A movie made me pack my bags.

La vita e bella, January 1999. I finished one life and started another in less than a month.

I packed two pair of pants, one single breasted black jacket, one broken heart, one pair of black Italian leather boots, one red shirt, three spiral bound notebooks, and one Cesare Pavese poetry book. I barely said goodbye.

I first saw snow on that plane flight – my face pressed against the tiny oval window, the Apennines stretched out below, a wonderland in miniature.

There are two things I remember – I walked everywhere, and I wrote. More than 80,000 words of scratchy lines, blue pen against the brilliant lined white paper, page after page of exploring my inner world, while the outer world filled my heart with beauty.

On the second day in this foreign country, a man approached me. ‘Boungiorno,’ I said hesitantly. He looked familiar to me, a visceral memory from a dream a few nights earlier.

‘Piccola mia,’ he replied and suddenly my broken heart was mended and ready for new adventures.

For the next three months, I was shown la bella vita by Andrea. Quiet tucked away dinners on the foreshore of Lago di Bracciano, motorbike trips through the cobbled laneways of Rome. Secret trips to the top of the cupola at St Peters, snow covered getaways in Umbria. He cooked spaghetti and laughed at the small portions I ate as he urged me to manga. He greeted me in the morning with cornetti and baci chocolates, and covered me in kisses at the traffic lights. I studied Italian in Florence and promised myself I would never speak a word of English again. I was in love, and Italy returned my affection. At the age of 29, I was home.

When I was alone I had my notebook, and I wrote of the way Italy was showing me how to live. Every day, I recorded the tiny moments. I came to know Italy and I came to know myself, each word a tiny postcard of the soul. Andrea was a thread that bound the experience to my heart, a man who showed me deep inside the Romani way, to places the tourists don’t see. And I am grateful.

And then it was time for the story to end.

I sobbed my goodbyes on that train journey from Stazione Termini to Fiumicino airport. A kindly nonno passed me some fazzoletti and carmello (tissues and a lolly). I sobbed when I landed back in Melbourne. My Italian sojourn, the love and the lovers, a brief interlude in a life that was forever changed by Italy and her grace. I will return this year. I have been homesick for twenty years. Like Romulus and Remus, Rome is my mother. I have adopted her, and she has cradled me in memories.

I returned with three filled journals in my suitcase. My writings still await my shaping – a twenty-year love story that has no ending, and is always beginning.

Here is a collation of my every-so-often observations of life in lock down.

25 March

1. Today I cracked out the hoodie. I own two, both are hand me downs from Tex, and both needed a wash after floating around the boot of the car for the past 2 years. Possibly one of the most flattering garments I have ever worn…not. One says “Nerd Power” on it. Im owning it.

2. Incoming children are more annoying than incoming phone calls.

3. I am mostly heard to say ‘Stop, don’t throw out that jar.’

4. Old University habits die hard. In a world of changes, it’s so reassuring that The Bold and the Beautiful stays the same.

5. Jonahism of the day: Life is a mind game.

26 March

1. It will take 56 minutes and 38 seconds to get your Analog parents hooked up for a family zoom call. (Thanks to our family IT department Lisa Schneider)

2. No the dog does not want another walk today.

3. Googles most searched term today is ‘two minute noodle hacks’. Seriously my mum used to make us this dish that was two minute noodles+tomato sauce+mayonnaise+a can of tuna and grated Kraft cheese.If we were lucky she added optional corn kernels. Dinner sorted for you.

4. Why is everyone posting pics of them home schooling when it’s school holidays in VIc?

27 March

1. It’s impossible to do 5:2 when you’re home 7:0 and can see the fridge from your workstation.

2. I will need to be in lockdown until 2024 to complete all the webinars and free online courses I have registered for.

3. My SCOBY died today. However I’ve kept it alive longer than any houseplant I’ve ever owned so I guess that’s a win.

4. Dining room chairs are shit office chairs.

2 April

1. It is impossible for four people on a Zoom call to sing Happy Birthday in sync. Im not buying that 500 strong choirs can do it.

