Rosemary Nissen-Wade: Aussie poet and teacher of metaphysics – a personal view
My bestie nicknamed me SnakyPoet on her blog, and I liked it. (It began as
'the poet of the serpentine Northern Rivers' and became more and more abbreviated.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

So That Was 2010

(Our personal 2010, I mean. You all know already what happened in the wider world.)

It was a mixed bag.

Wonderful to get our Housing Dept home after the 13-year wait, back in a town we’ve always loved, just as we needed to be closer to shops and services. It's also closer to many old friends, and we have been making new ones too since our return a year ago. We continue to love our peaceful street, with nice neighbours and mountain views.

The Beloved Spouse’s first wife died in February after an illness. This was of course an emotional time for him and his children. He couldn't attend the funeral (in Melbourne) but contributed his reminiscences to the eulogy.

Good news is that Spouse’s heart specialist told him at his annual check-up in Feb. that his heart is in excellent shape.

The old car became scary to drive with the automatic transmission slipping, but we were lucky to find an affordable replacement.

I retired from the Sunday markets soon after moving. Adored the work and the atmosphere for many years, but realised I didn't want to keep getting up so early and lugging the stall around. Occasionally people track me down and come to the house for Reiki treatments or psychic readings.

We both developed eye problems. Spouse needed expensive laser work. Thanks to his youngest, my Second Stepson, for a generous and well-timed gift which made that possible! (Yes, there are Medicare refunds but you still have to pay upfront.) As for me, I have a film over my left retina, a thing which apparently can happen with age. They monitor it frequently and I do a little eye test every day. If the film stays tightly attached, no problem; if it gets loose and wrinkly, I'll need surgery. This is unpredictable, but so far so good.

June - July were our worst months. My favourite Aunty over in Perth, my 'second Mum', died. Sad, but not unexpected. Then Spouse got an infected toe and went to hospital, we thought for a day or two. He deteriorated rapidly, was transferred from the local hospital to a bigger one forty-five minutes away, and all in all was in for three weeks. It wasn't the toe, which cleared up. Apparently he got a strain of flu they couldn't identify. He nearly died, and it was all very scary for both of us. He finally turned the corner when I called in all the Reiki help I could get, but remained frail some time after coming home.

I bought him a wheely walker, which he still needs from time to time due to arthritis. In fact we now have one for the house and one for the car to save me lugging it up and down steps. I'm not supposed to do heavy lifting because of my own arthritis, and have also stopped my Tai Chi classes because I can no longer stand on my right leg. But we are taking supplements and have found our way back to our good chiropractor in the coastal village where we used to live, who is helping. You walk out of his clinic with your body feeling noticeably different!

I still travel to said village often as facilitator of the WordsFlow writers' group (which has been going four years now) and as Secretary of the Management Committee for the Neighbourhood Centre. They won't let me go! Which is fine, as I enjoy both roles and it's only a half hour drive through pretty country. If I still lived in Melbourne, a half hour drive would seem like nothing.

During an exciting visit in May from Thom the World Poet (based in Austin, Texas) and his mate Bob Mud, muso/poet./artist from Brisbane, with a workshop for WordsFlow and a performance in the Castle on the Hill at nearby Uki, Spouse became so enthused that he joined WordsFlow and has been getting stuck into his autobiography and his children's stories.

We had a visit from Spouse's eldest, my First Stepson and the three little grand-daughters, soon after moving here. They filled the house with laughter and colour, and it suddenly seemed very quiet and spacious after they left.


Later in the year the beautiful Stepdaughter had a quick trip to the Gold Coast with her boyfriend, and drove down here to take us to lunch and see the new home.


(Her son, 18 now, is shaping up as a talented writer, which is exciting for his grandparents here!) And Second Stepson is arriving tomorrow for a week's visit over xmas.

My Firstborn injured an Achilles tendon some months ago, and is still recovering after surgery and having to wear a special boot for a while. No more swing dancing for him just yet, which was one of his greatest pleasures — but he has taken up DJ-ing and is enjoying it.

There have been some deaths of old friends, not all of them elderly.

I am still estranged from my Youngest, by my own choice.

I have acquired several new Reiki students who want to go as far as I can take them with their training, and who are already potential Masters, exciting to teach. One of them has created a herb garden for us in our little courtyard out the back.

We have a wonderful handyman who is an old Reiki student of mine. Housing Dept maintenance is quick to fix the essential and/or emergency stuff; he does the rest very well at a most reasonable rate. The guy who used to mow our lawns for free became a family man and isn't so available any more — but with our Housing Dept rent we have a little more money to spare, and our neighbour's friend, who does her lawn for $20 a fortnight, asked if we'd like him to do ours too. Yes! And I finally succumbed and got household help from Home Care for a very low fee. They don't do everything, but they do the stuff I can't manage, and are nice women to boot. (Stop it with those mental images! That’s not what I meant.)

Spouse had another trip to hospital in September, following a fall. He complained of headache and blacked out a minute, which was enough for me to call the ambulance. However he was fine and they allowed him home in a few days. Whew!

We are adjusting to being older and less mobile, e.g.for the most part seeing movies on DVD rather than climb stairs at the cinema. (With our wide-screen digital telly which we were able to get at sale price just after moving here, that's no hardship!) I'm enjoying doing more of the driving now and feeling more confident/competent as a result. Life goes on merrily enough. Writing is our major focus, as indeed it always has been.

As for my great weight loss program, it got thoroughly abandoned. This was not planned, but a lapse that lasted and lasted.  Too much going on, higher priorities.... Now I am a large lady again — damn! Never mind, after Christmas I’ll start over and stick to it. This is not a New Year resolution (made to be broken) but an intention for taking good care of myself. Others who did stick to it are looking wonderful now!

And so, dear people Bright Blessings to you all!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Haiku and Other Short Forms — the cheat sheet

Someone asked me for guidance. This may not be the most elegant or scholarly dissertation, but I think it works as a quick reference.

Haiku: three short lines, traditionally 5/7/5 syllables. About nature, including a word that indicates the season (e.g. cherry blossom for spring) and containing a turn of thought or juxtaposition of objects/ideas. They are not supposed to use any poetic devices such as metaphor. Ideally they should create in the reader an ‘aha! moment’.

Senryu: same form, but about people and can include humour and urban settings.

Modern haiku and senryu in English often ignore the syllable count in favour of short/long/short, as Japanese syllables tend to be briefer than English ones (I’m told). In this case they aim for shorter lines than 5/7/5. Some people even go in for one-line haiku! They often omit punctuation, too.

In our Haiku on Friday page on facebook, the lines between haiku and senryu are sometimes pretty blurred!

Renga: a chain, in which someone adds two 7-syllable (or just longer) lines to the original haiku. The next person will then write another three, and so on, until everyone gets sick of keeping it going.

Tanka: a 5-line form of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables or short/long/short/long/long. Not so strictly about nature, though they can be. Often have a romantic theme. There should be the ‘turn of thought’ and aha! moment in tanka too.

Lune: a 3-line form devised as a Western haiku, based on syllable count without all the other rules. Called lune because of crescent shape (resulting from line lengths). Two kinds:
Kelly lune invented by Robert Kelly; syllables 5/3/5. Collum lune by Jack Collum, who misremembered and taught it as 3/5/3 WORDS (rather than syllables).

Gogyohka: new Japanese form freer than tanka. 5 lines, each as long as one breath (if speaking them aloud). No other rules.

Welcome Home

Do you prefer to live in a region with a temperate climate or four seasons, and why? (Question and answer cross-posted from LiveJournal / Dreamwidth)

Never mind temperate; sub-tropical meself.

I HATE the cold, regard it as a hostile environment, refuse to live in it, visit only for the most inescapable of reasons (such as son's wedding or stepson's 40th birthday) and think it seriously weird that anyone is prepared to tolerate it, let alone that some people actually LIKE it. Ugh!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Genius

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
~Albert Einstein

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Spreading the Cheer

Do you decorate your home for the holidays? If so, when do you put your decorations up and when do you take them down? (Question and answer cross-posted from LiveJournal / Dreamwidth)


Hellooo, Pagan here.

My Beloved hankered for a tree this year — until I shrieked, 'You want to CUT DOWN A TREE???' and added, 'It's not even our festival.' In the Northern Hemisphere you can at least say it's Yule, which got coopted. Here, it's Midsummer actually. (Though it's a bit hard to tell this year, with all the rain and storms.)

For a few years I had a nice glittery 5-pointed star in a circle, which I hung on the front door so we didn't look too Grinchy. Whoever cared to could interpret it as a xmas star. WE knew it was a pentacle! Sadly, it finally went the way of all flesh and I haven't been able to find another. I settled for a big silver star and a big gold one, hanging in front and back windows respectively. (6-pointed; only bought 'em cos I thought they were 5, but I was mistaken.)

