Edges

The performance poem I wrote for the exhibition, Solastalgia, at Fabrik, in Lobethal. More details about this series of exhibitions, here.

The drawing is mine, drawn with charcoal from my burnt home. It ended up being about 13 metres long on the beautiful wall of this gallery. It is as ephemeral as my home apparently was, and will be washed off that wall eventually. But all kudos to Melinda Rankin (director of Fabrik) for facilitating it.

Also kudos to all of the people involved in the exhibition, especially Jo Wilmot (creator of Solastalgia, The Exhibition) and Evette Sunset who said I mentored her when it was the other way around. We all learn from each other anyway, so who needs labels.

Thanks to my good friend David Salomon of Simply Splendid Productions for recording and creating this movie.

Charcoal Drawing With No Name (detail)

Pain BeGone

When I was a kid, the last of five, I was sometimes a bit slow tucking in to whatever goodies were on offer. Apparently I used to say in a plaintive voice, ‘Poor me, gokka none.’ (poor me, got none). I think that is quite hilarious and often, when I feel sorry for my self, I say, ‘Poor me, gokka none’, and end up laughing.

The other night I was given (somehow) the instruction to release pain, to disassociate from it. I think I was beginning to define myself according to my pain, according to the weariness and depression associated with All This. As if I want to recognise myself as a person in pain, as if I want other people to recognise me as a person in pain. Why? Habit? Unconscious insanity? Do I want people to feel sorry for me? Why? Perhaps to get something? Sympathy for example, or stuff.

Really, everything is ok for us. Things proceed, we will have a house soon enough, and for goodness sake, it will be new! I get to choose tiles! I must keep my head out of suffering so that I can actually enjoy this once in a lifetime opportunity.

We have plenty of stuff. We even get to give things away because, for example, we may have enough cups, but then someone turns up with a cup or cups that are more beautiful, or that are given with such love that it will always shine from the object. So we receive these gifts and send the ones we with less desirability back to the op shop.

The instruction about pain was that, if I am to be of any use in a world of suffering, then I have to release my attachment, not only from my own pain, but from being consumed by the pain of other sentient beings. Nurses and other medicos learn this, eventually.

Anyhow, the following morning when I got the weeps, I had my first practice of sitting outside my pain, and it was very instructive to have a part of me observing. It took a lot of the heat out of it. We will see if I remember this lesson next week. But, for those workers in psychology who care for me, don’t worry. I do intend to cry when I need to. (Like I could stop!) I am not setting myself up to sublimate pain or be forever wounded.

Here is a Goddess figurine created by the melting glass of some window or other.

(Background artwork by Edward Bassingthwaighte)

How amazing that destruction can create anything at all, let alone beauty! Of course it can, in this universe that (inexplicably) creates order from chaos, and (more explicably) chaos from order. In my art, especially the last abstract exhibition, I explored this. Creating chaos and pushing it towards order, and vice versa. Something that is truly ordered is often as boring as a politician’s rhetoric. It sits on a very thin line and is easily toppled towards chaos, a state wherein it is much more interesting and fertile.

Perhaps this is the lesson of covid, and the other disasters that have and will befall us in this era. Perhaps we, as a species, had become too ordered, too complacent, too greedy for an unsustainable normalcy. Perhaps, if we are to thrive, we must shake up our norms. And I don’t just mean politically. I mean personally also. Face your pain, embrace the disorder in your life, be with the discomfort, and transcend it.

New Me

I tell you, it’s really weird! I found myself looking into the little camping fridge that we’ve been using while we wait to get a proper one, thinking, ‘What did I like to eat?’ It’s like I have forgotten the most basic things about who I used to be before All This. I mean I know the essential me hasn’t changed, but the one that creates a life for the essential me has no idea how to go about it. 

I don’t know if this feeling of disjointedness is common after trauma. I wouldn’t be surprised. 

It feels like I have crossed a threshold, something like a rite of passage. Things I’ve read over the years tell that, during such a rite, one is stripped from everything that makes the person; the ego is dissolved; often the body is mutilated in some way, (sometimes metaphorically), so that the person can not forget that he or she is not the same as before. In many traditions across the world (read Joseph Campbell) this same complete disassociation, from the known self and from the everyday norms of the culture, is emphasised. The result is a clear person who can remake herself in anyway she wants.

So I’m going to become a megalomaniac. Kidding! I certainly hope this will make me a better and healthier person, more useful to my community of earth, nature and humanity.

