I grew up on the pristine and raw west coast of Australia. I left when I was twenty three, over 12 years ago, for New York. Today, the rich and diverse habitat of so many creatures, spirits and people is burning in a way I never imagined. 23 million acres are counting – including a fire the size of Manhattan. When I was young, climate change was a vague possibility we would have to face maybe someday one day. Today, for my five year old, it is a very real reality we must navigate with courage and conviction.
Friends write to me from Australia sharing the truth that wildlife sanctuaries and National Parks are being completely razed to the ground (Kangaroo Island), while ecologists worry that the loss of insects and other key players in natural ecosystems will be eliminated, along with the important roles (like pollination) that they play. Other news I am hearing is that the nation does not have enough resources to fight these ever increasing fires – and that they need help from the world. Navy ships are picking up hundreds of people who have fled to beaches in search of shelter. I have seen footage of kangaroos fleeing smokey landscapes by the hundreds, wallabies licking their burnt paws and koalas guzzling water offered by cyclists, and it breaks my heart. These gentle, innocent creatures need our help. We did this. We can help make it better.
If like me you feel helpless and stirred, wanting to help and not knowing how, the best places to donate are:
NSW RFS Bank Account:
Account Name: NSW Rural Fire Service
Account No: 171051
Credit card donations to the NSW RFS: https://bit.ly/2sM2pa0
Salvation Army has deployed its emergency service teams to evacuation centres in NSW and Queensland to provide food and water, along with emotional and practical support to emergency services personnel and people who have been displaced by the fires. They are hoping to raise $3m for their emergency appeal:
Riverina Police: Donations for animals (fodder etc) can be offered by contacting a central number at 1800 814 647
This is the donation link for the port Macquarie koala hospital: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-thirsty-koalas-devastated-by-recent-fires
Thank you for the care in your heart – for any ounce of love and support you can offer to those in pain, in fear, or displaced during this time. It really does make a difference. We must find what is good and true and beautiful within us, to help heal the scarred and hurting places in ourselves and the planet. Thank you. I love you.
As I begin the act of reclaiming my voice, the voice I have heard like whale song under the water all these years, I am stopping. Stopping the incessantly ego driven checking of statistics – do they like me? Are they interested? Is there someone who is receiving my words and do I look okay? The thing I love about a blog – and by now it feels quite old fashioned to be writing a blog – is that I feel safe from being judged by what I (or my house, or my child, or my outfits) look like. You can judge me all you like for my words, and if you don’t like reading them, move along. It won’t hurt my feelings. Because my blog, like my beloved Big Long Open Gash of 2008-14, isn’t measured or compared by likes, by followers, or by any thing other than your eyes. People find it, find something for themselves, or not, and then carry on with their wild and beautiful lives. And the jewel for me? I don’t do this for any one particular person out there. I am doing this for me. I am learning, like all great spiritual teachings tell us, that what we seek is not out there, but in here.
So. I begin again. This writing business. This wringing my heart out and letting the drips fall from my fingertips onto the keyboard. I have so much to tell you. I have so little time before my eyelids start closing and my head begins aching. I am a mother now. I get tired early, much earlier than I used to.
I suppose I feel the person I am writing this to, is the same person I was writing my first blog to (the words of which were immortalized in my second book Heart of Bold), and so I feel like I am writing a letter to a person who I haven’t spoken to for a very, very long time. But then again, I realize a lot of you are visiting my words for the first time and we are meeting here like strangers, but I am telling you everything all at once.
It’s been ten years since I began that first blog, and coincidentally since I moved to America. America. It had this beautiful lustre to me. A kind of glowing beacon from my homeland of Australia. The wild west, the Malboro man, the glittering skies of New York, the purple mountain majesties. I have been here ten years in fact, eleven in January, and as any inhabitant of a country they once dreamed about and now live within, I feel I am a little more worn and weathered for having lived here so long. My fantasies and mind movies have been been experienced, the trails trodden, the ideas in 3D grasped and pulled towards me. Living inside of it, I don’t see it like I used to. And my god I longed for America like nothing else. I know why though, I met my beloved here. Our hearts called us together. My life was to begin here. Who knows where it will end?
