Blog

Where do all the letters go?

What happens to all the letters that get erased when writers realise they’ve made an error and go back to correct it? When they’re typing as they’re thinking, and change tack mid-thought? When they erase the bluntness of what they’re feeling in preference for kinder words which don’t attack the reader as much as their impatience and frustration first led them to express?

This kind of existential dilemma intrigues me: what happens to all those letters which were, and now are not? Did they ever exist? Clearly. Yet where is the evidence of their existence? There is none. Even more tenuous are the punctuation marks, which don’t mean much, if anything, in isolation … let alone the spaces that are erased: how can space be physically erased? It can be filled in and rearranged, but can it ever be really disappeared?

As I type I wonder about these lost symbols of my written communication. I like to think they’re floating about in the air, as in Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are not the only Fruit, where people are employed to clear the skies of the residents’ forgotten thoughts, hovering over the city like smog, cluttering up the clear blue sky.

Or like Kryten, the android in Red Dwarf, the off-the-wall British comedy with humour that seriously tickles my funny bone. As Kryten amicably discusses his impending replacement by a newer model which will  make him redundant, he states to the crew that he will go to Silicone Heaven. When questioned about its existence he queries plaintively, “But … where do all the calculators go?” The mechanised android cannot perceive of something beyond what he has been programmed to believe.

So if you feel cluttered, or perplexed, take comfort in knowing that things will clear, that programming can be overwritten and redirected, and people continue on, nonetheless.

 

One of the hundreds of picture books borrowed from the library to share with my children was about a tooth fairy who looked like an archetypal bag lady with layers of clothes bulked out by bulging pockets. The story revealed that this fairy picked up forgotten things and kept them. I don’t recall what she did with them and how, or even if, she used them (beyond stuffing her copious pockets), but I do remember the young boy-protagonist’s look of utter surprise when she pulled out his odd sock which had disappeared in the washing machine. Come to think of it, that sounds like a bizarre plot for a book! Yet I can relate to it because there has been more than one occasion when I have stumbled across something I had totally forgotten about. This has happened around as many times I have looked for something and not found it, confident in the knowledge that I haven’t thrown it out, I have merely to look in the right place … wherever (and whenever, usually a year or so later, when the immediate need is long gone) that turns out to be …

And who can go past The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan? This wonderful book, then short film, describes the plot pictorially, with very little text except for in the traffic signs which are pivotal to the story. Stunning detailed pictures – to be expected from this brilliant author-artist – effectively depict the loneliness and despair of the harried everyday world, monochrome compared to the joyful, playful, fun-filled colour where the Lost Thing finds its home.

So next time you think something is lost – or if you feel lost – take comfort in the thought that everything has a home … it may just not be found yet.

 

Image references:

* https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo/random-letters.html?

* https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1669698/

 

Time to Treasure

What have you done with your bonus-day this year?

I know, scientifically speaking, we don’t actually gain an extra day each leap year, because every year is actually measured at 365 and one quarter days. And yet one extra day feels like a gift to me, a bonus 24 hours I get to spend on this wonderful planet that is my home, alongside the people who matter most to me: my family and friends.

Some people may be so sad they may not want to have to endure yet more time in their situation. To you I say, what matter is a single date? You can, and will, find your own way, in your own time. (This kinda sounds glib, but believe me, I’ve been there too. That’s the reason for my book, which started off my blogging.)

Some people may be oblivious to dates, like my relatives with dementia, for whom time moves in a totally different way: a non-linear, fluid way. Chronological time is meaningless for people in this situation, as the present – or the past – comprises all their current life, unchanging. To you I say, enjoy the moments.

And you? Have you valued the extra time and space which is granted once only in a cycle of four years?

Yesterday is history.

Tomorrow is a mystery.

Today is a gift.

That’s why it’s called the present.

 

This quote is credited to multiple sources including Eleanor Roosevelt, Master Oogway and Bill Keane. It remains a fabulous outlook that encourages me to pause, take stock, and evaluate what is really important – my life in the current moment – for that is as little and as much as I have, at any one time. I use it a lot as I find it inspiring, and I would like to credit its original source, however, that is proving elusive. I’m happy to be corrected by readers more knowledgeable than I am.

