Tag Archives: David Whyte

2021: Meeting the moment #4

In a week with new tenants in the White House, where Elon Musk offers a $100M prize to develop carbon sequestration (I suggest he plants trees) and where the hospitals in London reached capacity, there are so many moments to meet. The poignancy of the about to be inauguarated gazing into a pool as the sun set, felt like mirror the world had been waiting to see, where stopping and being still and holding the moment with the lightest touch brought us deeper into our truth and took a step down into the place where the light shifts on the water to decorate what had been desecrated.

To stop and to hold in place what must be held is a feeling well known to the infant that needs to be swaddled so tightly so that wriggles are banished and then with a gentle rock sleep arrives. Once rested the child emerges refreshed, ready and able to fully participate once more in the world around them. I thought this moment by the pool was just that – a wrapping up, a solid, unyielding, gathering up of loss and grief, bundled together in a simple and uncompromising grip of full attention. Taking the time to stop is a meme for our times.

The rise of the napping resistence movement and the action of a nap as a political act. Nap Ministry founded by Tricia Hersey believe rest is a form of resistance and name sleep deprivation as a racial and social justice issue.  Echoes of Audre Lorde and legacy of Rose Parks can be found in her work and the movement growing about napping as a form of disrupting capitalism. Meeting the moment rarely needs to new technology, but it always needs an examination of power and always begins with a stop. While I cheekily tweeted Elon about his quest for world’s best carbon sequestrian technology to invest in – I said plant trees. I could just have easily said stop what you are doing. For systems to change and new ones to emerge stopping what you are doing is the first act. It is usually the hardest, unable to let go of our addiction to whatever it is that is holding that action in place in our lives, giving us meaning, strengthening a pathway. Making a new path, starts with our own neuronal pathways is an energy intensive challenge. It is maintaining a discipline of repeated actions and thoughts regulating our emotions, and it is up against old patterns that are easy, seductive and so familiar that to not pay attention to them feels like its own kind of infidelity to self.

Stopping giving attention to what harms us and noticing what we are addicted too leads us to what we want to be and who we want to become. We might need to nap along the way, advancing ourselves to the future that becomes us. We might need to find new paths that are still hidden, we might need to follow some unlikely thoughts to make those paths and do deeper into the woods, we will always though have to start with a stop.

Sometimes

by David Whyte

Sometimes
if you move carefully
through the forest

breathing
like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
and

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

questions
that can make
or unmake
a life,

questions
that have patiently
waited for you,

questions
that have no right
to go away.

Photo by Jose Aragones on Unsplash

2021: Meeting the Moment

This year’s blog will be all about meeting the moment.

Everyday moments provide extraordinary insights, opportunities and challenges. The grapes ripen on the vine as the sun turns water into wine. The path becomes smoother the more often you walk it and if you take your eyes to the horizon as you walk the future comes focus.

As 2021 begins, our species is looking towards vaccinations, our planet is holding its breath as we reshape and some resist what She is beckoning for – a much lighter touch to our shared living arrangements. Shimmering in the skies, the full moon appeared a few days ago and rose high into the night closing out the year. A year, for many where there has been a deep desire to let go of everything that has been hard or hasn’t quite unfolded as they might have hoped. These past few days as the new year arrives we know seeds sown in the metaphoric times of a new moon will now come into harvest. 2021 may well bring a harvest from the introspection from quarantine, slowing and fasting from systems that were already withering away. We will be meeting moments in the year ahead from seeds sown long ago. How ready we are to meet the moments?

The losses of 2020 have come with silver linings. The origin of this idea of silver linings comes from the 17th century from a poem by John Milton. He wrote the poem for Michaelmas Day, a time of the year in his part of the world, when dark nights and cooler days begin. Where the season calls for some preparation to retreat and to say farewell before a new cycle would begin. In my part of the world Michaelmas Day is when the days get longer and there is the hint of warmth on the breeze forecasting a summer arriving in a few months. A lining is an inner layer and a wonderful invitation for these times. To look under the covers, to find something that matches the garment, yet cut from a different cloth, to help the outer garment fall well, it also reduces the wearing strain of the garment and helps it last longer – so surely a silver lining might be an even more precious contribution to holding us altogether in these times too.

