Monika Schott

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A life of 'oh wells' is greater than a life of 'what ifs'.

‘chicks bloody well can surf’

I watched the movie, Puberty Blues, the other night. I didn’t mean to, just found it as I was scrolling through for a movie to watch. It’s an Australian, coming-of-age movie made in 1981 about teenage life in the 70s on the coast — the beach, surf, sex and drugs. Not sure much has changed! It resonates with my teenage years and is one I watched many times over. That’s saying something for someone who doesn’t like to watch a movie for a second time, let alone a third or fourth.

The movie had already begun but a beach scene hooked me immediately, no doubt because of my love of the beach and water. However, what struck me about the movie was its ending. It finished on the ideal high that many storytellers strive for, that thought provoking scene that's interpreted through book, song, movie, music or any other creative means. It’s that hook that catches you inside, pulls you to kind of do a double take.

The movie’s ending shows the two girls, Debbie and Sue, buying their own surfboard and carrying it together down to the beach where their ‘friends’ tell them that girls don’t surf. The scene is brilliantly set up to evoke the idea that the surf board is too heavy for one girl to carry, and requires two. Defiant, Debbie takes to the surf to catcalls and scoffs. The scene unfold with the two girls soon laughing as they swim out and surf the waves laying on their bellies. Their friends watch on in deriding disdain.

Until Debbie stands on the board, that is. Suddenly, Sue’s boyfriend is smiling as Debbie rides the waves as a professional, which actor Nell Schofield does so well as a former teen surfing champion. The friends with Sue’s boyfriend, both boys and girls, are gobsmacked and watch in awe. You can almost see the penny drop in the girls that the impossible of girls not being able to surf, is possible. What’s more, the boys see it too. It’s such an empowering scene, for the female and the male, set up so beautifully by director Bruce Beresford and cinematographer Don McAlpine: Debbie in her skimpy yellow bikini showing the boys how it’s done, defying the unthinkable.

It encapsulates a spirited rebellion that rises and leads to freedom, a liberation of the stereotypical of men and women in the 1970s. Baby steps, of course.

Around the time I was watching the movie, I had just spoken to my cousin in Austria. The tremble in her voice was something I didn’t usually hear in her. She was exhausted and in bed early with a headache that night. The limitations and isolation imposed because of the corona virus were getting to her, symptomatic of what’s happening all over the world.

It highlighted to me, that we’re all in this together. The whole big, wide world.

We’ve become one. While vast lands may be separated by distance and water, we are one community facing a virus which threatens us. One united community. And together, we’re doing what we can to minimise its impact on us. We’re carrying our surfboard together, no matter how rich or poor or what colour our skin or religion we may follow. We’re sharing that load. Sure there are some that don’t. There are always going to be those that don’t, those that live on the fringes of any community, for numerous reasons. That seems to be human nature.

It’s so heartening to see and experience the world uniting though, the kindness that’s been extended by so many, and the genuine care and help for one another.

It’s humbling. It’s courteous and modest, sending us back to basics. While we’ve grown into a human race that is rich in materialism, we’ve been thrown back to basics where food, medicine and water are all that matter. And it’s happening to all of us.

We’ve been forced to return to our homes and families, our friends who are our families, whether in physicality, online or over the phone. We’re thinking about elderly people and looking after them. And for those that have them, we’re spending time with our children.

Sitting outside in the glorious sunshine with two of my sons last week, we wondered how some parents and children who don’t often spend time together may be coping with this new togetherness. The eternal optimist in me believes the intrinsic fibres between parent and child have no option but to reconnect, to strengthen relationships and homes. The problem will be, in the homes and relationships that are broken. 

It fills me with such warmth when I sit in my spring blossom and peacock chair in the sunroom at dawn and feel the quiet and peace outside, with the French doors open to my Chinese Elm and birds chirping good morning. Only an occasional car drives by compared with the many that normally stream past on their way to work. Dawn in peace is a grounding gift.

My sons had commented on the lack of traffic in our street too, as they tuned into the stillness outside. This calm that shrouds us, us as in the world where we humans have been forced to stop. Our busyness has subsided and work isn’t as important as it used to be. It’s as if the world is on pause for a chance to catch its breath. It’s been so wacky busy, it needed to catch its breath. Yet as each day passes, it pants more slowly and less so.  

