Monday, August 25, 2014


All it took was the sound of her name
embodied in the other
or the arrival of August
for the memory to return
and melancholy crept back slowly
into the house of her belonging

From time to time she saw her
just for an instant
in the busy mall
the old growth forest
even in Milan
but not often, and sometimes not for years

Or did she imagine she saw her
it was hard to say
for the presence of energy
like the presence of the divine
is the ineffable mystery
beyond ones measure to recall

As the years multiplied
and they became thirty
Cat remembered she too was thirty
when the infant came
but all that was left was frozen
grandmother, mother, child

A holy trinity of profound grief
that tragic, guttural, primal wail
discreet hurried nurses
shocked silence
a painful endurance

What stays is what remains
long limbs
translucent skin
fine features
indelibly pressed into the spaces
between the spaces of her mind

Where are you now little soul
who whispers to you in the night
and fills your cup with hope
does your heart hunger
for the promise of a peaceful world
when will you come again?

27 August 1984

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The cultured cushion

After my volunteer stint in Arnhem Land, I came home with several metres of handmade lino cut and screen-printed cotton produced by the wonderful indigenous women of Maningrida. What was I to do with it? The selfish part of me wanted to adorn my home with its beauty. Hang it on the wall, drape it over my bed, make a dress or skirt. After all, I worked like an ox in a timber yard for its favour, survived stifling humidity and fell victim to great gaps of mental acuity (see fruit loop brain!), and suffered the deprivation of a decent coffee for 2 weeks! I deserved it! The generous part of me, on the other hand, began contemplating my accumulation of ‘stuff’. I have heaps of it. Stuff in the closet, stuff in the storage shed, stuff on the floor, a more than healthy dose of personal stuff, and generally, stuff from here to eternity. Cushions it was then!

I’m pretty sure the plump and colourful result of my labour would make the women happy. They’re unique and original. If you run your fingertips over the fabric, you can feel the rawness of paint, imagine the women at work. They come complete with imperfections from the hand printing process, with piping in a compatible or contrasting hue, have twin ties to fasten them on the back, and are filled with the softest, bounciest, and most eco-friendly cushion inserts ever, and made from recycled water bottles.

I’m offering them for sale at $50 a pop.

Call me

0431 600 138






Sunday, August 10, 2014

What do you do?

'Hi, I’m X, and I’m a senior lecturer at Southern Cross Uni. What do you do?’ This enquiry comes with distracted, feigned interest, a flick of her long dark superior hair and a smugness that makes me want to puke. I fucking hate this question. I try to be magnanimous, but on less charitable days my mind leans toward the cynical. ‘What do you really want to know? What I do or how I earn my money?’ I don’t go there! Regardless, my reaction to this prescriptive, potentially socially isolating and dead-end question is probably written all over my face. I feel it instantly. The protective little hairs on the back of my neck rush toward the horizontal as my emotional landscape freezes. ‘I do lots of things" I blurt. ‘Have my finger in lots of pies’. ’ The Bard says it better than I ever could!
But really, how do I answer that question? And what question would I prefer? I ‘do’ lots of things. Sometimes I lie on my bed for hours reading. This is luxurious to the point of guilty discomfort. The only way to silence the judge that criticises my down time is to just read! I sew, curse, and unpick, and sew, curse and unpick again. A crowd of cushions I’ve been making from the fabric I was given in Arnhem land has begun to colonise my workroom. One morning a week, I head to my beloved Playback Theatre. Each week we rehearse and prepare for upcoming gigs by playing silly warm-up games for an hour, and then telling our stories. After 16 years I’m still astonished by the healing power of shared personal story, and the captive, deep-listening ensemble of actors who play them back. On Friday morning I trampse down to the farmers market to buy fruit and veg for my hospice client, and head back up to the hills to be with her. Every now and then I work as a facilitator on rite of passage camps for teenagers transitioning to adulthood. These are 5-day bush retreats and involve lots of preparation, weeks of it. Occasionally I’ll spend hours writing a blog. I’m a laborious thinker! Two or three times a week, I drive down to Brunswick Heads on a whim just to walk out onto the breakwall to feel the swell of the ocean in my bones. I cook, pick citrus, covet the neighbour’s passionfruit, sit in cafes and talk to strangers, listen to birdsong, marvel at the paragliders who sprinkle the sky outside my window, support and exasperate my friends and family, play my uke, walk the dog, and reflect on the myriad of emotions I feel during the day. Envy, desire, blame, grief, confusion. Oh yeah, I'm never short of strong feeling! I attend a weekly Buddhist study group, committee meetings, and volunteer at numerous political and community-building events. It's a long coooeee from my past life as a legal/parliamentary secretary in Melbourne, far more connecting and fulfilling, and paradoxically, virtually impossible to articulate to those with a more conventional working life.

So, next time somebody asks me that oh-so-bloody-boring question I’m going to plagiarise a response I heard at the writers’ fest. ‘I work for Arnotts in Food Technology and am currently developing a product that stops the marshmallow on an Iced Vovo from sagging’!!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cancer: fear, care and reflection

This photo was extracted from Google Images. It’s a fungating breast tumor, the result of breast cancer left untreated. It’s identical to the growth on the breast of a hospice client I’m caring for, as big as a dinner plate, ugly, and very unpleasant on the nose. I’ve chosen to show you this image because it’s not something you’d ordinarily see. My daughter was horrified when I showed her, but it had the effect of promoting conversation. One of my interests is to demystify the often taboo subject of death. This is a provocative way of doing it. No apologies.

For nearly 15 years I’ve worked as a volunteer hospice carer with Byron Hospice a service that supports people with a terminal illness who choose to die at home. Each week, before I get out of the car at the home of my current client, I say a little prayer to help ground and centre myself and to seek guidance, put on my invisible hat of compassion and empathy, and go and sit. I’m not there to offer advice. I’m there to listen, hold a hand.  When you speak, you’re often repeating what you already know, but when you listen, you may learn something new.

My client is my age. She’s single, has no family, and has been a very active community-minded advocate for healthy families. She’s scared and vulnerable and doesn’t want to die. Who does?

My clients are my greatest teachers. They teach me about death, but more particularly, they teach me how to live well. Am I doing enough to improve the lives of disadvantaged, marginalized and lonely people? Am I using the skills I was born with for the betterment of humans, our precious planet? Have I forgiven myself my indiscretions? Is there any unfinished business I need to attend to? Have I examined my regrets? Am I ticking items off my bucket list? Do I want to die with fear and confusion, or with dignity and grace? I know the answer to that last question. What about you?

‘The only thing that death teaches us is that it is urgent to love’ Eric Emmanuel Schmit