recent foggy forest morning heading up the mountain
I want to thank everyone who read my last post and commented about the sad passing of Robin Williams. And, also for your empathy and warmth towards me for sharing a little of what was a difficult, vulnerable part of my personal journey.
Your heartfelt words brighten my spirit ~ more than you know.
Even though it is still very cold, there is a perceptible shift in the air. The light is changing and our world here is slowly waking from its deep winter slumber.
The vernal shift, lifting the atmospheric grey.
On the mountain, the cooler air stays the blossoming just a little longer. But today, I found this generations old tree, its fragile branches heralding a welcome return to spring…
a promise of light after the winter’s dark
My posts, and comments at your blogs, might be a little sporadic as I create and prepare for the coming busy spring/summer market season. But, I will come back as often as I can and keep in touch...
The death of Robin Williams has shocked many. And, has sparked discussions in social media the world over. Some sad, some confused, some outraged, some righteous and some cruel. In truth, no one has the right to judge or condemn. I apologise in advance to anyone who reads my following words, and finds them displeasing. If you have strong thoughts about suicide, perhaps it’s best to click away…
I've been in the deepest of dark holes. Scared, alone and wanting an end to everything. No more abuse - verbal or physical... of the most intrusive, personal kind. Not another moment of the whole seemingly endless mind fuck that is a brutally damaging dysfunctional family. Sick of being the only child, and therefore the one who bore the full assault. Weary, at such a young age, of witnessing real life horrors. In the very early seventies, treatment of childhood physical and sexual abuse and mental health issues were still rather unrefined. Even if I had had the chance to "see someone", in those days, and be told by some sombre, authoritative textbook psychologist that, "things will get better when you're older", would've been bloody pointless. Do adults forget how long 'time' is to a child? Let alone a child who is treated in the worst possible ways by the very people who should provide love, protection, nurturing and supportive guidance through those tender, vulnerable years. The concept of "older" might as well be a galaxy away.
Nor were the options to re-home abused/neglected children, carefully established... or, well regulated. To find oneself in a “foster” home, only to be equally abused and treated like property, was confusing and terrifying. Devastating. All trust, gone.
Imprints of multiple hands intruding on the most private, inappropriate places leave indelible scars on the soul, long after the blood has been washed away, and bruises have healed. I’ve seen, and endured, things a child should not. Decades cannot blur memories locked behind closed doors in the labyrinthine mind.
Once, a Gillette razor blade was to be my salvation. I sat on the cracked toilet seat in the old decrepit bathroom, hypnotically staring at the dull grey sheen on the deceptively sharp edge. The ever so thin metal felt cool against the soft, warm skin of my wrist.
The haunted mind of a hope-less child.
I opted out of death's release, and back into a life far more sinister. A coward in my own eyes.
In high school, I was bright. Ironically, I excelled in Human Anatomy and Physiology. But, the dread of home life kept me from concentrating for lengths at a time. I alternated between focussing on lessons and fear of the inevitable three o’clock bell. The bell of hell, I called it, as my stomach lurched at the sound. During school hours, I found it was easier to play the clown, and make the other kids laugh. My distraction, was distraction.
Humour can effectively cloak a troubled mind. And, manic humour can be a cry for help.
I understand the depths one can plummet to. Regardless of status or position in this world. Money can't quiet an un-quiet mind. Drugs and alcohol can dull, but they can also disturb and provoke that which lies dormant for most of the time. Cleverly concealed by bravado and uber confidence.
Many people don't really see - nor do they really listen - anymore. Many don't know how to read the signs. We, as a society, seem to have lost intuitive cognition. We writhe in condolences... after the fact.
When I heard of Robin Williams' death, I think I might have been among the few who didn't question, "why?". I was very sad to hear of it, yes. But honestly, I got it. Deep down, I felt a release for him.
He isn't haunted anymore.
The shock of his death had people questioning, "Why would he do such a thing? He was the funniest man on the planet, had everything he wanted, was rich and famous and loved by all. I/we don't get it."
Celebrity isn't a ticket to sanity.
Many will say, "the drugs and alcohol eventually led him to it".
As if people need a logical reason to appease their thoughts and questions. But so often it runs much deeper than that. To times before substance abuse made the pain "bearable". Rarely will we ever know the real reasons.
His death will be a topic of thousands of conversations around the water cooler for, oh, at least a few days. Before the weekend comes, and once again at the cooler on Monday, there is "the game" to discuss.
Of course, I hope that Robin's death will cause people to look deeper. Delve further into mental health with a quest to understand, and to treat those with troubled minds a little kinder, and with more mercy and compassion.
