frida & the Light ...

'The wound is the place where the Light enters you ... '

so open
this new reality
for ten days together 
closed in the Possum's Pouch
it is warm and dark 
and we work to find the light
to navigate 
this altered landscape 
the sky is filled with paper stars
silver and tinsel constellations 
we attempt to chart our course
[back?] home

you lead with your smile
pure and bright
i am thinking of Frida & the Light
that flowed 
in ways her body could not
and a spirit that plaster could not constrict
and wonder
what will this wound make of you
what gift will you make of this wound ...

your small hand in mine as you cry in the night
repeating the mantra

Frida Kahlo painting from her bed

'Don't grieve. 
Anything you loose comes around in another form ... '


at the day's end ...

" There is nothing - absolutely nothing - 
half so much worth doing 
as simply messing about in boats ... "

[Kenneth Grahame - Wind in the Willows]


aplonis metallica - le sacre du printemps ...

early morning
high tide
the metallic/shining starlings'
staccato chatter 
over power lines
under cloudy skies
fig trees overflow 
with shabby nests
no pause 
no rests
 the humid air hums 
a thousand notes
perfectly chaotic 
perfectly composed 


talking to the clouds ...

"you must not blame me if I do talk to the clouds" 

[Henry David Thoreau]


vale sarah ....

So very sad to read today of the passing of the wonderful filmmaker and photographer Sarah Watt ...

sarah watt [image]

thank you Sarah
for making art from your life 
and for making your life an art 

and making our lives all the richer for it

Just two weeks ago Sarah gave an inspiring interview about her life and impending death in The Age titled When I'm Gone.  Today The Age published an incredible photograph of her looking impossibly gaunt and yet with a smile so vital it seemed to contradict her frail frame: Tributes flow for the director who gave her all. Last weekend in Brisbane at Folio Books I sat transfixed reading the book she and husband William McInnes have just released on their life together titled Worse Things Happen At Sea, a collection of personal essays and photographs of family life with their two children Clem and Stella.  In the interview, photograph and the book I could not help but be moved by two people who were determined to make the most of their families time together and Sarah's determination to use every last scrap of life she had left to create ... 

How easy it is to find excuses not to do so when we perceive our lives to be long - with the assumption that there will always be time around the corner.  Sarah's too early death at 53 is another reminder to me that we cannot afford to assume our trajectory - and the value in living each day as if it may be our last.  As a result she has left behind a body of writings, photographs, films and animations filled with humanity, humour and spirit ...

... vale Sarah - thank you ...


the 39th floor ...

her toe over the line she caressed cliff faces and tickled fate  

[journal entry: 2003]


the gazing I ...

As certain as color
Passes from the petal, 
Irrevocable as flesh,
The gazing eye falls through the world.

[Ono No Komachi - One Hundred Poems from the Japanese]


breaking open to the world ...

machans beach
a black faced woodswallow
quietly guards its nest
outside the local post office
this most social of spaces

cattana wetlands at dawn
dante meets her first jabiru
in a small muddy waterhole 
his enormous yet graceful form
providing such delight 
when startled - taking flight
young eyes as wide as his wing span 

the papuan frogmouths 
have returned to their wet season roost
their arrival causing a flurry amongst the indian mynas 
who banding together
tried to discourage them - and failed
 much to our joy

evenings now spent listening 
to wings cutting through darkness 
as the frogmouths snare 
some unsuspecting all-too-content prey...

dante babadog and I
at mission bay
a lazy day 
in shade and on sand
across the water
two jabiru
glide into view
and together we bask
in the light breeze and balmy sun

mission bay
spotted by stylus 
as we walked at dawn
still alive when we saw him
but his battle scars and beaching
 left us thinking 
his time was short

I had always hoped to see a dugong
 but this moment filled with awe tinged heartache
such a gentle creature suffering 
from injuries I suspect humans have caused...

such beauty 
and sadness
thinking of the new zealand oil spill
& a poem by Mary Oliver

[Mary Oliver]

Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one
just where that is.
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.


like water for chocolate [cake] ...

" Happiness is homemade ..." 


Last week I had the pleasure of baking two of my favourite cakes in celebration of our little families first year in Far North Queensland.  By request here are the recipes for both cakes - taken straight from my much loved and well worn moleskine in which I keep my most coveted cooking concoctions.  The first a Six Minute Chocolate Cake is a recipe from the series of Moosewood Cookbooks and is unbelievably vegan - the second a Sour Cherry Cake, rich in nutmeg and cinnamon  came to me via a friend during my years living in Alice Springs ... 

