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My regular readers (and I like to think of you as regular readers) may be feeling deprived of new material.  The problem is that I have been too busy doing things to actually sit down and write.  I fantasize about a contingent of readers waiting for the new post to land on the electronic version of a doorstep. When I don’t generate some  thick word work within a respectable interval, I feel anxious, guilty even.  For no good reason I can think of.  I was being virtuous, in fact, out getting healthy, cycling.

A group of us from Melbourne drove North, trying out two rail-trails.  More about that later.  Upon my return, I had a day to do laundry, placate my wife for all the household things left undone, then I took the tram down to St Kilda.  I had signed up for a writing workshop in an old mansion that had been donated to the city.  The weather and the house were  dark and gloomy, but the workshop was fascinating.  It was the first one I’ve done here.

The subject was–  The Journeying Self:  Travel and Identity.   If you know anything about my background, the attraction to this particular material should be evident.  I am a nomad.  I have been wrestling with it as a person and as a writer since I was twelve years old.  Part of a poem by Juan Ramon Jimenez captures it very well.

I am like a distracted child/Whom they drag by the hand/Through the fiesta of the world/My eyes cling sadly, to things… /And what misery when they tear me away from them!

Our teacher was a Malaysian writer by the name of Beth Yahp.  Despite her jet lag (she was just off the plane from her homeland) she took charge of the dozen of us who had chosen to join her and eased the magic carpet off the floor.  We landed for tea and coffee, for lunch and occasionally for intense workouts with the pen and paper.  Otherwise, we were flying.

We were on a carpet woven of words and ideas, propelled by readings and provocative questions.  Some were unanswerable; others generated so many answers that they soon became meaningless.  We were asked to look at the three dimensional world around us and fasten it to paper with words.  Nail it down by engaging the senses, the brain, or disengaging the brain so that the the hand can just write.

Sunday morning we became mute ethnographers, exploring the neighborhood and bringing it back, packed up inside as sights, sounds, noises, snatches of conversation, smells, tastes and touch.  We unpacked it all on paper, then listened to each other in amazement.  We learned to give our neighbours the benefit of the doubt, to offer criticism that would help, not hinder the fragile work in progress.  We learned to read aloud without apology.

We burrowed in, finally forcing ourselves to bring up something emotional, something that touched us, something true.   Before we went home after the long, exhausting and exhilarating weekend, we made an attempt to keep in touch.  That effort may bring some of those who were in the workshop to this blog.   I have tried to think of how a new reader might make sense of this blog.  Going backwards, I suppose, sampling posts based on categories or tags.  I got those two things mixed up in the beginning and have yet to go back and make corrections.   So, I’ll make it simple. Give my new explorers a few pointers that may help deciphering these scribblings.

I began this blog when we arrived in Melbourne in January, 2007.  My wife is a University professor and it was a job offer at the University of Melbourne that brought us here.   We moved here from Florida, but we have an old house in Nova Scotia, Canada.  We return there as often as possible.  In October of last year, we had an opportunity to go to Turin, Italy, for three and a half months.  It was a short-term teaching gig at a new University.  We have only recently returned.  We went to the house in Grand Pre, NS for Christmas with family in December.

My initial idea was to write about whatever I found strange in Australia, before it had worked itself into my psyche and become normal.  I like taking pictures, so I plugged them in as well.  Many more pics are available if you click on one.  It will take you to my Flickr account, red flier.  Lately, I’ve started thinking about trying to turn the good parts of this into the beginning of a book.   I would love to see a lot more of this fascinating country and write about it.  Getting an advance to do so would be absolutely fabulous.  Advances welcome.

Basta, as the Italians say.  Comments and suggestions are much appreciated.  Fire away!

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