Mar 02

An early morning walk is always good – however I must admit to a certain level of madness to be walking in the hills before dawn.  The rewards are quite stunning.

My watch started vibrating right on 6.00 a.m.  I was already awake, lying there waiting for it to go off.  It’s important never to get out of bed before the alarm goes off, it’s a universal rule and as I will show, universal rules are not to be toyed with.

I turn the light on, stumble around the room, find the suitable attire that I’d carefully laid out the night before, brush teeth, beard and hair, throw some items into the backpack and head out the door by 6.10 a.m.

It is dark.  The stars remain bright, overhead is Spica with Jupiter sitting next to it, well, at least in my sky, there’s really 550 light years between them.  There’s also Antares, I mistook it for Mars as it’s red, next to it is Saturn.  The sky to my east is starting to brighten as I head along the footpath through the middle of Halls Gap.   My only company is the kangaroos and wallabies who are enjoying nibbling the grass without hordes of tourist hanging around trying to get close enough for a photo.

In a couple of minutes I have crossed the little village, moved beyond the football oval and begun the climb upwards towards Chatauqua Peak.  It’s only a short walk, about 3½km.  The track is a sandy white, it stands out in the pre-dawn light, however it’s dark away from the village lights, and before long my toes are hitting every rock and tree root, causing me to stumble.  Last thing I need is to be rescued by the SES before I’m even out-of-town.   Luckily a thousand years in the Scouts taught me to be prepared and I whip out my headlamp, remove my cap, attach said light to my head, slap my cap back on,  turn on the light and continue upward.

As the blackness gives way to an eerie grey, the birds start to awaken, first kookaburras begin the morning with a solid round of laughter from all directions.  Like a real laugh it seems contagious and in a few seconds I’m surrounded by the calls of the early birds.  The currawongs aren’t far behind, their distinctive call bounces around the mountains.  The magpies join in with their early morning warbling, like the kookaburras it seems contagious and soon there seems to be hundreds all speaking to each other.  Throw in some ravens and lots of small wrens and we have an orchestra of morning song.   However, nothing compares to the awaking of great flocks of cockatoos who begin their morning by screeching to each other.  It’s like a 3 year olds birthday party, everyone wants to play with the new toys now and they’re all going to yell until they get their own way.  Now that’s a sound that really bounces off the mountains.

I can’t tell now if my headlamp is getting dimmer, batteries running down, or the encroaching daylight means it’s less effective.  As it’s now light enough to see, I turn it off and continue the trek and manage not to stumble so much.  Still to early to be rescued, I’m still in mobile phone range.

As I ascend the sky to the east has a bright orange bubble in the middle of a grey sky, the west is still black.  As far as I can see there are no clouds in the way.  The stars don’t fade away, they simply wink out of existence, all the background stars disappear as the sky changes from black to grey as the light extends from east to west.

If I’ve timed my walk right, I should get to the rock hopping stage of the walk in fairly good light.  I know I’ve been rushing a bit, sunrise waits for no person!  As I get to the fork in the track, I pause to look eastward.  The orange now extends across the eastern sky and I can pick where the sun is going to pop up.  I’m a little worried as I think it might be behind Boronia Peak and I’ll miss day break.

I’m now on the final stretch, it’s 6.50 a.m., I’ve made good time and can slow down a little.  This bit of the walk is along the ridgeline and there’s not a lot of space between me and the edge of the cliff.  The light is good and I hop along the rocks with ease.

I reach the summit of Chatauqua Peak just after 7.00 a.m., I’ve got about 15 minutes before the sun rises above the horizon.  I drag out my phone and fire up Sky Maps, I want to be sure I’ll have a clear view of the right point.  I can see that Mercury has just risen on the map, alas, the sky is already way to bright for me to see it.  I have a clear view of the horizon, a few low hills on the edge, but that won’t matter.

I eat an apple and wait.  I mean, what else can you do while you wait for the universe to spin around?

I snap a couple of photos.  The mountains to the west change colours from their nighttime muted tones to a soft orange colour, the trees that spill around their bases a dark green with spots of moving white as the cockatoos take flight.  The eastern sky is blue with an increasing orange bulge in the middle.  It’s 7.16 a.m. This is the time that has been allotted for our nearest star to put in an appearance.  I know this, because I asked Google.  It’s the only conversation I’ve had today.  I said “Sunrise” she said “The sun will rise at 7.16 a.m. in Halls Gap” and went quiet, not much for small talk, either of us.

