Mikel and Rose on the Monaro

The Monaro Plains are a special place for artists Mikel Simic and Rose Ricketson.  It’s where they met and fell in love while working on a project with Big hART two years ago.  They have now been living a very simple life out on the Monaro Plains for the last 6 months.

“I think the Monaro was always calling to us, this landscape has always really appealed to both of us,” Rose tells me in front of the crackling fire at their cottage on a sheep farm half an hour’s drive out of Cooma.  “We love the changing moods and the treeless plains, and we find the sadness and the melancholy in it that can scare others away actually quite enchanting.”

When they first moved here, Mikel was enchanted by the hills and the lines of dead trees, “I was amazed that when I walked up there, there were all these shoots and new branches of life that you don’t see until you get close, and that all the dead trees had living matter coming out of them too.  I thought that was a really nice symbol of this area which sometimes looks quite sparse or that it might be dead, but in fact there’s life everywhere.”

Walking endlessly over the hills and plains with their puppy Luna, they love being out in the landscape and under the huge Monaro skies and realise how special it is out here.  Being able to walk, adventure and stumble across things, finding old mines and creek beds even rotting carcases.

Rose, an artist and social change producer for Big hART, has been working on a project with young women in Cooma.  “I like being inundated with details and emails, lists of things to do and the minute details at work, then coming out here I feel like I’m quite small in comparison, nature dominates out here.”

For musician and performer Mikel “to feel like I’m like a blip is really awesome and it actually makes all your problems insurmountable, they dissipate into the atmosphere.  I write a lot when I’m in the city, but when I got out into this setting there’s just no interruptions.  There’s no internet, there’s no phone and I just listen to the wind.  I can spend a day in this setting and create so much work, in a way I’m creating it and in a way I feel like I’m just a medium for it.”

I’m writing a lot of songs about my own shadow – Mikel

Mikel missed a lot of the harsh Monaro winter, recently returning from his 10th Edinburgh Festival, something that Mikel likens to the Olympic games of the arts.  “It’s the most competitive market because it’s the biggest arts festival in the world and there are so many people all trying to get a crowd”  With a busy schedule Mikel performed over 60 shows throughout the month, having a great time.  “Whether it’s a massively full house or a small crowd I don’t mind, I’ll enjoy each show just as much, and got all of the above.”  When Rose went over at the end of the festival, she loved seeing Mikel in his element over there, “an old hand who knows how it all works.”

Performing with Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen

When Mikel was away and even back at home, a huge part of the experience of living out at Bobundara for Rose has been a feeling of disconnection and being cut off from communication and the community.  Both having very social lives and jobs that are very much about communication, having no phone reception or internet connection initially made Rose restless, picking up her phone and checking it as a nervous habit.  But now instead of going to her phone she goes to a book or the banjo, or spends time creating a nice meal or writing poems in the landscape.

Rose doesn’t think she could live out here forever whereas Mikel, is pretty happy.  “I’m interested in a physical community in a place and it takes time to fit into that.  On some days I really enjoy that loneliness and feeling of isolation and I find it quite exciting, but other times I really miss having a community to be a part of.  I work hard in the community and then come home, I don’t have time to socialise with the community, it’s just work.”

Having to wait 5 weeks for season 5 Offspring DVD from the Cooma library, not being able to join the social netball team because (apologetically) there wasn’t any room for new comers, and not being able to google fat tigers are a few things Rose hasn’t enjoyed so much about living so remotely.  But she has enjoyed living the simple life and really getting to know each other without distractions.  It’s also impossible to check work emails from home.  “It’s not like we’ve got an over abundance of anything, but we’re not lacking anything either.  There’s more to living here than comfort, style or amenities.  It’s not about us out here, it’s all about the land, honouring it, marveling at it, loving it and listening to it”

For Mikel it’s a million dollar silence, “I can make stuff and there’s just no one to interrupt.  I’m at a particular juncture in my life where I want to try new things and find out more about myself through my work, and I think being out here has helped that.”

With an ability and being used to writing songs quickly, Mikel has found himself writing in a longer form.  “Being out here where it feels like everything is a longer form has helped me.  Maybe the landscape is nurturing my writing. Things just start rolling out, whether it’s writing stories, scripts or music, there’s nothing to stand in the way of it.”

Looking forward to moving back to an area with high speed NBN next month, the Monaro will always be a special place for Rose and Mikel that they’ll always come back to, it’s just one of those places.

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