I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Such a Fortunate Life Have I Led

... that I have never received a bereavement card until the vet clinic that looked after Mima so well sent me a lovely card. Three pictures of serene cats, and a lovely message inside, along with a packet of seeds to scatter in the garden, and the wish, "May each flower bring a happy memory of Mima."

Of course I understand this is not a bereavement on the human scale. But it does, all the same, feel like a lesson in mortality. This is, after all, one of the reasons why we think it's good for children to have pets, to accustom them to the cycle of birth and death. Mima's life was a very good one; and she died in a most natural cat-like way: discreetly and privately. It's still sad, though.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Thank-you, everyone, for your kind comments and sympathies. It's both sad and comforting to feel others feel this sadness, too; and how it extends well beyond the loss of an animal, into a sense of the connections we make with them.

I called in to the vet's last night, to let them know to take Mima off their mailing list for the reminders for her various medications and check-ups. It's a big practice and it was a busy time, but the nurse took time to give me a hug and they all remembered her and commiserated. And for the first time I shed tears and sobbed all the way home.

Mima's vet, Anu, wasn't there, but she kindly phoned me up this morning and confirmed that yes, what with the kidney problems, the hypertension, the thyroid problem, the arthritis, and the epileptic fits, it was most likely that she had simply realised the time had come and it was easier just to slip away. The nurse last night thought she was trying to save me the agony of watching her deteriorate further, and I must say I was not looking forward to a final injection. Anu said what a lovely cat she was, and so easy and gentle to treat, and said they would always remember her, in her wicker picnic basket. I must say, this group represents best vet practice, as far as I can see.

It's feeling more and more real every day, though I see her in different parts of the house and garden each day.

I should have said, though, that the previous post was for Eileen, because she confessed in Siena she didn't at first like blogs because she didn't want to read about people's cats. She graciously said she had changed her mind (heavens, her dog now has his own facebook page!), but I thought it odd that the thing that brought me back to the blog was in fact the disappearance and death of my dear cat. So it proves she was right to make the association; and it also says something about the way a blog can somehow both extend you into community (a community of animal lovers, in this case), and how a cat can also remind you that you make those extensions beyond yourself, all the time.

That's not making a huge amount of sense, I know. I guess it's part of the work of mourning, to go over and over the same feelings.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Learning to Die — a post for Eileen

Thanks to all who posted comments and thoughts on my blogging paralysis.

Today, I return to the blog with the familiar theme of mortality. We've not seen the little old cat Mima for three days now, and I think she has quietly gone away to die. Over the last week she was looking more and more uncomfortable, whether standing, or crouching. I'd not seen her curled up, or sprawling with ease for a very long time. She had had several more fits, and I believe they were starting to affect her synapses, as she'd stand still for a long time, as if trying to remember how to put one foot in front of another to walk. She was having trouble jumping up on to our knees, but still loved to be held and cuddled as always. She was still grooming herself, but was very thin. She'd walk around and around the room in circles; she'd forget to eat; she'd forget she'd eaten; and generally was not really herself. A few days ago I held her close and told her the day might come soon. She seemed, now I look back, to be fading away from herself.

It was probably kidney failure in the end. Or the simple task of moving her old body through the day just became too much for her. She disappeared on Friday night, but turned up again on Saturday. But Sunday morning she was gone again and there has been no sign of her. I imagine she is deep in the garden somewhere or under the house, just quietly crouching, head sinking down until it does not lift again. There was no point calling her, as she is completely deaf. And in any case, it's so clear to me that she has taken herself away.

I'm sad there is no body to bury. But I still see her nestled in the garden when I walk outside: amongst the gardenias; sipping from the fishpond; walking up and down the paths. And I am overwhelmed by the dignity of her going away to die, especially as this was an extremely domesticated cat.

