Monday, November 1, 2010

An Interview with Lale Teoman

Jan.s:  Lale, you've just made Giant In My Mind by Australian film director, Fiona Trick..

Lale: I like to describe Giant In My Mind as surrealist Bonnie and Clyde with the passion of Romeo and Juliet and the pace of Samson and Delila. The film is driven more by the beauty of the Australian landscape and the emotional journey of the characters more than the storyline. Dialogue accompanies the music and the movement of the film rather than the other way around.

Jan.s:  Tell us more Lale.  Where did you begin with the characterization?

Lale: Playing the role of Olivia was very rewarding. The director Fiona Trick allowed me a lot of creative license on my interpretation of the character. Many of the moments were only loosely based on the script and largely improvised. The camera often rolled long after the scene had played out.

Jan.s:  Where do you think the Director's interests lay in taking the film in this direction?

Lale:   I think Fiona Trick chose this approach as a way of allowing myself and co-actor Adam Drage to create fully rounded characters and to create a sense of realism. Risks were taken, and the crew of 14 people became very close towards the end of the shoot.

Jan.s:  What kind of risks did you take Lale within the context of a particular shoot...would you like to give us an example... ?

Lale: There was a certain amount of risks taken in playing the role of Olivia. The nudity is something that springs to mind first. The scene where Mickey dies and Olivia spends three days alone in a silo was shot in complete nudity.

Combining this with travelling through the 7 stages of grieving was a big challenge and would have been unimaginable had i not fully trusted Fiona and the rest of the crew. Adam and i worked particularly well together and were able to be very open with each other. We had similar ideas on the love between Olivia and Mickey and how it should be played out as guided by Fiona.

Some audience members at the screening mentioned that instead of simply watching a film they felt they had truly experienced something. The minimal dialogue created a space for reflection within the viewing. There were some different interpretations of the script as a result of this.

'Mickey and Olivia arrive at a derelict abandoned barn in the countryside. They have fled from their city lives after Mickey accidentally killed a man who had attempted to rape Olivia.  They create a temporary home and adopt a peaceful country lifestyle, attempting not to worry about any consequences that may arise from the murder.  They find happiness in caring for each other and embrace the romanticism of country life. They befriend an eccentric local farmer, jimmy who is very willing to help them out in any way.  One night they are celebrating Olivia’s birthday, later when making love, an unknown man shoots Mickey in the back.  Olivia in absolute shock  is unable to function for several days. With Mickey dead she struggles to find the motivation to go on. Olivia finds some courage amidst her grief to keep living'.

‘Giant in my mind’ is a 35minute short film by Fiona Trick.

For  6 days, 14 people pulled out all their love and creativity and made “Giant in my mind”. The colourful and lively cast and crew drew attention to themselves whilst shooting on the south coast of NSW, in a small dairy town Gerringong (the director’s hometown). We all left the city behind and surrendered to the mud, rain and river in the winter of 2010.
Sleeping in a beautiful farm  house next to our location we forgot about the world outside the film and momentarily got lost in the magic world of Mickey and Olivia the two protagonists. The low budget film was assisted with a Kiama council arts grant and Metro Screens Jumpstart Grant and everyone generously volunteered their time and skills to the film.
The renegade filmmakers  took a few risks along the way (in particular Jason the cameraman) and had a truly unique and memorable experience'.

Monday, October 25, 2010

‘Personal Belongings’ and ‘Austerlitz’. Diana Raznovich & W.G. Sebald

Personal Belongings’ (A one act play/monologue) by Argentine writer Diana Raznovich and ‘Austerlitz’ by the late German novelist, W. G. Sebald share common themes of dictatorship, exile, immigration (arrival and departures) and the maintenance of ‘facades’ of the personal, architectural and political. Both texts examine the ordinary life encased in extraordinary circumstances, panic driven angst located in the mundane. Both texts share protagonists who lack knowledge of their past. 

Where they’ve come from, where they’re going can only be established through naming the world around them either with or without a witness.

In ‘Austerlitz’ it is whilst visiting the city of Antwerp (Belgium) that the omniscient narrator of the story finds himself imbued in Kafka-esque presentiments of being unwell.  From the opening pages with black and white photographs, eyes of both animals and humans remind us of ‘the fixed, inquiring gaze found in certain painters and philosophers who seek to penetrate the darkness which surrounds us purely by means of looking and thinking’.

Then without fanfare our nameless narrator finds himself in conversation with a fellow traveler, named Austerlitz. ‘One of the people waiting in the Salle des pas perdues was Austerlitz, a man who then, in 1967, appeared almost youthful, with fair, curiously wavy hair of a kind I had seen elsewhere only on German hero Siegfried in Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen film’. Thus, Austerlitz, in the eyes of the narrator and the reader alike, seems to contain a somewhat larger than life persona, whose proclamations on all and sundry further one’s enquiry into an unknown past.

‘Baggage’ becomes a leitmotif in both texts. The critic John Post describes Sebalds need ‘to hold events together by recording them for the reader.  This explains the detritus of real-life-travel – passport mishaps, photos of knapsacks, sketches on a napkin – that litter the pages of his novels’ (Freeman, John.

