Chrononaut

(inspired by Eddie Harran and first performed at Chronference: an experimental pop-up time travel symposium follow link to storify)

“I’m interested in time.” You said.
“Deep time, time literacy, wild time, modern time”
You had me at time
The nature of time
The construct of time
The experience of time
Slicing up our lives into years, days, hours, seconds
An assault on our being,
A straight jacket for our rhythms and pulses.

My time is measured differently
A deep breath, in and out
The space between heartbeats
The length of a warm embrace
The depth of a meaningful conversation
The quickening of a smile between strangers
The rhythm of my womb and the moon
The pause at the end of this line.

Someone once asked me how long it takes to write a poem
There are few things in my life more satisfying
Than gently coaxing poetry from my heart into the world
How long does it take?
5 minutes and 35 years
Everything I am, and have ever been
Culminating in a moment of stillness and careful attention
The thread of feeling must be wooed
Courted, encouraged,  delighted in
Allowed to reveal itself in words
It doesn’t take time, it takes a particular quality of being.

This is the sacrificial blood that coats the hands of our clocks
This quality of being cannot be measured or named
It only exists in surrender
Outside time’s controlling glare
A gateway to eternity
My soul is timeless.

Wild at heart

I love this article from the Huffington Post UK. It’s an elegant articulation of a number of complex ideas that seem to be coming together in the human psyche at the moment. I have noticed though, that there tends to be an othering of nature that happens as part of this narrative of reconnection. 

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I agree that it’s easier to see ourselves as part of a greater whole when we are overwhelmed by the more than human. Going to places that haven’t been obviously rearranged by human hands can be a humbling experience and that humility is crucial to the shift in consciousness that is needed. But unless we can bring that humility and that recognition of our place in the larger whole into our cities and human communities, our work will be fruitless.
 
This is a critique borne of my own frustration. The conditions of my life require me to live in the city and give me very few opportunities to ‘escape’ into the wilderness. I need to be nourished and nurtured by the more than human world as much as anyone but I can’t do it in the traditional way of ‘going bush.’ I am slowly developing practices for myself that help me ground my sense of connection in the places where I live, work and play. Perhaps the judge sits in my own heart but I feel these practices are overlooked or undervalued by my deep ecology friends and by the broader narrative of ‘nature connection.’ As though they are merely stop gap measures until I can get out into the ‘real’ wildness again.
 
If we are truly to see ourselves as part of nature rather than dominating it we need to radically rethink the dichotomy that says ‘nature’ is in our national parks and not in our cities. We need to take our hearts, awakened to wildness and use them to see the land where we live. Our great teachers in this could well be our children, the young ones haven’t yet learned to pay more attention to ‘human’ objects over non-human ones. Those of us who don’t have children may have memories of the way we used to play, the trees and flowers that drew our attention. The things that fired our imaginations and filled our hearts with joy. As Mary Oliver so eloquently put it we need to “Let the soft animal of [our] body love what it loves” and we need to do it wherever we are. 
 
The day after my walk along Back Creek, a gathering entitled “Rewilding the Urban Heart” was advertised on Facebook – to say that I am excited would be a massive understatement.

Open letter to Gary Hirsch

This is me with my new piece of art at Gary's 'Cocreation Lab.'

This is me with my new piece of art at Gary’s ‘Cocreation Lab.’

Dear Gary,

I loved your world domination summit workshop. I’ve been reading the book you gave us (Everything’s an offer) and I think it was very wise to give us the book with your art. For me it has been something of an instruction manual.

The piece of art I picked out on the day was not my first choice. I couldn’t see how it related to the kinds of things I want to write about. As a poet my inspiration has always come from being present to the deepest parts of myself. I couldn’t quite see how to bring that to your drawing. But I read the book and I was so impressed by your generosity that I wanted to rise to the challenge. You embody the kind of world I want to live in so I am very motivated to accept your offer.

