Meeting the Moment 2021 #25

I have been a close witness to spiritual poverty recently and it is playing on my mind. There is an emptiness and malaise, a recognition of not being in control and being weighed down by this new learning, causing a kind of paralysis of the heart. It is the opposite of wholeheartedness. I am not talking about living with a God or values, it is more like the ego withering in a corner and still hanging on as if still relevant.  And I am also conscious that we notice and name in others what might be a lot closer to home than we would like.

I had the most beautiful spontaneous farewell this week from a community of practitioners that I have sojourned with in various ways over the past seven years and it was a light, joyous and celebratory occasion despite tears and grief.  There was a wholeheartedness, as best as we could create in the two-dimensional zoom platform. A litany of stories spanning decades, a mixture of head wear, a song and musical accompaniment enriched the moment. I feel very deep gratitude for this improvised way of being, uncluttered by calendar bingo and formality.  It was a time of spiritual riches being gathered up and shared amongst the faithful. Leadership and self-organising are vital to the way we shift and move in the world and midwife the next steps we want to take alone and together. It is as Paul Hawken calls it ‘blessed unrest’, not always organised, not always perfect, but always connected and always with threads sewn into the seams with the changes being called for, somehow holding it all together.  The gathering felt like the opposite of the spiritual poverty I had been witnessing elsewhere.

The practice of showing up and reading the papers as a former colleague used to remind me was 90% of everything in governance and that seems to apply here too.  When you show up and read the signs of the times and then enter the discourse, it is inevitable you will catch some of that communally created spirit. If, however you turn up and sit on the sidelines, or turn up and do not notice the signs and messages, visible and invisible, then there is every chance you will miss the moment to co-create.  These ‘pop up’ moments have clarity of purpose as the chance for hidden agendas or any agenda for that matter, do not have the time to be developed or lobbied.  This one was infused with head wear and music – possibly essential ingredients to bring joy and centring gift over grief.  Facilitated with ease and competency to enable all the voices to be heard and faces to be seen is also a must. This role was in very capable hands, and it was a treat to watch the skills close at hand. A gift of being seen.

Such an unexpected way to end the working week to transition away from those relationships and ways of working. I do not seek flowers or cards or goodbyes that have formality and having something that was off the cuff and initiated and authorised by the community is exactly the way I would want to be seen and recognised. I have never been very good with the formalities. When I got an Order of Australia (AM) it took a young friend’s framing to help me accept it – she said it was the community giving me a hug back for all the hugging and helping I had done over the decades.  That really helped me feel differently about the award, and that is how I felt on Friday night, I was getting a big hug back via the people on the screen.

When you work in the ways I do, sometimes very quietly behind the scenes, sometimes loudly at the frontier and sometimes disrupting at the margins, I often find myself wondering what is working well and if I am hitting the mark …. And then on days like Friday I realise that most days, I am giving it my best shot, equipped with my energy, skills, intellect, and good humour, a spiritual practice of radical generosity, sympathetic joy, and gratitude. So when I see spiritual poverty, I want to run from it, and I am finding it harder and harder to be around. Perhaps that is my poverty speaking because I do have times when I cannot meet the moment. This week, however, was not one of them.

A deep and sustained bow to the one who invited me to the call and then initiated the impromptu gathering.  I was filled up and can happily smile and wave goodbye til next time, because as I reminded everyone … it is a bit hard to get away from me. Cheers to my friends in collective impact over the years – Together SA, ten20 foundation, Opportunity Child, Collaboration for Impact. #friends4eva

Photo by Christine Jou on Unsplash

Meeting the Moment 2021 #24

This past week I have been on Larrakia, in towns with names of Palmerston and Darwin. I pay my respects to Larrakia and thank them for the welcome to their country, their hospitality and guidance.

There were many moments to meet and levels of complexity that took me to my edge more than once. Some moments I was up for meeting and others slipped through my fingers and others faded quickly into the horizon before I was able to gather up my internal resources to meet them. 

