Yoghurt and blogging are good for you

Nancy Devine has honoured me with a stylish blogger award, for which I am grateful.

Here follows my acceptance speech, which at Nancy’s request includes seven things you might not yet know about me:

1. I would spend all day blogging if I could and then feel terribly guilty for it. To me it would be like spending all day long in a coffee shop chatting with like minded friends about things that are of interest to us all. The occasional tense moment might arise, but most of the time we would travel into new areas of thought and occasionally retreat back into safe and familiar territory, always with the knowledge that there is so much more to learn out there.

2. The only way I can justify the hours each week I spend on blogging is to convince myself I do it for the writing practice. This then is an insult to my blogger friends, as if I do not appreciate our time together. Nothing could be further from the truth.

3. When I was little I wanted to have nine children just like my mother and at the same time, despite my reservations about the man who was my father, even then, I imagined I wanted to marry a man just like my father: a tall Dutchman with blue eyes and blond hair and a deep gravelly voice.

4. I have achieved none of these things. My husband is neither tall nor blond. He is fifth generation Australian and descended from convict stock and my children number four.

5. Over the past several months, in fact since I broke my leg last September, I have undertaken to eat a tub of yoghurt a day. I understand yoghurt is good for you in many ways and I now have the fantasy that it might help my bones.

6. One of my great pleasures is to escape into BBC period pieces, the Jane Austen variety. Their worlds seem so much slower than ours, so much more predictable, but I despise the class divisions and the gender divide in those days appalls me. I would not want to live in such an era. So why escape into it? I keep asking myself this question.

7. Despite my best efforts to be generous to others, I fear I have a jealous disposition. I am inclined to resent those who do better than me, particularly when it comes to writing. I suffer such pangs often within the blogosphere where there are so many wonderful writers.

I think it comes as a function of being sixth in line in a family of nine and always looking up to my smart brothers and sisters ahead of me. I could never imagine that I might be as smart as them. No amount of education, psychoanalysis or life experience seems to shake that view completely. I admire intellects that are accessible on the one hand and on the other I wish they were mine.

As for the bloggers to whom I would like to offer this stylish blogger award there are too many to list. Also, I’m aware that many who receive such awards find them onerous.

So I offer this reward as a mark of respect, not as a requirement that you follow through on any of the tasks assigned, the stuff about linking back to the award giver and listing seven things about yourself and passing the award onto five other bloggers.

All these things to me should be voluntary and no one should feel pressure to oblige. Nor should any of my blogger friends feel aggrieved to not be included here. I’d list you all if I could.

That said, I’d like to make the first two awards to Rumi and Rilke who cannot speak for themselves but can only respond via Ruth at Synch-ron-izing and Lorenzo at The Alchemist’s Pillow.

Thereafter I’d like to mention Christina Houen’s relatively new blog. Christina is a wonderful writer who presents views of life in Australia that to me represent something of the essence of being here in this country.

I suspect he would not want an award for all the usual requirements but I cannot go without mentioning the remarkable, Jim Murdoch of The Truth about Lies. His blog is a font of information for all people who read and write. His blog tends to be a series of reviews on a vast array of books.

Jim is a poet who writes beautifully about other people’s writing and occasionally talks about his own writing process.

And finally, though there are so many more I could list here, so many wonderful bloggers whom I have met over the past few years since I took up blogging more seriously, I’d like to mention both Blackland’s Angela Simeone, a young artist whose work, both in her art and her writing is haunting and powerful.

And secondly Lynn Behrendt who strikes me as a brilliant poet and a modest artist whose wonderful work deserves the highest praise and recognition.

Visit these people and you will come to find our more of what I blog for: intelligence, aesthetics, deep sensitivity and a light touch of humour.

These bloggers are all artists and wordsmiths in their own right, and I value the fresh insights they offer on life’s journey.

Finally, and I should not for I have already exceeded my quota, I mention Kass of The K…. is no longer silent, another poet and a wise and generous woman that many of you will already know.

I must stop now because a flood of associations leads me on to other names and other folks. I have met so many wonderful bloggers through my travels. How rich and wonderful is the blogosphere.

Thanks Nancy for prompting these thoughts and enabling me to introduce and boast about some of my blogger friends.

Silence is the greatest crime

Joan Didion argues that writing by its nature is ‘an aggressive, even a hostile act.’ It is, she argues ‘the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind…setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the readers most private space.’

