• Lara Flanagan

Looking after your backyard

Recently, I promised myself a few hours of doing nothing. Rosie and I headed outside and I watched her waiting for the rabbits to emerge from underneath the chook shed. Lying in the sun was pure bliss and I promptly fell asleep.

Whilst dozing on and off, I remembered seeing the Dalai Lama speak in Brisbane. I adored the simplicity of his answers, his smile and the fact that he exuded a tangible happiness and calm. The compere was asking about the general state of the world and the Dalai Lama smiled and responded with the words, “the world would be a much happier place if we could all look after our own backyards.”

I have always remembered that statement. Like any sort of religious or spiritual philosophy, that statement could be interpreted anyway in which you wanted. For me, my backyard is the space that contains me and includes Archie, Rissie, Kevin and Rosie. As long as we are well and happy, then I have more to offer the world outside my backyard. Some days my backyard means the world that I explore every morning. On the great days my backyard encompasses Tenterfield, Australia and Italy. On the bad days, my backyard can be as small as my bedroom and the cup of tea in my hands. Whatever my backyard is, I don’t move on to anything else until I feel it is looked after. Then my backyard expands, and knowing all is well in that space, my backyard becomes limitless and life outside my backyard seems a little less challenging and filled with potential.

Looking after my backyard is one of my mantras, like always having hope and remembering that if we can be anything, we can be kind.

This week I have heard that mandatory mask wearing for New South Welshmen in QLD is the equivalent of Jewish people being made to wear the Star of David in Nazi Germany. That the Victorian Premier is a fascist dictator. I had someone come into the gallery this week who did not check in, was not wearing a mask and yelled at me when I asked if he had a mask. Apparently, he had an exemption. I cried when he left because he scared me. A blogger I followed this week shared the world of ‘anti-diets’. Apparently the ‘anti-diet’ movement is anti fat-shaming, anti regulating food, and anti focussing on nutrition. When I checked out some of the links she mentioned, I was shocked at how angry everyone was. The anti-diet people seemed to be as poorly behaved as the people they were criticising.

Then there have been the pro-vaxxers and the anti-vaxxers. As a visitor vocalised her opinion about vaccinations earlier this week, I ended up sitting on the floor of the gallery with my Stanley knife and focused on opening a delivery. I had to sit on the floor as I felt like a cringing dog who was being yelled at and this visitor made me really, really tired. I couldn’t work out if she was pro or anti because she was speaking too loudly. When faced with anger, I find that people stop listening and just hear the anger, rather than the content.

There seems to be so much anger and I cannot help but wonder if everyone would be a little less angry if they focused on their backyards before anything else. It doesn’t matter how big or small their backyards are, if it is a bad-day tiny backyard or glorious sunshiny day huge backyard, but as soon as you know everything is ok in your backyard, it tends to give you a sense of gratitude and perspective. Obviously opinions won’t change, but maybe it would give people the ability to listen to others and to lose some of the anger.

My backyard has permanent shade from a huge old gum tree that towers over my world. It is home to countless generations of noisy magpies, galahs, birds and kookaburras. The corrugated iron of the chook shed is gradually being covered with jasmine that I planted a few years ago. The smell of the jasmine is a decadent, heady experience and reminds me of hot, sticky summer afternoons. The old bathtub is filled with mint and wild grass. There is a family of rabbits who live under the shed. Near the shed is Tiney-Boppa, our little vintage van, who forever reminds me of adventures and kindred spirits. I have a hills hoist that is increasingly being covered by wisteria and I plan to lie underneath my hills hoist wisteria arbor on lazy summer afternoons.

I love my little backyard. It forever teaches me that it is better to listen than yell.

We don’t always have to agree, but if all is well in our backyards, perhaps we could be better able to listen.

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