Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What Happens To The Arty Life When One Is Not Being Arty?

Just love a chance to advertise Poetry!

A rather wintry Spring in our Steps

Librarian, poet and cartographer in front of The Map

Answer: it vanishes!

Today I finally got almost everything in this Arty Room organised. I even found writing magazines I had dumped on a coffee table and forgotten to read. I was tut-tutting to myself about being conned into paying fraudulent subscriptions! Such is the rapid switch my mind makes when I stop being responsible for my environment.

I find reading the newspapers, even the Age, tests my tolerance, so I only do it when I want to tone up my ability to be bigger than my petty and misguided thoughts. I've been doing it a lot since September 7th, Federal Election Day. 

Anyway, the Spring in Our Steps Walks and the Writers Craft sessions have been fun. I was featured reader (poetry) twice at two separate events on one day. And completed two writing gigs at two very different festivals (one celebrating folk music, the other entertaining a city of children).

I moved the piano from my office once a whole set of new office furniture arrived. It's now in the restful reading and music room with all my treasures. I have found myself wandering in, sitting down, playing sonatinas slowly. It is very relaxing.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Moving the Creative Centre of My Home

What a business! It seemed so easy, on paper. To transfer all creative materials to the room with a door, and create a reading space in the room without. Two weeks later, I'm able to type on the laptop at my writing desk, surrounded by That's Not Art, Creative Memories and Writing resources. The other room is still chaotic. 

What's satisfying, though, is to sort out what needs to be recycled either to Op Shops or Gumtree. 

And ... the creative spirit is never still. Having contributed to stamping out measles on the planet, and having created the map of Moorabool Shire in poetry, I now am aiming to create a garden celebrating Inspiration. The idea is for people to plant a small flowering bush with a plaque acknowledging one person they met in their lives who has inspired them. And a booklet of the stories about these inspiring people. All to be done by 30 Jan 14.

This weekend we launched Writers' Craft monthly sessions, with a fascinating session on Short Fiction led by Tru Dowling from Bendigo. We had just enough table space for the ten of us to try out exercises she suggested, and I was pleased to meet three young women recently moved to Bacchus Marsh who are passionate about writing.

I dashed off afterwards to catch the last minutes of the Community Art Garden Launch at the local Baptist Church. Looking around at the people there, I recognised at least 80% of them and had to acknowledge to myself that I have become truly "embedded" in this community over the past 5 years, and that is an unfamiliar yet pleasing - even exciting - experience.

After that, off to Woodend for Chamber Poets #8, another enjoyable poetry reading and music session. What I like most is the generous allowance for Open Mic readings, which take up the first half of the 2-hour session. Myron Lysenko is also an entertaining host and compere and the arty venue provides plenty of visual pleasure as well.

Now to make sure I create time in my schedule to ensure I complete my Zambia 1976-78 memoir by 30 Jun 14.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Saturday: It's National Bookshop Day and the proprietor of our local Collins Bookstore has organised some bookish items in the middle of the Shopping Centre. And there I am, whiteboard marker at the ready, asking, "Who would like a poem today?" The first hand goes up. She's about 6 years old and she wants a poem about a Unicorn. Anything special? Its horn. (Firmly stated). Want it to rhyme? Solemn nodding, she's not quite sure why I'd even ask. And here I go, straight onto butcher's paper clipped to a board.

I read it out, her sparkling eyes my just reward. Would you like to take this home? YES! Hmmm. We thought no-one would want the products and were planning to pin up the poems on bookstore windows/walls. That plan goes by the wayside as poem after poem is definitely destined to go to domestic display. They all rhyme. I think I write about 10. Elephants, giraffes, princesses, and the joys of being a parent, the satisfaction of reading books, and others, all get created by my black marker on the flip-over sheets. A rare occasion, however, when I don't make copies with carbon paper. It's only after they've all gone that I realise I could have captured every poem on camera.

So that's a half-hour's work, in which time the chairs set up for the audience creep closer, closer, until all the children are practically sitting on my knees, and reading along as my words appear on the paper.


