In conversation with Kirsten Rickert December 14 2019
Having grown up in Byron Bay and moved to Maine to literally live on a Blueberry farm (!!!) I have followed with awe and inspiration Kirsten Rickert's journey online for year. She was so kind to recently share some of her world with me.
Tell me about your personal journey? It sounds so amazing and in many ways the reverse of my move from New York to Byron – you’ve gone from Byron to Maine!
I will be honest and say that my journey has been both blessed and complex. The places I have travelled, and the people I have sought out (albeit unconsciously at points) has been for healing and survival; along with a natural exuberant excitement, and heart longing to know what the world has to offer, to feel into the possibility. Like needing to experiencing what it is to live in both of earth's hemispheres. I wanted to know about it all, and then sought comfort in being an average person on the spectrum of the human experience. I like to visualize the midpoint, while being aware of the polarities. I have been fortunate, and in some ways wealthy, but with an equal and opposite dose of adversity and struggle.
What's it like living in Maine? I've been lucky enough to go a few times - close but in many ways so so different from New York where I lived for so long. Maine is a wonderful place, it serves my family well. For me personally it offered me everything that I thought was important, for not just me, but the world collective. With climate change and global warming, and the online meshing of identities, the latitude feels safe, it is cool and remote! It will not get too hot here. There is space. There is an abundance of clean fresh water. Most of the people that we have met, grow their own food, and make as much as they can with their own hands. This is a generalization, but the Mainers are makers. They work with their hands, together. When a Mainer picks something up, they do not say "Where did you get this?" they look it over and work out how it was made. I found this aspect of the culture really attractive. People here are capable, and passionate about water, soil, food sovereignty, waste pollution... just to name a few key aspects of earth consciousness. Last week I signed a light pollution petition. To keep the sky dark. So we can all see as many stars as possible.
If you could live anywhere - where would you live and why?
Probably on an Island in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. I have not actually been there, but a New Zealander friend I met, who was a traveling farm hand living for a season here in Maine, was from there, and when I see her photos of her farm, I think, "Yes, that place has it all." Also, I would love this farmer friend, Hannah, as a neighbor. Ha!
When was the last time you came back to Australia/Byron?
I have not been back for what feels like a long time. 5 years. I do not feel pulled back for a few reasons. Mostly extended family dysfunction that I can not change, and do not want to be around. I will return one day. To see dear friends. To revisit the house where Cam and I met, and I gave birth to Maya. To sit beneath the old trees of my childhood. To have my feet stained by the red soil, and to float in the tea tree waters. For now though, I am happy to stay in Maine, where it feels slow and simple.
What do the next 3-5 years hold in store for you?
Much the same as life appears now. Living an eco-centric life in a tiny village in Maine, while the children both complete 8th grade at a wonderful Waldorf school. Mothering, writing, dancing, gardening, making, and working on social justice and wellness issues in community. Hands on, in person community work has become increasingly important, as I have aged.
What does your IG handle mean "magnesium_blue" - I feel like there is a story there? It seems like we both have a love affair with blue - but mine is Indigo!
I do have a love affair with BLUE. Every shade of blue. It is the only color I wear now. The name Magnesium Blue came to me when I was 22, back in 1998, well before social media. I was living with an artist friend in Sitka, Alaska, when one day he painted a large and fluid picture of me on canvas. It was done entirely in blue paint, even my skin. When I saw it, as if struck by lightening, I declared the painting was called "Magnesium Blue." I have no idea where this pairing of words came from, other than the painting was blue. It was one of those lucid moments of creativity, where two words where put together randomly and spontaneously as a response to the beauty of the painting, which was directly related to the space between my friend and I. It was special. When I first started instagram I was Kirsten Rickert. Then one day I realized, Magnesium Blue said so much more about me. What does it say? Well, magnesium has a bright burning swift flame. It is a really important mineral for the human body, which many people are deficient in. It keeps bones strong, blood sugar levels healthy, and the nervous system sound. Blue. Blue is all the best feelings. At least to me.
Do you really live on a Blueberry Barren? How did that happen?
Oh yes we do, it is quite magic that we moved to Blue Hill and then bought a house on a Blueberry Barren. It all seems meant to be doesn't it? I am not sure how it happened? Every aspect of my life aligning? Another Magnesium Blue moment? Short answer: it occurred through the alchemy of love in time and space. Does that sound like I am from Byron Bay?