A moment from earlier in the week began watching dancers and musicians painted and enthusiastically calling the gathered forward to learn a dance.  The whitefellas seem to be mainly receiving it as a performance and not an invitation to come up and dance. I hesitated to wait for the leaders in the community I was associated with to get up and accept the invitation first … and they did not …. I was terribly upset and a colleague with me could see my distress which enabled me to verbalise. She then said: well lets go …. And together we joined in the dance, and others then joined in.  Yet another reminder to not wait for others, to step up and step into the work to be done, to hear the call, the invitation from community and respond by joining the dance. This was echoed a couple of nights later in a community concert where singing, poetry, dance, and a lot of laughter was shared … unfortunately not too many whitefellas were there to keep the dance going, most seeming to prefer to keep that to the intellectual level which was explored in a formal session of adaptive leadership styles between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people working collaboratively.

Another moment that I soaked up was an impromptu smoking ceremony led by a Larrakia elder on the concrete surrounds of a man-made lake in a place that had the right leaves and bark close at hand that could be gathered by two of the children of the elder. The ceremony saw me watch a procession of changemakers from many parts of Australia walk through the rising plumes to the sound of an uncle playing the didgeridoo.  The daughters proceeded to waft the smoke around those who arrived at the burning leaves while Aunty June Mills called us forth and encouraged us to step into the smoke. Stepping up was all it took to receive the invitation and accept the healing. Such a generous offer and none of us were able to resist. One of the women holding the leaves, pressed and held the bunch she had in her hand onto the middle of my back and I felt a clear and direct message – we have your back.  That we, the long ancestral tail of women who have gone before me, and my link in that chain to be the same for those who are coming. An instruction to guide me as I continue to pass on knowledge and skills to the next generation and take my turn to get out of the way. It was a healing moment.

And the third moment I want to call forth in my lessons for meeting the moment was in a car. A driver and three passengers, peers, exploring how to collaborate and support one another to voice and share reflections that would help unstick and unfold as we sojourn to future ways of working together. With gentle support I was able to find the words and the frames needed to hold me in the tensions without self harm showing up. I had been prepped and primed by another peer before hopping into the car and that gift of reflective and careful questions held me too. I am always grateful to have so many skilled and trusted colleagues holding me in these tough times in my practice and when I am tired and emotional.  

I called on a Blessing I had written a couple of weeks ago at Kwartatuma (Ormiston Gorge) a sacred site of the Western Arrernte people and that helped me meet moments this week too, especially as the fullness of the week ended and my body was totally spent and I tried to find my way to rest.

Blessed are the rocks for they shall hold you up
Blessed are the waters for they shall wash you clean
Blessed are the winds for they shall breathe new life into you
Blessed are the gums for they shall stand by you
Blessed are you among women and blessed are the fruits of you labour
Blessed are you to come to stillness and be radically at rest.

Meeting the Moment 2021 #23

Heading to Larrakia country today as part of my lifelong pilgrimage around this land. I am reading Thomas Major’s Finding the Heart of the Nation as part of my preparation to go deeper with the Uluru Statement from the Heart and as I wing my way through the skies, I am moved to tears more than once which is disconcerting to my fellow travellers in row 15.  Power is at the centre. The power of the Rock which I was able to visit just last week as well, and see it at dawn, at dusk and its silhouette in the night with the full moon rising behind it – even if you were not spiritual, it would be hard not to catch the still, steady, deep time presence of the land and the constellations above.

In preparation for this week ahead what power is, how it shows up, how it is recognised, how it is wielded and yielded is top of mind. I am a privileged white, educated, English speaking, awarded and recognised older women of settler stock.  I am flying in and flying out of this land. I am coming together with others doing the same as we arrive at a place that is waiting for us.  There are conversations waiting to come to life, and others that have been going so long whether we turn up for them or not does not really matter. We need more voices in the conversations from across time – past, present and future and I am musing on how I can tap into the quiet and emerging voices as well as not forgetting the ones embedded in the land and the annals of land rights, economic justice, environmental justice, and human rights.

