Saturday, 29 December 2012

Watering Hole

The song Watering Hole on Missy Higgins’ album the ol’ razzle dazzle has had me thinking over the last few days. The image of a watering hole is a simple enough one to conjure up, but a watering hole in my head, well that takes a little more thought.

A watering hole, an oasis in the wilderness, a place to quench your thirst, rest in the shade, find shelter and refreshment. If dependent on sporadic rainfall, in good times the water is plentiful, a resource for many, but in bad times the water recedes until the ground is parched and cracks appear. Where there is a constant source feeding a waterhole, incredible pools of water can be found in the most unlikely desert places. You only need visit Uluru to see the wonder such an underground source can bring, and tapping into that life giving source on a spiritual or emotional level is just as crucial for survival and growth.

The watering hole in my head is not a void, it’s actually a source of great nourishment and rich with resources. Will I take the time to sit by its edge, draw from its depths what I need, or will I gaze into it as if into a deep well, and it can be pretty dark down there, and fear what might be brought to the surface. Self doubt, fear, criticism, apathy, whatever it is can all suck the life out of us and leave us parched. Led me into some waterhole thoughts of my own.

Respite from the scorching heat
A place to dabble weary feet
In waters cool and calm.
The shade of sturdy eucalypt
Protecting from the rays
Dappled on the surface
Through the gum’s outstretched limbs.

Drink it all in
In the daylight hours
Quench the craving thirst
And feel the restless spirit
Quietly come to rest.
Lay down by the water’s edge
As the sun sinks slowly down
See if sleep will come
For the noises of the night
Travel far.

Those who hide out
Through the day
Venture out at night
And come to take their fill
Just a stone’s throw from your feet

Dark shadows scraping on the ground
Furtive glances all around
Waiting for the enemy to strike.
Slither back, lean on the tree
Draw your knees up to your chest
Feel the pounding of your heart
As you search the water’s edge
And will the sun
To rise up from the east.

Sleep comes but oh so fleeting
Filled with images
Of dread and fright
But as the dawn sheds light
A morning breeze stirs gently
On the surface of the water
And the eucalypt whispers out a sigh.

All is calm
All is right.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Finding my Voice

I’ve never been much of a talker, not a great conversationalist, not well versed in the intricacies of world politics or economics or philosophies to the extent I could hold my own in any sort of intelligent debate or more light hearted repartee. The past week though has brought home that I would also not feel comfortable cloistering myself away under a vow of silence.

I’ve had no voice, literally. My allergy cum throat infection whatever it was and still is, resulted in my voice being reduced to a whisper and an occasional croak if I tried any harder, and it’s amazing how when you have no voice, you actually feel compelled to talk. I’m not one to pick up the phone and engage in long conversations, text constantly on the mobile, or send copious emails, but when you lose your basic means of communication, you feel like you start to lose touch.

Spending the Christmas period resting my body as well as my voice to try to recover has been an interesting experience. Reading, watching movies and the cricket, playing my new Missy Higgins CD the ol’ razzle dazzle…really loud, that was actually the most fun. Couldn’t help but get out of the chair, even danced around the room, once I’d pulled down the blind so the neighbours didn’t think I’d gone nuts. Even wrote a four page dissertation on some of the songs. Wonderful album, potent songs, reflecting something of Missy’s return from her own exile from the music scene, and what could be described as her personal wilderness experience.

The journey back which produced this album begins with..

I got a lot to say I just don’t know how to say it
I know all the rules I just can’t seem to play it
…..all I want is to remember
What came before this winter (Set Me on Fire)

I know all the lines to say
The part I’m expected to play
But in the reflection I am worlds away (Everyone’s Waiting)

Hello hello, is anybody there?
This disappearing act is getting harder to bear (Hello Hello)

Then you sense a gentle shift as she reflects on her self imposed exile, and responds to the stirrings in her own heart as she discovers again the source of the creative process.

I woke
to the sound
of a single note
ringing out. (All in my Head)

He told her when she played
Wings sprouted from her shoulder blades
And every bone inside her seemed to change (Sweet Arms of a Tune)

What an exquisite image, the witnessing of a re-birth, and I think for Missy judging from what interviews I’ve seen this is what this album has become for her. To bring the album to birth though would have been no simple journey. She had to believe she still had something to offer in terms of her music before the process could even begin, no doubt a lonely time, then to actually create the lyrics and music and bring the whole undertaking to completion, nothing short of amazing.

We all need to feel like we have something worth saying, even if it’s not in such an eloquent form. Or maybe just the need to be worth something to someone else, no matter what we say or how small our lives might seem. So how do we find our voice? How do I find my voice?

I imagine Missy Higgins spent a lot of time in quiet reflection before the words came again. The experiences which shape us can either be locked away, repressed to dull the pain or seen so insignificant as not to matter, or they can become a wellspring of resource from which to draw to express who we are.

I’m reading The Lost Threads by Tess Evans at the moment, and one of the characters, Finn, retreats to a Benedictine monastery following a traumatic experience. Though a foreign environment to what he is used to with the monks’ observance of times of silence, Finn’s healing begins, and he finds comfort from his times with Father Boniface.

…we all have to find redemption in our own way…The answer is in your heart and you will only hear the voice of your heart when all other thoughts are silent.

…the Silence isn’t designed to let you brood. It’s to give you space to listen.

For some that might be somewhat confronting, but to block out the distractions, retreat from the busy routines if only for a short while, allow ourselves time and space to reflect on who we are, who we could be, what makes us come alive.

