Meeting the moment 2021 #15

When love comes to town it arrives as a cloud of sound and muscle memory aides accompany the voices employed to bring forth harmonious blasts worthy of Phil Spector and any Hammond organ – that’s how I feel when a room is full of choristers swaying to the beat under the direction of the maestro Tony Backhouse. Within an hour or so, sixty voices are singing as one and each individual contribution offers a placeholder; we are each others scaffold.  The power of sound and the spaces of silence in between are all the reminder I need of the value of making room for both. 

It’s been a noisy week and at times a cacophony in public places where the ones who have loud hailers still seem to drown out those who are speaking truth to power.  A number of conversations I have been in this past week have been washed in colonisation, under written by the blood of martyred First Nations and laced with the deepest of griefs of loss of love, family, friends, land and sea.   I get to sing in a repurposed church hall with confidence, saturated in goodness while around five hundred Aboriginal people have died in custody in the last thirty years, and flags at half mast for the death of the 99 year old consort of the monarch, fly in their face. This is a tone deaf moment.

I am lost in curiosity about what might be possible if all the flags flew at half mast every time there was a death in custody, let’s start small though with the Aboriginal flag in our city square. (The square is named Victoria, and the city Adelaide, named after the consort of a monarch William IV, who on his death, having failed to produce a child the monarchy went to his niece Victoria.) Hope the Lord Mayor is reading this or perhaps someone could forward it to her?  Tarntanyangga is the place of the red kangaroo and is getting more currency over the years in its use in public signage. The space is now shaped in the Kaurna shield, and while one of the architects of the White Australia Policy Kingston hovers on the edge, I was overjoyed when the place was brimming at the seams during the #BlackLivesMatter rally in June 2020 and again in March 2021 for the #Justice4Women March knowing Kingston was not a fan of the original women’s suffrage bill. He was also the first federal member for Adelaide in the fledgling federation he helped to created.  I love these quirks of fate that turn up like an augmented fifth blues notes in an other wise predictable set of chords and scales. There are plenty of them all around us and soon as we start to tune in, its easy to hear them.

Perhaps there is potential for understanding white noise as random signals of colonialism, distracting us for seeing and hearing what it might be trying to cover up? In recording, white noise is often defined as a hissing sound, which also seems like an apt metaphor, the hissing of those who must be heard over the quiet and invisible vectors lying underneath.

Meeting these moments with a full and open heart, ears to hear all the voices and being able to make harmony from notes put together by a leader looking for the sweetest sounds is needed for these times. There is no choir director in the House, and few who are singing from the same hymn sheet of anyone seeing justice. There is a lot of static and reverb, and there are only a few in tune with what song the nation is singing right now. The sopranos have shown up, there are a few tenors and altos as well, looking forward to a few more basses joining in the chorus soon.

White noise hides

What must be heard

Tone deaf excuses

Blind eyes turned.

No longer silent.

No longer invisible.

Sobbing from graves.

Keening in corridors.

Cries from

Megaphones and microphones,

Enough is enough.

The choir is assembled,

As a jury in session

Waiting impatiently for the judge to arrive.

A leader surely on the horizon?

Chords are coming

Call and response

Ready to manifest

When the ballot box comes.

Photo by Mark Paton on Unsplash

2021 Meeting the Moment #14

On this Easter Sunday morning the air is still enough to hear the waves caressing the coastline in even time, the tidal rhythm, a comforting sound. There is a rising tide as the ice cap of desecrations is melting. The patriarchal panic has all the symptoms at scale of any indviduals experience of a panic attack. There is the heightened vigilance for danger where reporters of renown suffering with this panic say things like “emotional demand” for “norms of respect and justice”, the response from eminant academic and co-facilitator of the Uluru Statement, Dr Davis tweet go to the heart of the political economy.

The feeling of dread and danger also showing up in this tale, and the nations top financial paper went after the female journalist who broke story that has the nation resetting its trajectory towards justice in workplaces, and safety for women went belly up when Samantha Maiden was attacked. A sign that the thorn is in the paw and the lion is in pain. Before too long the ongoing truth telling oother women leaders calling out mis-steps and poor judgements, they are labelled as going to far and gaslit. Doing your job as a journalist is a gift, in a world where fake news and constant fact checks are required to get to truths. We need more of this to burst bubbles of all kinds.

