Posted in Life, Photography

Diary of a distancer: Week 17

It is now Saturday July 4, 2020. Week 17 of my diary of a distancer posts, although I didn’t write entries for weeks 11-16.

They were tough weeks and I felt there was nothing much to communicate. Life rolled on for me; work was work; birthdays were celebrated – at a distance. Well, at a distance from me. Not being able to travel to Tasmania for the three June birthdays was tough, as was not being able to travel to NSW for my mother’s birthday.

I admit to falling into a hole I’m only now climbing out of.

It was tough in other ways too. Protests were held around the world – people protesting about being locked-in, others protesting about police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, still others protesting about racial inequality more broadly. Dissent and civil disobedience followed … and arguments flew from all sides.

One argument went this way:

Other arguments went in very different directions but I refuse to give them any space by repeating them here.

So things have been happening in some parts of the globe that affect other parts. We are, after all, living on the one planet and the ripple effects of our actions and our beliefs don’t stop at our national – or state – borders.

It’s a bit like our bodies – something happens in one area which then impacts other areas and as the ripples move around and across and through your body it feels like it’s never going to end. That there’s always going to be pain. One area subsides just for another area to flare up. The physical starts to play with the mental and the emotional and back again. And it’s ongoing and thus distressing.

Just like the current situation with coronavirus. It goes quiet, and then flares up in another hotel room/suburb/region/country. There’s no end in sight. It’s ongoing and that adds to the distress.

After a period of relative quiet, COVID-19 has re-emerged in Victoria, and so Victorians are now not welcome in other states. Except if you’re part of an AFL team. Then you can go to Queensland to ensure the season continues, but ordinary Victorians cannot enter unless they’re willing to be fined or sentenced to gaol time.

Such is life. Money talks. Sport is important, it would seem, for national well-being.

Or something.

Not so The Arts it would seem. The Arts, as a sector, has been hit particularly hard by the lockdown. But there’s no other state to go to as a way of surviving – unless we’re talking a state of unemployment or sheer determined survival. Many people have turned to TV and movies for solace in this time yet many of them deny the importance of the arts to the economic or social or cultural or intellectual fabric of our society.

Luke McGregor – Australian comedian – made an argument for the role of the arts in national well-being on The Weekly with Charlie Pickering last week.

We don’t need the arts to survive … but they give us a reason to‘ – Luke McGregor

In many cases, the arts gives us the means to survive as well. I’m don’t mean in terms of financial support, but I mean in terms of an outlet for our creativity, for communicating, for seeing differently, for noticing, for making connections between ideas and perspectives and views and beliefs and values and thoughts and actions. And more.

And an outlet for connection with others.

Without an outlet for creative expression some of us may not have survived as well as we have through this on-going, never-ending (it seems) saga of COVID-19. While personal ‘creative expression’ might not have much to do with The Arts, I for one acknowledge the essential role the arts plays in my life.

I listen to music. I read books. I view works others have painted or photographed or sculpted or designed. I watch movies that started with an idea and grew over time, involving many (many) others in their production. People who have made artistic choices about sounds and movements and locations and backgrounds and lighting and music and no music and points of view and camera angles.

I watch and listen to others performing – dance, music, singing – and I am in awe of their determination and talent and desire for creative expression.

All of the people who make things, who produce things, design, craft and tinker and even those who, like me, play at the edges of creative endeavour … The Arts is there as a means and a reason to survive. They add something to the lives of those who spectate. They add much more to those of us who engage. They enrich us in ways simple spectating cannot do.

Click the image for more information about why The Arts matter

We are not a family of artists it has to be said, but many of us do like the creative outlet photography provides, and so I was thrilled that 15 family members contributed to our latest photography challenge: Ordinary Objects.

Our first challenge was the Alphabet of Isolation.

Cover design: Tim Moss

Our second was Images by the Dozen – a project in which we took images of the numbers 1-12 without using the actual numbers.

