Meeting the Moment 2021 #42

This week I was invited to talk about ageism and share with a global audience. It was a moment worth meeting. I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on my internalised ageism, how it started and how I am finding a way to keep it in check.

For decades I was often the youngest person in the room, sometimes the only woman … and then one day I noticed, as if by osmosis, I had somehow morphed into being the oldest. Like many women my working life was interrupted by children and child rearing and then a few weeks before turning fifty I began what I thought was going to be a sprint caring for a dying husband, however became a marathon and at almost a decade it ended and I deemed it an ultra marathon. I stepped away from formal leadership, or as one colleague, in what I considered ungracious, announced to the world – oh yes, you faded away from view. While this set of circumstances were not particularly age related, by the time I felt I was back in some meaningful way to the workforce, I was eligible for a Seniors Card.

What had happened? Many people may not recognise what I felt had happened – I had made myself invisible. I didn’t want any attention drawn to myself, I was becoming smaller, I was reducing the space I was taking up in the world, almost apologising for being here, feeling like I was a nuisance asking for help and not quite knowing if I did ask for help whether it would be seen as an act of someone feeble or helpless. I felt like I was disappearing and a disappearance linked to changes associated with growing older, no children at home, being widowed.

Conspiracy theories, lies and fake news about ageing had seeped in. My social feeds had incontinence pad messages, retirement home real estate ads and sudoku puzzles to stave off memory loss. I was enabling my own evaporation. It was not good! While these feelings may not have been visible on the outside, I was certainly feeling it on the inside. I had already been subject to significant gas lighting over a long period of time, and perhaps those foundations provided fertile soil for internalised ageism to take root?

As I headed into my 60th birthday, I started to look around me and see how others were approaching this time of life. I fell in love with 2 ideas – one was Jane Fonda calling the period beyond 60 as Act 3 and the second was from Brazilian researcher, Alexandre Kalache – who talks about the gift of all these extra years for our generation and what we might do to cherish them and use them to transform the future. I had been fortunate enough to have had a day hanging out with Prof Kalache while he was in Adelaide on a Thinkers-in-Residence program and he was providing content to develop a series of short videos as part of a community statewide consultation on ageing I was involved in. Amnesia had set in, I hadn’t thought about his work and its own meaning in my life until I took those moments to reflect on arriving at a new decade.

I checked myself on what biases I was holding and where they were being reinforced around me.  I took stock. I stopped myself in my tracks and got back to the core of myself, which I think is ageless.

I am now actively moving into these years mindfully embracing eldership – as someone who brings a harvest of wisdom, someone who knows what it means to walk into fires and cyclically rise from flames like a phoenix, and someone who embraces her Celtic heritage of the crone – the third woman of the trinity, matching maiden and mother, now as crone venerated for her experience; where wit is another word for wisdom and hag is for holy. I want to recover these words and reclaim them for our times and for this time in my life. I want to meet these moments with wit, wisdom and holiness and deep gratitude for being able to keep contributing to the future, through my actions each day.

We are all midwifing the future and I am glad to have stepped back from the kerb of palliative care in the present. Those wonderful students and their friends and allies marching for climate justice on Friday inspire and encourage me. This is no time to be fading away.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Meeting the moment 2021 #41

I’m in mountain country this weekend, far from familiar surroundings, a national park, World Heritage site where the golden wings of the bower bird are in the air and also woven into the carpets underfoot.  

Being a long way from home, I get a perspective from the tree tops and the rolling mist, reminding me of the good fortune of being able to travel safely to another part of the country.  The birdlife is generous and the rainforest holds the story of Gondwanaland long before dinosaurs and the Yuggera Ugarapul, Danggan Balun and Githabul people called it home.  The place known as Woonoongoora doesn’t need an interpretative sign to tell us it is precious, sacred. I feel very privileged to be able to spend time in the forest on my 63rd birthday – a microdot of time in this 180 million years of landscape. I found myself reciting Mary Oliver’s When I am among the trees, to myself as I wandered along a trail towards a tree top walkway.  

I gazed meditatively at glow worms lighting up a river bank, and green tree parrots flying with crimson rosellas, heard the squawk of a baby tawny owl, saw ancient lichen seemingly floating in mid air and orchids 10 metres high embedded in fern encrusted black booyong trees, bandicoot hotels in the folds of trunks and then there are the brush box who have been carbon dated at 1,500 years old. It is a lesson in complexity, co-existance and ecosystems.  If you are ever trying to teach about ecosystems – such a misused term in many a start up community – I encourage a walk in a park – the more ancient the better!