But, the cynic inside me gnaws at my hope like it is gristle on the end of a chicken bone, until the marrow is sucked out, and what's left of hope, dribbles away...
We live in a world of increasing disconnect. One where far too many of the self interested and absorbed seek a superfluous, highly maintained perfection. There seems little consideration or tolerance for "imperfect" souls with tormented minds. It's too easy to say, "get professional help, take some pills, then, dance, monkey, dance". As long as the monkey keeps dancing, let's not ask questions. Perhaps some people don't want to look too close... they might see something they don't want to see. And it'll shatter their reflection of perceived perfection...
My usual (and, mostly reliable) Red Hill Market closes over winter, and there are few good art/craft specific markets operating at his time.
Here in chilly, unpredictable Victoria, July/August are among the worst months to try and sell art/crafts.
Unless one is fortunate to find oneself at an indoor (indie) artisans’ market in the city. And even then, enticing the brave souls - potential customers - who venture out, and who are mostly, "just browsing" as they saunter past tables en route to the café for lunch and meet up with friends, can be difficult.
Currently, my funds are low, and I need to buy clay supplies, paper bags/tissue wrap for sales, and pay (in advance) the upcoming spring and pre-Christmas market fees. I decided on an outdoor “community market” (mostly produce, with some crafts) just under an hour’s drive away on Saturday.
It snowed the day before, a little further up on our mountain, so it was more than a wee bit chilly as hubby and I left home at 5am. Arriving at the top of the road leading to the market grounds, we were met by an organiser, and were asked to take a number and wait – for one and a half hours – til we were allocated our stall locations at 7:30 am.
We were grateful that we didn’t need to leave the confines of our cosy car, except for a dash to the loo. At one point, as I peered out the breath condensed passenger window into the pre-dawn darkness, the thought of snuggling up to Jack in our warm bed seemed far more alluring. Hesitantly, and gripped in a moment of weakness, I suggested to hubby that it wouldn’t take much for me to agree to us turning around and heading back home… if that’s how he felt also? Really. Knowing how much I needed to attend a market, it was very unusual - for my usually intrepid self - to even suggest such a thing.
And, as this was one of the few markets that didn't require money "up front" at the time of booking, my indecision was heightened. My mind teemed with less than positive thoughts about precious dollars being spent on a site fee with the possibility of it not being recovered due to scant sales, and worse - with no profit to be made.
All I could think about, were the few customers that would be willing to brave the cold, wet conditions and muddy walkways, slipping and sliding past us hopeful vendors as we tried to mask pleading expressions to buy our wares. Smiles, literally, frozen on our faces.
My emotions were threatening to run away, as my reason failed to lasso them back.
With clay work still drying slowly in a damp environment at home, I really didn’t have much stock to sell. That didn’t help my uncertainty either… "I need to be here, but, what’s the point of showing up, if there is less than usual to sell?" Push me, pull you. My chattering oxymoronic monkey mind.
Fortunately, hubby’s comment to, "stand your (soggy) ground, and chalk it up to experience, whatever the outcome", calmed me down. Shhhh, chatter, shhhhhh.
There were quite a few empty spaces, where stall holders had bailed on the idea of facing the day… lugging tents and trestle tables and chairs and myriad boxes, then setting up and waiting, waiting, waiting…
On the plus side, setting up keeps one warm. Although, standing/sitting/standing and trying to stay warm can be challenging, especially when you can’t even feel your toes anymore, as the chill rises up from the drenched earth. And, I already had on two pairs of socks.
The intermittent rain, and my internal whining, continued to dampen my spirits.
Then suddenly, I thought of the multitudes of homeless and poor, who endure these conditions every day, day after day, season after wintry season. And, the dear animals in cold tin shelters, shivering, waiting for someone to look into their soft brown eyes and bring them into the warmth of their hearts and homes.
My internal soliloquy ceased abruptly.
I sent hubby to find the coffee vendor.
Happy to be on the move and keep warm, he was also (silently) happy to search for a donut van, and returned fifteen minutes later, with two coffees… and a tell-tale dusting of sugar down the front of his sweater - as if I wouldn’t know :)
Eventually, the rain eased and the grey sky lightened. Sporadic customers, who arrived in the first couple of hours, hardly glanced in our direction as they had one, just one, purpose in mind – to fill their baskets and bags with fresh produce, and hurry home again to the comfort of their kitchens to prepare breakfast and think upon meals for the week. Ceramics were the furthest thing from their minds.