“Destiny cuts,
the cake of love,
Three slices to some,
To others, a crumb”

[Stefano Benni, Margherita, Dolce Vita]

“The measuring and mixing always smoothed out her thinking processes - nothing was as calming as creaming butter - and when the kitchen was warm from the oven overheating and the smell of baking chocolate, she took final stock of where she'd been and where she was going. Everything was fine.”

[Jennifer Crusie, Maybe This Time]

I can't quite express how much joy I find in baking and then sharing a cake with dear friends and loved ones - especially when combined with a well brewed pot of tea, some sweet old crockery and cherished conversation ... ah - the opportunity for a treasured   moment ...

Bon appetit! 


the glass is already broken ...

Giorgio Morandi Natura Morta 1957

A little while ago now I published a post that focused on the simple pleasures of a cup of tea [the tea of life].  A week or two after making the post I had prepared a pot of rooibos tea, cup and saucer on a tea tray, then rather foolishly positioned the tray precariously atop a crooked pile of books on my side table next to the bed.  Needless to say, tray, teapot, cup and saucer soon followed the inevitable path of gravity - falling with a rather spectacular crash to the floor. 

As the rooibos tea escaped from the teapot and rapidly made its way across the linoleum, it was hard to know which 'possession' to grieve for first; my porcelain Japanese teapot which I had had for more than fifteen years, providing many a treasured pot of tea. Or the now tea-soaked pages of a beloved Morandi catalogue I purchased when visiting the Mueseo Morandi two years ago in Italy. All the while counting my blessings that the tea cup and saucer - a more recent gift, were not also amongst the evenings casualties. 

On further pondering my broken tea pot, I had to concede, that considering the number of times I have moved location over the years it has been in my life; it is a miracle it had been with me this long .  How fortunate I have been to have enjoyed it so thoroughly.

Which brings me to Ayya Khema and Achaan Chah - who have some rather inspirational thoughts on this very topic: 

'Now for me, 'the glass is already broken'.  Once a westerner asked Achaan Chah, a great Thai teacher, why he had so many material things in his room.  He replied: 'You see this glass, to me it is already broken.  While it is still intact on the table I use it.  It even has beautiful colours when the sun shines and a lovely sound when I hit it with a spoon.  But for me, it is already broken.'  This means no attachment, not trying to keep anything.' 
[Ayya Khema from Women on the Buddhist Path, author Martine Batchelor]

Ah - lovely! 
And yet for me it means something more too - Achann Chah talks of the 'beautiful colours' and the 'lovely sound' of the glass. In understanding that everything that we have in our lives 'is already broken' what can we do but aim to appreciate these temporary joys for the brief time we are able to have them in our lives... 

In a similar spirit from Thich Nhat Hanh: 

'this too shall pass...'

While I often visit this thought in situations when life is difficult or one is facing challenges; its real beauty, for me, comes when it is applied to moments of happiness, or to that we wish to hold on to, yet can not. We can only appreciate and enjoy these times or cherished possessions for what they are, in the moment, and to be grateful we are fortunate enough to experience them.

Which brings me to that which we all believe we 'possess' but will have to surrender at some undefined moment in time, our own life.

This week saw the passing of apple executive Steve Jobs;  and I was unexpectedly moved to read an except of his thoughts regarding his impending death in a Stanford commencement speech in 2005:

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
[Steve Jobs: Stanford commencement speech 2005]

Giorgio Morandi Natura Morta 1954

Morandi, whose creative oeuvre is a testament to following ones heart, titled many of his  paintings Natura Morta, which in english translates to 'dead nature'.  I remember standing filled with reverence in the Museo Morandi as these quiet, contemplative works held me in awe.  Here was a painter whose life's work was an act of appreciation of the simple bowl, vase, bottle and jug and in doing so created a body of work that spoke of so much more...

'Everything is a mystery, ourselves, and all things both
simple and humble ...'