The metaphor of taking a path to a waterfall, is not lost on me, an occasional stumble and I was paying very careful attention to where I was placing my foot, should I find myself on a slippery surface.  I got to the spectacular view of a waterfall, at this slowest and driest time of the year and it is still falling, making rainbows in the sunlight, and finding its way to the floor of the forest.  

This year has been easier than the last four or five, and there have been less stumbles, still moments to catch my breath and look at the view to see how far I have come, not despite, but because of, weeping making landfall. It seems to be a practice of detachment and pleasing myself more. I am a beginner.  Being in the forest reminds me that this kind of growth is slow and takes serious time. I am particularly taking instruction from the way the fig tree clings to the booyong and uses it as a prop without taking anything from the booyong along the way to the clouds. It has really got me thinking about what props I have around me to help me grow towards the light and which ones I might need to cling to with more confidence and certainty.

I am meeting this moment bowing in gratitude to all those people and landscapes who have propped me up along the way these past 63 years, and taking a blessing from the trees mediated by Oliver: … and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.

When I am Among the Trees

Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It's simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Near Moran’s Falls, Woonoongoora, Lamington National Park, Qld. World Heritage Site Gondwana Rainforest.

Meeting the Moment 2021 #40

When the veil drops what was always there is now visible for everyone to see. The moment presents often as inconvenient truth telling.  Sometimes it is a moment of waking up and realising the baton has been passed and it has been delivered into your hands. What do you do with it? A hot potato you want to quickly throw to another? Perhaps it is so precious and beautiful you want to hold it longingly and lovingly.  Maybe it is a painful trauma digging deeply into your heart, and holding it is an act of self-harm.  When the veil drops, it stops you in your tracks.

The history of the veil stems back to ancient Rome where apparently the veil was used as a disguise. Behind the veil, evil spirits wouldn’t recognise the bride and therefore would be unable to upset her happiness. In the Christian tradition the veil in the temple is torn in two from top to bottom at the time of Jesus’ death, with the cosmic force of an earthquake, making the end of one era and entry into another.  There is nothing left to the imagination when the veil falls, and all the fantasies, pretences, illusions are over. You can’t look away.

I have been struck on how re-writing of history and re-wiring of messaging in gaslighting ways are used as everyday veil coverings by contemporary brides trying to ward off bad spirits like transparency, scrutiny and half-truths.  There have been some good, bad and ugly versions this week. A Premier resigning as a veil dropped to enable investigation, the underbelly of this being another veil dropping about a lover who was happy to throw her under a metaphorical bus.  I don’t share any of her politics, but I am deeply annoyed by the set of standards she is being held to account to which she should be, but men not being subjected to the same examination. Establishing a national Anti Corruption Commission would enable some more veil dropping moments.

The veil dropping by climate activist Greta Thunberg in Milan this week with her blah, blah, blah speech left me speechless. No going back after hearing her speak.

I have had my fair share of veils being torn in two, once you have heard you can’t unhear, once you have seen, you can’t unsee. I explained to someone inviting me to speak at an event this week, that to do so, would be toxic to me, it would be trauma inducing. I am no longer willing to wear a veil that others want to put on me.  I don’t need to do their work for them, or legitimise their worldview by turning up, however authentic or earnest it might be. I don’t share their vision. My image was used in a government document I discovered this week, no attribution to me, no request for its use as I didn’t own the image. I don’t disagree with the essence of the content, but I have not been asked to endorse it, and by default, use of my image, gives the impression I am endorsing it. The content lacks the depth of analysis and meaning and has no financial commitment attached to it – surely a sign of veil wearing.

If you are a metaphoric bride heading to the altar, take off the veil before you get to the sacred table and have a good hard, clear look at what you are signing up for. If you are looking at a bride, use your extra senses to see through the veil, or better still help her to take it off, or ask her to pull it back to reveal the beauty of her truth.