Many are anxious about where we now find ourselves. I like to see it as being in another stage of life that’s in a constant state of flux. Life is full of those, cycles of change, of difficultly and ease, challenge and triumph, and joy and sadness. Change is one of the few reliable constants in life. The key with any flux, flow or ebb in life, is to ride it out for it will shift. Take the action necessary to make the change, to come through it and be patient to believe that things will improve. I see many who are patient and accepting of this.

Some panic in change and adversity. But that’s the polarity of life, of the spectrum of experience and people — positive and negative, pure and filth, disgust and captivating. Even that needs acceptance, of life’s adversity and polarity that is building now as a collective adversity, a world adversity.

In any polarity, change and adversity, life continues. It’s a short life that we have and making the most of it and any situation we’re faced with is all we can do. Love. Kiss. Confront. Forgive and move on. And laugh, don’t forget to laugh, even in times like we’re in now, and especially in times like we’re in now.

Babies are born, people die. Love blooms, relationships end. Some are still at work while many have lost their means to earn an income. People are stressed, some are panicked, others are unperturbed.

And yet in all that, has come one of the greatest revelations: that of kindness and compassion extended to those in need, and to those that aren’t earning an income. Such fortitude emblazons. They won’t be beaten.

It really sends my heart gooey when I think of the compassion around us right now. Yes, there are some desperate and hoarding and only thinking of themselves. But the giving out number them and in reality, compassion can only be extended to those in such panic for they’re in fear.

Fear can be so consuming and at the moment, it’s consuming millions. Eckhart Tolle describes fear as thoughts where people project themselves into some future moment.

If we try and pause with the world, sit in this quiet time to plant our feet on the ground and not get caught in the madness, we may become less fearful. Accept that this time now, is a pause in life. Plan for the future but it’s not possible to think too far ahead as these are new times unfolding in ways we’ve not experienced before. It's new for everyone. Deal with each day as it appears. Plan for the future but live in the day that exits. More easily said than done for some, I know. Compassion and patience is called for those struggling with fear and panic.

Compassion and patience is giving, as the driver coming out of his truck to share his toilet paper with the elderly lady weeping when she couldn’t buy toilet paper, and in the tray of mince and bread left on an elderly woman’s fence and toilet paper left on a door step. It’s in the man asking people that had congregated after playing soccer at the local sports oval to move on and disperse, and those people doing so. And in the phone calls and facetimes, messages on every app possible, of people checking in on friends, family and neighbours, on those alone and isolated. It’s in the support groups and services established to help people unable to go out and buy food or medicine or simply can’t move from their home for anything at all. Organisations are making extra funding available to help people who have lost their income. Even businesses and banks are showing compassion, providing extra services without cost and deferring mortgages for those who have lost work. Business partners are supporting one another, offering jobs to those working for partners who have lost theirs.

People are helping people. If you ever thought human kindness had left the planet, look around for it’s galloping in right now. Even my niece offered to help me. I giggled at first, then that gooey heart got going again. Such care. And love.

The fragility of life has been waved before us. But flapping madly in front of that is the human spirit. It’s strong, alive and kicking, just as it was when Debbie and Sue surfed those waves at Bondi. We are a singular community bound in belonging by a virus threatening us, bound by a humanity that comes with humility. It’s a humanity emerging within humanity.

I’ll finish my rambling in the spirit of humanity loving to laugh, with Lulu taking the piss out of Corona

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The captivating soul

Tall or short, thin or round. Blue-eyed, brown-eyed, maybe even one of each for a touch of the unique. Blonde hair, brunette, curly or shaved head, egg-shell or olive complexion, toned or not, big or small, great and immensely tremendous.

No, there’s got to be more, much more than the pink-iced façade studded in silver beads of sugar and laced in a string of fancy frosting.

Brash and brazen, shy and bashful … an observer, a chatterbox, a listener, a really good listener for sure. Now we’re getting somewhere. Accomplished in the art of listening is a necessity.

But more, there’s got to be more, something beyond the veneer of superficial.

A listener and conversationalist, the epitome of a good communicator who can express thoughts and ideas. And feelings. Justly and rationally, and with reason and a sense of justice and fairness. And with an ability to think on the philosophy of life and way up its nuances. Thoughtfully.

Someone that reads and can read to me and I to them. Head resting on lap, fingers twirling and swirling through hair. Sharing is caring after all.

Birds call, outside breezes through dreamy aqua sheers as a gentle confirmation.