What a gift.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

New York for Christmas?

If I were to believe my email inbox at work, come Christmas Eve I’ll be landing at JFK airport for a northern hemisphere Christmas in one of the great tourist destinations of the world. All I had to do was click on the link to download my ticket and itinerary. Yeah, as if...oh well, I can always dream of such a trip!

Thankfully I never receive on my home computer the daily inducements to store someone else’s millions in my bank account from scam artists in some far flung corner of the globe, or the dubious pharmaceutical enhancement products for body parts I don’t even have, introductions to non existent people who are going to transform my life, and other assorted spam ad infinitum, all of which are designed to exploit in some form or other, as well as introduce nasty little viruses to your computer system.

I don’t spend a great deal of time pondering the antics of such perpetrators, but wonder if they have the time to devise such plans why they don’t put the same amount of effort into devising something constructive which will earn them actual income instead of ripping everyone off and showing complete disregard for the consequences lying in wait for their victims. That’s probably my naivety talking, have never really understood the criminal mind. Ah, maybe that’s why I haven’t finished a novel yet, not enough skullduggery going on.

So, no New York this year, and I’m not sure what it is about the lead up to Christmas, but once again I’m crook. In 2009 I had the flu, in 2010 I did my back in, I seemed to survive last year unscathed, but for the past week I’ve had and it still seems to be getting worse, a bad case of hay fever type allergy. Started with an innocent enough tickle in the throat, but has progressed to drowning in my sinuses, coughing, sore itchy eyes, generally feeling crap. Apparently this is the worst year for some time for such allergies, and seeing as I’ve never had hay fever before I’m not amused. The only up side is my deep sexy voice, that is, when I can manage to talk at all.

But, despite all that, I’m actually ready for Christmas on time. Cards and annual catch up letter sent in timely fashion, almost unheard of, gifts purchased with the minimum of fuss seeing as I couldn’t bear to spend too long in the milling crowds, groceries all done. Only the gifts to wrap now.

No last minute rush needed on Christmas Eve, what a blessing. How did I do it? I made a list, I checked it twice.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

What a Difference a Day makes

Well…in this case a couple of days. On the weekend we were witnessing the immense pall of smoke from the bushfire on the central plateau of the Great Western Tiers, fanned by a strong westerly wind in inaccessible terrain for firefighters. The worst of it was on Saturday but the constant wind has kept it creeping along ever since, burning out around 8000 hectares of alpine bush and scrub, so all firefighters could do was to keep monitoring it, back burn if appropriate, and tackle it when it reached areas where it could actually be fought.

Today though is a different scenario altogether, and so typical of Tassie weather. Instead of fire on the mountain, we had pretty much a blizzard instead, so hopefully any little pockets of fire or smouldering embers have been well and truly taken care of with this summertime wintery cold snap.
Funny how things can turn our lives upside down in such a short space of time. When the good surprises come we welcome them with open arms and take great delight in celebrating special occasions or achievements, repaired relationships, new opportunities, recognition of your efforts, the generosity of others, and for some fame and fortune.

When the not so good surprises come, that’s when the challenge arises. None of us can see round the corner and prepare for what’s coming, simply because we don’t know what’s coming. Things come out of left field, and often at a time when it’s most inconvenient or we feel ill equipped to deal with it. Accidents resulting in serious injury or death, the onset of sudden or terminal illness, the loss of employment and the snowball effect that can have on your whole world, marriage breakdown, broken family relationships, losing your home through flood or fire or other natural disaster, being bullied at school or work, all these things and more can occur at a moment’s notice when we’re least expecting it.

So how do we prepare for such events? For some you can obviously take out insurance, but that still doesn’t belittle the emotional impact these events can have on our lives. All you need to do is read the stories of those caught up in the Black Saturday fires in Victoria to know some people will understandably never be the same again. Tragic events can leave a legacy. There is no single or simple way to tackle the journey, and there is certainly no time limit on the healing process.

None of us like chaos. When so much in the world around us seems fragmented and totally dysfunctional, we like to think we at least have the power to control our private little world, but then discover that’s not always the case. What we can control though, is how we face the challenges which threaten to throw us off the rails. Will we shrivel inside, withdraw in defeat, or will we rise to the occasion, pin our colours to the mast, and engage in whatever battle needs to be waged to achieve a good outcome.

I’m not wanting to sound simplistic, but it’s amazing how when we’re actually thrust into a situation not of our own making, another part of us can rise, enabling us to face the challenge. It is in such hard times that our true character is revealed.

All the plans we are in the business of making are continually being upset by both disaster and delight. Life throws things at us that we cannot predict and cannot control. What we can control is who we are along the way…how much energy, compassion, and integrity we bring to our journey.
From Learning to Fall by Philip Simmons

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Don't quote me

Writing a regular personal journal has never been easy for me, recording my thoughts, feelings, responses or reactions to the world around me, including the multi layered network of relationships from family to friends and work colleagues. Chronicling my inner journey has long been a hit and miss affair, somewhat due to the fact the exercise felt too much like belly button gazing with little progress, a kind of wallowing in a foggy swamp where there were no firm footholds. I was much more comfortable simply ‘doing’ rather than thinking about doing, planning what needed doing, or reflecting on what had actually been done.

Flicking back through entries from past years I found one from September 2004 which I could’ve easily written yesterday, pondering on my present situation and what the future might have in store for me. Makes me wonder how predictable my life has become, how for many of us the dreams and bravado of our more youthful years can go missing as we hang on to the rhythms of life which bring a sense of safety and security.