Haikubes Heaven

The first audience poem has arrived!

My poem for you:

Understanding grief

Bitter squeezing of my heart

Real friends inspire hope

xxx

– Jacqui Rapsey

Right back at ya, Jac

who always has my back:

I stand by you,

my beautiful friend!! 

😘

Love Haikubes

97FEAC49-6483-4856-8AE4-A98957E3411E

I bought this kit because it looked fun and creative. I was right!

 

HOW TO USE HAIKUBES

1. Cue mood music.

2. Roll the cubes. The two red ones create the theme. Select from the rest to devise a haiku (5 syllables-7 syllables-5 syllables).

It’s that easy!

Scroll through the photos to check out my haikus.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IT’S YOUR TURN – GUEST BLOGS

Everyone has poems inside them. Everyone can do poetry – because there are so many forms and none of them are better, or more right, than any other.

Two of the photos show the entire spread of the cubes. Create your own magic by selecting the words that speak to you. You don’t have to restrict yourself to the haiku format, although you can use that pattern as a framework if you wish. You can even add in extra words to help it make sense, if you need.

Send in your poems and I’ll post them in a guestwriter blog!

Back To School

Paul Murphy, Teacher Habits blogger                             Peter Greene’s Board of Directors

It’s time to go back to school for children in Victoria. That means the working year for teachers starts as well.

Every teacher with five years’ experience or more will have met the following presenters at least once. These appeared in a blog I follow, Teacher Habits. The author, Paul Murphy, blogs about his profession from his standpoint as an American primary teacher. One hemisphere away, and as a secondary teacher, I am constantly amazed at how similar the issues we face are, how the same educational theories (call them fads, if you wish – they come and go at such a rapid rate there’s often no time to consolidate them) dominate teaching and learning practices worldwide, determining the direction of our professional development and mandating the requirements we need to achieve to prove our worth to the Education Department. Notice I said we answer to the Education Department first and foremost, not to our core clientele: the students and their parents.

Paul has a razor sharp BS Detector and is able to cleanly and clearly slice through the Department Speak weasel words that fill every teacher’s meeting minutes, to do lists and waking hours – and sleeping hours, to be truthful, because teaching is not a job that gets left behind at the school gate. For any practising teacher his dissection of current practices, Best Practice and government policy is nothing short of a breath of fresh air.

So here are the presenter styles, as written by another blogger Peter Greene:

The Thirteen Presenters Who Will Ruin Your First Day Back

It’s been a great summer. You’ve had a chance to recharge and reflect. You’ve developed some new ideas, units, and materials, and most importantly, away from the dailiness of the job, you have gotten back in touch with all the reasons you love the work. You cannot wait to get back to it., take a couple of in service days to get fully up to speed, and then– bring on the students!

Unfortunately, your administration thinks that your very first day(s) back should be spent sitting in some professional development sessions. In some lucky few school districts, these sessions will actually be useful and even  inspiring. But if you are really unfortunate, you’ll spend those sessions with one of these soul-crushing people:

The Defense Specialist

“I’m here to remind you that at any moment this year, someone might burst into your room and kill you and your students. I’m going to talk about how you should react when someone is about to shoot you, presenting a variety of scenarios and details of previous shootings that will all be so vivid that for the rest of this week you won’t be able to concentrate on teaching material because you’re too busy looking for hiding places in the room, peering into your own soul to consider whether or not you are the kind of person who would die for your students, and just generally staring into the abyss of human mortality and brutality.”

The Social Issues Specialist

“I’d like to talk to you about some issue that affects your students– something like hunger or poverty or gang violence or homelessness or whatever drug is currently out of control. I will remind you that many of your students are being slowly crushed by forces outside of your control and you will need to be sensitive to that, which is the classroom equivalent of sending thoughts and prayers. I represent a group that is trying to address the issue, but we are desperately short of both time and money, and you will end up being depressed that the two things we need are the two things that you don’t have enough of to contribute anything helpful.”

