Monthly Archives: December 2022

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #51

 I thought I would do a Camino at home over the next couple of weeks and walk the Willunga Basin Trail. I did do a couple of sections of it quite a while ago, but it is finished now, and I have been feeling the need to go on a long walk for a while. The gift of the breeze, the chatter of the birds, the buzzing of the bees as our native plants are flowering are great teachers.

I planned which days I was going to do what sections based on the time, capacity and difficulty required so that I would keep enthused and not be too daunted by the 130kms trip. The Guide encourages you to do the eleven sections as half day hikes.  I decided to do Sections 1 and 3 first and then on Day 3 Section 2 as it was going to be harder and I wanted to give myself plenty of time to go slow as the terrain looked pretty treacherous in parts and it was a level 4 hike, which means it is hard and you are likely to encounter parts that may not be well sign posted. Despite all that, I was prepared and felt that if I just took it slowly and started out early enough all will be well. The other two sections I had done had excellent signs so I felt confident I could follow then with my guidebook of the trail.

I invoked Julian of Norwich once or twice – all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

I followed the guidebook as I had done the past two days, however the same quality of directions and sign posts didn’t seem to be there and after a slide down to an empty ravine and then what was close to a 90 degree climb up to the other side and no visible evidence of the white posts I expected to see, I walked another kilometre before realising that I was tempting fate if there were no visible signs. I decided the best thing to do was to go back the way I came, at least if I followed the fence line, I would know I was going back to the beginning of the section. So, I slid down the hill I had about 30minutes earlier climbed up and then began the ascent up the one I had previously slid down. I was taking it very slow and decided the safest way was to go up on my backside, clinging to the fence, and keeping clear of the barbed wire and using my faithful walking sticks to dig in when I could. I got about 250 metres up the hill, but at that point slid down 50 metres not being able to get a hold …. This happened three times each time not quite as far a slide, but still a slide and I wasn’t making any progress. At this point I decided to take the hint. I was in trouble and needed help.

As I made this decision my light day pack slid down the hill side with my water in it and map. Through some kindness from the universe my phone was in my hand. Without water I knew I had to act sooner rather than later, even though I had already been sitting there for about 20 minutes thinking through my situation.  The time had come to do something that was going to get me out of the situation I was in.

With some messaging apps and advice from two of my children I was confident my GPS location was as good as I could get it …. Fortunately, I was in range most of the time, even though I had only one bar … and decided it was time to call the SES. In the background my daughter was taking her son to the doctors as he had a secondary infection, and my son was organising himself and his wife and child to be catching a plane to come see us for Christmas.  A friend was delivering Christmas produce and was calling me to find out why I wasn’t home, and I calmly texted her back to tell her how to get in, not revealing my situation.

Through as series of calls both the SES and CFS got their crews together and made the trip to come and rescue me. Their first challenge was to find me and although I had given them the best advice I could they were having trouble and called me a few times before I saw three of them also sliding down a nearby hillside and waving my sticks and calling out, we all found each other. The other crew was well equipped and included a nurse who made sure I was actually alright and did the best part of first aid which was to offer me reassurance and congratulations for stopping and calling for help when I did.

While I was waiting on the hillside, I thought about what lessons were being offered to me in this moment and the clearest message was about asking for help. I had Bono’s voice in my head with the U2 song – Sometimes you can’t make it on your own.  Bono wrote the lyrics as a reflection on his father and while the whole song wasn’t calling me – the line that sometimes you can’t make it on your own was ringing true. My self-sufficiency over decades is real. One of my biggest challenges is to let other people help me. So, I got the lesson writ large. I don’t need to learn it again surely!

I am really sore and got a few bruises, but I came out of it all very lightly really. It could have been very serious if I’d broken a bone, or had to be airlifted out of a stony ravine with little space for a helicopter to find their way in. (I did momentarily toy with the idea of calling someone I know who would have been able to do that, and once he heard my tale from a mutual friend, he said I could have called him – a typically generous act of chivalry.)