I'm followed by two very talented writers from our local area - Tor Roxborough, whose 15th book is a brilliant fantasy with contemporary and Australian themes called The Light Heart Of Stone, and Allyse Near who has graduated from her Professional Writing and Editing Studies in Ballarat to also write a fantasy: Fairytales for Wilde Girls - a novel.

These two inspiring sharers agree to be my speakers for our fourth Writing Craft Session in December. Phew! Glad that's settled. November is poetry with Myron Lysenko and Heather Marsh; October is script writing with Genevieve Messenger. But who will talk to us about writing short fiction? Neither of the well-known people I've asked can do it. 

Aha! At the Poetry Slam at Bendigo Writers Festival on Sunday, I find exactly the right person: Tru Dowling, who teaches exactly what I want to know about at Bendigo campus of Latrobe University.

Today, Monday, is my last session with a delightful U3A group in a neighbouring town. We have had so much fun these last four weeks, I hate to stop, but the group is now empowered and enthusiastic about continuing to meet and that makes me happy.

And that's what writing is all about for me: community, connection, creativity ...

Friday, July 5, 2013

As winter blows in with frost and biting winds, and I continue walking regularly, I come across some puzzling abandonments ... whose ugg boots are they and why are they here?
It's a good season for scrapbooking and writing. In the world of the former, Creative Memories has been in receivership and now bought out by a company that does not distribute decent tape runner. So tomorrow my sister and I are heading to a Big Town to suss out the options at scrapbooking shops. I am so not into stamps and pink floral papers. Have got plenty papers, album covers, lettering ... and anyway, my major task is to do the journalling for four of the five albums on my trip to Zambia in December 2011.

My brother, sister and I sorted Mum's travel photos a couple of weeks ago and found some great shots of Mum and Dad on Norfolk Island, in the outback, and in Europe. My favourite is a black and white 5x7 picture of Mum apparently enjoying sitting astride a doleful donkey.

That's Not Art Inc has created three workshops for Spring - felting, mosaics and screen printing. And I will start an art journal any minute now!!!

On Sunday, I'm at Newport Fiddle and Folk Festival writing poetry on the spot. A friend is coming as an amanuensis or apprentice, I don't think she has worked out which yet. Nevertheless, I've set up a clipboard and carbon paper for her, and must find her a decent pen. 

I have created a getting-published campaign, consisting of monthly deadlines. My first effort was 500 words for a project called Travel Tales on ABC Open, which features regional writers, photographers, people of interest. I was quite chuffed to see my piece online with a photo of the bridge across the gorge at Mosi-Oa-Tunya. (Of course my travel tale was about an incident in Zambia in the '70's) 

Inspired by having to craft a piece that short, I set up another blog last night. You can read more of my travel tales on Jaywig's Journeys (http://jaywig3.blogspot.com.au). I am going to work my way through every country on the planet, in verse or prose,  real or imaginary ... in reverse alphabetical order!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

It's a Long Weekend and I thought I'd spend it writing memoir. However, in the absence of a proper plan, my actions have been more eclectic. As a writer, I have discovered so many fun things to do regularly - Chamber Poets in Woodend, The Salon at Writers Vic, a course at Writers Vic called "Writers' Toolkit" ... I've also booked into The Discovery of Joy online project with Writing Our Way Home and registered for a Character Development course at Writers Vic and Poetry workshops via Australian Poetry later in the year. I'll be going to the free ABC Open session in Ballan next week, and local RAV sessions next month.

Our first session of The Writer's Toolkit started a little shakily as no-one could get our leader's computer and its Powerpoint programme to work. But once we started, it was an eye-opener, an introduction to sites like Feedly, Diigo, Evernote and others. Our homework is to register with Diigo, which I've accomplished today, and to upload a link to an online resource I already use, which I haven't done. 

I've also forwarded the mini project of distributing Mapping Moorabool in Poetry booklets by emailing several people requesting information (addresses etc). I've cleaned up my Inbox. Although it's not empty. Yet. I've trawled sites like Australian Poetry, and planned who I'll call about what and when. I discovered the wonderful writing and photographic opportunities on ABC Open, and bookmarked them. And now I'm on Evernote, I can begin to store bookmarks more accessibly. 