2. The most common grammatical error on FB is spelling aloud instead of allowed. Nutters!

3. I predict the return of the kaftan (ok, I would like to buy a kaftan)

4. I got emotional when I saw the Aussie Post guy pull up outside the house. He is a new form of God.

7 April

1. Without outside influences, my natural diet appears to be 99% Italian.

2. I’ve almost completed Netflix. Is there a prize?

3. Nev-be – is a new word that summarises the things I said I would never let my kids do and how quickly they are becoming maybes.

4. My daily wardrobe is being styled by the bedroom chair. It’s a real LIFO approach to fashion.

5. Pell is so fucking guilty.

9 April

1. Handy social distancing measure. 1.5 metres is the same as 5 wine bottles end to end.

2. We are now effectively barricaded in our home by all the bags of clothes we will be sending to the op shop after this is over.

3. Several times this week I have mistaken my ugg boot for the cat or hmmm…was that my cat for an ugg boot?

4. My contribution to glass recycling has increased significantly(see pt1)

12 April

1. My post covid19 super power will be yawning.

2. I am now taking life instructions from my cat

3. Pissed posting on Facebook is up 56% but there appears to be no strategies to flatten the curve.4. Red wine is my kind of Easter egg.

15 April

1. Yesterday I had an up close and intimate conversation with my dad’s ear hole. Thanks FaceTime.

2. Today’s most googled phrase – ‘when does term 2 end?’

3. You can type ‘Pew pew’ into a text message and send to the friends you want to impress most. (But not your 12 year old son who will think it’s super lame). You’re welcome.

4. You can read the state of the nation by how many times the word ‘fuck’ is used in posts on Facebook.

20 April

1. Found my generally oppositional kids in deep conversation. So happy they were getting on…until I realised they were complaining about me. (Apparently I am only nice when I drink wine)

2. You know it’s time to take a break from the socials when you actually start rehearsing a Tik Tok of your own

3. Bin isolation outing posts outnumber any other subject matter on Facebook.

4. The dog is hiding from me and the cat is not taking kindly to lead training.

5. Pondering if Lake Eildon is the Victorian equivalent of the Ozarks.

30 April

  1. Tex and I invented a cocktail in commemoration of Covid19 – it’s called the “Yeah-Nah”

2. In order to control alcohol consumption try starting early say 8am and finish drinking at lunch time. Sober by dinner. Yeah good luck with that. (Thanks G for the tip)

3. My pedometers favourite colour is red. My best day yet is 8 steps.

4. Cleaned out the pantry. Best find was arrowroot circa 2006 making it older than my firstborn. What the fuck do you even use it for?

5. A reduction in my obs would appear to mean this whole lockdown thing is somehow approaching normal…Yikes

1 May

  1. The phrase ‘I’m flattening the curve’ is a useful expression that will get you out of just about anything. Try these:
    Are you still in bed at 2 pm in the afternoon? 🛌Yes I’m flattening the curve.
    Do you really need that second piece of chocolate fudge cake? 👏Yes I’m committed to flattening the curve.
    Is that your second bottle of wine? 🍷Just doing my bit to flatten the curve darl.
    See it works.

2. I don’t actually know anyone who has had Covid 19.

3. I have mastered the 3-pair-of-tracky-pants rotation in wardrobe planning. It’s going to be like I have a whole new wardrobe when we get proper dressed again…if anything still fits.

4. For a small town that doesn’t even have an Uber let alone Ubereats, the level of home delivery service now available is miraculous.

5. I’ve been slightly obsessed with home hair cutting videos but no one in this house will give me scissors.

9 May

Today’s obs

  1. Because I talk too much (allegedly), my children have asked the local IGA to continue their ‘no loitering and chatting to people’ policy for me indefinitely.
  2. If COVID-19 was a theme park ride,  it would be the Graviton.
  3. The biggest challenge has been the short-term memory loss.. hang on what was I saying?
  4. Tex spilt my wine just now and Jonah said ‘don’t worry mum we can lick it up off the bench.’ This is proof that iso gets to everyone eventually.

