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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

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womenleaders

February 17, 2021
by day

steady calm 
solid step 
strong negotiator
strategic solutions
smiling face 
sophia's feast

for all who waver and hunger

against  those 
who weaken justice 
and hanker for power

with those who wound her 
and wonder where are the women?

behind the scenes
under the radar
on top of the situation
miles ahead of you, mate. 

*

by night

the tissue box is empty 
and  the swear jar is full




 
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Mercy

December 31, 2020

#adventword11

 those ancient people
 took up lavish and detailed instructions 
 for a bespoke genre of furniture
 - a kind not found in ikea labyrinths - 
- a kind that would survive many moves -
'liturgical furnishings, fittings and finishings'

bowl, lampstand, altar, ark
and
seating

mercy chair

what a thing!

oh it is what i need
for my weary wickedness

that i might not just sip mercy from a cup 
no
that is not enough

I need a long sit down
in mercy

i have stood 
so long
in the dock before 
relentless prosecutors
with files many pages of my wrongs
and completely correct

i have laid 
so long 
humiliated 
supplicant at the feet of harsh judges

keep all your Billy™ bookcases filled
with justifications and arguments and explanations

is there a word of mercy?
oh let that word be this:

take a seat
sit
sit here
in mercy
the chair of mercy
*
here may i learn 
what the Lord requires of me:

to Love mercy.

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Patient

December 15, 2020

#adventword10

they say Love is Patient
they say God is not slow in keeping his promises, only that God is patient
they say patience is a fruit of the Spirit

 I guess 
 if i were the Lord of all eternity, 
before and beyond time boundaries 
 I could be patient too
 and hold out grace and wait for as long as it takes
for a change of heart 
for a turn around

but i am human
and my heart keeps time
  53 beats to the minute
and the clock ticks 
even faster than that
and i am not endlessly patient

my wick burns down and out
my eyelids fall heavy
my tank runs dry
my rope won't stretch out any further
my fuse hits the powder

i reach my limit
i am not patient
at least
not patient...enough

What are you going to do about that?
God of eternity?
God of all patience?

Why don't you come down here and see what it's like
when the sun sets 
when exhaustion extracts its price
when three and thirty years are past 
when the contract is torn up
when no answer arrives
when bones crumble and skin crinkles 
and muscle-strength melts
and minds muddle 
and wills wilt 
and vows void 
and faith fails
and bonds break 

what then? 

Come and try on this 
finite
days and hours 
gig
then you can talk to me about being patient

talk to me about waiting thirty years for your first miracle
show me your friends who leave and deny 
show me your best stories ignored 
and the students who walk away with a sad shake of the head
talk to me about tolerating those clueless buffoons who think power is cool
show me your patient calm silence in the face of wrongful accusation 
show me waiting cold stone dead for a third day resurrection

yes. talk to me about being patient and finite.


 
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Comfort

December 14, 2020

#adventword9

 "uncomfortable situations that bring uncommon comfort"
 might as well put that on your business card, God
 
strike speechless the father-priest of the prophet who will prepare the way for the Messiah
uncomfortable silence

leave a virgin teenager pregnant, growing scandal
uncomfortable innuendo

dump an expectant couple in town with no where to stay
uncomfortable neediness

perinatal precarity, animal accompanied contractions,  downstairs down and out delivery, 
uncomfortable? understatement!

angels announce the birth of the Saviour giving directions to....a manger?
uncomfortable anti-climax

question paternity and snigger behind hands even for the grown man in his own home town
uncomfortable questions

solo visits to the home of single women sisters for ahem, hospitality
uncomfortable optics

songs of the rich made low and the lifted up when the empire is doing so well
uncomfortable politics

rip out all our pages and start our story again
uncomfortable blank pages and new beginnings

how is this dear, curious Cosmos-weaver, 
you cast so many beautiful threads
but we must bear the shift of the heddle
we find change uncomfortable 

yet you bring a strange uncommon comfort

the comfort of truth not soothing
the comfort of grace not gratuitity
the comfort of reality not rationalism
the comfort of solidarity not sanctimony

the uncomfortable comfort 
of birth of God 
and blood of God  
and body of God