It’s been a week … 

This time last week I had arrived home, and despite my best efforts was asleep on the lounge. It’s been a huge processing week for me. 

One of my quick, recent posts outlined how much I was struggling with myself as a woman. That has started to change. I can’t pinpoint why but I am relieved, very relieved. It’s like my soul is smiling, broadly, and that smile has started to permeate every aspect of my being. Bizarre, I know. 

I have never claimed to be normal 😜. 

I received bucket loads of love upon my return to work. Almost suffocatingly loved. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. There have been times I have felt (foolishly) guilty for being loyal to my school and the kids. 

I know that anywhere I go, the kids will love me. I’m special like that. But I love these kids. And I want to watch them age and mature, at least until they graduate high school. 

There is a beauty in the love that exists between teacher and student, and it’s longevity is determined by presence. One of the things that really came out in all of the comments about Jeff at his funeral was his loyalty to Airds High School. Respect. 

When you find your school home, I don’t think you need to leave it. I think you should only leave if your career promotions cannot be filled there. I believe that you can mix up your experiences in any school by choosing different things to do. 

Most of the people who have left my school in recent times have not found the same level of happiness elsewhere. So, I have no motivation to move. I am (mostly) happy at Reddall, and the people I am privileged to work with every day, well, I am privileged. 

Some of my best friends in the world have come from my association with Reddall. My maturity and developing wisdom have evolved from experiences at Reddall or whilst I have been at Reddall. 

I started there as a young teacher in 1999. I have made some big mistakes, I’ve had some bad moments, BUT more significantly, and in a much larger quantity, I have found real acceptance for who I am and how I teach, and real appreciation for who I am and how I do what I do. 

I love my school and the little ferals that I get to interact with every day. The relationships that I am blessed to develop sustain me and enable me to laugh and smile (often at their expense) more often than not. 

Loyalty to a school is not a bad thing; for better or for worse. 

Who says I have commitment issues?!

Bahahahahaha, yes I know I do. But I now know why. It’s been a big week. 

😉

If I could give you anything … 

Some munchkins I adore are going through some incredibly challenging times at the moment. 

Lots of people are. 

One of the most invigorating aspects of ageing though, is knowing that hardship is temporary. Really knowing it. Because you’ve lived through it many many times, and are still standing, and standing happily. Happier and more fulfilled than you ever dreamed you would be able to. 

Life isn’t fair. Some people do enjoy a blessed ride. Some of us don’t appear to enjoy that same sort of ride. And that is okay. 

Because in the long run, I think hardship, suffering and pain, and doing the work to keep moving forward and not giving up, yield beautiful lives. And deep wisdom. And a deeper capacity for love, and enjoying the beauty that is in every second. Something that I wouldn’t know for sure without the dark times that I have lived through. 

And, so … 

If I could give you anything, it would be this hope and wisdom that has evolved from my experience. 

Everything is temporary. 

You will smile again. 

You will laugh again, 

You will love again. 

And, you will hurt again. 

But what blossoms in you and in your life will one day make you see that it was all worth it. The fight is worth it. Doing the work is worth it. It all has a place in your existence, a necessary one, to make you whole. 

Do not give up. 

There are enough funerals for people to attend already. Your’s shouldn’t be one of them. 

There is beauty on the other side of this for you. 

If you close your eyes and tilt your face to the sun on a warm day you can feel it. If you stand in the cold and embrace your freezing cheeks, you can feel it. If you hear the sound of real laughter, you can feel it. 

There is beauty on the other side of this for you. 

There are things you haven’t done, places you haven’t seen, people you haven’t met, dreams you haven’t fulfilled … Give yourself these. You are enough, and you deserve it. 

Trust me. 

❤️

  

When things don’t happen as they were meant to …

Upon arriving home and checking my phone messages on Sunday, I discovered that Barnados had to postpone my appointment. I had initially extended my leave to cater for the appointment today. They were moving me to another case worker and she was going to call me to reschedule today. With the funeral tomorrow, I opted to keep my leave where it was and just take the extra day to read over my Extension Two students’ work (not done at this point).