From the 1938 Day of Mourning through to the rejection of the Uluru Statement by the then Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull in 2017 the waiting has been sustained by the voices, courage, and tenacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.  This waiting needs to end. It is time for the voices to be heard, for treaties to be signed, for truths to be told and a Makarrata. It is time for our constitution to be adjusted. It is time for a referendum.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart ended with an invitation to all of us to join in the process for a Voice to be enshrined into our constitution, not merely a legislative amendment, anything less would be devoid of the gravitas and vitality needed to right wrongs, heal and most importantly mature. We have a shared humanity, we walk on the same earth, we sleep under the same stars, we learn to walk, together. A Truth Commission to advise parliament, like the Productivity Commission has been suggested by leaders like Marcia Langton AM and my hunch is most Australians are up for it. A people’s movement that is being mobilised, in the cities, towns, regional and remote communities, signing up to the Uluru Statement and public sharing their support for the Statement.  Politicians will follow when they think there are enough people to support it and it will not injure their political power.  We need to mobilise for influence and look to each other, to our family and friends, co-workers, community actors and elect people to our councils, parliaments, boards, and governing authorities that will support the Statement and its goals. We can start from where we are – if we are parents there is your school governing council, if we are members of an association like a sporting club or professional body we can talk to them, if we are shareholders or customers we can start with the products we buy and let their boards know what we want to support, and then by the time it comes to be voters in our next round of municipal, state, territory and federal elections we will be able to tell those seeking our vote what is important to us what we have made happen already and what we want from them.  Voice. Treaty. Truth.  This is moment to be met.

Finding the Heart

Meeting the moment 2021 #22

I have a bruised and bloodied ring finger on my right hand, after an accidental jamming in a car door. It is not a pretty sight, and the throbbing was relieved early by numbing ice.  Trauma in the body is a great reminder of the way trauma can turn up in the mind too.  A sudden impact can often lead to swelling of feelings and blood rushing to the head followed by numbness. Feeling self-pity is often not far behind. I am taking this injury as instruction and a reminder that accidents happen, and we all need someone with an ice pack once and a while to ameliorate pain and discomfort.

This week is Reconciliation Week and I have to say it is not something I have ever been able to get my head around completely. I do not know what Aboriginal people need to reconcile with non-Aboriginal people – I have always seen this as a week when whitefellas can use the prompt to make some amends, pay the rent or at the least do some learning about our past.  I have been on the road and in Central Australia, mainly in well known landscapes with only the barest of attention to First Nations. There were other signs though, the number of young ones in training and in jobs, more dual signage in language of places and flora, artists and art celebrated in public places and premium menus with bush tucker. When I come again, I hope all the leaders will be locals and the custodians of the stories, food and landscape will be so common that the temptation for the exotic over ordinary will have disappeared.  The outback is not like the cities and just like my injury the accidental encounter might jar and disturb but, in a few days, will be healed and not much would have changed. You need to stay longer to get the real impact and not just a temporary disruption, so I pack up my city thoughts and quick-to-judge views with my belongings.

The overall feeling, I have is of gratitude to Anangu for sharing the centre with us all. It is a radical generosity that is quite overwhelming.  Sharing the land and the sky is an incredible gift.  They have watched and endured generations of whitefellas climbing up Uluru and when I overheard people complaining about the cost of going into the park, I was genuinely shocked. I wanted to say – such a small amount of rent to pay – but my words would not come out. I have more work to do in my reconciliation practice.

Treating this time as a pilgrimage and meeting people along the way where they find themselves and find me has been a challenge. I am out of the practice, possibly a consequence of these COVID times. To live as a pilgrim celebrating life and taking practical steps towards transforming injustices and violence, has not been so easy for me recently. My failure to call out complaints about park fees just one of this penitent’s claims, and my swollen finger is hearing my confession, as I clip on this keyboard.  The absolution arising is: vulnerability is a consequence of risking yourself, and sometimes that is painful.

Photo by Ondrej Machart on Unsplash

Meeting the moment 2021 #21

The skies have been extraordinary this past week. I am in the desert and during the day, the blue sky is only interrupted by puffed cirrocumulus clouds that remind me of schools of fish, which is rather ironic as these clouds are entirely bereft of precipitation. At night constellations are easy to see and navigation of any desert ship would be easy. In the in-between times the opalesque skies meet the horizon at dusk and at dawn the east glows on arrival with every shade of gold.

