light and shadow, by mark colvin

At eleven, I still had the wooden toy sailing boat, named after Captain Cook’s Endeavour, that I’d been given when I was six, and I’d go to Kensington Gardens to sail it on the Round Pond and admire the vast radio-controlled sloops and motor-torpedo-boats that adult nerds raced across the waters.

Sydney itself was, physically and socially, very different then: a much-lower-slung, less-skyscraper-dotted city with a far busier harbour. Parts of it could feel provincial, with the emphasis on mowing the nature strip and using the incinerator for the weekly backyard burn-off—a social backwater almost unchanged from the 1950s. But because property prices were so low, there was also a Bohemian side to Sydney, a side which is gone now.

keeping a promise to myself

When I was laid lowest with the busted ankle, I promised myself that when I was up and about again, I’d go to Imperial Spa, Zuni Cafe and Yosemite.

This was a terrific plan.

california in the spring

Can a place be too pretty?

Our experts weigh in.

they can’t kill us until they kill us, by hanif abdurraqib

If this year was bad, next year might be even worse, or at the very least it might be harder.

horses in company, by lucy rees

Grazing and browsing animals have not evolved social systems that curb aggression in competitive situations, because these situations do not arise in their natural lives. Their social relations go awry when faced with this unnatural, imposed challenge. Bucket tests do not ‘reveal the hierarchy’ as is claimed: they create one.

“how about bright angel?”

c: we should go back to arizona.
j: we can never go back to arizona.
c: why? what did you do?
j: it’s like you’ve never watched frisky dingo.
ja: there are dingos in arizona???

flow

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, I thought about Frenchs Forest, where I grew up, and the tiny pieces of bush that I knew so well: the undeveloped block adjoining the high school, which is now the Northern Beaches Hospital; the little steep park around the corner from our house, called Blue Gum Reserve; and the steeper gully leading into Bantry Bay, which is now part of Garigal National Park, named for the traditional custodians of the land.

Liz has been talking about BART stations through time, and for a minute I could see all those little remnants joined up into one vast sea of dry sclerophyll woodland fading into the blue distance. There were sandstone boulders and shady overhangs. Banksias and grevilleas grew brilliant and spidery in the understory. It smelled like eucalyptus trees under the hot sun and sounded like cicadas singing. This was my home country for tens or hundreds of thousands of years, before the houses were built, even before special constable and crown lands ranger James Ffrench clear-felled the forest that now, in ghost form, bears his name.

I realized that the high sandstone flats, in Allambie and Narraweena and Beacon Hill, are carved and were likely ceremonial. People would live closer to fresh water, I thought. As I traced in my mind the clear cool creeks (Frenchs, Carroll, Bates) that run down into Middle Harbour, I realized that the rill that ran across the bottom of the high school oval and into Rabbett Reserve (willow trees and golden sand, frogs and tadpoles) ran the other way, into the confusingly-named Middle Creek. My home was high on the watershed itself.

Middle Creek flows not into Middle Harbour but into Narrabeen Lagoon. According to the Dictionary of Sydney:

The camp site at Narrabeen Lagoon was the last community Aboriginal town camp to survive in the northern Sydney suburbs. Probably, before the British invasion, Narrabeen Lagoon was one of the many coastal occupation sites offering seasonal shelter, fish and wetland resources… higher and less accessible country was used for ceremonial and educational purposes by the Gai-mariagal. Dennis Foley, a Gai-mariagal (Camaraigal) descendant, describes the area as ‘the heart of our world’.

Dennis Foley has written of the destruction of the camp in the 1950s, when what became the Academy of Sport was built. When I was a child in the 1970s, it was whispered that there were still people living there. These were the survivors of the genocide of the Eora people. There is no sign or memorial.

I’ve been thinking a lot about gods and goddesses and the dead: la Calavera Catrina and Guadalupe and Epona, all psychopomps, all syncretist beings like me. I’ve been thinking about AORTA’s Theory of Change:

Decades of neoliberal policy have erased histories of enslavement and genocide, and the movements that fought and resisted along the way. Today’s social movements are often disconnected from local, regional, national, and global movement history, which can lead to a sense of isolation and alienation.

And about this essay, in which:

Derrida asked, ‘Is it possible that the antonym of “forgetting” is not “remembering”, but justice?’

Gods and goddesses move around outside time, where the dead are not gone, just elsewhere. Historical memory is a kind of augmented reality, a map drawn in the colors of love and grief and anger. May I honor the memory of my dead. May they seek justice through me. May I be a good ancestor in my turn.

bonsoir bye bye

In news that should surprise literally no one, I conceived a great fondness for Montréal.

