The dictionary tells me that far·a·way is an adjective that means ‘distant; remote: faraway lands’. Faraway sounds like it might be hard to get to. But what about feeling faraway? How far do you have to travel before you feel truly faraway from it all?
For me, the distance is about as far as the nearest park or natural space. There’s nothing quite like leaving behind the noise and pace of everyday life for the peace and space of the natural environment. In nature, you can feel faraway in the middle of a city. Or in a backyard. Set up a tent in the bush or take a walk through a rainforest and you can feel like you’re a million miles away.
The rejuvenating feeling that nature can engender – of escape, of freedom, of being faraway from it all – is just one of the tangible and profound effects that being in a natural environment can have on us, emotionally, mentally and physically. There’s a plethora of research available now on the restorative power of time spent in nature. World renowned author and expert on people and nature, Richard Louv, has explored this phenomenon in several fascinating books, including Last Child in the Woods, in which Louv describes what he terms a growing ‘nature-defecit disorder’ in children today, and The Nature Principle, a case for the benefits of living ‘nature-balanced’ lives.
Louv’s work has been a catalyst for some of the programs we’re delivering at the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service to encourage people, especially young people, to spend more time in nature – for health, recreation, and to grow support for conservation through personal experience. With the technology we have today, we aim to facilitate that journey by using image, video and word to inspire connections with nature – before you even leave the house.
Could you retreat to a park embraced by harbour and high-rises, and feel like you’ve left the busyness behind? Or do you need to be standing on the edge of wilderness before you can throw off the fetters of daily life? Perhaps your personal faraway requires wide, open spaces, like those found in our outback parks, or the dramatic vistas of an alpine landscape.
As you read about the parks and natural spaces profiled in each of the links above, explore them via their visual tours, or discover them through video for this month’s rwpchat, try to imagine yourself in those places…and next time you want to escape from it all and get as faraway as you can, I recommend heading to your nearest park.
Danielle Millar works for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service in tourism and partnerships. She is also an avid traveler and loves to visit and read about faraway places….even those just around the corner from her home. Email Danielle to find out more about NSW National Parks.
Far Away. For me, these words refer to a very real place of fantasy and adventure, and maybe a little sadness and longing.
I am an immigrant. Those words carry a lot of baggage with them, so I will quickly add that I am a very lucky immigrant. Most people I meet don’t even think of me as such (even if my accent immediately gives away that I was not born here). I am very lucky, and I acknowledge that. Moving from Canada to Australia was not as difficult as I can imagine it would be if I were to move to, say, Mongolia or Paraguay. Canada and Australia share a common language (although my francophone cousins might call me on that one), and to some extent, a common history and culture.
I understand what happened at Anzac Cove. It happened at Vimy Ridge for Canada. I understand Ned Kelly. He’s an Australian Louis Riel. Even in politics, I arrived in this country to Howard vs. Costello, after just leaving Chrétien vs. Martin behind me.
But still, there are differences. There are days when I feel outside the Australian experience. There are less of them as time moves on. In some ways, this is comforting; I fit in now. But often it causes distress, as I feel I am slowly losing something intrinsic to me. As I fit in more and more in Australia, do I fit in less and less in Canada?
I remember one of the first times I spoke about my childhood with my father-in-law. I can’t remember how I got onto the topic, chatting about this or that, but I told him about how we used to have to shovel snow off the pond before going skating. He gave me a quizzical look – he assumed, rightly, that growing up in Canada, I would have the experience of skating on a frozen pond. But he never thought about that less romantic part that they never show on adaptations of Anne of Green Gables – we have to clear the pond before we can skate on it.
Since that day it has irked me, gnawed at me, that my children (my currently-non-existent children I should point out) will not experience this either. It has turned my thoughts inward, and I have revisited in my head many times the Nova Scotia childhood that is so far from me now.
Liverpool, Nova Scotia, is a wonderful town. History has blessed it with a wonderful backstory – a town where skirmishes between the town militia and Yankee raiders took place in front of friend’s houses. Tradition has granted it with its share of ghost stories. And the glaciers left a wonderful gift to kids; they’ve dotted the town with huge boulders that make wonderful forts with a little imagination.
