The Mouth of Sauron *grin*


Looking into the Messenger’s eyes they read his thoughts. He was to be lieutenant, and all that remained of the West under his sway; he would be their tyrant and they his slaves. Tolkein (1999: 194), The Return of the King.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the extended version of Lord of the Rings (on DVD), you’re missing out on the Mouth of Sauron, the coolest baddie ever. For his teeth and grin alone, you should get the DVD.

For my family, he’s a bit of fun to parody, mixing him in with Dramatic Chipmunk.

On the blog, he’s my grin of victory. A means of turning something bad or tyrannical into good.

Yesterday, the blog had its TEN THOUSANDTH visitor!! Hard to believe, when my blog isn’t anywhere near as seriously yoga-focussed as other people’s. I’m just a part-time yogini, and I’ll never, ever be a super-bendy yoga chick whose big toe touches her head in Natarajasana. But then, for the life of me I can’t understand how most people find descending from high plank to Chaturanga hard!

Another reason to for the Mouth of Sauron grin is to celebrate is the impending END of writing my thesis.

You see, the PhD has been like a tyrant sitting on my back for 10 years. Like the Black Tower of Mordor, it’s been there in the background, sitting. Making plans beneath the level of my conscious mind. Plotting my downfall. Trying to become “… something else she started but never finished …” A monument to the futility of academic endeavour.

The PhD was also something I was doing because I wanted to prove to my mother that I was good enough. And to make up for leaving High School at the beginning of Year 11 (also to prove to my parents that I was grown up).  Ironically, I’m still trying to prove to my parents that I’m grown up – when my own daughter is now at university.

Yet the PhD, internally, is also for me. Simply because I like to write and think and use my creativity. I’ve persisted with it through a marriage break up and depression because of fear -I did not want Sauron to win!- and because I like playing in my head and turning thoughts into words.

The moment is almost here.

The culmination of ten years of research. I’ve done roughly 4 years of field work, and it’s taken 2 years to write it up. Now, now, now, I’m pulling all the threads of my background and data chapters together in the discussion chapter.

The feeling I get when I write is like finding my thesis (my argument) as I write, like staring closely at an individual mosaic tile, then moving back to see hundreds of individual tiles forming a breath-taking scene. When I write, it emerges, it forms, coalesces and becomes real.

Over the next six weeks , I won’t be posting very much. On 27 July, I fly to Canberra to spend a month working intensively with my PhD supervisor, pulling the thesis together and preparing it for submission. I don’t return to Alice Springs until 22 August.

When I try to look forward in my mind, picture my life post-August, I cannot. There is a comfortable blank, and within, a firm knowing.

It will be done.

The Towers of Teeth swayed, tottered, and fell down; the mighty rampart crumbled; the Black Gate was hurled in ruin; and from far away now, dim now growing, now mounting to the clouds, there came a drumming rumble, a roar, a long echoing roll of ruinous noise. (Tolkien, ibid: 270).


Wednesday Whiteboard #10: Thesis Deadline Edition


Dotpoint #1 Thesis Deadline Day is July 26

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, the answer is busy. Busy, out bush for most of last week (sacred site clearances for gravel pits in the most glorious, remote outback places) and busy finishing my PhD thesis. The thesis needs to be in a finished state by 26 July, when I go to Canberra for a month to work intensively with my supervisor to prepare it for submission. I have about two-thirds of a chapter left to write.

Thus, my life has been wading through data about the practices that comprise joint management (co-management), what people say ‘doing’ joint management is, and what the organisation I’m studying has written in business plans, funding documents and reported about ‘joint management activities’. Yes, chapter 7 is all about the stuff that gets done (and classified) as joint management. Incidentally, if you click on the link, you’ll see a picture of Aboriginal Elder, Leslie Foster (Blackhat), with whom I spent a day last week for my consultations. Jason (the ranger) used to be the Parks & Wildlife Joint Management Pin up boy. Unfortunately for PWS, Jason no longer works for them.  But hey, that’s what happens if you piss off your talented staff.

The important thing is this: I probably won’t be writing a lot of blog posts for the next few weeks. I’ll be glued to my thesis. So please be patient with me. Once it’s done, I’ll be able to go full steam ahead with the blog and the BIG IDEA once more.

Dotpoint #2 Writing a PhD Thesis is MUCH MUCH HARDER THAN CHILDBIRTH!