This small town has a great mix of religions — Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, 7th Day Adventist, Jehovah's Witness, Sikh, Buddhist, Hare Krishna, Sai Baba.... We don't have a synagogue or a mosque, but all the aforementioned have churches/temples. And then of course there's us Pagans, whose temple is the whole outdoors. Though many of us are out of the broom closet, very few people seem to notice that we exist. Funnily enough, most of them others look normal too! 

My point is that there is some degree of tolerance, because there simply has to be. Even on this street, no-one much would care what we did or didn't have up by way of decoration. The stars are to mollify Hubby. He wanted streamers and all, but I pointed out that we have no grandchildren visiting this year, and asked if he was going to be the one to climb up and do them, reminding him we are both somewhat elderly and arhritic these days. End of conversation.

We have received a few xmas cards, and they are up on the mantelpiece. We aren't sending any, but will send 'Season's Greetings' or Happy Holy Days' by email and social networks. (The grandkids got pressies, because I won't inflict my views on them, and in any case I like an excuse to give them things. I cannot persuade Spouse that I don't want anything myself, so we have figured out an exchange of gifts — no surprises, things we wanted anyway.)

We'll get to go out to meals a bit, to kind (non-Christian) friends who invited us. And Youngest Stepson is visiting for a few days. But for the most part we are taking as little notice as possible of the occasion.

Initial Capitals in Poetry

I asked a friend to do me the favour of casting a critical eye over my latest manuscript before I submit it. One thing she queried was my practice of not capitalising the initial letter of every line of my poems. Evidently she is more comfortable with the convention of initial capitals.

For the sake of others who may be interested in this question, here is my reply to her:

Many poets still use the convention of capitalising the first letter of every line. At least as many, if not more, no longer do that. There's an interesting discussion of the matter here, amongst poets.

The practice of initial capitalising in English poetry began in the 16th Century. This changed with the advent of free verse in the 20th Century, as initial capitals would have been intrusive to the flow and to the various ways that poetry can now be arranged on the page. It is very common now for formal poets, too, to dispense with initial capitals, though some retain them. On the other hand, some practitioners of free verse, when using a fairly conventional arrangement of lines on the page, like to adopt initial capitals — but have to abandon them when they venture into things like shape poetry or prose poetry.

I write mosty free verse, but like to play with form sometimes. I don't want to be inconsistent within my own work so I adopt prose rules for capitalisation, whatever kind of verse I'm writing.

When all's said and done, these days it depends on the personal preference of the poet.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A River of Stones

You've heard of NaMoWriMo. Introducing (drumroll.....) NaSmaStoMo!

For the month of January, Fiona Robyn asks people to join her in writing a short piece of writing each day for the whole month, and blogging it either on their usual blog or a new one (or in a notebook if they're shy).

Find out more at her new blog,  A River of Stones, and please help spread the word by tweeting and sharing the link on Facebook and emailing your might-be-up-for-it friends.

Fiona says: Don't worry about whether you're a 'writer' or not - this project will help you to connect with the world, and we could all do with a bit more of that. Start the year as you mean to go on.

So are you in?


I am, and will be posting at my new blog (yet another!): Stones for the River.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Time After Time

If you fall in love with a book or movie, do you tend to watch/read it again and again? If so, what's your upper limit on repeats? (Question and answer cross-posted from LiveJournal / Dreamwidth)

Yes indeed. I haven't found an upper limit yet, but after the second go I do need a fair bit of time between readings/viewings: years, or at least months. 

Movies I could see over and over: Gone with the Wind, the first Star Wars movie (now Episode IV), Hero, Empire of the Sun, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus ... just for starters. I'd like to see Raintree County again, but it's not around so I suppose the print hasn't survived. 

Books I never tire of — oh, far too many to list titles. Authors whose books I re-read and re-read: Alexandre Dumas, Pamela Frankau, Elizabeth Goudge, Rumer Godden, Charlotte Bronte, lots and lots of poets, various magickal tomes ...

A couple of titles I must mention: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Illusions by Richard Bach. Oh, and of course the Conversations with God books by Neale Donald Walsch.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Well, well, well!

Cross-posted from LiveJournal

It’s illuminating watching the votes come in for people’s favourites amongst my 30 Bali poems. (Albeit many people have said they’re all enjoyable and it’s hard to choose) those written in traditional forms aren’t widely appreciated, and most of the reflective pieces only a little more so. The hot favourites are the conversational, slangy ones — those about which, immediately after writing, I say to myself, ‘Oh, that’s no good; it’s much too prosey.’ I’m glad I didn’t rely on my own judgment!

The one I had planned as the first in the projected chapbook ('Remembrance of Times Past’) won’t be in it at all. I’ll probably be starting with the much more down-to-earth ‘How Shall We Spend the Money?’ which people evidently love.

You love ‘The Ambush’ too. Seems a bit mean to make my late ex’s misadventures more public than my own lapses — but those true confessions just aren’t so popular.

I’m glad to say the one I want to end with, ‘Tell Me Why’, is at present the top favourite. 

Many thanks again to everyone who has done this or is about to. I’m very grateful to you all. You’ve made the whole thing much more fun for me!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Help Wanted

Cross-posted from LiveJournal

Yesterday I completed 30 poems for the November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge hosted by Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides. December is for editing, and selecting 10-20 pages of poems to make up a chapbook, which I will then submit in the competition. (Only one poem per page, but poems may take more than one page.)

I am wondering if anyone has the time/inclination to have a look and give me your picks? Most if not all need considerable editing, so I am really only asking which ones you think are worthiest of working on at this stage. 

You can see the poems here and will need to click on ‘Older Posts’ to get to the earlier ones. I have provided ‘Like’ boxes at the end of each post, so you just need to tick your choices.

So far, all I know is that the book will be called Remembering Bali and will begin with the first poem, 'Remembrance of Times Past'. It’s unlikely that the other poems included will be in the order they were written. I am thinking of ending it with Day 17’s 'Tell Me Why'.

Many thanks to any who would care to take the trouble!

PS I will be altering them on the blog as I edit.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Effective prayer

... probably needs to be heartfelt.

A friend just shared this on facebook:
Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith) ~
"Here are the two best prayers I know:
'Help me, help me, help me' and 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.'"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

'Torn Between Two Lovers' (meme)


I met and fell in love with one much later than the other, but didn't fall out of love with the first (to whom I am married).

It worked out well, partly because I was only in close proximity to number 2 for a short time. Even so, I felt torn for a long time afterwards. I believe it was difficult for him too, although he accepted my situation. Eventually he also fell in love with someone else and they have been together ever since. To all intents and purposes we have become friends. We know it's rather more than that, and so do our partners, but we are all mature people and all these loves are true loves of the soul, so there is no jealousy, and we have got over the longing. 

It undoubtedly helps that we live in different countries and all concerned know there is no intention of wrecking our primary relationships. In fact it's perfectly clear that we're all married to the right people. (There are lots of people one could love, not so many one could be successfully married to.)

Nevertheless it's an important connection and we are in each other's lives to stay, even though we don't expect to meet in person again.

I'm sure it has been difficult for our partners too, but they have come to terms with it in great generosity of spirit and we all regard each other as dear friends, though some of us are closer than others.

From the first, I made a decision that it wasn't going to be about suffering!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): I've Had a Gutful

What a great Aussie expression. But I’m not in the mood for writing about things I’ve had a gutful of today. The sun is shining after all those weeks of rain, and the trees were shining as we drove from Mur'bah, washed clean. Tiny swallows darted and swooped across the road, and my mind turned to haiku. I’ll knock up a few more later and post them on the new facebook Haiku on Friday page.

I have had pretty much of a gutful of the rain, I guess, like most people all over the country (except in WA where they're deep in drought). I want to write about sunshine and shining trees and swallows. But I want to make it into a haiku, not just a pretty, descriptive little three-line poem. I need some kind of Zen moment in there somewhere, somehow.

Now that I’ve done my 30 poems for November, and selected the ones for the chapbook, and edited them, and worked out a sequence, I feel very strange. Not writing a poem every day is weird. Yet I don’t think it’s a good practice all the time — churning ‘em out like that. We need revision too, time to tweak and polish, and get them as good as they can be. If I don't win the chapbook competition, which I would be surprised to do, I’ll look at putting some of the other poems back in.

Writer's Journal (exercise): Spooky

Pale hands she had, long-fingered. I used to love the way they twined around my neck and stroked my hair. I used to watch for ages while she played the piano, those long white fingers moving gracefully over the keys. I found them mesmerising. It never seemed to matter that she was so silent, so self-contained.

I didn’t question how we came to be together, living in the great house, with its wintry landscape beyond the drawn curtains. We so rarely looked out. The trees surrounding the house were grey and gnarly; they looked somewhat threatening. We preferred to shut them out.