Ironically, John Milton’s silver lining phrase, was written in a form of theatre known as a masque, and indeed masks were worn in these ephemeral productions. Surely a prophecy as we meet this moment.

In order to meet the moments, we will need to be ready and 2020 has been in many ways a time to get ready, a time to notice what we have and what we value most. A hug has become precious, the fragility of democracy has been tested and fascist playbooks have been dusted off shelves. We meet the moment at the dawn of 2021 in the full knowledge that invisible rogue cells can close a border, end a life, decimate a regional economy, pull families apart.

Meeting the moment by feeling the silkiness of a silver lining and coming to recognising it as adding protection, warmth, comfort and style to our outer-selves, might serve us very well as we start the year. In meeting the moment we will be fulfilling the promises of those who have left legacies and succession plans for us to step up and take our part. We will be accepting invitations and our inheritance to pathways for just settlements. In my country I expect this to be a public discourse for treaties, for a national conversation about what it means to broker climate justice and I also predict there will be moments as a nation we will have to meet with our neighbours in the region and have a heart-to-heart that goes beyond crayfish and coal.

Inner and Outer layers: Pre-COVID19 somewhere in Portugal on the way to Santiago de Compostela – getting ready to be ready as David Whyte says.

Year of activism #49

In the spaces between being awake and being asleep, fully present and day dreaming, fully rested and alert, there are tiny insights to catch like butterflies in a net. I have written about this before and I find the season at the end of the calendar year a time where there is a lot of these spaces. Some people are turning off and tuning out and others are gearing up for what might be waiting around the corner – the ongoing pandemic, bushfire preparations, aching of separation of the holiday season. Counting our blessings may be more ritualised this year for some and the losses of the year crippling for others. It is in these spaces, the activists wholeheartedness, intuition and imagination are tapped. Glimpses of transformational possibilities dawn.

A few times over the years in this space I have referred to David Whyte’s poem What to Remember when Waking (here, here, here), and I find it as good an instruction manual for any activist as the Marshall Ganz, Stacey Abrams, Gandhi playbooks on mobilising and movement building. This poem is about visibility and invisibility, what you hold close, what you notice, the outstretched and always accessible invitation to contribute, not ask for permission to be fully yourself to bring all you can muster to any given situation, to receive the invitation as a gift in waiting for others to receive. That gift needs to be carefully chosen, appreciated by you so you can give it away with all the joy and detachment any gift giving genuinely requires for it to be fully received. (A hint for those who are sharing in this season of love and light.)

What requires our immediate attention in these times and then leading with that in our activism is often the way I answer those people who ask me – but what can I do? And then ask yourself – and what invitations are coming my way? What gifts are ready to be given? I am forever grateful to the poets, the songwriters, painters and prophets who find their imaginations translated onto pages, imagines, sounds, as they guide me, energise me, soothe me when I am weary. Forever grateful to all the creatives who have generously unlocked their gifts and then released their art into the wild.

Remembering is the act of joining past and present, to put back into place something that is required to hold what has been for a reckoning with the present, and potentially restitution in the future. It is a central theme for any activist to not go back to when injustices still needed to be righted, and to be inspired by those acts that did right them in the first place. In the areas of activism that I find myself contributing too, the act of remembering and calling on the leaders who made the path is so important. I am reading Obama’s A Promised Land and I am struck how often he recalls the heroes and heroines who have gone before civil right activists, children, family members, legislators, founding fathers and mothers, to call them into the moment when history is being made. This has been a lifetime practice of mine too, not to just make sure I don’t forget who has gone before and made possibilities and potentialities for me and my generation, but to re-member, to bring those witnesses into real time, to savour and celebrate the moment and to take care in the moment. So to follow Whyte’s instruction to remember when waking, is to bring in the dream world, your yet to be fully formed unconscious thoughts, the deepest and darkest messages to your truest self.

