Includes book reviews and bits from writer's journal. For the professional stuff, see website link below left.

Friday, December 24, 2010

So That Was 2010

(Our personal 2010, I mean. You all know already what happened in the wider world.)

It was a mixed bag.

Wonderful to get our Housing Dept home after the 13-year wait, back in a town we’ve always loved, just as we needed to be closer to shops and services. It's also closer to many old friends, and we have been making new ones too since our return a year ago. We continue to love our peaceful street, with nice neighbours and mountain views.

The Beloved Spouse’s first wife died in February after an illness. This was of course an emotional time for him and his children. He couldn't attend the funeral (in Melbourne) but contributed his reminiscences to the eulogy.

Good news is that Spouse’s heart specialist told him at his annual check-up in Feb. that his heart is in excellent shape.

The old car became scary to drive with the automatic transmission slipping, but we were lucky to find an affordable replacement.

I retired from the Sunday markets soon after moving. Adored the work and the atmosphere for many years, but realised I didn't want to keep getting up so early and lugging the stall around. Occasionally people track me down and come to the house for Reiki treatments or psychic readings.

We both developed eye problems. Spouse needed expensive laser work. Thanks to his youngest, my Second Stepson, for a generous and well-timed gift which made that possible! (Yes, there are Medicare refunds but you still have to pay upfront.) As for me, I have a film over my left retina, a thing which apparently can happen with age. They monitor it frequently and I do a little eye test every day. If the film stays tightly attached, no problem; if it gets loose and wrinkly, I'll need surgery. This is unpredictable, but so far so good.

June - July were our worst months. My favourite Aunty over in Perth, my 'second Mum', died. Sad, but not unexpected. Then Spouse got an infected toe and went to hospital, we thought for a day or two. He deteriorated rapidly, was transferred from the local hospital to a bigger one forty-five minutes away, and all in all was in for three weeks. It wasn't the toe, which cleared up. Apparently he got a strain of flu they couldn't identify. He nearly died, and it was all very scary for both of us. He finally turned the corner when I called in all the Reiki help I could get, but remained frail some time after coming home.

I bought him a wheely walker, which he still needs from time to time due to arthritis. In fact we now have one for the house and one for the car to save me lugging it up and down steps. I'm not supposed to do heavy lifting because of my own arthritis, and have also stopped my Tai Chi classes because I can no longer stand on my right leg. But we are taking supplements and have found our way back to our good chiropractor in the coastal village where we used to live, who is helping. You walk out of his clinic with your body feeling noticeably different!

I still travel to said village often as facilitator of the WordsFlow writers' group (which has been going four years now) and as Secretary of the Management Committee for the Neighbourhood Centre. They won't let me go! Which is fine, as I enjoy both roles and it's only a half hour drive through pretty country. If I still lived in Melbourne, a half hour drive would seem like nothing.

During an exciting visit in May from Thom the World Poet (based in Austin, Texas) and his mate Bob Mud, muso/poet./artist from Brisbane, with a workshop for WordsFlow and a performance in the Castle on the Hill at nearby Uki, Spouse became so enthused that he joined WordsFlow and has been getting stuck into his autobiography and his children's stories.

We had a visit from Spouse's eldest, my First Stepson and the three little grand-daughters, soon after moving here. They filled the house with laughter and colour, and it suddenly seemed very quiet and spacious after they left.

Later in the year the beautiful Stepdaughter had a quick trip to the Gold Coast with her boyfriend, and drove down here to take us to lunch and see the new home.

(Her son, 18 now, is shaping up as a talented writer, which is exciting for his grandparents here!) And Second Stepson is arriving tomorrow for a week's visit over xmas.

My Firstborn injured an Achilles tendon some months ago, and is still recovering after surgery and having to wear a special boot for a while. No more swing dancing for him just yet, which was one of his greatest pleasures — but he has taken up DJ-ing and is enjoying it.

There have been some deaths of old friends, not all of them elderly.

I am still estranged from my Youngest, by my own choice.

I have acquired several new Reiki students who want to go as far as I can take them with their training, and who are already potential Masters, exciting to teach. One of them has created a herb garden for us in our little courtyard out the back.

We have a wonderful handyman who is an old Reiki student of mine. Housing Dept maintenance is quick to fix the essential and/or emergency stuff; he does the rest very well at a most reasonable rate. The guy who used to mow our lawns for free became a family man and isn't so available any more — but with our Housing Dept rent we have a little more money to spare, and our neighbour's friend, who does her lawn for $20 a fortnight, asked if we'd like him to do ours too. Yes! And I finally succumbed and got household help from Home Care for a very low fee. They don't do everything, but they do the stuff I can't manage, and are nice women to boot. (Stop it with those mental images! That’s not what I meant.)

Spouse had another trip to hospital in September, following a fall. He complained of headache and blacked out a minute, which was enough for me to call the ambulance. However he was fine and they allowed him home in a few days. Whew!

We are adjusting to being older and less mobile, e.g.for the most part seeing movies on DVD rather than climb stairs at the cinema. (With our wide-screen digital telly which we were able to get at sale price just after moving here, that's no hardship!) I'm enjoying doing more of the driving now and feeling more confident/competent as a result. Life goes on merrily enough. Writing is our major focus, as indeed it always has been.

As for my great weight loss program, it got thoroughly abandoned. This was not planned, but a lapse that lasted and lasted.  Too much going on, higher priorities.... Now I am a large lady again — damn! Never mind, after Christmas I’ll start over and stick to it. This is not a New Year resolution (made to be broken) but an intention for taking good care of myself. Others who did stick to it are looking wonderful now!

And so, dear people Bright Blessings to you all!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Haiku and Other Short Forms — the cheat sheet

Someone asked me for guidance. This may not be the most elegant or scholarly dissertation, but I think it works as a quick reference.

Haiku: three short lines, traditionally 5/7/5 syllables. About nature, including a word that indicates the season (e.g. cherry blossom for spring) and containing a turn of thought or juxtaposition of objects/ideas. They are not supposed to use any poetic devices such as metaphor. Ideally they should create in the reader an ‘aha! moment’.

Senryu: same form, but about people and can include humour and urban settings.

Modern haiku and senryu in English often ignore the syllable count in favour of short/long/short, as Japanese syllables tend to be briefer than English ones (I’m told). In this case they aim for shorter lines than 5/7/5. Some people even go in for one-line haiku! They often omit punctuation, too.

In our Haiku on Friday page on facebook, the lines between haiku and senryu are sometimes pretty blurred!

Renga: a chain, in which someone adds two 7-syllable (or just longer) lines to the original haiku. The next person will then write another three, and so on, until everyone gets sick of keeping it going.

Tanka: a 5-line form of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables or short/long/short/long/long. Not so strictly about nature, though they can be. Often have a romantic theme. There should be the ‘turn of thought’ and aha! moment in tanka too.

Lune: a 3-line form devised as a Western haiku, based on syllable count without all the other rules. Called lune because of crescent shape (resulting from line lengths). Two kinds:
Kelly lune invented by Robert Kelly; syllables 5/3/5. Collum lune by Jack Collum, who misremembered and taught it as 3/5/3 WORDS (rather than syllables).

Gogyohka: new Japanese form freer than tanka. 5 lines, each as long as one breath (if speaking them aloud). No other rules.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Initial Capitals in Poetry

I asked a friend to do me the favour of casting a critical eye over my latest manuscript before I submit it. One thing she queried was my practice of not capitalising the initial letter of every line of my poems. Evidently she is more comfortable with the convention of initial capitals.

For the sake of others who may be interested in this question, here is my reply to her:

Many poets still use the convention of capitalising the first letter of every line. At least as many, if not more, no longer do that. There's an interesting discussion of the matter here, amongst poets.

The practice of initial capitalising in English poetry began in the 16th Century. This changed with the advent of free verse in the 20th Century, as initial capitals would have been intrusive to the flow and to the various ways that poetry can now be arranged on the page. It is very common now for formal poets, too, to dispense with initial capitals, though some retain them. On the other hand, some practitioners of free verse, when using a fairly conventional arrangement of lines on the page, like to adopt initial capitals — but have to abandon them when they venture into things like shape poetry or prose poetry.

I write mosty free verse, but like to play with form sometimes. I don't want to be inconsistent within my own work so I adopt prose rules for capitalisation, whatever kind of verse I'm writing.

When all's said and done, these days it depends on the personal preference of the poet.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A River of Stones

You've heard of NaMoWriMo. Introducing (drumroll.....) NaSmaStoMo!

For the month of January, Fiona Robyn asks people to join her in writing a short piece of writing each day for the whole month, and blogging it either on their usual blog or a new one (or in a notebook if they're shy).

Find out more at her new blog,  A River of Stones, and please help spread the word by tweeting and sharing the link on Facebook and emailing your might-be-up-for-it friends.

Fiona says: Don't worry about whether you're a 'writer' or not - this project will help you to connect with the world, and we could all do with a bit more of that. Start the year as you mean to go on.

So are you in?

I am, and will be posting at my new blog (yet another!): Stones for the River.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Effective prayer

... probably needs to be heartfelt.

A friend just shared this on facebook:
Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith) ~
"Here are the two best prayers I know:
'Help me, help me, help me' and 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.'"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): I've Had a Gutful

What a great Aussie expression. But I’m not in the mood for writing about things I’ve had a gutful of today. The sun is shining after all those weeks of rain, and the trees were shining as we drove from Mur'bah, washed clean. Tiny swallows darted and swooped across the road, and my mind turned to haiku. I’ll knock up a few more later and post them on the new facebook Haiku on Friday page.