The veil’s removal, often needs holy, youthful innocence to point it out. Greta certainly did that this week! As the lyric in John Legends’  If You’re Out There goes – the future started yesterday and we are already late. I was encouraged this with and stopped in my tracks with Eastern Kuku Yalanji people being recognised as the traditional owners and custodians of the world’s oldest living rainforest. The veil dropping required to get to this result was epic. The Daintree Rainforest is estimated to be 180 million years old and is an UNESCO World Heritage site. How wonderful for this veil of colonisation to have been dropped – hope there are many more to come.

Photo by Federico Garcia on Unsplash

Meeting the Moment 2021 #39

Convergence seems to be my word of the moment. Various elements, ideas, opportunities and people seem to be coming together in planned and unplanned ways. I look to the natural world to guide meaning and in biology, convergence is the tendency of unrelated animals and plants to evolve superficially similar characteristics under similar environmental conditions. It is not unlike dog owners starting to look like their dogs, or partners that have been together for ages finishing each others sentences.

At my centre I am a social worker, a community developer, someone who likes to create the conditions for change to be self-organised, transformational. It is a moment of grace and humility when I start to notice convergence in the places, spaces and people I have been around. It is the practice of call and response and the inevitable harmonies that come when we all sing together – it is not unison and that is the beauty and the blessing.

A project I have been mid-wifing, which has a longer gestation than an elephant, is coming down the birth canal and definitely converging with a number of other initiatives. A complex set of circumstances has now made this timing probably more suitable than if it had come together earlier. Another convergence is a set of ideas competing for attention, now dancing together, and in fact if they were a dance it would probably be accompanied by a bush band, and caller, asking everyone to change partners at the next rotation and all of a sudden the pattern emerges and the whole room can see what is possible. Partnership is definitely a feature of convergence. On yet another plane, a number of friends have had a very tough week and in their sorrows, disappointments, betrayals they have all found solace in the convergence around the leadership parts of themselves. As witness to this phenomena, I too am able to converge some of the free floating radicals inside of me, giving me a booster shot to protect me from some of those same forces.

The convergence of the natural and unnatural worlds – fruit of the vine and work of human hands – is how my religious tradition puts it. That line being of my favourites since I was very young, embodies the convergence and cooperation of nature and humans explicitly pointing to the moment where they come together to make something more than the sum of their parts, with qualities that give a nod to their sources. What if we didn’t talk about nature as if we were separate from it, but rather a part of it – a complete convergence?

I visited an art exhibition this weekend where one of the artists, Anastasia La Fey, used her study of the zen philosopher Dogen and applied walking practice, to see walking as a means of observational movement along a landscape rather than the directional movement across it. This too speaks to me of convergence and a coming home. It is the separation experience I believe at the root of climate inaction. Another converging moment, occured on Friday night at a local library to hear from eight scientists about their fields. We heard from a diverse group of scientists about, among other things, worms, light as a diagnostic tool, machine learning and cancer treatments, and one of the speakers, Dr Sheryn Pitman told us of the gender gap in ecological literacy. Males, middle-age groups, the most highly educated, those with science-related educational backgrounds, those working in environment-related fields, those who grew up in small town environments rather than in large towns or cities and in those who had spent more than 10 years in SA were the most ecologically literate. She hypothesised that, the now middle aged men in the study, when young lads, were more likely to go exploring through creeks and mudflats, climbing trees and dissecting creatures, while their female peers were more likely to be closer to the domesticity of the home. If that hypothesis holds true then perhaps we can expect more action on climate change as policy makers tap into the inner child of those sitting at board tables and in parliamentary chambers. Now that would be a convergence!

“The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.” – Dōgen.

Photo by Hansjörg Keller on Unsplash

Meeting the moment 2021 #38

I love driving late in the day when the afternoon sun is falling and I am passing through the farms and vineyards, with the dappled light dances off gum trees. At this time of the year as soon as the sun makes landfall, the air is crisp and cool inviting another layer of clothing.  More dappling – this time on your body with a contrasting jumper or shawl to accompany you into the evening. I know this time as spring.  The changing light heralds transformation at this threshold, where the dappled light holds the glimpse of what is and what was.  I am in this zone and in tune with this season. I feel we are in dappled light. There is emergence and convergence all around me.