What has become more prevalent in my journals though is the inclusion of quotes. Not those from world leaders or pearls of wisdom from philosophers either ancient or modern, but snippets from whatever I’m currently reading. Phrases, sentences and paragraphs have a habit of jumping out at me from novels, poems, biographies, all manner of resources. In those moments I have to stop and write them down before I can continue, lest the words which resonated for me are lost and the idea which caused me to reflect recedes.

I have much to be thankful for, and I certainly am that, but there are times when an infernal itch starts up inside, a restlessness, but finding the right way to scratch it is not always simple, let alone locating the source of the irritation. The quotes which usually burn themselves into my brain are probably the ones which feed the itch, causing me to question yet again what I’m doing on this little island on this part of the planet.

From Sue Monk Kidd - The Mermaid Chair

My life seemed sweet and dull and small and repellent. So much of it unused.

At the end of our lives, none of us will wish we’d spent more time working so we could simply survive. The only regrets we will have are those moments, those relationships, those ventures which carried a risk but also held a promise that if we pursued them we would connect more deeply with our true nature. Most of us get to use such a small portion of our potential. I would hate to be filled with regret when it comes my time to check out, with a withered spirit to match my withered body.

Last week we made a wish list as part of the Artist’s Way course I’m doing, and it was more than a little interesting what turned up on mine. Things I’ve enjoyed in the past which I no longer do, things I’ve never dared to do, unfulfilled dreams, as well as many wishes beyond my own little world. I know I too easily give up on the possibility of what might be. As in the movie Sliding Doors, decisions at any given moment have the capability of leading our lives in very diverse directions.

We have abandoned an infinite number and variety of pure possibilities, and perhaps they live alongside the choices we did make……Perhaps there are unknown lives walking alongside ours, those paths we didn’t take, and we reach for them, we ache for them, and don’t know why. We have, none of us, lived our lives as we ought to……..what agony, to know our better selves, the life we might have lived is there, just out of reach.

Haven Kimmel – The Solace of Leaving Early

Time to make some choices, choose the path we want to take, the one I want to take, otherwise someone else will make the choice for us.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Spring Show

Well, my blue wren is keeping up her regular morning visitations, this morning just after 6.30, and again this afternoon, and I’ve finally discovered it’s a she. I could hear the fluttering carry on from the next room, crept in with the camera, and there she was showing off on the bedroom window sill with her fella sporting the gorgeous blue markings distinctive of the male Superb Blue Wren. I think they were doing more than snuggling up in the tea tree in between their window display, so not wanting to be a perv and disturb their little tryst I left them to it.

With her morning visit waking me up enough not to be able to go back to sleep, I ended up grateful for the early morning call, for the mountain bathed in sunshine reflecting off the snow beckoned me as soon as I put up the blinds. Driving up the mountain as far as I dared I was treated with what should have been a winter spectacle until my frozen fingers and the wind threatening to bowl me over forced me back into the car.

Springtime in Tassie more often than not is the one time of year when four seasons in one day is not uncommon. Having been up the mountain on a previous occasion when the car decided to steer itself in a direction I wasn’t heading, I wasn’t game to go further and risk getting myself into a situation I couldn’t get out of.

I was well and truly rewarded though for my pre breakfast 

The purity of freshly fallen snow is something I find really special. It covers what we normally see, but in doing so helps us to see the landscape in a new way. 

It highlights things we often pass without even so much as a glance, the contrast of pink heath or new shoots or jutting rocks against their bright white blanket.

And if you stand still long enough you sense the mantle of snow blanketing sounds as well. There’s a silence in such a pristine environment that speaks volumes if you care to take time to listen.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Patience is a Virtue

My little blue wren is back. I affectionately call him my wren for he has chosen my bedroom window to visit on several mornings over the past week. With wings fluttering furiously he hovers up and down in front of the window, pecking at his reflection. I’m not sure if he’s trying to befriend the bird he sees, or declare in no uncertain terms that this is his territory and all others should go find their own neck of the woods to inhabit.

Whatever it is, he, or she for that matter, for it’s difficult to be gender specific with baby birds, chooses to arrive just after sun up each morning, and I’ve tried my best to capture this frenetic display on camera, but the moment I move the blind far enough to sneak a decent photo, he’s gone in a flash.

This morning he made his appearance at 6.20, up and down the window, peck peck peck, so while he transferred his frenetic ritual to the next bedroom, up went my blind. It’s Saturday morning I thought, I have all the time in the world, so slid back under the doona, wriggled into a comfortable position to lie in wait, camera poised ready for that “David Attenborough” moment.

An hour and a half later it was obvious no such moment was going to arrive. Venturing back to the tea tree in front of the window twice, and on one occasion with one of his brothers or sisters, the prospect of capturing on camera two wrens doing a fluttering frenzy was tantalisingly close. Did I twitch? Not a chance. Did they oblige? Not a chance. Something was amiss, and all I managed from one was a brief hop on to the window sill before taking off again. I imagine the blind being up changed the nature of his reflection, and despite the fact I didn’t move a muscle his perception of the situation had changed.

After another half hour I gave up. I’d certainly never get a job working for National Geographic. I discovered it’s not that easy lying completely still in one position for very long. No matter how comfortable, the urge to move doesn’t take long to creep up on you.

Patience is a funny thing. It really only comes into play when you’re feeling impatient, when things are not going the way you planned, when someone, and how dare they, has an opinion quite different from your own, and are quite convinced their way is just as good if not better than yours. Or when the task we have hinges on someone else doing their part, and they don’t, and we have to carry the can and sort out the mess.

