A New Natural

Photo by Paola Rizzi

“The more resolutely you plumb the question, ‘Who or what am I?’ – the more unavoidable is the realisation that you are nothing…apart from everything else.”

-Alan W. Watts

Forty-one. I remember I am nothing over Greek salad when Mum recounts my birth.

“You took your first breath and burrowed into my breast. Your father took one look at you and told me he was happy we now had a daughter each,” she says.

Dad on women: (1) Lesbos (2) Bitches (3) Sluts (4) Other bad words.i

I fill my mouth with fetta and try not to out myself.ii


Two. My family comprises one mummy with a fat lip, one daddy with white knuckles, a not-my-dad! half-sister, and me.

I suck on a dummy while my world bleeds from her mouth.iii

Later, I’ll suckle mock milk because hers dried up when I was two weeks old.


Eight. Cairns Melbourne Cairns Melbourne Cairns.

My little brother and I slurp unidentified fats through a straw unsure as to who’s Arthur and who’s Martha.

On a play-date, my friend and I shine torches into our vaginas looking for answers to questions we don’t know how to articulate.


Twelve. I can see the tuckshop from where I sit with my back against the wall drinking chocolate milk and jumping at noises.

I think in bodies – mine, my best friend’s and Patrick Swayze’s.

The milk is full of chocolatey clumps and though I don’t know what I am, I suspect Dad’s right about me being 1 through 4.iv


Sixteen. I hate boarding school, Dad, and my body. I seek love in letters and too many peanut butter sandwiches.

Dear Mum,

I know I said I wanted to leave, but I want to come home.

Me x

Dear Daughter,

Nothing’s changed. Work hard. Be somebody.

Mum x


Seventeen. I lose my virginity to my triathlete boyfriend and wonder what all the fuss is about.

I return to the holiday apartment where I’m interrogated over a hot cup of Milo by a nanna who asks me if I’m satisfied with myself now that I’ve had sex with a boy.

Religion: A manmade sham invented to subdue the unwitting via shame.v


Eighteen. I exchange low-fat for no-fat and daily aerobics classes to clean house.

I read Doolittle[vi] to my little sister – betrayed by who and what matters – and imagine my carrot is a fudge sundae in an attempt to suppress feelings I can’t afford to feel.

Starve, binge, purge, and an extra serving of SELF-LOATHING.vii


Nineteen. Never underestimate the inclination to bolt.

Dreaming of Cadbury-coated cunts in biochem because consciousness is not an option.




                                                I’M SOMEWHERE ELSE.viii


Twenty-one. Mum leaves Dad.

Dad attempts to kill Mum.

I take up laxatives, cry for a year to a guy I want to believe is The One, and graduate university with a Bachelor of Nursing and zero confidence in my ability to do anything.ix


Twenty-two. Before I leave Australia in an attempt to escape marriage and life in the ‘burbs:

Mum: “You’ve got to use your brains or your body.”

Somewhere in England: I snort copious amounts of Snow White from a dirty toilet lid and dance topless around a pole, my mind on the money that accrues with successfully peddling the Bollinger. Under dimmed lights, Natalie Imbruglia cries Torn and I squish a fifty into my fuck-me boots while a middle-aged white collar looks down his nose at my crotch.x


Twenty-three. When I meet Nature, They are not what I expect.

I hurtle down a dilapidated jetty in slo-mo and breakneck speed. My body disintegrates with every step.xi I float inside my skeleton until I don’t.

We talk in Humpback, Nature’s calf at their side. They promise me I am protected under the sea, then suggest I protect my-Self.xii

I wake up, blend myself a green smoothie, and remember how they made me feel.


Twenty-five. I decide rhinoplasty was a mistake, eat a packet of Tim Tams, and stick my fingers down my throat.

Perfectionism [unrelenting shame in action] = Obsession [leaving without leaving] = Depression [the mess is understandable; the way out, less so]

Maybe if I lose weight Dad will love me?

[Food for thought: “A slave is one who waits for someone to free them.” (Ezra Pound)]


Twenty-six. Naturopathy reenvisages human biology. It’s about living life with and how shit gets real when we stop paying attention.xiii

I read in a medical journal that risky behaviour is found more often in people exposed to violence in childhood.

I eat a bag of Allen’s snakes and wonder what I’m doing wrong.xiv


Twenty-seven. I drop E, kiss a girl, fall for a sailor, pursue a psychologist and settle on a farmer.

Wanna fuck?


Wanna fuck?


Wanna fuck?


Wanna fuck?


I tell myself I’m into Mr Nice but have to conjure Miss Naughty if I want to visit Neverland.


Thirty. The biological drive to create is all consuming.

Man Love: “We can discuss whatever you want, but what I say goes.”

