Friday, 29 December 2017

Elsewisdom: A New Knowing to Close the Circle

What a strange year it has been, full of journeys through dark and low places, punctuated by occasional bright, high peaks. I’ve written poetry, and stopped writing altogether for a time. I’ve made some art, and wished I could make much more (and let’s not forget my knitting). And confusion and unease have been near constant companions, forcing me to re-evaluate and reconfigure my perspective and way of being, but I think I am finally finding my way to the creation of a new amalgam, a new understanding. 

In June I wrote of the winter solstice, my feelings of unwisdom, and my movement between opposing poles: 

I have been both still and in constant motion over the past year. I’ve been myself, and changed. I’ve been high and low, light and dark, wise and unwise. I’ve come full circle, and will again, and again. (Stillness, Unwisdom & the Solstice)

And so it seems appropriate that I am coming to the end of another cycle, to some kind of conclusion with which to end this calendar year, and then to begin again, renewed.

Dualities and paradoxes have been at the forefront of my mind for some time—the dance of opposing forces. And these opposites—light/dark, body/mind, spirit/matter, nature/culture—do indeed dance. While they are distinct things, they are not wholly seperate, for they work together; and, sometimes, in the space between grows a third thing—a merging, a oneness, an equilibrium. It’s not an easy thing to find, balance, but I know it is there, in that calm space between the whirls.  

An illustration from Ursula Le Guin's Always Coming Home
Rereading Susan Griffin’s seminal germinal book Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her (1978), a classic ecofeminist text, was a necessary part of my search for answers. In it she argues against the philosophical separations and dualisms that have been part of the thinking of many civilised humans since the time of Plato. In Griffin’s poetic prose, what is separated is rejoined, the mind comes to re-inhabit the body, the heart to work once more with the mind. (I think it was Clarissa Pinkola Estés who wrote that it is better to work from a position of and/and than one of either/or.) As someone who struggles with being too much in my head and not enough in my body, Griffin’s work is both inspiring and instructive. Thus, my aim for the year ahead (if all goes well) is going to be an exploration of embodiment—in writing, in art, in food and nourishment, and in forms of somatic meditation and other spiritual practices. (This need for embodiment is something I have known about for several years, and is thus long overdue.)

I also read an anthology of Griffin’s writing earlier this year, in which I came across many things that resonated with me. It is a wondrous thing when someone’s writing speaks very directly to you as reader, as if made just for you—even things written decades ago, as in this case. So I will leave you, and the tumultuous year that was 2017, with this quote, which I think sums up much of what I have been thinking and feeling:    

But fearful as I am, there is joy in me. While one eye sees disaster and the causes of destruction more clearly, the other eye awakens to beauty. I am beginning to put the shattered being, myself and the world, back together. We are all connected. I know this. Dark and light. Male and female. We are a tribe whose fate on this earth is shared. I do not know the outcome. I have moments of despair. But I have learned that when I see out of my own experience, and chart it as precisely and clearly as I can, I see what I have not seen before: I am surprised.

This earth holds a vast wisdom and a capacity to heal that we are only beginning to comprehend. We are made from this earth. This is my hope. 

(Susan Griffin, Made from this Earth: An Anthology of Writings by Susan Griffin, Harper & Row: New York, 1982, p. 20)

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Looking Back

It seems I thought that 2016 was a challenging year, but 2017 has been much more difficult. However, though I haven’t written as much as I would like, nor much of what I would like to write about, I think it is important to look back on what I have achieved. It all seems a bit of a blur, but here are some of my (and your) favourite posts from the year that was:

Sightings of the winged ones: Blessings From the Birds

An artwork I am proud of: Intaglio Etching Workshop

My guest post on Corina Duyn’s blog: Inside You There Are Worlds

Finding purpose in chronic illness: Illness is My Spiritual Path

The poem that began my exploration of poetry: There is So Much I Want to Say

Great wisdom from Jeanne Achterberg: Healing = Wholeness = Holiness

The first anniversary of Offerings from the Wellspring (Hurrah!)

A poem to release anger: Furies

My own inner wisdom: A Message to Myself

Acknowledging the potential that is always within: Immanence: A Poem

Another artwork I am proud of: Mountain Mother

A poem AND a painting: (Not) Mountain

A surge of words that became a poem: Bright With Darkness

Exploring contradictions within the reality of living with a chronic illness: Edge-Dwelling: The Liminality of Illness

Thank you to all my readers for visiting this space, for commenting, and travelling with me on my often bumpy path. I do hope I will be able to get back to writing soon, and that next year will be bigger, better, and even more creative.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Edge-Dwelling: The Liminality of Illness

My life is full of liminality because it is full of contradictions. 

I have an illness that makes me live a kind of half-life, inside and outside society, part of and apart from the world at the same time. 

I am dependent on family and welfare, and therefore not a ‘genuine’ (i.e. employed and taxpaying) adult; while illness stole away part of my childhood, meaning I am trapped somewhere in-between childhood and adulthood. 

