The Cockatoo Share Store: Community Conversations

As a number of my friends and acquaintances know, I have long wanted to set up a Share Store. This is a social enterprise that is self-sustaining and accesses under-utilised resources within the community.

For example, now that I am down-sizing, I have a large slow cooker, large cast iron frypan, a variety of baking pans, dog crates, spade, shovel, pitch fork and other items that I either no longer use or use infrequently enough that they are just taking up space.

What if I, and everyone else with languishing items, donated these things to a library where people can pay a joining fee and borrow items as needed? When I need my spade, fork and wheelbarrow, I can borrow them for the weekend. When I don’t need them, which is most of the time, others can.

There are numerous tool libraries set up around the world, in fact there has even been software developed for registering items and their hire and return. Tool Libraries are predominantly for tools for gardening and DIY. There are many other resources that can be shared and borrowed, hence the name The Share Store.

The Brunswick Tool Library is one example for automotive, renovating and gardening tools. http://brunswicktoollibrary.org/php/ourtools.php

Research into the development and value of tool sharing (G. Kool, UNSW July 2003) shows just how long tool sharing has been going on in Australia and evaluating the possibility of tool sharing libraries. http://www.changedesign.org/Resources/EDFPublications/Articles/Papers/Tool%20Libraries%20in%20Australia_contents.pdf

Shareable http://www.shareable.net/blog/how-to-start-a-tool-library gives the instructions needed. Local Tools http://localtools.org shows us how to manage a tool library. “Local Tools make it easy to setup and manage rental shops, tool libraries, as well as, lending libraries for tools, kitchen goods, sporting goods, or just about anything.  You can manage inventory and members using a web-based system.  Create community, save time, and help provide access to the things people need.”

An annual fee pays for borrowing rights along with access to the web portal for borrowing. The fees assist ongoing costs, such as, electrical items that have to be tagged and checked each year, plus rent, maintenance and upkeep. A collaboration with the local Mens’ Shed would be in order to repair tools. Our Mens’ Shed sells repaired items at the local market. The Share Store could combine to sell donated items that cannot be hired out.

I’m pretty keen. Who want’s to play?

Don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do? An Introspective.

It’s been awhile since I was writing regularly. I suffer from severe anxiety and chronic severe depression. (If anyone has read my parenting blogs, you’ll know some of the triggers.) I hate being depressed. Being a passionate and compassionate person, I hate not caring. Being someone who finds many things funny and enjoys laughing inappropriately, I hate having no laughter. I also hate the medication but I endure because feeling depressed is far worse.

I live on my ideas, enthusiasm and feelings. We all do. The meds dampen all that. This must be endured until the light is seen again. (I once wrote a very bad poem called The Abyss which describes my descent into depression. It’s on this blog because good judgement goes out the window when depressed.)

We humans need to think of mental illness as an injury from which one has to recover. However it is triggered, falling into any episode requires healing time. If we would only treat mental illness as an illness, we could recover more easily, as individuals and community.

I am currently off meds, for the first time in ten years. How awesome is that? Some pretty hairy things have happened (see Parenting blogs) and I have coped. How fabulous is that? I am wondering if this period is petering out? It followed the break up of my marriage, my father’s death and a rad hysterectomy due to years of suffering endometriosis. All of that is enough to plunge anyone into depression. Add to that caring for foster children on my own and dealing with their birth parents on my own plus permanent caring teens, while working full time to provide for everyone. However, my bouts go back a long long way. (My story about my growing up is elsewhere on this blog, I won’t re-tell it here.)

I wonder if there is a period as we transition into older middle age (I am 52) where the rites of passage no longer exist and we suffer accordingly? Obviously my anxiety and depression were exacerbated by surgical menopause and the other things that happen in life at middle age. How curious is it that most women and many men go through these mid life crises? How strange is the radical increase in diagnosis of mental illness, particularly for this age group?

What have we lost here? Is it like teens, where the rite of passage to adulthood has been lengthened and made impossible? Is there a rite of passage from your younger adult to middle-aged self to older middle aged? Will we go through this again when we become seniors? I don’t want to.