I have had pretty much of a gutful of the rain, I guess, like most people all over the country (except in WA where they're deep in drought). I want to write about sunshine and shining trees and swallows. But I want to make it into a haiku, not just a pretty, descriptive little three-line poem. I need some kind of Zen moment in there somewhere, somehow.

Now that I’ve done my 30 poems for November, and selected the ones for the chapbook, and edited them, and worked out a sequence, I feel very strange. Not writing a poem every day is weird. Yet I don’t think it’s a good practice all the time — churning ‘em out like that. We need revision too, time to tweak and polish, and get them as good as they can be. If I don't win the chapbook competition, which I would be surprised to do, I’ll look at putting some of the other poems back in.

Writer's Journal (exercise): Spooky

Pale hands she had, long-fingered. I used to love the way they twined around my neck and stroked my hair. I used to watch for ages while she played the piano, those long white fingers moving gracefully over the keys. I found them mesmerising. It never seemed to matter that she was so silent, so self-contained.

I didn’t question how we came to be together, living in the great house, with its wintry landscape beyond the drawn curtains. We so rarely looked out. The trees surrounding the house were grey and gnarly; they looked somewhat threatening. We preferred to shut them out.

It was in the evenings that HE came. Loud footsteps always signalled his approach, so we had time to start shuddering a little, then try to master it so that when he entered we appeared cool, detached, statue-like. He never said much, though his few words were said in such a booming voice that they resonate with me still.

He liked her pale, long-fingered hands too. I watched him watching them as she played. Eventually he would stop her by closing one of his own great, dark fists over her hand and pressing down commandingly. She would flutter to a stop, turn and look up at him, into his eyes. I always wanted to yell to her not to meet his gaze, but of course I never uttered a sound, and of course she did turn and look, as he bent his head to stare back at her.

She grew paler as he held her fast with his eyes, and her frame would begin to get hazy around the edges, as if she was turning into mist. Or was that only because of my increasing faintness?

I never saw what happened next. I would lose consciousness and come to many hours later, alone. I spent my days alone until dusk fell. You could tell that the darkness had begun outside, as it deepened beyond the curtains. Then I would turn, and she would be there, sitting at the piano.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Lucky Me

He came into the bathroom, looking for something. I was having a shower. (We don't bother with a shower curtain.) He looked me up and down with a warm smile, his eyes alight, and said, 'You are a beautiful woman.'

This is a very nice thing for any woman to hear from her beloved, in any circumstances. When she is 70 years old, overweight, and stark naked under a bright light, that makes it very special indeed!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Footy Fever

Despite being born and bred in the home of Aussie Rules — Melbourne — my husband has never followed footy in his life.  This takes some doing, in a city where football is not only the major religion but practically compulsory! ('Football' meaning Aussie Rules, of course. They do have Rugby and Soccer; those are called Rugby and Soccer.)

I grew up in Tasmania, which, back in those days, was its second home, but I managed to escape the general fanaticism too. Then I went to Melbourne.

‘Who do you barrack for?” asked every new acquaintance. When I told them I didn’t barrack for anyone, they said, ‘Oh, you have to barrack for someone. You’ve gotta have a team.’

I was studying at the University of Melbourne, in the suburb of Carlton, and eventually lived in Carlton too. So I decided to barrack for the Carlton footy team. I learned how to say things like, ‘Carn the mighty Blues!’  with every appearance of enthusiasm, but it’s just pretend. I never went to a Carlton game and only know the name of one player, the great Alex Jesaulenko of decades past. (Everyone knew that name, even if they didn’t barrack for Carlton; just as everybody knew the names of other greats such as Ron Barrassi, Lou Richards and Norm Smith. Living in Melbourne, there were some things you couldn’t escape.) In truth, I never know how ‘my’ team is doing unless they get into a Grand Final, which I find out at the last minute, or even after the event.

For a while I joined the Anti-Football League and wore the badge. Journalist Keith Dunstan started the Anti-Football League so that people who longed for intelligent conversation that was not about football could identify each other at parties. Unfortunately, we all found ourselves talking about football more than ever, as the Aussie Rules fans would bail us up and demand to know why we were against the noble sport.

Anyway, you get the idea — my beloved and I are not keen on football, and manage to live our lives blissfully unaware of it most of the time. Grand Finals come and go and leave us unmoved.  Today, however, I had a strong urge to watch the latest Grand Final on TV, and he entered into the spirit of it too. As Carlton wasn’t playing, we decided to barrack for St Kilda. I lived Bayside for most of my time in Melbourne, which made the Saints my local team; also they have the best club song — ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ of course, with only the slightest change of wording.

We settled down in our armchairs and had a thoroughly good time, cheering or groaning in all the right places. We got quite carried away and found ourselves yelling advice to the players. I don’t know what came over us, really. Who knew that watching footy could be such fun?

It was a very exciting game, which ended in a draw. The final point was scored just before the closing siren sounded. I wonder if we can stand to watch the replay next week?

Monday, September 13, 2010

What is a Healthy Relationship?

Worth sharing (copied from the blog Fiona's Inspirations):

I found this very concise explanation of a healthy relationship in a booklet produced by the Tweed Shire Women’s Service. After searching the web and not finding anything so clear and succinct, I decided to reproduce it here to share with others.
A healthy relationship is identified through the presence of equality. The elements of a healthy relationship are applicable to all forms of relationships with friends, dating, partners, intimate partners, life partners, of family members.
Trust: Trust lies at the heart of the relationship and is the foundation that love and respect are built on.
Support: Support and encouragement of each other to achieve their goals and dreams, and personal growth.
Respect: Respect other people’s boundaries. Learn other people’s boundaries and do not infringe upon them.
Responsibility: A shared responsibility for maintaining the relationship. Both people in a relationship should be included in making decisions.
Communication: Communicate effectively. Effective communication involves clearly expressing your thoughts and feelings, and listening to those of others.
Boundaries: Maintain healthy boundaries. Create a safe and comfortable space to experience relationships by defining and communicating your boundaries to others.
Honesty: Be open and honest. It is important for both people in a relationship to be honest about their intentions, feelings or desires.
Accountability: Be responsible for your own actions. Talk to others to understand how your actions affect them.
There is no place in a healthy relationship for controlling, abusive and violent behaviour.

Reference: ‘What is a Healthy Relationship?’ A Woman’s Guide to Reclaiming a Healthy Relationship produced by Tweed Shire Women’s Service

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Minor Mystery

We recently started getting the Sydney Morning Herald delivered each morning. What luxury! When we were a little poorer, we used to get it only on Mondays for the excellent TV guide, and we went to the shop to buy it.

Andrew loves it: best paper he’s ever come across, he says. (I used to feel that way about the Melbourne Age, which is ‘from the same stable’.) I like it too, but most of all for the word puzzles, which I solve (or not) while watching TV in the evenings.

Then, for the last two mornings, it went missing. The first time, I didn‘t get to the newsagent to report it unil late in the afternoon. By then there were none left — not there, not anywhere in town. It was the morning after Australia found out who was going to govern in our hung Parliament; I guess everybody wanted the paper that day. The newsagent gave me a copy of The Australian instead — a paper with a very different political slant from the Herald. ‘Julia Gillard gets nod to govern’ said the SMH headline (I found out online). ‘Gillard gets a second chance,’ said The Australian.

The following day, Andrew saw the paper outside in our yard, but neither of us was dressed at that point. By the time we were, and went to retrieve it, it was gone. I phoned the newsagent, explained, and asked him to keep us another copy. Then I went door-knocking around Tulipwood Court (our little cul-de-sac). My neighbour in the other unit is away. She once told me someone collected her mail for her at such times, so I thought maybe they’d picked up the Herald too on the assumption it was hers. No-one I spoke to knew anything about it.

‘It must have been stolen,’ said one woman. ‘There’s a bit of that goes on around here.’ Another said, ‘I’m up at five every morning. I’ll pick up your paper from now on and put it up on your veranda.’ Sure enough, this morning’s paper was right there outside our front door. Bless her!

The newsagent’s father delivers the papers early. He confirmed he’d thrown it right up into our yard. ‘Could it have been a dog?’ asked the newsagent. ‘One that’s trained to fetch?Dad saw a dog rummaging around in the rubbish bins along the street.’  Hmmm, I’d heard a dog barking up and down the street in the afternoon, which was unusual, and on the way home from the newsagent I saw what looked like a stray in a nearby street to Tulipwood Court.  But if so, it must be a very selective dog. Various free newspapers get delivered too, and they have never disappeared. The Tweed Echo was still on our lawn yesterday after the Herald had gone, and the Mail the day before.

I spoke to teenage Nathan from across the road, and his little sister. They were riding their bikes around our end of the street.

‘It could have been Monty,’ they said. ‘He takes shoes sometimes.’

Monty is a big old dog from further down the street, inclined to wander vaguely in front of cars, but we all stop to let him by. Or they thought it might be Baxter. Baxter’s a big boxer who lives near Monty, and is the reason I don’t walk down that end of the street. He appears friendly, but very boisterous; I’ve been scared he’d knock me over in his exuberance.

‘Baxter’s a bad dog!’ said the little girl.

‘There have been some bites,’ said Nathan.