I’ve often felt innocent and naïve, yet also old and wise before my time. 

I am introverted and introspective, but also, at times, desirous of expressing myself in extroverted and uninhibited ways.

I am free to do what I want in the sense that I do not have a job or other responsibilities; at the same time I am held captive by circumstances, and can do very little. 

I prefer to stay at home where I feel safe and secure, but I also have a desire to escape to places far, far away. 

I love my home for being my refuge, but sometimes hate it for being my prison. 

I am quiet on the outside, but my interior has often boiled with passions. 

I enjoy and require solitude, but can also feel desperately lonely; I sometimes yearn for company and relationships, while at other times I find people smothering. 

My moods shift regularly from calmness to storminess, happiness to depression, enthusiasm to apathy. 

I am a creature of inner and outer worlds, the underworld and the topside world. 

My life is a mass of edges, boundaries and contradictions.       

(Adapted from a draft of my ‘life story’ that I wrote in 2013.)

Friday, 24 November 2017

Paying Attention

I’ve not been doing much, due to my low energy levels, and a recent cold. But I’ve felt somewhat better the last few days, with enough energy to take my camera with me into the garden, and see what has been happening in my absence. I think it is important to notice, to pay attention, to feel grateful for the life that is around me. This isn’t something I can always do, but when I can, I find that it helps me to see beyond my own individual problems, and situate myself within the broader natural community of which I am part—the life and health of which, overall, is so much more important than my own. 

The crimson bottlebrush is flowering, and haloed by bee-hum.

Crimson bottlebrush, Callistemon citrinus
Fuzzy peachlings are growing, and little apples.

I’ve been regularly picking and drying calendula, to be used for tea, and soon perhaps, with the addition of comfrey, a healing salve.

The local wattlebirds have raised a young ’un, who is probably all grown up by now.

The butterflies have been busy. I’ve always loved these tiny blue-grey ones, with wings the colour of storms.

And I’m still finding bush blooms.

Native iris, Patersonia sericea
Mountain devil, Lambertia formosa
I recently stocked up on greeting cards featuring my art. It’s a little bit strange seeing my own work in that form, but they don’t look too bad, if I do say so myself. They are available for purchase here.

Also, excitingly, some significant changes will soon be taking place …

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Bright With Darkness: A Poem

There is no harvest, no ripeness
only gleanings from
bare ground
of what may be

The sweet and simple 
sleep of youth 
is gone 
has been gone for years 
gone with the dreams of wonder

I do not belong to myself
but to circumstances 
uncontrollable, unasked for

But what if I called? What if I stared 
into her face? Did I willingly 
turn to stone, choosing stagnation 
over life? 

Perhaps there are reasons why 
based not on reason, but a deeper 
knowing, beneath understanding—
a holy mystery

I chose this

A small pebble 
buried in the earth—
must I dig my way out?

I love the depths, and darkness 
and would rather dwell there 

Yet mountains call—peaks—
places of clear sight; 
perhaps a better vantage from which 
to see into the dark deep

After all 
the moon’s light is not her own
though she wears it as if illumined 
from within 
bright with darkness 
bridging both

Only in the third place can the mind merge 
the opposites

If I have a patch of dark 
bare earth 
and air and sunlight
perhaps, in the place between
something will grow

(October 2017)

The Moon, by Adam Cebula (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Friday, 3 November 2017


It has been a relief not to be writing, and not to be posting here.

When I began this blog I knew I would have to be careful to make sure it served me, rather than the other way round. I wanted to be doing things (writing, art, explorations of my landscape) because I wanted to be doing them (and then perhaps being inspired to blog about them), rather than doing things specifically for the blog. I wanted it to complement my life, not take it over. (Though that said, having an intention to post something each week did provide me with ongoing creative goals, which was helpful.) 

In the end it did take over, in a way, and so I have felt a sense of freedom since pulling back from this space. I have needed a rest.

Pink swamp heath, Sprengelia incarnata, growing down by the creek
Several years ago many things changed for me, and my world expanded. I was not ‘well’ by any means, but I had more energy (especially mentally), and I wrote and wrote and wrote. I had so much I needed to say, to express and explore. I went through a real transformation, and learnt how to write stories (not something I ever felt I had a natural aptitude for).

This past year or two, however, I’ve been going through a transformation of a very different sort, questioning many things, reading feminist texts, and trying to figure out where I stand spiritually. It has been uncomfortable and challenging and enlightening/endarkening. Things have fallen apart numerous times, only to be built back up with slightly different forms—though I am not yet at the point where I can fully trust those new forms; nor do I have the energy, at present, to explore them through writing. 

