Tanka Sequence, Spring 2020 (plus fire recovery update)

having been 
burnt to its roots 
the parsley thrives 
and I take it 
as a metaphor

the wagtail 
on its wings of frailty 
expresses 
in its flight 
something like joy 

sometimes 
my dead mum comes
wearing a sun hat 
flowers and secateurs 
in her hands

the heart 
that breaks and breaks and breaks
until 
there’s beauty 
even in that

a seedling weed
it’s virility pushing 
towards seed 
what will I plant now
in the burnt garden of my heart

these happy flowers 
of the onion weed 
nod their heads 
and here I am with 
my murderous intent

twittering 
out of sight
some unknown bird
about its business 
of eating and loving

following 
the heart’s happiness 
I find 
I quite enjoy 
hanging out washing

that I am earth 
lying here on it 
gazing at the sky
sometimes the mind 
needs rest, and so …

.

By Sunday, we will have a roof on the structure that will be our home! Lock up next week. Wow! It looks enormous perched on the hillside on its piles of excavated dirt. With the partly enclosed veranda it is a slightly larger floor plan, but is actually a little less tall than our old house, but because it has no trees around, it sticks out like … a new build on a bare hill. The old house nestled in like it wasn’t there. It was, in fact, just as visible but no one noticed it. Now we have people saying, ‘Dean called me out to the veranda the other day and said, “Look over there. We can see Ervin and Belinda’s new house.”‘ They always could because I looked, standing there one day.

The veranda will be able to be closed with shutters, if it ever has to face down flame again. Otherwise we would have to shift anything flammable inside, not something you want to have to do while running.

Today we will finalise choices on the kitchen cabinets. On Friday it was choosing for the bathroom. All I can say is I am glad I have our wonderful daughter managing all this, and managing me and holding my hand when confronted with a vast array of possibilities, tiles for e.g..

A3 is a good size for thinking. Sticky tape helps too. In fact my brain feels like it is held together with sticky tape.

Dragon’s Breath

Cudlee Creek Fires, December 2019

la    la   la 
packing a few things 
in the line of wildfire

erratic wind 
with embers, ash, and birds
fleeing

to the west
the billowing smoke 
of our undoing

my dead mother lights a candle
‘there’s not so much darkness…’
she says

crumpled buildings 
the grandchild’s face
is white with shock

from blackened trees 
the charcoal lament 
of crows

how the very air 
hurts the throat
black lands

metal kitchen knives
standing to order 
in the ash

how delicate
the forty years of journals 
in leaves of ash

celebrating 
any life at all
inch ant 

dandelion
its face like a spring sun
first flower

with eyes that are not wary 
a kangaroo in the burnt land

tears —
they don’t solve anything
fire fungi

through the counting 
of losses
starlight

for months
walking like a mummy
through the gardens 
of kindness

all the good hearts 
help us through this
I tear my skin on a stick

covid fear 
I look at my hands

weeding with tweezers
so long in the wilderness 
the wilderness is in me

this grant, that grant
we put our life back together
bit by bit

tired as a wet rag 
I’m sick of it all
twenty twenty

shards of 
a five hundred year old ceramic jug
its glaze still green

as if the world 
prepared for this
I hold the ones I love

.

Still trying to make sense of it all by heaving it into art. (By the way, to me, the word ‘art’ means all art forms, including poetry.)

I call this a haiku series but many of them don’t quite stand up as haiku. They don’t even stand up as senryu. But that is irrelevant. They say what I want. As is the case with all my haiku, I will probably continue to tweak them over a period of, well, the course of my natural life. Perhaps those that fall short will get more refined, or maybe will fit even less into the so-called traditional structure of English language haiku. Do you care? I don’t. I want them to carry the source feeling to the reader. That is what is important.

I wrote a series like this after the death of my mother. I think the form suits that weird out-of-yourself feeling of trauma or grief, when you are sleepwalking awake. You see the world in great clarity, but it is like you are completely detached.

a stranger’s nail polish
the magnifying glass 
of shock

And re the recovery, things are going extremely well, not that it means I can stay out of bed all day. Hana (my daughter) has finished the plans, and they are through council, and we have signed a contract! Various grants, not to mention the amazing generosity of souls like so many of you, who gave to our GoFundMe, and other more intimate ways, and less intimate ways (Red Cross for e.g.), and the insurance, have meant we can build a lovely little house, with two small studio spaces.

