The Sun also Rises

 

 

The sun also arises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to its place where it arose.

It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;

nothing is deprived of its warmth.

 

I’m not much for reading the Bible but I love the odd aphorism. And lately, Ecclesiastes’ “the sun also rises” and Psalm 19 have been ringing in my head.


So I thought I’d better unpack what it meant to me.


Recently, the Beloved and I sold our rural property.


What? I hear you gasp? After all these years of struggle as owner builders?


Yes, that’s true. After all those years of struggle. Being a niche, green, feminist, left-wing, activist consultant was a difficult balancing act – especially throughout the Global Financial Crisis.


I blogged about that in January 2014:


https://sarkissian.com.au/activism-planning-australia-delicate-balancing-act/


Work was hard to find and debts mounted as the house was still not finished. All our savings and super went into the building project.

 


We love it. But professional work did not come as expected.


A loving friend has bought the house and we stay on as renters.


Now we are engaged in another project: renovating the shed as a secondary dwelling. Living on a building site again. Muddy boots in the hall. Again.



Many friends and family were aghast to hear that we’d sold the farm.


But what else could we do? It was either a loving friend or the bank. And we did not want to lose everything we had worked for.

 


So I say back to my incredulous friends, “The sun also rises.”

 


What I mean is – through the same trees  – with the same birds singing – the same sun still rises and sets– whether your name is on the title or not.

 


If you do not own a property and are a renter, the same breeze blows, the same kookaburra arrives for a peek at life around dinner time. His or her same family members laugh in unison from the neighbouring tree. The same rainbow lorikeet dreams in the same bottle brush.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA




The same joey suckles with his same wallaby mother.


I am not saying that housing security is not important. It’s everything to everyone and a constant worry to anyone who is a renter. It’s everything to us, which is why we bless our generous friend.


I am simply saying that life goes on.


The Earth continues to flourish – offering hope and opportunity in response to our caring (Go, Bentley!).


The same sun rises and sets.


Our human dramas are but a small and ephemeral part of a much larger world.


We come and go and the Earth remains.


Capitalism, finance, banks, mortgages, investments, interest, valuations and property – they are all made up – and they can’t hold a candle to the same sun.


The same sun that also rises.

 

sunset nimbin

 

 

 

 



Update 23 July 2015: The sun is still rising over the hills and melting the fog in the valley.   And we have experienced even more love and care with a new friend taking over when the old friend could not continue.

 

And other generous folk helping out in numerous ways. We have learned more about generosity, caring, home, attachment, territory, resilience and fear than we bargained for.

 

And a bit about betrayal along the way, as well, just to keep the mix interesting!

 

 

 

NIMBY psychology at Harvard University February 2013

 

NIMBY psychology comes to Harvard — from Australia!

 

February was an exciting month for me. I spent it teaching in the Graduate School of Design (GSD) at Harvard University and giving lectures and classes at MIT and Tufts University.

 

It was exceptionally cold for a person who lives in the sub-tropics. A huge blizzard dumped 20 inches of show on Boston days after I arrived.

 

 
Harvard in February. Brrr!

 

The highlight of my month-long visit was a   lunch-time lecture for the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University on 22 February.

 

I spoke about the relationships between environmental psychology and community resistance to housing density increases to an audience in the iconic Gund Hall, which houses the Graduate School of Design.

 

See: https://www.gsd.harvard.edu/#/events/what-s-psychology-got-to-do-with-nimby-with-wendy-sarkissian.html

 

Gund Hall, Harvard University

 

NIMBY

 

Throughout the Western world and especially in Australia, we are seeing strong initiatives to increase housing density to achieve sustainability initiatives. Paralleling these types of initiatives are concerns about the social impacts of higher density housing, confirmed by a widespread Australian research and a recent visit to Canada. Even in Hong Kong, there are community concerns about housing density increases. Where governments have mandated housing density increases, the results have not always been positive.