Confident and self-assured, but positively not cocky. Not wanky or manky or any kind of minx ... no thanks, that’s just not for me.

One who is considerate and gentle, understanding of others and shows compassion for their needs. It comes with a kind, generous and selfless spirit, a giving without expectation. That’s true nobility, in the giving. Now we’re forming a picture.

The ability to be vulnerable too, with the capacity to manage that vulnerability as that shows full disclosure. Honesty. It’s an imperative that goes to the top. Honesty is the sexy. But so is the glint of cheeky grin and sharp wit, the super sexy.

The fun, there’s got to be fun and joy and laughter, and a sharing in that. Time at the beach, for walking, swimming and lazing. Kayaking and snorkelling, sailing and wind surfing, the adventure in trying the new, seeing the new through eyes of awe.

A crack of thunder, a hint of coming rain wafts through the window.

Travelling, discovering new places, exploring cultures and all that makes up our world environment, the extremes of heat and ice cold, and those damn elusive Northern Lights! Riding through snow in little visibility, or motor cycling winding mountain roads lined in green terraces of water and rice and humidity. The chance for real breath, savouring it all until it seeps in and becomes part of you, forms you as an ever evolving you.

Art and music, good food and drinks. Dancing, theatre, the chance for creativity to infuse any part of life and thinking you so desire, even in the simplest of things. Gardening and weeding, especially of the inherent and intrinsic. We all need it in our own way, as an appreciation of what is, and without the gluttony of the selfish.

And in the experiencing of all that together.

But, there’s more. There’s the sharing of the emotional that’s so vital. An emotional intellect. A sharing and understanding of the highs and lows, the distresses and successes. The bolstering and support. Mustn’t forget that, especially on those solo quests.

Rain washes in to define a picture more rounded.

And an appreciation and encouragement of independence. Independence to think and do, be the individual with an identity. And an independence to be found in the sharing as well. There’s such freedom in that, as the outstretched wings of the Pegasus. Wings unclipped.

It’s the kiss though, that’s the real cherry on top of the icing studded in silver beads of sugar and laced in a string of fancy frosting. The kiss that can tell all, express a feeling that can’t be defined. And the embrace that can hold the weight of the world.

That’s the gold gilding the cherry in a picture that’s simple really, of a most captivating soul.

 

 

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Change only ever happens forever

Dusk is approaching in all its hues of greys and blues, tinged in the palest of peaches and apricot blooms. In the gloom is the speckling of orange blossoms that twinkle as the signifying promise of the new.

Wisping clouds and heavy snowfall swill over mountain peaks, for a merging of line and lust as dusk grows ever darker. A quiet deriding veils in to blowing winds that howl and wail. It’s the ominous warning of what’s to come.

In the dusking light, the dark looms in anxious wait, pondering how big the risk, how big the devastation and change it will ejaculate.

And from its miraging wait, it powers in, muscling in force of fear and dread of the unseen, a don’t-mess-with-me brash. It brings the formidable, the trembling and spinning. Snow squalls and fireball blizzards, lashing in pitting and pelting on the whim of the wind. Rain and hail and snow and ice, fire and spark, together they become the one gale of gusting farce.

It’s here. Inescapable. Darkness void of any light, blinded in a flogging fog and smoking smog.

And yet in the dark, is where it happens; in the dark is where the greatest of us is born. Big and small, great and tall, it can linger fearful and bashful, or screech promiscuous in cockatiel call.

Any which way it comes, it comes for one and all.

Whether bumbling through the blurring of fire-balling winds, or hopping and skipping over rocks, embers and charred out remains littering ice and sleet, it comes with a taunt in gnarling roar over mountains spiked in slivering soar.

Over ravines and avalanches of ashen valleys, it comes unceremoniously, it comes blatantly broad.

In the dash of ill health or dire of loss, as a swoop and swing of the axe, a shatter of a broken heart, life drained to an end.

The crush, the smash, the raze of the driest of tinder box, it comes in blasts of blacks and blings, in shearing calamity. It’s the change that must come for any hint of the bloom of the new.

It’s always the way, comes with a distress and pain, loss and dire bleak, a crushing despair.

But then, when breath seems lost and all is resigned to the helpless, in it comes, the pale lime green that springs to the new, of growth and awe of wow that distinguishes from the dead and dread.