I get it. And it’s okay. When it’s so uninviting outside, why do anything more than bundle up warm, get to market safely and quickly, buy your farm fresh goodies and get back home ASAP?
Outdoor markets in winter can be very unpleasant. And, I have so much respect for sellers of plants and fresh produce. Throughout the year, but especially in winter. These "small holdings" growers, toil away in frost encrusted soil, washing root crops clean in finger numbing cold water, bundle, tie, bag and box them ready for sale, then drive for miles in the dark, to a different market every weekend. And, are rewarded by loyal customers who eagerly purchase the fruits (and veg) of their labour.
Coffee sellers and hot food vendors generally do well also. After all, armed with a caché of delicious fresh ingredients, what’s better than a takeaway coffee or hot snack before heading back to the car?
So, to be honest, unless one has a birthday gift to consider, why stop any longer than need be, on a bleak morning, perusing for potential gifts? Christmas is still too far away in most peoples’ minds. Gasp! "Christmas? I don’t want to even think about it", is often the cry.
Our, not so buoyant economy is also another factor. Understandably, with employment uncertainty, the rising cost of goods and services, high taxes and little confidence in our illustrious government, purse strings are drawn ever tighter these days. Art/craft marketers must work harder to create unusual, quality pieces, and have to sell at "attractive" prices. It’s a juggle. Not to overprice, yet try to cover (or at the very least, meet) one’s costs. Better to sell, than take home almost as much stock as one arrives with. But, it’s important not to under sell one’s work either. It’s hard graft. And at times, disheartening.
I’ve had the odd (artisan/indie) stall holder confront and accuse me of selling my work "too cheap", and making the rest of the sellers look bad by lowering prices and, "the standard" of the market, then snubbing me for the rest of the day. Really? When I work bloody hard at what I do? I’m a perfectionist. It shows in my work. And the high praise from my customers reflects that.
Besides, let's be realistic here, it's a market, not an art show or exhibition. People turn up with a certain amount of cash, and hope in their heart that there might be something they can afford, and be stoked to buy.
I retort that my work is "affordable", not cheap. And, I’m not one for hoicking my prices in an uncertain economic climate, where art/craft is a luxury, not an essential. I’ll even give my art away, to the right person, in the right circumstances. Why not pop a little magnet or brooch into the gift bag as a "thank you" to a sweet person who loves my work effusively? Or, to the dear old woman who would like to buy more from me, but can only choose one item, due to her pension restraints?
Oh well. As much as such unnecessary, petty comments hurt me at the time, I get over it.
But, I’ll never understand the backstabbing and lack of community attitude, when it comes to some artists. Seriously, I could write a post on that subject alone. I’ve attended enough artisan markets, and seen enough silly behaviour from insecure (I'm sorry to say) females of a certain age.
And, I won’t even get started on exclusive cliques among some groups at a market. The "problem" lies with them. As I usually do well enough in the off season, most of the time, to get me through until spring/summer, and the flurry that is Christmas. My regular customers return often. That’s all I need for confirmation.
I believe in, and long for, a good arts community. I’m all for supporting my fellow marketers, and happily send buyers their way if I don’t have what they’re looking for.
And, I always encourage newbie sellers, who need advice in the often scary, unsure world of self-employment at markets. I remember the uncertainty of my first market season. Hope mixed with doubt mixed with anxiety followed by the elation of a first sale in an often intimidating environment.
Enough digressing. Get on with it!
As the cool, winter sun finally peeped through the silver clouds, and chased away the early rain,
I left hubby to man our not-so-busy stall, and took the opportunity to sneak off and snap a few photos.
The deep, silty, swirling waters of the Yarra River flowed fast, as rivulets of rainwater trickled down the bushy banks.
Shiny water droplets hung in crystal teardrop clusters and mini rainbows were cast upon giant gloomy granite steps.
Where are all the customers? Come one, come all!
Two things I really like about this particular market...
One, that we can drive to our site and unload directly from the back of our car.
No lugging heavy gear over uneven terrain and car-parks, whilst avoiding distracted drivers. And two, the fact that dogs are allowed. Welcome even. Which is not often the case at many markets.
There were more than a few muddy paws padding the rain soaked lanes, and I clicked away at many furkids of all shapes, sizes and breeds, until my camera ran out of charge.
Later, I created a collage of canines…
Despite the still chilled air, the soft blue sky encouraged more people to come out in the remaining two hours.
Although there were many mumblings amongst marketers, when pulling down, of, "not so good takings today", I’m happy to say, that I covered my market fee and clay costs. Only just. But, I’m grateful for that, at least.