Emotionally I had to question if the postponement of the appointment wasn’t a sign that maybe fostering wasn’t my path. Still on a travel high, this wasn’t completely bad news and I was willing to accept it. With minimal sadness. But knowing that I was on a travel high, I also knew I would need to wait to ensure that that is what I thought was best. Bad writing today lol. No flow.

Anyway, yesterday I received a phone call from Vesna from the Benevolent Society. She left me a message because it was during my teaching time with Extension. She then followed up with an email. I replied. Today I called. She was unavailable and then called me back.

The phone call flowed from the beginning. The buzz returned. Maybe it was just that Barnados isn’t the right agency for me, nor I for them. The thing that attracted me to them initially was the capacity for adoption. Maybe long term care is what I am meant to engage in.

We talked about my expectations. The process. The potential for not being approved; it isn’t a fait accompli ever. We talked about the culture, gender, age and quantity of children. We talked about my working hours and job experience. We talked about Max and Molly, about my brother, about my daughter. We talked about my motivation. We talked about my IVF journey. We talked about the differences between adoption and long term care, and the level of support a carer could reasonably expect from their organisation. We talked about the differences in policy between a variety of organisations.

And we talked about my fear at the magnitude of the undertaking.

Three to six months if I choose to apply to be assessed with them. And then I will either be a foster carer or will need to reevaluate this path.

At times it will be an arduous journey, one in which constructive criticism will need to be accepted without deference to ego. A journey that starts with the information package I have now received through email. Followed by an information day at the end of August.

If I then choose to apply, home visits will be scheduled with an assessor, more training will be undertaken, and if successful, my assessor will become my case worker.

I am cautiously excited.

And nervous.

But, more excited.

Jet Lag and Processing

I love travelling BUT man, I hate flying. I never sleep well, always managing to just grab a few five minute blocks every so often, just enough to keep me from dying I guess. I just hate flying.

Next time I fly I am going to try premium economy; the extra money may be worth the extra comfort. We shall see.

Having said that, the amount of awake time permitted me to really evaluate my trip. And forward plan my life. Yep, never not thinking in this head.

My time away has permitted me to work out exactly what I want my future to be.

I remember the first time I wrote a poem as a child. It was about Adolf Hitler (yep, I have always loved writing about the darker aspects of life) and it rhymed. I was SO proud. I loved the act and the art of writing. Words have always held power and sway for me. Always.

I absolutely enjoyed keeping my blog whilst I was away. I loved writing every day (almost) and missed it when I wasn’t writing.

The act of writing allowed me to process my experiences as well as keep a record of my adventures and my responses towards them.

I want to write.

It is who I am.

I became a fan of podcasts whilst I was away (thank you Liz Gilbert for Big Magic – your podcast started my obsession). And I spent a lot of time on the Greyhound buses listening to interviews with authors and TED Talks. Illuminating.

Liz Gilbert said in one interview that she almost felt sorry for people who had more than one passion/thing they were good at because finding time for both and to succeed in both would seem very difficult to her; she feels blessed that she was only ever good at writing because it was what she had to do.

You can imagine why this was illuminating for me.

I love teaching and I am good at it.

I love writing and I am good at it.

But it has been very much sacrificed for my teaching.

And that has been okay.

But it isn’t okay anymore.

Writing always fills me with calm and jubilation.

Teaching does not.

That is the reality.

Enough said 🙂

A man I used to work with died whilst I was away. It hit me hard. Both Lauren and I had someone that we regarded as a good person die whilst we were away, different men.

Jeff was a PE teacher at Airds High School when I was finishing school. He was still there when I commenced my teaching career at Airds High School as a casual teacher in 1993. He was a fairly quiet man with a wicked sense of humour. He was very committed to teaching and to his family. He was a great person. He died from a heart attack. He is only just older than me. I was devastated.

Mortality is such a bizarre thing.

We all know that we will die.

