Akari Writes Her Own Adventures

I am sure you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books, where you’re chased by a tiger.  You can escape it by leaping into the ocean 50 feet below (go to page 48) or face the tiger with your homemade slingshot (go to page 128).

Akari (my Mazda 3) loves driving through roads with avenues of white-trunked eucalypts. Side roads beckon! It is hard for her to resist them. However, while she could be talked into some sophisticated adventuring, Akari is no risk taker. For the moment she finds it is exciting enough to explore hidden valleys and go down unmade roads that are not only reserved for four wheel drives.

Well Akari and I were out messing about today and we wandered along out of the way, unmade bush road called Providence Gully Road. When we turned off the road, along another unmade road, to head towards civilisation, we came upon this rather dramatic entrance to a property. We thought this might be just the setting to write your own adventure.

 

The gate is open!

You take the time talk to all the bones and heads that are decorating the gate to learn more about what really lies within.

OR

Thinking that Baba Yaga may live here and give you the the creative fire you decide to ignore all the DO NOT ENTER signs and step through the portal into this private world.

OR

Because you are so imaginative you think of something else!

Melissa Pilakowski puts forward a fun version of writing your own adventure using Hamlet as a kick starter.

 

 

The Etcher’s Secret

Last night, or maybe it was early this morning, Jack Frost, the master etcher, made an ice etching for me, leaving it, for me to find, in a metal bucket on my deck. “All who see it are astounded and think it must be the work of spirits”. In awe I  asked the master etcher “What is your secret?”

The Woodcarver

Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The Prince of Lu said to the master carver:
“What is your secret?”

Khing replied: “I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
On trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.

After three days fasting,
I had forgotten gain and success.
After five days
I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.

“By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell stand.

“Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
and begin.

“If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

“What happened?
My own collected thought
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;
From this live encounter came the work
Which you ascribe to the spirits.”

– Chuang Tzu
from The Way of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton

The Past Dwells Here

An entire past comes to dwell here!
Gaston Bachelard ‘Poetics of Space’

In the summer of 2011, on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula on Scotland’s west coast, excavations revealed the only known Viking boat burial to be excavated on the British mainland in modern times. The vessel survived in the form of more than 200 rivets, many in their original location, and indicated a small clinker boat. It contained a sword, an axe, a spear, a ladle, an Irish bronze ring-pin and the bronze rim of a drinking horn. These items indicate that it was a remarkably rich Viking boat burial of a warrior. Positioned beside the warship Roskilde 6, the Ardnamurchan boat burial represents the final journey of a Viking warrior, sailing into the afterlife. Source: A History of the Viking World

An African proverb says that ‘when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground’.

Here at the Glenlyon Cemetery there may not be a rich treasury of artefacts, but rich memories lie here. One grave holds an image, perhaps created by the lad who died, forever young, who is mourned by his family.

Another tombstone in the Sutton Grange Cemetery includes images of a young lad skiing. A photo of his beloved dog watches over him. Nearby the crystals, of ‘a woman with a gentle soul’ are mingled among the stones of a beautiful modern memorial.

It is may not be as fashionable to spend time in cemeteries now but a graveyard can be  a great place to explore local history and genealogy, take a peaceful seasonal walk and contemplate the pasts that lie there.

It is also a great place to meditate, make art and enjoy a flask of coffee!

The Humblest Dwelling Has Beauty

If we look at it intimately, the humblest dwelling has beauty!

This house, as I see it, is a sort of airy structure that moves about on the breath of time. It really is open to the breath of another time.
Bachelard ‘Poetics of Space’

Interpreting Spaces

In an age of so much homogenised space, so much shoddy, cramped, dimly lit, low ceilinged space, these resting places offer a fresh way of interpreting and understanding space. In an era suffused by television and video games, fluorescent lighting and plastic floors, air conditioning and badly built houses these memorials demonstrate the poetry of space and love.

from forward to ‘The Poetics of Space’ written by John R Stilgoe

 

If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.