In the meantime, the new fridge has arrived and I will have to go off and work out what to put in it.

wanderer
tattered wings tremble
in bitter wind

Winter Solstice 2020

The dark time of year. 
Odd things are black with frost
but, below bare trees, 
the earth is sapping green. 

Weeds spring in autumn here 
when rain comes to seared ground. 

With water as fresh as life 
I take vitamin D and watch 
the light change on this 
cloud-spangled shortest day.

Perhaps I’ll never again desire summer
when the hot winds swirl our fear with
tinder leaves, when plants bake brittle
and feed fires with tempers unheard of. 

It’s hard to celebrate all of that 
but give me your fruit pudding 
and your evergreen hope 
and I’ll deck them out 
with paper stars.

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(I sat down to write a hopeful poem. Sorry about that.)

Post Fire Haiga 1

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Some parts of our block are very slow to recover. It even burnt the soil, of course. Our border is obvious now. The other side is green. Weeds mostly, but still.

We do have a beautiful patch with native lilies, legumes and other things.

Grow Babies! Grow!

Post Fire Haiga 2

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By the way, I didn’t rip this growing beauty from the earth. I found it on our driveway and moved it to this piece of bark for the photo. There are a number of different fungi at last. Including these:

They are growing near the mycelium of Pyronema Omphalodes, the fungi that only fruits after fire. Is this the fruit? Anyone know? Please leave a comment.

Now. Update re fire recovery.

There are good and bad days. Today is a lovely day, as most are lately. When I get the weeps it’s usually because I’m tired, or there is a lot to do and it feels a overwhelming. I often get anxious then too, and overreact to things. Unfortunately I find it somewhat embarrassing to weep all over people, and it almost feels like manipulation because they then feel bad too. Oh well. I guess we all just do what we can and it seems to get better all the time.

On the ridge top, it burnt extremely hot. Most of the trees up here are not showing epicormic growth. Epicormic growth is the shoots up trunks and branches as you can see in one of these trees. the rest of these huge stringy barks are only shooting from the base.

The Covid situation knocked the shit out of me at first. Partly because we shifted down to Middleton and back within the first three weeks of it, and although it was very good to be by the sea, it is not really our country, and it was a shitload of work physically and I didn’t have a lot of spare energy at the time. So I fell in a heap. But I wasn’t alone, a lot of people did at the time, and not only fire victims.

This week we move again, up to a rental property in Woodside. Woodside, for those of you who don’t know, is close to Lobethal, about ten minutes from our ‘block’.

This time our adult kids can help though, so moving shouldn’t be bad. And it’s a really nice house and garden. It is a Housing SA house but in really good nick and they have replaced the stinky carpet with vinyl and painted all the walls. They even put in blinds!

The housing trust was going to sell it but decided to offer it to someone who lost their home in the bushfires until they rebuild. We were extra lucky that I had just had a conversation with our case manager that went like this.
‘How is your unit?’
‘Hmm’, I thought. ‘I wouldn’t exactly call it a unit,’ I said, ‘It is a really nice sealed shed with a kettle and a hot plate. We have to walk to the toilet in the house, but we have a sealed bucket for overnight.’
I saw her face fall, and thought, ‘Actually, this isn’t normal, is it?’ and within a week we had been offered the house. It is a bit more expensive than we thought we would have to pay at first, but they are helping us to (hopefully) get it reduced.

Our present hut. (Hello everyone!) It’s really quite beautiful and if it had running water and a toilet and maybe a bit more room to dream, I would consider staying. But it’s time for independence anyway. How do you like my outfit? See what I say about clothes towards the end of this post.

I have to sing the praises of the Recovery Centre. The staff are wonderful. They work really hard, and are all so helpful. It is well organised now, with permanent staff, so you don’t get shunted from person to person any more. You have a ‘case manager’, and ours is so good for us. I suppose they all are, they are really considerate and knowledgeable.

It will be lovely in the Woodside house, to have a bit of room and to start collecting the things we will need when we move into our new home. Also to take possession of our possessions, the ones people have given us and are holding. We will be able to take stock and see what we’ve got, because it is hard to remember what happened in the first couple of months. All I know for sure is that many many people love and care for us, and that they are so generous. The kindness and beauty of humans always makes tears flow, therefor, (just now) tears.

I will miss the bundles of liveliness that are our grandchildren. I love the thoughtfulness of them among other things, how they cut to the chase when they think you’re deluding yourself, and how funny they are, and fun. It has been wonderful to spend time with Hana and Evan also. To cook together and share family time. A real privilege, actually. In this society we all live so separately these days. Many grandparents don’t get to see their grandchildren in their natural environment, melting down over tech time, or having their hair blown dry. There’s so much tenderness and beauty in family life.

