Category Archives: Reading Australia

This heading will incorporate all of my blog entries for the subject Reading Australia

Reading Australia Summative Entry

Summative Entry, Reading Australia

 

This Semester I undertook a course entitled Reading Australia. This was not merely reading literature of the land but learning that there is more to this land than what is on the surface.

Judith Wright was a poet who besides writing wonderful poetry about nature, made some analogies with nature to human life. The patterns of life, similar to the patterns in the landscape, the seasons, which come and go, and come again.

https://s00156364.wordpress.com/2017/10/27/judith-wright-poems/

 

We also studied an incredible man who even though locked up in a mental institution, or locked also within his own mind, his own prison, could see past the bars and the fences and free his spirit to write some incredible poetry. I made the point about Francis Webb, to my lecturer, that I struggle not just to understand the poetry of Webb, but also the complexity of the person himself. My lecturer told me that he had done a Phd on Webb, and till says the same thing himself. Is this a man who was meant to be understood?

https://s00156364.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/relating-to-francis-webb/

 

Tree of Man by Patrick White was the first novel studied in this course. It is a story about the pioneers in the bush on the outskirts of Sydney. The book tells the story of the Aussie equivalent to Adam and Eve; a couple who were the first to clear land and build in the bush, to plant, to raise milk cows, and hens. It is the story of one man’s spiritual and actual journey of life as he discovers who he is and indeed who God is. The patterns of life again put in an appearance.

https://s00156364.wordpress.com/2017/08/31/the-tree-of-man-patrick-white/

I also looked at Patrick White as being a transcendentalist, and linked him with the writing and philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

https://s00156364.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/patrick-white-and-ralph-waldo-emerson/

 

In the course, David Malouf again made an appearance, and I must say that this being the last course of my undergraduate degree, I shall miss studying the work of David Malouf, at least at a classroom level. I have a number of books and collections of his short stories that I haven’t even tried to study yet. I can do so in my own time. The book from Malouf this time was Conversations at Curlow Creek. This is a tale of the capture and subsequent hanging (or is it) of a young bushranger. The book uncovers the conversations between the captured and the executioner, in a hut, in the middle of the bush, the night before the scheduled hanging. The executioner has come to find out information about a sibling that has possibly gone missing and rogue in the bush, but leaves with a lot more information, about himself after spending the night in this bush hut. I really enjoy David Malouf writing.

https://s00156364.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/a-house-divided-conversations-at-curlow-creek/

 

After the class went to the Art Gallery for a visit, I decided to do an expose piece on the painting Bailed Up by Tom Roberts. I looked at how the painting was done, as well as a history behind the famous Cobb & Co coaches, that travelled through the bush here in the 1800’s. It was these coaches that were subject to the robberies by bushrangers, and thereby the subject of the paintings. I think studying this painting also gave me an appreciation of bushrangers and coaches when I studied Curlow Creek.

https://s00156364.wordpress.com/2017/09/02/bailed-up-by-tom-roberts/

 

 

My place is the book written by the indigenous author and painter Sally Morgan. Sally starts this book as a first-person narrative, then moves on to tell the story of other people who are prominent in her life, through their own eyes. Sally interviewed these people and they all told their own stories about what it is like to be aboriginal. There is some reminiscing until Sally finally takes her mum back to the station where the family or the mob come from. We learn that Nan, is aboriginal not indeed Indian as was thought by Sally as a child. Nan has a deep connection with the land and with nature. She may deny her skin colour and her heritage, but she can not deny the land which owns her soul. Nan passes on hints and her love of nature to Sally. In my blog, I have looked at the bush medicine and old remedies from the bush. This is a book of discovery. Sally discovers who she is, as an aboriginal woman. Our class discussions around this book led to people discussing their own culture, and the place where we as individuals belong. We each discovered My Place.

https://s00156364.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/my-place/

https://s00156364.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/sally-morgans-nan-and-bush-remedies/

 

This was a lovely course and one that I really appreciate doing. The course was not needed for me to pass my degree, but it was a subject that I was interested in. This course showed me the spirituality of the indigenous peoples, the complexity of humans in general and how important it is not only to care for the land in which we live, but care for the custodians of the land. Those whose ancestors were slaughtered and whose bloodline was almost lost because of the atrocities of colonisation. It confirmed in me the underlying message that was prevalent throughout my journey in my degree. That being that each person is an individual, each person has value. The lesson here is that God loves us not just collectively, but individually. God has a plan. Trust him…and hold on, it may be a bumpy ride.