The crews were excellent. I told them I was the mayor and so they entertained me with a list of things they’d like Council to do for them – making the most of the moment. I absolutely loved how my dignity was not compromised with their humour and steadfast skilfulness.  These men and women are all volunteers. One was making his way to Queensland before Christmas for a new posting in the armed forces, another was going on duty to one of our public hospital’s emergency departments, and I am sure others were needed at home or work for Christmas and childcare activities. They were all there helping me, gifting their time and talents so I too could get home safely.  A new piece of harness equipment was tested out on me, so I was pleased to have helped with a new drill! And tried and true ropes and knots did their work as I was carefully escorted side by side, front and back, out to the waiting units. When I did arrive at the top, I was shocked to see a police officer as well. I am still not sure why he was there. (I have my theories based on my recent election.) My daughter and sick bub were waiting for me too having been kept fully informed every step of the way. We were both impressed with the high quality of communications and care for her as well.

While asking for help was the number 1 lesson there are plenty more that can be applied from my hiking adventure. For instance:

  • If you think the road will be tough – don’t go alone
  • Always keep your phone charged – you never know when you will need it
  • If you tread where others have gone before you, the road might seem easier, but it may not be the safest path, you are not the same as those who have walked it before
  • Give thanks for all times you have volunteered because there is such a thing as volunteer karma
  • Stay still and stay calm and find a shady spot to enjoy the view while help is on its way
  • Sliding down a hill is a way to get to the bottom
  • Always tell someone where you are going
  • A sense of humour is always helpful
  • If you are in the rescue business, you are in the communications business – keep letting everyone who needs to know where you are up to
  • Search first, rescue second

I got home safe, and sound and it could have been a very different outcome. Thank you to the bees who kept dipping into the golden daisies, the tiny black hard coated beetles scurrying under the grasses, the peregrine falcon who swooped close to me probably wondering if I was carrion and kept flying, to all the thousands of flies who kept me company, the butterflies who flit around me and the kangaroos who bounded by, and the sheep whose bleating I could hear from across the valley.  Grateful for all the visible and invisible help around me and I sincerely promise to take the lessons of Section 2 into 2023 and ask for help more often and not wait until I am stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I now understand the meaning of a toe hold Approx: Latitude -35.32547 longitude 138.50618

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #50

It’s that time of year again, when the carols eek their way out of radio stations, in lifts and shopping centres. This time of the year is so mixed for me now. Tim would have been 65 yesterday (17th December) and all week I have felt haunted by him. A couple I had never met telling me about their encounters with him and his profound impact on their lives that they married twenty plus years ago, another person letting me know he was the one who set them on a journey of learning which had put them into a career they now love, opening a book with handwritten notes of his in the margins. It all feels very close and very far away all at the same time. I had a flashback this week as well, having not had one for a couple of years, a very unsettling way to have trauma reappear, so uninvited and unwelcome.

I listened to a David Whyte talk and he spent a lot of time on breathing and touched on death, he even used the word interstitial – a key word from Tim’s diagnosis. So, haunted, is how I feel writing this. There is anguish and torment in how I find myself this day. I am also really happy noticing myself smiling and laughing more than I have for a very long time. New beginnings and new challenges are like puzzles to unravel and unlock. Some of these beginnings are wrapped up in people, others in systems and still more in the place where people and systems play together.

This is a time of mixed emotions. I am more open to hearing his name than I have been, and I didn’t fall apart with any of the encounters this week. Although I was a little wobbly after one of them. I have been able to draw on Surrender from Bono and have just started Michelle Obama’s latest book The Light We Carry. She is an almighty communicator and formidable guide. I am deeply grateful for these two sojourners. I also listened to David Whyte’s latest lecture – who unbelievably – spent quite a bit talking about breathing. (For those who are new to this blog, you may not know my husband died 5 years ago from a lung disease which had his lungs not expelling all the carbon dioxide on each breath increasing toxicity. His prognosis was originally 18 months, and he went onto live almost ten years after diagnosis, which was its own kind of miracle.) I am taking all this instruction as a sign of ending and beginnings vying for space in my head and heart, a kind of arm wrestle is going on as they do their own in and exhalations.