‘And there’s also Coco; she’s a golden labrador who lives down the hill.’

Baxter wasn’t out on the road just then, nor were the other dogs, so I braved the walk to their owners’ houses. Monty had been in his back yard for three months following a complaint to the Council, said the cheery blonde who came to that front door. At Baxter’s place, a teenage boy and girl and their Mum all answered my knock and told me Baxter is now confined by an electric fence and a special collar.

Coco’s house was over the side of the hill, down a dip. There was a little path through bushes, then a big house with a big yard. Coco, lying outside, looked up at me placidly. Not a golden labrador actually, but one of those curly-haired ones that look a bit similar: a golden retriever.

‘Come in,’ called a tall young woman busy peeling vegetables.

She said their SMH wasn’t there this morning either. We had a hunt around the garden but found nothing.

‘If she does pick ours up,’ said Coco’s owner, ‘She usually takes it to where she sits. And she doesn’t bring home other papers.’

She introduced me to gentle Coco, who stood up to greet me and enjoyed having her ears rubbed.

I must be looking my age even though I don’t think so. Coco’s lady took my arm to help me back on to the path up the hillside and asked her teenage daughter to accompany me to the top.

So I don’t know who or what has been making off with our paper, but it won’t happen again thanks to the kind five o’clock riser, and now I’ve met more of our neighbours and found them all very nice.

One door I refrained from knocking on because others said, ‘Stay away from her. She’s ... er ... strange.’ (Strange enough to steal newspapers? Perhaps I’ll never know.)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): Sport / Embarrassment / Punch


I’ll give you sport, Sport! Australians care far more about footy and horse racing than they do about literature. In the old days of the Poets’ Union, we used to have fantasies about writing football poetry and finally getting attention and making our fortunes. However, football and poetry seldom mix, so we never did, not any of us as far as I know. Except Tedd Wotsisname who’d been a fampus footballer (Aussie Rules of course) before becoming a poet and actually tryig to make a living at that. He had to write prose as well, and start teaching it too, no money in poetry — as cliché, that’s too true.

Sport! Not for the likes of a little, fat, short-sighted, short-winded kid like me. It wasn’t until I was 22 that a doctor looked at my tonsils and said they must have been leaking poison into my system for years and that I’d probably been short-winded as a kid. So THAT was why I used to come chugging up the strait stone motherless last, a mile behind the other kids, whenever we had to run races.

Had to, that was it, Phys Ed teachers became my ideas of torturers. I‘m sure some of them were mean on purpose. Or maybe they thought I was being helpless and uncoordinated on purpose. 

Just like the ludicrous answers I used to get in maths ... but that’s another story.


It did me out of a wonderful memory once. How old was I? About 9, perhaps. I was wearing a nightie that had a tear in the back, and when Mum came to get me out of bed and introduce me to the party guests, I refused. I didn’t want anyone to see the hole in the back of my nightie. Mum was flushed, I recall, and exited; probably everyone was a little tipsy by then.

Mum and Dad were in the Launceston Players, an amateur theatrical company, and the party was for the local thespians and the visiting members of the Stratford on Avon company. Leo McKern is one name I recall, and oh, many others, but I forget them by now. They were world famous; I have all their autographs still. She wanted me to meet them in person. They won’t care about your nightie, she said, but I thought they would laugh at me, and so I didn’t go.

I must say, though, it hasn’t scarred me not to have met these luminaries in person. I did get to see them act; my parents took me to all the theatrical events. That was worth more to me than being paraded before them in their everyday selves.

I was very embarrassed when I saw Dame Sybil Thorndike playing Medea. She was so convincing that I couldn’t stand the horror of what she was saying, and squirmed in my seat. I was maybe 13 then. All she had was words, and her delivery, and they tore me to pieces.

She threw the first punch

It landed fair in the middle of my throat and winded me, and that was the end of that fight.

I didn’t know why we were fighting in the first place. But apparently I had mortally offended Merren, who until then had been my close friend, and she demanded restitution. Lots of the other kids were onside, and said I had to do it, for my honour. We were 16-year-olds in the second-last year of High School. It was arranged that we’d all meet after school to stage this bout, this duel, whatever it was.

There we were on the old gravel path behind the school, hidden by hedges. She and her supporters were lined up on one side, me and my pals on the other. I was glad I had a few pals; i was fairly new to this school, and indeed to this town. Someone asked offciously, in a booming voice, if I would apologise. I said I didn’t know what I was supposed to apologise for. ‘All right,’ said this adjudicator person, ‘Then you have to fight.’

We stood awkwardly, in our school uniforms, not knowing how to begin.  While I was still wondering, she stepped forward and threw the first, last and only punch.

I gasped and wept.

‘Are you satisfied?’ said the adjudicator to Merren. She declared she was, and we all broke up and straggled off to catch our buses home. We never did become friends again and I still don’t know what I did.

Writer's Journal (exercise): Revenge List: Nonexistent

I started to make a list of people I’d ‘like to pay back for perceived hurt’, as recommended by Carmel Bird in her memoir guide, Writing the Story of Your Life. I began with kids at school who were mean to me in various ways, progressed to relatives, went on to false friends and lovers, and finished with reprehensible strangers. At least, that was the plan. I didn’t get very far.

As I wrote down the names, I realised that either I had got my revenge at the time, or life had since dealt them such blows that I didn’t need to inflict extra, or in some cases neither of the above but I simply didn’t care any more. Mostly, it was the second alternative.

What it is to be 70! It is true what Mae West said (or was it Anita Loos?): ‘Time wounds all heels.’ You just have to live long enough to see it.

(To make an interesting memoir, though, I should probably tell some of those old stories.)

Friday, September 03, 2010

A Local Character

Out shopping the other day, I spotted her: one of the strange old ladies who can be seen wandering around Murwillumbah. I’m well acquainted with this particular one and don’t usually see her so externally; but catching sight of her unexpectedly like that, I realised how funny she looked. It wasn’t only the hair dyed an improbable shade, and the plethora of rings and necklaces. She was wearing a long black evening skirt topped by a casual, striped windcheater starting to fray a little at the seams. On her feet, incongruous under the skirt, were black socks and a pair of purple and white joggers.

I understood her rationalisation for this attire: all her trousers had got too tight and the skirt was the only thing she could wear comfortably just now. And she needed the nice warm top and the good, supportive shoes. Very sensible of course; just odd-looking.

Not that her friends seemed to care. I observed that those she bumped into as she did her errands didn’t appear to find her outfit remarkable, if they even noticed it at all. (Well, Mur’bah has always had a great tolerance of eccentric dress.) It was obvious that all they saw was her, the person. She was greeted with hugs and kind enquiries as to her welfare. I guess you can afford to be a little weird in the interests of comfort, in a town where people love you and see straight through to your inner being.

All the same, that sudden confrontation in a shop window was disconcerting. I think I’ll at least wear my black shoes next time!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

1000 Words A Day

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time. So I publicly committed to write 1000 words a day and immediately became paralysed.

No no, that's not really true; I'm always writing — which is why I thought it would be such a breeze. I write emails, I write verses, I write morning pages, I write notes, I write journal entries....  Alas, for the last few days, even including extraneous things like emails, I'd be lucky to write 200 words some days. You know how it is: life gets in the way.

True, some of my journal entries are longer than 1000 words, and at the time I took on this challenge I had just decided to take a break from poetry and create a journal-cum-memoir. That didn't last very long. The truth is, I like writing poems best of all, and to focus on prose very soon palls. Perhaps I should write my journal in poetry! Many years ago I showed a young man my notebook full of poems and he said, 'It's like a sort of diary in verse.' At the time I found the comment disappointing, but he was probably quite right. Perhaps I should capitalise on it.

But there's another reason why even a poem a day is not a good thing for me to commit to on a regular basis. Prose or poetry, I need to do a lot of editing and revising. The one journal entry I did complete and post here (the previous post) went through about eight drafts first and still it's nothing extraordinary. I have poems galore, but in recent years few of them have been revised. In the WordsFlow writing group, we've decided to up the ante and aim for excellence. A whole heap of adequate but mediocre pieces won't do. Excelsior!

So the 1000 Words A Day Challenge banner has come down. A useful idea, but not for me. If anyone feels it's for them, you can find the details at InkyGirl's blog.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


We are having a second day of taking it easy, flopping around in our nightwear with warm woollies on top. Yesterday we spent most of the day in bed. Our bedroom in this new home has become a sanctuary — even though it’s never completely uncluttered, because we avid readers and compulsive writers keep piling up books and notebooks on the bedside tables. It’s a small enough room to be cosy and big enough not to feel cramped. We look out through one wall of glass on to our private, enclosed little courtyard garden. Though it has been low priority so far and the weeds flourish, the potted geraniums are bursting out of their pots and blooming in bright pink, the big plant in the corner —whose name I’ve never learned in years of caring for it — has glossy new leaves, and the vines are thickening on the fence.

Today we have finally got out of bed, late morning, and sit at our respective computers in our respective offices. This whole house is our sanctuary. Like the bedroom, it is both spacious enough and compact enough, and the offices are not so far apart that we feel disconnected from each other. We get up and wander about between typing, get a cuppa, fetch a book, talk to each other in passing. The cats come and find comfortable spots near us. Usually Levi keeps Andrew company and Freya clings to me, but this varies. Sometimes they wander off to the places they like best of all: Freya on the bed, Levi beside the heater.