Waratah, Telopea speciosissima

My health is fragile. I feel worse than I have for years, and I wonder whether my few years of increased activity were a form of forgetting. As Kat Duff has written,

Because the experience of illness is so difficult to accept, communicate, and integrate, it sinks into the mute flesh of our bodies as we recover. In fact, the word “recover” literally means “to cover up again.” We lose that piece of our lives, that corner of truth, in order to reclaim the world we share with others. The experience may be forgotten altogether, or obscured by the workings of memory into the shadows of insignificance, with euphemistic understatements like “It was just a bad dream” or “I had a little trouble with my heart.” It appears that the terrain of the sick, like the underworld in Greek mythology, is surrounded by the waters of forgetfulness. (The Alchemy of Illness, 1993, p. 17) 

An increase in my energy—perhaps partly caused by all the new and exciting ideas that were entering my life at that time—caused me to forget what CFS was really like, what it had been like for many years. I embarked upon a period of quite intense activity, sometimes in short bursts, at other times more sustained, and it was the writing I was producing that made me feel much more positive about the curtailed circumstances of my life. Having a chronic illness is clearly not ideal, yet it didn’t seem so bad if I was creating.

Dampiera stricta
Now I’ve emerged out of the waters of forgetfulness, and I remember what CFS is, and the toll it takes. Not only am I incapable of doing the writing I was regularly doing (as my energy is very low, and my cognitive ability with it), but I do not even want to write. The desire to spill out streams of words, and the enjoyment, aliveness and wildness that came with them, is gone. Even sitting outside and watching the birds is not giving me the sense of calm and comfort that it usually does.

This, though, has led to a useful realisation/reminder: All those years when I was not doing much, not achieving anything, seemingly avoiding creative work, were not due to laziness, or my not trying hard enough, but due to my body’s real inability to function (though this does not mean there aren’t other things that might be holding me back too). In my good years (and other isolated moments), with energy available, I was compelled to act—to write, to shamanise, to work on becoming a better person; now, I rarely feel any compulsion to do anything, because my body is struggling so much. And because the body and mind are entwined, working together, what affects my body impacts on my mind, my mood, my ability to think and concentrate (and vice versa).  

(It interests me, the connection between mind and body. How, for instance, there is now evidence to suggest that imbalances in the microbiome of the gut are implicated in mood disorders. Thus, our ‘mind’, and the way we think and feel, is not independent of the body, but very much integrated with it, and influenced—even determined, in some sense—by it.)  

Grevillea sericea
I didn’t want this blog to be about illness. I wanted it to be about writing, art, creativity, nature, shamanism—my unique journey through life, with illness, if it appeared at all, as merely a background note. But illness has crept up on me, consumed me once more. Everything is difficult, when for a while it was easier, and this is endlessly frustrating. 

I do not feel like myself. (I am full of snarls.)

I’ve no doubt that the person I was a few years ago, buoyed by a greatly enlarged imagination and sense of purpose, is still here, somewhere. Yet she has withdrawn for now. Proof, I think, that what we think of as the ‘self’ (mind/consciousness/personality/soul) is completely embedded in our bodily/biological form and functions—and therefore when the body is not functioning well, when it is exhausted, deficient, imbalanced, a new self emerges. Is this a false self? Or merely different? A little of both, perhaps.   

Under such circumstances, it’s difficult to be positive, to be inspired, or to want to post here. But, after a couple of weeks of not writing, I felt the need to write this, to explain my absence, my silence. I hope that it will not be long-lasting, and eventually I will have the desire and ability to resume more regular posts. And, blog aside, a return to, if not who I really am, at least who I want to be, with a sense of purpose in my creative work, and my small place in the world.

Lomandra obliqua
I’ve been trying (very, very slowly) to learn a little more about the plants that live around me, so the above photos are of plants that I have seen/found flowering in the bush not far from my home.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Land of Birds

What a privilege it is to live in this land of birds.

Wattlebird (August).

Yellow-faced honeyeater (August).

Grey fantail (August).

Silvereye (a whole flock of them, who seemed to be eating the red buds in the Japanese maples—also, I got pooped on!; September).

A trio of kookaburras (September).

Grey fantails and welcome swallows (filmed in March; I had to adjust the colours a little, as the original footage seemed quite overexposed, so apologies if it looks a little strange).

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden

I recently visited the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mt Tomah, and saw many beautiful things. Here is a small glimpse.

Autumnal spring foliage.

Huge trees!

The view, roughly south-east, towards Sydney.

‘Tis the season for waratahs.

I neglected to take any photos of the famous Wollemi pines, but here is one of their fossil relatives.

This brown barrel gum was definitely the highlight. Enormous in girth and reach, it probably pre-dates European occupation, meaning it is about 250 years old, or more. What tales this tree could tell.

A coastal redwood, planted during WWII, and already very tall.

The Magic Flower or Sacred-Flower-of-the-Incas (Cantua buxifolia).

One of the locals.

There were many birds (including a brushturkey!), but this is the only one I managed to capture: a New Holland honeyeater.

The amazing bark of Acer capillipes, one of the snake-bark group of maples, found in the mountains of central and southern Japan.

A species of birch with coppery bark.

And the amazing view. 

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