Last night a friend stood me up for dinner so I read some more of the book, and turned my attention to your drawing. It still didn’t speak to me but I figured the least I could do was colour it in. I like flowers so I started with them. He seemed like a nerdy guy so I went on and gave him a brown cardigan. Then it started to feel like a routine, I could see where it was heading. I wanted to mix it up and I didn’t have a pink pencil for his skin, so I made him green and that’s when the magic happened.

A new beginning, Gary's picture coloured in and a story snippet.

A new beginning, Gary’s picture coloured in and a story snippet.

A green man gives rise to a whole lot of questions. By the time I finished colouring I had some words, a snippet of story. I wrote what I had across the top of the page and tweeted it. I wanted you to know straight away that I was on board. What’s more the story that emerged is entirely connected to the issues and themes that interest me but in an entirely unexpected way.

I feel like I’ve learned a heap of things from this process:

  • That letting go can sometimes return you to yourself from a new direction.
  • That you don’t have to know what the outcome will be and you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to accept the offer as best you can in that moment. I felt like sending you a colourful version of your drawing would have been a lame response to the task but I had to do something and that was all I could see.
  • That stepping into the unknown is possible, you don’t have to feel inspired to be engaged.

Thank you again for your generosity, I also used your three favourites activity at work, it went down a treat.

Yours sincerely,
Kiri
Melbourne, Australia

Note: for more details on the workshop go read Gary’s blog post.

Tributaries

I haven’t written for a little while because I’ve been busy planning an adventure. Ruth over at Inscendence put out a call for women to join a wild nature retreat and vision quest and, since I was looking to justify a trip to Portland a week later for World Domination Summit, I said ‘I’m in.’ I was hoping to make the Back Creek Project happen as soon as I get back but that doesn’t feel very sensible now. I’ve had some good discussions with a few people at council, the local friends group and the Wurundjeri Council but I think it’s worth letting it gestate a little.

In the meantime here are some photos from a bit of reconnaisance I did with a friend of the Denman St portion of the creek:

Back Creek heading into a tunnel IMAG0830

I’ve also been thinking about some of the ideas that precipitated this project, apart from Maya’s beautiful book and wanted to share some with you.

Firstly the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations, traditional owners of the land on which I live and work. I have participated in Indigenous history walks in the Botanical Gardens and along the Yarra (covered elsewhere also). Both taught me to see the living history beneath the concrete (as Tiddas so eloquently put it). This insight continues to shape the way I see and relate to the land I pass through every day and forms the backbone of a project like this.
When I was doing my Masters I came across Freya Mathews, her books Reinhabiting Reality and For love of matter challenged me to think differently about where I live. She set a powerful example of living locally and reinscribing urban environments with the sacred.
Dr Peter Cock of Moora Moora taught Social and Sacred Ecology at Monash University. I went on an overnight solo and my spirit animal was a leech. It seemed pretty mundane at the time but when I returned to the city it was wild to think that I had made a blood sacrifice to the bush.
My gratitude must also go to the Grandmother Gum, musk lorikeets, tawny frogmouth, magpies and ravens, ring tail possums, hardenbergia violacea, all these creatures taught me to open my heart, to love the more-than-human. The small, every day visitations that act as a gateway to the enormous reality of our interdependence.

Ode to rubbish

Rubbish bins or sacred crucibles?(Dedicated to The Order of the Rubbish)

Garbage men are magicians
They take our waste to the mythical realm ‘Away’
We take sacred matter and make it profane
We remove it from the cycle of life, death and rebirth
We call it ‘rubbish’ we call it ‘waste’
Then we give it to the garbage men
And they bury our shame.

This is how the archaeologists of the future will know us
By the buried remnants of our fear of death
A fear that may yet kill us.

The oceans are full of plastic
The ground is desecrated by our waste
Our obsession with immortality has broken the very thing we long for.

In my future, garbage men are shamans
Mystical midwives of matter
They speed it on it’s journey from one form to the next
Reuse, repair, repurpose, recycle
In nature the waste of one is nourishment to another
This is alchemy
This is eternity
Let go your fleeting form and become.