 

The much-lauded CityPlan community engagement process in Vancouver, Canada, resulted in a strong support for housing density in the late 1990s and early years of this century, (with planners believing that they had converted NIMBY to YIMBY (“Yes in My Back Yard”). However, currently a strong community backlash in Vancouver reveals that these gains were short-lived. After tens of millions of dollars spent on community engagement about density increases, residents and others are strongly opposing further housing density increases.

 

In many Western cities, the early optimism of what community engagement could deliver with respect to housing density increases has faded. The irony is that success in this arena is much more important that it was in earlier decades as the pressures of Peak Oil and climate change begin to be felt more powerfully by communities and governments.

 

So, if density increases are needed and resistance is increasing, what is the answer? What really is at the core of peoples’ concerns? Which approaches might work to engage communities with the issues of housing density?

 

What if we could achieve our sustainability and housing density goals without causing community unrest, dissatisfaction – even uproar?

 

Could communities respond positively to density increases under the appropriate conditions?

 

I believe that all of that is possible. But we must understand more about the psychology of housing to be effective.

 

We need to appreciate why governments must continue to campaign for increased housing density. It’s as though these two initiatives are at opposite ends of a spectrum. Yet they are connected by the very concerns that seem to place proponents of density increases at loggerheads with community members.

 

Caring

 

The issue that unites them is caring. Governments who care about the future of communities are alert to the many signs that automobile dependence and urban sprawl are expensive and ecologically unsustainable artefacts of a bygone era. We can no longer afford low-density suburbs. (Actually, we never could but we thought we could.)

 

Similarly, community members who care about the future of their communities are concerned that clumsy and ill-considered initiatives will make neighbourhoods unliveable cauldrons of noise, traffic congestion, parking problems. They will have no environmental quality. Some even say: `the slums of the future’.

So, if everyone cares, where’s the problem and what is the secret?

 

A key to understanding these conflicts (occurring in our communities today) is to understand more about housing. It’s not merely `product’, as some developers say. It’s more than a `commodity’ as economists would say. For some, it’s everything: a haven, a nest, protection, security”¦ many qualities that have little or nothing to do with density, tenure or whether one’s name is on the mortgage document”¦

 

Home is a deeply archetypal concept. Humans aer animals and, like other animals, we are hard-wired to protect our territory, the “territorial core” of our home. It’s complicated and that’s partly why people’s responses to a threat to their housing often get so very `complicated’. Our Homing Instinct is a deep-seated desire to protect what is personal, precious and `home’.

 

The psychology of place and housing

 

 

Here’s a link to the Harvard lecture and the PowerPoint presentation:

 

https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/event/what%E2%80%99s-psychology-got-do-nimby-exploring-deeper-meanings-community-resistance-proposed-housing

 

Social planning was having a good month!   The lecture was also picked up by the real estate blog, The Fifth Estate: Our Planet, Our Real Estate:

 

https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/archives/45397/

 

Here’s the lecture in a Word document:

 

Sarkissian Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies lecture 22 February 2013_revised for web

 

Many sincere thanks to Eric Belsky and his colleagues of the Joint Center for generous support and hospitality and to Professor Ann Forsyth of the GSD.

 

Silencing Dissent: charity begins at home

April 29, 2011 – 4:07 pm



In an eco-village, there is more to life than managing weeds and water quality in the dams.

 

What we have learned about social reform and social change in Western countries over many decades is that burning books and silencing dissent are very dangerous practices.

What is my dissenting voice really saying?

I am saying that exclusionary practices in the Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet make me and many of my neighbours feel excluded and unhappy.

 

At a higher level, they are inequitable, unfair and destabilising of community strength, solidarity and, ultimately, sustainability.

 

It’s not fun being the focus of sustained attacks.

 

But I am willing to wear that discomfort to have my voice – my small single voice – heard.

 

I come from a long line of people who spoke out against injustice. As a Canadian-Armenian, I know what happened to my father’s family and his father’s family. The blood of the martyrs runs in my veins.

