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choosing our conversation topics

September 22, 2021
Rotorua Redwood forest suspended lanterns. June 2018
"What did everyone even talk about before 
earthquakes, 
covid vaccines, 
conspiracy theories, 
protests 
and Trump?" 
she asked

Oh...the same things we are talking about now:

the wonder of the cosmos
the beauty of existence
the treasure of being human together
the sweetness of sheer survival
the deep soul echoes of kindness and knowing and loving between beings
the gift of each morning a new creation
the compassion of sleep under darkness and moonlight each night
the grace of the impermanence of all things
the breadth of all possible knowledge no one of us or even all of us together can ever hope to grasp
the joy of humility in knowing our limits
the astonishing intelligence of trees and arachnids and bats
the questions that resist trite resolution
the lovers who have left us
the times we felt completely alive
the injustices that burn our nerves
the memories of those who have permanent tenancy in our hearts
the stories that hold our heads above water
the truths that cannot bear hiddenness
the distance between our aspirations and our realities
the blessings of vulnerability
the ambiguity of suffering

and the footy.
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September 9, 2021

Rising Blessings

Dawn, Howrah Beach
let the cosmos greet you with the open ‘hello’ and begin your first conversation of the day

Blessing #1

Hello
to you in this day
in which the sun has risen upon you
bearing witness
to your fragile and precious humanity
and the warmth of the Cosmos heart
to your own heart.

May it light your course
illuminating the evidence
that you are dearly loved
in all your being,
and warm you to your βαθος
and your barnacled hull
below the surface
as you plough forwards
across the wide ocean of grace.


*

Blessing #2


Hello to you
Waking and
breathing in
the first fresh light of your day
Eyes and nostrils opening and sensing
what has been real and true all night long:
You are loved and tended by the Spirit of life in grace upon grace in every breath.

*

Blessing #3

Hello to this day
New mercies
Constant faithfulness
Ancient grace
Ever present hope

*

Blessing #4

Hello to you
rising under a sun
that has already dawned
from above
shedding light
and warmth
and colour
the ροδοδακτυλος
Homer’s rosy-fingered dawn
sewing golden seams
across the cloths of heaven,
spreading out the glorious canopy of grace
suitable magnificence
under which all your living today
wondrous in all its very ways
will occur.

*

Blessing #5

Hello to this day
gifted with
light and warmth
breath and peace
ground and care
water and renewing
all the Cosmos combined in
resourcing your being
and backing your existence.

*

Blessing #6

Hello to you
this day
turning its great wheels
in cosmic dance
bearing you round
a sun to light your steps
earth’s gravity holding you secure
orbiting moon
washing tides of grace
to your shores
planets, your fellow wanderers
on well made ancient paths of wisdom
and you an indispensable essential being
taking your given and gifted place
within all our midst.
The blessing of being is upon you.

*

Blessing #7

Hello to you
In this new day
Sun soaked earth
Warming the toes
of all that sprouts green
Stems steady
Yellow bud-heads tilt face up
to greet and grow in the light
Gold to gold in mutual adoration

As the Holy One delights
walking barefoot and gentle
midst Her creation
may her tender footfall
awaken our souls
to walk
astride such love
though clumsy beasts
we feel

she only laughs with bellyful affection
and shakes out the dark curls of her head
and smiles warmer than the sun
as she calls us her sacred children

may we learn
her very own soul song
to echo
in love and joy

for all that lives
all that breaks open
all that gives

all that shakes free

*

Blessing #8

Hello to you
Lover of light
Light embraces you abundantly
in warmth and joy


Lover of yellows and reds
of petals and wings
of delicate and deft
All colours of the spectrum
encircle you in rainbow promises
that life is assured
that judgment is set aside
that new fresh green leaves
from sources yet unknown await

that despite the floods
that rose and carried you off
threatening to overwhelm you
you have landed safely
under the faithful rising sun still

all wickedness and foolishness
washed away,
the dove, sign of sanctuary, peace and hope

returning with assurance of life
now flies away to find nest
all you care for still held near
– wife and sons and the grace of God.
The muddy ground beneath your feet
soft and ready for fresh plantings
in this day of new creation.