(C) Lindy Schneider

 

I come from a long line of letter writers. Well my dad, anyway.

He is a supreme letter writer but not in a correspondence sense. 

My dad, to this day, writes letters of complaint, letters of advocacy, truth-biting letters that demand action, or at least a response.

He passed this on to me, partly through osmosis and mostly through involving me from a young age.

Tap, tap, tap his slender pointer fingers would punch out drafts on our beige hard cased typewriter. Always in duplicate, two impossibly thin pieces of typing paper with a sheet of blackest carbon in between.

Then he’d pass it to me for comment. 

I can still  remember the first time he asked me to read one of his letters.

I was twelve years old.

Our Breville Jaffle maker had delivered many a toasted cheese (Sunday night dinners with tomato soup without fail). But it started flaking black pieces of Teflon onto the bread as it cooked. It was 1982. Teflon was the new ‘wonder surface’ but was it safe to eat? My dad was justifiably concerned for our fate…and a little ahead of the times too.

Tap, tap tap, the power of words his mighty weapon. 

Because it was right. 

Because we had rights.

Because what if he was right? 

We loved the Choice program on TV, and hold an enduring value of ‘keeping the bastards honest’.

He got answers, he still does, spending his retirement drafting his concerns to MPs, financial institutions and car companies about the things he finds not quite right. He’s a voice for the people. The one who will actually take the time to sit down and diplomatically state a case – one that cannot be ignored.

There was never any hidden agenda. We weren’t a family that suddenly received a lifetime supply of some flawed product he had  bought to the attention of the maker. He just cared. Enough. For all people.

And the Jaffle maker? We got a letter assuring us all was ok.

He threw it in the bin, followed closely by the Jaffle maker.

In 2006 Teflon was identified as releasing a cancer causing agent at high temperature. 

I am so grateful he encouraged me to have a voice in this way.

Bet he is writing now?

There is something humbling about floating more than one kilometre above the earth. The world stretches out, shifting endlessly as the colours of dawn throw new light on the horizon. Captive (and captivated) in a basket, there is simply the moment.  The sound of silence is interrupted only by the occasional blast of the furnace as it opens to send hot air into the balloon and lift you further away from the world as you know it. Without fanfare, the basket has soundlessly departed from the ground and you find yourself peering out at a 360-degree view of the Yarra Valley that is postcard picture perfect in every direction.

Suddenly the 3am alarm doesn’t matter as you realise that this – this glorious vista at dawn on a cool Tuesday morning – is all that matters. This is once in a lifetime, once in a moment even. You take a breath and marvel that you are one of ten lucky people together in a  basket watching the beginning of a new day up close. There is reverence, an unspeakable softness.

For today’s flight we have headed from our meeting place at Balgownie Estate north towards Glenburn. It’s still dark and our strange little convoy of troupees towing wicker baskets seems strangely out of place. At the launch site, after a safety briefing and checks, we help the crew get the basket ready and hold the massive balloon (nothing prepares you for how big this silky piece of fabric is – or how much you will be relying on it 100% very soon!) while it is filled with air from a massive fan that is then heated to create lift.  By 6am, we are one of three hot air balloons ascending into the Yarra Valley skies on a journey of softly panning circles, following the updrifts in a southerly direction. Every burst of the furnace bathes us in golden light and transforms the balloons into giant lanterns. It’s above beautiful.

 

The skyfilled night gives way to a pink and gold sunrise and our one-hour flight seems to take hours. From the safety of our basket we wander the skies, across forests of ancient trees, open paddocks and farmhouses, neverending vineyards and townships. If you’re a local, there are recognisable landmarks that you feel you can almost reach out and touch. If you are a visitor, you have a perfect vantage point from which to plan where to next! From this elevation you see absolutely why the Yarra Valley is a valley – the ring of mountainous terrain embraces a valley that is always green – a lush food bowl and source of water and life, and everything we enjoy the most in life.

