Author Archives: kiangablog

About kiangablog

A tree-changer returning to her country roots after a 30-year plus absence. A lover of words and pictures which has been woven into my career and personal life over several years. I am also passionate about community and seeing individuals reach their potential. I am about to embark on a new journey of discovery with my husband on our 25 acres in Victoria's High Country. I hope my creative talents will inspire others and maybe provide some entertainment along the way.

How does one disrupt thought patterns?

Free thinking

Does one need to empty their mind to allow new thoughts?

This week we are being challenged by the topic Perturbing Thoughts and how to disrupt our well-established mindsets that seem to dictate so much of our everyday lives. Let’s face it, us humans are creatures of habit, whether it be the route we take to work, where we sit in a lecture theatre or the camp site for our  annual  holiday.

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The road ahead may not be clear but it is the road less travelled.

Of course there may be practical reasons for why we adopt such predictable behaviours but when it comes to finding new ways of  creative thinking and being open to innovative actions; there needs to be a disruption to our usual thought patterns. Easier said than done, I hear you say.

Edward De Bono’s research which produced The Six Hats of Thinking strategy offers some insights into our own ways of thinking and how we can adopt a different coloured hat or bring in others to obtain the missing thought processes to come up with workable solutions and ideas. Being a “blue hat” myself which involves being focussed and keeping the process on track means that I may overlook some other processes that can prove useful.

Since starting this voyage of self-discovery, I have been bouncing different thoughts off my husband. He doesn’t consider himself creative in any way and likes to keep busy with manual work. But his thoughts are not contained like mine which unwittingly have been moulded into the “status quo”. It’s not that I’m not creative but rather I park some ideas to the side while I deal with everyday business of life and work.

Driving home the other night, my husband and I, were discussing lateral thinking and adopting a different approach to solving problems. Living in country areas or semi-rural locations, has created a conflict with wildlife and motorists trying to share the same space. Sadly, this often results in road trauma for our native animals and increased risk  to drivers.  Down our country lane lives four giant wombats who cross the road at night and can be rather difficult to see when they step out from the side of the road. We have lost one large  male this week.

My husband made the suggestion that maybe we should paint the wombats with “high-vis” orange paint so motorists could see them better. I was ready to dismiss this silly idea but then I realise without such thoughts how can one proceed to the next step of formulating a solution to such a problem. His other idea was to fit some sort of sonar device to vehicles to deter wildlife. I’m not sure, but I think there is such a thing in Scandinavia to warn off wild deer.  Our exchange also highlighted to me the need for more than one thinking hat to successful problem solving.

Living on 25 acres, also requires some lateral thinking as well. It is not big enough for large-scale farming so I am trying to think in practical and creative ways to use our land. Exposing myself to new ideas and concepts through alternative farming practices which encompass organic approaches and land management, has been a valuable experience because I add to my knowledge base and network with many other people on small acreage.  This will be a long-term joint project with my “outside the box” thinking husband. Hopefully, it may help disrupt my thoughts in a perturbing way!

 

 

 

 

 

What stops me being creative?

 

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Reflecting on creativity

 

As we enter week two of our university unit on Creativity and Innovation, we are being asked to be introspective about the possible limits one places on themselves when it comes to being creative. What stops me may be the same for you, or totally different. Whatever it is that stifles creativity, it is a topic well worth exploring. Without creative thought, the world would be a much poorer place. Why, only today the invention of the bicycle is being hailed 200 years later. This was in response to a problem when drought conditions caused lack of feed for stock including horses and the need for transport. Today’s cycling paraphernalia is a far cry from its humble beginnings when pedals were not included in the original design.

How does this relate to me being creative or not? Coming up with ideas can be the easy part; however converting them into actuality is another story. Allowing one to be creative is to be applauded but it will disappear into the ether if not harnessed. Creativity has to break through the internal and external factors that place barriers in our way. We need to look at what is self-imposed that we can deal with directly and those outside our control may need more work but can be overcome if we “think outside the box”. Already today, I have fallen prey to procrastination. There is church in the morning followed by coffee, then my daily one-hour walk (which does set my creative juices gurgling!), a chat to the young neighbour who has been sick with her three children for the past week, catching up on washing and preparing dinner. I’m just about to go off and check the oven now! Five minutes later I’m back with a drink in hand. I think you get my point, many of us are guilty of being distracted from our creative pursuits.