I designed this cover

The Ordinary Objects project required us to photograph 10 ordinary objects:

  • Something you eat
  • Something you eat with
  • Something you cook with
  • Something you see with
  • Something you put on your feet
  • Something you wash with
  • Something you wear
  • Something you drink from
  • Something you find in the garden
  • Something (not someone) you love

Fifteen family members, ranging in age from 4-81 and across four generations, contributed. We live across four states of Australia with one family member in the UK. As with our other projects we’d get together on a Sunday night and share our images. Yet another magazine to add to our collections as a physical memento of our creative decisions and expression.

I designed this cover too

Our next project is Variations on a Theme. Six images, all of the same theme/idea of each individual’s choice, but with variations.

My theme is abandonment. It’s meant I’ve taken photos of a type I wouldn’t normally take – I’m usually quite conceptual, but this time I wanted to try something different and so have expanded my photographic range slightly.

Here’s one of the first images I took for this project. Mind you, I’ve since adandoned this image as I went in a slightly different direction … but that’s the way it goes!

Abandoned as the urban sprawl creeps closer

Another image we drove miles to shoot, was also one I reluctantly abandoned as the church didn’t feel abandoned enough. I particularly love the Australian feel of this scene, with the gorgeous gum trees surrounding the church.

I was after something that looked a little more abandoned

We finalise our Variations on a Theme project next week and I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone’s come up with.

Connections through creativity.

What’s kept you connected with others through these anything-but-ordinary times?

Posted in Family, Life, Photography

Diary of a distancer: Week 9

As I write, it’s May 9 2020. Many parts of the world are slowly emerging from restrictions due to the spread of coronavirus. Restrictions are beginning to ease in parts of Australia too.

Some people are concerned about this, others are cautiously optimistic that life will return to ‘normal’ soon, and others are pressuring governments to ease restrictions more quickly.

We might all ‘be in this together’ but we’re certainly not in the same boat. The same storm perhaps, but not the same boat. Everyone’s experience of lockdown/self-isolation – call it what you will – is different.

It’s alarming and distressing to read that instances of domestic violence have increased, as have calls to helplines such as LifeLine.

Through the week, I read a tragic story of a 12 year old boy in the US who hung himself in his wardrobe in mid-April. His father blames coronavirus. His view was that as his son wasn’t able to go to school or meet up with his friends, he had nowhere to put his energy (particularly his negative energy) and so took this very drastic step, perhaps, his father said, not fully realising the finality of his action.

There are other situations, just as tragic.

For some, then, this period is particularly difficult. They’re in the storm but in small boats, or boats with one oar, or boats that don’t have a lot of supplies. They’re tossed around by the waves and the wind and can find no safe anchor.

We can’t imagine that our own experience of this time is the same as others.

I’ll own that statement. I don’t imagine that my experience of this time is the same as others.

It’s why connections are so important to me. It’s important to me to stay connected – to others, to ideas, to creative pursuits, to routine, to family, to physical and mental health.

For some, unexpected connections have made this period of time less unsettling than it might otherwise have been.

ABC News Breakfast shared a story on their Facebook page of a man in Wagga, NSW who is drawing a crowd during his trombone practice. What a delight – a time for people to come together – to sit and listen, to tap their feet, to wander into the sunshine, to reminisce. Connecting the past with now, connecting memories to others, connecting sound and emotion.

There are examples of this sort of connection between people happening all around the world. If we can, we should seek them out as they can bring pockets of light into what otherwise might be a dark time.

I’ve also been struck by the connections some people are making as they seek to make some sense of this time. Poet Lorin Clarke writes from the perspective of dust motes as they watch humans spending more time at home. It’s clever, this way of seeing things from another perspective and making connections across people’s experiences. And then putting images and music and a very particular kind of voice to this, adds to that sense of connection across more than ideas – across aesthetics and art forms too.

And then there are those who can sum up experiences many of us will recognise, in seemingly simple ways. My friend Taimi, shared this on her Facebook page earlier and I laughed out loud (I won’t tell you which particular image made me laugh the most).

If our things could talk

Graphics like this can connect us to others – even unknown others – as they allow us to know we’re not the only ones putting the dishwasher on more often or rarely using the car.

We spent a few hours one night through the week listening to Wes Tank rapping Dr Seuss books over Dr Dre beats. Connections again – between words and sounds and beats and voice and cleverness and creativity and silliness and more. See if you can do it!