What to Remember When Waking

by David Whyte

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

from The House of Belonging, Many Rivers Press

Sunrise at Sellicks Beach, South Australia – Watawali – Kaurna 10 Dec 2020

Year of activism #41

The Federal budget failed to pay attention to the 51% of the population who are women. There was significant neglect of the way our community runs on the unfettered labour and love of those who stay home, undertake caring roles, hold families and communities together with their extra shifts of volunteering, home help, home nursing and child care. There was neglect or at best scant attention to an economy which can’t be fully functional without the all the efforts that as Marilyn Waring first coined more than a generation ago that “counts for nothing”. I am enraged by a Federal Government who gives lip service to female founders and then after almost a year no money has been distributed, partly because of the shock they got, when four times as many women applied for grants than they anticipated.  I give sincere thanks to all those who toil silently and consistently for program reform and legislative review … but … and it sticks in my throat to add this but … it is not the best use of our time and talents.  We need to turn our attention away from trying to get a system to work for women, and we need to turn even further away from trying to get women to fit into a system that no longer works for them.  I sat in on a webinar on the gender pay gap in the UK this week that provided undeniable evidence that women undertaking leadership courses to get ahead, get a promotion or be more visible in their work place as leaders, had not yielded any increase in salary to women.  In the words of the host, former Australian PM, Julia Gillard, on hearing this evidence, she calmly and clearly stated: “it is not women who need to be fixed, it is the system.”

The politics of grief is never far away, knowing I will and am continuing to have to give up or at a minimum, shift, power in places where my participation is privileged. As we embrace, the apprenticeship of our disappearance, as David Whyte would call it, I am moved to consider how my eldership is unfolding.

While walking today the Pioneer Women’s Trail (a 26km walk through the Adelaide Hills that commemorates early settlers who were women and girls taking their produce to market) I soaked in the history of the walk and the lack of story along the way of the First Nations women who were there before occupation. I was buoyed by the hosts of the event acknowledging country and elders past, present and emerging and touched at the simplicity and humility in which is was delivered by the volunteer safety officer.  I noted there was very little diversity amongst the hundreds of walkers  and wonder how that might be addressed in the future, and the potential for more signage along the way to tell stories to frame decolonization of the landscape, introduced species of flora and fauna and not the least the introduction of the settlers. A large, elderly koala made an appearance at the top of one of the inclines and seemed to take in the sights of us, as we took in the sight of him, for a moment the continuous occupation of the eucalyptus over generations of koalas gave me heart for a time past and a time to come.  There were patches where the January bushfires were clearly still tattooed on the slopes and fire tracks delineating where successful crews had held back flames and saved habitat. There were plenty of new shoots and lots of native orchids, butterflies and creatures coming out to play in the spring time. The bellow of the river frogs and a promise from signs that we might see a few splashes from the river rats – Rakali – the only freshwater amphibious mammal other than the platypus in Australia.  (I heard the frogs but didn’t spot any of the endangered rakali.) I wanted to grieve for what has been lost in our story and our connection to these places along the way and I wonder how we can make and take time to honour what has been lost and what is under threat of being lost. While I eaves dropped on conversations along the trail, not once did I hear anyone talking about the environment. Chatter seemed full of family, caring responsibilities, work commitments, juggling life across generations and expectations. Without the planet though, all these things will be moot and until can mourn for what we have lost, celebrate what we have, we may not be able to resist and preserve, rehabilitate and restore. There are rituals waiting to be made and old and new stories to be written and sung into being. Those who have and make space and time to reflect are on their eldership pathway. I think a new generation of activists embracing their eldership is emerging.  They are the ones who have known generational pain, grief and can hold the space for sorrows to be shared, and healed. I am imagining rituals where we mourn what was not done in a Federal budget, loss of habitat and the lack of equity in our world. I am imagining lamentations that go deep and call us to action.  Going for a walk is as good a place to start as any.

