Love in a time of Coronavirus

Wow! How fast is all this. First thing I want to say is, stay clean. Wash hands, hair, clothes, door handles. Stay hydrated. Warm liquids are good apparently. Eat your veg. Get exercise. Breathe. Relax.

Yep. Like I’m doing all of those things. Well, I am doing most of them. The ‘relax’ one has been beating me though. We have been shockingly busy. That happens when you pack the better part of your worldly goods and move houses. Not that there’s many worldly goods. They fitted into our van. Too many for it to be easy though. Especially when your partner’s art requires bulky tools.

(For new readers of this blog, my husband and I lost our home, studios, and all of our possessions during the Cudlee Creek fires on 20th of December last year. Covid is in South Australia for the first time and no one understands it or it’s implications.)

We have moved for a while to a beautiful little shack in Middleton belonging to friends. The kids wanted us to isolate from the grandkids to try and keep us healthy.

The shack is just gorgeous, warm and cozy in a welcoming way, painted gorgeous rich colours with the quirks of a beach shack. We are SO grateful. It feels safe. Not sure how long we can stay because the owners are doing it tough too: adults trying to work from home, kids at school, but one of them trying to do year 12 with next to no internet access at their home. Here at least you can usually get three bars of phone coverage most of the day. Not in their part of the Adelaide Hills. There are some shocking black spots in them thar hills.

As for us, we aren’t going very well. I think I’m taking on the anxiousness of the world. This is the closest I have ever come to panic attacks. Also I feel pitifully sorry for my self and can’t stop crying. Walking in all this sea air helps. But I feel completely groundless. Like a vagrant. Which I guess I am. Homeless. But at least, presently, and unlike many, I can pay the bills. Also I do know that it will pass.

Ervin is feeling odd because he had a cataract operation eleven days ago and so has one eye that works and one that doesn’t. Needs glasses for reading and sunnies but his bifocals are not right. In fact none of them are right. We may fix that next week. Or he might need to have the other eye done quickly. Depends on whether his brain can adjust to it all. Don’t really want to go anywhere near a hospital at the moment. Also he is incredibly tired all the time. Heart specialist says he’s ok, so I guess it’s just the situation.

Apparently the worst of the psychological problems after trauma hits at 12 weeks or so. Yep. I have done amazing things in that time. But I really would like a home. I did expect to still be in my little house in the country, with my little veggie garden, when the pestilence came.

Because I’ve been expecting it. Actually let me share a poem:

Our Hold On the Planet
after Robert Frost’s poem of the same name

Robert Frost in a hey-ho mood
Nature is enamoured of mankind,
a little bit in favour, one percent or so.
His evidence is how our numbers grow.

Are spawned more likely, a fungus, a disease,
or that’s the way I see it — clearly,
in sharper focus now no mist can rise
below the baking sun, the hollow sky.

Crops die, ice melts, temperatures soar,
whole populations starve and some with more
dole out just a little, just enough
to make them feel most generous.

Meanwhile factories belch out the smoke
on which the world proceeds to choke.
If I were Nature I don’t reckon I’d be pleased
with my disease.

I’d be thinking to diminish human numbers —
perhaps the odd small natural disaster?

(That poem is in my latest book, Not Looking for Signs that I put together for the exhibition just past. It was published in a Friendly Street Reader a couple of years back too.)

The thing is, in that last paragraph, originally I wanted to use ‘perhaps a tinsy bit of pestilence’ instead of ‘natural disaster’ but I couldn’t do it with any poetic elegance.

My education o biology says you can’t have an exponential growth of a population without a crash. And I’m afraid 3% (expected Coronavirus outcome) probably won’t cut it if we keep using up our resources and shitting in our own backyard.

But! The canals of Venice are clear, with fish and swans! And in the four weeks prior to the 4th of March, CO2 emissions were 200 million tones less than they would have been! Perhaps that is a hiccup in the scheme of things. But why can’t we create good outcomes?

