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Thursday, October 13, 2011

What does it take?

Cooking dinner and listening to new music on Melbourne's rrr radio station, I thought about Miss Georgia Lucy. Not long ago, Ruby and I had a 'single mum and daughter bunk in' existence in a 1980s two bedroom unit, in Brunswick; errr, with a dog, a cat and a rabbit. It was cosy and close. We were lucky to live next door to Georgia and an innumerable, relentless roll of free-ranging artomusicocraftiovibeo folks - of the younger human demographic. They lived next door in a run-down squat style house attached to an old garage. It was marked for demolition so it didn't matter how they inhabited the space. There they established 'Medium', as an artist space and gallery, a veritable playground for frolicsome spirits.

Living in close quarters in Brunswick, outdoors became a necessary lure, inviting simple urban adventures. Sometimes Ruby would strap Marvin K Mooney into his tiny harness and with Motu the dog we endeavoured to train a rabbit how to walk around the block. We mostly resorted to giving Marvie a piggy back ride on Motu (who was old and decrepit and didn't seem to mind). On other occasions we strapped ourselves up with wheels and roller-skated, around the vast concrete factory 'rinks'. And I frightened pedestrians by falling over a lot. But I digress. It was a challenging time; post family breakdown, etc..... and we 'made our own fun'. But in retrospect, there was more to it.

The weekend after the hippies moved in, they held a 'garage sale', and sold, well, basically stuff that nobody would want. Feeling a neighbourly sense of responsibility, we lobbed up in our Saturday morning tracky-dacks, introduced ourselves and donated some fairly decent stuff that we thought people might buy.

Georgia was around 19 or 20, and had moved to Melbourne from Newcastle. By typical coincidence, Ruby had only the year before, attended Year 7 at Newcastle High School, with Georgia's brother. This young woman like to paint and draw and sing out of tune with her husky voice late at night. She soon began to wear some of the old scraps of opshop clothes that I'd donated. And she became very fond of Motu. During a nasty hail storm Motu disappeared. After several distressing laps around the neighbourhood we eventually found him, well ensconced next door, sitting on a pile of cushions and beanbags, while Georgia painted his portrait: a veritable botticelli mutt.
Georgia gave us the painting. We love it, especially because Motu passed away last year.

But I digress.

So here I was, cooking and thinking about Georgia and her artistic clan, listening to the radio and relishing every song it waved at me. Then I heard about a stage play that I would LOVE to see. Barry Dickens; journalist, critic, playwright, has at last launched a play he wrote many years ago, about Brett Whiteley's life. Brett Whiteley. The exemplary eccentric, drug addled genius. The story of his life is intense and intriguing. Hmmm, would it be too clever, too avant-garde for a garden variety thesbi-cretin such as me?

I was thinking about talent, and the diversity of forms it takes. To me, creativity is an essential part of life, but so hard to incorporate when one lives with a work-focussed mind-bent. I mean; to create, survive adversity, truly love people, and celebrate living a meaningful life, while living in the moment. Is this asking too much, biting off more than can be swallowed by the average soul?

I personally struggle to do this. I have spent most of my life trying to run ahead of a dog snapping at my heels. You know, the black dog. Actually that metaphor doesn't work for me: its more like a deep dark well. I'm the sort of person who gives myself a harder time than anyone else can. I expect a lot from life: I require it of myself, and if I fail at this ambition then I find it hard to forgive myself.

I work with people who live their lives managing serious mental illness. I do this because nobody could inspire me more. Over the years I've worked on the development of a 'Recovery' program, initially researching and writing it, and these days I'm in the field facilitating the program with groups, and supporting people who have a mental illness to run groups themselves. This seedling of a program is changing people's lives. It's giving them a lease on life, but not like a pharmaceutical or a yoga program. It simply reminds them of their potential, and supports them to re-imagine themselves, gives them hope that despite the blows of social judgement, misfortune, homelessness, joblessness and ill-health, they innately have a 'take' on life. And everyday relearned achievements give them a powerful sense of accomplishment. This too is living life creatively. Making something out of very very little.

Cooking, listening to music and thinking about my exposure to wonderful people. This cheers me up; I almost feel like I've painted something.

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