a long, long seven days. This time last week we were trying to make time go as quickly as possible. While Farmdoc was in the operating theatre the rest of us were trying not to think about all the things that could go wrong.

On Monday he had a quadruple bypass and woke in Intensive Care at four am on Tuesday with no idea what day it was. He wiggled his fingers and toes and tested his brain. Yep, all intact. He'd survived.

On Wednesday he was transferred to the ward, feeling fine. We called it Walking Wednesday because he walked for the first time. But then his heart, swollen from all that had happened, went into fibrillation, pounding so fast and so hard that the bed shook. He was returned to the ICU.

He came back to the ward on Friday morning, the fibrillation somewhat controlled, but he was confined to bed. He was white with exhaustion and too sick to eat.

Then yesterday, Sunday, he made his physio debut - out of bed and walking around the ward. Afterwards, he was flattened from the exertion and still had the occasional fibrillation episode, but it was a start. Today was even better. He had his first shower in a week and the last of his tubes was removed.

It's been a weird week. I haven't been able to concentrate on anything. I wanted to record this experience but I couldn't write. When I had a chainsaw accident I sat up in bed and wrote down every awful moment, every variation of pain. When my mother slipped into dementia I recorded her loss, minute by heart breaking minute. I can always write. Not this time.

And it's funny too how when something big happens you fixate on the small things. Last Monday, when Farmdoc woke from his operation his wedding ring was missing. No one seemed to know where it was. I was distraught.

I knew it didn't matter. He could go without a ring or we could buy a new one. Just as long as he was all right. But I couldn't shake the feeing that it was important.

 We asked about it almost every day but it didn't appear. Then this morning he told someone that because his operation was on a Monday today might be a good day to check again on the operating theatre floor; perhaps some of the same team would be on duty.

And down it came. In an envelope labelled with his details. It's foolish of me I know, to care so much, but it seemed catastrophic that it was lost and it seems like a good omen that it was found.

I was 19 and Farmdoc was just 20 when I slipped that ring on his finger, 43 years ago, though he wasn't Farmdoc then - just a skinny medical student. And he hadn't planned to wear a ring. Neither of our fathers was a jewellery wearer. But one day we came across my mother's late parents' wedding rings in a box of trinkets and we decided we'd have them resized for us. So these gold rings have signified love and commitment in our family for a long time.

I was emptying his bottle of pee into the toilet the other day and the words 'for better or for worse' sprang into my mind. Is this what they mean? I wondered. But it didn't feel so terrible to me. Not nearly as bad as seeing him sunk in misery, too exhausted to care. That was truly the worst.

What a week. I'm glad it's over. The surgeon told us the recovery is in two stages and that the first six weeks will be the hardest. I guess that's one down and five to go.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Change of Heart

I had planned to follow up my last post with one about life in the very slow lane. Autumn is so mellow and lovely in Mole Creek. But then our lives took a strange turn. Strange for us though at the same time very ordinary. Banal even.

For many months now Farmdoc has been complaining of intermittent indigestion when he exercised. A kind of dull ache behind the breast bone. He has a family history of heart disease - his father died at 56 - so his first thought was that now it was coming to get him. I knew better. I was positive it was his hiatus hernia. So when he had a stress test I wasn't even concerned, though I knew the thought of it was keeping him up at night.

In the end Farmdoc was right. He has the disease. And the angiogram he had ten days ago showed that although on the outside he is lean, fit and healthy, on the inside he has the arteries of an obese junk food eater. His arteries are so blocked that he needs coronary bypass surgery.

Now we are back in Melbourne with the surgery scheduled for Monday. I'll spend the afternoon of Mother's Day by his side as he's admitted to hospital. The next day he'll be on his own. Apart that is from a team of highly trained and experienced professionals who will take him apart, replumb him and then put him back together again.

The hardest part will be on Tuesday morning when he wakes to his newly broken body and must begin the process of healing and rehabilitation. This is especially apt for him because rehabilitation is one of his special interests. He used to say its aim was to turn patients back into people. Now he will have to do the same for himself.

His family and friends will be there for him every step of the way. We wish you well, Farmdoc.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Life in the Slow Lane

There was the sound of a truck reversing down in the alley. Then there was some banging, and voices. Always the busybody, I looked over my balcony to see what was causing the ruckus.

People were unloading plastic crates and arranging them in what seemed to be a well-planned operation. After they left I tried to work out what the structure they'd built was, but it was too dark.

By daylight the next morning, this is what I saw:

That great stencil graffiti on the wall was there already. It's not new.

This morning I climbed up to get a closer look. That red box is a small letter box.

This is the top of the red box:

and this is what I found inside:

I sat for a while and wrote in my journal, seeing the alley from a different angle.

One of my neighbours came out on his balcony and told me someone comes every evening to make sure the structure is in order. 

How mysterious.

I asked wise old Mrs Google what it was all about and under City_Leaks this is what I found:

An Urban Investigation of Inventive Dwelling
City_Leaks is a platform that seeks to inspire urban dwellers to explore moments, spaces and places that one can deposit themselves in. The challenge is to reconsider how we inhabit our cities. Why do we leave the identity of our cities solely in the hands of politicians, governments, developers and investors? Why don't we start creating, inventing and changing the cities ourselves?
City_Leaks acts as a hub for like minded people to address and share ideas as well as organize upcoming actions.
We are also interested in how urban dwellers inhabit and use our interventions, so documenting the work is essential for our research... 