 

And then there’s connections to things I didn’t know I was missing. An email arrived just the other day, and I glanced through it disinterestedly until I saw the words ‘Slow TV’. My attention was immediately caught.

A car company filmed a driver driving through the NSW countryside for four hours. It almost made me cry!

There’s a world out there that I haven’t connected with for weeks … months. There are hills and trees and bumpy roads and grassy verges and sky … all that sky. There are horizons that go beyond the back fence, two metres from my back door. There are sheep and road signs and beautiful music to accompany me on this journey of what might be described as nothingness, but which I describe as bliss. Absolute bliss.

Connection to country. Who knew it was something I missed?

And, of course, as always, there’s connection to family. To Mum, and my sister Deb, and my daughters Rochelle (and on weekends her husband Michael) and Emma, and their kids, and Alison, and to my daughter-in-law Kaz (and even more grandkids), and my cousins Cassandra and Jenny (and often their kids), and sometimes to my nieces Sarah and Eliza and sometimes their kids too. We exercise together every day (those of us who can make it), then chat – or listen to all the kids saying hello to each other.

It’s a fabulous connection – four generations and multiple arms of family coming together as often as we can to keep physically and mentally healthy. As has been emphasised as we’ve exercised more and more, exercise is not about how you look, it’s about how you feel, and exercising with family feels good!

And on the back of that connection, we also connect creatively. We’ve completed our Images of Isolation project and are into our Images by the Dozen project. We’re all to take 12 images – representing the numbers 1 to 12 without actually having numbers as a feature of the image. It helps keep our brains busy, our eyes seeing differently and our connections strong.

These are just some of the connections I’ve made this week. What connections have you made? 

Posted in Life

Diary of a distancer: Week 5

See Week 4. Repeat.

Except, without working on Friday, and now being the mother of a 41-year old. Yes, Ben, my eldest son turned 41 yesterday or, as he told me, 14,974 days.

Talking of numbers … the numbers this week are much bigger than last week.

1,700,816 cases as of April 11, 2020, 7:38GMT (5:38pm Melbourne time). Of those, just over 22% have recovered.

It’s easy to look at the numbers and forget to feel anything, because … well, because they’re just numbers.

But they aren’t, are they?

I read an interesting piece in The Guardian yesterday, written by a junior doctor. She made the point that politicians and some commentators have the perspective of gods – in that they see the big picture. They see the numbers of people hospitalised, the numbers of ICU beds and ventilators and PPE required, the number of refrigerated trucks to house the bodies of those who’ve died, the numbers of businesses affected, the number of unemployed people … numbers. But she was seeing people. People struggling to breathe, people struggling to cope, people who are fearful and anxious and scared for their own lives.

I’m finding it a challenge to deal with patients who are so unwell because I wish this hadn’t happened to them. When you’re providing one-on-one care, it hardly registers that there are hundreds of people in the same position. We talk of curves and peaks but that has nothing to do with lived experience. Politicians and journalists now speak with the perspective of gods. They have an overview of the situation that I just cannot have. As a doctor I feel like an ant standing next to an elephant: I can barely make sense of what I see, and it’s hard to throw my tiny weight against it.

We can look at the numbers and keep the situation at arm’s length. We can protect ourselves from the reality and head off to our holiday homes at the beach or in the bush. We can flaunt our privilege, like Justin Timberlake did in a radio interview recently, when he said that him and his wife weren’t exactly coping with ’24 hour a day parenting’. Is there any other sort?

Apparently, there is.

While I don’t flaunt my privilege, I feel it. I have a house, it’s (mostly) warm, there’s food in the fridge and running water. Things it’s so easy to take for granted. I have the technological means to contact members of my family so we stay connected.

I also have a job I can do from home, unlike many of those in places like New York where the coronovirus has split the city into two unequal parts.

Different boroughs, even different neighborhoods within each borough, are experiencing coronavirus almost as though it were two different contagions. In wealthier white areas the residential streets are empty; parking spots that are fought over in normal times now stand vacant following an exodus to out-of-town weekend homes or Airbnbs.

In places like the Bronx – which is 84% black, Latino or mixed race – the sidewalks are still bustling with people making their way into work. There is still a rush hour. “We used to call them ‘service workers’,” Williams said. “Now they are ‘essential workers’ and we have left them to fend for themselves.”

