Tag Archives: storytelling

Moon gazing and the spaces between

An evening late for the super moon (being a mother does not pause for a super moon), I wrestled the telescope out under a clear Spring night sky and managed a few shots and some video with my DSLR mounted to the telescope. I am too aware that I could muck about with stacking to improve these, and I did start, but then reality of having finite time and requiring actual sleep before a day at work (she notes, meanwhile typing a blog post after midnight) took hold, so my RAW images were processed on wait for it….my little dinky chromebook.

I do really favour staying low tech with astronomy though. My favourite image of saturns rings were taken on my iphone  held up the telescope eye piece many many years ago. I have a 10 year old 90mm refractor telescope, on an equitorial mount with no fancy goto or tracking. The thumb screw is missing from my eye piece because I dropped in in the dark. I am always tripping over the tripod legs in the dark.  I have light pollution in my yard from neighbouring houses and street lights. Astronomy and astrophotography doesn’t always need to be a perfect science.

It’s about connecting with that vast beautiful amazing expanse of worlds up there. We generally, I think, take it for granted. When people talk about mindfullness and mental health, being centred or connected,  there is rarely mention about getting outside for a look at the night sky and getting to know it. It’s a humbling and profound place though, looking up in the dark.

So, in all my imperfection, and clumsy technique, I still see the moon’s perfection captured in my photographs:



aboriginal night skies
Bhathal, Ragbir. (2010). Aboriginal astronomy. Sydney : ARI

I also want to mention quickly, about the incredible learning adventures I am having by reading Aboriginal Astronomy by Dr Ragbir Bhathal (2010) which I borrowed through my local library.  I found it via a subject search for aboriginal astronomy as although I had found a fantastic list of further reading here on an Aboriginal Astronomy website, many of these weren’t a bit tricky to find easily in my speedy searches.

It’s a simply bound document publication,  which belies the astounding reading inside.  A mind-opening insight into sociocultural/ethnoastronomy and it’s not often you gain a whole new world of insight in just the first few pages of something.  I’m in awe of the deep connection of the cosmos expressed in examples of indigenous scientific understanding of the night sky and the expression of this understanding through stories, songs and art.

When I look at aboriginal art I’ve had for years right next to my desk, I really thought I appreciated their complexity. But, I now see something even more, and much different, something else,  after only a few pages reading this book. Not only is this shift in understanding, something I can see in indigenous artwork, but when I look up into that great canvas of the night sky – my imagination is unlocked somehow.  It’s a small insight into how to to try to unsee the known and familiar patterns, and to instead, see the sky through wizened ancient eyes. It’s galaxies of art, science, and history colliding with energy.

We can never truly see the full story though, which is sacred and rightfully respected and shared in a way that deep and cultural learning should be.  Just a glimpse though, is enough to give you a sense of how unique and special indigenous australian relationship was with the night sky.

You can get a taste of the publication, in this shorter document available online  Astronomy of the First People of Australia by Ragbir Bhathal, but I encourage you to seek this out.

For now, I will just continue to wonder and dwell on the realisation that it really is all about the spaces in between.

emu in the sky
Corona Australis, the Southern Crown constellation is clearly visible in this photograph I took last week. But now I begin to see something else even more beautiful…

There be dragons

I’m not religious in the formal sense of the word, perhaps because I don’t identify with the belief that humans are above other animals. However, I do love the atmosphere and beauty of churches and cathedrals. If, for a moment you brush away all of the grown up history of religion, cathedrals are the ultimate community built artifacts.  Crafted over long periods of time, by a connected community of diverse passionate makers with a common goal, to make a monument to the mystery and wonder of life. They are purposeful castles.

Wandering around Worcester Cathedral today, and finding dragons was magical. My seven year old daughter described the place as “enchanted” and this, I think, is the perfect expression of what we feel when we delight in the artifacts that other people make.  My four year old son burst into uncontrollable sobs as the organist started playing and calm music flowed warmly through such a cavernous space. “It’s sad music mummy”.

