Saturday, December 29, 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, December 28, 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.

Saturday, December 22, 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.

Monday, December 3, 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