And… for my hubby’s steadfast presence on such a shivery day. That's worth a few more donuts I think :)
Here, in our little corner of this vast, wide world, winter has been particularly bleak.
Now, I love winter, more so than high summer, however, we’ve had endlessly wet, grey days, with icy blasts from the south west that would make an Emperor Penguin feel perfectly at home.
Sadly though, the same can’t be said for so many animals that have to endure less than comfortable conditions in their short lives. Hungry, abused and neglected, the winter extremes are miserable for them as they try to find whatever little nook they can – if they can – to avoid the bone deep chills that come up from the ground and air around them.
Man has “domesticated” once wild, yet trusting, creatures so that they formed strong bonds, and on whom they rely heavily for nourishment and comfort. Many are very fortunate, and live well with their humans. But, too many aren’t.
Recently, I was snuggled up in bed with Jack beside me one frosty, foggy morning.
I watched him as he slept. His amber tinted paws and velvety black ears twitching in a doggy dream.
Daring not to disturb his deep slumber, I whispered, “you are one of the lucky ones, my baby”.
I mentally counted his “resting stations” throughout the house. Soft, comfy spots to ensure he has a place to ease his old bones. There are six.
Not including our bed. To a dog and a cat, this revered of all domains, is pride of place in the home. The inner sanctum where the heads of their tribe sleep.
When hubby gets up (usually around 4:30am), Jack leaves his plump bed by my dresser and comes to the side of our bed to be picked up, where he’ll curl contentedly next to me as I snooze for a little while longer.
A little after dawn that morning, I woke and stared through the window at the trees outside as heavy fog gripped their branches with misty tendrils. I thought about how animals are faring “out there” in the cold, while we lay toasty and warm.
A luxury often taken for granted.
I believe in synchronicity.
And, on that day, I saw a plea for bedding donations on the Pet’s Haven Animal Shelter facebook page.
This spurred me to search online for doonas/duvets. Even though markets have been few and far between in the winter, I decided that the pennies I’d been squirreling away for a rainy day (I was saving for some kitchen utensils), should be used for a better purpose instead.
And this, was that rainy day.
I saw Kmart was selling cosy and washable bedding at great prices.
So, my son (home on term break) and I took a trip there, and came out with an armload of S/B doonas and a snuggly pet bed.
Score another point for synchronicity…
I very rarely go to shopping malls or chain stores like Kmart. So, what were the chances that I would bump into a friend, who I hadn’t seen since Christmas – outside that very store that I rarely go to, at that very moment on that particular day? My friend said that she herself rarely went to this store also.
It just so happens that she “owes” me twelve dollars. I was never interested in having it paid back. I told her all those months ago, that she could “buy me a coffee”, whenever we caught up again.
As my friend pulled the money from her purse, I said I’d be ever grateful if she would go back in and pick up a dog bed instead. I told her with a smile, “then, we’re square”. Done.
And so, with cushiony billows of warmth, my son and I headed home.
Are these all for me, mum?
No sweetie, they go to those less fortunate than you :)
Pet's Haven Animal Shelter is a non-government funded, “pro life” organization that rescues and re-homes cats and dogs of all ages that would otherwise have no future - or a very bleak one. Volunteers and foster carers offer their time and love freely in the hope of giving these animals a better chance to live a long, and most importantly, happy life with loving families. Their site regularly posts updates and “happy home tails” of cats and dogs in their new, forever homes.
Seeing as Pet’s Haven is a two hour drive from home, I considered taking our donated bedding to one of their “drop off points”. But, when I told hubby of my plans that evening, he chipped in with, “I’ll take you to the shelter on the weekend. It’ll be a nice drive and we can get coffee after”. Sweet.
We set out for the country town of Woodend on Sunday. When we dropped off our bundle of bedding, I asked one of the volunteers if it would be alright to say hello to the cats and dogs awaiting adoption, and asked for permission to take pictures.
Walking around the cages and enclosures, our hearts grew heavy.
To think these beautiful creatures were once malnourished, abused, neglected, or awaiting time on the pound’s death row, before being taken in by this generous shelter, fed and cared for, ready for adoption.
Staring out at us, there was a glimmer in their eyes - a soul's spark, with an unending capacity to please and to love.
Even now, after all they have been through.
Fighting the rising lump in his throat, hubby could take it no longer and told me he’d wait outside until I was ready to leave.
As it was the middle of the day, quite a few were snoozing and not interested in coming forward. They looked so peaceful.
Some of the more energetic little dogs were being prepared for a walk.