If you look them up on Facebook you'll see they have other structures going up in other lanes. You could check them out if you're in the Melbourne CBD.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Doing It

Do you listen to podcasts? I do. I listen to them every chance I get - while I walk to pilates or to the market, while I'm on the tram, while I'm watering the vegetable garden.

One of my favourites is Radiolab, a podcast that sets out to explore the boundary between science, philosophy and the human experience. The episode I just listened to is called 'Help!' and it looks at how we might control those forces inside us that are so strong that they seem to come from outside. Some of these are bad, like addictions, others are good, like creative insights, but what they all have in common is that they feel uncontrollable.

What particularly interests me in the programme is the way people manage these forces as they apply to writing, both negative elements, such as procrastination or being stuck or blocked, and also positive elements, like inspiration.

The problem seems to be that one part of you knows what it wants to do but another stronger part is resistant. The answer the programme offers is to make a deal with yourself that forces you into the behaviour you need, arranging things so you can't compromise. The question that then arises is what kind of deal could you make with yourself when the words don't want to come? How would you force your own back against the wall?

It seems to be about now versus later, with the now part of the brain being much stronger. About tying the long term plan into a present tense battle, thus giving it an emotional prominence. I guess that's what people mean when they say they work better with a deadline.

The neurologist and prolific author, Oliver Sacks, says that when he couldn't start writing his first book because he was so stuck, he gave himself the ultimatum that if he hadn't written the book in ten days he would commit suicide.The result of this was that after months of stewing and not doing anything he suddenly felt he had a 'wonderful engine' inside him that was pulling things out of him and putting them on the page, as though the book was being dictated, and he managed to finish the book a day early.

That's a bit extreme for most of us though.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, talks about speaking directly - bargaining even - with the muse. In order to live a lifetime of creativity without cutting your ear off (or threatening yourself with suicide) she recommends learning to talk to Inspiration, as though the source is outside you, to establish negotiating distance, to set terms and boundaries.

She refers to that old saying, 'Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.' If you consistently show up at the page, sooner or later Inspiration will join you.

All this has great resonance for me. I'm naturally very lazy. To force myself to work I mainly use a mixture of some pretty strong self-talk ('If you don't write you're not a writer, and that's all there is to it.' 'You're not getting any younger and you may develop Alzheimer's.') and the deadline of my regular workshop group meetings. 

I also talk to my book, write it letters, beg it to help me. I always feel that the work exists somewhere and it's up to me to persist until I make contact with it. It's nice to know I'm not crazy - or at least not alone in my craziness.

How about you? Are you naturally self-disciplined? Is any of this even a problem for you? What methods work for you in getting yourself to sit down and write?

Whatever your work habits, the podcast is well worth listening to, I think.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bearing Gifts

It's just over two years since my mother died and I have thought about her every day since.

In the early days I could remember only how she was when she was in the grip of Alzheimer's Disease. Her helplessness and despair as the mists began to swirl and she knew she would soon cease to be counted as a person who mattered and become instead an object of pity - someone of lesser value. Then that blank stare, the rage in her eyes when she became agitated in the late afternoon. 'Go awaaaay!' she'd scream.

It was so painful and exhausting to watch, relieved only by the joy of witnessing my father's devotion to my mother - his sweetheart of 65 years.

These days I remember other times. She was funny, my mother, with a wide smile that revealed one slightly crooked eye tooth. I remember how excited she was to see me, how she refused to allow me to help her in the kitchen when I visited because I was her honoured guest. It's hard to lose that kind of love and especially hard  to lose it to Alzheimer's.

But my mother's disease also brought with it many gifts, one of which was completely unexpected.

When my book, Alzheimer's: a Love Story, was first published, I dreaded hearing readers' stories. My own experience was so raw I thought it would be too painful for me to hear about other people's. But to my surprise I found that I loved it, and I could see too how much it meant to these strangers to share their stories.

Gradually I realised that it's because these journeys we take as we farewell those we love are so lonely and so difficult but also so rich and rewarding that they change us forever. When we tell each other about our journeys, these readers and I, we recognise our fellowship and we feel less alone.

I mention all this now because I am discussing my experience next Sunday at the Well-Being group in the hall at 2pm at St Mark's Anglican Church, 21 Beatty Street, Reservoir (just off Gilbert Road).

Come along if you're free, and join us for what I know will be a moving and enjoyable afternoon.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wombat Ben

It's been many months since there was an occupant in the Onemilebridge wombat Hilton. So long in fact that today Farmdoc and I opened the door to allow wallabies to come in and graze on the grass there. It's about waist height.

Yesterday we had a little preview visit with its next occupant, wombat Ben, who'll be coming to us at the end of this year. For now he still has some growing to do. Until he comes to us he will live with his foster parents. There he has the run of the house, with occasional supervised visits outdoors.

This visit was a special treat because by the time wombats come to us they are too old and too large for cuddles and human affection, and for their own sake we don't encourage them to bond with us. Our job is to prepare them for the wild.

But at eight months wombat Ben is still young enough to need cuddles and affection in order to develop properly.

He weighs six kilos right now and is still bottle fed several times a day. 

And, like any toddler, he  takes his naps in a sleeping bag in a cot surrounded by snacks and toys.

My brother and sister-in-law came with us so they too had the rare privilege of a cuddle with a young wombat.

Keep growing, wombat Ben. The wombat Hilton will be ready when you are.