 

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Judith Wright Poems

Judith Wright was a poet with insights into indigenous people and nature. She told of patterns in life, and in Australia. She and Patrick White both saw patterns. I wonder if they would have got on well together, if anybody could indeed keep White as a friend.

In Five Senses, we see that all five senses are equally important. They create a rhythm, a pattern. Apart, sometimes we can not make sense of what we see, what we hear, or smell or feel. But together they dance. The senses working together create a pattern, which, when followed, can enhance a persons life, make them whole.

Like the world or community. When we are fragmented we are only a part of a whole, incomplete. Sure we can make our own music, but the symphony comes when all instruments work together, playing the same tune.

Judith says :”pattern sprung from nothing-
a rhythm that dances
and is not mine”.  The pattern or Rhythm of life was there before, it was only now that Judith has recognised it for what it is. By saying “It is not mine” acknowledges that the Rhythm comes from outside the body, but is implanted within us, perhaps that Rhythm of life is from God.

Now my five senses
gather into a meaning
all acts, all presences;
and as a lily gathers
the elements together,
in me this dark and shining,
that stillness and that moving,
these shapes that spring from nothing,
become a rhythm that dances,
a pure design.

While I’m in my five senses
they send me spinning
all sounds and silences,
all shape and colour
as thread for that weaver,
whose web within me growing
follows beyond my knowing
some pattern sprung from nothing-
a rhythm that dances
and is not mine.

 

Legend – Poem by Judith Wright

The blacksmith’s boy went out with a rifle
and a black dog running behind.
Cobwebs snatched at his feet,
rivers hindered him,
thorn branches caught at his eyes to make him blind
and the sky turned into an unlucky opal,
but he didn’t mind.
I can break branches, I can swim rivers, I can stare out
any spider I meet,
said he to his dog and his rifle.

The blacksmith’s boy went over the paddocks
with his old black hat on his head.
Mountains jumped in his way,
rocks rolled down on him,
and the old crow cried, You’ll soon be dead.
And the rain came down like mattocks.
But he only said,
I can climb mountains, I can dodge rocks, I can shoot an old crow any day,
and he went on over the paddocks.

When he came to the end of the day, the sun began falling,
Up came the night ready to swallow him,
like the barrel of a gun,
like an old black hat,
like a black dog hungry to follow him.
Then the pigeon, the magpie and the dove began wailing
and the grass lay down to pillow him.
His rifle broke, his hat blew away and his dog was gone and the sun was falling.

But in front of the night, the rainbow stood on the mountain,
just as his heart foretold.
He ran like a hare,
he climbed like a fox;
he caught it in his hands, the colours and the cold –
like a bar of ice, like the column of a fountain,
like a ring of gold.
The pigeon, the magpie and the dove flew up to stare,
and the grass stood up again on the mountain.

The blacksmith’s boy hung the rainbow on his shoulder
instead of his broken gun.
Lizards ran out to see, snakes made way for him,
and the rainbow shone as brightly as the sun.
All the world said, Nobody is braver, nobody is bolder,
nobody else has done
anything equal to it. He went home as easy as could be
with the swinging rainbow on his shoulder.

When I first read this poem, I thought that the Blacksmiths boy was perhaps a gay boy who knew that he could do anything he put his mind to. He could conquer everything put in his way. I got the idea that he was gay from the line “The blacksmith’s boy hung the rainbow on his shoulder”. However, the rainbow wasn’t adopted by the gay community until the late 70’s. Even though it is possible that this poem was written after that period, there is no proof of that. I thought that perhaps putting the rainbow on his shoulder, and the rainbow shone brightly was alluding to gay pride. But equally it could be talking about proud to be an aborigine, proud to be who you are and showing the world. The blacksmiths boy was a violent masculine boy, but he exchanged his gun for a rainbow and became peaceful. Perhaps we all need a little rainbow in our lives.Hmm perhaps this one will take further research and analysis.
Dave
footnote. When searching for an image to go with this poem, I found the one below It makes sense, even in the Judith Wright poem. I wonder if Wright was influenced by this quote by Dickens…definitely needs more research.
Image result for blacksmiths boy

