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
glimpses 
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 
below
and air and sunlight
above 
perhaps, in the place between
something will grow

(October 2017)

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

Friday, 3 November 2017

Transformations

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. 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Day of Kindred Night

I am not sure where September went, it seems to have whizzed by so fast. And, perhaps because of how I am feeling, I have not smelt spring this year. Of course, I’ve smelt the blossoms (there are freesias in our garden that smell exquisite), but I have not felt the awakening in my bones that I usually do. Normally, spring is the season that affects me as much internally as externally, created within the body as much as unfurling in the newly green world. It is sad that I do not seem to be able to open to it this year, because I lack the very essence of spring—energy. Though the blossoms have still been beautiful, and that is something.

Because of my lack of inner spring, I found myself unprepared for the equinox.


The equinoxes—when night is equal to day—are the twice-yearly celebrations that I find most difficult to mark, perhaps because they are all about balance—something that I often lack entirely. Things are weighing me down, pulling me in different directions. I am unsteady on my feet, unsure. 
The equinox in my part of the world occurred on 23rd September, a day of far above average temperatures around the state—summer blowing in from the centre of the continent. Warmth and sunshine are lovely things, and should be enjoyed; but when they come as extremes, at the wrong time, they are part of the imbalance of an unbalanced world. Here, it has barely rained for several months (after far too much rain in March), and the fire season has begun a month early. I worry that it will be a dangerous summer. 

Fluctuations do occur. Balance is not always maintained. Weather, climatic trends, and the seasons themselves, dance from one pole to the other. This is to be expected. Yet, in a healthy world, nature has a habit of regularly moving back to equilibrium. But our world is not healthy, and the return to balance (and calm, of a sort), seems to be occurring less and less.

Perhaps that makes these astronomical events even more important, for there seems so little else to rely on. Even if the weather is strange and the seasons ill-timed, at least we can trust the sun to keep moving through the sky. And the moon. At least we can trust in the cycle through endless change that spurs Life to be, even if Life itself is changing.


So, at the equinox, night was briefly kindred with day; but the light now begins to reign. Though in time it will swing back again, coming back to balance next autumn, so the darkness can take its turn once more.

I’m moving from pole to pole myself, dancing with my own imbalances and extremes, travelling an erratic path. This means I may post a little less regularly for a while. I’ll share some small things from time to time—photos, inspiring quotes, perhaps art—but am unlikely to write anything lengthy for some time. Like the sun, I need to show my face a little more to the world (energy-permitting), and a little less to this online space.

I hope to be back soon, feeling better, with things to say, stories to tell. 


(The three photos above are from late August.)
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