A description of the army surplus bag that Austerlitz carries as ‘the only truly reliable thing in his life’ is contrasted with the protagonist, in ‘Personal Belongings’ Casalia Beltrop (‘Also called Prima Donna or The Actress – A middle-aged woman. Exotic, beautiful, extravagant’.)

Lost amongst ‘baggage’ without claimants and without witness in her place of exile in an unknown destination. She searches for her suitcase and when she finds what she believes to be hers it only has the ‘appearance’ of being so. When it is found it is full of the unexpected.  Bones of past loves and lovers appear without sentiment as remnants of a reign of terror and disappearances (‘Desapareicdos’). 

‘Desaparecidos is the Spanish word for “The Disappeared”.  For thousands of Argentine families, this word has become a symbol of a long harrowing nightmare.  In a coup on March 24, a military junta seized power in Argentina and went on a campaign to wipe out left-wing terrorism with terror far worse than the one they were combating.  Between 1976 and 1983 – under military rule – thousands of people, most of them dissidents and innocent civilians unconnected with terrorism, were arrested and then vanished without trace’. (The Vanished Gallery)

Through the bones of the lost we are taken on a journey within a theatrical/historical as well as geo/political context. The setting of both texts begins, and in the case of ‘Personal Belongings’ ends in a place of transit. Sebald‘s ‘Austerlitz’ takes the reader on a progressive and linear narrative where, as in a labyrinth, we witness the external architecture of place while omitting anything of the personal.

Throughout ‘Austerlitz’ we are drawn into a world where facades of an archaic world order caution us that everything while appearing ordinary might be used otherwise.

‘When I entered the great hall of the Central Station with its dome arching sixty meters high above it, my first thought, perhaps triggered by my visit to the zoo and the sight of the dromedary, was that this magnificent although then severely dilapidated foyer ought to have cages for lions and leopards let into its marble niches and aquaria for sharks, octopuses and crocodiles, just as some zoos, conversely, have little railway trains in which you can, so to speak, travel to the farthest corners of the earth’.

While in contrast in ‘Personal Belongings’ Casalia Beltrop describes a scenario where her suitcase has the nature of a chameleon and the appearance of ‘crocodile’. Forty six is my number but it doesn’t match here.  Undoubtedly, during the hard journey the appearance, the content, and the circumstances of my suitcases have all changed.  They were of black crocodile skin.  I can remember very well the shape, the size, even the pleasure I would feel touching them.  Crocodile is a lizard of an unmistakable kind.  I acquired mine right after hatching.  The female laid forty six eggs.  I bought the last one.  My brother chose the thirty-eighth, much more voracious.  My sister chose the seventh, very treacherous.  The fate of my crocodile was to become luggage, and that is its appearance whenever it’s with me’.

Both ‘Personal Belongings’ and ‘Austerlitz’ share a language rich in reference to historical contexts which impede and implode on their protagonists. Diana Raznovich states ‘I was born in Buenos Aires on May 12, (sic) few days after the end of the Second World War.  Twelve days before my birthday, on April 30th Hitler had committed suicide en (sic) his bunker’.  

Her grandparents on both sides had fled anti-Semitic persecution both in Russia, and in Austria.  ‘Everyone met in this strange country in the south of everything and I was born here’.  In ‘Personal Belongings’ it is from an unstated dictatorship that her protagonist Casalia Beltrop has fled. Raznovich, like so many, decided to leave Argentina.

The character, Austerlitz, flees the dictatorship of Hitler.  Guardian critic Stephen Mitchelmore describes Austerlitz’s circumstances in his review ‘A Thwarted Empathy’ – ‘His parents sent him to Britain as the Nazis closed in on Prague.  They didn’t escape.

He ended up in provincial Wales, living in a vicarage as Dafydd Elias’. (Mitchelmore, Stephen) Guardian critic, Nicholas Lezard states that ‘The search for the roots of childhood memory is, in life as well as in fiction, urgent and crucial.  Which means that after a certain point in this book, one starts reading it through a blur of incipient tears, as well as through the triple curtain of tears’.

Sebald/narrator/Austerlitz’.  ‘Austerlitz’ has often been described as ‘historical fiction’ written not by a survivor of ‘The Holocaust’ but by a German national, born at the close of the war.

As with Sebald, Raznovich’s themes have grown out of her own experience. When the seventies arrived and the ‘dirty war’ was in full swing, Raznovich found herself in exile in Spain but it was through friendships with theatre makers in Germany that she began to make her mark. ‘I decided to fight Europe for my own space, and I won.’

From: the text of ‘Personal Belongings’

Shouting:  ‘Europe: Listen to me!   What will be left in this continent if you let me run away with La Gioconda?’  

By Casalia Beltrop addressing Europe, Raznovich rips at the façade of a Europe which sees itself as the rightful custodian of all antiquities.  While Casalia admits her guilt there is no judge in view.  She questions which country she now inhabits?  She also states that if she was in Argentina ‘I would need my personal belongings’. With a final statement of ‘If they could only tell me if I am leaving or I’ve just arrived’. 

