The Weekly Service

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Last night I couldn’t sleep, lay awake for an hour and then woke before dawn still crackling with energy. It’s as though I am carrying the collective healing of a whole group of people and I can barely contain it, barely open my heart to let it in, it is so joyful. Who would have thought such a reaction would come from talking about grief?

Yesterday I gave a sermon at The Weekly Service. It’s a group that’s been on my radar for over a year, a church for nonreligious people, an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with like-hearted community, something I’ve been dying to check out. So when co-founder, Cam Elliot saw me at The Moth in Melbourne last month and invited me to share my story at the Service I jumped at the chance.

The story I told was not about the more-than-human or my relationship with it and it was not about violence against women. It was about my mother and about grief, a deeply personal story about one of the most significant and precious moments of my life. I called it “We don’t do grief in our family: a healing tale” and a crowd of almost 50 people turned up to hear it.

Beforehand I was a bundle of nerves. Several audience members were mentors and heroes of mine, not one, not two, SEVERAL. Plus my family were there and my cousin. I had to go and stand in the lane way under the peppercorn tree just to keep myself from dissolving into a puddle of fear. When it came time to speak, the nerves faded into the background, I sang one of my songs about presence and surrender and following the ‘quiet whispers of joy’ and was very grateful that my quivering hands managed to keep forming the chords.

Then I took a deep breath and told the story. It’s one I’ve told a couple of times before but I badly wanted it to be alive for this group. The Weekly Service has gathered a precious community of seekers and truth speakers, the first time I sat among them I wept with the feeling of safety and welcome, all my petals unfurled. Now, sitting in front of them, I wanted to honour them by offering all of myself, my presence, my rawness, my truth.  I wanted to let myself be seen.

I have no idea what it was like for them, I can barely remember what I said or how it went. I remember the reactions though, remember my joy at hearing people’s reflections and connections, at having my story given back to me fresh and new from all these different perspectives. They saw things in it that I had no idea were there and took beautiful things beyond my imagining to apply to their lives. Wow.

A new culture is coalescing. A new way of being in the world. We are sick of complaining about late industrial capitalism and we are rolling up our sleeves and making something new. Long have I admired the people at the forefront of this creative task, yesterday I felt like I was taking my place among them. I couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds, communities like this make life worth living.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. Arundhati Roy

Questing

Questing

There were a bunch of things that came out of my last vision quest but I’m wary of trying to capture them. Some seem like elegant nuggets, they can be named and shared, there is a temptation and a danger in reducing the experience to these.

Other things happened that have a felt impact on me but their meaning is elusive, they have an archetypal resonance that ripples out into my life. Every time I see a skink I think of the skinks on my quest and wonder about the relationship between then and now. I don’t want to reduce the magnificent being of the skink to some kind of lame ‘message’ for me but when I see them it makes me pause, drops me into the deep listening place, shifts the way I am reading my context in that moment.

There is a third category of happening that seemed insignificant at the time but later became intensely meaningful. I wove a crown of lomandra on the first day that represented my relationship with personal power. I initially hung it on a hollowed tree that served as an impromptu altar space but when it started to rain I placed it within the hollow around some banksia cones I had been playing with. Several days later I was describing to my girlfriend how the banksia cones represented the people in my family and how I had tried and failed to find one that represented me. As I was telling her this I suddenly realised that the crown represented me and that placing the crown around the banksia cones was symbolic of my family being cradled by my empowered self. An impulse driven by practicality upon further reflection turned into a symbolic act.

The fourth category is the great mystery itself, things that happened that may well have some kind of meaning that will never be unpacked, never be recognised or known with the conscious mind. Much of the time I was out in the bush I felt bored or sleepy or frustrated, much of the time it felt like nothing was happening, I often hear others describe their quests as largely uneventful. When I walked out of my quest site I cried, when I left the property I cried again, I can’t say why. My body had its own experience, its own mysterious journey, the experience shifted me on a fundamental level and I cannot begin to explain it.

Each of my quests has been a powerful ritual of surrender, to my Self, to the Earth, to the great mystery of which we are all a part. Each quest has seemed to send ripples of experience out in both directions, the things that happen before and after are as important as the time spent in the quest itself.

This last quest was very much about creativity, I suppose it’s obvious from my recent posts that I am quite preoccupied by this at the moment. The Echo of the Shadow was the week before my quest and the Teatro delos Sentidos workshop was the week after. I had powerful dreams of making music, sharing the stage with musical/spiritual heroes of mine. That’s not all it was about but I guess that’s the bit that I’m most interested in. Tonight I take a small step in that direction, I’m playing a gig at my house for a small group of friends to share, for the first time, some songs I’ve written.

Poetrees is live!

sit with a tree, write a poem, share the tree-love, poetrees.net.au

Poetrees is alive! You can go to poetrees.net.au right now and read poems that people have submitted, you can visit their treasured trees and you can even add a poem and a tree of your own.

So now it’s your turn to become part of the Poetrees story. Sit by your favorite tree and write a poem. Know that we are listening gently, ready to hear the feeling behind your clumsy words. Tell us what you love about it. Tell us what your tree loves.

