Where are you from?
I live in Brisbane.
What’s your background?
I was born in the Barossa Valley in South Australia, half a century ago, and like a good wine, age just makes me better.
I grew up in a tiny country town largely populated by immigrant German farmers and had the “typical” 1970’s Aussie childhood of dust, gum trees and throwing rotten paddy melons at each other in the back paddock.
Dad ran the local Garage and Mum was the temping Primary School Teacher who started a ballet school in the old Institute. We freely roamed the town and the most trouble we were likely to get into was scaring each other with ghost stories while sneaking into an abandoned house.
My favourite thing was to press against the open, dusty flyscreen at night, under the pull down blind and watch the endless activity at the country Pub over the road, a line of utes with dogs in them forming a guard of honour. My view of the pub frequently interrupted by a semi-trailer, lit in all its glory, roaring through town packed with sheep, cows or grain. The smells of grease, stale beer, dogs and farmers are imprinted on my mind as “home”.
The best thing about growing up in the 70’s were the outrageous fashion trends (I have an enduring closet love of velvet and platform shoes) and Abba.
I was largely a tomboy, finding boys easier to be with than girls, the exception being my Barbie Dolls, of which I had many. I acted out all the dramas of life through them: the car crash that killed my Mum’s friend and her 3 little girls, the whispered conversations in the kitchen (Mum was a great confidant and listener to many women), the dramas of a grown up world that seemed so much more interesting and enticing than a little girl’s.
As a teenager, I moved to the city and private school where I discovered a love of reading, drama, music, religion and a fascination for people. Wanting to be a writer, poet and artist, but lacking sufficient belief in myself to make a living from any of those things, I left home at 17 to explore the world and married at 19 to live on campus with my eccentric and endlessly interesting boyfriend who was training to be a priest. He had also grown up in the dust and vastness of South Australian country.
My favourite quote is by Helena Bonham Carter: “I think everything in life is art: what you do, how you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art”.
How would you describe your life right now?
My College aptitude test scored off the charts for me to be a writer. It suggested a practical option of journalism or librarianship. I became a Librarian, well aware of my lack of interest in current affairs (I was a history major).
I love the smell, feel, size and shape of books. Ironically, I specialised in technology – firstly because I was good at it and secondly because that was where the future seemed to be, and as a librarian I have had very little to do with actual books.
The marriage with the priest didn’t last, but the vestments I made for his ordination are now worn by a Bishop and Archbishop.
The second marriage with the photographer is shaky, although his photography is superb. I am proud of decorating his current house in a classy, masculine gentleman’s club style. He lives on 5 acres in a mudbrick house with his dog.
I’m a Librarian in a university, waiting to unleash the author/poet/artist who is waiting for someday to arrive. I have two wonderful children who were the mystery parcels that arrived in my late 30’s and early 40’s, who add magic to my every day.
I live with two other women of similar age, their sons, and a Licorice-allsorts assortment of dogs and cats in my rambling 1930’s Brisbane Queenslander – opposite the local garage, suburban trains replacing the sound of my childhood night time semitrailers.
What’s important to you and your life?
It’s important to me to be a poet and a healer – a contribution to others.
As a writer, I’ve been driven to understand the inner workings of a human being – thoughts, feelings, avarice, lust, greed, romance, ideals, death. I have found people fascinating, and at the same time, overwhelming. I attempt to make sense of them in art and there’s no understanding people sometimes.
What matters to me is for everyone to experience their own power. By this, I mean their own sense of self – to feel whole and complete, at ease, capable of creating what they want with their life, capable of being in communication and communion with others. The holy grail of this quest for me is power in the face of the things we bump up against, to not be stopped.
In recent years, I have been on a magical journey of personal development and am committed to leadership in this genre to make the discovery of self possible for others. I can imagine a future where people are free to be and free to act with each other, creating their life in harmony and not in reaction because of something’s or someone’s constraints. I am currently working on expressing this through my poetry, writing and conversation.
I really believe that words create worlds.
What specific experiences, people or events have shaped your view?
Dad spent his early career as a grease monkey fixing people’s tractors, trucks and cars and restoring vintage cars that I loved playing in and around as a child. Then he became a salesman – solving people’s problems and maintaining a sense of humour. He is a great story teller.
Mum was a school and ballet teacher. Despite scoliosis, she had been a circus gymnast performer as a young child and my whole life at home was surrounded by paper mache, tulle and lycra as she endlessly created costumes for ballet concerts or for my cousin’s ice-skating competitions.
In return for the latter, we got boxes of hand-me-down clothes and my life has been about recyled and upcycled fashion, cemented in by my 11-year-old discovery of op shops on a family holiday (by the way, that cousin ended up owning and operating an ice-skating rink in Canada and was instrumental in my “first kiss” experience).
Grandma lived in a small flat on the side of an old, crumbling mansion in Warradale – a journey to the bathroom required navigating many dark, musty corridors with heavy velvet curtains.
For entertainment, my cousins and I would stand on the old tesselated tiles of the verandah and spit watermelon seeds into the garden or make tea-pot stands out of tiny mosaic tiles and plywood Grandma had found at a local building site.
I read “The Desiderata” on our kitchen wall every day and attended Church with Mum. This gave me an enduring sense of “all of it” – the Universe, the bigger picture, and a sense that life is unfolding as it should – trust, faith, hope and love. It made me quite courageous and bold and a leader of sorts throughout my life.
Some people stand out as influencers: my best friend Eliza, who is a citizen of the world (sometimes I live vicariously through her).
My favourite poets: Bruce Dawe and Gerard Manly Hopkins, my favourite author: Tim Winton, my favourite musicians: the Bare Naked Ladies, my husband, Gary, for his art, his enduring sense of adventure and the extraordinary journey we have been on together, and my Nan, who was the first woman in South Australia to get a motorcycle license.
My love for creating, expressing, being artistic, being a contribution and empowering others along the way has been shaped by almost every person or situation that’s come into my life.
There’s a story in each of them, waiting to be told – I am living a life with legends.
Deidre Bryson is a mum, librarian, maker, poet and writer.