 

Social exclusion and bullying in Jarlanbah are hardly genocide. But they are definitely ways of killing community.

 

I guess I just have to be unpopular. Tearing off the gag.

Speaking the unspeakable.

 

And I am going to fight for the rights of the disenfranchised and silenced members of communities with my dying breath.

 

So when I think of silencing dissent charity begins at home!

 

 

The original dream for Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet

April 5, 2010 – 3:07 pm


I’m mining the archive!

 

 

Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet from Shirley’s house, 1993

 

The original dream for Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet was very different from the back-biting and suffering we experincce every day on this community. It was a dream with substance and charm. A real dream.

 

Here’s a photo of the Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet from Shirley’s place (lot 6) in late 1993. An exhausted dairy farm being transformed into a Permaculture Hamlet.

 

Shirley has been explaining to me how the process worked. That heady mix of dreaming and practical realities.

 

She’s been explaining what her intentions were, coming here alone as a widow in her early sixties. She was dreaming of community. And support. A place to put down roots and live into her older years. Her own, ecological, architect-designed house.

 

A place where she (a distinguished fine artist with works already in the National Gallery) could paint and create in peace – embraced and supported by Nature’s beauty and bounty.

 

Embraced and supported by a community of like-minded people caring for Nature and for each other.

 

What exciting days those were!

 

The dream was so inviting; the vision so bright; the intentions so clear.

 

Promotional material for Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet

 

Here’s the Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet insert in the Northern Star for late March 1994:

 

Star Focus on Jarlanbah March 1994

 

This is the vision we need to revisit.

 

How can we update the vision and re-align with our current version?

 

How can we move forward in harmony, cooperation and peace?

 

I look forward to your comments.

 

All ideas are welcomed. Contrary views are welcomed and and invited.

 

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter”¦. Obliged to you for hearin’ me“¦.

(re)visioning Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet

April 3, 2010 – 9:44 am

 

It’s Easter weekend: a time for reflection on renewal, blessings and hope.

 

I am awash with fresh insights following a fascinating community mediation about the dual occupancy (accessory dwelling unit) issue on this community.

 

Sometimes people leave intentional communities. See “Leaving Utopia”, click here: Leaving Utopia – MARY GARDEN

 

Things are different now. We’re settled in, the toilet is built, the deck is a daily marvel and my three books have been birthed and are now for sale.

 

I realise that I can no longer turn my back on the goings-on in my own immediate community and focus only on other communities.

 

There is much to learn from this small eco-village and much that needs to change.

 

The Jarlanbah archives

 

With the help of my elderly artist neighbour, Shirley, a founding resident, I have been exploring the Jarlanbah archives from the early 1990s.

 

What a tale they have to tell us!

 

 

Robyn Francis

 

The birth of this community in 1993 was accompanied by deep reflection and much dreaming, bearing in mind the state of the Earth and a deep desire to care for Nature in all her wondrous beauty. The developer was completely aligned with these ambitious social and environmental objectives. The designer, eminent Permaculture educator and designer, Robyn Francis, keeps in regular contact with many of us and recently has been helping us understand the deeper intent of our founding principles with respect to intergenerational equity, density, community infrastructure, inclusion and sustainability.

 

She’s reminded us of the strong focus on inclusion in the founding documents. Given that today there’s a lot of exclusionary thinking about in the world, it’s a salutary reminder!

 

Those of us who live on Jarlanbah are blessed to have Robyn as a neighbour. Awarded NSW Rural Woman of the Year a few years ago, she’s a Permaculture designer and educator of international eminence.

 

For Robyn’s award-winning teaching, education, training and design work, see:

 

www.permaculture.com.au

 

and

 

https://www.abc.net.au/rn/utopias/dream_machine/docos/jarlanbah.htm

 

How I wish I could have been part of that early planning process!