Yesterday an old friend of Mum's came for lunch and it was 5pm before I could do anything playful. However, I managed to print the travel photos of 2011, so am ready to complete my records of Life in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Librarian has begun a conversation about setting up a different kind of writers' group, possibly in Ballan, where skills get shared and we develop our writing - skills, profiles, "platforms"?

I gave it some thought today, no conclusions yet. I brainstormed some more about what to do with my Community Arts Grant, and how, and when. Nothing set in concrete yet. At the Chamber Poets last Friday night, I asked Myron to work with me. That dovetails nicely with Lyn's suggestions at Harvest Writers to have people walk together, write impressions, read as a group.

I bought an A4 Quill Presentation Diary with black pages last week on a whim and plan to add "Artist's Diary" to my fun times. Time now to cook dinner.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My friend who has moved to a property in Bungal, past Gordon and Mt Egerton, showed me her screen printings yesterday when I visited her. There was a series of a bird and a cage (bird upside down inside cage, bird standing inside cage, bird walking out of cage). The cage had no bars. It was rather like Sylvia Plath's bell jar. It set me thinking about the theme: I have an empty bird cage outside my art room, its floor littered with dead leaves, sodden after rain right now. I have a drawing I did in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, way back in 1980-something, titled "The Empty Bird Cage". I have a postcard with a similar image. This inspired my newest poem on Jaywig's Jotter, called "Just a Thought". I am going to explore the theme, and maybe with other women, maybe as part of the Community Arts Grant project ...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The first week of annual leave is done and I have come through it blessed by so much love! I wonder at the opportunities I've been given, and am clear my life seems miraculous, but my default way of responding is to brush off all this feeling-stuff. This time there is so much of it I have no alternative but to keep being open to it, letting it in.

It started with the unveiling of the Map. (But "It started with" is quite erroneous, because where did that revival of the poetic spirit, that connection of my many communities as one community, start?) Then there was the grant awarded, and people saying they'd noticed. How many people read the Council's columns in the local paper? Lots, apparently.

The Mother's Day lunch was close-knit and peaceful. Mikaela was beautiful in a floral dress, proudly body-hugging, that we'd never seen before. Adam struggled with his food, suffering from a surfeit of some unnamed substance - one presumes alcohol - at a buck's turn the night before. And slept away the afternoon on The Couch, once my favourite nap-site. As a younger single Mum visiting the parents, I used to be so exhausted,  I'd turn up with the kids, exchange latest news, and crash. I guess Adam studied my style! Anyway, Eleni, Mikaela and I played Scrabble and they both won a game, which was very pleasing. Mum had her usual sleep, and Heth left first to rest her suddenly virus-ridden body. At the Golf Club, Mum and I - being the two actual mothers - received a complimentary glass of champagne and a bar of chocolate.

Not only that, but Mikaela brought me flowers and Adam and Eleni brought some for Mum. Mikaela spoiled me, actually: a Fleetwood Mac CD as well! And the cutest card.

That, I think, is where the expected love and joy appeared. Where did the rest come from, the unexpected doses? I have immersed myself in the world of writerliness - into the City for a session on Arts Vic funding (coming out with a new possibility), back the next night at Writers Vic Salon, sharing the accomplishment of the Map project and the excitement about the grant. People wanting to talk to me then about my next project, and a woman coming up to remind me we were in the Melbourne Poets Union together years ago.

Off to Council and making a speech, as part of the team that spoke about the moratorium on coal mining and unconventional gas extraction, a speech that made a difference, adding my voice to the already powerful and passionate presentations. Putting in a piece that needed to be put in: exhorting the Council to show leadership, act from a vision, not just manage their reputation (as if they even have a worthwhile one in the eyes of the State Government). Missing out on choir on behalf of an urgent community issue.

