The Wasteland

Photos from a forgotten place we choose not to see. I took the photos today just 20k away from my current home south of Melbourne, Australia but really I could have taken them in countless forgotten places across the globe.

Rubbish accumulating in a creek polluted by industrial runoff –

-and the creek flows into the sea only a couple of kilometres away from a popular fishing area and 10 k away from a swimming beach.

Accidental deleted comments

I have been having with trouble with WordPress since I changed to the Block Editor. I seem to have accidentally deleted comments when I was trying to answer. Now I can’t figure out how to recall them. My apologies if you have left a comment which I have not replied to.

btw – my latest blog post is fictional. I was trying to write something that had an allegorical quality to it but I appear to have failed dismally in my efforts – ah well – such is life – you win some, you lose some.

See you on the flip side.

Beyond Paradise

photo credit: Sue Vincent

prompt: https://scvincent.com/2019/06/20/thursday-photo-prompt-forgotten-writephoto/

One of the more unexpected finds I made at Paradise was the discovery of a small door in an outer rim wall skirting the far north eastern boundary.

I’d been living at Paradise for several years before I even ventured out that way. For the first few years of my residency I was utterly content to spend my days ambling through the thriving thoroughfares sampling the fare at atmospheric little cafes where artisan bakers made delicious pastries and some of the world’s finest baristas made rich mellow coffee.

Hours would pass as I discussed contemporary art and poetry with like minded others. Our open mike nights were an absolute hoot. There we would treat each other to our refined verses and carefully wrought haiku. The more avant garde of us mixed their spoken word presentations with digital image configurations projected onto the cafe walls.

I lived, at that time, in a comfortable apartment at the end of a cul de sac off a tree lined avenue which was an easy walk to the city centre. For months on end I ventured no farther than the cafes, galleries and theatres in the town centre. After the difficult years that had preceded my move to Paradise such pleasures filled me with exquisite delight. For the first time in ages my nerves relaxed and I allowed myself to come down from the highly strung feeling of always being on red alert. At last I felt safe and at ease.

The contentment of this state was so soothing that the eventual re-awakening of my old restlessness took me by surprise. I’d always been a seeker and had never settled anywhere long. I’d always thought my restlessness stemmed from a desire to feel safe and contented. Now, when I finally achieved those things I found that, after a time, they bored me. My creativity had dimmed and the haiku I delivered at the open mike nights had grown stale, repetitive and predictable.

Unbeknownst to my cafe companions I took to exploring the area north of the city centre. I found the district quite enchanting but, when I mentioned to my friends that I was thinking of moving there, they cautioned against it. They’d heard the area was a law unto itself. Any poetry that emerged from there was raw, unbridled and free form. As for the art – well it was strange. Sometimes it was backward looking and mystical. In other instances it was unsettling and disturbing.

Just what I need, I thought. I did not want to insult my erstwhile companions by arguing with them so I slipped away unnoticed one dreary day in midwinter when they were all safe inside their homes crafting their newest creations. I left a note on the apartment door saying I was on a creative retreat and would be away for unspecified length of time.

Into the wild and rainy weather I went with minimal provisions. As the wind whipped at my clothes I made my way to an old, unfashionable shack I’d found in Paradise’s outer reaches.

There I set up house. The neighbours were friendly enough but distant. All were pre-occupied by their own pursuits. That suited me fine. Once I’d taken care of the basics and made the shack comfortable I began exploring. The streets of the area were rambling and inconclusive. Destinations became instead openings and invitations to journey further. I took to carrying a day pack filled with energy bars, wet weather gear, a compass and water bottle. My delicate city shoes were replaced with sturdy walking boots and, as my muscles grew stronger, I ventured further and further.

It was on one such ramble that I came across the door the rest of residents of Paradise appeared to have forgotten about. On that first sighting I did no more than test the handle to see if it was locked. Finding that it opened freely into a wild forested area where narrow tracks ran hither and thither was both disconcerting and exciting. I had no idea Paradise encompassed such a region.

Over the coming months I explored the wilderness beyond the door. As the days lengthened and winter turned to summer I stayed out for longer. Often it was late twilight before I wandered back to the little shack I now called home. Always I carried with me little bundles of found objects – the smaller bones of long deceased animals, feathers, curious seedpods and other forest finds. My mind too was filled with creative possibilities. Early on in my explorations I had added a notebook and pencils to my day pack for often the whispering of the trees and the calling of birds would inspire me to jot down ideas and half formed lines of poetry.