All inhabited space bears the essence of home.
Gaston Bachelard

Peeking at Abandoned/Overlooked Central Victoria

Sometimes, when Akari asks ‘where does that road go?’ we go to places where there is nothing, yet there is everything. Places are never really empty!

Abandoned Places

Lost Baringhup

33 Abandoned Places in Australia

Decay Down Under

Inside Australia’s Ghost Towns

Abandoned Places Photography of Mark Hassed

Beautiful Abandoned Places

Akari’s Mystery Tour

Definition: a mystery tour is a short journey that people make for pleasure without knowing where they are going

Akari, my 2008 Mazda 3, specialises in magical mystery tours that feed the soul and the creative spirit. Akari knows all about duende, that raw, tempestuous creative energy that flamenco guitarists, gypsies and dancers are familiar with. Her inclusive tours take in all aspects of Central Victoria including: geology, the environment, culture, flora, fauna and history.

A mystery tour is all about anticipation! Those who come on one of Akari’s tours, especially visitors from other countries, are always surprised when Akari takes them to some out of the way  place that reveals a different perspective of Australia. They are always  inspired !

Today, with the smell of spring in the air, my dogs and I went out on an artistic date with Akari.

 

In Art Heals: How Creativity Heals The Soul, Shane McNiff says that ‘photography can help us become more aware of our environments. When we walk with a camera searching for images… this process helps us look more closely and deeply at our surroundings.” There is no doubt that the camera has the capacity to hold moments of our perception and help us to see the possibilities for perceptual awareness.

I took the time to receive the benefits of aesthetic contemplation and to look attentively.  My perceptions were not all captured by the iPhone! Moliagul is almost a ghost town now yet it proudly boasts being the site where the Welcome Stranger Gold Nugget, found here by John Deason, changed Australian History.  Moliagul also has an amazing monument to John Flynn who pioneered the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service in Cloncurry, Queensland (later to be renamed the Royal Flying Doctor Service). At one time he was the headmaster at the small iconic school I stopped to photograph.

This meditation brings a new energy and creativity into my life. The fruits of Waiting For Godot over the past three months are beginning to ripen. There are so many things I can do with the images I collected on this ‘tour’ with Akari! I look forward to a rich harvest.

Mcniff, S 2004, Art Heals: How Creativity Cures The Soul, Shambala, Boston

Harsh Times on the Goldfields

Life in the 1850’s in Hobart Town was not easy. Like my great grandfather it is  likely that this family were drawn to the Victorian goldfields, from Hobart, lured by the prospect of finding gold and making a fortune.

Disease was rife upon the goldfields, where poor sanitation meant that refuse and excrement were liable to end up in the rivers that supplied drinking water for those on the diggings. Dysentery, typhus and other contagious diseases were all represented. The monotonous diet of mutton and damper did not help the health of diggers, and it is probable that many people, especially during the first years of a rush, were deficient in essential nutrients and vitamins. Common colds could be lethal; because of the combination of lack of sanitation and poor diet, miners lacked the necessary antibodies to fight off disease. With a weak immune system, a cold could quickly develop into pneumonia.

Within a week something of plague proportions wiped out Elizabeth Smart and her children. It is hard to imagine how Elizabeth Smart’s husband managed the grief of the loss of  his wife and children within such a short time . The experience of life on the goldfields was different for all who arrived, but few, as this tombstone reveals, had it easy. This husband and father had it tough.

Sacred To The Memory Of
Elizabeth Smart
Native of Hobart Town
Who Died July 5th 1864
Aged 26 Years
Also
Salena Smart
Who Died July 5th 1864
Aged 5 Years
Also
Henry Smart
Who Died July 8th 1864
Aged 5 Years
Also
Elizabeth Smart
Who Died July 10th 1864
Aged 14 Days

Weep not for me my husband dear 
I am not dead but sleeping here
Weep not for me but pity take
And love my children for my sake

Chinese Cemetery Vaughan Springs

In 1861, there were more than 24,000 Chinese immigrants on the Victorian goldfields of Ararat, Ballarat, Beechworth, Bendigo, Castlemaine and Maryborough. 