As the sun bursts over the fringe of mountains, the mists hovering over the dams and valleys start to lift and the city skyline is revealed (we can even see a tiny balloon hovering above the CBD).  It’s meltingly gorgeous. I am caught between capturing everything I can on my camera versus taking it all in first hand without the distractions of tech. It seems impossible to take a bad photo at this angle!

This floating experience is serene and atmospheric, and something so much more than I expected. To see this part of the world in its pristine nature, so much of it untouched and wild, gave me a renewed sense of what we need to love and protect in our environment and gave me a fresh insight into how we all share this land.

Charting a path across the Yarra River (Birrarung) and billabongs of Yering, Kiff points out local wineries and landmarks, boxing kangaroos and his local primary school.

We land in a paddock in across from Yering Estate, the resident cows barely raising a head to greet us.  After ‘all-hands-on-deck’ to pack up the mighty deflated balloon, we return to Balgownie Estate for a cooked buffet breakfast and a much anticipated coffee!

 

 

 

Kiff, our captain, has been flying balloons since 1987. He has just returned from a world ballooning event in Slovenia with his son where people could land ‘on a flag in the middle of a paddock’ he says, so precise were their navigation skills.   I’m certain Kiff would hold his own in such company. I sense he knows instinctively what his digital navigation tools are going to show before he’s even looked at them. “It’s all about invection – the meeting of cool air and warmer air bands,” he explains. “But it’s also something felt,” he continues, “a five senses experience.”

 

“When you are up here you have a different perspective. It’s a joy to be able to see beyond your own confines. To experience the world like this, it opens you up. You can’t not be affected,” he says. “Everyone should know this feeling.”

With my new perspective, I completely agree.

 

Disclosure: Lindy Schneider was a guest of Global Ballooning on Tuesday 29 October 2019. She has lived and worked in the Yarra Valley for almost 20 years and has an even deeper appreciation for the region having now experienced it ‘from above’.

I wrote this piece last year. I feel vulnerable sharing it, but if it means just one other person feels heard and understood then my heart will rest.

………………………………………………………………….

I want to tell you how much I cry silently inside when he arrives home from school and tells me how all the kids were talking about the latest birthday party they’ve been to and he matter-of-factly accepts that he wasn’t invited.

I want to tell you what it feels like to get ‘that tap’ on the shoulder from one of your child’s carers when they suggest there may be something in your beautiful son that isn’t quite fitting the mold. My boy was just three years old. He’d built a sand castle and attached a complex network of reeds and twigs to it to make a hydro-electricity scheme. This was a red flag…apparently.

I want to tell you what it is like to spend two hours every night holding him to help him go to sleep because his brain, or his life, won’t turn off enough to stop his limbs from being in constant motion. How he often sobs with the anguish of his school life.

How I have spent hours taking him to psychologists, audiologists, speech pathologists, chiropractors, herbalists, osteopaths, ENTs, kinesiologists and every other bloody-ologist looking for just one thing that might ease his heart. I want you to know that one unkind word from a child unravels that and sets us back weeks, months even, but you would never know because he is wary of how people respond to him and does his best to hide it. I collude in this lie.

I want you to know that he reads adult non-fiction and remembers interesting facts that you would never imagine a ten year old being remotely interested in. How he is a voracious consumer of texts but with that comes the fact that he’ll read something and repeat it in a way that your child finds odd, or you find too advanced or even just a bit off. I can’t stop his interest in the workings of the human body or his appetite for information. He can’t help that his filters aren’t set in such a way that he doesn’t know what to repeat and what to hold. He’s ten. He is a masterclass in obsessions, and he will fix your computer and can be found in long detailed conversations about cheat codes with the guys behind the counter at the EB Games shop.

I want you to know that it’s not his fault (although it’s taken me a long time to realise it’s not mine either). That being ‘that kid’ in the class seems to automatically make him guilty of all the transgressions that go on in the school yard. That even when he has the balls to speak or tries to let adults know he is being bullied, the first and default response is to suggest he made it so. That’s what happens to all the kids who are different – us mums know this only too well. And one day a teacher softly says ‘yes I’ve seen what they do to him’ and you can’t hide your relief, but you’re also angry that it’s taken this bloody long for them to see the reality of his world. And then there’s the guilt that I also didn’t act earlier and be his advocate.

