Cass Grant

About My TinyLetter

“Common Ground” is a collection of distractions, interactions and reflections as I move between Australia & Indonesia and find a space to call home.

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https://tinyletter.com/cassgrant

Excerpt

How do you tame the white noise in your head? A year in Indonesia had worn me out and I was ready to return to Sydney, sink back into myself while watching waves lick at familiar coastlines. But it took less than a month to miss the heat and grit and calls to prayer. As nice as it was to spend time with friends and deepen my family ties, it was hard to retrace my steps along orderly streets and see the paths I could have taken in another life. Once again the urge to flee resurfaced. A friend had taken up a teaching post in a small town seven hours away, so telling myself I was being a good mate I headed inland to experience for myself the red dirt of deep country.

Lake Cargelligo is home to a thousand-odd souls and takes its name from the large stretch of water where, for thousands of years, the Wiradjuri and Ngiyampaa people fished along its shores. There’s a charity shop on the main strip, some boarded-up banks, two pubs and the charred outline of a third. Past the sports oval you can see the terminating station for the grain train that once ran through surrounding towns to unknown destinations. What used to be the wheat belt has turned into canola country. In the right season you can drive past yellow crops rooted in red soil, or blackened fields left over from bushfires raging across the scrubby landscape.

Everything about this place was the mirror of life in the tropics: here it was dry, cold, empty, quiet. Low-slung clouds floated in blue skies pinned to the horizon by the promise of greenery. And birds, everywhere: kookaburras cackling, willie wagtails hopping around roadside bushes, pelicans circling and diving, emus in small packs, a pair of migratory eagles building their annual nest. Adam the biology teacher took us out in his tin dinghy onto the water, and we sank beers as he drove around the far edge of the lake to the rookery where thousands of cormorants, herons and black swans congregated. It stank like a marina. White droppings striped the lower halves of the redwood trees in which the cormorants nested. Occasionally you’d see the bodies of juvenile birds wedged in tree forks where they’d failed their practice flights. 

Like everyone I’d met, Adam spoke with an accent flatter and drier than the landscape, and I shrugged it on like a secondhand coat. I also learned to take on some of the stoicism that people develop out of necessity. A week in Lake Cargelligo was hardly enough time for me to begin to understand what it would be like to live there. But the people were friendly enough despite my city ways, my non-white ways, my homesick ways that drive me to seek empty roads in far flung places. Thanks for letting me step out of my head vortex and showing me the remarkable parts of your home.

Q&A

WHY DID YOU START A TINYLETTER?

My tinyletter started as a way to collect and share all the things I’d been separately emailing to all my friends: stories about remarkable women, advice on self care, snapshots around the city, flashes of literary inspiration, and essays exploring how to create a new and better world. The format and content has changed along with my life direction. When I moved to Indonesia to work in community development, my tinyletter then became a window for friends and families and strangers to observe how I learned to navigate my way between worlds.

What Is Your Experience of the Community?

Tinyletter creates a space where you can have private conversations with people you might otherwise admire from a distance. I’ve met so many smart, interesting, accomplished people – mostly women – who write for a living and use tinyletter as a fun outlet. Or this might be a way for them to sandbox ideas without the pressure of producing a polished final product. They might casually mix the personal with the informative, and since they’re often also recommended by my friends, it all helps to foster meaningful digital connections. When their letters arrive in my inbox, or if they take the time to respond to mine, it feels like we’re speaking across a kitchen table with mugs of tea by our elbows. It’s hard to achieve that level of intimacy elsewhere.

What Advice Would You Give?

Just do it. Set up an account, figure out what you vaguely want to write about and how much time you want to invest, and dive right in. The format and style will shake itself out the longer you give it a go. Don’t worry about the number of subscribers you need to collect a week out from launching. Try not to worry about your mum or your bosses reading your letters – you’ll only self-censor the very thing that people are drawn to in the first place. Write like you’re speaking to your best friend. And have fun!

I’m a writer, zinemaker and development worker currently based in Jakarta, Indonesia.

I’m interested in personal narratives and hearing how people find their place in the world. Having grown up in Sydney, Australia and worked on a range of community driven initiatives, I now have the incredible opportunity to reconnect with my heritage and enable indigenous communities in Indonesia to preserve their storytelling traditions and local wisdom.

http://cassgrant.com/

@cass_grant