Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Reflections on life and history

There weren't a lot of comments on yesterday's Forum Post, Monday Forum - sooky movies, but a lot of common choices.

I think that we all  need things that will in one way or another nourish the souls. I was reminded of this last week when I met an Aboriginal colleague by accident at a bus stop in the city. She was on her way to Waterloo where she has been working in the local housing office.

I first met her on the Aboriginal staff mentoring program I participated in 2009 extending into 2010. I learned a lot on that program. On the bus we chatted about the problems she faced on a day to day basis in dealing with entrenched social disadvantage including the associated violence. It's not easy.

The day after I signed a lease on my current place, I walked round the area in the early morning (it was just daylight) to get a feel for the area. I hadn't moved in, I just wanted to know. There I met the bird lady for the first time, feeding the kookaburras by throwing meat into the air. The kookaburras always came first before other birds could be fed. I guess that she was in her mid seventies. I'm not very good with ages.

Over the last few years I got to know her quite well. She lived in the social housing old people's complex created as infill behind the housing across the road. It's all low level and very attractive. Then she was bashed on her front verandah in an apparently random attack.

 I hadn't seen her since, so asked a neighbour yesterday how she was.It was a far more savage bashing than I had realised, brutal. Even after two and a half months rehab, she may never be able to come home. I still walk around the area in the early morning and still feel safe, but am far aware of chance and the random nature of events.      

The painting is by Arthur Streeton, Sunlight (Cutting on a hot road) 1895. I was searching for Streeton material as part of the process of bringing my backlogged 2015 Express History revisited columns on line. I am bringing them up on the date they should have been published at the rate of one a day.

 There is a bit of a balm in it. Looking at them as a stream in this way reveals the bad, but also the good. The Streeton post itself will come up tomorrow. The linkage to the local came via Howard Hinton and the paintings at the New England Regional Art Museum. In turn, that drew me to artists camps that sprang up around Mosman and Streeton. I must say I really liked the descriptions of the camps!

Immersion in the past exposes you to the bad as well as the good, to the sorrows and tragedies as well as the triumphs.Sometimes, sheer survival is triumph enough in itself. But most of all, the thing that keeps me going is that it is all just so damn interesting!

In all this, one of the enduring challenges and indeed fascinations lies in how just to tell the story to make it interesting. If you think about it from your school days and looking only at the columns, I am writing the equivalent of a five hundred word history essay each week every week, year after year.And all that as only a small part of what I try to do.

Because it interests me, I really should explain at some point just how I do that, But, for now, day seven of my new life has dawned and I must move on. Maybe that even might help some students embroiled in the current cheating scandals that I had originally intended to write about today?


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