Walking with Eddie and Maria, noting the healing of flood-devastated areas along the Lerderderg River on Friday morning. Sharing my breast cancer story with a hundred people at the Relay For Life launch at the Plough in Myrniong on Friday night. The bus trip there and back lively with riposte and innuendo. Sitting with Tonia and Kathy, playing "groupies" to Tash and Jimmy singing. Experiencing being an integral part of a community, one that's capable of bringing together a hundred people to start a campaign to raise even more money for research than ever imagined before. Knowing I know people - from volunteering at the Information Centre, from forays into Darley Neighbourhood House, from being a stand for stamping out measles and being photographed by Tash for the paper, from participating with people in so many different ways. Triessia recognising me from my poetry-writing project at her cafe, and seeing me unable to put name to face, coming to say who she was. What generosity. A real sense of belonging, of being known.

All this time, all those days, writing the memoir, becoming obsessed with the narrative. Discovering what was so that I hadn't seen before, creating ways to share these new discoveries. And then, rediscovering my place in the world of real lived poetry, going to Woodend for the Chamber Poets, re-connecting with Myron and Lyndon, and making new connections - Jade, Gaylene, Ellie ... music and the spoken word making a very happy space, and a place where all were celebrated. 

Today's excursion by train to Ballan to my other community - the artists of Moorabool, based in Ballan - was stunning. The view from the train spectacular, the performance of tonal music inside a world  of sculpture just gorgeous, stunning.

I look forward to medical trips, and writing trips to the City this week, and the Community Grants Award Presentations on Monday night. Today when I told Mikaela I thought I might go to the Afghanistan Exhibition, she turned it into a reality by arranging to meet me in the City after my checkup at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. How great is that! And more of the memoir. Chapter 14 is ready to be written. My goal is to complete the story of the first year there, in Zambia, in  1976.

It's not just love coming to me from others; it's the experience of loving my life, and loving the people in it with me. Aha.

Monday, May 13, 2013

I read the article by Monica Dux in the Life Style section of Saturday's Age, Mother Load, last Saturday and was struck with the possibility that I have this other story in me, regarding becoming a single parent by choice.

The same day, as I drank a coffee on my way to the National Gallery, I was enchanted to find myself engaged in a conversation with a little boy whose mother was waiting for her coffee, and holding the handles of a pusher with a baby in it. We discussed the butterfly stickers on the front window of the tram parked so inconsequentially on the Arts Centre's apron, and where the tram's wheels had gone. His mother, coffee in hand, beamed at me, the Woman Who Would Be A Grandmother, and explained that her son "was so friendly with everyone". Nevertheless, I felt privileged, to have been so easily included in his world of exploration.

And those early days with my own son were so vividly present for me.

I probably do have more than one story to tell before I die. Which, at the time of writing this, does not appear nigh, My own doctor diagnosed a muscle/tendon/cartilage stressed by lifting luggage, and the pain has disappeared faster than is predictable.

Carpe diem!!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

At last! The map is unveiled, the people delighted, everything came together beautifully. My brother is a genius at creating maps of worlds that didn't exist before - my poetically sprinkled parts of Australia.

What's come out of the project: new opportunities!
Newport Fiddle & Folk Festival in July
Daylesford Folk Blues Festival in October
U3A workshops in Gisborne in July
A Moorabool Shire Community Arts Grant to create opportunities for writers to get together and learn together.

My mind buzzes once again with new ideas. And all this in the midst of probably the busiest period of my working life!

A Case For Trading Places in Lerderderg Library all April

Nichole took this. She likes the quirky angle.

A lifetime of display: maps, t-shirts, framed poems, lamination, little books ...

Verses hanging on every shelf of printed word!

Lou Callow and I - not a significant occasion!

Although John from the Council may be taking things a little more seriously.

Well, the audience didn't run out screaming!!

OK, John, ready, set ...