This is a precious, wise land, so ancient you can see the past all around you, snippets of the jurassic period in cycads in the chasm on the way to shafts of light; fossils on the floor of a seabed now at ground level travelling in parallel with highways; a newcomer, a three-hundred-year-old cork tree in a gallery courtyard a reminder of how settlers count time.  Time is not the same here and one of my fellow travelling companions commented on the shift in her experience of time since being in the desert – everything has slowed down, and the last stop seems an age away. I am remembering land rights leader Vincent Lingiari , a Gurindji man who led the walk off at Wave Hill and spent eight years getting the result when in 1975 the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam symbolically and legally passed a small parcel of the station land back to Gurindji. One of Lingiari’s gifts to the world was his saying immortalised in Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody’s song From Little Things, we know how to wait. When you are in this country you get a deeper understanding of that phrase.  This land is a great teacher of waiting and holding true to essence. The rocks apparently immovable, have formed over millions of years and carry plenty of life, with gum trees springing from what looks like the most improbable of places. The relationship between waiting and timelessness is collaborative – waiting a precondition to understand and appreciate what takes time.

I won’t get to Gurindji land this trip so I go to listen once again to that song and I chose a relatively new version of the song by Electric Fields and when you hear some of the song in language which leaves me in tears every time. I have been listening and singing this song since it first was released in 1993 but nothing prepared me for the Electric Fields version. The female voices, words in language, the baton truly passed on to a new generation, in every way new style and the new meaning for this anthem. Power and privilege and standing in law, cultural law, law of the universe, law of the sand and for a settler like me, I can only glimpse what land rights mean. We are waiting as a nation to be initiated into the meaning of time by the oldest living culture on our planet. This is unfinished business. Treaties are coming as they must – no peace without justice – always was always will be Aboriginal land.

I am reflecting on how my soul has gone ahead to prepare a place for me to wait and the rest of myself is catching up and my own treaty-making with the past, justice, reconciliation and repatriation is unfolding as surely as the movement of the caterpillar. Being in womens caterpillar dreaming country is not lost on me. Meeting the moment in this place seems to be bringing a compassionate patience to appreciate the healing properties of time and time’s ability to stand still and hold you still while knots can be massaged out of existance. From little things big things grow and in the growing, transformation comes next.

Yeperenye – Emily’s Gap – East MacDonnell Ranges.
Site of ancient caterpillar dreaming rock art (no photos by request of Arrernte.

2021 Meeting the Moment #20

First you notice the quickening, reminding me of those early movements of a baby in-utero when you are not sure if you have butterflies in your stomach and then are convinced you do have something growing inside of you, that is not you and of you. I consider this one of the superpowers of women who have borne children to know, really know, you are part of some great cosmic, biological story where you have a part to play, and are not a full creator of anything.  Everything, everything is co-created.  From across the generations, deep time DNA is inside of you and in the landscape right in from of you, all around you. In the sky. On the earth. In the water. Inside the flames. Every chemical reaction possible visible in our elements, our global commons.  Mothers who have carried a child get a sneak preview of this understanding, but it is not exclusively for them, it is totally accessible once you align your breath, gaze to the heavens and in the simple instruction of Br David Steindl-Rast: Look up.

I was fortunate to take a walk one day with Br David in Kangaroo Island we had two companions, his aide and my husband, we wandered together to look for hidden species in the bushes and waters. His thrill at new sounds and David Attenborough appreciation for all of creation was an invitation to see through his eyes my familiar landscape.  To come to any situation like a child full of wonder and awe accompanied by the soundtrack of Twinkle, twinkle, little star fills the heart and sets your compass to belonging.

I am embarking on some time with the red earth and the ever-expansive blue sky, heading north into desert onto country where colonisation appears as corrugated iron, broken bodies of derelict vehicles, plastic bottles festering in recycled concrete bins. A migration of seniors in silver bulleted vans equipped with two-way radios exchange tips of the road, weather conditions and the quality of service at various fuel stops. Eaves dropping, ablution block standards seem to be a consistent theme. 

