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 my 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.)

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.

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.

Not the Time for Making

In this new house of solid sand,
it is not the time for making.
Now is the time for mending,
gathering all the little shards
and gluing them together.
Perhaps the bindings will be gold
(a precious metal,
desirable and malleable)
but more likely everyday glue
or double sided sticky tape.

These thoughts are disparate.
They are messy like the fragments
of a former life, shattered and scattered.
Did you know that when crystals
– amethyst, carnelian, quartz –
go through fire, they shatter?
It’s all so much sand actually, but sharp.
It will take some time for the world
to wear them smooth,
and that’s why
this is not the time for making.

This is the time for mending.

.

Strange the things that survived the fires. This shell that our son wore on the Camino Trail, you’ve got to be asking, how? The little paper figure is something I fashioned in a moment of idleness. It decided to perch there with the shell. It reminds me of him because he was always making little sculptures from various bits of rubbish. Usually he would animate them by giving them voices. He was a seriously funny person, that one.

People grief is much worse than possessions grief. But sometimes possessions hold the memories of people we love, so finding this shell was like holding him. It’s all love, in the end.

This knife, in its days of use, was called THE Knife. It was the best knife to use, but in recent years had become too short. When we came back to the house after it burnt, where the kitchen had been, amid the melted glasses and broken crockery, all of the knives were standing to attention in the ash, the knife block had burnt from around them and left them standing there. No handles of course, and completely useless, but we had to bring away THE Knife.

The fan belonged to my mother. It just happened to be in the car when we ran. She never used it, but it’s nice to have something of hers.

And the little blue star is from Ervin. It is a block from a woodblock print, done since the fire, that I snaffled.

The light switch is a light switch.

Fire Recovery, Ongoing

Dear Friend

I’m sorry that you still limp
down the corridors of pain.
I turned back and held out my hand
but it turns out we were
in different worlds by then:

you, in a bureaucratic nightmare
with mud on your shoes,
me, weeding on a hillside in a sun shower
getting wet, amid daisies.

What can I do? I bend my ear
to the daisies and they tell me
this is the time of my healing.
The earth works constantly
on becoming fertile, and I must
look forward, not back.

But, my friend, your nightmare of pain
will end, it can’t not, if you keep walking
one step, at a time.
Therefore keep hope, keep hope.
I’m waiting for you on this hillside
amid daisies.

Moss and Running Postman (Kennedy Prostrata)

This poem was written for people who lost their houses and are not yet rebuilt.

If you think that the fires were a long time ago and that people should be ok by now, you’re wrong. Some of us are, but do not judge others on the luck and support systems of a few. The majority of people who lost their homes are still struggling, daily, with bureaucracy and mud and shortages caused by the building boom. Among other things. Did you know there is not enough wood? Welcome to the future.

It is very hard on these people to struggle like this. Ervin and I had it easy. Relatively. The Recovery Center was still running when we moved in to our new house. They had helped us in innumerable ways. But in March that was closed down. And now the only other form of communication, a facebook page, has been shut down too. We were told at the beginning to expect that recovery would take five years! We were promised support by all and sundry.

It is very hard to watch these people suffering, knowing what they’re going through, and knowing they have no support, knowing the federal government promised support that was never forthcoming, knowing they go to the mental health group that was supposed to offer free counselling only to be told “But the fires WERE eighteen months ago.”

I feel privileged and my heart aches for them, but there is nothing I can do. I am not an advocate and even if I were, I wouldn’t have the energy. Plus I think it’s important for me, now, to follow the path of healing. Since I can’t help others whose shoes I have been in, then I need to heal enough to do the work of the future. I hope my work will make the world a better place. Who knows?

Presently of my work now is outdoors: trying to control the weeds, cover bare earth, plant habitat for the birds and animals who I dearly hope will come back and breed here again. I can now count our birds on two hands. Crows, magpies, cockies (three types, including correllas. Shudder. Their first act was to severely prune my freshly planted apple tree), thorn bills, shrike thrushes, willy wagtails, and blue wrens. I think I hear Wattle birds. And that’s it. And that’s two hands. But where are the nectar eaters? Well, where is the nectar? Hence all the planting.

The bush part of the block looks beautiful. Last year’s weeding helped.

The use of the daisy in the poem is because they are some of the pioneer species after fire. They put down decent root systems, draw nutrient up, and add to the build up of humus. they increase the fertility of the earth and create habitat for other species to sprout. after a few years, I am assured, they begin to dieback and other elements of the bush take over. Now, I’d prefer that they were yam daisies (and there probably are some), but if dandelions and cape weed are cloaking the earth in the interim, good.

There are still major things to do, like making an all weather track to the top of the hill, fencing, putting in and plumbing a bore, (and that’s been a bureaucratic nightmare.) But my tiredness and struggles are nothing, nothing, compared to the problems of people who are still trying to build.

I have survivors’ guilt, it seems to me.

No shortage of moss. And no shortage of these little fellas, some of which are huge, and whose common name is Laughing Gym (Gymnopilus junonius)
On dead pine wood

Crow’s Nest

This house is build on the footprint of one 
that burnt when all this country burnt. 
Oh Crow, we humans were different 
before. We were innocent like animals,
waking each morning to sunshine 
or no sunshine. The only complication 
was the mind playing with its abacus. 

Well, we are still simple, sound of body, 
but with burnt edges, the mind a chaos
of new growth and charred wood. 
But Crow, what we were before, we’re not. 
Is that why you surround this new house 
with your songs of life? Yours is a dark beauty
but your vision of life springing from death 
is as true the magpies’ who melody about love 
in the skeleton trees on the ridge.

. . . . . . .

Another crow poem. There may be more from now on because:

Before the fires Ervin fed magpies. We watched generations grow up, witnessed the shifting power structures when a dominant pair died, were entertained and delighted. One year we even raised a baby. We were magpie people.

Since coming home (and it does now feel like home) no magpies come. Crows have taken the space, they come for the meat morsels, they sit on the railings of the deck and drink from the birdbath. So far, and surprisingly, they have not crapped there.

Magpies fly by with indifference. 

I don’t understand much, but, for the want of better words, it is like the totem of the land has changed. 

We have changed. Perhaps when you traverse the threshold of trauma something essential changes. For some unknown reason it seems apt that crows would be the dark messengers of growth for me at this time.

Brain Tree

In my brain is a tree. 
Its trunk is the brain stem,
its leaves are thoughts, a myriad of them, 
many that look the same. 
Its roots spread out along the byways 
to the very edges of me where they take in 
air and sunshine and sustenance.
The trunk divides in two, one leader 
in each half of my brain, and in each, 
amid the complications of branches is a crow. 

They sing. 

Now, you may not recognise the voice of a crow 
as song because they’ve had a bad wrap, 
but they sing of sunshine and wings, grubs, 
the dank delicious flesh of the freshly dead, 
and they sing of love and babies, just like we all do. 

And what they sing with, is air, like the air 
on the intricate surface of our skin 
or in each alveoli of our lungs, 
the air that courses through 
all of those byways of brain and body, 
and trunk and leaves. 

No wonder they sing. Wouldn’t you?