Monthly Archives: September 2021

Meeting the Moment 2021 #39

Convergence seems to be my word of the moment. Various elements, ideas, opportunities and people seem to be coming together in planned and unplanned ways. I look to the natural world to guide meaning and in biology, convergence is the tendency of unrelated animals and plants to evolve superficially similar characteristics under similar environmental conditions. It is not unlike dog owners starting to look like their dogs, or partners that have been together for ages finishing each others sentences.

At my centre I am a social worker, a community developer, someone who likes to create the conditions for change to be self-organised, transformational. It is a moment of grace and humility when I start to notice convergence in the places, spaces and people I have been around. It is the practice of call and response and the inevitable harmonies that come when we all sing together – it is not unison and that is the beauty and the blessing.

A project I have been mid-wifing, which has a longer gestation than an elephant, is coming down the birth canal and definitely converging with a number of other initiatives. A complex set of circumstances has now made this timing probably more suitable than if it had come together earlier. Another convergence is a set of ideas competing for attention, now dancing together, and in fact if they were a dance it would probably be accompanied by a bush band, and caller, asking everyone to change partners at the next rotation and all of a sudden the pattern emerges and the whole room can see what is possible. Partnership is definitely a feature of convergence. On yet another plane, a number of friends have had a very tough week and in their sorrows, disappointments, betrayals they have all found solace in the convergence around the leadership parts of themselves. As witness to this phenomena, I too am able to converge some of the free floating radicals inside of me, giving me a booster shot to protect me from some of those same forces.

The convergence of the natural and unnatural worlds – fruit of the vine and work of human hands – is how my religious tradition puts it. That line being of my favourites since I was very young, embodies the convergence and cooperation of nature and humans explicitly pointing to the moment where they come together to make something more than the sum of their parts, with qualities that give a nod to their sources. What if we didn’t talk about nature as if we were separate from it, but rather a part of it – a complete convergence?

I visited an art exhibition this weekend where one of the artists, Anastasia La Fey, used her study of the zen philosopher Dogen and applied walking practice, to see walking as a means of observational movement along a landscape rather than the directional movement across it. This too speaks to me of convergence and a coming home. It is the separation experience I believe at the root of climate inaction. Another converging moment, occured on Friday night at a local library to hear from eight scientists about their fields. We heard from a diverse group of scientists about, among other things, worms, light as a diagnostic tool, machine learning and cancer treatments, and one of the speakers, Dr Sheryn Pitman told us of the gender gap in ecological literacy. Males, middle-age groups, the most highly educated, those with science-related educational backgrounds, those working in environment-related fields, those who grew up in small town environments rather than in large towns or cities and in those who had spent more than 10 years in SA were the most ecologically literate. She hypothesised that, the now middle aged men in the study, when young lads, were more likely to go exploring through creeks and mudflats, climbing trees and dissecting creatures, while their female peers were more likely to be closer to the domesticity of the home. If that hypothesis holds true then perhaps we can expect more action on climate change as policy makers tap into the inner child of those sitting at board tables and in parliamentary chambers. Now that would be a convergence!

“The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.” – Dōgen.

Photo by Hansjörg Keller on Unsplash

Meeting the moment 2021 #38

I love driving late in the day when the afternoon sun is falling and I am passing through the farms and vineyards, with the dappled light dances off gum trees. At this time of the year as soon as the sun makes landfall, the air is crisp and cool inviting another layer of clothing.  More dappling – this time on your body with a contrasting jumper or shawl to accompany you into the evening. I know this time as spring.  The changing light heralds transformation at this threshold, where the dappled light holds the glimpse of what is and what was.  I am in this zone and in tune with this season. I feel we are in dappled light. There is emergence and convergence all around me.

I am found myself talking about midwifery, what we are helping bring to life, calling out others to breathe, pant, stop, push, wait, pusher harder, go now, push again, breathe … the new is coming and as in any birth, the last part is the hardest, expert nursing is highly valued and an audience of a few while others pace nearby to hear the news of arrival, is all part of the deal. No one else can birth a babe for you, it is your work, there maybe a call for a surgical intervention, still is visceral, and fruit of your labour comes the new, raw, gasping for breath and usually with a cry in leaving the comfort and safety of an inner world you have hosted. I watch, listen and am encouraged by watching all the new life emerge and grow, but eventually it has to leave its host and be seen by the world. A world which will take time to adjust to the new life arriving. This is true for new ideas, new visions, a new creation of any kind.

