In the Shining

The counsel says,
go find a tree.
Address it as Guardian and ask it for teachings 
on how to grow and be strong 
and to serve a life greater than one’s own. 
I think of my burnt trees and weep. 
But then I think of the few recovering ones 
of how their roots delve in the earth, 
how they stand strongly in their foundations, 
how they have survived their challenges
are damaged but growing still, 
how their seeds sprout and flourish in the millions,
how they could re-Eden the earth if we let them.

Oh Tree, my heart aches for your pain 
and for mine. May I be as steadfast 
as you. May I, too, find fertility in the char.
May I, every day, breathe 
of the air and the sunshine
and be nurtured.
May I, again, grow strong and cheerful, 
living in the shining, living in the shining 
with my roots in the good earth.

New book coming!

Mock up cover, my artwork, my daughter Hana’s clever design.

The book contains most of my poems since the fires that razed our place. Moving, apparently; important, some said; but I don’t think it’s miserable. To be published by Ginninderra Press

I am working on an exhibition to go up in Tillbrook Estate’s new and beautiful eco cellar door. Annabelle Tilbrook is organising it. Last SALA, on the walls there, she showed her instagram record of the winery’s ‘recovery’ from the fires. ‘Recovery’ is in inverted commas because it sounds like past tense to me, whereas recovery is still very much a struggle for most, including them and me.

Anyhow, Annabelle was encouraged by how people stood to read the stories, and asked me to put poetry on the wall. She was hoping for some more lighthearted work, encouraging and community oriented, a little less one dimensional than most of us, who went through this fire, have become.

It is time for this, in many ways, certainly for me. But to go anywhere near that, I had to clear myself. Thus this book. The visual work, (which does, indeed include poetry)also contains some cathartic work. Well, how could it not?

Time Ago, 2022, ink on paper

The book will be called ‘Echidnas Don’t Live Here Any More’ and the exhibition will be called, ‘Echidnas, Any Minute Now’. It will show for SALA, opening on 7th August at 2.00 PM. Put that in your diaries, Dear Folk. I will also give an artist talk and a poetry presentation on 21st August. Here’s a link for booking for either of these. Free, of course! They would really appreciate booking for catering purposes, especially for the opening/launch. The book will launched at the same time by the wonderful Rachael Mead, who also did the blurb.

Why Choose to Dance, Grandma?


Why Choose to Dance, Grandma?

My child, there is nothing else
to be done about the world
and its horrors.
There is war here, drought there,
There’s flood and fire and famine

and there’s not a lot that you and I
can do about it. But when
there is something we can do,
we had better be ready.

How can we stay ready when
each day the plight of others
and ourselves
settles in our gut like stones.
We can suffer it, let it weaken us,
bind us, eat us whole.
Or we can dance.

We can dance and we can sing
and we can draw the good
energy of the earth and the wide sky
into ourselves, fill ourselves
with joy and love
and that’s how
we can stay ready.

My Drum with Swallows

Almost everyone to whom I read this poem, gets it. I consider it a gift, to me and to others. If it is useful to you, take it. If you feel it is useful to others, fell free to share it. I would prefer for it to be attributed to me, but if that gets lost on the way, I won’t have a conniption. I think we all need to find our joy wherever we can. We need to stay healthy, especially given the levels of trauma we witness everyday.

The idea isn’t new. I have heard various versions of the need to find joy in order to stay whole in the face of trauma. One is attributed to Native American people who continued to dance and find joy even through the atrocities they suffered.

For me, personally, still recovering from the trauma of the fires two years ago, it is important. I’m trying my hardest to find joy. I’m very serious about it! I’m even working towards a solo show on the subject. How is that going? Well, there appears to be a lot of black ink. Any minute now I’ll lighten up.

metamorphosis —
what is lighter
than a butterfly

Mind you that Lesser Wanderer is sitting on our house that burnt. Dark and light, dark and light.

(My drum was made by the master drum maker Tamaryn at spiritdrum.com.au
The exhibition, which will include my poetry and performance, will be in the cellar door at Tilbrook Estate winery, for SALA, in July/August. Whether this butterfly image makes the cut, who knows.)

A Garden Begins with Violence

A garden begins with violence:
fire or the hoe, a cleaning out, a smothering,
a clean break from the past.
But after the violence, intimacy.

Hands that spread seed, tiny packages of hope,
or that cradle a rootball as gently as
a parent washes the head of a newborn,
tucking the roots into the soil and crooning.

Most days, lately, I work over the brassicas
(cabbage and broccoli) wiping off the eggs
of the Cabbage White Butterfly or squishing
the caterpillars with my loving hands.

Violence and love. Yesterday I found
the empty chrysalis of a parasitic wasp. They flit
through the garden right now, drinking nectar
and laying eggs into the bodies of caterpillars.

They will feed from those bodies until they cut their way out
and settle to spin their own chrysalises.
Meanwhile the caterpillar is so changed by tending them
that it spins extra protection and guards them until it dies.