I am qualified to say this. I have given birth to two children. Doing a PhD is much harder than childbirth. Much, much harder.

For example: I took about 11 hours to give birth to Rhiannon. It took 2 hours to give birth to Ben – and I kept a moment-by-moment diary that even includes the cricket scores.  However, it has taken 10 YEARS to give birth to my PhD thesis. That’s right: 10 years.

There are some striking parallels:

  • In childbirth, nurses and doctors make you feel dumb and as remove your sense of control … So does a PhD!
  • During childbirth, a whole lot of strangers peer into, poke and prod at your most intimate parts … when you do a PhD, your writing is the window into your mind, also poked, prodded and peered into by a whole lot of strangers (examiners).
  • There are no instructions for childbirth (ignore the breath stuff – it’s bullshit. Your body just takes over) … There are no real instructions for a PhD – your data/supervisor/deepest fears take over.

Writing a PhD is only slightly less difficult than bringing home a new baby: sleepless nights, baby wanting your boob all the time, nappies to change, more boob, depression. Blech. That’s why there are 7 years between my children – I almost didn’t go back for more.

Dotpoint #3: I’ve Been Really Stuck and Depressed About the Thesis

Another reason I haven’t been writing is that I’ve been pretty down about the thesis (and a few other things). Stuck. Worried about the deadline. Feeling like it’s not good enough and won’t be the thesis I want it to be.

I’ve been having some great coaching from the guys over at Action Podcast for this. I have worked out a plan with the help of Sam & Paul, and I’ve had to change it slightly as last week, I had a HUGE bushwork week. But really, I’m just going to have to work through the plan and my depression and do the work when I have so little confidence in myself and the thesis I’m creating.

It’s not that I can’t write – I can write fine. It’s not that I don’t have enough data – I have so much data, I could write another thesis or three!

It’s that I’m worried that the thesis  is not going to be intellectually sophisiticated enough. And I’m worried that there will be huge holes in my arguments. I’m relying on my supervisor to help me with these things. My complete and utter trust in these things is with my supervisor, which is at least some weight off my mind.

I have no idea how this will all turn out. Whether I’ll have to rewrite the whole thing. Whether the examiners will reject it and laugh.

And there is no real reason for me to do a PhD: no payrise, no tenure. No promotion. I will simply have some letters before or after my name.

I really wonder why I’m doing this to myself.

To prove I’m good enough, smart enough, worthy enough … to myself? My mother (I was never as good as the little girly-girls across the road when I was a child). My peers?

I often wonder if I am doomed to be eternally insecure about my entire existence. Everything that I am, have, my relationships. My world.

There’s times when I feel absolutely alone. Like it’s just me inside my brainbox and no one else can relate to what I’m doing. Something else I just have to live with.

Anyway, perhaps I’ll get to write another post later on in the week. If I’m lucky.

Dealing with Thesis/Dissertation Procrastination


The most useful tips I’ve ever learned about thesis/dissertation writing have been incredibly practical. I’ve tried all kinds of motivational tools, PhD writing guides and software to encourage me to get the THING done. Some work, many just sit on my shelf or cost me needless money.  I’m not selling anything here, either – just sharing what’s worked for me.

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PhD Pages Added







I’m currently working on the (promised elsewhere) Desert Christmas post (just need the photos from Mr AnthroYogini’s computer). However, it’s high time I put some solid anthropology up on this site.

I’ve added PhD Pages to the top of the main page. If you’re interested in joint management, co-management, the process of writing a PhD or you’re just curious, please take a look. I’ll try not to make it too boring, although as anyone who’s done a PhD can attest, it’s incredibly boring to most other folks.

And for those of you who are taking PhD writing way too seriously, just remember the words of my supervisor:

After the examiners have finished with it, a PhD thesis is read on average by two other people.

Thesis Notes & Motivation





One of the best defenses against failing to notice is to surround ourselves with people who think differently than we do, know different things than we do, and therefore notice different things as they travel through life — and to listen to them.  And when they don’t speak-up, we need to stop and ask them what they are noticing that is wonderful, beautiful, strange, seems out of place, or is wrong.  Unfortunately, too many of us seek to be around people who are just like us in as many ways as possible”  (from Bob Sutton’s excellent webite).

I’m steaming along on the thesis again, feeling much better after the last few days spent with the agony of what I thought was a middle-ear infection. It turned out to be a gum/jaw infection related to a tooth on which I’d had root canal therapy a few years ago.

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