Wildness

Number 16 Beach near Rye Victoria Australia

 

What a thing it is to be in a place that is wild.

To stand in front of an ocean that stretches beyond what you can see.

To hear twittering in the scrub and waves.

The exhilaration of the wind that almost rips you open to blow the cobwebs from your bones.

The contentmentof watching cormorants diving in the shallows. The joy of thinking you might have spotted two fins carve the blue further out and then the sheer bloody delight of witnessing a dolphin lift its body out of the water and leap above a wave.

To see little signals, some familiar kelp or intricate sand pattern or smell of a crushed leaf, memories of other wild places you have loved, little reminders that these will always be places your body needs. Your senses crave them. Your soul finds refuge.

Your heart is lifted and your very core simultaneously dances and rests.

 

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Rain

Dear Readers,

The thing about deserts is they can be dry as all get out for months, years even, but when it rains it bloody pours. Then all those hardy as hell seeds that have patiently lain dormant all that time burst through the soil and bloom something beautiful. That beauty stretches up towards the sun and remembers what it’s like to dance in the breeze. It’s catching. It still somehow knows what to do, even if it was starting to forget the infinite possibilities of where to grow and how incredibly delightful it could be. Wildflowers spread across the undulating plains until the red dirt is painted in ridiculously glorious purples, whites, yellows and pinks and dustbowls become fields of soccer-field green grass. 

The land, the world, the whole fucken universe is indeed a strange and wonderful place full of magic and poetry and fuck it’s good to be alive! 

Last week there was a week of really high temperatures here in the city. True. Not in a metaphor way but actually hot weather. It’s a different heat here to the humid Pilbara or dry old Alice. Then this week, one afternoon the cool change came through, as storm clouds gathered and the wind picked up. Then it hit, a heavy downfall that turned my street briefly into a creek, bringing the neighbours out to stand on their front porches and film it with their smartphones, then it was over, leaving leaves behind all of our car tyres. 

Today the sun’s back out and there’s a lovely cool breeze. I’m sitting in the hallowed La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria – my old creative haven. I’m sitting next to an old friend from the desert, both tapping away at our laptops and occasionally chortling quietly at dumb memes. 

Y’all are probably reading between these very obvious lines and deducing that good things are clearly happening in my neck of the woods. So much is happening that I don’t know quite where to start. There are so many stories to share – some lows, some highs, some gratefuls, some lolz, some ‘can you believe these bland af blokes’, some ‘what a douchebag’ stories and some ‘it was the hottest thing ever’ stories. Some of those aren’t my stories to tell – the lame shit dudes use as their opening lines – seem like easy targets and cheap laughs at someone else’s expense. My stories are still evolving and I’m bloody excited about them. I’m drafting them, I promise! They’re on their way! 

I know it’s cruel to tease like this, but after so many lonely and sad and real and true blog posts from small towns I wanted to share with y’all that shit is going really well here in the city.

I’m in the right place.

The time is right. 

Thanks for sticking with me. 

More soon, I swear! 

Yours excitedly, 

-DD

 

A Paradox

I’ve got nothing to write.

I could seek out things to write about, but I’m finding fewer reasons to share.

I stopped writing because life was exciting but still real and raw and related to some of you, My Dear Old Readers. I didn’t want to be a dick in a small town.

Then I found I didn’t have any other stories to share. No moments worth capturing. The best part of my day would be looking at my phone and realising there’s still enough time before bed time to watch another episode of House of Cards. Eating a piece of I Love Chocolate Torched Macadamia Dark Chocolate. Having enough light and good weather to go for a run in. Pruning the lemon tree.

Then I was bored by my own brain. I found I’d already written anything I wanted to say. I sat down with my sadness and stared it in the face. It was a deep, abiding, gentle sadness born of loneliness. I thought and felt and decided again to leave small towns and study teaching. I thought a lot of thoughts but they had no beginning, middle or end and they were nothing new. They were all about myself. I got so bored of being sad that stress became a haven. I’d throw myself into work, stimulated by anxiety. That pattern now repeats itself less often and to less extremes. I feel more hopeful and have genuine moments of connectedness and joy.