... the path to heaven doesn’t lie

down in flat miles. It’s in the

imagination with which you perceive this world and the

gestures in which you honor it. – from The Swan by Mary Oliver

Pioneers Women’s Trail 18 October 2020


                                                                                              

Year of activism #28

A walk along the Onkaparinga River reveals lagoons that have sprung to life again with the winter rains and the pelicans are holding court on the dead branches drowned by a combination of drought, salt rising and water. There is a convocation in progress and some kind of initiation ceremony going on it seems, while a few ducks play to hide and seek in the reeds like toddlers at an adult party. It’s the last Saturday in the school holidays and a few families seem to be making the most of the last afternoon sun, as well as cyclists and dog owners, who are working their way around the tracks. There is one family a long way from home, with an adult child who has a significant intellectual difficulty, and they have found a large dead branch of a gum tree that they are carrying with them holding it up to his ears so he can hear the rustling, then brushing across his face to feel the crackling and over his head to notice the different patterns of light and dark. I am struck by the care of his slightly older companions, more sibling age, than parents, who are enjoying the moments as much as he is, for all the same reasons with the added joy of his joy. There is so much in this little nativity, and all the while the convocation continues, the ducks take up the meaning of their name and the reeds dance in the wind.

These are the scenes built on activism.  Before we could walk around this park, an engineer designed the setting to help the natural landscape shine through and be restored, and before that environmentalists and their friends made the case to elected representatives this was a place for nature to be visible and take its rightful place in the landscape, and before that, long, long before that, it was a place where the Aboriginal people gathered food, played and lived on the banks of the river. It was a place where children were conceived and where the dreaming stories of women were held close and shared, where the ancient river found it’s way to the sea and where the ibis flew in the skies and arrived to herald a new season. I am grateful for this inheritance and I have done nothing to receive it, I just turned up and it was all there for me to enjoy and partake in the harvest of others.  This is the gift of the activist, to have the fruits of their combined efforts available for later generations to receive and accept the invitation to continue the legacy.  Activists don’t always see the fruits immediately though, sometimes it takes a number of seasons before the ibis comes back.

The family in the park, invisible to those early conservationists, is gathering up the fruits of their vision and labour, and through their love, is opening up the park in ways that perhaps were never envisaged by those pioneers making this space for pelicans and the public.  I am struck that our efforts and activism, in whatever it is that calls us, holds the seeds for these fruits and while we may not be around for the harvest, only if the seeds are sown there is the possibility for a harvest. 

During the week I listened with friends to David Whyte’s poem Twice Blessed. All our efforts are on the verge between who we are and who we are becoming, and this is true for our activism as well, we can look, lift our gaze, seek to understand, see our reflection and the ripples on the water go far beyond our selves into a future not yet revealed and open the mystery of what might come from our passing this way.

So that I stopped
there
and looked
into the waters
seeing not only
my reflected face
but the great sky
that framed
my lonely figure
and after a moment
I lifted my hands
and then my eyes
and I allowed myself
to be astonished
by the great
everywhere
calling to me
like an old
and unspoken
invitation,
made new
by the sun
and the spring,
and the cloud
and the light,
like something
both
calling to me
and radiating
from where I stood,
as if I could
understand
everything
I had been given
and everything ever
taken from me,
as if I could be
everything I have ever
learned
and everything
I could ever know,
as if I knew
both the way I had come
and, secretly,
the way
underneath
I was still
promised to go,
brought together,
like this, with the
unyielding ground
and the symmetry
of the moving sky,
caught in still waters.

Someone I have been,
and someone
I am just,
about to become,
something I am
and will be forever,
the sheer generosity
of being loved
through loving:
the miracle reflection
of a twice blessed life.

Twice Blessed, David Whyte from his collection The Bell and the Blackbird.

Onkaparinga Conservation Park

Year of activism #6

There is loss and grief in the life of any activist.  The feelings that you haven’t done enough, the expectations that are met (mostly of yourself over others), the fraud you seem to be by not completely walking the talk … the litany goes on.

I was reminded this week of Teddy Roosevelt’s quote: Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. And that is more than enough.  It’s not too different to Mother (now St) Teresa of Calcutta’s mantra: Bloom where you are planted. When I was young mother I held onto these instructions and took up the mantel of trying to be a household that had at its centre the notions of justice and peace (and the truth that there can be no peace without justice). I had plenty to guide me, especially once the children were in kindy – the local kindergarten was a school for us all – we all learnt about community there. I also had my Catholic social teaching to draw on and the local library which is where I found the McGinnis book Parenting for Justice and Peace, it was the only parenting book I ever really had. It was the crucible of my activism and set many of the foundations for the decades ahead.