Source: A tale of two New Yorks

I feel uneasy everytime we get a parcel on the doorstep. Someone has had to put themselves on the line so that I can eat and have the medication I need. Someone who can’t work from home has packed that item, and someone else has delivered it. Am I putting them at risk? Or am I keeping someone in a job they might otherwise not be in? The answers seesaw through my mind and I’m yet to feel as though I have an answer that I feel at ease with.

Perhaps it’s both and there’s no easy way to reconcile my dilemma.

I’m writing to remember, so that next year, when all this is over (will it be over by this time next year?), I can look back and read some of the things I’ve been thinking about during this time of isolation.

Not social isolation, of course. Well, not for many of us. We’re lucky to live in a country with a relatively reliable internet connection, and to have access to so much technology. And we’re lucky that there’s a ready supply of pens and paper for children to use when they write letters to those living in aged care, or to their own grandparents. Who says you need digital technologies to stay connected?

But we now talk about having a ‘Zoom’ as if we’ve been doing it all our lives – and even many oldies who hadn’t thought FaceTime was worth their while are now using it to stay in touch with family members. HouseParty is something I’m hearing a lot about, but it’s mostly negative at this stage, so I’m staying clear of it until I can see a use for it.


I scrolled past a Facebook post earlier that mentioned something about the ‘interminable long weekend’, and I have to say, I haven’t felt that at all. If anything, it’s going way too fast for me.

Tim set us both a challenge yesterday – a photography challenge (my favourite kind). We are to take a photo of things around the house for every letter of the alphabet.

We set to work yesterday, writing lists, storyboarding ideas (well, that was me, Tim doesn’t storyboard), and then we got clicking. It meant the day sped by, and even better, meant I wasn’t sitting in front of a computer all day.

I mentioned it in our post-exercise hangout yesterday and Deb decided that her and Grant would join in … so between now and the end of the month we’ll be taking photos that we’ll compile into a book I’ve decided to title Images in the time of coronavirus: An alphabet of isolation.

Or should it be ‘from isolation’? I can’t decide.

Plenty of time for that.

Anyway, while I was taking a photo for ‘I’ yesterday, I noticed the yellow rose out the front was open, so I captured it and thought I’d share it with you.

 

Posted in Life, Writing

2016 Writing challenge: Day #9

This post should have been yesterday’s post, but I was rushing to get out of the house to have dinner with my son Chase, and so postponed posting this until now.

The theme I have chosen for today is: Take two – Run outside. Take a picture of the first thing you see. Run inside. Take a picture of the second thing you see. Write about the connection between these two random objects, people, or scenes.

P1010025-2

P1010032-2

The bird is blue and the leaf is green.

Blue and green must never be seen without a colour in between. That’s what my Sydney Nan used to tell me.

Sydney Nan would know because she was a very stylish woman. Her handbag and shoes always matched. When she was younger she wore gloves and a hat. Every Sunday night she would paint her nails, and they always looked beautiful, just like she did.

I argued of course. But Nan, the sky is blue and the grass is green, and they look good together.

Yes, Sharon, they do. But it’s not the same in fashion, always put a colour in between.

Okey dokey. I knew when to stop arguing with Nan.

Pink and green, on the other hand, are fit for a queen.

Really?

Pink and green? Together? Hmmm …

Nan didn’t tell me that. I read it somewhere.

We have a proclivity for making connections between things. We see an animal act in a certain way and we connect it with human emotions or actions. We see a puddle and connect it with a painting we once craned our necks to see over the heads of hundreds of cameras in a museum on the other side of the world.

We connect a loathing of maths to our high school maths teacher.

We connect our aversion to wooden spoons to the fearful voice of our mother and finding socks under the bed.

We connect the scent of vanilla to our fridge and then make the leap to food and then realise that you’re writing a blog post and it’s after past nine and you haven’t had breakfast and you’re hungry and your mind is fuzzy and you wonder why you don’t stop to eat.

And you connect the leaf that’s been rained on in Melbourne to the rain coming from Tasmania where the bird was given as a gift.

Connections.

Between people and things. Some more tenuous than others, but we can make them if we try.