 

The far-thinking developer, John Hunter, his planners and designers (and then the first residents) spent long hours exploring alternatives for the social and physical design of this place. It was a dream that was both far-looking and practical; resilient and able to be modified.

 

We’ve lost our way”¦

 

For reasons that I will explore in this blog, I believe that we’ve lost our way here in the Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet.

 

But I am confident that it’s not too late to bring the original vision up-to-date, realign with it and and move forward in cooperation, self-reliance and harmony.

 

I’ve pasted in below the poster that used to be on our sign at the front gate: the original dream. The sign went missing but the dream is still alive in the hearts and minds of many early

Jarlanbah Hamleteers. And the newbies are now learning what our founding mothers and fathers had in mind.

 

The details of the dream are spelled out in a detailed Management Statement and fascinating early newsletters, which I will also post for people to read.

 

We need to understand our history here.

 

I need to understand it!

 

Blessings on you all this Easter weekend! May we all live in peace, cooperation and harmony.

 

The promise, if not (yet) the reality”¦

 

Trouble in Paradise: Dual Occupancy at Jarlanbah

March 15, 2010 – 9:59 pm

 

Trouble in Paradise

 

Tomorrow evening my neighbours are meeting to decide whether or not to try to ban dual occupancy (commonly called accessory dwelling units: https://www.mass.gov/envir/smart_growth_toolkit/pages/mod-adu.html ) in this eco-village of 43 dwellings on 22 hectares.

 

The whole process has me mightily confused.

 

Imagine the contradictions

 

Imagine the contradictions. Here we are living on half an acre in a Permaculture community committed to self-sufficiency and sustainability principles.

 

We live in a low-income community (Nimbin, population 350) with a desperate shortage of housing, especially for lower income residents. And most of us do not grow much food – if any – on our properties. I think every lot has at least one car. We’re highly automobile-dependent and we’re certainly not secure in terms of food production.

 

Designed by Robyn Francis

 

But we’re trying. The Jarlanbah community, designed by formidable Permaculture designer, Robyn Francis, who lives down the road at the Djanbung Gardens Permaculture Education Centre (see: https://www.earthwise.org.au/), was established in 1993 and the first residents moved in in 1994. We’ve been here since 2001, actually living here since early 2006.

 

Now many of us are ageing and looking for opportunities to age in place and to have the possibility of a caregiver living on our house block.

 

Or to have an income stream from renting a small dwelling on our land.

 

Recently, the Jarlanbah Review Sub-committee rejected a proposal by one of our neighbours for a dual occupancy arrangement on his block. In North America, this is generally called an “accessory dwelling unit”.

 

His house is very stylish and modern in its design and I wondered what role “aesthetics” played in the decision.

 

Arguments in favour of dual occupancy

 

In any case, this case, which is likely to go to a formal mediation session, has caused a huge amount of discussion in our community. Some of us, citing global sustainability principles, Peak Oil, automobile dependence and the needs of an ageing, rural population, want to be able to have two dwellings on a lot. We can’t see how this would differ – in planning terms – from, say, a house with four or more bedrooms for a large family or shared household. We don’t see that the impacts on our road infrastructure would be that dramatic.

 

Not everyone would want to have another dwelling on their lot (perhaps half might – eventually) and those who did could pay extra to reflect the wear and tear that another vehicle might cause (assuming that vehicles would not be shared).

 

“It will open the floodgates”

 

But not all residents feel this way. Others are afraid that having a few more dwellings will open the floodgates. “It’ll turn Jarlanbah into a slum and a ghetto,” remarked one of the long-term residents, while another claimed that she did not move to Nimbin “to live in cluster housing.” “This is not inner city Redfern,” claimed another.

 

NIMBY and BANANA

 

As a Jarlanbah resident who has spent a whole career (since 1967) working in housing and planning, I am curious to understand what this really means.

 

Where would these road-wrecking new slum-dwellers come from?

 

How could a ghetto emerge as a result of density increase?