Me: *nods and laughs and winks*xv


Thirty-One. God is no saint. Jack Miles contests that much of what the Bible says about Him is rarely preached from the pulpit because, examined too closely, it becomes a scandal.




Thirty-two. I quit nursing because practice feels like I’m wearing a hat two sizes too small.

Man Love: “If you want me to treat you as an equal, then get a job.”

Me: I’ll do another course. Maybe.xvi

Donna J. Haraway suggests Staying with the Trouble, but that feels impossible. Instead, I swallow Lexapro and take up jogging.xvii


Thirty-four. Man Love = IVF = Her

My little love has ten fingers, ten toes, skin like malted milk, and a smile that makes me gulp.

What she teaches: Microcosm = Macrocosm = We are the same stuff.


Thirty-six. My infant guzzles at my breast. My toddler shits on the rug. I suck on a Snickers.

Motherhood = be everything including strongly backgroundedxviii in your role as mother.xix

1 through 4++ is exhausting…but, not valued. According to Val Plumwood, critically important physical, social, and personal skills mothers teach children are mere background to the real learning – reason and knowledge – ascribed to males.


Thirty-seven. I hate everybody.

There is no Prince Charming.

There isn’t even a fucking horse.

How the hell do I ride into the sunset without a trusty steed?



Thirty-eight. I am inside and outside.xxi

Psychologist: “When your eyes roll back?”

Me: *nods*

Me: “Jesus.”

Psychologist: *scribbles furiously*

Me: “I get a vision. Feel a feeling and suddenly, I’m at one with the world.”xxii


Thirty-nine. “Whatever it is you love…do it now. The conditions,” Elizabeth Gilbert insists, “are always terrible.”

But . . .xxiii

Six tablets sit in my palm. The one I need is an SSRI. 

GP: “He’ll leave you if you don’t take it.”xxiv

Note to Self: Stillness (because Geneen Roth says unmet feelings obscure our ability to know ourselves).


Forty. Clinical psychologist: “You have Asperger syndrome.”

Is this why I don’t know if I’m human or alien, cis- or transgender, allo-, andro-, gyne-, pan-, bi-, homo-, hetero-, trans-, or asexual?

Me: “Of course, I do.”xxv


Forty-two. Dad degrades and disowns me. He dies and I dare to close the gap:

According to Lorine Niedecker, the difference between someone who experiences nature and someone who never does is the experiencer who believes that what we feel and see, inside and outside us, dissolves together absolutely.

Magical thinking?

Leaky gut insists nature is culture is nature.xxvi


Forty-four. Ecofeminism is as close to The One as I get: I’m ready to love my-Self.xxvii

Me: “My body proposes probiotics.”xxviii (aka a new naturalxxix)

Man (Ex)Love: “Just don’t put it on Facebook.”

Suffer :: Ocean Vuong: Everything good is always somewhere else ->

De-naturalise :: Margaret Atwood: It’s not climate change, it’s everything change ->

Re-ecologise :: Geneen Roth: When you believe in yourself more than you believe in food, you will stop using food as if it were your only chance at not falling apart ->

Become-with ->

ALGORITHM: The story of a woman who reckons with and holds trauma in vulnerability in an attempt to see difference and do away with borders in survivance (idea attributed to Gerald Visenor).

Me: *rubs hands ravenously*

My pansexual polyamorous arse loves a good squall . . .xxx

i “Sexism has drawn conceptual strength from casting sexual difference as closer to the animal and the body construed as a sphere of inferiority or lesser form of humanity lacking the full measure of rationality or culture.” -Val Plumwood.

ii “Kinship systems are made of and reproduce concrete forms of socially organised sexuality.” -Gayle Rubin.

iii “The capitalist patriarchal world system emerged, is built on and maintains itself through the colonisation of women, of foreigners and their lands, and of nature, which it is gradually destroying.” -Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva.

iv “Human love and identity are complicated beasts. In most cases we grow up in a world that teaches us to desire in a very particular way.” -Jennifer Mae Hamilton.

v Gender/Religion = ? Same/Same

vi “Poetry, because of the attention it gives ‘little words’ is suited to helping us explore our relationships with and responsibilities toward the myriad entities who share our planet.” -Steel Wagstaff

vii “Diets are based on the unspoken fear that women are lunatics. The promise of a diet is not only that you will have a different body; it is that in having a different body, you will have a different life. If you hate yourself enough, you will love yourself.” -Geneen Roth.

viii “Shame is a form of emotional information indicating something about our being alive in a social world: when shame arises, it reeks of tension between the self (who we are) and the world (how the world thinks we should be).” -Jennifer Mae Hamilton

ix “[I]t is no accident that this world is dominated by men.” -Val Plumwood.

x Zat Rana says the surest way to be unfulfilled is to [act] like you hold some privileged position in the universe. It is not only a completely false and harmful illusion, but it overlooks the fringe benefits of being a nobody.

