Monthly Archives: April 2013



As the day dawned and the traditional drizzle came to attention, I wandered down the road to the memorial as I do most years for the dawn service. I’ve been going for more than 10 years.  As a peace activist I was a slow in coming to an appreciation of ANZAC Day.  Each time I go there are more and more people there and our little village swells with friends and family who gather around to hear the songs, words, bugle, and tributes. They come to lay down their wreaths and pass onto the next generation their own stories of peace, justice, war and horror.  I continue to be struck by the intergenerational event it has become.

I shy away from the nationalism that camouflages the deeper spirit of a shared humanity that binds us altogether. I miss the annual Palm Sunday Peace marches so taking my own steps down this morning is a small reminder of my activist days. This quiet act, is my own honouring of those who went to war, those that stayed behind, the conscience objectors, the families the wounded and worn returned to and all those who died.

I am sad that in my name, there are Australian troops overseas occupying a land, not their own. There is no good war. It is all bad.  So what am I doing here at dawn in front of the RSL reciting the Lord’s Prayer and listening to the Last Post with my neighbours? It is a sense of community and common good that draws me – just as the sense of community and common good of years past probably drove other women, mothers, partners and friends to stand in solidarity and watch their men, fathers, sons and brothers go off to war. The litany of names on the memorial is a testimony to families emptied of men as a result of war.  I feel drawn to the generations past, and I hope fewer, yet to come, who will gather to say not in my name.

My first memory of war was seeing a moratorium march in Adelaide on the TV. I was in Year 7 so it must have been 1970. On the TV I saw mounted police, protestors, flags and more people than I had ever seen in Adelaide before. I was shocked to see the streets of the city I only knew of as being peaceful and cultured hosting this rabble. As the years went on, I went to school in the big smoke and become more aware of what it was all about and became active in my own little way in the peace movement, mainly learning songs to sing and taking a pledge that if I was ever a mother I would do all I can to make sure no child of mine would be conscripted to go to war.

Over the years my activism included me helping organising the Palm Sunday Peace marches, fostering a spirit of cooperation and understanding where I could, more recently learning about nonviolent communication, supporting activists like John Dear . I don’t think of myself as much of an activist these days. I am pleased though that none of my offspring have gone to war and that they all hold a healthy attitude to peace and understand the relationship between peace and justice.

One of my favourite maxims is from Meister Eckart, a fellow Rhine dweller to you dear Hildegard. He says ‘in compassion, justice and peace kiss’. This is what leads me to be up at dawn on Anzac Day – a call to myself to be more compassionate and to understand those who say yes to war.

Bruce Dawe, the great anti-war Australian poet says is well in so many of his poems and this one called Homecoming seems right to share on Anzac Day.

All day, day after day, they’re bringing them home,
they’re picking them up, those they can find, and bringing them home,
they’re bringing them in, piled on the hulls of Grants, in trucks, in convoys,
they’re zipping them up in green plastic bags,
they’re tagging them now in Saigon, in the mortuary coolnessthey’re giving them names, they’re rolling them out of
the deep-freeze lockers — on the tarmac at Tan Son Nhut
the noble jets are whining like hounds,
they are bringing them home
– curly heads, kinky-hairs, crew-cuts, balding non-coms
– they’re high, now, high and higher, over the land, the steaming chow mein,
their shadows are tracing the blue curve of the Pacific
with sorrowful quick fingers, heading south, heading east,
home, home, home — and the coasts swing upward, the old ridiculous curvatures
of earth, the knuckled hills, the mangrove-swamps, the desert emptiness…
in their sterile housing they tilt towards these like skiers
– taxiing in, on the long runways, the howl of their homecoming risessurrounding them like their last moments (the mash, the splendour)

then fading at length as they move

on to small towns where dogs in the frozen sunset

raise muzzles in mute salute,
and on to cities in whose wide web of suburbs
telegrams tremble like 

leaves from a wintering tree
and the spider grief swings in his bitter geometry
– they’re bringing them home, now, too late, too early.
(c) Donald Bruce Dawe

When I was in my bedroom in the 70s, I sung along with Cat Stevens, now known as Yusef Islam. So it seems appropriate to end this blog with that piece of history, linking the Rhineland, poetry, music, wars past and current with Peace Train.  These days I am more likely to be motivated by Pink singing with the Indigo Girls, Dear Mr President  or Elvis Costello’s classic, What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding.

Gratitude Practitioner

Glen Helen, NTThis has been a week where ‘my cup runneth over ‘.  Family achievements of love, life and learning were in plentiful supply.