*

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living in real time

August 18, 2021
Salvador Dali, 1931, The Persistence of Memory

In these days of lockdowns, quarantine, pandemic projections, waiting for vaccine supples and daily presser updates, one of the covid casualties for many is our experience of time. Our bodies and minds and relationships and routines contend with surreal compressions and extensions of moments and weeks – (can it really be years now?) Some of these windows of time feel especially distorted and disorientating, mind bending. Grief and loss in any season do this to our perceptions of time too.

Here’s a little poem for getting through some of those hours that last for centuries.

This is the hour
the unbearable 
hour in which 
each second 
ticks you off
like the school mistress
clicking her tongue 
at your errors
one by one by one 
by one by one 
by one
by one
they keep ticking
approaching 
goose-stepping forth like
Nazi soldiers in parade

The rhythm of your wrongs
The beat of your regrets
The throb of your indignities

This will last 
A whole eternal hour
So phone a friend 
Call your safe buddy
Start binge-watching Netflix
Pop the bonnet and start tinkering 
Clean the fridge
Pace the hall 
Grab any book and read out loud

Do what it takes while the tears fall 
and the shakes seize you 
and the anger boils 
and the demons roar
And the infernal clock ticks


If you can
sit and breathe 
Just breathe
meditate
exhale
good for you  

If you can 
stretch and breathe
breathe again
breathe again
if you can 

and if you need to 
press the heel of you hand 
deep to your chest
hold your heart 
physically
together
so it can keep beating 
while it breaks


rock 
back and forth
let your body rock 
you are not mad
you are just bobbing
alive 
after a shipwreck 
on a vast sea of unknowing 
You can taste the salt of the waves
splashing back up into your face
all the tidal tears
tidal 
but not 
eternal
measuring time 
in long rolls 
round the sun 
dragging on the moon

this
this is humanness
and the clock is ticking
I promise
and this excruciating extrusive magnified moment
will soon be gone
will pass

because faithful time ticks ticks ticks ticks on 
and the tide will wash far out
leaving you soul bleached
Empty and clean like the soft sand

the end arrives 
and you live on

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god of fogs and mists

June 22, 2021

(warning: not a nice nature poem)

Tasman Bridge, lit with arresting vivid scarlett lights
for Dark Mofo festival June 2021,
as seen through the early dawn fog, pale and pastel pink.
god of the lobotomised
of the anaesthetised
of the tranquilised
god of the glassy eyes-d

god of the comatose
of the overdose
of the so morose
god of can’t diagnose

god of the vacant stare
of the nobody there

god of the 
demotivated
alienated 
constipated soul
of the unwashed cereal bowl
god of the endless scroll

god of blah
god of binge
of the blank
of the blackout
god of the brain-fried singe

god of the trigger
god of the trauma
god of the tears
god of the tremor


god, oh god -
of 
overload
logjam 
flatline
meltdown
breakdown
shutdown
autopilot
flipped out
zoned out
spaced out


god of the wastelands 
the wilderness
the wordless days 

Spirt who but stirs
Christ who but cries 
God who but groans

pick up our sloughed off 
pissed off prayers
heaped on the floor
crumpled stale limp lifeless form

god who needs
no thoughts
no creeds
no proof
no test
no did my best

just i am here
no word no will
no faith 
no promise to fulfill

and you are god 
who breathes
who loves
who is
beyond word
beyond reason
beyond mind 
beyond defence
beyond doctrine
beyond theorem
beyond knowing

though fog shrouds
and mist-eries 
no illusion
but the impression

of love 




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Reconciliation Week Yard Art Project: day one

June 1, 2021

a work in progress, a three year old and a living language

Here i am on the eastern shoreline of Hobart living in the largest house I have ever lived in, all by myself, with stark few pieces of donated furniture, a few clothes, some art supplies, a small pile of sacred items,  and my tub of hope: the posters and post it notes of ten years of scholarship.