Raznovich states that, “My style, which is also my unrestrained opinion, is a dangerous mix of humor and distraction; as if upon finding you, I would invite you to go over my work, upon defining me, I would ask you to ‘undefine’ me and once unknown, I would begin to know you” During her formative years Raznovich rebelled against the traditional values of ‘the prefixed destiny of an-upper class bourgeois girl.

She replaced images of James Dean with beginning to read ‘Beckett, Che, Simone de Beauvoir, Borges and Cortazar’.  Her destiny of a writer was underway. Sydney Morning Herald critic, Angela Bennie  described Director Ros Horin’s world premiere of ‘Personal Belongings’ as ‘this difficult surreal work is moving and estranging at the same time’. (September 11, 1989)

‘The Australian’ reporter, Rosemary Neill’s reading was ‘Personal Belongings is essentially a parable about freedom and individuality under a dictatorship but it also points to the emotional, political and intellectual shackles that characterize societies such as Japan and Europe’.

Sebald, talks about the need for ‘elaboration’ as his means of developing his work. Sebald also drew on coincidence, and instinct to allow his imagination to lead him to his characters in situ.

The writing of Kafka are major influence on his work. The use of photography as a conduit for the past become present is notable in Sebald’s work.  ‘The older pictures have an uncanny ability of suggesting that there is another world where the departed are’.  (Sebald, W.G.)

Chapter 1 of Diana Taylor’s discourse titled ‘Acts of Transfers’is headed with a cartoon by Diana Raznovich stating “PerFOR what Studies?’ Taylor’s discourse on the nature of ‘performance’ travels beyond a Western approach to theatre studies which views anything outside its own as ‘other’ or ‘foreign.’ Taylor states ‘Performances function as vital acts of transfer, transmitting social knowledge, memory, and a sense of identity . . .’ (Taylor, Diana ‘Acts of Transfer).

 ‘Sometimes, I feel that I will never be able to completely return and that I will never be able to completely leave, as if the experience of that long and productive 12 year period outside of Argentina had marked me forever’. (Raznovich, Diana) ‘Objectos personales’ born of that exile is a testament not only to the author’s survival but to the legacy of the disappeared (‘Desaperecidos’) while ‘Austerlitz’ serves as a reminder that conscience and memory act as a counter measure to silence.

Essay by Janice Slater (c) 2011


In 1989 I worked as voice coach/sound designer on the world premiere production of ‘Personal Belongings’ for the director Ros Horin.  It was one in a series of three plays titled Foreign Matter’ at the Belvoir Street Theatre, Sydney.  The fragmented nature of Raznovich’s monologue, along with working with the actor Dasha Blahova, (Czechoslovakian) with English as her second language brought further to life the theme of ‘dislocation’ explored in the text. ‘Personal Belongings’ appeared to fall into no obvious ‘school’ – ‘stream of consciousness’ was disrupted by random political referencing only to be disrupted by historical and art/commerce maladies – not to mention the ‘personal’ baggage become political ‘bones’ as its protagonist finds herself adrift in a sea of luggage filled space. 

Bibliography: re Diana Raznovich

Raznovich, Diana

The Vanished Gallery: The Desaparecidos of Argentina


Acts of Transfer
Taylor, Diana
From The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas Durham: Duke UP, 2003

References: re Diana Raznovich

Hemispheric Institute:
July 11-19, New York, 2003
Performances and Politics in the Americas
Spectacles of Religiosities:

Political Performance in Latin America

Taylor, Diana


Saturday, September 25, 2010

An Interview with Gordon Bahary

Jan.s:  Gordon, you've been inspired by and collaborated with some of the most gifted popular singers/musicians of this century: Stevie Wonder, Harry Chapin, Herbie Hancock to name a few.

Gordon: When I look back, it looks like a dream. I didn't have the shame or  embarrassment I would have today to approach these great artists. At 15, you still haven't put limits on yourself, and those artists felt that. 

They were generous, patient, and amazing to watch in action. Stevie Wonder would be playing around on a keyboard talking to me, while I'd mix his tea and honey; meanwhile he was writing
"Isn't She Lovely" casually. I had no idea what he was actually creating...

The problem was returning to high school for a few weeks every year or so, and going back to reality after being with these giants. It was surreal and unbearable.

Jan.s:  Gordon, a beautiful dream come to realization!   

Gordon:  Yes. We met at Crystal Studios, in L.A. It's where WAR and other great groups recorded, and where most of "Songs in the Key of Life" was recorded. I was afraid to leave the lobby and go into the studio. The door kept opening with engineers coming and going. I would get a loud blast of air and sound of "Isn't She Lovely" the song Stevie was singing in the booth. 

After waiting shy in that chair, for 8 hours, the session was over and I had a lump in my throat. Greg Phillinganes, the keyboard player for Stevie, said, "Ok, we're all leaving. Hey, weren't you here in the morning? Who are you waiting for?" I said "Stevie." He said, "Oh man, why didn't you say something. 
Are you Gordon? He's been waiting for you all day, and was concerned. Come here!" He pulled me by the arm into the control room.