But we expect that we will all be really old when we do.

Losing my friend Nat, well before she should have been allowed to die still hurts my heart every day. Having a sense of what Jeff’s family will be going through is just horrid.

It did enforce for me though how grateful I was that I was in New York really living my life, forcing my dreams to become my reality. Life really is too short to not do what makes us happy.

I have had dark times in my life. We all have. The depth of the darkness may vary among us, but very few people get to be my age having never experienced pain and hardship to some extent. I know a few kids who have experienced extreme pain and hardship, and who struggle to survive every single day. As we age we learn that things will pass, light will come after dark. But as kids, they lack that frame of reference of experience. They do not know for sure that light comes after dark. I want them to trust that it does, but that is a big ask.

I do believe that happiness is a choice.

We all have times of darkness and pain, very often not a choice. And it is important to experience the full breadth of the pain and associated suffering. But I also believe that there comes a time when we choose our direction.

Continue to suffer.

Or move forward.

And this is the choice.

Much easier for me to say than for others to do. Inevitably the question of HOW comes.

How do we choose happiness?

If I say, “I choose happiness”, it doesn’t necessarily follow that happiness just comes. It requires some work. Unfair and unjust I know, but if we want it, we need to work for it.

It helps if you know what makes you happy.

For me it is reading, writing, serving others (to a point), travel, discussing, exploring, gardening, baking. Yep, just for starters.

So when I need to choose happiness, I choose these things.

Happiness is a buoyant feeling. A feeling of utter peace. Bliss. Contentment. A knowledge that you are where you are supposed to be doing what you are supposed to be doing.

And that requires work.

Often to break away from the invisible binds that shackle us. Like work/school responsibilities, family responsibilities, social responsibilities, and most oppressively underlying all of these, fear.

We fear what will happen if we aren’t what we are expected to be.

I now think that we should question what will happen to us if we are not being real, and being true, to our own selves. We should fear those consequences. They are the binds that really shackle us. That fear stops us from embracing opportunities that permit us to feel real and long term happiness. They are the binds that we should be severing.

And that’s where real courage comes in to play.

I have been utterly blessed that my trip to Europe five and a half years ago and my trip to New York were completed with two exceptional travelling companions. I would never have dreamed that two people could travel so seamlessly together as Courtney and I did, and as comfortably as Lauren and I just have. I will be forever grateful to both for supporting me in ticking things off my bucket list.

It takes courage to travel away from everything you know.

But that travel invariably permits you to be wholly you, away from the expectations that your life choices have forced you to incur. Travel allows exploration, other ways of seeing and of doing, not all positive, but permitting us freedom to revise our own choices with more information. Every time I travel my world opens that little bit more. Travel permits you to meet other people, often nameless, who impact on you for better or worse, but permitting growth. It is an amazing thing and something that I believe everyone should do, if only once.

New York. Wow.

As the Greyhound Bus arrived in the first parts of New York City on Wednesday, I just started to feel so alive and so connected again. I smiled, inside and out, feeling like I was home, that this was MY New York City. The place where dreams can come true.

I felt the electricity of connection flood through my veins. Boston is a beautiful city. New York is the heart of it though. The noise. The dirt. The homeless. The diversity. The traffic. The buzz. A never ending buzz, permeating everything.

Man, it filled my soul and I felt truly alive, Truly transformed. Magical. Energised. Alive.

Even now, sitting on my lounge in the quiet village of Thirlmere where I live, the excitement of New York still courses through my veins. Our meeting was perfectly executed; our friendship now lifelong.

And I am grateful for all of my blessings.

Today, because I could travel.

I could live.

I am living.

A final post on US soil (maybe)

Tuesday. 21 July. 2.55pm.

At home it is Wednesday, 22 July, 4.55am.

Tomorrow begins the journey home. By 8 am I will have left Lauren and the Constitution Inn in an Uber bound for Boston’s South Station Bus Terminal. At 10 am I will be on a Greyhound Bus bound for New York’s 42nd Street Port Authority Terminal. I will catch either a yellow cab or the shuttle to JFK Airport.

