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.

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.)

So, this was an exciting thing. I was employed as a narrative artist for the Regional Arts Conference that was here in Lobethal at Fabrik Arts and Heritage over the first weekend in September. These are the results.

I have never done such a thing before and, frankly, I was terrified. The last big wall that I did was in charcoal, but I love ink so decided to work in it. The pic below was shot in our house where I found a corner to pin up some paper to see what it was like to work in ink vertically. I usually work ink on a table. I was listening to a podcast of Robert Mcfarlane at the time.

Anyway, one throws oneself in at the deep end. It was great to do. I got to listen to and witness most of the first day except the workshops.

I only heard a little of Ali Cobby Eckerman’s workshop, sadly. I really like her poetry and she was so moving. Actually, I wrote a mistake here. She didn’t say she had got to thirty years old never having expressed an emotion. She said she got to thirty never having had an emotion. Worse, really. She was thirty when she first met her aboriginal family.

And I didn’t get to make a basket with Aunty Ellen Trevorrow. She is such a wonderful woman, quietly teaching people to make connections, ‘stitch by stitch’. I did a workshop with her once before, but she used raffia that time. I was terribly disappointed that I didn’t get to work with the reeds she brought in. Never mind.

Most of the drawing is about the first day. Melinda and René from Fabrik wanted the conference to be artist led with a large proportion of indigenous content. And it was. Such inspiring stuff! Trish Hansen, Laura Wills and Will Cheeseman (couldn’t find a link for Will) did wonderful workshops.

Trish began with a talk about ‘deep time’. On one of the walls she had represented time since the formation of the earth, with all the major beginnings of life. The space of that wall equated all of earth time (since it was just gas and matter, until now) with a year. Here’s a photo of the part representing the last two months of this metaphorical year.

And, in this photo, the last 5 days. So humans have arisen in the last 30 minutes and the industrial revolution in the last minute. Since the industrial Revolution (and these are my thoughts) we have managed to create a situation wherein we could annihilate the better part of life on earth. We are lemmings headed for a cliff and about as intelligent, seemingly.

Later Trish, Laura and Will used biomimicry as an idea base to have us consider our connections and interconnections with each other and nature, using the metaphor of mycelium. They had us draw our ideas connecting them, a bit like a mind-map. So the following photo is my wall drawing and is a copy of my response.

I mind-mapped about the drawing I did last year. It is still under the paint of the same wall where everyone was now working. How it was connected to the fires, because everything for me is connected to the fires lately. (For new readers, during the fires on 20 December 2019, my husband and I lost everything except the few things we packed into the cars.)

They had us consider a natural thing in that scenario. I thought about charcoal, back to fire, to the trees, from which I got the charcoal for the wall, then to the earth that the trees were growing in, and, naturally, the squillion fire fungi that came up after the fire. And that was a nice segue into what their original metaphor was: mycelium. There was more to mine, but I don’t remember now. I only put the basics in the wall drawing.

But the result by the three facilitators and the participants was an amazing huge drawing, where everyone connected to the person next to them, talked about how they could be connected in or what they have in common, and connected their drawings.

Even on the floor!

These images are very early on, it just kept getting better!

Towards the end of the day they had us think about the future we desire. It’s possible that I can’t remember all the details of what they had to say, but they had us think, imagine, dream, about what we would like the world to be like in fifty years time. They had us write and or draw what we wanted on strips of recycled paper that they supplied. Here are my wishes.

Then with the use of some wonderful ingenuity, they had us turn the bits of paper into small planting tubes, fill them with soil and plant Xanthorrhoea seeds. Grass trees. They talked about ‘seed time’. Time, for a seed, is waiting until the conditions and right, and then growing. And we were instructed to take our tubes home, plant them in the earth, and wait for seed time to sprout our wishes for the future and the grass trees to grow.

How beautiful is that?

(Don’t you wish you were there? Watch Fabrik’s programs, they do the best things, with the most amazing delightful, inclusive stuff. Hats off to the director and program manager, Melinda Rankin and René Strohmayer.)

The second day was more problematic for me as ‘narrative artist’, because they were panels mostly, with more than one happening at a time. It was quite difficult to be in two places at any one time, I found. So because I couldn’t possibly do all of those faces, or even listen to what they had to say, and get the thing finished by five o’clock, I thought up a good way to represent the panelists. I got them all to come to the wall and drew around their hands. I think I got everyone, except where the panelists were streaming from interstate. As I said, I didn’t get to listen to them properly, but you can find some details on the program.

There is even an audience member’s hand there, which is great, though quite accidental.

But I can’t wrap this up without mentioning the two other portraits on the wall. Given what they had to say ‘wrapping up’ could take a while.

The first is the wonderful Elaine Crombie, who was our MC. She is yet another super strong First Nations’ woman. She is a bundle of vibrant energy.

This portrait is the one that I like the least, because it didn’t go anywhere near capturing her vitality. She gave a great wrap up also. Speaking about how she was not going to take her mask off to speak to us, because people do not deserve to see her face until we right the wrongs (my words), and recognise that the ownership of this land was never ceded, it was stollen. It is time we recognised that, and afforded some respect. Actually (still my words) given the crisis that we are facing, we should recognise that we need the wisdoms of First Peoples to learn how to live in harmony with nature.

Which brings us to Uncle Mickey Kumatpi O’Brien. He is a Senior Kaurna Man and gave welcome to country, and a talk/conversation with Trish Hansen.

I would like to pay my respect to him and the other elders (from all time) of the Kaurna and Peramangk peoples on whose land we reside here in Lobethal, Adelaide Hills, South Australia.

