Devotion

Nan

I am her kin and her descendent, her daughter’s daughter and no less.

She followed him to the grave, she did. Six weeks gone, she knew he’d be pacing the heavens, his transparent fingers pining for her, still living. I wonder if he tried to hold her hand while she lay in that bed, impatient to keep the love story going on the other side, frustrated in death that his hand held no power, plummeting straight through her. He must have roamed those corridors all forty two days, devoted and unseen.

Yet, she was always going to go in her own time, in her own way, choose her own last breath. She was in no hurry; she knew he’d still be there, pacing, loving; an impatient love he had, her’s so measured. His devotion fed her calmness, created it perhaps. She took her time to say goodbyes, such grace, such slender gentle hands which never lost the kindness or the colour, right up til final breath.

I am her kin and her descendent, her daughter’s daughter and no less. Though, some days I lose my grace, some days my tenderness. Some days I wander hallways and feel impatient and unseen. I understand his pacing, his insecurity, his loss; understand his grasping for you, craving for the calm you breathe. He couldn’t bear to lose you, so he gnashed his false teeth silently and held on tight to air; he waited faithfully.

I am her kin and her descendant, her daughter’s daughter and no less. Whether by design or divinity, its definitely not sheer luck. My slender hands are a given, are with me everywhere. The remainder I keep on seeking – the kindness and the grace, the calm and the devotion, and all the tenderness. My colour shifts with every mood, by subtle measurements. Yet I will let my body curve into another, allow love lines to form, leaning back to back or spooning, holding hands while we are living, devotion til my final breath.

I am her kin and her descendant, her daughter’s daughter and no less.

2016 took many…

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2016 took many.

 

What if I die here tonight.

On this sofa, curled up warm, fire on, Wales guidebook on the table, next to an unanswered handwritten letter, one mug, one plate, one mince pie gone from inside torn up Christmas paper. Shoes scattered, luggage ignored, phone with pending messages laying where it fell.

 

What if I die here tonight.

To be found in two days time, cold despite the room hot from electric flames, mince pies tasting of osmosis decay, letter still unanswered, Wales still unexplored, a phone with distress inside, new messages now unanswered.

 

What if I die here tonight.

What would I leave behind and what would i never get to do?

 

I’d never get to love more. And well, that would be the biggest shame of it all.

 

So…I’m not going to die tonight…well, I’m not you know…and neither are you. It’s just not our time yet. {Touches wood and hurls hope and gratitude towards the heavens} So, more love it is! More passion too! Let’s answer the handwritten letters, call and visit those friends and family and that divine lover, eat all the mince pies, drink from all the mugs and keep loving as much and as more as we possibly can.

 

Yes, 2016 sadly took many. Yet it did not take me, and it most certainly did not take you!

 

Happy New Year – 2017 Year of Passion xx

Crumbling Sintra

“I am as ornate as I am strong” – say all the doors and door handles and walls; twelfth century paint peeling off fraught wrought iron lion door knockers.

Mmmmmm this place is so lush and beautiful.

Can you see the art of it?

Doors crumble while tourist buses rumble on.

With warm crisp summer mountain air every dislodged footfall has history which we dream through. The cacophonic tourists are tossed around by tourismo-machismo men, launched into tiny tuktuks, climbing up steep hills to magnificent monasteries, adding to the art of it.

Foreigners keep the place alive, while those local souls departed an age ago remain nestled in the tunnels of the chapel, chilling the spines of curious tourists stumbling upon them, who quickly back away without turning when the cool of their death wakes them in the face; they know better than to meddle. Instead they retreat to the beauty of the outside, of greens, of turrets, of tiles, of waterfalls gliding over Moorish blue, the humans eyes wide with the love of the lush, welcoming warmth back to their sides.

Sintra, you’re beautiful.

The souls of many to here have climbed.

sintra

Sintra, Portugal

Passionfruit and Demons

me

“Go underground, sit silently with our passions and demons”, said the Facebook post by Wanderlust. “Turn inward” it suggested, as it romanticised this, the shortest day of the year, Winter Solstice. It made me stop with those words. Our passions and demons. My passions and demons. Your passions and demons.

Passions and demons.

It’s uncanny because three nights ago I tried to sit quietly with my demons to better understand them…and ended up writing about passion. About passionfruit.

With it being three nights shy of winter solstice it was a bleak evening, with a deep black darkness smothering the hills and valleys around here, and the grimness had been seeping under my skin slowly but surely. There was a half moon, perfectly formed and perfectly fuzzy, hiding half of itself behind a thin layer of demons, the remainder barely visible through the cloud.