 

I can’t help but think of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) or better still, BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything (or Anyone).

 

Nevertheless, this small village community on 43 lots is about to embark on an open, democratic, community discussion on this matter. In the Jarlanbah community centre, subject of an equally acrimonious debate that featured bullying and recrimination, broke hearts, shattered trust, offended aesthetic sensibilities and still rankles”¦

 

The Jarlanbah Community Centre

 

Watch this space!

 

Wednesay morning update:

 

Shocking meeting with no facilitation process to help us.

 

People jumping up and threatening, screaming and swearing at each other, unable to be controlled by the Chair.

 

I’m now branded as a consultant who’s the same as a dot-com operator – in the pay of the developers, plotting the extinction of all the wallabies, echnidnas and antechinus.

 

Pretty soon we will have blocks of flats at the bottom of the gully!

 

More soon!

 

Wednesday, after the mediation session

 

This matter has been taken to a formal mediation session through the State Department of Fair Trading. As a trained mediator myself, I know that what goes on inside the room stays insidethe room.

 

I will post my later thoughts on dual occupancy policy in this blog but for now, I cannot report on the latest events at Jarlanbah.

 

Except to say that we had a lovely pancake breakfast this morning (responding to advice from American planning theorist, John Forester, that we spend more time together socially and eating together).

 

So this morning before the mediation, I served pancakes for breakfast in the community centre (after Shirley and I scrubbed it within an inch of its life last night).

 

And tonight it’s pizza on our deck.

 

It’s raining softly in Paradise this afternoon. It’s very peaceful.

 

After a four-hour+ mediation, the local residents have gone home to their families and their gardens.

 

I hear Gaia, the living Earth, breathe a sigh of relief.

 

Is she thinking: Hopefully, those pesky humans will relax and simply love what they love.

 

The blessings of a composting toilet

March 11, 2010 – 6:51 pm

 

After four years living on our half-acre block and over eight years in total including time visiting on weekends, we have a toilet.

 

We christened it a few weeks ago with great delight and considerable relief (pun not intended).

 

Neighbours and friends wonder why this basic amenity has taken so long.

 

I sometimes wonder, too.

 

But with the wettest two years since European settlement delaying construction of our large roof, we had to work quickly on other projects when we finally did get the roof on.

 

That required several alterations (dismantling, cutting and re-welding) to the massive box gutter which was splashing all over the interior house timbers.

 

Now it’s all working.

 

We have a roof and insulated exterior walls and a box gutter that handles great floods of water.

 

So we could finally turn out minds – and our resources – to the toilet.

 

A Farallones Institute Composting Privy

 

I was surprised to find out what the design for a composting toilet which the local Council approves was first published by the world-famous Farallones Insitute in Berkeley, California in 1976.

 

I was living in Berkeley in the late seventies and much admired the Farallones Institute and the Integral Urban House (see: www.newsociety.com/bookid/4032).

 

The Farallones Institute was an independent association of scientists, designers, horticulturists and technicians which served for several decades as a pioneering centre for teaching and research in appropriate technology and sustainable design. Integrating architecture, agriculture, waste recycling, water conservation, and renewable energy, the Institute has been widely recognized as a model for ecological design. The Farallones’ resource conserving systems, solar dwellings, and organic gardens have been used extensively as a teaching tool.

 

That famous place. And now I was about to have one of their two-chamber composting toilets.

 

The toilet turned out to be much more work that I expected (though I did not build it.) Because it does not get direct sunlight, it has two chambers. After six or nine months, one is decommissioned and the other one is used for a similar period of time. The compost is put on the fruit trees.

 

Seems fine to me, though having two separate toilets in the bathroom is a rather quaint touch. We did not have toilets like that in North Vancouver.

 

So now we do not have to trudge 50 metres in the rain down to the community toilet. That was sometimes challenging when we were sick, it was raining heavily or the grass on the slope to the community building had not been cut. More than once I’ve slid down the hill to the community toilet on my bottom.