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My Place

Image result for sally morgan

Go into any backyard in the old parts of Sydney, Blacktown in the west, Earlwood in the south, and Asquith in the north. You will find in these yards a lawn surrounded by a mix of natives and introduced species. But go to a derelict building, and the natives take over again, killing off all the introduced species. It Is the paspaplum and kangaroo grass that survives, growing high, through cracks and crevasses left in crumbling fibro houses. It’s the wattle and the bottlebrush that somehow survive or repropogate in the same spots year after year. These are plant that can be pruned, shaped to fit into a cultivated garden, to look pretty, to keep within the borders.

When the hard times come, it’s the natives that survive. When bushfire ravages the Royal National Park, or the Blue Mountains, It’s the Banksia plants that will come up first. The fire having popped all the seed pods, and the ash covered them into the soil. The Coastal Rosemaries grow up again, and we see new branches appearing from old stumps of the mighty Gum trees. The natives of Australia are resilient.

So too the native people of our land. We as westerners, colonisers, really gave the indigenous population a hard time, from the time we arrived and claimed the land to be ours, right to the present day.

My Place by Sally Morgan is a book that describes lives of indigenous people with the trials and tribulations, the hard times, and the funny ones too. She tells it first in first person narrative, but then switches to narrative after interviewing various characters, REAL PEOPLE, in her book.

Sally has been highlighting abuses and inequality in our country for over 30 years. It is because of Sally, and others like her, that indigenous people have felt comfortable to expose themselves for who they really are. Sally tells primarily indigenous people that they don’t have to be ashamed of who they are any more. If people around you are uncomfortable with that, STIFF, they can get out of the way, cause the natives are here to stay.

Image result for sally morgan

What and incredible lesson for all of us to learn. No matter what culture you belong to, where you come from, it’s important to find out who you are, and be comfortable with who you are. Be ashamed no more.

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Peer Review Audrey

https://barefootfairy42.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/peer-review-natasha/comment-page-1/#comment-256

Can I peer review a peer review? Audrey, can you please include a link to the original works in your peer reviews. I really want to read the original post, but have to go searching.
Thanks buddy
Dave

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Peer Review: Audrey, David Malouf

https://barefootfairy42.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/david-malouf-and-the-wild-landscape-of-the-mind/

Perhaps Fergus is watching all from a bush somewhere close. Perhaps Fergus didn’t want to be found. Although we do have an account of his death in the book… but I could imagine him, or some other bushrangers looking on the whole setting, seeing if an ambush were possible for the freeing of a comrade.

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Peer Review: Linda

https://mermaidblues507.wordpress.com/2017/09/22/patrick-manoly-til-death-us-do-part/

Such a well researched and written piece on these two men. I found it interesting ( I shared with you earlier) that these men were a couple, it was well known, but still they were allowed and welcomed into St Paul’s Castle Hill, which is in the conservative Sydney Anglican Diocese. So interesting that you found out about the last years of Manoly’s life being spent in a Nursing home that was indeed Patrick White’s childhood home.
Linda your research and writing into homosexual history is astounding. You never fail to amaze me. Thank you for your continued support, affirmation and interest in the welfare of gay Australians.
Dave

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Peer Review Audrey

https://barefootfairy42.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/the-genius-behind-the-madness/

Thank you for sharing that you, like me have difficulty understanding what it is Francis was trying to say, to make sense of the words on the page. I think it was Michael who said in class “We know when we have a spiritual experience, we sometimes cannot put it into words, but we know it”. Michael equated it to hearing a Beethoven Symphony or seeing a profound Artwork. It leaves you breathless, awestruck…Leaving you saying to yourself and others “What just happened” . The answer is, I don’t know but it really did happen. You have done well in this course. It is always a pleasure to be in class with you.

