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Some of my favourite things

I haven’t even watched the entire movie, The Sound of Music, and I burst into song. On the inside, mind you. Nobody needs to overhear my croak.

I have a list of things to do, and whenever there’s something cool to share, I have a list of people to do that with. Grammarly has already nixed multiple permutations of my next sentence, so I’m not sure whether the big G makes it to my list. Anyway, having things to do and people to love are conducive to good health and happiness… here are a few of my loves:

iNaturalist app: when the fungimap observations were redirected to iNaturalist, I pouted because I dislike change that isn’t of my own making. I liked having a dedicated website for fungi! But this has grown on me, much like a wart, and like all warts it’s a conversation starter. Only, this time not with my GP. Too much information, sorry. If you have a garden full of insects you can’t identify, and you’re the sort who really needs to know more about your tiny visitors, (or larger, wild, stationary or mobile species), then give this app a go!

BirdsInBackyards: we really need a Shazam for bird calls. This isn’t even close, but has helped me rule species out. If I’ve actually seen the bird, I can go to the bird finder page and narrow it down. Then it’s a process of elimination, and I confess that I don’t always have the patience, but when I do, odds are that I find the wee bugger.

Book-loving friends and neighbours: not a ‘thing,’ but totally a thing. I love getting recommendations, bookshop catalogues, book reviews, and loans of private property from these wonderful people. In return, they receive praise, gratitude and biased opinions.

When things go right: there’s nothing like the buzz I get from something going wrong, wrong, then wow, it’s gone right! It’s worked! I’ve achieved a thing, good lord, let’s party.

Nature: you might know this already, but I’m kind of into it. Which means I like reading about it, studying it, daydreaming and romanticising it, then getting a grip. I’m currently reading a rather flowery novel that is, to my mind, OTT about nature, and it makes me happy. I want to talk about it, blog about it, share quotes and draw pictures about it. Even though I’m critiquing and in some cases, rolling my hay-feverish eyes. I love that the book has been written, and delighted so many people. I love that others, slightly more cynical or worldly than myself, have critiqued the heck out of it. To misquote Oscar Wilde, the only thing worse than being criticised for writing about nature, would be if nobody noticed you were doing it.

Grammarly didn’t even bat an eyelid at that previous sentence. Perhaps they fell asleep.

The freaking internet: At times I kid myself that I can do without, as I did merrily for most of my life without dying. But it’s the first thing I turn on, even before the kettle, and the last at night. I love that if I read about a fantastic singer based in the Faroes, I can quickly look her up to check whether she’s fictional. Then, if I am blown to smithereens by her voice, I can share name/video clips instantly, with people I’d otherwise need to write snail mail to, or (let’s face it) step outside my front door (the horror).

And I’m tickled that the internet is right up there, intertwined with nature and things going right.


Today’s picture was obtained from Pexels

Mess

Mess is bad.

Is this statement true or false? Or does it depend? Upon what might it depend, if so?

Mess has been frustrating me for years. Inside and outside the home, and within myself, there’s so much mess! It’s gradually becoming more manageable. Look away now if the subject itself gives you hives…

I was raised by a heterosexual couple who prided themselves on order – creating and maintaining it, inside and outside the home. Being of a certain era and mindset, their roles were stereotypical. My father mowed (no messy grass seed) and pruned (no messy shrubbery) and kept the edges tidy. His shed was pristine once a week, when he removed all the cardboard boxes that had been thrown in there, and tidied up after our efforts to replace tools and equipment.

Meanwhile, my mother hardly paused to eat or drink in her quest to keep our home presentable at all times. Anything she considered extraneous was removed and re-homed – disappeared – including toys and clothing, with no consultation. As a middle aged person, I’m seriously impressed now by her sheer energy and commitment. She may never have appeared particularly happy, but nobody could fault her housekeeping.

That wasn’t meant to sound snide, I swear, although in a certain mood I do wonder about priorities. About the pressure of cultural norms. I’m honestly in awe of her skills. There are times when I wish I could channel her motivation and discipline. And yet, yes, I confess that it would have been nice to hear her laugh more often, and play occasionally.

But I digress.

