Monthly Archives: February 2021

2021 Meeting the Moment #9

The balmy March evening had attracted plenty of moths to the flame, the East End of the city of churches was bursting at the seams. The zero attention being paid by revellers to any kind of physical distancing was a sign of confidence and triumph in public policy, compliance and a lot of luck. The rude health of Adelaide on display for the world to see. There were remnants of bygone times with QR codes on venues and COVID marshalls in hiviz mixed like pepper and salt with Security personnel, but they were the weedy ones, Security were more burly, taller, muscular. How did we get it so good? Here we are again in Festival mode and everything seems right in the bubble we have in this southern extremity of a land at the bottom of the globe, enjoying what the Northern Hemisphere call a Meditteranean climate in mid March where the frangipanis, honeysuckle and jasmin are in the breeze and home brewers can sit in their sheltered verandahs to discuss the variations of barley used in Lime Gose and mid-strength beers. It is the height of privilege.

The lands we are on for these festivals of the arts have never been ceded and past pandemics wiped out whole communities. Some of the viruses came on boats unannounced, others were probably by design and the evidence of purposely impregranted smallbox into blankets ostensibly handed out for warmth, is documented. The land of the red kangaroo Tarntanyangga holds the city together and the colour red continues in the landscape with the creek we call a river named by the colonists as the Torrens and in Kaurna known as Karrawirra Parri, Redgum forest. There are remnant Redgums around the outskirts of the city and you will find groves here and there inside the marked out turf of the surveyed ‘square mile’.

Soon we will all be listening to the sounds of the planet, in the annual musical festival of Womadelaide which has been a tradition for me over many years. This year there will be a celebration of homegrown music, while so many troupes are unable to travel to our place. The celebrations of survival and thriving of voices in first languages will be heard wafting across what is being named King Rodney Park Ityamai-Itpina, in honour of one of the three Kaurna elders present at the proclamation of the colony of South Australia. (If you want to know who King Rodney was check out this podcast).

Past, present and future time fuse and the invitation to meet moments concurrently are offered up in the landscape. How we name and experience the spaces we inhabit time and space with our bodies, our memories, our DNA and entangled epigenetics, and the knowledge that we stardust , is a constant invitation to consider how we move forward as individuals, a community and a species. Wandering around my home town with all the freedom and civility and safety it offers has come at the cost of others and it is not always comfortable, and I am grateful for all the bounty that has come to me, in equal measure.

Treading lightly and keeping an open heart and open ears and eyes to what is in the landscape and the stories held in the bark of those red gums and the in the soil and roots deep down below the surface, invisible to me, is a privilege and one I will try not to take for granted.

May all that is seen and unseen, heard and unheard,

melt into meaning.

May all that is been and becoming, done and undone,

soften our dreaming.

Meeting the moment 2021 #8

Many women in my country and also in my State would have found moments to meet triggered by what was happening in our Parliaments. In the national legislature a woman who had bravely reported being raped in a minister’s office watched along with the rest of the public have her voice drowned out by numerous verbal gymnastics about what was known or not known, seen or not seen, heard or not heard by her employers, law enforcement agencies, peers in the train of investigation. For some this would have been a story of workplace misconduct, for others it would have triggered memories of being sexually assaulted in places that might have been deemed safe such as their work sites or home. Then there is the experience of the witness, people who knew, saw, spoke up or turned away. And then there is us, we are now all witnesses to what we have seen and heard. What would we say if we were to be called up by the court? I would say I saw a woman of courage who was willing to speak up and make visible a crime of power. I would note that the boss of the worksite was unable to understand what the alleged crime was all about and unable to man up and called upon his wife for guidance being bereft of a moral compass of his own. I would point to the way in which the public discourse was going so a bigger frame of patriarchy, power and privilege was unfolding in the conversation and arrows of the gender wars were flying about. Away from the stand, as I doubt I would be asked such a question, I would wonder if the woman from a non-dominant culture or First Nations, or from a non-government political party, whether the story would be in the public domain.

