Monthly Archives: July 2021

Meeting the Moment 2021 #30

A couple of weeks after I was married (I was 19) I went to see for coloured girls when the rainbow is enuf – a series of poems and dance unique award-winning tale of the African-American woman’s journey in America by Ntozake Shange. It was the 1978 Adelaide Festival of the Arts. A few years earlier the Aboriginal Flag had flown for the first time in the square, next door to my high school,  right near the theatre this show was being performed in. I was learning and soaking up stories about being black, being an outsider, slavery and liberation. I knew more about slavery in North America, the slave trade out of England than I did about what was in my own country. As that decade rolled on into the next the apartheid movement and all the injustices took hold of me as well, and I grew in my understanding of the lack of a just settlement in Australia, mainly driven by the investigations and leadership of the Australian Catholic Bishops and the Australian Council of Churches, who I also worked for on and off throughout the 1980s and between campaigns there were children. Organising was what happened in schools, union halls, church buildings and in the columns of community news-sheets. When the bi-centennial came in 1988 I learnt more and had a few key people take me under their wing with practical, theological and ethical considerations to keep me curious, engaged, active. Foundations were laid, never fully or completely taken up, but enough there to hold the seeds in place and odd ones germinated from time to time as necessary.  It was not an intellectual exercise. I adorned the walls of the kitchen with healing bush foods, made and bought clothes with the messages, flags and materials to draw attention to the issues, read stories about justice and held up liberation leaders as role models. There was a fair bit of righteousness going on.  During this time I brought unwanted attention to my family from an ultra-right wing group who threw bricks through the windows of my children’s bedroom, damaged the car, wrote racist graffiti on the window of an overseas student who was boarding with us, had our phone bugged, children followed home from kindergarten, appeared in the press and on television to amplify the stories, gave evidence to a commission …. it was a heady period and there were times I felt courageous, and times I felt terrified for myself and for my family.  It all came together in front of the Adelaide Catholic Cathedral one day when I was abused walking out the front with an Aboriginal leader and fellow member of the Archdiocese Justice and Peace Commission, as we headed off to give evidence of our experience of vilification to a Human Rights Commissioner. A woman well known for her conservative religious beliefs abused me as we walked past the doors of the Cathedral. The irony of the moment left my friend and I in shock. We didn’t speak about it, we just kept walking.  I wasn’t 30 and so young in my activism but already felt I had a life time of experience.  Adelaide is hardly a hotbed of revolution, although we have been home to a lot of firsts in human rights and democratic practices.

The winds and rain and hail these past few days falling around me have brought me inside. In reflection, I have been struck by how little I look back, I try to be a pilgrim, to keep walking towards the light and finding each footing to have its own quality and character to guide the next step to be taken. All the steps of the past are the ones that have got me here, they are all worthy of mention from time to time, to remind myself of where I have walked, who has walked with me, who I have walked with, when I have rested, who I have rested with.

The pilgrim way is one step at a time and when I look back over my shoulder, I can see that there has been a path followed and yet the one over the hill that meets the horizon, remains invisible, melting into the sky. I can confidently keep walking knowing that each step is preparing me for the next.  Of late the backpack has been very heavy and even though it might grow in size and shape, it might also be lighter, such is the paradox of the pilgrim. Come night, the remains of the day, like the sand or pebbles from the road, can be shook from the shoes, rest arrives and silence stills the body and the mind as the inner journey prepares the next steps to be taken.  

I have been quoting Toni Cade Bambara this week who said  ‘As a culture worker who belongs to an oppressed people, my job is to make revolution irresistible.’  That is the work, to make the revolution irresistible. We need all the poets, pilgrims, designers, brand experts, lyricists, writers, musicians and artists. Having time and space to rest into the creative is a gift of these wild and windy days and nights. My response has been to make marmalade. Bitter sweet, citrus fruits, hot, steaming, bubbling and frothing, needing sterilised jars to hold the golden coloured jam, sealed in anticipation for spreading on hot toast. And that feels all just right to meet this moment and I hope deliciously irresistable.

