Monthly Archives: March 2023

2023 Mycelium #13 Friendship

Friendship is founded in the deep, the moments you open a little wider to bring a bit more of your self and sincerity to the world, openings that give you insight about yourself as much as anything. I am part of a group that has been meeting regularly for more than thirty years to reflect on our lives and each conversation is an invitation to expose and reveal something hidden. I never seem to know what that will be, in the safety and security of these friendships. Tears are common, laughter deep, and patient insightful questions are keys to the disclosure door.

There are lifetimes in many sentences, and it is here the mycelium of our entwined and familiar histories that sometimes words get in the way or what might be waiting to be discovered and revealed. I find myself often hearing myself into speech through echoing another’s experience ringing true for my own.

In a celebration of our lives yesterday the poignancy and place of grief and the always expanding universe founded on love and growing in love, were twins. It was that ancient philosopher Aristotle who said a friend holds the mirror up to us, and to Shakespeare who had Hamlet telling players their job was to hold the mirror up to nature  to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Friendships are playful and in deep friendship you can bring a little pressure, jest and show with compassion and care what might be needed at that moment. It is a truly a great gift to receive a friend and to be a friend. This kind of mycelium is fed by kindness and love.

Seeping deep into the undergrowth, to find the love language Gary Chapman shared with the world, is part of nurturing friendship – words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, spending quality and physical touch.  When we gathered this week, it was to celebrate a milestone of one of our number and as I travelled away from our time together, I realised we had done all five ways made visible by Chapman. We spent time affirming, brought food and gifts, a few had prepared a ritual, we lingered over hours in a long feast, we made time for hugs and anointing with perfumed oils. It was a very sensory experience … as it always is.  More mycelium is built and the fruits of yesterday will continue to be consumed over time.

What spoke to me yesterday was the ever expanding nature of love and how deep and wide it is. A hall filled with hundreds of people to say farewell and give gratitude for a life of service connected intersecting communities this week. Last night I watched rooms of people in NSW gather to receive the news they had help make for a new government to be elected. This morning I heard from my sibling about a trail of discovery he is being carried on through the connections of the past, present and future. All these seemingly random relationships are not that at all, but rather expressions of friendships that find their way to link together, and if we are open to the surprise, if we are hopeful, if we are curious, and look in the mirror, we will be rewarded.

The reward of self-discovery and insight is nourishing food for the next piece of mycelium to be in love and service to the next. I remain in awe about how this all works to connect us up to each other to ideas, to our future.  In a week where the IPCC has made it crystal clear this is a moment that must be grasped for our species survival, I am more hopeful than ever we will grasp the moment, because we are all connected and that is all we have to remember to keep taking the steps we need to take to the future. Imagine if we could see each other as friends what might be unlocked? Huge thank you to the sojourners and friends in my life, you help me to love.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

2023 Mycelium #12 Of Grief and Joy

Grief is so sneaky it can pop up when you are unprepared and like a chameleon might even reveal itself once you have befriended it dressed as anxiety or pain. News of a great tragedy can unlock conversations of friendship, memories of joy and deep anger of unfinished business. I’ve learnt over the years not to try and push grief away. There have been times when I have been in awe of the number of tears a human body can create and still be upright, and times when only the most hilarious and ridiculous joke could relieve pain and times when all that has seemed completely impossible had become a distant and fading image in a photo album.

Grief catches me off guard. I can be like a kamikaze fly ending up in a spider’s web, drawn in by an invisible invitation that catches me while I am buzzing around minding my own business. Before I know it I am entangled and only by being still, I have any hope of getting out of the sticky fibre. I discovered recently webs are made of protein, no wonder they are so tough, so strong.

In the underground world of grief we are connected through our collective and shared stories of ones we might love and have lost, places that are changing, climate impacts and the grief of losing a part of ourselves, growing older, someone we love moving away.  I grieve for youth not mis-spent.

The mycelium of grief has connected a whole lot of friends, stories and past experiences this week with the sudden and tragic death of an activist leader I knew well. Unexpected and devastating. The news has rocked at least two generations of feminists. It has taken me back to my deepest values of friendship and care. I have sent quite a few messages to check in on others around me, regardless of whether they knew her or not.

Being alive and loving is a part of the grief equation I know well. Trying to make sense of the why, the how, and the when, I understand a lot less. There are always questions, unfinished business; I don’t like those at all and they sneak up on me too pretending to be part of the grief experience, but they aren’t, they are actually thieves cashing in on the purity of sadness and taking advantage of vulnerability.