This weekend has been filled to the brim with responses to the bushfires. I was involved in a fundraiser at Mt Compass where the locals through their Supper Club and the generosity of singers and musicians raised funds and had an entertaining evening. The choir I belong to belted out tunes and enjoyed having the opportunity to make a contribution. With my pals at Collab4Good we hosted a Heal and Hustle day with activators who shared lessons and provided spaces for reflection and learning starting with an expose of where unexpressed loss and grief comes from and how its suppression through the centuries via colonisation has led to destruction of our Mother Earth.  It was quite a day.

I am truly tired to the bone. It is time to rest, to put down the lyre and sob on the banks of the river. To feel the loss. To be sad. To bleed. To grieve.   I am hearing despair in many voices, and anger and frustration is just below the surface in so many people I meet and they are falling away from hope. I hear them clinging on to despair, for fear if they let go of despair then the abyss will appear.

David Whyte writes: Despair is a necessary and seasonal state of repair, a temporary healing absence, an internal physiological and psychological winter when our previous forms of participation in the world take a rest; it is a loss of horizon.  I am developing an understanding of the necessity of despair as an activist. In the northern hemisphere it is seasonally connected to winter as Whyte figures, I think the season of despair in Australia, is summer. Our horizon has been lost in the smoke and in places where day felt like night and where the land and the sea and the sky all fused into one … and no horizon to be seen.  The externalities finding their way into our lungs at our most cellular level.  We are exhausted by the heat and horror. It turns us inwards just so we can catch our breath and dig deep to refuel – but we cross over into despair before we can find our way back. It is a way for us to have some respite. We become separated from hope when we are in despair, we have reached a rock bottom and so the only way left is up. In fact the word despair comes from the Latin to come down from hope.  Maybe it is the moment of a reality check, that calls you to humility about what you can and can’t do, or perhaps the moment that holds your hand gently and reassuringly that you are not alone.

My experience of despair is it can be very bleak, and it needs to befriended and understood as loss, then grief and it needs to be treated as a season, and like any season will evolve and take shape over time as something new. It is not resilience or recovery that despair calls for, it is renewal.

Just like the child who grows into an adult and the reminders I had in my parenting, there are many seasons and moments of despair in parenting. And there are days when it feels like four seasons in one day!  This revelation might be a takeaway for an activist too.

 

 

Sparks will fly #43 #openness

The quest to stay open to all possibilities is closely related to detachment.  There is an old poem of David Whyte’s The Opening of Eyes that comes to mind that life is the opening of eyes long closed.

I think it is about seeing what there is in front of you. Without all your own luggage, assumptions, expectations, by seeing this as they are – raw, beautiful, exotic, simple, clean, complex – whatever they are. This takes practice.  I am re-entering worlds I have been absent from while on holidays and am noticing things I hadn’t before. I was listening to the recording of a meeting and heard things I hadn’t heard before, like the tone of a person who was fearful although clearly being assertive, the literal meaning as a place to hide for safety, the spaces and time it took for someone else to find the right about of compassion to move a conversation to its next level of maturity. This is one of the things I love about improv, it is immediate, call and response and takes only what is on offer,  nothing more and nothing less. You let go of anything you thought you might be able to use and go with the offering. It is a way of accepting and facing the facts. It is the act of being open to invitations and recognising them as such, then saying yes.

In the opening of my eyes, that has happened to me in the past couple of years, I am knocked off my feet, astonished at all the signs I missed along the way, because I held on so tightly to my worldview. There were facts and evidence everywhere for decades, that I explained away based on my assumptions, beliefs and attachments.  There was even medical evidence that I thought must have been a clinical error. I am speechless when I see I was like a sealed impenetrable  vault. It is like the person who keep looking for a cure despite all the evidence before them. I have deep wounds from my inability to not see that facts as they unfolded over decades.