I am found myself talking about midwifery, what we are helping bring to life, calling out others to breathe, pant, stop, push, wait, pusher harder, go now, push again, breathe … the new is coming and as in any birth, the last part is the hardest, expert nursing is highly valued and an audience of a few while others pace nearby to hear the news of arrival, is all part of the deal. No one else can birth a babe for you, it is your work, there maybe a call for a surgical intervention, still is visceral, and fruit of your labour comes the new, raw, gasping for breath and usually with a cry in leaving the comfort and safety of an inner world you have hosted. I watch, listen and am encouraged by watching all the new life emerge and grow, but eventually it has to leave its host and be seen by the world. A world which will take time to adjust to the new life arriving. This is true for new ideas, new visions, a new creation of any kind.

I am noticing being in dappled light with lots of new things emerging and leaving the sanctity of interior worlds and there are many new things coming into the light. The word for this phenomena I have found myself using in conversations is convergence. I could have easily used the word, spring.  There are a number of initiatives and projects I have been contributing to at a systems level that have now come into the dappled light, fully formed, and yet still immature. I have found myself mid-wifing for others who are doing the same. Once the new comes into the world, others can shape it and hold it, share it and even sometimes seduce it and possibly even kidnap it and take it away – this is the risk of the new coming into the world. You can’t keep it contained once it emerges. 

This week the Hen House Coop I founded partnered with SuperFierce, an online platform for you to have an independent assessment of your current superannuation arrangements and getting advice back on where you might be able to make some tweaks to get improved investment results. There is a 47% gender retirement gap and this platform is one of the ways you can help close that gap, not just for yourself but for all women with super in Australia. By shifting funds at scale, the super system will start to adapt and respond. Once you have the free advice, from the numbers being run, then you can decide if you want to make the switch. If you do make the switch there is a fee and $100 goes to an amazing game-changing service turning around the lives of women at risk, through the GOGO Foundation and in turn the Hen House Co-op receives 10% of the fee as well to be used in our divestment campaign ReNest. We launched our divesting from patriarchy campaign this week and ReNest and our partnership with SuperFierce is one of the foundational pieces. You don’t need to be female to jump in and join the campaign or switch your super. This is win:win:win. It is dappled light with it new connections, new possibilities and spring. If you are in Australia reading this, and if you are still contributing to a superannuation fund and in particular if you have multiple funds, please do yourself a favour, do the women working with GOGO a favour, do us a favour in the Hen House so we can all continue to disrupt, emerge and converge to create new systems that work for everyone and close the wealth gaps. If you aren’t in this boat, tell someone who is, especially younger women. Did you know on average Australian women across their lifetime earn $2M less than men?  Help us all to shift these conditions, have more of our own money building the wealth for each other. I am at the other end of this equation and with disposable funds to distribute and share into the places I want to see more change to tilt our whole planet into springtime is urgent work. This is a moment to meet and a way you can help do that too.  The ReNest campaign has begun and I hope you can come join us, if not in this initiative in another one … because there will be more!  Let’s drive  through that dappled light and be ready for the crisp evenings as convergence comes and the new light brings the freckled beauty of the new – pied beauty of emergence and convergence.

Pied Beauty 

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

Photo by Peter Burdon on Unsplash

Meeting the moment 2021 #37

Warming rays in the afternoon are coming more frequently as spring settles in and I can truly feel the energy rising like sap in me as well. The wintering has lasted more than a season and what has been dormant is waking up inside of me as surely as the blossoms start to open.

It is hard to believe it is twenty years since the twin towers were felled. We can all remember where we were on that day, and what images are imprinted. We all have our own tales. For me on the other side of the world, I was shocked when I learnt a fellow warrior in the labour movement, Andrew Knox was a victim. He gave me a copy of One Big Union, the story of the beginning of the union movement in Australia which saw shearers begin the Australian Workers Union. I gifted the book years later to the grandson of American farm union leader Cesar Chavez, Anthony Chavez, who I met on his journey accompanying the wonderful spiritual leader Br David Steindl-Rast. They visited Adelaide and we spent a glorious day together in Kangaroo Island. I love how these links are woven together – terrorism and hope – darkness and beauty. The adage, everything is connected, is what holds me together more often than not.  Justice does roll like a river of light through my window now as it always has.

