Shooting for Stars
It’s the 7th of August and birthday mode is only just wearing off. This year’s stunt was inspired by the MONA Dark MOFO Festival, and the great Aussie farming tradition of home-growing things. I don’t think I’m the only farm child who railed against the thrift of orchard preserves and mother-sewn clothes…only to aspire to these things in later life. I remember my one-time boss, neighbour and now virtual relative Hugh Paton of Noorrongong Station bodge something up with a bit of wire and say: “There. Just like a bought one”. The Burrowye Dark MOFO festival (aka my 41st birthday) was not quite like the “bought one” down in Tassie. The band cancelled, the DJ’s kids got sick, and the celebrity guests fell victim to their own schedules. The “high tea” planned for the artist’s performance materialised in random coffee cups and a plate of lovely scones on the kitchen bench. The bone china, teapots and tiered cake stands never made it off the kitchen shelves. The much touted dawn swim happened – not across the frosty paddocks, through the frosts and across the Murray River to Talmalmo Station, but in granny’s big pink bath with a creamy foaming bath bomb from Upper Murray Soaps. Artist Megan Evans led a moment in the front room that was about as comfortable as the corset that wouldn’t let her sit down. But then discussions about reconciliation (black and white, past and present, country and loss) are kinda like that. I had thought that we would be engaged in a dialogue that led to audiences embroidering their responses into the seats of our balloon backed dining chairs. Instead I said very little, and spent most of the time figuring out how to breastfeed Dora discreetly whilst sitting at the front of the room, spotlit by a shard of afternoon sun. The performance may not have gone as planned, but the magic was in the conglomeration of people and place and the sensation of time traveling back and forth. Megan spoke about her quest to understand her ancestors and their role in the “war” we call colonisation and settlement. A little girl wrapped herself in a blanket and crawled up to the end of a didgeridoo, as if to tunnel into it. Farming m en stood in doorways and listened, but said nothing. Any silences were thick with imaginings and projections. The video footage might show a woman in vintage dress discussing black issues with a white audience, but knowing our guests as I do, and seeing them with my Londoner’s eyes, things were not so clear cut. Time mixes bloods and blends its own colours. Experience travels through DNA. Healing happened. I was pressed into a massage from the amazing Katherine Jury. I was quite sure I didn’t need one, but the second she put her hands on the back of my neck I dropped two or three notches of stress. Rukshin Dayanandah was planning to cook dinner but guests smelt her Sri Lankan feast and she graciously brought it forward to lunch, magically adjusting the quantities for four times the amount of people. Friends from across the state bought delicacies – brussel sprouts on the stem, homemade crackers, homegrown oranges and herbs, fine tea, seriously fancy cheese and a piece-de-resistance raw food chocolate “cake”. A young girl played violin with a veteran banjo player. A young punk bought his drum kit and blew the folkies out of the room. People who had not sung or played in a long time sang. And played. Plans were hatched, friends were made, knowledge was exchanged. Fires were lit. Many of us went away energised and inspired. There was none of the exhaustion or the horrific clean up associated with partying in the usual manner. I felt a pang at the friends who couldn’t join us,and wondered about the pain that dry communities must feel as they lose loved ones to an ideal and principles. This was less than the pain of watching my friends fluttering and flailing under the influence of stuff I gave up years ago. A friend who couldn’t make it asked me how the party went. “Oh you know how it is”, I waffled in true female faux deprecation. “You shoot for the stars and you wind up on the moon.” “Well,” she replied, “At least you were off the planet.” Somethings don’t change. Now all I need to do is figure out whether we are going to the Australian Burning Man festival – Burning Seed, in the Matong Forest in October. There is a little forest near the Burrowye Homestead and we were clearing sticks in it yesterday. With a bit of string and a bit of number 8 wire we might just…..