And there is the proof of the final universal adoption of Google as the holder of all information.  A bright orange light appears on time and in the place that Google said it would.  The little bit of the sun quickly turns into  a huge ball of glowing orange, within moments it’s too bright to look at.  The world is suddenly bathed in a fantastical hue (I’m trying to avoid using orange again), the high peaks behind me are bathed in a warm glow and this shows off the brilliant whites and reds and all the colours in between.  Now with the sun fully risen I snap a few photos of the daily spectacular.

I have no idea what it is about sunsets and sunrises.  They happen on a continuous basis, as the earth spins there is always one of each happening somewhere on the globe.  Yet, every single one of them is unique.  It is its own moment.  This one feels richly deserved, I’ve climbed a mountain, well, a peak.  Risked life and limb to reach the summit in time to see this daily event on a beautifully clear night that is then pursued by a beautifully clear day with a brilliant blue sky and a now white star marching across it.  It is a moment of renewal, it reminds me of the daily grind of the world and how each day starts afresh with a world of possibilities.  Today is a day for me to renew, refresh and start again.

I sit for 30 minutes enjoying the warmth of the morning sun, I can feel the temperature rising already, heading towards a top of 34°

Below me I can see the long shadows of the trees in the brown paddocks, reminding me that the seasons are turning and it won’t be long before summer ends.  The sun is yet to reach the Fyans Valley in which Halls Gap sits, it’ll be another hour at least before it peaks over Boronia Peak.

I start my walk downward, within a couple of minutes I’ve dropped below the peak and into the shadow.  It’s still cool here and I meander down to Halls Gap where coffee and breakfast calls.

My second conversation is “Good morning, I’ll have 2 eggs and 2 long blacks please”

“Morning, how would you like the eggs?”

“Poached, please”

“No worries”

Not one for small talk.

Click all the images for a better look!

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Feb 21

 

It took me a while to get there, I’ve been struggling for some time and finally my emotional and mental health crushes in on my physical health and I’ve gotta get away.

My go to place is the Grampians, I’ve always loved coming here since I first set foot as a child in these mountains.

I surround myself with the bush. I thrive in its noises, its smells and its sights. I have two weeks to explore and soak in the ancient landscape.

I walk, it gives me time to think, to unwind, to restore the internal batteries.

I become so aware of my surroundings, the breeze blowing gently across my ears, the sound of distant traffic and the singing of the birds. The water gently trickling down to the valley, my footfall as I make my way upward and the sound of my breath at the exertion.

As my feet crunch the sand beneath me I can see the footprints of those that came before me and there’s another story. This white sand is millions of years old, it’s the worn down mountain, the wind and the rain has reduced the rock to this sandy white floor and its been trodden on for over 40,000 years. I’m connected to the land, to its history and I’m reminded that I’m a passer-by, someone who leaves a footprint, washed away in the next rain storm.

I aim for the top. I want to see the world beneath from on high, to thrill in its beauty. I want the blue sky above me and the land below me. I see and hear the wildlife around me, I see the delicate flowers to the big trees, the rocks that look like long forgotten dinosaurs to boulders that form mountains.

Here I find serenity and the chance for my mind to still. To recuperate and ready itself for the next phase of life.


First photo of me on top of Mt William taken by Michael Barnett
Music – Spa Music – Relax, Mindfulness, Yoga (2016) Matti Paalanen
All other video, sounds, words and images are my work.

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Jan 29

I am a man.  I’m pretty complex, I think we all are.  As it happens I’m gay.  Which is just as well, because I got married to a man.

I’m a proud gay man.  It took years to get here.  To take ownership of the sort of man I am, to recognise who I am and to accept it.

That’s pride.

Today is Melbourne’s Pride March, I have attended every year for the last 10 years.  This year I’m not marching and I’m not watching.  I’m boycotting.

As I’ve often said in this here blog of mine, people like me, you know, the non-hetero-normative types, are often the media’s play things.  That’s certainly the case with News Limited publications.  They have some key contributors that continually vilify people not like them.

Regrettably Midsumma have a sponsorship arrangement with News Ltd.    An organisation that runs the Midsumma Festival and Pride March for the queer community has a deal with a media company that uses gay as a way to drive division in our community.

The right thing for Midsumma to do was to walk away from the deal as soon as it was pointed out to them. They didn’t.

I can’t support that.

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Jan 09

Somewhere in the distant future humanity settles another planet and private enterprise manages to run passenger ships between the two planets.  5,000 people sign up to be transported in suspended animation for the 120 year journey.  By the time they arrive on their new home everyone they know back on Earth is probably dead.  Some days I’d like to sleep for 120 years.

The ship is fantastic, it is a big loopy thing with spinning rings and a long pointy nose that generates a protective shield or something, that pushes small objects out-of-the-way or burns them up.

