toolangi and unforbidden pleasures

26 October, 2016 ·

I am reading a book at the moment by one of my favourite authors, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, and these are the lines that have been turning over and over in my mind.

“The unforbidden pleasures have something more to tell us, or at least something else to tell us, about pleasure than the forbidden ones. … The tyranny of the forbidden is not that it forbids, but that it tells us what we want – to do the forbidden thing. The unforbidden gives no orders.

It is such an interesting proposition, I think, that our desires might actually be shaped by the rules around what we cannot or should not do, and have, and be. And an oddly exhilarating challenge to mine the unforbidden for its pleasures, seeing if we can grant them the acuteness, the vividness and the thrill we generally reserve for the forbidden.


Ashley and I have done lots of walking this year. These images are from Toolangi State Forest, one of the most exquisite forests in Victoria, which is nonetheless threatened by logging and which many wonderful people are working hard to protect. I often find myself remarking to him, when we’re faced with something so spectacularly beautiful that we’re both a bit stuck for words, “I can’t believe we’re just allowed to do this.”

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It seems a funny thing both to think and to say. But I suppose I mean that wandering around in these eternal-feeling places is so beautiful and exciting as to be almost sublime. And I can’t quite believe that nobody is asking me to pay, or telling me I don’t have the right permit, or that I’m supposed to stay behind the yellow line. In fact, often when we go walking we see nobody else at all.


See the glorious 3D-asterisk-like stars around my feet? That is the largest species of moss in the world!


This is the more ordinary kind of moss, layered like velvet over all those magical, tangled roots.

That idea of Adam Phillips’ is my favourite kind – the sort I expect I knew somewhere in my mind but had never quite got as far as articulating properly, even to myself.



  1. Daffodil Angel Lovely story Anna. Must get a visit in when next in Victoria....that sounds if we go there regularly but it's been 8+ years since we left for the island down south. However I do remember Toolangi as potato growing country. We are planning a trip for next year and are hoping to visit the William Ricketts sanctuary which is over that way.......and also have a Devonshire tea up the Dandenong ranges. Best wishes, j
    October 27, 2016 at 2:39 pm · Reply
  2. Sharon what delicious food for thought your post has given me. How exciting also, to see that "largest species of moss" I will read more about it but how wonderful to just experience it as you wrote. Without words or rules.
    October 30, 2016 at 11:10 am · Reply
  3. anna The moss is wonderful Sharon. I've seen it often before walking in different parts of Victoria, and tried to find out what it is, but the reason I never found out was that I never thought to look it up as a species of moss!
    November 9, 2016 at 11:58 am ·
  4. anna That sounds a heavenly trip Daffodil! When you are up in the Dandenongs you must visit Epoche, a beautiful shop (but also a sort of temple) of handmade magic and lots of Steiner-inspired beauty. I just cannot tell you how much you will love it!!
    November 9, 2016 at 12:00 pm ·