The pulse of a generator on a station not meant for human habitation is helping a family eek out a living between a rocket launch site and a uranium mine.  That sentence tells its own story of colonisation – bringing animals that belong to another hemisphere and soon as the planet becomes more plant based – belong to another time; a tiny island on the other side of the world launching things into space to weaponize air space, and a hole in the ground that is the source of the world’s largest uranium deposit and fourth largest copper deposit.

There are so many moments to meet, and I opt for telling a story about the stars, dark emu, Jakamurra and the seven sisters as my decolonisation practice for the day.  I turn to the map of the nations with hues not lines drawn on them by male explorer on a road named after a Scotsman as if he was the first person to have traversed the land from south to north.  Finding ways to appreciate not appropriate is part of this decolonising experience and I am always up for invitations to learn how to do this!  I love the invitations from the landscape, and as I travelled on the bottom of an inland sea that has disappeared millions of years ago the reminder of my own disappearance had a strange kind of comfort of the transformation that happens in one lifetime and many moons.

Just outside of Port Augusta

2021 Meeting the Moment #19

The opportunity turned up as a general invitation and while I prevaricated and swivelled in my chair for perhaps ten seconds longer than my intuition told me and my rational self tried to take control, I did eventually stand up and make my way, with quick steps to the stage.

I took the time to find the note and hummed my way into the first line, finding the tenor and the timing enabling the words to find their way into my mouth.  Just a few lines and some moves to build the inclusive experience for all in my typical signature way, and it was easeful.  Within a few moments spells were broken that had been cast long ago.  How ironic for the moment to be a musical one and how powerful for it to be an improvised one. The basic building block of improv is yes, and.  And this moment was met with yes, and.  

The Spell Caster in this story, finding ways to block and disable opportunities was left without a leg to stand on as I took to the stage.  The old carefully crafted incantations of self-protection designed to effect fear and instil caution were swept away by the mantra “I am enough”. It was very safe to come to the microphone, the musicians and one holding the space had my back, had the audiences as well and in the complementarity of both, was able to find a path to keep the container to hold us all solid and secure.  Deep gratitude to his skills and experience!

The voice in my head as I left the stage was of one my children saying Mum you are living your best life. Over the past few years, I have not known what living any kind of life might be like, let alone a best one. I have flayed around trying to find the right tune, right tone, a harmony, and the odd blues note – yet somehow in these few short minutes on stage I managed to get to the entire next level and make sense of some of the time now past.  Taking my time with the humming into the space such a useful metaphor to take the measure and feel and hear what the music was asking of me, the call to my response.  Then finding the notes and making up my own lyrics, to express what I had learnt, seen through the day, with the backing of a band, not a solo artist or even a solo musical instrument, but multiple players and multiple instruments, a profound reminder I am not alone and there are harmonies and chords to be found in the notes and the spaces between the notes is where the music finds its shape and form.  Then my invitation to the audience to abandon their position and sway with hands in the air, a reflection of asking people to come follow me, knowing they have the capacity and capability to do that and do not need any more sophisticated instruction, just a simple demonstration and then everyone can participate. And finally, the recognition that all have a place, a contribution to the song and leaving the stage, the music goes on and the next person can step up. Just like the geese in formation, another can take their turn in the lead and helping to reduce the wind resistance and taking it in turns conserves energy for the whole flock.

Instead of malevolence there is benevolence – bene volent – well wishing – surely a great way to break a spell!  There were only well wishes being bestowed in the moment at the microphone this week. The realm of generosity, joy and gratitude appeared in the magic of the moment, by invoking the instruction of the poet David Whyte of being half a shade braver. I also took the advice of researcher Brene Brown to let hurtful stuff drop to the floor, and step over it and keep going. “You can’t take criticism and feedback from people who are not being brave with their lives.”  

A spell was broken this week, more stuff dropped on the threshing floor to step over. The stage was that place where the chaff was tossed to the wind and the wheat made ready for the bread of salvation to be baked. A different kind of communion, as fully transformational as any other consumed previously.