It was in the evenings that HE came. Loud footsteps always signalled his approach, so we had time to start shuddering a little, then try to master it so that when he entered we appeared cool, detached, statue-like. He never said much, though his few words were said in such a booming voice that they resonate with me still.

He liked her pale, long-fingered hands too. I watched him watching them as she played. Eventually he would stop her by closing one of his own great, dark fists over her hand and pressing down commandingly. She would flutter to a stop, turn and look up at him, into his eyes. I always wanted to yell to her not to meet his gaze, but of course I never uttered a sound, and of course she did turn and look, as he bent his head to stare back at her.

She grew paler as he held her fast with his eyes, and her frame would begin to get hazy around the edges, as if she was turning into mist. Or was that only because of my increasing faintness?

I never saw what happened next. I would lose consciousness and come to many hours later, alone. I spent my days alone until dusk fell. You could tell that the darkness had begun outside, as it deepened beyond the curtains. Then I would turn, and she would be there, sitting at the piano.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Lucky Me

He came into the bathroom, looking for something. I was having a shower. (We don't bother with a shower curtain.) He looked me up and down with a warm smile, his eyes alight, and said, 'You are a beautiful woman.'

This is a very nice thing for any woman to hear from her beloved, in any circumstances. When she is 70 years old, overweight, and stark naked under a bright light, that makes it very special indeed!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Footy Fever

Despite being born and bred in the home of Aussie Rules — Melbourne — my husband has never followed footy in his life.  This takes some doing, in a city where football is not only the major religion but practically compulsory! ('Football' meaning Aussie Rules, of course. They do have Rugby and Soccer; those are called Rugby and Soccer.)

I grew up in Tasmania, which, back in those days, was its second home, but I managed to escape the general fanaticism too. Then I went to Melbourne.

‘Who do you barrack for?” asked every new acquaintance. When I told them I didn’t barrack for anyone, they said, ‘Oh, you have to barrack for someone. You’ve gotta have a team.’

I was studying at the University of Melbourne, in the suburb of Carlton, and eventually lived in Carlton too. So I decided to barrack for the Carlton footy team. I learned how to say things like, ‘Carn the mighty Blues!’  with every appearance of enthusiasm, but it’s just pretend. I never went to a Carlton game and only know the name of one player, the great Alex Jesaulenko of decades past. (Everyone knew that name, even if they didn’t barrack for Carlton; just as everybody knew the names of other greats such as Ron Barrassi, Lou Richards and Norm Smith. Living in Melbourne, there were some things you couldn’t escape.) In truth, I never know how ‘my’ team is doing unless they get into a Grand Final, which I find out at the last minute, or even after the event.

For a while I joined the Anti-Football League and wore the badge. Journalist Keith Dunstan started the Anti-Football League so that people who longed for intelligent conversation that was not about football could identify each other at parties. Unfortunately, we all found ourselves talking about football more than ever, as the Aussie Rules fans would bail us up and demand to know why we were against the noble sport.

Anyway, you get the idea — my beloved and I are not keen on football, and manage to live our lives blissfully unaware of it most of the time. Grand Finals come and go and leave us unmoved.  Today, however, I had a strong urge to watch the latest Grand Final on TV, and he entered into the spirit of it too. As Carlton wasn’t playing, we decided to barrack for St Kilda. I lived Bayside for most of my time in Melbourne, which made the Saints my local team; also they have the best club song — ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ of course, with only the slightest change of wording.

We settled down in our armchairs and had a thoroughly good time, cheering or groaning in all the right places. We got quite carried away and found ourselves yelling advice to the players. I don’t know what came over us, really. Who knew that watching footy could be such fun?

It was a very exciting game, which ended in a draw. The final point was scored just before the closing siren sounded. I wonder if we can stand to watch the replay next week?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

What is a Healthy Relationship?

Worth sharing (copied from the blog Fiona's Inspirations):

I found this very concise explanation of a healthy relationship in a booklet produced by the Tweed Shire Women’s Service. After searching the web and not finding anything so clear and succinct, I decided to reproduce it here to share with others.
A healthy relationship is identified through the presence of equality. The elements of a healthy relationship are applicable to all forms of relationships with friends, dating, partners, intimate partners, life partners, of family members.
Trust: Trust lies at the heart of the relationship and is the foundation that love and respect are built on.
Support: Support and encouragement of each other to achieve their goals and dreams, and personal growth.
Respect: Respect other people’s boundaries. Learn other people’s boundaries and do not infringe upon them.
Responsibility: A shared responsibility for maintaining the relationship. Both people in a relationship should be included in making decisions.
Communication: Communicate effectively. Effective communication involves clearly expressing your thoughts and feelings, and listening to those of others.
Boundaries: Maintain healthy boundaries. Create a safe and comfortable space to experience relationships by defining and communicating your boundaries to others.
Honesty: Be open and honest. It is important for both people in a relationship to be honest about their intentions, feelings or desires.
Accountability: Be responsible for your own actions. Talk to others to understand how your actions affect them.
There is no place in a healthy relationship for controlling, abusive and violent behaviour.


Reference: ‘What is a Healthy Relationship?’ A Woman’s Guide to Reclaiming a Healthy Relationship produced by Tweed Shire Women’s Service

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Minor Mystery

We recently started getting the Sydney Morning Herald delivered each morning. What luxury! When we were a little poorer, we used to get it only on Mondays for the excellent TV guide, and we went to the shop to buy it.

Andrew loves it: best paper he’s ever come across, he says. (I used to feel that way about the Melbourne Age, which is ‘from the same stable’.) I like it too, but most of all for the word puzzles, which I solve (or not) while watching TV in the evenings.

Then, for the last two mornings, it went missing. The first time, I didn‘t get to the newsagent to report it unil late in the afternoon. By then there were none left — not there, not anywhere in town. It was the morning after Australia found out who was going to govern in our hung Parliament; I guess everybody wanted the paper that day. The newsagent gave me a copy of The Australian instead — a paper with a very different political slant from the Herald. ‘Julia Gillard gets nod to govern’ said the SMH headline (I found out online). ‘Gillard gets a second chance,’ said The Australian.

The following day, Andrew saw the paper outside in our yard, but neither of us was dressed at that point. By the time we were, and went to retrieve it, it was gone. I phoned the newsagent, explained, and asked him to keep us another copy. Then I went door-knocking around Tulipwood Court (our little cul-de-sac). My neighbour in the other unit is away. She once told me someone collected her mail for her at such times, so I thought maybe they’d picked up the Herald too on the assumption it was hers. No-one I spoke to knew anything about it.

‘It must have been stolen,’ said one woman. ‘There’s a bit of that goes on around here.’ Another said, ‘I’m up at five every morning. I’ll pick up your paper from now on and put it up on your veranda.’ Sure enough, this morning’s paper was right there outside our front door. Bless her!

The newsagent’s father delivers the papers early. He confirmed he’d thrown it right up into our yard. ‘Could it have been a dog?’ asked the newsagent. ‘One that’s trained to fetch?Dad saw a dog rummaging around in the rubbish bins along the street.’  Hmmm, I’d heard a dog barking up and down the street in the afternoon, which was unusual, and on the way home from the newsagent I saw what looked like a stray in a nearby street to Tulipwood Court.  But if so, it must be a very selective dog. Various free newspapers get delivered too, and they have never disappeared. The Tweed Echo was still on our lawn yesterday after the Herald had gone, and the Mail the day before.

I spoke to teenage Nathan from across the road, and his little sister. They were riding their bikes around our end of the street.

‘It could have been Monty,’ they said. ‘He takes shoes sometimes.’

Monty is a big old dog from further down the street, inclined to wander vaguely in front of cars, but we all stop to let him by. Or they thought it might be Baxter. Baxter’s a big boxer who lives near Monty, and is the reason I don’t walk down that end of the street. He appears friendly, but very boisterous; I’ve been scared he’d knock me over in his exuberance.

‘Baxter’s a bad dog!’ said the little girl.

‘There have been some bites,’ said Nathan.

‘And there’s also Coco; she’s a golden labrador who lives down the hill.’

Baxter wasn’t out on the road just then, nor were the other dogs, so I braved the walk to their owners’ houses. Monty had been in his back yard for three months following a complaint to the Council, said the cheery blonde who came to that front door. At Baxter’s place, a teenage boy and girl and their Mum all answered my knock and told me Baxter is now confined by an electric fence and a special collar.

Coco’s house was over the side of the hill, down a dip. There was a little path through bushes, then a big house with a big yard. Coco, lying outside, looked up at me placidly. Not a golden labrador actually, but one of those curly-haired ones that look a bit similar: a golden retriever.

‘Come in,’ called a tall young woman busy peeling vegetables.