No stories though.

I started to think the validation I sought from my carefully curated online persona was not ultimately satisfying in a long lasting way. Perhaps it fed an unhealthy narcissism.

I read David Brooks’ ‘The Road To Character’, which challenged and solidified things. Namely that not everything about ourselves – about myself – is inherently good. I’m not a unique snowflake, my inner core is not a beautiful precious sunflower that needs constant showering with self love and affection. Our character is something we must actively cultivate, prune and shape. Being the best we can be can only come by striving against the parts of ourselves that aren’t so great, our struggle against sin. A meaningful vocation is one driven by a love and commitment to the craft itself rather than the fruits of that labour – approval, esteem, money.

My main motivation for sharing my writing seemed more self-serving than not, more about making myself feel good than making others feel anything or do anything, nor was it about devoting myself to the craft of writing. My secret childish dreams of turning all this writing into a memoir seemed rather self involved and lame now, feeding an ego driven desire to be famous.

I’ve written before, “If I die, I hope my fucking legacy isn’t just a bunch of badly written stories about bad dates.”

I’m trying to focus my creativity and curiosity outwards, rather than inwards. There are more stories in the world than mine, maybe I’ll help tell those someday. For now, I’ll dedicate myself towards a different vocation. I went to the uni open day today. Now I’m sitting in the La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library. I want to learn how to be a really good teacher. I want to be a good human.

This isn’t the end of the ol’ DD, just gunna keep giving it a rest for a while. I wish you all well and I thank you for your patience and gentle support over the years.

With much love,

-DD

Being alone in public

I’m sitting upstairs at the RSL at a table for one. It’s a big room with a wooden floor and a low roof. It has fluro lighting. It feels like the mess halls in the Pilbara, except with more old people and families and no hi-viz. There’s no serve yourself buffet, you have to order your schnitty at the bar. Instead of listening to the big screen TVs blaring Masterchef, there’s Anthony Callea on repeat.

 

A few weeks ago I threw myself a party here in Tasmania, down the road in a shearing shed. It was an excellent party. I sung and danced and everybody danced and had a good time. At one point I was singing ‘You’ve got a friend’ and everyone was waving their arms in time and singing along to the words I had printed out on signs and I just milked it for as long as I could and we all repeated that line over and over, louder and louder. In that moment I had a few thoughts simultaneously:

1) I love everyone in this room

2) They all love me

3) Maybe, just like happiness, maybe sometimes loneliness is a choice. Maybe all I have to do is call.

4) I really love this place. As lonely as I sometimes am here, I love this community, these people, this place.

5) It’s going to be really hard to leave, and I’d better be damned sure I really want to.

I spread the glow of that party for as long as possible – calling friends and reliving the memories and only looking at a few photos of the party each week.

 

 

It lasted three weeks. Now I’m sitting in this fluro lit RSL listening to Anthony fucking Callea. The idea of giving this up and moving to the city to increase my likelihood of meeting suitable men seems somehow more plausible now, although it still feels lame and desperate. Maybe no one’s really judging me. Maybe it’s just me. Realising I’m an adult now. This is real, adult life. Right now. I’m living it.

 

Six years ago I wrote:

30 used to seem so far away. All the things I thought I would have achieved by then – a house, a husband and a child. I guess if that shit was still my priority, I wouldn’t be ‘wasting my time’ in barren Alice Springs. I know that I’ll be single for as long as I’m here. I’m still ‘too busy’ to settle down.

 

I’ve been looking over everything I’ve written over the last fifteen years, like a high school student scanning a key text for overarching narrative through-lines, plotting character development and identifying key themes.

Two years ago I wrote from the Pilbara:

I can’t wait for friends and family to just be a normal part of my life again. Not something that I get excited about for weeks in advance.

 

Last year, after I’d only been in Tasmania for a month, I wrote:

I’m already lonely. I forgot how hard it is starting over. Maybe it’s different this time, maybe I’m leaving behind more than I’m moving toward. Maybe work is no longer enough, maybe I know my gypsy days are numbered.