Photo by Ali Yılmaz on Unsplash

2021 Meeting the Moment #18

I have been learning about the Celtic season of May Day, in Irish known as Bealtaine. The feast of the bright fire to herald summer. It is considered I understand as the threshold of the opposites. The yin and yang, masculine and feminine, good, and evil. One of the pairs of opposites I have written about over the years has been the moving on and holding still – and I have come to a conclusion that they are not opposites and I wonder if in these non-binary times, we might be being invited into a beyond opposites era? In the ritual with this festival you move between two fires or perhaps more modestly these days two candles. The humble flame inviting the extraordinary out from you. In every moment we meet, the extraordinary maybe hidden, and we might miss it if we do not take to the time to catch our breath or be curious.

There is a moment always to be met – catching the wave so you can surf to the shore, coming in with precision when the conductor calls upon you, standing firm when a bully is having their way.  And how elegant it seems when these moments are met; there is ease and an oozing of confidence that builds trust with those caught in the same moment. Even those watching on can tell that the safety net is not needed, such is the dignity and evidence of practice visible by the actions that hold the moment firmly in place. These can be sacred, respectful moments.

There are so many opportunities in every day to notice what is emerging, what is being held firmly in place, what builds trust. Vulnerability is the courage you must show up fully to those opportunities, to be willing to risk, to enter the potential for danger, to be in a space inside yourself that holds at least a sliver of anxiety. Inside that space alongside anxiety, ego has also made a home. Detaching can help you cross that threshold and propel you to a new world. The liminal space of the inner and outer worlds meeting as we catch the moment of crossing and play midwife to our own edge.

I love to walk circular bushwalks leaving the car and being able to come back to it having hiked up and down a hill or two and finding my way back. I am comforted by a non-linear approach to destination, as I am never the same person at the end as I was when I first set off. I will have crossed a threshold or two though along the way and the journey not the destination is the pilgrim process. I often find I am out of breath, need water, invoking a Hail Mary to get up a hill, clinging to my walking sticks in case I fall. The opposites of up and down often make me laugh, I think to myself when I am going up well if I were going the other way I would be going down. There are times where I am ambitiously cautious about my edges and take a path more challenging than my level of fitness or capability. There are times too when I choose an easier path so I won’t get tested and my vulnerability stays intact.

These private spaces on my own on a hill, are instructional for spaces where courage is called for in more public domains. The inner and outer, public, and private, can feel very oppositional, although I know them more to be two sides of the one coin. When I am living whole heartedly and with awareness of the liminal it seems more likely vulnerability will turn up. Going to the edges is  where radical transformation invitations are offered. Having the courage to meet those moments when the opportunities arise, and catching those moments, is a practice.

I took this photo of a fire in Santiago de Compostela at the end of walking just over 200kms on the camino. This was an inner and outer experience and am I am still on the pilgrimage. It is the blue flame of queimada – a Galician concoction of brandy, coffee, cinnamon and lemon peel. The drink is prepared as this incantation is said:

Owls, barn owls, toads and witches.
Demons, goblins and devils,
spirits of the misty vales.
Crows, salamanders and witches,
charms of the folk healer(ess).
Rotten pierced canes,
home of worms and vermin.
Wisps of the Holy Company,
evil eye, black witchcraft,
scent of the dead, thunder and lightning.
Howl of the dog, omen of death,
maws of the satyr and foot of the rabbit.
Sinful tongue of the bad woman
married to an old man.
Satan and Beelzebub's Inferno,
fire of the burning corpses,
mutilated bodies of the indecent ones,
farts of the asses of doom,
bellow of the enraged sea.
Useless belly of the unmarried woman,
speech of the cats in heat,
dirty turf of the wicked born goat.
With this bellows I will pump
the flames of this fire
which looks like that from Hell,
and witches will flee,
straddling their brooms,
going to bathe in the beach
of the thick sands.
Hear! Hear the roars
of those that cannot
stop burning in the firewater,
becoming so purified.
And when this beverage
goes down our throats,
we will get free of the evil
of our soul and of any charm.
Forces of air, earth, sea and fire,
to you I make this call:
if it's true that you have more power
than people,
here and now, make the spirits
of the friends who are outside,
take part with us in this Queimada.
Flame of Queimada Santiago de Compostela, Spain