My husband sang in the choir here when he was young, and it made me wonder about the impact such a beautiful space has on belief. Is part of the enchantment of belief about being in this space? If I had heard voices raised in song here when I was young, like my son’s instinctive emotional reaction, would I feel more drawn to identify as religious, instead of spiritual?

People and animals – we are all are makers, all to different degrees, and whether we are buildings houses, nests or dens, these built shelters, are our shrines to thinking, dreaming and imagination. Buildings made for any gods tell us, people had passion and wanted to make something that would tell a story, in thousands of voices, for anyone willing to read their own way passage through its nooks and crannies.

You have to get down low and look close sometimes in ancient places to find the secret guardians.
You have to get down low and look close sometimes in ancient places to find the secret guardians.
Every corner has a beastie.
Every corner has a beastie.
Easy to miss as you gaze at epic light from stained-glass windows, but hands carved these beats with love and a craftsmanship that deserves our pause and notice.
Easy to miss as you gaze at epic light from stained-glass windows, but hands carved these beats with love and a craftsmanship that deserves our pause and notice.
Watching over empty choir seats.
Watching over empty choir seats.
Illuminating the darkness, the windows hold your eyes, telling stories in their pictures, but let your eyes be taken through the windows, or just around the windows, and to all the possibilities
Illuminating the darkness, the windows hold your eyes, telling stories in their pictures, but let your eyes be taken through the windows, or just around the windows, and to all the possibilities
The epic south window, the beautiful colour and detail is lost here but the warmth of the cathedral and ornate ceiling wrap around it with their own towering majesty.
The epic south window, the beautiful colour and detail is lost here but the warmth of the cathedral and ornate ceiling wrap around it with their own towering majesty.

The importance of content as a myth


Myth means ‘no author’. The reason why certain stories land so deeply within us is because they’ve been passed like water over dark stones through many different communities and many different people’s lives who’ve all dealt with seemingly hopeless causes. So the images have a resonance that one person alone cannot muster, no matter how brilliant.
(Dr Martin Shaw – West County School of Myth, UK)

Stumble into learning…

I was in my early 20s, in an unassuming second hand bookshop in surburban Adelaide. I was studying undegraduate literature and looking for some books I needed to read. My eye was distracted by the golden glint of the text on the spines of a plainly covered uniform series of books. I opened one and felt immediately, the mystery of finding something I had not even known I had been looking for. I had stumbled upon content – in this case – words in a book –  that connected me to something bigger, with what was to have a huge impact on my future and direction (which is a different story).

I didn’t need a complicated search algorithm to find it, I didn’t know that I was looking for it, no one selected that content on my behalf, it was accidental. I had found the relatively obscure poetic writings of Scottish writer, Fiona Macleod (aka William Sharp).

2015-05-01 12.07.50The series was incomplete, being sold separately at $18 per book. I had just started a part-time job in a bookshop to pay my way through my degree, and I couldn’t afford them all. So, I bought one every few months (I was too unsure of my finances to ask to hold them).  Then, one time when I went back,  the shop had closed down. Dissapeared.

Thankfully, this was the awakening of the internet and in the last 15 years I have not only tracked down the whole set, but picked up some incredible additional Fiona Macleod books. Some have the most fragile and beautiful art plates and prints. As content, they are physical treasure to me. These books are objects that contain the published words of my favourite writer and I love them, because they are a touchstone. Most of Fiona Macleod’s writings are now available online. You can read the entire texts.

So why I would I bother still seeking these obscure, fragile, musty little containers of words, when I can have all of Fiona Macleods words for free?

Dig underneath…

It’s because of what you get when you dig underneath. In so many pages of these books I have collected over the years, there are unwritten and even more intriguing stories than the ones published within. The traces of people and the never-ending questions about them.

Leave breadcrumbs…

In the pages, are traces of navigation. Bent corners, pencil marks. Annotations, handwritten notes, dedications in the cover, little mini-books that people have made, a pressed-flower, and my favourite,  the wonderful tiny Christmas card shown below.

2015-05-01 12.12.02

Dear Frank, who were you? 