I will have to think on this. If you have thoughts, let me know. I am wondering, when my working life is finished, how will I transition to senior? The transition to single, older middle aged working woman/ mum/ grandma has been excruciating. What will the transition be like in another 18 years? I assume I’ll have to work to 70, as you know, money.

Do we need a rite of passage for menopause, for middle age? Do we need to define this period of life as …. something. I am still working, running a house, caring for kids the same as I did through the past two decades but I am different. I am different. I am not the same.

What do you think?

There was an old woman

There was an old woman who was absolutely sick to death of being treated like a nice old lady.

She was sick of being treated as though she was frail.

She was tired of helpful hands helping her across the street.

She was fed up with lawn bowls and morning tea with the Ladies’ Auxillary.

The old woman decided that it was time to make a change.

To signify this change she bought her very first pair of rainbow coloured leggings. A range of multi-coloured and wildly clashing shirts. A pair of Blundstones and had a very very short haircut.

Now they treated her as though she was a slightly mad nice old lady.

This was not change enough! The old woman decided that drastic action had to be taken.

So she ran away and joined the Circus.

In the circus she learned how to be part of an human pyramid.

She learned to swing on the trapeze, juggle fire and turn somersaults.

When she returned home they no longer treated her as a nice old lady. Oh no.

Now they treated her as though she was a complete lunatic.

For not only did they respect her, they also feared her a little.

Because you see…

they were never quite sure when she would begin to juggle fire or turn somersaults, and they were frightened that she might not know when to stop.

 

Oral Story (C) CLHHarper 1996

Straight-talk parenting

There’s benefit to being a straight talker. People know you mean what you say and say what you mean. Even Youngest Daughter, whose behaviour has been off the charts for nearly three years.

Saturday she went to stay with a friend. I spoke to the mother to make sure it was okay. Then there was some story about the power bill not being paid and no longer able to stay there. Then, gosh, all the phones in the town were flat so she couldn’t call me to come and pick them up, so they slept on the street. Oh yes, you read that right. I was also supposed to believe that story.

I was so glad to have them safe at home, that I focussed on that. Now that some semblance of sanity has returned to YD, I have let her know how nonsensical her story was. She at least had the grace to appear embarrassed and guilty. Good grief. Sleeping on the street! Splutter!

Do you know, if you met me, you would not expect me to have a ‘wayward’ daughter. As a heroin baby, who went into foster care at 5 months for ‘failure to thrive’, then to carer after carer, until coming to me at 3 1/2, she was so angry, so mad at the world, and so full of grief that it was bare survival for both of us for the first nine months. She had thought the previous carers were her family and was absolutely broken that they had given her away. She was convinced for a long time that I must have seen a photo of her and demanded to have her. Her birth mother made it worse, so much worse.

Poor sad baby. What she does know, except when she is crazy and convinced I am exaggerating (her own favourite pass time), is that I am truthful and while she might wish that I would be less honest at times, she knows that she can trust what I say. That’s something isn’t it?

Of course, quite often this means that she tells me more than I want to know. I often feel like putting fingers in my ears and singing lalala loudly. At least she tells me. Right?

So I told her straight up that she was not going to be able to complete Year 8. Year 8, dear God. I gave her the options the meeting at school came up with and she actually chose the one best for her. Oh my goodness, thank you God for great and small mercies. We still have to apply for all the programs and cross our fingers and our toes (our eyes and our noses) that she gets in. She is happy to try to get her life back on track and get some more education (she’s at grade 5 level).

Through all the traumas and events that have happened in my life, YD is the cause of so much angst and concern, so much pain, so many tears, so much upset. I know that how she is a reflection of how she feels about herself. Whenever she is in trouble or upset, she runs straight to me. That’s got to count for something, doesn’t it?

It is so sad that she feels so bad about herself. I understand how all that has come about, all the abandonment, manipulations and abuse that has occurred to trigger that in her. What I don’t have is any way to fix it.

There is no fixing. I have to have faith. Faith in her resilience. Faith in how much I love her. Faith in her own light within.

I wish for her only happiness. To live a life she loves and is proud of.

Keep the faith.

Parenting Teens and Education…Sigh

How do I tell my daughter that she needs to move schools, again?