It was Stevie and me, as everyone went home. It was quiet. I guided his fingers on the equipment I built for him, and described the colors as "blue for cool" and "Red for hot" and he smiled and seemed touched. I showed him how to make sounds himself without anyone's help. 

 We stayed there almost all night. He screamed to his assistant, "Stephanie, come here! This kid can make a harmonica sound on a synthesizer! Come here! Steph!!". 

Jan.s: You've recently released your CD, 'Unbreakable'. I'm wondering if the title could refer to your ethos on life? Would you like to share with us how 'Unbreakable' began?

Gordon: Writing and recording the album was a healing for me; a place to go each day and wear my heart out on my sleeve. The song "Unbreakable" was about a great relationship between two people who truly love one another. But as the album progressed over several months, and some adversity set in, the word took another meaning, and I named the album the same. During the recording of the album, I was presented with challenges that tested my faith; faith that love and forgiveness are still the best road - no matter what has been done to a person. To me, that's what's unbreakable in me now, or at least I'm working on it. 

When I started the album, I was very breakable; by track 16, I wasn't. I learned this from my grandmother and mother, who taught us to be "very patient" and that love would always survive all else. It's true!

"After playing songs each day for one another, and exploring the world of sound, Wonder asked Bahary to collaborate on his follow-up album, "Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants" (containing the song “Send One Your Love”). These recordings took place in L.A. and in Bogalusa, Louisiana at Studio in the Country. This was the soundtrack for the Paramount Studios motion picture of the same name. There is short video footage of Bahary and Wonder at these sessions on YouTube (type: "Stevie Wonder Secret")" (excerpt from Gordon Bahary's biog on MySpace'.
A big thank you Gordon for your great generosity of spirit and sharing.

Photos & images: Courtesy & copyright of Gordon Bahary 2010 except for Journey of the Secret Life of Plants' cover.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Part Two: An Interview with Australian Jazz composer/guitarist Peter Boothman

Jan.s: Peter, can you tell me what the driving force is behind your playing?

Peter: One of my motivations was to make a living without doing a boring 40-hour a week day job all my life Jan. Of course, always there is the love of music. I didn't actually start playing till I was 20, but for years before that I was endlessly at the radio listening to any music I could find, Sixties Rock, Jazz, Latin you name it. When I started learning guitar the driving force was to play with others, get into a band. When that happened it was a joy.

Jan.s: Who were you learning from Peter?

Peter: At first I taught myself, but being into jazz I soon realised I'd taken on a huge task & decided that some tuition would speed things up. My first teacher was Jack Richards at Guitar City. I owe him a lot, great player, great teacher. Later I would take a few lessons from Don Andrews, George Golla and from Antonio Losada for classical guitar. However in jazz, once you have the basics, the best way to learn is to listen to a lot of jazz and transcribe solos from record, and then when you start doing a few gigs that's when you really start to learn.

Jan.s: Who were the first players you joined up with?

Peter: Actually Jan, they were not jazz musicians. I teamed up with some local Bondi boys who were into Everly Bros, Roy Orbison and The Shadows. It was all a bit rough but we had fun; and we did do a few small gigs. Then I moved on to working in small clubs. I could read music (Thanks to Jack Richards) and reading guitarists were rare so I got a fair bit of work & experience in that area. The first real jazz I played was with Phil Treloar and Tony Ansell, that was in the late 60s, right at the start of our musical careers.

Jan.s: Following on from there Peter, with those gigs with Phil and Tony, tell us more about what you were playing and the venues you played at?

The three of us worked together in various bands in the early days, then when the "jazz explosion" hit Sydney around 1972 we tended to go our separate ways, although I did get to play with Tony & Phil again in later years. For most Sydney musicians the 70s were a great era with tons of work for everyone, and I got to play at most inner city venues from the Opera House Concert Hall & The Sydney Festival to smaller gigs such as The Rocks Push & The Limerick Castle. Mostly that was with my own quartet, Col Nolan's group, or with Jeannie Lewis. Overall a variety of music styles, and there was always improvisation involved. In later years I did a fair bit of freelance professional work, as well as a lot of jazz with players such as Roger Frampton, Bob Gebert, James Morrison and Lloyd Swanton.

 To listen to and learn more about Peter Boothman's  considerable compositon and writing talents please visit his websites :

Photos: Courtesy of & copyright of Peter Boothman

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jan.s: Sandie, I became aware of your presence in the Sydney jazz scene  during the 1980's I believe.

Sandie:Yes Janice that is true – I had stopped singing for quite a number of years – and one day I was invited out by a young man (haha) who took me to a pub abd there was my old friend Jack Allen.  To cut a long story short – he went to another gig and then 3 weeks later said I have a new gig and I want you to be my singer!  So suddenly there I was  back singing again!  Fortunately I had about 5 months with him and then started to work with other people who were really nice to me when they found I was back singing.

Jan.s: You exude the kind of know how and vocal style that takes me back to one of the first Australian jazz singers I heard in the 1960's, our own Kate Dunbar.