The Data Dumper

“Here’s a bunch of test score data. Some of it’s on this website with lots of cool color-coded graphics. Here are some spreadsheets. Here’s some disaggregated data on students that you won’t actually meet for a few days. Of course, you can’t see the test or the questions, and you’ll just have to take our word for it that these numbers mean what we say they mean. None of this will actually be useful in planning your courses, but it will serve as a gut-kicking reminder that no matter how  awesome you  are in the classroom this year, all your bosses really care about is the results of this damned useless invalid test. Those of you who don’t even teach English or Math can go ahead and get extra depressed and angry about this.”

The Education Entrepreneur

“I was plodding along in a classroom just like yours until I had the bright idea of taking something that’s a widely known teaching technique and giving it a small superficial tweak and a snappy piece of branding. I copyrighted that puppy and now– ka-ching! You will spend the next hour looking at my nice clothes, thinking about my cool car, and questioning your life choices.”

The Ballsy Tourist

“Every one of you has more training, experience and knowledge about teaching than I do. Sit back and get comfortable while I tell you how to do your job. I thank God that teachers are too professional and polite to charge the lectern, no matter how much rage I generate.”

The Sacrificial Lamb

“I’m a teacher in this district. You all know me. The fact that administration voluntold me out here to present this program/policy/initiative tells you everything you need to know. It sucks, and they don’t want to have to look you in the eyes or take your questions when you realize just how much it sucks. They’re hoping that I have enough social capital earned with the rest of the staff that there will at least not be immediate open revolt.”

The Lawyer

“I’m going to scare the crap out of you with a list of all the possible ways that things you do innocently every single day could destroy your career and ruin your life. Have a great year.”

The Edu-Celebrity

“I’m chirpy and internet famous, which makes sense because I mostly talk in Tweets. I’m going to say obvious platitudes like ‘attitude is important’ and ‘we teach students, not subjects.’ The biggest damage I will do is the permanent loss of respect you’re about to feel for your colleagues who think I’m a freakin’ genius.”

The Flavor of the Month

“Let me tell you about the Hot New Idea in education that your administration got excited about at some conference, or maybe they read an article.  Whatever. Yeah, you might recognize me from last year when I was making the rounds to talk about grit. Never mind.  That’s over. You’re probably thinking that you can ignore me and keep your head down until this trendy new storm passes, and you’re probably right. That’s okay. I’m still getting paid.”

The Angel Of Slow Death

“What am I talking about? You have no idea, because I am the most boring speaker in the history of the world. Watch as all the oxygen in the room spontaneously self-deports.”

The Bringer of Bad News

“I am a person in a position of authority, so you can’t just openly howl in anguish as I detail a piece of educational malpractice that you will be required to perpetrate this year. ‘This is not why I became a teacher’ will play over and over in your head as I outline the kinds of actions that ought to be denounced by any ethical professional. Ten years ago I used to try to get you to buy in on this stuff, but now my message is do this or else.  What the hell do you know? You’re just a freakin’ teacher.”

The Unfortunate Administrator

“Hey, there! Remember me? Chances are you kind of put me out of your mind over the summer, but I wanted to grab some of this in service day for myself so that I could remind you of all the ways I’m a giant pain to work for. Here’s some cool new paperwork and procedures I’ve concocted; we’ll go over those in a few minutes, because I would rather force you to look at and listen to me than just handle this with a simple e-mail, but first, let me say some things I don’t really mean, like ‘this is a team’ and ‘you guys do the most important work in the district’ and ‘my office door is always open.’ Now I’ll tell a bad joke laced with a crippling lack of self-awareness. Watch who laughs! Dance, puppets!”

The Camp Counselor

“Let’s start with a fun ice breaker! Then we’ll pair and share over some question you’ll ignore while you pair and share about how much you wish you were getting work done in your room. If you’re good, I might even let you play some games that you would never use with your own students, but some of you will play along anyway because I have some fast food gift certificates to give away as prizes.”

The link to this article by Peter Green is: https://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-thirteen-presenters-who-will-ruin.html

The link came from this blogpost of Paul Murphy’s, posted at the start of the US 2018-19 school year: http://teacherhabits.com/the-one-thing-school-leaders-must-do-during-their-welcome-back-presentation/ 

 

Holiday Bliss

1BB6CA7B-E400-4F60-8AFA-2F08048E74BE

Sink into the cinema chair and

let go

with a heavy sigh,

my shoulders visibly dropping into

                                                                  relaxation-mode

                                                                                                   on the exhale…….