But back to being a mother. I really didn’t know how much it would challenge me. They don’t tell you that part in the movies. The part of me it has challenged the most is the writer part. The creative part. The freewheeling part. I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert speak today on Oprah’s Super Soul and learned that Joseph Campbell, when asked to give examples of a female hero’s journey, said they do not exist. When his students pressed him why, he said it’s because the Hero’s Journey is ‘the process by which a broken person becomes whole, and a woman doesn’t need to take that journey because she’s not broken. She has no emotional issues, and is perfectly whole as is – it has to be that way because she is the divine life giver of the planet, she has one job and one job only, and that is to have babies.’ (paraphrased)
Of course this information is very stirring. Elizabeth went on to say that it’s no wonder women of our generation feel crazy and full of fear. We don’t have 30,000 years of myth behind us (!!!) 30,000 years of stories of heroes doing their most magical and brave deeds, sailing around the world and conquering dragons. We don’t have Odysseus, and Moses, and Gilgamesh or David and Goliath, or any of those role models. We have …. a few women of the last century who have stepped outside of the normalized roles and gone on to live what their heart tells them. No wonder we feel uncertain about stepping out onto this new path. We are the first generation who has felt free enough to do so.
For me, I am struggling with finding role models of women who had multiple children, and had successful creative careers that they had autonomy over. I know of women who had successful creative careers but were managed by men, I know of women who had one child or no children and had successful creative careers of their own design. But where are the women I need? I have spent the last five years fighting for my autonomy back, fighting for a moment to breathe, and think, and see clearly, and tune in, as well as building a business that I, and my family if needs be, can stand on. I have also dealt with what feels like more than my fair share of shame. I notice I went silent when I had a miscarriage in 2013. I went silent recently while struggling with fertility issues. I have struggled to come to terms with the fact that I may not have any more children, and yet a part of me wants to do whatever it takes to have more children, and yet is afraid of what it will do to my newfound autonomy. Because for some reason I have chosen to be a creative person – a poet, an author, as well as a business woman – an entrepreneur, and a mother. My goodness, no wonder I am tired, and it feels like I’m falling apart at the seams.
No matter how much I do about the house, attempting to hold it all together, picking up yet another paper aeroplane or washing yet another dish, there is something that calls me back to writing. Something that tells me I need to be here, putting words on paper and into the world somehow. Why I don’t know, but it is a call I can’t refuse anymore because the pain of living with the incessant call is worse that just sitting down and writing. I don’t know what’s going to come out, but I’ll sure as hell try to let it.
The whale song inside calls me to this. It is my hero’s journey. It is my struggle, my sacred pilgrimage, the gifts from which I am impelled, compelled, to give back to the world. I have no choice, it seems. Or rather, I have a choice, and yet the choice to resist is making me unwell, depressed, weepy, flat, uninspired. Resisting the call, I wither and die. Answering it, and hearing that ancient whale song inside, I am reborn. Made anew. Breathing deeply again. No matter how heavy my eyelids are right now, I know I have made the right choice. The choice to live with what is, to not resist, and to show up on the page. No matter what.
It isn’t too often that I feel this way. Especially these last few years. Content. Without need to prove. Whole, grateful, living inside of my own self, not comparing myself to anybody else. To be honest, there is nobody right now that I would rather be, than me. And that is a beautiful thing. It’s taken me half my life to get to this state of mind, this previously foreign yet exotic land as yet unmapped in the terrain of my being. I remember it starting around age 15. The comparison, the self loathing furrowing inward, deeper and deeper. Carving into my heart. I’m not enough. Not enough. Not enough.
Perhaps it’s what age does to a woman, beautifying inwardly those ragged wounds as the wind howls around us, softening the sails of the boat and making them seaworthy. What I mean is, my heart is a weary sailor, and yet after so many years of sailing, I stand weatherworn and proud on the bow. Conqueror of my own pain. Not conqueror of the seas – that would be a foolish soul who believed that is anything but impossible, but victorious at least for a moment – alive – after a dark and terrifying storm.