Me as dressed up by the grandkids, holding a portrait, (apparently it is of me!) that they found in a book.

Also it is a privilege to watch Hana negotiate the road towards developing our house. The design, and the applications for development etc. It is complicated process and well over my head. She is doing a brilliant job. It will be quoted soon by a young builder friend who we love to death, and then we’ll see if we have to change things. The size of windows, for example. There is so much to think about, and I am incredibly thankful to Hana for all of the work she puts into it. She is also doing uni and was dealing with the kids home schooling for nearly a month. They are now back at school.

Of course designing a house is very exciting! Probably the last lot of plans will be through council in a month or so. And then we begin!

Covid lockdown / silence surrounds / the Easter moon

In the meantime I have managed to find the head space to do some ink play, and to learn to use all of these different tools that so many lovely people have given me. Tools are funny things. You have to develop a body knowledge of them. Also your workspace. So I find my self spending a lot of time thinking about how the hand works, where it expects to find the ink pot, or a brush, a million decisions that were second nature in my studios at home.

It is the same with everything. What your clothes feel like, how they look together, even which clothes are yours when you bring in the washing. It’s like I am discovering how to live with each object in my life. Some of them feel like they are mine, but many of them don’t. It’s all a bit weird.

I think settling into this house in Woodside will make a huge difference to this feeling of displacement. I hope so. Also I hope the extra room will allow Ervin to move into his work more easily. He has been doing the odd (fantastic) photo, and he now has some of his woodworking tools but, when it is raining here, he can’t use them. So here’s hoping. The other day he was particularly out of sorts and I said, ‘Why do you feel bad?’ And he said, ‘Because I’m homeless.’ Nail. Head.

While Weeding and Staking Seedlings

With my hands in earth
my heart in my hands 
my heart in my hands in earth 
that fed me for many a year. 

My soul would lie down here and sleep. 
Surely my great weariness 
would seep out into this good earth.
Stars would wheel across the sky, 
perhaps a late and waning moon. 
And in the morning, the sun would rise 
and I would turn my face towards it 
like a plant. I would rise refreshed 
having dreamt the dreamings of the land. 

But in the meantime it is enough 
to feel its grit between my fingers
to blacken my nails with it. 
I pull weeds and stake the seedling trees. 
With my hands in earth, attached as they are 
to my wounded heart, I listen. 
I hear myself apologising for the acts 
of human kind. I apologise for being human. 

But the earth answers:  
Humans are part of what I am.
Humans have a right to be here. 

Humans are part of my whole. 
They just need to come back to me. 
They need to lie on me and feel their true place:
that they are one small species among many
that the earth owes them nothing and gives everything
that earth is their mother and earth will 
receive their bodies when they die
and because of that, they need not hurry 
nor worry

nor tangle their thoughts about tomorrow.
They simply need to lie down here and close their eyes. 
Let the moon shine and the stars light their nightly piss. 
In the morning, the sun will rise 
and they will turn to face it like plants 
and they will know their place
in the scheme of things. 

Some time later

The mother dog licks the puppies’ arses.
They all crowd in together nudging for teats.
Later they will roll and play. They’ll bite each other 
and lick the insides of each other’s mouths. 
They will curl up together to sleep. When they are older they will 
do all that, and more, with completely unrelated dogs. 

I will tell my grandchildren that there was a time 
when complete strangers would shake each other’s hands, 
how friends would hug and greet with a kiss, sometimes on the lips. 
The grandchildren will look at me as if I was mad. 
‘Granny’s off again,’ they’ll think. 

Of course, they also won’t believe me 
when I say we had homes for old people. 
‘What do you mean?’ they’ll say, and I’ll tell them 
how for a few generations it wasn’t unusual 
to live past eighty, and they will look at me as if I am mad. 

They won’t believe that when sports people won a game
they threw themselves on each other in glee. 
I wonder if they’ll understand glee. 

I’ll tell them how people were so careless that 
there were islands of plastic floating in the oceans, 
how we were so wasteful that we bought more food 
than we could eat, that we threw out clothes 
after only wearing them a few times. 
‘Some people had whole rooms with 
nothing else in them but shoes.’ I’ll say.

They won’t believe me, but even while they think I’m mad, 
they’ll say, ‘I’m glad I can hug you, Granny,’ 
and we’ll hug and watch the mother dog lick 
the puppies’ faces after she is finished licking up their shit.

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