Today I watched the mating dance
of two Cabbage Whites. She settled on a leaf
and spread her wings flat, her black dots like a beacon,
while he flittered and fussed.

She will lay eggs of a dubious fate.
The butterflies are plentiful, the caterpillars are plentiful,
the wasps are plentiful, the host plants are plentiful.
Everywhere violence, everywhere love.

yet another fire poem and more exciting news

To Fire.

You came to me one December morning.
You taught me how to live with nothing,
you old nothing-maker.

You are all consumption and digestion.
You are heat, wind and embers,
but I didn’t get that close.

When I left home that day, my life
was as buoyant as a fish in water.
When I returned there was no normal.

I don’t know how to
finish this story. Maybe
I never will.

We can’t live together but I can’t live apart.
I rely on you, being, as I am,
made of plants that are made of you.

And I like to warm my bones in winter.
But sometimes
you’re a little close for comfort.

Stick to the sky, please Friend,
or in the hearth behind closed doors.
I want to love you from a distance.


. . . . . .

Perhaps this is my Christmas tree?


The middle paragraph of this poem is the crux. It seems I am stuck with this subject, for now at least. Probably there are unresolved issues in my psyche. (Really? You think so? says my psyche, who is often sarcastic.)

Oh well. Dear Reader, forgive me for being boring. It is the nature of trauma, apparently, to rehash the thing again and again. My sweet husband has answers to trauma: living in the moment, quietening the thinking, etc. He tries to encourage me to be light hearted. Perhaps in time.

In the meantime Christmas is doing its number. I have been busy, writing poems. On the 11th, Illuminart will launch a light show on the buildings of Mill Square. It is called Flocking Together. The animation (which will be delightful) includes a long poem that I wrote for it. (16 minutes, recorded!) I haven’t seen what they have done with the animation since before the words were finalised but when I did see it it was sumptuous, colourful, a feast for the eyes. Local kids were invited to do pictures of birds and these hop in and out being just gorgeous. Exciting!

It will show in a loop every evening from 11th till 23rd December, sunset till midnight. Three of those nights you would need to book, even though they are free, because of music on the 11th (details and booking link) and Christmas market, (details and booking link)

And then the 12th, I will give a poem that I wrote for the official turning on of the lights at the Oval in Lobethal. I wrote this poem for the hearts of people. Just a hint, there will be no fireworks that night. That’s good, in this town, at this time. There will be other spectacular instead. UPDATE! The first night of the lights’ concert on Sunday 12th is ‘postponed’ due to ‘covid uncertainty’. Everything else is still on, including the lights in the town and the Illuminart ‘Flocking Together’ wall spectacular (with my 16 minute poem) is still on 11th-23rd as stated above. Details about what else is on here: Lights of Lobethal Festival. ‘Postponed’ means it won’t be on until December 2022, apparently! Personally, I would call that ‘cancelled’. That choice of word is funny! I only just got a surprise resolution to an internal problem in the poem that no one else would have noticed, about an hour before finding out. I’m glad it got resolved before I found out. I can happily put it to bed now.

Here’s an aside. Some years ago, before the fires that so changed the lives of people in this district, when the fireworks for the beginning of the festival started (we could see them from our place), the cattle in the next paddock began rushing down the hill towards the road. As usual when there are fireworks, all around me birds were making alarm calls. I thought, ‘Those cows are going to rush right down onto the road.’ A stampede, I thought. But when they got to the corner of the fence, they rushed up the rise towards the fireworks and stopped on the crest of the ridge. They were rushing to get a better view!

Foot over Foot

Oh Pilgrim, the way of life is long:
sometimes joyful, sometimes hard.
Still we walk, foot over foot, foot over foot,
sometimes into chasms or over rough terrain,
through storms and buffeting winds.

Sometimes through meadows
abundant with comfort and flowers,
butterflies and soft sunshine.
Enjoy it, smell the flowers,
lie down there awhile and rest.

Above you: the sun, that fire of fires
round which our small lives turn.
It dries our tears and grows our food
the friend of winter hearths
the friend of hearts
the spark of life
companion for the way
sunshine, starshine.

But one can’t laze in a meadow forever.
We rise and walk
foot over foot, foot over foot
carrying our spark of life.
We fall down, we get up, oh Pilgrim.

Oh Pilgrim, the way of life is long
breath deep of air that is laced with stardust
that is stardust, as you are stardust,
as you walk on stardust
foot over foot
lightly
on this path of stars.

You are not alone in your dark nights.
Beside you, companions walk:
foxes, owls, roos and people
We walk together trusting the earth
to meet our feet.

You have stepped through fire,
and you have survived.
Sure, the going is hard
and terrain will be rough for some way yet.
But you have survived and
you step forward, foot over foot.

Oh Pilgrim, surely
you can trust yourself by now?
Surely, despite your wounds,
some of which reopen and weep,
surely you can trust the healing?
Surely you can trust yourself in this world by now?
Surely you can trust
this world?
It has got you this far.

Step forward, step forward,
step forward in
this moment of walking,
this moment and no other,
oh Pilgrim.