Do we react negatively at such times? Probably, and we might feel justified in doing so, or are we prepared to be somewhat gracious and cut someone a little slack for their indiscretion. The degree to which we’re able to extend patience and tolerance cannot be underestimated, for our response could very well be returned in kind when we are the guilty party.

My obsessive little wren is hardly something to get uptight about, but I think my patience in waiting for the perfect shot is probably going to be outweighed by my impatience if he keeps coming back at the crack of dawn to tap on the window. After several early mornings this week, a Sunday morning reprieve would be most welcome.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Red Chair Sitting There

Went for a bushwalk the other day just on the edge of the village, camera in hand to see what delights I could find. As I wandered looking for the first signs of native ground orchids, this sight greeted me along one track bringing me to a halt and making me smile. It prompted me to wonder how it found its way there, and who might have left it.

Was it just a piece of junk, dumped before its final destination, or did it hold a message as it stood in stark contrast to its surroundings. Was the person who carried it looking for a spot to sit a while, find some peace and quiet, reconnect with creation and be refreshed.  

The humble discarded kitchen chair could be regarded as cluttering the scene, but it beckoned…
“Sit down, take a spell
close your eyes a while
listen to the silence
see if you don’t smile.”

A rock or stump would have sufficed, but if the chair hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have stopped to wonder at this incongruous addition to the scenery. I would have kept going, enjoying the walk, but stopping for a while helped me take time to use my senses more keenly. Listening, touching, even if it did mean a leech wanted to have a go at me, smelling, looking closer, seeing both the beauty of the bush as a whole, as well as observing the intricate details of moss and lichen, bark and ferns, rocks and fungi.

Tuning into the spirit of the place, letting the bush pass through me, instead of me simply passing through the bush.

Red chair sitting there
By the bush track
Says loud and clear
Come sit a while
Before you head on back.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Gardener's Lament

Deer eat agapanthus
Leafy hedges, saplings too
Whate’er is it they shouldn’t eat
They come in and chew.

You’d think the grass would be enough
To satisfy their needs
I wish they’d come into my yard
And free me of my weeds.

What has happened in the bush
To change their diet so
They never came and ate these things
Many moons ago.

It’s usually in times of drought
Our night invaders come
But with yards a year round smorgasbord
They find take-away on the run.

Once tall and leafy plant life
Screening blank brick walls
Are denuded now of waving fronds
And chewed down to their stalks.

My veggie plot’s abandoned
It used to yield a feast
But all it fed as years rolled by
Were nightly hungry beasts.

The possums strip the fruit trees bare
I’ve given up the thought
Of juicy summer nectarines
My efforts come to nought.

The wallabies get in the act
The pademelons too
I used to think that they were cute
But now I just yell ‘Shoo.’

Why don’t the deer cooperate
Chew things we have to trim
Work with us like the gardener
Why can’t they be like him?

Instead, they’re quite selective
As they wander yard to yard
A broad leaf here, a flower there
Making it so hard

To work out exactly what it is
They really cannot stand
Then plant that in profusion
To cut off their demand.

I never thought I would regard
The fallow deer a pest
Go eat your own bush greenery
Come on, give ours a rest.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Meet Me at the Bottom

We don’t necessarily have to hit rock bottom before we get motivated enough to pull ourselves up and out of the muck we often seem to have settled for in life. But that whole area of our lives of unfulfilled dreams or regrets or fear of failure that stops us from opening the door even just a crack on what might be possible out there, has been in the forefront of my thinking as I’ve participated in The Artist’s Way course these past few weeks. I have a habit of not wanting to attempt something unless I can do it properly, hence many tasks are begun and not finished, but one thing highlighted in the course is that we have to be prepared to produce ‘bad’ art of whatever sort in order to start the journey.

Every stroke of the brush, every phrase created, every note recorded, every dance move attempted, every photo captured, is a step in the right direction. Stepping back and observing what we’ve created might produce a positive or negative reaction from both ourselves and others, but at least it’s something to work with. We have a tendency to compare our efforts to the masters in our chosen field, which as beginners can be extremely deflating. There’s no point putting your first completed canvas next to a Van Gogh, for instance, and as I’m no literary genius, there’s no point judging my efforts against the authors I admire either.

What I can do though is start at the bottom, as hard as that may be, and stumble however precariously towards the goal, for I’m finding that by putting one foot in front of the other, however slowly, the process is gathering a momentum of its own, in much the same way as this poem has evolved over the last couple of weeks. What better way of marking the last day of winter than throwing off the dark, cold dreariness and preparing for the new spring of life which is to come.

Meet Me at the Bottom

Helter Skelter
meet me at the bottom
Bruised and battered
curled into a ball.
Get out of the dirty ditch
bedraggled and forlorn
Brush off the stinking mantle
and slink away to mourn.

Helter Skelter
meet me at the bottom
Screaming like a banshee
braced against the fall.
Grazed and bleeding grab a hold
stumble on into the night
Split the dank and settling mist
stay up, the end’s in sight.

Helter Skelter
meet me at the bottom
Tearing down with pure delight
in answer to the call.
Hair flying, eyes wide, 
a grin from ear to ear
Surefooted, balanced now
gone the hollow fear.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Looking right back at 'ya

With no new novel at my disposal to delve into this week, I found it rather fascinating that at a time I’ve been reflecting on reflections (no pun intended) and mirror images, I chose to pick up Trezza Azzopardi’s novel Remember Me which I read a few years ago. I’d glanced along the shelves, and as this was one for which I couldn’t remember the storyline, thought it well worth revisiting.