From nothing, it comes. It's a change that’s blinding and radiating, quivering and heartbreakingly so.

It comes in the glint of an eye, a cheeky wry, the smile that always warms.

It comes in the heart warming that halts the tear drop, catches it from falling to a nothing bed.

It comes in a spirit that can never be seen, until there is dread.

It comes as change. Towering, cataclysmic change, for transformation and rebirth.

There’s a poignancy that comes with it: an acceptance to ride with the bumps and never hold stiff, to relax into the slip and flow, ease into the darkness as life’s constant correction, where nothing and everything is one and the same.

All that is, is now. All that is, is hope in the dark.

All that exists is an instinct to live in a way that is living for each.

Breathe into it, a way will always be shown, even in the midst of nothing and nowhere, desolation, destruction and despair. A diffused light will guide the way.

It’s in that last moment of the darkness that comes the dawn of the new and it’s in the new that a nourishment grows beyond that can be understood in the dark.

That’s the lesson of the dark, to do and be, to feel the dread for the birth of the new.

Slide over the jagged and pitted and accept them as part of the passage to the new, hold steady in those gailing winds for that’s where that pale lime green will sprout again once the wind has blown its puff, and orange blossoms can anchor and grow for a new.

Deny that and deny the chance for a bounty and beauty of expression not experienced before. Trust that to happen. Have hope in the despair of the change and rebirth too.

Slip into the darkness, trust in the diffused light guiding the way.

It will take time to regenerate, to ease into the new. No matter how daunting the mountain to climb or trying the loss, when all has been quashed to dull and null, change will inevitably come for the chance at the new.

Find the hope and courage in the change blazing through, for change only ever happens forever.

Recent Comments
Monika Schott
Thanks, Chris. ?
Saturday, 25 January 2020 22:22
Rosy Cole
'All that exists is an instinct to live in a way that is living for each.' This is surely the guiding principle through that rolle... Read More
Saturday, 25 January 2020 16:04
Monika Schott
Thanks Rosy. Wonderful analogy of two sides of a coin. The three guarantees we can't escape - life, change and death. ?
Saturday, 25 January 2020 22:26
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Farm Reflections: Gratitude

It seems fitting that finishing off my PhD research should come with a last Farm Reflection. I only wrote a few over the three years of the research and perhaps should’ve written more, but this last reflection is a most important one.

A dear friend sent me this quote when I began my research and told me to stick it on my wall in my office, knowing what only a few knew at the time, of the turbulent change occurring in my life. And so I did, stuck it right above my computer monitor so I could see it daily, or at least every time I looked up.

Part of me dismissed the quote though, as being some new age saying. I believed that hard, tough change could never be gorgeous at the end. Change was happening all around me and I found it anything but gorgeous. But I did realise fairly quickly that part of the change I had to make was to loosen my noose of independence and stop believing I could do everything myself. I had always been the solver of problems and issues in my ‘other’ work, and I was a mother working inside and outside of the home. I knew nothing other than being Ms Independent.

Undertaking research meant I didn’t have answers: the whole point of research was to find them. It meant I had to ask questions, and ask people those questions to find those answers; that meant asking for their help.

Interestingly and without realising, I’d put the quote beside another quote on my wall, about giving things a try. If ever I was being ‘told’, this was it: “Give it a try” whispered the heart. So with much effort, I began to ask the questions, and ask people to take time out of their day to help me. It was a tough mountain to climb.

Three years later, I have no idea how many people I have asked for help. Hundreds of people, I guess. And people have responded most generously, spending hours talking to me, sharing photos and other memorabilia, helping me to piece together the puzzle of the social history of the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm. My family and friends, supporting me to the finish, even when I had to disappear into a cave over the last six months to write up findings and finish by Christmas.

I’ve been able to write over 100 years of social history into a book and have enough material to write two more books at least. I don’t have any publishing details as yet, however I will share them when I do have them.

Even in the last weeks, after I finished my thesis and handed it in to the university for examination, people are still helping me to create a picture of the cricket team that formed on the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm in 1897, before the Metro Farm football team. Information on the cricket has been scarce until recently, but is now starting to form. It will most definitely feature in the second book.

The thing is, without the generosity of so many people giving their time and being patient to chat with me, even when I may have been a pest with a constant stream of questions and being pedantic with details, the work would not have been completed. It’s like there exists this band of pixie helpers who are invisible until I ask a question and then out they fly, from everywhere.