It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. He’s exhausted.

I want you to know that I love my boy and admire him for who he is but I carry his stress too and it magnifies in my body. Sometimes I avoid the school pick up because I carry the feeling that ‘I’m the mother of that kid’ even though I know it’s not my shit to bear. I suffer from a form of co-dependency – how he is doing is deeply influential on how I am, and in the past 3 months, as my little boys’ life has become increasingly more difficult, so my anxiety has exploded. Sometimes we can both afford to go to the psychologist, but most of the time I postpone my appointment so he can have his.

I want you to know that some days I just can’t face the drop off scene because it’s taken me two hours to move through the morning’s pattern of school refusal and I have nothing left to give – and I’m certainly not showered. I want you to know that meltdowns are exhausting and what works today may not work tomorrow.

I want you to know that there are endless appointments and expenses in our family. I work less because I feel I need to be ‘on call’. When my phone rings and I see it is the school, a hot wave of worry automatically rushes through me- I think must be a little like PTSD. And I have spent so much time in the principal’s office.

I want you to know that at times I feel desperate, and I run out of strategies. I often lose hope because I don’t know what to do next and my partner and I will have different ideas about how we might move forward. We are a bedrock of support for our little guy but even stones develop fissures. I want you to know that my daughter suffers and we do our best to not have our family life obsessed with my boy, but it’s hard, and she feels it and her resentment is understandable.

I want you to know that I would never judge another child for being who they are. And having a child like my son is full of its own rewards. Because one day he will be remarkable and quite possibly change our world. He is magnificent–the one you want on your team (although these days he’s consistently last pick), the creative misfit that actually has a fucking good idea or two. My boy’s sense of social justice is beyond his years. He feels with every fibre of his being and it’s overwhelming for him.

Yes, I want to tell you that he feels it all, everything. He overacts, a lot. He insists on rules but only as they apply to others. His behaviour is annoying. He doesn’t do well with maintaining friendships. He rarely follows instructions straight away. He goes to sometimes extreme lengths to avoid anything that makes him feel vulnerable. Believe me I know these behaviours better than anyone. He tells me he knows that the tall stories he has told to impress people have had the opposite effect, but no-one will give him another chance. That two weeks ago his latest ‘story’ had sufficient red flags in it for mandatory reporting. These are not the stories of our family life. The only subtext is ‘please like me’.

I want you to know that last week he cut off the beautiful long eye lashes he was born with because other children teased him about them. I want you to know that ten year olds shouldn’t be having an existentialist crisis or talking about suicide.

I want to tell you what it feels like to have your child lose his trust in you because you haven’t made it better yet. That is the kind of ‘epic fail’ no parent should feel.

And I want you to know I look forward to a day when our society practises tolerance in the truest sense of the word – a time when generosity infuses the way we respond to children with autism or Asperger’s or who are just their own people.

Because the system is a tough place for all of us, and all the programs in the world will not make lives better for these kids if the mums and dads, the teachers and the classmates who get to spend so much time with our children don’t show tolerance and compassion. We desperately need to learn how to embrace the different kid. I’m not sure what is worse for them – to be ignored or to be the target.

My son is losing his faith.
Yesterday he said to me, ‘Mum, why do I have to endure this?’
I cannot answer.
Just love…fiercely

 

© Lindy Schneider 2018

You’re worried what they will think of your writing
A Professional Writer will never judge you for your writing skills, or any attempt you’ve made to get your thoughts down on paper. We applaud you. We know it’s hard. And guess what – we are inspired by the challenge your writing presents us.

You’re not sure if you need a professional? (Aunty Mavis has always been a ‘bit good’ at English)
Would you cut your own hair? Install your own power points? Fix your own brakes? Probably not. Professional skills matter, let the experts do what they do best.

You don’t know how to put in words what you want to say
Thats exactly the right reason to hire a writer. We will help you work through your random ideas and craft it into copy that sings. That’s what we do best. We help you through the confusing bit and put words to your ideas. It will be exactly what you meant to say – promise.