 

Gratitude to the Jarlanbah community and goodbye community toilet

 

Karl’s so happy not to have (in his words) to “push s**t uphill” any longer, as it was his job to clean out the community toilet while we (and many others) were using it. He had to haul the compost in a wheelbarrow up the hill 50 metres to bury it on our lot. That was a hard job, which he did uncomplainingly. But as he says, it’s good to know that it’s your stuff if you’re carting it.

 

He has great tales about what he found buried in the Jarlanbah community composting toilet! And it certainly wasn’t “our stuff”!

 

Good riddance to the Jarlanbah community toilet

 

 

Toilet Heaven

But now, rain or shine, we are in “toilet heaven”.

 

 

The kitchen is next.

 

Then we can benefit from Karl’s bountiful kitchen garden, currently fallow, but ready for reviving once he has a break from the seemingly endless task of house building. (I know he’d gladlygive up the ladder and welder for a spade and trowel!)

 

We’ve been at this house-building job for three years now. And now that my three books are published, I have more time to help.

 

We’re hoping to christen our new home before the end of this year. In the meantime, when we think of people who are so much less fortunate than we are, we’re reminded that we’re blessed with two huge tanks full of water, a cozy, dry place to sleep and a spacious deck for entertaining.

 

The world ice hockey champions

 

On which deck, to the great delight of our dear Canadian friend, Marnee and her Irish (but pro-Canadian) husband, Ollie, we watched the Olympic television coverage last month for sixteen exhausting nights.

 

A passionate, newly demonstrative nationalistic Canada reminded us that Canadians are (and must always be) the world ice hockey champions!

 

Right on!

 

Eh?

 

 

The Radio Hashbrown Blog

Radio Hashbrown Blog copy

 

Community pressure resulted in the closure of the antecedent of the Radio Hashbrown Blog.

 

However, the archives remain.

 

To read them, click here:

 

https://radiohaajblarnblog.wordpress.com

 

One Sleep ’til the Windows Arrive: The joys of owner building

August 2, 2009 – 9:52 pm
The Guest Bedroom, August 2009


We’ve been living in our shed for three and a half years. House under construction for two and a half”¦

 

And on Friday the windows arrived for the guest bedroom in our house-under-construction project. It has walls, doors, a roof, a floor and almost windows.

 

Tomorrow morning at 9 am Ken is coming to help Karl install them.

 

I’ve been reflecting about how much this means to me. It’s so marvellous here these sparking winter days.

 

It’s absolutely freezing at night as we huddle around a fire on the deck in our Mexican chiminea. Then it’s up to 30 during the day.

 

Many blessings

 

I’m blessed to be living in a rural paradise, awakened by the raucous laughter of a dozen kookaburras in a nearby tree.

 

Spending late winter afternoons watching a family of five wallabies relaxing and eating the new grass shoots on the lawn.

 

I WANT TO SHARE THIS. But it’s not much of an offering to urban people who have baths and toilets and kitchens when I say I can offer a tent or a rat-infested shed. A wash under the hose.

 

A lovely prospect

 

But the prospect of putting a bouquet of fresh flowers in a vase in the guest bedroom, hanging ironed curtains on the new screened louvered windows, setting out a few good books on the bedside table, a candle, incense”¦ that is such a delightful imagining.

 

It brings a great yearning to my heart. Many dear friends have visited us in our chaotic circumstances.

 

We’ve trudged them around the muddy building site, stumbling over piles of timber and peering into unfinished rooms, gesturing where rooms could be, how the roof could go”¦

 

“I couldn’t live like this.”

 

One, appalled, could only say, “I couldn’t live like this.” Others have hugged us and offered all means of encouragement. Very great encouragement. Everyone marvels at the beauty of the place.

 

Tonight I was sharing my enthusiasm for the guest bedroom by phone with Leonie, twelve thousand miles away.