Vaughan Springs was once a large gold rush town called “the Junction”. Many Chinese miners moved there in 1854 and searched for alluvial gold in areas that had been abandoned by the Europeans. They established market gardens and Vaughan became an important stopover.

The Chinese diggers moved from goldfield to goldfield within NSW and across the border. Constantly on the move, their presence and experience are evidenced mainly from the observations and interpretation of Anglo-Australians, from archaeological digs and from objects saved by families and community members. There are few written accounts and sources from a Chinese perspective. The Chinese attracted particular attention and local newspapers were quick to comment on their distinctive features, clothes, languages and habits — especially their tendency to travel en masse — their methods of transport, their diligence, tirelessness and productivity.

Any admiration of their work ethic was offset by envy and resentment when times got hard. The Chinese were often scapegoated by disgruntled Anglo diggers as seen in the violent anti-Chinese riots at Turon (1853), Meroo (1854) Rocky River (1856) Tambaroora (1858) Lambing Flat, Kiandra and Nundle (1860 and 1861) and Tingha tin fields (1870). They were seen initially as oddities, later as rivals and then as threats to white Australia.

Today the small Chinese Cemetery on a rise above the mineral springs is very different to the waste land created by the gold rush. Now it is a quiet, tranquil place for those who were not taken home to China, but who now rest here. Likewise, Castlemaine Cemetery has a very beautiful grove for the Chinese who died on the goldfields.

 

Suffer the Children

Life on the goldfields was particularly harsh on children. They were often used as a source of labour and could earn small amounts of money for errands. Their young immune systems were still developing and children were highly susceptible to diseases that sometimes ran through mining communities. However, even the young were drawn to the lure of gold and could also be found panning along the rivers.

Aside with the associated danger of children wandering off and getting lost, the poor and inadequate drainage of the early settlements caused much discomfort not only for everyone’s olfactory nerves but on the community’s health problems.

We take for granted the way in which we can now store perishable foods, having a clean water supply, a well operating sewerage system and the many other conveniences at the press of a button or flick of a switch.

When we really think about it, how would we cope under the circumstances that the early diggers and their families faced when they first arrived here? There were a number of diseases which were fatal to the goldfield’s population, and the health officer of the local council in co-operation with the police had to be extremely vigilant. Police and health officials were a partnership which we rarely consider at the present, but at the time  this was almost a symbiotic relationship.

An example of this is that it was an appointed police officer who made inspections regarding sanitation or the lack thereof, and made demands that certain activities had to cease or be curbed, such as slaughtering and butchering animals in one’s own back yard. Another instance which was recognised as undesirable was to allow cesspools to sit and stagnate on private land.

If the drains which had been commissioned and dug by the council on the sides of roads had insufficient fall, these too were a problem as animal waste accumulated in these low spots, along with road runoff from the horses and bullocks used in transport. Effluvia was a frequently used word to describe the gaseous smells emanating from the decaying organic material lying in the street gutters. Another word, now not in regular use, to describe the horrific gaseous smells was miasma.

Many people thought that the smell alone would be the transmitter of disease, however it was not generally understood that water and milk were, in the 1850s, the cause of many of the health afflictions which beset the community. Diphtheria is a disease which is rare today, yet it was very troublesome in early Bendigo. Diphtheria is highly contagious, its symptoms are a very high fever and difficulty in breathing and swallowing as it produces a false membrane in the throat.

In the mid 1870s diphtheria created great alarm as it had caused the deaths of a significant number of infants, with older members of the community not being spared either. Those who were treated in hospital for diphtheria were few and far between, as frequently by the time the disease was diagnosed it was already too late. Source: Bendigo Weekly.

In these conditions it was the children who suffered and the Pennyweight Cemetery is a testimony to the number of children who perished on the Forest Creek Diggings.

A Child’s Life on the Goldfields

What life was like on the Goldfields

Life for Children on the Goldfields