As the summer grew warmer I felt ready to attempt an overnight stay. On previous journeys I had come across the occasional fellow rambler. Some were fugitive and smelt of danger. The street wise cunning I’d learnt during the wild years before I came to Paradise kicked in and I gave these types a wide berth. Such characters were in the minority though and most of the souls I met on the wild outlying trails were, like me, explorers of the unknown and seekers of the uncharted. Often we would pause on our journeys and exchange information. It was from them I learnt of a camping ground a good day’s walk from the door. Beyond they, they said, lay even wilder country and trails that wound their way down to rugged coastline of the deep north.

On midsummer morn I shouldered an overnight pack and set out for the campsite. I carried with me a small lightweight tent, a sleeping bag and enough food to keep me going for a week or so. Notepads, pencils and collecting bags were also included. I had a strangest feeling this journey would gift me with some treasure I had forgotten about and would need to carry back.

The weather was balmy and I made rapid, easy progress to the campsite. There were a few other campers. We greeted each other cordially but each set up their tent quite some distance from the others. All, it seemed, were on their own missions.

The night passed uneventfully. The moon was just passed full and cast its pearly glow over the campground. Night birds sung harmoniously and all was right with the world. In the morning, after a simple breakfast I decamped and set out for the coast. Apparently there was another, even smaller, campground further out.

Once again the walk out was easy enough but my pack hung heavy on my shoulders by the time I reached this more remote site. Even fewer were camped out there. Just a couple of surfers who grinned amicably at me over their bong and an older couple who were intently making notes about the vegetation they’d discovered that day.

Quickly I set up camp and made my way down the sandy trail to the shore. There the vastness of the sea stretching out to a hazy horizon made me gasp involuntarily. After the days spent in the depths of the forest the expansiveness and dancing light chased away everything but an awareness of itself.

I camped out there for days until the gathering clouds had the surfers muttering about a change in the weather. I knew they were right but lingered on as long as possible. The others left but I stayed on for a last commune with the sea before I too would retreat. For a brief while I sat there alone in the vastness contemplating the void beyond the horizon. Breathing deep I came to understand that all my staying safe within the confines of Paradise had been holding me back. To fully experience myself as a creative being I needed to take risks. I needed to explore the far edges of possibilities. I needed to gaze into infinity. This was the treasure I had journeyed so far to find. This was what I had forgotten.

Climate Change – What can we do? Part 2

a solitary figure on a beach against a wide ocean.

photo and prompt: https://scvincent.com/2019/06/06/thursday-photo-prompt-choices-writephoto/

The man next door is taking the capitalist approach to combating climate change. His old house is being demolished and an new eco-friendly dwelling fitted with all the latest eco-technology will be constructed on the site. This man is very environmentally aware. He votes Green and has planted many native trees on his land. He is very concerned about the future and tells me he is doing what he can to help save the planet.

His eco-capitalist approach is popular among the more affluent, environmentally aware members of Australian society. They love their nerdy gadgets and wax lyric about high tech solutions becoming more affordable and more efficient. It’s an interesting position and I’m sure it will have an impact in reducing CO2 in the atmosphere over time. The problem is it only works for the rich – perhaps in the future there will be programs that will enable those on lower incomes to buy into this technology through government grants and/or loans but for now that is just a fantasy.

Personally I’m not totally convinced it is the solution. Climate change can be directly linked to the capitalist economic model of continual growth and expansion. If we all used less resources we wouldn’t pump so much CO2 in the atmosphere.

The eco-technological approach to climate change seems to be a very intellectual solution to the problem. It still maintains the mindset that humans are at the top of the food chain and have the undisputed right to use the Earth’s resources however they chose. The only difference is that those resources are used to make eco-friendly products rather than environmentally damaging products. For this solution to work on an environmental level eco-friendly mining and manufacturing processes would have to be used. As far as I am aware, this can’t be guaranteed at present.

Another issue with the high tech solution is the disposal of the gadgets, machines and hardware if they stop working or are superceded. In an ideal world we would have a circular economy. Waste products would not be dumped but would be fed back into the system and re-purposed and recycled where-ever possible. Any waste would be disposed of in environmentally aware ways.

The demolition stage of the man next door’s project has been going on all week. As I write a huge machine is scooping up the debris and dumping it into a skip. A few bits and pieces from the old house were salvaged- the old solar panels, a few of the nicer old windows and maybe some internal fittings but by-and-large all of the old materials have been dumped into skips. That includes roof tiles, bricks and wooden planks. Presumably it’s all going off to landfill sites in some hidden locale. Not very eco-friendly and, from my point of view, a very noisy process indeed.