She came to me when she was a mere 8 weeks old, in 1991. From the day I brought her home she was a cuddly, talkative kind of cat, who loved to be held, and to sit on you. She spent many a happy hour on my desk, and in my house in Brunswick used to play a game of getting around the study without touching the floor: bookshelf to desk to cupboard to mantlepiece, etc. When I returned from the supermarket she'd greet me at the front door then thunder down the corridor to the kitchen. This was in the days before the calesi virus, when rabbit was cheap and plentiful, and rabbit liver a Saturday lunchtime treat. When we moved to the shared house in Fitzroy, she was not made welcome by the resident cat, and kind of lived in the front room for a year, until she became the sole resident cat here.

Mima loved a party. I always expected her to disappear, but she'd sprawl on the floor in the middle of a group and accept adulation.

When she was about a year old, she got into a fight, and had a tiny abscess on one ear. I took her to the vet and it began to heal, but the ear seemed to be turning back on itself as the scar tissue tightened. I took her back to the vet, who kept her overnight while he operated, straightening out the ear and stitching it to a piece of x-ray film. A week later we went back. He removed the stitches, and everything looked well, until she shook her head and the tip of her ear fell off. He was very embarrassed; and it was kind of funny, but left her with a damaged ear that looked far worse than the original injury. I have told that story hundreds of times, now, to nearly everyone who's come to my house over the last eighteen years. I've probably just told it for the last time.
When Joel was born, she was completely unimpressed. I remember sitting up in bed, breastfeeding, while she sat on the extreme corner of the bed with her back to us. But Joel's first word was "dat", and after that they became firm friends. They've watched much television together; and she's often been the image on his phone. He gave her her "cheeseballs", her various medications wrapped up in cheese; and a little taste of "breakfast milk" after finishing his cereal. She was part of so many of our little family routines, and we are all missing her very much.

She was the kind of cat who'd come and sit on your chest, and pat your face with her paws, and nuzzle and kiss you, and purr in your ear, telling you her secrets, as my sister said, or lie in your arms and stretch her paws up to your face. She'd always say hello when entering a room; and if you ran into her on the garden path and put your hand down, she would come up on her back feet so as to receive a pat.

None of these photos captures the beauty of this sweet little cat, or her funny little ways. Perhaps she wasn't the prettiest cat; but she was a cat of great character, and a cat who seemed to want to be closely knit into the fabric of our days. The vet said to me a few months ago — and it was at this moment I began my mourning, I think — "She's been at your side a long time, hasn't she?"

Farewell, little Mima, beloved companion.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Look what Simone found

Check out this report of Simone Marshall's cool discovery: a forgotten edition of Chaucer: http://www.odt.co.nz/campus/university-otago/121305/chaucer-volume-significant-discovery

Monday, August 16, 2010

Early Modern Print Culture at Melbourne

Two new initiatives around early modern print culture in Melbourne...

Announcing the launch of two new websites:




We are very pleased to announce that two websites developed with the assistance of a Scholarly Innovation Information Grant from the Baillieu Library are now Œlive‚ and can be found at the following addresses:



The ŒMelbourne Prints‚ website is being used to showcase a range of rare early modern books and prints held in the Baillieu Library, and ˆ as a work in progress ˆ will also feature work by students enrolled in several subjects in the School of Historical Studies, including the Honours and Masters by Coursework subject ŒMedieval Manuscripts and Early Print‚. The ŒDisasters in Early Modern Europe‚ website features information about the ARC Discovery Grant held by Charles Zika, Susan Broomhall and Jenny Spinks. Please drop by both sites as we continue to develop them over the next few years.

Catherine Kovesi
Tim Ould
Robyn Sloggett
Jenny Spinks
Charles Zika

A funny distraction

Thanks to everyone, here, and on Facebook, for comments about blogging and online communication. Yes, I let that remark get to me and overthrow much of what I really think about such things. More on this soon, I think, but in the meantime, do check out Tony Abbot's Iron Ladies: http://www.youtube.com/user/joholafaclub#p/a   Clever, clever girls.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Sudden online paralysis

... has been produced by a chance remark from one near and dear to me, to the effect that online writing doesn't form community so much as it allows the writer to project themselves, or an idea of themselves, into a network.

I know there are other ways to think about this, but for the moment, it's done for me. That's all the projecting I can assemble today.