North of Bell is a project to write about the practice of place-making in everyday life. I have an interest in the ways we inhabit neighbourhoods and places, the ways we make identity and community in the specificity of place.
I live in Melbourne, Australia, a city of more than 4 million people, which sprawls 8694km Sq. Although it might be true to say that Melbourne has a distinct character and tone, its sheer size and diversity means that, stretching from the Central Business District, out to the rural-urban interface of new estates, it might be more accurate to say that there are lots of different ‘Melbournes’. And it has been much remarked that the more globalised and homogenous uber-capitalism makes our world, the more we may also cherish what is local and particular.
So firstly, North of Bell is a project about this paradox – – that to care for the earth as a whole, we need to attend to the local, the particular, where we are, and what we do, as everything is connected. It is linked to a practice and poetics of the situated and particular.
I could locate the beginning of my interest in inhabitation and the poetics of place at any number of times in my youth, but a course I did as part of my Bachelor’s Degree at Monash in the early 1990s certainly crystallised the issues and possibilities of thinking in this way. The Politics of the Environment looked at development, global capital, environmental law, and environmental economics. Most intriguingly, the lecturer, Prof. Robyn Eckersley, now continuing her work at the University of Melbourne, introduced us to the different ways of looking at the environment and how these worldviews then inform action. The experience of being in her lectures and engaging with the readings was of the type that you hope for when you embark on studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences – I was prompted to think again about bedrock assumptions in our civilisation, and to see habitual ways of thinking from a new angle as ideologies, and hence, subject to change. Most profoundly, Eckersley introduced her students to the work of Arne Naess and ecological ways of thinking.
Secondly, North of Bell is about the practices of writing about place and landscape. Writing about something often makes us more mindful, more curious and attentive to the meaning of our actions and the quality of our relationship to the physical environment and other beings, human and non-human alike. Writing about living in place is linked to the concepts of psychogeography and landscape memoir, both literary non-fiction genres I enjoy.
Lastly, North of Bell is a space for the chronicle of my partner, my son and I embarking on a new and significant part of our lives as a family – we are planning a major renovation of our 1940s red-brick house to transform it into an energy-efficient, more sustainable, and more liveable home. This is part of an overall attempt to make our lives more focussed and intentional, even amidst the almost-mandatory busy-ness that characterises our household, along with everyone’s we know. Can we pare back and live with more focus and less waste? We shall see …
Other blogs I write:
http://www.fleurdiamond.com — an occasional journal about English teaching and such.
http://www.diamondsharp.wordpress.com — a journal about my reading, and other stuff.