Monday, 20 June 2011

Surface tension

Silver-black mirror water. Smooth. Moon-lit. My hand rocks against the surface. It presses down lightly for a moment, gentle and reflexive. Then breaks to one side and slips just below. A peninsula of me, with water lapping ashore.

And my mind is a still, lucid reservoir too, only part-stirred by a thought - I should have come here more often.


Now tiny tides roll as my arm subtly retracts and extends, and my wrist wavers and resolves; aiming for equilibrium.

I suppose it was predictable that I would feel like this. I’ve been travelling since dawn, head full of static and obstructions. And as we cut out from the sealed road to the logging track, it was like a series of internal obstacles started to crack and cleave away.

Now I breathe in, breathe out, and deep, petrified layers are gone; splitting and splintering off with ease.

Plunging up to my elbow, the cool wet quickens my pulse. My consciousness retracts. I’m all sensation, with full focus on the tingling, soft-chilling of the water. A rush of breath slips in past my lips. And then out. And a floating cloud-column, a fog-spirit, momentarily veils my view, rises, then clears.


The deeper we travelled the more effortless it felt. And now this is like washing sins - but without judgement. Or like sending signals that are instantly acknowledged and returned; retrieved, somehow, from within. And it is almost effortless. Almost.

I suspect that evolution has taught me lessons I can’t forget. I’m unable to think these feelings - that the dense complexity feels vital, that the opaque silence outside is present inside too - but I can still sense my thoughts. They are a pale shiver-texture on a clear, shifting skin. They are decades worth of lived ideas. They are exchanges from the days now gone. And they tell me something without speaking. They keep me in check - even when un-checking is my aim - so that, despite how far I have come, they still bound and still define. They are context beyond perspective. A background surface tension; difficult to break through.


So I draw back my arm and don’t even let the water settle. I press feet into ground, roll over hips and curve spine, tilt shoulders, and slip through the surface.

I dive in. Immersed as if in a black crystal ball. Clear, yet near-dark. Like floating in a starless night sky; skin sensing, soft gliding, buoyant, not falling.

Time is not suspended, but stretched, as I submerge. An obtuse calm. Space is warped out to a new fullness that I feel here, now.


You’ve taken longer than I thought you would. And as you step to the bank I stay sound and still, head bobbing above the stirred, soft-glass pane, watching as you lower your hand to feel the gentle movement of the water.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

When you were child

When you were child
You knew you were animal.
Crack stick under leaf and bare foot
Kneel soft and crawl slow
Foraging fingers humus grounded
Dirt sole and dirt palm
Follow follow find, follow
Breathe release breathe.

And the scene's slow sigh
Draws you in and out
In pieces imperceptible
Parts of the whole indivisible
Hidden by bracken
Obscured by memory
A glimpse here, there

When you were child
You knew you were animal.
Now you have to become one again.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Pip Pip

Pip Pip. The title of a book by Jay Griffiths.

Pip pip. The sound of Greenwich Mean Time, broadcast over the airwaves.

This book is neither written as a science of time nor a history of time – for they both existed already. Rather it is an exploration of time. Its subtitle calls it “a sideways look at time”. It is an argument for the subtle and dynamic time that we have largely forgotten, but that children instinctively know and that nature will always remember. It is both an angry and a playful outburst.

Image credit: Jay Griffiths

It claims: that Greenwich Mean Time is mean indeed - declaring itself as the time, when it is just one of thousands of different times; that time isn’t represented by clocks – and in fact it is quite the opposite; that time isn’t money - and whoever says it is, is short-changing you; that time is time - and life itself.

Right across the world, throughout history, time has been rooted in nature; from “the scent calendar” of the Andaman forest, to “bee-time and coconut clocks”, from harvest festivals and lunar festivals, to the different experiences of time between men and women. Our relationship to time is a direct reflection of our relationship with nature and with place.

Reading the book heightened my felt awareness of how thoroughly we are surrounded by clocks and clock-time; on radios, telephones, television, computers and buildings. We’ve sliced the seasons into months, weeks and days. And we’ve cut up our days into hours, minutes, seconds, nano-seconds and pico-seconds. I could see all around me the ways that time has been straight-jacketed and tied down. I could feel the way that our modern treatment of time encourages us to fill it. We have created a flat, hollow, same time, all the time; nothing to do with the real time - nature’s time. In the beautiful, clear and playful words of the book:

“It is always mid-morning, mid-May in the shops and offices of the present; the light is the same and the temperature is the same. It is Same o’clock in the month of Same” [p13].

Our modern, linear timekeeping doesn’t describe time so much as it describes us. While reading, I realised that by disconnecting with time, I disengage from nature and close off opportunities for relating to it and thinking about it.

I found Pip Pip’s style entertaining and sometimes uncomfortable - Griffiths doesn’t take a linear, purely rational, step-by-step approach - but the book is better for it. Outside my comfort zone I reflected on ideas that I take for granted, that I presume unconsciously but have never justified. Over several months while reading the book, I was acutely aware of time and how it felt. Both where I was and what was around me mattered and gave me a sense of a more inclusive, rounded experience of time.

In one of the final chapters, I read about the sun rising over Gisborne, New Zealand and gradually waking the Earth place by place. Over Madagascar and Australia, Israel, Italy, and then Ireland. In my mind I held an image of the Earth from space - more a feeling of colour, shape and pattern than a sharp picture. An archetype-amalgam. I imagined the sun making its way across its surface; time and nature combined. Talk about getting perspective - I felt at once outside myself, looking down on the Earth, and also grounded; ‘located’ in the particular section of the globe where I live. I find myself going back to this image in my mind regularly since reading the book. I imagine that I always will.

Note: A version of this post was initially submitted for an Environmental Education subject as part of my Master of Environment course (University of Melbourne). We were asked to personally reflect on a piece of writing that has influenced our 'environmental perception'. It helped me to reflect on the role that writing, music and art can play in being a catalysing or crystallizing experience in which our world-views, values, beliefs and/or deeply held understandings make significant shifts. I'd be interested to hear about similar experiences that you have had.

The book also inspired a song: Wildwood

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The General Assembly

The General Assembly is a band based in Melbourne, Australia.

It is a creative space where I write, sing and collaborate with others.

Our songs have been described as everything from 'bewitching...imaginative and evocative" (Inpress) to "fucking great" (Amanda Palmer - former Dresden Doll).

We add ambience, loops, beats and bass to a more traditional guitar-based line-up. Describing sounds with words is not easy, nor always necessary - listen for yourself here.

Nothing gold can stay

It's true what they say, nothing gold can stay. So you'd better maintain contact.




I am Huckleberry Mockingbird

Hŭk’əl-bĕr,ē Mŏk’ĭng-bûrd, noun:

1. An imperfect guide for imperfect times.

2. Someone I knew once. Someone I want to be. Someone I already am.

Blogito ergo sum: I blog, therefore I am

These are my first official words. And so here I am.

If things were different so then would I be. They are not. If I were someone else then I would do something else. But I am nothing other; I am Huckleberry Mockingbird. I am an imperfect guide for imperfect times.

So imperfect am I, in fact, that some question my aptness for the task. Some doubt my ability to guide. I maintain that an unsound guide is just what the times require. No doubt we will see.

Anyway, I am here to speak - to use my voice - and to follow it where it leads.

Welcome to my blog.