xi Entropy. n. disorder. Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary.

xii “We are…made mostly of wet matter, but also aswim in…embodiment as an idea. We live at the site of exponential material meaning where embodiment meets water [and] [g]iven the various…crises that our planet currently faces…this meaningful mattering of our bodies is…an urgent question of worldly survival.” -Astrida Neimanis

xiii Niedecker proposes living with beings and things in our environment and her ideas find support in biology. “We now understand our bodies are shared with trillions of microbacteria colonising our guts in such numbers as to potentially outnumber our own cells. Coinhabiting and dwelling with are not choices…and the quality of our future existence will depend…on how well we acknowledge this.” -Lorine Niedecker.

xiv “Western women may not have been in the forefront of the attack on nature…but many…have been support troops…unwitting but…enthusiastic, in a modern consumer culture of which they are the main symbols.” -Val Plumwood.

xv “Nature shrinks as capital grows.” -Vandana Shiva.

xvi “When you believe that you are damaged at your core, decisions are agonising because if you, the decision maker, are damaged, then how can you trust what you decide?” -Geneen Roth.

xvi “If you don’t allow a feeling to begin, you also don’t let it end.” -Geneen Roth.

xviii “According to patriarchal economic models, production for sustenance is counted as ‘non-production.’” -Vandana Shiva.

xix “Traditionally, women are ‘the environment’ – they provide the environment and conditions against which male ‘achievement’ takes place, but what they do isn’t itself considered achievement.” -Val Plumwood.

xx “I think more women need to connect with their anger…To say that you are angry about the way that you’re being treated is to acknowledge that you deserve better…[W]omen who cut themselves off from their anger; who deny or suppress it, also cut themselves off from this very important source of information about the way they’re being treated in the world.” -Kimberley Wilson.

xxi “Western culture has treated the human/nature relation as a dualism [hence] the problematic features of the west’s treatment of nature which underlie the environmental crisis, especially the western construction of human identity as ‘outside’ nature.” -Val Plumwood.

xxii “We suffer from a hallucination…a false and distorted sensation of our…existence as living organisms. [We] have the sensation that ‘I myself’ is a separate centre of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body.” -Alan W. Watts.

xxiii “To be gorgeous, you must first be seen, but to be seen allows you to be hunted.” -Ocean Vuong.

xxiv “What kinds of kinship await outside the dominant nuclear kinship structure?” -Dr Kim TallBear

xxv “Those with Asperger Syndrome tend to be androgynous in essence…alien to gender…culture…species…[and] digestive flora.” -Rudy Simone

xxvi “The deeper inside is our untamed self. It is the discovery of our bodily and emotional source from which we relate with the outside. In contrast with experiencing our body or the outside as an object, living an ecological worldview is based on a rich inner experience in relation to the outside world. Although individuality can be experienced as a location in space and time, engaging the deeper self means that the experience of self is also located in the outside. The ecologization of everyday life is to transform self into an eco-self. An eco-self is the self that has experientially understood that it is part of a life web.” -Ann Sterckx and Rudy Vandamme.

xxvii “We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in.” -Aldo Leopold.

xxviii “Your body has all the information you need.” -Geneen Roth.

xxix “[W]hat becomes natural? I don’t want a politics…that declares…specific bodily experience…natural or unnatural.” -Eli Clare.

xxx “You will hear thunder and remember me, / And think: she wanted storms.” -Anna Akhmatova.

About Kylie Hough

Kylie Hough is an Arts graduate living on Yugambeh land. In 2015 Kylie received the Lucy Elizabeth Craigie Award, the Richard B Smith Memorial Prize, and the Australian Federation of Graduate Women Inc. (AFGW) NSW (Armidale) UNE ARTS AWARD. She was a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Award in Fiction 2018 and long listed in Room Magazine's 2021 Creative Nonfiction Contest. Kylie is a grateful recipient of a 2021 CA/ASA Award Mentorship (Fiction) and is writing her third novel. Her work can be found in literary journals including Verity La, Posit, Burrow, The Canberra Times, Other Terrain, Antithesis, and The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.

Kylie Hough is an Arts graduate living on Yugambeh land. In 2015 Kylie received the Lucy Elizabeth Craigie Award, the Richard B Smith Memorial Prize, and the Australian Federation of Graduate Women Inc. (AFGW) NSW (Armidale) UNE ARTS AWARD. She was a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Award in Fiction 2018 and long listed in Room Magazine's 2021 Creative Nonfiction Contest. Kylie is a grateful recipient of a 2021 CA/ASA Award Mentorship (Fiction) and is writing her third novel. Her work can be found in literary journals including Verity La, Posit, Burrow, The Canberra Times, Other Terrain, Antithesis, and The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.

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