Living in the now is the only way to really live and to remain open to possibilities also requires you to go to the desert like Moses, notice the burning bush alive with all the sparks of instruction for leadership, cleansing without destroying, appearing in something familiar like a bush. Moses wasn’t daunted by the sight, he was curious, he stepped closer to get the message, to understand better and to hear what was being asked of him. He was open. Instead of holding onto what we all know bushes that burn will be razed to the ground, bushes don’t speak, God doesn’t appear to give us a bespoke message – he ignored all that he would have known – and received what was right before his eyes. Maybe it was the afternoon light glowing through the bush that made it look like it was burning?  Whatever it was it must have taken an incredible capacity to be open to the scene, to the message and to the invitation.

I can’t help reflecting on those who might be on the autism spectrum and just see things as they are and state them obviously, I feel I am learning that from Greta Thunberg who has told us she has Asperger’s and sees it as her superpower. Her capacity to tell us all without fear or favour of the climate emergency we are in and we are at the beginning of a time of mass extinction. So many of us are holding on to our assumptions, our arrogance even, maybe even our love for the life we have that we can’t see the facts. I usually see this as the complete opposite of openness, yet being able to have a reality check seems a reasonable foundation for curiosity and creativity.

On Friday night, I hung out with a couple of friends, one a decade younger and another a decade again younger, they took me on as an accidental apprentice for a few hours, coaxing and cajoling me to take more steps towards an open door. I have a lot of learning and this kind of life coaching ahead of me. I can see the door, and I know it is there. I have more steps to take to open it. Their love and generosity were overwhelming. What was simple and easy and very well integrated into their lives was a long way from mine. A complete novice. I need more guides and more practice. Detaching is never easy.

The preparation for this evening began in my sub-conscious over the past couple of weeks, with a series of dreams all about letting go, and calling out to a void to find nothing coming back to me. The void must exist first and then in the relief of this blackness, light arrives to you can tell the difference between the black and the white.

The two-tone prints on the wall of the room I am sleeping in while house-sitting is a constant reminder of this phenomena. You can tell what there by what is not. One such print is of a vase of waratah’s and in the way the bush is burning and in the spirit of the Celts who are in my deep DNA, Felicity Urquhart sang a dreamtime story about how the waratah became red. Wonga the pigeon lost her mate and gave up calling for him and fell with a broken heart onto the white waratah and her blood made it red for immemorial. I am not taking this course, I am however taking from the story of transformation, first the act of giving up because you can’t find what you are looking for, it isn’t there anymore, then perhaps the lesson of lying down to rest and letting the heart open as fully and completely draining away the life force that held it together, and then the transformation for others to enjoy, celebrate and see in their landscape an opening of beauty.

From these serendipitous threads being woven around me this past week or so, I am trying to take a facts and invitations, not as the remaining pages of a book waiting to be read, or of memories passing, but more as steps towards throwing more shoes away. Small steps of being astonished and curious and knowing that when I fall to the ground, it is solid beneath me and shoes aren’t needed to tread lightly on this earth. Sparks will fly, and like the burning bush, I will not be consumed by the fire.

 

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is the vision of far off things

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

— David Whyte

ethan-h7l4TvX4LMU-unsplash

Photo by Ethan on Unsplash

Sparks will fly #37 #onemore

Remember when you were little and you counted the sleeps towards something and there was just one more sleep to go? The idea of one more has been haunting me in my sprint to holidays, putting my belongings into storage, handing over work, finalising papers and board and business responsibilities. One more email, one more call, one more meeting, one more conversation, one more bag … and now it is one more sleep. It is quite a heady mix of letting go, relinquishing on the one hand and taking up on the other. My quest is to remain open, open the road and to the questions that might emerge along the way. The question I am trying to hold onto is: What will the road reveal?

Despite all the trials, tribulations, betrayals and horrid things I have endured that have worked their way through me in various guises these past years, I am arriving once again to a new threshold – as we all do each new day. Every moment is uniquely gifted for us to receive with as much open heartedness as we can muster. I am thankful I have arrived with one more sleep to go. One more night, the last one in what will soon have the title of the old bed. I won’t be returning to that bed ever again. My grandfather made it for my parents and I have written about it before. We are parting company and it is the last vessel other than my own body that held a marriage. We are breaking up, the bed and I, and are freeing each other from our shared history.

