Tag Archives: Paul Kelly

Meeting the moment 2021 #21

The skies have been extraordinary this past week. I am in the desert and during the day, the blue sky is only interrupted by puffed cirrocumulus clouds that remind me of schools of fish, which is rather ironic as these clouds are entirely bereft of precipitation. At night constellations are easy to see and navigation of any desert ship would be easy. In the in-between times the opalesque skies meet the horizon at dusk and at dawn the east glows on arrival with every shade of gold.

This is a precious, wise land, so ancient you can see the past all around you, snippets of the jurassic period in cycads in the chasm on the way to shafts of light; fossils on the floor of a seabed now at ground level travelling in parallel with highways; a newcomer, a three-hundred-year-old cork tree in a gallery courtyard a reminder of how settlers count time.  Time is not the same here and one of my fellow travelling companions commented on the shift in her experience of time since being in the desert – everything has slowed down, and the last stop seems an age away. I am remembering land rights leader Vincent Lingiari , a Gurindji man who led the walk off at Wave Hill and spent eight years getting the result when in 1975 the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam symbolically and legally passed a small parcel of the station land back to Gurindji. One of Lingiari’s gifts to the world was his saying immortalised in Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody’s song From Little Things, we know how to wait. When you are in this country you get a deeper understanding of that phrase.  This land is a great teacher of waiting and holding true to essence. The rocks apparently immovable, have formed over millions of years and carry plenty of life, with gum trees springing from what looks like the most improbable of places. The relationship between waiting and timelessness is collaborative – waiting a precondition to understand and appreciate what takes time.

I won’t get to Gurindji land this trip so I go to listen once again to that song and I chose a relatively new version of the song by Electric Fields and when you hear some of the song in language which leaves me in tears every time. I have been listening and singing this song since it first was released in 1993 but nothing prepared me for the Electric Fields version. The female voices, words in language, the baton truly passed on to a new generation, in every way new style and the new meaning for this anthem. Power and privilege and standing in law, cultural law, law of the universe, law of the sand and for a settler like me, I can only glimpse what land rights mean. We are waiting as a nation to be initiated into the meaning of time by the oldest living culture on our planet. This is unfinished business. Treaties are coming as they must – no peace without justice – always was always will be Aboriginal land.

I am reflecting on how my soul has gone ahead to prepare a place for me to wait and the rest of myself is catching up and my own treaty-making with the past, justice, reconciliation and repatriation is unfolding as surely as the movement of the caterpillar. Being in womens caterpillar dreaming country is not lost on me. Meeting the moment in this place seems to be bringing a compassionate patience to appreciate the healing properties of time and time’s ability to stand still and hold you still while knots can be massaged out of existance. From little things big things grow and in the growing, transformation comes next.

Yeperenye – Emily’s Gap – East MacDonnell Ranges.
Site of ancient caterpillar dreaming rock art (no photos by request of Arrernte.

Year of activism #19

Having a morning stretch while still lying in bed is the forecast, what might be possible to get to the edges without having to move out of a comfort zone?  To get to the edges, do some unfurling and find the part where you end and the expanse of everything else around you brings an invitation to go (as John O’Donohue says) a bit beyond yourself.

What is that bit beyond your self? The self that contains all of us with our fears, our frustrations, our courage, our inspirations, our dreams. The self that creeps into new places that we don’t quite yet inhabit but edge towards or away from as we meet the expanse.  The self that glides through the world, taking for granted all the edges it meets along the way. What is that bit beyond your self?

Listening to the community of lorikeets in the flowering gum across the road each morning as I unfold with a stretch, I am reminded by their chatter, how we are all listening to conversations that happen in the sanctuary of a home. Their home is the tree that shelters, feeds, provides a place for communion, a chance to bring news from the outside in, a place where generations can nest and be nudged to flight.  The home is an extension of ourselves and a place to stretch. It is where activism is born.  The stretch in a comfort zone to give you the practice and opportunity for discipline for the kind of world you want to live in.  It might start with a goal to grow vegetables, or to not bring single use plastic into it, maybe more ambition like solar panels, and recycling grey water for those that own their homes. It might be that as you arrive and leave where you live you appreciate and take up your role as a health activist and make sure you wash your hands before you leave and before you come back.