2015-05-01 12.10.26Who was Miss Moss, or Miss Morse? Can I call you Miss M?

Is this card, nothing more than a useful bookmark, or did you give Miss M this book?

And you Miss M, did you perhaps place this little card from Frank, deliberately on the page that had the book plate for May?

Did this page symbolise your connection?  Did this book bring you together?

Make myth…

Content is our human platform for conversation, communication and connection – artifact. This is perhaps why we love content so much in online learning. The most passionate educators often collate and lay out huge collections in a single pathway of content, intending a specific journey based on their their choice, their voice. It is easy to dismiss that approach as restrictive, but seen for what it is – it is the art of collecting and sense making, born from generosity and a desire to share.  We naturally want to take each other on a journey of shared experience, of shared learning. However, within the boundary of learning within a period of time, with completion dates, having one voice only choosing the “core” content is a missed opportunity to learn holistically.  Prescriptiveness lessens exploration, stumbling, exploring, get lost, getting found, thinking upside-down and sideways, navigating or maybe more importantly, community-led annotation.

We know content sparks conversation, humour, art, friendship, and most of all – is homage to our desire to share. Pulling back from the desire to lead, and allowing every person in a community to be content, to annotate with their own voice, is a beautiful gateway to diversity.  An opportunity to explore how the same questions and desires are interpreted globally, in the context of different locations and cultures. For the person at the helm, they see the unique myth-making power of the cohort. Something unique, never to be exactly repeated. A truly unique and experimental learning experience every time. You get, in effect, mythic learning. A new resonance. A multitude of voices.

So, I do think content is a myth, and myth is necessary and should be encouraged.   Content is how we conjure and trigger our stories, in ourselves, and each other.

Maybe we should all be myth makers with content,  and even if we struggle to be great story tellers, we can always be story carriers. Here’s the incredible mythologist Martin Shaw, (West Country School of Myth, UK) explaining that idea (story carriers) far better than I can.

This post was written in reponse to Week 3 of #rhizo15 –The Myth of Content – Dave Cormier but also because I opened one of my favourite books today, to the page for May, and found a Christmas card from Frank.

The luminous flame

beautiful bunsens

In January this year, I started a new job, still within eLearning, but based in science and engineering. This is pretty much a dream discipline for me, and like I knew it would, it has reignited the smouldering fire of what can only be described as nutty enthusiasm for this area.

To be clear, in an academic sense, I come from a non-science background, and for some reason I always feel I have to make this disclaimer when talking about science. I also feel nervously unintelligent around scientists and mathematicians.

Which is quite strange. Surely science isn’t just for scientists? I googled, and I’m composed of:

oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, with a lot of that in the form of water. The remaining 4 percent is a sparse sampling of the periodic table of elements. (Live Science)

There we go. I think that I’m, like all of us, fairly hooked up in this “science” thing. So, when I walk into a tutorial room and see a whiteboard filled with something like this:


I’m more than curious about what it means. It matters. I want to know.

At this, the start of my journey, that image is above, is a story and a game.  A game of symbols.  An important beautiful game that many people dedicate their lives and careers to. People play the game, by learning about the symbols and the rules that go with the symbols. Just because it seems impenetrable to some of us, it doesn’t mean that we can be interested in the story about this. What is it about? Why does it matter? Why does it feel remote, when it’s all about everything that is us, and is around us?

So, my interests are around communicating science to the average person, but not an as expert trying to communicate knowledge, but as a non-expert trying to learn as I go, and share that learning with my children, and learn from them too, and anyone who cares to listen.

How my interest in storytelling cross over into science is going to be intriguing to explore, but I’m also interested in exploring how science and mathematics enhance our relationship with nature.  Being able to wrap this science learning around two curious young children, and in my day job, is honestly, a pretty lovely start to the journey.

One of my big questions is, as a parent, who needs to reconnect with science and maths fundamentals, is, whether there are there resources around that can help you quickly refresh physics and chemistry concepts, while you do fun experiments? And that’s just the start…