Lately I've become more and more enchanted by the natural world. We think of ourselves as separate from nature, that nature is somehow 'out there', an 'environment' around us, but perhaps it isn't. Perhaps we are nature and nature is us.
Photos by Nicole Franzen
I grew up in the western suburbs of Melbourne, first in an outer suburb with the skeletons of new houses and paddocks of thistles, unmade roads and secret caves by the Maribyrnong River. Later, when I was a teenager, we moved to Footscray which was not yet fashionable and seemed to me to be full of asphalt and traffic and hotels filled with old men. I spent a lot of time yearning to go back to my childhood home.
One connection I did keep was my school. I travelled there each day by bus and although the school itself was not particularly special, I was blessed with having wonderfully supportive and inspiring English teachers.
Later on, I ended up becoming an English teacher myself and spent a few years at a secondary school before I left to study Creative Writing at RMIT. It was at RMIT that I began to think back to the world of my early childhood home and I wrote my first novel, ‘Watching Seagulls’.
It was also during this time that I was fortunate enough to hear the Dalai Lama speak. I remember being struck briefly by a feeling of connection with everything and everyone that I’d never experienced before. It was as if fear disappeared and the world became fully dimensional and a place of curiosity and deep interest and playfulness. I couldn’t help but pursue my sudden interest in Buddhism and, partly for this reason and partly because of my own restlessness, I headed off to Thailand.
I lived there for about 18 months, in a town east of Bangkok where I found a job teaching English and spent my spare time exploring my new unfamiliar world and beginning my next novel, Imago. As it turned out, Imago ended up being a love story; it was really about obsessive love and the sometimes delusional nature of love and it was set in a small town in Thailand.
I worked on the novel on my own for a while but, at last, back in Melbourne, I decided to join the Creative Writing Masters program at Melbourne University to help me develop it. Once again, I found myself teaching – this time Creative Writing to undergraduate students which was a good precursor for the most challenging of my teaching roles I was about to take on: Novel Writing at RMIT. Now, back where I’d written my first novel – and surrounded by talented and stimulating writers – I reflected on my earlier time as a student and I wrote ‘something in the world called love.’
These days I live at Phillip Island with my husband, Bruno, and my much adored canine and feline companions, Min, Sally and Charbon. We’re incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by amazing and beautiful animals. My appreciation of nature and our precious environment has certainly heightened in the last few years. I’ve become extremely passionate about animals, their rights and our relationship to them both ecologically and spiritually.
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