I am noticing being in dappled light with lots of new things emerging and leaving the sanctity of interior worlds and there are many new things coming into the light. The word for this phenomena I have found myself using in conversations is convergence. I could have easily used the word, spring.  There are a number of initiatives and projects I have been contributing to at a systems level that have now come into the dappled light, fully formed, and yet still immature. I have found myself mid-wifing for others who are doing the same. Once the new comes into the world, others can shape it and hold it, share it and even sometimes seduce it and possibly even kidnap it and take it away – this is the risk of the new coming into the world. You can’t keep it contained once it emerges. 

This week the Hen House Coop I founded partnered with SuperFierce, an online platform for you to have an independent assessment of your current superannuation arrangements and getting advice back on where you might be able to make some tweaks to get improved investment results. There is a 47% gender retirement gap and this platform is one of the ways you can help close that gap, not just for yourself but for all women with super in Australia. By shifting funds at scale, the super system will start to adapt and respond. Once you have the free advice, from the numbers being run, then you can decide if you want to make the switch. If you do make the switch there is a fee and $100 goes to an amazing game-changing service turning around the lives of women at risk, through the GOGO Foundation and in turn the Hen House Co-op receives 10% of the fee as well to be used in our divestment campaign ReNest. We launched our divesting from patriarchy campaign this week and ReNest and our partnership with SuperFierce is one of the foundational pieces. You don’t need to be female to jump in and join the campaign or switch your super. This is win:win:win. It is dappled light with it new connections, new possibilities and spring. If you are in Australia reading this, and if you are still contributing to a superannuation fund and in particular if you have multiple funds, please do yourself a favour, do the women working with GOGO a favour, do us a favour in the Hen House so we can all continue to disrupt, emerge and converge to create new systems that work for everyone and close the wealth gaps. If you aren’t in this boat, tell someone who is, especially younger women. Did you know on average Australian women across their lifetime earn $2M less than men?  Help us all to shift these conditions, have more of our own money building the wealth for each other. I am at the other end of this equation and with disposable funds to distribute and share into the places I want to see more change to tilt our whole planet into springtime is urgent work. This is a moment to meet and a way you can help do that too.  The ReNest campaign has begun and I hope you can come join us, if not in this initiative in another one … because there will be more!  Let’s drive  through that dappled light and be ready for the crisp evenings as convergence comes and the new light brings the freckled beauty of the new – pied beauty of emergence and convergence.

Pied Beauty 

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

Photo by Peter Burdon on Unsplash

Meeting the moment 2021 #37

Warming rays in the afternoon are coming more frequently as spring settles in and I can truly feel the energy rising like sap in me as well. The wintering has lasted more than a season and what has been dormant is waking up inside of me as surely as the blossoms start to open.

It is hard to believe it is twenty years since the twin towers were felled. We can all remember where we were on that day, and what images are imprinted. We all have our own tales. For me on the other side of the world, I was shocked when I learnt a fellow warrior in the labour movement, Andrew Knox was a victim. He gave me a copy of One Big Union, the story of the beginning of the union movement in Australia which saw shearers begin the Australian Workers Union. I gifted the book years later to the grandson of American farm union leader Cesar Chavez, Anthony Chavez, who I met on his journey accompanying the wonderful spiritual leader Br David Steindl-Rast. They visited Adelaide and we spent a glorious day together in Kangaroo Island. I love how these links are woven together – terrorism and hope – darkness and beauty. The adage, everything is connected, is what holds me together more often than not.  Justice does roll like a river of light through my window now as it always has.

When the twin towers fell, twenty years ago Australia was in the grip of the Tampa affair and now as then, the Taliban are still in the headlines and while we have accepted those who were able to get to Australia, we have others still stuck stateless and in limbo. The inhumanity of the days of the Howard government continues as a shadow over our nation. I am hanging on to a hope that the airlifts from Kabul might provide some cover to enable the government to wipe the slate clean and just let everyone stay who has been here or held in Nauru and elsewhere in detention centres, including a little known one in my own city. It may be complicated, but compassion is easily understood and it would be an easy flick of a pen to right these wrongs.