As a child I protected myself against disappearing toys, clothes, etc, by maintaining a perfectly tidy, orderly bedroom. My own routine was orderly, disciplined and (almost) beyond reproach. And this worked really well for me in this environment, but, as I discovered later, it doesn’t come naturally. It helped me when I lived with partners who hoarded, as I was able to eke out a few clean, orderly corners for myself. And when I first set up my own household, abject poverty limited my own hoarding to found objects, such as interesting metal scraps and seed pods. But with increased income came an avalanche of items I obtained to fulfil long-held longings. The Doc Martens I couldn’t afford, even second-hand, in the nineties, for example. And the art supplies! And the books! Oh, the books…

Then there’s the garden. I’m an organic gardener, which strikes fear and/or contempt into the hearts of some tidy, currently ‘conventional’ gardeners. Joan Nassauer has written about how cultural norms dictate that landscapes be kept tidy, in order to denote a ‘cared-for’ appearance. Never mind that you might be removing pollinator-attracting plants, seed for small birds, or the eggs of beneficial insects, while tidying up. It’s all about values-driven priorities. Which is fine if you share those of people around you, or there’s a healthy level of mutual respect between you all…

My idea of good garden design differs greatly from a purely human-centric aesthetic ideology. Bill Mollison, a co-creator of Permaculture (permanent culture/agriculture), is quoted as saying that tidiness is maintained disorder. While this quote initially helped me make sense of permaculture’s philosophy, and still keeps me on track when overwhelmed by peer pressure, it’s not easy to buck social norms. It’s not like I go around criticising others’ styles – I find things to praise and admire, in the name of civility. My own garden fulfils my own criteria, while frequently bamboozling or upsetting others. I wrestle with this almost daily.

Finally, I was excited to find an academic paper on the subject of mess. By Vincenzo Bavaro, it appears to be part of a whole journal issue devoted to the subject – VALUING cultural and physical mess and making sense of it. As I’m currently trying to make sense of my own mess of words, in the forms of an ecological report and a book manuscript that’s running away with itself, this timely find is validating and helpful.


Today’s image is courtesy of Pexels. Yay Pexels!

* I initially posted this about a week ago, before removing it to tweak further.

Telling the truth, kindly

Sometimes I’m horrified by the seemingly bloodless ways I describe a situation. To me, it’s a radical departure from the emotionally focused explanations I grew up with. I had to learn a more cerebral approach for work purposes, originally, then for my own mental health. Sometimes a bit of psychic distance works wonders.

Then, at times, a ‘tone’ creeps in, pretending it’s not an emotion at all. Perhaps it’s passive aggressiveness. Perhaps I’m getting carried away with an idea and losing focus.

My point is that I want to work on making it obvious that I love the people I talk about, unless I really don’t, when I want to make that equally clear.

My therapist once told me that misunderstandings occur when communication lacks either honesty or kindness. (I hope I got that right because I’m using it as a guideline for blog and memoir content.) Loving honesty is a quality shared by some of my favourite reads, and it’s a skill I consider to be well worth cultivating.

Please feel free to kindly point out any missteps. 😊

Family and insects and amphibians

Every time I talk with my father, we end up talking about wildlife and gardens. It’s partly to take our minds off stressful topics, but mostly because my parents instilled a love for those topics in their three kids. We had millions of pets, lived near a National Park, and visited public parks and retail garden centres as others might visit a shopping maul. When I ask Dad how his orchids are, his whole body lights up.

Since it’s suddenly switched from winter to summer, weather wise, my thoughts have turned to Christmas Beetles (rare) and cicadas (none around here). When I asked Dad about cicadas at his place, he held the phone up to the window: deafening. In my mind’s eye now I see a Christmas Beetle silhouetted against my bedroom window, so I’m back in my parents’ yard, with many tiny blue-grey butterflies dancing among the clover flowers, and friends yelling behind me. Then I’m accidentally breaking my younger sister’s collar bone and she’s wearing a not-very-fetching support contraption under all her summer clothing, including her swimsuit, or cozzies, as we called them then. She’s not happy, Jan.

As I do the dishes and let my mind wander through these old memories, laughing to myself about being old and nostalgic, I think about my mulberry tree, and whether any local children might be keeping silkworms. Back in the 70’s, I’d trek down to the nearest creek for my silkworm food. A neighbour had an enormous mulberry tree, but they also had an enormous dog that made me nervous, so I’d get among the mud and water weeds and fossick for my pet food. My youngest sister would go down there with her fiends to catch ‘taddies’, tadpoles. Last time I visited my parents I went looking for the creek, but it’s been sent underground in pipes, with housing deleting all evidence. It made me so sad, this erasure of precious wee wild spaces amid suburbia. Where do the latest crop of kids go to get muddy and play with frog spawn? And where do the FROGS go?