 

Maybe she’ll come to visit after Christmas. We might have the box gutter sorted out by then. I reassured her that her room is rat- and python-proof, fully mossie-proof.

 

It has a great view of the escarpment.

 

Great ventilation.

 

A private verandah. It’s very quiet. We even plan to have key locks on the guest bedroom doors so that guests can leave valuables and not be worried by our relaxed rural attitude to security.

 

So, one more sleep to an almost-ready guest bedroom. One more step toward the hospitality I dream of.

 

Feels like Christmas Eve.

 

Sad postscript the next day: The windows were too big for the spaces. It was the Builders Picinc Day in NSW (a holiday I had not heard of!) so could not sort it out.

 

Much disappointment. (Watch this space”¦)

 

A day later: Ordered new windows. We’d apparently violated some window-measuring protocol. Supposed to call it “make size” to include the window reveals (whatever that means”¦)

 

Our fault.

 

But they fit in the living room. Still, it’s not the same.

 

Ken did a great job of brushcutting instead”¦

 

Sept. 7th, 2009: The windows are in. At last! It’s gorgeous. It’s ready for guests. Cosy and homey. Not exactly “finished” but filled with love.

 

March 2010: The exterior walls are insulated and clad, two new windows added above the original ones, an internal screen door to allow for more cross-ventilation and we’ve had our first proper guest.

 

Now that we can offer the convenience of a beautiful composting toilet next door, it’s even more inviting.

 

Come to visit!

The Guest Bedroom March 2010

 

 

Living with a Gypsy

July 5, 2009

 

Today the Gypsy and I were sorting hardware. Nails and screws.

 

It’s been a rough week in community engagement and I had to do something else than listen to bureaucrats and aggrieved residents.

 

I had to get my hands dirty. Get grounded.

 

Living on a building site generates a massive amount of mess. It’s hard to manage from day to day, particularly with few dry places to store things. Today we were sorting roofing screws from other screws from nails and clamps and tools of all descriptions. Rusted saws (it’s humid here), worn-out paint brushes. Dead paint tins. Odd unidentifiable objects.

 

Very therapeutic.

 

Gypsy’s work bench

 

I have attempted to clean up the Gypsy’s work bench a number of times in the last sixteen years with little success. He’s always tinkering. Genuinely of Romany blood (probably about one-third), he’s a tinker by nature and genetic disposition.

 

There is nothing he cannot fix.

 

We discovered that the solar garden lights you buy at the hardware store have a life of about three months and then they start to decline into fickleness, eccentricity, dementia and finally death…

 

But the Gypsy keeps at them. Resuscitating them. His table is littered with carcases of globes and pickets as he revivifies them one by one. He recharges their yellow batteries and cleans their connections with my nail file. The he gently sets them back to glow along the gravel path.

 

There are knives to be sharpened and electrical equipment to be repaired. And when the rain took out the phone, endless tinkering with a huge range of cords and adapters to make the phones work again.

 

Birkenstocks glued back together

 

I grew up in a household where everything was broken. So I love this quality in the Gypsy. He’s glued my favourite Birkenstock sandals back together so many times they were mostly glue. He’s taken to collapsing Ikea furniture with an artisan’s disdain and made it stand upright again.

 

He’s built, maintained and endlessly repaired our tarpaulin “hootchie” where we lived for the first few years.

 

The “hootchie” 2001

 

His garden is a marvel. His tomatoes to die for. And those chillies!

 

 

Old skills

 

HIs are the old skills. Resilient skills. Like mending and sewing. Knitting. Chopping firewood. Canning peaches. Putting up jams.

 

Skills we need for the Great Turning: persistence, repair, restoration and loving care.

 

From my office, I can hear the sounds of kindling being chopped. My chilled limbs predicting another fire in the chiminea.

 

I am blessed to be the beneficiary of these old skills.

 

Blessed to be with the Gypsy.