You suffered in volatile clime.
Your roots, though strong,
Were not tough enough,
To endure despair
Day after week,
Month after year.
Shall we blame the rain?
So coldly it fell
‘Til you were drenched,
As it quenched
Your longing leaves.
What of the wind?
It tore at your branches
Killing each eager bud,
And vanquishing love.
The sun sought to save you,
But little it shone upon
Your aching arms,
Choosing its moments cruelly,
When your leaves were dead,
and shed, upon the barren earth.
And who could blame you?
Whose fate was writ
By decisions and conditions
Before you lived.
You, who struggled to survive
Until the fight was lost.
Your skeletal remains stand yet
Cénotaphe to a tragedy;
Fingers claw at purpled bark
To fathom your fragility.
But your soul is far away
In peace, at last, with your father.
The Yew Tree painted by David Sharp
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Try this excellent writing exercise from my writer friend Rick. What a great result too Rick.
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A study of CCTV footage from 700 British car parks and interviews with 2,000 drivers, which compared the parking of males and females, showed women to be better parkers than men.
Seven areas were investigated including how fast drivers found a parking space, how they drove into it, how long it took to park, how much they repositioned the car and the final result.
Actually the result was pretty close, with women scoring an average of 13.4 out of a possible 20 and men scoring as average of 12.3.
Women found a parking space quicker than men, apparently because men drove too fast and missed available spaces (sound familiar?). On the other hand men parked faster, taking an average of 16 seconds compared to 21 for women, and spent less time repositioning their cars. A higher proportion of women parked their car in the centre of the space, however.
This study should provide a boost to women’s confidence. Only 18 per cent of women in the study thought they were better parkers than men, and 28 per cent believed they were better parkers than their partners.
Mr Neil Beeson the driving instructor who designed the study for NCP car parks was rather suprised by the finding, and one does tend to question his motives given his obvious bias.
Can men park in the street as well as women? The jury is still out!
Although this is clear evidence of, at the very least, little or no gender difference in parking and related spatial ability, Mr Beeson may be comforted by the fact that limiting his study to car parks meant it was unable to assess parallel street parking. Interestingly Mr Beeson’s research showed that more men than women reversed their cars into car park spaces, so he may prove his point in the next study.
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Littering the streets is obviously a no-no right? But we all get slack sometimes, so what damage can tossing away a take-away carton do to the ocean, especially if it’s just a one-off?
The first problem is that 183,566 people live in the City of Sydney and many have similar lapses during picnics or partying at night. When it rains, stormwater runoff from roofs, roads, paved areas and parks picks up litter and other pollutants (e.g. oils and grease, metals, pesticides and chemicals) and dumps them in Sydney’s bays. The upshot is that sediments in Blackwattle Bay are amongst the most polluted in the world: http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/Environment/Water/CurrentStatus/WaterPollution/StormwaterPollution.asp
More than 100 tonnes of litter is dumped in Blackwattle Bay every year
Once in the ocean, litter has terrible consequences. In an area estimated to be around twice the size of the United States and located about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, 100 million tons of plastic litter is circulating in the sea’s currents. “According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds, which mistake them for food” http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/the-worlds-rubbish-dump-a-tip-that-stretches-from-hawaii-to-japan-778016.html
When plastics and other rubbish escape the vortex they end up washed up on our beaches.
Plastic litter washed up on Kamilo Beach in Hawaii
Yesterday, I helped members of the group “Pick-up Sunday” whose volunteers clean up similar rubbish at Blackwattle Bay in Sydney. We spent an hour cleansing the shoreline of litter and collected two large sacks of recyclable material and 4 bags of unrecyclable rubbish which would otherwise have gone on to pollute our bays, and trap or choke our beautiful sea creatures. A staggering amount of jagged glass fragments are embedded in the bay floor so serious injury to pets is a very real threat too. When I looked at the pristine beach that the volunteers left behind them I really felt that these people are unsung environmental heros. One volunteer, Henry Ko, even gave up 2 hours of Chinese New Years Eve to participate which was incredible – that’s a bit like donating 2 hours of Christmas Day to the environment!
Pick-up Sunday realise their actions may have a limited affect on the cause of the problem, but they are reducing its impact little-by-little. The visibility of the volunteers does seems to raise awareness of the danger of littering in the community. While helping them I was amazed how many passers-by thanked them warmly and this opened a surprisingly friendly dialogue about the problem and consequences of littering in Sydney.
It seems that a small number of people can do a great deal to improve the environment in a very small space of time and they can have a surprisingly good time doing it.