 

I know that Melbourne won’t be an easy answer.

At the end of last year I sat upstairs at the Thousand Pound Bend in Melbourne, alone in public like I am now, but with better ambience. I wrote:

I used to think that drinking alone in public was a bit fucken miserable.

This used to be the place where I danced in the dark at No Lights No Lycra. Now it’s dimly lit with lots of dark wood and maroon leather and old books. Some strangers are laughing softly in a booth nearby. There’s some foliage in a glass jar and a candle on my table in between my laptop and my whiskey.

This miserableness isn’t as loud as anxiety. It’s a quiet, gentle hum in the background that I only tune into when all the noise of being around friends, being busy at work and stimulated when I visit the city.

I don’t know if it’s small town blues, work that sometimes brings more weight than wonder, being on the edge of learning, nostalgia, saying goodbye to my grandmothers, realizing my parents are no longer my moral compass or that those happy free single art babe women I looked up to maybe aren’t as happy as I always thought they were.

Maybe I just need to run more and meditate and do the self-care things. Or maybe I just need to sit with this feeling. Listen to what it’s trying to tell me.

Perhaps I already know. Perhaps it’s been telling me the same thing for the past nine years.

That I don’t want to be alone any more.

That what I want now, more than anything else, is to share my life with someone. More than I want to do interesting work. More than I want to be near my family and friends. Maybe whatever I do, wherever I go, this vague sense of emptiness will follow, if I keep travelling, on my own.

I’m ok about being a bit miserable. I’m mostly ok with being alone. But maybe my faith in the idea that I won’t be alone for much longer wavers sometimes, when my joyful hope that it will end gives way to pragmatism.

Being alone takes faith.

It takes courage and strength.

Tonight, it also takes cheap Irish whiskey, a candle and some softly laughing strangers nearby.

 

 

Yesterday I went back to the shearing shed where I held my party. My 30th birthday. I found this sign on the floor where I’d left it, as if the universe knew I needed reminding that even when you’re alone…

 

you've got a friend

Real Conversations With Real Men on Real Dates

Previously unreleased highlights package from 2015! The best! The worst! In chronological order! These all actually happened! Actual men said these actual words!

 

Mid January

Setting:     Lying 30 centimetres apart, on his bed, on the top floor of a trendy converted warehouse in North Melbourne. This man trained as a lawyer, works in policy and plays the keyboard in his spare time. Met on OKCupid. This is our 6th date. We are fully clothed. At this point in the evening we have finished a game of chess and are part way through a study we were completing in the interests of scientific investigation.

ME:     Ok, question 28 is ‘Tell your partner what you like about them,’ and it says you’ve gotta ‘be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.’

HIM:     (Pauses momentarily). Well, it’s obvious you’re very emotionally intelligent.

ME:     (Smiles to self).

Result:    Pash. I move to Tasmania the next day. Sporadic messages are sent. Meet twice throughout the year when I’m in Melbourne, but it is unclear if these are ‘dates’ or ‘catch ups.’ Faith is nevertheless restored in the existence of decent blokes and my capacity to meet them given the right circumstances, mainly, the right location. Consider moving to Melbourne.

 

 

 

March

Setting:     Perched awkwardly on the edge of a low couch, 1.5 metres apart, in a corner of the classiest restaurant in town, upstairs at Bayview Restaurant in Burnie. This man is a teacher, who enjoys outdoor adrenaline sports and is currently reading a book about the history of the crusades. Met on Tinder. This is our first date, my first ever date in Tasmania. I wore high heels, he wore a suit. At this point in the evening, we have been talking for 30 minutes- mostly about outdoor adrenaline sports, but currently about television shows.

ME:     Nah, I never got into Game of Thrones, the heads on spikes in the first 30 seconds of the first episode scared me off.

HIM:     Yes, but once you get past the gratuitous violence it’s really great.

ME:     What does gratuitous mean?

HIM:     Do you seriously NOT know what that word means? Really? (Raises eyebrows in disbelief, doesn’t explain the meaning of the word, proceeds to gratuitously use the word ‘gratuitous’ throughout the conversation)

Result:     No pash. No further dates. Bump into him the following day in the staff room of the school I work at.  Avoid staff room for a fortnight.