Dark and Light Marmalade – Mandarins, Lemons, Grapefruit July 2021

Meeting the moment 2021 #29

The power was off for nearly sixteen hours and the winds were raging, I was having a Dorothy moment, thinking I might end up in Kansas. It was one of those moments with the windows rattling, the banging of loose tin, something unknown and metallic hitting against a nearby fence and in the distance a crash of a branch. By mid afternoon men in hi-vis and big white trucks were wandering up and down the street and around the corner matching their knowledge to the ferocity of what had been the night before and its impact on 67 households (according to the app). These are the moments I remember to be grateful for power, hot water, wi-fi, heating … I take so much of this for granted in my first world comfort zone.  

A storm like this, only a few years back, had me driving my dying husband around in the car with his ventilator plugged in so it could recharge via the car’s auxiliary power outlet. We went up and down roads and through vineyards and over hills, until the power at home went back on.  We had dispensation to be a priority customer given his reliance on oxygen, but we didn’t get the supply immediately and also up until then didn’t have tanks on hand to compensate.  (We got them after that and never had to use them.)  I am grateful I don’t have to live through all those moments again.  Stormy conditions are not always equitable. Some of us have more resources than others, more jackets to put on, better quality umbrellas, back up powerpacks. I have come to consider the non-physical versions of these, resilience tools.

The breath is what distinguishes something as being alive or dead. The raging storm lets me know well I am alive, all creation is alive.

In the storm, the air finds its voice mixed with the staccato of hail, the rumble of thunder, the crescendo of waves of rain crashing like waves on the beach. Then the quiet arrives, not quite silence, as birds find ways to harmonise with the new post-storm atomic score. You take time to clean up debris, replace and restore what is out of place or is not in any shape to be able to be retained. The path of the storm has left a clearing where, there is now, more light.

I have been haunted by the past and some very tricky personalities presenting themselves this week. I felt darkness descending and shadows forming, not of my making and not at my invitation. In true Celt fashion, a triptych of deeptime sensory discomfort. The storm blew in to deliver lessons. The electricity lines being down seemed to draw a line, cut off supply and blew away the bad spirits. The elements have guided me and delivered the high, fierce and dangerous winds required to shift the predatory shadows circling me. 

The invitation to live in this space between and with the elements, is something I am learning more about, thanks to continuing to delve into my Celtic roots especially through the works of John O’Donohue and guidance of Norin Ni Riain. I am learning to take instruction from the elements, to live more in tune to the seasons, the turn of the sun, the tidal power of the moon and the dance steps of planets and stars. It is not lost on me, this relationship between wind and breath, and the feminine word for spirit (ruah) in the Judeo-Christian tradition. It feels quite pointed and poignant, as I meet the moment of this week, reflecting on the symphonic elemental natural world as my spiritual guide.

Photo by Anandu Vinod on Unsplash

Meeting the Moment 2021 #28

I slipped over early in the week, nothing serious, but I did break my glasses. The local optometrist team worked magic and put what they could back in place, hopefully long enough to hold before new ones arrive. I find it so hard to see clearly without my specs and the short trip to get it all sorted was as stressful a moment as I have had in a long time.  The anxiety ramped up quickly and how much I take my glasses for granted was instantly the centre of my attention. 

Saturday started on the ocean with an intense sea fog and ended with a stunning winter sunset – and that is how the broken glasses incident was too. It began in complete haze and inability to focus or make anything out and ended in the warm glow of professionals who had seen many a day and knew how to close it up with colour.  I am finding I am living a lot between these two kinds of horizons  – muddled haze and translucent clarity.  Calibrating between these two is more than a binary choice, it is a process of constant adjustment against values and principles and a loose attempt to be living inside planetary constraints.  I am forever falling short and holding myself to account is only part of the story. I really appreciate it when others call me out, give me a nudge or even a push and a shove. It all helps me know where the boundaries are and who or what holds them in place. There are often surprises to when those ‘beautiful constraints’ might be.  More than once I have found my good intentions to fall foul of an invisible boundary I had accidentally transgressed.