When the twin towers fell, twenty years ago Australia was in the grip of the Tampa affair and now as then, the Taliban are still in the headlines and while we have accepted those who were able to get to Australia, we have others still stuck stateless and in limbo. The inhumanity of the days of the Howard government continues as a shadow over our nation. I am hanging on to a hope that the airlifts from Kabul might provide some cover to enable the government to wipe the slate clean and just let everyone stay who has been here or held in Nauru and elsewhere in detention centres, including a little known one in my own city. It may be complicated, but compassion is easily understood and it would be an easy flick of a pen to right these wrongs.

As the politics of COVID become into sharper focus in domestic policy, putting the Federation at stake with trading fear and vaccination availability added to the arsenal of dividing states against states.  Feels to me, like the way the national game is being played is one side is being pitched as the party of freedom and the other, the party of lockdowns, with vaccination supplies being the bullets. These divisions are familiar. I want everyone to be vaccinated if they can be, and I want the fascist play-book to be put down.  

So little has changed in the past two decades politically in Australia. But I truly believe, and maybe it is the spring in me that is talking, that we are on the cusp of change though whether we like it or not, the climate is speaking and the international community will see to that, given our tardiness. I am looking to Australian women to expect more and step up and vote for more green, more equity, more justice. It is time for change, the season has arrived, this is the moment we are meeting.

I want this springtime to herald a season of compassion and light as we continue to wake up from winter, to the truth, we are all connected. I love seeing the bees, dipping into the cosmos in my garden as this constant reminder.

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tired into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

Martin Luther King Jr

Photo by naoh cova on Unsplash

Meeting the moment 2021 #36

The first north wind for the season blew and swirled her way around the hills, sweeping to the coastline. Forecasting a hot summer as spring had just opened, there was foreboding in conversations all that day and I looked for sparks of bushfires that might be lying in wait. Frozen 2’s song All is Found had it right ” Where the North Wind meets the sea, there’s a mother full of memory.” Everytime there is a north wind, I am high alert, anxious about what might be coming around the corner, top soil being blown away, prepping the bush to be tinder for later in the season. The stormy, reckless behaviour of a north wind makes me nervous. I am not quite sure what might happen in these conditions, I am unsettled by memories of living with someone for four decades who was terribly distressed by north wind days.

I was reminded though this week that sailors look to the winds to catch the power, to navigate their way, and working against the wind and with the wind is dependent on where you want to go, how fast you want to get there and how you use the wind to steer your way … even the north winds. For Kaurna this season brings Wartapukkara north/west winds and tempestuous weather.

These conditions are an early warning signal. They tell us that there is the potential for danger ahead and proper preparation is required to take advantage of this moment. After the winds come the rains, after the anxiety comes the tears, after the memories comes the revisions. I took advantage of this week’s north winds to do some revisioning and to try and stop giving them such a bad rep and instead seeing them as invitational. What if they were inviting me to prepare for a hot summer, for a time of noticing what was being blown away, what was being lost and what was being heralded? What if I paid attention to the work of late winter and early spring for their intrinsic selves and not as a prelude or aftermath of another season?

With the goal of reforming the north winds and changing the status from menacing to memorable, is requiring some re-wiring. Making new code and helping the synapses make connections to take the sting out of old ones, or better still pop the old into a vault that doesn’t get exercised so gets harder to mine. Running interference helps too, so asking the north wind what does it do when it meets the sea might be as good a place to start as any!

The blustery proposition this week has helped me meet a few moments. I took the call and faced it head long as a working out if the tacking motion might be the best course of action. I felt the force of the winds, and did not let them impact on me as a negative, anxiety provoking experience, instead embrace their invitation of preparation for a time in the future when there might be real flames nipping at my heels. I paid some bills, purchased a few new items, including candles to accompany online conversations to honour the light in those I am in a virtual experience with, I organised a health and wellbeing appointments for myself and some of the inanimate elements around me. I opened up a poetry book and read a couple of poems relevant for the moment.

Rewiring has been quite a feature of my life these past few years and getting the north wind into a place where its tempestuousness is tended and befriended may prove to be a rewiring to help me meet more moments in the future. And who knows where an invitation blown from the north might lead. In my memory revisions I am reminded the passengers and crew on the Dawn Treader discovered on their voyage, a strong and pleasant wind that pushed the ship along.

Map of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader

ps given it is Father’s Day I want to give thanks to my Dad for gifting me the Narnia Chronicles when I was 7. I read them over and over. I loved the adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy and experienced being guided and transformed by Aslan.

