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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Heartless or helpful

Koala on Road

Let’s keep him alive. Image credit: 123RSS.

In a recent article in my local newspaper Bayside Bulletin about koala road deaths, the president of the Koala Action Group, Debbie Pointing, made a suggestion that  koalas that had been killed by cars should be left on the side of the road for other motorists to see. The response to her suggestion was rather feisty. People said …

“It’s cruel and heartless to leave dead koalas for us to see.”

I admit that I dislike seeing road kill. My saddest sight are the dead wombats littering the side of the highway outside Canberra on the way to the Snowy Mountains. But they do remind me to look out for wildlife crossing the road. The fact is the animal has been killed. That’s the heartless thing. Does removing them change this? Not really. The council said …

“About 35 % of all koala deaths in Redland City are from cars.”

Koala crossing sign

Image credit: 123RSS.

We can easily step out of our warm, safe houses, jump into sound proof cars, turn up the radio and drive to work, forgetting that koalas are out there. We don’t give a second thought to the animals that may have lost their lives in the night while trying to find a mate or trying to find food. While I don’t want to see dead animals on my way to work, it may mean I think twice about speeding in a koala marked area. It might mean I lobby the Government to put more crossings in place, or to put stricter rules on developers about what they can and can’t do in koala populated areas.

So as gruesome as it might be, I tend to agree with Debbie. We need to be reminded of the other critters in our world. We are not the only ones entitled to use this land, and if seeing a dead koala helps save five more koalas, I say it’s worth the unpleasantness.

Further reading

Author – ity

Sunset at ByronThe weather wasn’t the only thing superb about the Byron Writers Festival last week. As usual, I learnt a bucket load. In my first session,  we were reminded that the word “author” stems from the word “authority”. Stories written with authority stand out.

Weak apologetic writing leaves readers unconvinced.

Peter Carey concurred. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, quoting his mother’s advice when he’d failed University. She simply told him; “worse things happen at sea”. But Peter did warn that writers shouldn’t be published until they are fully cooked. This should instil hope into those waiting for their turn on top of the slush pile. Keep writing. Your prose is like a good lamb shank. Time cooking will make it perfect.

IMG_0826Other wonderful tips came from Children’s and YA writers Libby Gleeson, Leigh Hobbs and Melina Marchetta. Libby said “Don’t ever ask kids for advice on your story. Rather, develop the idea in your head yourself”. Leigh Hobbs confirmed this, adding that you most definitely shouldn’t ask kids how to end your story. Melina said that getting the voice and the tone of a story right is harder than the actual story itself and all three agree that you should write what you want to write, not just what’s popular, or by trying to plan for a wider cultural context. Write what you’re interested in. These authors also said they never stopped editing. Even when their books are on the shelves, they can always see improvements.

Humble words from some of Australia’s greats.

Breakfast at The Byron Beach Cafe

Breakfast at The Byron Beach Cafe

And finally, a new author whose biography inspires, Fiona Johnson said, “when you get stuck, just remember the reason you’re writing. Keep the story close to you.” 

I’m already looking forward to next year. Breakfast at the Byron Bay Beach Café, whales breaching just offshore, a host of talented writers to aspire to. Not to mention the beautiful weather.

Stay Connected

Apple trees

Apple trees in Stanthorpe.

On a recent weekend getaway to Stanthorpe, I met the type of people I’d forgotten existed. People not afraid to get their hands dirty. People who’d decided to reconnect.

Whether that meant making jams or building stone walls, baking the most delicious apple pies or making beautiful candles or soaps, these people were connected. Connected to nature. Connected to themselves. Connected to each other.

That’s what connected them to me.

Driving around Stanthorpe reminded me of Sunday drives as a kid. We’d stop to pick strawberries, apples, peaches and plums, far more than we could eat, but we’d have so much fun we couldn’t limit ourselves to just a few bags. And who could resist a few stolen bites along the way? In the South of France a few years ago, we just had to stop in the cherry fields to munch on fresh cherries straight from the tree. Fruit full of sunshine. Same again in Stanthorpe. At Sutton’s Apple farm, we picked apples, many of them knobbly and bruised, but fresh, as nature intended.

Apple Pie

Delicious home made apple pie from Sutton’s.

I wonder if part of our modern malaise doesn’t come from feeling disconnected. These days we rush into Woolies, Coles or Aldi – time poor as we are – and grab up our pre-packaged food with no real connection to where it came from. We watch cooking and gardening programs without ever really getting the dirt between our own toes.

The pleasure of connecting with nature doesn’t diminish in adulthood.

Sam with Fry and dogs

Me with Fry and our dogs. Photo credit: Sarah Laing


Alfie and Felix: the goats.

Everyone has a different way of feeling connected. A girlfriend, feeling blue after a move interstate, cheered herself by making juice from fresh oranges picked from a backyard tree. Walking dogs, riding horses, spending time outdoors all appeal to me. My menagerie helps me connect. It’s hard not to smile hanging out with gentle goats or clucking chooks.

Dirt. Fresh air. Nature. That’s what makes me feel connected.

We all need a way to stay in touch with Mother Nature. Whether that’s growing parsley in a pot on the front deck, or wading through puddles in the park, it’s important to stay connected.