She said their SMH wasn’t there this morning either. We had a hunt around the garden but found nothing.

‘If she does pick ours up,’ said Coco’s owner, ‘She usually takes it to where she sits. And she doesn’t bring home other papers.’

She introduced me to gentle Coco, who stood up to greet me and enjoyed having her ears rubbed.

I must be looking my age even though I don’t think so. Coco’s lady took my arm to help me back on to the path up the hillside and asked her teenage daughter to accompany me to the top.

So I don’t know who or what has been making off with our paper, but it won’t happen again thanks to the kind five o’clock riser, and now I’ve met more of our neighbours and found them all very nice.

One door I refrained from knocking on because others said, ‘Stay away from her. She’s ... er ... strange.’ (Strange enough to steal newspapers? Perhaps I’ll never know.)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): Sport / Embarrassment / Punch

Sport

I’ll give you sport, Sport! Australians care far more about footy and horse racing than they do about literature. In the old days of the Poets’ Union, we used to have fantasies about writing football poetry and finally getting attention and making our fortunes. However, football and poetry seldom mix, so we never did, not any of us as far as I know. Except Tedd Wotsisname who’d been a fampus footballer (Aussie Rules of course) before becoming a poet and actually tryig to make a living at that. He had to write prose as well, and start teaching it too, no money in poetry — as clichĂ©, that’s too true.

Sport! Not for the likes of a little, fat, short-sighted, short-winded kid like me. It wasn’t until I was 22 that a doctor looked at my tonsils and said they must have been leaking poison into my system for years and that I’d probably been short-winded as a kid. So THAT was why I used to come chugging up the strait stone motherless last, a mile behind the other kids, whenever we had to run races.

Had to, that was it, Phys Ed teachers became my ideas of torturers. I‘m sure some of them were mean on purpose. Or maybe they thought I was being helpless and uncoordinated on purpose. 

Just like the ludicrous answers I used to get in maths ... but that’s another story.

Embarrassment

It did me out of a wonderful memory once. How old was I? About 9, perhaps. I was wearing a nightie that had a tear in the back, and when Mum came to get me out of bed and introduce me to the party guests, I refused. I didn’t want anyone to see the hole in the back of my nightie. Mum was flushed, I recall, and exited; probably everyone was a little tipsy by then.

Mum and Dad were in the Launceston Players, an amateur theatrical company, and the party was for the local thespians and the visiting members of the Stratford on Avon company. Leo McKern is one name I recall, and oh, many others, but I forget them by now. They were world famous; I have all their autographs still. She wanted me to meet them in person. They won’t care about your nightie, she said, but I thought they would laugh at me, and so I didn’t go.

I must say, though, it hasn’t scarred me not to have met these luminaries in person. I did get to see them act; my parents took me to all the theatrical events. That was worth more to me than being paraded before them in their everyday selves.

I was very embarrassed when I saw Dame Sybil Thorndike playing Medea. She was so convincing that I couldn’t stand the horror of what she was saying, and squirmed in my seat. I was maybe 13 then. All she had was words, and her delivery, and they tore me to pieces.

She threw the first punch

It landed fair in the middle of my throat and winded me, and that was the end of that fight.

I didn’t know why we were fighting in the first place. But apparently I had mortally offended Merren, who until then had been my close friend, and she demanded restitution. Lots of the other kids were onside, and said I had to do it, for my honour. We were 16-year-olds in the second-last year of High School. It was arranged that we’d all meet after school to stage this bout, this duel, whatever it was.

There we were on the old gravel path behind the school, hidden by hedges. She and her supporters were lined up on one side, me and my pals on the other. I was glad I had a few pals; i was fairly new to this school, and indeed to this town. Someone asked offciously, in a booming voice, if I would apologise. I said I didn’t know what I was supposed to apologise for. ‘All right,’ said this adjudicator person, ‘Then you have to fight.’

We stood awkwardly, in our school uniforms, not knowing how to begin.  While I was still wondering, she stepped forward and threw the first, last and only punch.

I gasped and wept.

‘Are you satisfied?’ said the adjudicator to Merren. She declared she was, and we all broke up and straggled off to catch our buses home. We never did become friends again and I still don’t know what I did.

Writer's Journal (exercise): Revenge List: Nonexistent

I started to make a list of people I’d ‘like to pay back for perceived hurt’, as recommended by Carmel Bird in her memoir guide, Writing the Story of Your Life. I began with kids at school who were mean to me in various ways, progressed to relatives, went on to false friends and lovers, and finished with reprehensible strangers. At least, that was the plan. I didn’t get very far.

As I wrote down the names, I realised that either I had got my revenge at the time, or life had since dealt them such blows that I didn’t need to inflict extra, or in some cases neither of the above but I simply didn’t care any more. Mostly, it was the second alternative.

What it is to be 70! It is true what Mae West said (or was it Anita Loos?): ‘Time wounds all heels.’ You just have to live long enough to see it.

(To make an interesting memoir, though, I should probably tell some of those old stories.)

Friday, September 03, 2010

A Local Character

Out shopping the other day, I spotted her: one of the strange old ladies who can be seen wandering around Murwillumbah. I’m well acquainted with this particular one and don’t usually see her so externally; but catching sight of her unexpectedly like that, I realised how funny she looked. It wasn’t only the hair dyed an improbable shade, and the plethora of rings and necklaces. She was wearing a long black evening skirt topped by a casual, striped windcheater starting to fray a little at the seams. On her feet, incongruous under the skirt, were black socks and a pair of purple and white joggers.

I understood her rationalisation for this attire: all her trousers had got too tight and the skirt was the only thing she could wear comfortably just now. And she needed the nice warm top and the good, supportive shoes. Very sensible of course; just odd-looking.

Not that her friends seemed to care. I observed that those she bumped into as she did her errands didn’t appear to find her outfit remarkable, if they even noticed it at all. (Well, Mur’bah has always had a great tolerance of eccentric dress.) It was obvious that all they saw was her, the person. She was greeted with hugs and kind enquiries as to her welfare. I guess you can afford to be a little weird in the interests of comfort, in a town where people love you and see straight through to your inner being.

All the same, that sudden confrontation in a shop window was disconcerting. I think I’ll at least wear my black shoes next time!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

1000 Words A Day

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time. So I publicly committed to write 1000 words a day and immediately became paralysed.

No no, that's not really true; I'm always writing — which is why I thought it would be such a breeze. I write emails, I write verses, I write morning pages, I write notes, I write journal entries....  Alas, for the last few days, even including extraneous things like emails, I'd be lucky to write 200 words some days. You know how it is: life gets in the way.

True, some of my journal entries are longer than 1000 words, and at the time I took on this challenge I had just decided to take a break from poetry and create a journal-cum-memoir. That didn't last very long. The truth is, I like writing poems best of all, and to focus on prose very soon palls. Perhaps I should write my journal in poetry! Many years ago I showed a young man my notebook full of poems and he said, 'It's like a sort of diary in verse.' At the time I found the comment disappointing, but he was probably quite right. Perhaps I should capitalise on it.

But there's another reason why even a poem a day is not a good thing for me to commit to on a regular basis. Prose or poetry, I need to do a lot of editing and revising. The one journal entry I did complete and post here (the previous post) went through about eight drafts first and still it's nothing extraordinary. I have poems galore, but in recent years few of them have been revised. In the WordsFlow writing group, we've decided to up the ante and aim for excellence. A whole heap of adequate but mediocre pieces won't do. Excelsior!

So the 1000 Words A Day Challenge banner has come down. A useful idea, but not for me. If anyone feels it's for them, you can find the details at InkyGirl's blog.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Home

We are having a second day of taking it easy, flopping around in our nightwear with warm woollies on top. Yesterday we spent most of the day in bed. Our bedroom in this new home has become a sanctuary — even though it’s never completely uncluttered, because we avid readers and compulsive writers keep piling up books and notebooks on the bedside tables. It’s a small enough room to be cosy and big enough not to feel cramped. We look out through one wall of glass on to our private, enclosed little courtyard garden. Though it has been low priority so far and the weeds flourish, the potted geraniums are bursting out of their pots and blooming in bright pink, the big plant in the corner —whose name I’ve never learned in years of caring for it — has glossy new leaves, and the vines are thickening on the fence.

Today we have finally got out of bed, late morning, and sit at our respective computers in our respective offices. This whole house is our sanctuary. Like the bedroom, it is both spacious enough and compact enough, and the offices are not so far apart that we feel disconnected from each other. We get up and wander about between typing, get a cuppa, fetch a book, talk to each other in passing. The cats come and find comfortable spots near us. Usually Levi keeps Andrew company and Freya clings to me, but this varies. Sometimes they wander off to the places they like best of all: Freya on the bed, Levi beside the heater.