When starting Year 7 she dropped as a very tiny fish into a very big pond and was simply overwhelmed. Her response was anger. When confronted or felt she was being made wrong, she attacked. She has always been good with her words, they are useful lashes. Now she adds swearing and name calling to her verbal violence.

Otherwise, she simply walks out of class or refuses to attend. Usually she takes someone with her. She is one of those students you’d rather yours didn’t associate with. Yet and yet, she is the most gorgeous girl, who can just shine when her world is right.
Her world is not often right and I feel so sad for her. With foster care, abusive birth mother, challenges of permanent care, she has a well-developed lack of self-esteem. She hears everyone as making her wrong, or hating her or deliberately trying to sabotage her. It has taken extreme effort to get her to agree to go to counselling.

How do I tell my girl, who perceives rejection everywhere, that people actually do have her best interests at heart? They are actually thinking of her and wanting the best for her.

I don’t think I can ever convince her of that, so where to start? If I say that she is disrupting classes, disrespecting teachers and leading other students astray, that will confirm her every belief. I cannot say that. If I say that she is in year 8 with the education level of a grade 5, she will shrug and say she doesn’t care.

I don’t care what other people think. I don’t care that they point the finger at me and say how she turned out must be my fault. There is no fault here. There is a child who is suffering. My concern is for her happiness, that she is living a life she loves and is proud of. My concern is that she learns to love herself. That seems to be a tall order at the moment. Her conflict with everyone is evidence of the conflict within herself.

What is wonderful about her is how much she cares for her friends. She wants to bring home every person who is in trouble. What is wonderful about her is how in the moment she can be, enjoying life as it is happening. What is wonderful about her is just how tough and resilient she is considering all she has been through. What is wonderful about her is how compassionate she can be for others.

Perhaps that is somehow the key. You can only be of assistance to others if you take care of yourself and have something to offer. This is something wonderful about her. How could she ongoingly have something to offer those that need her support? What would she need to have to support others? How would she get that? They are big questions and I do not know how else to have her consider them.

If she does not see a future for herself and a need to provide for that future, how can I convince her? What if she tells me all the bad stuff and I tell her all the good stuff about this year? Where will that take us? How will that get us to the conversation about moving schools again? Obviously this requires much more thought, heartache and creativity. I do not have an easy solution.
Do you?
4 Nov 2015

Blogging: An Introspective

It’s been quite awhile since I have blogged. You may surmise from my previous post that I have not had a lot of head space for thinking of anything else but Youngest Daughter. Between suspensions, near expulsion, dope, alcohol and cigarettes that resulted in a new school and new challenges, my head and heart have indeed been full.

Interestingly, blogging began as a way to develop my writing and I have many stories that have yet to see the light of this screen. Then I started painting and drawing again. The pictures I have shared here have been surpassed and it continues to be a way for me to explore and process a lot of stuff.

A lot of stuff. I read other blogs as I am interested and so very curious to know about others’ experiences and thoughts. I am passionate about so many things. I hate when I drop into a depression and care about nothing. My curiosity drives me to speak to people I don’t know and ask about activities I haven’t experienced. Only this morning, two women were peering into the back of a car. I couldn’t stand it, I had to know what they were looking at. Laughing at myself, I walked up and asked. Two absolutely mud caked dogs were in the back of the car. They were so caked the mud had dried in splatters and stiff points. They, the bad dogs, had been banished to the rear, the naughty dogs were on the back seats and the good little girl was in the front. All were rescues. Now I have more people to smile and chat to. I love a small town. Mind you, I was on my way down to the park and my own small fluffy floozy of a dog went wading in the creek and got a muddy tide mark.

Which bring me back to (I had no segue) blogging. It’s fun, interesting, satisfies my curiosity about oh so many things, and I get to share in ways I would not normally. How strange is that? The buffer of the screen is not really a buffer at all and yet we share intensely personal thoughts, feelings and experiences through blogging. I, for one, want to say thank you to all the bloggers who have considered topics I have no-one to discuss them with, and thank you to the many comments in the blogs I read that can leave me snorting with hilarity.

I guess when all is said and done, we blog for ourselves. Yep, that’ll do. I’m off to the studio now to paint.