In my State parliament after decades of debate and community led lobbying and meticulous campaigning, abortion was decriminalised. The Bill was brought by a female Attorney-General and almost exclusively the people speaking agains the Bill were men, and almost exclusively women members of the parliament voted to support the Bill which was passed on a conscience vote. I have had so many women talk to me over the years in the privacy and intimacy of friendship of their experience of abortion. I have never initiated a conversation, it usually starts with them stating they know I am a Christian, a Catholic, and so don’t want to offend me and then as they notice a listening ear tell me something of their circumstances. These are not conversations I invite, they come often because they are sharing a moment of grief, providing an example of an irreversible difficult decision, a step deeper into friendship, and a few times it has been because the person was looking for someone to authorise their loss because there isn’t any ritual they were able to find for this kind of mourning. To bear witness to these disclosures, I feel is holy ground, between what is seen and unseen. As the debate wound its way to a conclusion, I expect there were women in the debate, women in the circles of the men speaking who had first hand experience of abortion, although they may not have known that. The debate and now the legislation would have triggered others and like me been a trigger for memories of the women who have shared their story with me. In solidarity I witness these women.

While the debate in the public places of the media and in the corridors of parliaments across the land, and on the floor of the Houses around our nation raises the issues, the concerns, struggles to make and implement laws, women in private places like kitchens, cars, counselling corners, continue to do the work for us all. They find ways to work through power and privilege and untangle moral codes of others as well as their own. Silence is rarely a place of safety and as the adage goes sunlight is a the best disinfectant. The value of these moments this past week feels like some sunlight was beamed into the chambers. While some of the public statements made in the press and those recorded by Hansard by male leaders and elected representatives might feel like a return to the bygone era of 1950s, as a witness to these events, I am meeting these two moments of the week, by celebrating courage and tenacity and noticing a shift in the tectonic plates of patriarchy.

Photo by Chelsi Peter from Pexels

Meeting the moment 2021 #7

Housing and home-making, place, nesting and resting seem to be in the discourse with women and young couples who are swirling around me. The litany includes: lack of affordable housing, the price of houses for sale, the limited options in the rental market, how airBnB is being used to supplement incomes and reduce stock for rental, banks and interest rates, auctions, innovations in financial models and legal arrangements, selling a home to downsize, materials to use for building, sustainable energy options. I have long had an interest in the centrality of housing for health, prosperity and happiness and invoking the Year of the Ox characteristics of hardworking, reliable, honest, it seems that these qualities are not enough to bring housing justice to all. Women over 45 are the fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia, 400,000 at risk is a number, and behind each of one of these is a story with its roots in a combination of factors – insecure employment, migration, refugee status, domestic violence, private rental, indigenous, ill health, single parent, fractured network of support from family and/or friends. And a house is more than a roof over your head, nesting is real, putting down roots suits most people, being a troubadour or pilgrim is not for everyone.

Not everyone who is at risk of homelessness even realises this or names themselves in this way. For example I had a friend who moved between her daughters for a few years, supporting their fledgling families establish themselves but had no home of her own eventually finding social housing to settle. When she divorced she got her share of the estate which was modest and inexperienced in money management, with no secure employment and being an age unable to get a bank loan to meet the difference she found herself in this insecure housing situation. Another friend sold her home, paid off the mortgage and moved to her family holiday home while she decided where to go next in part to take steps to a more sustainable and aligned with her values, lifestyle. She is still looking for the right site to make a long term home, and in the meantime she is getting older and further away from a bank’s desire to lend to her. She is a casual worker and can snap up opportunities when they present themselves effectively, has health issues that this kind of employment can be supported by taking breaks as necessary, but the illusive permanent roof over her head is not yet realised. A third woman I know has been in Australia less than a year. She has had a distinguished career and is looking to land here. Finding short-term accomodation as she organises legal and financial threads has been proving hard in a rental housing market that is skewed to long-term or AirbnB type arrangements. She falls in the middle. She is a very capable person and it has been more than a culture shock not to have the ease of making a decision and being able to realise it happen in close succession. A fourth woman I know has considerable support from a women’s housing service and as a consquence of her rental property being no longer available, she and her children, two out of three with significant disabilities, living with a friendly neighbour. She has been unable to find accomodation and the support service have literally been turing up every possiblity even to knocking on doors of empty houses. She wants to keep her children in the schools and neighbourhood to minimise disruption and hang onto the community she has near by. Then there is a young couple who are searching to buy a home. They have professional backgrounds and are competent and capable. They have permanent employment, support of family and a strong network of friends. The prices are rising each day as houses get bought up in auctions by more experienced and wealthier couples or family groups. I am sure we all know people who can fit into these stories. What surprises me is that I am hearing all these conversations at the moment and the prevelance of language about home and hearth. A house is so much more than a piece of real estate, its role in creating a nest where you can nurture yourself, host others, find space for privacy, fashion intimacy with self and invite community. It is a place where the economy, social, political and environmental values can be broadcast, learnt, enabled. It is where doors open to bring rest, nourishment, healing waters. I always think having a shower (or a bath) in your own home is one of the great luxuries of the rich and I try not to take it for granted. The running water, choices of hot and cold and the blend that comes at my fingertips to be like Goldilocks and get it just right, the cascade of warmth relieving tension and bringing relaxation to muscles.