 

It’s such a rare occasion for me to

go to the flicks,

it’s a treat I can savour.

 

In the darkness of the

movie theatre,

enveloped by a

comfy chair that

hugs me warmly,

I can disappear into

someone else’s life

for a while.

 

I’ve left my own troubles

at the door,

my burdens are lifted as I

delve into my

temporary respite.

 

I know, I will

gather them into my arms once more,

on my way out.

 

But for now,

just allow me this brief pause

in my hectic life,

this one

cinematic island in the

stream of humanity I have

chosen to escape,

just for now

exchanging my reality for

someone else’s.

 

I’m drawn into the narrative.

 

Cinema Nova is my moving picture theatre of choice while in Melbourne. Find out more here: https://www.cinemanova.com.au/

 

 

 

 

Sorting

 

Sorting out,

rearranging,

creates

space

and more

Boxes To Deal With Later

when I have the time

and inspiration.

 

Creating the

Perfect Space

for this time and place,

at this age and stage of my life,

is

pleasurable and confronting

at the same time.

 

New beginnings for

the New Year.

 

A place for everything,

and

everything in its place.

Bamboo

Part 5 of the Country Canine Companions Collection

I consider it a privilege to be in the position to make unusual comparisons. It means I have lived a fortunate life. I am grateful that, and I give thanks.

Bamboo comes to visit us sometimes. We like it when she does. Bambs and Lunes spend hours wrestling together, coming up for air panting and wagging their tails. I don’t know if animal specialists would agree with me that what I state next is physically possible, but I swear that they positively smile at each other!

Bamboo is a study in camouflage. She has the same mottled tan-brown as our carpet of indeterminate age. Such colours were popular in the 1970s but I really can’t date our carpet, which came with the house, with any certainty.

Like many dogs, Bamboo did not turn into the size and shape she was promised to be. Instead of a Staffy-Malteser cross, she grew into a Norfolk terrier.

Bamboo lives more remotely than we do. This is evident because her need to alert us to any strangers and dangers extends to people walking down our quiet street (which admittedly is becoming increasingly busy, as empty blocks are built out). Our Luna barely even raises her head at the foot traffic, so used to it is she.

As well as these ‘threats’, Bamboo feels it necessary to alert us with her penetrating bark, which goes right into my brain and makes my spine shudder, to the drumbeats emanating from our sound system, which sound suspiciously like someone knocking on the door. Once we worked out what she was skittish about, because initially we were quite puzzled, we were most amused!

This long dog on short legs has chocolate brown markings on her ears, eyebrows, nose and lower legs. Her ears are petite and each one has a tuft of long hair in the middle, in the colour of her body fur, like string handles on tiny wings. A funny phenomenon!

Her body seems overlong compared to her height, and like the capybaras of my last post, her short and skinny legs don’t look like they can sustain her weight. Add to that her knock-kneed front legs and I can see the reason why she flops down as often as she does during her runs. Luna, younger and full of frenetic energy, twice the size of her visitor, bowls Bamboo over when they charge around the golf course. Brave Bamboo strives to keep up with long-legged Luna, and doesn’t seem to mind being knocked over into a tumbleturn. She’s smart enough to just lie down when she’s had enough, at which time Luna will simply jump over her without even breaking her stride, continuing into the distance.

Relaxing in the evening is funny to watch: Luna lies in her basket, Bamboo comes in, sees it full, looks mournful for a millisecond, then finds a spot on the floor at a human’s feet to stretch out. Time passes. Luna moves away to investigate something, coming back to find that Bamboo is now in her basket. Luna looks perplexed for a millisecond, then finds a spot on the floor at a human’s feet to stretch out. Neither of them have worked out that they could both fit in the basket together, if they only tried.

Bamboo’s people will come back in a week or so and take her home.  Waiting for her will be her feline companions, Ninja and Puss. Ninja earned his name by climbing into impossible places. The loss of a leg from an unfortunate accident has barely hindered this sleek black cat’s ability: the only thing he can’t do now is groom himself on one side.

