Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Out in the open air

I am a TV addict. Early in my adult life, I realised how easily I am seduced by the thrill of the entertainment offered by television. I came to notice the emptied out, unsatisfied feeling I had after being hooked up to the machine. Going back for another program didn't shift the feeling. So I went cold turkey, and haven't had a TV in the house for 30 years. This gives me more room to do the things I’m really interested in, and living at Riddells, that means more time outside, in the open air.

One caveat: feeling dissatisfied with television does not apply to a closely contested AFL game. And a confession: when I travel and stay in hotels, I find it impossible to resist turning on the tellie for a bit. On a recent trip, it was the weather news that impressed me. Little arrows flying in from the north east, and running up against the edge of the lows bearing down on us from the west. The graphics really showed what was happening, and the commentator seemed to have a lively interest in weather, though she had to keep making light of everything (because it's all entertainment!).

Standing outside at Riddells in the middle of the day, in surprisingly hot weather the week after Easter, I thought of that colourful animation of the weather as an inside the house experience. So different to the way you read the weather standing outside your house. Nestled in the valley up beside Gap Road, the wind quickens and I look to the horizon. The clouds are thickening up, but will we get rain out of this? I'm sizing up what's happening with my own senses and my own brain, my own animation of the weather. Inside, on the tellie, it's all about entertainment - oh what fun we're having with the highs and lows in Australia. Standing outside, the situation is personal, and has more weight. It's about my house and vegetable garden, how the creek is doing, and beyond my small valley, the state of the wider countryside as this warm autumn persists.

No, this isn't the weather coming, it's a beautiful evening sky from our long autumn, 2017

Tuning into what's going on in the place you live is one of the principal pleasures of living in the country. I know everyone raves about it - "living in the country". When the Forum for Democratic Renewal asked people what they love about living in the Macedon Ranges, they said - living in the country. A bit of space around you.  A wide sky, the bush, your senses expanding into the natural world. Every couple of months living here in the open air, I realise that I'm hearing something new, or seeing something I've walked past every day. 

Driving into Melbourne on the Calder, I notice that my eyes are following that trio of birds as they dart over the freeway - my vision in its standard setting now includes the flight of birds! Amazing! Sitting in the valley, I hear the wind moving, ruffling up the trees in the garden, and down in the creek, and in the pines in my neighbour's block, and in Barrm Birrm behind me. It's a large soundscape, and I take it in now without conscious effort, without instructing myself to do this.

It's not all ice cream and lolly pops outside. The cold will come, and we'll be snuggled up by the fire, happy to be inside. But it seems to me that the inside life is in its place, and happier for that, when I pay attention to the life going on outside. The wind moving, the clouds coming in, wondering whether there's rain there - that reading of the weather, like so much of my time outside, is a deeply pleasurable human thing to be doing.

Ross Colliver, Riddells Creek Landcare

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