We’ve had heavy colds for days. I’m paranoid now about the slightest infection, after Andrew nearly dying of influenza a few weeks ago — but we’ve now had the flu injections for the first time ever, and we’re taking echinacea and zinc. The doctor couldn’t suggest anything else helpful. Giving in to it seems to be working. We try to remember to drink lots of water, we flake out and snooze as inclination takes us — we get tired often — and we avoid anything too energetic. Bare minimum housework, and nothing but pleasurable tasks on computer. The huge, loud, repeated sneezes that shook our whole bodies have pretty much stopped. The aches and pains are less acute.

I realise my body is trying to process and clear some stuff. ‘What are you two unpacking from other homes?’ asks a Reiki Master friend, and mentions a couple of places with unhappy memories for us. She’s right on the button as usual. I have indeed been doing the last of the unpacking and thoughts of those other homes have been arising, and even earlier homes in my earlier lives (as child, as young mother ...). As for Andrew, he has been sorting out his files and boxes of papers at last, and looking through photos; and I realise he has been mentioning his own past homes too. It is as if, now we’re settled in a place that we love and know is permanent, we can allow ourselves to relax enough to release old angst.

I think back on the homes we’ve shared, particularly the ones that weren’t so great. I see how brave and optimistic we were, knowing the drawbacks but — having to be there for a time — actively seeking and even creating positive aspects. We explored our neighbourhoods, found places to go for walks, set up our books and ornaments and our writing spaces ... and sadly, at the worst places, had to leave a lot of stuff in storage. That wasn’t what made them so bad, but it became part of the general dissatisfaction. Without going into ancient recriminations, I could sum it up as difficulties with places that were unsuitable in themselves but all we could find at the time, exacerbated by further difficulties in sharing those spaces with other people — a residential landlady in one instance, fellow tenants in another. As most of our homes have been delightful, we haven’t dwelt on the few bad memories; it seems it’s time to deal with them now.

I seldom remember my dreams these days, but the last couple of nights I’ve had dreams around the theme of home. I remember little of the first, but in last night’s dream I was returning to a large hostel where I have lived in recurring dreams. (In this dream, I didn’t live there all the time; it was a place where I rented a permanent room for times when I might want to stay overnight in town.) It was a while since I’d been there, and there had been extensive remodelling in my absence. I walked along what at first seemed the familiar corridor to my room, looking for the number — but a laundry had been installed halfway along, and girls in undies and hair curlers were dashing in and out to wash and iron their clothes, laughing and chatting to each other on the way. I became confused, and when I got to where I thought my room should be, there was a wrong number on the door.

I decided to leave, and went downstairs to the foyer and then outside. The hostel was on top of a cliff. There was a steep, sandy path leading down to a street below. I stood at the top of it, about to go down, when something made me turn my head to the left to look out over the sea. I gasped at the beauty of the view: hills, ocean, islands, horizon, sky; at once sunny and slightly misty. Some other women came up behind me to go down the path. I stood aside to let one go ahead of me. Two others waited politely for me, but I told them to go on because I wanted to look at the view. They turned to look too. ‘It is lovely, isn’t it?’ one said, before they went on. ‘Isn’t it ever!’ I replied. 

I don’t remember walking over to the edge of the cliff top, but next thing I was falling. I was falling very slowly, upright, and although it was a deep drop and I was probably about to die or be seriously injured, I was quite calm. I had some notion of making the most of what might be my last minutes. I kept moving my legs back and forth, with the idea that I might be able to catch the side of the cliff with my heels and find a footing. Another fast forward and I had come to rest at the bottom, sitting in a sandy hollow in the cliff wall, with my feet on one of those tubes that people put under their backs when exercising.

I looked again and realised it was actually a tube-shaped bag with a zip. I opened it and saw jumpers belonging to my [former] husband Bill and our schoolboy sons. [One of the jumpers does exist in real life, but Andrew and I got it in Peru long after Bill was dead and the boys grown up.] I saw that this bag was one of a number of items stowed under a low hedge at my feet. The beach disappeared and I was at home in the back yard. In the dream I knew it as the first home Bill and I and the kids had; now I realise it was actually much more like the home I lived in when I myself was a child.

How should I interpret this? There are suggestions there of several real-life homes besides the ones I mention, but no exact matches. It’s interesting, though, to recollect that I have a sort of parallel life, or more than one, in various series of recurring dreams. I become aware of this whenever I have another of those dreams; it always evokes the recall of others in the sequence. Then I forget again until next time. This time it aroused the waking memory of another series too, where I visit a particular shopping area tucked away behind main streets in a Melbourne suburb. I have a notion it‘s Prahran, but it might be Cheltenham. These dreams also contain a huge, sweeping, curving road I must drive on between this little shopping area and home, and there’s a fork that I have to be careful of because it’s confusing and a bad choice could take me miles in the wrong direction. I’m not altogether sure this is a dream, but it can’t logically be an accurate memory either; there were no such roads approaching Prahran or Cheltenham when I used to drive to either place. It’s more like one of the roads I could take home from Melbourne when I lived at Three Bridges in the Upper Yarra Valley. Maybe it’s a combination of two different recollections, or a dream series that has mixed them up.

[As an aside — I look back in wonder at all the driving I’ve done over the years, in what a variety of places and conditions. It’s amazing because I’ve been so shit-scared of driving most of my life, yet I did so much of it so successfully. Even today I don’t exactly take it for granted, but now that I’m the main driver in the family, I’ve become much more at ease with it. I see (again) that my past self was brave; also that my present self is competent.]

This home we love so much won’t quite accommodate all our remaining possessions; that’s becoming obvious. We’re having to make hard decisions now about things to discard or give away. Perhaps that’s what has led to this mental stocktaking of places I’ve lived, and griefs and trials associated with them, as well as fonder memories and things I find myself proud of. Or perhaps it is the knowledge that we won’t have to move again, and the very pleasure we take in this place, which occasion the looking back and putting into perspective all the ups and downs of the journey that brought us here.

Since I began writing this, our handyman mate Phil has come and put up a blind over the little bedroom window that looks out onto the street. The street is at the bottom of the sloping lawn, beyond our big back gate; even so we felt a bit exposed, and now we’re secure. He hung some canvas panels in the garage, which is taking shape as library / consulting room / temple: paintings of Indonesian dancers, which Bill and I picked up in Bali 47 years ago. I found them rolled up in a plastic bag the other day, in the course of unpacking the last boxes. It’s been years since I had a place to hang them and I’m glad to be able to look at them again.

They and other artefacts from Bali are mementoes not only of travels shared with Bill and our boys, but also of the house we lived in longest, where we first displayed them; the house where the kids grew from kindergarteners to university students.

‘You’ll have to get rid of that,’ said someone decades ago, of my precious coffee table. (I was moving house then, too.) I don’t know why she thought so, and I have it still. It’s big. It has a timber frame with no metal nails, just wooden bolts, and the top is ceramic tiles in burnt orange and darkest brown. (‘Of course she picks the most expensive one in the shop,’ said Bill when we bought it in 1972. And it was, but that wasn’t why I picked it; I just took one look and fell in love.)

The aforementioned residential landlady piled a heap of stored furniture on top of it in her shed when we lived with her — chairs and other tables, boxes full of crockery — even though she knew it was one of my treasures. ‘I thought it was solid,’ she said. It survived, but has been a bit wonky ever since. I don’t let anyone sit on it any more, though it invites sitting. Years before that, my very large dog took a chunk out of the corner one night when he was looking for something to chomp on. I was upset at the time, but it’s hard to notice the missing bit now, and when I do, I smile and think of my beautiful dog. That table has been with me in ten previous homes, and here it still is.

One of the first things we did here was put up pictures. Both our fathers were artists. My favourite painting by my Dad is above my desk. It is of Mt Roland in Tasmania, his and my favourite mountain while I was growing up, and for many years thereafter. (Mt Warning, near my present home, is my favourite now.) Andrew has his father’s etchings in his office and a photo of his father, himself and his brother sitting astride a cannon in a local park where he grew up. He’s at the front, being the littlest. He’s six, and he’s laughing with joy.

When we sit in our armchairs and watch TV in our well-heated house on these cold nights, I think back to evenings by the radio in Launceston when I was a girl, the whole family gathered around the fire. This is safe and warm like that.

Yes, we’ve arrived home: a home that partakes of all the homes before.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): The Watch

My grandfather wore a fob watch. It was silver, it was big, it was round, and the case was carved with strange symbols. I supopose they weren’t strange; perhaps they had pattern or meaning, maybe they were even words. But when I was little, they looked like arcane curlicues, magickal and mysterious. He wore it in his pocket on a little chain. His waistcoat pocket, that is. He always wore a waistcoat under his jacket, and over his shirt. He would fish the watch out of his pocket by the chain, click open the case by the little snib thing at the bottom of the circle, and look at the face, which had large, black Roman numerals. He did this several times a day. It had a formality to it, this slow series of actions, a deliberateness. Time was obviously very important, and the knowing of the time.