Welcome to Country, he said, is to join us here and now, and to chase away sadness. Don’t you think it is a great act of generosity? Given what they have been through? And did you see that bit in Ali Cobby Eckermann’s portrait above, where she says, ‘I have to do such a lot of bloody forgiving. Blaming is futile, it does no good, but forgiveness changes things.’ That is also an enormous act of generosity.

There were so many take home messages from Uncle Mickey, too many to list. He spoke of the dreaming and the recent history of the Adelaide area. The political history is tragic, not only because of the tragedies that they suffered, but because we were very close to having a mutually respectful situation that was thwarted by timing, slow ships and ignorance. Early on, (and I don’t have details), this:

: was the proposed flag of South Australia. Here you have depiction of respect. Sadly it was not to be. (Sorry about the quality of this photo. And all of them really.)

There is much more to his talk and I wish I could do them justice, but the thing that touched me most was his listing of the importance of things. It is how I look at things and is in direct contradiction of how most westerners look at things. Everything in this list relies on the things above, therefor we humans are the least important in the scheme of things.

Somehow, (my words) insecure writers of the bible decided, in the very first chapter, to put humans on top, as if we live in a vacuum, or as if God will come and save us when we have pillaged the earth and its inhabitants, and are doomed. Are we children? Certainly, we’re idiots. How can it not be obvious that we have to take care of the systems that sustain us.

. . .

So! how about that? What a great thing to be part of! And I’m quite proud of my self with this wall. I also gave a speech at the end summing up the conference. I can’t remember much of that, but I probably got on my usual high horse, and told people to look after themselves and each other, and to get off their backsides and save the earth. Quickly, preferably. You lot too, please.

Here’s my wish (among others) for 2051:

frogs like canaries
sing sing
in the clean place
of the world

Uncle Mickey said, ‘We don’t say “goodbye, we say “see you later.”‘ So, even though this is an abbreviated version of the conference and I have left things out:

See you later.

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.

Charcoal Drawing with No Name

My drawing on the wall at Fabric, Woollen Mills, Lobethal, till 15th March. The exhibition as a whole is simply beautiful. Delicate, gentle, powerful, and healing. (Mine was certainly cathartic to do.) I’ll do another presentation of my performance poem and a reading from the book published for the exhibition at 2.00 on the 7th and 15th of March. On the 7th I’ll also do an artist talk.

It is close to 13 meters long! Perhaps it should be called, ‘Before, During, After’. But it is not. It is called ‘Charcoal Drawing With No Name’, because when I had to name it, I didn’t actually know what I would do. But I like the name and stick by it.
Directly on the wall using charcoal from our place. I did bring commercial charcoal, in case the natural stuff was too difficult to work with, but I didn’t have to use it. I rather like to work with materials that are not predictable anyway. It makes the process more dynamic and that dynamism usually shows I think.
Inch ants. Of course THEY survived!
Only a few days after the fires we saw a couple of Rosellas. The depiction of the Xanthorrea is at about two months afterwards.
We haven’t seen our echidna, but apparently they often survive. They burrow down and their spines can burn and they can be ok. That’s why this one has a flat top. We only get up there in the middle of the day so won’t see a lot of creatures. Definitely there is a kangaroo. and we have seen two koalas.
This is not a koala.

Longing

This was a few years ago now. He’s probably forgotten what ‘me-me’ is by now. I wonder if there is a deep longing, the source of which he’s forgotten.

I’ve got one of those unexplained longings. It’s strongest after sun down. I doubt it has anything to do with my mother, but who knows? What I want, what we all want, is a deep abiding connection. To each other. To the world. Maybe the last time we felt a connection like that was at our mother’s breast.

Ink and mess-making demonstration

So. Did my Artist in Residence spot yesterday. What does one demonstrate? It needs to be something that you can do and talk at the same time and that is not necessarily easy because while one is using the spacial areas of the brain it is really hard to talk. That’s why, while driving, if someone cuts you off or does something funny, you have to stop talking.

So I decided to play around with ink. Abstracts and mark making, what it does well and what different types of ink, blotters and paper can do.

And then of course is the masterpiece that is the blotting paper. Sometimes more interesting than the intended things.

but this, actually, sums up the idea behind the day:

and that’s not a complaint. I love being a performing seal. (Thanks Warick, per kind favour Rose, for the wording)

What Fun! Big Draw Lobethal

What a day, what a weekend! The opening of our Big Draw Lobethal drawing festival was today. Here is Veronica Osborn-Jefferis’s beautiful hands as she draws on fabric with a sewing machine.

And some of her display pieces:

Meanwhile everyone got into wall drawing, charcoal in this case:

Here are some of Joshua Lamborn’s drawings in metal:

And Barbara Millward’s drawing of a hand in wire:

What wonderful line.

Melinda Rankin, who is the new director of the art and heritage space, was our opening speaker. She talked (among other things) of how we draw naturally when we are children, and often lose our confidence somehow. But that it is an innate urge, that kids will do it with whatever is at hand: textas, ‘flour-covered hands’. Here in Melinda in full swing, urging us all to, ‘ Go play!’

There will be four more weekends, different Artists in Residence each week. Demonstrations of blacksmithing next weekend (22nd and 23rd Sept) and again two weekends later. And various workshops. Yesterday I did Tammy Pahl’s workshop that combines drawing with yoga. So much fun, I can’t stop smiling when I think about it. We got seriously and hilariously grubby.

She will have a workshop for kids and their adults later. Next week Anne Griffiths will run one for kids where they can all dance and draw to music. I want to do that one but apparently I am not a kid!

The workshops are not all for kids though, Julia Wakefield will hold two for adults, a life drawing class and one that she calls, ‘Drawing for the Terrified’. And Zinia King will enable participants to draw their ‘Anthropomorphic Australian Animal’. She is holding a class for adults and one for children.

And there is lots to see and do, everyday of each weekend.

Links to workshops here

And other info here