2021 Meeting the Moment #17

Patches of sunshine, warm nooks around the garden, and the bush tomatoes are feeding a community of ants before I get a chance to pick them. Their sticky insides ooze onto my fingers when I gather a few of them each day to gradually build up my stocks of them to dry and grind. Along with the kangaroo apple that is also fruiting in the garden at the moment and I am beginning to acquaint myself with pig face and I have found a recipe for a warrigal greens pesto, and so my indigenous species gardening is starting to take shape. I still bought a fig tree today though as I have decided I am living in these two ways times and am akwardly connecting with roots in my story and in the land I am living on.

I live on Kaurna land, land that has never been ceded and we are in the windy season of Parnati. I live near Wangkondananko , the Aldinga Washpool also once known as Opossum Place where Kaurna would come and tan the hides of possums to make cloaks. This week Onkaparinga council established and Aboriginal Advisory group and this step forward I hope will help connect us all to the future from the past. This place is a food bowl and there is considerable evidence of settlement long before colonisation that even someone like me with little knowledge and experience can see. The names that have stayed and been incorporated into everyday use are the easiest pointers. The Aldinga plain, as it would have been known originally as Kauwi Ngaltingga, means fresh water at Ngalti, and you can clearly see it as a plain, a natural flood plain between the bush and the sea and a haven for bird life. Birds are returning, as are other creatures as habitat starts to regrow. There is desecration visible too, as I discovered recently, an important site in the Tjilbruke Dreamtime story, a spring site, at the southern, coastal end was badly damaged by dumping of soil and debris some decades ago. I pay my respect and deep gratitude to Aunty Georgina Williams and recognise her leadership over decades and generations.

It is hard to fathom how we got here – and I have so much to tune into, learn, understand. I am starting from a very low base. Knowing you are living on stolen land, land where there has never been an agreement, an understanding, a treaty, is in itself, a settler privilege. I haven’t the lived experience of theft or destruction of place and story, people, food, language – culture.

This week contained Earth Day and the theme was restoration. In Australia I can’t see restoration without reconciliation, restitution and some reckoning with First Nations. We all have one Mother and without the Earth we have nothing, without her waters we will die. First Nations wisdom might be all that can save us. I am making a humble start to come as a child to the exercise – wide eyed and curious, as kind a heart as I can muster and with a heart open to healing.

One Mob, One Land, One People

She is Mother Earth. She is the land of Oz
She is country, she is family. She is you
She nurtures and loves, she’s there when your tears fall
She laughs with you when you’re happy and the stars shine bright

She is your spirit of place, your mother, your land
She walks with you and your shadow guiding the way
Her love for you is the glue that holds you together
Your connection to country is your spirit of place.

Seek her on that road you travel a mother’s love has no boundaries
Unselfish in her giving her devotion is never ending
She is you and you are her no matter what road you travel
Hold your head high for you are who you are. Proud strong

Our communities are made up different from a long time ago
It’s important to remember we are one people, one Nation
Share the journey, share the joy. Be proud in the culture
Be upright and true, your identity strong never ending.

Hate and jealously. Not ours, never ours. A White man thing!
Join together be strong, stand proud. United we stand, divided we fall.
I am you and you are me. Our spirit of place, always deep within
Your life destined from time beginning, sharing the country, honouring the Lore

Now our roles defined to how we want them to be but culture is strong
Sharing and caring our identity as a people, share what you have is the Lore of the land
Each role we fulfil is for the good of the Mob learn what you will and pass on to the next
Don’t forget where you come from and the essence of life.