The house is the church manse,  and I'm grateful for somewhere to stay. But it is all kinds of strange. 
A large house might be a place for hospitality, but it is void of domestic accoutrements. By which I mean, there's a stack of church chairs in the corner, a formaica table, and a sofa-set, a bed upstairs in one of four bedrooms and  utterly, regrettably, impossibly no mess. 

But there is more than one way for a house to be open, or closed.  It is on a street corner, with the front yard open on both street sides, to the east up the hill, and to the south. The local school is only a few doors further up the road, so every school day morning there is plenty of passing foot traffic as children arrive for school, and at the end of the day, not only this, my front yard is the designated  waiting place for a number of children for their rides home. 

On the odd occasions of rain, I've invited the children to take shelter under the carport roof. Being a place of safe refuge as well as a place of open hospitality does seem very fit for a manse. 

Over the past 6 weeks since i arrived,  I have been collecting leaves, bark, seed pods, grasses, sticks  and piling them up on my front verandah in tin cans and glass jars and bundles. Walking the shoreline of the river and around the hills, paying attention, noticing difference in the vegetation,  finding native plants and introduced species, and gathering samples from the ground, preparing for...something. 
This week, National Reconciliation week, the time for something arrived. 

On my front lawn in the afternoon I began re-sorting the assembled materials and arranging them to make a map of Australia - with a somewhat oversized Tasmania.

In this project I am seeking  to honour the diversity of first peoples, and the diversity of second peoples, to celebrate the diverse ecologies of the land, and to give attention and care to our identity as interdependent participants in an integrated ecological life together,  holding humans in deep relationship with all living things -beings and bodies that are born and die, the waters that hold life in their very veins, and  the trees and soils that breathe with us. 

Creating is a dance, bending, lifting, stretching, holding, extending, recentering. 
In this Gavotte,  my partners were choreographed thus:

Large dry rich red bark swathes lying north-south through the centre of the country. 
A bowed branch of allocasuarina forming the west coast around Derbal Yerrigan.  
Long dry grey sticks the protruding  Peninsula tipping  Quandamooka.
Layered ruches of paperbark mark the south coast cliffs of the Bite. 
A carpet of bracken forming Neerim.
For Lutruwita  I found a multi-pronged short branch end that represents the river systems, layered with pine and bark bits.
Leafy twigs, grass fronds fill Eora and Murrundi, and clusters of banksia or allocasuarina pods  make communities everywhere. 

Lavender and rosemary and invasive grasses, have a place too, as non-indigenous species, telling the story of colonisation in botany - a fitting medium for a chapter that mythologised the newly named 'Botany Bay'.

Working quietly, the work just taking early shape as the afternoon school bell went, plenty of passers by  barely paused or just looked sideways at the emerging cartographical arrangement. 

The daylight doesn't last too far past 5pm  at the moment, so i left my work in progress - to continue the evolving project  tomorrow. I'm not happy with it: the shape at the top needs work [let the reader understand], the river systems and the small islands need to be rendered with care and protection. I set about this work really not knowing what I was doing, feeling my way with the materials in my hands and the stories in my head, and an intention in my heart. I often wish i were better at things like this, with actual skills to match my enthusiasm. My amateur work holds me close to the meaning making, the process and the purpose - with no pretensions that posterity is in view.

Just after 6pm, working in the study - the front room of the house,  I heard voices outside and through the window i could see torchlight over the map, and going outside  into the darkness I found a three year old lad and his dad - both in substantial beanies bearing head lamps - quite a local custom I've noticed here - squatting by the south west coast of the mainland discussion the different places. 

Dad was prompting the little on to find where they lived - and we found the large river, and then the little one said "Kunanyi!" I titled my head quizzically.  This maestro of human intuition and communication read me  instantly, and circled back with a repetition, restatement and elucidation. "Kunyanyi. Kunanyi, the big mountain." 