I continued on.
Then, I saw this gentle young lady named, Zoe.
Instantly, she captured my heart with an endearing look of hope that I might well be her new family. And, it nearly killed me to know that I couldn’t bring her home.
I sat with her for the longest time. She would make such a lovely companion. She has trust in her heart, regardless of the circumstances which led her to be rescued.
The look in her eyes haunts me still. I was awake at 1:30 this morning, crying. Thinking of her.
There was a connection. Turning my back and leaving was so very difficult.
I walked out into the grey winter light, blinking back tears.
Hubby and I drove in silence, as we searched for a place to sit and collect ourselves. Coffee - good coffee - helps at times like these.
It was a rather solemn drive home.
Our “doona run to Woodend”, will become a ritual journey at the beginning of every winter from now on, along with donations to help out whenever I can.
If anyone has old quilts, blankets, pillows, cushions or towels - please, please consider gifting them to your local animal shelter. There are many ways to support them. I know most people who read my blog already do, I’m sure, and have opened their hearts to a lucky orphan or two. Homeless no more. Most shelters rely on the kindness of good folk to help, in any way they can. Every little bit helps, as the costs of food, shelter, transport, advertising and veterinary bills continue to rise at an alarming rate.
Saving one animal will not change the world.
But for that one animal, the world will change forever.
Photo credit: Ari S. Friedlaender/Oregon State University
On April 1st 2014, Australia (and the world) celebrated “an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean”. I rejoiced at this news, but deep down, I felt uneasy.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ), demanded Japan cease its whaling program "with immediate effect" as it didn't comply with the country's obligations under the international whaling convention. Japan stated that it was "deeply disappointed" that the UN's top court ruled in favour of Australia by declaring its Southern Ocean whale hunt illegal, but nevertheless insisted it would abide by the decision.
However my heart is heavy. I find it hard to comprehend in the light of the not altogether surprising, but still depressing, confirmation by Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, during his current visit to Australia and New Zealand, that Japan would continue its whaling program in the Southern Ocean.
The whaling wars down under will continue, as Japan navigates the loophole and structures a new research program, despite the ICJ ruling calling the previous Jarpa II research program “a sham”, and simply a guise for commercial whaling.
Photo credit: Ho New/Reuters
Mr Abe said, “One of the objectives of the international convention for regulating whaling is indeed a sustainable use of resources. Based on this, Japan will engage in research of whaling in order to collect the indispensable scientific information in order to manage the whale resources”.
What the fuck?
Makes no sense.
The fact that the Australian Antarctic Territory is a declared and established sanctuary, seems of no consequence.
And, despite pre-election promises to the contrary, whaling was not on this political agenda, as Australia's Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, chose to avoid the "thorny issue".
Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson has said, "I don't think Tony Abbott cares for the whales one bit."
Mr Abbott said this week, that the friendship between Japan and Australia was, "far, far bigger than our disagreement on one particular subject". "Friends can disagree on subjects and that's in no way inconsistent with a strong and growing friendship."
What’s a few dead whales between friends, eh Tony?
Mr Abe said, "Our countries both love peace. We value freedom and democracy and we hold human rights and the rule of law dear," and called the relationship "special".
So, I suppose animals have no rights then, Mr Abe? And, rules are meant to be bent or broken to suit.
I call bullshit on both of you.
It’s clearly obvious that trade agreements are far more important than the respect of conservationists worldwide. Of course they are, what am I thinking?
Political power and economics rule.
The World Wildlife Fund has stated that the International Whaling Commission should reject any new proposal from Japan to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary near Antarctica.
In the meantime, it’s once again up to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and its valiant, unfailing volunteers and supporters, to defend the whales, harass the whalers and ensure no money is made from the Japanese commercial whaling expeditions in the Southern Ocean. "Scientific" or otherwise.
Because, "the tables are turned, they're the ones who are the criminals".
The world will be watching.
Photo credit: Isabel Ender
Along with fighting the Western Australian government’s application to extend the shark drum line policy and continue the barbaric, controversial shark cull - which has been strongly opposed by hundreds of the world’s top marine scientists and researchers - Sea Shepherd continues to lead global campaigns to protect, defend and conserve the world’s oceans.
"We cannot live on this planet with a dead ocean. If our oceans die, we die."
~ Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd
best kind of pirate… fierce defender of the oceans.
I make NO
apologies for including some of these images. They are the truth in
pictures. If they offend, click away. If
they anger and inflame your sense of justice for what is happening in our
oceans, please consider supporting Sea Shepherd – International or Australia.