I could tell you all of the ways I was hurting last year. I could tell you all of the ways I am healed. And yet all I want to say is that life has a way of smoothing the edges, curling back the sharp edges of the paper and softening it all. My hard edges have been worn away. My ego – it remains, but my god it’s not the ego of before. I was 23 when I began writing my blog, exactly 11 years ago, and there is a massive difference between a woman of that age and a woman of mine. The main distinction being that I am a woman.
I was a young woman then, a girl, lusty and wild, erratic and emotional. My goodness I was a force of nature. A tempest, a swarm of bees, an orchid by the lagoon and that dark, dark sea. I have been all of it. Marriage, pregnancy, miscarriage, birth, motherhood, moving yet again, and so many more mountains, they have shaped me. Altered me. I have raged against the mirage of my romantic memories. Longing to be back there …. romanticizing those days in New York, those words that would spill out across the page without me. Romanticizing the kind of life I led, the kind of woman I was.
What a funny thing memory is, and our perceptions of ourselves among them. I could tell you a dozen stories of the misery I was in! The longing! The heart break! The suffering! The eternally meagre bank account! Meeting Isaac lifted me up out of the emotional squalor I was dancing in. A 25 year old dancing in a canoe on her own – that was me when he met me. I didn’t know where I was going only that all I had was this one small canoe of myself, my energy, my few books, clothes, passport, tarot cards. I didn’t have much really. But my heart was a wild animal of delight and I couldn’t wait to embrace the future I knew was unraveling before me.
Little did I know that death would touch me, too. A beating heart would join my own in the darkness of my womb – and then disappear seven weeks later. I remember seeing that tiny beating heart, a seven week old embryo, and instantly becoming parents in that hospital in Mount Gambier, Australia. It was another sixteen months before our son would join us and another chapter began. More upheaval. More soul reckoning.
I hardly recognized myself as a mother. Weren’t there any breaks during this job? What had happened to my energy? My joie de vivre, my lust for life, my lustre? There were too many things to do. Mainly, I was haunted by the mountain of reclamation that stood before me. I didn’t want to have to climb it. I knew it would take a long time, and I kind of wished I could just step back through a doorway with my son and be myself again.
But I wasn’t that woman any longer. Just like the little sister who never returned to our lives after becoming the supermodel that she is, my old self was dead. I longed for that old self like someone who had just passed. I grieved her. I held my fists against the sky cursing God or the angels for taking her away from me. I lamented her absence. I tried to woo her back, like a seance or a creepy science experiment. I wanted to resurrect her but I could. not. do. it. She was gone. She is dead.
Her words live on and her spirit lives on inside me. My maiden self. My pre-motherhood lifetime. I know that one day this me will die away too. Renew, rebirth, revise herself. Perhaps with the birth of a second child? Perhaps simply with time? I think I mourned the loss of that particular maiden me because I found her so quixotic, so entrancing, so fun to be inside of. She was, is, a vixen of the night and a fiery sword, a poisonous flower and a medicinal balm. She knows how to drain the poison from her fingers and to transform it into light, into medicine, into sight. Henry Miller taught her that. The first shaman of the alphabet to enter my psyche. I miss him too.
But like all books and authors, it’s easy to visit them any time we need. A book is magic like that – it’s an invisible train to a destination beyond time and space. A portal into the gentle hands of another. For what is writing but holding out our hands in a cup and inviting others to drink from it? We don’t write to write only, we write to be read. We write as an offering to the angels, as an offering to humanity, a plea to connect, deeper, deeper, deeper. To have our thoughts met and understood and received. To be known. We write to be known.
For years as a mother I have resisted calling myself a writer. I have added disclaimers and denied and apologized. But the truth is, I am and always will be, a writer. In an age of Instagram and Amazon, I am still and always will be an old fashioned romantic who prefers pen and paper to a touch screen. I want the scent of copal and the simplicity of watercolors. I want slow and simple. My my my, how delightful it is to be simple. And so this brings me back to my original statement before I went on this walkabout journey past the cactuses of my brain. I am truly content. Amazingly, I don’t know when I have been able to honestly speak this kind of grace and happiness. What more could I ask for?