How to live in this space of giving thanks and holding the dynamic of being present enough to notice all the micro moments where grace can be found is a discipline. You need to practice your gratitude – or at least speaking for myself I need to practice it.

Last Sunday amidst the celebrations of love and life, clinking of glasses, giggles of small children, and the kookaburras call – a woman came up to me. I didn’t recognise her and she gave me hints of how I might remember her. She had come into my life referred to me by the local priest as someone in distress and needing support in a decision to stay or leave a marriage. As a counsellor and confidante of the clergyman, he thought I might be able to help.  My referral networks were extensive and in very good shape so I had no doubt I would be able to assist her.  Sans a place confidential enough for a conversation in the church buildings, I took her to the beach where we walked and where she sobbed into my arms, grieving for a love lost and feeling completely without a compass, skills or knowledge on what to do next.  She was worried that people might notice me holding her and think we were lesbians – it was more than 20 years ago and those thoughts were common.  It was only when she revealed that memory that I put the clues together and remembered her.

Between then and now there have been many women both professionally and in my personal relationships who I have comforted at those moments of deep sadness.  I was very touched that she came to speak to me … but wait there is more.  I asked her how had things worked out. She turned around a pointed to a man who was now her husband and had been so more 17 years. She had healed from the visible and invisible scars and had truly made a turnover and recovered herself. She said it was that day on the beach that helped; that freed some of the chains that had been holding her back to take the next step to wholeness.  We shared our stories of the man who had brought us together and gave thanks for his wisdom in making that moment happen.

I was overwhelmed to receive the harvest of a lifetime in a single moment with this connection.  She had known I was going to be at the event, was looking forward to being there so she could tell me how happy she was and she laughed, how through her heavy sobs that day she added to her worries by wondering if she was going to be tagged as a lesbian by passersby!

(Fortunately those attitudes to lesbians are dying out and congratulations to NZ for passing the same-sex marriage legislation this week.)

The grace that comes by being grateful seems to be exponential. The little things we do everyday may well be the yeast in someone else’s life. That day on the beach, I was just doing my job, responding to a request from my mate the local priest – sure I was equipped to help – but it was nothing less than nothing and that is when I know I am a ‘feather on the breath of God’ and give thanks. The harvest took more than two decades to be revealed to me and what an honour it was to be witness once again and see the fruits of another’s journey.

Betrothal Panel in the Triptych

I have never lived alone, was married to my one true love at 19 and had four children under seven well before I turned thirty. I followed the pattern of my mother and her mother before that – love, marriage, baby carriage.   So when I came to turn fifty several years ago I was struck that I had not made much of  vow to my true self.

When I turned fifty I invited my women family and friends to join me in a ritual to celebrate my arrival into cronedom. Even though I was not yet through the menopause and not yet a grandmother I thought marking the beginning of my sixth decade was an appropriate moment in time.   This was a ceremony I did without the men in my life and the vow I took that day was to take up more of being married to my self. To begin to own the wisdom I had accumulated over my lifetime of womanhood, motherhood, wifedom, sisterhood and auntiness. I wanted to claim both my singularity and my collective experience of being a woman.  My own betrothal to myself to be intentionally on the journey to union with the cosmic powers of creation and the centrality of our mother earth.  I was so blessed that day by the presence of a woman from this most ancient land the Kaurna people who smoked the site for us to come together and who generously gave us permission to be there invoking the generations and the spirit of the land to support me and the community of women who had gathered.  I was further blessed by a woman who shared my faith journey and celtic spirit to lead the ceremony. The women who gathered were from all parts of my life and as I have no sisters and no aunts and therefore no cousins (male or female) I had created this sisterhood and was blessed by their presence.  During the ritual I crossed over to Cronedom and embarked on the next stage of my life, knowingly supported by my experiences  and memories gained as a maiden and a mother.  This threshold welcomes wisdom, holiness, a right to be revered and respected, a gateway to transformation and capacity to live with the ambiguity of mystery.

I am thinking about all this as in the past six months two of my children have announced their betrothal. I like the power of the word betrothal.  It declares, it states intention, the promise to act and to follow through. A sacred pledge to the world that you are for a single person and they for you. As two lives become threaded and woven together the tapestry you will make together begins.

As the families and the communities gather together to support the couple and give witness to the love and the intentionality it is also a celebration of betrothals of the past that bear witness and are bearing fruit.

Each generation works out what this commitment will look like for them. The deep seeds sown in the dark so long ago are now in bloom and the fragrance of love is heavy in the air.  I am taking a moment to remember those early days of being head over heels in love that I now know lead to the promises of being “true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, and until death do us part”.  The promises that lead to many gifts, and for me those gifts included children.