This moment is free from the past
with its grief and wishes.
It is free from the future
with its worries and desires.

It is just this moment and no other
through which you step
forward
on stars
foot over foot.

contemplating innocence / this year of / after

. . . . . . .

This poem was written for and performed at an exhibition called Regenerate at Fabrik Arts and Heritage, at the end of 2020, nearly a year after the area was ravaged by fire. I wrote it specifically for fire victims who still to this day have a long way to travel before they are healed, though I think it speaks to anyone who has experienced trauma, Covid, for eg. or loss.

Performance poems often don’t translate to the page, but I think this one does ok. It’s interesting that most performance poems are very much about the presence of the performer, but this one dictated that it did not want me to meet the audience member’s eyes, so that they could take the poem to themselves in a private way. Beforehand I explained that to them, and also told them that the meadow is a metaphor for their life before, or rather, their memory of their life before. Because when one is trying to get one’s life back, it is very easy forget anything that was not perfect, but it will never be the same anyway, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. In any case better to aim for the best it can be, rather than for some lost thing.

And it seems that the mental health of people in trauma is nurtured mainly by one thing, and that is to be in the moment in which one finds oneself. There is so much to think about when trying to get one’s life back together, and the past is full of sorrows. Mentally, one is busy the whole time. There is no rest and the only way to get rest, and to find joy, is in the moment. Simple things, like sounds and scents, what one’s own hand feels like. These are the things that nurture us, in times of stress.

And simple things, like the face of a flower:

reclamation / (1 2 3 4 5) / of the space between / earth and sky

. . . . .

A Poem, a haiga, and update

95% of which you thought yesterday

There’s a spring blowfly making noise of silence.
This house is so quiet that one’s thoughts
bounce off the white walls.
It’s a house of light
and I am a little stone of grey
solid and apparently still
but with of all my molecules buzzing.

The fly settles but I keep buzzing.

I have grown used to worrying
used to having a million things to think about.
Sixty thousand thoughts a day apparently
ninety five percent of which you thought yesterday.
I make lists: plumber, council, water department ,
the friend who needs support.

I make lists to get them out of my head:
those saplings too close to the house,
the whipper snipper, what plants where,
are the pumps primed? I need to make
my five minute fire plan, back up my info to the cloud.

The lists don’t work, the molecules keep buzzing.
Only the blow fly is silent.

. . . . .

. . . . .

The tyranny of the mind. Apparently some people can shut it up. Or rather they practice meditation for forty years and eventually the mind gets bored with itself and quietens down. My husband keeps giving me how-tos, none of which work. Well, of the 95%, I’m pretty sure none of the thoughts in the poem above go through his head. Recovery is my job. That’s ok. Not a lot of use having two heads thinking about these things, it just leads to arguments.

But there is a lot to think about. Actually, putting them on paper does help me. And what I said in the poem about having got used to worrying is something I think about. When will it be done? Will I know?

Regarding recovery, and our life now, it is very good really. The busyness is not that bad. Ervin works away on sculptures, and woodblocks mainly. He is good when he is active.

I spend the better part of my time outside, weeding and planting things. The weeds are beating me, all going to seed at once. Never mind, I have most of the place free of fumitory and cape weed, and that is something.

And the garden is a profusion of growing things. The first photo above is from June and the rest from today (October)! They’ll enlarge if you click on them. My way is to put heaps in and see what grows. I’ll be watching closely after we plumb the new bore in. We had it drilled a month ago or so. It is 60 metres deep, has a good flow rate and is a bit salty. 1400 ppm. Apparently I should be able to grow ‘most things’, whatever that means.

After the fire I said I would come back if we got a bore. Water is integral to trying to keep a house safe. When it is finally plumbed in, I may be able to rest. From then on it is just the management of plants.

I have done a number of other newsworthy things since my last post. Exciting things. But they will have to wait.

To Aim (a poem)

A child draws the string of a bow
—concentration in practice
nothing but an arrow’s flight.
Someone please tell her
to look along the shaft.
Someone please tell her to be
nothing but aim.
She can live her whole life like this.
No one needs to tell her
to get out of the way
to give up the self to the process
but someone please tell her
that aiming is all there is
and once the arrow’s released
it’s done. Everything else
is in the hands of the wind.

. . . . .

The drawing is of two of my gorgeous grandchildren. I don’t know if I’ve come close to the intensity in their eyes.

Chimney Blues

When the wind plays flute 
with the chimney 
it sounds mournful

like keening. In this country 
of charcoal and crows
it sounds appropriate. 

But the rain 
beats its percussion onto soil 
and things grow. 

I hear a bird that I don’t recognise and I rejoice. 
Another bird is here in the burnt lands!
Slowly things grow and animals come back. 

Our human hearts grow new flesh 
over old wounds and 
we stop picking at the scabs.

But everyone loves a sad song
and Blues are the only tunes 
the chimney knows.

Apparently it moans because it is so long. No I don’t have roses growing at this time of year. This was taken not long after the chimney was installed in January.