I don’t think there is a cure or a prophylactic for grief, but maybe there is an antidote? Hearing the sounds of little people laughing is always joyful, hearing glorious sounds of nature, wonderful musicians, seeing anything of beauty, listening to a poem, seeing a tree laden with fruit, noticing the waves rolling in as the sun sets … splendid affordable medicine.

I’m setting an intention to stumble into joy.  Ada Limon, poet laureate for the US this year, wrote this lovely poem about watching a groundhog. She said she felt envious watching the creature eat her tomatoes with such confidence about being safe and becoming satisfied.  The spasm of joy that escapes is a gentle contrast to the demands of requests for commentary on matters of the world. Nature and music for me, continuously offer up moments, to revel in a gasp of delight; mycelium for the soul, and healing, post a tangle, in a web of grief. After all, like the groundhog in this poem, I think we are all doing what we can to survive.

Give me this

I thought it was the neighbor’s cat back
to clean the clock of the fledgling robins low
in their nest stuck in the dense hedge by the house
but what came was much stranger, a liquidity
moving all muscle and bristle. A groundhog
slippery and waddle thieving my tomatoes still
green in the morning’s shade. I watched her
munch and stand on her haunches taking such
pleasure in the watery bites. Why am I not allowed
delight? A stranger writes to request my thoughts
on suffering. Barbed wire pulled out of the mouth,
as if demanding that I kneel to the trap of coiled
spikes used in warfare and fencing. Instead,
I watch the groundhog closer and a sound escapes
me, a small spasm of joy I did not imagine
when I woke. She is a funny creature and earnest,
and she is doing what she can to survive.

Copyright © 2020 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

In memory of a much loved unionist, activist, feminist – Michelle Hogan

In April 2022 I posted this photo and short reflection below for Michelle in memory of her mother Dorothy. I sang at Dorothy’s funeral and retold a story Dorothy shared with me of their children singing in the car on long trips. I will be remembering her and John as well when we farewell Michelle this week.

Daisy chains weren’t a part of my childhood, although there were attempts at making dandelion ones with zero success. This photo however is of polycalymma stuartii, the poached egg daisy. It is an Australian daisy found on sand plains and dunefields. This clump was at the Arid Botanical Gardens in Pt Augusta Barngarla country and taken in 2014. Every time I visit that location I think of a fierce warrior of feminism and her relationship with her God and her faith. Dorothy’s ashes are scattered there and she loved the desert. Lovely to unlock this memory of her with today’s prompt. In electrical and electronic engineering, a daisy chain is a wiring scheme in which multiple devices are wired together in sequence or in a ring and I think Dorothy did that too – she brought people together in all kinds of sequences that were novel and created many rings around her. I am sure she is still missed by those who loved her and the way she wired her ideas together! Vale Dorothy.

2023 Mycelium #11 Egg and Spoon

Saw an egg and spoon race on Friday for the first time in decades. Six and seven year olds lined up in rows and stood eagerly behind a line waiting for their turn to grab a wooden spoon and coloured wooden egg to take their turn when it arrived from the person in front of them to run about 15 metres, turn around and run back to tag their team mate in the relay. I thought, here are all the lessons in life! Taking a turn, persistence and tenacity, holding out in front of you something that sometimes is quite elusive, matching speed, focus and balance, picking up what you are doing when you go off the rails and get back on to it and keeping going, putting your fragile activity down for the next person to pick up and have a go, cheering your team mates on.  I don’t think I had ever noticed before all the lessons in this activity which seems to have been invented in England in the 1890s.(I was reminded of the ancient Aesop fable message from the hare and the tortoise – slow and steady wins the race.)

Gamification of life’s lessons has come a long way over the past century, but one thing seemed consistent and that is you need to keep going, you mostly can pick up where you left off and it really helps if you are in a team, where everyone gets a turn. I was listening to a friend, as we sat on the grass in front of Stage 2 in our annual pilgrimage to WOMADelaide as she relayed a story about her niece being asked, by her parents to find a team sport to experience all the lessons that being in a team will provide. They explored smaller team options like being a doubles partner in tennis through to soccer and netball. There are plenty of ways of being in a team though – dance, debating, in an orchestra or band, and of course my favourite being in a choir.