Activism starts at home in a comfort zone and with a stretch.  It might not be a very big stretch, however if we got to the edges of the stretch where might that take us?  I am inspired by all the people around the world who are doing all they can with what they have to make a difference in climate change, but these individual efforts will never be enough. It has taken a virus, something small, something that can be found in any home to give us a wake up call. Yet not everyone is awake and with one in five people in UK nursing homes dying of the virus and places like the USA and Brazil still not flattening the curve it is becoming more and more clear I hope for the peoples of the world to learn the lesson between private pain and public policy.  This lesson is at the heart of social work, my chosen profession and it still what I stretch into each day. It is the soil in which my activism seeds were sewn and my Catholic social teaching and faith was the fertiliser that saw it grow over the years. I am always curious about where other people’s roots are and how deep they are, if they can stretch out far and wide or are held close to home. It helps me celebrate the contributions they are making and gives me insights and invitations to stretch as well.

I was listening to a concert last night where Paul Kelly talked about Archie Roach as a singer songwriter who could create a song so personal and so political better than anyone else he knew.  I think this is the essence of the activist, to bring as much of your whole self to the story, to the edges and this happens by stretching out into the void, to the extremities of your self to meet the shore of possibilities.

So have a stretch, in your comfort zone, and see where it takes you.


Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

Promises to tomorrow #45 #petrichor


 Petrichor (/ˈpɛtrɪkɔːr/) is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. The word is constructed from Greek πέτρα petra, meaning “stone”, and ἰχώρ īchōr, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.

When your week includes a Paul Kelly concert and the petrichor on the inside and on the outside, there is a cellular knowing of kairos. The warmth and dryness of stones heating up in the sun, the skies unburden their load and trickle down through the crevices to the core, refilling the aquifer deep within.

Raindrops on roses are one of my favourite things, and the scent of them opening after rain wafts through my bedroom window, as spent petals fall onto the fishpond silently disturbing the mosquitos. The raindrops find their way to the hard earth and in the in-between spaces meander slowing down, down.   The earth releases her scent and we all know it has rained, there is an audible sigh, birds sing, blinds get pulled back, windows creak as they open matching the roses in their capacity to invite the fresh air into lungs.

The rocks hold everything in place, but still give a little for those raindrops to seep down deep. That is what seems to happen to me to when in conversation with those who have been my rocks in these times, keeping me in place, as my tears find their way to the well inside of me, bringing comfort and reassurance. Rock people, not hard people, but people who let tears fall and guide those tears in silence to where they need to go. My cheek takes its turn at the micro level to be the rock, the platform, for my tears to fall and like the clouds, I release my load and get lighter as the earth beneath my feet smells sweeter.

I am making landfall.

It is no wonder Paul Kelly has so many songs about rain, the elemental celt bring us little aches and pains, takes us to deeper water and most of all helps us to smell like rain.

The misty droplets of a winter’s day through the sploshes and splashes of tropical storm, the rain breathes us in as she kisses the earth. I am smelling, like the rain smells, the happy hormones of the afterglow of a first kiss are pumping through me as well as through the veins of the ground beneath my feet. This is a timeless love affair.

When we make rain, be our own earth, find spaces between the rocks we get the chance to breathe in the fragrance of release. Kairos. Osmosis. Petrichor. This is definitely a process and a journey determined by the elements, forces of nature and with all the predictability and unpredictability of a weather forecast.

I know there are seasons to pay attention to that are fixed in the diary – his birthday, Christmas, wedding anniversary. I can plan for those and be intentional in creating artificial climatic conditions. There are other times where such plans have no place and the audacity to think it even possible to plan is to put myself up against all the gods on Mt Olympus. The weather will change, the rocks will shout, the clouds will fill and get darker and heavier – these are laws of nature – and there is change coming.

My promise to tomorrow is to be rock for others, to let the smell of rain seep into my pores, to be confident that after the rain, the earth is refreshed and dust is settled. My promise is to also remember that one good rain does not a drought break.

I wrote this poem 23 November 2014 coming to terms more and more each day of what was ahead by being fully present to the moment –a discipline that still ensures tears. The interesting learning I have now is that once I get past the osmosis, petrichor is welcomed in, this is a kind of resurrection, transformative release. I am not ready to write a petrichor poem yet, but my promise to tomorrow is that I know I will in good time.

One Good Rain 

One good rain

Grief hangs heavy in the air.

The clouds gather

Threatening like a drunk in the city on a Saturday night – could be harmless could be lethal.

The body is yearning to weep;

To sob.

The whole body,

All of heaven and earth.

The whole body weeps,


After drought;


Tears bring healing.

An electrical storm sweeps through the whole body.