I know I didn’t appreciate it at the time. In my high school year book, I said my ambition was “to leave town”. I’m sure that’s only because I couldn’t fit in “to leave this cruddy little one horse town”. How I regret that now. I suppose those you’re allowed to be young and immature when you’re young and immature.
Now though, over 10000 miles and 20 years away, I miss that little town like crazy. I walk my old paper route in my mind in bed at night. It boggles me to think that the 5th paper I delivered every morning was to some old guy I knew only as Mr. Raddall – that’s Thomas H. Raddall, the celebrated author who penned classics such as The Nymph and the Lamp and Halifax: Warden of the North. I wish I’d have appreciated it at the time. Perhaps Mr. Raddall’s paper would have been delivered a little earlier, and with a little more care.
I wonder if that young kid trudging through the fresh snow, with three layers of winter clothes and 42 copies of the Halifax Chronicle Herald slung over his shoulder, would recognise me. I know he’d never guess he’d wind up where he did. I know he did not foresee the adventures life would take him.
Maybe my (currently-theoretical) children will never know what it is like to clear the snow off the pond near Fort Point on an early December morning. I know they will find adventure here though. And I know they won’t appreciate it until they’re 10,000 miles away and missing home.
Scott is a Canadian-Australian web developer and teacher of Information Technology (Web) at Miller College of TAFE. His interests include technology, history, genealogy, and photography. You can find Scott online at his website http://kshuntley.com and Twitter @MillerTAFEScott.
I snuck my first Mills and Boon out of the house at 12 years old. I’d filched it from the massive pile next to my mother’s chair, the off limits pile. I don’t remember much about the book but what I do remember is that the hero and heroine didn’t kiss until the end with the declarations of love and proposal of marriage and that it was set in England, a far off land that I’d seen on tellie. It could just be a coincidence but I’ve wanted to run away to a faraway land since then. I’ve devoured book after book, thousands of Mills and Boons set in England, Europe and doesntexistlandia. I rarely read anything set in Australia because for me books are there to take me away to the places that until recently I haven’t been able to afford to travel to. With the exception of a school trip to the USA a decade ago I’ve been here reading about faraway lands. Lands that in less than a month I will explore, I feel like I’ve traipsed around London a million times through the words of women whose work is mocked for being unrealistic and unintelligent. Mills and Boon have carted me off to foreign lands when I’ve most needed to run away, from things I really couldn’t escape.
This is why I love reading and despair at book snobs (although I readily admit to being a snob myself). Even the cheapest books, the books considered by many to be trash can transport the reader to another place. The girl hiding down in the back shed reading a Charlotte Lamb after a day at school avoiding bullies or the grown woman hiding in the locker room at work during her lunch break trying to finish the Maisey Yates she discovered on her book shelf like some hidden treasure.
Several years ago I met a librarian who shared my love for romance and lobbied to have a regular romance stash added to the library, finally a library with romances purchased this decade! Since then I’ve discovered more faraway lands and introduced friends, family and anyone too polite to tell me to shut up to romance as a genre.
Books have power, that’s well recognised. Books are my Tardis. And next month I’ll discover those faraway lands I’ve read about for myself.
Sarah is a recent Writing Honours graduate from the University of Technology, Sydney – Communications. Sarah’s main interests are ethnography, Romance and politics. Her work can be found on her blog http://sarahjaneinnes.blogspot.com/ and Twitter @Agnes_andthe
‘Once upon a time, in a faraway place…’
Such familiar words. A cunning device, that sets the scene for the story about to unfold. With a simple phrase our expectations are excited and we are ready to embrace the unknown where the old rules don’t apply and anything could happen.
I’ve always been drawn to the faraway, to stories that require an extension of belief beyond the boundaries of reality. Here are some of my favourites:
Disney films: There has always been a soft spot in my heart for romantic Disney fairy tales like Cinderella (1950), Beauty and the Beast (1991), and Tangled (2010). They often begin with a narrated prologue and whisk the viewer to enchanted lands full of castles, royalty, treachery, romance, and adorable sidekicks. They are definitely more optimistic than the original fairy tales (e.g. The Grimm’s Brothers) but enjoyable nonetheless.
