New moon, new year

I know little about astrology but I did notice, while exploring my lovely new Astrological Calendar and Moon Planting Guide, that there is a new moon (in Capricorn) at 10.15 pm today. Apparently, this happens only occasionally — that the new moon coincides with the beginning of a new year.

I have no idea what it means. But it feels special. Like a once-in-a-couple-of-decades opportunity to set clear intentions for the year.

gentle beginning
dear twenty fourteen — may all
hearts and minds be kind

 

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Elemental forces

My unit is on the top floor of a large three-storey complex whose floors spiral gently upwards in a roughly oval shape, fitting around old trees and allowing central space for lawns, gardens and places to sit and enjoy the natural beauty.

From my bedroom and living room windows, I have views stretching across rooftops, treetops and gardens to the north and the east; from the south-west-facing kitchen window, a clear view of the liquid amber tree.

Up here, I am amongst the elements. Each morning, waking early, I can sit in bed and watch the sun rise; later, see its golden light creep across my living room floor as I sit and write morning pages. With my balcony door open, I feel the breeze on my bare feet and on days like this, when the wind’s wild, it calls me to go out and walk; to merge with its wildness and let it take me over and cleanse me.

On hot days, I drop the balcony awning to block out the baking sun and open my front door and my balcony door to give the cooling breezes full reign, only closing everything up on those stifling days when even the wind takes a rest.

There’s a stone that I use, reverently, to prop open the front door. It came into my life many years ago when I was wandering in a dry river bed up in the Barrington Ranges of New South Wales where I was staying the weekend with a group of friends on a spiritual retreat. At that period in my life, I was deeply interested in Native American culture, spirituality and ceremonies, particularly drumming and sweat lodges, and knew that only certain stones had the capacity to survive the ferocity of the sweat lodge elements. This stone, the size and shape of a human heart, rested heavy in my hand and seemed suitable.

Over the next few years, it proved its resilience and fortitude several times, being heated in the sweat lodge fire until it was glowing deep red, then resting in the dark earthen centre of the lodge as water was poured over it, sending steam hissing into the herb-scented air.

A sweat lodge is a small dome-shaped structure erected on the earth and covered in layers of blankets, into which those seeking cleansing, healing and insight crawl, humbly, to sit close together in near-darkness as the humidity quickly reaches saturation point and the heat becomes intense. Typically, there is chanting and drumming, prayer and silent contemplation. The testing of human resilience is but an echo of that experienced by the rocks that provide the heat; some rocks crack or split open, and few survive through multiple sweat lodges. Some people also find the elemental forces too much to bear, and crawl out to lie on the cool earth partway through the ceremony.

This dear stone has stayed with me through many house moves and has come to represent to me the infinitely loving energy of the Great Mystery; the creative force whose natural state is love, vitality, creativity, balance and harmony. When I hold the heart stone, spend time with it, I am always reminded of its strength and resilience; the strength and resilience of my own heart, my own spirit; and of the elements from which we are formed.

It seems very fitting that at the end of a year of major transition for me, my family and so many others, there’s a wild wind whipping the treetops, blowing away whatever isn’t securely anchored. I had to go out and walk in it. Had to let it take me over and blow right through me, preparing me to enter clear, clean and refreshed into whatever 2014 will bring.

blow through me wild wind
uproot all past suffering —
clear the new year’s path

 

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Home

Last night, just before bedtime, I realised that there was nothing in my diary for today. That this would be the first day living in my new home when there was absolutely nothing I had to do. A shimmer of panic ran through me but dissipated as I realised that for the first time in a very long time — perhaps the first time since I was about three years old — I could do whatever I liked. There’s something terrifying about that until the exhilaration hits.

I’ve been here just over two weeks now, revelling in setting up my new home, unpacking the treasures I’ve brought with me, sitting chatting with old friends and my daughter, Annie, and getting to know my new neighbours who include many very elderly people (mainly women) as well as a magnificent old camphor laurel tree, its neighbouring liquid amber, the myriad birds and the glorious gardens.

For the first time since I lived in the Forgotten Valley several years ago, I’ve been watching the sun and the moon rise, tracking their transits across the sky. Aligning the rhythm of my days and nights with theirs. My balcony faces exactly the right direction.

Before I went to bed last night, I pondered what to do with this precious day, and pencilled a little list into my diary. Because I know that, despite my buoyant spirit and optimistic soul, it’s all too easy to slip gradually into the paralysis of despond when one spends too much time alone and, in certain ways, isolated.

Morning pages aren’t listed because they are as much a part of my routine as sleeping, eating, drinking, showering and brushing my teeth. I sit at my round glass-topped table very early each day with the candle lit and a cup of tea, and let the words flow. Today, when I focused, the beginnings of a haiku emerged.

Then breakfast, shower, and a gentle walk around the gardens and local streets. Home to write my first blog post from this place. Later, I’ll read a bit, work on a couple of crochet projects, watch a bit of TV, rest. Perhaps chat to someone on the phone.