Taking a breath and taking time over this exchange, between ourselves and the planet, is universal and inclusive. My own breathing has been quite disrupted of late with COVID and now a lingering cough that must be treated twice daily so I don’t find myself in territory that might bring on more asthma. Without breath in the body the body is still moving, blood flowing, hair growing. With breath in the body, we are visibly alive to others, and it is the sign of life we all look for in a sleeping baby or a person resting into their last moments. I am finding myself taking a lot of deep breaths as the residue of the virus is hanging around. I think this may also be part of the trigger about feeling haunted.

I’m ready for some rest. The election is over, my onboarding is in full swing, I’ve had my first Council meeting in the mayor’s seat, I have begun making a contribution to decisions for the future, getting to know staff and elected members is underway, and I am feeling my way through conversations and connections with systems relevance.

We all carry both our light, fears, memories and pockets of darkness, and I find this blog a way to make those experiences find their way from invisibility to visibility. The lesson for me this week is the ghosts in your head are the ones that need to be exorcised and fly about in times when they can tell you are taking a big step forward. They want one last hurrah just to make sure you are up for it, knowing they won’t be taking up much real estate in your life as it grows and expands beyond them.

The line from Whyte’s Sweet Darkness rings true, and sometimes it takes just one line of poetry inhaled, to get fresh oxygen into the lungs.

“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.

In Ireland, a sacred pool after a walk through the hazel wood, David Whyte’s shadow hovering and lingering. This photo reminds me we are all in conversation with the elements. July 2013

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #49

I was hacked this past week – more than once – on my social media first and then an email from Medibank let me know that some of my personal data has been released to the dark web. Needless to say, I then had to spend time changing passwords, updating data and working out who needed to know and what other measures I needed to take.  For the past few months, the amount of attention I have been receiving by the tools of hackers and criminals has increased. It started first with hateful messaging and then escalated to more sophisticated applications of AI tools and a barrage of uninvited follows and invitations, and now in what I hope is the crescendo, being part of one of Australia’s largest ever cyber breaches. Another frontier to manage as I begin a new public role.

Distract and disrupt techniques are being actively deployed and while I am alert to them, I am finding it all a bit tedious. To counter act both my feelings around these behaviours and their intent to be extractive, I am turning to be inspired by other behaviours to keep my focus on who I am trying to be in this world. 

I’ve drawn inspiration this week from Lizzo in accepting an iconic People’s Choice award, by inviting activists to share the stage with her and be made visible to a much wider audience. I ‘ve also drawn inspiration from the Coralus community. The end of year review call was a cornucopia and narrative of transformation, moving from being individual centric to community-led across the year. The third inspiration has been the community of leaders at the City of Onkaparinga, which I have the honour to now be in a leading governance role as Mayor. They have shown me in the past couple of weeks their high level of functioning in some dark times from COVID to a significant executive leadership mess.  There is a very impressive and visible high levels of consciousness operating. I knew it was in good shape, but it has exceeded my expectations.  The activists of Be Love under the guidance of Bernice A King (the youngest daughter of MLK and Coretta Scott King) is a rich source of encouragement, practical advice for transformative leadership and reaches into that influential community of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The election of Rev Warnock this week drew me back into that space, one which has held me more than once when I have felt exhausted and wondered if I could go on. In Obama’s speech this week to the good folk there, he talked about being tired and why we can’t get tired we have to go on and he located this Georgian generation in a lineage of others who kept going like John Lewis. Great instruction. That’s the gig – to keep going, keep mobilising, keep activating, keep voting. (My local booster shot for this was with the showing of Brazen Hussies movie last week.)

It is easy to fall into the trap of tedium – to be dragged down by the distractions and disruptions – they are designed to wear you out, to have you give up.  It is OK to pause and have a rest, take a moment for even doing that you are valuing the gift you are and refuelling for the generative work ahead and celebrating and honouring what you have done. I am looking forward to a break coming up soon after all the energy expended during the campaign and now in getting onboarded and the inevitable forming, norming, storming and reforming …. before we get to the transforming stage of our contribution as an elected body.

The antidote to the dark web and the behaviours of those who choose to make that their virtual home, is light and love. This is the call. Collaboration, partnerships and tools to rewire and create generative and transformational next steps, is the response. First council meeting this week and I plan to be wearing something bright and joyful. I am already under attack on a few fronts there and as I am learning the beautiful constraints of the Local Government Act testing some assumptions, working out what is and isn’t negotiable and discovering where people’s level of consciousness is – all very instructive as I step into leadership in this new way and bring all of myself with me.