We’ve had heavy colds for days. I’m paranoid now about the slightest infection, after Andrew nearly dying of influenza a few weeks ago — but we’ve now had the flu injections for the first time ever, and we’re taking echinacea and zinc. The doctor couldn’t suggest anything else helpful. Giving in to it seems to be working. We try to remember to drink lots of water, we flake out and snooze as inclination takes us — we get tired often — and we avoid anything too energetic. Bare minimum housework, and nothing but pleasurable tasks on computer. The huge, loud, repeated sneezes that shook our whole bodies have pretty much stopped. The aches and pains are less acute.

I realise my body is trying to process and clear some stuff. ‘What are you two unpacking from other homes?’ asks a Reiki Master friend, and mentions a couple of places with unhappy memories for us. She’s right on the button as usual. I have indeed been doing the last of the unpacking and thoughts of those other homes have been arising, and even earlier homes in my earlier lives (as child, as young mother ...). As for Andrew, he has been sorting out his files and boxes of papers at last, and looking through photos; and I realise he has been mentioning his own past homes too. It is as if, now we’re settled in a place that we love and know is permanent, we can allow ourselves to relax enough to release old angst.

I think back on the homes we’ve shared, particularly the ones that weren’t so great. I see how brave and optimistic we were, knowing the drawbacks but — having to be there for a time — actively seeking and even creating positive aspects. We explored our neighbourhoods, found places to go for walks, set up our books and ornaments and our writing spaces ... and sadly, at the worst places, had to leave a lot of stuff in storage. That wasn’t what made them so bad, but it became part of the general dissatisfaction. Without going into ancient recriminations, I could sum it up as difficulties with places that were unsuitable in themselves but all we could find at the time, exacerbated by further difficulties in sharing those spaces with other people — a residential landlady in one instance, fellow tenants in another. As most of our homes have been delightful, we haven’t dwelt on the few bad memories; it seems it’s time to deal with them now.

I seldom remember my dreams these days, but the last couple of nights I’ve had dreams around the theme of home. I remember little of the first, but in last night’s dream I was returning to a large hostel where I have lived in recurring dreams. (In this dream, I didn’t live there all the time; it was a place where I rented a permanent room for times when I might want to stay overnight in town.) It was a while since I’d been there, and there had been extensive remodelling in my absence. I walked along what at first seemed the familiar corridor to my room, looking for the number — but a laundry had been installed halfway along, and girls in undies and hair curlers were dashing in and out to wash and iron their clothes, laughing and chatting to each other on the way. I became confused, and when I got to where I thought my room should be, there was a wrong number on the door.

I decided to leave, and went downstairs to the foyer and then outside. The hostel was on top of a cliff. There was a steep, sandy path leading down to a street below. I stood at the top of it, about to go down, when something made me turn my head to the left to look out over the sea. I gasped at the beauty of the view: hills, ocean, islands, horizon, sky; at once sunny and slightly misty. Some other women came up behind me to go down the path. I stood aside to let one go ahead of me. Two others waited politely for me, but I told them to go on because I wanted to look at the view. They turned to look too. ‘It is lovely, isn’t it?’ one said, before they went on. ‘Isn’t it ever!’ I replied. 

I don’t remember walking over to the edge of the cliff top, but next thing I was falling. I was falling very slowly, upright, and although it was a deep drop and I was probably about to die or be seriously injured, I was quite calm. I had some notion of making the most of what might be my last minutes. I kept moving my legs back and forth, with the idea that I might be able to catch the side of the cliff with my heels and find a footing. Another fast forward and I had come to rest at the bottom, sitting in a sandy hollow in the cliff wall, with my feet on one of those tubes that people put under their backs when exercising.

I looked again and realised it was actually a tube-shaped bag with a zip. I opened it and saw jumpers belonging to my [former] husband Bill and our schoolboy sons. [One of the jumpers does exist in real life, but Andrew and I got it in Peru long after Bill was dead and the boys grown up.] I saw that this bag was one of a number of items stowed under a low hedge at my feet. The beach disappeared and I was at home in the back yard. In the dream I knew it as the first home Bill and I and the kids had; now I realise it was actually much more like the home I lived in when I myself was a child.

How should I interpret this? There are suggestions there of several real-life homes besides the ones I mention, but no exact matches. It’s interesting, though, to recollect that I have a sort of parallel life, or more than one, in various series of recurring dreams. I become aware of this whenever I have another of those dreams; it always evokes the recall of others in the sequence. Then I forget again until next time. This time it aroused the waking memory of another series too, where I visit a particular shopping area tucked away behind main streets in a Melbourne suburb. I have a notion it‘s Prahran, but it might be Cheltenham. These dreams also contain a huge, sweeping, curving road I must drive on between this little shopping area and home, and there’s a fork that I have to be careful of because it’s confusing and a bad choice could take me miles in the wrong direction. I’m not altogether sure this is a dream, but it can’t logically be an accurate memory either; there were no such roads approaching Prahran or Cheltenham when I used to drive to either place. It’s more like one of the roads I could take home from Melbourne when I lived at Three Bridges in the Upper Yarra Valley. Maybe it’s a combination of two different recollections, or a dream series that has mixed them up.

[As an aside — I look back in wonder at all the driving I’ve done over the years, in what a variety of places and conditions. It’s amazing because I’ve been so shit-scared of driving most of my life, yet I did so much of it so successfully. Even today I don’t exactly take it for granted, but now that I’m the main driver in the family, I’ve become much more at ease with it. I see (again) that my past self was brave; also that my present self is competent.]

This home we love so much won’t quite accommodate all our remaining possessions; that’s becoming obvious. We’re having to make hard decisions now about things to discard or give away. Perhaps that’s what has led to this mental stocktaking of places I’ve lived, and griefs and trials associated with them, as well as fonder memories and things I find myself proud of. Or perhaps it is the knowledge that we won’t have to move again, and the very pleasure we take in this place, which occasion the looking back and putting into perspective all the ups and downs of the journey that brought us here.

Since I began writing this, our handyman mate Phil has come and put up a blind over the little bedroom window that looks out onto the street. The street is at the bottom of the sloping lawn, beyond our big back gate; even so we felt a bit exposed, and now we’re secure. He hung some canvas panels in the garage, which is taking shape as library / consulting room / temple: paintings of Indonesian dancers, which Bill and I picked up in Bali 47 years ago. I found them rolled up in a plastic bag the other day, in the course of unpacking the last boxes. It’s been years since I had a place to hang them and I’m glad to be able to look at them again.

They and other artefacts from Bali are mementoes not only of travels shared with Bill and our boys, but also of the house we lived in longest, where we first displayed them; the house where the kids grew from kindergarteners to university students.

‘You’ll have to get rid of that,’ said someone decades ago, of my precious coffee table. (I was moving house then, too.) I don’t know why she thought so, and I have it still. It’s big. It has a timber frame with no metal nails, just wooden bolts, and the top is ceramic tiles in burnt orange and darkest brown. (‘Of course she picks the most expensive one in the shop,’ said Bill when we bought it in 1972. And it was, but that wasn’t why I picked it; I just took one look and fell in love.)

The aforementioned residential landlady piled a heap of stored furniture on top of it in her shed when we lived with her — chairs and other tables, boxes full of crockery — even though she knew it was one of my treasures. ‘I thought it was solid,’ she said. It survived, but has been a bit wonky ever since. I don’t let anyone sit on it any more, though it invites sitting. Years before that, my very large dog took a chunk out of the corner one night when he was looking for something to chomp on. I was upset at the time, but it’s hard to notice the missing bit now, and when I do, I smile and think of my beautiful dog. That table has been with me in ten previous homes, and here it still is.

One of the first things we did here was put up pictures. Both our fathers were artists. My favourite painting by my Dad is above my desk. It is of Mt Roland in Tasmania, his and my favourite mountain while I was growing up, and for many years thereafter. (Mt Warning, near my present home, is my favourite now.) Andrew has his father’s etchings in his office and a photo of his father, himself and his brother sitting astride a cannon in a local park where he grew up. He’s at the front, being the littlest. He’s six, and he’s laughing with joy.

When we sit in our armchairs and watch TV in our well-heated house on these cold nights, I think back to evenings by the radio in Launceston when I was a girl, the whole family gathered around the fire. This is safe and warm like that.

Yes, we’ve arrived home: a home that partakes of all the homes before.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): The Watch

My grandfather wore a fob watch. It was silver, it was big, it was round, and the case was carved with strange symbols. I supopose they weren’t strange; perhaps they had pattern or meaning, maybe they were even words. But when I was little, they looked like arcane curlicues, magickal and mysterious. He wore it in his pocket on a little chain. His waistcoat pocket, that is. He always wore a waistcoat under his jacket, and over his shirt. He would fish the watch out of his pocket by the chain, click open the case by the little snib thing at the bottom of the circle, and look at the face, which had large, black Roman numerals. He did this several times a day. It had a formality to it, this slow series of actions, a deliberateness. Time was obviously very important, and the knowing of the time.