A friend had suggested earlier that evening (or afternoon, its hard to tell), that the solstice is the time to delve into the shadow self, see what meaning and guidance it can deliver before a re-birth of light. So I thought ok, I’ll try this. C’mon demons, let’s play! C’mon shadow self, I thought, I want to know you, I want to hear your insight, I want to see how my demons can guide me. Then surely we can all return to the light for another year please, brighter and wiser like the good pagans we are.

I listened hard to the silence for a message. I sat in the quiet, sank into the emptiness. Yet the darkness gave me little. The silence even less. Except a total awareness of how deep the dark could be, and stronger motivation to seek out light!

I started writing. I wrote about passionfruit tart, and home, and Ed Sheeran, and fairy lights and eating take away food. I wrote about sofa-beds and facials and singing loudly while driving and leaving the toilet seat up. I wrote about passion, and passionfruit, and passionfruit tart.

There were no demons to be seen. Not on that night anyway. Unless my demon is the darkness itself, and passion is my release from it. Release through passion and passionfruit tart.

My passion-fruited demons.

Happy Winter Solstice x

The Muddy Duck

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“What’s in a name?” I asked myself as I drove along a dreamy, curly English road called Sally In The Wood, through the forest and straight along past the Muddy Duck pub.

These names entertain me as I settle into life here in Bath, Somerset, England. With their entertainment comes also relief, recognition and comfort. The relief and recognition is brought about by the fact that they are not numbers, like many of the other roads here, so they quickly embed themselves into my memory. It is taking some time for my non-numbering brain to remember which road is the A360 as compared to the A361 or A330.

But ask me where Sally In The Wood Road is and I’ll show you the way, just past the Muddy Duck pub, it circles Monkton Farleigh along the River Avon, with sweeping views over Bath, arriving leisurely into Bathford.

The comfort may come from the name itself, which brings only fond memories of my dear friend Sally. Her name evokes only warmth and positivity and therefore driving along Sally In The Wood makes me inexplicably happy.

Do you have words like that? Names which have never been tainted with conflict or heartache, just brushed with love and integrity.

Hold those names sacred.

I begin to think more about names and what they evoke in us – foreign names which lure us towards them.

Sadly, a short trip to Croatia to visit a friend didn’t eventuate this European summer. The desire to meet my Aussie-Croatian friend there was washed with exotic names and the imagined experiences we would share. Would I have been drawn so strongly to a town called T35 instead of Dubrovnik, or T350 instead of Split? My friend’s heart, hilarity and bear hugs are enough to draw me in, yet imagine the added pulling power of a surname I still struggle to pronounce.

Hold the exotic sacred.

Where would we be in this world without names like Calcutta, Timbuktu, Slovenia, Bolivia, Wagga Wagga?

Where would Bath be without it’s history of the Romans regularly bathing here to give it it’s name?

Where would I be without the Muddy Duck pub along Sally In The Wood?

Lost probably.

Liquid Amber Leaves

liquid amber

When a place is new to us, all our senses fire up. Transitions are addictive like that.

I ran through crunchy liquid amber leaves today, kicked them higher than the uncertainty I was feeling. It brought me confidence and calm.  Somehow.

Have you ever moved cities? Or just moved house? Each change we have in life grows us somehow, but there is often some friction en route. My most recent move has been fairly friction-free; a few red-herring hurdles but nothing too mean.

I’m living in Melbourne now, an ‘experimental’ few months in this fair, funky city. I am living south of the city, in Elwood by the bay. Between my house and the bay there is a canal. Its perfect for jogging or strolling along to get to the bay.

What’s most beautiful about this canal is not it’s arching autumn red and orange-leaved trees, or chilled out noisy ducks and birds, or even it’s buff joggers pumping up the energy with ipods and pbs. What’s most beautiful is the stories which are literally chalked up along it’s edges. Beautiful snippets of people’s lives have been captured and written into specially placed bricks every fifty metres or so. Tiny memories from locals of Elwood, artistically captured by a feel-good council.

Pauline Thompson was one such local, she has a few memories etched into the bricks, like “I used to swim with dolphins at Elwood beach” and “my grandfather used to lower me down here to catch worms. When it was time to get out, I’d hang onto the edge of his fishing rod and he’d haul me out”.

There is a number of them I have paused at as I wander, and today this memory from Isabella Dorfman stopped me: “Every day we meet our friends and walk to the sea. This experience always brings back memories of the Ukraine and the transition to a new life made in Elwood”.

It was the word ‘transition’ which held my attention, imagining Isabella moving from one country to another, under circumstances unknown, and how she must have hurtled herself over many high hurdles to eventually settle in her ‘new life made in Elwood’. More captivating is the fact that there is activities in the new space which connect her directly back to her old space, walking to the sea reminds her of Ukraine. It’s as if her legs hold memory which her mind alone could not muster.