I have a house blessing that was gifted I think from my paternal grandmother, it has travelled with me to all the homes I have lived in. It speaks of qualities in a house that are hospitable, well lit, is strong and sturdy, and of a place that is a blessing and blessed. These seem to be all reasonable prayerful requests. As I am lucky enough to have more than I need in terms of housing and land, I am challenged by how to share that and also keep the quiet I need for my own sanity in this season of my life. There are more configurations emerging in my mind and as more and more conversations explore what is needed to meet the moment of this housing shortage, affordable options and new ways of living together and in the eavesdropping into emergent housing solutions.

2021 Meeting the moment #6

February has started unusually cool, I even had a jumper on yesterday. The way temperature impacts on mood is something to watch. Wanting to cosy up as the air becomes a little more crisp is an invitation to intimacy. I notice conversations take a little step deeper and still stay in the comfort and comforting zone. Over this past week there have been conversations in a range of media that wouldn’t have happened if the usual stressful heat of February was pounding and pulsating. We have even had heavy rains, and gentle showers, a phenomena a long way from the smell of smoke on the horizon and the threat of bushfire that we usually have swirling around at this time of the year. Sure we have had a bushfire event only a week or so ago, but it fades right away as the earth and sky acts cool.

The conversations have come in print through trading of texts and on various messaging platforms, they have come between lines on a page, in real time on the voices mediated by telephony, and of course face to face. They have included devasting news from a dear friend, witnessing of an extraordinary life being celebrated extinguished by cancer leaving teens motherless, joyful voices singing the traditional Happy Birthday to a daughter and sibling, solidarity messages between sojourners, evidence and claims of capability in a fancy upstairs office block to triumvirate determining worth of a trio seeking to join them on in a quest for systemic change, a series of exchanges of ideas tumbling over hurdles and leapfrogging through the air to get to new places, recipes written to invoke and create a time past … and these conversations are not all of the ones I have had in this time. Each conversation is encoded with the principes of barter at its core and the stock price of the trade slides around according to the intimacy. The most expensive moments, are like perfume, where just a drop of the essence can carry you further into relationship.

Early conversations, are like early music, where the words, the inflexions, the choice of media to communicate, are still forming, the notes a little dependent on stylised scores. And the old conversations can take on a similiar vibe, but that is because the players are more skillful and know how to employ these same elements to communicate effectively with precision that lands every note in the right place at the right time. In this cool season the counterpoint is supported by the temperature and brings the conversations its own musicality between the contributors who know when to take a rest, take a turn to expect the rhythm to arrive with ease. Timing seems to be a big part of the this, allowing spaces where the emptiness gives depth and then little words that skip in a staccato form provide urgency to move the conversation along when that might be needed as well. In the cool of these days and nights I am noticing that there is more familiarity and less urgency and a pace more akin to walking than running or standing still. There is definitely movement in these more mellow times.

No doubt there are still going to be more days ahead when the temperature will stifle conversations and bring that mix of speed and stillness. Speed to get through the heat and the stillness of not being to do much except flop onto a couch under a fan. The conversations change too and there are more moments of clipped speech, undertones of exhaustion and frustration, talk of fire and a future where the whole planet is suffocating.

With the cool comes space to think and plan and conjure, it is respite for the soul. I have been contemplating how to bring more cool to my life to be a little more like Goldilocks and get the temperature ‘just right’ to do what is needed to meet everyday moments.

Photo by Marc Zimmer on Unsplash