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Sally Morgan’s Nan and bush remedies

The chapter entitled “Growing Up”  in Sally Morgan’s biography, “My Place” explains how Sally’s Nan places half onions around the house in order to keep away germs and disease. Sally comes home from High school one day telling her Nan that the science teacher said it was just an old wives tale, and that raw onions don’t do anything to keep disease away.

Image result for cut onions

I decided to research this. It seems that this remedy goes back as far as the 1500’s when many where dying from influenza and the plague. A doctor was doing the rounds of town and each household had members of the family affected by illness…except one. The doctor asked the farmer and his wife what they did differently. The farmers wife explained that she placed onions in the rooms of the house to absorb the germs. When the doctor checked the onions under the microscope, it was found that the onions did in fact absorb the influenza virus. I was amazed.

I looked up other remedies to see what else was being said.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is a product that has recently come under the spotlight as having benefits beyond just being added to salads and other culinary delights. It has been known to have healing properties since as far back as 5,oooBC, The Egyptians were using it as an antiseptic and a weight loss method that long ago.Hippocrates in ancient Greece told his students to prescribe Oxymel, which was a combination of vinegar and honey, to bring up phlegm and make breathing easier. Vinegar is often used as a preservative, It was also used for sterilising wounds and instruments, Apple Cider Vinegar is said to have its healing properties because of its high alkaline properties. Also this product can be used as a preventative. Apple Cider Vinegar is made from fermenting apples, to produce the Cider, then fermenting again to produce the Vinegar. It retains all the nutritional properties of apples themselves, so is packed with vitamins and lots of other good chemicals.

Image result for apple cider vinegar

Gum Leaves

Gum leaves are said to have healing properties when crushed in a bowl and boiling water is used to fill the bowl. Put your head over it, with the obligatory tea towel to keep in the vapors and inhale.

Image result for crushed gum leaves

While we are on Aussie cures and deterrents, it is said that Detol in a spray bottle can kill Cane Toads. Give it a try Queensland!

Other Bush Remedies

In Warrabri, the Northern territory the cure for earache is squeezing the fatty part of a witchetty grub into the sore ear. While in Uluru, the cure is squeezing rabbit urine into the ear.

Image result for witchetty grubs

Emu bush leaves, which were used by Northern Territory Aboriginal tribes to sterilise sores and cuts. The leaves are now being considered by Australian scientists as a viable steriliser for implants.

Tea tree oil is used for many things including an antiseptic and a mouth wash, it can also be used as a tea to soothe sore throats.

Eucalyptus leaves can be infused for body pains and fevers and chills. Today the oil is used commercially in mouthwash, throat lozenges and cough suppressants.

The list goes on and on. While scientists have found that some of these remedies to be false, many have been adopted into modern day civilisations. Its funny, if we just look back into history, we can find that a lot of what was said and done to be true, but its like when the discovery is made by modern man, we seem to claim it as the latest new thing.

Aboriginals like Sally Morgans Nanna used a great many things for the physical healing, but were aware that its not just the body that needs healing. They place a great emphasis in making sure the whole person is well, including emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Dance and song play an important part in the health of a person and of equal importance to having a good diet and exercise.

So people, don’t forget to dance.

further reading on aboriginal cures:  http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/history-culture/2011/02/top-10-aboriginal-bush-medicines/

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Relating to Francis Webb

I can relate to the poetry and the life of Francis Webb. He was a poet who was plagued with mental illness, just as I am. He wrote through his depression to produce some amazing work. I too write, and paint, and take photos when I can break through the darkness enough, and get motivated.

IMG_2132

this bird felt as miserable as I did the day I took this.

This is a story I wrote when I was having some anxious moments on the bus. I am not so bad now, thanks to google maps. I can track my trip the whole way.

THOUGHTS OF A PARANOID PERSON

© Dave McGettigan 19 October 2012

I tried to get a seat facing the front, but there were none available. So now I have to face the back of the bus and I can’t see where we are of if my stop is coming up. It’s ok. Don’t panic. You are getting off at the last stop. The bus won’t go any further than the shopping centre. I relax a little.

Why is that woman looking at me?

She can’t know… can she?