And also. What about kindness? Ervin and I experienced such kindness as a result of our losses. It was so heart warming. In this society now, we have a huge number of people doing it tough. It is shocking. They will be in shock, in trauma. These people will be changed forever. But one of the ways in which they will be changed is that they will develop compassion. And given that greed is one of our biggest problems, it will have some good outcomes. Also there will be more anger about the obscenely rich. Things will surely change. It only takes enough people,

There. I feel better now. Nothing like a good venting with a little post apocalyptic opptimism, to do the job.

But before I go I would like to say sorry. I’m sorry for anyone who ends up grieving because of this damned disease. And I’m sorry for everyone who is having trouble making ends meet. Please be kind to each other. Yes, we have to keep our distance. But let’s greet, let’s look into the eyes of each other (even perfect strangers), smile, and say, ‘I hope you are ok.’

BTW. Our place has been cleaned! There’s GOOD news. Not before some dogdirt stole the only thing of value on the place, our water pump. Some people! Never mind, let’s all believe in karma. How amazing though! The land is clean. No human stuff. (Except concrete, a small garden shed and the metal terraces of my veggie garden.) It is a great relief.


The performance poem I wrote for the exhibition, Solastalgia, at Fabrik, in Lobethal. More details about this series of exhibitions, here.

The drawing is mine, drawn with charcoal from my burnt home. It ended up being about 13 metres long on the beautiful wall of this gallery. It is as ephemeral as my home apparently was, and will be washed off that wall eventually. But all kudos to Melinda Rankin (director of Fabrik) for facilitating it.

Also kudos to all of the people involved in the exhibition, especially Jo Wilmot (creator of Solastalgia, The Exhibition) and Evette Sunset who said I mentored her when it was the other way around. We all learn from each other anyway, so who needs labels.

Thanks to my good friend David Salomon of Simply Splendid Productions for recording and creating this movie.

Charcoal Drawing With No Name (detail)


Hi All. You haven’t had an update for ages. We’re living in our ‘timber chalet’ at the back of our daughter’s place. It’s a shed really but called that because she chose to have it lined with wood. Wood is lovely, We lie in bed and let our eyes play with the knots.

The back yard after a huge plastic tarpaulin was spread to dry but became a water slide instead. Great fun and frivolity (grandkids)

It’s strange. Part of me still thinks it is on holiday and will go home soon. When I massaged Ervin’s feet last night, I realised my body was expecting to soon be sitting on a particular stool with my back to a particular cupboard, like I have every night for years. How strange. Perhaps I need to do some sort of ritual so that all of me understands.

Before. They look much the same now!

Presently, on our place, it’s about waiting for the final clean up. No one can make up their mind if we have asbestos or not. First we had, then we didn’t, then we did, and the latest person thinks we don’t. That is sort of indicative of quite a lot of the whole process! It’s hilarious when it’s not not hilarious!

But we will get there.

Next week we have a team of people from Habitat for Humanity, to help clear some of the green matter, mostly the bulk of the crowns of trees that are lying all over the place.

Some of this will make good firewood

The first application for development to build a house is in at the council. They will need to decide if our septic system that has been working like a dream for 33 years needs to be upgraded to some all singing and dancing system. Of course we have no idea how big ours actually is so we have to unearth it.

Once the council is satisfied, they will send the application to the CFS and, if they okay it, then the building specifications will go in. Etc etc.

In the meantime, I apply for grants. A good friend, who is good at these things, is working on applications for grants for both of us, to replace art equipment. Good, because art grants are always ridiculous. I just did one for help controlling weeds and rabbits. Next one about business supplies. I think this last (?) one will be the 10th application! You’d think they could make it easier on people whose brains are barely working.

I’m sure the Watsonia will be weeds again and make another bed like this in spring. The little boy will be another year bigger.

People ask how they can help. It’s so hard to know.

A friend of mine was living in Lobethal after the fires. They had burnt to her back fence but all her property was ok. We talked of the feeling of complete exhaustion in the few weeks after the fires.

Psychologists say it’s the trauma effect and put it all down to chemicals in the body, but I think it’s more than that. I think we draw more from nature than we realise. We all love to spend time under a beautiful tree, but who knows what that really means. Because we are not really separate from anything, perhaps we are fed by nature in ways that we don’t understand and that no one has been able to measure. What if there is some interchange of energy? What then happens when nature has nothing to give? You get exhausted, that’s what.