How I loved that watch! I coveted it. I hoped my Grandpa would leave it to me when he died. Not that I wanted him to die; he was my great companion who told me stories and went for walks with me, pointing out the shapes of the hills, the colours of flowers, the kinds of trees we passed. He was in a sense my playmate, only we didn't play games, we played with ideas and shared experiences of the world. That was when I was little, of course. When I got older, he wrote me letters on his typewriter; long letters about all sorts of things much too old for a little girl to understand, like politics and art — but I did understand and reply. He also gave me many of the books I grew up on, for birthdays and xmases: I read most of Dickens and Dumas as a child, and the Bronte sisters too, all presents from Grandpa,

He did die, when he was over 80, and he didn’t leave me his watch. I don't think he had any idea that I’d have wanted it, but in any case it would surely still have gone, as it did, to my Uncle Ian. He left me his typewriter, because everyone knew I was going to be a writer when I grew up — in fact that I already was one, even as a child. It was a big black Remington and I loved it. I still see it in my head without even trying; and I can still see his watch too, and him taking it out of his pocket to look at the time. I always wear a watch myself except in bed or under the shower. Not for me the New Age disdain for telling the time, the leaving off of watches.  I know that time and the telling of it is very important.

Like so many, I am writing my memoirs, or at least bits and peices that may become that if I persevere and do enough of them. This too is a way of telling the time, and telling about my times, and my Grandpa’s times, and my Grandpa himself. Strange, he wasn't my Grandpa — as my cousin who was his true granddaugher was keen to remind me — only my step-grandpa. I didn’t care, nor did he. To him, my Mum was his daughter and I was his grand-daughter anyway.

That cousin was a child of his only actual daughter, and she loved to claim that true inheritance. She must have felt insecure in some way, I realise now, but at the time I just thought she was being nasty. (Well, she was.) Late in life, she had a lovely studio portrait of Grandpa copied, and gave copies to her sister and brother but not to me or to my other cousins who were also his step-grandchildren. For years I begged her to give me a copy; she always swore she would but never did. She’s dead herself now and I could ask her widower, and he probably wouldn’t have a problem with giving me a copy at last. But after all, I don’t need it. I was the oldest grandchild, the one he took for walks and wrote to. He probably did that for all the rest too, but that's beside the point. The point is that I need nothing to remember him vividly. I don't even need a copy of that studio portrait. My parents got a copy at  the time, and I can see it just by thinking — a white-haired man, dark-skinned and smiling.

Interesting, that dark skin. I often wonder of he was Anglo-Indian too, like my Nana, even though they met in England. He went back to India with her after they married and that's where Aunty Franki, my cousins’ mother (my Mum's half-sister), was born.

‘My cousin’ I say, as if she was the only one. She was the sibling cousin.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): The Emerald Ring

I remember the emerald that Mum used to wear, a big square cut emerald in a ring on her right hand. Her left hand was for the wedding and engagement rings. She was a woman of taste, my mother, and wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing rings on every finger as her daughter now does.

I loved that emerald ring! So did she. We used to look at it together, at the way it caught the light, at the way it was cut with a sort of double edge inside the gold setting. We were both upset when one of those edges got a chip. Even then, it was many years later that I realised my mother’s ring was glass, and that she must have been well aware of that all along. But she used to call it ‘my emerald’ and I knew that dad gave it to her. I now have a different interpretation of the way she smiled when she said  to her friends, ‘My emerald,’ flashing the ring. They would have known too, of course, and openly. It was a little joke between them as they agreed it was a beautiful ring. It was. I can still see it now, that deep green — and the size of it. A real emerald of that size would have been worth a great fortune.

My mother’s opal ring was real enough, but it was a doublet, two pieces of opal stuck together. It was deep blue and green. I liked fire opals best, still do, but Mum’s opal was very beautiful. She didn’t wear that often; it lived in a drawer. She always said she would leave it to me, but one day when my Aunty Kathleen was admiring it, Mum had a sudden fit of largesse and said, ‘Here, have it.’ Years later she said, You wil leave it to Rosemary, won’t you?’ Aunty Kathleen did, but by then it was not what it had been. No-one told her she shouldn’t put it in water. With a doublet, that changes the glue so that it shows through and ruins the look of the stone. I still have Mum’s opal ring, but I don’t wear the poor, pale, discoloured thing.

I wonder what happened to the emerald? Perhaps she threw it away after she and my dad divorced. She could have had real emeralds in her second marriage, but she went for diamonds instead. She left me her three-diamond ring which she was so pleased to have bought in Singa[ore for much less than she believed it was worth. It is an impressive ring, but when I wanted to raise some money recently I found that I couldn’t sell it. No-one is buying diamonds that size now. They are quite big, but not big enough.

All in all, I think the great big green glass ring was probably the best value, in terms of the pleasure it gave.

Writer's Journal: Easy Writer

Forgot it was Tuesday for tanka. Did it halfway through the arvo. Not a great tanka, though interesting enough, I think — but it was incredibly easy to write something that fitted the form.  Not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Dear Ghost

I looked at the date and saw it was his birthday, again. I smiled at my dear ghost and wrote him a little poem about remembering his eyes — his eyes which I always likened to the summer ocean. He was all sun, it seemed to me: light and warmth, shining. Yet in truth he had little warmth or light in his young life, my 24-year-old love who did not live to be 25, choosing to leave eight days earlier.

That was in 1982. This year, 2010, was the first of all the years since then that I missed noticing the anniversary of his death. But my body remembered and gave me a cold. My psyche remembered and gave me a sudden loss of delight. From one moment to the next, the world was drained of all colour, all meaning. I should have remembered then.

After he died I got my ears pierced. Before, I had always thought of that as self-mutilation; afterwards I wanted some visible, permanent sign that everything was irrevocably changed. This time, not consciously, not on purpose, I got my hair cut very short — too short. It will grow again, of course. As for the earrings, they long ago became personal adornment, not a symbol of grief.

On Friday I saw the psychologist. I told her about my present love, my 81-year-old love, coming close to death in the last two months and slowly recovering. I relived my distress and fear. It seemed more than enough to account for my symptoms. I cried in her office for most of the hour and walked out with a new lightness.

Then I was able to recall the recent anniversary: the death that did happen, after which nothing was ever the same again. I was able to see that these two occasions of pain, these two far-apart winters, had become emotionally entwined.

He came to me several times after he died. At first he contacted a psychic friend who would get in touch and tell me the messages; then I began using this friend as a medium, asking questions over a cuppa and receiving what answers there were. Finally I could see and hear him myself, without needing a third party. I was not reconciled to what had happened, but I understood it better. I still took many months to move through the stages of grief, even though I set out to experience them fully. I thought that plunging right in would get me out the other side quicker, and I’m still certain I was right. But it wasn't very quick.

I went for long walks alone, talking to him in my head. My psychic friend told me that our grief keeps the souls of the dead from moving on immediately. ‘Too bad,’ I told my dead love, talking to him in my head as I walked. ‘You chose to go; you owe me my grief.’ I walked through one of the longest, hottest summers on record. I barely noticed the heat.

One day, next autumn, the world regained its radiance. I saw life shining in grass and leaf; the sun and sky had colour. Not that I didn’t still mourn, but I could be in life again; I was back.

For many years it was as others too have described their own situations: not a day went by that I didn’t think of him. Even now, it still happens often. The emotion accompanying the thoughts gradually changed. It’s always love, that doesn’t change; but now I can think of him with happiness. My husband’s recent danger brought back the old pain; I know too well already what it’s like to lose the most important person in my life. Perhaps it’s good that I’ve had a little preview. Last time the death was a shock as well as a sorrow. I sat down with a cup of coffee one Saturday afternoon and opened a newspaper, and there was the headline. (No-one knew that I was someone who might need to have it broken to me ... but there, how do you break such news anyway?) Next time — if I don‘t go first — well, I have been prepared.

Meanwhile, about to go to bed just after midnight last night, I noticed today’s date: his birthday. I’ve come out the other side of grief yet again. I smiled at my dear ghost and wrote him a loving poem, a birthday gift. Did my thoughts call him to me this time too, or was it simply a memory? No matter. Love never dies.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): Un-Australian

Well, that’d be my Mum for starters. Migrated from India with her family when she was 15.  She was Anglo-Indian, not dark-skinned, so people heard her accent and not only the English bit — she went to boarding school in England from the age of 7. People still ask me sometimes if I’m English. I must have absorbed something of Mum’s way of speaking. And yet she lived in Australia from the age of 15 until she died at 83. She said that in Austraia she was taken for English, and when she went back to England on a visit, everyone said how Australian she sounded.

When did she go from being a foreigner to being an Aussie? Oh yes, I suppose she and her family got naturalised and all that; she was certainly an Austraian citizen. But don’t some of the other nationalities who come here get naturalised too? It still doens't make them Aussies in the eyes of their critics.

We love to have peoople to hate for their difference. I remember when I was a kid, it was the I-ties. Now they are old stock, many gneerations here.

I always say I’m dinkum cos I was born here — but I don’t drink beer or tea, don’t bet on the Melborne Cup, prefer poetry to sport, and don’t profess to be Christian.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): The Getting of Wisdom

Boring book, I thought. Didm’t see why it was such an Australian classic. And the movie wasn’t much better. The only intersting thing about it was when my stepsister told me it was based on PLC in Melbourne, where she went to school. She was another boarding school child like my own Mum. Anway, she didn’t seem to have got much wisdom from going to PLC. My stepmother later sent her to a finishing school with a domestic emphasis, called Invergowrie. There Merrie learned how to drink and smoke, and how to wear thick tights under your long evening gown in winter (they had to dress for dinner, you see).