This was the first time in six weeks in Tasmania that anyone had voiced a traditional name for land or water in conversation with me. I'd seen written forms, and at the climate action strike the student activists had all begun their public oratories announcing an acknowledgment of country with traditional names. 

But this was something else: conversation face to face, words formed with breath and body, close enough to feel and the wide eyes fixed open holding mutually attentive gaze. Words delivered as living language, rolling off the tongue of a three year old. I was learning with every syllable, alien that I am. 

The night adventurers went on their way - an important mission in view - to tell mummy they found a map of Australia. 

Tomorrow there is more to do.  Different work to do. No doubt some of today's work will become dislodged and undone overnight. That is how everything is created, shaped, and redeemed - shifting, gathering, breaking, choosing, reviewing, cherishing, releasing, reimagining, listening, sharing, learning,  dismantling, transforming. 






*

National Reconciliation Week began in 1993 as a call to prayer. It's come a long way - it's reach and expression in the 2021 calendar spans promotional posters in my local Kmart, this beautiful animated spoken word piece
from Common Grace Treaty, #TIMEFORAVOICE advocacy to parliament for constitutional reforms, and significantly, many local recognitions. 

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Facebook Memories and Learning to be Wrong

May 6, 2021

*content warning: self indulgent ‘marking the moment for myself’ post.

I am not a fan of the facebook memories algorithm. I have a very vivd and rich inner life that houses abundant archives of stories and senses and soulful moments in readily accessible packages from the past. As an all-chanels-open sensitive/sensing being, I don’t forget easily. Mostly, it is a blessing I savour, and draw on daily for reference for wisdom, for grace, for joy, for love.

But I have a life adorned with plenty of trauma – some of it many decades old, and some of it fresh out of the oven of recent roasting of heart. It assails me often and I have well practiced disciplines, and rituals for responding. Some of them, unhealthy; they take intention, grit and sheer bloodymindedness – not always successfully – to resist. I have years of strong practices of therapy, triggers identified and alternative responses to implement, resetting frames and embodied relearning, which I continue to grow and develop better versions of all the time.

There is much sadness and harm that I am hoping to live beyond, holding the gift of the present moment and focussing forwards, as much as I can.

So, I don’t ever feel like I need reminding of the past, and I am seldom grateful for, or attentive to Facebook’s prompts, thanks very much.

Today a memory from May 5 2018 appeared, and in a departure from my usual quick dismissal, I stopped to read.

It was a poem, whose imagery was a familiar theme in my reflections – bearing resemblance to a recent post on diving deep for pearls – but the actual poem I had forgotten. No matter, I write for the value of processing, not for posterity. And I find that all of the worthwhile and life-ward processes of being human; learning, healing, transforming, growing, faithing, knowing, are cyclical, not linear. So it is well, and not worrisome, that i circle back to revisit themes, and give them voice again.

This far down
Deep in the mine
Of this mind of mine
In dark
In rock 
Enclosed
Entrenched
It's curious odds
On what I'll find
The oxygen may expire
The sludge give way beneath me
The safety rope unwind
The waters rise above my head
Random rocks fall
The shaft cave in 
before and behind
But perhaps - 
by the slimmest of odds defined
-I shall diamonds find
Though discovery is one thing;
Extracting and surfacing 
is another
Thus even 
from the moment
Of eureka 
Still I shall be gone 
a while more
Retrieving
 If possible
With time and tools combined
something of value from
Dank dust filled dark
I may yet emerge
 with an offering 
to share and shine.

I knew the date and what was transpiring in my life at the time – the exact nature of my quest and questions: embodied memories a-plenty.

A time of mind-messing, soul-scrambling disequilibrium: the odds were not in my favour. Indeed within two weeks, a seismic step was made, that triggered the collapse of this quest for the precious within: the oxygen did expire, the sludge gave way, the avalanche began, rocks falling, waters rising, until what i believed of myself caved in. ‘Eureka!’ replaced by ‘All is lost!’