I fly out at 6.45 pm. A two and a quarter hour stop over in LA and then to Sydney.

I arrive at Kingsford Smith at 7.40 am Friday, 24th July.

Train to Campbelltown to pick up Max and then home home.

I feel like it has been much longer than two weeks away from Australia. Much longer.

What a trip.

I have loved it.

And I have so many ideas for short stories; it has been interesting to note that I have started consciously thinking as a writer does. Every person, every conversation, every outing, every experience – fodder for stories.

I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs that I wrote two additional pieces after seeing/hearing Mary Badham on the 14th July.

I will post them below.

The first is a generic piece about the impact I perceive NY had on me at that point in time. The second is a little darker and highlights something that I need to now work on for myself (and I have commenced this process).

Number 1:

New York has revealed a potential for my life that I have never realised prior to now. The idea that there is more is something that I have always known. The reality that there is more is something that only New York has revealed to me.

A literary community. A world in change. Dreams being realised. This is the embodiment of NYC for me.

And I am completely clueless how I take that home with me and manifest it into a reality that is mine but that I feel so removed and disenfranchised from here; in a way that travel has never successfully achieved before. In the past I have always felt connected to ‘home’. Here, I question what home is.

I feel myself fundamentally changing and I wonder if I will ever be able to feel settled at home again. The potential of here is significant. I feel it in my core.

Number 2:

Content and language inappropriate for young people. Only read if over 18.

Longer Lasting Impact of Failed IVF

I don’t like myself.

I like the things that I do but I don’t like myself as a woman.

I’m a good person, a great person really. But I have no confidence in myself as a female.

Prior to IVF I was sexually confident and confident in my femininity. I’ve realized that’s gone. At first I thought it was because I was always so busy. And to some extent that is true. But really, the deeper issue is that I believe that I have failed as a woman.

The fundamental thing a woman should be able to do is reproduce. And I haven’t. And that failure has robbed me of my ability to regard myself as a confident sexual woman.

And that’s fucked.

I guess acknowledging it is the first step; connecting the pieces is helpful. And overwhelmingly sad.

As we age we seem to disappear as women. I thought this could be it too. But no, if I’m being honest, I don’t like myself. My body has failed me and so I don’t like it. There is a dead spot, a black hole, where the essence of me as a woman used to be.

It finished with the C word but for obvious reasons I have censored that here (sort of).

I will move deeper into this longer lasting impact later on, at home home. I choose not to delve into the darkness as I prepare to pack my suitcase. Time enough later on.

In case I don’t get to write again from here, I shall see you at home.

John F Kennedy and Sunday

We made our way to the JFK Museum and Library at Columbia Point yesterday. I have always liked what JFK represented, and similarly to Martin Luther King Jr, have always respected their unwitting sacrifices in their attempts (and successes) in making our world a better place.

I have never known much about his life prior to the Presidency so I really enjoyed discovering these things. And as could be expected, it reignited my own passion for politics. There is something about the political world that really ‘excites’ me. I know how hard the life is, how many hours of work, the compromises … and still …

I cried as we watched the footage of his assassination and the subsequent news reels announcing his death.

I always feel a bit dumb about my tears. Like about these things. But it devastates me that good people are never allowed to just be and to just do. There always has to be someone who thinks their way is more right. When they are so obviously wrong. The greater good should trump individual gain in most circumstances. I really do not understand how other people can believe that we are all in this world for individual advancement rather than the collective, communal good.

Meh …

Sobered, we left to have lunch and then shop. Which I did willingly. And which I enjoyed (has hell frozen over lol).

And again, spent some time in a park. The parks, manicured or wild, are beautiful overwhelmingly here. I have said it before, and no doubt will say it again, but Boston is such a pretty city.

And so clean.

I love New York, unreservedly, unconditionally. I was very apprehensive that Boston would not measure up or be enjoyable as a result. So wrong.