Not much wisdom to be got there either. Mind you, I wasn't much wiser with my State School education. I was unwise enought to ask Merrie to teach me how to smoke so that I could be sophisticated. Took me 30 years to kick that habit. I don't suppose it made me look sophisticated anyway. It's very hard to bring that off the way they did in the old movies — even when I used a long  cigarette holder and smoked Black Russian Sobranies. I now rather think I probably only looked silly.

The getting of wisdom, I think, has to come with time and experience. If I’ve got any, it arrived by dint of growing older and having stuff happen to me, and having to figure out ways to deal with it. 

I doubt if school is the place where you find it. You get information, some if it useful.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): A Time to Dance

That’s when I’m all by myself with time to spare. I love to dance, but apparently I have no sense of timing, no rhythm. I never knew that when I was little and used to dance in front of the wireless. My parents must have been too kind to tell me. But later I discovered it all right; other people told me. So I dance alone, not on a dance floor if I can help it. Sometimes one can’t help it; there are dinner parties and things where you pretty much have to if you’re asked. ‘I’m a really bad dancer,’ I used to say discouragingly, but some men aren’t to be put off. ‘Oh you can dance with ME.’ The only one of whom that was true was my first husband, Don. He had cups and medals for ballroom dancing and could make even me look good and even feel good some of the time. Only he knew how hard he gad to work for that and what a relief it was for the poor man to occasionally have a dance with someone who know how to do it.

But dancing alone is great. I put on Janis Joplin very loud: Mercedes Benz and Me and Bobby McGhee and go for my life with a broom a partner, or maybe no partner at all. I sing along too, loudly under cover of the even louder music, and no matter that I can’t sing in tune either.

Everyone can dance, say people who can, and everyone can sing. But just the other day when I was singing along to something and thinking I was getting it right for once, Andrew said plaintively, ‘I wish you could sing in tune.’ Not half as much as I wish it, dear!

I love to sing almost as much as I love to dance, In my next life I might decide to be a singer or a dancer or even both. But would I swap for being a writer? Not on your Nelly! In poetry I can find rhythms, and create song. Well, true I write free verse or syllabics most of the time, but still the choice is there.

Many poets in fact liken the act of making poems to dancing. Myself, not being a natural dancer, I see it more as a form of sculpture. It’s about separating out the poem from the stuff around it, the blank stone if you like, or the empty air, or the babble of other miscellaneous words. I am babbling now. Time to dance; I need it soon. Haven’t danced in ages. Unfortunately Janis is on 33rpm; I’ll have to find a CD.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Walking Around Murwillumbah

It’s a sunny winter Saturday morning, so glorious that it feels like autumn. The little town of Murwillumbah is a bit quieter than it would be on a weekday, though there are still people out and about. It’s not too hard to find a parking space.

Walking up towards the Post Office, I peep into Crystal Treasures next to the Regent Cinema, and wave at Priya, who’s behind the counter today. She waves and smiles back.  We’ve known each other a long time, as fellow Reiki channels with mutual friends. If we’d met out in the street, we’d have stopped for a hug; and often do.

Then I come to the tiny vacant block past the NRMA, and there’s a young girl with mysterious cloth bundles of stuff on the ground around her. She’s wearing skin-tight, black three-quarter pants, and a purple singlet top with a black overlay.  Her hair is in braids with black and purple ribbons. Around her slender hips she’s twirling a hoop with a big, glittery bow tied on. Practising, I think.

‘I love your hair,’ she exclaims.

It’s very deep purple today. I did the colour yesterday and it was the last of the bottle so I put a bit more on than usual, using it all up.

‘I love your whole outfit,” I say.

We draw closer to each other. She admires my amethyst drop earrings, touching them gently. I tell her a friend made them for me.

‘I have a big thing for purple,’ she says.

‘Oh, me too!’

I ask what she’s up to, and she tells me she’s a performer. She indicates her fire sticks amongst the bundles. We wish each other a good day, beaming, and I move on. There’s a  big feather lying right in my path, which I take as a sign from the Universe that this was no accidental meeting. I think that on my way back I’ll give her one of my cards, expecting that by then she’ll be set up and doing her thing in the little vacant block.

In the IGA store, I’m standing at the counter with my purchases and a voice says, ‘Hello, beautiful Scorpio woman!’  There’s Tanya next in the queue, smiling into my eyes. I met her years ago when I was doing psychic readings in the Sunday markets. She consulted me a number of times thereafter, at my market stall and sometimes also for private readings at my home. Over the years I’ve seen her grow from an uncertain, self-doubting girl into a vibrant, self-actualising woman who has solved her dilemmas and no longer feels a need for guidance. We walk out of the shop together, chatting a little, before going our separate ways. She lives close enough now, she says, to walk into town and back. I say that I’m just a bit far for that; it’d be quite a hike.

‘Ah,’ she says, ‘You get to come in and see people and then go back to your lovely quiet.’ She’s got a point.

I walk back past the vacant block, and it’s empty. The performer and all her bundles have disappeared. Now that I come to think of it, it wouldn’t have been a great spot for busking; not many passers-by in that location, on a Saturday morning in Murwillumbah. A lesson: I should have acted on the impulse to give her my card as soon as I thought of it, instead of waiting. Never mind; what is, is — and it’s still a warming memory. If we are meant to connect further, the Universe will arrange another opportunity.

Instead, Del comes walking towards me. I’ve known her since we were in a singing workshop together, oh years and years ago; I can’t remember how many. The workshop didn’t cure my tin ear, but it was lots of fun because Trish, the leader, created all sorts of innovative exercises for us including dressing up, dancing, swimming nude in the local creek, and doing some Goddessy rituals. I made friendships that have lasted ever since.

Del is what you’d call an ‘older woman’ but I have no idea how old. Probably younger than me (almost everyone is, lol). She has looked just the same in all the years I’ve known her: not young, but getting no older in any respect as far as I can see. One thing is different nowadays, though — her hair has a vivid pink streak across the top and front. Del is in a band that plays around town and visits local events such as the Sunday markets. They all dress in glamorous, outrageous costumes of basic black with lots and lots of knock-your-eyes-out red. Each person’s outfit is different, and together they are a joyous, exciting spectacle. Many times in my market days they would parade past my stall, half marching half dancing, playing their instruments, then stop somewhere where there was space to collect a crowd and give a brief performance.

I often wear vibrant colours myself, with lots of red and purple, and these days I have this purple hair which fades to auburn and then cherry between dyeings. Del likes to tell me I should be in the band too, the way I dress. Our affection goes back further than our bright hair days. We too tend to greet in the street with delighted hugs, as we do now.

‘How are you, darling?’ we ask each other. She tells me she’s having a walk in the sun. Like Tanya, she lives close enough to walk into town — and like Patsy, my Chinese-Australian friend whom I bumped into last Sunday when I ducked in quickly (by car) for a few items. I wrote a lune (a form of Western haiku) about that encounter:

Went to town.
There was Patsy walking around
in the sun.

These are people with whom I have seldom socialised. Not that we wouldn’t if occasion arose, but it doesn’t seem to matter. We’re just always thrilled to see each other, and go on our ways warmed by the encounters. It’s one of the great pleasures of Murwillumbah, to have these chance meetings with both close friends and, as today, fond acquaintances. There’s always the moment of pleased surprise, the kiss or hug, the exchange of news great or small, whether we saw each other only yesterday or three years ago. It will be the same with the young performer, if I bump into her again. The link is made.

People frequently ask us how we are liking our new home.

‘We love it!’ we say. ‘And it’s so good to be back in town.’

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Occupation: Poet

My friend Helen Patrice (aka Satyapriya) is at present on retreat somewhere in North America. This is a recent blog post from her, which she says I may share here:

Sitting above the valley of the creek, I am writing in my journal. A woman stops being dragged about the park by her black dog, and we chat. She smiles at me indulgently.
"So, what do you do?"
"I'm a poet."
I let it hang there, for the first time ever. No adding on 'dance tutor' or 'yogini' or 'columnist' or 'single mother'.
An even more indulgent smile from her. "And what does your husband think of that?"
It is obvious that, to her, I fancy myself a poet in my off hours, and am a lucky, indulged stay-at-home wife. She is having a day off work while the office hires professional movers to shift everything to a new building. She WORKS.
I do not have a husband. Have not had one for 16 years. I oscillate between wanting one, and not.
The man I am living with these past ten days could pass as a husband if I let him. Very occasionally I think of him that way, when my mind slips out of gear, and I let down my pointed, jagged guard.
"He likes it just fine," I say. "I earn my keep."
I do not earn much from poetry. I earn something from being a columnist. I once was paid $150 for a ten line poem. If I could get that every day, I'd be laughing.
That shuts her up. She sees only that I am sitting in the sunshine, on a yoga mat, looking out over the valley, a packet of cherries and a bottle of water by my side.
She does not see that every day I wrestle with my pen and page to make them sketch out, in wordplay, the feeling in my head. My arm muscles are the match of any man's, so hard is my work. At the end of each day, if I am lucky, is a pale resemblance to what was inside, and I am empty of anything but the touch of the Goddess. If I am not lucky, I have before me a twitching wretched mess that has no life but will not die.
There is no holiday pay, no sick leave, no bereavement days.
I would have no other job.
The woman and her black dog walk on.