To this day now, three years later, the part of my heart that wrote those words still lies in silent darkness beneath all that rubble, broken, breathless, bruised, buried and invisible.

I have had to leave it there. And crawl out, somehow to light and life again. An empty handed climb, both hands gripping inch by inch, without any diamond to show. Leaving behind that deep part of my heart that believed in something precious. No glorious resurrection. What deceptive directions had made me think there were diamonds to find in those depths? That is one of the most difficult things to face.

Sometimes, we are just wrong. In the wrong place. In the wrong way.

I was wrong.

Those are words that taste as concrete on the tongue and crack your toothful jaw, and stop your rasping retching throat, but words worth learning how to say.

Rich Mullins, himself no stranger to broken-heartedness, and the jaw-crunching truth-telling it requires us to face, has often given me lines to wrap around like long cloths, binding up my wounds. Rich sings these lines; a version of ‘I was wrong’ that is a grace-filled transforming emptying that makes space for finding God.

“Love is found in the things we’ve given up

More than in the things that we’ve kept’

(What Susan Said)


	
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the first, Love; the echo, Love; the Chorus, Love.

April 18, 2021
Winner, JQA International Environmental Children’s Drawing Contest, 2007.

I began our gathering today with this call inviting all to join on the simple responsive refrain ‘Love’.

I began, and lit the candle from ‘the first spark’ and ‘Love’ was declared. I continued and the voice of ‘Love’ gained collective momentum. Then another treble voice – a four year old girl, Vivi*, began to also repeat the phrases I was delivering: the first…the first…the first…the first… her ears attuned and her tongue in ready response.

But Vivi’s grandmother who had brought her was shushing her, trying shepherd Vivi’s participation into what she perceived was the expected form. So I stopped. I affirmed Vivi. ‘Please keep echoing – it’s wonderful, and you are helping us all pay attention to the words.’

So we continued, and the congregation made room – left space, so her echo of my line rang out – and then they affirmed: ‘Love!’

I guess we could say, in our midst Trinity took form:

A first, an echo, a chorus.

A mother, a child, community.

Or, if you like the old patriarchal metaphors,

a father, a son, a spirit

As you read, imagine it: my old trained theatre teacher voice and Vivi’s young fresh spontaneous voice in duet, and the chorus of the congregation – a collective age of several millennia – and these same words expressed in different tones of the joy and richer meaning that comes from multivocality.

This is how intergenerational community is formed – not with simply tolerating or ignoring or fetishising the voice of the child, or the aged, or the awkward, or the strangely gifted – but with advocacy, intention, and affirmation.

Community leaders cannot be half hearted, laissez-faire economists with the precious gifts of growing humans. We must articulate the value of each one of us.

More than saying:

‘Oh we don’t mind if your child (or that creaky old saint) makes noise’

that’s just tolerance, and it’s arrogant and weak.

We must say, regularly and whole heartedly:

‘Oh, please be yourself, please be as you are in our midst and let us shift our habits, and reshape our patterns, so that you are seen and heard and known and loved, so we are all free to be seen and heard and known and loved, so that we all be blessed, so that we be blessing you so that you be blessing us.’

*Vivi is a pseudonym

A Call to Worship and Acknowledgement of Country

God is Love

From the dawn  of creation

Love

From the first spark

Love

The first droplet

Love

The first twitch

Love

The first stirring

Love

The first breath

Love

The first pulse

Love

The first word

Love

The first task

Love

The first call

Love

And so on and on and on and on

Always and always in everything

Love has been

Love is

And Love will be

Love calls us now

To gather – to share – to know – to hold  – to mourn – to forgive – to pray – to serve – to feast

God is Love

From the dawn  of creation

Love has been present in this land

Stirring and speaking

with God’s dearly loved people of this place

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Community

As they have loved this place

Sacred and spirit filled

Custodians of care and dignity

We acknowledge them with respect

 for elders and leaders, past present and growing.