I wasn’t long into it before significant symbols were cropping up, foremost among them that of mirrors, both remembered from the main character’s childhood as well as decades later in her old age. How the shards of a broken mirror reflect a fractured self, an image in fragments, not the whole, how they can be full of sorrow, how the number of human beings gets multiplied just by looking.

Never trust a mirror: full of lies, just like the papers.

Lillian avoids mirrors, somewhat threatened by what the reflection represents, wondering whether what she sees is really her. Whether the essence of what makes her who she is, is standing on this side of the mirror looking in, or lost inside the mirror world. She senses her other self in the mirror, beckoning her, daring her to come.

As a child, in the dead of night, a week after she catches a glimpse of her ‘stand out in the crowd’ red hair now bleached blond, she plucks up the courage to climb on a chair and seek out her reflection.

It’s too late now to stop myself. Not edging up into the glass. Not going sideways like a thief, stealing in from the corner of the frame. I will face her straight on, wide eyed….to let in the light from the darkness….I have to be sure she wasn’t just hiding, trying to trick me. But I can’t see a single thing. It’s black as a hole. No one looks back at me, there is no one on the inside. I get as close as I can, trying to see through the mirror, to see through it and beyond it, beyond the glass sheet, and the silver, through the wooden back of the frame and the rose wallpaper and the chimney and out through the brick and into the night. Trailing specks of mortar, black ash, dust, flying in the darkness to seek her out, find the girl, show her that I am me.

Quite apart from being a great piece of prose, it begs the question Who am I? Am I comfortable in my skin? I know as I get older I spend less and less time in front of the mirror, only stopping long enough to make sure my hair isn’t sticking out in too many directions before heading for work. As the wrinkles etch deeper I wonder about the dreams the younger version of me had in decades past, and if those dreams are still not fulfilled, why they were left by the wayside. Another poem came to life from all these ruminations.

My spirit shell upon the wall
beckons me to come.
She dares me to come looking,
has power over me
taunts me for the life unlived
time stolen, gone for good.

Is she trapped inside her wooden frame
Or am I trapped out here.
Does she wonder what I wonder
has she done the same as me,
Or has she lived a thousand dreams
that I could never see.

Do I take from her the years of life
Or does she take from me
A little piece of skin and bone
in order to be free
from that nagging, sinking feeling
that by drawing in my breath,
there’ll be more and more
of her to see
and less and less of me.

Do her lifeless eyes see nothing
as we watch each other’s moves.
Do we sneak a look occasionally
does she smile or disapprove.
Are my secrets safe there on the wall
does she want me to be free
Is my image there my lifelong friend
Or my enemy.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Shovelling in the Words

The past week has been fascinating, as if the top of my head has been prised open and someone has been shovelling words and phrases in at a great rate of knots. After several weeks of The Artist’s Way course and sharing with my fellow travellers, and reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg in 24 hours, I’ve suddenly gone into this frenzy of writing.

But not what I was expecting.

I’m writing poetry, something I haven’t touched for nigh on forty years and a task I’ve never really wanted to pursue. My scribblings of decades ago have been culled on more than one occasion, for whenever you revisit old poems or short stories you wonder what on earth you were thinking at the time. They are often stilted, morbid or maudlin, self indulgent, images and metaphors piled on thick as custard. What prompted their outpouring is a distant memory, and the emotion dies in the words.

What I’m doing now might end up just the same. In a week’s time, in a month or more, I might look back and sneer at my feeble attempts, but as I commit to this journey and take it seriously I’m discovering something new, and coinciding with the Olympics may be no coincidence at all. No athlete goes out to run his race without training and routine practice, without warming up, stretching. It’s a no brainer really, something I already knew but have been resisting.

The very act of putting pen to paper on almost a daily basis is opening my eyes, my ears, my mind, opening me, opening up possibilities. ‘Helter Skelter meet me at the bottom’ came from nowhere the other day. Or rather, somewhere, spawning a poem yet to be finished. Words and phrases and images are fighting for space in my head right now, I’m wondering where they’re all coming from, and while they’re not leading me in the direction of the novel I thought I was heading towards, they’re leading me somewhere.

There’s no point waiting for the Road to Damascus moment when the heavens will open and the message will be loud and clear. Right now I’m on the dusty road though, practicing, stretching, warming up for the main event.


When I look into the mirror
what reflection looks at me.
My right side here
is right, right there
my left where it should be.

But when you stand before me
you see a different me.
My right is on your left hand side
my left is on your right.
I’m back to front
In body
Am I back to front
in mind?

Do you understand my motives
can you see my latent dreams
Can you navigate
the fissures of my mind?

Do you see beyond the body
are you brave enough to try?
Do I dare to let you
see inside
in those moments you ask

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Rising from Horsell Common

The haunting strains of Jeff Wayne’s soundtrack to HG Wells’ War of the Worlds was brought to mind this morning as I witnessed the unfolding revelation of the landscape in the valley below. Bathed in the benevolence of sunshine from my vantage point, what looked like the giant machines propelled by Wells’ Martians began to emerge from the dense fog, ominous, out of place.

Drifting up from below came the mournful sounds of cows objecting to the early morning chill, while two old dead gnarled trees stood as sentinels as they have for decades, witness in their lifetime to countless droughts, floods, and gale force winds as well as times of plenty.