I want to share it because:
a) I think it’s a lovely piece of writing.
b) I like what she says about the job of being a poet.
c) I’m astounded that, in this day and age, the woman who spoke to her would really ask such a question as, ’What does your husband think of that?’  Shocked, I commented that if feminism is not dead, it’s obviously pretty weak. A fellow-Aussie reminded me that such a comment would be unlikely in her neck of the woods, where people would probably be much more interested in the poem being written. True. I acknowledge in relief that it is a most unlikely comment anywhere in Australia, from anyone. I can’t imagine anyone even thinking like that any more. Even so, it still seems amazingly backward for North America, too. Please tell me it’s atypical!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Why Blog My Poetry?

My blog on MySpace had had 30957 views last time I looked. Those people have given me ‘kudos’ for my writing only 1386 times, and I have received only 2130 comments. Some have been from the same people returning over and over again. Even so, I think that’s a lot more people than would find and like my poetry in any in-print Australian literary magazine.

My MySpace blog includes prose and has been going for four years. On Blogger I have three blogs just for poetry: a haiku page, a page of ‘verse portraits’ and a page for poetry in general. The haiku page was started in January 2007 and has received 736 visitors. The verse portraits began in June 2008 and have had 752 visitors. I started The Passionate Crone, where I post all my other poetry, in May 2006 and it has had 6973 visitors to date (already 30 this month, so far). Again, some are the same people returning many times; some visitors don’t stay to read for very long; and many more visit than actually comment.

These figures are ridiculously small compared to the traffic some other kinds of blogs have, with thousands of hits a day. For poetry, however, it’s a high readership, and it comes from all over the world. I have readers in India, Africa, Argentina, China (to name just a few) and all over Europe, as well as thick concentrations in Australia, New Zealand, all the north American countries, and Britain. This exceeds my wildest pre-internet dreams.

But is it only that I can’t get published in reputable journals? Admittedly I don’t try very often, but when I do, I don’t have any trouble being accepted. (I do, however, prefer online journal publication too, these days.) In previous decades I was widely published in prestigious places; also the people who now comment favourably on my work include poets whose own work I love and admire. Yes, every poetaster can now get a blog and a host of enthusiastic readers to go with it; lovers of real poetry can still discriminate.

There are blogging poets with readerships and reputations far higher than mine. Some of them publish mostly in blogs nowadays; others use their blogs as adjuncts to their print publications. Some of us put our first drafts on our blogs and submit our revised work for publication in journals. Some go straight from blogs to chapbooks, and it seems that enough of their blog readers want to have the work in book form to make that worthwhile.

Somewhere in the mix is performance, for decades a good way of getting your work known and building up a following. It still is, and often the two things go together. Many of the blogging poets I know are also performers. I seldom do that any more, though I was a high-profile performer in the past. I moved to a small town where poetry performances are a few hours’ drive away in various directions. Although from time to time people have tried to get things going locally, so far they haven’t lasted. And I’m older now, and don’t much like driving for hours through the night for any reason. I rely more and more on the blogs.

However, you can surely do both, and submit to journals and publish books as well, and they will all enhance each other. Even I still do a little bit of performing, submit to journals occasionally, and am gradually creating some chapbooks. Blogging doesn’t have to be a substitute for other kinds of exposure, but along with performance it has become one of the first and easiest places to get your work ‘out there’.

It’s good from a reader’s point of view, too. I love being able to read the latest pieces by my favourite poets with just a couple of clicks.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Wendy Rule Concert at The Castle on the Hill

Last Friday I went with the Beloved Spouse and some dear friends to a Wendy Rule concert, one night only, at The Castle on the Hill. That’s a venue and b&b built by three artists, two of whom are good friends of Andrew’s and mine. It is also their home. (They can truly say, ‘My home is my castle.’) When Thom the poet did a gig there recently, it reminded him of Montsalvat in the Melbourne hills. Indeed it is very reminiscent — but whereas Montsalvat is a Great Hall plus a number of small dwellings and outbuildings, this is all one building, full of comfort as well as artistry.

I’ve adored Wendy’s music for years, but this was the first time I’d had a chance to attend a live performance. I have been astounded to discover how many Aussies don’t know who Wendy Rule is. Hell-o-o-o-! Internationally famous singer-songwriter, with one of the most gorgeous voices around. But of course she’s not mainstream pop. Melbourne people are somewhat more likely to know. She lives in Melbourne when she’s not touring. The Pagan community all know who she is: she is also a very high profile witch, who conducts workshops and is known for casting circle on stage.

It was a cold night, but with many bodies in the room it was soon cosy. The room fits 80 at a squeeze, and the event was sold out. Some of us sat on chairs around the walls; most people brought cushions and filled the floor. We could see glimpses of the dark gardens through the walls of windows. Wendy’s voice, alone and unaccompanied, is even more glorious than on disc. Mostly she played a guitar, several times sang without even that. We all felt it to be a magickal experience, and Wendy loved the venue so much that she wants to come back in a few months. And yes, she cast circle, with incense and song, before she began, and opened it again after the concert finished. When casting, at first she made a mistake in the directions. She giggled at herself and said without embarrassment, ‘I must be thinking I’m in the Northern Hemisphere. Let’s do that again.’

She comes across as warm and real, no visible egotism. She told us she’s just started sewing again, and had made the lovely, floaty, green and gold gown she was wearing. We applauded. (Oh, and did I mention that she’s incredibly beautiful?) She sang a song she had written for her son on his 18th birthday, and mentioned his recent party with ‘a back yard full of teenagers’. She sang a lot of songs from her new CD. This was the very first night of a tour to promote it. And she also did some of my old favourites: Wolf Sky, Animus, Horses.... When we wouldn’t let her go without an encore, she chose an early, powerful piece, Zero.

‘Let’s raise some energy,’ she said at that point. As she sang, we could feel the energy rising. ‘What shall we cast a spell for?’ she asked, adding immediately, ‘I know — freedom!’ And so we did. She chanted the words; we joined our will to hers. ‘Freedom for all living things,’ she declared.

There have been some interesting repercussions. Andrew said he experienced a major shift in knowing who he is. He felt uplifted, and that she had touched his soul with her beautiful songs, performed alone in that magickal venue — an event unique in the whole world. He described his experience in detail next day to a friend who was there too. The friend said, ‘You’ve had a shamanic death’ and proceeded to relate his own very dramatic shamanic death experience after the concert. Both men came out of this with a new freedom from certain oppressive conditions in their lives.

As for me — for four years I have hosted a popular online site called Haiku on Friday at MySpace. It’s been a joy as well as a commitment. Suddenly I realised I didn’t want to keep working within the haiku form; I don’t want to be bound by those particular rules any more. I handed it over to a couple of other haikuists. This morning I visited to cheer them on and contribute not a haiku but another short form called a lune. I noticed that I enjoyed being released from my duty to Haiku on Friday too, liking the freedom to come along as just one of the mob. There was a new pleasure, and leisure, in being on MySpace simply as myself.

Post-Script:  In our friends’ photos taken at Wendy’s concert, many spirit orbs are revealed, hovering over us all. One of the said friends has kindly provided the link to the photos on facebook: here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Silent Prayer

Found on the Wild Women page on facebook and reposted with permission:

In my heart, I accept my perfect Being.
I accept that the joy that I have intended is already in my life.
I accept that love I have prayed for is already within me.
I accept that the peace I have asked for is already my reality.
I accept that the abundance I have sought already fills my life...

In my truth, I accept my perfect Being.
I take responsibility for my own creations,
And all things that are within my life.
I acknowledge the power of Spirit that is within me,
And know that all things are as they should be.

In my wisdom, I accept my perfect Being.
My lessons have been carefully chosen by my Self,
And now I walk through them in full experience.
My path takes me on a sacred journey with divine purpose.
My experiences become part of All That Is.

In my knowingness, I accept my perfect Being.
In this moment, I sit in my golden chair
And know that I Am an angel of light.
I look upon the golden tray - the gift of Spirit -
And know that all of my desires already have been fufilled.

In love for my Self, I accept my perfect Being.
I cast no judgment or burdens upon my Self.
I accept that everything in my past was given in love.
I accept that everything in this moment comes from love.
I accept that everything in my future will result in greater love.

In my Being, I accept my perfection.
And so it is.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In the Moment: Poetry with Thom

‘Zen means now,’ said my Tai Chi teacher this morning. ‘All you have is this moment, now.’

I don’t know if my old friend and colleague Thom would claim to be practising Zen, but he too says exactly that: ‘All you have is this moment, now.’  On Friday I heard him reiterate it in the workshop he gave to WordsFlow writers’ group, and again during his performance that evening at The Castle on the Hill (Uki, Australia).  On both occasions he was ably abetted by his pal Bob Mud, poet/musician/mud artist, whom he’s known even longer than he’s known me.

                             Thom in perfomance; some of Bod Mud's mud art displayed on floor.

I’ve known Thom since he was Tom the Street Poet in Melbourne, handing out flyers of poetry — his own and other people’s — on street corners. He was also Dial-a-Poet; people could phone his number and he’d create lines of poetry for them on the spot.  I always thought he had recorded several poetic messages — but no, I found out on Friday that he actually answered the phone personally, in poetry.

Years after we both left Melbourne, I came across him again as Thom the World Poet, living now in Austin, Texas and travelling the world to present and encourage poetry. (And yes, he's changed his name again — so as to remain unattached to identity, I gather.) After marrying an American woman and going to live in Texas, he started poetry evenings in a number of Austin coffee lounges, and was one of four poets who began the Austin International Poetry Festival. These initiatives have grown and grown.