[Giorgio Morandi] 

In my studio I have a small wooden box of 'shards'.  Porcelain, glass and ceramic, these are fragments I found when driving down the Oodnadatta Track some years ago now.  They lay scattered in the red earth far from any trace of a town, embedded in the dirt looking quite at home amongst the gibber stones.  Over the years I have loved to meditate on each fragment, wondering about the original form each shard once took; plate, bowl, saucer, bottle - and wondering about the lives and fates of those who brought them into the desert, to dust...

and one last beautiful thought on mortality from Rabindranath Tagore: 

'I know I will love death when it comes 
- for I have loved life ... '

[Rabindranath Tagore: 39 Microlectures]


driving with Richard Flanagan ...

I often find myself on the road between Yarrabah and Cairns with ABC Radio National to keep me company on the drive, while Dante sleeps the time away in the back seat.  Today was no exception - but exceptional in the stirring words of Australian author Richard Flanagan giving the closing night address at the recent Melbourne Writers' Festival.  

His topic The Decline of Love and the Rise of Non-Freedom is a timely and alarming assessment of the current state of play in Australian society and our possible trajectory should we silently continue to follow the worrying path we have begun to walk ...

One of the major concerns underpinning his talk is the decline of our capacity as Australians to feel empathy, love and kindness towards others; particularly those in situations far worse off than our own and whom are most in need.  I could not agree more; how ironic that a country so financially sound, rather than becoming more generous as a nation and as individuals, is becoming less and less so.  

I have held the belief for a long time that a nation's wealth is not something to be measured in a fiscal sense only - and in this respect I too hold grave concerns for Australia at the present time.  We are at a crossroads at present and the path we choose to take could be one that sees us become a wealthy and generous nation, or a rich but emotionally impoverished one.  

On a previous drive into Cairns I was engaged by another discussion, again on Radio National concerning the demise of the humanities in Australian universities.  I consider the two topics related as I believe that for a nation to maintain and enhance its capacity for empathy and love it must also be cultivating imagination, creativity and a knowledge of its own and other cultures and cultural histories.  We seem in danger at present of creating a country of worker ants whose creativity is limited to their choice of consumer goods, spirituality to the brands with which they identify and who see themselves as serving only their own good - rather than relating to a community, culture or a nation as a whole. 

It seems the greater our fiscal wealth, the poorer we are in danger of becoming as we hand over precious black soils to be mined for gas, place harsher and harsher restrictions on those seeking safe harbour on Australian soil, and slash the opportunities for engagement with the more creative, imaginative and cultural aspects of life that enrich our lives in so many ways.

The image I hope we shall not achieve, but I fear we are close to realising is found in T.S Elliot's 1934 work 'The Rock' 


The Word of the LORD came unto me, saying:
O miserable cities of designing men, 
O wretched generation of enlightened men, 
Betrayed in the mazes of your ingenuities,
Sold by the proceeds of your proper inventions:
I have given you hands which you turn from worship, 
I have given you speech, for endless palaver, 
I have given you my Law, and you set up commissions, 
I have given you lips, to express friendly sentiments, 
I have given you hearts, for reciprocal distrust.
I have given you power of choice, and you only alternate
Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.
Many are engaged in writing books and printing them
Many desire to see their names in print, 
Many read nothing but the race reports.
Much is your reading, but not the Word of GOD, 
Much is your building, but not the house of GOD, 
Will you build me a house of plaster, with corrugated roofing, 
To be filled with a litter of Sunday newspapers? 

[and further on ...]

Where My Word is unspoken, 
In the land of lobelias and tennis flannels
The rabbit shall burrow and the thorn revisit, 
The nettle shall flourish on the gravel court, 
And the wind shall say: 'Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls'. 

Here Elliot speaks of GOD - but rather than a God in the christian sense I interpret Elliot's 'God' in the broader sense; as a figurehead of love, empathy, spirituality or search for higher meaning. In light of Flanagan's talk I am particularly interested in the line 'Where My Word is unspoken' for it is the great Australian silence regarding ever harsher treatment of peoples, the changing of laws to limit freedoms and the increasing absence of political debate that will see us become in time a fascist country through our sheer complicitness, apathy and hesitation to stand up for basic human rights and values.

Richard Flanagan's closing address has articulated concerns that have been gnawing away in my mind now for some time, and I hope he will find an audience inspired not just to think but to act ...

... click here to hear to listen or download the audio of Richard Flanagan's speech from The BookShow's website; or look out for the December edition of The Quarterly Essay - from what I can gather this will be the only way of getting the actual transcript.  After listening to Richard's words again this evening with Stylus, I am looking forward to obtaining my copy ...