Meeting the moment 2021 #35

The scrub today was all green and gold. At the end of a very wet winter, the bush was radiating with shades of sage, jade and emeralds with shocking bursts of beads and clusters of sun kissed yellow of all the acacias, common eutaxia and a few exotics out of place. You know why green and gold are our national colours on a day like this. It’s been months since I have walked through the scrub and along the beach, in this wintering, it’s felt like it’s been close and too far away. I haven’t been able to make my way there through a litany of excuses wrapped in winter blues, which is part of the reason for the attraction of the green and gold.

I was lying on a bed at the end of the week receiving some acupuncture treatment and from the window a towering stringy bark was shedding and layers were caught in branches and suspended vertically waiting for the next southern wind to lift them up and float them to the ground. The tree is probably more than a century old and quite close by are a cluster of red gums lining the route of a mostly now dry creek bed that are definitely pre-settlement. Seeing them through the window, was comforting, reassuring me of their deep roots and unravelling mirroring my treatment experience. The ancient intervention of needles into skin to unblock and call the body to release and relax. Just as the bark unfurls, so do I.  It’s been a week or unfurling and unblocking and it hasn’t all been successful, some of my interventions lacked the precision of needles to pressure points. Although some were well marked and landed.  Another example of the close and too far away phenomena at play.

Healing pathways are many and there were several occasions during the week where the medicine was over a meal. The well worn experience breaking bread, sharing a conversation, have some laughs and sharing advice and stories has healing properties.  I have many meals alone these days in stark contrast to all the years with many around the table, and I miss the end of day of conversation and next instalments of personal soap operas and Quixote-like quests. So the opportunities of having a meal and hearing from peers about what’s going on in their worlds I always say yes too and I definitely am better off from the experience. Stories recounted, may require hushed and conspiratorial tones in public settings and others maybe accompanied by an hilarious roar in the intimacy of a private space. I always leave better from the encounter and a wondering on why I don’t do this more often. Last winter I held a series of dinner parties to bring people to my new location and that served a purpose to connect and give me some roots.

It is also the rhythm of a meal with others that I now value and didn’t at the time of having breakfasts and dinners. I can disrupt the routine of all this now by eating and drinking whenever I like, there is no one to negotiate any piece of the timing, menu or ingredients. The close and too far away phenomenon shows up as liberation, and like all liberations has a shadow inviting the potential to wallow in loneliness and or poor dietary choices. The same lack of discipline that kept me from the green and gold needs to accompany me into making times to eat with family and friends.

Meeting the moment where discourse helps with discernment, stories shape the narrative of our nation and witnessing and listening is healing for all, is going to require me to get some more rhythm around the hearth of mealtimes and listening to the trees for instruction.

Meeting the Moment 2021 #34

Regina had a big heart and her generosity was housebound. I have no memories of her being in any relationships with anyone other than her family members. I don’t know the names of any of her friends. She welcomed family and if anyone of us had someone else with us, she just set another place at the table, and popped the table extender her husband Ken, my grandfather had made. It would increase the size of the table and make it all a little more comfortable for everyone to fit.

Her signature dish was roast lamb and I used to love, love, love, eating the shank that would be cooked through first. When my first born embraced the roast lamb dinners, it felt like the baton had been successfully passed on to the next generation. (She is a vegan now – Charlotte’s Web saw to that).

Regina’s mum was a mid-wife and they lived in a little siding called Ramco, downstream from Waikerie in the Riverland. Apparently the name of the village is derived from an Aboriginal word “Bogorampko”, a mythical tribe supposed to be superior to all natives. My grandmother was able to me tell me stories of her childhood on the river, but the only story that stuck in my memory and had import enough to transcend to adulthood, was the one she told me of her mother helping troubled Aboriginal women labouring unsuccessfully on the banks of the river. It was accompanied by a story of menfolk distributing blankets “to the natives” impregnated with itching powder and pepper. I imagined my great grandmother as valuing life – anyone’s life and possibly seeing her skills as her Christian duty, I’ll never know her reasons. It was important enough for my grandmother to tell me, so I am treating it as inheritance.

My father was his mother’s sun, moon and starts. Her life revolved around him and his achievements she basked in, as reflected graces. He was her only child. I miscarried my first pregnancy and she told me at the time, that she too had a miscarriage. This shared experience transcended our connection to a new level, a relationship as women. It was a bond, I appreciated even more when my first child was born, and I got a glimpse of what it was to be so consumed by love and besotted by a tiny person at the centre of everything.

