Tag Archives: Midwifery

Start Close In

Dear Sor Juana,

Waiting can bring anxiety, excitement, fear, boredom – the space between the now and what is to come is more likely to inspire me with ideas of the future than to be a student of the end game. Dreams, forecasts and the what is possible usually fill me in the waiting. Being able to imagine what is possible is always the first step.

David Whyte’s poem Start Close In  comes to me – to start with the step you don’t want to take, in the ground you know, the ground beneath your own feet. These first steps take you from the waiting to the next place. In my preamble to this poem I say: be still in the waiting and get to know the ground beneath your feet then you can start as truly close in as possible, and from this place, calibrate, settle, still and come to know what it is about that step you don’t want to take … then take it.

Sor Juana, I haven’t been able to take some steps recently to be excited, yet there is a lot to be excited about: new life, new beginnings and new territories to explore.  All dreams-in-waiting, waiting for me to take the first step. Yet I have been holding back, not wanting to get excited, reserving my self and steeling myself in case potential is not realised, or even worse perhaps is realised! How to let go and be, to stand in the space of waiting and then to take the first step towards the future (known and unknown) is not my usual predisposition.  I am mostly comfortable with not knowing what will unfold, and often eager to ride the waves and see where they take me. But recently I’ve noticed I am holding back and even at times holding on.

Coffee with Sor Juana

Coffee with Sor Juana

The call I have heard this week is to step into excitement. I found my response via midwives who came in the guise of coffee, a sixteen week child, the word “adventure” and returning to a familiar place for food and conversation. Each have invited me to take first steps to get excited and I feel renewed.   I like the idea that you too would combine science and imagination, poetry and cooking to fuel and for you the thought process, and the very definition of the self, always returns to and necessitates a body and its sustenance. To be sustained by some basics like a cup of coffee, a hug, a word and the familiarity of happy times took me this week to stillness and then propelled me to take first steps into excitement (perhaps caffeine fuelled). Each first step firmly planted in what had gone before, deep memory, deep knowledge and connections beyond time, beyond space. Where stories of childbirth became instruction for the next generation, where the brew tickled mu adrenal gland into excitement, where adventure became invitation and little hands forecasted a new role on the horizon.

I agree with you Sor Juana, in the body is where the first signs of wisdom and definition of self return are sustained. The top-up from play in my life made the ground fertile and sowed the seeds of excitement my mid wives were able to harvest this week.

Interplay: Adelaide Summer Untensive, January 2015  Photo: Trish Fairley

Interplay: Adelaide Summer Untensive, January 2015  Photo: Trish Fairley


Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To find
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

~David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected Poems



Sitting in front of a beautiful painting, or adoring a sunset or holding a new born babe as they fall asleep in your arms – all wonderful moments that urge you to linger.  Not wanting to leave is a fundamental ingredient to lingering, a savouring of the moment. Procrastination or putting off the inevitable to take the next step in a journey or a decision may show reluctance to face the inevitable, but maybe lingering is more like being a sponge to squeeze everything out of the moment that is possible.

In a conversation this past week, a friend told me her mother was lingering, in no hurry to leave this life and her palliative carers. Palliative care is all about relieving but not curing and so lingering is similar; knowing that there is an inevitable next step after relishing and drinking in the moment that you don’t want to leave.

I have been noticing when I linger and when I leave prematurely, and the differences between the two. Leaving early and staying later maybe two sides of the one coin – finding the right balance is a Goldilocks ‘just right’ experience. When we linger it is often others who notice we aren’t leaving, and a mid-wife appears to birth a next step or guide us on our way out of a comfort zone we may not want to leave (or ushers us gently). I  have often held the view that midwives and palliative care nurses have a lot in common but my own preference is to be more like a midwife coaching new ideas into life, than a palliative care nurse who might be smoothing the pillow to make death easier.  (Certainly in my relationship with the church Hildegard, I have made it clear that I am in the midwifery business, actively and consciously paying attention to foster new models and new life and not to hold a dying institution’s hand as it decays.)

As the calendar year comes to an end, I am savouring all the gifts received during the year and the invitations I received.  I have been faithful to writing to you and poetry. I have had many wonderful opportunities to extend my reach on line (curating a couple of #rocur accounts, initiating and advancing social media for community based organisations in particular), presenting a TEDx talk, having a little essay published on my favourite website, building new friendships and watching those I love take big leaps in their personal and professional lives, spending hours holding hands on a red couch with my one true love, watching the honey eaters on the grevilleas in the garden as well a precious trip to Italy and Ireland … and the list goes on … I am blessed and grateful for the gifts of 2013 and I will linger in it a little longer before 2014 begins.

There are many ‘just right’ moments I could linger on this year and here is one that brought a little of heaven to earth when love was in the air!

Transit of Venus

Forecasted by astronomers and prophets
(those faithful custodians of the future).
Arranged by the UniVerse,
Guided by planets and stars,
The promise of arrival is fulfilled.

She arrives.

Arrayed in crystals and petals,
Casting a shadow long and slender
Onto the gasping assembly.
Her beauty takes their breath away.
She moves us
Through all the elements;

The leaves shake in counterpoint timing.
Warbling magpies gather in communion.
All of creation consents.

The salted beads slide down our faces.
The candle, encased by ancestral love
Lovingly reminding us,
Angels too witness this celestial sight.

She glides into place.
The jigsaw now complete.

A new day dawns.
And Venus transits into her next orbit.

(c) Moira Deslandes, November 2013

Clare's Wedding Day

Clare’s Wedding Day