I love Boston in a completely different way.

Like, Ben and Jerry’s Icecream. Fair Trade. Dairy friendly. And basically so left wing in its views that I am surprised I had never ventured into this ice-cream utopia before.

Choc Mint and Chocolate Brownie Fudge.

Utopia.

Heaven.

Ecstasy.

Who’d a thought.

The humidity on the East Coast is not something I am a fan of. I am wearing my smelly dress for our trip to Salem today. Humidity is meant to be lower but I have my doubts. Then the smelly dress will be going in to the dirty clothes bag in my suitcase.

Two days and I commence my journey back to real life.

:-/

I had a reflexology foot massage which my tired feet embraced warmly.

Then back to the hotel for a Thai delivery dinner.

Then researching Salem’s events: the must see or do things for Tina.

We are heading out now so I must go and shall finish this later.

Goodbye New York and hello Boston! 

And one of the very first, most noticeable differences between the two places is the level of cleanliness. And second, the smell. 

Boston is beautiful. Very pretty. Very well maintained. 

   
    
    
    
    
 
Yes, the above photos are of the city. It’s gorgeous. And clean. Did I already mention that? Lol. 

We are not dead centre of the city; we are staying in Charlestown. An Uber cost $8 and a taxi $13-15. The nearest train station is about 25 minutes walking. If we organise ourselves we can Uber in and out each day. 

I must say, The Constitution Inn where we are staying has had some bad reviews. I’m just not seeing it. 

We arrived too early for check in today. We arrived about 1230 and check in is at three. After me not sleeping well last night, and Lauren not getting much sleep either, we didn’t want to go wandering and had decided today would be a rest day. 

We stored our bags and the lovely reception staff allowed us to sit upstairs in the lounge to wait. And then within forty five minutes, possibly not even that long, our room was ready. 

We are paying a little more per night than we did for the flat in New York. We both have a double bed, soaps etc in the bathroom, cable that works and free wifi. Oh, plus a fridge and microwave. It’s not squashed, and the air con doesn’t make the god awful noise that has kept me tossing and turning for intermittent nights. In fact, the only flaw is the lack of centrality to the public transport system. And for three and a bit days, it isn’t a big deal. 

Anyway, enough of that. 

We had an interesting commencement to our Boston leg. We had to wake up way too early and my alarm woke me just as Benny Craven and I found a dead platypus on the side of the road near Burger King at Woodbine because Campbelltown was on fire and everyone had had to leave their cars (this was a nightmare and not real life but I hate when dreams don’t finish properly so that I know everything is okay). I really woke on the wrong side of the bed and I think PMS may be paying me a visit. 

Anyway, we arrived at the Greyhound Station and the 4am bus had still not departed (we arrived by 6 for the 7am bus). WTF. No apology. No explanation. We waited and waited and finally left early at 6.45am (last two seats on the extra bus for the 4am people). 

We didn’t get to sit with each other straight away so I was at the front while Lauren disappeared into the back. 

I sat next to a nutter. I think. You know when someone is talking to you and you are questioning their truth. Well, that was this. 

She is a hiker. People sponsor her to hike hiking paths throughout the world. She used to be a nanny in Bermuda. The father of the children wanted her to marry into his family so that they could all have dual citizenship. She’s about my age, maybe a couple of years younger. She then started hiking. There is a man, a geologist in California, who is one of her chief sponsors. They talk all of the time. By talk I mean text. She is infatuated. Badly. The cynic in me thinks catfish. 

She hates New York. Could not believe that the bus driver took a route that went through Harlem. Hates the smell, the garbage (not that she’s wrong about either of these complaints), the people, the transport, the weather, the cost, and the list went on. 

So picture this. Two women. Similarly aged. Similar body types (I’m not a hiker and no one would ever confuse me as one). And the two extremes of tourists in New York represented. 

I was trying to be polite by agreeing with what I could. 

“Yes, I can’t believe they don’t use bins.”

“Yes, there is a horrid stench everyehere.”