‘Wisha-wisha-wisha-wisha-wisha’ whisper the trees in the Enchanted Wood as they share their secrets with each other. I, like many children before and since, was enthralled by the world of Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree series. While Blyton’s writing has been criticised for being ‘unliterary’ and there are definitely questionable moral issues present in her work, I can’t say I ever really minded the limited vocabulary and repetitive storylines. I loved delving into the worlds above the clouds at the top of the tree and often wished I could have tea and pop biscuits with Moon-Face and Silky.
The Labyrinth (1986) was my go-to movie as a child and I still absolutely adore it. A fantastic collaboration between Jim Henson, George Lucas and Brian Froud, tells the story of Sarah who must solve the Labyrinth in 13 hours or her baby brother, who has been kidnapped by the Goblin King (David Bowie in tights – Oh my!), will be permanently transformed into a goblin. The film alludes to a number of other faraway texts including Grimm’s fairy tales, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by L. Frank Baum, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) by Lewis Carroll. Most notably is its connection to the work of Maurice Sendak and his picture book Outside Over There (1981) which tells the story of Ida, a selfish and jealous young girl, who embarks on a quest to find her baby sister who has been stolen away by goblins. It takes a faraway journey for these girls to realise their own power.
The Neverending Story (1979) by Michael Ende never fails to transport me faraway. The dual narrative of the happenings in Fantasica/Fantasia and the inner journey of Bastian Balthazar Bux are particularly compelling. Bastian, the shy reader of the book, invests himself in the experiences of Atreyu, Artax and Falkor the luckdragon, he despairs in the swamp with the tortoise-like Morla the Aged One, and is fearful of The Nothing. But to his surprise he becomes a critical participant in the story and the savior of the crumbling world. This made me contemplate the role of the reader in faraway stories, or at least the role of myself as a reader when engaging with these fantasies. There is a symbiotic relationship at work: as readers we breathe life into the characters but at the same time these characters breathe life into us. What often begins as a form of escapism ends with recognising the subtleties of one’s own inner strength. We, the reader become the hero.
One of my favourite Australian picture books is Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree (2001). A young redheaded girl wakes up in the morning feeling as though ‘sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to/ and things go from bad to worse’. The story progresses and the girl remains silent throughout her very surreal journey. The central theme is depression, which is unusual for a children’s book, but as Tan explains is ‘inspired by the impulse of children and adults alike to describe feelings using metaphor – monsters, storms, sunshine, rainbows and so on’. Eventually she returns to her bedroom to find a small red tree filling her room with a warm light and there is hope once more.
The Red Tree contains some very strong echoes of Maurice Sendak’s work, particularly Where The Wild Things Are (1963) (but also see In the Night Kitchen (1970)). Max, a mischievous child is sent to his room without supper. While there, a forest begins to grow and Max sails away on a boat to where the wild things are. Max is embraced as their king, and they embark upon a wild rumpus. Max becomes lonely and gives up being king to return to his bedroom where he finds his supper waiting for him (still hot). Both stories begin and end in the domestic space of a child’s bedroom, and each protagonist undertakes an imaginative, but psychologically real, journey in a liminal space, betwixt and between reality and fantasy.
Reflecting upon my choices, and their central themes, I do note that while I enjoy the idyllic rosiness of popular adventure stories, the ones that have really resonated with me have been a touch darker. I have always been drawn to stories that explore strong emotions (fear, anxiety, despair) where protagonists have to make difficult decisions. For me they are stories of triumph and hope as the characters reach deep within themselves to find a strength they never knew they had, they return home to reality with a sense of hope and the chance of a new day. The faraway I seek is dark and difficult, it is truthful and poetic, it is bittersweet, it is hopeful and it is beautiful.
What kind of faraway do you search for? Which picture books take you on a journey to a faraway land?
Chloe Killen is a Melbourne-based PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle investigating creativity in the production of Australian children’s picture books. She is the convenor of #pblitchat, a Twitter-based chat about picture books held every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month.