Elwood is a vibrant Melbourne suburb, so many miles from the Ukraine. There is wooden clad cafes with jittery smiling baristas, whipping up tea-inspired cocktails, ‘chai-tinis’ , while black and white John Lennons on canvas chaperone all the leather jacketed young locals on Tinder dates. Yet within this world Isabella Dorfman finds memories of the Ukraine, as she strolls from the cafes along the canal to the sea.

It takes just the tinniest of similarities to trigger our memory gene. The walking wakes her past, shuffles it into the now and gives her life a storyline, the snippets of her life are no longer disconnected, rather they become always relevant and bleed into her life eternity.

Now, each time I kick the crunchy liquid amber leaves I wonder if Isabella Dorfman does the same.

More Elwood Canal Memories

“One day when my son was riding home from school, he swerved and went hurtling into the canal. He hurt his arm so we had to get a chair and lower it into the water so he could scramble out” [Katie Ragheb].

“There used to be a swamp here. My father was paid to light kerosene lamps along the edge so that drunks and cows wouldn’t fall in. The next morning, before he went to school, he would return and blow them all out” [Don Taggart]

“Leaning on the rails of the canal bridge reminds me of my childhood on the Murray River” [Helen Graham]

“There have always been dreams for the Elwood Canal. In the 1800s they wanted to transform the waterway into a little Venice and have gondolas plying up and down the canal” [Roslyn Blackman]

Be Vulnerable, Be Love

adelaide

It occurred to me recently that vulnerability is where the deep love is.

Go with me here…

Do you remember that feeling of being totally utterly vulnerable? That moment you allowed another to hear the hidden whispers of your heart and hoped to hell they liked what they saw, or at least slightly understood the rumblings. These vulnerable scary moments can occur on a small scale and on a frighteningly life changing scale.

And here’s the thing…in those moments of terror and vulnerability, we have a choice. We can choose to fall towards and into the vulnerable hole or run like hell to our comfortable donnas, bury our heads between the sweet soft pillows and wait eagerly til the moment has passed.

I would encourage you to fall in. Go towards the dark cess pool of fear and you will, if you look, see love.

In that split second before your sweaty palms open the front door to a potential new lover, you can hear love loitering. In that heartbreaking moment you say goodbye to a friend who has died, you will be smothered in deep profound love. In that nerve racking second when you hear the word redundant, you can paint a larger future full of new love.

When we retire from work, when we quit a job without another to go to, when we discover we’re pregnant, when we suddenly are no longer pregnant, when we sign the divorce papers, when we propose in a restaurant. When we swipe our eftpos card and hear the tone of rejection. When we have no idea in which direction to go. When there is no map.

In all of these moments, when our hands shake and our hearts rise up, these are the times to be love.

Being love enables us to connect with others inside the vulnerability. To look that lover in the eyes, both of you being fully seen by the other and therefore able to drink in more. And that is what will pull us through this crazy vulnerable life – having no map together.

So, go ahead and fall in. Jump in, dive in, swim through it. Be vulnerable: be love.

Armour Dresses

“Where’s your armour?” said the morning as it laughed in through the window and ravaged my alarm, “you’ll need more strength today”.

“What’s that? You left it in the afternoon of yesterday?! But today there is that child, the one without a home. He is lost again. Oh! And that, last year’s trauma to be tested and poked all over again. Please, tell me of your heartache and the times you most unravelled”.

“Where’s your armour? Gather your strength please”. Today; and then again, the sunshine creeping in.

With each snooze the morning blasts reality across a bed I made myself yet cannot lay in.

Slip on a dress, a new one; floral armour or pokadot strength?

 

-for my colleagues, the strong

Same Love More Love

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Are you a ‘wedding person’? Do you find yourself holding back the tears, trying not to ruin your mascara as you exhale and try not to be overcome and start sobbing into your bubbly?

Last week I went to my cousin’s wedding. My beautiful cousin married the love of her life, another woman. My god, it was beautiful. So beautiful it’s difficult to put to words.

The ground we gathered on in the Australian bush was warm, earthy and solid, despite it’s illegality.

The words shared were genuine and deeply heartfelt. They fell on our open ears, passed through our warmed hearts and dropped softly out our blue-green eyes.

The love being celebrated was palpable, grounded in respect and delightfully joyful.

Another cousin and I sat on the wooden bench in the sun-drenched natural rock cathedral, white-trunk gumtrees gently swaying overhead, dusty toes beneath our thinly strapped dresses, shoulders warmed in sun and us giggly waiting for ladies in white to arrive. I always get nervous for the wedding-ees at this point, walking down that aisle with all eyes on them. But as soon as I saw my cousin and her wife-to-be walking with their dads and their 3 month baby girl all cuddling down the aisle, I exhaled. Beautiful. Cue: tears.

