Tuesday, November 27, 2012

And then on Sunday, oh joy, oh most divine gift ... I went with another friend to a recital by Anna Goldsworthy ("Piano Lessons") and three of the Conservatorium students she mentors.

This was at Janet Clarke Hall, Melbourne University. I never lived in "hall" at Monash University, but visited my boyfriend and his friends at Mannix College; I shared houses and flats with other students. Janet Clarke Hall was another experience altogether - so proudly intellectual, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in every room, full of ancient editions and tomes. So spaciously accommodating of opinion and thought, so traditional. 

My friend had lived there as a music student in the late '60's. She gets regular missives from the alumni committee, inviting her to attend tasteful events and to donate. I was aware of Not Belonging as I sat among the very middle class, even bourgeois, alumni and their friends. 

However, the music was something else. (And as we drank tea and coffee and indulged in fancy sweetmeats afterwards, I found myself "belonging" after all to this intelligent and cultured group of women and that was "something else".)

I witnessed a pianist who disappeared into the music she played. When I shut my eyes, she wasn't there, but the Appassionata was. Whereas the other two performers were definitely "there", performing. I got a whole new access to what it looks like to Perform.

I could not thank my friend enough for the privilege and enjoyment she afforded me, for FREE, last Sunday afternoon. Even now, I feast on the memory.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Our friend Heather won the local heat of the 2012 Poetry Slam, so was competing in the State Finals at the State Library. I had avoided these high-energy events, although I did attend a local heat some years ago and enjoyed myself. That is, enjoyed myself over the top of my brain's infighting: Do it! No! Go on! No! I knew the State Finals would produce no such stress, and wanted to spend time with my dear friend whose baby had recently passed away. This seemed like a good opportunity to catch up, be with whatever there was to be with. Oddly, as I talked on the tram about my most recent visit to the oncologist, my friend commented that she had never heard someone talk about cancer with so little charge, or meaning added. It is true I am not afraid of my body's expressions of health, which I think of as systemic integrity and therefore workability. Without workability you can't perform. As I write this, I get what she was talking about!

We spent the entire train ride into Melbourne sharing back and forth. My friend kept asking, "What else has happened in the town? In the choir? Catch me up!" At the State Library, we texted our friend The Finalist but got no response. The next day I was with my sister, Heather, and it seems we picked the wrong Heather to announce, "We are here! Where are you?"!

I have to admit I loved the high energy, the humour, the youthfulness of the Poetry Slam. We agreed Heather's poem was the best, but two other people took first and second place, well-deserved too. The winners performed another poem. As we left, Heather declaimed for us, her three-member fan club, her rehearsed second poem, on the steps leading down to Little Lonsdale Street. Both her poems were seriously funny.  She said her husband would be happy she wasn't one of the winners as the topic of her second poem was marriage. And it was funny. Seriously.

Yesterday, after a day at my sister's house creating album pages for my most recent project - raising funds to contribute to the eradication of measles worldwide - I came home to cook chicken and apricot sausages. Hmm. Hot day. Potato salad. It was a most creative potato salad. Here's the recipe:
Boil two potatoes, peeled and diced, and a large carrot, ditto, for about 20 minutes. Drain off the water, replace lid, let them steam for a further ten minutes (but not over heat). Chop up cucumber, spring onions, fresh coriander, a coloured capsicum, and celery. Throw potato and carrot in a bowl and while still warm add a tablespoon of hommus (I used one with garlic in it) and stir. You can add olive oil to make the consistency easier to mix. When cool, add all the chopped ingredients and mix thoroughly. My mother loved the "crispy" potato salad, which made up for the difficulty she had finding the apricot in the chicken sausages (minimal input, it seemed).

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Two Landmark funerals within four weeks! The first for a new life cut short, the second for someone who didn't quite reach 91.

Today's service involved no body in a coffin, no representative of god, no celebrant. And yet there was the presence of this beloved woman in all the testimonials by family and friends. There was the presence of a great spirit. There was celebration. She was a woman adventurous in both body and mind, a matriarch in the grandest and most generous tradition. Her offspring, grandchildren and great grandchildren knew her as one who breathed aliveness, self-expression and the freedom to create life into every one of them. Some anecdotes made us dab our eyes; some made us laugh in recognition, not only of her unique personality but of our own foibles and humanity.