Be true to who you are, don’t forget who you are. Your belonging is the heart of you Aboriginal warrior man or woman be true to Mother Earth care for each other
After all we are one land one people one culture

We belong.

by Kerry Reed-Gilbert

Washpool, July 2020

2021: Meeting the Moment #16

Taking steps that are unfamiliar, or even ones that may have been taken before, but not quite confidently, awkward teetering towards the promise of potential, are the ones making landfall right now. New paths are being trod and with each step a beginning, for we are never walking the same path as the day before, as we weren’t today’s person yesterday. Each moment is full of promise, potential. Each breath in and the exhale offering the fundamental call and response of our humanity entwined with all of creation. Moments seeking to be met by our fragility and imperfection. Taking risks with ourselves requires us to back ourselves and to remember who has our back. In the great lineage of those who have come before us, we hold this baton for a short time and with it the responsiblity to bring our best selves, give it our best shot; for the legacy we leave behind for the next in line.

I feel quite worn down by the deep grief in the air, generations of sadness spilling into crevices and pooling in hearts and festering in minds. While others are gaining energy and growing in their acts of resistance, I find myself remembering to breathe is a radical act. It might not look like that from the outside, but on the inside I am working hard and holding space for others and for myself. There are cobwebs to be swept away and seeds to be planted. A new season is arriving. New shoots and leaves falling, is not a paradox, it is congruence.

Deeply grateful for friendship this past little while, friends who have extended thier friendship beyond themselves to their friends. New circles opening and in surprising ways – a guided meditation, a chance meeting in a market, a door opening to a future harvest, a shared link to grief, a common history. Past moments disconnected coming together in real time, inviting a review of what has gone before, and in doing so, I got to see with new eyes. I have appreciated a little more of my past self. Definitely not nostalgia, rather insight and fuel for taking steps into new beginnings.

I was comforted with a remark about the courage of beginnings during the week and reminded of this extract:

There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. More often than not it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could. Perhaps the art of harvesting the secret riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning. Risk might be our greatest ally. To live a truly creative life, we always need to cast a critical look at where we presently are, attempting always to discern where we have become stagnant and where new beginning might be ripening. There can be no growth if we do not remain open and vulnerable to what is new and different. I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that was not rewarded a thousand times over. John O’Donohue, Irish poet and philosopher Excerpt from To Bless the Space Between Us.

Wondering what might be ripening when not being sure if any seeds are sown and will be fruit, let alone be ready to harvest, is an act of courage. I was invited to consider this week, in a moment, I was fumbling in the dark to meet. Grief is a tar baby and seduces stagnation into making a home somewhere behind the eyes where tears form. Being creative might be the antidote to shift the stickiness of grief that seems to get worse the more one tangles with it. Yet, inside this stickiness seeds have been sown, and they are being watered and fertilised with stabs in the dark.

I have been inspired by the bravery of a woman refusing to be silenced by lies and abuse this week in the most public of domains, a Senate enquiry. How she risked herself to speak her truth to power encouraged me and many, many others. We have more stories to be shared, more women to be heard and it is not OK that it is only the white women, educated, with a platform to be heard that are the ones being heard. We have more truth telling to come – the women and children removed from their lands, murdered, raped, starved of basic human rights since colonisation begun. I long for a Truth and Justice Commission aka South Africa’s for the First Nations of this country so their voices can be heard and a reckoning arrive. I am imaging a process that starts with a smoking ceremony and a litany of names of warriors and freedom fighters and martyrs and sacred places, read into the public record. It would go for days and days, nights and nights until it was done. The grief of this tar baby cannot be moved until those of us non First Nations peoples experience some of the uncomfortable stickiness of this on the soul of our country. We need to risk to become whole, to be vulnerable to find out what might be possible. A new moment to meet is ripening and the seeds have been sown in the 30 years since the Black Deaths in Custody Royal Commission. Pat Dodson, former Royal Commissioner and now Labor Senator says I sense that the same sort of storm of suspicion and accusation is gathering as that which precipitated the royal commission in 1987. Political resolve has been lacking, and the Morrison government’s response to growing concerns about the recent cluster of deaths has been quite desultory.

Meeting this moment is not coming easily, but it is coming, and us settler folk can’t hold our breaths forever. It is time for some creativity, some courage and some solidarity.

Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash