Monthly Archives: March 2015

Winter comes early to Willunga

Dear Sor Juana,

There are signs that autumn is settling in and while she has not quite fully made her home, the leaves on the vines are starting to turn, the mornings are cool and the last of the summer fruits are finding their way to the table. Apparently the word autumn comes from Latin via the Etruscans making the journey to autumnus via augere meaning “to increase”. What are we increasing in these days? After the harvest, we find we have more darkness, more coldness, more nakedness in the European landscape.

The Kaurna people call this time Parnatti – before winter rains, while there is still the potential of bushfire and the south easterly winds are licking the coast line. The mixture of our natural and exotic species can be confusing but somehow it resolves in the sunsets.

Aldinga Sunet

Aldinga Sunset

Dear Sor Juana you too would have faced the confusion of introduced and indigent in your landscape too, inside and out of the court and perhaps you too had your own sense of what the season should hold and how it would play out. The season you joined the court brought you more notoriety and harvest for your words and your thoughts before you chose silence – your winter defiance to authority making no more of your poetry and playwriting.

Before  photo: Meme Thorne

photo: Meme Thorne

Ancient redgums that have stood for generations, and long before colonisation were felled this week in Willunga – a town whose name means “place of trees” in Kaurna. It seems developers, local council officers and planning laws conspired together, indeed decreed, they be felled. The travesty leaves me in silence.  This is not a harvest of wood for fires and warmth, instead it is a desecration now fuelling anger, heartache, homelessness for the creatures who found sanctuary and food.  A new species of homeowners will come, and the money made from this fall will be cursed by the ancient custodians of the land.

Homeless Photo: Michelle Crawford

Photo: Michelle Crawford

The clash of two worlds is sawdust on the place where the evergreen faithful Eucalyptus Camaldulensis once stood.  Their crucifixion via chain saw and planning law, short sightedness and lack of imagination has brought winter to Willunga earlier this year.






You can read and see more images here

I am Woman

Dear Sor Juana,

Strolling from Butterfly Walk to Blueridge Drive is the kind of walk Mums, Dads, neighbours, and children take most days of the week to get to the local kindy or perhaps to give their dog a run in the park, or climb a tree.

This week that walk was made by a family and community in mourning. While they slept, a young mother ‘s life was taken by her partner, her body in the front seat of a car in view of her little ones and a neighbour made the call to police. This is not the first time. In my country Sor Juana, Jackie Ohide was the 25th woman this year (and it is not yet the end of March) to have her life ended in this way. I was in shock when I heard the news and soon afterwards was flashing back to another Jacqui fifteen years ago who too had her life extinguished, just a suburb away. How many more Jackie’s and other women just like her need to die. What aren’t we getting right?

Fifteen years ago I was in a car travelling to the city and got a call from the place Jacqui worked at. I was the chairman of the Southern Domestic Violence Service and she was one of our staff. She first came to us as a client and then sometime later joined the payroll. I turned the car around and went to be with all the staff. We gathered them all in, held them close as loose or as tight as they needed to be held. We mostly though sat in silence and in shock. It was those memories that flooded back. The shock. The silence. What could we have done to protect her. She was stalked to her death by her ex-partner. It was cold blooded no crime of passion or frustration. It was horrible. Unlike this week’s Jackie, Jacqui had left her home and the violence about seven years earlier – and she still was not safe.

I was deeply moved in Butterfly Walk when neighbours extended their love and support to Jackie’s family and friends – a community bound together in solemn grief, committed to care for her boys, to keep her memory alive. They described her smile, her joy, her mothering. Mostly mute and in between sobs, we witnessed her brother, sister, mother and closest friends paralysed by the incomprehension of her death. Little ones from her children’s kindergarten arrived in single file with a single sunflower held aloft. No words work to describe the emotions experienced by watching their arrival and respectful, gentle, little faces sitting on the ground while the grown ups made their speeches.

I came home Sor Juana to my friendly house, in my friendly street, but who knows what goes behind some of the doors here too? I am committed to be more vigilant to watch and speak up when I see violence or even get a sniff of it. I re-read what I had written a couple of years ago to mark the One Billion Rising Campaign – Jacqui (of 15 years ago) is in that post. I thought about her boys who would be in their twenties now.

The contrast Sor juana  the hopeful anthem of my childhood I am Woman being remastered and mixed with some of my country’s greatest songstresses, brought me to tears when I saw it on television this week. Women’s voices raised in unison to declare strength, confidence and promise of better times ahead. I wonder Sor Juana did you get strength from the women’s voices in the chapel? Rising in voice and spirit to proclaim the Magnificat where the meek and humble are exalted, hungry are filled with good things, the rich are sent empty away and mercy is promised. So many women of your era chose the convent to cut themselves off from the menfolk to keep themselves safe from the vagaries that may come with wedlock or being a spinster.

There weren’t too many women roaring at Butterfly Walk this week, but the silence was very loud.

And the work goes on.

I stand with the women and men who commit themselves daily to be amongst this work – the activists, the shelter workers, policy makers, emergency service workers, the police, child care workers, council officers … the list goes on … we are all in this work … friends, neighbours, men, women, boys, girls, sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts.


If you wish to support Jackie’s family

Jackie Ohide Appeal

BSB: 065156

Account Number: 10608745
or send a message of support:


First press

First press

Dear Sor Juana,

I love how vineyards reflect the seasons and the cycle of life and at this time of year the harvest is on around me, in the cool of the evening when the sugar has reached its desired level bunches of grapes leave the vine. It is vintage.

The picking by human hand or mechanical beast methodically works its way down each and every row, leaving behind stalks, lizards, snails, earwigs and hard dried pellets of grapes dehydrated by an unseasonal heat wave. The care of the vineyard manager to bring the best yield forward to market, with the promise of a bonus is in the air. You can smell the fermentation already beginning in the waste dumped on the soil behind the sheds, and the early juices are rising to the top in the bins waiting for collection to go to the winemaker. It is vintage.

Harvest in Hand

Harvest in Hand

A bunch of grapes clings together and only has meaning as a bunch, individual grapes always look very lonely to me.

I am sure you loved grapes and wine Sor Juana and you did write about racimos (cluster) in your play and had fun with Bacchus the god of wine and Racimo as characters in a farce – your appreciation between wine and a bunch of grapes shone through! I visited award-winning vineyards this week as a racimos – three old friends and I – a lovely afternoon in the sunshine of the Fleurieu Peninsula. All from similar root-stock, although grafted onto different varieties we shared our common appreciation of place, story and wine. It was a vintage all of its own the colour of shiraz , deep, sweet and harvested, sipped in between swigs of Family Reserve in the kitchen at Finniss.

The metaphor of vines, vineyard and wine is never a cliché for me – it is a constant connection to art and science and the cycle of life and it is vintage.  All the senses are open and my love affair with where I live continues.

Vines on Finniss

Vines on Finniss

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

 — David Whyte
from Songs for Coming Home
©1984 Many Rivers Press


Viva Sister Moon

Dear Sor Juana,

The moon rose over my city last night and the park grooved along to a Cuban beat, ageing bodies on the stage and all around me, rhythmically responding to the full moon with whole heartedness.

I am so grateful for the Latin influences in my life, you being one of them Sor Juana. There is a spirit of abandon and celebration that recognises the waxing and waning, newness and fullness that comes with the Latin spirit. There is something about the groove that finds me moving in an out almost on the spot but not really going too far from my centre.

Tomorrow the day will dawn on another International Women’s Day and while I am grateful to the men in my life, it is the women who sustain me time and time again. A dear friend last night remarked on the reliability of Sister Moon. The lunar cycle connects women, one and all – married, single, celibate, premenstrual, post menopausal – we all have a little knowledge of what it is like to wax and wane, be new and be full.

Womadelaide 4 day pass

Womadelaide 4 day pass

As usual March begins and we are spoilt in Adelaide, Writers Week, Festival and Fringe, International Women’s Day breakfast (largest in the country from one the smallest capital cities selling out in one week) and of course Womadelaide. The full moon was the appropriate expression of the planet over our city last night! I am filled up and over flowing with the riches of these days and nights. New ideas are brewing, incubating and in time will be birthed!

There was Omara Portunondo jiving and singing her heart out, almost refusing to leave the stage. In her mid-eighties, I am inspired to sing and dance my way into the future as well. Viva Cuba! Viva Bueno Vista Social Club! Viva Sister Moon!

Moon over Womad

Moon over Womad

Dancing with Omara

Dancing with Omara

Home and Away

Dear Sor Juana,

Journeys are full of home and away moments.  You are both home and away at the same time. For the act of coming home to yourself you don’t need to be away.  Invisible Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs trails appear on the landscape having been sown into the subconscious years ago lead my pilgrim steps.  There is deep time (and I have written about this previously) occasionally seeping in between the rocks, cracks and crannies. One such home and away moment recently was spent in a Roman basilica, resting place of brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius. In this lavish palace, once home to a Pope you will find generations of stories laid and overlaid and each breadcrumb you follow will take you down deeper.

In Rome, St Clemente Basilica’s  will lead you under ground to discoveries all the way back to the first century. There you find remnants of a home fed by a still functioning fresh water spring, and is the foundation for the religious community finding refreshment through their faith. At the same time the living museum above is drenched with incense being dispensed by bejewelled thurible’s being held by bejewelled princes of the church.   A smoking ceremony of long past to cleanse and bless the place of worship. This night the feast of the brothers  is celebrated and more than a millennia of history, remembered . The ancient chorus, call and response reverb up and down the crypt sung by the faithful.  It is not my home though and I am resolved to be visiting a living museum.

Sor Juana you would have been at home here in the crypt and with all the trappings of a well-heeled court still visible in the treasures on the walls and behind glass, yet at the same time, I think you too would have felt alienated from this grandeur so far away from the simplicity and radical message at the origins of the faith and the drivers that took Cyril and Methodius to take them far from home to spread their version of good news.

I am home and I am away.


St Cyril’s Feast Day

Gregorian chant

Gold, frankincense and myrrh

Painted stone

Layers discovered below

Another above disappears

Crests and capes

Crowns adorned with rubies, emeralds, pearls

The Holy Roman Empire strikes a chord

While the founder of the firm

Dies (again) of embarrassment.

St Clemente Basilica

St Clemente Basilica