You think you could or should be able to do it all
Outsourcing is where it’s at. Seems like the pressure today is to be a jack of everything. Not only do you have to run your business, make your products and more, you also have to be a social media expert, a writing maven and an SEO and website tech head. It’s exhausting and you can’t possibly do everything well. So outsource your writing tasks and focus on what you do best (and enjoy most).
Busy people need support.
You can’t be all things.
You can’t.

You still think you can write it yourself
You learn to write in primary school so you should be good at writing, right? Kind of. You’re probably better than you think you are, but even so, a Professional Writer has spent extra years in education and honing their craft in addition to primary school or high school English. It’s a special range of skills and knowledge you can’t possibly be expected to know.
And how long have you been meaning to write that piece or freshen up your website? Months? I thought so.

You’re not sure if its too expensive for you
A Professional Writer will always work with you on a brief, a quote and a budget. They are the three things you need to ask for, and in doing so you’ll have control. And consider the costs of not having professional words to back you up. People leave websites just because they’ve seen a typo. People can’t get you and what you’re offering if they don’t read a clear message. It’s a distracting world out there and a Professional Writer will bring clarity, direction and focus to your words and business.

You don’t want to look silly, unprepared, and a million other ways we tell ourselves we’re not ok
We get this. It’s almost everyone’s bag. No judgement. We’re all equals.

You’ve just never done it before so you don’t know what to expect or how it rolls
The first step is a baby one – make the call or enquiry. We will figure it out. We’ll take care of you. Every writing job is different and we’ll guide you step by step.

And yes, you can get out of it. And yes you get final say on what is written.

And it will be fun!

(C)Lindy Schneider

Contact - basic

How do you choose a professional copy and content writer who will polish and bring your message to life? Everyone learns to write at school, but not everyone takes the extra step of becoming a ‘professional’.  If you’ve never engaged a professional copy and content writer before, and you think it’s time, here’s a list of quick tips to help guide your search for the right fit.

Local Life 

While you don’t necessarily need to meet with your professional copy and content writer face to face (thank you technology!), knowing they aren’t far away can be reassuring. It also means they understand the area you are operating in, will have strong networks, be in the same time zone as you for instant real-time responses, and will understand the subtleties and nuances of your market. There are ‘localised’ elements to the way we speak and write that come naturally to locals. And local can mean anything from ‘within 100 kilometres’ to ‘same continent’ depending on what you need!

Marketing Acumen 

If your engaging a writer for blog and content writing for your business then it is vital your writer has sound marketing instincts, after all they will be preparing information that presents your precious brand to the world. Look for a writer who has studied marketing and the copy you commission will be insightful and effective.

Journalistic Discipline 

Ensuring people are being quoted correctly, copyright, fair use, even areas of defamation or false advertising all come into play in writing content. It’s also super important to make appropriate  references to people’s gender,  sexuality and abilities to be inclusive, fair and empathetic.  A copywriter should be able to evidence a working knowledge of the do’s and don’t’s.

Real Relationships 

Building an ongoing relationship with your writer is not only efficient, it can bring a sense of ease and fun to the work. When you find a copy and content writer that gets you and your business, the whole process is streamlined and you will both be passionate and eager to do the best work. There is a mutual benefit in developing an ongoing connection and professional writers adore providing service and ‘extra mile’ support to their valued clients.

Across the backend 

if you’re too busy to write, you’re probably too busy to upload content as well. A good copywriter can offer you the additional service of content loading to your website and may even take it a step further and offer digital support across social media channels. Knowing how the backend of your website works is helpful when writing as it can influence how copy is presented (and therefore how it’s written) and how images, captions and other elements can be worked in together for the best possible read for your users.

Editing Diva

A copywriter who has taken the time to become qualified or educated as an editor and proofreader will always provide you with superior copy. High school English lessons only go so far. If you want to be professional, engage a professional who has done the ‘hard’ work of learning there are nine different types of nouns and what a dangling modifier is! And nothing turns people away quicker than a typo.