Sandie:  Well that’s interesting I must say – I mean Kate Dunbar is an absolute icon in Australian jazz – an amazing lady and I have the feeling that she really knows a lot more than me – but our styles are I think, really quite different!  I mean she is a fine trad jazz singer – I just go for the standards – eg the Great American Song Book – and bebop!  And would you believe I didn’t know she was English!!  Mind you I was born in Earls Court – so that really makes me an Aussie by birth!!

Jan.s: My perception is that here, as in most places, where Jazz is alive and kicking, a reinvention of the music takes place, yet the ground has it's roots in a well established vocabulary.

Sandie:  This is absolutely true – without that “vocabulary” – jazz would probably be all over the place!!  Wonderful people like Louis Armstrong,  Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Art Tatum planted the seeds and all the other greats that followed – just kept the flower growing!

Jan.s: Whilst we no longer have the urgency to create support groups such as SWIM, (Sydney Women In Jazz) established in the early ‘80’s but briefly lived… is there enough going on now that supports women playing/writing in the jazz idiom?

Sandie: - Well it was a shame that SWIM was so short lived – but I think you are right – there is very little support for women in jazz – basically I guess we just have to fight for ourselves – but for me singing is life itself and therefore I fight!  Maybe we should start something again!  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

ARTERIAL FLOW....a musical journey through the fluid systems

This is an introduction to the process that I entered into in order to create ARTERIAL FLOW and I will be happy to share with you this process in future posts.  I'd love to receive your feedback!

I'd like to begin by sharing part of the journey made to create 'Arterial Flow' with my collaborator Kirk Kadish.

'It is the mind that stops the flow and a change of mind that will release it too. We simply follow the course of nature, the natural pathways and rhythms, with our mind, and the fluids will respond'. 'The Wisdom of the Body Moving' by Linda Hartley.

janice slater & kirk kadish

1: ARTERIAL FLOW (Arterial Flow)
2 VENUS RED (Venous Blood)
3 CAP ICE (Isoring Fluids)
5 CLOUD OF UNKNOWING (Cerebro Spinal Fluids)
6 PANAMA (Interstital Fuids)
7 BIOS (Cellular Fluids)
8 RHYTHM BRIDGE (Synovial Fluids)
9 THE LOVING ARCH (Connective Tissue )

Sample 'ARTERIAL FLOW' tracks can be heard on the myspace and Centrifuge music links.  Downloads can be purchased via facebook link as on this page as well as on myspace.

ARTERIAL FLOW was born of a vocal response to the work of the wonderful writings of Linda Hartley in her book 'Wisdom of the Body Moving' .

Specifically via Linda's in depth explorations of the Fluid Systems.

Exploring the Fluid Systems kinaesthetically was an exciting process for me!

In addition, working alongside USA  composer Kirk Kadish was nothing short of awesome! Although Kirk and I had not met face to face we managed to keep the channels of communication open in a free flow of enhancing each other's musical explorations through the creation of  'ARTERIAL FLOW'.

Whilst 'The Fluid Systems' of the body may seem an unusual premise to base a CD of music on...each system lead me to discover a vocal response to an inner landscape of near imperceptible movement...

May 'Arterial Flow'  inspire you  to explore the nature of body/mind/spirit.

A thank you for the inspiration and the  invaluable body of work of both Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Linda Hartely.  Also a big thank you to Jacqui Bushell for allowing me to have her copy of 'Wisdom of the Body Moving' for longer than any book should be on loan for....!!!

I also would like to thank Australian artist Beth Norling for her extraordinary artwork and her graciousness in allowing  it to be on the cover of 'Arterial Flow'....

From an original art work by Beth Norling: etched plasticine on found print.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Gail Malone: Not everyone can see the beauty of Saltmarsh - we that do are rare birds!

Jan.s: Gail, You have a passion for land care and are committed to issues in your area. Can you share with us about the nature of the environment where you are and what problems you're addressing...

Gail:  Janice, I have so many concerns. Where to start? I’ve lived on a beautiful waterway for 25 years now and have noticed a lot of problems. These include reclaiming saltmarsh swamps, destruction of Mangroves, building retaining walls on the waters edge, litter and an increase in silt, because of the local damn and run off from the Sand Mining and other Industries on the Ridge. However, I think my main area of concern and also my area of knowledge, is protecting remnant bush from invasive and environmental weeds and regenerating the areas, which have been ravaged, with indigenous plants. By doing this, we the local community, can also protect our area of the catchment and make a greater connection to the planet.

I was involved in the environmental movement before I moved to the bush, however living here has seduced me into becoming more vocal regarding our natural heritage. My voice is not always welcomed and as a woman alone, I was seen as a lame duck and intimidation was the preferred method of ‘keeping me in my place’. I have had death threats and graffiti and general abuse. I have endeavoured to change peoples’ thinking by education and encouraging a love of the bush and its surrounds to hopefully make them feel connected to this place. As one of only three long term, full time residents and an elder in my community I felt I had the right to speak my mind and stood firm and would not be intimidated, which ironically only served to strengthen my resolve. As a member of the Central Coast Greens I found the tactics of intimidation were a tried and true method and I was told it is a sign that I was making headway. So, I continued my one-woman mission to educate my small community in the joys of the Australian bush and the importance of riparian zones to river health.