Fog is such a fluid thing. While I watched, it slowly drifted away from the higher slopes, revealing more of the farmland beneath. Sheds started to appear, fences, trees, power pylons, then just as quickly a faint breeze in my face heralded its return and what was beginning to be exposed once more became swallowed by a thick white blanket.

It ebbed and flowed much the same as the water’s edge, commanded by unseen forces, though what was a thing of beauty from my spot above it, no doubt would have been experienced quite differently by those immersed in its bone chilling cold.

Simply driving through fog can be quite daunting, straining your eyes in an attempt to peer beyond the barrier, and even shedding light ahead doesn’t guarantee a better view, simply reflecting the whiteness even more. Unseen dangers have a way of emerging at a moment’s notice, and require diligence and quick thinking in order to deal with them. Similarly, there are times when we feel like we’re in a fog, floundering around without a way forward, waiting for the oppression to lift so we can set out again on a clear path.

The moods evoked in a fog can be very similar to those we experience daily. Fog has a way of concealing. Toddlers amuse us by covering their eyes in the belief that if they can’t see you, you can’t see them, but hiding something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The skeletons in our closet, though hidden from view, have a way of lurking in the recesses of our psyche, and unfortunately manage to slip a bony finger around the closet door now and again and peek out to remind us they are still there. Shutting the door again is usually the immediate reaction, though not necessarily the wisest move.

For me, mist enshrouded landscapes have an attraction all their own, transforming clear lines and distinct colours into an ethereal beauty, but for many the best part of fog is in its lifting. Those days when it drifts in and obliterates the scenery for hours chill you to the core. All warmth is gone, and a depressing mantle of silence hangs in the air. But the moment the temperature rises and the fog starts to rise, it’s like the burden also is lifted. The sun finally penetrates, the fog disperses, the world which seemed to be on hold awakens and comes to life once more.

Whether we operate in a fog or not, there is much in our lives we choose to conceal, sometimes to the detriment of both ourselves and others. To be able to reveal more of ourselves, to emerge from the things which prevent us from reaching our potential and from being who we are meant to be, to see clearly a way forward, now that would be a real blessing.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Unblocking the Drains

No, I haven’t had to call in the plumber, and despite the fact my internal workings are not exactly what they should be, it’s the journey of the unblocking of my mind on which I’ve had to yet again set out. As the title of my blog attests, the desire is to write, not just any old stuff, but something worthy of being read by those other than myself, and lately the S bend has become clogged. Nothing was making its way past that blockage, no amount of metaphorical Draino was having any effect.

For some reason I find the structure of a writing course or writer’s group rather handy, for it keeps me on my toes, spurs me on to keep producing, but when not in this construct for an extended period of time the self doubt takes over once again, apathy becomes the norm, self flagellation the response for not picking myself up and motoring on. Not literally of course, don’t have any cat o’ nine tails hidden in the wardrobe, but the mind can play all sorts of tricks to trip you up when the dream seems all but unattainable.

So, in this past week I’ve joined a small group doing The Artist’s Way, a 12 part course written by Julia Cameron in discovering and recovering your creative self. We’re a mixed bunch covering several artistic pursuits, music, dance, glass sculpting, singing, painting, crafts and writing. The very fact we’re not all chasing the same specific dream is going to be helpful, for we will all have different experiences from which to draw to bring to our discussions. The process however of releasing our creativity will have its similarities, delving deeper internally to discover what brings us joy, to what helps us tap into our dreams so our authentic selves can be expressed in whatever form, at the same time as identifying those things which prevent us from doing that.

For me it will be something of a spiritual journey, for the basic tools used during the course will I know bring me to those moments and places where I am confronted with the most basic questions. Who am I? What am I doing here? What and who do I want to be? Do I have something worthwhile to say or do in my little corner of the world?

The first basic tool is Morning Pages, 3 pages every day of whatever you can write, whether you’re feeling inspired or believing this whole thing is a waste of time. Stream of consciousness writing, letting the pen do its thing, not stopping to think too hard about what you’re doing. Funny thing is, only four days in, and the bare bones I start on page 1 suddenly turns into something much more meaningful by the end of page 3.

The second tool is the Artist Date, taking yourself off somewhere alone to revive your dry tired soul, or spirit, or whatever it is that needs refilling, in order to once again have some internal resources on which to draw. In one sense this activity is not entirely new, for I love taking time to observe the world around me, people, music, art, natural and manmade landscapes, but as much as I appreciate sweeping vistas it is the small details which fascinate me.

Yesterday found me at Cataract Gorge, vastly different from my previous visit when it was in flood last year. Back then it was all turmoil and power and savage beauty, but now, not a ripple on the water, beautiful reflections, but it was the moss and lichen and creepers on the rocks by the side of the path which intrigued me most. Besides writing, photography would have to be my next favourite creative pursuit, and though I’m no expert I do enjoy capturing images which speak to me, fill me with awe and reaffirm my relationship with the creator of this amazing universe.

So, with not even one week into the course gone, I’ve at least plucked up the energy to face the keyboard again and have another go. Whether or not I share anything from my morning pages remains to be seen, but with several photos from the Gorge pasted into my journal along with today’s entry, I’m trusting these next few months will once more kick start my creative juices.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Patching things up

Being the mother of two boys I spent many long hours patching the knees of my son’s jeans in their younger years. These days the fashion would be to leave them looking dishevelled, but when you’re on a modest income old jeans were kept to provide patches for those currently in use in order for them to last the distance until the boys grew out of them.