Anyhow, my friend said people would ask her what they could do to help and, after telling them they could feed her and her son, she told them to get to know their neighbours. Get to know your local community. Make a community. This is the thing that we have felt. Our little town has come together in ways that they never have before. It is very heartwarming and nurturing. I think this is what we must do locally and world wide. We are in for some rough years, in my opinion, and by coming together we will survive. Even if I am wrong about rough years, it will still be a nice thing to do. Let’s not be lonely in our houses, let’s meet all the amazing diversity of humans in the places that we call home.

Perhaps if we were doing this we would not get so paranoid about toilet paper.

So that’s one thing you can do!

Talking community, I had such a lovely sense of it while involved with this exhibition. 400 people at the opening, another 60 (or something) last weekend to hear my and Evette Sunset’s talks. This coming weekend I will share the performance poem again and read some others for the last time in Fabrik, Lobethal at 2.00. Prior to that (12.00 to 1.30) on the hill behind Fabrik, Heidi Kenyon will facilitate the experience of a live sound work composed by regenerating vegetation. Ask in the Gallery if you’re wondering where.

Hana (our daughter) is managing the rebuilding. It will be interesting to see how easy it is to get supplies with China out of action. Good for the carbon emissions, I believe! Han was always mostly sourcing Australian materials anyway.

She has designed a very lovely house, a little larger than our old one that has a studio for Ervin with a covered outside area that can be shuttered. I will have a smaller nook as studio / writing nook. (With the best view in the house!) and of course I can use the rest of the house. It will be well set up for old people and we won’t have to climb into a bathtub to take a shower. We are looking forward.

Someone’s home

In the meantime the earth bursts forth with new growth. It was hard to imagine in the first days that seeds could have survived at all, but the ground is decking itself out with seedlings. A lot of weeds of course, but also things like running postman, a small ground-covering legume that’s I haven’t seen for fifteen years. I guess it’s a pioneer species and it was too rich and covered for it recently. Also tons of seedlings of native fan flower (Scaevola) among others.

The Xanthorrhoea are all sending up their flower spikes. They become much taller than a man, with flowers all the way up. I have been told we are likely to lose some and sadly some are not recovering well. But let’s not give up on them just yet.

Meanwhile the grandkids leave gifts on the doorstep of the chalet to make us feel at home!


Our GoFundMe page is still open for about another week. Sincerest thanks to everyone who helped us. It has made, and will still make, a major difference to a lot of things. Love love love love love. We feel loved. I will post about this again soon.

Charcoal Drawing with No Name

My drawing on the wall at Fabric, Woollen Mills, Lobethal, till 15th March. The exhibition as a whole is simply beautiful. Delicate, gentle, powerful, and healing. (Mine was certainly cathartic to do.) I’ll do another presentation of my performance poem and a reading from the book published for the exhibition at 2.00 on the 7th and 15th of March. On the 7th I’ll also do an artist talk.

It is close to 13 meters long! Perhaps it should be called, ‘Before, During, After’. But it is not. It is called ‘Charcoal Drawing With No Name’, because when I had to name it, I didn’t actually know what I would do. But I like the name and stick by it.
Directly on the wall using charcoal from our place. I did bring commercial charcoal, in case the natural stuff was too difficult to work with, but I didn’t have to use it. I rather like to work with materials that are not predictable anyway. It makes the process more dynamic and that dynamism usually shows I think.
Inch ants. Of course THEY survived!
Only a few days after the fires we saw a couple of Rosellas. The depiction of the Xanthorrea is at about two months afterwards.
We haven’t seen our echidna, but apparently they often survive. They burrow down and their spines can burn and they can be ok. That’s why this one has a flat top. We only get up there in the middle of the day so won’t see a lot of creatures. Definitely there is a kangaroo. and we have seen two koalas.
This is not a koala.

A Wall! (etc)

Just to let you know, as well as presenting my performance poem at the opening of Solastalgia at 6.00pm on Saturday the 15 Feb, I have decided to do a couple of daytime sessions too.