Introducing Back Creek

About seven years ago now I discovered that I have lived by a creek for most of my life. Back Creek is a tributary of Gardiner’s Creek (formerly Kooyongkoot Creek) which is a tributary of the Yarra River (also known as Birrarung).

1871 Map of Boroondara Shire with Back Creek highlighted

This map of the Shire of Boroondara circa 1871 confirms the original path of the creek (and a number of others besides). The green line is Kooyongkoot/Gardiner’s Creek, the light blue is Back Creek and the purple lines are Canterbury, Riversdale and Toorak Roads (from top to bottom), they should help to orient you if you live locally.

In environmental circles it’s widely recognised that connecting with ‘nature’ is important. Most people tend to think that the only way to do this is to go out into the wilderness where the human is dwarfed by the more-than-human. But what if it’s not?

The environmental crisis requires us to live more efficiently, with smaller footprints. It doesn’t make sense for all of us to go and live in the wilderness so we can stay mindful of our true place “in the family of things.” We need to look with new eyes, to see the wildness in our own backyards, our cities and suburbs, to see that we are part of a greater whole no matter where we are.

To this end I am planning a walk along the length of Back Creek. This journey is significant because the reason I didn’t know I lived near a creek is that it mostly runs underground in barrel drains. I’m not sure what it will be like to walk it, whether the land still gives clues as to the creek’s location.

Much of its length is now parkland and walking trails, a few short sections are open to the sky. It is cared for by council staff and ‘friends’ groups made up of local residents. I am in the process of collecting stories and information, if you have any to share please get in touch.

I invite you to join me on an adventure, on Sunday 27 July 2014, into the history of land, people and home. Come see the wildness in our streets. The creek may be covered but traces remain for those with eyes and heart to see.

Mum

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It was over two weeks ago but the memory still rings with warmth, softness and love. I stood and read a story at Mother Tongue about my mother and about grief. Mum was in the audience at my invitation and when I started to cry she came and stood with me. I clearly remember the gentle clicking of support from the audience that bore me up as I stood, too overcome with emotion to speak.

I was terrified before hand. Sitting in the audience while other women bared their souls, I told the persistent nag in the back of my brain that we weren’t going through with it. When my turn came I calmly rose and took the stage. My mother, the family historian, proudly introduced me with six generations of matrilineal ancestors, all the way back to Brigid who got on a boat in Ireland. I was and am so pleased at her joy in that moment, sharing a knowledge that is seldom appreciated.

The story I read was about me and mum and grief and a hug that was 45 years late but no less meaningful for all that. It’s a precious moment and the sharing of it has only extended and expanded the gift. The next day Mum said “Your story has deepened the experience for me. I had told myself that it was mostly about you, that hug. Reading your story I realised how important it was for me.”

All night people approached us to thank us for sharing it and to share their own stories. “You are not alone, you are not alone, you are not alone.” they said, each in their own way. I’m so glad Mum was there to receive that with me, to know that her experience has echoes in other people’s livess. It felt so right to be sharing the story together, even though I wrote it, it belongs to us both.

Thy will be done

I am a spiritual being having a human experience.

The path ahead is in shadow, none of my plans work out and instead I am forced into the present. Yes, I’m aware that’s probably a good thing but, oooowhee it’s uncomfortable.

Preparing for the gathering.

Case in point: Thursday night, the gathering of deep ecology/ecospiritual folk. I think it’s fair to say recent life events have brought me to a place of grief and vulnerability. On Wednesday night I went looking for my copy of ‘Coming back to life‘ to refresh my memory of ‘the milling‘ as an ice breaker. I couldn’t find it anywhere. “Okay” I thought “that’s alright, I’ve run it before I can just make it up on the spot. This will teach me to speak from the heart and that’s a good thing, I need to trust in myself.”

Thursday morning was overcast and my small self was hoping for rain. I was still feeling vulnerable (in fact at 9am I was on the phone to my father in tears) and that same small self was desperately uncomfortable. My larger self was unperturbed and gently suggested that vulnerable was a good way to lead a gathering. I consoled myself with the thought that I wouldn’t be on my own, Geoff would be there too and after all it was his idea.

