' A SPECIAL DAY '
July 11, 2015
July 11 2015 is a special day, usually a quite reflective one but this year one saturated with self-discovery, celebration & overwhelming pride.
On what would have been my dad's ninety-fifth birthday, eleven years after his passing, July 11 uncannily turned out to be the day I'd lay the final piece into the Lomas jigsaw.
Ironically eleven years in the making, it is understandable that those who know me won't be surprised it has taken 'the late Mr Lomas' so long to get here, for they've often heard "...things evolve, it must be right from the start, and perfection takes a little bit longer".I'm sure many of them see Rodin's 'The Thinker' as my avatar, and quietly, they might not be too far wrong!
In my own defence, I could rebound with fact that, endowed with such a mountain of visual content to prepare & process, post & publish, such production time is a drop in the ocean.
I might confess that for a proven technical Luddite to jump into the abyss of web design was a massive leap of faith, optimism, even stupidity. Again they might not be too far wrong, so I could take the easy way out by pleading insanity.
Better still, I could quickly dispel any criticism with frankness that in my new life ' I don't give a rats', that art-for-art-sake should have no time limitations, and so, no need for excuse or justification. But I won't.
Instead I'll blame my father, for dad too was a maker, a perfectionist, a passionate, a nature lover, a family man, a patriot, a self-believer, and most of all 'a thinker'. And if I'm tarnished with the same brush I'll eagerly take it and be very proud of it.
True I am a bower bird, and have hunted and gathered a rather vast collection of visual mementos during my four decades of adventures with cameras. So with a shitload of content, and a squillion stories to go with it, it should have been a fairly easy task to build a simple web-showcase for their display. Should have been but not quite, for there was an unforeseen elephant in the room.
Once extracted from dusty, bush rat-munched shoeboxes, and laid out in chronological piles on the carpet, attempts to arrange my jumbled mass into some sort of new world order was like playing a losing game of This Is Your Life 3D-Scrabble.
There were notebooks upon folders of handwritten letters, thoughts & notes. Ideas, concepts & submissions. Faded scrapbooks of newspaper clippings. Drawings. First photographic attempts. Kodachrome & Ektachrome slides. Envelopes overflowing with snaps. Airline tickets & boarding passes, media passes, and postcards for Africa. All sorts of flotsam & jetsam, much long forgotten, and most undated.
The growing timeline resembled a history of media from film to digital. 16mm film on 100' spools from newsroom days. Barb's father's films going back to Melbourne's '56 Olympics. His old Bolex. One-inch, low-band & hi-band videotapes. Vinyl, cassette, CD, VHS, DVD, Betacam. Old demo reels & music-video clips, remnants from Sydney. Family vids. 'Wild Life' stories. Olympic mementos. My own productions. Fishing vids & wallpaper. And the newest, the HD's; hi-def & hard drive.
So where to start ... the middle, the end, or back at the beginning! In searching, sorting & countless lost-in-space moments, the task took on a life of its own. Personal & professional piles spread and met, rejected separation, gradually reforming back into the original jigsaw. In my sphere of life it was a matter of "... who's on first, what's on second, and WTF do you go? Are you a player or spectator, in or out?".
But once my life in its entirety was visually laid out before me an imaginary thread began to join the dots. Without belittling its significance with Blues Brothers or Python metaphors, 'inheritance & connection' beamed its shaft of light upon my 'meaning of life'.
Dad was my best mate, is still sorely missed, and I think of him every day. Before leaving home at sixteen we were constantly together but for a few hours on Saturdays when I played soccer or cricket. For the rest of the time we were inseparable father-son-mates with shared passion for birds: budgerigars, canaries & Australian finches. It was his, then became my life too, and most activity in the Lomas household revolved around our feathered friends.
Gordon Lomas,'The Birdman Of Love Street', had carved a reputation as one of the finest bird breeders & showmen in the land, and it was by no means accidental. Every morning and every night, before and after work as a sewing machine mechanic, dad would care for his flock, one that at times would amass to over two-thousand birds. From over sixty-odd years of breeding, the secret to his success simply came down to endless hard work. Complete dedication to providing them with the best of everything. Uncanny insight into knowing the genealogy of each and every one of them. Ultimate tindering. And an innate understanding of what they needed to produce as close to perfection as possible.
Dad's obsessive perfectionism was no doubt infectious and going by the evidence before my eyes it had etched itself deeply in me. It was a vision I was seeing for the very first time: embedded memories connecting present with past, as clear & strong as ever, forming a distinct trail to my destiny.