What else do you grow - fruits and flowers?
Blueberries like acidic soil, and our blueberries grow and survive with no input from me, they exist because of the naturally occurring elements that support them. We are on the top of a ridge, overlooking the sea, and get strong winds when there are storms. I do not try to grow much. I like witnessing what already exists. We do have a small vegetable and flower garden that has soil which I am amending to be more alkaline. This past summer I grew strawberries, ground cherries, kale, lettuce, pumpkins, onions, and all variety of herbs. We have a lot of wildflowers in the blueberry barren, and moss in the woods, which is mostly evergreens and birch trees.
How have you found living in Maine different to Byron Bay?
That could be along list... the climate difference is most obvious of course. Subtropical Byron Bay, it is really quite warm 3/4 of the year, and in Maine, it is really quite cold 3/4 of the year. It is a more conservative culture here. Very polite, upright, humble, useful. Byron is much looser, free flowing, sexy. Byron is glamorous now. Maine is farm folk.
How do the beaches in Maine compare to Byron Bay?
The beaches are definitely a contrasting experience. Here it is granite rocks and evergreens and moss, meeting the sea. The water is so deep and clear, you can almost always see to the bottom, and the seaweed and beach lichen is an incredible yellow orche colour. The Atlantic ocean is COLD - but you get used to it over time. You and the rest of the social media world know Byron is known for the endless stretches of fine white sand and balmy turquoise waves lush-ing into old growth rainforest. I miss the pandanus palms. I wish people would be more respectful about letting their children climb them at the beach. Some are so old, they really should not have children hanging off the old limbs. The beaches here are empty, which I love. To sit on the beach alone, any time of day, is a privileged.
Are you really settled forever in Maine? I think this is home, yes. Now that the children are being raised here, it is home for them. We love our village and school community. Living here forever is a big promise, but yes, I think we will always have a house here. Which is not to say I will not leave for interludes elsewhere.
I used to follow your website, but its less active now. Is there a reason or just a change to Instagram or other mediums?
My website went to sleep when the children shifted from homeschooling, to attend a Waldorf school. Which was in 2016 when Maya, our eldest daughter was 10. Having the children go to school changed the way I worked. Our homeschooling days and ways were a motivation to share. At the same time that I stopped blogging, I began to let go of my social media presence too. I was experiencing a shift in consciousness, and needed space from the on-line lifestyle I had cultivated. For both my children's growth, and my personal growth. The move to Maine helped this transition, because culturally the on-line influencer identity is not supported here (like it is in New York or Byron). I use IG sporadically now. It served me at one point, but now I am more involved physically with community. I use my spare time introspectively, to write or meditate. I think about re-activating Magnesium Blue, the website, but I am not 100% sure it is the best way to use my time.
Your Instagram pictures are so amazing and so poetic - is that part of your writing background? And what are your thoughts on the new change in IG to remove likes (so far on trial here in Australia)?
Thank you. I used to really enjoy photography, and yes, the photos were a way to share words. I started writing when I left Australia at 20, on a solo 12 month around the world trip. I jotted travel notes in journals, as way to remember, and explore my feelings. I travelled and wrote, for many years, then when I stopped traveling I kept writing for mental health. Once the internet and then social media was invented, blogging and instagram were natural medium of expression for me. I think removing the likes from instagram is a great idea. Although it would have bothered me at one point when I was getting up to 10K likes a day.
How do you think your daughters childhood in Maine will differ from yours growing up in Byron Bay?
They will not have the sun exposure! Which I am glad about as I had way too much sun as a child. We live in such a tiny town now, it feels as if the children are being raised by a village. Everyone knows everyone. Really. I am not just saying that. It is safe. You do not have to lock cars or chain up bikes. I can leave my basket sitting in the library for hours unattended. I see the same hand-me-down dress go through 3,4,5 families. I think part of my attraction to this community was that the Far North Coast, or Northern Rivers, was like this when I was growing up, not quite as quaint, but still, very small town. It is not like that now. I think I was definitely looking for a place to raise my children that felt like my idyllic memories of what "home" used to be. This is not a criticism at all, I understand people want to be a part of the beauty of Byron Shire, and that everything changes. I am sure it serves others just as it is supposed to.