The experience of a dry mouth from anxiety, fear, stress, followed by the insatiable desire to quench the thirst by drinking copious amounts of water, seems like the body reaching out to be a well seeking to be filled. This instruction is one for the road too. Fill up often, leverage off the fear to dip into the well. Shaking off the dust and emptying shoes of sand and pebbles so you can walk on more freely … all the feels of one more sleep.

There were days and so, so many nights, when I didn’t think I could get to this day and now it has arrived with the ease of a gentle reassuring kiss, and a blessing to go forth. As well as some basic clothes, my walking sticks and notebook, I will be taking my own version of the Examen with me – it always seems to help move me forward.

1. Resting into the presence of creative energy of love and the UniVerse – the one Word some call God.
2. Reviewing the day with gratitude.
3. Paying attention to my emotions – how did they show up during the day.
4. Choosing one feature of the day and reflecting on it with love and curiousity
5. Looking toward tomorrow.

There is always one more of something to do, to anticipate, to welcome, to farewell. There is always one more David Whyte poem to journey with, and it has been The Well today (posted below). There are always more sparks to fly and as I fly with my little spark inside of me I wonder what will the road reveal?

The Well

David Whyte

Be thankful now for having arrived,
for the sense of
having drunk
from a well,
for remembering the long drought that preceded your arrival
and the years walking in a desert landscape of surfaces looking for a spring hidden from you for so long that even wanting to find it now had gone from your mind
until you only
remembered the hard pilgrimage that brought you here,
the thirst that caught in your throat; the taste of a world just-missed
and the dry throat that came from a love you remembered but had never fully wanted for yourself, until finally, after years making the long trek to get here it was as if your whole achievement had become nothing but thirst itself.

But the miracle had come simply from allowing yourself to know that you had found it,
that this time
someone walking out into the clear air from far inside you
had decided not to walk past it anymore;
the miracle had come at the roadside in the kneeling to drink
and the prayer you said,
and the tears you shed
and the memory
you held
and the realization
that in this silence
you no longer had to keep your eyes and ears averted from the
place that
could save you,
that you had been given
the strength to let go
of the thirsty dust laden
pilgrim-self
that brought you here,
walking with her
bent back, her bowed head and her careful explanations.

No, the miracle had already happened
when you stood up,
shook off the dust
and walked along the road from the well,
out of the desert toward the mountain,
as if already home again, as if you
deserved what you loved all along,
as if just remembering the taste of that clear cool spring could lift up your face
and set you free.

bram-tXtRVye5oLA-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Bram. on Unsplash

Sparks will fly #35 #Spring

Been pouring all night, so appropriate for waters breaking to birth the new season of spring. Like so many new beginnings, first there is the heaviness of pregnancy, then the waters break before something formed but not quite fully operational, arrives. This is the season of buds forming, then opening, the seeds who have been busy gathering up their energy in dark places push through and poke their green heads up. This is the season where possibilities emerge and what looked like it might have been dead or at least in a deep Sleeping Beauty kind of sleep, opens and transforms.

I am constantly impressed by how seeds quietly go about storing up their energy and  push and push and push, until there is a crack in the brown ceiling they hit them selves against, and keep striving towards the light, but that comes after the dark and often shitty, dank place they are in and at the other end they build a system of roots that do deeper and hold themselves in place. This two way stretching and striving for nutrition and life is a constant reminder to me of what is needed to get by in the world. The human condition is fraught with times we are in the dark, know leaning into the light will help us unfold, and that we have to go deep to draw on what gets left behind in the soil. All those micro-organisms, humus, worms are there to help us reach for the stars.

Sparks of life, new ideas, possibilities and invitations start turning up to announce that hibernation has come to an end. I wonder what I have unknowingly been hibernating that might burst through some of what has been hiding under ground?  Within two weeks I will have packed up all I have left to make a home, packed a bag to hit the road, said goodbye to a village that has held me for the past fifteen years and closed a lot of chapters. I will wander away quietly with no ceremony, not quite a disappearance as I am sure to find my way to being close by on my return, but I will be without a permanent address for the first time in my life. This new season in my life comes from heavy clouds, plenty of precipitation and fodder churned into the earth from scraps, shit and disease, breaking down and turning into fuel.