Zipping, zapping

Through synapses

Unlocking all energy,

Energy once trapped,

Once stored.

Just like the cop talking the drunk down

So too are the clouds being coached to turn into rain,

Turning now into tears.

You do know don’t you that can experience a storm

in the desert

without rain?

The body aches,

Cracks appear.

The earth aches,

Cracks appear.

Rains fall

Tears fall

The drought is over.

The earth begins to heal.

The body begins to heal.

Has it broken?

Ah we all know …

One good rain

Doesn’t mean the drought is over.

(c) Moira Deslandes



Spring Love

The heady scented blend of freesias, jasmine and native frangipani are inhaled and fill me with confidence that the season of spring is here. The buds on the Geraldton wax are synchronising with the roses and coming into fullness as a duet. It is however the grevilleas that support the bees and honey eaters to fill their hives and nests and bring the promise of new life, that ground me in this season of spring.

The vineyards that I see every day are beginning to green, just as the baby birds are feathering up.  It is no wonder that spring and love inspire poets, writers, composers, artists – spring and love were made for each other.

In the beautiful new collection of Australian Love Poems 2013 there is a haiku from one of Australia’s greatest living poets and lyricists, Paul Kelly writes:

Time is elastic

Together, days disappear

Apart, seconds crawl.

Distilled in new words, the essence of the longing of separation and the eternity of union is the duet of spring and love. I can’t really imagine one without the other – the blossom,  the expectation, the sanctity.

Keeping yourself in springtime and in love is knowing that the seasons all give way to one another in a virtuous cycle. It is one of the reasons I have loved living near vineyards, which I have fortunately been able it do most if my life. The seasons unfold and remind me of all the lessons of life – pruning, renewal, harvest, rest, new beginnings from old growth.

The attraction of spring can also mask the reason it is here – to herald a new era and to let the old season pass. It is seductive to want to be in springtime all the time … and it is not possible.  What is possible is to know that spring comes and love comes back to life even when it might have looked dead.

I am constantly falling in love, with new ideas, new stories, old stories, new people, people who have been with me for a long time and each time spring turns up I fall in love with spring too.  I sprout some new shoots, or birth a new part of my being, or breath in deeper to inhale the new fruits take  shape.

As I enjoy the spring, my God is getting bigger and there is more than enough room in the nest for everyone.

The seeds sown in the dark, are all finding their way to greet the light on the surface and are dancing now as new life in the sunshine and being soaked every now and again by the heavy seasonal showers.  I have even been kept awake by this full moon, insisting I remain vigilant to springtime and love.

The Canticle of the Sun by Francis of Assisi must have been written for this time and it is with great joy that I too can proclaim:  “so much in love with all that I survey” this spring.  His namesake in Rome is announcing spring; just as clearly as the magpie does; and like the maggie, is swooping down from the nest to remind us that spring is here and it is time to protect all that we love that is in the nest. Morality anxiety must give way to Big Love.

My favourite blessing to sing is the Long Time Sun Song and I offer it to all you who are reading this blog so that you too might have your spring enriched.

2013-09-16 15.51.58

Parkour Pilgrim

I am intrigued how one thing leads to another. I have never bothered much with straight lines, instead I’ve been happy with curved edges, leap frogging over old ways to innovations and skidding across ledges to get to a new place.

The inner journey is never a straight line, it is more like parkour – traversing soul territory in leaps and bounds. The gurus, saints and mystics perhaps are superstar soul parkour practitioners? Overcoming obstacles in their spiritual landscapes using the body, mind and soul in dialogue with their environments to propel themselves forward, using the momentum, the traction from their moves to arrive to their next place safely. Not constrained by their physical surroundings or traditional physical forms they are willing to land on all fours, leverage off inanimate objects and travel on something else that might be moving – the spiritual masters are parkour pilgrims!

The obstacle courses we find ourselves in, or even perhaps create for ourselves, are an invitation to develop our parkour practice. The objects or hurdles in our way are also wonderful invitations to leverage off our own giftedness.

I recently learnt that a practitioner of Parkour is often called a traceur (masculine) or traceuse (feminine) and these terms are from the French verb tracer, which normally means “to trace”, as in “tracing a path”. In extending this idea of the pilgrim as a parkour practitioner, the pilgrim is one who is tracing a path. You are tracing your own path, and while the steps you take might be your own, many follow those who have gone before such as those who walk the Camino, or those who follow a specific prescribed spiritual path. Maybe there are a set of exercises or disciplines that keep you on your path? Or perhaps you use your landscapes to make the path for you, tracing the edges and ledges to make your own map?