How I loved that watch! I coveted it. I hoped my Grandpa would leave it to me when he died. Not that I wanted him to die; he was my great companion who told me stories and went for walks with me, pointing out the shapes of the hills, the colours of flowers, the kinds of trees we passed. He was in a sense my playmate, only we didn't play games, we played with ideas and shared experiences of the world. That was when I was little, of course. When I got older, he wrote me letters on his typewriter; long letters about all sorts of things much too old for a little girl to understand, like politics and art — but I did understand and reply. He also gave me many of the books I grew up on, for birthdays and xmases: I read most of Dickens and Dumas as a child, and the Bronte sisters too, all presents from Grandpa,

He did die, when he was over 80, and he didn’t leave me his watch. I don't think he had any idea that I’d have wanted it, but in any case it would surely still have gone, as it did, to my Uncle Ian. He left me his typewriter, because everyone knew I was going to be a writer when I grew up — in fact that I already was one, even as a child. It was a big black Remington and I loved it. I still see it in my head without even trying; and I can still see his watch too, and him taking it out of his pocket to look at the time. I always wear a watch myself except in bed or under the shower. Not for me the New Age disdain for telling the time, the leaving off of watches.  I know that time and the telling of it is very important.

Like so many, I am writing my memoirs, or at least bits and peices that may become that if I persevere and do enough of them. This too is a way of telling the time, and telling about my times, and my Grandpa’s times, and my Grandpa himself. Strange, he wasn't my Grandpa — as my cousin who was his true granddaugher was keen to remind me — only my step-grandpa. I didn’t care, nor did he. To him, my Mum was his daughter and I was his grand-daughter anyway.

That cousin was a child of his only actual daughter, and she loved to claim that true inheritance. She must have felt insecure in some way, I realise now, but at the time I just thought she was being nasty. (Well, she was.) Late in life, she had a lovely studio portrait of Grandpa copied, and gave copies to her sister and brother but not to me or to my other cousins who were also his step-grandchildren. For years I begged her to give me a copy; she always swore she would but never did. She’s dead herself now and I could ask her widower, and he probably wouldn’t have a problem with giving me a copy at last. But after all, I don’t need it. I was the oldest grandchild, the one he took for walks and wrote to. He probably did that for all the rest too, but that's beside the point. The point is that I need nothing to remember him vividly. I don't even need a copy of that studio portrait. My parents got a copy at  the time, and I can see it just by thinking — a white-haired man, dark-skinned and smiling.

Interesting, that dark skin. I often wonder of he was Anglo-Indian too, like my Nana, even though they met in England. He went back to India with her after they married and that's where Aunty Franki, my cousins’ mother (my Mum's half-sister), was born.

‘My cousin’ I say, as if she was the only one. She was the sibling cousin.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): The Emerald Ring

I remember the emerald that Mum used to wear, a big square cut emerald in a ring on her right hand. Her left hand was for the wedding and engagement rings. She was a woman of taste, my mother, and wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing rings on every finger as her daughter now does.

I loved that emerald ring! So did she. We used to look at it together, at the way it caught the light, at the way it was cut with a sort of double edge inside the gold setting. We were both upset when one of those edges got a chip. Even then, it was many years later that I realised my mother’s ring was glass, and that she must have been well aware of that all along. But she used to call it ‘my emerald’ and I knew that dad gave it to her. I now have a different interpretation of the way she smiled when she said  to her friends, ‘My emerald,’ flashing the ring. They would have known too, of course, and openly. It was a little joke between them as they agreed it was a beautiful ring. It was. I can still see it now, that deep green — and the size of it. A real emerald of that size would have been worth a great fortune.

My mother’s opal ring was real enough, but it was a doublet, two pieces of opal stuck together. It was deep blue and green. I liked fire opals best, still do, but Mum’s opal was very beautiful. She didn’t wear that often; it lived in a drawer. She always said she would leave it to me, but one day when my Aunty Kathleen was admiring it, Mum had a sudden fit of largesse and said, ‘Here, have it.’ Years later she said, You wil leave it to Rosemary, won’t you?’ Aunty Kathleen did, but by then it was not what it had been. No-one told her she shouldn’t put it in water. With a doublet, that changes the glue so that it shows through and ruins the look of the stone. I still have Mum’s opal ring, but I don’t wear the poor, pale, discoloured thing.

I wonder what happened to the emerald? Perhaps she threw it away after she and my dad divorced. She could have had real emeralds in her second marriage, but she went for diamonds instead. She left me her three-diamond ring which she was so pleased to have bought in Singa[ore for much less than she believed it was worth. It is an impressive ring, but when I wanted to raise some money recently I found that I couldn’t sell it. No-one is buying diamonds that size now. They are quite big, but not big enough.

All in all, I think the great big green glass ring was probably the best value, in terms of the pleasure it gave.

Writer's Journal: Easy Writer

Forgot it was Tuesday for tanka. Did it halfway through the arvo. Not a great tanka, though interesting enough, I think — but it was incredibly easy to write something that fitted the form.  Not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Dear Ghost

I looked at the date and saw it was his birthday, again. I smiled at my dear ghost and wrote him a little poem about remembering his eyes — his eyes which I always likened to the summer ocean. He was all sun, it seemed to me: light and warmth, shining. Yet in truth he had little warmth or light in his young life, my 24-year-old love who did not live to be 25, choosing to leave eight days earlier.

That was in 1982. This year, 2010, was the first of all the years since then that I missed noticing the anniversary of his death. But my body remembered and gave me a cold. My psyche remembered and gave me a sudden loss of delight. From one moment to the next, the world was drained of all colour, all meaning. I should have remembered then.

After he died I got my ears pierced. Before, I had always thought of that as self-mutilation; afterwards I wanted some visible, permanent sign that everything was irrevocably changed. This time, not consciously, not on purpose, I got my hair cut very short — too short. It will grow again, of course. As for the earrings, they long ago became personal adornment, not a symbol of grief.

On Friday I saw the psychologist. I told her about my present love, my 81-year-old love, coming close to death in the last two months and slowly recovering. I relived my distress and fear. It seemed more than enough to account for my symptoms. I cried in her office for most of the hour and walked out with a new lightness.

Then I was able to recall the recent anniversary: the death that did happen, after which nothing was ever the same again. I was able to see that these two occasions of pain, these two far-apart winters, had become emotionally entwined.

He came to me several times after he died. At first he contacted a psychic friend who would get in touch and tell me the messages; then I began using this friend as a medium, asking questions over a cuppa and receiving what answers there were. Finally I could see and hear him myself, without needing a third party. I was not reconciled to what had happened, but I understood it better. I still took many months to move through the stages of grief, even though I set out to experience them fully. I thought that plunging right in would get me out the other side quicker, and I’m still certain I was right. But it wasn't very quick.

I went for long walks alone, talking to him in my head. My psychic friend told me that our grief keeps the souls of the dead from moving on immediately. ‘Too bad,’ I told my dead love, talking to him in my head as I walked. ‘You chose to go; you owe me my grief.’ I walked through one of the longest, hottest summers on record. I barely noticed the heat.

One day, next autumn, the world regained its radiance. I saw life shining in grass and leaf; the sun and sky had colour. Not that I didn’t still mourn, but I could be in life again; I was back.

For many years it was as others too have described their own situations: not a day went by that I didn’t think of him. Even now, it still happens often. The emotion accompanying the thoughts gradually changed. It’s always love, that doesn’t change; but now I can think of him with happiness. My husband’s recent danger brought back the old pain; I know too well already what it’s like to lose the most important person in my life. Perhaps it’s good that I’ve had a little preview. Last time the death was a shock as well as a sorrow. I sat down with a cup of coffee one Saturday afternoon and opened a newspaper, and there was the headline. (No-one knew that I was someone who might need to have it broken to me ... but there, how do you break such news anyway?) Next time — if I don‘t go first — well, I have been prepared.

Meanwhile, about to go to bed just after midnight last night, I noticed today’s date: his birthday. I’ve come out the other side of grief yet again. I smiled at my dear ghost and wrote him a loving poem, a birthday gift. Did my thoughts call him to me this time too, or was it simply a memory? No matter. Love never dies.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Loss of Illusion

Only a little while ago it seemed that my friend was living a fairytale. She is a being of joy, sensuality, courage and sweetness, so it seemed only right and natural that she should experience such a thing. It seemed that, for her, fairytales could come true.