Everyone is having a snooze, the 259 person crew too.  So the machine is fully automated.  For the sake of the movie the ship has lighting on for the 120 years and the computer systems continue to display vital information on big screens although there is nobody there to see it.  You’d probably trim a few years off the journey if you turned it all off and re-routed the power to propulsion, which is displayed as a lovely blue ring of burning stuff.

This is why I come to see science fiction movies.  I love to imagine the future and what it might be like.  I love the special effects and the thinking behind the devices of the future.

As you’d expect, something goes wrong on the Titanic, the iceberg hits and one of the passengers wakes up.  He’s a mechanic, James Preston, although he quickly tells the automated wake-up routine that he likes to be called Jim and every automated system throughout the ships address him as such from then on.  Clearly the original sign-up form didn’t have ‘Preferred Name’ or Jim forgot to fill it in, names can be so difficult.  Trillions of dollars on space travel, still can’t get a simple form right.

Jim is played by Hollywood heart-throb Chris Pratt.  We’d all love to spend a few years with Chris travelling the universe.  He has dreamy eyes, a cheeky smile and a body to die for.  Sexy.

For the rest of you that aren’t gay, bi or a straight woman you have to look at Aurora, played by Jennifer Lawrence.  She’s a delight to look at too, although I’m not expert on that.

Aurora, which is a wonderfully futuristic name, is also woken up.

So, Aurora and Jim wake up 90 years early, which is a problem.

Jumping to the end of the movie, Aurora the writer and Jim the mechanic manage to plug the hole in the ship using nothing but a few manuals that are printed on laminated cards and some high-tech devices.  The final part is, as you’d expect, full of impossible things and keeps you on the edge of the seat.  However, the mechanic and the writer save the Titanic from sinking.

The middle of the movie is appalling and is the reason I’m writing this review.  Jim spends a year by himself, his only company an android bartender named Arthur.  Arthur has been programmed with cheesy bartender type advice and is always polishing glasses.  The non-human becomes the confidante of Jim.  Jim tries to wake the crew, break into the bridge and send a distress call, all to no avail, and of course, goes mad.  During his many travels around the ship and presumably looking at 4,999 sleeping passengers, he discovers Aurora’s hibernation pod.  Helpfully the ship still has all its displays lit up giving full details of who is in the pod.  Not only can he gaze upon her beauty, he can glean basic information from the pod about her.

In the stalker of the future he manages to tap into her ‘Facebook’ type account, read everything she has ever written and become quite fixated on her.

In the ultimate Genesis moment of the entire history of everything, the voice of god thunders out “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.”  And so Jim sets upon a plan to wake up Eve, sorry, Aurora.  That’s right.  This super sexy man is going to wake up the super sexy woman, not one of the other 4,998 passengers who may have a useful skill like hibernation pod repair or a degree in astrophysics.  No, no, Jim thinking with his waggly bits wants the woman, because she is beautiful.  It’s OK though, he struggles for months trying to decide whether or not to wake her up. He knows that she will face certain death because he also knows that there is still 89 years to go and they’ll both die.  He even talks to Arthur about it.  He knows it’s wrong, he struggles with the decision, and for a man who has spent 12 months looking at all the other options, he sets upon this as a course of action.

His waggly bits win out, he cuts his hair, removes his beard and he wakes her up and promptly lies to her and sets about spending the middle bit of the movie trying to win her heart, because she’s beautiful, he’s a man and he has needs.  She’s a woman and we have sexual tension.  We would all fall in love with him, even though he is a creep, a stalker, a murderer, a liar and a complete dickhead.  But it’s OK, he has eyes that beg forgiveness.  When Aurora finally works it all out she is, as you’d expect, very upset and yells a lot.  She even takes to breaking into his room and hitting him in the dead of night.  Predictably she then spends her time ignoring him and he spends his time trying to win her back.  He is not called to account for his actions, yet he is redeemed because he alone, the big brave man with the brown eyes puts his life on the line saves the day and Woman swoons.  Ugh.

Who writes this crap?  Who writes a really good beginning, a really good ending and stuffs up the middle bit?  There are thousands of ways to write the story.  The sexy woman could have been a mechanic that specialises in hibernation pod repairs, or an astrophysicist or an amateur astronomer or leader of the free world or a company executive able to give him access to the First Class passengers privileges.  Instead, we get a writer, nothing wrong with writers, perhaps not first choice in a crisis.  He didn’t wake her to write the story of what was happening, or to draft a stern memo to the company to give them a jolly good telling off.  He woke her because he was ‘in love’ with her.  He stalked her.  He then decided that it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, to take the life of another human as it’s not good for the man to be alone.  Woman is swept off her feet by the bad boy who saves the day.

She forgives him, of course, and they live happily ever after.

His character is a creepy arsehole.

The writers should hang their heads in collective shame.

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