GO! and there they are: two halves of a Poetic Shire.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

When you have had breast cancer, and it has been treated, a new persistent pain in your upper body is problematic. A bruise, a torn muscle, or the unmentionable M (for metastase)? So I woke up last Thursday planning my life before the pending oblivion. I would get that damned memoir done, and write the two sequels, and a new one on a different perspective. I would bundle up all my poetry and save it to a USB stick, and I would throw away a lot of old paper. Even though my father's papers have proved invaluable for me, I think I can't burden my own kids with mine. And then I would have a massive garage sale, fly to Zambia one more time, give the money to Edith for her campaign, and say goodbye.

That was the early morning plan, before I got a doctor's opinion. A friend who is a doctor told me to see my own GP as soon as possible. 

I am not afraid of death, but I am nervous about dying.

And it certainly gives me a different way of looking at the clutter around me: photo albums galore, with journalling; collections of stones, shells, bakelite, dolls, African artefacts (some useful, like baskets); shelves full of books (so full, there are new books lying on top of the older vertical ones).

There is so much stuff in the world already, why do I make more of it? There's all my drawings, the supplies for creative album-making, materials for ideas and projects as yet unborn ... Will I be (is anybody, really) remembered for my stuff, for my output, my work, my playful way with words? Or will people talk about my qualities, my contribution, the difference I did or didn't make?

Friday, April 12, 2013

The work is done. The last gig last night. Back story: 16th March, at Darley Market, write a poem for Bob and Liz. Next day, at Harvest Festival, meet them again. Bob says, "Why don't you come to our Retirement Village?" Next day I get a call from the manager to arrange my appearance at their cocktail party  to celebrate the opening of their community centre. That was last night. I write about migration, lost sons, community, bootscooting, gardens and AFL football. The first couple of customers were cautious but the idea of a poetic memento won them over. Then the word spread, and I was busy for the full two hours. I came home sated, happy.

Two days earlier, the school holiday program was at the other end of the scale. Seven young people discovering how much fun and how easy it is to write six first drafts on topics you never thought you'd see in poetry, within an hour. 

The Case For Trading Places exhibition is in Lerderderg Library as well, this month, so I felt well-represented. Last Saturday, too, our Bacch Chat group presented a fantastic talk on sustainable housing from Natasha Mills, owner-builder, and Rob from Yarra Housing. 

And on Tuesday, off to the Salon, a new kind of event at Writers Victoria in the Wheeler Centre. On the way, I sought out colourful and interesting leggings and stockings at Myers, and interesting collections of short stories at Academic Books.

Now I want to leave some links and tags here, so will publish and come back.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I am now recognised in the streets!!! Today I met up with several young people, out shopping with their mothers. They smiled. I smiled. I knew I'd met them somewhere. At a school, perhaps? Yes! And were they still writing poetry, even if it is school holidays? A Yes, a Sometimes, and two shrugs. 
I wasn't even wearing my poet t-shirt. In the first instance, I was with my frail elderly mother, entering the medical centre, carefully. I wished I had my clipboard and could write for them while Mum was being attended to. Then I thought how good it would be to write one for the reception staff. Then I sat and read the editorial in The Victorian Writer magazine.

We are learning three new songs with A-Choired Taste of Gospel: Shackles, Wade in the Water, and Oh, Happy Day/Joyful. There are so many versions of Wade in the Water: which one should we do? We listened to three, and decided we will need to create our very own version - jazz, blues, funk or country, who cares about categories???

Monday, April 1, 2013

Well, it's just been hectic around here, that's all I can say. More schools - Bacchus Marsh, Bungaree, and Lal Lal. Sundays at the Harvest Festival (Bacchus Marsh) and the Autumn Festival (Ballan) A Saturday morning at Darley Market. A couple I met and wrote a poem for at Darley then showed up at the Bookbarn on Harvest Festival Day. A day later I was offered a gig at their Retirement Resort Cocktail Party! Really looking forward to that. Along with the School Holiday Program session, that completes my poetry-gathering.

Although I might just take clipboard and pen to two events on Sunday 14th April anyway. In the morning I'll join the Friends of Werribee River in cleaning up around an iconic part of the river, Harry's Hole. Apparently this pool was once used for swimming sports. Despite erosive floods and invasive weed, you can still see where parents sat to watch their champions.

