Dad – What would he think?

I first published this piece about 5 years ago – time to re-post it.

On September 14 this year it will be the 10th anniversary of his death.

“I miss my Dad!” There, I have said it.  Not a day passes without me wishing I could pick up the phone or sit quietly opposite him and talk.   

There are so many things I would share with him, knowing he would hold my declarations in an impermeable confidence. There is something subtle about the inextricable bond between a daughter and her father. Not every father-daughter relationship has it or holds it in such a sacred place.  That, I accept.  

My father was taken in his 74th year, a victim of prostate cancer.

Every year, around 18,700 Australian men are diagnosed and more than 3,000 die of the disease, making prostate cancer the second largest cause of male cancer deaths, after lung cancer. Almost one man in eleven will develop prostate cancer during his lifetime. 

Source:  https://www.prostate.org.au/

While thoughtfully reminiscing about Dad, I decided to set out writing these words to offer respectful advice to men, all men.  

If you are a father, brother, uncle, nephew, grandfather or someone’s best mate and are aged over 50 or; are over 40 with a family history of Prostate Disease, you should make the time for a full health check-up with your GP.  I am not sure that I can add much more to that.  Suffice to say that we should all take responsibility for our own physical, mental an emotional health.

So many questions unanswered…

So I now set course on another tangent.  In today’s contemplations of Dad, I got to thinking about the wisdom and values of previous generations, Dad’s in particular.  What values will we impart on future generations? Every generation will have its challenges.  What can we learn from our forebears? What can our off-spring learn from us? 

There are many lessons Dad taught me.  Most of which are only now, as I am in my 4th decade (as at 1/9/19 my 5th), resonating with me. Dad had some unique ways to offer advice.  For example when I was very young and professed to be scared of the dark and of ghosts, he would tell me bluntly “You need not worry, it’s the ones which are alive you have to watch out for!” Touché!  

During troubled times and relationship woes he would always remind my sister and I that no matter what, the door would always be open and that we could come ‘home.’  We did. 

Dad didn’t attend school past the age of 13.  He left to help support his family.  But his wisdom, knowledge and insight into life and society were equal to any learned scholar. He worked hard and provided for us well.  

With a degree of doggedness he learned to love reading.   He took a keen interest in politics, the economy and environment.  Not in the sense that you might think but more of a healthy respect for each and an acceptance that his views may not be yours.  He believed in and practised integrity.  In his work he was firm but fair and for this disposition he earned respect.  He could be swayed in his opinions if he were to receive sound evidence which suggested his understanding of an issue was incomplete or flawed in some way.    

I can’t help but wonder what he would make of the current state of affairs, both locally and globally.  What would his commentary be? How would he discern the complexities of the many challenges we face?  If he were to read today’s papers and tune into the news services, what would his thoughts be? 

He would lament at what the future holds for his grandchildren, indeed all future generations.  He would despair at the inhumanity and poverty experienced on our shores and those beyond.  He would, however instil a sense of purpose in those around him by encouraging conversation and activism about things which matter. 

Thank you Dad, your advice, actions and opinions have allowed me to actively pursue change and I believe, to make a positive difference for my children.  They however, like me, possibly won’t accept or understand the advice I give them today or tomorrow for that matter.  My only wish is that they do come to understand that my guidance and importantly my actions to nurture, guide and curb when necessary, was in their best interest. 

At a conference in February last year I sat in a room with other likeminded rural women and we were all asked the same question. The question was “What did your mother’s mother do?”  Like most of the other women in the room, I struggled to succinctly answer that question, other than to state her name and country of birth.  For me that was yet another defining moment.  At that point, I knew I wanted my great grandchildren to know categorically, what it was “I did” and how I contributed.  

So, I continue ‘to do’. It has not been smooth sailing as I take small but calculated steps.  I, like many mothers’ today struggle with juggling work and life. I am sometimes conflicted in making sound personal choices, mostly because I put myself at the bottom rung of the ladder.  My struggle though, diminishes into insignificance compared to the challenges of so many others.   

Wouldn’t it be a fine thing, that our actions were to make a positive difference on our lives and the lives of others…just like Dad’s did?  

A Measure of Time

A year.

Twelve months.

365 days.

525,600 minutes.

42,048,000 beats of a heart.

What really is a measure of time?  Why is there so much importance placed on the ritual of closing out a calendar year and commencing a new?  

While it is necessary, in our society, to have the order that a measurement of time brings, be it an hour, a day, or a week; there are days that I ache for simplicity.

The simplicity of rising as the Sun throws light across the land, I do love mornings…and then, after a full day, gently allowing my body and mind to give itself to the night as it envelops me and my surrounds. 

This past year, 42,048,000 beats of my heart, I have felt some of that simplicity in very different settings. 

I recall the captivation of waking to unfamiliar sounds of nature, deep in the Amazon Jungle.  A world away from the familiarity of my sanctuary at Moonta Bay, the warm, damp air filled my lungs. Filtered, golden light streamed through the canopy of gossamer-like netting enshrouding my bed. Magical.