No. Dr Stewart told me that nobody would know if I didn’t tell them.

Then why is she looking at me?

She is reaching for her phone. Is she calling the police? Perhaps she is calling Dr Stewart to tell him I am catching the bus by myself. No escort for me this morning.

She is talking in hushed tones on the phone.

Oh god, now she is laughing! What is she laughing at? I combed my hair. I made sure I washed my face after breakfast. I look down and make sure I had buttoned my shirt correctly and that my tie is straight. My fly is up, so it isn’t that. I don’t know why she is laughing.

She has finished her phone call, put her phone away and now she is looking at me again.

She smiled.

Perhaps she likes me. I sit straighter in the seat at the thought. Perhaps she wants to go out with me. No! She wouldn’t have been laughing at me if she likes me.

Maybe she knew me before…before I got sick; before I did those things to that man. I didn’t mean to do it! She must know… I have to tell her. I didn’t mean to do it lady. I was sick. But I’m better now. I can’t tell her that. She won’t understand. Nobody does. They all think I would do something like that again. But I won’t. I couldn’t do something like that if I take my pills. I am good when I take them. But one day of missing them and BAM! I could change so quickly. I touch my shirt pocket to assure myself that the pack is still in my pocket. I breathe a bit easier.

I have changed a lot physically since then anyway. It’s been ten years after all. I have gotten taller, grown whiskers on my face and filled out; so Nurse Stevens tells me. I don’t think she knows me. Besides, that all happened in Adelaide. This is Sydney.

Perhaps I remind her of someone. I hope that is a good thing. Perhaps the person I remind her of brings back some bad memories. But I think the opposite is true. I think I bring back happy memories. That’s why she laughed on the phone. That’s why she smiled at me.

My god, why won’t she stop looking at me! She looks at her watch, which in turn causes me to look at mine. Are we running late? Nope… right on time. But she looked worried.

Maybe she is worried that the police won’t arrive quick enough to grab me when the bus arrives at the shopping centre. No! You have been through all that. She did not call the police or Dr Stewart. She doesn’t know me, nor do I remind her of somebody. She is looking at me because I am facing the back.

Damn. I wish I could have gotten a seat facing the front. Then at least if people were looking at me I wouldn’t even know about it.

She is standing up. She is walking towards me! What is she going to say? Am I going to be ridiculed in front of all these people? I clench my fists in anticipation of the confrontation.

“I like your tie,” she says “My husband has one just like it.”

“Oh…he he,” I give a nervous laugh “Thanks.” I say as she walks past me to exit the bus.

I realise that we have reached the shopping centre and now I can lose myself in the crowd. I alight from the bus and walk the short distance to the entrance of the centre.

Why is that man looking at me…?



I too have been in a mental facility, following a suicide attempt and not able to leave by my own terms. My term was short, but I think that perhaps if I were unwell at the time of Francis Webb, I may have never known freedom again.

Image result for straight jacket

 

Francis Webb had a spiritual connection and held onto his faith during the time of his suffering.  Many of his poems are prayers; crying out for others to be aware of the suffering, and to provide comfort and relief. Jussi Bjorling provided comfort and relief for Francis Webb with his singing of Nessun Dorma.

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Peer Review. Mermaid Blue

https://mermaidblues507.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/home-among-the-gum-trees/

Hmmm. I just had a thought. There is no mention of wildlife throughout the Tree of Man. I wonder why that is. Perhaps White thought that dealing with the wild bipeds ( so called civilised man) was in itself enough to write about. Perhaps there was enough trouble with floods and fire without having to write about snakes, or falling down wombat holes or the damn rabbits chewing the tops of all the vegetables before they even have a chance.

But you’re right of course, every true blue dinky di aussie cobber battler mate just wants a place to lay his head, where he can listen to the breeze through the trees at night, and the crows, cockies and kookaburras by day. A place were you dont need outside lights to help you to the dunny, cause the stars light the way just fine and where during the day you see more nature than neighbours. That place has smells of fresh air, eucalypt and fresh baked bread, not car exhaust, smoke and a cacophony of cultural cuisine.

Oh give me a home amongst the gumtrees.

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