Netherland Dwarfs: taking care of them in Australia
This year, after four years of studying, I have my Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. It’s been a slog that I’ve been documenting along the way, and will post more on later (in the interest of helping others) (and as a reference point for next year when attempting to start my Degree… Wait, am I really going to do that? Yeh. I reckon.) I’m pretty sure I’ve passed; and in a week or so, I’ll know for sure. In retrospect, if I’d known my health would have gone downhill the way it has in the last two years, I wouldn’t have taken this on. Lucky I did, though: I’m pretty buzzed just on what I’ve achieved; and I don’t regret it one iota. Victoria University (VU) have been adeptly wonderful at accommodating my condition; and they’ve been wonderfully adept at finding solutions to barriers that kept coming down on me like the boom gates at St Albans railway crossing.
One such challenge was printed material. Inks printed with petrochemicals sting and dry my eyes, swell my eyelids (kinda like fragrance does), cause a headache, rash on my face and dry out the skin on my hands. And that’s just the immediate symptoms! Over continued exposure, there’s sensitisation (worsening of symptoms over a quicker time frame), and that ol’ petrochemical vagueness that doesn’t belong in a classroom–or anywhere else, actually. And sneezing, tiredness…
VU Disability staff, teachers (and students via inclusiveness) helped me reorganise the way I study and interact in the classroom in regards to that part of my situation: I used an iPad to take photos and scan documents; students and staff emailed documents rather than giving pages printed in ink (which would need airing out, possibly blow away in the wind or get rained upon, becoming a general pain in the ass–then get put behind plastic sheets in a binder!); we used DropBox for handing in assignments, and receiving them back marked; the classroom textbook was given in PDF (this year, 2014, last year, 2013, and for the last half of 2012 when this crapy condition reared an extra-ugly head I didn’t know existed); and any handouts that were on paper were put behind plastic sheets for me. (Awesome, I know!)
So it’s only poetic-disability justice that, for our last subject ‘Be a Publisher’ and ‘Produce a Publication’, instead of publishing an actual hard-copy of a book, I created and published an eBook! Enter: Netherland Dwarfs: taking care of them in Australia written by Mischa van Loder (aka me!).
This is the book that I dragged out of myself along with the help of VU specialty eBooking employee, and author K.A Cook (aka my mate, Kim). I had planned to publish my poetry; but… this year has been a clusterfuck of raw emotion, and other stresses placed on top of an illness that just layered mind-blowing pain on top of agony’s agony, so the idea of sharing my poetry was akin to going to classes with no clothing on. Rather not do that, actually.
I always thought my first book would be clawing with themes of social justice and feminism—not rabbit antics. Enter: Minxy and Tirian. (Below: they had just come home from the vet and having been desexed. Spray much now, boys?)
Yes, they are fully grown. Minxy (on the left) weighs 930 gms, Tyrian, 980 gms. Almost 2 kg of pure love, right there in the box! These cute little balls of fluff got me through turmoil of mass dimensions. For me, holding a rabbit has a calming affect almost like meditation but more zen; like valium but less edgy; like love but more loving. There were days where, in tears, raging against the unfairness of it all, I wasn’t coping. I was in pain with cotton wool shoved up one nostril (for three months) and constant pain on the left side of my face, a situation, sadly, I accepted and adapted to. And it’s only now, looking back, I can say I was depressed. Possibly clinically, definitely situationally. (More on this in another post.) This book WAS dragged out of me. I struggled to write. The words wouldn’t come. Couldn’t connect my thoughts. I wrote around the photos. But I know that, woo hoo as this sounds, this book chose me; though, I can honestly say there was nothing else I could have written about (possible my dog. Oh, wait, I did write about my Bella Puppia… )
So yeh, I wrote this book with a rabbit—sometimes two—on my lap. Days and nights were spent researching Netherland Dwarf rabbits and checking out YouTube to see if other dwarfs were as athletically talented as mine. I have to tell you, mine do this thing where they scoot across the lawn, fast, then stop and spin, doing a bunny burn out at the end. My dog, Bella, thought they were puppies, endlessly licking them, pulling them closer with her chin. She was fixated. (Until I employed her skills to help me get them back in the cage after, in my perpetual vagueness, I left it open one afternoon. Now she realises that these are the same creatures that we see run across the tracks on our walks. She’s still fixated; ergo, on waiting for them to run off so she can chase them back into the cage!) (I will post another post about why I think these make great pets for people with chronic illness, chemical sensitivities. I’ve even worked out how to keep their cage mould free… ) For the last six months my life literally revolved around rabbits… And then there were the photos. Ever an admirer of Anne Geddes photographic work, I took artistic cues from her, while looking to express my ideas via the pictures: rabbits in tea cups; wheelbarrows; on giant mushrooms. Subsequently, I spent many hours behind the camera. Life, well, my perspective on it, took on new form, meaning, dimensions.
Through the lens, I saw the world differently. It was beautiful.
Until I put the camera down. Writing was a struggle and I just couldn’t get my thoughts around the many projects I was supposed to be working on. I suppose the good thing about being that ill and that unhappy is that it forces you to slow down, take stock and focus only on what is actually doable. Netherland Dwarf Rabbits: taking care of them in Australia is a result of that focus. Slowly, over the last six months, life has returned to some kind of normal for me, so many elements have improved on a myriad of levels, that I KNOW, just KNOW, I’m in recovery; my health has made leaps and bounds (more on that soon, too), and from my new vantage point, I can see that, if the Universe throws things at us for a reason, then, this book (as a surprise as what it was/still is), and struggle that it was, is totally meant to be. Now, on to the next one…
Anne Geddes at Work
More from K A Cook:
“I am so damn proud of Miche, and, even though I am drowning, I feel a tiny glimmer of pride for me, too. I have made a difference in someone else’s life. I have been able to start somebody – someone who, like me, exists on the fringes of society; someone else whose needs and wants are drowned out or ignored by a majority who doesn’t listen; someone else who most desperately needs the skills to make herself heard – on the road to something that, I am sure, will be wonderful and amazing. I’ve been able to empower someone in their creativity. At a time when I feel most useless and powerless, that matters. I am drowning and I can still make a difference. There is a power in enabling people to create, and if I can feel it even while smothered in an ocean of grey, it is profound, wondrous and fierce.”
Thank you, Kim. You’re bloody awesome mate! And to any staff or students from my classes at VU, thank you so much for getting it together for me and actually coming to classes free from fragrance. You put the shine on humanity! xx You can buy Netherland Dwarf Rabbits: taking care of them in Australia, here, at Smashwords And here, at Amazon You can like Netherland Dwarf Rabbits: taking care of them in Australia on Facebook, here