To my mind education is the key, so over a few years I garnered support from several environmental agencies to make the trek down to my little valley. As usual there was a handful of nay sayers, particularly the Progress Association but all in all it was taken very well. I keep a library of relevant material and provenance plants that I propagate on hand, so that if someone asks, I can give him or her some advice and something to take home. Public Relations is so important when educating, often unwilling, people and it’s nice that I can leave a living gift and not just facts and figures.

After three years of lobbying our area was given funds to start a Bush Care Group which included some tools, Public Liability Insurance and a paid supervisor. Further to this I applied for, and was successful in obtaining two Government Grants amounting to over $10,000 dollars. As part of the Grant criteria I devised a plan of attack for the area to maintain habitat, bio-diversity, wildlife corridors, start a seed bank, a small library, educate on Indigenous Cultural Heritage and ongoing help with keeping weeds in check.

Saltmarsh is a diminishing resource on the Hawkesbury, Nepean Catchment most of the roads close to the river system were built on reclaimed saltmarsh and this is one of the main reasons our waterways are under such great risk from soil and fertiliser wash off and weeds. The saltmarsh areas serve as a filter and collect erosion and weed seeds, over time extending the land. Weed seeds when caught there will not germinate because of the high salt content, so these areas tend to be weed free. When people move to estuary areas this is often the first thing they want to counter in an effort to increase land mass. Removing saltmarsh gives easier access to the water for landholders but also weed seeds. The lack of saltmarsh allows easy access for weed seeds to enter the water flow and then they can travel for great distances. With education I hope more people will see the shear beauty of it and understand how it can protect their properties. To this end I am part of a Waterwatch Program, Coordinated Samantha Kneeves of the Community Environment Network (C.E.N). C.E.N. relies on volunteers to test water quality in their given area once a month. The data is then uploaded to a central databank giving a clear view of the health of waterways within catchment areas. This is a program that has been taken up by a lot of Schools, they also do ‘Bug Watches’ which gives an added dimension to a river’s health. Again, I lobbied our local council for a Kit and was lucky enough to get one. Waterwatch has been successful in catching ‘dumpers’ and successful in having them charged and fined, it is a most worthwhile exercise. I am happy to say that my particular waterway is in good health. The testing is for pH, phosphates, turbidity, electrical conductivity and dissolved oxygen.

Janice, over the last six months I have also been involved in a community group, The Calga Peats Ridge Community Group Inc. (C.P.R.), formed to try and stop a proposed extension of a sandmine on the Ridge. The Ridge area has a lot of extractive industries placing pressure on the aquifer in the area that has existed for million of years. Most of these industries do not harm the Aquifer per say, they do put quite a strain on it, but over time the aquifer can recharge. The problem with the Rocla sandmine is that the aquifer itself is to be mined. The friable sandstone, rather like a huge sponge, stores water even in the driest conditions and it is this sandstone that is to be used. It is crushed into sand for the building industry. The friable sandstone is home to Hanging swamps, containing Ground Water Dependant Ecosystems (G.D.Es) and Endangered Ecological Communities (E.E.Cs). These are protected by legislation, but unfortunately ignored by the N.S.W. Government. The site has several threatened species of both flora and fauna and Aboriginal Cultural Sites. We have been lucky enough to have the support of the Australian Greens in both State and Local tiers of government. However, Lee Rhiannon (State Greens) and Peter Freewater (Local Greens) who have been so very helpful to our cause are both running in the upcoming Federal Elections. The Group has now created a website and also a Facebook Page that I have been given the opportunity to administer. This is a battle that could take years, as we were told by Lee Rhiannon, we have every chance of winning if we hang in for the long haul. The group has a great mix of people with important skills for the fight ahead. Most of all we won’t give up!

We can never know enough about our environment and as ‘greenies’ around the world say ‘think globally, act locally’. This mantra coupled with a thirst for knowledge are my tools. Although, all my environmental work is on a volunteer basis, it gives me a peace that money can’t buy and a connectedness to my place that is good for the soul.

All photos courtesy of and copyright of Gail Malone 2010

Links below to a number of the groups Gail is involved with:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

An Interview with Nicole Fox-Humber

Nicole:  I remember when we first met. Your gorgeous nephew Brett drove me to the Central coast New South Wales, where you were residing at the time. There was something very quaint and beautiful about that sweet little house resting on the shores of the inlet around there. I felt as though you were family as soon as I saw you. You wore your hair back into a ponytail with a little soft fringe. Every time I saw you at a side glance, this amazing feeling of seeing myself in you kept coming to me.

When I walked around the rooms of your home, you had so many wonderful and intriguing pictures of Tibetan spiritual Masters and Yogis. (Remember you had them there to protect you). In which case they certainly brought much magic into that place. When I looked into their eyes I felt a feeling of great knowing. These faces were of people that knew, what I was seeking.