To escape the noise I’ve been going out more than usual this past week. I’ve also been going further afield. I have been driving through what was very recently farmland but is now construction sites where vast new housing estates, multi lane highways and shopping centres are being erected. My senses have been assaulted by the sight of piles of recently cut down trees heaped up beside huge mounds of excavated earth. There’s been a lot of rain recently so these construction sites are muddy and water logged. The heavy overcast skies hang low overhead and there is a nightmarish quality to these scenes. Around the perimeter of many of these destruction/construction zones are large billboards telling me that these emergent suburbs are based on award winning eco-friendly designs. Lovely walkways will wander through man-made wetlands on the fringes of the development. Many native plants will be grown to ensure the residents are shielded from the view of the multi-lane highway being constructed right beside their houses. The advertising assures me that it will be an utterly delightful safe place to live. Personally, I find it doesn’t appeal.

Thinking about the idea that climate change is a by-product of capitalism has led me to read about other possible ways of living. Many of the ideas I’ve come across talk about paradigm shifts and systemic change. There are many different ideas about the details of this paradigm shift but most agree that we need new ways of living that are both environmentally aware and based on social equality for all. Most also agree that a shift in consciousness is required. We need to move on from the assumption that humans are the superior species on planet Earth and that affluent white men are the most superior of all. Instead we need to move towards an understanding that all life is inter-connected and thrives in a harmonious balance where the rights of all – humans, plants and animals – are respected.

Just how we achieve that shift in consciousness is one of the big challenges we now face. Many of us are presently waking up to what’s going in the wider world and are questioning ideas and ways of being we previously took for granted. We are beginning to transition from the old capitalist model of continual growth and expansion towards more ecologically sustainable ways of being. None of us has all the answers. Like the man next door we are trying to do what we think is the right thing given our current understanding and our life circumstances.

For me, the developments next door and across my wider neighbourhood plus personal health issues are making me question myself on a very deep level. I think many of us are going through similar processes. This time feels like a window where we can finally see outside of the box we’ve living in and can put in place new ways of being that will be personally more fulfilling and sustainable during the coming years – whatever way you look at it we appear to be in for a very wild ride.

Digital photos

When my laptop was resuscitated from its recent crash all my files had disappeared. Every image I had stored on it was gone. I have many on a USB stick and had copied a lot onto Memory Cards but it feels surprisingly good to have a clean computer.

Rather than downloading my chaotic image files onto it I’m finally doing that big photo sort I’ve been talking about doing for years. It seems strange to think that for most of my life I didn’t take photos of every little thing that grabbed my attention. I mucked around in a darkroom for a while in my 20s until the smell of chemicals drove me out. After that time I rarely took photos or even owned a working camera. Now with digital cameras and mobile phones I have thousands of images stored electronically. I realise this wouldn’t concern many but I am a serial declutterer. I find having less helps me become more focused. Sorting out my photo files is something I really want to achieve.

Some files are easy to sort out, others less so. It’s weird how attached I am to some images that really aren’t all that brilliant. Last night I whittled my photos of beaches down from 240 to 160 and felt like I’d achieved something momentous. This morning I woke up thinking ‘why do I need 160 photos of the beach? I live right near one.” I could think of no particular reason but still can’t bring myself to delete the whole file even though heaps of the photos look virtually identical. I did find this photo of my local beach descending into winter that I haven’t posted before.

When I do allow myself to get rid of inconsequential photos of inconsequential moments it does feel liberating – the process is akin to moving into neutral, non-attached spiritual states. It’s hard to do but the result is greater mental clarity – zen and the art of photo sorting or something.

Some groups of photos lend themselves to becoming digital collages – though this one looks like a really badly done tiling job. I guess it will hit the cutting room floor tonight when I have another go at this Arachne like task.

I do find making digital collages a great way of expressing complex ideas through photography though. I am slowly reading my way through a novel set in Barcelona, “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafron. One of my daughters lent me a copy telling me it was the best book she’d ever read. With that in mind I feel duty bound to at least try to read the book and, hopefully offer some affirmation of it when I eventually finish. It’s far more gothic than the kind of book I usually read. Dare I confess I read novels to relax and often read light hearted rom coms?

The book has inspired me to take a look at my old photos of Barcelona. I made this collage from them earlier in the week. The laptop crash wiped out my copy of Photoshop Elements. I didn’t particularly like the program but was stuck on the idea that I needed a version of Photoshop for digital imaging. It’s been exciting to discover I can use a combination of apps on my Android to make complex collages. For this one I used Snapseed, Pixlr and an app called Photo Editor. It isn’t as seamless as a Photoshop collage but maybe I can work this way after all. Come to think of it there is a free Photoshop app. I tried it once before and found it cumbersome. Maybe I need to persevere with it.

Perhaps I’ll print out the image and give it to my daughter as my critique of the book