One of the betrothed has never lived alone and I am delighting in the knowledge that it will be a tribe gathered today as the commitment is publicly declared.

I am encouraged again by David Whyte from his book The Three Marriages, when he writes of the conversation between the triad of marriages – with self, a partner and work that this conversation offer us  “a sense of profound physical participation with creation, the reconfirmation that we are not alone in the world, and the reminder that there is a larger context to existence than the one we have established ourselves.”

I am seeing the croneing ritual for my fiftieth birthday as my betrothal and the conversation maturing as I head into my mid – fifties and so perhaps the marriage to myself is taking its right and proper place in my triptych. It is a Garden of Earthly (and unearthly) Delights!


Trinity Spring and Harvest

Dear Hildegard,

In less than three months I will be taking my pilgrimage off shore to Italy, Ireland, UK and a UAE.  I am preparing in various ways the body, mind and soul. I am reflecting on the work of David Whyte as central to the journey; and knowing that it might be just as important not to be prepared. I am remaining as open as I can be to the elemental experiences that lie ahead.

As part of the preparation, I have been reviewing Whyte’s The Three Marriages. I remain drawn to the thought that “sometimes the best thing we can do is to hold a kind of silent vigil beside the part of us that is going through the depths of a difficult transformation” (p340f).

I have actively been keeping vigil and the liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter have been a wonderful companion to me in this time.  As the Easter tide opens, I find I am falling in love with myself and  my work again.  This is both a relief and a joy. I have some of the symptoms and signs of falling in love. I find myself smiling and giggling. I think about what I am going to wear and what I am going to look like, people are saying I am looking younger and brighter -even glowing!  There is an innocence and awe  too. Child-like, I am embracing this new beginning and trying to come to this new space, fresh.  I am still finding old habits creeping in and at times the old lover haunting me like a phantom or even stalking me like a domestic violence perpetrator. These moments are now infrequent and more often than not, impotent.

For Whyte it is not a work-life balance, but a marriage of marriages. This trinity is three marriages: to our self, our partner and our work.

“Doing something innocent, dangerous and wonderful all at the same time may be the perfect metaphor for understudying one of the demands made by a marriage of marriages: the need to live in multiple contexts, multiple layers and with multiple people all at the same time without choosing between them. A kind of spiritual and imaginative multitasking, but in which we attempt to be present to everything occurring, to have a foundation that will hold them all and not be distracted by passing details” (p352).

The foundations are holding me well and the tedium of distracting details are falling away as they no longer serve me (or in reality never served me at all).

I am in a virtual and real time cornucopia.

I am reconnecting with old friends. I have been selected to present at the next TEDx event in Adelaide. I have had surprise visits from people special to me who have done me the honour of seeking me out in their precious time in Adelaide. I have received happy news of love and commitment. I have been greeted and affirmed in familiar and surprising places.  I am blessed. And on top of all this, my physical pilgrimage is getting closer by the hour.

As the snow melts in your homeland Hildegard, and the spring flowers start to find their way to the sun (the Easter season makes more sense in the Northern hemisphere than in the South), I can see and feel and touch and taste and smell and intuit that spring has come in my heart too.  The steps I am taking in my journey seem a lot lighter right now. (This could well be preparing me for what lies ahead and so be it.)  But for now, my basket is overflowing with all the fruits of the season and the season is both spring and autumn.

Your love, dear Hildegard, of all things green, and your instruction to be green and to do green things, I think is not just about creation but also about ourselves. I hear it as a call to renewal and spring time.  You reflect that when we warm ourselves by the fire in the winter, it is to store the heat and energy to move closer to the light so we can stay ‘wet and juicy’ and catch the greenness of good works and the energy of the heart.

“The soul that is full of wisdom is saturated with the spray of a bubbling foundation” (cited in Fox, M  Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen p.64). The intimacy that occurs when we connect ourselves to our foundations, keep watch and allow for both the spring and the harvest is a pilgrimage all of its own.  The journey is fuelled by the energy of love that delivers abundant justice for ourselves and the planet – all fruits of our labour and our love become visible once again. Maybe Whyte’s Three Marriages is your Trinity ?

“A flame is made up of brilliant light, red power, and fiery heat. It has brilliant light that it may shine, red power that it may endure, and fiery heat that it may burn” (Hildegard of Bingen The Ways of the Lord p.68).  The marriage of marriages weaves my commitments together. Being in love with more of those marriages brings a harvest in my season and the green shoots of spring in yours.