I realise how much of my childhood involved nature, and how much I owe my parents for instilling this appreciation which has helped keep me afloat in the years since. When I first became suicidal and suddenly left high school, I was helped by back-to-the-land magazines and the Permaculture design course. When stony broke, I was able to travel thanks to WWOOFing. When my relationship ended, a friend suggested I tell a tree all about it. As stupid as it might sound to others, it helped. And when another relationship’s ending felt like a prolonged full body depilation, I conducted a mock funeral (for the relationship, not my ex) in the park by the river.

I hug trees and they hug me back, in spirit.

That said, I get stroppy as fuck when well-meaning well-being aficionados suggest ‘forest bathing’ as a magic cure for depression. I’ve lived among the gum trees, with lots of plum trees (and bush tucker) and it was no silver bullet for the work injury, job loss and personal betrayal that afflicted me during those years. I made the most of living there, studying conservation and land management, and discovering the wondrous world of fungi around me. It brought me a great deal of joy to appreciate and share the beauty with others, via macro photography, but it was no magic cure. That’s just crazy talk. I can say that because I’m nutty as a Christmas cake. In case you wondered.

Getting back to summer, and family, I’d like to be able to reminisce with my surviving sister about her childhood cicada-related exploits, her taddies and our millions of pets. I’d love to discuss so many things. Instead, I have to make do with sending her the occasional postcard from Australia Post’s cicada series. We don’t talk any more, and it’s not for lack of me trying. I’ve simply admitted defeat. And I conduct imaginary conversations with her as I do dishes… and I bore my friends senseless with childhood reminiscences of insects and amphibians.

Pesky

Before I adopted my own cat, I was adopted by another. This cat lived across the driveway and had a feline housemate that drove him bonkers. So he’d knock on my fly screen door until I let him in, then sleep on my couch all day. At dinnertime he’d ask to be let out and I’d not see him again until the following morning.

He died the same night as my next door neighbour, a total gentleman who’d spent time in the navy as a youngster, and spent his days here doing needlework. I grieved them both.

Now I have another cat, who I often call Pesky in lieu of her given name, one that was given by a different human. I don’t know how many households she’s lived in, or how many housemates she’s had, but she’s now an only pet in a household of one human. Naturally, there are other creatures in here, including many spiders and visiting flies, mosquitoes, ants and so on, but she gets most of the attention.

Until now. A pesky cat who lives elsewhere, in theory at least, visits most people on our block. It’s a vocal, affection-seeking fluffy missile, and while most of us express irritation, it sure receives a lot of pats and sneaky treats.

Recently I started using toddlers as mentors, and adopted ‘pester power’ as a method of getting my landlord to attend to urgent repairs. Now I wonder about using this pesky furry visitor as a new role model.


Today’s image was downloaded from Pexels

What are my superpowers?

Was watching David Bedrick’s YouTube channel, yesterday. David is a process worker, practising process-oriented psychology, a branch of Jungian psychology. The last couple of videos show him dreaming with people who have volunteered to be his offsider for the purposes of demonstrating ‘Unshaming’. It’s bloomin’ interesting to witness! Dreaming in this situation is akin to daydreaming in pairs – awake, intuitive, kinetic.

One video featured a volunteer who, after some carefully phrased questions from David, stated that transparency and vulnerability were her superpowers. She (her name sounded like Anja, although I don’t know how she spells it) was talking about maintaining her own values in the face of questions or judgement from others.

Her vision of being transparent and vulnerable in her role as a life coach was sacred to her, not just a cool idea, and even when in the company of people she trusted and respected, it felt important to keep her guard up a little. Her guard, or internal bodyguard, was there to deflect anything that wasn’t right for her. After all, even loving, well-meaning people don’t always know what’s right for someone else.

This internal bodyguard sounded like a wise, innately human function, and I reflected on how useful it is in everyday life. It helps maintain healthy boundaries and healthy self-regard. One of the things I’ve noticed about myself is that when I carelessly listen to those who don’t have my best interests at heart, when sneaky disrespectful attitudes slip past my own guard, I’m damaged in some way. It might feel like splinters, or a kick in the guts. It might feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me. In any of these situations I need to do damage control and rethink my own strategies around maintaining a good, strong, internal boundary.

At this point I realise I’ve drifted from my post’s initial question about superpowers. There are many side streets I’d love to amble down, regarding this interaction between David and Anja, and about David’s methods and values in general. This post could easily end up taking an hour to read. I don’t want to do that to you.