In this way writing can be considered an enactment of the desire for revenge, as much as it can be a creative gesture, a gesture of defiance, the speaking out against oppression, that in itself might become another form of oppression.

In an essay ‘On hurting People’s Feelings’ Carolyn Wells Kraus writes about the nature of biography as an act of autobiography. She argues that ‘reducing a person’s story on a page, robs it of complexity’.

Is it really the desire for revenge that sets my blood racing or is it, as Kraus argues, guilt that I too am complicit? Non-fiction ‘sucks the life of a person onto the page’ and distorts that life to the author’s own ends, Kraus writes. Characters are slanted in the direction of the author’s obsessions.

‘The real problem,’ Kraus argues ‘is that you’re borrowing the peoples’ identities to tell your own story.’ Kraus quotes at length from her own writing and others to demonstrate the ways in which a writer’s bias influences the description of other characters. And so in telling the stories of others we inevitably tell our own stories.

‘There is no script,’ Kraus argues, ‘only improvisation. We fill in the outlines from the details. All we know of the world as writers is what we see – images, words, scenes. We supply the meaning, and we alter that meaning with every sleight of hand.’

Two days ago a jury found Robert Farquharson guilty of murder for the second time. He had been ordered a retrial on appeal. The jury found that Farquharson had murdered his three sons, ages ten, seven and two. He had driven his car and his boys into a dam, an accident, he said, the result of an out of control coughing fit. Farquharson survived. He had managed to extricate himself but his sons drowned. It happened on Father’s Day.

Farquharson is said to have killed his sons to avenge himself on his wife, to punish her for leaving him. To me if this is true, his action is an enactment of his desire for revenge, although Farquarson may well not be in touch with any such desire. It seems he cannot believe that he did it the way the courts have argued, deliberately intentionally, purposefully. It is his lack of awareness that makes the crime the more chilling.

If Farquarson knew openly about the hatred he held towards his wife after she had left him, then perhaps he need not have acted upon the impulse.

Feelings that are not recognised are far more likely to be acted upon. Rage denied is worse than rage acknowledged. When the anger is denied it seeps out when we least expect. It slips out like a hidden leak, one that drips between walls and causes untold damage. Think of it, a slow drip between the cavities of two walls, the mould, the stench, the rising damp hidden from view and slowly swamping, inching its way into the body of the house.

In 1997 a father murdered his four daughters in Tasmania. He stabbed them in the throat as they slept. Only the oldest had woken and tried to defend herself. There were scratches on her arms. The others must have been asleep when their lives were taken. The father then went off to the local township to post fifteen letters to relatives in bloodstained envelopes. He did not use stamps. He returned home, took an axe, chopped off his right hand, and then shot himself in the head.

Silence is the greatest crime and yet our lips remain sealed.

‘Sunday morning and I flick through the pages of the Best Australian Essays and find a newspaper cutting I left there months ago. I recognise it instantly. The reporter writes: ‘Doctors will have to wait until the end of the week to determine the success of surgery to reattach a toddler’s left leg, which was severed in an early morning axe attack’. In the next paragraph, the reporter tells us that, in the middle of the night, in a rented house in suburban Melbourne, the seventeen-month-old boy’s mother severed his left leg below the knee. She has a history of mental illness, the reporter adds, as if to make sense of it all.

I first heard the story on the radio, the day it happened, a few abrupt words over the static between the weather and fashions on the field. I was driving home after dropping my youngest daughter at school. By the time I read about it in the newspaper the next day some of its impact had worn off. A twenty-one year old mother, no name supplied. She had recently moved here from the country. There were details about the surgery and its similarity to surgery performed on a Perth boy who had lost both his arms and a foot while slam-dunking through a hoop on his garage wall. There the similarities end.

The reporter interviewed one of the surgeons who reattached the Perth boy’s limbs. The surgeon did not want to be named. He congratulated the team that had performed microsurgery on the toddler on the morning of the attack. The chances of success, he said, depended on the slow regrowth of nerves and the movement of muscles and tendons over a number of years. Young people heal more quickly, the surgeon added: ‘They have youth on their side.’ From my essay ‘Fierce Amputations’, Island Magazine 106, Spring 2006.

Silence is the greatest crime and yet our lips remain sealed.

Another person who tackles silence but in a different way is Lynn Behrendt. Could I please introduce you to her exceptional and haunting work. She is a stunning poet and artist.