As the politics of COVID become into sharper focus in domestic policy, putting the Federation at stake with trading fear and vaccination availability added to the arsenal of dividing states against states.  Feels to me, like the way the national game is being played is one side is being pitched as the party of freedom and the other, the party of lockdowns, with vaccination supplies being the bullets. These divisions are familiar. I want everyone to be vaccinated if they can be, and I want the fascist play-book to be put down.  

So little has changed in the past two decades politically in Australia. But I truly believe, and maybe it is the spring in me that is talking, that we are on the cusp of change though whether we like it or not, the climate is speaking and the international community will see to that, given our tardiness. I am looking to Australian women to expect more and step up and vote for more green, more equity, more justice. It is time for change, the season has arrived, this is the moment we are meeting.

I want this springtime to herald a season of compassion and light as we continue to wake up from winter, to the truth, we are all connected. I love seeing the bees, dipping into the cosmos in my garden as this constant reminder.

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

Martin Luther King Jr

Photo by naoh cova on Unsplash

Meeting the moment 2021 #36

The first north wind for the season blew and swirled her way around the hills, sweeping to the coastline. Forecasting a hot summer as spring had just opened, there was foreboding in conversations all that day and I looked for sparks of bushfires that might be lying in wait. Frozen 2’s song All is Found had it right ” Where the North Wind meets the sea, there’s a mother full of memory.” Everytime there is a north wind, I am high alert, anxious about what might be coming around the corner, top soil being blown away, prepping the bush to be tinder for later in the season. The stormy, reckless behaviour of a north wind makes me nervous. I am not quite sure what might happen in these conditions, I am unsettled by memories of living with someone for four decades who was terribly distressed by north wind days.

I was reminded though this week that sailors look to the winds to catch the power, to navigate their way, and working against the wind and with the wind is dependent on where you want to go, how fast you want to get there and how you use the wind to steer your way … even the north winds. For Kaurna this season brings Wartapukkara north/west winds and tempestuous weather.

These conditions are an early warning signal. They tell us that there is the potential for danger ahead and proper preparation is required to take advantage of this moment. After the winds come the rains, after the anxiety comes the tears, after the memories comes the revisions. I took advantage of this week’s north winds to do some revisioning and to try and stop giving them such a bad rep and instead seeing them as invitational. What if they were inviting me to prepare for a hot summer, for a time of noticing what was being blown away, what was being lost and what was being heralded? What if I paid attention to the work of late winter and early spring for their intrinsic selves and not as a prelude or aftermath of another season?

With the goal of reforming the north winds and changing the status from menacing to memorable, is requiring some re-wiring. Making new code and helping the synapses make connections to take the sting out of old ones, or better still pop the old into a vault that doesn’t get exercised so gets harder to mine. Running interference helps too, so asking the north wind what does it do when it meets the sea might be as good a place to start as any!

The blustery proposition this week has helped me meet a few moments. I took the call and faced it head long as a working out if the tacking motion might be the best course of action. I felt the force of the winds, and did not let them impact on me as a negative, anxiety provoking experience, instead embrace their invitation of preparation for a time in the future when there might be real flames nipping at my heels. I paid some bills, purchased a few new items, including candles to accompany online conversations to honour the light in those I am in a virtual experience with, I organised a health and wellbeing appointments for myself and some of the inanimate elements around me. I opened up a poetry book and read a couple of poems relevant for the moment.

Rewiring has been quite a feature of my life these past few years and getting the north wind into a place where its tempestuousness is tended and befriended may prove to be a rewiring to help me meet more moments in the future. And who knows where an invitation blown from the north might lead. In my memory revisions I am reminded the passengers and crew on the Dawn Treader discovered on their voyage, a strong and pleasant wind that pushed the ship along.

Map of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader

ps given it is Father’s Day I want to give thanks to my Dad for gifting me the Narnia Chronicles when I was 7. I read them over and over. I loved the adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy and experienced being guided and transformed by Aslan.