We can argue that creativity needs to have free rein but that is probably just an excuse for not making space in our lives and our environment for this important process to fulfil its potential. Many successful writers are often quoted saying that you must write something each day, whether that be a 1000 word limit or a chapter each week. Those of us who worked as print journalists understood that a deadline was exactly what it meant. Not much point writing a beautifully crafted story if it never makes it into print!

I often think it sad that the work of  many talented artists is  worth more after their death. While money shouldn’t always be the motivation to create, the recognition of one’s volume of work within their lifetime would be a sign of respect.

I was surprised but John Cleese of Fawlty Towers and Monty Python fame, had some useful insights via a training on-line clip in relation to creating an environment to foster creativity. Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from places that inhibit our creativity or ability to problem solve. He was an advocate of “sleeping on a problem” overnight when a solution was not forthcoming. I also agree with this approach. Brain fatigue dulls the senses and the next day can provide fresh perspectives.

As this day draws to a close, I too will sleep on it and hope that my creative senses will be revived. If all else fails, keep a note pad handy by the side of the bed when you feel inspired so not to lose the essence of your thoughts.

From Easter to Anzac – sacrificial love

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On a green hill far away…

Good Friday dawns outside my bedroom window. The sweeping view causes me  to pause and think of a man hanging on a cross in a faraway land on a lonely hill. The bright sunlit scene before me belies what happened to a man called Jesus over 2000 years ago. This is our second Easter in our new home. Last year it was a chance to escape the city for a long weekend and time out from work.  For some Easter is a time to reflect on the actions of this man who came to live among us and then die so we could be forgiven for our sins and enjoy life in its fullness. The sermon for the day uses the modern analogy of a garbage truck travelling through the town picking up everyone’s burdens and dross along the way. I am conflicted this day because it is the first time that Australian Rules Football has been played on Good Friday and my team is playing. They lost by the way!

Easter is soon followed by ANZAC Day. This is a time to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to fight a battle in a faraway land on our behalf and I am reminded again of a man on a cross who well understood what unconditional love and sacrifice means.

Easter and ANZAC have come and gone this year, but I am forever grateful for the gift of living free in this country and the blessings that I enjoy.

Who wants to be creative?

 

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Don’t let the sun go down on a good idea!

What does it mean to be creative and innovative in a world that is undergoing unprecedented technological change? Why do I want to be creative? I have long understood that creativity extends well beyond literature and the visual arts to encompass a way of thinking that brings about ideas that can be converted into solutions and as a means of tackling previously unthought-of innovations.

As a writer, avid reader and enthusiastic photographer, creative thought is constantly at the forefront of my mind. But how many opportunities do I miss when I fail to act upon those promptings.  Thinking about creativity in the workplace, I have witnessed many inspired ideas, even offered some of my own, which get no further than the last minutes of a group meeting. During my employment with a large not-for-profit over six years, I needed to be open and creative in my thinking, if our mission to help disadvantaged individuals and families achieve positive pathways to better lives was to be fulfilled. Not an easy task!

Watching innovation guru Steven Johnson’s animated clip Where do good ideas come from?” got me thinking about the processes involved. One thing that clearly stood out for me was the need for collaboration to help to fill in the missing gaps in our creative thinking. Being in a vacuum is not much help to fulfil your purpose.  Johnson makes the comment about a “historic increase in connectivity” which is bringing more people together from a wider sphere and more opportunities to share ideas. There is also the aspect of where or the environmental factors that offer a conducive space to create. Staring at a blank screen at my office desk rarely sparks my imagination but transport me elsewhere where my senses can be stimulated and shared with others, may be the genesis of  a brilliant idea.

There is no doubt that that we will see monumental changes in the near future as to how we work, live and play. We can adopt the doom and gloom attitude or embrace the chance to change things in clever and meaningful ways. One of the challenges I see is to ensure that in this race towards new innovations that we do not leave the vulnerable behind. Hopefully, as I explore this subject in more depth, I will be part of the solution not the problem

 

Discovery consists of seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. 