“Yes, he is very good looking.” 

And the rest of my head was thinking, I’m going to use you as a character in a story. You have a story. I’m going to make it up. A traveller from Tennessee meets a feral Australian, and the two strangers hike together (yep, reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed) before one of them dies in mysterious circumstances. 

Which one dies?

How?

Did they become besties on the trail?

Did the writer get to the bottom of the nanny conspiracy?

Is the Californian real? 

Yep, a story there. 

The Bushwick Collective: Visuals 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   

    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   

The Transformative Experience of Mary Badham

Flashback to Tuesday night. I still haven’t fully processed it. And it wasn’t necessarily the event, rather the impact being there had on me. And I pause to breathe.

In fact, procrastinating lol. Liz Gilbert says that we procrastinate in our writing from fear. I think that today, she is quite correct.

It has been an hour since that last sentence ;-). I have words whizzing through my brain, interweaving with emotions. Maybe rather than try to find the words to make it make sense to you (to me), I should just retell the experience.

The best moments of this trip have been the non-touristy ones. This night was one of those. I felt what it was like to live in this city. I saw what I could have access to. And it overwhelmed me.

I lined up with my ticket, as did many New Yorkers. There was conversation around minding spots for late friends and laughter as we all acknowledged it didn’t matter because seats were allocated. It was a very mixed crowd. A lot of parents with their children (adolescent). I was impressed and so jealous; how wonderful an experience to have as a teenager. To have access to book readings read by actresses who played the main character in the book. There were a lot of people who knew each other, so there was a lot of love in the room. I think this also overwhelmed me.

Belonging somewhere, where you didn’t often feel like a freak because the things that interest you, excite you, make you whole are so vastly different to so many other people. We were all there because of our love for a book. A book. Words written by another person. Words adapting to a book that really tell a life story. Not just a single life, but many lives. Words recording many lives’ stories. The power that words have when moulded together. The power to bring so many different people together in one spot, for an hour and a half, to share the magic that Harper Lee’s words originally ignited in all of our souls. What power. What magic. How overwhelming.

So I sat in my chair and a few renegade tears escaped.

Not sad tears. Just pure emotion.

And gratitude.

That I was here and that I could experience all of it.

How blessed is my life that I have a job that can afford me such wonderful opportunities.

I have made a lifelong dream come true, beyond anything I could ever have anticipated.

And this, this is what overwhelmed me, and made this night so emotional and so transformative.

Another break from writing.

Mary came on to the stage after being introduced by the director of a biography documentary about Harper Lee. These people all looked normal. They looked like all of us. Maybe I realised that it wasn’t a far flung idea that one day this sort of thing might become a part of my own reality. Maybe it was just the gnawing realisation that I have something worth saying, and worth hearing.

The applause didn’t stop, and she seemed genuinely humbled by it all, putting her hands together and bowing with them towards the audience.

She read from To Kill A Mockingbird, ably adopting Scout’s childhood voice. She read from Go Set A Watchman, ably adopting Scout’s adult voice.

We laughed in the funny places. We sighed and gasped in the other places. We could see the child Scout blossom into the woman Scout. Sadly, Mary is probably too old now to reprise her role as Scout, Jean Louise Finch, in any movie version of the new novel.

In the subsequent interview, Mary answered questions from the audience. She talked about her memories, few, of the filming. She talked about her love for Atticus and Tom (and the actors that portrayed them; each the embodiment of the values that their characters subscribed to), and how both men remained her Oreo fathers until they passed, along with her own father. She talked about the impact that making the film had on her life, and admitted to only recently reading the book, as a matter of necessity because she was asked to speak about it. She addressed the limitations for women from the South, and how there was always a public and private facade.

She was honest.

It was very refreshing. Things that she only remembered from photos she acknowledged. Hearing that the house from the film had been destroyed in wanton vandalism/arson brought tears to all of our eyes because her loss was so genuine.

It seemed real.