On Saturday 7th March at 2.00pm, I’ll present the performance poem, do a reading from my new book (created for this exhibition), present a short artist’s talk, and answer questions.

On Sunday 15 March I’ll do the same again, but probably without the artist’s talk.

Today I make a huge mess with charcoal on a wall in the gallery. At least I hope it will be a mess, a bit of chaos to find some order in. It’d be terrible if it looked good to soon. what would I do then?

Here is my wall. it is very beautiful. when I trialled a bit of charcoal on it, it sang, and my heart began to beat faster. I have only the smallest of inklings about what I will do, a small mud map in my mind. I hope by the end of the week I’ll know! 

My wall. Yum!

Here’s details:

Our GoFundMe

Why has the writing stopped?

Why has the writing stopped? I’m pleased to say it’s because I’m sleeping through the night. Therefore no time or solitude for writing. Soon though, we will have a room of our own and then hopefully we will be able to do more. I’m really wanting to write and Ervin is absolute bursting to start work. We will go this week to pick up stuff for woodblock printing. Presently it’s all he wants to do. You’d think photography would be more possible, but there are only so many burnt trees one wants to photograph, I guess. Plus it’s not really his style.  

Remains of an old tractor tyre.

Over all we’re getting on ok. I’m still crying over random strangers. He’s still trying to talk about anything but. Or telling people how great it is to have a fresh start at the age of eighty (and there’s truth in that.) That’s fine. What’s it like? Well, one could say its a tad inconvenient! There is a lot to do, talking to and registering with all of the different agencies that might help or give a grant or advice. Then you have to sit down and fill out forms. My small business and all of its losses for example. There are grants to replace equipment and stock. Although someone had told me about that earlier, it had not actually gone in. So now I can apply. I feel far from ready to begin all that, but hopefully I will once we are a little more settled.

It all feels like an extended whinge to talk about and that’s probably another reason why I haven’t been blogging. 

On some of the trees the regrowth looks like lichen

On the plus side. Next week I do a drawing, a huge charcoal drawing on a wall in Building 21 at The Woolen Mills in Lobethal. This is for an exhibition that will open on 15th of February at 6.00 pm. The show was first talked about in March of last year and was pretty much in place by the time of the fire. 

The subject (get this) is ‘Solastalgia’ and solastalgia is the emotions one feels at loss of loved environments. In Lobethal, the heart of the fire grounds! There are going to be some amazing works. I was invited as a poet actually, and luckily had my work well underway prior to the fire. I collated (and wrote for) a book of my poetry called Not Looking For Signs. At the time of the fire it was already at the publisher and I had written a poem to perform for the show. The performance piece is just over five minutes and I only had to change a couple of lines! 

Behind Evette Sunset’s work in progress, my wall! There is Ervin and the Gallery director, manager of Fabric, Melinda Rankin. How great is this space!

I have the last proof of the book in my hand! I am very pleased with it.The twenty illustrations that I did for it sit on the page beautifully. I hope there are no mistakes that I can’t see because I don’t have time to put it in front of another set of eyes. 

For the drawing I want to to use the charcoal from our place, a sort of transmutation, I suppose, of all of that char. Though from experience, natural charcoal can be frustrating to work with, so we’ll see if I stick to that part of the brief. I think it will take me the better part of the week. 

The opening is on the 15th Feb at 6 pm. Details in this link: exhibition details

I will also do a poetry reading and present the performance piece again on the 7th March at 2.00pm and 15th of March, not sure what time. I will correct this once I know for sure.

I have half a desire to bring a number of the charred logs into the gallery actually, but I also need to be mindful of my limited energy and of how the audience feels about charcoal. Presently it’s the enemy, though it will make beautiful biochar in the long run.

The other day when we were at our place, I found some pyronema omphalodes. It’s a fungus that forms a bright orange sponge mat that covers the ground and looks amazing in all of that black. It only grows and fruits after fire, which makes you wonder, what has it been doing for the last forty years? Also what have I been doing? Should I not have been burning? I certainly think so, having recently found out about “cultural burning” the aboriginal practice of regularly and judiciously burning the land. I so want to know more about it. There is so much to know.