Jan.s:  Nicole when we first met what struck me most was your incredible openness and joy for life

Nicole:  Yes I was very open and full of joy, it was the first time in my life since my youth that I felt free. I had let go of a big relationship with a guy and finished full-time very hard work. And then had found a new zest in life for helping people heal themselves.

Jan.s:  Would you like to share some insights with us about your experience with Reiki…

Nicole:  Reiki is a very wonderful and powerful healing tool. When I first discovered Reiki I was going through life changing experiences and having tuned into Reiki frequency made my transition meaningful and very spiritual. I was experiencing very clear messages through my dreams. It was a very personal and mystical time. Especially through the period of receiving Reiki initiations (attunements). So then, having such deep trust and pure intension I was really helping to make major positive changes in peoples lives which was and is always rewarding.

Jan.s:  Since those days your life has taken you on many new journeys… Would you share some of those with us.

Nicole:  Meeting you played a big part in the direction my life went there after. Having visited some Tibetan Buddhist institutes, engaged in group meditations and having met with and received great blessings from very Noble Lamas (Tibetan Buddhist Masters) with you. I felt the need to search for my Root Guru, my heart teacher. Then after sitting into a compassionate and wise talk from Venerable Tenzin Palmo whose name now is Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.I decided to go on a Spiritual Pilgrimage to India and seek my Master.

So on a wing and a prayer, I did just that. First I chose to go to Northern India, to Dharamsala where I met and received teachings from the Dalai Lama.Then I travelled to Jaipur to sit into a ten day silent meditation retreat. Loved it. The monkeys in the trees during our breaks were very entertaining.

From there I took a train to Varanasi, sat on the side of the Mother Ganga. Ganges River watching bodies burn. (I was close to the Holy crematorium). I also watched the white dolphins surface and dive down into the mirror like surface of the water.

From Varanasi I went to Bodh Gaya , where Buddha became Enlightened. Still hadn’t found my Guru but I got the internal message to go to Darjeeling. By bus I arrived at Darjeeling. Darjeeling is renowned for its tea plantations.

There is this little train that travels up and down the mountainside so I took the train down the side of the mountain and then spent the day walking back up meandering through some pretty special little monasteries.

It was in the last monastery that I was informed the great master of the lineage will arrive any day now, and that I should stay in Darjeeling to meet him as this is an auspicious happening for me.Low n’ behold as soon as I met His Holiness (The Drukpa). My heart connected with his and I knew that this being was the teacher for me. I was so excited.

But after the ecstasy comes the laundry and I had some stains to remove. The big teaching for me from the law of nature was 'equanimity'.How easy it was for me to fluctuate between extreme livings.

After my India journey, I decided to renounce things like materialism. Minimise my clothes and all the things I stored up from the past I gave away or threw out. I minimised my food. Not for an intention to loose weight but to detach from any attachments that I had toward food. I even removed myself from society, as I felt misunderstood by people.

Jan.s:  Nicole can you tell us a a little more  regarding this…

Nicole:  I also had a deep fascination with the Indian Sadhu and took another journey to India to find out more about these Holy men of India. That journey was different than expected and it really shook my bones. I saw and experienced extreme living. Holy men who devote their lives to standing all day and all night.Ascetic living.

Other Sadhus would be living in caves or small huts along the shores of the river Ganges. I  slept in caves, on side of roads, in temples and run-down buildings. I travelled mostly by walking and caught the odd lift in the back of a truck, around parts of India.

Indulging in the ascetic life I momentarily forgot about the ones who meant the most, my spiritual master, my family, my friends.

When I arrived back in Australia from the ascetic journey, I felt exhausted, confused and in shock.I managed to take shelter in a hostel ran by an under cover Nun who embraced my presence like a mother seeing her child for the first time in ages.

Everyone at the hostel was there to recover from one thing or another. “Love” was the fundamental support.  We sat in love, talked to love and love healed us all. It was love that reminded me of my true nature, the open and joyful person that I was and still am. I realised that extreme living was not going to give me the wisdom that my spiritual master would give me, yet I had to go through that journey to realise that.

So I went back out into the big world to help who I could. I nurtured my best friend from High School as she passed away from cancer. That was quite an extraordinary experience. I lay beside her so she didn’t feel alone. We visualised white light together passing through our bodies. We reminisced of old times back in high school together. Then she passed and I kept reminding her that she is a spiritual being having a human experience. I spoke at her funeral in hope to make people laugh because that’s what my friend would have liked. And they did…

So then I took a flight to Ireland to help a friend. From there I flew to England. There I was able to reconnect with my beloved teacher in a 10 day retreat. I purified intensively using great methods in the Drukpa Kargu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

I lived in Bath, England for seven years, marrying my husband and starting a family. That’s another journey. Now living in the country side of Victoria, Australia with my family of three children a husband, three goats, nine chickens and a veggie patch, I feel all my past journeys have made my life so precious today. I can live my life without extremes and teach my children to do the same. I have learnt that we are all here to do the same things, and that is to be happy, to help one another, to learn from nature and respect nature. To always remember we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

So we must enjoy our aches n’ pains and let go of expectations.

