What’s nourishing you right now?

This is a short post. Blog writing has been slow. It’s not that there are no words — I have 56 draft posts in all stages of nearly-done to mostly-undone. Perhaps words are insufficient right now.

So, what’s nourishing you? What helps? What keeps you feeling alive? I have previously posted about holding on to holiday feelings, but we are now well and truly back at work and school. The homework has started.

Here are some things that are working for me:

  • A return of students to campus. Here in Australia, there is very little community transmission of COVID-19, and we haven’t seen this many students in one place since the final semester of 2019. Students change the energy of a campus. It is uplifting.
  • Co-leading the MOOC Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching with Marina Harvey. It is still open for enrolments, and has had participants from 106 countries around the world. I am particularly enjoying discussions on planning to teach and icebreaker activities.
  • Meeting colleagues on campus for face-to-face meetings and coffee. (With the opening of a new central hub, we have new places to try!) And, people, it is wonderful to see you fully embodied.
  • Taking a walk every day. Here are some photographs my son and I took of different barks on the way to school. Yes, we walk past many trees!

If it is not bark, I ask again: what is nourishing you right now?

Things to remember

I took a longer break from work during January than I have in past years, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Here are a few of the things I want to remind myself to hold on to for a bit longer:

  • Keep singing sea shanties on TikTok with my son (will he fulfill his ambition to be a bass?)
  • Walk the dog while listening to Zombies, Run with my daughter, and move faster!
  • Record the changing moods of the casuarina forest near our home
  • Continue to use the little free libraries nearby – this month’s best pick was Josephine Rowe’s short story collection Here Until August – and make regular donations as I work through the unread shelf challenge
  • Go to the theatre (ideally more than once a year) – Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Picture of Dorian Gray was awe-inspiring!
  • Visit the dog beach. That joy is infectious:
  • And continue to seek novelty and travel from home: visit random street view and sound of a forest, watch movies from around the world (I still have The Red Turtle and Zarafa waiting for us), try new foods, read the International Booker prize winners (I loved The Memory Police), listen to Belle Chen’s Sounds From Home (she describes it as “a global exploration where listeners around the world share their city’s sound & story, and I improvise music in response”)…

An attentive walk

I was very taken with the methodology of the ‘attentive walk’ that Fran Kelly took in her article Hurry up please, it’s time!’ A psychogeography of a decommissioned university campus. I included some detail in my previous post: “Although I had walked the same paths before, this time I walked with intention and attention, taking photographs and making notes of objects and places and the effects of processes of time.”

Here is some more detail about the methodology in a quote Fran provides from MacFarlane (2005):

Record the experiences as you go, in whatever medium you favour: film, photograph, manuscript, tape. Catch the textual run-off of the streets: the graffiti, the branded litter, the snatches of conversation. Catch the sign. Log the data stream. Be alert to the happenstance of metaphors, watch for visual rhymes, coincidences, analogies, family resemblances, the changing moods of the street.

Fran is walking through a decommisioned university campus, which adds pathos to her noticings. She refers to it as ‘critical nostalgia’: “This moment in time—on the cusp of the faculty’s transfer and the site’s disestablishment—is opportune to critically reflect on this place and its ideas, practices and work of teaching that have shaped and infused its material form.”

The focus of my own critical nostalgia—which has “a political aim to insist on the humanity of places”—was to explore the university through my children’s eyes. My children are growing up (now 14 and 7), but I have worked at this university campus for throughout their lives in many different roles. We lived close by for many years. My mother brought my daughter for breastfeeding in the breaks between lectures. My children attended childcare on campus and had swimming lessons at the pool. On the weekends, we used the campus grounds, filled with interesting plants and sculptures, for walking, scooter riding and kite flying.

Like Fran, I am aware of the imprint of time on the university space. Many parts of the campus that my children enjoyed no longer exist—hills have been flattened to make way for new buildings, holes under buildings that housed feral kittens have been patched, trees have been lopped, and sculptures relocated. There are new spaces to explore. I took this walk alone, but had my children’s voices and histories in mind.

My son asks whether this is a machine for teleporting:

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My daughter attempts to use this staircase every time we pass:

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There is a large stick on the ground:

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This reads like an instruction:

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We all love a street library (note the feminist dystopian fictionLouise Erdich’s Future Home of the Living God):

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Along the way I bumped into several colleagues, and stopped for brief hellos. I plan future attentive walks, on and off campus, alone and in the company of others.