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Preaching Easter in Darebin

April 6, 2021
A Melbourne Passion Prayer
there i was 
a woman in the garden
in black of course
and an old lady in black  
'I am Austrian'
comes past 
wheeling her classic Preston Market 
vinyl shopping trolley

And we greet each other as people
with no front fences do

and she begins to tell me of her daughter 
who is a woman of my age - 53 
she is screaming and crying in the house 
with 'mental things in her'
says the Austrian
who is going to buy her tormented daughter cigarettes

which will help

and then she speaks further - I am lost in listening:
 
her old mother,  caring for elderly relatives,
caring for her younger daughter
what will happen when she dies
how can her will provide care - no one can be trusted 

and then the climax of her easter sermon -
still in her thick immigrant germanic tones
she says

"Only God knows 
So I pray every day
because 
in this world 
Good people suffer
how for Mary seeing her son on the cross
the nails in his hands"
 (she lets go of the trolley a moment and   
pounds the fingers of her right hand into her left wrist
and then her left hand into her right wrist)
"so much pain! the son of God!"

(suddenly  her accent breaks)
"Oh, come on maaaate!"
         in tongue as  broad as Fred Dagg or Crocodile Dundee
 
as she holds the vision of the tortured Christ before her lifting both hands to the air.
And under my breath I whisper an ocker Amen

And i ask the name of her daughter who is in so much torment, 
I say i will join her prayers for Sonia to find relief, 
and pray for her - a mother like Mary so hard to watch her child suffer. 

we talk about vegetables and the beautiful trees, 
and she goes on steadying her way with the trolley.

So now i have a prayer today 
for the suffering and tragedy of the world 

a holy 'Oh, come on maaaate!'

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pearls and privilege

March 11, 2021
This phrase
“It’s not my fault”

Can it be
that some people
carry that
on their key ring
in their pocket
a card in their wallet
for handy access
ready to open
the door to go?

Or know where
they have kept
a supply
in a jar on the shelf
between the lentils
and the cashews
ready to open
for a fresh boil
of survival soup?


How do you get this?
I know only
such a pearl
that preserves life and sanity
lies in the depths
of the reef
and to find it
I must find first
courage to come
to the edge of the boat
and then
daring to dive
deep and dark and dangerous
and seek out the crevices
of clams
that hold this precious hope

Finding it is one journey
Bringing it back up to the light
is another effort
opening, cleaning, 
making its sheen and truth visible
claiming it
colossal
Maybe one day
I will even wear them on a thread
around my neck

these hard found pearls
each one
It’s not my fault

I know those who have died in the depths searching for this pearl
Their grief and grievance break in endless tides

You, who inherited a whole strand at birth
You, who are given these pearls as gifts
You, who are dealers

Know what cost there is
for the ones who must dive
for the ones who die

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attention: man

March 4, 2021
Faceless Woman Canvas Prints | Fine Art America 
he's guilty/not guilty
 he stands down/doesn't stand down
he loses his position/is moved sideways into another less public but equally prestigious role
he is the fall guy for other's moral platforms/he's the wronged hero 
he loses the election for The Good Guys/he was the last straw that undid a crumbling artifice
he faces the media with self-defence/issues an apology and confession of (past)misconduct
he is disgraced in the media/he is exonerated by an inquiry
he
he
he
he
he
he
he.
what does it matter?
She is dead and voiceless.

click click click click
camera shutters
click click click click
emoji
what are you interested in
him

in his power
even better if he's guilty - a testimony to his power!

because even when it outrages us, 
we like to know and explore the feeling of his power
indulgently, vicariously 
even his wicked or naive or raw or young or awkward power

but we hate 
we hate to feel even a small capillary of her
of her vulnerability
of her nothingness
we do not want to hear or see
oh and especially not to feel
oh don't let us feel 
her story
what it was like to be her
we cover our ears and eyes
and turn out attention back to him
the vendetta keeps him centre stage 
the man's place
the good man
the  bad man
we don't care
so long as it's
the man