On this Easter day I think back to my modest activism in the Catholic Church around inclusive language, to the days of providing advice to an Archbishop who once told me, that he liked working with women because they did the hard work and were finishers, they didn’t let go til the job was done, nor hide from the pain it was causing them. At the time I was very annoyed he wasn’t going further, although I could see he was definitely taking himself to the edges of possibilities. The greatest gift of those times for me was learning about the ‘hermeneutic of suspicion” , to look for what was not there in the text, but was hidden in the seams, the shadows and by what was missing. This technique continues to serve me well and while I am no theologian or historian, I can see that in these days of the rising tide, a tsunami is coming. I can read between the lines that there are many more stories to be told, many more voices to be heard, much more pain to surface. There will be a crash of waves at high tide when the moon is full and when the moon is new. Sister Moon wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am looking to the heavens on a regular basis for inspiration and support. I feel saturated by the grief in the air and I know the tears, anger, frustration are rocket fuel, propelling us out of the old gravitional pull to new orbits. And this poem to remind me and perhaps others of the value of taking a little rest, while the soul catches up. thank you to Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin for this poem, a perfect companion for this day.

Turas d’Anam

Often times 
the step backward 
lets the soul catch up. 
So that all our happy 
hindsights harmonize 
and wisdom builds. 

Share your luck. 
Be miserly only 
with misfortune.
In each seismic 
shudder we learn 
to trust the ground 
again, humble again, 
knowingly broken,
unrepentantly wounded, 
proud to bare pain. 

Laying claim to 
the Joy factory 
of your body. 

No more tariffs, or sanctions. 
Wage cuts and glass ceilings. 
Conventions, expenses paid, nor 
lanyards or company position. 

Often times, 
this way you can live 
in ways other simply 
will not, develop sides 
of you others simply 
would not. 

So feel the rhythm 
beyond the beat. 
Begin with a break, 
and let your soul 
catch up.

Easter Eve, Songlines, Sellicks Hill.

2021: Meeting the Moment #13

Been having a virtual mythopoetic journey through the Burren and County Clare with a bit of County Mayo on the side these past few weeks with David Whyte and in the very best of company. It has been a much needed counterpoint to the saturation and inescapable conversation of sexual violence that is permeating every corner of the country. The cellular and elemental nature of fear, anxiety, distrust and the unpredictable appearances of trauma and grief are swirling with gusto like the winds of the Atlantic on western edge of Ireland. There is a litany of names in my heart of women who have been violated, and lamentations are completely insufficient. I find myself wanting to blow things up. I think of the muscular power of a woman’s body which can stretch to its limits sometimes tearing, often leaving permanent scars, bruised and sewn up. The rallying cry is enough is enough and so the line drawn in the sand, calls for a new day, new ways, everything is broken. I am reminded of the cycle of domestic violence and the point that comes when leaving is the only option, anything less is complicity and compliance.

I have done some leaving over the years and experienced the full monty patriarchy panic first hand.  While we have our media full of individual experiences of sexual abuse, my mind goes to the systems holding these practices in place. Here is a litany of my own:

  • You can’t enrol in this program, it is a full time load and you are about to have a baby
  • You can’t hold down that job as there is no support for childcare you can afford
  • You can’t come and sit at this table, you are not a man, you are not ordained
  • You can’t take on this responsibility you are married
  • You can’t bring those thoughts and ideas to this place, the leadership will never agree
  • You can’t pray with those words, you can’t sing with those songs, you can’t ritualise with those artefacts
  • You are not credentialed, because only men can get that qualification
  • Your motherhood is a barrier and your husband and children are your first priority
  • You should be home doing the housework
  • You can’t bring your female friends here it is unsafe for them, you are married so you will be safe
  • Your breastfeeding makes us feel uncomfortable
  • Your pain must remain hidden
  • You will probably want to do other things like have another baby, I don’t think this is the right time for you

The structural inequalities behind each of these lines are founded on the bedrock of patriarchy.  Most of them I have addressed head on for myself and for others and some have even had structural shifts and can only be found in the Australian Museum of Misogyny alongside the CDs and lost mixtapes of Julia Gillard’s speech to Tony Abbott. But it is all just window dressing, the deep wounds of power and privilege translate into power hoarding.

First Nations have been fighting this frontier since the first fleet. Colonialism another layer in the prehistoric origins of what has brought us to this moment. There are calls for a Makarrata and in doing so are calling for a non-white power sharing model, privileging country and place, story and culture. In a small way I noticed the shift that happened when I started using the names of places in their first nation language and stopped using colonial names – a small gesture and one which is catching on. It becomes a constant reminder of what was, what is and what could be. To not be welcome in your own country, to be forced to live by another’s foreign rules, under the flag of your oppressor, taken to their beds and stripped of dignity and justice, to have your children taken from you, to be left for dead, to be beaten, falsely accused, loose hope …. a petering away of hope … working a way into allyship and solidarity that strengthens means getting out of the way, going to a table not created by you and waiting to be invited, being patient to wait for the apprenticeship to be offered, to live in the discomfort of the emergence into something new and in the knowledge you are part of the problem and decolonisation starts inside the head, heart on its way to being translated into plans and action. 