Spring following winter is reassuring, even on day like today Father’s Day in Australia, where I miss my Dad. He  always had hope even well into his dying days. He was a man who opened himself up to new possibilities from ideas, words, food and was never short of advising on what might need to be transformed or changed to bring new life to a situation (he continued to write to the coaches of his football team even in his last days).  He died in spring and this year I will be on the other side of the planet when it will be his anniversary and birthday. We buried him on his birthday and when we talked about dying, he told me he wanted to be buried so the earth and all its creatures would take their time with him.  These words have held me in good stead during the winter seasons past and this one in particular. The title of a book he wrote, Help Yourself to Happiness, I am taking as a clear message from him to enter this season.

Letting nature take its course and being reminded to lean into what the winds, rains and Gaia herself wants to teach me and invite me into a practice. With the practice comes the discipline and truth that winter is followed by spring.

As we wake up and enter the spring, coming into what was in the dark, beneath the surface, where there are expectations for sparks to fly, I turn to David Whyte’s poem What to Remember When Waking, to hold me as the new season arrives.

What to Remember When Waking

 

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

— David Whyte

bookKeith

Dad wrote this book and it was published by Lothian in 1999. Nothing says spring like a daisy.

Sparks will fly #21 #music

The poet sings like a lark surrounded by virtuosos who know how to get the best out of each and every inch of their instruments, in a space designed for the singular purpose for sound to reach our ears and soak into our bodies – this was a musical nourishment to savour. One indeed to take to the grave, as I instructed my youngest to include You’ve underestimated me dude in the set to be played at my funeral. Energetically, the pulse of life, with all it highs and lows, swirled around us in raptures. I bow down to your talent and your willingness to share them with us all:

Kate Miller-Heidke | vocals / piano
Keir Nuttall | guitar
Iain Grandage | cello / piano
Jessica Hitchcock | backing vocal

You know sparks will fly when the shock of greying luxurious hair on the cellist arrives just before the first words of introduction are spoken. The ancestors were already in place and the next generation eagerly was taking up their invitation to join the appreciation society. David Whyte says: Poetry is language against which you have no defenses. The quartet raged a triumphant victory march and reached into the cracks and chasms of my heart and soul, my sword and my shield were rendered helpless, I was left defenceless.

I am being instructed through a set of exercises which is calling me to examine some of those cracks and chasms. It is not all comfortable. As this day dawns I am wondering how perhaps there is another way in to be opened, music and poetry has served me well in the practice to keep being broken open, they can creep into me with the open-heart surgery and exam of life seems to require!

In a recent speech I made, I shared a couple of snippets of time when I was literally under threat of death – a knife being pulled on me and a gun pointed at me. There have been a few other times death has come knocking. As a child suffering from asthma where breath in the body was scarce, in traffic there have been a few near misses, running behind a bus as a ten year old on the streets of London. And, I have had a death threat too during anti-racist campaigning. Coming close to death is an invitation to live more fully. It is also to unpack how these near-death experiences can continue to work their way into the future and not be relegated to the past, as if somehow they already processed, packed up and neatly put away. Music calls these experiences out into the open for review.

The emotional labour is never really over and comes repackaged and repurposed … and often for me this is through music or poetry. When a song moves you it has tapped into memory, or maybe into possibility or fantasy. There were many such moments last night. The cello becomes your spiritual director, the shaker becomes the metronome of your heart beat and the highest notes crescendo to match your higher self as the heavy darker tones of chords thumping on strings and keys takes you down as far as the notes will go … and then some. Rumi says: If all the harps in the world were burned down, still inside the heart there will be hidden music playing. It is this hidden music which is being examined but I can’t get to it without the live music on the outside. And it is in between sets that the reflection takes place, in the quiet, when instruments are lying in state, when the cup of tea is getting cold, when the chairs are empty, when the leads are relaxed. I am in between sets when I reflect, everything is still on stage, there is gratitude and expectation of more.

Remaining open is the way sparks will fly and the door is always ajar when I can hear the music.

Ukaria

Between sets, Ukaria 25 May 2019