Being a grandmother is one of my joys. I love learning about Minecraft, imaginary dragons, going on bug detection garden tours, teaching life lessons in the kitchen, celebrating new discoveries and making puppets. There is literally nothing more pleasurable than the tenderness of a cuddle, sharing a laugh about something completely ridiculous, and conspiring acts of piracy on the unsuspecting. I love watching tenderness evolve and empathy being extended to those who need comfort. These acts give me hope.

My grandmother was born in 1906 and it was her 115th birthday this week. Mother’s never forget their children and to see the next generation and remembering those feelings, the legacy and the inheritance, is a wonder-full way to meet the moment of the announcement of new life arriving. In these moments I think of all the generations past and my place in the cycle, what stops and starts with me, and what batons I get to pass on. It’s been quite a while since I cooked a lamb roast.

I made this 6 years ago and the first wearer is going to be a big brother early in 2022. Not sure a bonnet in summer will be needed this time round!

Meeting the Moment 2021 #33

Finally the largest state with the biggest capital city in my country is in a hard lockdown, we nailed the first wave and then didn’t get our act together when we had the chance to get vaccinated and now the first mutated strain is running wild. There will be more strains and Team Virus looks like it is on the winning side and it isn’t half time in the game yet. We have a long way to go and that’s just getting it under control. Then there will be the long term effects on those who get the virus, on those who loose loved ones, on those who loose their livelihoods and are separated from family, friends and their work mates. The long-term effects are physical, psychological, cultural.

This week I had contact with a friend who has had her first baby, she is sad the baby and her grandparents are still unable to meet each other. They will never get to cuddle and experience that newborn smell and tenderness. Another group of people I was with online, in lockdown in cities all around the country shared stories of isolation and its impact on them. As mob, one said a family member had been mainly travelling between cities for work and community connection as a diabetic a police officer had offered to bring insulin in an esky as they were now the wrong side of the border and staying in their car. Hearing family news over zoom or the phone, what you were hoping to share in person, just doesn’t cut it and the separation can feel as like being on the moon rather than a state or even suburb away.

All this in the foothills, of a far more devastating report that landed from the IPCC this past week. There is no time to lose. Waiting for governments to act is foolish. Much of what might be possible is going to be in the hands of investors and business. Investors can drive more change and their leadership is going to be critical. The pandemic is part of it, and as awful as it is, it is a distraction from this bigger crisis.

Where I live in Southern Australia, the IPCC is expecting and has the data and modelled the expected scenario that will deliver rainfall decrease, increase in agricultural and ecological droughts, increase in aridity, The mathematical equations are ranked with high confidence. This is where the investors come in, they can leverage their responsibilities and economic imperatives to do what they can to slow and stave off the worst impacts of climate change.

When I was making cylindrical pots from recycled toilet rolls with my grandson this weekend, filling them with soil and planting beans I had a strong sense of passing on not a joy of gardening but possibly a life skill he is going to need in his adult hood. Food security is an ever expanding concern as more and more Australians are experiencing limitations and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. I know in my early social work days visiting the homes of the aged and infirmed there were people living on bananas and fresh air and the occasional tin of cat food. That was back in the 1980s and while some of the food choices were due to mental health and low income the fundamental systems problem was these people had been functioning for so long out of the health and social service systems, they were unable to find their way back. The systems hadn’t noticed they were missing. This is my fear with climate mitigation, management and adaptation – that there will be more and more people falling through the gaps – unable to untangle their way through an elite group.

The unsophisticated sharing table at a community workshop I was involved in delivering during the week will one day be a shining light of generosity and sign of wealth that the produce from a household garden has enough to be shared. This is something I hope my grandson will be able to be radical in abundance, and an aspiration for action to others. The household garden may well become the most powerful protection and community building asset in his generation. Then, there are the lessons to learn from the land from Aboriginal peoples in native foods … learning about the landscape and what is in season, what can be stored and when to harvest … are all lessons waiting to be discovered … and we need to get a hurry on. As the photo shows below the pandemic is on the wall, but it is the foreground that food and the future await

Sharing Table, City of Onkaparinga, Food Systems Mapping Workshop, 10 August 2021