Deadlines done and dusted 

Copy and content writers need to have superhuman organisational skills. While you might only see the finished copy at the end of the process, the research, drafting, editing and crosschecking of content is often a time-intensive process. Ask your copy and content writer how they approach deadlines, and if they can facilitate quick turnaround jobs and you’ll get an instant feel for whether you’ll be waiting!

Breadth of experience 

An established copywriter will have a broad range of clients in their back story and be highly adaptable across different industries and writing styles. That is what it means to be a professional writer, not just a writer! Copy and content writers over time naturally build up a solid and broad ‘expertise’ base even when they have specialist disciplines they work in. (And what you learn in one industry can be very useful in another.)

coffee cheers

Connected and Creative 

Successful copy and content writers get to meet many different people in their working lives and naturally gravitate to the service providers they encounter that share the same work ethic and values. This means the right copywriter will also have an instant network of other businesses (think web designers, photographers, graphic artists and so on) to connect you with that offer that same quality work – you’ll end up with a team if you choose wisely!

Portfolio and testimonials 

Always, always, always check out the writers’ folio. If a writer is proud of what they do, they will have a dedicated page on their website with samples of their work and testimonials from clients. Check out the socials and see what others say about them.

Lindy X

Please give me a call on 0417 365 697 or ping me a message if you have any questions!

 

Often we have ‘moments of truth’ without realising until much later what grand epiphanies they are.

Way back in about 1998, I was sitting in the back of a strategic marketing presentation about a new range of toy concepts being represented by Gaffney Licensing in the city. The room was a blackened basement (lest we get distracted) devoid of windows or any sense of life…and I was bored.

Doodling on my notepad I started to write down every word I was hearing that sounded hollow or made me yawn (and I hadn’t even read about Don Watson’s book Death Sentence about weasel words at this stage!).

I quickly had a list scrawled down my page and a sudden spark of inspiration. What if I found a better and more engaging word for each of these hollow over-used, and frankly, lazy words?

Suddenly I felt alive. Words tumbled onto the page.

What about if we used words such as inspiration instead of information?

Considered instead of strategic?

Conscious instead of profit-driven?

Preference instead of plan?
Humanity instead of consumer?

Meaning instead of marketing?

Awe instead of purchase intention?

Gifts instead of KPIs?

Authenticity instead of qualifications?

The fall in the hero’s journey instead of ‘failing to meet budget’?

Visionary instead of CEO?

*and trust me just saying Chair instead of Chairman would have been bold back then…)

 

Now this was feeling juicy…

Fast forward twenty years and I am still bought alive by the search for the right word.

I believe the right word changes everything.

It can change your mind, your connection, your understanding, your desire, your action.

The right word can even change the world.

 

And what is the right word? Well in my mind, the right words are rich words, feeling words, evocative words that reveal the beauty of language and reflect the poetics that are deeply embedded in our minds via every story ever written.

 

These words sing.

They have rhythm.

They build a state of being in your body that is much more than the word.

I didn’t realise back then how much this simple awareness about words would define and refine what I do today. It wasn’t long after that meeting I left corporate life and started to rewrite my world.

The right word really does change everything.

 

Here is a post I just prepared about the Redwood Forest in East Warburton for my client Visit Warburton that has an important message to share. These words need to land…

‘We are all charged with the responsibility to look after the fragile beauty of the Redwood Forest in East Warburton.

Up until two years ago, the Redwood Forest was a little-known stand of Californian Redwoods that was considered a secret and meditative destination among locals. As a National Trust heritage listed site, stepping into the forest was done with a sense of awe and respect – its silence and simple beauty the essence of its appeal.’

Today it is bittersweet to see that its appeal is so widespread. The attraction of visitors has happened at a rate that has far outpaced the Redwood Forest’s capacity to cope, and also the ability of authorities and stakeholders to develop appropriate infrastructure.

From one short TV segment thousands and thousands of people have come to visit – and its all adding up.

So how can we, as lovers and visitors of the Redwood Forest, ensure it remains healthy, viable and respected?