Alas, no.  Her husband announces on a social networking site that he is single again and ‘ready to party’. I could kill him. She is in his country, far from her homeland, with two young children, one still a baby. She is dependent on the kindness of friends and even strangers, as he is not supporting them financially. She says she is moving around, so I gather she is homeless and staying with different people for short periods. Fortunately there are already many there who love her. She is touched and amazed by that.

I don’t know the story and she is not saying anything against him except that things ‘got nasty‘ — ‘things’, not ‘he’ — and that the relationship is obviously over.  There are two sides to every story, it is said. I don’t care; regardless, I’m on her side. We have been friends for some years. We met through poetry. It’s as good a way as any to get to know a person.

I remember how delighted I was for her when the fairytale began. Only one thing gave me pause. I looked at the photos her handsome husband posted at his profile and thought, ‘This is a very vain man.’ It wasn’t just that he is extraordinarily good-looking, so much as the way that he posed himself: romantically, like a model or a movie star, often near-naked — lots and lots of photos displaying, narcissistically, his undoubted beauty of face and form.

But then, there were also happy photos of their small family. And he appeared to be as clever and talented as my friend, and as interested as she is in both spiritual development and the arts. I told myself not to be judgmental on the basis of one foible when they had so many other things in common. Surely they were soul-mates.

And at first she did sound blissfully happy, enjoying her new life and soon new motherhood as well. I rejoiced for her.

In a way I do now, too — not for her sorrow and practical challenges, but because it is better to be free of illusion. She has always been able to look deep, confront whatever is there, and express it honestly. She is both strong and humble. I believe these qualities will get her through, and pray that it shall be so.

Friday, July 09, 2010

TEXAS POETRY TOUR: Lamesa, West Texas

On April 28th 2006, I emailed Andrew asking him to send Reiki to Thom and me for our coughs, and to Forrest Fest, Lamesa for joy and success of the Festval. Forrest Fest is an arts festival, featuring music, poetry and visual arts, started in 2000 by Connie Williams who is herself talented in all those art forms. An extra source of excitement for me was that Connie had invited me to participate in a Beltane ritual with local witches. 

'No sweat,' replied Andrew.  'Sent Reiki all last night to you.  Will send to you both today.'

I replied:

Great, thank you. Did OK at ritual, need voice for poems especially Saturday.

Last night at Austin saddish. Cafe Caffeine had no audience, but my dear Rhie (22-yr-old performance poet) came just to say goodbye, taking time off work, and we exchanged email addresses. She read from Ginsberg, great stuff. Neil also came to say goodbye; we sat and yarned. Then Thom and I drove from 10pm to 4.30am, me staying awake to keep him awake.

Here we are in the desert with great people.

May be able to email briefly more often. Home so soon now!!!!

These are my kinda witches here; we muddled around a bit, laughed a lot, improvised, changed the plans made over many months, spoke well — and raised power. When we invoked the wind, it roared. At the end, a coyote howled.

On April 30th I said: 

Hi darlin'

We just finished Forrest Fest. I am sitting in a loungeroom full of featured poets sitting around drinking (mostly soft) and chatting, at Connie's, where we all came back to. Thom's going to drive to Austin tonight to be back for Neil's birthday party tomorrow.

I won the anthology poetry contest, prize $100. I met more wonderful people, new friends for life. Amazing contact with a highly psychic couple. Heard great poems and music. This morning at Connie's request I conducted the tree dedication/blessing. Everyone said how beautifully I spoke. This surprised me; I just said what came. We danced around the tree (globe willow sapling) afterwards.

The people here at Lamesa (pronounced Lameesa by the locals) are very down to earth; suits my Aussie soul – as I told 'em from the stage tonight. I am sad in some ways to be leaving soon.

Clarence (witch/poet) suggested they should keep me here and not let me go. Instead, he and his wife will come to plane Monday to see me off.

I did an amazing psychic reading yesterday for Tony, the 'cowboy poet' and came up with astonishing shared past life!!! And he already knew about it!

The world is full of wonders. I was so definitely meant to be here, in so many ways. Not all clear yet. Psychic poet today (Alan) says it will all come clear shortly after I go home.

Looking forward to seeing you and friends. But I am different.

I gave away my old Voyager deck and got new one, while still in Austin.

My hair is growing a bit long and is faded ginger now. I bought elastic sided lace-up boots today for $2 at garage sale. The bug is getting better slowly; I managed to go on and be great, and snuffling and coughing rest of time (Thom same).

Getting back to party now. Luv ya
R

and later:

Party over some time ago, luvverly music was played. (Romantic, and my mind wandered pleasantly to you!) Connie & Tony & I bin sitting around yarning, v. ready for bed now. Some poets/musos staying at motel may come for breakfast here tomorrow.

I am very happy here – not on the ecstatic high of Austin area, more down-home. My glamour has pretty much gone, and it doesn't matter, these are down to earth people and I love 'em. Well of course, this is a small town and not a city, so I would be at home here.

Again I have made friends for life, soul brothers and sisters.

Night-night, see you soon.

xxx

*************************************************

Connie and I had been corresponding by email before I left Australia, thanks to Thom putting us in touch, and already 'clicked'. We really felt like soul-sisters when we found out we'd both dyed our hair deep red in the same week.

Her home had several extra bedrooms; Thom and Tony and I were all staying there. It was luxuriously comfortable, and her computer was always on and available for her guests to send emails, and her kitchen table laden with all kinds of hearty, help-yourself food.

In person I discovered her to be a tiny, dynamic woman: warm, down-to-earth and very talented. She had a degree in music, played guitar, sang, and even wrote her own songs as well as being a wonderful poet.

The first morning of Forrest Fest, Connie, Thom and Tony left early to entertain people in an old folks' home. Not being the least bit musical myself, I slept in instead, which I very much needed after our long ride across Texas to get there.

That evening we did our thing in a local café, to the bemusement of some of the locals and the enthusiasm of most. By then we were joined by several other poets from Austin and San Antonio, such as Rod Stryker, Philip, 'Hippie Rick', and musician-poets Kathleen Romana of La Tazza Fresca, Fred Williams, Paula Held and Steve Brooks. Paula's voice in particular was hauntingly beautiful; I could have listened forever.

The park where we held the tree planting coincided with a gathering of people dressed up in medieval garb. We went to say hello to them afterwards and admire their costumes.

TEXAS POETRY TOUR: Ruta Maya

The night at Ruta Maya was two events in one. There was a reading inside the large cafe space. I put my name down and got a spot in the 'open section', but mainly I enjoyed hearing another group of excelent poets I hadn't encountered before. One man, Maslow, read a poem about lovemaking which I thought every man who doesn't know how to please a woman should read! I asked him for a copy. He emailed me one after I returned to Australia, and I reciprocated with my famous C*** poem.

After the reading ended, Thom took me out to the veranda, where a group of musos improvised enthusiastically late into the night. Thom improvised poetry against this background; a young woman danced. I was so carried away with it all that at one point I actuallly leapt into the circle and improvised four lines — after which, being me, I sat down and wrote them out. I wandered off by myself to do so, and caught myself feeling melancholy. Suddenly I had had enough of being in a city. I shook it off, went back to the musos, and sat and 'drummed' vigorously all night, tapping my fingers on the tops of my legs and pounding my heels on the floor.

Improv at Ruta Maya
with Thom and musicians, April 25 2006

Poetry pours from his pores.
On the veranda at Ruta Maya
he shouts it out with the music.
I can’t hear particular words,
only a wall of sound, the beat
of drums and guitars. I jump
into the circle, jig and yell
my sudden homesick longing
to be away from the city, any
city, even Austin where poetry
dances at night accompanied
by fast, insistent music. Then I sit
next to a drummer I know and
clap my hands and click my heels
all night in a rhythmic trance.
A girl of sinuous grace enters the
pounding ring of sound, performs
intricate visual poems of dance
and flowing gesture. Sometimes
one or another man, drawn in
to the pull of her rhythms, joins
to partner her briefly, then retires.
She alone sustains the weaving forms.
The music too never stops, though
this musician or that may pause
for a moment’s rest. Thom smiles
and shakes his rattles, watching
it all, perceiving macrocosm
(‘She is the poetry’) and microcosm:
a path needed for a wheelchair here,
a drummer there growing tired,
a new young guitarist to welcome.
And every so often he leaps up,
joins the circle, dances with his hands
and shouts his spontaneous poetry.

POSTSCRIPT

I write the date of these events,
subtitling the poem, and see
it was Anzac Day at home. Far 
from home, I spared no thought
for wars and heroes, old or new.
It was air and forest, light and ocean
I missed … as now I miss the joy
of the strong, never-failing beat,
that family of laughing musos
whose warmth included me,
at Ruta Maya in Austin, Texas,
on a soft, unsettling night
in the middle of Spring.
         