No alarm. No prescribed list of matters to attend to, just the simplicity of being present in a moment in time and woken ever so gently by nature.

I love the simplicity of the change in seasons. One does not need to look at a calendar to know that autumnal stillness is near.  You feel it. The heat of summer leaves the earth in a way that you can almost hear the parched soil sigh.  The coolness of still, clear evenings under a brilliant southern sky are enough to re-calibrate your body and prepare it for shorter days and to feel enlivened as temperatures begin to tumble.

I love the simplicity of not measuring one’s age by time and a date but rather feeling each stage of life, truly feeling it.  Notwithstanding bodily aches and pains, the feeling of love, loss, giving birth, happiness, sorrow, pleasure and pain are by far a better measure of a life being lived than a number, or a date on the Gregorian Calendar.

I love the simplicity of feeling the need to fuel my body, its hunger at times insatiable but mostly understanding the nourishment and nurture it needs to serve its purpose, to allow me to live and to breathe.

I love the simplicity of an impromptu conversation, one that feels like five minutes, but lasts 4,800 beats of a heart (an hour) or more.  I love the simplicity of a kiss that may be fleeting, or one that may linger, each not needing to be measured by time but rather by the intensity and intent with which it is given and received.

I love the simplicity of the lines on a face, the scars on a body, the colour and wisdom in eyes, all perfect ways to measure time. 

This year, as I am compelled to start a new year, I will be thinking about the beats of my heart, the lines on my face and the wisdom in my eyes and I will allow those attributes to be my measure of time.

Down the road of food security – A wicked problem

Note:  This piece first published 1/4/13:  http://www.dianahmieglich.com.au/easyblog/entry/down-the-road-of-food-security-a-wicked-problem

In March 2018, South Australia saw a shift in the political landscape with a changing of the guard and the installation of a Marshall Liberal Government. Will we see a shift in the actual landscape? The heat really is on and each of us should be concerned about food security. 

My words from 2014  – A blog is always in transition. The information I publish today might not be valid or accurate in the future.  Content, sources, information and links may change over time. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Fact or fiction?  The distinction is yours to draw…

On Friday March 28 Julian Cribb, author and science communicator, delivered a keynote address at the Yorke & Mid North Regional Sustainability Forum in Port Pirie. He opened his address by declaring to those assembled that meeting the 21st Century food challenge is a ‘wicked problem’.  “Be in no doubt” said Mr Cribb, “we are facing the greatest challenge in human history. ”

That challenge you ask?  Put simply, it is how to feed ten billion people through the peak in human population, without famine or disaster.

I believe it is time for a new ‘crop’ of politicians to consider a view far beyond the next political cycle and make decisions, many of which will be hugely unpopular and immensely difficult, in order to deliver food security for our state, our nation and our planet.

Sadly, I also believe that this issue will be far more difficult to even start to overcome, as I am yet to discover a Government or a world leader who has the answers and the political will to shift the course on which we are headed.

To meet the growing world demand to feed our rapidly expanding population we need to think differently about food; how we produce it and how we consume it.

Regrettably we missed an opportunity in September 2013 Federally, as it would appear that the current Federal Government has not demonstrated any traits of forward-thinking in terms of food security.

Locally, South Australia has recently seen the Weatherill Labor Government returned to office, with the backing of regional Independent MP Geoff Brock, to form a minority government. Perhaps we can influence policy and effect change, in terms of climate change and food security, now that the regions are back in the limelight. The greater challenge will be how to make this important issue of food security popular.

Food security has become a significant geopolitical issue in recent years.

I have made reference to this in earlier blogs and again I will quote from an article written by student Alyce Johnston for the South Australian Globalist Magazine in 2012.

“According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, food security occurs when people have both physical and economic access to safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences.

“This definition is more relevant to people in the developed world, as opposed to those living in developing nations who are more concerned with survival, rather than nutrients or dietary preferences.”

Research shows, when people in developing countries are lifted out of poverty, their diets change. In China, meat consumption has tripled in the past 15 years, meaning more grain is needed in order to feed their livestock.

With increased production comes an increased cost of that production, including the cost of oil. When oil prices increase, the demand for biofuel grows and food prices also go up. According to the World Bank, five million hectares of cropland were used for biofuels rather than food production between 2005 and 2008.

Pressures on water resources and agricultural land have contributed to food security worries and high food prices. Climate change will continue to exacerbate this issue globally. Nations such as China and Saudi Arabia (who is particularly vulnerable in terms of food security) have found a way to secure their future food supplies through the use of foreign land.

Oxfam predicts as much as 227 million hectares of land in developing nations has already been sold or leased to foreign investors since 2001, with half of this land being in Africa. To put that figure into perspective 227 million hectares is about 90% of Western Australia.

We know that foreign agricultural purchases have occurred in Australia, but the exact details of these foreign land deals are widely unknown and that troubles me.