It will be built to a higher bushfire rating than we are obliged to do. (Effectively, we want a bunker.) It will be off grid, powered by solar. I hope one day to augment that, if we feel we need it, with wind, because if it’s not sunny where we live, it is almost certainly windy! Going off grid, for us, is not a lot more expensive because of the cost involved with getting re-connected.

And some more super-exciting news! We may get a grant that will allow us to build two small shed studios on the slabs at the bottom. It’ll be just like old times, without the junk!

Mentally, I must tell you, it is very hard. There is just so much to think about all the time, so it is exhausting. I am on a few FaceBook groups and everyone feels the same. What we need is to hug each other. It is not the best time to need hugs. I think it is normal after any grief to be tired though. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t the subconscious just wanting time to process. Many ordinary people are going through this as a result of all of the changes of covid, and I feel for you all.

As for us, one step at a time. Our gorgeous builder hopes to get us in by Christmas!

first mess
in a dreamed house
the detritus
of paper stars

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

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.

Tears etc.

Four o’clock am. I have spent five out of the last seven nights asleep. That’s pretty good going. However I have been crying a lot for the past few days for no immediate reason. I suppose it is normal that after a month of twenty-four hour hyperboil, that one would fall in a heap. It’s a state of high alertness, of adrenalin overload, of flight and fight.

I’m not the best at organisation at the best of times but that is what one must do, try to keep a track of all the things that government, insurance, grants, well wishers, loved ones, friends, and complete strangers do for you and work out how you need to respond. Also thinking things through, trying to make good decisions. 

But everything is really ok, good even, given the circumstances. The insurance for eg, is much better than expected, with extra from the government and things we didn’t know we were insured for. Clean up for example, and extra costs of building to the new fire rating. We have to get shutters on all windows and doors for example, also dedicated firefighting tanks, changes to our driveway. Apparently there are some provisions for that, and while we will not be replacing the huge sheds that were our rambling studios and wood working workshops, we will have a lovely small house and a shed, and we can dream now. 

I can’t help thinking how we are in this situation precisely because we had something to loose, and my mind goes to all of the people who are sleeping on the street tonight, or holed up in a refugee centre, or running from American leaders’ latest war, or losing the very land they stand upon, the sea claiming it, all that salt water. 

Our threats have been very real and although we can now see, as well as believe that we will be ok, my body and mind have got used to this state of crisis so that now it’s hard to turn it off. Time will do it, I suppose, but in the meantime, tears.

endless blue sky
and from charcoal and fallen leaves
first flower

***

This post decided to crash and destroy itself. It is something that is happening a lot. We even crashed the doctor’s computer. Twice. Tesla said that human emotions can affect electronics. Certainly seems like it.

I think here I commented how I am sharing this because I am one of hundreds going through this and that it is not always talked about. It is a normal reaction to loss, of course, but sometimes people feel very cut off in the midst of it all.

Also I shared how we waver from tears to laughter and other good emotions, and how my Granddaughter made ‘Cat Poo’ for us and served it like a waiter saying, ‘Would Madam like some cat poo?’

The complete stranger at the coffee counter

 

Her hard-luck story about her son’s dog destroying her Christmas lights. I decide not to tell her my hard luck story.

It’s strange being in the midst of a trauma. It’s like you are in some sort of weird bubble. You carry this darkness and no one else can see it. They go about their lives doing their ordinary things, worrying about their ordinary things like whether Chloe needs a second present because Crystal has two. And you look at them from your strange bubble and it just feels weird. They look as if they are not awake. Or as if they are so bound up in themselves that have no connection to the outside world. You also know that was you three days ago.

It is surreal. I remember this from every trauma I have ever experienced. After a while the feelings dissipate; already they are less strong. But then you meet some random person in a cafe who needs to tell you trivial problems and you see them, all the details about them, the colour of their clothes, the resonance of their voice and it doesn’t, in any way, touch you. You nod and wait for your coffee. 

her painted toenails 
appear to have as much meaning 
as the floor

scent of coffee 
a man turns the page 
of his newspaper

 

Belinda and Ervin’s Phoenix Fund