What gets in your way, may well be the step up we need to take the next leap. Hildegard I think of you as a spiritual parkour practitioner – making good use of all the inner and outer offers in your landscape. And I’ve been wondering if, maybe, Paul Kelly was singing about Parkour in Leaps and Bounds?

I’m high on the hill
Looking over the bridge
To the M.C.G.
And way up on high
The clock on the silo
Says eleven degrees
I remember I remember
I’m breathing today
The month of May
All the burning leaves
I’m not hearing a sound
My feet don’t even
Touch the ground
I remember I remember
I go leaps and bounds
Down past the river
And across the playing fields
The fields all empty
Only for the burning leaves
I remember I remember
I go leaps and bounds
I remember everything

It is in the re-membering us pilgrims go in leaps and bounds and sometimes your feet don’t even touch the ground! I have had such a week! So many twists and turns and using each one to leverage to drive me further deeper and higher, into a more expansive spiritual landscape that speaks a single word – a uni-verse yet sung by a chorus of animate and inanimate obstacles that are stepping stones for the pilgrimage. Perhaps this is what you had in mind Hildegard with your vision where the universe was revealed to you as “round and shadowy … pointed at the top, like and egg … its outermost layer of a bright fire” (Scivias).

There is certainly a value in being more eggy than spermy as Martha Beck and Lissa Rankin have popularized. So if you are right Hildegard, about the universe as an egg, then perhaps as an aspiring parkour pilgrim, then I might invoke a discipline to trust the universe to come to me. And when it comes to be ready to go along for the ride knowing it might well be in leaps and bounds and not in a straight line.

Cloud of Witnesses

Photo taken at Whitby off the coast of Northern England – site of ruins of the monastery and church founded by Hilda of Whitby (c. 614–680)

I have been reflecting this past week on the idea of the cloud of witnesses and the cloud of the internet and the relationship between the two.  Last night I was flying home from a meeting, an exit interview from my job of the past four and a half years as the flight took its path into the setting sun the clouds parted and the sun’s rays were emblazoned on the clouds and refracted from the horizon – it was a glorious sight.  I reflected on the cloud of witnesses who had been supporting me of late in a time of transitions. The cloud of living and dead, known and unknown to me. The poets  -David Whyte and Mary Oliver; and the musicians Paul Kelly (Words and Music, especially Little Kings), the Cologne Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra (who played at St Joseph’s Willunga this week) who have been before my eyes and in my ears, I pay homage!  You too are on the honour roll in my cloud of witnesses.

The people who have sent me a text wishing me well, the friend who posted a photo of her child with me and a big smile to remind me of the love and bonds of a new generation, the brother who face booked me with greetings, the friend who sent me via a recruitment site a potential job and the list goes on of Facebook messages, tweets, LinkedIn recommendations, emails and text messages, telephone calls and skype messages, the music link, the You tube video to the trailer of a new film, the gift voucher to Amazon … all in the cloud.

I have sojourners in the flesh as well and nothing beats face to face and the physical contact of a hug and a hearty audible laugh uninterrupted in real time.  I love the serendipity that this photo has now brought several years after it was taken bringing the past and the present together due to the digital platform on which it was saved, now retrieving it for this post to reflect the theme of this blog.  The person who witnessed my exit from my job, was with me the day I took this photo. I love how this all works, or in the words of Desiderata, “the universe is unfolding as it should.”

I do pay tribute though to all the care and support that I have received via the cloud and I am impressed by the cloud of witnesses that accompany me on line and together give collective witness to me and my journey.  I think there is so much more to unfold and the mystery of the  clouds suspended outside the window of my plane and the mystery of cloud computing I benefit from in my online communities is truly awesome!

More than 400 years after Hilda of Whitby played host to the first synod, fostered peace-making and education, was sought after for her wise counsel – another Hilda – Hildegard of Bingen found herself doing similar works.  Hildegard is in my cloud of witnesses as is Hilda of Whitby – two remarkable women who didn’t need the cloud to communicate with their constituencies or their God.  I live in the clouds. I  am finding it a good place to be. In the clouds I  trust that the plane doesn’t fall out of the sky. In the clouds I read the Facebook messages. My story will be witnessed and I too can bear witness to the lives of others with a simple click of the like button on Facebook – new cloud of witnesses and an enriched understanding of what that means for me in my time.

“… we are surrounded by a huge cloud of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that weighs us down …” Hebrews 12:1