During his performance last Friday evening, he wove in chunks of his life story — but actually it was full of other people’s stories, because that’s what Thom loves to find and share. It’s his way of encouraging us to find and share our own.

He grew up in Brisbane. As a young man in Nimbin at the first Aquarius Festival, he saw all these people sitting listening to the musicians and was suddenly moved to stand up and chant, over and over: ‘This is your life. Don’t waste your time. Get up and dance.’ To his astonishment, everyone did. He thought, ‘This is what I want to do with my life’ — and that’s how he became an improv. poet, often working with bands.  On Friday it was Bob who backed him, with various instruments and his ‘soundscape’ recordings of wild birds in the bush.

One band that Thom worked with over the years was Gong. Daevid Allen of Gong came up to see him for a few minutes after the workshop on Friday afternoon, the only time they could manage to connect this trip. Andrea, also of Gong, came to the workshop and then to the performance that night.  (I got to know both of them through Thom on his earlier visits to this part of the world.)

Independently of Thom, I’ve become pally with a local muso who moved from England a few years ago to marry a friend of mine. Mic, known as Cosmic, turned out to be a Gong member too, who knows both Thom and Daevid well. He came to the gig at The Castle to reconnect, and to help with the sound system. Thom was visibly touched to have so many Gong reunions in one day.

                               Mic, Thom and me after the performance at The Castle

Poetry, he once said to me, is the last bastion of free speech, because in our society no-one fears it; the authorities pay no attention to it. It’s where the young in particular can communicate and express themselves freely. The Austin coffee lounges are full of young poets … and older ones. But it’s not violent expression that Thom encourages. On Friday he mentioned that he is not a revolutionary; he tries for evolution. He added that he ‘failed hippy’ — he’s allergic to lentils and he doesn’t smoke dope.

He told us stories of his friend Bob Mud (Bob’s professional name) running a commune in Melbourne for homeless people decades ago, and nowadays showing children how to make art with mud and become close to the earth. Then Bob spoke to us himself about the virtues of mud (you can wash with it, it keeps insects away, it’s free, it has no chemicals) and read us some of his own poems.

Irene, of The Castle, hosted the evening at short notice as a favour to me, after another venue that I was negotiating didn’t work out. I should have asked her first; it was a wonderful setting. And the evening was a revelation to her about what poetry could be. ‘He’s such a showman!’ she whispered to me in admiration, as Thom held the audience enthralled, and, ‘He’s teaching all the time.’

So he was — e.g. in the reminder to live now, to honour this moment, to pay attention and respond to everything in our lives. He doesn’t just promote his own poetry, he hopes to inspire poetry in everyone else too. 

He is very inspiring!

When Thom gives a performance, people in the audience get an urge to share their own poetry and music. As always, it happened at The Castle too, in an atmosphere of ease and welcome.

Poetry’s not going to save the world, is it? After that mellow evening, I could almost believe it might. I certainly experienced again its power to nourish individuals.

Thom, who is always making poems, wrote many new ones during this quick visit to Australia. (He was here for family reasons and took the opportunity for some poetry events as well.)  Here is one I particularly like, which he wrote as he was leaving the country a few days ago. You have to imagine it half-chanted, which is how he speaks his poems.

Taking Australia Home

packed a rainforest in my carryon
(no liquids allowed!-had to leave @home
boxes of meat pies containing australian fauna
(no worries mate!     organic materials A O K!
next-a wild river to swim in(disallowed @Customs
rock(ok),rainbow(yes)serpent(not allowed for export)
began to realise my country failed translation
at least in a moving plane medium
so i carry this dream of my country-
hidden in the crevices of my pocketed mind
and i sit with you around bush campfires exchanging yarns
we both laugh like larrikins
at the disappearance of traditions
first the original people,next the imports
soon even the refugees will be asking to takeaway art
to explain to families why they live on the dry lip of deserts
Shales of initiations remind us of dreaming trails
and if the real will not do-representation will have to
not Parliament as such(nor even Independence)-
just these memories of uniqueness
like screaming cockatoos or seed seeking galahs
like cyclones and willy-willies and old fella yarns
like a land that was here long before and after us
this Dream is yours now-how will you explain this to others?

Thom Moon Bird

Sunday, May 09, 2010

You Can Tell a Foodie

I was thinking about getting up and cutting myself a slice of tasty cheese from the block in the fridge, when a plane went over, sounding ominously close. I had a moment of paranoia, as you do — what if the terrorists are striking and these are my last seconds of life?

My next thought was, ‘Well, I’ll have that piece of cheese before I die!’

So I did. And didn’t die this time. :)

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Woman in the Hat

One reason I love Murwillumbah is that in some respects it reminds me of the Launceston of my childhood (which has grown and changed since then). There are streets and buildings which ring bells for me, and there’s the way you can’t go to Coles without running into half a dozen people you know and stopping for a chat.

I also love the scenic beauty, the sub-tropical climate, and the fact that this is a powerful energy centre, as many people who live here recognise and even take for granted — a claim I don’t intend to substantiate here and now, but may elaborate on at some stage.

Another reason is that it’s the place where, as I like to tell people, it’s cool to be daggy. (‘Daggy’ is an Australian word that defies translation; the closest you could come might be to translate it as ‘uncool’. So you see, there is a paradox involved.) It’s certainly a place where my spiky purple hair, psychedelic tops and rows of knuckle-duster rings occasion few remarks, all of them approving.

So I thought I’d start an occasional series of Murwillumbah vignettes, to celebrate this unique town.

A joyous encounter stays with me: that woman we saw coming out of Vinnie’s the other day. [The St Vincent de Paul op shop.] We’d never seen her before, in 16 years of walking around Murwillumbah. She was old, small, thin, with a faded taupe shirt, limp black pants, and wispy grey hair — surmounted by the most glorious hat. Its huge brim was covered in colourful flowers; rich, improbable colours. We stopped in delight and exclaimed how beautiful it was.

‘Did you make it?’ Andrew asked. Yes, she had. I told her that I don’t wear hats, but if I did I’d want one just like that.

‘I wouldn’t wear hats either,’ she said, ‘If I had hair like yours.’ She said to Andrew, ‘Isn’t she colourful? You’ve made a good choice!’  And wandered off, tiny as a fairy, dull as depression, yet crowned by this wondrous hat, which looked as though it must be too big but fitted perfectly.

She was a mystery.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Photos of the new home

Now that we've been here four months, have NEARLY finished unpacking and getting books on shelves, and have already rearranged the furniture somewhat ...

We took some photos. They are stored on Photobucket. Go and have a look! (To be truthful, they were taken a few weeks ago and show our old white car. I must put up some photos of the new red one!)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Homophobia Is Still With Us

Background (especially for non-USA people). It seems there was a teenage girl who wanted to take her girlfriend to the prom and wear a tux. School said no, girl took school to court, school was deemed discriminatory.  School cancelled prom; court said that was OK. Rumour of secret prom to which everyone was invited except girl. Girl expressed her upset on TV.

Well, I think that’s how it goes. I wasn’t there and didn’t see the TV coverage. The first I knew about it was when, on a social networking site — no, not THAT one — someone said the girl was welcome to her alternative lifestyle but shouldn’t be shoving it down other people’s throats.

To which someone else posted the comment below. I shared his outrage, was moved and horrified by his experiences, and loved his eloquence so much that he is now my cyberfriend and has given me permission to repost this:

Being a homosexual is NOT an 'alternative lifestyle'. How dare you? How FUCKING DARE YOU???!!!

Shoving her alternative lifestyle down other's throats? How about you choke on this? While I lay in a darkened room twice a week, being pumped full of poisonous chemicals that just might kill my tumor before either the tumor or the poison kills. oh say ME, I am allowed to have my Mother by my side.

But my boyfriend? (Boyfriend, a high school term if there ever was one, but in West Virginia he will never be allowed to be my husband.) My boyfriend, the man who has stood by my side for three years, who held my left hand while I held my father's hand in my right as they took him off life support, the man who holds my hair out of my face while I puke every know where he is during my treatments...during my biopsies... the hall. In a metal folding chair, with no rights whatsoever to hold my hand. To wipe my tears. To be there when I am given life changing and often terrifying news.

And do you know what high school was like for me? A kid who could not hide his sexuality and differentness if he wanted the freaking 80's? I lived thru hell on earth. It was not cool to be gay, yet. All the girls did not want to trade hair tips. No kind hearted jock defended me, because his uncle or someone was gay.

I just had to learn to live alone. I had to survive being spit on, death threats called to my house, my locker having faggot spray painted on it.

I never went to a prom, or homecoming, or even a school mixer. In fact, I spent most of what should have been my 'breakfast club' years on the goddamn streets. Desperately trying to understand why the world hated me and wanted to end me based on something I had no choice in or control off.

No one should demand to change the rules? You tell that the family of Martin Luther King Jr. Tell Mrs. Parks she should not have stayed in her seat.

And while you're at it, come tell my 'boyfriend' to his face that we have no right to 'special treatment'. No right to demand our own way, or rock the boat, or...heaven forbid...make someone 'uncomfortable' because they are forced to be exposed to our 'gay agenda'.

You know what MY 'gay agenda' is? That when and if I lose this fight with my own body, I would like to die in the same arms I have cried myself to sleep in for three years.

But you feel free to say "oh...HIM. He just wants to change things and force his way of life down everyone's throats."

And feel free to go to hell while you're at it.