Poor little lost girl: Parenting a teen

There are times when the mountains in life seem insurmountable, don’t they? Problems seem to pile up and up and it just seems that you will never get to the top of the pile and down the other side. I am watching my teenage daughter go though this at the moment. Feeling helpless as a parent is probably the absolutely worst feeling. Watching your child suffer and not be able to fix anything for them.

My Youngest Daughter is 13 and a half. An awful age. You’re not a child any longer and far from an adult. You are desperate to do what you see older teens doing but your damn parent won’t let you. You are beyond desperate to just get out and “live your life” and beyond frustrated that you cannot. Coupled to that is early childhood trauma for my baby. She is my permanent care child, having been removed from a drug-addicted mother at three months and alcoholic grandmother at 5 months.

A baby of a drug-addicted pregnancy she was born with rage she struggles to control. Anger is her main fuel and she can easily flash to rage. This spirals in endless circling between extreme highs and lows, self-hatred and loathing, cutting and abusive behaviour. She was passed from carer to carer until she came to me when she was three and a half.

For the last ten years I have cheered her on and despaired at her destructiveness. Once when I made her clean her room when she was seven, she was so enraged that she stole all my treasured rings from my jewellery box and threw them into the dog yard, then denied knowing what happened to them. I was so heartbroken that someone we knew had come into our house and taken my rings that I sobbed. She watched and said nothing. I finally twigged that it was likely to be her. I insisted and she went and ‘found’ a ring. I walked down to her room and by chance noticed a flash of gold in the mud and straw out her bedroom window. I recovered them all. We went to the police station for the Sergeant to speak with her about the seriousness of it all. She never admitted taking them.

This little baby was never cherished until she came to me. She never had anyone to croon her preciousness to her until I came along. We played the Baby Game, where she got to be the baby, for many months during her fourth year. She still opens her big brown eyes wide when we talk about it. It helped but mostly too late. Those bonds and attachments have to form before the age of three for children to be able to function fully and make future attachments. She has Disorganised Attachment Disorder, which can look like Oppositional Defiance Disorder, a little like Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD and ADD. It’s none of those. It’s just that no-one loved this baby as she should have been loved, at the right time to wire her brain successfully. Consequently she has extreme difficulty in managing her friendships, has rages and impulse control issues and faced with all of that it is no wonder she had difficulty learning.

What to do? There are times I am truly stumped. There was the day she did not go to school because an older girl threatened to “bash” her and she was too scared. I had people looking for her everywhere. Thank goodness we live in a small town and she is recognisable and people care. She was home when I finally got home. I couldn’t hug her hard enough, I had been that worried. She’s going to school tomorrow though so I guess she is not scared anymore. I really don’t know what happened.

Teen years are cruel enough, when every emotion is so intense. Add trauma and disconnection to that, in addition to being the only visibly Aboriginal child at her school, you start to get the picture of how tough things can be. We had to get an intervention order on her birth mother last year as she lost the plot and got really scary. Poor baby. How is a girl, still really a child, to assimilate all of that? The answer is, she cannot.

One of her teachers wrote to me, to say she had to be removed from class as she defied him. He shamed her, in front of the whole class. For a girl like her, she had no alternative but to defy him. My response to him was to say that his reaction to her was not in her best interest. Oh, I understand that teachers are over-worked, I understand that the school is doing it’s best with the resources and knowledge they have. I understand all that. They don’t understand my child. She is intrinsically Aboriginal. She feels keenly being singled out and shamed in front of a class. Any child would. My child, who appears to be the only obviously Aboriginal child at the school, feels it intensely. I know shaming her was not his intention and it is what happened. She left. Then he wrote to me and told on her. This is just one of many times this has happened.

What to do then, what to do? We hang on. There are times that I feel that I am hanging on by my fingernails. I am not someone who likes to argue or do battle. She is. She feels that all the world is against her and tries to pick fights constantly. She is so determined to be right all the time that she hears people making her wrong, whether they are or not.