Then in the afternoon I'm off to Melton with A-Choired Taste of Gospel to sing for our friend Jill who is dealing with the after-effects of a damaging stroke. She has particularly asked us to visit her rehabilitation centre as she so misses singing with us. We miss her too; her voice was the highest soprano and clear as a bell.

A-Choired Taste of Gospel also played a role in the Harvest Festival, being part of the program of the Festival of Hymns & Sacred Music. The new Moorabool Light Orchestra was just brilliant, and I got goosebumps during their performance of Amazing Grace.

Easter has been a gift for my writer-self; I've spent two days starting my memoir about my time in Zambia all over again. This time I'm making it a straight narrative, and the chapters fall inside a structure created by school terms. I finished Term 1 1976 with 5 chapters, and then a chapter on Term 1 Holiday. Our term breaks were all at least a month long - plenty of time to get up to mischief!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Nine Weeks Into Mapping Moorabool in Poetry ...

The map is in process of being designed by my brother Andi (andimaps.com.au) and bookings set up for several more gigs. The map will be printed in two halves on roll-up "blinds". The printer has given us a quote and Lerderderg Library/Moorabool Shire will fund it.

Meanwhile I'm recording mileage and other expenses as I am actually earning income from some of the gigs.

On a map of Moorabool, Balliang East is right down in the southeast corner, so I went to the school there last week. I was moved when told that some of the Grade 2 and 3 students writing so enthusiastically were actually "non-writers" up to this time at school. 

At Gordon Primary School, my first school gig, the very first topic I was offered was "mine turtle". This had to be explained by several students before I grasped that I was required to enter the world of exploding turtle videos on youtube, and I'm not sure I was a totally successful migrant!

We who belong to A-Choired Taste of Gospel choir normally rest our voices over January, once the carolling season is done, so our reunions are major events on the calendar. This year, at Pam's place, I brought out my clipboard and carbon paper, and began entertaining with instant poetry. One highlight was writing a poem for 3-year-old Dylan whose brother, Leroy, had died aged 7 months last year. When his mother and I asked him what he wanted me to put in the poem, he said, "Say how beautiful he was." Amazing.

At Providence, our local Aged Care facility, I had the privilege of spending time with eight women whose lives are certainly well worth remembering. Already, under the tutelage of their U3A volunteer, Robyn, they have produced an anthology of work, and I am sure they have enough material for several more! One of my mother's dear friends there, Helen, at 98 is as bright and alert as many of us who are much younger would love to be!

Commercial venues were not very fruitful for me 20 to 25 years ago, but I decided to peddle my wares at the Village Craft Day and set up a table just outside the Collins book store. The proprietor, Jan, is such a great champion of everything Community, and I am grateful for her generosity in both my recent projects (Stamp Out Measles being the other one). Because it was Valentine's Day, I created special paper with hearts on it, but people preferred plain papers. I wrote about family, art, goats, kittens, and positive thinking and of course there was love in them thar poems, we just didn't want to get sucked into the commercialised version.

Yesterday, sitting in the shade and writing at the While The Billy Boils Cafe in Gordon was great fun. Some friends came for moral support and people they knew turned up, so that accounted for 7 of the 16 poems I wrote in 4 hours. Another 7 were written for complete strangers. 

The interactions go thus: "Hi, I'm writing poems for customers today. Would you like one?"  "How interesting! Sure!" "Great. Thank you. What would you like your poem to be about?" "Oh! I don't really know .... could you write about ... well ..." Eventually, we come up with something together. Then I ask: "Do you want it to rhyme? Is there anything you want me to make sure I include?" By this time, I'm already writing. Finished, and having signed with a flourish, I read the poem out loud and invite them to tell me if there's anything to change. I hand over the paper with a logo on it, and file my carbon copy at the bottom of the pile. And off I go again.

The story of Pat's life took 2 pages, which is unusual for me. But we had to create the picture of her life of gardening, farming, raising children, and working as a tailoress at St John of God Hospital in Ballarat for 20 years, and I could not leave those vital ingredients out.