More of the same thing. I feel so deeply fed, supported, loved and in touch with who I really am, the God essence… It’s a beautiful thing. Heaven knows I was not here last year. Thankfully the stormy seas have calmed and I am a weatherworn sailor who has seen more than she bargained for. The storms are something I could never have forced upon myself, nor did I originally ask for anything like those waves. But I could never take them back. Life is sweeter after so many years of salt water.
I miss making things with my hands A pen between my fingers and thumb Scissors heavy and paper shreds falling Making an image from many A story with a small marks on a page I can turn I miss the urgency of a creative thought The birthing feeling when the words want to spill and then the rushing flow of me running after them with a bucket It is sometimes a sea, sometimes a spoonful but it doesn't matter either way – I am making. I am leaving a trace. I am marking a page I can touch and molding a life I can taste art I can see on my walls and words I can hold in my hands – treasures. I miss making things solely for myself because I like them, love them even these forms that emerge from some rough hewn clay I miss looking at my life through my own eyes and with my mind shutting out the saturated noise and reclaiming this – spontaneity, presence, listening for what wants to speak through me. A spoonful of sea, but still, the sea.
Mother, I remember
The texture of the skin on your face.
The scent of your perfume before you left the house.
The bedding with the frills and the tiny green flowers.
The way you (still) sit down to dinner with a smile.
Days under the lemon tree,
The smell of the citrus leaves.
Your presence, and your absence.
The way your face changed after you put makeup on.
Your sigh whenever you returned home,
and said ‘cup of tea time’
half a dozen times a day.
Your love of bread.
Your different haircuts.
Your endless support and organization.
Going to the mall after dinner on Thursdays
with me, the edge of thirteen,
and buying the expensive jeans that I loved.
Picking me up from drama class after dark,
and coming home to eat leftovers while we watched
new episodes of the Naked Chef and home renovations.
the steaming pork buns from Chinatown,
and the jam donuts you would bring us in white paper bags
in the car after school, before the trips to IKEA,
the grocery store, the bank,
reaching for the paper at the ATM,
wandering the aisles choosing any flavored milk.
running down the corridors at the hospital you worked in
hurtling towards the cafeteria with its endless free cookies.
asking you for a razor to shave my legs with,
and a sports bra when all the girls at school wore them.
I remember the way you handed me a box of tampons for the first time,
and the incredible birthday celebrations you would throw us.
The way you set the breakfast table the night before,
and covered the table with gifts.
I remember the only time I saw you cry, really cry,
when your uncle passed away.
I remember the smell of the gin and tonic
you would drink with our dad after work,
and the little crystal glass of sherry
in the blue bottle that you
poured for yourself while making dinner.
I remember watching you chop garlic.
I remember watching you chop onion.
I remember watching you stir pots and
wash dishes and fold laundry and carry
groceries and I remember the way you
insisted on being independent, and capable
and making the most of what we had, and
turning everything into gold. I remember
the giant buddha head in the back of the
car one day after you picked us up from school
crawling into your bed when I was
a child, and the scent of
your breath in the night.
At five o’clock last night I was making dinner when I turned to Julius and said, do you want to have a picnic on the beach and watch the sunset? A pause. “Yeah!” So we packed a tiffin box with chili and went to the ocean.
It’s a place called Seaside Wilderness Park, fifteen minutes from our house. We walked under the freeway towards the shore, crossing the railroad to reach the sea. We found a patch of grass and I drank red wine and watched the waves rolling in on the water softened rocks.
Then the train came. Slowly it sounded it’s refrain, warning people of its presence. A great rolling machine just a stones throw from the beach flowers and the weather worn driftwood and the little boy with his dog playing in the sand.
We stood up as it passed, like a great beast, or a carnival, and we waved. Something in me needed to wave. The child in me and the child beside me, we waved our arms high in the air and searched the windows for a response as it passed.
And then, the silhouette of a body and it’s arm held high just like ours, waving back at us from inside the train.
I cheered hooray and then began to choke up. I still have tears in my eyes writing about this moment. Someone, I do not know who, saw us on that wild beach and waved back. The powerful thing about this moment is that I don’t know what they were wearing, or how old they were, who they vote for or where they grew up. I couldn’t even tell if they were male or female.