So too is this pilgrimage out of patriarchy. Giving up on the messages and the structures that reinforce the messaging of inadequacy, its your fault, personalised and individualised transactions. Rejecting definitions of progress and growth that don’t include those with decision-making power not stepping out of the way is a big piece and a hard one. Think: it’s not all men, its not all white people, mantras.  Well actually it is when you take a systems lens. No justice without peace was a mantra in my youth. Meeting this moment: there is no justice without a reckoning.

2021 Meeting the moment #12

Living on the brink of tears is where I left off last week, echoing Camus, and this week has been a daily discipline of being at the brink. There have been many edgy moments met in public spaces. My pilgrim steps have taken me to #March4Justice where my legs carried me down the main street of my home city with thousands of others to make visible the number of people who are meeting this moment of misogyny and want to be both seen and heard. The outpouring of grief and anger has reached a new height and the nation is coming to terms with what might come next. My prediction is that we might see the most number of women ever elected to Federal Parliament the time we turn up at the ballot box. I know I would be encouraging parties to look very closely at their candidates and the rise of independents is very likely. I am excited for this possibility. I predict another way we will meet this moment as a nation is we will seek a spike in the number of reports to police of current and historical rapes, which I hope will be made visible in the data and then in demands from these law agencies for more support and resources to cope with the traffic. In my short walk up and down the main avenue of my city three women revealed to me rapes that had happened to them, one recently the others some years ago – I really didn’t know any of these women having only met them in virtual environments previously. I was overwhelmed and encouraged them to make reports and I know at least one did. Violence against women is everywhere. It is a pandemic, and men’s violence against women is a leading cause of the premature death for women globally (see the Femicide Census for more information).

From here my steps took me to the national capital and in the public space of the lawns of Old Parliament House I was welcomed by the community custodians of the Tent Embassy, a permanent occupation, since 1982 protesting about land rights, sovereignty and a site for hosting conversations and protests such as Black Lives Matter. Being a constant presence, means the door is always open for those conversations and I was pleased to make a visit. I was part of a small delegation travelling to Canberra for meetings and connections with elected representatives and included indigenous women leaders. We are walking and learning together about place based changemaking and aiming to apply the principle of First Nations first. Practicing this muscle requires a daily workout and I realised I wasn’t as match fit as I thought, fortunately, for me, the Aunties, are generous and patient teachers eager to help me with my learning curve. The opportunities to decolonise thinking and behaviour came thick and fast – it was a three day intensive immersion.

I was weary to the bone once I got home and integration of the lessons will take a while. Part of that integration, is sharing the learning, holding discomfort and reaching out to decipher and translate so the learning can continue. And meeting the moment of exhaustion calls for flopping on a couch, reaching for tea and toast, watching comedy and allowing the body and mind to rest. Rest itself a practice seeking meaning as the /place between activity, the pause to gather yourself, refuel, recover, so you can go on. When the yeast is in the bread, then kneaded, it too has to rest to grow and in the resting the gluten relaxes and reforms into protein strands to help form the loaf. I have been imagining conversations around preparing bread, kneading, resting, baking, eating. The communion that comes when we break bread together never ceases to hold me in place and purpose, and support a vision of inclusion.

Before the week ended, I was sitting with the sun setting over the gulf, an abundance of salads every colour of the rainbow and plates filled with locally grown produce discussing the housing crisis, especially for women seeking permanent homes for their children post domestic violence. The far reaching conversation held the invisible and silent women not at the table whose lives and the lives of their children separated from the security of a solid roof over their head, and what does this mean about the kind of people we are, and the systems that hold this inequity in place. Tales of policies past, cultural responses, planning, housing options and structures were in abundance making more visible the holes being identified and urging us all to collectively and individually meet the moment. Intergenerational privilege and promise was inherent in our shared experiences, and beckoned us to want more for each other and other women.

Wanting more and less all at once seems to be featuring in equal measure in moment meeting – integrating the micro and the macro and keeping the conversation going between the two and holding the personal as political continues to ring true.