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

 

 

 

Changing seasons

 

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Watching rain come in across the valley.

 

 

It’s like osmosis. This gradual shifting of one’s mindset from crazy full-on life in the city to one that seems to move with the seasons and the natural world. Don’t get me wrong I’m not exactly enthusiastic about the rather large brown snake that chooses my veranda as its own personal sun deck. And I’m still grappling with the mystery of how do dead frogs end up on my bed! This week we feel like we are living on top of Old Smokey because of the planned burn-off in the nearby hills that has shrouded us in smoke haze. While I know we are not in any danger, I do feel for those people who are traumatised by the smell of smoke and are reminded of bush fires that have caused loss of life and property. One positive, is that it provides spectacular sunsets.

 

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Smokey sunset.

 

Autumn seemed to emerge in a matter of 24-hours about a week ago. Heat, dust and flies has been replaced with pleasant autumnal days and chilly starts.  Thoughts of lighting the wood fire are becoming more frequent with temperatures down to 5 degrees Celsius overnight. I love pulling on a pair of jeans, boots and T-shirt plus fleece if needed. No need to worry about what am I going to wear today.

I’m relishing these cooler days and seem to be more productive. I can choose when I want to go for my daily walk instead of trying to beat the heat. Bolly (my hubby) has been busy gathering and cutting wood for winter. We are fortunate that there are plenty of fallen branches and old logs on our property to use. My husband hired a wood splitter which made easy work of rather large pieces and much easier than chopping by hand! Bolly has a small 30-year-old chainsaw. Since moving here, he has pulled it apart several times to try to fix it. Despite my comments, that maybe a new chain saw might be a good idea, he spent hours working on it (This must be a man thing!).

 

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A view of our neighbour’s vines.

 

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One of many frogs attracted to the moths on our windows at night.

 

On our weekly shopping trip to town yesterday, he became the proud owner of a rather impressive looking chain saw. He succumbed! The week before he bought a large water tank to capture the run-off on our shed for when it does decide to rain again. Just as well we only go to town to shop once a week!

Today, we are doing our bit for the local economy! Got a local plumber in to deal with some suspected tree roots that are blocking our toilet. We use to have the same issue at our old house in Melbourne.

All of this is just part of normal life for many of us, but there is something comforting to know that others experience it as well.

Our life here is still a work in progress. Last week we walked around our place and discussed the possibilities of creating horse yards which is exciting for me. Getting back on a horse after many years is on my bucket list!

We are both keen to build some raised garden beds for our own vegetable patch. Will need to protect it from stock and other wildlife.

Plenty to keep us occupied. Almost done unpacking the boxes, although we still seem to have more stuff than places to put it! Slowly getting more organised and starting to make plans for the year ahead. We feel so blessed to have this place to call home.

 

 

First-month reflections

Our lives have changed but for good as I reflect on the first few weeks of our permanent tree change. But don’t mistake this comment as meaning everything is perfect. As with any change, it’s like learning to wear a different suit of clothing that may need some adjustments here and there.

Bolly (husband and life-partner) says he is working harder in retirement than in his previous employment! But he is enthusiastic about his new adventure and tells people he is loving it. This property needs a little bit of attention and there is no shortage of projects and tasks to be done.

For me, a move back to the country was always my dream. My life as a naive country girl to city dweller has shaped and moulded my outlook on the world and my place in it. As I unpack my life contained in countless boxes of stuff collected over four decades, I am learning to let go and move on. Some things end up back in boxes and on shelves, while I bid farewell to others. It’s a gradual process. My husband was concerned that unpacking boxes and finding homes for our possessions was not a mentally stimulating task for me; knowing all the other grand plans and activities I want to pursue. But creating order and spaces to fulfill my ideas and vision for this place is a priority for this procrastination-inclined individual.