If your muse has deserted you and the words are stalling on your tongue, never fear! Here are a bunch of other ways to support the project:

1. Spread the word. ‘Like’ our posts, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, share our posts and tag people you think might be interested.

2. Tell us what you think. It’s tough sending a brand new baby out into the world, words of encouragement or feedback about how the site is working are very welcome!

3. Encourage other poets. Share the poems that are already up on the site with #poetrees, let them know how much you appreciate their work and show support for the courageous early adopters.

4. If you are in Melbourne, Australia come to a Poetrees workshop:

Flagstaff Gardens, 18 Feb, 5.30pm
Carlton Gardens, 21 Feb, 2pm

Poetrees is supported by the City of Melbourne 2016 Arts Grants Program.

Poetrees was created on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and future and to all people around the world who care for country.

Poetrees

The Poetrees seed has been lurking in the dark for over three months. We’ve been gently watering it with encouraging words, fertilizing it with our creative insights and learning from our mistakes. Over the past week a small tendril has been reaching for the sun as we test the prototype and make sure it’s all ready for your poetic words of tree love.

For those who are new to the project, Poetrees is a playful community arts offering that explores our connection with trees. Users will be able to submit a poem and a tree to the interactive map on our website so that others can visit the tree and read the poem.

I’m excited to let you know that after hours and hours of hard work from the team, the Poetrees website is almost ready to burst into the daylight!

We’ve done everything we can to make a joyful container for your tree-loving words. Next week it will be your turn to step out of the shade and share your poetree with the world.

We’re not leaving you out on a limb though! The important task of composing poems needn’t be carried out alone. We have prepared a series of poem seeding workshops throughout the Sustainable Living Festival to help you tend to your creative garden.

The one hour workshops will comprise a tree meditation and some simple writing exercises to help the creative sap rise through your limbs, onto the page and up to the electronic mycelial network (aka the internet).

Come to one or come to all three! Commune with trees and write poetry! Invite your friends and family, spread the tree love across our city. #inmelbcity #SLFAus #poetrees

Birrarung Mar, 13 Feb, 2pm
Flagstaff Gardens, 18 Feb, 5.30pm
Carlton Gardens, 21 Feb, 2pm

Listen, listen, listen to the birds

After the success of our crowdfunding campaign my partner and I headed up to norther NSW to learn bird language and nature awareness with American tracker, Jon Young.

A view of our campsite.

My first day of learning bird language was difficult and confusing. We were sent out to find sit spots with a simple instruction to observe tension vs relaxation in the birds around us. It seems easy enough but the diversity of Australian song birds, the high activity of spring and the amount of territorial aggression made it extremely difficult to weed through the complexity to make any sense of the whole.

The debrief with my small group felt long and tedious, the blind leading the blind, it was hard to know what to share or what to listen for. At the end of that first session though I felt like I was beginning to get a sense of what is ‘baseline’ behaviour as opposed to alert or alarmed. It seems that in the Australian landscape it is silence that speaks loudest! The bush is rarely quiet unless there is some kind of predator nearby.

The view from my sit spot for the weekend.

Jon was very clear that Australia is an unfamiliar landscape for him. He didn’t try to teach us about the specificities of the local flora and fauna, instead he taught us a process for engaging with the more-than-human and generating our own connections and understandings. In fact, I observed that he rarely asserted his own knowledge at all, preferring to tell stories that left us to join our own dots.

What we did learn though, after we had started making our own observations, was patterns for how birds communicate and what they might be saying. These patterns are not based on the specifics of bird evolution or biology but where birds tend to fit within an ecosystem. For example Australian birds will go silent when there is an aerial predator on the wing, just like birds in other countries.

I am already putting some of the processes we learned into practice. In my morning sit-spot (at Highfield Park) a pair of magpies landed 15 metres away and looked me over. Rather than staring at them like I usually do, I avoided eye contact and tipped my head away from them. The magpies walked closer, eventually crossing my gaze a mere 2 metres in front of where I was sitting. Having been a dog owner I am familiar with using body language to communicate with animals but I had never thought to try it with birds.

I feel like I have taken the first steps on a long and exciting journey! My knowledge and my sense of connection will only continue to grow.

Artist as Family

We made some new friends! The week after I finished up at work we travelled to Daylesford to ‘SWAP’ (Social Warming Artists and Permaculturalists) with Artist as Family. I can’t think of a better way to begin this new phase of my life. It was divine, too many thoughts and ideas and inspirations to share but this little poem captures some of the spirit. Continue reading

Back Creek yearning

There’s a creek, buried beneath
These houses and these asphalt streets.
There’s a spark within my heart
That waits and weeps for sweet release.

CHORUS
Oh mother, take me home again
Oh mother, where I belong
Oh mother, take me home again
Oh mother, where I belong

There are weeds, that meet our needs
Amongst these urban forest leaves.
There are trees of ancient lineage
That whisper truth to those who’ll hear.

CHORUS

There’s a soul within this land
That can’t be grasped by human hands.
I have eyes and heart to see
The nature round and within me.

CHORUS