So blue, so French, so accessible from San Francisco except in the event that the entire Air Canada 737 Max fleet is grounded. Ah well.

celine dion’s let’s talk about love, by carl wilson

Taste is a means of distinguishing ourselves from others, the pursuit of distinction. And its end product is to perpetuate and reproduce the class structure.

witches of america, by alex mar

I imagine a near future in which all my parts might align.

the dealer is the devil, by adrian newstead

Imagine an Australia where the Aboriginal people negotiated a treaty and were never invaded by Europeans; where the trade routes embedded in the great songlines across the continent remained intact. Imagine what Australia could have been like today, if Aboriginal people had continued as the sovereign owners of the country. Imagine the Badi people farming pearls in partnership with Japanese traders; the Gija mining gold and diamonds and trading with the Chinese; the Pintupi sharing culture and wisdom with eco-tourists in a sustainable glass tower adjacent to Uluru; the Eora, enjoying the fruits of environmentally friendly condo development around Sydney Harbour.

little fish, by casey plett

It was always sad leaving here. And how many more times would she be coming back now. Realistically.

the life to come, by michelle de kretser

The Pacific chuckled softly: it was insane, twinkling away in a violent blue dream.

lucky just to keep afloat

I’ve had the Split Enz song “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” on constant replay this trip. I wasn’t at all surprised to find out Tim Finn wrote it after a nervous breakdown. I complained to Jeremy that everything I want to say about the legacy of settler colonialism and consequent mental illness, this song says in five minutes.

Aotearoa, rugged individual
Glisten like a pearl, at the bottom of the world
The tyranny of distance, didn’t stop the cavalier
So why should it stop me? I’ll conquer and stay free

Ah c’mon all you lads, let’s forget and forgive
There’s a world to explore, tales to tell back on shore
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Six months in a leaky boat

An old friend tried to argue that Doctor Who isn’t a modern King Arthur myth because “no one cares that much about stories.” And yet it moves. In case you’re not convinced that this song is a miracle of subversive irony, I’ll just point out that Thatcher banned it during the Falklands War.

craft for a dry lake, by kim mahood

There was a time when the notion of beauty would not have entered my head, when it was simply my place. I did not know it was beautiful

messing about in boats

We enjoyed the Rivercat so much that we’ve taken two more ferries, one around Scotland Island from Church Point and one to the Basin from Palm Beach. Pittwater smells of salt and diesel, the smell of my childhood. There are cormorants and kookaburras, gulls and jellies.

I read this remarkable essay about Australian childrens’ books as well as a thoughtful article about the high country brumbies that I can’t share because it’s paywalled to hell. Like the mustangs in California, Australia’s feral horses wreck delicate ecosystems. Scientists and the traditional owners of country want them gone. But local cattlemen lost grazing land to the Snowy hydro scheme and to the National Parks well within living memory. To them, the brumby cull is the last straw. In the paywalled article, National Party MP Peter Cochran whines: “You don’t have to be black to feel a connection to this land.”

I grew up on stories about brumbies, by Mary Elwyn Patchett and Elyne Mitchell. In them, the wild horse is as much a part of the bush as the possum and the kangaroo. It took me decades to recognize this as a way for white people to lay claim to what wasn’t theirs. When I revisited Patchett hoping to read her books to the kids, I was appalled by her racism. Mitchell’s father was Harry Chauvel of the charge on Beersheba. Both writers are immersed and complicit in the white supremacist, militarized, settler-colonialist narrative that Evelyn Araluen describes in her essay.

Even my beloved Swallows and Amazons, with its naval officer father and its mother who grew up sailing on Sydney Harbour, instructs children in exploration, mapping and conquest. Maybe Westerners can’t have innocent pleasures. There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth questioning as simply messing about in boats. Do you want empires? Because that’s how you get empires.

and a cormorant, not shown

I miss Port Jackson a lot; people who say that the Bay is like it don’t seem to know either of them very well.

Last year we went to Cockatoo Island. This year we decided to keep going, as far as we possibly could, all the way to Parramatta. It was very hot and we all got sunburned and this is the cover of our next album.

I expected something vaguely industrial from the Parramatta River. Instead I got mangroves and casuarinas, pelicans and ibis.

Sydney is so enormously full of surprises that I do not think I will ever come to the end of it.

halfway across the world

I wrapped up a mighty four weeks at work before skiving off on (previously-scheduled) hols. My signature achievement so far is having matched names to faces for my boss’s eighteen direct reports. If you think I’ll retain that mapping after a fortnight sitting on Sydney beaches eating mangos, I have several bridges you might like to purchase.

This was my first time flying with my brand new cyborg leg. Despite what my doctors told me, it does indeed set off the metal detectors. I was frisked around the scar tissue, which was very interesting. Otherwise our flights were uneventful. You walk out of the Sydney international terminal into a wall of southern hemisphere summer and if you are me, it brings tears to your eyes.

i’m afraid of men, by vivek shraya

I’m afraid of women who have internalized their experiences of misogyny so deeply that they make me their punching bag.

the incendiaries, by r.o. kwon

This has been the cardinal fiction of my life, its ruling principle: if I work hard enough, I’ll get what I want.