 

 

Mid October

Setting:     In a spa drinking cheap whiskey at the Lake St Clair Very Expensive Spa Cottages in Tasmania, zero centimetres apart. This man is a musician. Met on Tinder. This is our third date. Both naked. At this point in the evening we have planned our 8 hour hike for the following day and he has just been teaching me something about Ekhart Tolle.

HIM:     Yeah I used to sell drugs but now I have someone who does that for me.

ME:     …

Result:     No further dates. Delete Tinder again.

 

 

December

Location:     Elbows are 20 centimetres apart, leaning on a wooden table out the front of The Standard in Fitzroy, drinking champagne in the hot night air. This man is an environmental campaigner who plays guitar in his spare time. Connected on Tinder. Met last year through Tent Guy at Bella Union at Finishing School. This is our first date. I am wearing a new (darker) blue dress that I purchased that afternoon. At this point in the evening a cool breeze has just begun to blow.

ME:     I know when I stand up my dress is going to be all sweaty and sticking to my thighs. Gross. I probably didn’t need to tell you that did I?

HIM:     I probably didn’t need to tell you about my ear candling before either, but whatever, seems like we reached that comfortable point already.

ME:     (Smiles to self).

Result:     No pash. Catch the same tram a few stops. Before he gets off there’s the inevitable kiss-on-the-cheek-and-hug-while-falling-into-each-other-as-the-tram-stops. I leave town the next day. Make vague plans to catch up either in Melbourne or Tasmania the following year. Congratulate self for re-installing Tinder. Give up on attempting a monkish acceptance of perpetual singleness. Restore faith in the existence of decent blokes and my capacity to meet them, given the right circumstances, namely, the right location. Resolve to move to Melbourne in 2017.

 

sailing at sunset on the sea

 

Dear Readers,

I’ve already shared with you the most ridiculous conversations I’ve had with men online. Consider this my belated Christmas gift to you – some small snippets that never made the blog this year.

I’ve got one more story to crank out before Operation #puttingitallouttherein2015 comes to a close. Until then, I wish you all excellent relations wherever your location may be and where there are bad dates, may there be great stories.

Thanks for being part of my story this year.

With love and thanks,

-DD

On Hopelessness

I feel a bit hopeless.

It’s that same thing it was in the Pilbara.

When you love the kids you work with but you don’t know if it’s going to be enough. When you just want to pull them out of the cycles that pull them down, just cuddle them and protect them from all that bad shit. You don’t know what to do, or even if you do know, you have no idea if it’ll make any difference. You’re watching kids fall through all the nets that are meant to keep them up, all the systems that are supposed to be in place are failing one by one – education, health, justice, family, religion, culture. You can see them falling and you put yourself at the bottom, fighting against all these shitty stats, trying to find small moments of growth.

When the small miracles of change you’re looking for, those little shifts, are not measurable or tangible. When all you have is faith – that anything you’re doing is doing anyone any good. When you can see how easily they could end up in jail or miserable or dead, but you can also see so clearly the other path they could take, the person they could grow into.

When the love you have for them is so fierce is scares you, it crept up on you without you even noticing.

When you see bits of yourself in them. When sometimes you want to love those bits and sometimes you remind yourself to be patient with them.

When you find yourself never reading any newspaper article about Aboriginal deaths in custody, or deciding not to watch any news story about violence against women, because you can’t separate the faces in those news stories from the faces of the kids you love and see each day. When thinking about that shit gets too hard so you try to switch it off because it’s paralyzing.

When you know what you have is a tiny opportunity to make a massive difference. When you wear it heavily and it weighs you down. When you have more fear than hope.

When you know you’ll leave some day.

When you want to leave. You know that someone else will take your place. The cycle will continue and you won’t be part of it. Eventually you won’t call any more, or send postcards. You aren’t a friend, you aren’t a parent, you aren’t a teacher.

You don’t really live here.

Although there is love here

 

This is not your home.

 

 

Beach sunset seagull