The worst thing? I can’t fix it for her. I can only remind her that she is likeable, she is loveable. She can choose to like herself and practise it. That is what makes the difference. Not what you look like, not what you have, not how long your hair is or how perfect your make up. Not who you are friends with, or who you are not friends with. None of that makes any difference. Choosing to like yourself and practising that, is what makes the difference. If we like ourselves and we practise treating ourselves better, we stand half a chance of being happy.

She is my fourth teen. The most challenging. It’s like being on a scary ride and wanting to get off and knowing that if I jump, the pain will be worse.

The hardest thing in the world is seeing your child unhappy and knowing that they make themselves that way and not being able to fix it. The hardest thing in the world is to see your child hurting and in pain. The only thing to do is to hang on. Keep loving her. Keep seeing her adorableness in the face of her fury. Keep her as safe as I possibly can. Stand firm and be her rock. This is all I can do.

Drawing my Art: A Musing

I’ve been exploring art. My art. My art, my heart, my words, my stories. Art for my stories and art for art’s sake. I thought I might share a bit of my art, as part of my stories.

I began drawing again two years ago to illustrate my stories. My plan is to illustrate and e publish my own told stories as written tales. I have completed one. I’m not happy with it. I want to pull it apart and re-do it. Of course. It’s going to take a long time and lots of practice until my ‘art’ is good enough.

I also like tattoos. I like variety. I joined an online drawing challenge after observing and commenting for six months. Most of the illustrators are so good, I despair. One of this year’s themes is Shakespeare. I like the “to be or not to be..” quotation and paired it with my first ever Sugar Skull. This comes from a tattoo tradition and while mine may have butterflies, it is within the bounds of tradition. Except, perhaps, for the vampire teeth. Those I drew for Youngest Daughter. Thirteen and excited by vampires and zombies. Well, zombies really. There’s no accounting for taste.

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I’ve experimented with chalk, soft pastels, crayons, oil pastels, acrylics, paint pens, permanent markers, graphite and charcoal. I have mixed all of the above and collaged with them. No-one could ever accuse me of purity. It’s allowed these days, mixing media. When I did art in high school, I believe we were not allowed to mix media. Thank goodness I’m far far from high school.

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I painted the Lotus above as an housewarming gift for a friend. I enjoy painting backgrounds and will use the mixing and texturising of paints as process work. While I am pondering and figuring and working out my feelings, I will mix and smooth, brush and layer, plaster and texturise paint on canvas paper. Then I have an assortment to choose from when I come to create images. Canvas paper, who knew there was such a thing? Marvellous and totally suitable for the learner.

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I am slowly graduating from single images to still life. When someone will sit still for long enough maybe I can practise drawing a real person. Youngest Daughter cannot be still and strangely I draw her older, every time. Mind you, I only learnt to draw faces in January at Yearly Meeting, I certainly haven’t graduated to bodies yet. Well, I try. I study my Pinterest collection and my online drawing program and keep drawing distorted and oddly shaped bodies. It’ll kick in sooner or later. Changing expressions in faces is interesting and my art journal is full of single, random eyeballs and stray cats.

The animals have come in for more than their share of posing and while cats are achievable, there is something about dogs that is more challenging. I have a number of side on, eyeball goggling disturbing pencil sketches that give me a start when I turn the pages.

I have begun using coloured pencils again and was determined to draw a dog. I wasn’t game enough to draw the full body but was sure that I could manage the head. Some success but still, incorporating the other side of the face and placing eyes appropriately is a challenge I haven’t mastered. I was quite pleased with the hair though. So pleased I went onto draw a rabbit, with a body! Hooray! Here’s the doggy anyway.

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Okay, long way to go on faces and bodies. Still, battling on. I really want to create the illustrations I can imagine for my stories. I have to keep practising until I am satisfied. That’s how I started in storytelling. Practise, practise, practise, then practise some more. I’ve created collage pictures for the next story I’m planning to publish. Need help with formatting though. I have a long way to go before I will be confident.

Hah! Wait until you see the bulldog on the skateboard!
Happy art.

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Perspective, Perception and Expectations: An Introspective

I am thinking about the crossover between perspective, perception and expectations. How what we see is what we get. I am outside with my daughter’s 6 month old kitten and hoping that he stays in the yard. He’s had his op, his microchip, no collar (my poodle uses cat collars as handles for dragging) and I am just a little concerned he might disappear before I can catch him.