But in that moment, we were just two humans, saying hello. One in the wild, one inside a machine, and we were connected. I will never forget the power of that magic. I hope my story reminds us all of this irreducible truth.
Mother, Music . . . . . . . My dear sister. You are embarking on an indescribable journey. In one month or so, you will leave the harbor you have called home for so long, and find yourself on a shamanic journey like no other. You will go to depths I cannot tell you about, for they will be yours. You will experience highs I cannot imagine, for they will be yours, tethered to the soul you have been holding space for and will continue to hold space for, a soul whose face you will come to know so very well.
When you look in the mirror in several months you will see a very different woman. Your heart will be raw from all that loving, and all the waves that await you on the unfathomable sea of this journey. Your body will ache From the weight of the love in your arms. You will be reborn in a way only motherhood can mysteriously make possible.
I have come to believe that there is no other initiation more radical in its reshaping of a woman than the process of Conceiving Growing Birthing Shepherding Consciousness onto the earthen floor of this very planet. Blood of our blood, bone of our bone, veins like vines within our garden, forever turning, ever evolving, We deliver renewal with the fierce grace of our babies entrance.
Your birth will reshape you and everything around you. Your child will become the sun in your life around which everything will revolve. You will become the sun in your child’s life, around which an entire cosmology revolves. You will also become the sun around which Your family revolves. You are the light from which life beams. You are the cup from which your family drinks. You are the flower bed from which it all grows. Your beloved must remain close to fill and refill your cup, tending the Earth of you in the way only he knows how. Your friends and family must retain a keen listening for how they may support you in the planting and replanting of the flowers you love, in the filling and refilling of your cup which will be emptied, many times in one day.
You must remember in the ancient weave of your soul the ways in which we let go and so let in. I’ve come to believe that when we are emptied, as a flute is emptied by a skilled creator: carved out, hollowed, notched and whittled away with sacred intention from raw material, the music of our lives makes sense. The phenomena of the most beautiful notes can be heard with clarity, and there is a resonance that heals not only the naked vessel, but all those who hear our song.
Do not resist the sacred hollowing that approaches. Welcome the hands of the master craftsman who has already begun to work on you. Maiden To Mother, Mother to Music. We are the ones who sing the song of tomorrow, through the sacred mundane of every today, guiding, loving, listening calling in the heavens and bringing them here to earth.
I bless you, oh graceful one.
May your passage through the ring of fire be infused with trust, love, surrender, and beauty. May your child’s journey to earth be a marvelous adventure, a sacred dance, with a gentle landing… and may the love that will be ignited within your new family ripple across time and space, informing us all.
I love and cherish you and I wish you all the best.
I could write a long list
of all that I’m not
but I won’t do that
I don’t have the time
instead I will write a list
of all that I love, about us
the blue sweater on the brown bear the books of dragons and Max the flute music and your long blonde fringe your feet at night your smile when you walk through the door weary but glad for our warm home sweet porridge in the morning your muscular hands and dancing heart
I could write a long list of all that we don’t yet have but I won’t do that I don’t have the time instead I will write a list of all that we do have all that we are all that I am listening surrendering growing shifting
a mollusc in a too small shell a frustrated caterpillar longing for the briefness of sky a cat on a leash or too tight shoes I know I am bigger than this blessed with this exploratory space a nasa queen making loud noises as I suction thin air learning about this new place where I am not my worst enemy and our thrones are still covered in roses
I took a blanket off the back of the chair and went to lay on the grass. Feeling aimless, a little lost, an outsider returning to the house I grew up in, I wrap myself in wool. I feel so small here and then realize it’s because the trees have all grown so much. I always thought I would feel bigger, coming back. It’s odd to feel so little again. A few stars lay bare in the sky and I spread one of my mothers handmade quilts out on the lawn under the wide leafy shrub that wasn’t there when I left. New friends. I enjoy listening to the sound of the biggest leaves in the breeze, chafing up against each other.