There is evidence of corruption by governments of developing nations. In 2008 the Cambodian Government leased rice fields to Kuwait and Qatar in return for $600 million dollars in loans, while the United Nations World Food Program delivered $35 million dollars’ worth of food aid to the impoverished Cambodian people.

Food security, or rather ‘insecurity’ is real.

Land acquisition in foreign nations, commonly referred to as ‘land grabbing’ has become a way for developed nations to secure their food supply.  It is not unreasonable nor scaremongering to suggest that future conflicts will not be fought over the fossil fuel we need to run our economies but rather food ‘fuel’ we need to nourish our very being.

Mr Cribb said: “While food demand will double by 2060, scarcities are emerging of almost all resources to satisfy it.  This challenges us to rethink food itself and how we produce it, and to create diets and foods for the future which are safe, healthy, and nutritious and tread less heavily on the planet.”

I cannot agree more.  So how and where do we begin?  Really, we should have begun many years ago but we have not taken past warnings seriously.

A case in point is the 1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. Read more here: http://www.ucsusa.org/about/1992-world-scientists.html

For the record this significant warning hardly rated a mention in the mainstream media at the time and now 22 years on not much has changed.

What can you do you ask?  If you weren’t able to make it to Mr Cribb’s Keynote address on Friday you can read his presentation here: http://www.yorkeandmidnorth.com.au/resources/publications/.

Along with this there is much other reading to do.  If you do make time to read and reflect and you come away with a sense of urgency and you want to act, then do take action.

Act with conviction and in good faith.  Act with passion and a desire to leave this planet in a better state that it is now. Start a conversation with your neighbour, your work colleague, your local MP.

A wise man once told me to stay on my soapbox!  I can guarantee that I will.

The Heart of the Owl

The Heart of the Owl

 I hung a photograph on a wall in my home recently.  Oddly enough it wasn’t a photograph that I had captured.  It was taken by a dear friend.

When I first laid eyes on the image some months ago it spoke to me.  The words were not clearly audible, but I knew that in a matter of time the message would be deciphered, and the words would resound.

The moment came in the early hours, late last year.  Words filled my head and my heart and moved my soul.   I heard the words with such clarity I knew action needed to be taken and I felt I was ready.

I made a bold choice to walk a different path and with a sense of calm and reason I uttered three words “I’ve had enough.”

Those words said, a mixture of emotions ran through me and actions unravelled, some clumsily and some with absolute precision.  Then it struck me, all but one action had been taken.  I needed to hang that photograph.

I had been waiting for the right signs to guide me to the moment, and to the place it I would install it.  It did take time, but it eventually made its way from the corner of my home office, facing inwards, to a wall of my choosing, facing anyone who may have the privilege to gaze upon it.

It was through salty tears that I realised where I would hang it and when.  I was sad because this moment was as much about loss as it was about new beginnings.  I was leaving behind aspects of a life I wore like a comfy cashmere wrap and other aspects which ripped out my heart and eroded my very being.  With that sadness also came a sense of liberation and at that moment my tears stopped and I smiled.

Years of care, commitment, duty and responsibility have etched lines on my face and left scars, some virtual and others very real on my body, as it enters its 50th year.

I am a nurturer.  I am known to be reliable and down-to-earth.  I am acutely aware of the feelings of others, often to the detriment of my own.  I am comforted by order and structure and will more likely avoid confrontation and conflict than invoke it. Being kind, loving and compassionate comes naturally as does acceptance.

Let me tell you about the image.  It speaks to me and of promises I have made.  They are promises I have made to myself and to others.  When I look at the photograph I don’t just see…. I hear, I feel, I taste, and a heady scent consumes me.

I see wisdom and desire.  Not desire in the passionate sense, it is more profound than that.  If adoration, devotion, care and respect each had a sound, a note…. I would hear beautiful music. I do hear beautiful music.  Above all though, I feel.  I feel unconditional love, but it is of a love lost.  Each of those notes, if you will, now come together to create a striking sonata.

The image I have carefully fixed in place is that of an owl. A masked owl.  For me though, my mask has been ripped off, not peeled away but torn and discarded.

The Masquerade is over, my heart and soul are laid bare.

I am now writing the last few paragraphs of a chapter in my life which I knew had to draw to a close.

I have given, and I have received.  I have loved, and I have lost.  I am richer, stronger, at peace and above all, I am calm.

The owl has a downward pose.  It is respectful, as am I. Its eyes almost closed, yet open enough to acknowledge its surrounds and as if to pay tribute.  Its delicate plumage is so very intricate. A heart frames its features.  My heart forms a frame around memories I have created, and it beats for memories yet to be.  So many yet to be created.

There is no colour, there need not be, this moment is purely black and white. Ebony and ivory, a raven’s feathers falling on virgin snow, the plumage from a Pacific Gull washed onto a pristine beach.

It is black and white.

The heart of the owl.

This image  is subject to Copyright and is used with the permission of Annette Marner.