My perspective is this is an adventure that could go very wrong. My expectation is that he will want to explore too far and my perception is that I am being over anxious, especially as he comes every time I call. Oops, first stalking of a bird. He is getting an enclosure and will only ever be out supervised. See? Perception: cats are killers. Expectation: he will catch a bird if he can. Perspective: I can be a responsible cat carer and environmentalist. Does my perspective alter my perceptions and expectations? No. My perspective demonstrates my commitment to both, hence cat enclosure and supervised outdoor time. Fences, dogs next door, my own Fluffy Floozy dogs giving him a chase, keep my perspective bounded. I hope. As long as he doesn’t go under the house.

I’ll try for a clearer example. Years ago I married. A lovely young woman. I was a young woman too and I was absolutely besotted. She seemed like such fun, full of life and adventure. When we wanted to have a ceremony, because she wanted the surety of commitment, i assented and asked friends to join us. They were horrified. None of them wanted to participate. It wasn’t the wedding aspect, it wasn’t the commitment, it was her. No-one said to me, don’t do it, she’s nuts. No-one tried hard to dissuade me at all. A few did question closely why I wanted to do it. I was doing it for her. I was absolutely broken-hearted that no-one wanted to join in. Maybe some did, but my crushed expectations altered my perception of my friends and my perspective of friendship. Within a year, I had a whole new barrel load of friends and I was married.

Within 6 years I could see that things were not working. I understood that she had lied to me about numerous things to make her appear more agreeable. I came to understand that my perception of her was clouded by my perspective of relationships and my expectation of how we would travel along together. I realised that how she operated was vastly different to myself and the compatibility I had perceived was a fabrication. By whom? Both of us. Her through lying and mine through my own expectations. It took me a further 7 years to extricate myself, they were bad years and not what I wanted. I was clear from the outset that I wanted children and to grow a life together, which included a business. She said yes yes yes, until it became clear that she didn’t mean a word of it. I said we foster together or I foster alone. I’ve been on my own with the kids for 12 years now.

The young woman inside of me who fell in love with the young woman inside of her, still loves. Love is a creative energy, you can never run out. However the grown woman who looks at my ex and sees the needy person she is, so greedily grasping for people’s time, energy and refrigerators, is not someone I would allow in my life now. Now my perspective has changed. I understand that we can love someone and not allow that person in our lives because how they are choosing to live and the person they are choosing to be. My perception of myself as a individual of worth who deserves honest and respectful relationships has changed. My perspective of the landscape of my life has shifted. I never wanted to be a single parent but I would rather be on my own than shackled to a relationship where I end up unrecognisable to myself.

More recently this has occurred with my ex foster son. For ten years I raised and loved that boy, taught him (he has autism and functioned poorly when he came to live with me), cared for him and was proud of him. He showed me a young man who was caring, could love, form relationships, be insightful and would lend a hand. I’m still so proud of the steps he dug into the hill for me, closer together so I could step down them easily. He could be so very kind. Eighteen months ago he started changing but would not tell me what was wrong. There was always a nasty streak but doesn’t everyone have that? I chose to see him as my lovely boy so was much troubled by his nastiness. His desperation for a girlfriend culminated in meeting a woman online, 9 years his senior, who came from interstate and took him away. I was devastated but gave them a farewell dinner and planned to keep in touch. Over the year he morphed into someone I didn’t recognise. Someone who chose to return to calling me by my name but never had the courage to discuss it with me, who called one of his ex foster sisters an “attention seeking whore” and his youngest ex foster sister a “black slut”. This is the tip of the iceberg. I have moved through profound shock and grief over the past year as this unrecognisable person stomped in his hob nailed boots all over our hearts.

My perspective was that he was my boy. My perception of him was not that he was perfect but that he could be kind, loving, caring and thoughtful. My expectation was that he would continue to be a member of our family. I love him. He can never take away the ten years he was my boy. However I will not have the person he has chosen to be anywhere near my life. The abuse was such that I had to get my solicitor to write to them to tell them to leave us alone.