Didn’t do a bad job if I say so myself, the jeans didn’t look daggy and I hoped my sons didn’t feel like someone’s poor cousin by having to wear them. Hand stitching two patches on ripped knees is one thing, but what I’ve seen over the past couple of weekends is another thing entirely.

For the fifteenth year the Tasmanian Quilting Guild held their annual getaway here in Poatina where they set up their sewing machines and all manner of paraphernalia for four days of intensive quilt making. To me, real quilters are a rare breed, possessing the patience of saints as they create multitudes of squares of the most intricate designs which then blend into the overall design of the entire quilt.

The village residents are treated to an annual “Show and Tell” as each creator displays their work, telling something of the story of its making, who it is for, and often how many years it has taken to complete the project. The incredible skill elicits oohs and aahs from those gathered, but there is also recognition of the love which has gone into making particular ones where there is a special reason behind who will be the recipient.

Over the past few years, the Handweavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild of Tasmania have joined them on the same weekend, so we get to see the skills of these ladies, and one bloke, who, complete with their spinning wheels and looms and dyeing techniques, start with the raw product and see it through to a completed garment or piece of work, with beautiful results.
I am in awe of such skill and dedication to their craft. These people are not simply making quilts or scarves or garments, they are textile artists, and they have a lot of fun in those few days as they spend time together, learn from each other, and celebrate each other’s achievements.

However well I did my patch up jobs all those years ago, all I was really doing was covering up a hole, like putting on a band aid so what’s underneath can be fixed or obscured. The patches these women create are not there to cover over something, apart of course from when they become the finished product and someone actually gets to sleep under them.

To watch them choose materials, cut out hundreds, sometimes thousands of pieces, pin them, sew them, iron them, stack them until there are enough, arrange them, then see the squares sewn together is to witness an amazing process. Each little patch is the start of something new, something bigger. The quality of their work tells you instinctively that it will still be around on someone’s bed for decades to come, and will be valued.

Patching things up implies there’s been a problem, a rift that needs mending. It could be transforming if we went beyond the quick cover up job or temporary solution to whatever challenges we face each day, and took into other aspects of our lives as much love and care as the quilters invest in producing their long lasting creations.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A Time & Place to Reflect

Whether or not our lives have been directly touched by the rigours or horrors of wartime experience, Anzac Day has undoubtedly become Australia’s most hallowed day of the year. A time to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their loved ones, their country, their mates and for the freedom we hold dear.

We set aside this day to commemorate a moment in history when our country took its place on the world stage alongside the Allied troops, thrown into a battlefield on an almost suicidal mission. The stories from that little cove in Gallipoli have become part of this country’s mythology, and have followed our troops all over the globe into countless war zones since.

I recently read Alex Miller’s novel The Ancestor Game, an interesting delve into the lives of several characters from foreign shores living in Australia before, during and after the Second World War. Lang Tzu is Chinese, and his telling of the invention of the gazebo structure made me think about those who take on the roles of lookouts and sentries while the remainder of the troops can rest in the knowledge that their welfare is of prime concern.

Commonly seen as an ornamental structure in a traditional English garden, the gazebo was actually a Chinese invention, a room built on to the roof of a family home for the purpose of looking out over the fields for the approach of any enemy forces. At dawn each day, the father would head up to the gazebo to sit for many hours watching and waiting in order to protect his family and village, but over the generations, as rivalries ceased and the need to keep watch became unnecessary, the gazebo lost its original purpose. With the advent of peace though, an interesting phenomenon began to emerge.

Those who’d sat for hours and watched began to miss the solitary time they’d spent in the gazeboThe long hours alone had revealed to them something which they could otherwise never have discovered for themselves in the world at ground level. Alone in the gazebo they had learned how to reflect on their experience. They had discovered the hidden beauties of solitary contemplation.

To gaze inward had become an established custom with them, and they found when they came down that they could no longer live happily without it…In the busy world of the daily routine of the village, where no one ever had a moment to stop and think but where everyone had to either get on or risk falling behind, those who had come down from their gazebos now found themselves to be strangers.

They soon found it necessary to return to their gazebos in order to satisfy the deep need for solitary reflection, in many cases abandoning their families and responsibilities to the extent where they moved or were forced to remove their rooftop gazebos and relocate them away from the house. Hence the modern day gazebo has become a structure situated away from the house, a retreat from the business of the day, a place to sit and rest and turn one’s thoughts inward while looking outward on the surroundings.

Some of us fear the world of contemplation and reflection. It can easily spiral into a self deprecating ‘woe is me’ or ‘I’m a failure’ navel gazing type of thing, so we prefer to keep barrelling on, maintaining a level of busy-ness which leaves no room for setting apart quiet times to think about the bigger picture and where we fit in it all.

Many fear darkening the doorway of a church and sitting in a pew in case they are challenged by something said from the pulpit, causing them to examine their lives. But no one has that same fear when it comes to attending a dawn service on Anzac Day. We listen with reverence to the words spoken on this sacred day, and pause to reflect not only what those who have gone before us have done, but on whether or not we would have the same degree of courage should we have to face such dire circumstances. It is often in those moments we feel we come up wanting, but there is also a sense of humility, inspiration and hope.

Reflection isn’t totally an inward activity. In contemplating not only who we are, but who and what we could be, the world beyond our own little bubble takes on more significance.  The benefits of time spent alone can have profound and far reaching ramifications as we find fresh ways of expressing who we are, as well as serving those around us. We may not have a gazebo to retreat to, but finding a quiet place on a regular basis to monitor how we’re going, how our inner world is standing up under day to day pressures, whether what we’re doing is bringing personal fulfilment, whether we’re contributing to the lives of others rather than taking, must surely be a positive thing.