In order to keep to a self-imposed limit, I’ll ask myself again – what are my superpowers? My first thought is that I don’t exactly know, although transparency and vulnerability are important to me too. My own perception of my strengths are also likely to be different to what others perceive in me. Does this matter? I don’t know.

I do know that I aim to Do No Harm. I’m careful in my communication and my daily lifestyle choices. On a good day I’m kind, practise active listening and make wise decisions. On a bad day I blurt blunt observations, or evade all human contact and consider getting dressed to be an adequate level of adulting for the day. So yes, I’m human, not a superhero with superpowers. I’m curious though. Are we born with an inner compass composed of our highest ideals and aspirations, carried over from previous lives? Are they sown by our parents and/or caregivers in childhood? Or do we create superpowers day by day through our actions and interactions?

Someone once told me that kindness was my superpower. I still don’t know what I could name for myself. Maybe it’s usually easier to name it in others?


Today’s photo is my own

I’m ok

In August I drafted a post about not being ok. This year was peppered with not ok days. Happy to say that I’m ok today. Yay!

My mother’s not ok. She’s in hospital with COVID and pneumonia. She’s interstate and I’m agoraphobic, so visiting isn’t on the cards, quite apart from the COVID element. I’m thankful for the antivirals my parents were able to access, and for the excellent care she’s receiving. I’m thankful that my father is placid by nature and can cope with this amid everything else on his plate.

I was talking with a friend today about my own hospital fears. I had good childhood experiences with hospitals that have since been tainted by anecdotes about the transphobic behaviour of some staff toward my friends and acquaintances. It’s hard enough for me to cope away from home at the best of times without adding injury, vulnerability and ridicule. My friend and I talked about emergency contacts and medical powers of attorney. And about Wills, because he’s had a cancer scare and is still in worst case scenario mode. It was a good talk; we felt close.

This morning he drove me to the nearest bank branch. All the bloody banks have closed branches and removed all ATMs within walking distance. Rat bastards! My parents still send me cheques and a few years ago I’d opened an account with the one remaining bank up the road. Now their closest branch is about 30 mins drive away for Pete’s sake. Long story shorter: new bank. My father had added Ms to my name on the cheque, whereas my account name says Mr. I was half expecting the teller to reject the deposit. Fortunately it was accepted without the need for public announcements and/or bank manager involvement. Whew. Just another of those little things I didn’t anticipate when I first came out…

Then the postman personally handed me a long-anticipated parcel, containing two 2022 books by trans and gender-diverse Aussies, ‘In Flux: Trans and Gender-Diverse Reflections and Imaginings’, and ‘We Twinkle Like Gold’. https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/we-twinkle-like-gold https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/in-flux-1

Later, Apple suggested, ‘Nothing to Hide’, another Aussie 2022 TGD anthology. https://www.booktopia.com.au/nothing-to-hide-yves-rees/book/9781761066498.html

An embarrassment of riches! Guess what I’ll be doing all weekend?

of pearls and pūkeko

The last time I wrote, I was thinking about a frustrating experience and having a bit of a vent prior to working out my next steps. I often write in order to think, as much as to share. Sharing the process is something I’ve appreciated in other bloggers.

In the end I used a bush regeneration analogy for myself, because I think about most things in terms of nature and ecology. I remember my excitement on hearing there’s a sea creature* that lives for a certain number of years as one sex, before undergoing a transformation. I forget whether they were initially male or female, but I thought, “that’s me!” I remember a lesbian newsletter years ago that gave examples of sperm-free procreation in various animal species – parthenogenesis. Then there was the documentary showing male cuttlefish that, among other amazing things, sometimes changed their appearance to resemble females. My favourite snippet was about pūkeko, antipodean swamp hens which, ‘often live in communal groups, mate with several partners… and sometimes exhibit homosexual-like behaviour,’ according to the New Zealand Geographic. There’s nothing new under the sun.

In bush regeneration, where you remove weeds in order to allow the bushland to naturally regenerate (and thrive), you start in the areas of least concern. It’s counterintuitive to go directly to the spaces that require least effort, but in the long run you get the best results. It makes sense to direct my limited social energy toward activities that yield the best results.

So in effect I’m abandoning my ‘pearls before swine’ approach, to focus on talking with allies and peers. Much more fun!

Allies sometimes want clarification of terms or to hear my own trans perspective on relevant news items. Depending on my energy levels, I either answer directly or redirect them to specialist people or websites. In return, they feel empowered to speak up against untruths and discrimination. Peers sometimes need moral support or specialised information – as do I. We benefit from solidarity and co-operative efforts.