Love all, trust a few and row your own canoe. Cheers Nicole

(The Drukpa Kargyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism)

All photos are the copyright of Nicole Fox-Humber 2010

I would like to acknowledge that Nicole played a major role in my healing after the effects of breast cancer.  Her boundless joy and powerful healing intent as a Reiki Master were beyond my knowledge and expectations...she was a true master at such a young age.  I have some beautiful photos from those early years when we first met but still have to scan them. Thank you Nicole for sharing your journey with us.  Jan.s

Friday, July 9, 2010

An Interview with Dawn Hort

Jan.s:  Dawn, you're not only a celebrated Australian children's author but an accomplished singer and songwriter. Can you share with us your love of Celtic music and singing...

Dawn:  Until I came to the mountains I didn't really have a favourite kind of music. I like jazz, swing, some metal, rock, country, bluegrass and popular stuff, but didn't really have a favourite. Where I live now, the arts are fostered so well, including the folk music scene and the art of writing.

I met people at a community college writing course and started talking about music. One woman was writing songs and performing them to the group. My musical background was rooted in church and I have a natural knack with harmonies, so writing songs was a tangent thing that came naturally. I started visiting folk music clubs and festival in the local area and it opened up this hidden world. Celtic music was like sparkling light on water for me. I drank it in. I felt the ground vibrate with the energy of it. 

A friend once remarked that my face came alive when I heard it. 

Even though my family emigrated to Australia from England when I was quite young, I still feel, very strongly, the UK is my real home. 

The windswept hills of Wales, the lush green dales, the castles, the Cornish coast. It calls me. 

I started researching Celtic mythology in order to do justice to the music I wanted to create. There are many songs I still haven't recorded, but the two albums I made with my friend Gary are a fantastic achievement, especially as his style is country rock! 

Together we wrote some beautiful songs, my forte being the melody and his being the lyrics, although we both do well in these areas individually. 

I was influenced by the early music of Clannad and I wanted to impart a sense of the mysterious, a fogginess into it, with myth and legend and that wonderful unity and closeness you get with Celtic music, especially when its performed live. It's such a personable style of music and in my experience, has encouraged the audience to sing a long and become part of the telling.

Jan.s:  Could you talk about how you work with the disparate and common meeting places between writing lyrics for music and storytelling!

Dawn: For me, lyrics are essentially story telling. I am a highly visual person, so I try to recreate what I see in the mind of the listener. There has to be a central emotion conveyed, whether its joy or the lingering sadness of loss, or the uncertainty of what lies ahead etc. You have to invest emotionally in a song. It's not just about the melody. With melody, I think it has to suit the lyrics, of course and a hugely important factor is the chorus - it must have that sing-along quality that sticks in your memory, so that you find yourself humming it throughout the day. I like a sense of drama at some point in the melody, a rise in emotion, a high point. This probably goes back to my church singing days. Hymns have that amazing quality to stir you. And that's what I aim for. I also think a sense of structure that is easy to follow is important. 

These elements are also important in story writing. You want the reader to invest in your characters, to be able to follow their development arc with satisfaction, curiosity and a sense of excitement. So you have to have dramatic bits where the emotion is heightened and a structure that is easy to follow. The characters should be consistently themselves, so that you get a clear picture of who is speaking/interacting and you start to get to know them. The freaky stage of writing, for me, is when the characters themselves start telling me what to do! This is always a good sign that I have shaped them properly. Where music and book writing differ is of course in the performance of them, however, as a recent trip to Canberra as part of my May Gibbs Fellowship, I found myself performing in front of school kids, who had so many questions about writing and books and my characters and where I live and what I thought about other writers and... Phew! It was a different kind of performing.

Writing is, for the most part, a solitary process, which I enjoy, however, you do have to get out there and mix with other writers in order to learn and grow and find opportunities. Writing music can involve other people and there is a necessary sense of trust between you, because you are sharing your soul. I put a lot of myself into my songs. Some of them are autobiographical, like 'England's Tears’, which describes the day we left England, leaving grandparents behind. When I was writing the soaring chorus I found myself crying and felt a little silly, but it shows there is true emotion in it when that happens. 

When you perform your own songs it's your way of sharing your stories, instead of having them published in book form. I found singing in public terrifying, but it taught me a lot.

Writing, whether its music or stories, is a compulsion and it should not be ignored. You find your true sense of yourself when you can express things that lie deep and unknown within you. The really wonderful thing is that someone will say, "I loved that! It said exactly what I was feeling/thinking!" and then you're glad you had the guts to share it. :)

Den Fenella: 'Den Fenella'  Dawn Meredith-Hort & Gary Stowe (c) 1999

Den Fenella'Journeys'  Vocals/recorders: Dawn Meredith-Hort, Vocals/guitar/bodhran: Gary Stowe and friends. (c) 2001

For a review of Dawn's Wobbly Wombat visit the url below:

All photos copyright of Dawn Hort 2010