Daily accomplishments vary from small to large. Turning a house into a home has required some effort and will be on-going for some time yet. Memories of cold, frosty mornings have been replaced with dry, hot summer days. Outside jobs have taken priority to make sure we are “fire ready”. Removing leaf litter, cleaning gutters on both the house and shed,  checking the fire-fighting pump at the dam and the various sprinklers around the house are now completed. We have also managed to paint some rooms which has provided an instant facelift.

We are becoming much more aware of the local wild life with visits from kangaroos, foxes, frogs and snakes. The frogs manage to find a way into the house but thankfully no snakes yet! We love the views across our valley and to the hills behind us; always conscious of the weather and its changing patterns. Watching the sun come up as it gradually spreads its light across the paddocks and dip down in the evenings is a joy.  When a full moon bursts forth from the nearby hill and I can watch it set in the early morning from my bedroom window, there’s a sense of magic. Cliche as it sounds, humans need to connect to nature; well this human being does!

When we are not communing with nature, we are doing battle with a large telecommunications giant to get internet connection installed. Because we are in a rural area it is a little bit more involved but the level of frustration and time wasted in the process is unbelievable.  Plenty of customers are venting their rage over the mismanagement of our new national broadband roll-out.

Trips into town are planned and an opportunity to treat ourselves to a lunch-time treat. Being a tourist town means there is no shortage of places to dine at so we are working our way through them. Got to try them all so we know where to take our visitors for the best experience. It is also an opportunity to get to know many of the local business people and join yet another loyalty program! We are slowly slotting into a new church community. While a smaller and more traditional church, we are getting to know people and feel warmly welcomed. Town gets busy on long weekends and school holidays so we are fortunate to live in such a peaceful spot.

We are meeting our neighbours in the shared drive-way and over the fence. The winter rains provided good feed for cattle producers and good prices for stock at the sales. Our property sits between two cattle farms of about 150 acres each. We are baby sitting three extremely elderly cows who seem content to see out their days here. Our two city-slicker cats seem to have accepted country life and continue to make an art-form out of sleeping.

 I’m trying to set a rountine which includes walking and writing everyday. The walk takes twice as long when you meet your neighbour driving down the laneway who stops for a yarn and writing gets put off because I keep seeing things that need to be done. But as my husband and I are discovering there will always be something that needs doing and we just have to ignore it if we want to enjoy doing other stuff. Each day is an adventure and there is a bit of Dora the Explorer in me!

The permanent tree-change begins!

As with most dreams or adventures, fulfillment of these, can take days, weeks or months as in our case. Several years of yearning to return to my country roots and escape the frenetic pace of city life, has finally become a reality. The journey to get there has been one of self-discovery, grief and sadness, faith, and of course good old fashion hard work.

My soul mate on this journey has been my English-born husband who was willing to give country life a go after his retirement from full-time work in January. My work ended with a redundancy almost a year ago followed by some casual employment until our big move. This has been a bitter-sweet experience for me but I have accepted  sometimes we need to let go to enjoy the new blessings that await us. Juggling work, part-time study, home-life and health issues depleted me of much of my usual energy.

But now the opportunity to commune with nature and rekindle my creative talents at the same time causes my spirit to soar high above the dark clouds and bring light into my new endeavours whatever they may be.

This blog is part of that new beginning. A sort of journal that tracks life on a small rural retreat of 25 acres in Victoria’s High Country where the “Man from Snowy River” legend lives on, at least in the minds of those who remember the halcyon days when cattlemen and their horses reigned supreme in these alpine parts.  I lived and worked in this community over 20 years ago.  On my return I am observing many changes as the population grows. While farming is an important activity in this district, tourism feeds the local economy in a huge way when there is a good ski season in winter and there has been enough rainfall to fill the large local lake for summer recreation.  Many  city people are attracted to the lifestyle and the availability of more affordable housing. Others opt for small rural properties to enjoy on weekends and during holiday periods.

We are here to stay but are fully aware of the work ahead of us as we apply some TLC (Tender Loving Care) to this almost 35-year-old house and surrounding paddocks. Join me on this new adventure to reinvent myself as I shed my suburban existence for hopefully a less stressful and more peaceful life in the country. But the reality may yet be something beyond our wildest imagination!