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.
Clean and clear the indigo sky wherein rides a pink moon as soft as autumn, as calm as centre as centred as earth, as tethered as love as silent as this suburb now that the children sleep.
Saturday night, but no revellers drink away their inhibitions, or fall into the arms of a stranger. No rapists, no prey, no police cars, no sirens. No wicked witches, no trolls under the bridge. No fat men eating money, no avaricious politicians.
Just the homely quietness of a suburb in lockdown under a pink moon in an indigo sky.
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.
Sometimes I get so angry with politicians for example or people who are not yet changed, who go about their business, about their lives as if nothing has changed. I am angry with those who do not allow their hearts to feel or their minds to see.
I am angry with those who refuse to acknowledge that this is but the beginning that the world has turned that the red heart has awoken that the red heart is beating in anger that the red heart is beating towards change. There is no going back. The transmutation has begun. This is the lesson of fire. Keep up, People.
There will be yet more suffering. There will be yet more sorrow but eventually your anger will be as strong as mine and you will stand up.
You will stand up and the world will stand up with you. Our hearts will beat with fury. The red heart will beat with ours and there will be change.
We will stand together ignited by anger and ignited by love. How can this not be so? Love is the seat of our anger and love will be our healing.
Love will be the sacred water that drowns ineptitude that, when the time is right, quenches the fires of rage that brings us back to our own beautiful, pumping hearts that brings us back to each other that brings us back to the earth with its red and vibrant heart
People who have lost people People who have lost their possessions People who have lost their homes Their buildings Their livelihoods Their sheds of hay Their orchards and vineyards People who have buried animals Nurses of both people and animals Fire fighters and the families of fire fighters Those who are ok but are shit scared People who have lost the places where they go for solace their sacred spaces The community of individuals who witnessed it The list goes on
Healing trauma takes a long time People don’t want platitudes They don’t want encouraging stories of other people’s survival They don’t want stories of how hard your or other people’s lives have been They want practical action, a sense of hope They need to be witnessed They need to be heard in their own time and in their own way They want to hold their hurt in their hearts like a sacred object Or they don’t They want to express their anger They want to spit on politicians who are false, superficial, or power grubbing They want to spit on people who say the bush needed a good cleansing They want to spit on people who say this is normal They want to hold their loved ones close They want to laugh sometimes They want to pray They want to talk a parrot into silence They want to be silent They want you to be there for them simply present and witnessing
* * * * * * *
So many people are there for us. So many people have contributed: love, support, an ear, money and goods.
And I will be forever changed to have witnessed this opening of hearts. I will forever be hopeful about humanity because humanity is made up of humans.
* * * * * *
Obviously each person’s experience is different.
On a personal level, we have a long way to go. We are assured the final settlement of the insurance will happen, but before it is in the bag, we are nervous. We have found out that we will have enough to build a fire-standard shed with a bathroom. That’s ok; I was brought up in a shed. And we will make it a beautiful shed. There’s only the two of us and open plan is fine.
The insurance company will organise the clean up, a great relief to me, because it is disgusting. There is an asbestos warning on it, not because it was used as a building material (it wasn’t) but (I suppose) because it is in fridges, stoves, air conditioners and other things, all bound up until they are broken. It is disgusting. We wear breathing apparatus just to be on the hillside. It is also fascinating, like an archaeological site. Not that one would want to dig.
But I am so looking forward to it being cleaned. I want to stand in the heart of that black bush and feel the signs of life. Already there are ants, of course, jumping and inch ants, rats (in the compost bins that survive untouched! What the?) And rabbits. Rosellas. I don’t know what else.
unfurling sunflower my son’s spirit whispers on ashen wind
Our son Miklós loved sunflowers, and when he died, there were sunflowers at his bedside and sunflowers on his grave and sunflowers in the house for weeks. So when my granddaughter’s sunflower begins to unfurl in the horrendous heat with such determination and resilience, and so soon after our latest disaster, it feels like a message from him.
Well, honestly, it feels like his warm hug is around me the better part of the time lately. And it looks like I don’t need the physical symbols of his presence that I was keeping. Like the hat he gave me one day. It was tattered straw and last year I wrote this poem about my relationship to it.
Wearing Your Hat
Sometimes when I want to be me I wear your hat.
You were a person who accepted everything that I am and loved me, foibles and all.
I miss you and I wish I loved me half as much as you did
so sometimes I wear your hat.
But it is gone and a lot of other stuff, that now feels like baggage, is gone.
After I found out we’d been burnt out, I felt an odd lightness when I realised my possessions were gone. Not all of them of course, everyday we have small griefs for: his 500 year old Hungarian vase, a four leaf clover leaf that I had carried since I was a teenager, my knickers. (Not really, I don’t really mourn my knickers.)
We keep things for weird reasons and attach stories to them. Was I possessed by my possessions? Were they an actual weight on me, that I now feel lighter?
Already we have been given things that belonged to the deceased relatives of well-wishers. But these things arrive with a note that explains their attached grief. The oddest thing is, it changes the object to know these stories, and suddenly we have a responsibility to care for the object. We feel a little heavier, and they a little lighter.
Are we all insane? Or innately grief stricken.
I was talking with Hana (my daughter with whom I’m staying) about objects and the stories they hold. I said, ‘I would like to have as little as I need,’ and she said, ‘You have as little as you need. You have three pairs of knickers and I do the washing twice a week,’ and we laughed. I didn’t remind her that her maths was shot.
What is it about knickers? How have they become the symbol of necessity? One has to laugh. Perhaps an ironic laugh, or even a maniacal one, but one has to laugh.
List of Lost Objects that matter now. None of them.
List of things lost that I’m sad about: Bob the bird. (Shrike Thrush) whom Ervin fed, and whom we loved. All of the other birds, especially the small ones. Wrens, thornbills, pardalotes, finches. Maybe the bigger ones got out? Native animals, our resident echidna. Ervin’s sculptures and woodblock prints. All of my on-paper haiga. My hand made paintbrushes and a couple of comercial brushes that still sang at forty years old. The singing bowls. My shaman’s drum. All of Ervin’s framed works and prints in boxes. A lot of his negatives. The ones I didn’t scan. Our new pigment printer. My hut. His studio. Our little house in the woods. The woods. The records of our toys ( that we made for a living for thirty years). My jewellery, mostly worthless, but especially the ones made by friends. Ida for eg. Her early student jewellery. She will never make it again. My journals of thirty years. Drawings and raw poems that showed promise but never were transcribed. A couple of my paintings. The bird bath. Ervin’s tools, especially his chisels (some of which had been with him for fifty years) and his dremels. Other things that I will remember later.
Things to be grateful for: Our bodies. Our loved ones. Our beautiful true friends. The caring hearts of complete strangers. That we have our computers, with the files of a lot of his photos and most of my poems. That we have our car and van and most of our camping gear. That sleep is usually easy for me. Even if it isn’t tonight. (It’s 2:00 am) That a lot of the bigger gum trees probably survived. That the beautiful bush will surely recover and we will watch it. That we have a piece of earth that, in government records, is ours. That I have lived there long enough for it to be in my bones. That I still feel connected to my dead son though I wish his corporeal body was sitting next to me. Likewise Mum and Dad. How unusual that they are with me tonight with their calm and graceful strength. That my sweet loved man is as beautiful as ever. That he sleeps peacefully while I make lists. That we do have resilience. That nothing kills creativity. That we will survive. And even, eventually, thrive.