We gathered in a coastal community centre; she had died at home with windows wide open for the sound of the sea and the birds she loved. Before she lost consciousness, she gazed to infinity across a mauve and azure ocean. She told people: "I'm dying now. It's perfect. This is exactly the way it should be. It's my time." She inspired us all as the manner of her dying was recounted, as she had in her life.

I loved her because she made me feel special, she made everyone she met feel special. She was interested, attentive when you were with her. She included you, fed you power and grace in her conversations with you. She loved classical music. We spent a few minutes with Beethoven's Concerto # 3. It rang like bells, pulled and pushed like waves, it rolled through the fibres of my being like surf, and I was moved like a grain of sand with the beauty and the emotion in the slow notes. A photo of her with playing cards laid out on a table in front of her presided. We spoke to her, and thanked her for the extraordinary life she had completed, the gift she was, and the difference she had made to every single one of us.

Vale Edith Barton.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

When you are living life, what is the point of talking about it?

I completed the Advanced Course with a new realm of possibility called being the stand I am, matching Landmark Forum Leader. I can't wait to lead my next Self-Expression and Leadership Programme, starting December 8. I drove to Ballarat today to see a specialist about my hearing. All the way there I was in my head, talking to the participants I haven't yet met. It's like they say: when you have an injury and you practise moving the damaged arm or leg, this gives your brain the access to helping rehabilitated movement. I am practising energising my brain to say what will make a difference.

Over the weekend, I got that I can make stuff happen, including Edith becoming the President of Zambia, if that's what she wants. Tonight, I surfed "women presidents in the world and in Africa" and "Edith Nawakwi". She faces some vitriolic opposition. Still, she keeps herself in the public eye. I must call her, offer coaching perhaps??

After Day 6 of the Poem-A-Day Challenge, I was totally uninspired by the prompts. I have been unwilling to continue. I am going to do my "random word in dictionary" thing until I experience being free and in the zone again.

I have been preparing for my appearance as "Jennie Fraine, innovative poet" at Lerderderg Library's Bacch Chat event on Sat 1 Dec 12. I will earn money! I can claim expenses on tax! I must find a tax consultant who really knows how writers/artists can manage random income, constant investment.

Meanwhile, here's a photo for restfulness.

Rising to the sun,
to light and heat,
callistemon asks for
Honeyeaters and bees
willingly oblige.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

There is something restful about choosing plants for a garden. It's the effect of all that vegetation, to start with, and in Spring it has a lot to do with the perfumes that draw you around the offerings. My daughter-in-law said that people actually go to this place for recreation at weekends, spend whole days here. There is, of course, a cafe, but that's not what the crowds come for. Last Sunday morning at 11 o'clock, the car park was full, and it's a huge car park. Luckily, some people were not staying all day!

My son is changing employers, so has a week off in between; he's been inveigled to use the week to set up the garden that has existed so far only in his mind's eye. Confident in all other respects, he has been urging me to "help" him organise his garden. I arrived with changes of clothes, new gloves, toiletries in case I needed a shower, only to discover he didn't have the plants yet. It was a valuable planning session we had, and such a joy to wander the paths of Gardenworld in Springvale Road.

The Wood Cutter came today. This Silver Princess, riddled by borer, had lost one long arm, and the second arm (pictured) would have followed soon. Too tall, they fail to withstand sudden gusts or persistent strong wind. The Wood Cutter took this down, finished off the fallen part, trimmed the lower boughs of a Peppercorn tree and removed most of the two warped and twisted trees out the front. The beauty of their lovely purple blooms was negated by the stickiness of their leaves and the toughness of branches I couldn't cut with a handsaw.

What's left of my garden (which is plenty) now has spaces to fill. The Wood Cutter is a practical man who favours the kind of wildness I've cultivated (that's a bit of a contradiction!). Peppercorns attract white ants? Nah, no more than other trees, and sometimes less as they are so sappy and wet compared to other Australian trees. Curly leaf on the fruit tree? That won't kill your tree, you just won't have fruit this year. Next year, chuck dish water on the newly emerging leaves, that'll fix it. The Wood Cutter's son is his assistant. I brought him a glass of water. He drank it down in one giant gulp, sighed, and said, "This's the kind of garden I want at my place." My thirst for approval was slaked.

The bird life continues creating lines of discovery out there as if nothing has changed.I am giving my last three Silver Princesses names: Gloria, Ursula and Marilyn.

