Rayne Allinson

Last month I was volunteering with a group of botanists surveying coastal heathland in the Tarkine Forest Reserve in North-West Tasmania when one of them cried out, ‘Orchid!’ We all rushed over excitedly, our phones and pocket magnifiers at the ready. It was a Green-comb Spider-orchid (Caladenia dilatata), with long, delicate-green limbs and a reddish-purply face, hovering like a ballet dancer in mid-leap. The first thing that astonished me was how tiny it was – no bigger than a human eye – and then, how solitary. Like many orchids, C. dilatata uses sexual deception to mimic the shape of a female wasp; when males attempt to mate with it, they accidentally collect pollen, fertilising the next orchid they visit. Millions of seeds scatter on the wind, but only a few will land on a sunny patch of soil where the correct mycorrhizal fungus is present for it to germinate.

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The figure of the child stands at both ends of human experience in Shakespeare’s plays. The span between our ‘mewling and puking’ infancy and our ‘second childishness’ of old age runs to little more than a dozen lines in Jacques’s famous ‘seven ages of man’ speech in As You Like It, before we slip into ‘mere oblivion, / Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’ In the intervening years, our identity as children might shift as we undergo rites of passage into adulthood, as our relationships with our own parents evolve or as we become parents ourselves. But the child – the archetype of our essential nature – waits patiently for our return. Even Lear, the grand patriarch who disowns the truth-speaking child of his heart, must be racked on the fiery wheel of experience before he can become the ‘child-changed father’ Cordelia recognises in the end.

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Island 159 edited by Vern Field

by
August 2020, no. 423

First published as The Tasmanian Review in 1979 (soon after the Franklin River Dam project was announced) and renamed Island Magazine in 1981 (the year of the Tasmanian Power Referendum), Island emerged as one of Australia’s leading literary magazines, yet always grounded in a fragile environment. True to its ecological roots, this fortieth anniversary edition, put together by the new editorial team of Anna Spargo Ryan (non-fiction), Ben Walter (fiction), Lisa Gorton (poetry), and Judith Abell (art features), maintains a distinctly local focus while exploring new creative directions.

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Tim

Museum of Old and New Art
by
24 April 2020

‘All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,’ wrote the seventeenth-century writer Blaise Pascal. As many of us are discovering, doing nothing alone in a room is a surprisingly difficult and demanding task. Even in these unusual times, when we are being asked – or in some cases, legally required – to stay home and do as little as possible, we are bombarded with suggestions as to how we might fill this sudden excess of time. We can stream a classical concert, watch sea otters floating in distant pools, binge-watch the latest drama series on Netflix, try out ballet fitness routines in our lounge room, or (my chosen method) try to learn the ukulele. And then what? As Pascal knew (even without the benefit of YouTube or TikTok), the easier it is to distract ourselves, the more restless we seem to end up feeling.

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‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,’ writes Annie Dillard in The Writing Life, her timely appeal for presence over productivity in modern life. Turning the page on a new year reminds us of the seasonality of time, its familiar cycles of life, death, and rebirth. But flipping through the empty pages of a calendar can also remind us that time is a human construct designed to regulate our lives for maximum efficiency and output. In today’s attention economy, where time is treated as a currency by the technologies we use to satisfy our animal need for connection, how might we rediscover the joy of being present in a moment, a body, a community, a place? In other words, how are we to live?

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