Puss, a more recent addition to the household, is also a black cat but with completely different fur, bushy and fluffy and with hints of chocolate brown. Patting these two cats is an entirely different tactile sensation.

We love it when our dear friends leave Bamboo with us for an extended play-date. Even though she barks far more than we would like she is a lovely dog to have around. She barks far more than our quiet dog, who only barks if people actually enter the yard. Actually, that’s not true. She’s been known to bark at lizards and fledglings which have fallen from the nest as well.

You’re welcome anytime, Bamboo!

Smitty

Part 4 of the Country Canine Companions Collection

CAPYBARAS ABOVE – WOMBATS BELOW

Living in the country as I do almost everyone has a dog. It’s a great feature about where we live!

Many dog-owners take advantage of the golf course to run their dogs. It features expansive spaces and killer views of the ranges. It’s an inspiring place to walk, particularly at dawn and dusk. In winter on a workday that’s actually just-before-dawn, when false dawn is sending over the horizon some light which has not yet erased the stars. Magical! The universe expands on mornings like that. 

It’s nice to meet other dogs and their owners on the golf course. The dogs roll and tumble over each other as they play and have a wow of a time. Not even frost, which looks for all intents and purposes like snow, deters them from rolling around with joyful exuberance. Jack Frost might nibble my fingers through my gloves but the dogs show no ill-effect!

Smitty is a dog we often see. He is as friendly as his warm-hearted owner, it’s a real joy to spend time with them. Smitty is reminiscent of a capybara on stilts. I know about capybaras because my parents spent a year in Argentina and for a decade or more afterwards my mother used a capybara-skin handbag. The leather was dark brown and incredibly soft, with a suede feel to it. The pattern in the leather intrigued me, so different to the cow and sheep leathers I was familiar with in Australia. As a young girl I used to stroke it because I loved the silky texture.

Technically speaking I also spent a year in Argentina, but because I was only one year old I don’t have any memories of it. Stories from this time – as well as other landmark overseas trips – have become part of our family folklore, and the culture of these places, especially the music, are as familiar to me as to have been woven into the fabric of my soul. 

Capybaras are rodents which look like fur-covered oak barrels on short, skinny pegs that seem insufficient to withstand their body weight. Much more solid and twice the height or more than a wombat, capybaras don’t resemble mini-tanks like wombats do. Wombats are a solid chunk of muscle with flaps for extremities such as head, ears, nose and legs. The long heads of capybaras also make their overall shape quite different to that of a wombat.

Smitty’s unruly matted fur, white with tan brown markings, adds wildness to his form (but not his personality). This heightens his similarity to a capybara in my mind. I acknowledge it’s a funny comparison to make, but with the familial influences I grew up with, it’s a logical connection to me. 

I consider it a privilege to be in the position to make unusual comparisons. It means I have lived a fortunate life. I am grateful that, and I give thanks.

Photo References:

  1. https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjJzcXl8fzkAhXGH7cAHSPVDeIQjRx6BAgBEAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationalgeographic.com%2Fanimals%2Fmammals%2Fc%2Fcabybara-facts%2F&psig=AOvVaw20BmNlWT1uIXe1pa7FppY0&ust=1570081580705244
  2. https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiR65iU8fzkAhWS7HMBHUYbDEYQjRx6BAgBEAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.britannica.com%2Fanimal%2Fcapybara&psig=AOvVaw20BmNlWT1uIXe1pa7FppY0&ust=1570081580705244
  3. https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjP_v238vzkAhXIe30KHc7BAGgQjRx6BAgBEAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.abc.net.au%2Fnews%2F2019-09-14%2Fwombat-faeces-cube-shaped-because-of-intestines-scientists-learn%2F11510952&psig=AOvVaw0kpFSpZ2PWMhKwjT-wwDwW&ust=1570081003381140
  4. https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjekcXG8vzkAhUJf30KHZmnAB0QjRx6BAgBEAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fmentalfloss.com%2Farticle%2F75981%2F12-wonderful-facts-about-wombats&psig=AOvVaw0kpFSpZ2PWMhKwjT-wwDwW&ust=1570081003381140