Fascinating that this ancient structure designed to keep a sharp lookout for the enemy may have just lived up to its original purpose. Looking outward, while working on our emotional and spiritual well being, actually could alert us to the danger signs of self interest and complacency.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Wade in the Water, Swim in the Sea

I’m having trouble remembering exactly how long it’s been since I ventured into the ocean, apart from in a boat that is. Paddling in the shallows in Tasmanian waters is not the most inviting of pastimes, even in summer, unless you want frozen toes, and my last recollection of getting completely wet while at the beach ended in pain and suffering from a bluebottle jellyfish sting back in my Queensland days in the early 90s.

Have traversed Bass Strait via the Spirit of Tasmania on a number of occasions, a few of which have been far from smooth sailing, but there was never a question that I wasn’t safe and secure. I love walking along the beach fossicking in rock pools and watching a perfect sunset reflected on the water. Walking into a bracing wind along a pier with the waves broiling underneath makes me feel alive, and the sight of yachts and fishing boats tied up at their moorings herald a whole other world of enjoyment, challenge, livelihood and lifestyle.

The ocean has a lot going for it, but its moods can change, and if you’re not prepared, danger is not far away. Nightly news broadcasts offer up tragedies on a regular basis, from anglers swept off the rocks, to shark attacks, dangerous rips, an innocent day’s fishing with mates ending in loss of life, storms whipping up the sea into a frenzy from which many never return. Many a day on or in the water begun in excited anticipation has ended in disaster.

But we keep heading out there. For some reason we are not deterred and probably, somewhat foolishly, believe we are somehow immune from such mishaps. I watch with incredible admiration the exploits of those who pit their skills against the elements and succeed, but there are those like me who tend to watch from the safety of the shoreline with a degree of envy for those who are game to take the risk.

The imagery is pretty obvious here I know, but I wonder sometimes how much of my life is lived with barely a toe poked in the water. The water is inviting, lots of people seem to be quite at ease and having a great time, but there’s some pretty scary stuff out there too. You don’t have to venture far before you can find you’re out of your depth, not to mention the rocks strategically placed for you to crash into, or the creatures of the deep lying in wait to scare the living daylights out of you or devour you if they feel like it.

We all have our daily battles, whether external or internal, and both can be as debilitating when it comes to finding our place in the world and feeling like we matter and have a purpose. Facing what has to be done in the next year, month, week, day or even minute, for progress to be made, skills developed, confidence and trust to be built, for hope to rise that the future can be so much more than the present, takes courage.

Venturing from the known to the unknown always holds elements of both excitement and fear, and unfortunately most of us rarely get to see what we’re capable of because the obstacles overwhelm us. To move beyond the fear, to see beyond the rocks, we actually have to venture further than the water lapping around our ankles and make a move, a first step, a commitment.

We have to wade in the water, swim in the sea.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

2012 - Not what I'd expected

So far, 2012 is languishing waaay down the bottom of my list of favourite years. Since the end of January my old war wound of a back injury came back to haunt me big time, warranting a ride in an ambulance, some unnamed weird virus laid me low, broke a tooth, had a 3 day migraine, plus a mild attack of shingles which was probably sparked by said unnamed virus, nearly swallowed a jack jumper ant which could’ve killed me, and 3 major jack jumper ant nests in the garden have since sprung up and needed to be dealt with.

No doubt they heard along the grapevine that one of their mates had been slaughtered through no fault of his own, and put a three pronged strategy into place to do away with me once and for all. In the end I won, with not a sting having found its mark, not bad seeing as I squooshed at least two hundred or more as they fled from the ant powder.

But that’s not all, or should I say, that’th not all. Bethideth breaking a tooth which wath filled a couple of weekth ago, the tooth next to it had to come out the other day. Poor old molar had been living on borrowed time for quite a while and wath cauthing an infection, tho after two X-rayth and much dithcuthon, out it came. That wathn’t the bad part though, in fact there wath altho a funny part, but the down thide wath that the tooth which wath filled now had a razor tharp edge on it which I didn’t dithcover until the numbneth went away.

Thuddenly I had thith Mt Everetht carving up the underthide of my tongue which I’m having to put up with until the firtht working day after Eathter. Hard to eat, I thound like I’m thpeaking with a mouthful of marthmallowth. Very difficult to keep your tongue behind your bottom teeth I’ve found, it really doth have a mind of itth own, but not thpeaking ith minimithing the damage.

The amusing part of the whole thing was the injections before the whole drama. After two injections I didn’t seem to be going numb in the right place, so to make sure I wasn’t going to feel anything, in went injection number 3, giving me a facial block. Wasn’t till I was driving home I realised what a facial block does. My right eye wouldn’t close, it was like I’d tripped and landed face first in a box of Botox needles, and my left eye was blinking furiously wondering why its mate wasn’t cooperating. Rather disconcerting, had to hold my eye shut, took a few hours to wear off before it could close of its own accord.

So with all these things assailing me from left and right, I’m trusting this is not a foretaste of what this year has in store for me. I’m tending towards a more positive outlook, hoping that my entire year’s ills have been dealt with in one fell swoop, and that the rest of the year is ready and waiting for me to take it on at full throttle.

That ith, ath thoon ath I get thith darn tooth thmoothed off.