This week of the year, always promises, and rarely fails to be my happiest week of the year, International Women’s Day, SouthStart and Womadelaide.  For IWD I got to spend it sitting between the Crown Solicitor and the Chancellor of the University of South Australia on the lawns of Government House. Our host was her usual generous and wise self, the welcome from Rosemary Wanganeen was warm and deep, the speaker Sam Moyston AO, gave me goosebumps and inspiration to keep going for another year and the questions from my peers to the speakers were insightful and future focussed. This was surely an egg and spoon event and around every table were smiles and cheers of encouragement, delight at one another’s successes. At my table Australia’s only female fighter pilot took my heart and I thanked her personally for all the times she is literally the only person in the room with an egg.

SouthStart had its usual intoxicating mix of ideas and frustrations. The team that helps hold me in that space and my co-founders at Collab4Good continued with our inculturation of what impact and collaboration really is through voice, soccer, painting, conversation and debate. It was a lot of fun too!  A day at a winery offered up more lessons especially from five young women who are co-CEOs at AIME – a global mentoring and leadership. Eggs in plentiful supply and all the spoons they need from a structured, intentional and imaginative community. And of course Womadelaide – teamwork from disciplines and cultures worldwide, where the evidence of eggs falling off spoons appears in long lines to the toilets and sold out and probably overselling of tickets.  Despite some of these features it is hard for me not to be in awe of the talents and tenacity of others to pull off this event year after year through rains, dust, pandemics and economic troubles.

In the mycelium to deliver these events to me are thousands of others I am eternally grateful; I just turn up. I get to see the wealth of experience, the harvest of effort from having to get up time and time again and bring momentum to a goal and to cheer on the race and the arrive at a destination. All the lessons though don’t come at the end, they come in the doing, in the travelling along the way to get there, to test how to steady yourself and focus, to accept and keep moving when you drop along the way and failure is instruction about what’s not working and to have a go at another way.

2023 Mycelium #10 Joining the dots

Joining the dots is the above ground equivalent of mycelium at work, then there is the potential of going deeper and the warp and the weft of weaving starts to become visible.

It has been that kind of a week, a dot here and there and then a pattern starts to emerge. It is not always one you want to see. I became curious about where the word pattern came from and discovered its origins in the word patron. According to the Oxford languages, via Google:

Middle English patron ‘something serving as a model’, from Old French. The change in sense is from the idea of a patron giving an example to be copied. Metathesis in the second syllable occurred in the 16th century. By 1700 patron ceased to be used of things, and the two forms became differentiated in sense.

The pattern was perhaps the origins of an algorithm. Maybe the early dots to join and be followed as desired by the patron setting stepping stones out in front for followers?

The algorithms at play following me and trying to entice me, as Mayor, to respond on platforms, are plentiful this week. The use of the tag function to connect me to stories, places or to coax me into conversations are not always dots I will be joining. This practice is designed to co-opt at best, but shame and/or blame is high on the agenda. As we all know the algorithms thrive and grow and were designed by their patron for the market where the currency is hate.  Like patrons before in other dot joining platforms like the tabloids of the UK, hate and fear are big sellers.

The challenge is to work out how to counteract, ignore, help people to fact check, suggest alternative views, offer hope, love, safety. Some of the opposites of fear are acceptance, tolerance, endurance, peace, calmness, tranquillity, confidence, assurance, boldness.  Conjuring up these dots and infusing them into the mycelium seems to require that old adage of eternal vigilance. It is so easy to lapse from the practice of hope and fall down the proverbial rabbit hole into fear. I notice my own wobbly voice and find a deep breath helps get back on track. I also notice the need for beauty, rest and good humour as excellent antidotes.  The negativity and mean-ness and the desire to fuel hate is very real, and while I know it is not personal, it does wear me down sometimes.

It is very unpleasant to be accused of grooming, when reading stories to children in the library. And this is nothing, compared to those who were part of last week’s Pride March being accused of so much worse and being denigrated foully on line.

Patronage of hate and fear is what we enable and encourage, when we get caught up in online rants, scoll and read the seeds of terror embedded in the nasty posts. Resist.

This is how it begins, we need to be watchful, prepared and ready. It is not just to balance these assaults with goodness, it is also necessary to create the safe places, new systems and have an abundance of joy to draw from a deep well of love.

Keeping the tank topped up and making sure I am not running on empty is my best strategy. Find the joy coloured dots and join them together. Before we know it our patronage of joy will create patterns of hope as the mycelium for justice and equity bear fruit.