The Pick-up Sunday volunteers Eloise, James, Juliet, Henry and Jeroen with their latest haul.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged direct action, environment, litter, personal responsibility | 3 Comments »
In my scientist garb I signed up for a one day scientific writing course which I thought would be dry and tedious. In fact I learned about free writing on that course and it changed my approach to inititating writing immediately. If you have never used this approach yourself, maybe you want to give it a try.
Sit down and write anything that comes to your mind for a minimum of 10 minutes. Don’t make any corrections to your writing, just write without stopping. Even writing “I have nothing at all to write about today and this is a pointless exercise…” is useful [as long as you keep writing] because you are already using words to express your thoughts which is key to initiating writing. This is what I think of as “channeling my writer-self”. Naff hey?
After a few minutes you’ll be writing. It might not be anything of use but no matter: the most important thing is that you’ll feel more and more like writing. The process will start to feel natural and after 10 minutes you will be in the mood/have got your flow, or whatever you call it.
This is the moment to open up your writer’s notebook and have a go at that story or poem you thought about a while ago.
This really works for me and I use it to prevent wasted hours in delaying tactics like doing household chores I usually dislike (I once actually cleaned the toilet in preference to starting writing) but nonethelss prefer to facing an intimidating blank screen. When you use free writing the blank screen becomes a gentle hill rather than steep craggy mountain.
I’d be interested to hear how you get on.
More on free writing here:
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged free writing, writers block, writing, writing techniques | 5 Comments »
I went to buy a coffee this morning and ran into a neighbour who has two children and doesn’t get out so much these days. She has been invited to go out with some “hip Surry Hills friends” who apparently attend every cool event Sydney has to offer. With trepidation she’s looking forward to a night out with them that’s a bit like the old days, “But what on earth am I going to talk to them about?” she asked me.
Irritated to be thinking about a subject I thought I’d put to bed years ago, on the way home I found myself reflecting on her comments. I begun to wonder what hip really means.
I guess it’s knowing what and where the popular things are and getting into that star-studded after-show party, which does sound like quite a lot of fun. The problem for me is that hip stuff is necessarily generic, it appeals to the masses which always devalues it in my eyes.
I think I wanted to be hip at 17 and behaved accordingly. I remember the fake smiles at cool parties, the shallow pretty friends and my soaring ego. I aspired to be the envy of my peers. But it was a bit like a dress up game for me and after a few months I realised I wasn’t cut out to be hip. “Coolness” seemed to be driven by trends outside my control and I wasn’t satisfied to be simply part of the audience in the performance of my own life.
Looks like a lot of fun doesn't it?
It feels pretty immature to write this down, but in the city on a Friday night it’s easy to look at the groups of manicured, slim-bodied 21 year-olds with something close to envy as I walk past on my way home to bed in my jeans and hiking boots. Their evening is in full swing and they line up outside the coolest venues creating a cloud of top-brand fragrance as they waver on high-heeled or drunken feet. What am I envious of precisely? Being hip is nothing to do with individuality: it’s not setting trends but following, not creating but experiencing, it’s a pleasure not a challenge and not active but passive. The interesting thing is that it looks really good, it can even apparently intimidate those who’ve grown through it. But like most pretty packaging it eclipses content and what things look like usually aren’t.
So I guess we should avert our eyes and get on with what pulls our own particular chain, and if you or I happen to tag along with the cool brigade one of these days we might not be able to say anything cool at all, but we are bound to intruige and unnerve them instead with our unique, nerdish artistry.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged cool, fashion, popular culture, trend | 2 Comments »
I’m wondering where our creative ideas come from. Here am I with two hours free, and I’ve chosen to spend them at beautiful Blackwattle Bay, which I plan to use for invoking a theme, image or emotion which will inspire a new piece of writing. But instead I find myself day dreaming about where ideas come from. Sometimes it’s so easy. Well the idea at least. You might read a news story or hear a tale from a friend over coffee that bites you. More often than not though, you’ll be sitting under a tree somewhere and, like in a dream, it seems that fragments of memories and fantasies combine and urge you to put them down in words. What is that? Is it you, I mean your brain alone, or do we get a helping hand?
Is it me, or am I getting a bit of help from elsewhere?
I’m writing this on my iPhone so forgive my lack of research, but didn’t many or our great artists dream their greatest works to some degree or other, either naturally or synthetically?
I guess my feeling is that our ideas and our creative work involves a degree of channeling or meditation. When I’m thinking or writing I’m in another dimension and that is one of the attractions of it for me, that dream-like process. My scientific side shivers at this, but it’s true for me whether all parts of my persona wish to accept it or not.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged creativity, dream, ideas, meditation | 1 Comment »