The clouds are coming from the west, pulling across the sky like the sheet I pulled over my feverish son. Today was hot, but there’s a strange wind blowing. I watch the sky getting whiter and then pinker and then slightly orange. Flashes of lightning puncture the air. I think about the fires back in California and how the sky turned that eerie shade of brown. I remind myself of where I am. There’s no rain, just wind and lightning. An electrical storm. Is that what they call it? I lay still next to the cabin with the big leafy plant sheltering me and remember, pachamama, pachamama, she is still here, she is with me, beneath me, holding me, she’s always been here. This part of the world seems so foreign and strange to me, even though I grew big here.
The wind picks up and I test myself to see how long I want to stay in the tension. Am I creating this? Is this me? When the fig tree starts swaying in grief I have to close my eyes because of the dust and debris barreling through the air. I get up. The tree above the cabin is washed with the chaos of the wind. Seeds and sticks are falling from the branches onto the corrugated tin roof. I walk inside to the shelter of a sturdy house and close the doors with their curtains flirting desperately. I go upstairs and get my laptop and return to the back patio. When I arrive the wind is gone. The fig tree is still, quivering. No more lightning, no more chaotic wind. I wait and I watch. A few raindrops on the roof? A summer storm. The fever has broken and the rain comes now. Driplets then droplets and then a steady sheet of nails hammers down. Rain. A novelty for my dusty Californian feet so used to a land parched of this exoticism, a different kind of drama.
I heard today that a writer needs three things, something to say, the means with which to say it, and the courage to say it, which is the hardest part. I’m not sure I have so much to say anymore. I am intent on observing at the moment, just watching, bearing witness, learning from my inner landscape without sharing it, except in the transformational sense of it becoming who I will be tomorrow. I certainly haven’t been the most graceful parent of late. Julius has been sick and I have been frustrated by the sheer length of the virus pervading his body. I’m tired. It’s hard parenting alone. I’m bored, restless, uncertain. I forget who I am when I am not surrounded by the things that remind me of who I am, or at least who I once was. A potent experience this is, then. When I do not have Isaac, and I do not have an active child to create entertainment and adventure for, when I do not have my daily chores, my community, my beaten paths, the familiar faces and comforts of home, who do I become? What is left? I watch my mother cleaning and making bread and running her errands, and my father goes to work and comes home and goes to work and comes home, and my brother reads and writes, and Jules and I just lay on the bed and doze in and out of reveries, some peaceful, some not. His voice pierces through the house when he needs me, crying out for water or just some company. Another week until my beloved arrives, and then we will be together for Christmas before heading back to California.
It feels as though I am part of a system, an organism, a family, and when I leave, or we fracture apart, the singular parts of the system become compromised. I once felt so sure of myself, so solid and self-sufficient and full of valor and enthusiasm for my life and my dreams and all of the golden bricks I was laying in front of myself, one after another. Now I live amongst those golden bricks and they have forged the path of my life – the devoted, passionate marriage, the vibrant and loving community, the quirkily elegant home of our own, the sweet puppy, the satisfying work we are both doing in the world, the sensational soul of the little boy we are raising. So much gold. And yet I do not grasp any more, and I do not dream like I once did. There are things I would like to work towards this year, but my yearnings are not as they were when I was 20. I think this is a good thing. I am wiser, tempered by the wind and the electrical storms, battered by the falling branches, and aware of when to get out of the rain, and when to go out in it. I feel the maturity within me like the sturdier branches of these trees here, the bigger ones, their bodies so much more able to withstand the storms and winds that roll across from the sea, their girdles thickened with the strength of their age.
And so I suppose I am a different woman, a much different woman. The maiden in me is still there as a spark, a flash of electricity, but she doesn’t live in this body any more. She is a memory. A grateful one. I am delighted by my time with her. Oh the things that we wrote!!! The words that tumbled out, a menagerie of wilderness, my heart in motion. I was 23 and 24 and 25 and then I met my husband, and I didn’t need to shout anymore. The New York streets and the Pennsylvania river valley carved the edges of my soul like Australia did. I put it all in a book, and closed the cover. Seven years later, I am whispering. And when I’m not doing that, I am finally listening again. In a culture of so much noise, that feels like a really good place to rest.