What’s interesting here is how thwarted expectations cause the most pain and it is our perspective of relationships and our perceptions of individuals that have to shift. Doesn’t mean we don’t love them but sometimes it does mean that we have to set them free.

The kitty? Yep. He’s gone under the house to explore where I cannot get him. I’m off to get a can of tuna. I perceive that he’s a cat and I know he loves tuna. I hope my expectations, of enticing him with it, are right this time.

P.S. He came out just after I finished writing. Oh, the power of food.

We went to the zoo zoo zoo: A Musing

As someone passionate about animals, I have a uncomfortable relationship with zoos. We need zoos (or do we?) to learn about animals and protect species from ourselves. Our local zoos are heavily involved in species preservation globally. Still, we are using animals for human entertainment. My dilemna. More of that another time.

When I was eight, my parents took us to a circus. To their embarrassment, I cried through the whole thing. My distress was in watching the animals do things that animals were not supposed to do. Elephants balancing on tiny steps, ponies running in endless circles with acrobats upon their backs, lions being whipped and dogs without any wag to their tails. At eight I could not explain why I was so upset. I have never been to a circus that uses animals again.

Back to zoos. I like the care and passion of the staff and the commitment to animal welfare, and sometimes there are other attractions. There was a cultural day at Healesville Sanctuary yesterday. I wanted to take Youngest Daughter and Grandson. YD has lots of cultural experience and knows her mob and family. Grandson has no cultural experience and his heritage is English, not Aboriginal. I feel strongly however, that the culture of this land needs to be known and felt by those born of this land. And so we went.

Eldest Daughter and ED Husband were keen to see the animals. YD was keen to stay in the area where Community was. Grandie wanted to watch everything, run everywhere and play. He’s 3 and has a few disabilities that means he functions younger. He’s my good time boy. Grandie was enormously excited by the boomerang throwing. The boomerang went high and the Wurundjeri Elder throwing it caught it nearly every time. When he’s really excited, Grandie holds up both hands, rubbing his fingers together, grinning hugely. He could have watched the boomerang throwing all day. However there were dancers to run through the middle of and dijeridoo players to barge through, puppets to fiddle with and an artist’s not quite dry work to run his fingers over. Painting the rocks and the water holder and the table and Grandma was fun. Most of all he enjoyed having his face painted. This was the first time he had sat still to have his face painted. He obviously enjoyed the experience as he went into dreamy mode and kept pointing to unpainted parts of his face. The face painter happily obliged.

He was impressed with the Cassowary and very much with the Emus, then we went into the Lyrebird Aviary. There is a Lyrebird pair in the aviary and Mr Lyrebird was focussed on attracting Ms Lyrebird. He had every bird noise down pat and, if we were not mistaken, some distinctive electronic sounds and Rap and Beatbox. Mr Lyrebird’s enthusiasm was a little sad as he had a captive audience in Ms Lyrebird. She was ignoring him anyway.

My grandson didn’t notice any of them once he spied the stairs and the high viewing area. Up the steps we went. Him in the lead and ED and I a step behind. He was so impressed with how high he was that he ventured up twice more with other family members in tow. His parents tried to get him to move on and see other animals. Why? He hadn’t really noticed the ones we’d already passed. I figured it was his visit and he could experience it however he did.

He did noticed the koalas when we finally got there. He signed ‘eating’ and said clearly, yuck! The koala was awake and munching on gum leaves, as they do. The energy from the leaves is so poor and takes so long to digest that koalas spend much of their time sleeping. I said that koalas eat leaves, nothing else. He looked at me with disbelief then took off around the koala bridge. It took four laps before he slowed down. A snack and playground play later, he was ready to go.

He may not have seen many animals but he was there experiencing so many things. I may have a discomfort about zoos but I would choose to take him again. The animal enclosures make me feel sad, particularly the calling Kookaburra on its own, but the care, passion and enthusiasm of the staff go a long way to making up for it. Healesville took care of a lot of animals hurt in the Black Saturday fires seven years ago. Many of them could be released and those that could not have homes at the zoo. The kooka was also injured and was unable to be released.

As for my grandson, I barely re-told the story of his day at the zoo before he was fast asleep.