TEXAS POETRY TOUR: The Festival

On the 25 of April 2006 I was surprised to receive the following email from Andrew:

Dearest Rosemary,

I apologise for my last email.  Maybe it was because of Anzac Day. Also yesterday I found myself under psychic attack twice.  And it all got the better of me.  And my computer clock is up the creek.  It's actually 6.20am. I'm fine today. Have a great Beltane Ritual and Forrest Fest.

Love you XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX A

I responded:

Have no idea what yr last said, as it is no longer in my inbox. They only stay coupla days and I have not been able to log on since Thursday. Am now at Neil and Dorsey's briefly, having had opportunity to do session 2 of Voice Dialogue, and begged use of the spare Mac laptop — before going on to open mic at The Hideout tonight.

Glad you are fine now.

SLIGHTLY LATER: Had another look, found the previous after all. Oh dear, I am sure it must be hard for you. I am over here having all the fun!  Won't be long now, luv u too, heaps n heaps. And despite the fun starting to feel a wee bit homesick.

But anyway, must seize chance to tell you all about Festival. Yet more skiting!!!

As you know I was one of the featured poets selected to perform at Opening Ceremony, an audience of renowned poets — rather different from the venues around town. I was on early — with The Dress, naturally. I was SO nervous, and nearly fluffed lines coupla times in the Down Under poem (which I will send copies of to people when I get back).

Most of the audience was listening expressionlessly but attentively. Scary! Only one guy was killing himself laughing (silently), and my few pals there — e.g. Neil, Patricia, Christine, and Patricia's friend Agnes Meadows, featured poet from London — were beaming love and encouragement, but otherwise I couldn't tell how I was going.

I followed it with Vagabond and The Goddess Without (we only got a 5 min sample reading each). Luckily all got great applause. Neil came up after and said, 'You did good!' and Rod Stryker, my host at one of the San Antonio readings, clapped my arm approvingly.

But I really did not know how I had gone — in fact knew it was my worst performance so far — until next morning when Anne and Sally from Kerrville picked me up and went to the registration venue, and a man sitting there told me had written about me on his blog that morning. I asked what he had said, and he told me, 'Oh just that you were the highlight of the Opening Ceremony.' (Not to mention this GORGEOUS — and very young — black slam poet, male of course, who said, 'Hey, dahlin', where you reading next?' Ooh, instant melt!) And all through the Festival various renowned poets expressed delight in my work and/or regret they had not been able to hear more — as after the Opening, venues were scattered all over town at same time and we could not all get to hear everyone else.

After the Opening, Patricia and I and her guest Agnes were all on at a bookshop — and it went very late and was tiring ... and a few more people of all ages and genders fell in love with me. One old man said he had the title of his next poem about me, something about bodaceous bazooms!

To return to Opening Ceremony, a well-known woman musician-poet around town who was introduced to me there, said, 'Oh, Rosemary — you're a legend! Welcome back to Texas.' I said, 'It's my first visit,' and she said that she had heard so much about me and read my name so often that it felt as if I was already part of the Austin family for a long time.

I moved into the Austin Motel a few days as guest of the Festival — very small room after the luxury I've been used to, and I moved back to house-siting Patricia's friend Kate's place Saturday night, more convenient for Patricia to drive me around Sunday (yesterday). But the resaurant next to motel was real good, authentic Mexican which I like so much better than Tex Mex. Great to see Anne and Sally, who took me about on Friday, and Anne and I read together at The Hideout that afternoon as part of the Festival. It was a most exciting reading, some great poetry. I am also outrageous in audience, and stamp and whoop and yell for the good ones, and clap till my hands hurt.

(Just had phone call with you — so great! Glad you rang.)

I found out a while back that witches in Texas do wear their pentacles, and in Austin often visibly, so went and got one — silver, very good price, smaller than the one I left home, and I love it and wear it all the time now, and all the witches around the place (many of them poets) are delighted. Agnes is another. She says The Dress is a Hogwarts gown!

She is a wonderful, bawdy, witty lady who writes great poetry. Patrcia kept saying, 'You'll love Agnes!' I didn't know the half of it. We have chummed up like mad, and she wants me to go to England next and be part of her women writers' network. She didn't join me in Kate's house though as she wanted to be in with Patrica, her great pal for years. Suits me; I like the place to myself, and they are close enough, just across the lawn. We three wicked women together are dangerous, I tell ya! Well, would be except the others have been fairly ill with coughs, Reiki only relieving symptoms temporarily.

They drove me about on Saturday and Agnes and I read at same venue in the arvo. Evening, there was a reception, with the three biggest stars reading. Apart from The Dress, the most successful clothes have been the pieces I got from Ariba. In fact everything I brought has been good, and The Coat of The Dress very versatile. The hair has faded to auburn — very pretty actually. The shampoo Parvati sold me refreshes it when needed and it is still magenta enough to work with poems referring to it. So on this occasion I opted for quietly elegant glamour!

Anyway, one big star was Russian born Ilya Kaminsky, both sweet boy and unique, brilliant poet. I bought his book; he said, 'You're the one who made that wonderful rhyme we've all been talking about.' (vestibule/festival, from the Down Under poem). Now that is high praise! My cup runneth over.

Another nice man was Eddie Tay from Singapore whom I met first of all as I registered. Oh and so many other people; I have lots of email addresses. I particularly bonded with Marian Haddad, very beautiful woman and beautiful poet, Arab-American, living in San Antonio. She writes a lot of woman-centred stuff so of course liked my work, as I hers.

I left out account of Poets' Forum on Saturday arvo before our reading. Five of the big stars discussing a quote from Brecht which implied we should be writing about issues rather than pretty things about trees. All spoke well. When audience comments/questions were called for, I was first up and pointed out that trees are an issue now and how guilty I feel about paper, and asked if they had any ideas, e.g. should we all go to computer only. Most panellists said how they love books; the Chinese lady, Zhang Er, said in China they make paper from grass, which excited me, but later she told me it is not very good quality paper.

One way and another I have become repoliticised as a poet via this Festival; so much discussion of what we as poets might do to help our troubled planet. And so many great political poems aired!
I withdrew from the Dead Poets' Slam Friday night, just did not feel easy about presenting Michael Dransfield's work in that context. Nancy (organiser) eventually said, 'It's meant to be fun, not torture' and accepted my withdrawal — which freed me to go off that evening and play with some witches (non-poets) of which more another time. Patricia sent Rod Stryker to pick me up at motel Saturday morning to get me to a venue she was hosting, poetry and music. I got to just listen, and it was beautiful.

Sorry I am getting this all out of order.

Back to Reception. After the readings it was eat, drink and mingle. An arm came around me, and it was Anne Schneider, teary and saying a final goodbye. Had great time with her and Sally Friday; had gone to Reception mainly in hope of seeing her but didn't until just then. They were not staying for the Sunday poetry brunch, so that was it. I was sad too, despite knowing we'll be in touch for life. It's not the same.

The poetry brunch was not like it sounded — was a reading upstairs of cafe, no food provided, we had to order our own. Staff (volunteers) not properly informed, and snowed under. It worked out in the end. Agnes was reading. She asked at one point did we want sex, trees or anti-war. People dithered and muttered coupla minutes, till this Aussie larrikin at the back of the room put her hands to the sides of her mouth and yelled, 'SEX!' Everyone looked around and laughed; it was what they had all been wanting to say.

At the end, I was sitting with coupla middle-aged men outside waiting for my lift. They were discussing whether another bloke was going to succeed in chatting up this gorgeous young woman poet, whom many men had been trying to chat up. I had seen her Thurs. night with very nice boyfriend, and had given her some discreet mentoring on not apologising for her verses when reading. So what happens? She flies downstairs, falls into my arms and begs to know where I'm reading next. (Have I got it or have I got it?!) Then I get to hug goodbye the rather nice bloke who was hoping to chat her up, on the grounds of being an older woman who can be allowed such familiarities!

My lift I was waiting for was this lovely Reiki Master who took me off to participate in Reiki shares. Different way of working, but luvverly. Just what I needed by then. I got great foot massage too!
Sunday night (last night) party at Patricia's — Thom and Wendy, Christine, Neil, Patricia's neighbour Kathleen, coupla visiting British poets, and an activist publisher called Susan Bright. I drank too much red wine and ate too much of everything. Great! Poor Agnes went to bed instead but is feeling better today.

And then I got invitation to come here and do second session of Voice Dialogue which was just great.

And now Neil will take me off to the venue, where Patricia and Agnes will be too, and my gorgeous young female fan, then later back home to Kate's place. Don't know when I'll be near a computer again. Can't make Patricia's or Kate's work for Gotalk. Hope to sort out books tomorrow; going up to Lamesa with Thom late Wednesday after Cafe Caffeine. Some other friends will be going there too. Ruta Maya tomorrow night; improv venue. I MAY get game to have a go....

Luv & many xxx
R