I become engaged in amazing conversations out of writing these pieces. A couple of women lunching together wanted two different poems about horses. Now I have written lots of poems on this topic for young people, but I was intrigued as to why these two women were keen on the topic. Well, it transpired they'd been involved in horse racing for years, one as a jockey, the other as a strapper in her spare time. When I asked why they were so passionate about horses, as I could tell from the energy and vitality they brought to the conversation, the ex-jockey said, "I just love watching them develop from young to adult and come to fruition. The confidence they get from the first win! Even the first race! How pleased they are with themselves, how proud. And to know I'm part of the team that helped them grow up like that." I love that phrase "come to fruition". 

The other 2 poems I wrote were for Triessia, the cafe owner. I believe this one is going on her facebook page:


You never know who
you'll meet
if you come into
the cafe
off the street -
persons of interest
celebrity or
as if they are books
in my hands
on loan.

I exchange good food
for the chance
to find
the next conversation
that expands
my mind.

In the next few weeks, I have Darley Market, Harvest Festival, Autumn Festival, a VCAL group and School Holiday Program as well as three more schools. I feel so privileged, because people share themselves so freely, and children respond so enthusiastically to my different perspective on writing and poetry. It is a life of fun and joy.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Today I Began My Project to Map the Voices of Moorabool Shire

It is my birthday. My Friday Walking Group is happy to walk with me around by the river and farms and then go for coffee at a local cafe, where we settle down with baklava and rhubarb pie. I announce I have a new project, and let them know that, like the Chinese, I am about to give them each a gift as it is my birthday. I will write each of them a poem on any topic they choose.

Life on Earth, says S. As we have talked all the way around the circuit about reading the sky as her grandparents did in Eastern Europe, and about my father instilling the love of trees, nature, skies in me, and how the living world is The World for us, I find this easy. She has further explained that the Epiphany is not just about Family, as I thought, but about blessing all life on earth. I actually love writing this poem.

Then L. wants a poem about her family and there are tears in her eyes as I read what I've written.

The other L. is celebrating her 22nd Wedding Anniversary this weekend, so I write about what that means. I almost can't believe that for 26 years she has been satisfied in this one relationship. She is so unshakeably certain that life of course goes this way, I am inspired despite myself. Once she has tucked her poem away, she confides that her mother wrote plays as well as part of the history of, I think, Williamstown.

I find out some amazing things when I write for people.

Mona, the cafe proprietor, stands beaming beside me as I write. "Would you like a poem?" I ask. "Yes, yes," she says in what I assume is her Greek accent. So I write about the cafe:

The wind blows umbrellas
like skirts dancing outside ...

E. arrives and when I offer him a poem asks if it's dirty. "But really, what?" "Oh, RAIN," he says, "And that we want it." He is recovering from diabetic setbacks, is pale and thin. He was, not so long ago, robust. I write about rain and manage to fit in notions of dirtiness and cleanliness.

Finally, as I am at the counter to pay off another instalment of the painting I'm buying from Mona, her husband Charlie says, "Coffee!!!" It turns out he wants a POEM about it. I write it, I read it, he grunts at parts that affect him. Then he and Mona excitedly share that in their country, poetry is really big, there are competitions, and hundreds of people attend. They sit in groups of four, one recites ("and it is like song," says Charlie) and the next one has to create something new using the same rhythms and rhymes, and so on. "I'd love to see that," I say. "Yes, yes," they assure me, "There is a you tube!" and they write the name of it. Of course, that poetry is in Arabic. I might love the "song" of it, but miss the meaning. "Oooohhh," says Charlie, "some of them write so beautiful about a woman." Shakes his head. "Oh, so good you can feel it here." Fist on his heart.

It turns out they came from Lebanon, not Greece.

Mona has handed me a box of cherries for my birthday, or as a thank you. When I get it home I weigh it: 1.5 KG! I tell her I LOVE cherries. Because I do. Charlie says he'll give me a free coffee next time I call in.

I leave with the possibility, as yet unspoken, of creating an event in their cafe with them, a workshop where everyone writes for someone else. What fun!