Photo by Nadya Spetnitskaya on Unsplash

2021 Meeting the moment #11

Was reminded this week of Camus’ instruction to “.. live and create. Live to the point of tears.” He also wrote: “In the depth of winter. I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” That thought was made visible in the glorious Australian impressionist Clarice Beckett painting Summer Fields which I was able to see in the Art Gallery of South Australia last week. The heat rose from the canvas in the softest tones and the invisibility of her work being vaulted in a tin shed vault for many Melbourian winters. I suspect her creative life was one that lived to the point of tears. To be on this edge, a precipice inviting disaster is also a place where to fall or perhaps even be pushed forward into an unknown, a letting go is a surrender. The paint must leave the paintbrush, the tears must leave their ducts and in the leaving there is release, they are liberated and folded into something bigger. This is how I am meeting the moments of these days I am coming to understand as a kind of reckoning.

The black lives matter movement is a reckoning particular in the US for racial justice, I am hoping that a tweet induced campaign will crescendo nationally in Australia over the next 24 hours with over 40 #March4Justice and all Australians will heed the call for these actions:

– Full independent investigations into all cases of gendered violence and timely referrals to appropriate authorities. Full public accountability for findings

– Fully implement the 55 recommendations in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work report of the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces 2020.

– Lift public funding for gendered violence prevention to world’s best practice.

– The enactment of a federal Gender Equality Act to promote gender equality. It should include a gender equity audit of Parliamentary practices.

– No perpetrators as policy or law makers. Stand them down.

– Ratify the International Labor Organisation’s Convention on Eliminating Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.

– An independent review into the prevalence of gendered violence in Parliament to be conducted by the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

– Strengthen the Sex Discrimination Act so that Parliamentarians and Judges are no longer excluded from accountability for sexual harassment and discrimination committed in the course of their employment as public officers.

– Creation of a Code of Conduct for all Federal MP’s that includes the prevention of gendered violence in Houses of Parliament and associated workplaces.

– Mandatory gendered violence and sexual harassment training of all Federal MP’s and their staff on an annual basis

I notice I am seeking from leaders more and more to be at the point of tears, to arrive so angry, exasperated, moved by empathy, enabled by love, that they act not talk about acting, not planning to act, just do what they know is right. A truth is always naked – vulnerable, shedding adornments, throwing off cladding that may have enabled it to hide in plain sight. This is what I am noticing coming to life around me, years of pent up frustration, disappointment, anger, fear, rage – truth arriving – there is no going back from this precipice now and I am hoping we are at a tipping point in our country. The violence, the practices that keep workplaces unsafe, the inequities that are cloaked in unconscious racial and gender bias, must stop. It is a call to bring our truths to the table, to bring our whole selves not a watered down, covered version. To make visible the cost of what ignoring this is doing to our nation on every kind of balance sheet. The number of children not hitting their developmental goals and not ready for school is a direct result of systemic failures generationally of racial, economic and gender justice in funding, in not have treaties, in not valuing women and men and grandparents and uncle and aunts in their roles in families, in dislocation. Poverty is not personal. Violence experienced by an individual and perpetrated by an individual is rooted in power and privilege.

Moving from cover ups to naked truth involves a big reveal. This is the precipice I think we are on in Australia in this moment when it comes to gendered violence. I also think we are nearly there on racial justice but not quite. We are arriving though in numbers to the precipice and the sheer weight of it all will see the cliff crumbling below our feet. When we go into this unknown all kinds of possibilities await, and the trick will be not to make another cliff, but an expanse of empathy to create new horizons, where truth can turn up not looking for a shawl to be wrapped in, but clearly visible in all her colours where we all live to the point of tears induced by joy and justice.

If you are in Adelaide the #March4Justice details are here and national details here.

Photo by Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

2021: Meeting the moment #10

I’m tired and weary from a week where it feels like women of Australia and a few good men have had enough. I have rambling thoughts and I have a few facts, it doesn’t hang together well as a post, but that is the point really.

One in four women have experienced sexual abuse or assault of some kind and the rest of us are connected to these women, they are our friends, our sisters, our daughters, mothers, aunts, cousins. They are more likely to tell a friend than a police officer. The rate is three times more for indigenous women. Data from 2017 shows, one in three victims of sexual assault cases hospitalised, identified a spouse or domestic partner as the perpetrator. In 2018, the rate of police-recorded sexual assault was almost 7 times as high for females as males. Almost 2 million Australian adults have experienced at least 1 sexual assault since the age of 15. Surely this is enough of a reason to want to increase what we are doing to educate, train, support and heal? Why does it take deaths and public figures to be in the news to draw attention to these crimes? This is an epidemic, it is an everyday assault on our communal health and wellbeing. COVID measures are called for to change behaviours, physical distancing, policing of good hygiene, check-ins could all take on a different shape. In this epidemic there has been too much of washing hands. As more people share their #metoo stories, triggers are inevitable, accidentally causing what were safe spaces to not be so safe any more. I know I am avoiding and monitoring where I am going, what I am reading and listening too.