I’m aware that there will be much inner exploring to do now that I’ve nudged open the long-locked doors of my imagination; much to discover and rediscover now that I have a home of my own and great stretches of time ahead of me. The future feels expansive, creative and wonderful.

birdsong cool breeze light
spaciousness — held in the strong
gentle arms of home

 

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Pausing

I’m in the throes of sorting, culling and packing in preparation for my big move into a little retirement village unit.

There’s been so much to do psychologically as well as physically, and I’ve been pacing myself carefully, making the most effective use of every morning’s scant energy.

Practicality has overtaken creativity for a short while; I made that choice some weeks ago, and it’s been working well for me. But part of being practical has been knowing that I cannot let my morning pages lapse: that precious half hour at the beginning of each day when I sit quietly with my purple pen and notebook, candle, pot of tea — and my innermost vulnerable self.

This morning, partway through writing about packing and boxes and phone calls to transfer services, I paused and looked up. And there, just beyond my lovely balcony, was the old jacaranda tree glowing at me out of the mist.

The writerly part of my soul ached to rest mindfully for a few moments with this beauty and I was compelled to let her express herself. How wonderful it felt!

vivid shimmery
jacaranda glow — soft mist
dissolves into sky

 

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After a hot, smoky weekend

sunlight kisses my
dry lips aged skin — blessedly
cool clear morning air

 

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Dire weather forecast, bushfires raging

brooding day — anguish
of waiting — elemental
force shifts perspectives

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In mourning for Mother Earth

Still six weeks before the beginning of summer in Australia and the big, slick, shiny city of Sydney is ringed by devastating bushfires. Hundreds of houses have been burnt to the ground, millions of lives lost — native and domestic animals, insects, birds, reptiles, trees, shrubs, grasses, wildflowers, entire ecosystems — and almost certainly some humans too, once the cost is fully counted. For the fires are still raging, and there are more very hot days to come before a cool change arrives.

Yet our newly elected prime minister, climate change denier to the devastating end, is fighting to repeal the carbon tax, even in the face of overwhelming support for climate change action by most other world leaders.

My daughter and I cried as we watched the evening news last night. Not so many years ago, we lived in a suburb where only the courage and tenacity of RFS volunteers with their trucks and helicopters saved houses from burning down. When yesterday’s afternoon sun glowed blood red in a filthy yellow-grey sky and ash dropped on our suburban balcony and the smell of smoke was everywhere, the memories sprang back to life.

The best fighting tool I have is my writing. Yet I’m struggling to find a compassionate counterbalance to my sadness and despair. For many decades, aware of human-accelerated global warming, millions of people have been living mindfully, and fighting and campaigning in defence of the Earth and her exquisitely balanced life-nurturing systems; and yet the wilful ignorance, inward-looking selfishness and greed of many millions of others have allowed us to arrive at the shocking situation we are now in.

I know that despair achieves nothing useful; nor does accusation or negativity. And so I search for glimpses of the bigger picture to distil into poetry in the hope that this might shift the consciousness of even one person in power; buoy the optimism of even one person who loves the Earth and all her life forms.

 

tear-streaked ashen cheeks —
fires floods tempests — our dear Earth
struggles for balance

 

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Record-breaking hot day

heat-smudged sky — faint drone
of far-away cicadas —
the Bush waits, trembling

 

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Deep acceptance

What a quiet delight it is to return to my blog after more than a month away.

It’s been a time of deep reflection, and of careful prioritising in order to make best use of what little energy I have each day. For that second stroke, tiny though it was, has further reduced my stamina — for walking, for reading, for writing, for sitting up at the computer or chatting with visiting friends.

It was also a sobering wake-up call that compelled me to reflect on issues we in this society tend to ignore or deflect or defer. My body, true and strong and reliable for so long, has let me down spectacularly and unexpectedly. Having served me so well, it is wearing out long before I expected it would, propelling me into ‘old age’ at a time when I anticipated travel, expanded socialising, a wide range of possibilities and choices.

My dear body is forcing me to focus on reality rather than dreams and hopes and possibilities; it has given me the gifts of living in the present moment, and of practising grace and deep acceptance.

So what have I been doing these past weeks that has kept me away from my blog and from working on my memoir? I’ve been getting my affairs in order. Filling out forms — a task that has been difficult and taxing for me ever since the first stroke — to organise enduring guardianship and enduring power of attorney. And preparing an extensive advanced health care directive, just in case.

Completing these legal documents has required me to talk to doctors and lawyers about real and confronting personal details in order to ensure, as best I can, that my children will be fully and well supported should my body render me unable to speak or care for myself. It’s been quite a journey.

And it has brought me, eventually, to a place of deep peace and gentle optimism.

 

getting my affairs
in order — peaceful heart mind
family legacy

 

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Honest reflections

so much to mourn — so
much more to be grateful for —
deep river of life

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