On internet sites, people complain about birds and possums ravaging their loquat crops. I've seen birds in my tree, but most of the fruit is untouched. Today I got out there with secateurs and nifty fingers and brought in a basketful. "Jam or chutney?" I asked Mum. "Chutney!" she voted, eyes alight. Now to find a recipe for chutney. Luckily I haven't taken our empty jam jars to the Op Shop yet.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

To contribute to the campaign to Stamp Out Measles in Africa, I organised a community concert, drumming workshop, and had local artists engaged in making cards with lino printing or teabag folding or just plain cutting and pasting. That plus individual donors raised $2,882, which will be matched dollar for dollar by the Gates Foundation once I get the funds to them. The Gates Foundation empowers communities to establish the practice of vaccination, and it costs a mere $1 to vaccinate a child.

I joined this mission because I had personal experience of death-by-measles, or its complications, of infants when living in Zambia 1976 to 1978. At the concert, we had too many donated items to auction, so today I set up a stall at the local fortnightly market. Jenny, a musical friend, partnered me in clearing the goods and letting people know what we were up to. 

Behind us, young cricketers warmed up and played a rowdy match, visible in the background (right) in this photo. We had three books  about Cricket, which were snapped up with four miscellaneous other books, for a mere $7. The buyer was so thrilled at such an economical solution to Christmas presents for the men in her family, she donated another $3. Yes, we made it easy for people to be generous!

 At the beginning, we agreed we would at least get the funds to $3,000, which meant a target of $118. As we were selling secondhand books, African jewellery, scrapbooking oddments, and cards, we were not asking for much from each item. Predictably, sales were slow for the first 3 hours. Then, at midday, we achieved our target, and subsequently added to the takings sufficiently to bring the total now to $3,027.96. All I can see is 6,056 children vaccinated, and another nail in the coffin not of a child but of the virus itself. I see a day when measles follows polio and smallpox to extinction. Sometimes, extinction is a Really Welcome Occasion!

I packed up quickly and earlier than other stallholders as we had our second BaccChat event at the local library. Today, Tor Roxburgh read from her wonderful novel, The Light Heart of Stone, Uncle Brian, elder of Wathaurang people spoke about the culture then and now, and Dr. Christina Eira, from Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages spoke about the reclamation of language. The fundamental plot of Tor's novel involves Indigenes and the colonists, Companiaris, so the conversation was an exploration of what it means to a country to be post-colonist. We ended the session with the realisation that our country has 60,000 years of human history and we are all part of that history, together.

When I arrived home, I found the last rose bush had suddenly burst forth with blooms. It has looked so lonely, irritable, despondent for so long, I thought it was going to stay infertile this Spring. The way it has bloomed almost seems defiant. But there I am talking about a rose bush as if it's human, when in fact it has just done what a rose bush does.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What am I doing awake at about 4 a.m., throwing the doona off, so hot? Now it's 5:20 a.m., where did the time go? Have I been awake or asleep, dreaming of tossing and turning, or really doing it? Ah! 5:50 am. That peep peep peep like baby birds in a nest ... I grab the travel clock before it starts demanding attention with BEEP BEEP BEEP. It's still dark. Well, of course, it's really 5:15 a.m. that you're sitting here eating breakfast, pretending it's 6:15 a.m. Is it pretence or just a temporary agreement I honour? 

All this because I met with C. this morning at Maccas and she shared her musical vision with me. I will try to create a word-play to match her concepts. I've never before felt so intimately included in the creation of a modern soundscape. Wonderful.

On the downside, opened the curtains when light arrived only to see one of my lovely silver princesses fallen. There must have been a wild wind last night. Although, inspecting the break, saw ants and fear termites. I need a Man with a Chain Saw, something I've hated the sound of since being a child growing up on the edge of the fabulous Barmah State Forest. There's a peppercorn tree I want removed and those two native whatevers with purple flowers and sticky leaves that have fallen across the path out the front. Everything must go!!! A bargain for someone who wants firewood or mulch. Come to think of it, I wouldn't mind recycling all those woody cast-offs.

Still, the honeyeaters feast on all sorts of mysterious insect life in the fernery outside my home office. So jaunty, so effortlessly acrobatic!

It's the left-hand trunk of the tree leaning to the right that has crashed. It's probably about 8 metres tall.