December sunrise over Sellicks Beach

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #48

I’m listening to Bono’s memoir Surrender and loving it. I am finding myself thinking about what was going on in my life when he is talking about recording a song, writing a poem, being on tour, becoming a parent, getting married, being in that force of nature and brotherhood that is the band U2. I wasn’t expecting his story to have so much resonance with mine and all the reasons I have loved the band for so long are being revisited.

U2 was often on the turntable, or CD player in the house and car being one of THE bands forming the soundtrack of my child raising years. The poetic and the romantic expressions of universal themes always seem to find me.

The sound and this brotherhood – the Zen master of the guitar The Edge, the sparse intense intimacy of Adam on bass, the relentless demand of Larry on drums and the ache and urging of Bono – I am grateful for the music and the leadership they have shown in and out of the studio. 

The ability for sound to hold meaning and to be held by that meaning over and over again is like a universal prayer. It is the form and function of call and response that refuses to budge, and I am never released. The voice, the vocation, the call, the response and the consequent spiralling, like the nautilus swimming through an ocean, this pilgrim is moving into new waters. 

I learnt recently a nautilus has an extremely rare ability to withstand being brought to the surface from its deep natural habitat without suffering any apparent damage from the experience, able to withstand the incredible changes in pressure. I am drawing inspiration from this ancient mollusc as I come into the new role of Mayor. There has been a change in pressure as I am washed onto another shore, I am hanging onto the nautilus to hold me and remembering the rhythm and the tides, like the music of U2 keeping me afloat in an ocean of sounds and calls demanding a response.

Listening to the book also has me listening to some old U2 tracks like Pride, Desire, Streets with no name, With or Without You, and remembering, with great love, old conversations. Grief is sneaky and Bono’s voice has been its midwife this week amidst all the new learning, new pressures and new opportunities emerging.

There have been some disturbing moments this week with the ongoing 16 days of activism gendered violence and noticing how that violence shows up. Got to watch Brazen Hussies again this week in a community setting and in conversation with strangers. I was very unsettled by how far we have come and how far we still have to come. And the soundtrack of that doco was full of chants and the familiar voice of Helen Reddy. In the course of the week, I watched a bully use all his tools to try and intimidate a young woman, she drew on the wisdom and advice of others and easily found her voice and resisted. I celebrated her. I heard myself into speech about some moments in the election campaign where violence turned up. I am still working on myself to replace thoughts of violence rooted in judgements, to be replaced with thoughts and acts of empathy. I have plenty of opportunities to practice!

These thoughts, private and invisible, are invitations to transformation. My reluctance to embrace these invitations has been visible here and there this week. The lyrics of With or Without You have been swirling around in my head to accompany these thoughts. Bono wrote the lyrics as a tussle with himself, a bit like the idea that we take ourselves wherever we go whether we like it or not, and how we sometimes have to wait for parts of ourselves to catch up with other parts.

And you give, and you give, as you give yourself away is an invisible earworm making another spiral in the nautilus. When I do an exegesis on the line and listen again to the track, I discover the music, emptied of lyrics for almost half of the track, is the response to the call.  The spaces between the notes, the combination of sounds and instruments, the complexity of the mix, making a sonic ocean for the lyrics to land on the shore. Another U2 lesson to take with me into my internal and invisible places of resistance, resilience and surrender.

See the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side
I’ll wait for you
Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails, she makes me wait
And I wait without you

With or without you
With or without you

Through the storm, we reach the shore
You give it all but I want more
And I’m waiting for you

With or without you
With or without you, ah, ah
I can’t live
With or without you

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away

My hands are tied
My body bruised, she got me with
Nothing to win and
Nothing left to lose

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away

With or without you
With or without you, oh
I can’t live
With or without you
Oh, oh
Oh, oh

With or without you
With or without you, oh
I can’t live
With or without you

With or without you

Songwriters: Adam Clayton / Dave Evans / Larry Mullen / Paul David Hewson

With Or Without You lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group