As much as she was coaxed, she revealed no spoilers. She knew that most had only bought Go Set A Watchman that day because it had only just been released. This impressed me. Respect.

For the individual experience that reading is.

And then it was over before I was ready for it to be over.

And I caught the subway home. Floating on proverbial air.

And I reflected, barely sleeping, and realised some personal truths.

I drafted two blog posts, very raw, and very authentic to me.

They will be posted soon. Probably reworked. Public viewing and all, an awareness of the varied readership here.

When I have the courage.

They are coming.

Thank you New York. I feel firmer in my direction. And I feel less like a freak.

For here in NYC, we are all our own freaks. It is nothing for Lauren and I to find ourselves singing Lean On Me in the subway with a man on the opposite platform until the train comes in. Yes, here we are all freaks.

Doing what we can.

The Bushwick Collective: Bushwick, Brooklyn

After I have posted this I will post a visual tribute separately. And I know I am dreadfully behind in my postings so after the most recent events I will work backwards.

I am feeling pressured; I feel the need to do the Bushwick Collective justice. I am a words person; my mum and many of my close friends are picture people. I love some art though and art on the streets, of the streets, definitely so. It’s like the roots of hip hop, coming from somewhere real. A friend of a friend told us about the street art in Bushwick. We googled it and then we decided to go to see it.

Bushwick’s history is not glamorous, but like most of New York City, gentrification is making it prettier and safer. A Scot that we met on our way back from Bushwick (after taking the wrong train; everything happens for a reason), who has lived here since 1989 as an artist, told us that it used to be a very urban, very dangerous area. It has a very different feel to Manhattan when you walk the streets, especially because they are quite empty. But there is a feeling of something …

We had the privilege of meeting the organiser of the Collective, Joe. He asked us to allow ourselves to be interviewed by the crew interviewing him. He had seen our reactions as we turned the corner and saw the most amazing artwork on the wall. And I mean amazing. We had seen it on Google Images but it is nothing compared to the impact it exacts when you see it in real life. Having come so far to see the art, and having the responses we did, caught his attention.

In recent times, the Collective has come under fire from corporations wanting to cover the art with billboards. Joe is fighting the corporatisation of Bushwick. What struck me though was his urgency, a deep rooted urgency that comes from something more than politics. His fight came from deeper in the heart than politics (which has a tendency to be more superficial these days, unless rooted somewhere much deeper). And so it does …

The Bushwick Collective is a tribute and legacy to his mother. She died from cancer. Joe is born and bred Bushwick, and wanted to do something positive for the community in her name. The beautification of the streets is how.

And he is not without his own critics. A graffiti artist routinely covers the art with his tag, repeatedly if the artists fix their work. He is against the gentrification of his Bushwick neighbourhood because it has resulted in higher housing prices, which then pushes the old neighbourhood out. He has a point, but … the continuing of high crime and poverty are not necessarily the best answer for the neighbourhood either. And I would argue that corporatisation is more responsible for the gentrification of many New York neighbourhoods than, as amazing as it is, the Bushwick Collective street art.

It is a loaded issue. We all struggle with change, and none of us want to see the neighbourhoods we grew up in, the memories we cherish, unrecognisable in a modern world.

When it comes to art and change, what is acceptable and what isn’t. I think that art has a capacity to make us feel, to see, to think … and to be real. And when we are real, without our masks or our protective cloaks, it is harder to not feel compassion for fellow man, to not see our similarities more than our differences. In a raw state we are all the same.

I sit with Joe. The art is amazing. It beautifies the area. Any area. Think Newtown in Sydney.

I love the Martin Luther King Jr art on King Street. I wrote about it for my Masters. It is amazing. And now with the Aboriginal flag the message is contemporarily Australian. Art can enable change. I guess it comes down to all of us to ensure that corporatisation (including rising housing prices) does not compromise art which in turn does not eradicate the rights  of all.

Four blocks for the Bushwick Collective  is reasonable I think.

And the impact for youth in the area, something to hope for, dream about, see potential in, is priceless, and changes lives.