Here are some important ways every individual can help preserve this amazing natural wonder.

  • Please take ALL your litter home with you.
  • Please do not use the Redwood Forest or surrounding areas for toileting – public toilets are available at the hall in East Warburton or make sure you stop in Warburton on the way through.
  • Please respect the homes and people who live on the road to the Redwood Forest (Cement Creek Rd and Woods Point Rd particularly) – drive the speed limit (and avoid dust), be sensible when parking. If it is too busy, come back later, or another time.
  • Please respect the trees – leave branches in place, leave bark on trees and the forest floor undisturbed.
  • There are other fun ways you can have your forest experience – you can ride a bike to Cement Creek Rd via the O’Shannassey Aqueduct, car pool or use bus services.

Other tips for minimising impact are to choose a time to visit that is a non-peak visitation time – avoid weekends and keep your visits short. You may even choose to just walk the perimeter of the forest (there are tracks all around it), rather than walk through it.

Continuing foot traffic is compacting the forest floor, causing permanent damage to delicate micro-infrastructure and biodiversity.

Tred lightly, if at all, and help preserve this natural wonder.

Parking solutions and preservation issues are high on the priority list for local and state governments, but in the meantime we can all do our little bit to help protect this place we all love.

We appreciate your visit and invite you to explore more of what the Warburton Valley has to offer – there’s lots of ideas on the Visit Warburton website, but here are five  quick suggestions:

  1. Rainforest Gallery
  2. O’Shannassey Aqueduct trail
  3. Observation tower on Mt Donna Bang
  4. Big Peninsula Tunnel
  5. The Ada Tree

There are many more secrets to discover!

If you have any questions and want the advice of a local, pop in to the Waterwheel Visitor Information Centre on the main street of Warburton.

READ MORE 

or https://www.visitwarburton.com.au/blog/redwood-forest-a-place-to-care-for

Dear Writing,
I am so sorry I abandoned you. It’s been two weeks since I last wrote a single word for myself. You’ve waited patiently in the background, but the sense of words choking my veins, needing to get out, words shapeshifting into feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, has been palpable. You Writing, did not abandon me as I have abandoned you.

What a relief it is to sit right here, right now – to go to the page today and write this ‘blog-to-self’ – the post I most need to read.

The truth is I’m a bit crap at prioritising my own writing time. If every writer has their ‘wound’ then that is mine. It’s not that procrastination or writers block keeps me from the page, but rather the ‘stuff’ of life. Eminently justifiable stuff such as the paid freelance work I need to do most days, magazine deadlines, the preparation of my Life Writing workshop (I delivered week one last night and it was wonderful), the seemingly endless stream of social media attendance I do as part of my work that has no determinable end (unless I myself draw a line). There are children and school events, horses and friends and family. And rest. Sometimes it feels that everything exists to steal my time, and while I can be effective in stealing it back, my writing soul aches for long stretches of musing time to wander through the words, rather than the snatched sentences I manage in between other moments.

How can we ‘cocoon our practice’?

I have an artist friend that I admire greatly for many reasons, one of which is her deep commitment to her painting as a first priority every day. This is a mindset, a true expression of the value we attribute to our own art making. Nothing gets in the way of her practice to paint first. She declines just about every invitation or obligation that would take her away from her painting.

I admire this.

I struggle with this.

But I think this is what cocooning may be about.

We value what we create first and most, before all our other endeavours.
We honour our work and the time we give to it.
We defend the time we set aside for it, vigorously, without obligation to others, without hesitation. We simply say no.
We protect our space physically, psychologically even. We create buffers that protect us from intrusions, be they the visitor, the ding of social media, the news of the day.
We immerse our whole self in our practice and we emerge full from the experience, and our writing becomes self-perpetuating.
We give ourselves the right to pleasure and recognise our deepest need to do our art as the truest part of our selves.

And at the heart of cocooning our practice is the deepest held belief that art is worth it.

Writing is worth it.

We are worth it.

Cocooning your practice is a form of fierce love, for the self, for the soul and for all that is created from that space.

I’m working on it.