Generosity comes with kindness, and a willingness to help. The world can’t have enough of the stuff. Kindness and generosity are incredibly humbling too. I’ve often been blown away by people’s willingness to help and their patience and grace in doing so. It has inspired me to make the research count and that what is captured, is authentic and real. The harder I worked and the more questions I asked, the more obvious it became that documenting the social history of the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm was important to many.

The act of giving is so selfless, so sincere, warming and nourishing, and then to receive it …. it melts my heart, makes me gooey putty in anybody’s hands. Had I known this sooner, I would have learnt to ask for help a long time ago. In fact, if I could bottle it, I would. But I wouldn’t sell it. It’s too precious to sell. I’d give it away.

So, my public announcement here: my eternal and sincerest of most precious thanks to everyone connected to this research — the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm community, their families and friends; my university research team, family and friends; my special HDR writing group and fellow PhDers; organisations, the media, politicians, everyone involved that has supported me and the research, and who has an interest in the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm and its social history.

Thank you. Without you, we would not have captured a truly significant part of Melbourne’s history. We would not have been able to document the first social history of its kind of the community behind the making of one of Australia’s most important civic works projects in the 1890s and into the 1900s. And away from the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm, the work gives a new understanding of communities living isolated from broader society. The findings can be applied to any isolated community.

I'm most grateful for the time you've given me. It has been an honour working with you. You generosity and kindness has overwhelmed me at times, and inspired me.

I can vouch for change being hard and messy, but oh so, so gorgeous at the end.

I should add that the two quotes I mention sit next to another on my wall, about life being too short to not just go for it and never regretting anything that makes you smile. Life's too short for regret. And we all want to be happy. Life is all a learning.

And so on that note, I’m taking a break to explore and hopefully see the northern lights in the arctic circle.

Happy new year and I hope 2020 flares exceptionally for you.

 

NOTES

These Farm Reflections come from a PhD research project investigating a community that grew after the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was founded in 1891 to treat Melbourne’s sewage at Werribee. As Melbourne grew, so did the work force to manage the treatment of the sewage, and a community of workers and their families grew to live on the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm. The population peaked to over 500 in the 1950s. The last family moved off the main part of the sewerage farm in 1984, while a few employees and their families lived on the boundary of the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm into the 1990s. However they lived as part of the main Werribee community.

The plant continues to treat Melbourne’s sewage and is now known as Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant.

For more information on the research project, please visit https://www.facebook.com/MetropolitanSewerageFarm

If you’d like to read other Farm Reflections, they can be found here:

https://gr8word.com/index.php/entry/farm-reflections-the-hickeys

https://gr8word.com/index.php/entry/farm-reflections-beryl

https://gr8word.com/index.php/entry/farm-reflections-a-faraway-land

https://gr8word.com/index.php/entry/farm-reflections-the-migrant-camp

https://gr8word.com/index.php/entry/melbung-smellee-welly-high

https://gr8word.com/index.php/entry/lands-faraway

Tagged: #Melbourne #MelbourneHistory #MetropolitanSewerageFarm #TheFarawayLandOfTheHouseAndTwoCows #WesternTreatmentPlant

Recent Comments
Ken Hartke
Well done and well said. And fitting as we close out one thing and start another. I find expressing gratitude to be a shortcoming ... Read More
Saturday, 28 December 2019 17:32
Monika Schott
Thanks for acknowledging the importance of gratitude, Ken. I think we all can forget or get caught up in life and neglect to recog... Read More
Saturday, 28 December 2019 21:12
Stephen Evans
Congratulations on completing your research and best wishes for your next adventure!
Monday, 30 December 2019 14:45
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Writing For Life

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Latest Comments

Chris ‘chicks bloody well can surf’
29 March 2020
Your words about what is currently happening to people inside this storm are perfect! ! I love you...
Stephen Evans The Peaceful Place
29 March 2020
Hopping the fence - great image Ken!
Ken Hartke The Peaceful Place
29 March 2020
I find places, actual geographic locations, to offer the most powerful inspiration for my writing. O...
Monika Schott Farm Reflections: The Hickeys
26 March 2020
That's wonderful, Andrea. Thanks for sharing all that. Feel free to contact me at the Farm page with...
Monika Schott Farm Reflections: The Hickeys
26 March 2020
Thanks so much, Chris.