This week I had the good fortune to be listening and learning from Aboriginal elders and lawyers talk about how we are governed and what laws get applied when decisions are made. I learnt about Aboriginal law, earth jurisprudence and Western jurisprudence and their differences revolving around the rights and responsibilities inside each and primacy of land and/or humans. All this in NAIDOC Week seemed a perfect alignment, and there were plenty of foggy and clear moments.  There is no way I would have been able to process the conversation and what I was learning without my glasses! The interdependence of what I hear, what I see and how I integrate and feel my through new learning seems completely reliant on being able to see clearly. Fog lifts for me once I can process new information and give it meaning and make sense of it in how I can apply new knowledge to everyday situations.  Big ideas need our big skies and even bigger hearts. 

The joy of discovering a new way of seeing the world usually is followed by the grief of never being able to see it the old way again and knowing that there is a cost to that, because of the privilege you had in holding onto the old way of seeing. It is a constant letting go, unravelling as Leunig would say.  I reminder that ambiguity and lack of clarity are gateways to a more lucid future. Living in the present tense maybe a mindfulness act, but I don’t think it is enough for transformation, being rooted in the past and honestly confronting the consequences of those times in the present epigenetics and trauma and all that entails, is part of the necessary healing and heralding required for a kinder and more just future. I don’t want to go there … often … and it can feel like being on a hamster wheel … by not going there is to remain in the fog with broken glasses.

Slipping to enable glasses to be broken, getting the glasses temporarily repaired, being in the fog, seems to be a process and a natural law for meeting the moment.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Meeting the Moment 2021 #27

Six years ago, today I received a new title and role, Grandma. It was one I was looking forward too and one I have enjoyed very much. At the time I wrote about the feeling of the universe expanding, and that has continued through watching him make his way in the world, and for my part, stepping into eldership and spinning the straws of knowledge into wisdom. There is the constant invitation to see the world from a different height and imagination, a more digitised world, worlds within worlds. A renewed energy for justice making arrived with his birth and with it a reckoning of the amnesia of not paying enough attention to legacy and a less consumptive, less extractive behaviour. Then there is the reminder of living from the point of view of a child, living with wonder, curiosity and the never-ending learning from trial and error.

Places and spaces created for children have simple design features built in, like interactive elements at different heights. Rumour has it the intimacy of watching PlaySchool is in part due to camera operators filming at the height of a four-year-old. If all the world were designed from that perspective, we would get a glimpse of what works for children. Reading Design Justice and learning all about the inequities of design when you apply racial, gender, settler, colonial lens’ and it certainly got me thinking too about the lack of design justice for children, except in places that are designed exclusively with children in mind like playgrounds and children’s libraries. And then there is the policy context, designing a world where there is climate justice with future generations in mind, and the injustices of public policies past and some in the present that have generated so much grief and sadness. The horrors of how children from First Nations from Canada to Australia and everywhere in between have been discarded, thrown away or even worse, spring to mind. Children being removed from families, lost to their communities, disconnected from their heritage. Before there is just settlement of these matters, there is wailing, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.

Despair and darkness know no light when pain, shame and stain remain.

Back to the gift I have of intergenerational luxury, we sometimes work things out together and take it in turns to instruct the other in the ways of the world. He thoroughly enjoyed explaining to me how to order food in a drive through fast food outlet and demonstrated compassion at my failure to understand some basic manoeuvres in a game that involved zombies and plants. He eagerly took instruction on turning dry pappadums into something edible through the magic of microwaves and gave his own rationale for sausage rolls having to be spaced apart on a baking tray prior to going into the oven – they need their personal space. These are a few of the joys of being in the moment with a little person. They are moments, beads threaded on a necklace of delight.

The more clearly, we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction. – Rachel Carson, The Silent Spring
At my 60th birthday, 2018