Family captured on my Starflash. My first pair of Gouldian Finches chirping beneath the Xmas tree. Helping rebuild his aviaries, twice. Him helping me build mine. Listening to the races & football as we worked. Every weekend spent in the bush collecting white ants for the softbills, or ti-tree bushes for nesting. Sitting on the back verandah teasing rope for nesting material. Visiting other breeders. Playing with Hilton Arthur's pet monkey. Bird show days. Sick days when I couldn't go. Him coming home with Violet-eared Waxbills & Pin-tailed Wydahs, exotic species that blew a young fanatics mind.
There weren't too many days when birds were not a dominant part, but they too were just as rich in memory. Learning to drive the old Valiant on fire trails. Fishing for streamer mullet at Elderslie, or squire at Pulbar Island. Camping holidays at Wangi Point. Crabbing & snorkelling. Visiting relatives, mostly animal-loving farmers. Idle conversation with Uncle Ez while trapping Spice Finches in his backyard. Uncle Ralph's country music albums. Watching soccer from Uncle Tom's back fence.
Almost everything I'd done throughout my detached life, and still cherished, had threads back to my earliest times. A love of the outdoors. Exploration, discovery, adventure. Nature and immersion in it. Wild & natural beauty. Photography, art & music. Even roots to my visual career were virtually apparent. Peering at kaleidoscopic street lights through plastic medicine bottles. Our first television set. Not being much of a talkative family, maybe visual fascination was born earlier than I thought? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe too much 'the thinker' again!
Regardless, what I hadn't anticipated in planning for the task ahead was that everything had intertwined roots to early life in Love Street, and more especially, was deeply influenced by dad.
Personal & professional development merged into one and as piles imploded thought grew into theme spanning the complete length of my voyage. Connection between home & work, friend & peer, family and my own solo life was seamless and interconnected. No single piece of the puzzle was more important than the next. None of life's accomplishments, professional or personal, held more or less value or significance than the other. One and all made equal contribution to the blend, and I could see that any attempt at delineation would distill the story, tell only half, and not paint the full picture. This is what the elephant was trying to tell me.
What started as a simple showcase had evolved into a life story with an underlying theme of 'inheritance & connection'. Life's bounty wasn't so much about end-results or destinations, happenstance or destiny, but the richness of the adventure, the knowledge gathered during it, and the treasures that could be shared from it.
In context lucky-Phil had travelled a rich & bountiful path. Seeds of respect and appreciation for heritage were planted early, had sprouted a quite remarkable journey, and ultimately bloomed into a personally-priceless fortune. If my moment of discovery could be replicated to inspire others to sow the same seeds, to teach their children the importance of identifying and maintaining natural, cultural & family connections, and encourage them to follow their heart & passion, it might help the younger generation to see their bigger picture, find their way, discover their own journey. After a long-hatched awakening suddenly my scattered content was bathed in new light.
A picture without the story behind it is still only a picture, only half the story. Why was that fleeting moment in time captured when it was? What motivated its keepsake quality? What value is impregnated beneath its pictorial surface? What significance does it hold to its holder, mean more than the picture itself?
Experiential storytelling around its making, collection & personal significance would give 'extra dimension & deeper context' to content, add 'new meaning & purpose' to vision & mission. There was no beginning, middle or end, only interconnected moments in time & space that spherically-plotted life's journey. The most poignant of those moments for me was 'now', when the big picture came together to reveal the importance of 'living the moment'. Those moments didn't start or stop, begin or end, but would live on-and-on eternally.
Another moment of clarity had blazed the path ahead. Start with the content that lives for the moment 'right now'. Give that content context & meaning by looking back at those that led to 'here & now'. And in seeing ahead, adopt it as your golden rule for content-priority in the future.
Lomas had blueprint & mudmap for its continuing journey. The web.doco had evolved into web.bio with an essence of 'following your heart and doing what you want to do when you want to do it'! Not living in the past, nor living for the future, but living for 'now'.
Ironically on his birthday, on the eleventh day of July, on the eleventh anniversary of his passing, eleven years since my quest began, dad was still guiding me with his influence and wisdom.
Even in physical absence he'd helped draft the final piece of my puzzle, the preface to its publication. Even more ironically it was the first attempted, and six months later, the last to be completed.
I know that in his most humble & unextraordinary way, dad would feel proud that his legacy continues. Not just 'a thinker' he was also 'a teacher' who gleaned most comfort from passing on his knowledge to others, especially'the younguns'.
On this special day, from wherever he may be, I can only hope that a special man can see that what his father passed on to him, and what he passed on to me, has hopefully been passed on to my children, and will now, be also passed on to others ... 'respect, appreciation and acceptance for all life on earth".
At the risk of stating the obvious Lomas is dedicated to my dad, my beloved mum & sisters, and especially to my wonderful family, Barb, Jesse & Shani who, through their love, support & lifelong belief, inspire me to tell 'my story'.