This month the reading theme is #faraway.
What do you think of when you read far far away? Does it take you back to reading fairy stories or does it make you think of other stories/histories which take place far far away? Are Westerns #faraway reading or watching for you?
Does it make you think of travel to places #faraway? Or of science fiction, space travel and exploration? Or is it of fantasy with creatures and ideas from #faraway?
What places seem #faraway to you? They may be countries or worlds away, or only a few blocks, suburbs or towns away?
What ideas are #faraway? Are any of them coming closer?
How do you connect to people #faraway? The twitter reading group is a great way to connect with people #farway as you can discuss your reading, watching, playing with people anywhere in the world, simply by using #faraway (or the different tags for each month).
What children’s books take you #faraway? There are lots of amazing graphic novels to take you #faraway?
While you are reading, playing or watching for #faraway, you might like to tweet about it using #faraway so that other people can have a conversation with you. You can add to the discussion on Pinterest too.
There will be a live twitter discussion on 25 June starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. 9.00pm New Zealand Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 12.00 noon Central European Summer Time. Note : this is a staggered start to the discussion.
Use the tags #faraway and #rwpchat as you discuss the reading, watching playing that is your experience of faraway, so others can join in the conversation too.
- The May twitterchat was themed #indigireads. You can view the whole conversation at Readwatchplay Storify #indigireads.
Readwatchplay starts by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we each are and pay our respects to the elders.
In this discussion, indigenous works from New Zealand, Australia and Native American people were mentioned. Books, authors, movies, cooking and lots of websites were shared.
- What is Indigenous? The question was raised asking what is indigenous, author or subject…
- From UTS Library: #indigiread book teaser: “…they’ll be paying our people with the very money that the government stole from our grandparents.” – The Boundary, by Nicole Watson. See the full teaser http://read.lib.uts.edu.au/2013/05/teaser-tuesday-28th-of-may-2013.html
- The importance of preserving language was recognized, noting this is often undertaken through children’s books.
- The 6th National Indigenous Arts awards were announced, with Anita Heiss posting about these: http://anitaheissblog.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/6th-national-indigenous-arts-awards.html?spref=tw
- National Reconciliation Week, 2013 is from 27th May to 3rd June.
- GoodReads list of Indigenous Writing:
- Read more…
I hea te pūnga o ngā pakiwaitara? Nā mātou ngā moemoea, nā mātou te kī, nā mātou hoki te pānuitia o aua mea e ngā wā kātoa.
Nō ngā tipuna te kī o ngā mahi toi i roto i ngā rua, i roto i ngā pakiwaitara hoki.
Kei te ao hurihuri he momona ara mō te pūtaki o ēnei, he ‘tweet’, he ‘blog’, he pukapuka rānei.
Kia kore tātou e ngaro ngā pūrākau, na te mea, mehemea, ā wai tātou i te korenga?
I taua wa tonu e kore te tāhuhu kōrero, te pūmaharatanga, me te tikanga.
Arā te hapaitiatanga o ngā tangata e noho ana i te pouritanga.
Me mau tātou ki ngā whakamanamana me te hari i roto i ngā pūrākau.
E te tuari me te matauranga ka kōrero tātou hei whakahonoa.
I hea te pūnga o ngā pakiwaitara?
O tātou whakaaro?
O tātou pūkeko?
O tātou tai ao?
Ā ka hoki atu ki te rangi.
Whāia ngā pae o te māramatanga me te aroha
Te pae tata, te pae tawhiti
Kia puta koe ki te whaiao ki te ao mārama.
Where do stories come from? We dream them, tell them, write them, read them – and we always have. The cave drawings of the ancients told stories; oral histories tell stories; tweets and blogs as well as novels and histories tell stories. What and who would we be without stories? There would be no history, no memory, no culture … People in bad circumstances have their own stories – their memories and dreams – as consolation. And we cherish our stories of triumph and joy. We all tell stories to share and inform each other of who we are and what we believe. Where do stories come from? Our minds? Our experience? Our environment? The heavens?
Pursue the thresholds of understanding
The near and distant horizons,
And so emerge into the world of light.