These are win/win situations. Perfect.

Over the weekend I read about a young person (well, younger than myself) who is actively changing lives through LGBTIQ+ education and advocacy. They are one of many who have the amazing social skills and confidence required for this role. I’d love to be one of those, having seen the results. Given my own skill set, I’ll more likely be working behind the scenes. We all have an ecological niche.


* If you know the name of the sea creature that changes sex, please let me know and I’ll update this post.

Today’s photograph is one of my own

Terribly Rude F*ckwits

I keep circling back to a memory from the last year of primary school, when our class was interviewed, on camera, about ‘prejudice’. Although we didn’t have anything deep and meaningful to contribute, there’s something about that experience that I need to explore further.

Prejudice.

A lot of my childhood tv experiences are precious to me. Science programs such as The Curiosity Show piqued my curiosity, for instance, and the chap whose catchphrase was, “Why is it so?” became a mentor of sorts. The Magic Roundabout taught me that friends are treasures, imagination is to be celebrated, and that things don’t have to immediately make sense. Then, of course, the 80’s music videos with androgynous musicians gave me a sense of comfort and possibility. But it’s my primary school Super Flying Fun Show interview that sticks with me, poking me in quiet moments, and although I’ve written numerous drafts on the subject, all I come up with are thoughts on Terribly Rude F*ckwits. You might know them as TERFs.

My own (frankly exasperated) version of that acronym is based on my interactions with those people, both online and off. Terribly Rude F*ckwits project their own prejudiced views onto me and other trans people with gay abandon. Their jaundiced world view has almost become a religion for them. And by crikey they are evangelical.

I was curious at first, seeking to understand and empathise. I noticed that this courtesy was not reciprocated. I then tried to share my own experience, and some actual facts with them. However, I noticed that they are impervious to facts and disinterested in my experiences. They automatically discarded these and tried to convert me, all the while telling me that I’m a deluded member of an ideologically driven cult who must be saved for the sake of all women, everywhere.

Imagine my facial expression. Right now it’s quizzical, with my head cocked (so to speak) and a faint hint of a smile. Usually it’s annoyed, because who, really, goes around telling other people who they are and what they need? Especially when there’s something plainly off-kilter about their own outlook? Ok, there are plenty of people who do these things, but rhetorically speaking, who the heck do they think they are? More importantly, how does anyone have constructive conversations with such people?

I’d love to be able to ignore them altogether. My parents taught me to treat bullies and other annoyances as though they are mosquitoes – ignore them and they’ll go away. My parents were wrong, actually, yet the lesson stuck. Which leaves me with the question about what to do about these arrogant, ignorant asshats?

The answer for me, today at least, is to start talking about it.

Today’s image is my own.

Rejection, amusing

Once upon a time, in a city far, far away, I was wandering the streets with my daypack and water bottle, avoiding home and actively looking for meaning. It wasn’t long after my sibling’s suicide and I didn’t know what I was feeling. Nor was I able to discuss it with anyone, so I simply wandered, searching.

That day I encountered people on the street outside a Scientology hub. I don’t know the proper word for the building or its role, so forgive me my use of ‘hub’. The people outside wanted to invite perfect strangers inside the building to participate in a questionnaire of some sort. A version of psychological testing I’d not yet encountered elsewhere.

So like any wandering searcher with an open mind and nowhere specific to be within the immediate timeframe, I accepted their invitation and entered. Spooky, yes? No, not really. I have no recollection of the interior, so let’s just say it was nondescript. I was led into a small room with one other person, and invited to participate in the questionnaire, test, whatever. It was said to give marvellous insights into your personality and lead somewhere useful. I wondered whether they’d try to recruit me.

The person herself was memorable. She spoke in unusually phrased sentences, with cryptic language and what seemed like an intentionally confusing tone of voice.

How intriguing!

Millions of questions later, I was finished. Questionnaire completed, disappointing results received, I was summarily ejected from the building. There was no hope for me, apparently. No bright future lay within their bright and shiny organisation.

I stood blinking on the footpath for a few moments, trying to make sense of things. So I’d been rejected from the Scientologists? On what grounds? Should I be offended?

Years later, having read books by ex-members, I considered myself lucky. Then I considered that maybe I’d not been as bonkers as my own mother considered me to be, way back then. Just a bit lonely, a bit lost, still looking for my own version of life’s meaning. It’s not often that rejection amuses me.

.

Today’s photo is courtesy of an unknown photographer, and found via Pexels.