I have been heartened with the work being done in schools on consent. Remember the meaning of consent: the mutual agreement properly attained freely with an understanding decisions have both immediate and consequential effect. Children are rarely able to give consent that is fully informed, having little or no access to knowledge of the potential of actions. As we get older we learn more deeply the value of consent and why being explicit is necessary, and how it can be revoked at any time. If a sixteen year old did not give consent then that is rape of a minor. If an eighteen year old or eighty year old is in the same position, it is rape. No child can give consent, that is the point about the age of consent, so it is always rape if the victim is under the age of consent. In the state where I live, the age of consent is 17. There is a lot I don’t consent too. And in the political and legal contexts I don’t care if our societal standards and expectations have changed over decades, I am reminded that consent can be withdrawn at any time, and I am hoping those who voted for a national government that seems bereft of basic HR practices will withdraw their consent to being governed by them the first chance they get.

If there is a whiff of an inappropriate behaviour and before it is proven to be true or not, individuals are stepped down, directed to HR to resolve and then the investigations can be explored in light of policy, the law and health considerations. This happens every day in workplaces everywhere. It is proper practice, nothing special. I am completely perplexed why this has not happened in Parliament or at the direction of the Prime Minister.

I need a lie down and a good cry, my anger muscle is worn from over use, my compassion index remains high and I am grateful to those picking up the mantel and building the pathway of this reckoning. The avengers will be taking to the streets in pursuit of justice. This is personal, this is political and at scale. There are consequences and accountabilities to be had. You don’t need to be a father or a mother to have a conscience as so wisely pointed out by Grace Tame at the National Press Club this week. I have been musing for the need of a national helpline – let’s call it the Jenny Support Line and any one not quite sure what to do can give a Jenny a call. The Cornish don’t need to have a mortgage on Cousin Jenny’s to provide sustenance and comfort for those down in the coal mines. Maybe some men don’t know what to do and need some guidance, a quick call to Jenny will give them the confidence and strength to take a public step forward and help build a place where everyone is safe and those that groom and misuse their power are nipped in the bud of their blossoming predation.

While every possible channel I am connected to seems to be blinking, buzzing and bleating to get my attention. The calls and messages are from the re-traumatized, the vicariously traumatised, solidarity sisters. There is sadness. There is fear that sharks are circling around complicity with someone else’s story, or the shame of your own story surfacing. There is pain and deep aching for a time when safety and care for the victim will out weigh the privilege of a man’s position or career. There is her family, there is his family, friends, children – all innocent – being dragged into dark and confusing spaces as they are alienated from the world they knew. Hearts are broken. Lives destroyed. Martyrs are made before revelations.

Trust is sacred. When trust is broken, like shards of glass strewn on the floor, being careful where you step lest you cut yourself on a sliver, your fragility stocks grow. Delicate and careful placement of words, actions, attention to where you tread is heightened. This is not a time for casual or loose language.

Like so many others, I am tired and want to sleep and crawl under the covers and get it to go away. I turn off feeds, and don’t watch news, and still it seeps in with calls and conversations, uninvited and consistently. I am finding it hard to be angry, it feels more like resignation and grief to me. Time for truth telling and bearing witness is here for all who cane bare to speak and listen. Time for compassion too, making spaces and moments for quiet, rest, recovery. Please be kind to yourselves and your friends, take a break from it all if you need to and be compassionate to those who need to tune out from it for a bit. Be confident that we have each other’s backs and will act in solidarity when the time comes to take to the streets, the ballot box, the legislative chambers, the courts and be creative with our voices in music, song, dance and visual arts. Our bodies are sacred are to be honoured as the vessel of the soul, meeting this moment with our most sacred selves will invite more of the divine energy we will need in and from each other to shift these moments into the tsunami of change being called for right now.

At Womadelaide last night listening to my favourite drummer and his band as they played one of their best known numbers the lead singer said: Change happens by those without short memories. On the eve of International Women’s Day 2021 I pay my respects to all the women who have gone before who have enabled progress by putting their bodies on the line, and to their male allies. The bow is bent, the arrow poised, we are in warrior pose.

NB if you are in Adelaide details of the March 4 Justice can be found here

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

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