Each moment then and after was love-filled. The ceremony took place at one end of the natural cathedral, the women standing tall on a raised rock at the end, framed by a hand-made alter, lovingly made from plaited tree branches and weaved wild bush flowers. Free from the requirements of legal weddings, every word was blissfully true, un-encumbered by legislative rumblings, just requited love in its purest form. A commitment of self to the other and to their life ahead as “us”.

A big party followed of course. The speeches were strong, the food divine, the grappa shared and the dancing wild. Kids ran amok, aunts danced with new in-laws, and one of my little cousins became overly wine-induced excited about the fact that all our family have exactly the same eyes. She would run up to another relative, yell “let me see your eyes”, stare them out, claiming loudly how she couldn’t believe we all had the same eyes. Blue-green, with a tinge of hazel, and quick to shed love-tears.

That same cousin and I were sitting together during the speeches. I’m not sure at what point the love and beauty became too much for me, but I turned to her and said “I think I want a gay wedding, its so damn beautiful!”. Her response was immediate and emphatic, slamming down her glass in agreement “Oh my god, me too!”. We laughed at our own excitement and being so overcome with the love in the room.

There is something deliciously stunning about love without any requirements, borders, restrictions. Love that grows from giving love and being loved right back.

 

“And in this moment I swear, we are infinite” – Stephen Chbosky

wedding 4

 

 

 

 

 

Into The Wild

into the wild kindness

 

Have you heard of Christopher McCandless? Or the film and book Into The Wild?

 

McCandless is the main subject of the story, his life and death explored by author Jon Jon Krakauer. It’s an exploration of the human desire to shake off the perceived chain of materialist society, burn your cash and live a life emerged in the wilderness. McCandless tramped around North America for two years before surviving in the Alaskan wild for about four months, alone. It’s believed a previously unknown toxic seed took his life while living off the land in Alaska.

 

McCandless’ story is not simply a story of losing oneself to the wilds, and not just an attempt to “find oneself”, but it is a hopeful journey about following the magnetic pull of your life, right into the depths of the wildest interior of land and self. Krakauer talks of McCandless wanting to “test himself… in ways that mattered”, being “drawn west past the edge of the known world, by nothing more than a hunger of the spirit”. McCandless read the likes of Jack London and Tolstoy on his journey, aiming to live his life according to “truth” above all else, in harmony with nature, new horizons and himself.

 

How indulgent and life-affirming to literally walk into the sunset every evening, rise with the sun in the morning and move each day only in the direction of your latest mood or survival need.

 

Do you ever wish for this? In some ways, I wish to do this. Yet I now know that the pull of sharing life with others is too great for me to wander all alone.

 

Over the past month I have been given the chance to explore this reality in a mini version. I did not burn my cash or travel light that’s for sure, and European hotels are unfathomably far from McCandless’ walk across North America. Yet I tried for about six weeks to live without definite direction or desire other than to explore new spaces and follow my mood and survival needs.

 

I moved through the struggle of my need to constantly have a plan, and at times was overcome with the ever fortunate yet debilitating condition of option anxiety. By the end I understood some of the conclusions that McCandless had come to, primarily being: nature is supreme; survival is not always easy; the spark of new beginnings is unbeatable; and the warmth of close relationships is crucial to our well-being. It’s this last point about relationships which has been on my mind a lot lately.

 

McCandless made one attempt to walk back to civilisation before he was poisoned, but his path out of the wild was cut off by an impassable river. On returning to his camp to wait it out he wrote about the experience of loneliness, and his desire to re-enter the world, return to his family and friends, to re-connect. “Happiness only real when shared”, he wrote. This was in direct opposition to his previous experiences of profound peace while alone in nature.

 

McCandless was experiencing the freedom-intimacy dilemma acutely.

 

It has lead me to many questions. Whether your “freedom” is travel or some other personal desire, it seems these are questions we could all relate to.

 

How can we explore this world without limit, while maintaining our connections to our closest kin?

 

How to allow your feet to walk freely, while strengthening our tightest bonds?

 

The self-indulgent answer is take all your people with you, to be pulled magnetically in the direction of your desires with your loved ones by your side. If only we all wanted to go to the same places at the same time!

 

Thanks to all the people who have joined me on this journey so far, moments with you were by far the most life-affirming.

 

Let’s go into the wild side by side whenever we can 🙂

 

“There are no events but thoughts and the heart’s hard turning, the heart’s slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times” – Annie Dillard, Holy The Firm.