Thursday afternoon the weather turned glorious and my small self had some choice words for the universe. There were 15 people who said they’d come along so it was clear that it was going ahead. I resolved to be present and take it as it comes.

Then I get a text from Geoff saying that he had to go home sick. I could not believe it. He was disappointed so I couldn’t be annoyed with him. He sent me this lovely text about how it was going to be beautiful, “you made me feel better about going with whatever happens last time we spoke.” Uh, did I say that? Yep, I did. All of my deep ecology work has been in the hands of the universe, partly in my control and mostly not.  I had to assume that this was too.

So when I left work I went to Flagstaff Gardens and prepared for the gathering. Not in the usual way, by writing up a timeline and scheduling activities, but by sitting under a tree and inviting the Earth to hold me in my vulnerability. When people started to arrive I greeted them with open arms and an open heart, completely unwedded to the outcome of the evening.

As the gathering unfolded people warmed to the topic that is close to our hearts. I spontaneously spoke of Eisenstein and the story of separation versus the story of interbeing. At times I heard doubt and fear and frustration in people’s voices and idly wondered if another group is really what’s required now. By halfway through it was clear that there is a real hunger to continue connecting and sharing our sacred places with each other.

Near the end of our time together a scottish pipe band began rehearsing ten metres from where we were sitting. We all agreed that we’d be finished soon so rather than move on, we moved in close to one another to be heard over the droning of the pipes.  It was hilarious and joyful. Someone expressed gratitude for the noise in bringing us closer together.

We couldn’t agree on a name and that is quite okay, I’m sure it will emerge in its own time. I hope it reflects the joy of those final moments, huddling together, laughing as we struggled to be heard over the bag pipes.

I feel amazed and humbled and thrilled by how the evening ended up. I find myself shaking my head in wonder. I’ve been a facilitator for 15 years and I never work without a plan. I can’t fathom it, that being open and present is truly all that’s required of me. That I am somehow the right person, in the right place, at the right time, just the way I am. If that’s true for me, then it’s true for you too, welcome to the new world of interbeing.

Struggles with creativity

Over the past year part my of journey has involved trying to reconnect with my inner artist. Part of that has involved writing poetry which has been very satisfying but I long to express myself visually. In the past (I’m talking about 10-15 years ago) painting helped me uncover truths that would never have occurred to my conscious mind. At times the process of creation has felt liberating and joyous, who doesn’t want more of that?

So when my troubles hit crisis point last year, I made time to paint. It kind of worked but it wasn’t as cathartic as I remembered. It was peaceful enough while I was engaged in it but it didn’t yield any insight or lasting solace. I know I’m asking a lot of a few hours but family life is crowded, I need to get bang for the time I invest. If something like 5rhythms is more effective then I’m going to go dancing for two hours instead of stay at home and paint.
 painting experiments
Over the year I have continued to fight myself and the tide of life to create space for the unstructured playtime I find crucial to creativity. It felt like a lot of my attempts failed. My inner dialogue was driving me to succeed, to push myself in new directions, to stick with it until I developed the skill to be brilliant. All of which effectively stifled anything I might have to offer.
girl holds origami butterflies on strings
Then a couple of weeks ago, after the Brene Brown course on the Gifts of Imperfection, I started thinking about working with myself, working with the skills I have instead of pushing myself to do things I can’t. Later that night I remembered a little piece of drawing and origami I did one evening, the only creative project over the year that was genuinely satisfying (and turned out beautifully, picture above). I decided to keep experimenting with drawing that same figure and the results have been astounding. I never knew I could draw!
Surrender
This journey reminds me of Mary Oliver’s advice to “let the soft animal of your body love, what it loves.” It strikes me that we all have gifts but we undervalue and undermine them in a stunning variety of ways. We think it has to be hard, it has to be a struggle, we have to earn the right to express ourselves. Charles Eisenstein would say that this is the Story of Separation, urging us to conquer and dominate ourselves. Life thrives on diversity, the Earth needs us to express what is most unique and heartfelt and natural within us. This is the birthplace of innovation, this is how we will change the world.